Bai Yanqing’s stance was unyielding. Although the sword looked ready to hack him, he didn’t move beyond staring calmly at Han Yunxi. In the end, she was defeated and left the blade on his body without moving. Bai Yanqing was the Wind Clan Head, while Gu Beiyue was the sole survivor of the Shadow Clan. Between the two, Bai Yanqing was more valuable than Gu Beiyue; thus, killing him would be a waste for Han Yunxi’s side.
Gu Beiyue would have a worthy death as well.
But how could Han Yunxi ever place a “value” on Gu Beiyue’s life? She couldn’t do it! Yet as soon as she stopped, Bai Yanqing’s mouth curled up into a mocking lilt. He knew long ago that Han Yunxi couldn’t kill him. Abruptly, Ning Cheng stole the sword and rushed in, stabbing the blade into Bai Yanqing’s flesh.
“Don’t!” Han Yunxi pulled the sword out and tossed it aside.
Bai Yanqing didn’t move or speak, but only smiled coldly. His grin was full of mocking and exceedingly provoking in Ning Cheng’s eyes.
“Princess, this subordinate believes that Gu Beiyue will be honored to be a sacrifice! His death shall be the greatest glory of the Shadow Clan!” Ning Cheng said seriously.
Han Yunxi finally understood why Ning Cheng could bear to deliver Ning An to Emperor Tianhui and Ning Jing to the Tang Clan. She should have long realized that Ning Cheng was a man capable of using his own sisters to complete the mission of the clan and West Qin. If family could be sacrificed for honor, why not anyone else?
She only looked blankly at Bai Yanqing and muttered, “But I can’t do it!”
“Princess…” Ning Cheng coaxed, but Han Yunxi raised a hand to silence him. She knew what he wanted to say. Without a doubt, Ning Cheng would compare the strengths of the Wind and Shadow Clans. If they could cripple Bai Yanqing and deliver him to the Northern Li emperor, then he could pin down Jun Yixie. At that time, Northern Li’s cavalrymen and Jun Yixie’s battle horses would be at odds. Their internal struggle could buy them at last a year and a half of time, leaving the Ning Clan troops with nothing to fear in the meantime.
Gu Beiyue was the only one left from the Shadow Clan. He’d yet to recover his shadow arts, so what was the loss in using his single life to destroy the Wind Clan’s plots? They’d exerted so much effort to the point that they hadn’t hung up any battle flags or revealed her whereabouts. Wasn’t it all just for this moment?
“Ning Cheng, if West Qin is restored to its former glory without its faithful soldiers, what would be the point?” Han Yunxi asked.
“Princess, this isn’t the time for that!” Ning Cheng didn’t want to budge on things like this, even if he was facing the West Qin princess. He raised his own sword, but now it was Gu Qishao who stopped him.
“You don’t have the right to decide for Gu Beiyue!”
“I know his choice already!” Ning Cheng used force, but couldn’t break free of Gu Qishao’s grasp. “Do you think that by letting him go now, he’ll release Gu Beiyue?” he demanded angrily.
“At least Gu Beiyue wouldn’t be dying for the sake of West Qin then!” Han Yunxi persisted.
“The Shadow Clan’s duty is to die for West Qin! The same for the Di Clan!” Ning Cheng raised his voice. Although these weren’t his own words, his father and grandfather had told him the same thing before their deaths. He would never forget it in his life.
“This princess refuses!” Han Yunxi was enraged. This was her first time embracing her role as “West Qin princess.” She was telling Ning Cheng that this wasn’t a discussion, but an order.
“Princess…” Ning Cheng couldn’t accept it, but he didn’t dare to disobey.
Han Yunxi looked at the archers and coldly issued orders. “All of you, withdraw!”
Ning Cheng clenched his right fist, his heart filled with unresignment. But all he could do was hold things back and signal the archers with his eyes. They withdrew. Bai Yanqing slowly patted off the dust on his clothes and straightened himself out. As soon as he prepared to leave, Han Yunxi said, “If you dare to harm a single hair on Gu Beiyue’s head, prepare to accept the consequences!”
Bai Yanqing laughed coldly before swaggering off. Meanwhile, he’d all but forgotten Bai Yuqiao on the ground. Perhaps he assumed that his disciple had been killed in the storm of arrows.
As soon as Bai Yanqing left, Ning Cheng threw his sword on the ground, his face growing grave and icy. Even Ning An, who had just brought Mu Linger along, didn’t dare to speak. Gu Qishao didn’t care about him. In his eyes, only Poison lass was important.
“Poison lass, you’re still Qi gege’s Poison lass!” Gu Qishao muttered to himself.
“What?” Han Yunxi glanced at him.
“I’m cursing you. Forget it if you didn’t hear,” Gu Qishao teased.
No one else knew how fast his heart was beating just then. He was afraid that the Poison lass he liked had morphed into a princess deadset on reviving her country, someone who would sacrifice Gu Beiyue matter-of-factly in the name of righteousness and justice. If she had really thrown Gu Beiyue away, he wouldn’t know whether to keep protecting her or tell her “no.”
Fortunately, Poison lass was still the same Poison lass as before.
Han Yunxi didn’t pursue Gu Qishao’s joke, but looked at Ning Cheng’s frosty countenance with a stifled heart. An indescribable feeling rose in her chest, uncomfortable and unwell.
Ning Cheng turned and stalked off.
“Ning Cheng, you’ve all made sacrifices so many times. Let this be the imperial clan’s turn to sacrifice for your sakes!” Han Yunxi shouted.
