Mu Linger was persistent. No matter how Han Yunxi tried to dissuade her, she insisted on going back to Yunning with them and learning cooking skills from Zhao mama so she could take care of Han Yunxi. She actually forgot all about her debts and her plans to go to the snowy mountains to grow herbs.
Han Yunxi had no choice but to privately contact Manager Luo to call up Mu Linger's debts and ban her gold card so it was useless. Only then did Mu Linger give up and obediently stay behind at the barracks to wait for Jin Zi's return to deal with the matter. Before leaving, Han Yunxi gave Mu Linger one piece of advice.
"Linger, you're not young anymore. It's time to start living for yourself."
So speaking, she left. Mu Linger was left standing stunned in the howling northern wind for a long, long time. When she was a child, she lived for her parents' orders and the sake of the Mu Clan's glory; in the years she chased Qi gege, she ran all over the world for him; these recent years, she'd been busy with Medicine City and was always the first to help when her group of friends needed it.
Live for myself?
She had never considered this before. Now that Han Yunxi had brought it up, she was still a little confused. But for some reason, a certain place in her heart seem pinched, not painful but uncomfortably blocked. After a while, she returned to her tent and was about to go inside when someone yelled at her from behind.
She looked back and saw Jin Zi on a horse, his face covered in dust as the wind whipped his clothes and hair wildly about his face. The sky was dark with the north winds raging, casting the entire grasslands in a gloomy light. Jin Zi's black clothing soon melded into one with the blackness. Mu Linger only felt that she was dreaming about the edge of the world and the end of time.
It has to be a dream.
Jin Zi's far away at the western borders. How could he show up here?
It had been a long, long time since she'd dream of anyone. Her dreams were always empty, so how did this nuisance barge in? She obviously wanted to dream about her Little Qi gege, ah. Being bothered in reality was one thing, but now intruding into her dreams…was really annoying!
Ignoring him, she turned and entered the tent. The world immediately turned warm and bright, clearing her senses.
I must have been hallucinating just then, she decided.
But she'd hardly sat down when Jin Zi entered. She gave a start and fully woke up, blurting out, "You…why did you come back?"
He should've just arrived at the border by now!
Jin Zi had turned back halfway after realizing that Long Feiye wouldn't stay long if Han Yunxi was truly pregnant. Winter in Northern Li was difficult, and Mu Linger was likely to follow them with her personality. Thus, he left the roadmap to Xu Donglin and doubled back.
"You…still haven't left?" Jin Zi asked back. Mu Linger didn't react at first, so he added, "Your big sister is gone, so why are you still loafing around?"
Mu Linger had been feeling heavy-hearted, but her temper flared up at his words. "You still haven't returned my gold card yet! How am I supposed to leave? You think I really want to stay here? I'll tell you now, Kangan Private Bank's already come asking about my debt! Deal it with yourself!"
"Someone will return the gold card to you in a few days. Same thing for the payment due at the end of the month. I'll help you pay off the interest on Kangan Private Bank's side too," Jin Zi said before purposely moving out of the way of the entrance. "You can leave."
Mu Linger's heart seized up as she became lost for words. She was all ready to rush off before, but…
It was a long time before she recalled the snowy mountains. Right, I still wanted to plant medicinal plants there. Since big sis won't let me serve her, of course I have to plant them quickly. I can sell them to Three-Way Black Market or use them as collateral with Kangan Private Bank!
She made up her own explanations for her thoughts. Feeling more confident, she retorted, "You…w-what did you come back for?"
"Forgot to take something," Jin Zi said coldly.
"Oh!" Mu Linger said loudly before the two of them fell silent.
Jin Zi's heart grew ruthless as he asked again, "You're still not leaving?" He never expected her to stay. He was almost crazy with the desire to know why she stayed, but it came out like he was chasing her away instead.
"I, I…" Mu Linger hesitated. Jin Zi subconsciously creased his brows to wait for her answer.
But Mu Linger gave him not an answer, but a farewell. "Who says I'm not leaving?" she cried, "I've just forgotten something, that's all. I'll go right now! Goodbye!"
Of course she'd leave the military camp, but she wouldn't leave Northern Li. She started walking as soon as she finished, sweeping past Jin Zi with large strides to exit the tent. He was left stunned as he stood unmoving in place. The light of the tent was warm and bright, but his body was gradually turning colder.
He had rode back day and night, galloping on his horse and allowing the wind to pour into his clothes and body. The chill was so much that he lost all feeling, but it still wasn't as cold as what he felt now.
A long time later, he turned to see the vast grasslands outside the door, gloomy and dark. There was no light, no end.
He began to consider Mu Linger's question.
What did he come back to do?
Keep her? But he didn't.
Their one-year agreement had already passed a while ago, so what was the point of leaving her in front of him? He knew she found him irksome, knew that he wouldn't really force her to marry him. If he wanted to, he already tried a year ago.
