Hand him over, or not?
Ning Cheng wasn’t about to back off after bringing up the issue. If the Chu Clan refused to budge, then all their plans would be for naught, if Chu Yunyi’s assumptions were correct. Ning Cheng’s words had merit, as well. The Chu Clan had between a 90 to 100 percent probability of winning the Tianning throne. It would only be fair to give the Di Clan something in exchange as collateral.
Chu Yunyi knew that Ning Cheng was unflinchingly loyal to the West Qin imperial clan. He was certain that if the Nether Clan agreed to his demands, the Di Clan wouldn’t quarrel with them. Once they seized the throne and controlled most of Tianning, it would be easy enough to weaken the Ning Clan bit by bit. But out of everything he could have asked for, Ning Cheng wanted Gu Beiyue---which put him in dire straits!
Who’s going to heal my eye once Gu Beiyue’s gone?
“How about I give you Empress Xue instead?” Chu Yunyi asked.
“No need!” Ning Cheng replied without a second thought.
Chu Yunyi’s eye flashed with a sinister glint. If he could find out which agent spilled the beans about Gu Beiyue to Ning Cheng, he’d tear them into a thousand pieces! Seeing his silence, Ning Cheng asked impatiently, “Are you handing him over or not?”
“This old man will give you an answer after three days. How about it?” Chu Yunyi was trying to stall for time, but Ning Cheng didn’t buy it.
“It’s just one hostage. Do you need to think for that long? Is there some other secret at hand that I’m unaware of here?”
“Of course not!” Chu Yunyi denied instantly. “Ning Clan Head, please wait. This old man will personally bring him over!”
Ning Cheng didn’t answer, but went to sprawl on a seat with his usual domineering air and waited. Chu Yunyi had scarcely departed from the hall when General Chu caught up to him. “Big bro, are you really going to give him Gu Beiyue? You can’t!”
Gu Beiyue was part of the Shadow Clan, but Ning Cheng didn’t know that. Additionally, the Ning Clan were the owners of Cloud Realm Trade Consortium and descendents of the Di Clan, but Gu Beiyue didn’t know that either. In Ning Cheng’s eyes, Gu Beiyue was just a doctor; in Gu Beiyue’s eyes, Ning Cheng was simply Great General Ning. If they didn’t tell Ning Cheng the truth, it was likely the man would only treat Gu Beiyue as a doctor without the strength to truss a chicken. By keeping his guard down, he would afford Gu Beiyue plenty of chances to escape.
But if they told Ning Cheng the truth, things would be complicated even further! Both Ning Cheng and Gu Beiyue were very loyal to the West Qin Dynasty. As soon as Gu Beiyue told Ning Cheng about the Chu Clan’s ambitions, the consequences would be unthinkable! Naturally, General Chu’s fears had long been considered by Chu Yunyi, or else he wouldn’t have hesitated in the first place!
By saying he was going to personally fetch Gu Beiyue, he was simply making up an excuse to step out and clear his head. As he walked in silence to the secret chamber, General Chu creased his brows and followed closely by his side.
Chu Yunyi hadn’t wanted to deal with the issues at hand yet, but the more he thought, the more irritated he grew. Finally, he fumed, “Just who told Ning Cheng?”
The number of people in the Nether Clan who knew of Gu Beiyue’s identity were limited; those who knew he was imprisoned, even fewer. But who had spread the news?
“Witch Aunt?” General Chu could only think of one candidate.
“Witch Aunt doesn’t know about Ning Cheng’s identity. Whoever leaked the information must know that he’s the descendent of the Di Clan! Otherwise, there would be no need to inform Ning Cheng at all!” Chu Yunyi retorted. From an outsider’s perspective, Tianning’s Great General Ning was the enemy of the Chu Clan troops! Those who knew of Gu Beiyue and Ning Cheng’s identities were rare, aside from a few trusted subordinates under their command.
“It looks like it’s time to kill off all these retainers!” General Chu declared.
Supremely vexed, Chu Yunyi simply walked on in silence until General Chu physically stopped him. “Big bro, no matter what, you can’t hand over Gu Beiyue to Ning Cheng! There’s nothing to consider here!”
Indeed, the idea wasn’t worth a second thought! Once Gu Beiyue fell into Ning Cheng’s hands, he would either escape, or lead to the end of the Nether Clan.
Chu Yunyi ignored General Chu and spun on his heel to go back, yet he didn’t even manage a few paces before reversing his steps again. He paced back and forth with his hands behind his back, sighing, as General Chu’s anxiety grew.
“Big bro, just what are you thinking about? How about I refuse in your stead? If he wants a hostage, give him Empress Xue!” General Chu declared before stalking off, only for Chu Yunyi to bark at him.
“Big bro!” General Chu couldn’t figure out what his brother was thinking.
“You don’t understand that brat’s personality! He’s never failed to get someone he names!” Chu Yunyi said, feeling helpless.
“What’s the big deal if we don’t hand over the hostage? Don’t forget that the Nether and Di Clans are all on one boat now!” General Chu was losing his temper as well. “Big bro, you’re destroying your own dignity beneath another’s aspirations!”
General Chu really didn’t understand Ning Cheng. Although he knew the man’s identity, he’d never interacted with him in person; as the acting clan head, he only discussed matters with Chu Yunyi.
“Currently, the three armies have already mobilized. He hid the southward transference of the cavalrymen from the Duke of Qin. Even without the Chu Clan, his Di Clan troops are strong enough to take Tianning and the three eastern prefectures in Western Zhou by himself! If we offend him, he could discard our Chu Clan at a moment’s notice,” Chu Yunyi declared seriously.
