Han Yunxi hid in the carriage while flipping and looking over Long Feiye’s letter multiple times. She even checked the inside lining of the envelope, but found nothing but blank space everywhere. There wasn’t a hint of ink.
What does this mean?
This should be the first time Long Feiye was writing her a letter. Or rather, the first time he was replying to her own. And yet it was empty.
Maybe he’s bad at expressing himself so he simply wrote nothing? If that was the case, then she was truly disappointed. Perhaps Han Yunxi was overthinking things, but she had a foreboding feeling about the whole thing. Replying with an empty letter didn’t seem like Long Feiye’s style. Judging from his personality, he would have written something like “I’ve received the letter” even if he was terrible at expressing himself.
Or maybe she was just overthinking things. Perhaps he wanted to give her a surprise and this was just the first step, Han Yunxi comforted herself. Under these circumstances, Han Yunxi decided to chase away all of her romantic notions with...shame! Meanwhile, she wrote two more letters of her own to Long Feiye, one to describe their progress on the road and ask about his injuries, the other with the same message as before: Long Feiye, I miss you.
Everyone got into their disguises. Gu Qishao refused to be a shadow guard, so they went with the original plan. Han Yunxi was a sickly young Miss from a rich family, while Gu Beiyue’s handsome face now sported full whiskers as he played her older brother. Gu Qishao used a human skin mask to be their guard and carriage driver. Chu Xifeng and Xu Donglin simply followed them in the dark with the rest of the shadow guards. After climbing over the mountain, they had a single hot meal in town before continuing their trip.
By nightfall, they stopped to sleep in the open. Gu Beiyue secretly received another of Long Feiye’s confidential letters, which contained a single pill--the Phoenix Breath from the sword sect master. Although it couldn’t heal Gu Beiyue completely, it could restore twenty to thirty percent of his inner energy within a short period of time. Whether it’d be twenty or thirty in the end was all up to Gu Beiyue’s own efforts.
The contents of the letter were brief and only explained how the pill worked and things to take note of during cultivation. Besides that, there were no other details. Long Feiye didn’t even explain where he’d gotten the pill, or why he gave it to Gu Beiyue. The total words didn’t amount to more than two lines, yet Gu Beiyue studied them for a long time as if in a trance. His thoughts were unclear.
What exciting developments! He only knew that he had lost his internal energy forever, and had despaired of even recovering! Although he remained calm on the surface, he had spent countless nights simply sitting there blankly until he accepted this reality.
Now, hope was born from that despair!
He had practiced bitterly since his youth to bear the weight of the shadow arts still remembered by his grandfather and parents. He had shouldered the mission of protecting the West Qin imperial heir and the woman he kept hidden in the deepest depths of his heart. Finally, he could recover his skills again! He would have another chance to truly stand on his own legs. And yet…
And yet, there wasn’t a single spark of joy or excitement in his eyes. Instead, they fell into deep thought. It was a pity Han Yunxi wasn’t there to see him. Otherwise, she would definitely find that Gu Beiyue’s heavy gaze was very, very similar to Long Feiye’s.
What did such a gaze mean?
Gu Beiyue destroyed every single one of Long Feiye’s letters after reading them over, but this one he folded up carefully and hid it in his sleeve. Meanwhile, he took the pill without hesitation.
Things like trust should be the same feeling as liking another person, he thought to himself, Honor permits no turning back.
Silence surrounded them. Han Yunxi slept by herself in the carriage while Gu Beiyue stood sleepily on guard outside. The shadow guards were taking turns patrolling their surroundings, so the only person he needed to guard against was Gu Qishao. Still, it was easy to guard against him. Gu Qishao was an intelligent man, but his focus was fully on Han Yunxi. He was too lazy to care about anything else even if he had his guard up.
After taking the Phoenix Breath pill, Gu Beiyue began to cultivate bitterly every night. They’d been traveling for days and finished half their journey. The day of the Apricot Woods Conference was drawing closer and closer. Of course, the chessboard that was Cloud Realm Continent was undergoing changes at the same time.
Medicine City finally caved into Medical City’s pressure and announced that they would temporarily stop all business with Pill Fiend Pharmacy and South Ning’s commander-in-chief’s estate until Han Yunxi’s identity was verified. The case would be re-opened then. The Wang Clan controlled Medicine City and were undoubtedly loyal to Long Feiye, but they were hard pressed to protect themselves now, so matters of loyalty took second place. Fortunately, Wang Gong was still humane enough to approve a few huge orders from Pill Fiend Pharmacy days before the announcement and have the goods delivered first.
“Heheh, if we knew this day would come, then we should’ve removed all restrictions on the Mu Clan.” Gu Qishao was very unresigned. For the sake of taking Medicine City, he and Mu Linger had even sat in jail.
Back then, Lady Lianxin had exposed the induced labor scandal in exchange for letting the Mu Clan go. Long Feiye seized the chance to have the Wang Clan clear some prohibitions against the Mu Clan, thus leaving them a path to Medical City. The hope was for Mu Linger to restore the clan’s former strength one day. After all, Long Feiye’s ultimate goal was never to leave the Wang Clan as the sole powerhouse in Medicine City. But Mu Linger had simply been too busy to split herself between locations. On the other hand, Han Yunxi’s Poison Sect descendant identity had been exposed too early.
