The only clue that the Nether Clan had on their hands was the phoenix birthmark. They’d suspected Han Yunxi in the past, but Su Xiaoyu’s investigations had precluded that possibility. Chu Tianyin had already given up on ever finding remnants of the West Qin Dynasty again, but he wouldn’t tell the secret of the royal daughter’s birthmark to anyone, especially Ning Cheng.
If their Ning Clan couldn’t have it, Ning Cheng shouldn’t think of getting it for himself, either! While they were allied in the past, Ning Cheng had repeatedly expressed his sincerity for the royal clan, but Chu Tianyin only saw him as a hypocrite! He was just like the Chu Clan, a man who wanted to control the emperor and command the nobles in his name! Wasn’t he doing exactly that right now by acting as prince regent to Tianning’s infant prince?
Damn Qingge and her baby. Both of them are completely under Ning Cheng’s thrall. The real master of Tianning has been Ning Cheng for some time now.
“No. If we had any clues, the Chu Clan wouldn’t be reduced to such straits today,” Chu Tianyin pretended to laugh at himself.
Ning Cheng observed him from up high. They’d spoken on a few subjects today, but just how much did the man believe versus what he suspected? Only Ning Cheng himself knew. He studied Chu Tianyin a while longer before remarking, “You should withdraw.”
“Then Empress Xue’s matters…” Chu Tianyin trailed off. He didn’t understand why Ning Cheng had suddenly told him to stop getting involved. Did the man suspect him?
“You don’t need to pay any mind to Empress Xue’s matters…”
“This case involves my Chu Clan troops. How can I ignore it just like that?” Chu Tianyin grew irate.
“Don’t worry. Your lordship won’t let the Chu Clan suffer any losses,” Ning Cheng said before waving a hand to dismiss him.
Chu Tianyin’s suspicions only intensified. But he didn’t dare to say any more and simply left the scene. As soon as he was gone, Ning Nuo appeared from an inner room. Despite the chill lingering in the early spring air, he was still lazily fanning himself like some sort of refined and noble gentleman. Actually, he was in a wretched state. Ning Jing had been trying to hunt him down to teach him a lesson, so he’d resorted to hiding in his rooms as soon as he reached .
“Big brother, guess what Duanmu Yao went to do,” Ning Nuo said mysteriously.
“Speak!” Ning Cheng was impatient. Even though they were related, he never dropped his proud and lofty air. An elder brother was like a surrogate father; moreover, he was the head of an entire clan. He viewed Ning Nuo, Ning Jing, and Noble Consort Ning An like any other members of the clan without giving them preferential treatment.
“Duanmu Yao went to help Cang Qiuzi deal with the Tang Clan, but was injured severely by them as a result.” Ning Nuo broke into chuckles as he spoke, while Ning Cheng only looked cold.
“Finish your story, will you?”
Ning Nuo stopped keeping him in suspense and went on to outline the details, including how Tang Li had gone to express his apologies while Aunt Ru had injured the girl. Puzzled, Ning Cheng asked, “Is it that easy to injure Duanmu Yao?”
“That’s a mystery. Tang Zijin said Aunt Ru only made her move because Duanmu Yao badmouthed Ning Jin,” Ning Nuo explained. “They want to join forces with us to fight against Duanmu Yao. This way, it’ll help them suppress Cang Qiuzi as well.”
“You still want to provoke Duanmu Yao at a time like this?” Ning Cheng asked pensively. He couldn’t help feeling that something was strange about the fight between the Tang Clan and . Privately, he wondered if Long Feiye was involved.
“Does big brother mean to reject their offer?” Ning Nuo was perfectly capable of deciding the matter for himself, but he’d chosen to consult with Ning Cheng so Ning Jing wouldn’t blame him for everything afterward.
After some hesitation, Ning Cheng stated, “Mhm. Hurry and decide on a wedding date. Tell Ning Jing she has to stay at the Tang Clan for at least a year, or else she doesn’t have to think about returning to Cloud Realm Trade Consortium ever again!”
Ning Nuo could easily imagine Ning Jing’s reaction upon hearing the news. “Yes! I’ll send someone to pass on the message.”
While Ning Cheng was scheming about Empress Xue’s affairs, Long Feiye and Gu Beiyue were making calculations of their own. As soon as Gu Beiyue received Chu Tianyin’s secret message, he told Long Feiye.
“Could Ning Cheng be keeping Chu Tianyin out of the loop because he suspects him?” Gu Beiyue asked.
“He was too slow,” Long Feiye replied. Chu Tianyin wanted to create false evidence to frame Ning Cheng as Empress Xue’s killer. It was a good idea, but he hadn’t acted in time.
“Or perhaps Ning Cheng’s found another way to deal with Duanmu Yao?” Gu Beiyue pondered.
Long Feiye’s slender fingers tapped against the edge of the table as he fell silent. Suddenly, he laughed. “Tell Chu Tianyin to proceed according to the original plan. Don’t change a thing.”
Gu Beiyue was lost. “Your Highness, it’s possible that we’ll lose Chu Tianyin as a potential chess piece if this situation continues.”
Ning Cheng had already forbidden Chu Tianyin from interfering in the investigation. If he created false evidence to frame Ning Cheng now, wouldn’t it just prove that he was a turncoat?
“Let him figure it out himself. Your lordship told him that I’d forget his past transgressions if he succeeds and saves the two elder Chus. If his abilities are that limited, then your lordship doesn’t want someone who’s useless anyway,” Long Feiye finished.
Gu Beiyue sighed internally. His Highness Duke of Qin was a ruthless man after all! He was only giving Chu Tianyin a single chance. Whether or not he succeeded would depend on this case alone.
“Excellent! This one will send him a flying hawk message by tonight,” Gu Beiyue agreed.
