Thanks to General Chu’s constant fanning of the flames, Chu Yunyi opened his mouth. “I will give this matter serious consideration.”
“Big bro, what time is it already? You still need to think it over? Now isn’t the time to be sentimental. You should know which one is more important between the Shadow and Di Clans!”
Yes, the Nether and Shadow Clans were sworn friends who’d defend each other to the death, while the Nether and Di Clans hadn’t reconnected for more than a decade. But the Di Clan was stronger and more powerful, even on par with themselves. It really wasn’t worth losing the entire Di Clan for the sake of a single Gu Beiyue.
Chu Yunyi knew this very well, but he still held fast to former ties of friendship. “If he can help with the Wood of Ten-Thousand Poisons, then we’ll drop the matter. For better or worse, we can still delay things on the Duke of Qin’s side. After all, this old man’s already gotten a three-month extension from him.”
“And if he can’t do it?” General Chu insisted on knowing.
Chu Yunyi didn’t hesitate. His voice grew cold as he declared, “If he fails, he can’t blame the Nether Clan for being heartless!”
General Chu was finally satisfied. “Alright! Tomorrow, I’ll send someone to find and bring him back!”
Once they were back at the Chu Clan, they received news from Medical City. Neither of them expected Lady Ling to invite Head Elder Ling of all people to help. Chu Yunyi rejoiced at the news. “Excellent, excellent! Head Elder Ling is personally making an appearance. There’s no danger of anything going wrong with him!”
As long as Chu Qingge could successfully birth her baby within three months, the Chu Clan would have another way out. Then they could wholeheartedly move against the Duke of Qin! Tonight’s visit to Long Feiye not only came from impulse, but also as a way to buy time. How could the Nether Clan ever willingly give up the Wood of Ten-Thousand Poisons, much less back off from a formidable adversary like the Duke of Qin?
By now it was almost daylight, but neither Han Yunxi nor Long Feiye had gone to bed. They were only given one room at the Court of Dependencies, so both of them were sitting on the bed as they chatted.
“Who told you that the Driving Arrow Arts was the secret of the Nether Clan?” Han Yunxi had been puzzling over the question the entire time.
Long Feiye sighed lightly before tossing out the book he always kept on his person---Annals of the Seven Noble Families. Before settling affairs with Mute Nanny, he’d always read this book while out of sight of Han Yunxi because of all the uncertain variables between them. Now there was no need to hide it anymore.
Han Yunxi flipped through a few pages, shocked by the contents. “Where did this book come from? Who wrote it?”
The volume had an extremely detailed description of all seven clans, as if someone had made a special investigation into them all. Without a doubt, it had to hail from the time of the Great Qin Empire.
“The author’s unknown, but I happened to come upon it by chance. I only flipped through it casually at first, but it actually had records of the Driving Arrow Arts,” Long Feiye intoned.
In truth, the book had been written by secret agents sent out as spies of the East Qin Dynasty. Even in the past, the East Qin had wanted to win the clans over to its side. Unfortunately, no one from the imperial clan ever got a chance to use the book until it fell into his own hands.
Han Yunxi didn’t think deeper about his words, but flipped straight to the section on the Shadow Clan. They had the sparsest description of all the families, consisting of only a single page. A few sentences only summed up two main points. One was about the Shadow Clan’s secret cheat technique---the shadow arts. Rather than an offensive skill, it was meant for protection and defense. Its strongest point was the ability to allow the user to shift locations instantaneously. The second was their targets of protection. Han Yunxi had always known that the Shadow Clan existed for the exclusive protection of West Qin royalty, but never expected that they could also protect their beloved the same way---with their very lives.
She couldn’t help but recall the airy, white-robed gentleman whom she hadn’t seen since the disaster regions of South Ning. After finding out that her mother was from Medicine City’s Mu Clan and her father from the Poison Sect, Han Yunxi had stopped suspecting any ties between her and the West Qin Dynasty. Still, she was ever curious about that white-robed man.
“According to custom, the Shadow Clan dies when the imperial clan dies. Could it be that the West Qin imperial heir is still alive somewhere?” Han Yunxi wondered.
“Not everyone follows the laws of their clan,” Long Feiye observed.
Han Yunxi felt that Long Feiye’s words made sense, but couldn’t help but feel that the white-robed man wasn’t the type of person to betray his clan’s beliefs. She had no idea of the Nether and Shadow Clans’ long friendship, nor how Long Feiye had already begun to sow seeds of discord between the two. She only remarked, “As I see it, that person could be our friend.”
She smiled and added, “In any case, Lil Thing’s already accepted a master, so he can’t steal it away even if he wants to.”
Long Feiye’s gaze grew complicated as he sat there in silence.
Han Yunxi kept flipping through the book until she got to the record on the Di Clan. They were the moneybags of West Qin and extremely loyal to the royal family.
“The Nether Clan killed the last prince of West Qin while the Di Clan are supporters of the imperial clan. Nether and Di shouldn’t be able to work together at all!” Han Yunxi looked doubtfully towards Long Feiye. In other words, if the Nether Clan really knew of the Di Clan’s whereabouts, they should’ve told Long Feiye easily. Why wait until Long Feiye asked them first? She expected that both Chu Tianyin and Chu Yunyi must have been telling the truth---they only knew that little bit.
But Long Feiye replied coldly, “Han Yunxi, remember this: human hearts can change. There’s no such thing as loyalty that lasts forever in this world, only benefits and self-interest. Greater than a clan’s mission is the clan’s chance to profit!”
