Han Yunxi and Gu Beiyue were already at the entrance of the Apricot Woods Conference when Gu Qishao abruptly stuck out his head behind her.
“Poison lass, morning ah!”
Han Yunxi gave a jolt and almost didn’t recognize Gu Qishao with his disguise. Fortunately, ‘Poison lass’ recalled her to her senses. He finally turned up, she exhaled.
“Did I scare ya?” Gu Qishao grinned.
“Where’s your huge gift?” Gu Qishao had said he was preparing something for Gu Yuntian, but it’d taken him two entire days. Of course Han Yunxi was curious.
Gu Qishao was in a good mood. Even with a human face mask, his smile looked beautiful. “I’ve prepared it all. I’ll give it to him later when we meet him.”
Han Yunxi thought that the gift must have something to do with the Poison Sect. As the foster son of the medical academy’s head elder, Gu Qishao had exquisite poison skills. He might had learned them in his youth. The fellow’s probably planning to expose the medical academy’s true face today.
Mm, then I’ll look forward to it!
While Han Yunxi was feeling expectant, Gu Beiyue looked at Gu Qishao’s flowery smile and had a trace of pity flash through his eyes. Unfortunately, she didn’t notice his look.
Before the trio could move on, a disguised retainer rushed to their side with a quiet report. “Esteemed wangfei, Ning Cheng defeated Chu Tianyin last night. He’ll be sending troops south overnight. General Baili deployed his troops north the day before yesterday. At the soonest, they’ll start fighting the day after tomorrow!”
“Ning Cheng is certainly impatient,” Han Yunxi smiled coldly.
“The day after tomorrow?” Gu Beiyue grew amused. Long Feiye is indeed formidable. He even calculated the times so precisely.
Won’t the Apricot Woods Conference be done by the day after tomorrow?
“Esteemed wangfei, if everything goes well at the Apricot Woods Conference, what say we all...go to the battlefield?” Gu Beiyue asked. Actually, Long Feiye had asked him to pass on this question.
“Alright!” Han Yunxi didn’t even have to think. She was long sick of Ning Cheng.
Gu Qishao had no idea what they were talking about, but he was too lazy to care. A bit short, he tugged at Han Yunxi’s arm and said, “Let’s go already. We’ve still got a couple days ahead of us, to say nothing of some day after tomorrow.”
The Apricot Woods Conference precisely took place in a grove of apricot trees. It was located in the southwest section of Medical City and stretched over a huge swath of land. As property of the medical academy, it wasn’t open to the public except on special days. There were nothing but apricot trees here and a large, circular clearing in the center of it all. This would be the formal meeting-place for the conference, which had already gathered many eminent guests.
Han Yunxi’s trio were all disguised as doctors. Because they had invitation letters, they smoothly bypassed the guards and entered the forest. This gathering was called the Apricot Woods Conference not because of its location, but because the Apricot Woods was the symbol of traditional Chinese medicine. People long used the sayings, “spring warmth of the apricot woods” and “fame fills through the apricot woods” to praise doctors for their medical skills and ethics. Han Yunxi’s group arrived after much of the congregation had already gathered on-site. Everyone was in groups of threes and fours, exchanging conversation while strengthening ties of friendship.
“It really is Cloud Realm Continent’s number one distinguished gathering. How rare for all these friends to gather in one place,” Han Yunxi remarked, placing special emphasis on the word “friends.”
Most likely, all the friends of Medical City were their enemies now. Anyone with the right to join in Medical City’s ceremonies didn’t object to the city’s stance against the south central region’s commander-in-chief’s estate.
“Yes, it’s seldom that everyone interacts so peacefully here,” Gu Beiyue sighed with emotion.
Gu Qishao was still chuckling. “Poison lass, you’ve got quite a few friends of your own. Why not say hello?”
