The quiet stretched to both within and without the pavilion. Ning Cheng’s hair and face were drenched in alcohol and his expression was absolutely spectacular. But not everyone was looking at him, because many of them were shooting incredulous stares at Han Yunxi, such as Chu Yunyi and General Chu. Long Feiye, on the other hand, was smirking at the soggy man.
Han Yunxi wasn’t very tall, but standing between two men who towered nearly 1.9m tall made her seem even tinier. Still, she had an aura to rival any man. Right now, her icy eyes were burning with rage and scorn, evidence of her fury. She was only anxious about Gu Beiyue’s wounds before, so Ning Cheng’s words had provoked a sore spot. Ning Cheng finally moved to wipe his face with his hands as he narrowed his eyes at Han Yunxi. He didn’t say a word, but all of the guards around them (including the ones in hiding) stepped forward to surround the pavilion on all sides. They formed a barricade three rows deep made up of archers, infantrymen, and black-robed experts.
“Han Yunxi, you dare!” Ning Cheng’s voice was laced with wrath as he formed his hands into fists. It seemed like he would explode at any minute.
But Han Yunxi didn’t fear him. She was even angrier and shot back, “Ning Cheng, this wine is to wash your face so you can remember to stop being so shameless! Don’t think nobody else knows you used Distiller’s Grain #7 in that jug!”
Ning Cheng’s rage dissipated at her words. This woman...she actually found out?
Distiller’s Grain #7 was no poison nor pill, but a common ingredient found in many wines. Few people if any knew of its existence, so how could a woman like Han Yunxi know? She hadn’t even drank the wine herself, so how did she find out?
Ning Cheng was still puzzling over this when Han Yunxi added, “And also, don’t think nobody knows that you took an antidote ahead of time, either! Have you ever learned to write the words ‘dirty’ and ‘disgraceful?’”
“You!” Ning Cheng exploded as his expression turned black.
“What do you mean, ‘me?!’ Am I wrong?!” Han Yunxi arched an eyebrow.
Ning Cheng wanted to retort, but found himself at a loss for words. The wine really was spiked with Distiller’s Grain #7. He looked at Han Yunxi as he clenched his fists in speechless resentment. He had never been so humiliated in his life, much less cursed out by such a ferocious female. Although his expression was cold, his heart was filled with helplessness. Ever since he had taken over Cloud Realm Trade Consortium and become the Di Clan’s head, he’d been confronted with all sorts of things. But he had never felt so much at his wit’s end as today.
Han Yunxi didn’t want to waste any more words, much less dawdle. She turned and prepared to leave.
Chu Yunyi suddenly spoke up. “Han Yunxi, you shameless woman! You say that the Duke of Ning was cheating, but what about your side? Do you think none of us noticed that needle you shot?”
Han Yunxi only giggled with a sneer. She took out the needle from Long Feiye’s back and tossed it on the table. “I was only helping the Duke of Qin cure any drunkenness. If Ning Cheng hadn’t tried to swindle us first, why would I need to do this in the first place? Even then, such tricks are nothing to me and the Duke of Qin! But he was actually thick-skinned enough to claim the Duke of Qin was afraid to lose? He even said he was certain to win.”
Han Yunxi looked at Ning Cheng again with a disdainful smirk. “Is this your so-called face?”
Ning Cheng wasn’t planning to provoke Han Yunxi anymore, but thanks to Chu Yunyi’s meddling, he got another free earful of insults. His expression was beyond foul right now. Chu Yunyi finally realized his mistake and resentfully shut his mouth.
“Birds of a feather flock together!” Long Feiye chuckled lightly before leading Han Yunxi along to leave.
The three rows of soldiers around the pavilion didn’t receive Ning Cheng’s orders to leave, so they didn’t withdraw. But as Long Feiye and Han Yunxi walked closer and closer, they lost their nerve and started to back away step by step. Nobody could block Long Feiye’s way. He hadn’t taken a few steps before he drew his sword, putting all the soldiers on guard. Both the Driving Arrow archers and the black-robed experts acted as if faced with a formidable foe.
But Ning Cheng only snarled, “Scram! Your lordship wants all of you gone!”
A few soldiers even seemed to exhale in relief at the words. None of them wanted to fight with the Duke of Qin. With that, Tang Li was able to join them while supporting Gu Beiyue. The group left without a second look back. It was still absolutely silent within and without the pavilion, the air tense. Ning Cheng looked coldly at their retreating forms without moving an inch. His thoughts were unclear, but his usual arrogant expression was now telling everyone to back off. The only person close by his side was the man who had coughed earlier, known as Di Shu.[1. Di Shu (狄叔) - Di is the same as the Di Clan, Shu means “uncle.”] He was Ning Cheng’s personal bodyguard and favored by the man because of his ability to collect all sorts of wonderful wines. His original surname was Wang, but he changed it to Di to express his loyalty. It was his idea to use Distiller’s Grain #7, which he had found himself.
“Master, Empress Dowager Chu is still waiting in the forest,” Di Shu reminded in a low voice.
