If I recovered my Shadow Arts, would Long Feiye still be able to control me?
Long Feiye only replied, “If you need any specific medicine, just inform your lordship.” Then he rose to walk away.
Gu Beiyue watched his retreating form as his heart filled with emotions. In the end, I chose the right person.
Lil Thing scampered out of a corner to jump onto the tea table. It didn’t know its gentleman had the chance of recovering his martial arts skills one day, it just wanted to see him stand again. Gu Beiyue took it into his hands and stroked its chin, his voice as soft as water. “Comfortable?”
Comfortable! His voice was enough to melt it, much less the stroking. Lil Thing looked drunk with bliss, as if it had fallen into a honey jar. It was very happy to see the gentleman and Papa Long coexisting peacefully. Like this, it could protect the gentleman and Mama Yunxi without separating them.
“Alright, go off and play on your own. Be good.” Gu Beiyue stroked its chin again as he placed Lil Thing on the ground, but he couldn’t resist rubbing one of its ears first. “Go on.”
But Lil Thing’s legs gave way as it sat with a splat on its bottom. Who knew that a man could be so warm and soft that its legs would turn into jelly?
“Hungry?” Gu Beiyue smiled like a bewitching sun. Lil Thing lay on its back and rolled straight off the table. Once it landed on the floor, it fled. If it had stayed here any longer, something shameful might happen instead.
Gu Beiyue had no idea what was wrong with Lil Thing, but he set the matter aside. Since there was a newly-discovered hope of recovering his martial arts, he would be busy for the next few days.
Meanwhile, the estate at Yaoshui was silent. Long Feiye and Han Yunxi sat waiting for Chu Tianyin’s next act while keeping an eye on Tang Li’s impending wedding. On the other hand, the steadfast Ning Cheng was quickly growing restless! Neither Duanmu Yao nor Emperor Kangcheng believed that Chu Tianyin was only using his threat as a pretext. Duanmu Yao had called Chu Qingge out by name to face her, while Emperor Kangcheng wanted Ning Cheng to withdraw his troops from as a show of apology.
“Chu Tianyin, just what did you tell Emperor Kangcheng?” Ning Cheng asked coldly.
Chu Tianyin met his angry gaze squarely. “That I was the one who killed Empress Xue, and that Western Zhou would have to pass through my Chu Clan soldiers first if they want to send troops into Fenglin. That was it. Your Highness Duke of Ning can ask around if you don’t believe me. Many people saw me pen the letter.”
Ning Cheng had personally arranged for all the men around Chu Tianyin’s side. They’d long since reported the incident to him. He was quite surprised that Chu Tianyin would admit guilt on his own. His original plan was to pin all the guilt on the man, but he’d expected the other to resist.
“Emperor Kangcheng’s simply not satisfied with us handing you over like that? What else does he want?” Ning Cheng said sharply. “Your lordship offering you up is already giving him a platform to withdraw! If it’s war he wants, then your lordship isn’t afraid of him!”
“This subordinate finds it fishy as well. If Your Highness Duke of Ning distrusts me, then I have nothing else to say. Do as you see fit,” Chu Tianyin sighed helplessly. “Duke of Ning, this one admitted his own guilt to divert the suspicion from you. After all, Empress Xue was kept in the Chu Clan barracks this entire time. You and the empress dowager weren’t directly involved. I never expected them to be so insistent that you and the empress dowager were the culprits. As this subordinate sees it, Emperor Kangcheng and Duanmu Yao aren’t only looking to avenge Empress Xue.”
Ning Cheng’s gaze became guarded at his words. “What do you mean by that?”
Chu Tianyin spoke a name that immediately gained Ning Cheng’s trust: Long Tianmo.
“As this subordinate sees it, Emperor Kangcheng will seize this chance to join hands with Long Tianmo and threaten Tianning from both the east and west. Their goal isn’t this subordinate or the Duke of Ning, but the empress dowager and her child emperor!” Chu Tianyin muttered in a low voice.
When Ning Cheng’s expression soured, Chu Tianyin added, “Emperor Kangcheng will use Empress Xue’s death as a pretext to go on a punitive expedition against Tianning. Long Tianmo will use the excuse of rectifying the country and eliminating the wicked empress dowager to raise arms against us as well. Together, the two of them would be perfectly justified to attack.”
