Chu Qingge smirked in disdain and barked out another cold laugh. “Ning Cheng, you didn’t win. You lost instead! With your military strength, you could have kept Tianhui in check and gained authority over all main issues a year ago, when Tianning fell into chaos. Your struggles with the Duke of Qin now only earned something you could’ve gotten with a raise of your hand last year. In fact, you could’ve even taken the three eastern prefectures without much effort then. Does this still count as a win?”
Her words hit Ning Cheng in his sore spot! He was intelligent enough to knew he hadn’t really won against Long Feiye this time, even without Chu Qingge’s helpful reminders. One could only say that all he did was upset Long Feiye’s chessboard. Right now, he still had no idea about the man’s motives. His Ning Clan was perfectly capable of seizing control over Tianning’s western territories a year ago, but Long Feiye would have been capable of taking the entire country during that same period of time. Still, Long Feiye hadn’t done that. He didn’t even make himself emperor of the south central regions. Ning Cheng still couldn’t fathom why.
Angry and offended by Chu Qingge’s words, he stood up and towered over her threateningly. “This time, your lordship will take the Chu Clan for sure!”
“I don’t care whether you win or lose. Whatever the case, don’t forget the things you promised me!” Chu Qingge reminded. “Rather than use Gu Beiyue to exchange for the Chu Clan, you should trade him for Han Yunxi! Ning Cheng, if you want to beat Long Feiye, you can only set your knife against her. Otherwise, you still won’t be able to beat him even with the Chu Clan troops in your hands!”
Ning Cheng slammed a fist down on the table next to Chu Qingge. “Don’t make such absolute statements in front of your lordship. You won’t be able to handle the consequences of your words!”
He had assumed the position of Di Clan Head after he turned 14. Since then, no one had ever dared to say “lose” to his face. Chu Qingge was once again pushing his limits. If not for the fact that she still had some use, he would have sewn her mouth shut ages ago!
Frightened by the outburst, Chu Qingge only sat there blankly. She watched Ning Cheng walk out of the study before she recovered her wits. The hatred in her heart gave her the courage to chase after him and block his way. “Ning Cheng, you’re a man. Are you planning to go back on your words before a weak woman? You promised me that you’d help me take care of Han Yunxi once things were over!”
“What’s the rush? Things aren’t over yet! Your lordship won’t give up on the Chu Clan. As for Han Yunxi...heheh, your lordship will bring her to your side as well!” Ning Cheng’s face was cold. “For now, you. Get. Lost!”
Chu Qingge didn’t budge. Ning Cheng’s eyes turned cold as he raised a hand. He had never touched a woman in his life and he didn’t strike Chu Qingge now. But his strong and domineering air was enough to make Chu Qingge instantly quail. By the time she collapsed to the ground again, Ning Cheng was long gone.
Women are so annoying. Especially women like Chu Qingge! Ning Cheng couldn’t understand why men like Long Feiye would attract types like her. From what he understand, that woman called Han Yunxi liked Long Feiye a lot too. She even kicked her own sedan chair door on her wedding day. Han Yunxi might be well-known, but birds of a feather flock together. I expect all women who like Long Feiye act the same way.
The last time he’d met with Long Feiye, that woman had been doing nothing but staring at him the entire time. He hated things like that. If he didn’t have an act to keep up, he would’ve glared back at her instead.
Ning Cheng hesitated briefly before immediately sending word to the Chu Clan. He didn’t have any opinion on Long Feiye’s call to the Chu Clan to surrender. He only warned Chu Yunyi that if they didn’t surrender by tomorrow, he’d send soldiers to destroy them himself.
Naturally, Long Feiye received General Chu’s letter as well. As soon as he read ‘Gu Beiyue,’ his eyes flickered with a complicated expression. The signal sent by the fake Han Yunxi at Thousand Buddha Cave had told him the Shadow Clan man had made his move there too. However, Long Feiye had no idea exactly what had happened, nor why the man had fought with Chu Yunyi that day. He was only certain that the bearded fellow Chu Yunyi had taken away was the Shadow Clan member. He had always harbored suspicions towards Gu Beiyue, and now look---by coincidence, the man had fallen into Ning Cheng’s hands.
Perhaps Gu Beiyue is that Shadow Clan man? Did something else happen between the Nether and Di Clans? Or is this only a coincidence, and the Shadow Clan man is still in the Chu Clan’s hands?
Only Gu Beiyue himself knew the answer to that. But if he really was from the Shadow Clan, then he must have a motive for getting close to Han Yunxi! Long Feiye would never allow anyone who knew her secret to fall into the Di Clan’s hands. No matter what, he would definitely save Gu Beiyue!
“Gu Beiyue….” he muttered to himself.
Han Yunxi was drinking tea when she heard the name. Her hand shook, and the teacup fell from her fingers to smash on the ground. Long Feiye looked over with hooded eyes, his brow creased slightly. He was a tea addict, so he was extremely particular about his tea things. Wherever he went, he’d bring along a personal set for use. The typical set only included five teacups, but his always had six because the last was for his exclusive use. Nobody, not even Tang Li, was allowed use of his private cups. But after Han Yunxi came to his side, he added an extra cup to the set.
Right now, the shattered remains on the ground were the remnants of his favorite kind, the azure blue glaze typical of Ru ware pottery. Ru ware items were one of a kind. Even copies that looked the same had minute differences from the original.
Once it was broken, it was gone forever…
Long Feiye was still staring at the broken porcelain when Han Yunxi had finished reading the letter and turned pale.
