Ouyang Ning Jing then stated, “This president has already finished talks with Northern Li’s emperor. Northern Li is willing to rent their snow mountains to Cloud Realm Trade Consortium, including the one formerly used by the Mu Clan. That makes a total of three mountains! This president didn’t waste those months at Medicine City, either. There are a total of ten pharmacists from the Mu and Xie Clans that signed lifelong contracts with us. After spring of next year, they’ll move to the mountains and begin cultivating plants in earnest.”
Thunderous applause exploded throughout the hall at her words. Even Ouyang Ning Nuo had to sigh at his own inferiority. His older sister definitely had more tricks up her sleeve than him. She even managed to speak with Northern Li’s emperor in person! If Jun Yixie ever hears of this, how would he feel?
Of course, Ouyang Ning Nuo was more looking forward to Han Yunxi’s reaction. Still, the news had to be kept under wraps for now. Like this, they could land a blow on Medicine City before reaping the benefits of high-yield production crops atop the mountains. The market would still have a place for them, even if it wasn’t as expansive as it was before.
“Second sis, I think it’s best if you stay in the consortium forever. Forget about marriage!” Ouyang Ning Nuo exclaimed with a cheeky grin.
“Marriage? This young Miss will only be looking for a son-in-law to take on our family name!” Ouyang Ning Jing replied icily.
As the impressed crowd gradually dispersed, Ouyang Ning Nuo still couldn’t help but ask, “Second sis, what...did big bro mean by all that? Long Feiye and Han Yunxi aren’t easy opponents!”
“I don’t know,” Ouyang Ning Jing replied, straight to the point. “Either way, I’m sure our eldest will shock the world once he comes out from his seclusion!”
“All right! It’ll be good if he can get revenge for me.” Ouyang Ning Nuo had great faith in his elder brother, especially when they were working in the shadows while Long Feiye and Han Yunxi operated within the light. Their chance of success was quite high. Despite losing his status as president, he now had enough free time to investigate things that interested him, like rumors of the Poison Sect’s Perplexing Butterfly Illusion.
Although Long Feiye hadn’t publicly declared his stance, his suppression of Cloud Realm Trade Consortium gave Emperor Kang Cheng quite a pleasant surprise. Various factions in Western Zhou’s royal court had been arguing for days, while its army was engaging Chu Clan forces at the three eastern border cities for nearly half a month. If Emperor Kang Cheng gave up on Empress Xue and intensified the attacks, he would definitely win; but if he didn’t give up on her, it would prove difficult to overcome the Chu Clan’s strategies beyond their current stalemate. That wasn’t a big problem in and of itself, but now Chu Qingge’s son had been made crown prince. Western Liang would surely make a move in short order. Once they reinforced the Chu Clan soldiers, the fighting would only become more intense.
The Duke of Qin’s open suppression of Cloud Realm Trade Consortium was a clear expression of his stance. Emperor Kang Cheng was now waiting for him to oppress the Chu Clan’s growing influence in Western Liang, as well. Much of the world shared his views, especially Long Tianmo’s side.
“Great General Mu, the Duke of Qin will definitely support the fourth imperial son. Only he can garner enough support for the throne in Western Liang!” As of late, Long Tianmo had merely been running to the general’s estate, or summoning him and his son to his imperial study. Their talks would last all day thanks to his excitability.
This time, Great General Mu finally accepted his views with a nod. “It could only be the fourth imperial son.”
“Father, do we still need to remain on standby even after the Duke of Qin publicly supports the fourth imperial son?” Mu Qingwu asked urgently.
Great General Mu paused for a long while before stroking his beard with a sigh of emotion. “The current situation is a mess!”
It truly was a mess, both within their country and between other factions.
“Even Cloud Realm Trade Consortium has gotten involved. Who knows whether Celestial Mountain…” Great General Mu trailed off into silence. Empress Xue was Duanmu Yao’s own mother. She would never ignore the situation outright. Finally, the general proclaimed, “For the time being, we’ll just watch from the sidelines!”
