It wasn’t clear whether someone had deliberately leaked the news, or the transfer of troops had attracted too much attention, but in any case, the Chu Clan was aware of the situation.
While the Duke of Qin, Emperor Kang Cheng, and Great General Ning were forming an alliance, the Chu Clan got wind of the latest developments. After determining that the rumors were true, General Chu immediately went to see Chu Yunyi. By now, Chu Yunyi had already delivered Empress Xue and Gu Beiyue to the three contested prefectures in the east, but he was still completely blinded in his right eye! Gu Beiyue’s injuries had still yet to heal, and so Chu Yunyi was denied treatment. He himself had found at least ten other Divine Doctor-ranked physicians, all of whom declared that his eye was beyond help! He even took a personal trip to the medical academy to consult with Primogenitor level experts, but their diagnosis was equally hopeless.
General Chu arrived just as Chu Yunyi departed from the secret room where Gu Beiyue was held hostage.
“What does Gu Beiyue mean by this?” General Chu asked.
“Nothing. His wounds will need about 10 more days before a full recovery. He’ll treat this old man’s eye then,” Chu Yunyi said simply.
General Chu’s eyes flashed with doubt. “Although his injuries are severe, he shouldn’t take this long to recover with his skills.” After all, the Chu Clan had fed Gu Beiyue no end of curative medicine upon his arrival at their base!
“It looks like he wasn’t lying about before. His body really is getting weaker by the day.” Chu Yunyi had found doctors of his own to examine Gu Beiyue professionally. Even they testified that Gu Beiyue’s body was completely incapable of curing its own injuries. Thus, his recovery speed was very slow.
“In other words, big bro, we don’t need to worry too much about him even after he recovers?” General Chu asked.
Chu Yunyi only shot him a cold glance. “A single precaution is worth a ten-thousand year vessel---being careful now will serve us for a long time afterwards. Heheh, he’s our last trump card. If he escapes, this old man will blame you for it!”
General Chu only nodded his head resentfully. “I’ll assign more guards to his position.”
“Mm!” Chu Yunyi approved coldly.
Ever since he lost half of his vision, he’d been nothing but irritable. While everyone in the clan continued treating him with respect, he couldn’t help but feel threatened by his injury, especially when faced with his own younger brother. Although the Chu Clan had long given up on Chu Tianyin, his father, General Chu, still felt concerned about his son. If General Chu decided to rescue his son, revoking his position as Chu Clan Head would be his first order of business.
Only then would he have the right to speak!
With that thought in mind, Chu Yunyi relented in spite of his bad mood. “Guard Gu Beiyue well. Then we might have a chance to save Chu Tianyin as well.”
Hearing this, General Chu looked visibly relieved as he exclaimed, “Understood, understood!”
“Did you require anything else of me?” Chu Yunyi asked.
General Chu was so thrilled that he almost forgot the main point. He hastily reported on the movement of the three armies against them. Hearing this, Chu Yunyi barked out a cold laugh. “Heheh! Great General Ning? Hah, excellent, excellent!” As he repeated the word, his sour mood intensified. “What a Great General Ning! What a Ning Cheng! Just what are they playing at?”
That’s right, Great General Ning’s name was none other than Ning Cheng! Meanwhile, his little sister---Tianning’s Noble Consort Ning---was named Ning An. When paired with Ouyang Ning Jing, their names formed “anjing,” or “peaceful silence!” These Ning siblings were none other than the same Ning family that formed the Di Clan!
While Chu Yunyi was fuming, one of the retainers came with a report, “Clan Head, the Ning Clan Head has come to pay a call.”
Chu Yunyi and General Chu both exchanged glances. It was both surprising and bold for Ning Cheng to visit them. Just what did he want, exactly?
