The person tailing them all this time was none other than Tianning’s young General Mu Qingwu. Actually, Han Yunxi was waiting for him to approach her and say things outright, but all he did was follow them. Although Mu Qingwu had spoken up for them today, that very morning he had supported Gu Yuntian, too. Tianan wanted to join the alliance heading south, it was true. Han Yunxi couldn’t see through him, nor did she have the time to figure him out. She only knew his status as an enemy was unclear.
Under these circumstances, even if Mu Qingwu stood right in front of them, she wouldn’t deepen their friendship. Moreover, he wasn’t even saying a word.
“The road’s so wide that anyone can walk on it,” Han Yunxi said as she kicked open the gate.
Gu Qishao didn’t pry. As long as Mu Qingwu didn’t follow them inside, it was none of his business. He didn’t put a trifling power like Tianan Country into his notice at all. Gu Beiyue didn’t speak either, and the tension around the trio finally dissolved as they entered the courtyard. They came to a tacit agreement to head for the back courtyard, where Gu Qishao went to lie down lazily on a tree branch with his legs propped up. He plucked off two big red flowers and plopped them over his eyelids to block out the sun before settling down for a doze.
“This young gentleman’s tired to death. I’m going to take a nap, don’t wake me for lunch!”
Neither Han Yunxi nor Gu Beiyue replied, leaving only the sound of birds and insects to fill the noontime courtyard. Gu Qishao was only resting, not sleeping. He rarely slept even when night fell, to say nothing of broad daylight. When time passed with no sound, he secretly lifted one of the flowers to look around. What he saw was Han Yunxi and Gu Beiyue standing on one side, looking at him. He only pretended not to notice and slowly shut his eyes again before replacing the flowers for his rest.
But soon enough, he simply sat up and flashed the duo a bewitching smile. “What, is this young gentleman really that good looking?”
Han Yunxi bit her lip, her eyebrows creased tightly together like an old woman. After going through numerous complicated toadies and eliminating the south central region’s biggest threat, she hadn’t forgotten Gu Qishao’s sacrifice today. She would never forget for the rest of her life. Meanwhile, both people within and without Medical City were interested in tomorrow’s Apricot Woods Conference and the struggle for the position of academy head. For now, none of them were interested in Gu Qishao’s origins. But once the struggles ended and they had nothing else to do, Gu Qishao would become the subject of ridicule across the continent as well as their rival. Even Han Yunxi was curious how he’d survived all that torture to live normally, to say nothing of everyone else.
Anyone who consider the question. Did Gu Qishao have a unique constitution to pull him out of the mess? Could his body still be used for further medical research?
“Little Qi, how about I take your pulse for you?” Gu Beiyue spoke up.
Gu Qishao’s cheerful gaze immediately turned into ice. “What, you think this old fellow’s a freak? Or are you just pitying me?”
“Old Fiend…” Han Yunxi didn’t know what to say. She really wanted to joke with Gu Qishao and say, ‘You’re overthinking things, who would pity you!’ But she couldn’t smile no matter how she tried, much less voice her thoughts.
Gu Beiyue had once discovered something odd about Gu Qishao’s blood and suspected something about Gu Qishao’s constitution, but he never thought it’d be something like this. Seeing the cruel look in his eyes now left Gu Beiyue unable to reply.
“Gu Beiyue, you should worry about tomorrow instead. You said to leave the rest to you, so if you can’t get things done, don’t blame this old man for starting a massacre!” Gu Qishao said icily before flying up the tree and over a wall, disappearing from sight. Neither Han Yunxi nor Gu Beiyue chased after him. Gu Qishao probably needed some peace and quiet for himself.
Now that his old scars had been ripped open, perhaps he’d act like the past and hide in a corner somewhere to lick his wounds. Han Yunxi assumed he’d vanish for a long time before showing up suddenly again--perhaps even longer than the last time he slipped away.
But she was wrong.
Soon enough, Gu Qishao returned with a huge bag of sweets. “Poison lass, this is from a century-old store on the west side of the city. Last time we left too quickly to buy anything. Eh, this time you shouldn’t miss out, it’s all your favorite flavors.”
So he went to buy me sweets.
When Head Elder Ling had exposed everything, when the records of past experiments scattered into the air, Han Yunxi hadn’t shed a single tear. But as she looked at the hug bag of sweets on the table now, they streamed down her cheeks.
“Sobsob...Old Fiend, I thought...I thought you were leaving.”
The last thing Gu Qishao wanted to see was her crying. He didn’t want to go when Long Feiye was by her side, and he wouldn’t leave if Long Feiye wasn’t around…
A trace of grief flickered past Gu Qishao’s eyes before he replaced it with a smile. He quickly pulled out a handkerchief and wiped her face clean. “Aiya, you’re touched by only a big bag of sweets? Does His Highness Duke of Qin know about this? Poison lass, how about Qi gege buy off that store so it can make snacks just for you? You can throw aside Long Feiye and follow me instead?”
Han Yunxi grinned through her tears before picking up a green bean pastry and stuffing it into his mouth. “In your dreams!”
“It really is a nice fantasy!” Gu Qishao said seriously.
Han Yunxi kept being cheeky. “Don’t even think about it!”
If she couldn’t soothe his old wounds by feeling distressed for his sake, perhaps playing along and pretending to be simple minded would work instead?
If her tears couldn’t wash away his memories, perhaps smiling with him could instead?