One sentence covered all possibilities. The Di Clan was active between the borders of Western Zhou and Tianning, while the Nether Clan’s Chu Clan oversaw the militant forces stationed at the borders. That made it possible for the two groups to work together. Han Yunxi raised her head and asked, “Long Feiye, is there anything else that lasts forever besides a clan’s mission?”
Long Feiye didn’t reply, but hooked a finger to beckon her over. Han Yunxi crawled over to his side and snuggled up next to his chest. She assumed that he’d tell her the answer then, but he only murmured, “Sleep a bit. After the morning court, we’ll have to enter the palace.”
He didn’t ask the Chu Clan to search for the Wood of Ten-Thousand Poisons just for the sake of the toxin itself. He still had things to discuss with Emperor Kang Cheng. Han Yunxi couldn’t sleep just like that, so she asked, “Isn’t three months a little too long?”
If the Nether Clan found another way out within those three months, it’d be hard for them to control the situation.
“West Liang City still won’t belong to the Chu Clan after three months, don’t worry,” Long Feiye replied.
Besides Chu Qingge’s baby, the Chu Clan had no other way out. Long Feiye might never have mentioned it, but he had been constantly keeping tabs on developments in West Liang and Tianan. Three months later, the baby in Chu Qingge’s stomach would only be seven months old, making it impossible for her to get anything from Emperor Tianhui. Both he and Han Yunxi never considered the possibility that the Chu Clan might induce early labor. Now Han Yunxi nodded, her mind at rest. Long Feiye gently patted her back, want to lull her to sleep. Still, Han Yunxi’s eyes remained wide open to stare at him. Long Feiye stared back before leaning against her head and closing his eyes first.
Silence fell upon the room. The two of them made a lovely picture as they hugged each other to sleep.
A long time later, when Han Yunxi had stopped moving, Long Feiye finally whispered in a low voice, “Your lordship’s feelings towards you...is one other thing that lasts forever.”
In reality, Han Yunxi wasn’t asleep at all. She heard every single word as her lips quirked into a grin. Originally, she was planning to pretend she hadn’t heard him, but she could never hold back when it came to this man. So she whispered back, “Mhm, I’ll be fond of you forever and forever too!”
Long Feiye’s smile stiffened at her reply. This woman, she was pretending to be asleep!
Could this count as the first time they confessed their feelings openly to each other? Or their first promise to each other? Perhaps it did.
Finally satisfied, Han Yunxi nestled up to Long Feiye until she found a comfortable spot and contentedly fell asleep.
Currently, Emperor Kang Cheng was already presiding over his morning court as the Eastern Palace faction argued against the anti-crown prince adherents. The more he listened, the more irritated he felt. Over the past few years, the crown prince’s ruthless methods had all but quashed any opposition against him at court. Naturally, this was part of his intentions as emperor as well. How could the prince have conquered the strongest elements in the palace otherwise?
Later on, the crown prince grew closer and closer to the Chu Clan, making him take precautions of his own. He purposely gave support to other factions of the palace, hoping that would balance out the power plays instead of nurturing a single Chu Clan.
Both Crown Prince Ye and Princess Yao were children of his empress and his favorites amongst the imperial sons and princesses. However, Princess Yao had gotten involved with Jun Yixie, while Crown Prince Ye had made a fool of himself yesterday on behalf of his beloved little sister. Now Emperor Kang Cheng’s affections toward the two had cooled significantly.
The morning court session was dismissed earlier than usual today, leaving Emperor Kang Cheng plenty of time to ponder over what the Duke of Qin would come to discuss. As he strolled absent-mindedly through the palace, his steps subconsciously led him to the Eastern Palace. It was much quieter here now that its crown prince had been confined to house arrest. Emperor Kang Cheng entered alone without his retinue, unnoticed by anyone else. He’d hardly stepped through the door when a young eunuch crashed into him. When the eunuch looked up, the sight of Emperor Kang Cheng frightened the soul out of his body as he dropped the secret missive in his hands.
“Your Majesty, have mercy! Your Majesty, have mercy!”
“This servant knows of his crimes! This servant will never dare to do it again, may Your Majesty have mercy, ah!”
As the eunuch pled and kowtowed, his words became a jumbled mess. Emperor Kang Cheng wasn’t petty enough to seek trouble with a mere eunuch and prepared to leave when he caught sight of the letter on the ground. Mostly likely, such things from the Eastern Palace came from Crown Prince Ye. Emperor Kang Cheng immediately picked up the letter and opened it up, only to see that it was addressed to Princess Yao. The contents not only explained everything that had happened yesterday, but expressed Duanmu Baiye’s hatred towards Long Feiye and Han Yunxi while claiming that he’d find another chance to seek revenge for her one day!
Much of Emperor Kang Cheng’s rage had calmed since yesterday, but this letter ignited the flames of fury in his heart once more. There was nothing in it but Crown Prince Ye’s hatred and his whole-hearted willingness to help Princess Yao. Not only did the crown prince fail to repent for his deeds, he even expressed dissatisfaction towards his own imperial father. Bristling with rage, Emperor Kang Cheng walked quickly into the palace!
Before any of the court ladies or eunuchs could announce him, Emperor Kang Cheng had already reached Duanmu Baiye himself.
They’re both hardly over twenty years old and born from an imperial clan. Duanmu Baiye’s received nothing but doting since his youth and received far superior instruction than Long Feiye. Why are the two of them so far apart in quality? Although Emperor Kang Cheng didn’t want to admit it, he truly wished he had a son like Long Feiye.
Before Duanmu Baiye could react, Emperor Kang Cheng had already thrown the letter at his face. “Zhen has to punish you today! Someone come, take him out and giving him 36 canings!”
Unexpectedly, someone actually moved to stop him. Who...was it?