It was unclear whether Mu Linger could read the hidden meaning in Han Yunxi’s gaze, but she returned the mischievous laugh with one of her own and entered the fray.
“All of you, shield me!”
“Mu Linger, this has nothing to do with you! Get lost!” Duanmu Yao panicked. Why didn’t she remember this girl was around, too?
“Han Yunxi’s my boss, so her business is my business!” Mu Linger wasn’t just confident, but even imitated Duanmu Yao’s earlier huffy tone. “Duanmu Yao, this girl will only give you one chance. Be good and hand over that letter, or else…” She trailed off into ominous chuckles just like Han Yunxi. Seeing this, Han Yunxi set her worries at ease. She knew that Mu Linger understood what to do!
“Stop meddling in other people’s business! Die!” Duanmu Yao raised her sword and executed a series of beautiful katas straight at Mu Linger. Although she looked fearless, her heart was filled with tension.
She would be more than equal to the task of fighting off eleven men and a single Han Yunxi, but she was less sure with Mu Linger added in.
“Chu Xifeng, hurry and charge!” Mu Linger called. In response, Chu Xifeng and the ten guards all rushed to surround Duanmu Yao once again. She fended them off as she raged.
“You’re all men, yet you have the shame to bully a single girl like me?”
“Just hand over the letter peacefully. I promise nobody wants to bully you at all!” Mu Linger laughed disdainfully. She was still standing on the side, waiting for the perfect chance.
Of course Duanmu Yao knew she was scoping out the situation, so she kept part of her attention on Mu Linger as well. But that moment of lapsed focus allowed Chu Xifeng and the rest to draw closer until she was forced to give them her full attention again. After a few rounds, they seemed evenly matched. Chu Xifeng’s group couldn’t gain an advantage, just as Duanmu Yao couldn’t slip away. She was getting more and more worried that Mu Linger would strike. Her sword parried Chu Xifeng’s with a vicious strike before she twirled in a circle to press back the guards with the edge of her blade in a sweeping arc. Only then did she gain enough time to catch her breath and speak.
“Senior brother,” she shouted, “I’ve incurred a serious internal injury. Can you help me treat my wounds? Master--” She wanted to reveal the full contents of the letter, and that it didn’t even matter whether he read it or not. Any excuse for her to withdraw gracefully from the current topic would be good. Yet before she could finish, Mu Linger flew over with alarming speed.
Surprised, Duanmu Yao moved to block her, but Chu Xifeng and the guards beset her again. At that critical moment, their threat eclipsed that of Mu Linger, so her instincts had her moving to defend against them instead. However, Mu Linger didn’t attack at all. She drew close enough to grab Duanmu Yao’s collar, then violently tore the fabric.
The sound froze everyone in their tracks, including Duanmu Yao herself. The ethereal white fabric beneath her little red jacket had gained a fresh new tear, causing the letter hidden there to drop to the ground. The pale yellow fabric binding her chest was revealed to the world. While everyone stared, stunned, Han Yunxi and Mu Linger only grinned. Han Yunxi’s smile was leisurely and lethargic, while Mu Linger’s looked sweet and perfectly harmless.
This pair of cousins really were one of a kind.
“Ahhh….!” Duanmu Yao shrieked as she shielded her chest with her hands. She struggled to button her jacket, but it only covered the top portion of her dress and did nothing for the torn section beneath. She looked around her and saw nothing but men staring at her instead!
“What are you all looking at?!” Furious and embarrassed, she screamed at them as if she’d gone mad. “No peeking! All of you turn around for this princess! Do you hear me?!”
Even both her hands weren’t enough to cover up everything. Now she had no more face to continue the fight! She cast a glance at the carriage, only to see Han Yunxi looking at her in disdain. The curtains were drawn tightly with no response from the occupant within. Bitter, grieved, miserable, and unresigned, her despair changed into tears that poured from her eyes.
“Senior brother, don’t blame me for being unfair when you’re so hard-hearted! Han Yunxi and Mu Linger, I, Duanmu Yao, won’t forget today’s grievance! I’ll return this to you twofold!” After her shout, she violently sheathed her sword before leaving in a pathetic mess.
Mu Linger ignored the warning, Duanmu Yao’s shameless comments were still fresh on her mind. She picked up the letter and tossed it to Han Yunxi before exclaiming, “Here! I’m going to find---” she narrowly missed blurting out the wrong name again, but quickly stuck out her tongue and laughed. “I’m going to find His Excellency Pill Fiend now!”
Han Yunxi opened up the letter and found, as she expected, the same contents as the one from before, a message with three “musts” written into the missive. She lifted the curtains and found that Long Feiye was still reading and drinking tea. By now he’d reached the last page of the Annals of the Seven Noble Families, which had an introduction to the Wind Clan.
She’d done her utmost to block a rogue peach blossom from bothering him outside, and here he was, enjoying himself with drinks and books. Still...she rather liked his attitude!
Handing over the letter, she asked, “What now?”
It was easy to overthrow Duanmu Yao, but not the sword sect master. With the letter in their hands, it would be hard to make any more excuses. Moreover, Duanmu Yao might stop bothering them now, but she could still use the sword sect master as an excuse to put pressure on Long Feiye. He couldn’t feign indifference forever.
What to do?
She didn’t dare to really offend the old man. Now she was out of ideas. Long Feiye wasn’t even interested in touching the letter, but glanced at it before he said, “It’s useless, so why don’t you just throw it away?”
“You have a solution?” Han Yunxi rejoiced.
“Trash it!” he said somewhat impatiently.
Han Yunxi recalled how Duanmu Yao had hidden the letter in her bosom and felt disgusted as well. The next second, she’d tossed it aside.