Soon enough, Chu Yunyi met with Ning Cheng in person. His visitor was dressed in black with a bronze gauze face mask. Though he stood casually in the hall, his domineering aura placed an unseen pressure upon them all. His hands were folded behind his back, while his fingers fiddled with the jade crystal ring around his thumb. Everyone knew that Northern Li’s emperor had a jade crystal thumb ring of his own, while Qin Wangfei had a jade crystal bracelet. But no one realized that the Di Clan Head wore such jewelry as well. This not only showcased the Di Clan’s wealth, but also proved his identity as their clan leader. A clan head like Chu Yunyi only had cause to fear two young men: the Duke of Qin, Long Feiye, and the Di Clan Head, Ning Cheng.
Ning Cheng’s gaze moved to Chu Yunyi’s bandaged right eye as soon as he entered the room.
“Blinded?” he asked with furrowed brows, his tone filled with arrogant, mocking laughter. Great General Ning’s scholarly air was but a mask for his true personality, which was ever haughty and scornful of others. He had ample rights to act proud and lofty!
Chu Yunyi hid his anger and said simply, “A minor injury.”
“What kind of injury?” Ning Cheng pressed.
“Pink eye. It’s contagious, so I’ve bandaged it up. If the Ning Clan Head has no fear, I’ll simply remove the bandage,” Chu Yunyi said with a humorless laugh.
“You might as well take it off.” How could Ning Cheng trust his words?
A flash of anger flitted past Chu Yunyi’s eye before he elected to change the subject. “What do you mean by the mobilization of the three armies? You still have the guts to show yourself here?!”
“I came precisely because of that,” Ning Cheng smirked.
“What, has the Ning Clan Head come to admit his wrongs?” Chu Yunyi asked.
“No!” Ning Cheng went straight to the point, his voice booming and assertive. “I’ve come to fetch someone. Hand over Gu Beiyue!”
Hearing this, Chu Yunyi sucked in a sharp breath. “How did you know?”
“Just hand him over. You don’t need to know about anything else,” Ning Cheng demanded.
Chu Yunyi’s palms slammed the table in rage. “Ning Cheng, do you really take yourself to (is this a Chinese phrase?) just because this old man has been yielding to you? You cooperate with my Nether Clan on one side while colluding with Emperor Kang Cheng and the Duke of Qin to surround my troops on the other. Just what are your intentions? Now you even have the nerve to come asking me for Gu Beiyue. Heheh, you think my Nether Clan is so easy to bully?”
“You can refuse to hand him over, but you’ll have to suffer the consequences yourself!” Ning Cheng said before rising to leave.
Chu Yunyi immediately moved to stand in front of him. “Explain yourself!”
“Explain the consequences? What, are you afraid?” Ning Cheng chuckled, and Chu Yunyi felt like he could die from the outrage. Why does dealing with this man feel so much like dealing with Long Feiye?
“Ning Cheng, did you forget the whole point of our alliance? Or the mission of the Di and Nether Clans?” Chu Yunyi could only resort to such views to keep the conversation going.
It would have been better if he didn’t say anything in the first place, because Ning Cheng’s eyes flashed with frigid scorn. He knew all about Chu Yunyi’s wild ambitions, but he’d never exposed the man’s personal view. If the Nether Clan really was dedicated to reviving the West Qin Dynasty, Ning Cheng would help them as much as he could. Even if it meant sacrificing all of the Di Clan’s resources, he wouldn’t hold any regrets. But if the Nether Clan simply wanted to use the royal name to benefit their own clan, he would make them pay, even if he died in the process!
“I haven’t forgotten,” Ning Cheng said in a low voice.
“Then why have the three armies mobilize against us? Who are you planning to push onto Tianning’s throne?” Chu Yunyi demanded. Before, they had agreed that Great General Ning would support the crown prince’s claim to the throne once Emperor Tianhui passed away. The empress dowager, Chu Qingge, would hold court from behind the curtain while the Chu Clan would take the three eastern prefectures of Western Zhou and surrender them to Tianning. Despite appearing to yield to Tianning, they would be the true masters of the country pulling the strings. Once the country was established as their stronghold, they would continue searching for signs of the West Qin heir while expanding their power and influence.
