Ning Cheng was making haste at double speed towards Medical City. Just yesterday, he had received three separate emergency missives from the army, the imperial capital, and Cloud Realm Trade Consortium. All of them were urging him back to the battlefield. Since Medical City had already fallen into Gu Beiyue’s hands, everyone intended to find another equally sound pretext to invade the south central regions. Moreover, they had to seize the chance before things at Medical City wrapped up and Han Yunxi and Long Feiye returned south to send out their troops. The longer they waited, the more unfavorable things would turn.
Han Yunxi and Gu Beiyue had publicly denounced Medical City for being heartless. Now that they held the reins of power, they would never impose medical sanctions against Tianning just because their countries were at war, because it’d just be smashing their own foot with a rock and earning the censure of all of Medical City. Thus, they could fight, but Ning Cheng refused to give the go-ahead. He still couldn’t understand what Long Feiye was doing still staying on Celestial Mountain. Until he figured him out, it wasn’t wise to take risks and fight first.
Ning Cheng thus shifted his goal to Han Yunxi instead. As long as they could kidnap her, then Chu Qingge would tell him about the whereabouts of the Shadow Clan. Moreover, with Han Yunxi in their hands, they could threaten Long Feiye. Compared to fighting at close quarters, this was much more worthwhile. Ning Cheng could admit that it was a low move to resort to kidnapping, but now was the perfect chance to snatch Han Yunxi while Long Feiye was absent.
There were still two more days of travel left before he reached Medical City, but Ning Jing was still oblivious to these developments. Despite marrying into the Tang Clan for a mission, and despite Cloud Realm Trade Consortium knowing she was only using Tang Li, in the end she was still “Tang Li’s wife.” Less and less news of Ning Cheng’s movements or the consortium’s major transactions reached her ears. In fact, Ning Nuo had even forced her to give up running some of its venues, thus leaving her with the sole task of conquering Tang Li and finishing up the Tang Clan’s arms trade agreement with the rest of Cloud Realm continent.
Once a chessmaster, now a pawn, Ning Jing couldn’t help but think that her marriage had left her just like Ning An, forever bound to the duties of the clan. Should she really serve her family wholeheartedly? Currently, she was sitting by the window and staring blankly at the moon outside. Her thoughts were a mystery, but even Tang Li failed to notice her dazed state. After shedding her mens’ clothes of the day, she was now dressed in a pure white sleeping robe. Her long black hair cascaded loosely down her back, framing her delicate and pretty features. Looking at her, Tang Li couldn’t help but think, how simple and pure she’d be if she wasn’t president of Cloud Realm Trade Consortium?
But would he really like a simple, pure girl?
While she had been bathing, he’d seized the chance to sneak out and look for Han Yunxi and the rest. He thought she’d take a while, but she finished very quickly. He tiptoed behind her and grasped her around the waist before resting his head by her neck to take a few sniffs. “Jing Jing, you smell so fragrant!”
Ning Jing didn’t move, but asked coldly, “You went to look for Han Yunxi?”
Tang Li was alarmed. His arms around her stiffened, and Ning Jing’s lips rose in a cold smile as she glanced down at them. Soon enough, Tang Li recovered his calm and held her tighter. “Heheh, you guessed right. My relationship with Long Feiye isn’t bad, so she and I can count as friends. Now that Medical City is in her and Gu Beiyue’s hands, of course I had to congratulate them.”
This was a perfectly reasonable excuse!
Ning Jing fell silent for a moment before slapping his hand and shoving him away. She angrily crid, “Congratulations? Then why didn’t you bring me along? Why did you wait until I was bathing to sneak over? It wasn’t just some congratulations over there, was it? You liar!”
“It really was just congratulations. Last time you and your little brother made an unhappy fuss with them over Medicine City. Han Yunxi and Gu Beiyue would both hold prejudices against Cloud Realm Trade Consortium, so if I brought you they’d never agree to see me!” Tang Li seemed to be explaining sincerely, but his heart was long in a mess. He was extremely annoyed at impulsively rushing to meet Han Yunxi and the rest. Ning Jing was such a sharp woman that she’d definitely get suspicious.
He could only use his friendship with Long Feiye as an excuse to dispel her doubts. If he denied everything, that would only raise her suspicions. Ning Jing only looked at Tang Li with a cold smile, making him even more flustered. This was the first time he’d felt so awkward while talking to this woman.
“Jing Jing, don’t be mad. I know Cloud Realm Trade Consortium have had entanglements with them before, and that you don’t like them. But I’m doing this for your sake too. The Tang Clan doesn’t need to care about Medical City’s stance, but your Cloud Realm Trade Consortium’s business dealings with the city might be implicated, right?”
When Tang Li saw that Ning Jing remained expressionless, he could only risk everything and go for the last blow. “Jing Jing, if Cloud Realm Trade Consortium has any agreements with Medical City in the future, couldn’t I be the middleman then? Wouldn’t your little brother need to find us for help? And see how your mood is?”
Finally, Ning Jing nodded. “Very good.”
Tang Li was about to explain some more when Ning Jing grabbed a nearby vase and threw it at him. “Tang Li, tell me, do you fancy Han Yunxi?”
Tang Li gave a start, but he quickly recovered before he laughed out loud. So Ning Jing’s eating vinegar. I thought she discovered the relationship between me and Han Yunxi! What a false alarm!
“Answer me,” Ning Jing advanced towards him.
“I….I…” Tang Li’s heart was rejoicing inside. He wasn’t sure whether he was happy because Ning Jing was jealous, or because she hadn’t doubted his explanation.