Long Tianmo and Mu Qingwu were both young and hot-headed types, so they felt listless at the prospect of biding their time. But as the sovereign of his country. Long Tianmo didn’t protest. He’d long since learned to be docile, and he respected Great General Mu as his military adviser. When Mu Qingwu saw that Long Tianmo kept quiet, his eyes flashed with a complicated expression. He could faintly feel that Tianan Country was going to be the moderate stance faction in Cloud Realm Continent, should his father continue to lead them.
Father’s the textbook case for someone who takes a neutral stance!
With no response from Celestial Mountain as of yet, movements from Western Liang would guide the ultimate ending. In the end, observers viewed the conflict between Western Zhou and the Chu Clan more as between Chu Qingge and the Duke of Qin’s factions. Of course, no one knew that the Chu Clan’s eldest son, Chu Tianyin, had fallen into the Duke of Qin’s hands long ago.
“Aye. In the end, we’re going up against Chu Qingge again.” Han Yunxi smiled with a sigh. She knew her past grudge against that woman was personal, but now it was tangled in with everything else.
“Esteemed wangfei, aren’t you overestimating that Chu Qingge? All she can do now is feed her baby. It’s her father controlling the reins of this whole thing,” Chu Xifeng said seriously.
“That old Tianhui’s woman can’t compare to the Duke of Qin’s woman!” Tang Li declared, scornful.
Gu Qishao immediately shot him a glance. He wanted to speak up, but stopped himself in the end. Long Feiye looked at Tang Li in silence as well. Naturally, his mood differed from Gu Qishao’s. Han Yunxi had only been saying whatever came to her mind. She didn’t consider Chu Qingge a real threat, and ignored Tang Li’s statement to ask Long Feiye, “We’re still not moving? I heard Tianhui’s about to give out.”
They had been stationed at the border for many days now. Before arriving there, Long Feiye had truly wanted to use the fourth imperial son to face off against Chu Qingge, but he hadn’t yet acted on the idea. Yesterday, one of his scouts had come back with news that Emperor Tianhui’s sickness had advanced into his internal organs. His death was imminent. Once he finally passed away, the infant crown prince would take the throne! Since he was so young, Chu Qingge would definitely have to hold court in his place as the new empress dowager. From there, the Chu Clan would call all of the shots.
Long Feiye was about to answer when another guard rushed in to exclaim, “Your Highness, the fourth imperial prince is outside, begging for an audience!”
Everyone was caught off-guard. How did the fourth imperial prince even know we were coming, much less find his way to our doors?
They were residing in one of Long Feiye’s lesser-known estates, stationed by Tianning’s borders. Since they settled in, none of them had caused a commotion, so no one should have noticed their residency! Is the fourth imperial prince really resourceful enough to track us down? As the group all exchanged glances, Long Feiye’s eyes flickered with surprise and complicated thoughts. Then he signaled the guard to bring their guest inside.
“Tianshi greest imperial uncle and imperial aunt!” Fourth Imperial Prince Long Tianshi[1. Long Tianshi (龙天释) - Long is a surname that means “dragon,” Tian is “sky, Heaven, celestial, air”, and Shi is “explain, elucidate, set free, relief, dispel.”] had disguised himself to look like a rich young gentleman. He went to his knees as soon as he entered the door, affectionately calling them by their titles. It was just like bygone years in Tianning Country when the crown prince Long Tianmo showed the Duke of Qin nothing but reverence.
Gu Qishao and the others had long withdrawn. As Han Yunxi reclined lazily in her chair, she examined Long Tianshi from head to toe and felt an instinctive dislike for the man, so she simply drank her tea in silence. Long Feiye raised a hand, indicating that Long Tianshi should rise and find a seat.
Even then, Long Tianshi still maintained his respectful tone as he sighed, “Imperial uncle, my imperial father...aye!”
Long Feiye ignored him, so Long Tianshi demurely added, “I’m afraid he won’t last past the 15th.”
