Chapter 687: Public display of affection

They want only Long Feiye to go? And they even want his treasured sword, Profound Frost? Exceeding the deadline would make going completely useless? Shoulder the consequences? 

The short ransom note had stated four key points. Even Ning Cheng hadn’t been so brash when he was ransoming Gu Beiyue with them. Nor did he have so many requirements. 

What kind of deity is this to be so bold?

“They want you to trade in your sword for the hostage? Is it Cang Qiuzi?” Han Yunxi was puzzled.

“Unlikely. He doesn’t need to resort to such tricks just for Profound Frost,” Long Feiye said lightly. His master was the one who gave him his sword, the sect’s number one weapon. He had said that the weapon matched his aura and was the only one who could control its chill, a fact that Cang Qiuzi should know as well.

“If it’s not Cang Qiuzi, then someone must have hired one of those mercenary cities to kidnap the hostage, then seek you out for a trade,” Han Yunxi continued.

Long Feiye accepted this theory, but after a pause, he declared, “This whole thing is suspicious!” Kidnapping someone, then pressuring them--why choose Grand Concubine Yi of all people? The world had long forgotten about her existence! Even Ning Cheng knew that to truly threaten them, kidnapping targets like Gu Beiyue or other members of Pill Fiend Pharmacy was the better choice. 

“If they were hired to kidnap the hostage, then only Lady Leng Yue or Qi Zonglin remain as suspects,” Long Feiye said. “But money alone wouldn’t move those two to act.”

“Looks like we’ll only know the truth after meeting them in person.” Han Yunxi grew serious. “Three days. Let’s make preparations and have Chu Xifeng hurry back.”

If the other side had a trap lying in wait, or employed more killers to target Long Feiye at Lost Void Lake, they had to be prepared. Suppose their true assassination target was actually Long Feiye himself? It would be a perilous situation!

Han Yunxi was completely serious, but Long Feiye only arched a brow at her. “What if your lordship brings you instead of the Profound Frost Sword? Do you dare to come along?”

Han Yunxi smiled helplessly. Despite her worries, she understood Long Feiye’s personality. How could anyone simply threaten him on a whim? 

“Of course!” she accepted and laughed. What dangers hadn’t they faced? They even survived the trials of the Medicine Requesting Cave didn’t they?

Three days remained. Over the next few days, Long Feiye didn’t do any preparations beyond following his original plans. His time was tight to begin with. On the first day, he brought Han Yunxi to visit South Ning’s commander-in-chief’s estate. Right now, Baili Yuanlong was in charge of its seat. He had set up Six Ministries as well as formed a miniature royal court with jurisdiction over the southlands. Despite holding most of the raw power, the Six Ministries was more than just the Board of War. The other five departments had the support of the old established families, who determined which people were elected to the relevant posts and as high officials. Combined, they still had enough strength to keep Long Feiye in check. 

In families with such hereditary emoluments, generation after generation of its members inherited the position at court while elevating their families’ prestige and nobility. Much of these same families had long stopped getting involved in government affairs and simply enjoyed their livelihoods from the issued salary. They were so haughty that they looked down on the officials and members of the royal family, but still pushed for members of their own to assume the posts of high officials. Such were their unbridled ambitions.

Their clearest goal was to contain Long Feiye, but since the man was building up his power without consolidating an empire, they could only remain reserved without acting too rampant. Once Long Feiye moved to proclaim himself an emperor, they would come to seek a portion of the soup. Acknowledgment by the new political power would be a given that respected their various clans, positions, and the certainty of their continued benefits. 

Inside the great hall, Baili Yuanlong sat with five clan heads turned high officials, all hailing from prominent families. All of them rose to bow politely at Long Feiye and Han Yunxi’s arrival. Baili Yuanlong showed the most respect and even yielded the seat of the host to Long Feiye. The latter didn’t call for everyone to rise right away, but held Han Yunxi’s hand as he approached the group. Han Yunxi suddenly noticed that a second chair had been set beside the host’s chair of honor and realized it’d been added there for her sake by Baili Yuanlong.

Great General Baili has really put in a wholehearted effort.

Though she had no notions of “elevated men and submissive women,” all of the others present today were males. Moreover, they would be discussing matters of state. She wasn’t interested in participating in such things when she was more worried about her Pill Fiend Pharmacy and the kidnapped Grand Concubine Yi. She couldn’t understand why Long Feiye was still so calm. But since he had dragged her here, she could only sit by and listen. Once she got to her chair, she prepared to sit down, but Long Feiye refused to let go. Instead, he carried her over to the host’s seat and sat her there--or rather, on his own lap!

Immediately, all eyes turned their way.

“What are you doing?!” Han Yunxi hissed under her breath. Long Feiye only pretended to hear nothing and circled his hands around her slim waist. She could clearly feel the swift, fierce stares shooting her way from the five old clan heads.

Just what is Long Feiye doing? Don’t enough people curse me as a woman who causes trouble?

Baili Yuanlong was shooting looks at Long Feiye as well, but he was ignored. Han Yunxi didn’t understand, but the general suddenly did. The various powers of the old families wanted to suppress His Highness Duke of Qin and all of them were itching to push their daughters his way! Although they knew the man doted on Han Yunxi, his official consort, they still wanted to get their daughters married to him. When the Duke of Qin became emperor of their territory, he would require four Noble Consorts in his imperial court. It wasn’t certain whether Han Yunxi would end up being the empress by the end. In other words, these men were full of hostility for Han Yunxi. 