Han Yunxi rolled her eyes at him and ignored the suggestion. But she had to admit that there were numerous people here who were her friends--or rather, ex-friends in this case. Gu Beiyue’s invitation letters placed them in the fifth row, which could count among the front. For the sake of seeing the “important figures” in the first two rows, they circled to the front of the seats before heading for their places. Besides members of Medical City, other important personages had seats in the first two rows as well.
Most of the people here were from Medicine City. Old Wang and his son, as well as the three elders, had all come and were considered friends. They even once vowed to risk their lives for Long Feiye. Tianan Country had sent none other than the young general Mu Qingwu. Han Yunxi’s gaze paused on him briefly and saw that he looked the same as ever. Those thick eyebrows and big eyes didn’t show any trace of worry. But she had no idea if this young man was as open and upright as he used to be. Sitting next to Mu Qingwu was another distant face, Western Zhou’s crown prince Duanmu Baiye. Han Yunxi could admit she was petty: she didn’t like this guy, but when she thought of Duanmu Yao in conjunction, she abhorred him even more. Western Zhou’s misfortunes and internal conflicts had dwindled the crown prince’s once rampant, arrogant temper. He was currently conversing in low tones with Mu Qingwu in whispers. Han Yunxi only felt that the duo made for a fitting match as older brothers obsessed with protecting their younger sisters.
Looking to the right, she spotted a special envoy from Northern Li sitting next to Duanmu Baiye. Despite the fact that Northern Li and Western Zhou had warred for years, they were able to give Medical City face and sit side by side. No matter how powerful Northern Li was, they still had to yield before Medical City. Back when Jun Yixie’s identity as the Hundred Poisons Sect leader was exposed, Medical City had applied pressure to the Northern Li imperial clan. When Ouyaning Ning Nuo’s plans with Jun Yixie to gain the Northern Li’s snow mountains for planting medicine came to light, Medical City directly denounced its imperial clan, forcing it to strip Jun Yixie of his duke title to clear accounts.
The special envoy from Northern Li was a man of about forty or fifty years old dressed in a long gray robe and sporting a goatee. Han Yunxi had never seen him before, but caught his name plate on the table as she passed him:
Northern Li’s Head Imperial Physician Nazha Delin
Because she was distracted by the name, she didn’t notice the step in front of her and stepped on air. Moments before she crashed to the ground, the servant girl by Nazha Delin’s side caught her. Gu Beiyue and Gu Qishao were both behind Han Yunxi and didn’t have time to make the save.
“Be careful,” the servant girl had a very nice voice. Han Yunxi glanced over and saw she was about sixteen to seventeen years old, with a pair of large, bright eyes. The sight reminded her of Su Xiaoyu, except Su Xiaoyu’s eyes were even prettier.
“Many thanks,” she straightened up.
“It was no trouble,” the servant girl said before resuming her position. Nazha Delin glanced at Han Yunxi briefly, but didn’t take her to note.
Gu Beiyue quickly caught up to her side and murmured, “Is your foot alright?”
Before Han Yunxi could answer, Gu Qishao appeared on her other side, his voice low. “Poison lass, did you twist your ankle? Shall I massage it for you?”
Instead of speaking, Han Yunxi was staring fixedly at a point on her right. The two men followed her gaze and spotted a familiar figure nearby.
“Clan Head Xiao!” Han Yunxi gritted her teeth. Clan Head Xiao was the leader of the five most prominent clans in the south central regions. He represented all of the major families, but his presence here today was like a slap to the commander-in-chief estate’s face and Long Feiye!
So did he come to Medical City to seek foreign aid since he couldn’t best General Baili’s forces?
“What gall,” Gu Beiyue was astonished as well.
Han Yunxi could be considered calm as she continued looking for their seats. By the time they sat down, the trio couldn’t help exchanging surprised glances as well. That was because sitting next to them was none other than the Tang Clan couple, Tang Li and Ning Jing.
