Long Feiye was wondering who would come from the Cloud Realm Trade Consortium while Han Yunxi was more worried about the family of three than had just ran out the door.
She asked doubtfully, “Long Feiye, should we...take a look outside? Would Lady Tang really try to end herself?”
“It’s fine.” Long Feiye was already used to the antics of the trio. Actually, he wasn’t Tang Li’s biggest saving grace. No, that would be Lady Tang herself. He didn’t have to lift a finger when she would get upset at the smallest slight made against her son.
Han Yunxi set her worries at ease with his words. “Ouyang Ning Jing and Ouyang Ning Nuo wouldn’t come, so it’d have to be Ouyang Ning Cheng,” Han Yunxi declared.
The added surname of “Ouyang” identified the trio as members of the Cloud Realm Trade Consortium. On the other hand, the Ning surname was tied to the hidden identity of the Ning/Di Clan, which kept the details of their clan head Ning Cheng firmly under wraps. Han Yunxi and the rest had only made the connection after Chu Tianyin had dropped them a hint of a clue by allying the Chu and Ning Clans. Perhaps even now, Ning Cheng was gloating over the fact that he was still a secret, not knowing that Chu Tianyin had sold him out long ago.
“But they’d elicit suspicion if they actually agreed to let Tang Li marry into the bride’s family,” Han Yunxi remarked. She didn’t want Tang Li to do that either--publicly or privately. He was still the young head of the Tang Clan and Tang Zijin’s only son. In the future, he would inherit the Tang Clan. If he really joined as part of the bride’s family and Cloud Realm Consortium, anyone with half a mind would suspect the Tang Clan of having ulterior motives!
Long Feiye nodded in thought. If Tang Li didn’t marry into the bride’s family, they wouldn’t be able to infiltrate Cloud Realm Trade Consortium. Then the meaning of the entire marriage would be pointless. However, doing so too easily would lose face for the Tang Clan and paint them suspicious to the public instead. Here was a true conundrum.
Judging from Tang Li’s reaction just then, Tang Zijin was probably still at a loss for ideas. Han Yunxi and Long Feiye were both stuck in thought when Lady Tang supported Tang Li back inside the room. Standing on one side was Tang Zijin, wearing an ugly expression as he was left helpless before mother and son.
“Feiye, is there any way to prevent him from marrying into the bride’s family?” Tang Zijin asked seriously.
“It’ll be difficult,” Long Feiye admitted.
Han Yunxi thought it over before she smiled. “I have an idea.”
She beckoned everyone to come closer before revealing her plan in low tones. Although they were in disbelief at the suggestion, they realized it was their best and only solution at the moment. Still, Tang Li looked utterly unsatisfied. He raised two fingers at Han Yunxi and asked incredulously, “Two?”
“Yes! Two.” Han Yunxi said seriously.
As for two of what, that was something only the group themselves knew.
“Ning Jing would never agree,” Tang Li was certain.
“Aiyo, you know your wife so well already even though you haven’t taken her home yet?” Han Yunxi teased.
Tang Li was helpless to refute. If this was any other time, he’d never be such an easy target, but after making such a big mistake, he could only sit and take Han Yunxi’s jabs.
“Whatever the case, someone with a personality like hers would never agree! I don’t think we’ll get anything out of the negotiations tomorrow,” Tang Li insisted.
Before Han Yunxi could speak, Tang Zijin lost his temper and scolded, “You don’t believe she’ll marry you, but you don’t want to marry into her family either. What do you want, then? If you had any skills, then don’t cause such a mess in the first place! This old man is telling yo now, if if wasn’t for Feiye’s sake, I’d offend the entire Cloud Realm Trade Consortium to keep that Ning girl from setting half a step into our clan!”
His words made it seem that Tang Li had no choice but to marry Ning Jing. Tang Li pursed his lips, too lazy to argue against his father. Still, Tang Zijin raged on. “If you have any better ideas, then tell us!”
Tang Li’s lips thinned. If he had any ideas, would he be waiting for Long Feiye and Han Yunxi to show up with their own in the first place? But he couldn’t help feeling that Han Yunxi’s solution wasn’t reliable at all!
“If there’s nothing else, then it’s set! And should they disagree…” Tang Zijin sighed. “Then we’ll delay the talks a few days and try again!”
Seeing Tang Zijin so angry, Han Yunxi privately categorized Tang Li as one of those prodigal sons apt at dooming their own fathers.
The next day, Cloud Realm Trade Consortium’s representatives arrived as planned. The sight of him surprised both Han Yunxi and Long Feiye, because it really was the same man who’d tried to negotiate against them and failed miserably in the past...Ouyang Ning Nuo. He brought two servant girls and three bodyguards with him. If it came to a war of words, he’d be left fighting single-handed.
Meanwhile, the Tang Clan had three seniors in the form of Tang Zijin, Lady Tang and Aunt Ru. Han Yunxi, Long Feiye, and Tang Li hide themselves behind the guest hall, only a single wall away. From here, they could keep an ear on the conversation without revealing themselves.
As soon as Ouyang Ning Nuo sat down, Tang Zijin ordered someone to bring him tea. Han Yunxi’s group began talking amongst themselves in secret.
“Sister-in-law, we’re sure to win! Ouyang Ning Nuo’s trifling skills can’t raise a shoe to yourse!” Tang Li was the happiest one of all.
“You brat, your words are getting sweeter and sweeter these days,” Han Yunxi grinned.
“Sister-in-law, if I marry Ouyang Ning Jing, wouldn’t that make Ouyang Ning Nuo my little brother-in-law?” Tang Li asked with a smile.
Han Yunxi examined him from head to toe, completely unimpressed. “You’re in a pretty good mood, aren’t you? Your butt’s not aching anymore?”