“There’s about seven to eight days left. If nothing like a epidemic happens, we should have enough medicine to last,” Gu Beiyue said.
“Pill King has already replied. He expresses that he’s still willing to help us,” Han Yunxi added.
“Esteemed wangfei, Pill King can only solve a temporary emergency, not the fundamental issues. You mustn’t promise him anything,” Gu Beiyue grew serious. “If we don’t have enough medicine in our stores, we can put bigger materials to smaller use. Pill Fiend Valley should have plenty of rare medicinal ingredients that we can use to challenge Medicine City and Medical City’s stance while buying the common people’s hearts.”
The majority of medicines used were ordinary ingredients, not rare, high-priced ones. But the rare medicines could also cure common illnesses, sometimes with instant results. The key point laid with whether Gu Qishao was willing to part with such expensive goods!
Gu Qishao put on a flashy smile. “As long as Poison lass needs them, don’t mention Pill Fiend Valley--I’ll even be happy to offer up my life.”
Although they were discussing serious matters, Gu Beiyue and Gu Qishao managed to relax the atmosphere. Han Yunxi had no idea how much difficulties she’d be facing without those two. The issue of medicine was resolved along with the matter of physicians. She’d been keeping in contact with Mu Linger, who said that ten or so doctors would show up daily from thousands of miles away. They listened to Imperial Physician Huang’s arrangements and were sent to various prefectures in the south central regions and a few of Jiangnan’s pharmacies. This was Gu Beiyue’s big surprise for Han Yunxi; she never thought such a “homebody” who rarely socialized could have a wealth of connections to associates who were willing to help out.
Of course, Medical City had long threatened to take away practice privileges for any and all doctors remaining in South Ning’s commander-in-chief’s estate’s area. Medicine City followed along by banning all pharmacies from accepting prescriptions from these doctors. But South Ning’s current physicians and medicine stock had freed itself from both prohibitions to become self-sufficient.
In the long term, this path was a dead end, but for now it was effective. People with plots had already fanned the flames of internal strife to its limits. Thanks to the timely resupplying of all the pharmacies, the anger of the common people faded. After all, most of them only paid attention to what was in front of them. None of them would refuse medical treatment and protest in front of the commander-in-chief’s estate because of Medical City’s “righteous principles” or the Poison Sect’s “calamitous existence.”
“It’s about time to step forward,” Han Yunxi said seriously.
South Ning’s commander-in-chief’s estate had long declared their intentions to fight Medical City to the end, but she, as the person concerned, had yet to formally admit anything. If she stood out to acknowledge her status while South Ning was relatively stable, accuse Medical City of its heartless methods, and claim it was framing the Poison Sect, the commander-in-chief’s estate would be bolstered by her stance while the commoners would support her as well.
“I’ll step forward with you!” Gu Qishao had been waiting a long time for Han Yunxi’s words.
Gu Beiyue looked at them both while smiling like an older brother. “There’s no rush. It’s not time yet, and we still need to watch for the old fox at our backs.” He was the most careful of the lot. Either he made no moves at all, or one that ended in decisive victory. Right now, his concerns were whether they could make it to Medical City peacefully and join in the Apricot Woods Conference.
Han Yunxi and Gu Qishao both nodded their heads in agreement. The entire journey, Han Yunxi had trusted and increased her admiration of Gu Beiyue. Gu Qishao had started seeing him in a much more favorable light, too. Besides them, nobody else in the world knew they were headed for Medical City, much less the startling things they had planned! Everyone was waiting for a good show to break out in South Ning instead! In fact, most of them had staked that the commander-in-chief’s estate would fall apart within a month.
Ning Cheng was winning victory after victory on the western front and in excellent spirits because of it. His stature was tall and straight to begin with, but today he was dressed in a set of silvery-white battle robes that made him as impenetrable as a mountain wherever he stood.
“At least ten days more. Your lordship has to force Chu Tianyin to lay down his arms and surrender!” he laughed out loud, his tone lofty and aloof.
“In other words, we’ll be able to head south with our troops after ten days?” his deputy general exclaimed in delight.
“I heard that the Gu Beiyue doctor in South Ning’s commander-in-chief’s estate is quite capable. He helped Han Yunxi solicit quite a few doctors to help out,” Ning Cheng probed.
“Isn’t that so? With their current situation, they could probably last for another half of year,” the deputy general had no choice but to praise. “If not for those red coat cannons, we wouldn’t have finished our battles in half a year, either.”
Ning Cheng silently rejoiced in his heart. If he hadn’t been decisive, then they wouldn’t have seized this chance to score entry into South Ning soon. Of course, his true goal wasn’t war, but Han Yunxi. He didn’t want to be Medical City’s attack dog and capture her, but he needed the excuse to force South Ning to hand her over. Only with Han Yunxi in his hands could he seize the chance to ask Chu Qingge about the whereabouts of the Shadow Clan…
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