Chapter 727: Enough to threaten Ning Cheng Original and most updated translations are from volare. If read elsewhere, this chapter has been stolen. Please stop supporting theft.
Bai Yuqiao couldn’t read her master’s thoughts, nor did she dare to ask too many questions. She only hoped that senior brother could come home sooner, though it was unlikely he’d pick up on anything then. Still, being here would give him a chance. If he was far away in the Wintercrow Clan, he’d be cluelessly counting money even if master decided to sell him off!
Soon enough, a flying hawk circled a few times above her head before diving down to land on Bai Yanqing’s arm. He removed the paper attached to its leg and gave it a cursory glance before tossing it into the lake. Bai Yuqiao recognized many of the messenger hawks, but this was a new one. Because of that, she had no idea where it could have came from, nor did she know the contents of that paper. Bai Yanqing remained expressionless and kept fishing. An entire two hours passed by before he finally spoke.
“Yu’er, what do you think of a man like Long Feiye?”
“Someone that nobody but master could rival,” Bai Yuqiao grew doubtful. Did the note just then have something to do with Long Feiye? He and Han Yunxi were currently at Celestial Mountain. Could the hawk have flown from there as well? Cang Qiuzi only knew their senior brother and not her master’s existence. In other words, he would have never interacted with master. But maybe he knows other people from Celestial Mountain? Or he’s planted spies there?
“Heheh, your master can’t compare to him, either!” Bai Yanqing chuckled.
“He can’t compare to master! Master has an honorable identity and peerless martial arts. Master’s poison skills are superb as well. Long Feiye can’t match any of those!” Bai Yuqiao wasn’t fawning, but speaking her truths. Master was a member of the Seven Noble Families, which was much more noble than any of the current imperial clans. Moreover, he had already found out from Grand Concubine Yi’s lips that Long Feiye was only an adopted son. There was no Tianning royal blood running through his veins.
When it came to martial arts, only Celestial Mountain Sword Sect was worth mentioning in front of master’s name. Her master was simply too low-key to rank amongst Cloud Realm Continent’s top fighters. And of course, there was nothing to compare when it came to poison skills.
“Little girl, you don’t know anything and you’re speaking nonsense,” Bai Yanqing simply laughed kindly. His words were only meaningful for himself, because they just left Bai Yuqiao lost and confused. And yet, while Bai Yanqing was idle enough to while his days in fishing, Cloud Realm Continent’s various factions were busying themselves.
With the unrest between the three nations still raging strong, Ning Cheng was forced to deal with Western Zhou and Tianan Country. Everyday he was kept on his feet with work. After Chu Tianyin became Western Zhou’s ally once again, he won three successive battles for Emperor Kangcheng and took back Fenglin Prefecture. The emperor used him extensively and conferred him extra troops. Though he didn’t trust the Chu Clan troops as deeply as before, he had no choice but to rely on them and delegate his forces. Only then could he stand a chance of toppling the Ning Clan army.
Meanwhile, Great General Mu hadn’t personally led any troops from Tianan, but simply sat in the capital to assist Long Tianmo. Young General Mu Qingwu personally brought the Mu Clan army to battle. They too, won many successive battles and captured one of Tianning’s major cities. The Chu, Mu, and Ning Clan troops had been allies for many years against Northern Li’s calvary forces. But now they were bent on killing each other. Because all of them understood the others all too well, they knew that a three-way battle wouldn’t defeat Ning Cheng. Thus, the Chu and Mu Clans teamed up and attacked the Ning from east and west. Moreover, internal strife within Tianning had led to more and more numbers defecting in favor of Tianan instead. Ning Cheng could be said to be hemmed in on all sides. The fact that he’d held on this long earned the admiration of both Chu and Mu. Still, neither of them relaxed their assault, because their grain stores were limited. They had to conclude the battle quickly.
If the citizens relied on grain most of all, then an army needed it even more. Without food to fill their bellies, even the strongest soldier couldn’t take to the battlefields. Western Zhou’s fields weren’t robust, so they needed to refill their coffers with imports annually. The prolonged internal struggles had also depleted the national treasury. Tianan had better developed fields, but multiple conscription of troops over recent years had left much of the land untended. They would be short of grain again once autumn harvests grew in. In comparison, Tianning had the support of Cloud Realm Trade Consortium, so grain for them was a less pressing issue. Thus, Western Zhou and Tianan wanted to conclude the battle quickly, while Tianning wanted to drag the conflict out.
Actually, grain wasn’t the only problem. A slight movement in one area during a war affected the whole situation. Neither Western Zhou nor Tianan could afford the loss of jobs and revenue resulting from such a large battle.
Within the imperial study of West Jing, Tianning’s capital city, Ning Cheng was sitting with his legs on the table while leaning back in a chair. His left hand rested on the armrest, giving him a lofty air. Despite losing so many battles, Great General Ning looked neither disappointed nor defeated.
“When will the last shipment of red coat cannons arrive?” he asked, looking scornfully at the black-robed retainer in the room. Cloud Realm Trade Consortium had already provided two of the cannons to Tianning, but Ning Cheng had stationed them both at the eastern borders to block General Mu’s attacks. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have a chance of fighting off both east and west with his limited troops, much less sit in West Jing today.
“Master, those cannons are still detained at the Three-Way Black Market. It wasn’t sent out like the others,” the retainer replied.
Ning Cheng’s gaze grew cold. “Who detained it?”
“The Council of Elders!” Ning An declared as she strode inside. “Unless it’s absolutely necessary, we cannot move that shipment of cannons!”
