After Han Yunxi left the room, Tang Li immediately scooted over. “Big bro, no need to speculate! That fellow at the Thousand Buddha Cave must have been Gu Beiyue! He must have fallen into the Chu Clan’s hands first, then Ning Cheng’s. After getting his hands on Gu Beiyue, Ning Cheng then tricked the Chu Clan! He’s really too devious!”
Long Feiye was lost in thought and didn’t reply, so Tang Li continued, “Big bro, what do you think happened at Thousand Buddha Cave? How could Gu Beiyue have gotten so injured? He could have fled if he couldn’t beat them! Who in the world would be able to catch him? Could he be the cause of Chu Yunyi’s blinded eye, too?”
Long Feiye still didn’t speak, while Tang Li found the whole thing more and more fishy. “Does Ning Cheng know about Gu Beiyue’s identity? It couldn’t be that Gu Beiyue teamed up with the Chu Clan to trick both Ning Cheng and us at the same time, right? Or maybe...Gu Beiyue teamed up with Ning Cheng instead?”
Tang Li was confident in his guesses, but in the end he only ended up confusing himself as well. He suddenly felt that Han Yunxi was quite lucky. The less you know, the less you have to worry about, and the less annoyed you’ll feel.
“Big bro, what do you think? Tell me in secret,” Tang Li implored.
He had hated Long Feiye ignoring him ever since he was young, so now he coughed a few times and slowly picked up the fragments of porcelain on the floor as he teased, “Big bro, you’ll definitely save Gu Beiyue. Just then, you were letting sister-in-law get anxious on purpose, right?”
Tang Li had gone so far to say those kind of things, but Long Feiye was still expressionless. A crafty gleam shone in Tang Li’s eye before he muttered, “Big bro, the scent of vinegar...is so strong!”
He assumed that Long Feiye would react by then, but the man was still blank-faced. However, he did stand up and kicked Tang Li’s chair to pieces! Before Tang Li could react, he was already sitting on the floor. Without a doubt, his butt was injured, and he’d have to sleep on his stomach tonight.
Chu Yunyi and General Chu were both looking forward to Long Feiye and Ning Cheng’s replies. They wanted to sit and wait for those two to battle it out, but the messages they got back only left them in despair! Both Long Feiye and Ning Cheng had replied with the same thing: the Chu Clan had no choice but to surrender or face their armies. General Chu thought he’d been clever enough to circumnavigate their plight, but in the end he still had to choose between Long Feiye or Ning Cheng. His arm was swathed in thick bandages, making it seem like he was injured. In actually, the limb was covered in numbing medicine to stem the itching pain from his poison. He wasn’t sure how long he could hold out against the toxins. The choice before him now made him want to die. He both wanted to cure the poison on his arm and make sure his son was safe and unharmed.
“Big bro, I want to choose the Duke of Qin! As I see it, Ning Cheng isn’t his match. Rather than making enemies with the Duke of Qin, we might as well swear loyalty to him instead. As long as we’re troops under his command, we’ll have plenty of chances to rebel and take our revenge in the future! Since the Duke of Qin dares to give the Chu Clan this choice, shouldn’t we be brave enough to accept it?” General Chu asked softly.
“And if I say, I want to choose Ning Cheng?” Chu Yunyi challenged back. He had his old selfish motives for the choice. Long before they received the replies, he had been entertaining the idea of joining Ning Cheng. He was sure his insights were right, and that the man had the power to claim the entire continent. Ning Cheng simply had no ambition to try. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have waited so long to betray Tianning Country for himself. Despite his wealth and military strength, Ning Cheng was still staunchly loyal to his clan’s mission and loyalty to the West Qin imperial heir. He must have tricked the Chu Clan this time just so he could claim the leadership role in their alliance. While Long Feiye might harbor intentions to destroy their clan, Ning Cheng wouldn’t.
Hearing Chu Yunyi’s explanation only dissatisfied General Chu. “Big bro, are you going to get tricked by the same man twice? You’ve already tasted betrayal at Ning Cheng’s hands!”
“We won’t go wrong this time!” Chu Yunyi said stubbornly.
“You’ve already… No, the Chu Clan can’t afford another loss anymore. Big bro, think thrice!” General Chu refused to budge. “If big brother insists on it, please forgive me for---”
Chu Yunyi stopped him before he could continue. He knew very well how bullheaded his younger brother could be. If things went sour, the man would simply take himself and his troops to Long Feiye’s side.
“Since even a clan head like me can’t call the shots, have Heaven decide instead,” Chu Yunyi said before taking out a gold coin. “The front will be the Duke of Qin, while the back is Ning Cheng. How about it?”
General Chu hesitated before finally nodding his head. In the end, he didn’t want to be completely at odds with Chu Yunyi. Chu Yunyi generously handed over the coin to General Chu so he could do the honors. General Chu accepted and tossed the coin high up in the air before catch and slapping it in his palm. Then he opened it up for Chu Yunyi to see. Both men focused their gaze on the coin, each wearing a different expression. The reverse side was facing them, which meant that Chu Yunyi had won! General Chu quickly flipped over the coin and saw that it was indeed the front design on the other side. Nothing had been done to the appearance of the coin.
He had lost!