That was right. Chu Qingge had come as well after days of throwing tantrums at Ning Cheng. She wanted him to seize this chance and apprehend Han Yunxi. Although the Distiller’s Grain #7 was provided by Di Shu, it was her who gave him the idea. Chu Qingge wanted to seize the chance while Long Feiye was drunk to teach Han Yunxi a thorough lesson. An angry Ning Cheng only felt more annoyed at the mention of ‘Empress Dowager Chu.’ In a fit of temper, he kicked Di Shu out of the pavilion, where the man went rolling on the ground multiple times before he stopped. Ning Cheng was still angry, so he kicked over the table of wine and stalked out. Everyone else got out of his way, afraid to incur his ire.
Ning Cheng didn’t vent on anyone else, but stared off in the direction where Han Yunxi and the rest had left. His men couldn’t believe it---was Ning Cheng going to drop things like that after being splashed with wine? Impossible!
By now, the small, slight form was already blurry in the distance, but Ning Cheng did nothing but watch. Actually, he didn’t want to cheat in his competition with Long Feiye because he found it disdainful, but he wanted to buy some time for Chu Qingge so she could settle her debts with Han Yunxi alone instead of annoying him everyday. Now that Han Yunxi was leaving, Ning Cheng suddenly felt an urge to run over and explain himself. He disliked this thought, however, and smirked mockingly at himself for the idea. He brushed his hands over his face again and licked the wine off his fingers, before muttering to himself, “Long Feiye, hehe, your insight isn’t bad! Just wait, your lordship will have a real drinking competition with you one day!”
Soon enough, Chu Qingge got the news and came out of the woods. She’d waited for so long to stop herself from seeing Long Feiye, just so Ning Cheng could come to tell her the good news. But he had actually let him and Han Yunxi leave! Her rage reached him first. “Ning Cheng! What’s the meaning of this? Does your agreement with me count for nothing?!”
Ning Cheng turned back and resumed his haughty expression. Ignoring Chu Qingge, he looked coldly towards Chu Yunyi and General Chu. “Someone, take these two to the prisons. They’re not allowed any visitors without your lordship’s permission!”
“Ning Cheng, what do you mean by this?”
Both Chu Yunyi and General Chu were astonished, especially the former. They couldn’t believe it---what else did Ning Cheng want after they had surrendered? Ning Cheng only gave them a scornful look.
“Your lordship’s army has no need for useless men.”
Chu Yunyi was blind in one eye while General Chu was crippled in one arm. One couldn’t aim properly while the other couldn’t even shoot. In Ning Cheng’s eyes, they really were just useless men.
“Someone come!” General Chu commanded, and his archers moved to surround them. But Ning Cheng only smiled coldly at the circle. “Do you chose to remain loyal to your young general, or follow a worthless leader like this one? Choose amongst yourselves.”
“Where is Tianyin?” General Chu asked in alarm. “What did you do with him?”
Ning Cheng was naturally going to use Chu Yunyi and General Chu as collateral to control Chu Tianyin. Otherwise, how could that man and his temper ever obediently follow his words? How could the Chu Clan army docilely listen to his commands?
The Driving Arrow archers all dispersed at Ning Cheng’s words. They were intelligent enough to understand that Young General Chu was their real hope for the future. With them gone, two masked men appeared to take Chu Yunyi and General Chu into custody.
“Qingge! Where’s your older brother?” General Chu had no choice but to beg his daughter for help, but Chu Qingge turned a deaf ear.
“Ning Cheng, you can’t do this! We’re both noble clans of the Great Qin Empire! The Nether and Di are both subjects of West Qin, but aren’t you going to honor those old ties at all? Can’t the two clans work in sincerity for West Qin’s sake?” Chu Yunyi asked.
Ning Cheng was too lazy to expose Chu Yunyi’s own ambitions, nor did he want to waste any more words. He had the guards take the two men away while they cursed and shouted the entire trip. Once they were gone, Chu Qingge immediately went to question, “Just when will you be able to do the things you promised me?”
Ning Cheng turned away in irritation and walked off, but Chu Qingge chased after him and ordered, “Ning Cheng, they couldn’t have left the city yet. Hurry up and go exchange Chu Tianyin for Han Yunxi! There’s still time, hurry!”
Is this woman insane? She’s the one who told me how importantly Han Yunxi is to Long Feiye. The only reason we used Gu Beiyue to threaten Han Yunxi was so that we could threaten Long Feiye as well. Now she wants to exchange Chu Tianyin for Han Yunxi?
How could Long Feiye ever agree to that?
Ning Cheng suddenly realized that he had been blind to equate Han Yunxi to this crazy woman. If Han Yunxi knew my thoughts, would she splash me with another face full of wine?
His lips curved up in a half-smile at the thought as he kept walking while treating Chu Qingge like air. Chu Qingge finally exploded and grabbed him by the wrist. Ning Cheng stopped and glanced down at his arm, his gaze cruel and cold! It scared Chu Qingge into letting go without another word.
“Once your lordship beats the Duke of Qin, the promises will naturally be honored,” he said icily before stalking off. He wanted to check on Chu Tianyin’s condition and talk clearly about the Nether Clan’s surrender. Although Fenglin City could move to attack Youyun and Yaoshui Prefecture at any time, Ning Cheng wasn’t planning to fight. And Long Feiye?
His group had just left the gates of Fenglin City behind them…