Both Tang Li and Gu Qishao scratched their chins in thought at Long Feiye’s sudden show of consideration. Meanwhile, Chu Xifeng had more insight and instinctively felt that this had something to do with the Shadow Clan. As to be expected, once Long Feiye settled Han Yunxi down to rest, he appeared before his subordinate.
“There were plenty of court ladies and eunuchs present at the scene. Find someone to find out what happened as soon as possible!” Long Feiye murmured.
“The Shadow Clan?” Chu Xifeng blurted out. When Long Feiye didn’t answer, he then prepared to leave until his master suddenly called him back.
“Any progress with the matter at Cloud Realm Trade Consortium?”
Long Feiye had long had an eye on the consortium. Thanks to Chu Yunyi’s hints about the Di Clan, he was now paying closer attention than ever to the trade consortium’s activities on the Western Zhou - Tianning border. Although he didn’t have 100 percent proof that Cloud Realm Trade Consortium was the Di Clan, he still had to find them before the Chu Clan did! If any political or military powers were to join hands with such a wealthy conglomerate, their strength would grow to unspeakable heights!
“This subordinate has been keeping tabs on the situation. Currently, all of Cloud Realm Trade Consortium’s energies are focused on Medicine City. They haven’t done much at the borders, but this subordinate will continue to investigate matters!” Chu Xifeng replied respectfully.
Long Feiye nodded before letting him leave. “The Shadow Clan…” he muttered to himself.
Actually, he’d suspected on multiple occasions that the Shadow Clan man already knew the secret of Han Yunxi’s identity. If he looked at things from that angle, all of his actions would make sense. But if that was really the case, why hadn’t the Shadow Clan man told Han Yunxi herself yet? He should be staying by her side and protecting her constantly by now. Because of that discrepancy, Long Feiye couldn’t help but to feel suspicious. In any case, he’d have one less thing to worry about if the Shadow Clan broke off relations with the Nether Clan…
In fact, where was the Shadow Clan man now, and what was he doing?
Naturally, Gu Beiyue was still in the custody of Chu Yunyi. To successfully kidnap Empress Xue, Chu Yunyi had brought over a dozen archers with him to flee into the mountains. Over the past few days, they’d been rushing nonstop to avoid their pursuers and to join up with General Chu’s faction in the east. It was currently late night and everyone was exhausted. Chu Yunyi finally called for a rest stop when the group had reached a patch of dense, deep forest. The delicate and coddled Empress Xue couldn’t stand being frightened or distressed, so she’d fainted multiple times over the course of the journey. Currently, she was still unconscious. But as long as she wasn’t dead, Chu Yunyi didn’t care one whit about the woman.
He was more interested in Gu Beiyue! He’d been puzzled over the man’s actions since Thousand Buddha Cave, so now that they were safe, he made to interrogate him immediately.
“Just what’s your relationship with the Duke of Qin and the rest?” he asked coldly.
Gu Beiyue remained aloof and indifferent to his question. He had just been dragged off horseback and was currently lying listlessly against a tree with his eyes closed. Mottled moonlight shone against his whiskered face, which did nothing to hide his pale and weak state. Western Zhou soldiers wore white armor, so his outfit only served to make him seem even thinner and taller. He would have made a divine sight if not for the shocking fresh bloodstains against the white fabric! With one arrow through his shoulder and another in his shin, he didn’t bleed enough to lose his life, but the injuries were still fatal. Without his arm, he couldn’t use his flying daggers; without both legs, his shadow arts were useless. Even if Chu Yunyi didn’t guard him, he couldn’t run away.
His body had been weak since birth. It was his father and grandfather’s exquisite care and medicinal baths that had helped him survive. He wasn’t suited for martial arts at all, but someone had to take up the mantle of the Shadow Clan’s shadow arts. Because of that, he’d suffered much in his childhood. Whether it was the searing heat of summer or the icy frost of winter, he had no choice but to continuously cultivate his internal energy. Besides his dagger throwing skills, he didn’t know any other martial arts at all, because all of his internal energy was used to master the shadow arts. Before his grandfather died, he’d asked him what he should do if he died before finding the West Qin heir.
His grandfather had spent a long time stroking his hair before replying, “Beiyue, the Shadow Clan’s protection originally extended to only the one we loved most. Do you know why the clan protects the West Qin imperial family generation after generation even now?”
Gu Beiyue didn’t know. He’d never considered the question because he’d always been a docile and obedient child. Whether it was his grandfather or his parents, he always listened to what they said. He used to think that if he was a good boy, his father wouldn’t leave him, yet in the end father had still died in the medicinal bath. He felt then that it was alright, because he still had his mother, but she died on the same day as his father. That year, he was only six years old and went to live with his grandfather thereafter.
“Why?” Gu Beiyue asked. He’d already learned of the Shadow Clan’s mission at a very young age.
“Because one of the Shadow Clan’s ancestors fell in love with West Qin’s empress. He couldn’t protect her and even tried to sneak her out of the palace. In the end, the empress had died from illness during their escape.” Gu Beiyue’s grandfather gave a long sigh. “Beiyue, ah, you should understand...you can’t use your life to cure other people’s illnesses. Even if you want to, it’s impossible.”
By now, Gu Beiyue was ten years old. He had yet to grow into adulthood, nor were his medical skills so good, but he did understand. Father’s death had taught him better than anything. Mother once told him that she’d want to take father’s place and suffer the torments of his sickness if possible, or even die in his place. Sadly, there were too many irreplaceable things in this world.
