Nine envelopes rested at the very bottom layer of the box. Han Yunxi was very surprised. She quickly took them out, but grew stunned before she even made to open them.
Weren’t these the nine letters she’d sent off in response to Long Feiye’s own? Her name was still on these envelopes! For each one, she’d only written a single sentence: Long Feiye, I miss you.
Han Yunxi tore open the first envelope and saw her letter inside. On the back was a single plea written in Long Feiye’s own handwriting: Han Yunxi, please trust me.
After that was his name and the date.
Han Yunxi seemed to recall something as she quickly tore open the other eight envelopes. Each of them contained the same exact message.
Nine times, she had written to him, Long Feiye, I miss you.
Nine times, he had replied to her, Han Yunxi, please trust me.
Han Yunxi finally realized that the nine blank letters she’d gotten back from him were all fakes. That was why she couldn’t understand them after months of wondering. Those empty letters weren’t like letters at all. How was I supposed to guess anything from them?!
She felt so wronged that she wanted to cry, but so happy that she wanted to laugh.
Long Feiye, how could you do this?
You bastard! You big bastard!
One after another, the sentences earnestly replied to her own thoughts. Han Yunxi clearly remembered that she’d given Long Feiye her ninth letter at Medical City before any of this had happened and the issue of enmity between their countries had yet to exist. Back then, she was only his Qin Wangfei while he was simply His Highness Duke of Qin.
What did he want her to trust in him for, before any of this happened?
Did he predict that something would happen, and so wanted her to believe in him?
After a moment of shock, Han Yunxi began to review the dates on the letters like a madwoman. Long Feiye had written his name and date on the corner of each letter. Together, the nine letters confirmed that all his replies had come before he announced his status as the East Qin crown prince.
Why didn’t he give me his letters then instead of now?
So as it turned out, he had humiliated her on the bridge just so she would snatch back the box and its purple muslin robe without Ning Cheng touching the thing. At that thought, Han Yunxi recalled the image of Long Feiye’s silent face after she’d slapped him. Her heart grew stifled with pain as she found it difficult to breathe. As her nose choked up, all of her grievances from the past few months built up from her heart. She couldn’t tell whether she was feeling sorry for herself, or for him.
Long Feiye, you’re the only one capable of bullying me to this extent!
And you’re the only one that leaves me in a wreck every single time!
Why? Why did he hold onto these letters instead of sending them out? Why did he hide everything when he could have explained it all? How Han Yunxi wished to find a clue from his answers. Once again, she searched through them madly, looking at each one carefully for hints or clues. Unfortunately, there was nothing else.
Abruptly, footsteps sounded from outside the door. Startled, Han Yunxi quickly shut the lid of the box to hide all of the letters, but one of them fell to the ground. She was about to bend down and pick it up when a servant girl entered the room.
Unlike other places, it was inconvenient for females to stay within the military barracks, so Ning Cheng had arranged a few servant girls just for her sake. Han Yunxi didn’t dare to stare at the letter on the ground as she held her breath in trepidation. She didn’t even realize that she’d stopped breathing when the servant girl approached her with a tray full of food.
“Your Royal Highness, the Ning Clan Head told this servant to come. This is aged chicken ginseng soup, please drink it while it’s hot,” the servant said respectfully.
“Alright...you… You should leave.” When faced with earth-shattering events, Han Yunxi could still remain unnaturally calm, but now her heart was pounding over such a trifling thing. She couldn’t even talk straight.
“Yes.” The servant girl bowed and prepared to withdraw. Han Yunxi moved her foot to step on the letter, but then the girl suddenly turned back. She ended up covering half the paper with her foot instead. Luckily, she hadn’t looked down, so the servant girl didn’t notice a thing.
“Your Royal Highness, the Ning Clan Head said that the soldiers will be holding an exhibition tomorrow, so he asks that you rest early. He’ll come pick you up first thing tomorrow morning,” the servant girl added, still respectful.
Han Yunxi leaned forward until her dress was covering the entire letter, then finally calmed down. “I understand. You, you should go back! And also...in the future, don’t...don’t come in without my permission first.”
“Yes,” the servant girl bowed again. Then she left.
Once Han Yunxi was certain that the coast was clear, her taut nerves relaxed. She exhaled a long breath before quickly hiding all of the letters. How many monumental events had she experienced in this lifetime? Yet she’d never been so afraid as that instant, almost enough for her heart to leap out of her chest.
So close, so close.
It wasn’t a big deal, but it carried massive consequences. If Long Feiye’s letters fell into Ning Cheng’s hands, or if he discovered the hidden layer, Han Yunxi couldn’t begin to imagine or accept what’d happen next.
What would everyone think if they found out that the ever brilliant and calm Han Yunxi had been nearly scared out of her wits by a mere servant girl?
Once her terror passed, Han Yunxi managed to still her nerves. Yet inexplicably, she turned towards the wall and began to cry. How could she stop the tears once they started? She crouched on the ground while facing the wall, crying with murmured sobs.
Long Feiye, you bastard! What does this count as?
What do you want me to believe?
Long Feiye, I want to see you! Whatever you want me to believe, tell me clearly in person!