Neither of the duo could recognize them thanks to their disguises, but Han Yunxi spotted Tang Li’s uncommonly celestial mien at a glance. Ning Jing was sitting up straight and looking expressionlessly forward while Tang Li, like a henpecked husband, was holding her hand with a flattering expression and whispering into her ear. It didn’t seem like he was muttering sweet nothings, but seeking forgiveness for some wrong. Judging from their seating, the Ouyang trade consortium must have received an invitation as well, and Ning Jing had brought Tang Li with her to participate.
Han Yunxi sat down next to Tang Li while hiding laughter in her eyes, not batting an eyelid. But from here she could hear Tang Li’s indistinct coaxing. There were all kinds of nauseating, thinly-veiled lover’s prattle that soon made her seat unbearable. In the end, she switched seats with Gu Qishao so that she was sitting between him and Gu Beiyue.
Long Feiye and Tang Li can count as blood related, but why are they so different? I don’t think Long Feiye could ever say some of those things in his lifetime.
Long Feiye might not be able to say them, but Gu Qishao had no problems. He listened in on the couple before scotting over to report, “Poison lass, guess what he just said?”
Han Yunxi wanted to say she wasn’t interested, but Gu Qishao had long started to murmur by her ear. “You definitely don’t know how much I love you. For you, I’m willing to abandon everything, including myself. Do you believe me?”
Tang Li’s original words were, “Jing’er, you definitely don’t know how much I love you. For you, I’m willing to abandon everything in the Tang Clan, including myself. Do you believe me?”
But Gu Qishao had removed “Jing’er” and “Tang Clan” from his quote; perhaps on purpose, perhaps inadvertently. Han Yunxi only found listening to the words awkward because it sounded like Gu Qishao was confessing to her! She decided to switch seats with Gu Beiyue next, but Gu Qishao pressed down her hand before she could stand up.
“Do you believe it? Just what will make you trust me? I’m not fooling or joking with you. From the moment I met you, every word I spoke was truth except for the part where I concealed my identity. I was always devoted to you utterly. Do you believe it? Answer me.”
Han Yunxi gave a start as her heart beat fast. How could she not know Gu Qishao’s feelings? She didn’t like his lack of decency and his tendency to joke, but when he stopped fooling around to speak intimate words with such a soft and earnest voice, she couldn’t ward him off and was left at a loss.
Gu Qishao, if you joke forever, we’ll be friends forever. But--but if the day comes when your jokes become real, how I am supposed to keep treating you as a friend?
Han Yunxi’s face had turned somewhat ashen when Gu Qishao suddenly started to chuckle. Lowering his voice, he said, “Poison lass, what are you doing? Did Tang Li’s words disgust you that much?”
Han Yunxi’s heart suddenly relaxed. Indeed, Tang Li had truly lied to Ning Jing about his identity when they first met. When Gu Qishao said those words, she thought he was referring to his time as Gu Qi Sha. How could she scare herself like that?
“I was disgusted by you. Can you just shut your mouth?” Han Yunxi said unhappily.
Gu Qishao grinned broadly. “Poison lass, do you believe words like that?”
Before Han Yunxi could answer, Gu Qishao’s bright and sparkling smile abruptly turned cold and vicious! This was the first time Han Yunxi had a fright from him. She never thought such laughing eyes could turn so terrifying when he was angry. Following his gaze, she saw that Academy Head Gu Yuntian was already standing on stage….
1. As the foster son of the medical academy’s head elder - It’s been a few hundred chapters since we’ve visited GQS’s past, but a reminder that the “public story” said that the “fiendish genius” of the medical academy was Academy Head Ling’s adopted son. This is what HYX assumes here as well. For a refresher course, you can read “Midnight dreams of little Qi” from Chapters 568-560.
First Gu Beiyue and now oof, a twinge in my heart for Gu Qishao...
Almost forgot, strawpoll ended in an exact tie last I checked! Thus, expect 3 days of double releases and a 4 chapter release on the fourth day!