Ning Cheng was still stewing in his temper, so Ning Jing’s words only earned her a resounding slap across the face. “Since when have you been in charge of the Ning Clan’s business?”
Even he if didn’t wanted to join their clan with the Tang in marriage, he would still deal with the matter appropriately. After raising such a fuss overnight, Cloud Realm Trade Consortium had all but lost its dignity! This didn’t just concern Ning Jing herself anymore, but the entire consortium--or rather, the whole Ning Clan.
Ning Jing cradled her burning cheek. Despite the pain, she didn’t lower her head but faced her brother head on. He was the head of the Di Clan, the Ning Family, and the one person she used to fear in her youth. But she refused to budge an inch this time. Her virginity was already lost--there was no place left for retreat.
“Big bro, then what do you mean by this?” she asked calmly.
Ning Cheng fell silent before he gave her a single answer: “Pear Blossom Rain Needles.”
That was the Tang Clan’s number two treasure. One was enough to face off against an expert, but nobody knew that Tang Li had already exhausted the weapon himself. Ning Cheng’s meaning was clear: he wanted the Tang Clan to offer the Pear Blossom Rain Needles as an apology, then patch things up with the Ning.
So my virginity’s only worth the price of a single assassination weapon?
Ning Jing felt her eyes sting, but she still managed to smile. “Big brother, when did your appetite shrink?”
Ning Cheng had huge aspirations and even greater ambition. He had considered taking the Tang Clan into his fold many times, but he was filled with worries all the same. First, Tang Li was on good terms with Long Feiye; second, the Cloud Realm Trade Consortium would only offend Cang Qiuzi if they insisted on taking Tang Li.
“Big brother, are you so certain that Chu Tianyin can deal with Duanmu Yao? The person who died was her own mother!” Ning Jing wasn’t here for consultation, but to negotiate. Just like countless business talks she’d done before, she’d come thoroughly prepared for this one.
“And even if Chu Tianyin finds Empress Xue’s true killer, so what? Wasn’t it the Chu Clan’s fault that she was kidnapped and made a target of assassination in the first place? Would Duanmu Yao forgive the Chu Clan after that? Moreover, she’s still Western Zhou’s princess despite being banished from the imperial clan. Big brother, even if the Ning Clan abandons me one day, I still wouldn’t do anything to betray the family, much less befriend our enemies. The same reasoning applies here! Why do we need to play nice with Duanmu Yao and Celestial Mountain why stifling our own power and prestige?”
Ning Cheng sat without replying as Ning Jing went on. “Big brother, why not blame the Chu Clan entirely for what happened to Empress Xue? The stronger the Ning Clan is, the less Duanmu Yao will think we fear her. Then she’ll learn to dread us more.”
Ning Cheng nodded in agreement. This was sound reasoning. Not offending Celestial Mountain was different from currying favor with them. He didn’t want to antagonize the group, but he wouldn’t express goodwill to them on purpose, either. Seeing him nod, Ning Jing secretly rejoiced and quickly coaxed, “Big brother, we won’t have any good relations with Duanmu Yao as long as she stays one more day on Celestial Mountain. Why not take this chance to pull the Tang Clan to our side? Once Eldest Young Master Tang joins Cloud Realm Trade Consortium, will we ever need to fret for powerful assassination weapons again?”
“Tang Li…” Before Ning Cheng could voice his thoughts, Ning Jing had already guessed them.
“Big brother, I’ve looked into that already. Tang Li and Long Feiye are very good friends, so Han Yunxi’s weapons come from Tang Li, too. But that’s only a private friendship. The Tang Clan has never had any relations with the Duke of Qin’s estate, so it’s still Tang Zijin who has say over Tang Li’s marriage affairs.”
“You discovered that the Tang Clan and the Duke of Qin’s estate had no relations over the course of only a few days’ worth of investigations?” Ning Cheng challenged coldly.
“If they did and Tang Li was such good friends with Long Feiye, why would Tang Li have tried to escape his first marriage at all? Would Tang Zijin need to scheme a way to get a marriage agreement with Cang Qiuzi at all to earn favor with Celestial Mountain? Big brother, don’t forget. Long Feiye is the eldest disciple of Celestial Mountain Sword Sect’s sect master!”
Ning Cheng still didn’t speak, so an impatient Ning Jing finally got tired of waiting and asked, “Big brother, you’ve probably already investigated whether the Tang Clan and the Duke of Qin’s estate had connections, right?” Ning Jing knew that was Ning Cheng’s greatest fear. He would have looked into the matter first thing after news became public and found nothing, or else he wouldn’t be wasting time listening to her ramble right now.
Her face was still smarting from the slap, but she still drew closer to him and said earnestly, word for word, “Big brother, no matter what, I’m claiming Tang Li for good!”
She turned to leave when she finished, her firm steps hiding her unsteady heart. She had already prepared herself to use Cloud Realm Trade Consortium’s business as a collateral threat to decide her own marriage affairs. By the time she reached the door, Ning Cheng finally opened his mouth.
“Make an appointment with Tang Zijin, your lordship wants to meet him.”
Finally, a chance! Thrilled, Ning Jing hide her joy and said seriously, “Alright, I’ll do it immediately!”
She exhaled once she left the room. From what she understood of her older brother, he had all but agreed to the arrangement by asking to meet with Tang Zijin. She rubbed at her swollen cheek without a hint of regret. In fact, she was so happy that she laughed. Finally, there was progress in her favor. But as she grinned, the image of that passionate night rose up again, and the face of the man who wanted to stop himself but couldn’t.