“What ‘I?’ If you don’t explain yourself today, I won’t come back to the Tang Clan with you!” Ning Jing put out a fist, but Tang Li caught it with his hand and wrapped his fingers around hers before pulling her close. “Come, come, let this husband have a good smell. Heheh, compared to your fragrance, I prefer your jealous vinegar scent more.”
Ning Jing wanted to push him away, but she failed no matter how she tried. Tang Li was simply a hungry wolf as he early sniffed by her ears and down her collar until Ning Jing’s heart beat fast. She already knew his embrace like the back of her hand. As long as he had a hint of a naughty thought, she knew exactly what he’d be planning that night.
As expected, Tang Li’s hands began to grow restless.
“Let go!” Ning Jing said harshly, but Tang Li only pretended not to hear. In the end, she pressed on his weakest part and raged, “Explain to me clearly or else I’ll turn you useless!”
“Could you bear to do that?” Tang Li’s voice suddenly turned gentle and warm.
“Try me if you don’t believe me!” Ning Jing said coldly.
“Rather than explaining, why don’t I move to love you properly instead?” Tang Li grinned.
“Dirty!” Ning Jing slapped Tang Li straight on the face. He gave a start before letting her go. Ning Jing was stunned as well despite slapping him in the first place. Her heart gave a lurch as he let him go, leaving herself at a loss. Tang Li cradled his burning cheek with hooded eyes, avoiding her gaze as he spoke.
“I thought I explained myself clearly enough. If you don’t believe me, then I can’t do anything either.” As he finished, he turned to leave the room while Ning Jing stood there blankly. She finally recovered enough to reason that she hadn’t been wrong, but….but why had her heart seized up?
Bastard Tang Li, is he leave just like that? Where’s he going? Is he not planning to sleep here tonight?
Ning Jing bit her lip as she furrowed her brows. When Tang Li had been speaking up for Han Yunxi’s group in the Apricot Woods, she had started to suspect that he was on better terms than it appeared with Long Feiye. Before Tang Li took over the Tang Clan, he already was on good terms with Long Feiye in private. That friendship wouldn’t have implicated the Tang Clan. But now that he was clan leader, would Tang Li be used by Long Feiye’s group someday? Or perhaps they were already colluding together in secret and just hiding that from Cloud Realm Trade Consortium? Actually, she wasn’t really eating vinegar today, just giving Tang Li a chance to explain himself. But she never thought their talks with end with her slap.
Ning Jing had never felt so disordered in her life. She finally realized that she couldn’t maintain her cool rationality in front of this man anymore. No matter what, she had to tell Ning Cheng that Tang Li had secretly gone to meet with Han Yunxi, but after writing the secret missive, she simply burned it up herself. She sat on the bed and stared blankly at her hand--the same one that had just slapped Tang Li. She ended up sitting for half the night until the sound of the door sent her scuttling under the covers to feign sleep.
Tang Li had returned.
She heard the door close and his soft cough, then the sound of him changing clothes. She grit her teeth and felt her mind in a mess. When Tang Li lied down, it wasn’t to wrap his arm around her and hold tight like usual, but to stay with his back facing hers. In the darkness, Ning Jing’s eyes were wide open, her thoughts utterly on the man lying next to her. Unfortunately, Tang Li didn’t turn around even when it was light out. She had a sleepless night.
Tang Li didn’t sleep either, but his mood was the complete opposite. Getting slapped by Ning Jing to dispel her suspicions was worth it. He was going to take this chance to leave her to dry in the sun. Long Feiye had just sent him a missive that he was going to deploy his troops ahead of schedule. If he could get the arms trade deals from Cloud Realm Trade Consortium quickly, it’d be a heavy loss for Ning Cheng and a big help to Long Feiye. Thinking up to here, Tang Li got up bright and early, dressed himself, and left the room without disturbing Ning Jing. Neither of them would leave Medical City over the next few days, because there was still a good show waiting after the competition.
This afternoon, the medical academy head, the Vice Council and the Council of Elders would publicly try Gu Yuntian for his crimes while formally absolving the Poison Sect. Han Yunxi and Gu Beiyue were already drinking tea in his courtyard that morning. She was currently reading over a secret name list, never expecting Gu Beiyue’s influence in Medical City to be so vast. Many of its illustrious clans and important figures were on excellent terms with him.
“You...how did you do it?” Han Yunxi asked. None of these people should’ve cared about him before he exposed his true skills.
“A few years ago, I secretly organized a group of disciples from the prominent old families. Fourth Young Miss Ren is one of them. We established the Apricot Woods Conference and investigated medical arts together. On set dates, we would go to poor regions and offer treatment free of charge,” Gu Beiyue replied.
Han Yunxi was about to ask Gu Beiyue where he’d learned his skills from when Gu Qishao walked over, his eyes still heavy with sleep. “Tsk, tsk, appearing philanthropic while...filled with bad intentions.”
Those disciples of prominent clans were not only the future of their families, but Medical City as well. In truth, Gu Beiyue had dug out a vast foundation for himself in Medical City long ago.
“Brother Gu, looks like Medical City was in the bag for you ages ago, yah?” Gu Qishao chuckled. Perhaps it was because Gu Beiyue’s medical skills were even better than Gu Yuntian’s, but he harbored an indescribable worship for the man!
Gu Beiyue hesitated before replying in a low voice, “Little Qi, you rendered outstanding service this time. But how about not going this afternoon?”
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Missed a chapter yesterday because I had to go to the city for my passport appointment. I'll make it up later this week! <3
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