Han Yunxi asked in a low voice, “Long Feiye, what’s the real cause of death?”
“Internal injuries,” Long Feiye murmured back.
“Internal injuries…” Han Yunxi didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. “Just what happened?”
“Internal energies were used to fatally wound her internal organs. It doesn’t leave any trace on the surface, but everything would have been made clear if they had performed a dissection,” Long Feiye muttered.
“You can fatally damage the internal organs without leaving any trace on the surface? That isn’t something just anyone can do, right?” Han Yunxi asked next.
“’s internal energy method can certainly do the deed,” Long Feiye answered honestly.
Han Yunxi realized the full extent of their danger just then. If Duanmu Yao had been hardhearted enough to allow the dissection, the truth would have been exposed to everyone! The only people who knew ’s internal energy arts were Long Feiye himself or one of his subordinates. Here was the true definition of “killing without spilling blood”--an idiom meaning to kill someone in a subtle way.
Han Yunxi’s heart was filled with emotions. She fell silent for a while, then asked, “Long Feiye, Empress Xue was innocent in all of this, wasn’t she?”
“Her status already made it impossible for her to be innocent in anything,” Long Feiye replied coldly.
Han Yunxi wanted to argue, but she didn’t know how. In the end, she asked, “Then what about the status of Qin Wangfei?”
Long Feiye looked at her with knitted brows. “What are you thinking of now?”
“A single general’s reputation is made from ten thousand corpses; millions died so that Caesar might be great. Just how many piles of bones make up the glorious and honorable position of the imperial throne?” Han Yunxi sighed with great feeling.
“It is a doomed destiny to build a throne from a pile of bones. The importance lies within who sits upon that throne, and whether they can lead to a flourishing age, thus preventing any further famines, unrest, vagrants, and displaced citizens in the Cloud Realm Continent.” Long Feiye’s gaze couldn’t help but pass over Duanmu Yao as he spoke, his pupils still ice cold. There was no trace of pity or sympathy in his eyes. After such a roundabout trip, the pieces that led to the truth were still within his grasp. Now Ning Cheng and Duanmu Yao could fight between themselves as they liked.
Han Yunxi almost forgot about this man’s grand aspirations. Now she was reminded of them once more. She interlocked her fingers with his and declared, “Long Feiye, I’ll always be by your side!”
Long Feiye tightened his grip on her hand without a word. But before they left, he approached Cao Tong and asked, “Where’s the acupuncture needle?”
Cao Tong produced the needle, which Long Feiye snatched back. “The item should return to its rightful owner.”
Cao Tong only looked up at him with a smile. What else could he say? The acupuncture needle was esteemed wangfei’s, after all. Moreover, even if it wasn’t hers, he wouldn’t be able to reject His Highness Duke of Qin’s domineering air and demands.
“The item should return to its rightful owner,” Han Yunxi repeated as she held out her hand.
“From today on, anything you lose shall be the property of your lordship. Don’t even think of getting it back,” Long Feiye replied unhappily.
Han Yunxi only held her resentment in and didn’t argue. She decided that she should be more careful in the future to avoid making trouble for the court. Long Feiye wrapped the needle in a handkerchief before placing it inside his sleeve. Han Yunxi knew that his mysophobic self would definitely put the needle through a thorough washing once they got back...
Duanmu Yao was still kneeling on the ground and crying, but Han Yunxi and Long Feiye had long since left the scene. To them, this matter was now over. One thing was for certain: Chu Qingge and Ning Cheng had fabricated evidence to trick Duanmu Yao. They now carried the greatest level of suspicion as Empress Xue’s murderers!
Han Yunxi thanked Cao Tong before she made to leave, but Pill King hurried after her. “Lass, why not stay here a few more days?”
He made it sound as if they were very close. Yet, thanks to his attempt to keep her there in the past, Long Feiye had a thoroughly sour opinion of the Medicine Hut. Before Han Yunxi could answer, he was already asking, “Is there anything else?”
Pill King had an equally poor impression of Long Feiye. He had long figured that Han Yunxi might have agreed to stay with him if it wasn’t for this man! Still, he was a shrewd old fox who wouldn’t offend him in front of Han Yunxi. Wearing a kindly smile, he said, “Nothing important. You two take care on the road. Lass, you...you have to take a good look at that medical text.”
“Yes, yes, I’m reading it,” Han Yunxi said simply. But her attitude was better than before, and she didn’t treat Pill King with much antagonism now. Cao Tong saw the entire scene with a heart full of astonishment. He knew that Han Yunxi was the Pill King’s disciple, but never thought she’d be so relaxed in his presence. Wasn’t she someone living in fortune without knowing fortune!? If Pill King hadn’t agreed to hand over the Rising Dead, how could she have escaped guilt so easily? Really, she was too wanton!
Pill King only sent Han Yunxi and Long Feiye both off with wide smiles. He didn’t care about Han Yunxi’s attitude at all. Her behavior towards him was much better than last time. Finally, I’m safe in my position as her master. To have such a genius as my disciple means I didn’t spend my years at the Medicine Hut in vain!
He chuckled to himself as he turned, only to grow stern at the sight of Cao Tong and Duanmu Yao.
“Why haven’t the both of you left yet?” he demanded rudely.
Cao Tong quickly paid his respects. “Old senior, I’ve disturbed you. This one shall withdraw.”
Duanmu Yao was still crying and lost in the throes of her grief. Cao Tong felt sorry for her and went back to add a few comforting words. “Princess Duan, let’s go. Don’t hurt your eyes from crying.”
“Princess Duan, you must recover swiftly. Only then can you take revenge for your imperial mother, correct?”