“How can this be? When did Doctor Gu fall into their hands? Wasn’t he at one of the branch shops of Pill Fiend Pharmacy the entire time? This is ridiculous! Why are they threatening a doctor without the strength to truss a chicken?!” Han Yunxi was extremely agitated. She never expected Ning Cheng and the rest would move against Gu Beiyue.
Long Feiye glanced at her, his unhappiness written all over his face. But Han Yunxi’s thoughts were filled with nothing but Gu Beiyue and didn’t notice. Long Feiye didn’t fuss about the broken cup, but asked coldly, “It’s normal for two armies to hold talks about exchanging hostages during a war. What are you so worked up for?”
Han Yunxi really was anxious. She knew exchanging hostages was normal---after all, they themselves had Chu Tianyin. But Gu Beiyue was different. He didn’t have anything to do with this war! In the past when Gu Beiyue was Emperor Tianhui’s personal imperial physician, he even held His Majesty’s life in his hands. But he only did what he was supposed to and never caved in to threats, much less interfere in court affairs. He was only a kind and compassionate doctor who was faithful to his obligations. At Pill Fiend Pharmacy, he’d sit in the shop for an entire day, saving countless lives.
How could Ning Cheng and the rest target Gu Beiyue? Where are their limits?!
In the midst of her anger, Han Yunxi felt worried. Hostages didn’t have an easy life. How could Gu Beiyue’s sickly body take the strain?
“Aren’t you worried?” she asked Long Feiye.
Long Feiye only asked back, “Do you think Gu Beiyue is worth an entire Chu Clan?”
Han Yunxi only assumed that Long Feiye wasn’t planning to rescue Gu Beiyue after he spoke those words. She didn’t speak, but stared at him with deeply furrowed brows. Long Feiye was icy cold to begin with, but her stare only caused him to look away.
“Some people’s worth can’t be calculated with numbers. Long Feiye, Gu Beiyue’s never owed us anything. We can’t owe him, either! Ning Cheng must have kidnapped him because because he’s one of Pill Fiend Pharmacy’s people and has a good relationship with us!” Han Yunxi said seriously.
She knew clearly who to thank and who to resent, who to love and who to hate. She had always stood by her words as well---love was love, indifference was indifference, and hate was pure loathing! She had never owed anyone anything except for the still missing Mute Granny. She didn’t want Gu Beiyue to become another example!
“Not oweing him…” Long Feiye muttered to himself.
“We can’t owe him!” Han Yunxi stressed. “It isn’t ‘not owe him,’ but can’t owe him!”
It wasn’t clear what Long Feiye was thinking about, but he fell silent for a long time before he finally proclaimed, “Alright, we won’t owe him! Nobody should even think about touching anyone from Pill Fiend Pharmacy!”
The Chu Clan wants to auction off themselves, is it? Then I’ll make them lose everything! And if Ning Cheng really thinks he’s won, I don’t mind teaching him the true meaning of ‘he who has the last laugh!’
Han Yunxi finally felt relieved by Long Feiye’s words! Although Ning Cheng seized an advantage this time, things weren’t over yet! She was anticipating the day they faced him in battle. But right now, it was more important to take care of the Chu Clan first!
Long Feiye didn’t have any opinions on Ning Cheng’s threat to the Chu Clan, either. Neither did he bring up Gu Beiyue. He only said, “Reply to the Chu Clan’s message. Just tell them that if they don’t raise a white flag of surrender by nightfall tomorrow, your lordship will deploy all his armies to destroy their clan!”
Hearing this, Han Yunxi knew that Long Feiye was going to ignore the Chu Clan once and for all to negotiate with Ning Cheng instead. This was the best choice! Neither they nor Ning Cheng would be controlled by the Chu Clan’s plots then, while Gu Beiyue would be safe even if the Chu Clan didn’t surrender.
The weight on her heart eased off as Han Yunxi showed renewed interested in General Chu’s letter again. All it said was that Gu Beiyue was in Ning Cheng’s hands, and that Ning Cheng wanted to exchange him for Chu Tianyin. There were no other details. But she didn’t understand!
“How did Gu Beiyue fall into Ning Cheng’s hands? Of all the people in Pill Fiend Pharmacy, why did they pick him?” she asked.
Long Feiye wanted to know the truth too. Of course, he wouldn’t tell Han Yunxi too much before he found out Gu Beiyue’s motives first.
“It must be because Gu Beiyue was running around all over the place until he ran into Ning Cheng’s men!” Tang Li pursed his lips as he finally spoke up. “Before, Chu Xifeng wanted to find him to ask about induced labor, but he couldn’t track him down at any of Pill Fiend Pharmacy’s branch shops. Finally, one store by the seaside got news that Gu Beiyue asked for leave to go to Medicine City to find medicine. Who knew he’d get into trouble instead?”
Tang Li wasn’t lying, but to him and Long Feiye, Gu Beiyue’s sudden ask for leave just sounded like a pretext for something else. Han Yunxi only sighed softly. Gu Beiyue’s safety was only temporary at most. Military men could be quite cold and ruthless. Ning Cheng looked scholarly and refined, but he wasn’t a true scholar-general like Mu Qingwu. She only hoped that they could quickly get rid of the Chu Clan and find a way to save Gu Beiyue faster. She didn’t have a good impression of the Chu Clan to begin with, but now she simply abhorred them.
Tomorrow would be the tenth day. She’d like to see what else the Chu Clan could do to talk terms with them!