Chapter 1194: You can only see the stars after it gets dark

Where had Jin Zi gone? If Ning Cheng hadn’t lied that he went to Wintercrow Country, then rumors would have started in the army ages ago. The Black Clan members would also be getting restless. 

That was because Jin Zi didn’t show himself for the next two months. While he was missing for a total of three months, Gu Beiyue had finally gotten complete control over the plague in Northern Li with the help of his medical teams. It never spread to the south, while Northern Li’s affected cities returned to normal. Only a dozen or so victims were left and gathered together in an isolated area in the wilderness so Gu Beiyue and Mu Linger could watch over them personally with a few other doctors.

The other medical teams continued to act separately to clean up final traces of the plague and spread medicine. Ning Cheng then led his troops to distribute grain. The season between spring and summer was prime time for grass to grow. After suffering though such a shock in spring, Northern Li incurred a massive blow. Everyone said it’d take two to three years before it regained its former strength again. 

The herdsmen of the country were strong and straightforward. They paid enmity and kindness with equals, so they saw the Ning Clan Troops as their saving star and highly respected their soldiers. As for Ning Cheng, he became the benefactor of the grasslands.

When the plague had all but ran its course, news came from the snow mountains. The Northern Li emperor was pressured into a dead end by his citizens and committed suicide atop the peak. Once he died, all of his loyal followers scattered or fled. Ning Cheng always knew there would be no war at the base of the mountain. But he never expected things to finish so quickly. He didn’t head there personally, but sent his deputy general to clean up the aftermath.

Just like that, Cloud Realm’s once most mightiest army perished!

The Ning Clan troops and even the East Qin army couldn’t have managed to wipe them out so quickly with their strength alone. Half of Northern Li’s demise could be attested to the internal unrest that Jun Yixie had started in the country. The other half was all because of the plague.

Half a month later, Gu Beiyue saved seven of the remaining victims and personally cremated the other nine. Then he formally proclaimed that Northern Li’s plague was finished!

Ning Cheng prepared a grand bonfire feast to treat the hardworking soldiers and especially the medical team. Unexpectedly, Gu Beiyue had already deployed the medical team to leave in advance. He wasn’t planning on staying around, either. 

The day before the banquet, he left Mu Linger and came to formally resign in Ning Cheng’s tent by himself. Gu Beiyue assumed that Ning Cheng would be drinking inside, but he was simply standing in front of the Northern Li map hanging on his wall, lost in thought.

Gu Beiyue stood around for a while before he ventured, “Great General Ning.”

“Here to resign?” Ning Cheng asked, still staring at his map.

Gu Beiyue had already sent the medical teams away before telling Ning Cheng, so he couldn’t do anything about it. He knew Gu Beiyue’s personality well enough to wait for him here tonight.

Gu Beiyue didn’t answer, but walked closer. There, he saw the various markings on the map by the northern frontier. There were still many cities located in the snow mountains. 

“Does the Ning Clan plan to station troops everywhere?” Gu Beiyue asked in a low voice.

Ning Cheng glanced at the spots before laughing. “What? Will Long Feiye disagree?”

Long Feiye had been spending the past few months in the Yunning Palace and had just about finished military matters of Cloud Realm Continent. Western Zhou, Tianning, Tianan and the south and central regions all had garrison guards, leaving only Northern Li unoccupied. None of those factions had a dictatorship over their military like Northern Li did. Every large region was divided between two to three separate armies under the command of different military factions. But Northern Li only had the Ning Clan Troops, which meant the Ning Clan had sole control over the country.

This was a huge taboo!

Even if Long Feiye said nothing, his counselors and soldiers would. If Ning Cheng was smart enough, he wouldn’t move anything and hurry back to Yunning Palace to let Long Feiye delegate armies to Northern Li. 

Ning Cheng’s reply to Gu Beiyue told him that he was fully aware of the dangerous implications. 

“Ning Clan Head, whether His Highness agrees or not is his own affair. What you do now is also your personal choice,” Gu Beiyue said lightly.

But Ning Cheng only replied, “This one remembers that the princess was in sole control of military administration in Northern Li. It’s her word that counts on these matters, correct? As the princess is so interested in Northern Li, I simply want to gift this map to her in the end.”

Gu Beiyue’s expression was warm and serene. “Ning Clan Head, the princess might be interested in Northern Li, but His Highness has no few Northern Li maps than you in his hands.”

Ning Cheng gave a start before quickly realizing what was the matter. He burst into laughter and dropped the subject, inviting Gu Beiyue to the side. “Someone come, bring out the wine and food prepared by this general!” Ning Cheng shouted.

Only then did Gu Beiyue realized that Ning Cheng had already made preparations for his visit. When the dishes were brought to the table, he glanced at them and saw that there were only two plates of vegetables and no meat. The wine in question was brewed from osmanthus flowers.

“Gu Beiyue, there’s only so much food in the military camps. I ask that you understand,” Ning Cheng teased.

“It’s enough,” Gu Beiyue replied.

It was now the end of summer. Northern Li would have no harvest this autumn and the winter to follow would be harsh. It was unclear how much grain the south central regions would give them by then. It was already quite impressive that they could manage two different dishes now.