Naturally, the Duke of Qin was making a show for the five clan heads. His warning was clear: don’t even think about it. 

But Baili Yuanlong was worried! After all, now wasn’t the time for such moves to offend the other men. They had a critical situation on their hands. If he guessed correctly, the Duke of Qin would make his true move this autumn, thus shaking up all of Cloud Realm Continent. He was looking forward to Fall, but they had to play it safe until then. No problems could be allowed to emerge from the south central regions. Baili Yuanlong could only fret as His Highness Duke of Qin blatantly held onto Han Yunxi instead of respecting the other heads. He was even a little angry; though more at Han Yunxi than Long Feiye, whom he didn’t dare to touch. 

Yes, this woman was different, but she was still a femme fatale in the end!

“You all should rise and sit,” Long Feiye finally said.

The crowd did as they were told, but didn’t stop staring at Han Yunxi. Uncomfortable with their looks, she murmured quietly, “Long Feiye, what’s going on?”

“Nothing. I just don’t like you sitting by yourself on the side,” Long Feiye murmured with his face buried in her neck.

Han Yunxi’s heart warmed at that sentiment, but before she could speak, the Xiao Clan Head sitting at the front stood up with hands clasped. “This one has long heard of esteemed wangfei’s famed name,” he said. “It is a fortune accumulated from three lifetimes that I’ve been able to meet you today! Today, the Six Ministries have all gathered under one roof to discuss war affairs in the western regions. Together we will plan for the south central regions’ peace and prosperity. Since esteemed wangfei has come as well, you must condescend to instruct us. I don’t know what brilliant ideas you have for the Cloud Realm Continent chessboard, but I shall listen with respectful attention!”

As expected, those born of old, established families were cut from a different cloth. He bowed elegantly and spoke with a cultivated tone. But so what? Han Yunxi knew as soon as she heard him that he was here to pick faults with her. None of these men had the righteous bearing of a proper established clan at all! She hadn’t wanted to get involved in politics because she was already too busy. Besides, she didn’t like the topic anyways. Unfortunately, Long Feiye had pushed her into the role of a femme fatale. She shouldn’t disappoint him then, should she?

Even if it was to pay back those warm words he’d muttered to her, she’d try her hardest!

Where she was uneasy before, she now relaxed and reclined in Long Feiye’s arms. “Then all of you, listen well. Esteemed wangfei will only say this once!”

All of the old men grew furious enough that their faces turned green! The Xiao Clan Head had been polite, but Han Yunxi was completely rude. When had they ever been treated with such disrespect? As expected, she’s been spoiled rotten! If we don’t suppress her now, what will happen in the future?

“Please speak!” said the Xiao Clan Head as he remained standing while forcing down his temper. 

“Western Zhou, Tianning, and Tianning are three countries in disorder. For the south central regions, this can be seen as a boon. There’s no time to lose…”

The Minister of Revenue laughed at her words. “Esteemed wangfei, everyone knows that already.”

Naturally, the five clan heads couldn’t laugh at Han Yunxi in public because they had to maintain their family’s reputations, but they had elected the Minister of Revenue to be their representative.

“So you know that as well, hm?” Han Yunxi asked in amusement.

“Of course. The unrest between the three nations will have us south central regions sitting by to reel in the catch!” replied the Minister of Revenue.

“And what kind of schemes are you fishermen planning exactly?” Han Yunxi asked.

“Once the three nations are exhausted from fighting, it’ll be time for the south central regions to move out their troops. When the time comes, we’ll not only eat up Tianning’s territory, but expand our way into Western Zhou and Tianan as well…”

“Doesn’t everyone already know that as well?” Han Yunxi interrupted. “These are affairs under the Board of War, so you don’t have to worry about them. Esteemed wangfei wants to know what your Ministry of Revenue is planning to do to support their efforts.”

Without hesitation, the minister replied, “Naturally, assisting the Board of Revenue with recruiting men and buying horses, as well as preparing grain.”

The Ministry of Revenue held thrall over an entire nation from its lands, fields, census registers, taxes, soldiers’ pay and other financial needs. They were equivalent to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The man’s answer was confident, but Han Yunxi only laughed loudly.

“Doesn’t everyone know that as well?”

After being interrupted twice and forced to eat his own words, the Minister of Revenue grew displeased. He couldn’t accept it and shot back, “Then what brilliant ideas does esteemed wangfei possess? Please condescend to instruct us!”

“I was going to, but you interrupted me, didn’t you? Aye, let’s make it clear. Don’t interrupt me this time. No matter how good your ideas are, hold them until the end when this wangfei finishes speaking. Then you can talk, alright?” Han Yunxi said patiently.

The five clan heads blanched uniformly at the words, while Baili Yuanlong was trying not to laugh. Long Feiye simply held her hand and patted her waist in amusement.

“Esteemed wangfei, please condescend to instruct us!” said the Minister of Revenue as he found himself in an awkward position. He waited while refusing to believe that Han Yunxi could say anything of lofty merit at all.

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