With the three-day deadline at an end, Long Feiye was due to answer the fourth imperial prince’s appeal. He took out a letter and handed it to Chu Xifeng. “Deliver this into the fourth imperial prince’s hands. Say that it’s your lordship’s letter to His Majesty, persuading him to depose the crown prince. If His Majesty insists on upholding his views, then your lordship will assemble troops in the south. No matter what, I won’t allow the Chu soldiers to claim so much as half a step on Tianning soil!”
Han Yunxi had guessed that Long Feiye would do as much. If he went to Western Liang in person, there was a 50 percent chance that he’d be walking into a trap. Sending a written missive was much safer. If Great General Ning really wanted to push Long Feiye onto the throne, Long Feiye’s troops in the south could simply defend against the Chu Clan while he allied with Western Zhou and controlled the western region of Tianning.
If Great General Ning was from the Di Clan, then Long Feiye mobilizing troops would threaten both his Di Clan and their allies, the Nether Clan. War might break out between their two sides. Long Feiye could then appeal for help from Western Zhou again, and still claim the west as his domain!
As the letter departed, they could only sit and wait for the fourth imperial prince and Great General Ning’s reply. As expected, the prince came to visit them again within a few days.
“Imperial uncle, imperial father is really….just simply...aye! Imperial father didn’t even look at your letter before tearing it up in front of everyone! He even said...he even said that he was going to train and educate the crown prince personally. When the crown prince comes of age, he’ll withdraw from the throne.”
Han Yunxi sat, watching the proceedings with a cold smile. Heaven knows whether these were simply the fevered ramblings of Emperor Tianhui on his sickbed, or the fourth imperial prince’s own fabrications. Who knows if their letter had even reached the emperor at all?
Long Feiye was unsurprised. “Looks like it’s time for your lordship to call in the troops.”
The south central regions not only held his navy, but two more contingents who had been stationed there long before, led by their respective generals. The fourth imperial prince was thrilled by the news and blurted out, “Imperial uncle, Great General Ning asked to meet you!”
A meeting in person? Han Yunxi looked over in utter disbelief.
Long Feiye coldly replied, “What, he’s asked to see me without coming to visit himself?”
Frightened, the fourth imperial prince hastened to explain. “No, no! Imperial uncle has misunderstood! Great General Ning was afraid that imperial uncle would refuse his request, so he asked ahead of time first. I don’t know when and where the meeting would take place. If this is the best bet, Tianshi will go back and pass on the message.”
Long Feiye barked an icy laugh. “Since when has Great General Ning grown into such an impressive personage? He even has an imperial prince like you acting as his messenger?”
The fourth imperial prince found himself speechless. He had been lost in delusions of grandeur ever since Great General Ning offered to help him win the throne. Now his implicit faith in the man made him all too willing to run errands for him. Just hearing that Imperial Qin Uncle had prepared a call to arms was enough to make him giddy with happiness.
After a while, he managed to eke out an explanation. “Imperial uncle has misunderstood. Tianshi...Tianshi simply meant to say that, since imperial uncle is going to release the troops, why not meet with Great General Ning to discuss the situation at the border first?”
Now that actually sounded like an imperial prince’s words.
“Granted,” Long Feiye replied.
After the fourth imperial son left, Han Yunxi laughed and said, “That 50 percent chance should be 60 percent now, right?”
Anyone who could tame Long Tianshi and reverse the relationship between master and servant certainly wasn’t ordinary!
“70 percent,” Long Feiye replied.
A 70 percent chance…
“In other words, you’re preparing to lose to me?” Han Yunxi feigned seriousness. Long Feiye was so lost in the mire of power struggles, he’d all but forgotten the terms of their bet. At her words, he immediately reached for his tea. Han Yunxi had long since learned to see through him. Whenever he didn’t want to answer, or had nothing to say, he’d busy himself drinking tea. She had no idea that only she could garner such a reaction from him.
Although winter was fast approaching, Han Yunxi couldn’t help but feel that springtime for Lil Thing was right around the corner!
Less than two days later, Great General Ning made good on his promise and arrived to meet them. Han Yunxi had never seen the man before, only knowing that he was Tianning’s youngest general. But the sight of the man in the flesh gave her a fright.
He was completely different from her expectations!
Great General Ning wasn’t dressed in armor, nor did he carry any weapons. Instead, he appeared in Confucian robes and a half-tied updo. Although he had deep, penetrating eyes and thick eyebrows, there was nothing overbearing or aggressive about the man. If anything, he gave off the air of an implicit and reserved introvert. If not for Long Feiye’s suspicions, Han Yunxi wouldn’t have noticed anything amiss, but his words made her involuntarily recall another man just like Great General Ning: Ouyang Ning Nuo!
With careful comparison, she realized that both men gave off the same air. But whether Great General Ning was as crafty as Ouyang Ning Nuo beneath his elegant exterior had yet to be seen. Still, as Han Yunxi studied his thickset brows and intense eyes, she half wondered what he’d look like standing in the battlefield and soaked in blood. Would that reveal his true face?
As she studied him, he suddenly turned to look at her. She didn’t avoid his gaze, but met it head-on with the air befitting Qin Wangfei. By now, Great General Ning had already finished his formal bow to Long Feiye. He only cast Han Yunxi a single glance before bowing his head and placing his right fist over his left shoulder in another ninety-degree bow.
“This soldier greets esteemed wangfei.”
“Please rise, Great General Ning,” Han Yunxi replied.
