Maybe there’s no harming in letting Tang Zijin win once for this Medical City visit business, Ouyang Ning Nuo thought to himself.
Thus, he changed the topic and said, “Your Excellency Clan Head, this one traveled thousands of li to solve a problem. Let’s not turn big problems into small ones and vice versa. If we go to Medical City and cause another ruckus, it’ll be troublesome for both Cloud Realm Trade Consortium and the Tang Clan, don’t you think?”
“Don’t let him!” Long Feiye hissed via his voice-throwing technique again.
Thus, Tang Zijin stood his ground and declared, “Going to Medical City is only for the purpose of uncovering the truth. How is that making a ruckus in any way? Unless Gentleman Ouyang knows something we don’t?”
Ouyang Ning Nuo was quite surprised. Even thought he’d stepped back first, Tang Zijin was still pressuring him. Before coming to negotiate, he had made sure to thoroughly understand the situation at the Tang Clan. From what he understood, they had always been a low-profile organization and Tang Zijin himself wasn’t a man who liked to raise a row. Still, he didn’t have time to re-evaluate his research now. No matter what, he had to stop this man in his tracks. If they really ended up going to Medical City, the end result would be Ning Cheng beating him up when he went home.
Tang Zijin wasn’t giving him any face despite the fact that he’d relented first. How was he supposed to keep giving way and stop the man at the same time? In the midst of his thoughts, Tang Zijin heard another message from Long Feiye. “Why aren’t you leaving yet?”
Tang Zijin translated the words in his head and told his opponent, “Gentleman Ouyang, the carriage is already ready. Please, you first.”
Ouyang Ning Nuo was a currently a man riding a tiger with no more chances to dismount. He could only take a figurative leap back as he declared, “Your Excellency Clan Head, things have already risen to fever-pitch. There’s no guarantee that Medical City will even want to involve themselves in this mess. Do you have any other ideas? Why don’t we discuss those instead?”
Tang Zijin was finally satisfied with this submission. He was about to speak when Long Feiye’s message came through again, forcing him to stop and listen. Then he repeated the words. “How could this old man dare to harbor any ideas after we were found in the wrong first? If the Ouyang Trade Consortium has any expectations, you should speak up now.”
Tang Zijin privately thought that these words weren’t exactly Long Feiye’s usual style of speech, but there was no use pondering over them now. He was nothing more than a messenger at this point.
Ouyang Ning Nuo only felt that Tang Zijin’s style of speaking had gotten familiar all of sudden, but he couldn’t put his finger on how. He returned to his seat and pretended to drink his tea as he strove to buy more time. Tang Zijin had first threatened him, then left him in charge of deciding what to do next. How sly of him!
This was the same logic as haggling. Instead of naming his price, Tang Zijin was probing his limits instead. Before he could even pretend-finish his tea, the man was on him again (or rather, the man behind the man was taking action).
“Gentleman Ouyang, there aren’t any outsiders here today. Let’s get to the point. Whatever you want, just tell me.”
Such familiar words. Weren’t they the very lines Ouyang Ning Nuo had tossed at him at the beginning of their meeting? He felt like he’d been slapped in the face. Ouch! He very much wanted to marry Tang Li into the Ning Clan, but even mentioning that now would just spur Tang Zijin to drag them to Medical City! But if he couldn’t accomplish his task, was Ning Jing to marry into the Tang Clan instead? He didn’t mind carting off the low wench there, because then he’d be able to retake his position as Cloud Realm Trade Consortium’s president again. Moreover, Ning Jing could exercise her skills and talents just as well from within the Tang Clan. But…
Ning Jing would never agree to something like that. When that girl turned stubborn, even Ning Cheng was helpless to stop her, let alone him. Now Ouyang Ning Nuo was stuck between a rock and a hard spot.
“Gentleman Ouyang?” Tang Zijin pressed again.
Ouyang Ning Nuo purposely shot him a calm look before slowly opening his mouth. “Your Excellency Clan Head, Ning Jing is a member of the Chamber of Commerce at Cloud Realm Trade Consortium. You know that as well. The consortium needs her!”
In other words, he was insinutating that Ouyang Ning Jing’s refusal to marry into another family was because the consortium couldn’t fall into the Tang Clan’s hands.