Last time Ning Cheng saw that Gu Beiyue was too busy to even sit down for a good drink and a chat. Now they could finally speak to their hearts’ content. They didn’t bring up any more military matters, but began to speak of the Di and Shadow Clans[1] as well as their childhoods and families. Lil Thing occasionally peeked out its head from Gu Beiyue’s sleeve, looking curiously at the wine on the table. It wanted to drink some but didn’t dare, hesitant all this while.

Despite its sneaky act, the gentleman could still see through its intentions while chatting with Ning Cheng. When the gentleman poured a cup of wine on the table, Lil Thing scampered out without hesitation and climbed up the edge of the cup to take a quick lick. It was thrilled by the taste. Who knew alcohol could taste so good? It began to lick in earnest and soon cleared out the entire cup. 

By the time it turned to look at its gentleman, it was already unsteady on its feet. It felt like its stomach was all swollen up, its head dizzy as its gentleman turned into two people.

“Cheep…” Lil Thing wanted to say, but it quickly collapsed onto the side.

“It got drunk just after that?!” Ning Cheng was stunned.

Gu Beiyue was surprised as well. Judging from Lil Thing’s usual appetite for poisons, it shouldn’t be this defenseless against alcohol! Ning Cheng’s wine was osmanthus wine, but it wasn’t one that got people drunk. Even lightweights could down five to six cups without knocking themselves out.

“Gu Beiyue, how is your alcohol tolerance as its master? I can spend a few more days with you if you get drunk,” Ning Cheng joked.

“Lil Thing belongs to the princess,” Gu Beiyue corrected.

Ning Cheng didn’t argue. He was more curious about Gu Beiyue’s drinking skills and slung a large tankard of wine on the table. “Will you drink with me?” he asked with a grin.

“Too much alcohol is bad for the body,” Gu Beiyue intoned.

“With a happy heart, nothing can hurt the body!” Ning Cheng declared.

Gu Beiyue paused briefly, then smiled. “That makes some sense.”

But in the end he still prudently refused Ning Cheng’s giant tankard. “This one’s alcohol tolerance is only so-so. With Ning Clan Head’s tolerance, only His Highness can be a suitable drinking companion.”

A complex look flitted past Ning Cheng’s eyes before he lifted the tankard and downed all its contents in one breath. Then he tossed the empty jug aside, where it smashed against the ground.

Grinning, Ning Cheng said, “I will. After I sort out all the military matters here in a few more days, I’ll go to Yunning to drink with him! We’ll drink to our hearts’ content!”

Gu Beiyue only felt puzzled. With Ning Cheng and Long Feiye’s relationship, it was unlikely for the former to really ask the latter to drink together. Long Feiye wouldn’t even be interested. But Ning Cheng’s words didn’t sound like a joke.

--

That night, Ning Cheng and Gu Beiyue chatted until late while Mu Linger sat on the grass outside the camp alone. The grasslands of the sixth lunar month were open expanses that faced starry skies. Mu Linger was currently lying on her back to stare at the starscape. Beyond them was the vastness of the dark sky. But how could one see the stars unless the sky was black?

Mu Linger stared at them blankly before she muttered, “Can you only see the stars after it gets dark?”

She knew that all of the medical teams had already left and that Gu Beiyue was leaving tomorrow. 

What about her?

Three months. I’ve missed the deadline by three months but Jin Zi never showed up. Does he know the saying, “missed appointments don’t count?”

If he wasn’t here, did that mean their agreement was over? She didn’t have to keep to her promise? 

Mu Linger suddenly sat up and declared, “Right, missed appointments don’t count!”

She had thought it through and quickly strode towards Ning Cheng’s tent. Unbeknownst to her, Jin Zi was actually nearby, spying on her. Over the past three months, he’d been following her wherever she went! 

--

Mu Linger had just reached Ning Cheng’s tent when he emerged with Gu Beiyue. 

“Miss Linger, it’s already so late. Do you need anything?” Ning Cheng asked.

“You two chat, I’ll be off,” Gu Beiyue left first. His martial arts skills were enough to sense Jin Zi’s stalking ages ago, but he hadn’t mentioned it since he didn’t want to meddle in others’ business. 

But Mu Linger suddenly asked him, “Doctor Beiyue, are you going back to Medical City to get married?”

Mu Linger had gotten in contact with all of the medical teams and heard plenty of rumors about Gu Beiyue’s marriage plans. Many people said that he would start planning his wedding with the Qin Clan as soon as he finished matters here in Northern Li.

Gu Beiyue gave a mild start before studying Mu Linger intently. He wanted to dismiss it all with a smile, but her melancholy face for the past three months stirred him into speaking up instead. “Lass, worry about your own matters.”

She can’t even handle her own problems, but she still frets over my marriage everyday. This little lass deserves to be melancholy!


1. The raws say Nether Clan instead of Shadow Clan but I assume that’s a typo on the part of the author.

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Ruyi's Thoughts

A lot of readers have been commentIng on how they're re-reading PGC from the beginning these days. As it turned out, I've got a backlog of old chapters with edits from my editor that I'm due to reupload--especially those in the 600s--so look forward to that if you're re-reading! ^-^