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 these 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 began 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. In any case, they could strike a blow against Medicine City first before reaping in profits from high-yield production crops atop the snow mountains. Then they’d have a place in the market just the same, even if it wasn’t as expansive as previously.
“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 coldly.
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 came 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 take revenge for me in any case,” Ouyang Ning Nuo had great faith in his elder brother, especially when they were working in the shadows against Long Feiye and Han Yunxi in the light. Their chances of success were quite high. Despite losing his status as president, he was now idle enough 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 the pleasant surprise. Various factions in Western Zhou’s royal court had been arguing for days while its army had been fighting 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 be difficult to overcome the Chu Clan’s checks and containments beyond the current stalemate. That wasn’t a big problem in itself, but now Chu Qingge’s son had been made crown prince. This meant that Western Liang would start making moves as well. Once they reinforced the Chu Clan soldiers, even more fighting would break out.
For the Duke of Qin to openly suppress Cloud Realm Trade Consortium was a clear expression of his stance. Emperor Kang Cheng was now waiting for the man to oppress the Chu Clan’s growing influence in Western Liang. 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!” Recently, Long Tianmo had been doing nothing but 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 situation is a mess right now!”
It really was a mess, both within their country and between other factions.
“Even Cloud Realm Trade Consortium’s gotten involved. Who knows whether Celestial Mountain…” Great General Mu trailed off. Empress Xue was Duanmu Yao’s own mother. The girl 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 only felt listless at those words. But as the sovereign of his country. Long Tianmo didn’t protest. He’d long 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 if his father continued 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 struggle between Western Zhou and the Chu Clan more as a struggled 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 long fallen into the Duke of Qin’s hands.
“Aye. In the end, we’re going up against Chu Qingge again?” Han Yunxi smiled with a sigh. She knew her grudges against the woman in the past were all personal, but now it had gotten tangled up in this mess.
“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 scornfully.
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 here, 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 already attacked his internal organs. His death was imminent any day now. Once he finally passed away, his baby 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. Then it’d be the Chu Clan calling all the shots.
Long Feiye was about to answer when another guard rushed in to exclaim, “Your Highness, the fourth imperial prince is begging for an audience outside!”
Everyone was caught off-guard. How did the fourth imperial prince even know we were coming? And much less find his way to our doors?
They were residing in one of Long Feiye’s lesser-known estates by Tianning’s borders. Since settling in, none of them had caused a stir, so no one should have noticed their residency! Is the fourth imperial prince really that resourceful to track us down? As the group all exchanged glances, Long Feiye’s eyes flickered with surprise and complex thoughts. Then he signaled the guard to bring their man in.
“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 simply disguised himself to look like some 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 could only add, “I’m afraid he won’t last past the 15th.”
Today was already the seventh...
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, today Tianshi came in place of all of Tianning’s civil and military officials to invite the Duke of Qin to enter the palace and admonish imperial father to depose the crown prince! If 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 the speaker for his young age. Han Yunxi originally assumed that he was here to ask for their support, but it seems he actually wanted to push the Duke of Qin into the frontlines against the Chu Clan instead? This would be a great chance! Once Long Feiye took Tianning, the south central regions would follow under his leadership. Then it’d be easy to face off against Long Tianmo in Tianan as well. Like that, Tianning really would regain its might.
But Long Feiye had far grander aspirations! If he had wanted Tianning at all, would he have waited this long, or have seen it fall into chaos in the first place?
“Tianning’s civil and military officials?” Long Feiye asked with interested.
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, but Great General Ning hasn’t expressed any opinions 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 asked next.
“Great General Ning’s 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 then. 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 like Empress Chu’s faked early birth. Everyone had always said that Great General Ning was utmost loyal to the Tianning imperial clan. He’d never harbored ambitions of his own. Could it be true? With no other choice, the general had 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 problem means that we have hope.
Once Long Tianshi left, Han Yunxi asked, “Long Feiye, what do you think?” She couldn’t see heads or tails of this, because 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 all the court officials, but by the general’s own idea instead. 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 sound 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 asked next, “Does Great General Ning really mean for you to take the throne, or...does he want it for himself, but decided to sound you out first for fear of you?”
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?!”