“I’ll reply to my master with a letter detailing how I’m still recovering from internal injuries incurred from the . Thus, I am unable to help despite hoping otherwise,” Long Feiye remarked.
“Will the sword sect master senior believe you?” Han Yunxi was doubtful. From what she understood, the old man only had eyes for Duanmu Yao and completely neglected Long Feiye.
“He will. This matter ends here.” Of course, his master wouldn’t believe it if Long Feiye only blamed his internal injuries, but if he told him about breaking the Lustbite Seal and receiving its backlash, his master wouldn’t doubt his words. Compared to Duanmu Yao’s affairs, his master would be able to judge the difference in severity so long as he wasn’t in one of his insane fits.
Although Duanmu Yao had no way of ascending now, his master’s connections in the martial arts circles would net him a helper to treat her wounds easily enough. It didn’t have to be him!
Han Yunxi relaxed at Long Feiye’s words. Before they entered the estate, he also told Chu Xifeng in a low voice to investigate the matter of potential spies.
“Your Highness, if there really was a mole, it might be someone from the Tang Clan’s side,” Chu Xifeng remarked. They weren’t residing at Pill Fiend Pharmacy or the duke’s estate, but one of the side courtyards in Yaoshui. All of the servants here were personal shadow guards and a few carefully selected servant girls who were trustworthy beyond question.
Chu Xifeng was certain the problem didn’t lay within their ranks but within the Tang Clan. Many of its members knew of this courtyard’s location, so any one of them may have spilled the details to Duanmu Yao.
“Whoever it is, your lordship only wants answers!” Long Feiye said coldly.
“This subordinate understands!” Chu Xifeng immediately left to fulfill his orders.
By the time Han Yunxi and Long Feiye entered the courtyard, Mu Linger was already scurrying back and forth in search of someone. Han Yunxi only shook her head helplessly. Mu Linger’s such a foolish girl! Even if she doesn’t look for Gu Qishao, he’s supposed to find her to discuss formal business. Why is she being so impatient?
Still, plenty of people lost all reason when they were in love.
“Where’s old Pill Fiend? Isn’t he supposed to be here?” Mu Linger asked urgently.
“Perhaps...he’s gone out. In any case, he’ll come back. Why don’t you take a rest first?” Han Yunxi didn’t dare to reveal any more. Gu Qishao had already started to suspect her last time. If she didn’t withdraw now and he found out the truth, she might be spared, but Mu Linger would be doomed. Although Mu Linger had hidden the fact that she knew Gu Qishao’s alter ego, her heart was blameless in its love. Let her go on as she will! Haven’t I done my share of lying to myself, too?
Sometimes, a little lie would grow to become truth, and eventually overcome the rest of one’s life.
Han Yunxi could only sigh internally with emotion at the sight of the girl. She knew that Mu Linger would be willing to stay a lifetime by His Excellency Pill Fiend’s side without ever revealing the fact that she knew he was Gu Qishao. Now the girl was still impatient for answers, but Han Yunxi’s pointed look made her realize that the subject was taboo. Instead, she remarked lightly, “Fine, I’ll wait until senior comes back.”
Long Feiye wasn’t in a rush to see Gu Qishao’s plans against Head Elder Ling come to fruition either. He wasn’t planning to deal with just yet, being more concerned with movements from Ning Cheng’s side right now. His original plans were to stay and heal at Yaoshui while waiting for Chu Tianyin to surrender. Tang Li’s wedding affairs were only an incidental tangent in the end. After visiting Gu Beiyue with Han Yunxi, Long Feiye doubled back by himself to accompany the doctor again.
Gu Beiyue had brewed a cup of tea while waiting for him.
“Any news from Chu Tianyin?” Long Feiye cut straight to the chase.
Gu Beiyue revealed a tiny slip of paper. “He delivered this three days ago to ask about Empress Xue.”
Long Feiye glanced at the paper, eyes cold. “What, he suspects your lordship?”
“He’s simply sending out feelers at this point. Chu Tianyin is already planning to downplay the issue. Within the month, he’s going to treat the assassination of Empress Xue as…” Gu Beiyue dropped his voice, “Ning Cheng’s responsibility.”
“How are you so certain?” Long Feiye asked with interest. His original plan was to use the fact of Empress Xue’s murder to set Duanmu Yao at odds with the Chu Clan. In other words, he could borrow the strength of to directly oppose Ning Cheng. If Chu Tianyin was planning to frame Ning Cheng for the matter as well, that would be even better.
Gu Beiyue smiled faintly. “Because that was this one’s idea.”
Although Long Feiye was surprised, he found the reasoning sound. Privately, he rejoiced in the fact that Gu Beiyue wasn’t his enemy, or else this sickly invalid might have turned out to be his most formidable opponent yet.
“Did you reveal--”
“Your Highness needn’t worry,” Gu Beiyue interrupted. “This one didn’t tell Chu Tianyin that Your Highness knows of my status as a member of the Shadow Clan. He...will never know of that fact.”
Long Feiye trusted the words from Gu Beiyue’s mouth. “Fine. As long as he succeeds with the matter of Empress Xue, your lordship will accept his surrender!” he said frigidly.
While he was plotting ways to deal with Ning Cheng, the man in question was plotting how to use Empress Xue’s death as an excuse to avoid ’s wrath and scheming against Long Feiye. In the halls of the palace, atop its tallest tower, he sat on the banisters with a single acupuncture needle sticking out of the corner of his lip. His thoughts were a mystery, but his usually icy gaze seemed distant and distracted...Previous Chapter Next Chapter