But now the Ning Clan had teamed up with the Duke of Qin and Western Zhou? Chu Yunyi truly didn’t understand what Ning Cheng was thinking!
“The Duke of Qin requested that I cooperate with him. Do you think I could have refused? Or should I have met a plot with a plot instead?” Ning Cheng countered.
“What ‘plot with a plot?’” Chu Yunyi asked urgently.
“Don’t worry. This general’s soldiers will definitely reach the location before the Duke of Qin’s forces. When the time comes, our forces can attack Western Zhou unawares, then team up against the Duke of Qin. Perhaps we’ll even get the south central regions in the process!” Ning Cheng smiled.
“You...are you even going to transfer the cavalry forces down south?” Chu Yunyi was stunned. If that wasn’t his plan, why would Ning Cheng have such confidence in his victory? His current forces really did pose a threat to the south central regions, so long as he accounted for his cavalrymen.
“Of course!” Ning Cheng shot back.
“Really?” Chu Yunyi pressed again.
“Cavalry forces can’t be compared to the infantry. They’ll only need a few days to reach the south,” Ning Cheng said confidently.
“Aren’t you afraid that Northern Li will…”
“Northern Li would’ve launched its troops long ago if they were intending to attack,” Ning Cheng cut him off. “Why would they bother waiting until now? I’m afraid that the pestilence last year hurt their horses more than they’d care to admit, haha!”
“Then this is great news!” Finally, Chu Yunyi was happy again.
“And Gu Beiyue?” Ning Cheng asked haughtily.
“Just who told you about him?” Chu Yunyi retorted.
“Hand over Gu Beiyue to this soldier, or else…” Ning Cheng trailed off to draw close, before enunciating word by word, “this soldier won’t send a single soldier to the south.”
“You’re threatening this old man!” Chu Yunyi glared at him.
“Of course!” Ning Cheng admitted openly.
“You!” Chu Yunyi tried his best to suppress his temper. How could his Nether Clan be weaker than the Di Clan? Stemming his impatience, he declared, “Ning Cheng, what does it matter whether Gu Beiyue is in your hands or mine? He’s our ace. Don’t you worry, this old man will definitely keep an eye on him!”
“Since it’s the same no matter where he is, why not let this soldier toy with him a bit? Heheh, I heard his relationship with Han Yunxi’s not bad at all!” Ning Cheng replied.
In truth, he’d mobilized the three armies together with the intention of forcing the Chu Clan to hand over Empress Xue instead. But once he found out that Gu Beiyue was in their hands, he was much more interested in the doctor. With Empress Xue, one could threaten the Western Zhou emperor, but with Gu Beiyue, one could threaten Han Yunxi. Chu Qingge already told him as much: Anything that threatened Han Yunxi could threaten the Duke of Qin, Long Feiye, as well!
Ning Cheng didn’t have to think twice about which hostage was more valuable.
“Ning Cheng, we were perfectly fine before. Are you harboring other intentions?” Chu Yunyi asked half-jokingly.
“This soldier has been considering the issue back and forth. Tianning’s throne will soon fall into your hands, but my Ning family needs collateral as well, don’t we? Suppose your Chu Clan gains power and turns the tables on us? How is this soldier going to explain things to my fellow comrades?” Ning Cheng asked.
“This...heheh! Ning Cheng, aren’t you overthinking things? The Nether and Di Clans are both loyal to West Qin. Even the Chu Clan can’t hope to ascend to the throne. If you’re still worried, why not usurp the throne for yourself? I won’t stop you!” Chu Yunyi teased.
“If you can yield the imperial throne, why not grant me Gu Beiyue as well? Bring him out, I’ll take him with me today!” Ning Cheng was becoming impatient.
Chu Yunyi had backed himself into a corner. Unable to reply, he grew hesitant…
Should I hand him over after all?
Reuploaded with edits: 10/10/2021