“Would he dare?” General Chu asked in alarm.
“He would!” Of that, Chu Yunyi was certain.
The alliance between their two clans came about after the Nether Clan sought out the Di and told them the truth about their ‘assassination attempt.’ Over the past few years, the Nether Clan had claimed superiority because of their mission to revive the West Qin Dynasty, but it was the Di Clan who had the real power. Still, they’d done nothing but cooperate with the Nether Clan’s plans.
However, if the Nether Clan couldn’t get their hands on Tianning or the three eastern prefectures this time, Ning Cheng’s temper would certainly have the man vying for leadership himself.
After a while, Chu Yunyi finally said, “Endure it!”
Only by enduring can the Nether Clan have its chance!
“But…” General Chu had hardly spoken when Chu Yunyi slapped his right eye, causing fresh blood to seep between his fingers!
“Big brother!” General Chu grew alarmed. “You...you…”
Chu Yunyi is simply destroying his own eye! His condition may have been curable before, but now the damaged eye was completely crushed!
“If this can save my Nether Clan and give us an advantage, heheh, then the loss of an eye is worth it!” Chu Yunyi’s tone turned impassioned as he cast aside all doubts. What’s the use of keeping Gu Beiyue if my eye is ruined? Before we hand him over to Ning Cheng, we’ll have to ruin him, too!
General Chu grit his teeth at the sight of Chu Yunyi’s bleeding face. “Big bro, if anyone tries to touch your position as clan head from here on, I’ll be the first to show them no mercy!”
But who else would dare to try for the position besides General Chu himself? With Chu Yunyi’s eye ruined, he had the chance to seize the spot for himself. After seeing his brother like this, how could he convince the other clansmen, even if he had the ambition to try? Chu Yunyi’s words were for General Chu to hear as well! He was waiting for their response! He patted General Chu’s shoulder in silent acknowledgment before striding to the secret chamber.
Inside, all was dim and hazy. Sitting in a corner and dressed in white robes was Gu Beiyue, quietly reading a medical text. Both his ankles and wrists were shackled with metal chains, while thick bandages covered his shoulder and leg wounds. Neither had healed---not because he didn’t want to recover, but because he couldn’t.
The doctors that Chu Yunyi had found for him spoke rightly: Gu Beiyue’s body truly was too weak. After such serious injuries, even the best medicine wouldn’t help him heal. Supposing his wounds did close up, he still wouldn’t be able to escape from the Chu Clan archers. Thus, he had no choice but to resign himself to waiting in imprisonment. So long as he was ailing, Chu Yunyi would have to keep giving him medicine. Half of the ingredients he requested were for treating his wounds, while the other half gave nourishment to his body.
Judging from his own estimations of the situation in the eastern prefectures, Empress Xue’s kidnapping, and Emperor Tianhui’s illness, it would take half a month before war really broke out. As Chu Yunyi’s trump card, he wouldn’t be used until the last minute to pressure Long Feiye.
Whatever the case, I should still have half a month’s worth of time, he thought.
When he heard Chu Yunyi coming in, he only glanced up briefly before returning to his book. The man often visited to check in on his status, so he was used to him. But very soon, he caught the scent of blood! As his gaze flew upwards, he realized that Chu Yunyi’s injured eye was bleeding!
Chu Yunyi’s eye has been ruined. Then that means…
Alarmed, he sprang to his feet, but it was already too late. Chu Yunyi suddenly drew close and grasped him by his hands.
“I can immediately cure your eye!” Gu Beiyue knew that the situation looked dire.
But Chu Yunyi laughed bitterly and replied, “No need!”
Gu Beiyue’s eyes turned cold before he violently broke free and attempted to escape, but the iron shackles around his limbs made it impossible. Shortly thereafter, General Chu came in as well, with an arrow drawn and notched at Gu Beiyue’s heart. Gu Beiyue ceased his struggle to lean against the wall. “At least give me a reason for why you’re killing me.”
“Killing you? Heheh!” Chu Yunyi broke into laughter. Then he jabbed his elbow into Gu Beiyue’s neck and drove a punch into his dantian region.
“Ugh…!” Gu Beiyue groaned before spitting up a mouthful of fresh blood!
For the first time, his calm and unruffled visage took on a stunned expression. He stood there blankly, unable to believe what had just happened. But the pain from his dantian told him that everything was all too real. A single punch had shattered his dantian, destroying a lifetime’s worth of inner energy and all of his martial arts!
In a flash, scenes of his childhood training flickered past his mind’s eye. He saw his father’s warm smile, heard his grandfather’s words of encouragement, watched memory after memory of bitter training and hard work float by his vision.
Everything gone with a single punch from Chu Yunyi!
Without inner energy, his shadow arts were gone as well. How was he supposed to finish the Shadow Clan’s mission now? How could he protect his most beloved person now?
There’s nothing left...it’s all gone.
How could he stay calm at a time like this?
It wasn’t until Chu Yunyi released the chains around his wrists that he recovered some of his wits.
“Why?” he asked.
“Beiyue, don’t blame me for this!” Chu Yunyi retorted lightly.
“Why?” Gu Beiyue demanded again, fuming. “It would have been better if you killed me instead!”
“Someone asked for you personally. My Nether Clan doesn’t have the power to keep you.” Of course, Chu Yunyi would never reveal Ning Cheng’s true identity. He trusted that Ning Cheng would keep the secret, too.
By the time Chu Yunyi took care of his bleeding eye and escorted Gu Beiyue to the guest hall, Ning Cheng had already grown impatient…
Reuploaded with edits: 12/12/2020