What else could he do even if he had forced her to his side now?
Jin Zi took out the gold card from his robes and stared at it in silence. Actually, he had held onto it this entire time and could return it at any moment. After staring at it for a while, he handed it to a subordinate and said, "Go to the bank and return all the money owed on this card."
"Yes!" the subordinate obeyed and added, "Master, this card…you don't want it anymore?"
Jin Zi stared at the subordinate and didn't reply for ages. The subordinate felt his hairs stand on end, unable to speak or stay silent, and his legs quaked. In the end, Jin Zi never said anything about the card and turned to leave. The subordinate could only stare at the card, perplexed.
It's hardest to guess His Excellency Jin's thoughts. What to do?
Jin Zi rushed back to the border that very same day and stopped asking after Mu Linger's movements. Days later, the subordinate transferred a sum of money from the underground bank to Kangan Private Bank. He didn't know where to put Jin Zi's gold card, so ended up secretly slipping it beneath Jin Zi's pillow after three days and nights of thought.
Half a month later, Han Yunxi and Long Feiye returned to their palace at Yunning. Gu Beiyue also brought back Rui'er from Medical City. Han Yunxi began to pass her happy days looking after her baby-to-be, but Rui'er had to sleep separately since he was a restless type who would cause trouble if he accidentally kicked her stomach. He was unhappy at first and even threw a tantrum the first two nights. In the end, he quieted down and ended up following the Grand Tutor back home. He simply stayed there instead of the palace.
Gu Beiyue did not return to Medical City, which delayed matters there; Mu Linger didn't return to Medicine City, delaying things there too. But neither city was in a hurry to take care of any emergencies, especially since Long Feiye had to fill up the national treasury first before he tackled them both.
With no Mu Linger around, Lil Thing had nothing to do and ran to Yunning City. This gave Rui'er a companion, so he was even less willing to return to the palace proper. Many times, his parents were forced to stay with him at the Grand Tutor's residence instead. Rui'er was really just fooling around. As long as his parents were there, he was happy and would follow them back to the palace at night. He didn't demand to sleep with his mother, but relied on his father. In the end, Long Feiye could only set up two beds in his room. Rui'er and Lil Thing livened up the usually cool and quiet Grand Tutor's residence. But this only made Han Yunxi think of Qin Min and grow curious about her relationship with Gu Beiyue.
She and Long Feiye knew her pregnancy might have been a sham, but they couldn't guess the truth of the couple. She wanted to ask after the woman multiple times, but stopped short at the last second. After all, it was inconvenient to ask after Gu Beiyue's attitude in Ningzhou towards his private affairs.
One month later, Jin Zi, Xu Donglin, and the men sent by the Court of Judicial Review finished investigating the matter of the illegal salt trade. They captured various people in charge of escorting the goods along the secret passage between Northern Li and Wintercrow Country while exposing evidence of collusion between the three great clans of Jiangnan and the slave trader Le Zheng.
Indeed, the three great families had colluded to take over the secret passage and smuggle further goods to the Mysterious Continent, but they had yet to act. Long Feiye didn't appear in person or expose East Origin Hall, but simply had the Court of Judicial Review preside over the case. The proceedings took a month before indicting Treasurer Cao and the three clans with multiple crimes. They also arrested many officials along the way.
Since the heads of the three great clans didn't directly participate in the trade, it was impossible to convict them of serious offenses. But Long Feiye took advantage of the case to eradicate much of their power and influence while claiming Changning's salt mines for under imperial ownership. The other salt mines had the same outcome. It completely overturned matters in Jiangnan.
From then on, there were no more families in Jiangnan with wealth or power to rival the nation. The treasury of Great Qin also grew more and more wealthy. One thing worth mentioning was that the Court of Judicial Review had no idea where the emperor had gotten his evidence. A few young ministers personally interrogated Treasurer Cao about who he was shipping the private salt for, but he never exposed the identity of East Origin Hall's young master. He knew death was inevitable and only hoped the young master could look after his family and kinsmen before he died. As for the three young masters of Jiangnan, they didn't dare confess either. Admitting anything would only increase the crimes against their clans.
The buyer of the private salt became the final mystery. Long Feiye and Han Yunxi would probably never reveal the truth in their lives. Because of that, only Han Yunxi knew that the young master of East Origin Hall was someone who liked "men."
With the case finished, Jin Zi was thoroughly exhausted. He returned to his military tent and fell asleep as soon as he hit the pillow…Previous Chapter Next Chapter
the [YeXi] chronicles officially end with this chapter! we'll see them again in the spotlight after the rest of the couples run their course, but i'm happy to get a reprieve from our somewhat overbearing couple
next up is one of my favorites, the [Linger] arc! look forward to it with daily updates <3 (it's so short it'll only take half a month to finish, but it's sooooo satisfying to read)