Tang Li rubbed his butt and lowered his head. At the same time, Tang Zijin and Ouyang Ning Nuo had already finished exchanging greetings and were beginning to talk business.
“Your Excellency Clan Head, we all know what’s going on here. There aren’t any outsiders present today, so let’s get to the point.” Ouyang Ning Nuo was very straightforward, but everyone knew he was one of the slyest tongues around.
Tang Zijin stroked his beard, his tone solemn. “Alright.”
“Since the timber has been turned into a boat[1. Timber has been turned into a boat (木已成舟) - muyichengzhou, similar to “the rice is cooked,” an idiom that means “what’s done cannot be undone.”] and the rice all cooked, it’s useless to criticize the gentleman at fault any further. Let’s talk about marrying him into the bride’s family instead.”
So much for being straightforward. Ouyang Ning Nuo was simply bullying them now! Was he here to negotiate or just push through his views? Tang Zijin didn’t want to lose his temper so soon, but Ouyang Ning Nuo was really pushing it. In a cold voice, he replied, “You too, should know exactly how that rice was cooked in the first place!”
Ouyang Ning Nuo only looked lost. “Your Excellency Clan Head, what do you mean by that? This one doesn’t understand!”
“Don’t understand? Heheh. Shall we pay a trip to Medical City and identify the traces of drugs in Tang Li’s body?” Tang Zijin demanded.
Hearing this, Long Feiye and Tang Li were both stunned. You can still check for traces of aphrodisiac after the deed was done?
“My father knows things like that too?” Tang Li muttered to himself.
Long Feiye looked towards Han Yunxi, who was hanging her head in silence. She was the one who told Tang Zijin this particular detail. Very soon, Tang Li realized it as well and asked in a low voice, “Sister-in-law, can you really check for things like that? How?”
Han Yunxi only pretended not to hear. Seeing this, Tang Li wanted to ask again, but found that he couldn’t make a single sound. Once again, he’d been rendered mute on purpose…
When a long time passed without any input from Long Feiye as well, Han Yunxi finally deigned to explain. “It’s only a scheme to scare Ouyang Ning Nuo. I don’t know if we can actually find any traces now.”
So that was it…
Hearing this, Long Feiye simply remained silent. Meanwhile, Tang Li tried to speak again, but all to no avail. Meanwhile, Ouyang Ning Nuo had been frozen with fear. That was because he had a guilty conscience from knowing the truth while being ignorant of anything related to aphrodisiacs. Still, he wasn’t planning to budge anytime soon. He simply stared at Tang Zijin in silence.
“How is it?” Tang Zijin pressed.
Despite his guilt, Ouyang Ning Nuo quickly calmed down with a laugh. “Your Excellency Clan Head, just what do you mean now? This one really doesn’t understand.”
“You don’t? Fine, then let’s go to Medical City. We can discuss things after we return!” Tang Zijin rose as he spoke.
Han Yunxi silently admired the man for living up to his name as clan head. He was still daring where it counted. Ouyang Ning Nuo wasn’t an easy foe however, and rose in turn, his tone refined and modest. “This one is stupid and slow-witted and really fails to understand Your Excellency’s words. If going to Medical City will resolve the issue, then this one is willing to accompany you for the journey.”
He actually met the threat head-on!
“Hehe! Someone, prepare the carriage!” Tang Zijin got straight to the point.
Ouyang Ning Nuo didn’t stop him, but he did add with a drawl, “Your Excellency Clan Head suspects that the young master was drugged? Even if we find traces of the drug, there’s no proving who did it!”
Although he wasn’t going to stop them, his words were enough to break through Tang Zijin’s net. They showed that Tang Zijin would be helpless to force Ouyang Ning Nuo to accept the results of any positive drug test. Despite raging against his son, Tang Zijin still doted on the boy. Coldly he replied, “At the very least, it’ll win back my son’s innocence!”
Hearing this, Tang Li felt moved enough to nod his head. Ouyang Ning Nuo nodded as well, almost as if he was considering the idea. But then he said something truly abominable. “Well, aphrodisiacs are supposed to make the experience more fun to begin with, aren’t they.”
What a tactful way of putting things. He was simply humiliating them outright! In other words, he was accusing Tang Li of drugging himself on purpose to gain more pleasure out of the act.
Tang Zijin was so furious that his beard spiked up. Behind the wall, Tang Li almost ran out to throttle Ouyang Ning Nuo right there and then---fortunately, Long Feiye held him back. He and Han Yunxi were better suited to fight against a slippery cheat like Ouyang Ning Nuo.
Tang Zijin was still too mad to talk, but suddenly caught the words that Long Feiye passed on to him via a special voice throwing technique. After listening, his expression turned less ghastly. He followed Long Feiye’s instructions and relayed the following words to Ouyang Ning Nuo: “All you have to do is accompany me on a single trip to Medical City. The rest can to left to the world to decide on their own.”
Ouyang Ning Nuo’s face turned black at those words. The public opinion was currently in favor towards Ning Jing, who had earned their pity with her plight. The people denounced the Tang Clan for Tang Li’s actions, but if their trip to Medical City revealed the fact that Tang Li had been drugged, various opinions might result from the outcome. Some people might think that Tang Li did it on purpose to increase his own satisfaction, but others would think he was drugged maliciously instead. Then Ouyang Ning Jing would become a target of suspicion in turn. As long as a portion of the populace suspected her, her reputation would be ruined!
In any case, going to Medical City would only be a disadvantage for Ouyang Ning Jing’s case. Ouyang Ning Nuo’s eyes turned cold as he stared at Tang Zijin. He had controlled Cloud Realm Trade Consortium for many years and experienced his share of tests. The only people he’d lost to was Long Feiye and Han Yunxi, but he refused to believe that case would repeat again with Tang Zijin!