Damn it, why am I thinking of him now? Hmph, Tang Li, Chang Li---he had the guts to trick me. Just you wait!
Ning Cheng had said he’d meet personally with Tang Zijin, but thanks to his unique position, he would arrange at the appointment in disguise. On the surface, he’d simply be one of the higher echelons of the Cloud Realm Trade Consortium.
Very soon, Tang Zijin received the invitation that the consortium would send someone to take care of Ning Jing’s affairs. He was to choose a time and place for them to talk.
“Who are they sending?” Aunt Ru asked.
“They didn’t say, but it shouldn’t be Ning Cheng,” Tang Zijin replied. “We can’t afford to delay. Cang Qiuzi’s men are probably arriving as we speak.”
Aunt Ru only smiled coldly. “Brother-in-law, Cang Qiuzi hasn’t budged at all recently. If I haven’t guessed wrong, he’s still observing the situation.”
“How can that be? He’ll definitely come in person within the next few days,” Tang Zijin didn’t believe it.
“Heheh, that damned girl Ning Jing is still the president of the Cloud Realm Trade Consortium. Guess what she’s done?” Aunt Ru laughed.
Tang Zijin didn’t know, so Aunt Ru explained. “She spread the news of Tang Li sullying her far and wide. That girl spent all that silver to get the information out to all corner within the span of two days. Now all of Cloud Realm Continent’s cursing Tang Li for his deeds and demanding he take responsibility.”
Hearing this, Tang Zijin understood. Although he despised Ning Jing for what she did, he still had to acknowledge her skills. She not only pressured the Tang Clan, but Cang Qiuzi as well! Celestial Mountain had always stood on the side of the just and righteous. Faced with a scandal like this, he’d only be ridiculed for fighting with Ning Jing over Tang Li. No wonder Cang Qiuzi had ceased all movements recently; he was trying to avoid a fuss.
“Very good, very good! Where do you think we should have this appointment? What’s appropriate?” Tang Zijin asked.
Aunt Ru laughed. “Naturally, at the Tang Clan. Feiye hasn’t come back in a while either. If he comes by this time, we have to make him stay a few days. At least so he can kowtow a few times at his mother’s grave.” Aunt Ru was predicting that Long Feiye would show up. For something as monumental as Tang Li’s marriage, he’d naturally care as an older brother type. Of course, she was more interested in the fact that Han Yunxi would tag along.
Finally, there was a chance to lure that girl into the Tang Clan!
“Alright, you can arrange that,” Tang Zijin left everything in Aunt Ru’s hands. She quickly responded to the letter from the Cloud Realm Trade Consortium and made a date for a meeting at the Tang Clan five days later.
Long Feiye received the news too, which he tossed to Tang Li with a cold remark. “It’s time for you to get lost and go home.”
“You’re not coming back with me?” Tang Li asked timidly.
Although his father had already agreed to cooperate with Long Feiye to face the Ning Clan, he was certain he’d earn a severe beating without Long Feiye there.
“You go back first. Your sister-in-law and I will arrive afterwards,” Long Feiye said lightly. People had been looking nonstop these days into any connections between the Duke of Qin’s estate and the Tang Clan. If he left with Tang Li, it’d look too suspicious.
Tang Li understood this as well, so he ended up with a reluctant nod. “All...right!” But before he left, he asked, “Big bro, am I really going to marry and live with the bride’s family? This…”
Although he knew the whole thing was a sham, he still couldn’t help the strike against his heart. “Big bro, by custom it should be Ning Jing marrying into my family instead! Ning Jing is...she’s….”
Han Yunxi walked in then, all smiles. “She’s what?”
“In any case, they know the truth of what happened. They should be the ones with a guilty conscience, not us. If we insist on taking Ning Jing into the Tang Clan, what can they do?” Tang Li asked.
“Ning Jing marrying into the Tang Clan?” Han Yunxi was incredulous. “Have you been poisoned witless?”
Does he even know he’s supposed to act as a spy in Cloud Realm Trade Consortium?
“What I mean is, have her marry into the Tang Clan and then I can go with her wherever after that. In any case, it should be me taking her hand in marriage, not the other way around!” Tang Li insisted.
If Ning Jing married into their family, then the word of the husband’s family would be law. He could order her about as he liked and torment her as revenge. But if things were switched, how was he supposed to face off against her entire clan?
“Scram and discuss this with your father instead,” Long Feiye said impatiently.
Tang Li had no choice but to leave in silence. What else could he do? He never thought he’d be done in by a girl in this lifetime, much less that his big bro and father would join hands against him. Thinking up to her, he felt even more hatred for that slut, Ning Jing! He’d gone clear into the courtyard before doubling back to stop in front of Han Yunxi, his face serious. “Sister-in-law.”
Looking at his expression, Han Yunxi felt a chill go down her back. “What?”
“Do you have any drugs?” Tang Li asked seriously.
“Are you...mental?” Han Yunxi asked doubtfully.
Tang Li lost his patience. “Aphrodisiacs! Do you have them? Give me a bottle.”
Han Yunxi’s mouth twitched as she was left at a loss. Tang Li urged, “Even if it’s not that, something like it will do. Give me as much as you’ve got!”
Han Yunxi simply ignored him to look towards the tea table instead. As expected, Long Feiye was already staring their way....