Once again, Tang Zijin heard words being relayed to him. This time, they proclaimed, “Two of them!”
This was the same “two” that Han Yunxi had brought up in yesterday’s plans. Tang Zijin knew that Long Feiye was passing on her words now. Fortunately, Aunt Ru hadn’t taken the chance to be impulsive while she was visiting; that girl really had a thoughtful head on her shoulders.
He quickly recovered his wits and smiled at Ouyang Ning Nuo. “Gentleman Ouyang, this old man understands your words! However, Tang Li is the successor to our Tang Clan. Our future cannot be separated from him, either!”
“This…” Ouyang Ning Nuo was stuck.
Tang Zijin feigned being deep in thought before he finally suggested, “This old man does have an idea. I don’t know if Gentleman Ouyang would be interested?”
“Your Excellency Clan Head, please go on,” Ouyang Ning Nuo said politely.
“A woman should marry into the husband’s family, so let Ning Jing enter our Tang Clan. Then Cloud Realm Trade Consortium and the Tang Clan can agree on a formal contract to have their first son become the inheritor of the Tang Clan and its future head. The second son will lead Cloud Realm Trade Consortium as its new president. What think you?”
“Then the two of them….” Ouyang Ning Nuo trailed off, still sounding him out.
“As long as they can birth two sons, then this old man won’t interfere in their affairs…” Tang Zijin said in a helpless tone.
Ouyang Ning Nuo thought it over. This really was a good idea! As long as Tang Zijin, the grandfather, didn’t meddle or cause trouble, then it didn’t matter which half of the couple married into which clan. Ning Jing could still lead Cloud Realm Trade Consortium as before while still keeping a tight rein on Tang Li with her skills. Perhaps her future child could even be used to hold the Tang Clan under their thrall?
From what he could see, Ning Jing wouldn’t lose much by the bargain. Meanwhile, there were plenty of advantages waiting for them down the road!
Ouyang Ning Nuo pondered over the potential a while longer before deciding to agree on Tang Zijin’s terms. He knew that Ning Jing hated the thought of having children, but Ning Cheng would definitely approve of such a solution. Since it was that girl who made this mess in the first place, she had to pay the price somehow. Only then would she learn some restraint!
“This isn’t an impossible solution!” Ouyang Ning Nuo smiled.
Tang Zijin secretly rejoiced. This would not only save the Tang Clan face, but give their family a chance to infiltrate Cloud Realm Trade Consortium.
“Someone come, bring brush and ink!” Tang Zijin got straight to business, afraid that Ouyang Ning Nuo might change his mind.
Very soon, the contract was written and signed on paper. Tang Zijin had the great seal of the Tang Clan brought over and stamped the agreement personally, while Ouyang Ning Nuo took out the Cloud Realm Trade Consortium’s own great seal and affixed its stamp as well. The contract had an identical copy that was also stamped, thus deciding the fates of Tang Li and Ouyang Ning Jing’s lives.
Tang Li couldn’t see any of the proceedings, but he heard his father roll up the agreement well enough. Although he knew this was all a farce and that he’d never have children with Ouyang Ning Jing, the whole thing still left him with an indescribable feeling.
“Congratulations, hehe!” Han Yunxi laughed up her sleeve.
Tang Li only opened and closed his mouth, begging her to treat his poison. But Han Yunxi only smiled innocently and said, “The antidote to this particular toxin is time itself. It’ll wear off naturally after a couple of hours.”
Tang Li was too tired to even cry. He was suddenly glad that his true opponent was Ning Jing, not Han Yunxi. He stole a peek at Long Feiye. In the past, he hadn’t understood how she’d managed to overpower him. Now he had no idea how Long Feiye had managed to keep her in check in turn.
Meanwhile, Tang Zijin and Ouyang Ning Nuo concluded their agreement and began to negotiate other things. What else was there to set after the wedding?
Naturally, the betrothal gifts and dowry!
“Your Excellency Clan Head, as this one sees it, it’s better to have the wedding ceremony sooner than later. After all, with all these rumors floating about, a delay would only harm the young groom’s reputation.” Ouyang Ning Nuo began.