“Only by moving it can we avoid an absolute necessity!” Ning Cheng retorted coldly. He had fought battles for many years, but he’d rarely been oppressed. Now that he was being attacked on two sides, all he could do was keep defending instead of attack. That wasn’t his style at all.
“Northern Li is a ferocious wolf! You never know when they’ll open their jaws to bite!” Ning An said seriously.
They’d shifted two red coat cannons already, but that didn’t count for much. However, there was an entire batch of them in the Three-Way Black Market. Nobody knew of their existence yet, so they were Cloud Realm Trade Consortium’s very last counter. It was also the Ning Clan troop’s final ace against an attack by Northern Li! If Ning Cheng used them now, Northern Li would target Tianning first as soon as they invaded south. Being hemmed in on three sides would give them unimaginable consequences! Moreover, below them was the south central regions eyeing them covetously. They could move out at any time!
“How will Northern Li attack without any battle horses? Just give your lordship one month and I’ll take Western Zhou!” Ning Cheng wasn’t bragging--he really did have the advantage. He even dared to bet that Northern Li wouldn’t be able to prepare enough horses within a month. Even if they did, it would be impossible to send them off into battle directly without training between the mounts and soldiers.
Within that month, he could defend the eastern border with a line of red coat cannons to stop the Mu Clan troops while focusing his efforts in the west and its Chu Clan troops. He’d only need that long to take Western Zhou and eliminate the Chu forces, thus extinguishing the western threat.
“No, you can’t take the risk,” Ning An wouldn’t budge. “The Council of Elders already put down a prohibition. Nobody can touch those set of weapons!” The Di Clan’s Council of Elders didn’t have the power to pin down the clan, but it could control Cloud Realm Trade Consortium.
“Those cowardly old coots. They can never do anything!” Ning Cheng’s face was dreadfully dark. If not for their grave situation, he’d probably dismiss the council entirely for restricting him.
Ning An opened her mouth to speak when a sudden gust of air rose up from outside. Ning Cheng immediately took to the air at the same time an arrow came flying into the room to bury itself in the back of his chair.
“Someone, come!” Greatly alarmed, Ning An recognized the arrow as being of Chu Clan make.
Black robed guards quickly arrive. Ning Cheng huffed as Chu Qingge rushed in with an ebony bow in hand, her face absolutely murderous. It was obvious that she had shot the arrow.
“Ning Cheng, I never thought you’d be so base and despicable!” Chu Qingge cursed. “You failed to keep your word and bullied a helpless woman like me. Are you still a man? Give Witch Aunt back to me!”
Ever since the news of her forced labor had come to light, Chu Qingge had to endure all sorts of rumors and slanders that made her life a living hell. In the end, she decided to stop listening or worrying about anything. Aside from questioning Ning Cheng daily about Han Yunxi’s status, she spent most of her days hiding in the imperial harem. But she never expected Ning An to send assassins after her. She and the Witch Aunt spent an entire day and night fighting them off before the woman sacrificed her own life to protect hers.
Who else but Ning Cheng could have incited Ning An to act? Who else but Ning Cheng could delegate so many high-level fighters for the task?
Ning Cheng darted a glance at Chu Qingge before settling his gaze on Ning An. Assuming that he’d push the blame, Chu Qingge said coldly, “A real man’s not afraid to admit what he’s done. Don’t make me look down on you!”
But instead of shelving the blame, Ning Cheng only asked Ning An, “Why is she still alive?”
Chu Qingge sucked in a cold breath and drew her bow in rage. “Ning Cheng, I’ll kill you!”
Unfortunately, her speed paled in comparison to Ning Cheng’s evasion skills. Before her bow full of arrows could go flying, Ning Cheng had already gripped them all with his hands.
“You went back on your word. Villain!” Chu Qingge struggled, but couldn’t break free. Her archery skills were formidable, so none of Ning Cheng’s killers could finish her off. But she was at her wits’ end in front of him.
“Your lordship promised to give you Han Yunxi, but I never said I wouldn’t kill you!” Ning Cheng said before breaking her arrows into pieces. He never had thoughts of murder originally, but this woman did nothing but chase after him daily for news of Han Yunxi. It was seriously annoying.
Chu Qingge stared at him dumbfounded before she cursed. “Blackguard!”
She mocked herself inwardly for ever getting taken in. This man is as different from Long Feiye as Heaven and Earth! There’s no comparing them!
Ning Cheng dodged another arrow before using one of them as a sword to stab towards Chu Qingge. She blocked it with her ebony bow, but it was just a feint. Ning Cheng seized her moment of distraction to kick her stomach, sending her flying. She crashed heavily against the wall and slumped down. Ning Cheng gave her a scornful look and said, “Your lordship won’t kill women. Take care of it yourself.”
For Chu Qingge to rush in during one of his bad moods was simply seeking death! Without a word, she crawled to her feet and prepared to flee, but guards had long blocked the exit. Her hands tightened their grip on the ebony bow as she hesitated. If she used her Driving Arrow Arts, there might be a chance for escape, but where was she supposed to go after that? Who would help her face off against Han Yunxi?
As the guards approached her, Chu Qingge turned to face Ning Cheng again. “Ning Cheng, tell me. Does the Shadow Clan still have living members on this Earth?”
Chu Qingge didn’t know anything about the Nether Clan’s dealing with the Shadow Clan, but the Witch Aunt had left her with a secret before she died. The woman had said that even as a traitor of the Nether Clan, Chu Qingge couldn’t die in vain at the Di Clan’s hands.
She had a secret that could both threaten Ning Cheng and perhaps preserve Chu Qingge’s life.
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