“Because of the empress’s death, the emperor fell into a fit of rage and wanted to exterminate the entire Shadow Clan. Thus, our ancestor made a vow that generations of his clan would do nothing but guard the royal family and never betray the country. With that, he saved us all.”
Gu Beiyue remembered that his grandfather had paused for a long time after that before telling him one more thing.
“Beiyue, ah, you’re the only one left from the Shadow Clan. If...if one day, you meet a girl that you love, just wholeheartedly protect her instead… Forget about the mission of the Shadow Clan.”
But through coincidence, the woman he did end up meeting was her. He ended up leading her into his stratagem at the Poison Sect’s Skypit and witnessed her activate the Xuan gold door with her blood, proving that she was the blood heir to the West Qin imperial clan. When his two missions to protect overlapped, he had no more choices to make, nor did he need to.
To protect would always be his fate.
Gu Beiyue finally snapped back to reality after Chu Yunyi pulled the arrow out of his shoulder. Fresh blood poured from the wound, the sharp pain making him crease his brows. As a doctor, he was more clear than anyone else that his shoulder would be done for if he didn’t treat it tonight.
“Just what’s your relation with the Duke of Qin and the rest?” Chu Yunyi growled. He wasn’t patient enough to wait with the worry seeping into his chest. If Gu Beiyue was really in cahoots with the Duke of Qin, why didn’t he know they sent impersonators? Why did Gu Beiyue expose himself and get hurt all for nothing?
If Gu Beiyue isn’t allied with the Duke of Qin, then why risk everything to protect Han Yunxi at all?
Chu Yunyi needed answers to quell the uneasiness in his heart. Gu Beiyue pressed a hand against his shoulder and glared at him. “Hurry and find someone to get me Jinchuang Medicine and pills to stop the bleeding. Otherwise, you won’t find out a single thing!”
Chu Yunyi was shaken to his core by the ruthless determination in Gu Beiyue’s eyes. He even backed away a few steps, uncertain why he felt so afraid. He had seen the boy grow up with his own eyes, but he’d never witnessed his cold and savage side. Doubts grew in his heart before he immediately found someone to bring over the medicine. As long as Gu Beiyue had the necessary materials, all injuries were child’s play to him. He smoothly cleaned and bandaged his own injuries after stopping the bleeding, and had soon taken care of both arrow wounds.
Seeing this, Chu Yunyi asked again, “Just what’s going on?”
Gu Beiyue’s eyes flashed with disdain. With the exception of Han Yunxi, he was always cool-headed when facing everyone else. How could he ever reveal the truth to Chu Yunyi? After taking care of his wounds, he felt much better and intoned, “What do you mean, ‘just what’s going on?’”
“You!” Chu Yunyi raged, before verbalizing his suspicions.
Gu Beiyue laughed. “I like Qin Wangfei. It’s as simple as that.”
“You….” Now Chu Yunyi was surprised.
“Nether Clan Head, I’m afraid we’ll never find the West Qin imperial heir. You know exactly what your clan’s been doing over the past few years. I’m the last survivor of the Shadow Clan and I’m not fated to live a long life, so I’d like to live for myself with my remaining years,” Gu Beiyue spoke plainly.
Chu Yunyi lost all suspicions in the face of his surprise. After all, his Nether Clan had long forsaken the royal family in their heart of hearts, to say nothing of Gu Beiyue himself.
“In other words, you weren’t the one who told the Duke of Qin about the Driving Arrow Arts?” Chu Yunyi finally understood.
Gu Beiyue only smiled coldly. He never expected it was that bit of suspicion that had set the Nether Clan Head against him. But his smile was nothing more than that. He had no idea that Long Feiye already knew of the relationship between the Nether and Shadow Clans, so he never suspected that everything was part of Long Feiye’s plan to sow discord between them.
On the other hand, Chu Yunyi only considered himself spurred on by General Chu’s words in the past. For the sake of protecting Chu Tianyi, it wasn’t strange that his father would work to frame Gu Beiyue. But any more thought was useless now. Chu Yunyi looked at the weak Gu Beiyue and felt a glint come to his eye.
“Gu Beiyue, you were the one who placed personal feelings before your mission, so don’t blame this old man for being hard-hearted!” he said.
“What exactly are you trying to say?” Gu Beiyue asked coldly.
“Heheh. Say…if Qin Wangfei knew that Doctor Gu from Pill Fiend Pharmacy was in my hands, will she come to save you?” Chu Yunyi asked before bursting into laughter. “This old man will give you a chance to test Qin Wangfei’s heart. You had better cooperate peacefully!”
Gu Beiyue didn’t show his anger, but the blood seeping through his fresh bandages was proof of his inner rage. Finally, he managed to choke out, “Chu Yunyi, it’s a heavy crime to offend my Shadow Clan!”
“Your Shadow Clan? How does one man equal an entire clan?” Chu Yunyi said scornfully. He ordered men to watch over him before flicking his sleeves and stalking off. With Gu Beiyue in his hands, he was certain to lure out Long Feiye and Han Yunxi. All he had to worry about now was how to pay them back for the slights at Thousand Buddha Cave and the Poison Sect’s underground palace!
He wasn’t in any rush for revenge, either. They were still within Western Zhou borders, so they had to reconvene with General Zhou quickly and bring Gu Beiyue to Western Liang!