Gu Qishao, you really are beautiful when you smile…
Less than an hour later, busybodies had divided up medical academy into three distinct power factions. One were the old conservatives supporting Department Head Lin, another were the hardliners behind Department Head Ouyang, and a third were the reformists headed by Department Head Huo. People even placed bets on who would seize authority in the end.
When night fell, Third Elder Shen and Luo Zuishan came to visit.
“Are you two afraid of offending others by coming over here?” Gu Beiyue smiled.
Luo Zuishan didn’t speak, but only stared at Gu Qishao with red-tinged eyes. Unfortunately, Gu Qishao ignored him completely to lounge on a bamboo couch and eat sweets. Luo Zuishan couldn’t figure it out--since when had Little Qi liked sweet things?
Third Elder Shen bowed with hands clasped towards Gu Beiyue and suddenly strode in front of Han Yunxi with a serious tone. “Esteemed wangfei, I won’t hide this from you, but Department Head Lin has long gained benefits from Ning Cheng. Department Head Huo has close relations with Northern Li, while Department Head Ouyang has always taken a moderate stance but doesn’t approve of Medicine City and Pill Fiend Pharmacy working together.”
Anyone who became academy head would preside over Gu Yuntian’s punishment and the restoration of the Poison Sect’s good name. Moreover, he would affect the current political climate, which would have far-reaching ramifications in the future! It was obvious that the south central regions didn’t have “one of their own” in the medical academy, but they did have plenty of “antagonists.” Third Elder Shen was only an elder in the end and couldn’t be part of the judging panel.
Gu Qishao glanced over with a disdainful laugh. Gu Beiyue nodded towards Han Yunxi and didn’t say anything. Third Elder Shen only said earnestly, “This old man...has already entered my name to participate in tomorrow’s Apricot Woods’ medical skills competition!”
The Apricot Woods Conference’s most exciting competition pitted medical skills and knowledge against its competitors. Not every conference would host such an event, because the Apricot Woods medical skills competition was used to select the next academy head. Since Gu Yuntian had been forced to leave his post, the competition was added into the conference at the last minute and would start tomorrow at noon.
The medical academy chose its head based on two typical ways. One was the academy head directly passing down his position and responsibilities, while the other was competing in medical skills. Typically speaking, the former took precedence unless the Council of Elders were dissatisfied with the choice or the academy head couldn’t settle on a successor. Gu Yuntian had been locked away in the prisons while his name was now notorious. Naturally, he had no right to choose his successor, so the medical academy could only use a competition to measure the competitors’ various skills. One who lead the medical academy with consummate medical skills would have no dissenters.
Gu Yuntian was an eighth rank Empyreal Doctor, while Department Heads Ouyang, Lin, and Huo were seventh rank Sage Doctors. Second Elder Li Xiuyuan and Third Elder Shen from the Council of Elders were also seventh ranks. But despite ranking on the same level, there were differences between advanced and intermediate ranks within each level. Third Elder Shen wasn’t the weakest of the bunch, but he definitely didn’t lead the pack. By placing himself in the competition, he was declaring his intent to go head-to-head against the department heads’ authority. If he didn’t get first place, he would have hard days ahead in the medical academy.
Han Yunxi took his actions to heart, while Gu Beiyue gave him a respectful bow. “Third Elder Shen, we’ll remember your intentions! Tomorrow you can simply stand by and watch a good show.”
“This…” Third Elder Shen and Luo Zuishan exchanged confused glances.
“You’ll understand by tomorrow. This one has a few questions and wishes to ask for instruction. I don’t know if you’ll condescend to grant me the favor?” Gu Beiyue smiled.
“Doctor Gu, feel free to ask whatever you like. There’s no need to be so formal,” Luo Zuishan said hastily.
Gu Beiyue wasn’t asking about matters of medicine, but the details of the internal struggles in the medical academy. Third Elder Shen and Luo Zuishan left nothing out as they explained it to him in full. Han Yunxi and Gu Beiyue both listened intently while the latter asked many questions. Meanwhile, Gu Qishao sprawled in the chair next to Han Yunxi and inexplicably fell asleep. This was the first time he’d fallen asleep so easily since returning to the medical academy.
As the night drew on, the Northern Li imperial physician took off his disguise. He had no intentions to rest, but changed into a set of night traveling clothes. This was none other than Bai Yanqing.
“Yu’er, let’s go. Master’s taking you to a certain place,” he chuckled.
Bai Yuqiao was finding it harder and harder to understand her master. She thought that he’d be in a terrible mood by now. Han Yunxi’s group had disturbed Medical City’s ploys and the attempts by various nations to form an alliance. They not only solved the sanctions against the south central regions, but even restored the Poison Sect’s innocence. All that had happened in the short span of a day, giving Han Yunxi’s group the chance to reverse their fortunes. Although the medical academy’s new head was still up in the air, whoever took the post would have no more excuses to threaten Han Yunxi’s faction anymore!
Judging by the current situation, Han Yunxi’s group had definitely gained the upper hand. Even Ning Cheng would suffer greatly from this, which was no good for Northern Li, either. What was master so happy about?
“Master, where are we going?” Bai Yuqiao asked.
“The Poison Sect’s forbidden grounds,” Bai Yanqing said, his eyes shining with a trace of tears. Whether it came from joy or sorrow, only he himself knew…
1. Gu Beiyue had once discovered something odd about Gu Qishao’s blood - I believe this happened during the time the Chu Clan tried to assassinate HYX in Tianning and GQS and GBY were forced to defend against all their arrows. It was also the first time Lil Thing tasted GQS’s blood and found it delicious.