Ning Cheng halted at her words, while Ning An was seized with shock. Tears poured down her face--whether from grievance or gratitude, it wasn’t clear. Ning Cheng remained standing for a long time before he finally turned back. He didn’t bring up Gu Beiyue again, but said seriously, “Princess, you must find a way to meet with the Northern Li emperor as soon as possible.”
Han Yunxi shook her head. “No, someone’s even more anxious than us.”
“Who?” Ning Cheng asked.
“Long Feiye.” It had been a long time since Han Yunxi had voiced those three words.
“Long Feiye?” Ning Cheng didn’t understand.
“As long as we give accurate intel to Long Feiye, he’ll move even faster than us,” Han Yunxi paused before risking it all. “Long Feiye’s always had spies and secret agents in Northern Li. The horse plagues from last time came from his hand.”
Ning Cheng was greatly alarmed by the revelation. He never expected Long Feiye to long have agents within Northern Li.
“He long knew that Jun Yixie was going to buy horses from the Wintercrow Clan, but he couldn’t find the exact numbers,” Han Yunxi admitted.
Although Jun Yixie could crush the Ning Clan troops if he led 100,000 cavalry forces, that would put Long Feiye directly into the next line of fire. He didn’t have enough troops to face them, either. Thus, both Long Feiye and Ning Cheng were united in their hopes that the Northern Li imperial clan could pin down the Wind Clan!
Ning Cheng was no fool. After thinking it over, he muttered, “The Di Clan will definitely send a special envoy. If Long Feiye allies with Northern Li, our West Qin will be in danger!”
Han Yunxi couldn’t deny that fact. At this moment, Mu Linger cried out. “Ah...she…. Bai Yuqiao’s still alive!”
Everyone followed the sound of her voice to see Bai Yuqiao’s hand moving.
“Save her!” everyone chorused at the same time.
Bai Yuqiao was Jun Yixie’s junior sister and Bai Yanqing’s disciple. She would definitely know everything about her master. Not only did everyone cry out at the same time, but they were all thinking the same thing: Get Gu Beiyue’s whereabouts from her mouth!
Han Yunxi and Mu Linger hastened to perform emergency rescue on the girl while Ning An quickly found an imperial physician. Once they stabilized her condition, they just had to wait for her to wake up. Then, Han Yunxi planned with Ning Cheng to send the envoys to Northern Li. Only then did she have enough time to speak a few words with Gu Qishao and Mu Linger.
But she’d hardly opened their mouths when Ning An returned.
“Your Royal Highness, this subordinate has personally picked out a few retainers to accompany Long Zun to Medical City. Will you like to review them?” Ning An asked respectfully.
Han Yunxi only felt that Ning An’s attitude was different than before, but she couldn’t place what. She didn’t know that her mention of “the imperial’s clan turn to sacrifice for your sakes” had touched Ning An’s heart. For the first time in her life, she saw a speck of hope amongst the ashes. Her respect from before were all for Han Yunxi’s position, but now it came as respect for her person.
Han Yunxi glanced at Gu Qishao with a flicker of complex emotions. In the end, she agreed and said, “Mm, let’s go take a look.”
Ning An had did as Han Yunxi instructed and prepared an old nanny, eunuch, court lady, three retainers and a little boy as companion for Long Zun. Neither Gu Qishao nor Mu Linger paid much attention to it all beyond standing on the sidelines. The sooner Ning An left, the quicker they’d get to speak with Han Yunxi. They thought she’d be done after a cursory overview, but Han Yunxi actually went to examine each person from head to toe. Gu Qishao suddenly caught a faint whiff of poison in the air. Unable to ascertain its presence, he kept quiet.
After a careful inspection, Han Yunxi nodded at Ning An. “Are you sending them off today? How long before they reach Medical City?”
“Yes, immediately. From here to Medical City will take seven days at the fastest,” Ning An replied.
Han Yunxi took a purple tassel off her robes. “Bring this along with them and find Department Head Shen directly.”
“Your Royal Highness, this...isn’t that…” Ning An didn’t understand.
“Isn’t that exposing ourselves?” Han Yunxi finished for her.
Those were precisely Ning An’s misgivings, so Han Yunxi added, “We hid ourselves before to trick Bai Yanqing. Now that that’s over, we naturally need to hang up our flags. Let Ning Cheng make preparations, I want to personally lead the expedition!”
As soon as she finished, Ning Cheng entered through the doors. “This subordinate has already prepared everything! I can escort princess to the battlegrounds at any time!”
Han Yunxi had dragged things out for as long as she could, because showing their flags meant they would be at loggerheads with Long Feiye. But she knew Ning Cheng wouldn’t let her tarry any longer. She couldn’t find a suitable reason to put things off either without raising his suspicions. Better to follow along and go with him to the battlefield. At least then...she might have a chance to see Long Feiye! No matter what, he’d be there for sure.
Long Zun’s retinue would bring her question to the north and reach Medical City within seven days. As long as Shen Jueming saw them, he would know what she wanted to say. She trusted him to deliver the message to Long Feiye as well. Her true sentiments were headed north while she kept her status as West Qin princess and its mask of hatred to head southward to Long Feiye himself. It’d probably take seven days to reach the battlefield from here, too.
Long Feiye, if you have the heart, find a way to meet!
Han Yunxi and Ning Cheng finished discussing the flags and military details before Gu Qishao and Mu Linger finally had a chance to speak with her separately.
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