Great General Ning straightened up. Because Long Feiye hadn’t told him to sit, he remained standing in place.
“After hearing that Your Highness Duke of Qin is planning to lead troops up north, this soldier came in person to express my gratitude!” Great General Ning said in a tone of utmost sincerity.
“Weeding out the Chu and supporting the Long as the legitimate heir is the natural duty of your lordship. Why would you thank me?” Long Feiye asked coldly.
“I think this is a dialectical thing, but “I” might make this flow better than “this soldier”This soldier brought my cavalrymen and the two western generals just to thank Your Highness for saving our lives! Our forces are hardly enough to guarantee success against the Chu Clan troops without tragic deaths on the battlefield. But if the Duke of Qin can transfer soldiers to reinforce us in the north, it will not only strengthen our forces and give us momentum, but also strike fear into the hearts of our enemies! As a general, I rejoice over the ability to minimize injury and loss of life!” Great General Ning looked like an elegant gentleman, but spoke with all the sonorous force of an impressive general used to fighting.
“Minimizing injuries and deaths are part of your lordship’s duties as well. Why would I need your thanks for that?” Long Feiye asked again.
Great General Ning immediately clasped his hands in front of his chest and bowed. “Yes! This soldier made an indiscreet remark.”
He was quick to react, and good enough to hide any sign of his feelings! Han Yunxi observed him silently all the while, paying close attention to his mannerisms. After all, his true identity would determine Lil Thing’s fate.
“Your Highness Duke of Qin, this soldier still has one more thing to report,” Great General Ning continued.
“Mm.” Long Feiye’s tone was very cold.
Great General Ning had no choice but to continue himself. “From what this soldier understands, Cloud Realm Trade Consortium has provided red coat cannons to the Chu Clan. Moreover, they have already been delivered to their forces.”
Long Feiye’s icy eyes finally flickered at that statement. “How many?”
“At least three!” Great General Ning declared.
In Cloud Realm Continent, gunpowder was controlled by the various military factions. But red coat cannons were not, because they were only made by one specialized craftsman who happened to live on the lawless land of the Three-Way Battlefield. He spent most of his days in the Three-Way Black Market and refused to ally himself with any nation. It took him years to make a single cannon, which he only sold in the black markets. Over the past few years, news had spread that there were no more cannons for sale. Who could have known that Cloud Realm Trade Consortium had already bought three for their own use!
Even Han Yunxi was surprised by the news. Although red coat cannons were akin to museum pieces in her eyes, they were still a formidable existence in a time period where wars were fought with steel weapons.
“And your point is?” Long Feiye asked.
“The Chu Clan’s full of crack troops and strong archers. Now they even have red coat cannons on their side, making them a tiger that’s grown wings. They can’t be underestimated. In this soldier’s humble opinion, my forces should combine with those of the western generals to attack from the east, while Your Highness’s soldiers can ambush from the south. Then we’ll call in Western Zhou’s forces from the west and hem them in from three sides! In this way, the Chu Clan troops will have no choice but to fall before our superior numbers!” Great General Ning explained.
Long Feiye nodded in silence. He rapped his knuckles against the table, indicating that Great General Ning should be seated. The general respectfully found a chair on the side and began to explain the situation with the eastern provinces in earnest.
Han Yunxi grew bewildered again. Great General Ning is truly this determined to face off against the Chu Clan troops? Was our 70 percent chance a wrong guess? Maybe he has no relation with Cloud Realm Trade Consortium, or any deals with the Chu Clan at all?
Long Feiye didn’t speak a word while Great General Chu waxed on, even after the man finished talking. Finally, he said, “Good! Your lordship will take care of matters on Emperor Kang Cheng’s side.”
Great General Ning was thrilled and hastily rose to his feet. “The Duke of Qin is wise and brilliant! This general dares to venture and ask Your Highness Duke of Qin to take the throne, thus restoring the glory and awe of our Tianning!”
Long Feiye gave a sharp laugh. “You’ve betrayed Tianhui today. Will you betray your lordship tomorrow?”
Great General Ning immediately fell to one knee. “This soldier is only loyal to Tianning, my officers and men, and the people! Emperor Tianhui has grown fatuous and muddled in pampering Empress Chu, thus bringing a calamity unto the nation. This soldier has no choice but to rebel! If there comes a day when Your Highness Duke of Qin follows in Emperor Tianhui’s footsteps, this soldier will rebel again all the same!”
Long Feiye nodded in amusement. “Fine! Your lordship will remember this!”
Once Great General Ning was gone, Han Yunxi lost herself in her thoughts. This guy, he’s the textbook example of an upright and loyal type! Her previous confidence felt shaken by his words. Maybe this time I’ll really lose the bet.
While she was thinking, Long Feiye had long focused his gaze on her. Now he asked coldly, “Have you seen enough yet?”
“What do you mean by that?” Han Yunxi didn’t understand.
“He’s already gone, but you’re still staring after him?” Long Feiye’s voice grew colder.
Indeed, Han Yunxi was staring out the door, but that was only because her thoughts had wandered! “You! I… What did I do?” she asked, utterly lost.
“Answer your lordship!” Long Feiye demanded.
His jar of vinegar’s spilled over again… Han Yunxi didn’t know whether to rage or laugh. She walked over and sniffed him up and down, before standing in front of him with her declaration. “Sour!”
Long Feiye simply pulled her close, leaving Han Yunxi’s face to bump against his chest...