Han Yunxi didn’t sleep at all that night, too busy trying to think of a plausible excuse to meet Long Feiye again. Ning Cheng would still be holding a grudge from how he’d humiliated them both at the first. Moreover, it was Long Feiye’s side that had requested the talks in the first place. His faction had always been the passive party while Ning Cheng held the power to stop fighting or face the Wind Clan alone.
Early next morning, Ning Cheng came to pick Han Yunxi up for the exhibition and saw her puffy eyelids. He assumed that she’d been crying over the purple muslin robes. Guilt plagued him then, but he didn’t dare to ask any questions as he led her away. Han Yunxi was distracted all morning as she thought back and forth until finding an ample excuse to win over Ning Cheng. But on their way back to the barracks, a scout came to report, “Princess, General Ning. East Qin’s sent a letter.”
Han Yunxi read the letter and secretly rejoiced. Baili Yuanlong and written to request a second meeting place and time. Last time they’d agreed to stop the fighting, so now was the time to go into detailed discussions about the particulars. Han Yunxi handed the letter to Ning Cheng, who skimmed it with disdain.
“Princess, we need to suppress their arrogance a notch. Delay three to five days before replying. Do they really think we’re stopping our war with them?!”
Han Yunxi only looked at him resentfully without a word. Seeing her disappointment, he shut up immediately. In the end, he was the one at fault. If he hadn’t made a mistake, then how could Long Feiye have the chance to disgrace Her Royal Highness? He finally realized that he couldn’t bring up this topic in front of the princess ever again. It would be no different to tearing a scab off her scar. Her silence drove him to quiet down as well, and the two of them returned to the barracks without a word.
Meanwhile, Ning An had sent them a letter as well. Long Zun had arrived smoothly at Medical City, while Gu Qishao and Mu Linger had revived Bai Yuqiao. They were still interrogating the girl, but hadn’t found any clues yet.
“Ning Cheng, reply Ning An to ask whether Shen Jueming accepted Long Zun’s retinue or sent them back,” Han Yunxi said carelessly, though she was feeling quite nervous. She had poisoned one of the servants on purpose so that his skin would react to the osmanthus flowers in Shen Jueming’s courtyard. It was just approaching autumn, but the north was colder than the south. Thus, Shen Jueming’s courtyard of osmanthus blossoms had to be still in bloom.
The poison on the servant’s back would react to the scent of the flowers to leave the victim itchy. Moreover, black lines would appear on the surface of his skin. According to the order and sequence of her poison, the lines would show up as words instead. As long as Shen Jueming treated that servant, he would see the message she left behind on his back and pass it on to Long Feiye.
Right now, she wished more than anything else that Shen Jueming had passed on her words. She couldn’t begin to imagine how hopeless Long Feiye must be feeling after getting slapped and hearing her speech to Ning Cheng.
As Ning Cheng prepared to leave, Han Yunxi urgently pressed, “If there’s any news, have her write back immediately, the quicker the better!”
Ning Cheng grew doubtful. “Princess, is this matter...really that urgent?”
Only then did Han Yunxi realize her slip. Luckily, she was quick enough to explain. “If we can win over Medical City’s support, then we’ll get Medicine City’s support as well. Ning Cheng, with both of them on our side, we’ll have ample grounds to talk terms with East Qin. Long Feiye has many spies in Northern Li. If the talks go on for too long and he reaps enough rewards to change his mind about the cease fire, we’ll end up one step short of success.”
Han Yunxi’s words made sense. Moreover, Ning Cheng trusted her now, so he didn’t pursue the matter. “This subordinate will take care of it right away. I ask that princess remains firm in terms of scheduling the talks.”
Han Yunxi would rather Ning Cheng propose another meeting tonight, but she still had sense enough to say, “I’ll consider it before making a decision.”
That night, Han Yunxi tossed and turned in bed while reading Long Feiye’s nine letters over and over again. She caressed each word with her fingers, taking in his distinctive aura imbibed in each character.
That same night, Long Feiye didn’t toss or turn in his bed because he never went to lie down. Instead, he sat in his barracks while waiting for a reply. Baili Yuanlong accompanied him, completely clueless. He only assumed that Long Feiye was mapping out the current political situation.
Too many others had sleepless nights of their own. Ning Cheng sat outside the barracks by a little stream, drinking alone in his depression. He downed jug after jug of wine, hoping to make himself drunk, but he was a man who rarely succumbed to drink.
Baili Mingxiang sat watching the moon outside her window, her simple yet elegant face even stiller than the night. Those docile eyes shone with the flickering light of the moon, filled with desolate beauty.
Gu Qishao sprawled on a roof, eyes staring at the skies. Mu Linger was in the building below him, watching over Bai Yuqiao who had just regained consciousness and was in no mood to sleep.
Gu Beiyue was in a thatched cottage somewhere, burning up Chu Tianyin’s letters as he stared at the moon and sighed…
The next day, Long Feiye received West Qin’s reply. The second meeting would take place that very night in the same place, same time. After reading the contents, he told Baili Yuanlong, “Tonight, this crown prince can simply go alone. You stay at the barracks.”Previous Chapter Next Chapter
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