“This is Heaven’s will,” Chu Yunyi said simply as he pocketed his coin again. Actually, he hadn’t told anyone, but the coin was weighed to always show the reverse side. Unfortunately, General Chu would never get the chance to try a second toss again. Chu Yunyi patted General Chu’s disappointed shoulders. “Trust me, Long Feiye and Han Yunxi would never give up on Gu Beiyue. Tianyin will return to us.”
Without a choice, General Chu immediately went to answer Ning Cheng’s letter. Chu Yunyi wanted to risk it, but he couldn’t afford such dangers. He had to make sure Ning Cheng could complete his trade with Long Feiye before tomorrow night, or else Long Feiye might kill Chu Tianyin in rage. Then he would have no more hopes for this life. Once the letter went out, General Chu didn’t sleep for one day or one night. It wasn’t until sunset of the second day that Ning Cheng wrote back to say he’d already arranged everything with Long Feiye. The next day at noon, they would exchange their hostages at Fenglin City’s famous octagonal pavilion.
“In other words, Long Feiye’s agreed to exchange the hostages!” General Chu was overjoyed at the news.
Chu Yunyi wasn’t surprised. “I told you to stop worrying ages ago. Han Yunxi is Long Feiye’s weak spot, which makes her weaknesses his weaknesses as well!”
As long as Tianyin can come back, I don’t need to worry about my crippled arm anymore. The Chu Clan will just rely on him in the future.
Since the Chu Clan chose Ning Cheng, they had to stay and take care of Fenglin City. General Chu missed another night’s of sleep to fortify the walls and make precautions for every possible scenario. Everything was to prepare for Great General Ning’s arrival and defend against any surprise attacks from Long Feiye after the exchange. They were also prepared to answer Long Feiye if he went back on his word and didn’t exchange Chu Tianyin at all. After all, neither of them could use the Driving Arrow Arts at the moment, nor was Ning Cheng Long Feiye’s match. For General Chu to take such precautions against Long Feiye even in his own territory was a mark of how much he dreaded the man.
The next day, Ning Cheng arrived early, while Long Feiye came right on time. The Chu Clan had arranged a team of archers around the pavilion, with more hiding in ambush. Ning Cheng sat by himself drinking wine within while Chu Yunyi and General Chu both stood on one side. Meanwhile, Long Feiye had brought along Han Yunxi and Tang Li despite coming straight into the tiger’s den. He held her in his arms while Tang Li kept a tight grip on Chu Tianyin. Despite the torment he’d suffered at the hands of Han Yunxi and Tang Li, he didn’t have any lasting injuries. At most, he was just skinnier than before.
Long Feiye sensed the hidden experts lying in ambush around them as soon as they approached the octagonal pavilion, but didn’t consider them a threat. He saw Ning Cheng sitting in the distance and brushed him aside as well, his face expressionless. Han Yunxi, on the other hand, did notice the man. He wasn’t wearing his Confucian styled robes today nor a typical general’s armor. Like Long Feiye, he had dressed in a set of black robes that made him look both noble, oppressive, and domineering.
Still, she could tell the differences between both man with a glance. Long Feiye’s domineering air was ever cold and frosty, while Ning Cheng had an arrogant, almost wildly overbearing attitude. The ice in his eyes differed from Long Feiye’s in that it was both proud and haughty while her husband’s tended to be distant and unmoved. As expected, his gentlemanly act from before was all an act!
Of course, that wasn’t the most important part. She was more concerned with Gu Beiyue, because he wasn’t amongst the three people already in the pavilion. Long Feiye seemed to sense her worry, because the first thing he asked upon arrival was, “Where’s Gu Beiyue?”
Ning Cheng’s lips quirked up into a cold smirk. Instead of acting respectful, he lounged in his seat and poured Long Feiye a cup of wine. “Sit!”
What a strong and powerful air!
But Long Feiye wasn’t someone to be cowed. He held Han Yunxi tightly with one hand while pressing his finger against Chu Tianyin’s elbow joint! If bloodflow wasn’t restored in time, it would adversely affect his arm. Forget about shooting arrows, he wouldn’t even be able to lift heavy objects! Both Chu Yunyi and General Chu panicked. With their arms now rendered useless, Chu Tianyin was the Chu Clan’s final hope.
General Chu instantly cried out, “Gu Beiyue’s within the woods! Duke of Qin, as long as you release Tianyin, this old man will bring him back personally!”
Neither General Chu nor the other members of the Chu Clan had the right to talk terms with Long Feiye now. He didn’t waste words with them at all, but next pressed his finger firmly against Chu Tianyin’s shoulder joint! At the motion, Chu Tianyin couldn’t help but groan softly as he stood with his head still bowed.
“Tianyin!” General Chu panicked, but Chu Tianyin only glanced at him wordlessly. He had no idea what was going on, nor why Gu Beiyue had fallen into Ning Cheng’s hands, much less Ning Cheng’s true identity. He was far more prudent than either his father nor uncle, and knew to keep him mouth shut when he didn’t know all the details.
With his acupoint sealed, Chu Tianyin’s arm now hung limply by his side like a puppet without its strings. His arm was the entire future of the Chu Clan! General Chu immediately turned back without a word to head into the forest and fetch Gu Beiyue.
But would Ning Cheng…try to stop him?