Today was already the 7th of the month...
Long Tianshi waited for Long Feiye to speak, but he still remained silent. After some hesitation, he rose up to kneel on one knee. “Imperial Qin Uncle, I’ve come to represent all of Tianning’s civil and military officials. We’re inviting the Duke of Qin to enter the palace and convince the imperial father to depose the crown prince! If the imperial father insists on making a premature infant the crown prince, then I’d rather have Imperial Qin Uncle take the throne, to banish that demoness from the Chu Clan and restore Tianning’s might!”
Despite looking like a bootlicker, Long Tianshi was quite a talented speaker for his young age. Han Yunxi originally assumed that he was here to ask for their support, but it seemed he actually wanted to push the Duke of Qin into the frontlines instead. This would be a great opportunity! Once Long Feiye took Tianning, the south central regions would follow under his leadership. Then it would be easy to face off against Long Tianmo in Tianan as well. Like that, Tianning would truly regain its might.
But Long Feiye had far grander aspirations! If he had wanted Tianning, why would he have waited this long, or allowed chaos to take hold in the first place?
“You’re here on behalf of Tianning’s civil and military officials?” Long Feiye asked with interest.
Long Tianshi couldn’t wait to answer that question. “Exactly! The military officials include the leaders of three crack troops in the east and south, as well as the cavalrymen in the north.” As he spoke, he stole a peek at the Duke of Qin to gauge his reaction, then continued. “Imperial uncle, I won’t hide this from you: Great General Ning hasn’t expressed his opinion on the current situation. But recently, Empress Chu demoted Noble Consort Ning, thus angering him so much that he nearly charged into the palace himself. He had to be physically restrained by a few other officials.”
“Great General Ning is in Western Liang?” Long Feiye aske.
“Great General Ning has been in the city for many days. Moreover, he’s already issued orders to all of his cavalry forces. 100,000 of them will head south within the next five days to defend the western borders. Great General Ning is planning to threaten the Chu Clan troops!” Long Tianshi replied.
Han Yunxi grew puzzled. Surely Great General Ning had enough power to seize the throne for himself. Even if Noble Consort Ning had no son, she could simply make a fake one, just asEmpress Chu’s feigned early birth. Everyone had always said that Great General Ning was completely loyal to the Tianning imperial clan. He’d never harbored ambitions of his own. Could it be true? With no other choice, did the general have Long Tianshi plea Long Feiye for help instead?
Both she and Long Tianshi were waiting for Long Feiye’s answer, but he simply said, “For now, you should go back. Three days later, your lordship will send someone to bring you my answer.”
“Thank you, Imperial Qin Uncle!” Long Tianshi was very happy. The fact that Imperial Qin Uncle is even considering the situation means that we have hope.
Once Long Tianshi left, Han Yunxi asked, “Long Feiye, what do you think?” She couldn’t make heads or tails of this, but she didn’t know much about Great General Ning at all. Still, she could sense that the fourth imperial prince hadn’t come on behalf of the court officials, but instead by the general’s personal order. Emperor Tianhui was refusing to listen to any of his ministers at this point, to say nothing of Long Feiye’s own words. Thus, Great General Ning must have used the fourth imperial prince to stake out the Duke of Qin and see if he had any interest in the throne. Perhaps the prince was even stupid enough to assume that Great General Ning was on his side, and thus happily fulfilled the general’s mission.
When Long Feiye didn’t reply, Han Yunxi continued, “Does Great General Ning really mean for you to take the throne, or...does he want it for himself, but decided to feel you out first, to soothe his own fears?”
Long Feiye looked at her and beckoned with his finger, indicating that she should come closer. Faced with this gesture, Han Yunxi silently walked over until he was close enough to whisper in her ear.
Whatever he said wasn’t audible to anyone else, but it certainly shocked Han Yunxi to the core.
“How is that even possible?!”
Reuploaded with Edits: 12/12/2020