Han Yunxi was about to borrow Long Feiye’s voice-throwing technique to speak up when Lady Tang beat her to it. “Then please have Ouyang Ning Jing’s birthday and astrological details sent over. This lady will calculate a lucky date for the wedding and have a messenger deliver a formal proposal.”
“Alright!” Ouyang Ning Nuo agreed easily. “Ning Jing is our Cloud Realm Trade Consortium’s president and a member of its Chamber of Commerce. Her position is both exalted and important, so no sloppiness will be permitted for her wedding. Thus, Cloud Realm Trade Consortium shall host splendid feasts from the day the messenger comes until the actual wedding date itself.”
The details of the banquets would be left to the bride’s side of the family to manage. Ouyang Ning Nuo had no need to tell them these details, but did it anyways to hint to Tang Zijin that the consortium would surely be showing off their wealth and extravagance. In turn, they as the groom’s family would have to match the pomp and grandeur to avoid losing face for the Tang Clan.
As the wife of the Tang Clan head, Lady Tang knew exactly what he was implying. She lazily turned to her servant girl and asked, “Is the Pear Blossom Teardrop Rain needles still in the young clan master’s hands?”
“It has been with him this entire time,” the servant girl replied dutifully.
“Mm,” Lady Tang’s tone was noncommital.
Ouyang Ning Nuo was secretly delighted. Before he came, Ning Cheng had told him to get those needles if nothing else, no matter what. But Han Yunxi and Tang Li could barely keep from guffawing behind the wall. Indeed, the Pear Blossom Teardrop Rain needles were in Tang Li’s hands, but he’d used them all up ages ago while escaping from his wedding woes! Perhaps Tang Zijin was still in the dark about this fact, but Lady Tang should be fully aware.
Han Yunxi already had a good impression of the woman, but now she liked her even better. “Tang Li, your mother is really great.”
Tang Li couldn’t speak, but his face shone with pride.
Long Feiye only watched them silently from the side. Although his thoughts were unreadable, his lips suddenly quirked into a faint, melancholy smile.
Ouyang Ning Nuo had been waiting for Lady Tang to raise the subject of the dowrry the entire time. However, since she didn’t comment on the matter, he was all too happy to let it slide. Rising to his feet, he declared, “The rest of the trifling details can be left to the wedding nannies. It’s getting late, so this one should take my leave.”
Tang Zijin sighed. “Aye, Tang Li had a marriage agreement with Celestial Mountian’s Cang Clan first. Now that this has happened, the Tang Clan has no choice but to let them down.”
Ouyang Ning Nuo sighed as well to express his sympathy, but didn’t comment on the issue. Something like this was better left to the Tang Clan and Cang Qiuzi to work out amongst themselves. Cloud Realm Trade Consortium would never go offend Cang Qiuzi of their own accord!
“Farewell.” He was in a rush to leave, but Lady Tang suddenly called him back.
“Wait a moment!”
Nervous, Ouyang Ning Nuo wondered whether the Tang Clan had invited Celestial Mountain people to this meeting as well. But Lady Tang only said, “Gentleman Ouyang, Cloud Realm Trade Consortium has no need to prepare any dowry for that girl Ning Jing. Our Tang Clan is perfectly capable of supporting her on our own without any losses. All she has to do is dress prettily for her big wedding day, understood?”
Both Han Yunxi and Tang Li muffled their mouths so they wouldn’t burst out laughing again. Really, Lady Tang was too much! Her words were so aggressive. Would a personality like Ouyang Ning Jing’s bring any less than a full caravan of dowry goods to ride through the city?
Han Yunxi suddenly recalled an idiom: “Even the best of mothers can’t turn into a good mother-in-law for the groom’s wife!” In other words, they would always favor their own son over the new addition to the family.
Ouyang Ning Nuo’s heart sank. He knew that he’d lost again in this round of negotiations. He hadn’t met any of his expected outcomes. Now he was even beginning to suspect whether his own negotiation skills were getting rusty from lack of practice.
It was unknown what Ning Cheng felt about the outcome of this meeting, but Han Yunxi and company were all in excellent spirits when they walked out of their hiding room. Their matters were just about set! She turned to speak to Lady Tang, but that was when the silent Aunt Ru finally opened her mouth for the first time….