Ning Cheng glanced at his deputy general in the corner before asking, “Any movements from Long Tianmo’s side?”
“After the western regions fell into unrest, has been transferring troops nonstop. They haven’t moved yet, but they’re ready to set out at any time,” the deputy general replied.
Ning Cheng narrowed his eyes. From the side, his profile was cold and callous. He rubbed his chin as a dangerous aura emanated from him. If Chu Tianyin hadn’t mentioned Long Tianmo, he would’ve forgotten about the man entirely. After some hesitation, he spoke, “Since their military’s movements are still unclear, your lordship will wait and see exactly what they’re planning.”
“Then this subordinate…” Chu Tianyin probed.
Ning Cheng laughed coldly. “What’s the difference whether or not you admit your guilt? As long as your lordship keeps you, what can Emperor Kangcheng do to you?”
Without a doubt, Ning Cheng was now keeping the Chu Clan troops. Once Emperor Kangcheng started cooperating with Long Tianmo, he would be hard-pressed for troops to oppose them. For now, Chu Tianyin knew he was safe. He cupped his hands in salute and hid the derisive smile in his eyes. “Many thanks to Your Highness Duke of Ning!”
Once he left, an attendant came to report. “Your Highness Duke of Ning, the empress dowager asks for an audience.”
What a laughable request. The high and mighty empress dowager had to wait her turn to see a mere prince regent? But this was the custom in this court of Tianning.
“I refuse.” Ning Cheng only felt annoyed whenever he saw Qingge…
Three days later, Ning Cheng still hadn’t given Emperor Kangcheng and Duanmu Yao any answers. Because Emperor Kangcheng couldn’t go back on his threat, he angrily ordered his troops to attack . War had broken out once more.
Ning Cheng never once feared the Western Zhou troops. Without a need to defend against the threat of Northern Li, he planned to transfer most of his forces to deal with the invasion. The faster he took care of their army, the better. However, Chu Tianyin’s earlier reminder made him take extra precautions against Tianan Country in the east as well. Thus, he had no choice but to fight a slow and steady battle while keeping his eye on his surroundings.
Actually, Emperor Kangcheng never intended to fight full-out. However, Ning Cheng’s attitude left him no room for a graceful retreat. After the empress was kidnapped, he placed righteousness above loyalty to one’s family and refused to meet the Chu Clan troop’s threats. Now that the woman herself was dead, he had to express a stronger stance to avoid losing face, both for himself and for Western Zhou.
On Long Tianmo’s side, they seemed like they were preparing to cause trouble. However, they weren’t planning to engage in actual combat either. Now that Western Zhou and Tianning were fighting again, Great General Mu finally nodded his approval for using the excuse of “eliminating the wicked empress to revive Tianning”, and deployed their own forces. They began small-scale battles on Tianning’s eastern borders to keep them in check while making overtures of friendship towards Western Zhou. They also expressed the same wish to revive the marriage alliances of old. Like this, everything fell into place as Chu Tianyin had predicted.
He was a genius, alright!
Meanwhile, Duanmu Yao waited in vain for days for Chu Qingge to show up. Finally, she issued an order to the martial arts circles under ’s name that the lawless circles wouldn’t give Tianning any advantages in the future. She even slipped into the palace in an attempt to assassinate Chu Qingge, but her internal injuries were too severe, and her target escaped unhurt. Still, the effort scared Chu Qingge into keeping up her guard day and night, giving her no rest…
Ning Cheng didn’t understand Emperor Kangcheng and Duanmu Yao as well as Chu Tianyin in the end. If Ning Cheng had relented even a tiny step and given Emperor Kangcheng a chance to back off, things wouldn’t have progressed to this state. Unfortunately, Ning Cheng trusted Chu Tianyin’s instigation.
“Chu Tianyin gave Ning Cheng a whole heap of trouble!” Gu Beiyue laughed. “Your Highness Duke of Qin, this is no useless man, is he?”
Long Feiye got straight to the point, “Tell him that your lordship will definitely save the two elders!”