Although Ning Cheng already had a plot in place, Long Feiye was still going to stick to the original plan. The question of who would move first or secure the final victory would be clear in a few days’ time. Dark waves had started to shift beneath the peaceful surface of the western regions. This time, the confrontation was between Long Feiye and Ning Cheng!
Long Feiye had hardly stepped out the door to Gu Beiyue’s courtyard when he saw Han Yunxi and Mu Linger coming over.
“Why...are you here?” Han Yunxi grew uneasy. She only came to treat Gu Beiyue’s injury, but Long Feiye had never visited the courtyard alone. What was he here for? Not to make things difficult for the doctor, she hoped.
Mu Linger was puzzled too and blurted out, “Your Highness Duke of Qin, have you fallen ill and come to see a doctor?”
Han Yunxi grew even more anxious at those words. She rushed forward and went to take his pulse. “Where are you feeling uncomfortable?”
Mu Linger had been here for days without seeing sight or sound or Gu Qishao. Han Yunxi had accompanied her for a walk today to lighten her spirits and had just come back. Because she couldn’t find Long Feiye, she decided to check on Gu Beiyue’s wounds first.
Long Feiye’s mouth twitched slightly. “It’s fine. Your lordship came to see whether Gu Qi Sha was around. I’ve been looking for him for half the day.”
“Is he here?” Mu Linger exclaimed.
Ignoring her, he simply faced Han Yunxi and added, “Going in? I’ll wait for you here.”
Han Yunxi glanced between Long Feiye and the courtyard, feeling that something was fishy. But she couldn’t put her finger on it. “Come in and have another cup of tea!” she said instead, pulling him in by the hand. He couldn’t escape, so he was forced to follow along.
Gu Beiyue was still in the courtyard and heard their entire exchange. His eyes only flashed with soft, doting mirth when Han Yunxi came dragging Long Feiye after her. Loving someone meant feeling satisfied simply by seeing her being loved in turn.
There was love shared between two people that was wholly selfish, and love kept within one person alone that was completely generous. Gu Beiyue belonged to the latter category.
“Your Highness Duke of Qin, esteemed wangfei, Miss Linger,” he greeted politely despite being confined to a wheelchair.
Long Feiye went to sit on the side as usual and took over the job of brewing tea in silence. Mu Linger didn’t see Gu Qishao around, so she ended up sprawling disconsolately across the table. Han Yunxi was long used to this and began to ask after Gu Beiyue’s wound in earnest. He was a doctor himself, but she still worried about his condition.
“Even if you regrow your tendon after 100 days, you should judge the situation day by day!” Han Yunxi sighed.
“It should recover by summertime,” Gu Beiyue was quite moved despite seeming calm. It had been too long since he stood up. “Your Highness Duke of Qin, esteemed wangfei, if this one can stand again, the first thing I’ll do is bow to you both in thanks.”
It wasn’t clear whether Long Feiye was listening, but he didn’t reply. Han Yunxi just laughed. “So polite! Last time you even saved the Duke of Qin’s life. How are we supposed to thank you for that?”
Gu Beiyue had nothing to say, but his shy expression made him look cuter in Han Yunxi’s eyes. Long Feiye caught his expression while glancing over and couldn’t help but feel a twinge of disdain. Gu Beiyue was simply a huge liar. He must have been mad to allow the man to keep up his farce in front of Han Yunxi!
Sensing his look, Gu Beiyue gave him a pointed glance back. Immediately, Long Feiye’s expression cooled as he averted his gaze. Fortunately, Han Yunxi didn’t notice the exchange. Right now she was busy puzzling over another conundrum. She and Long Feiye were just about ready to ascend , but would they be around in time to catch Gu Beiyue standing again? Actually, she would like to bring the doctor with them. Perhaps he could even treat the sword sect master’s occasional bouts of insanity! Then Duanmu Yao would have no guts to act so brashly again.
When they left Gu Beiyue’s courtyard behind, Mu Linger went off to hunt for her Qi gege again. Han Yunxi dropped her voice and said, “Long Feiye, Gu Beiyue’s a trustworthy man.”
“So?” Long Feiye knew that she had an idea in mind as soon as she spoke.
“Perhaps he can cure your master’s insanity?” she asked.
“Master wouldn’t allow it,” Long Feiye remarked. He had wanted to find doctors from to treat his master, but his suggestions had been uniformly rejected.
Han Yunxi could only shake her head helplessly. “Alright, then…”
“He hasn’t bothered you about treating Duanmu Yao’s illness again, has he?” Han Yunxi was still thinking about that.
“That’s already passed, don’t worry.” Long Feiye was already disgusted with Duanmu Yao’s methods, so he didn’t want to talk about her.
“Mm, then I won’t bring it up anymore!” Han Yunxi said, though her heart was still pondering over the question. She wasn’t afraid of Duanmu Yao tattling to the sword sect master when she was willing to fight the girl herself. She refused to believe that the old man would fail to distinguish right from wrong.
But three days later, Han Yunxi found herself on the cusp of an imminent faceoff with Duanmu Yao again. That was because the old sword sect master had written another letter to Long Feiye. He didn’t blame his disciple for anything, but rebuked him for allowing Han Yunxi to do something as foul as murdering Duanmu Yao’s imperial mother! He then warned Long Feiye to stand aside if Duanmu Yao came to find Han Yunxi for revenge so that the women could resolve it between themselves. If he dared to meddle, then he’d stop recognizing Long Feiye as his disciple.
After reading the letter, Han Yunxi was completely flummoxed. She wanted to cry but had no tears. “Your Highness, the one who killed Empress Xue...was clearly you, alright?!”
Long Feiye’s eyes flickered with a complicated expression. “So this was Ning Cheng’s next move! Despicable!”Previous Chapter Next Chapter