The word “revenge” lit a fire under Duanmu Yao’s combative spirit. She rose to her feet, her voice steeled. “Chu Qingge, I swear not to stop until I’ve had my vengeance!”
Three days after Cao Tong and Duanmu Yao left the Medicine Hut, the news spread all across Cloud Realm Continent. Thanks to Cao Tong’s participation in the matter, Western Zhou’s Emperor Kangcheng was convinced without a doubt. He angrily sent his troops towards the western borders of and warned Ning Cheng that he’d wash Tianning in blood for the empress’s sake unless he handed over the Chu Clan troops!
Duanmu Yao reinvigorated herself and brought an entire team of swordswomen from to push a coffin full of blood and water to the front gates of city, demanding that Chu Qingge come out and meet her in person. Tensions were escalating between the two countries.
Ning Cheng was busy teaching Ning Jing a lesson back at Cloud Realm Trade Consortium when the news forced him to rush back to the capital. As soon as he saw Chu Qingge, he raged, “How did you handle this?! What did you promise your lordship back then?”
Ning Cheng was no fool. If Chu Qingge hadn’t said she’d found a reliable agent to create a fake wound, he never would have taken this risk.
“Cao Tong didn’t find out that the wound was faked. They used a miracle drug from the Medicine Hut to revert the corpse to its former state!” Chu Qingge hastened to explain herself. “Ning Cheng, just who killed Empress Xue? How did she die?”
Ning Cheng only looked at her coldly. He didn’t want to waste any more words on this woman! If Empress Xue wasn’t murdered by Long Feiye’s men, their own skills should have uncovered the cause of death ages ago. Not only did they fail that, but they also failed to uncover the murderer. Instead, they’d somehow left Duanmu convinced that they were the culprits. The events that unfolded had utterly countered his plans. Now that the corpse was gone, he and the Chu Clan were forced into the position of scapegoat.
“Ning Cheng, what do we do now? Emperor Kangcheng’s stance looks like he’s ready for war!” Chu Qingge cried.
Ning Cheng didn’t answer. He was far more concerned about Duanmu Yao. Long Feiye must have provoked a fight between her and the Chu Clan for a particular purpose. The central regions of the Cloud Realm Continent belonged to old, established aristocratic families. Its eastern end was the territory of merchants, while its western regions were under the sway of the lawless jianghu. The Battlefield and a thousand li around it were filled with such forces from the martial arts circles. Now that they’d offended Duanmu Yao, they might as well have made enemies of the Celestial Mountain Sword Sect and half of the martial arts groups in the world. This was truly a conundrum!
Ning Cheng’s face turned black as he thought over the implications. At this moment, a eunuch rushed into the room. “Your Highness Duke of Ning, the army reported that the three shipments of army grain from the black markets were all plundered en route.”
“Where were they robbed?” Ning Cheng demanded.
“Lasting Void Peak. As soon as they entered the mountains, they were attacked,” the eunuch replied. That was the territory of the Lasting Void Faction. Aside from them, who else had the gall to steal on their land?
Ning Cheng slammed a fist on the table. “Send orders that all military shipments are to increase their guards against the forces of the jianghu! Moreover, get in touch with and the City of and have their young city lords find your lordship. Tell them I have things to discuss!”
The eunuch hastened to pass on his words, while Chu Qingge looked deathly pale. “Ning Cheng, once we start fighting with Western Zhou and Duanmu Yao petitions the martial arts circles for aid, then wouldn’t we…”
“Don’t worry,” Ning Cheng cut her off. “The final culprit of Empress Xue’s death was the Chu Clan. It has nothing to do with Tianning.”
It was clear that they were going to make Chu Tianyin shoulder the blame! Chu Qingge understood his words. She hesitated, almost wanting to plead for mercy for her brother, but in the end she remained silent. She still remembered how she had ended up here in the first place: It was because of Chu Tianyin and their father’s careful schemes. She had been hardhearted for ages now. Why show pity for anyone?
Smiling, she replied, “Handing over Chu Tianyin and the Chu Clan isn’t a bad idea. In any case, their Driving Arrow archers aren’t of much use now.”
Ning Cheng simply made to leave, but suddenly remembered something and doubled back. “Where is your lordship’s item?”
“What item?” Chu Qingge was lost.
“The acupuncture needle!” Ning Cheng demanded. “Don’t tell me you’ve lost it!”
Chu Qingge finally recalled the item in question, but only felt helpless. “I….I….that thing, I--I gave it to Duanmu Yao, but…”
“It’s lost?” Ning Cheng didn’t wait for her explanation.
Chu Qingge didn’t even dare to see Duanmu Yao in person, so how could she know where it had gone? She had no way to answer him.
“You’d better bring it back. Otherwise, your lordship will hand you over with the Chu Clan as well!” Ning Cheng snapped before stalking off.
“You! Ning Cheng, what do you mean by that?!” Chu Qingge fumed. She tried to chase after him but failed to keep up. “This Empress isn’t worth the value of a single needle belonging to Han Yunxi? Ning Cheng, what do you need that needle for?”
As soon as Ning Cheng left, he found one of his retainers and asked him coldly, “Where’s the item?”
“To reply, master, this subordinate was unable to approach the Medicine Hut, so this one is uncertain of its whereabouts,” the retainer replied.
Ning Cheng’s face fell. After a period of silence, he asked, “Can you find another one?”
The retainer felt strained and wanted to reply, yet a warm voice interrupted them both. “Duke of Ning, what time is it already? Do you still have the mind to worry about Han Yunxi’s acupuncture needle? What do you want to do?”
Following the source of the voice revealed…