Chu Tianyin was an astute man with subtle thinking. If they couldn’t control him, he’d end up being a big source of trouble. Long Feiye would of course grab the two elders to keep him in check.
“Does Your Highness already have clues as to those elders’ whereabouts?” Gu Beiyue smiled slightly.
Chu Yunyi was the man who had ruined his martial arts. For Gu Beiyue still to be smiling at the mention of him was remarkable indeed.
“Tang Li’s wedding day will be the perfect time to stage a rescue,” Long Feiye said icily.
Gu Beiyue immediately understood his words. The two elders were probably locked up in the Cloud Realm Trade Consortium. But in a few days, the wedding would start from there, giving them the perfect chance to intervene. Ning Cheng had chosen the safest place to keep his captives, precisely because no one knew publicly that the Ning Clan and the Cloud Realm Trade Consortium were connected.
If not for Chu Tianyin exposing the link, neither Long Feiye nor Han Yunxi would have guessed that the Ning Clan (also known as the “Ouyang” Clan) was the fabled Di Clan Ning Family.
Now Long Feiye and Gu Beiyue both knew the Di Clan’s secret identity, while Ning Cheng--who only half-trusted Chu Tianyin--was still in the dark about his family’s origins being exposed.
Days passed. The battle between Western Zhou and Tianning dragged on, while the skirmishes between Tianning and Tianan grew more and more heated. Ning Cheng was in no frame of mind to pay attention to Ning Jing’s wedding at all. As figurative fishermen waiting to reel in their catch, Long Feiye and Han Yunxi were passing their time leisurely. Han Yunxi even had time to prepare wedding gifts for Tang Li’s wedding and visited the Tang Clan for the second time.
The night before their trip, Long Feiye received another letter from the sword sect master. It didn’t mention anything about Empress Xue, but only asked after his health, and how his internal injuries were recovering. Long Feiye realized that his master’s random bouts of insanity had returned again to get such a message. He didn’t show Han Yunxi the letter but kept it to himself. Since his master didn’t mention Empress Xue at all, he decided to treat it as a thing of the past.
Han Yunxi and Long Feiye reached the Tang Clan just as Lady Tang and Aunt Ru were preparing to set off with the betrothal gifts. There were a total of ten Tang Clan assassination weapons in the package, including the empty Pear Blossom Rain Needles. The other nine weapons were ordinary in comparison. According to the wedding customs of Cloud Realm Continent, it was the groom’s family that went to formally request marriage from the bride. The mother of the groom was required to bring two relatives along for the process, as well as a fortune-teller to match up the couple’s Eight Characters (in four pairs, indicating the year, month, day, and hour of a person’s birth) to pick a fortuitous wedding day.
Here was a rare chance to enter Cloud Realm Trade Consortium headquarters. Would Long Feiye and Han Yunxi pass on the chance? Tang Li had already suggested two empty names for Long Feiye and Han Yunxi to use as a disguise. Unfortunately, Aunt Ru was filled with nothing but objections once again. “As I see it, there’s no need for Yunxi to go.”
Han Yunxi looked at her doubtfully. Did she just call me Yunxi? We’re not that close, are we?
Long Feiye’s reply was frigid. “Why not?”
“It’s useless even if she goes. Why not let Chu Xifeng go instead? When it comes to rescuing those elders, he might be able to help,” Aunt Ru’s words made sense. Han Yunxi didn’t have enough skills to help Long Feiye rescue the two elders.
Scared to death, Chu Xifeng immediately rose to protest. “No need, no need. This subordinate just needs to follow His Highness when the time comes. There’s no need to familiarize myself with the surroundings beforehand.”
What a proactive subordinate. Han Yunxi immediately forgave Chu Xifeng for cursing her in the past.
“Aiya, it’s already been set. Everyone go and get some rest, we’ll leave first thing tomorrow morning!” Lady Tang saved the scene. Although she didn’t like the bride-to-be, it was still her own son’s wedding. She was happy that he was getting married at all.
The group was about to disperse when Long Feiye stopped them with one sentence: “Chu Xifeng, stay behind and investigate who colluded with Duanmu Yao to expose the location of the estate!”Previous Chapter Next Chapter