Ning Cheng caught the item that Long Feiye tossed him and opened it up before his expression shifted. Han Yunxi was even more stunned by the sight. This was none other than East Qin’s imperial jade seal, which had been passed down through generations of the royal line.
Long Feiye was trading East Qin’s imperial seal for her!
It was a powerful yet resolute move!
Truth or lies didn’t matter now. Actions led to the ultimate conclusion that decided everything. The moment Long Feiye decided to leave her by his side, he had already made a choice between national enmity and herself as a person. He choose the latter. Thus, he dropped his hatred for the Di Clan and revealed his sincerity to cooperate. Of course, no one could say whether East and West Qin would reconcile or grow ever more combative once they dealt with the Wind Clan together. But at least Long Feiye had taken the first step.
Seeing such an impressive, no nonsense Long Feiye, Han Yunxi really wished she was a true and proper West Qin princess who had power in her hands. Then she could be like him and do as she wished, domineer as she wanted, intimidate and be spectacular at every scene! And yet even as princess, she still had to submit to Ning Cheng, wasn’t that right?
Ning Cheng scrambled to his feet and demanded, “Long Feiye, why?!”
The imperial jade seal was heavy in his hands, its weight a testament to its authenticity. Ning Cheng didn’t understand why Long Feiye chose to cooperate with West Qin of all options when he had so many alternatives, or why he’d use this to show his sincerity.
A single thread of worry rose in Ning Cheng’s heart. Before he could ascertain it, Long Feiye gave him an answer. “Because this crown prince wants her!”
It was a single, simple sentence, but it came to a strong and domineering point. Ning Cheng gave a start, while Han Yunxi was even more startled. She never thought Long Feiye would expose everything! She’d tried so hard to earn Ning Cheng’s trust, while Long Feiye himself faced heavy pressure from his own barracks.
How can he just…
Before Han Yunxi could recover, Long Feiye had already taken her hand. “Ning Cheng, is this enough of a reason?”
Ning Cheng had no time to attend to Long Feiye anymore. He looked at Han Yunxi with his brows tightly knitted and a demand for explanations in his eyes. No one saw the ache he hid behind his pain, or the pain he kept hidden in his left hand. Long Feiye’s heavy show of faith helped return Han Yunxi’s fake princess heart and her guilt and remorse for West Qin and the Di Clan.
She had lied to Ning Cheng, but Long Feiye didn’t!
Han Yunxi answered Ning Cheng herself, open and forthright. “I love him,” she said.
Ning Cheng’s right hand cracked as he formed a fist, hatred shining in his eyes. “Han Yunxi, don’t forget your vow!”
“I remember it! Even though I love him, I won’t make West Qin sorry!” Han Yunxi said coldly.
“You already have!” Ning Cheng raged.
“I haven’t!” Han Yunxi denied it sternly. “Ning Cheng, you should know better than me that West Qin has no choice. We can only stop the fighting and cooperate with Long Feiye!”
Ning Cheng laughed out loud. “Han Yunxi, have you considered that Northern Li will be easily attainable by Long Feiye once the Wind Clan falls? Are you naive enough to think that West Qin will be able to survive under such difficult circumstances?”
A moment of silence gave Long Feiye the chance to speak. He grabbed Ning Cheng’s cloak to stop the man from advancing any further towards Han Yunxi and looked at him scornfully. “Ning Cheng, when that time comes, it’ll purely be a test of ability. This crown prince isn’t yielding to you on the matter of the Wind Clan, but to Han Yunxi!”
Ning Cheng shoved Long Feiye’s hand aside as he looked icily at Han Yunxi. “West Qin doesn’t need such concessions!”
Han Yunxi helplessly shook her head. “Then you tell me, Ning Cheng. What should we do?” Have her lead the Ning Clan troops to a fight to the death while knowing full well that they’d be bringing destruction onto themselves like a moth to a flame?
They’d already sacrificed so many lives. Was it still not enough? Were successive generations supposed to keep giving injury for injury, reprisals for reprisals?
What was the point?
So what if they took revenge and restored the country? Would that guarantee they’d live in peace forever? East and West Qin used to be part of one empire and a single clan. They were a powerful and glorious empire. Whether it was hatred or pure misunderstanding that split them apart, could they resolve their differences? Can’t they exist together, just like the beginning?
“Ning Cheng, must you have me lead all of West Qin’s loyal adherents to certain doom with full knowledge of their deaths? Is this the only way to prove worthy of them?” Han Yunxi asked.
“At least it wouldn’t be a disappointment to West Qin!” Ning Cheng said coldly.
“Aren’t they West Qin as well?” Han Yunxi asked incredulously. “Ning Cheng, tell me. What is ‘West Qin?’ Who is it? Is it you? Or me? Is it the Di Clan? The Shadow Clan? Everyone? Or is it just a dream--a far-fetched, unattained fantasy that demands generation after generations of sacrifices?”
“Ning Cheng, I can leave with you right now, but you have to tell me: where does West Qin go from here? West Qin...will it even have a tomorrow?” Han Yunxi’s voice grew hoarse.
Ning Cheng was silent. Actually, he didn’t know what to do either. He just didn’t want this woman to leave him and return to Long Feiye’s side.
“Ning Cheng, the civil war between East and West Qin started because of iron ore. Ning An said East Qin sacrificed the people downriver to protect the mine. But do you know how many mermaid soldiers were sacrificed by the Bai Clan to protect the dam? How could East Qin ignored the Bai Clan’s sacrifices just for the sake of a mine? If that was the truth, how could the Bai Clan still be so loyal to East Qin today?” Han Yunxi said earnestly.
“Ning Cheng, East Qin sent out the Black Clan to grab what they could from the iron ore mines, but the Wind Clan stationed there by West Qin misunderstood them to be protecting the iron ore mine and destroying the dam for their own interests. Was this a misunderstanding between East and West Qin or the Black and Wind Clans? Or perhaps, a plot cooked up by the latter two?”
“You trust Long Feiye’s sophistry?” Ning Cheng smiled sardonically.
Long Feiye’s eyes grew cold. If not for Han Yunxi, he’d never waste words with Ning Cheng here, much less think of ways to conceal the true situation at Northern Li to convince Baili Yuanlong to ceasefire. He would have led his army to sweep across all of Tianning long ago!
“Ning Cheng, do you want your lordship to have Baili Yuanlong dig up all the bones of the mermaid soldiers from the bottom of the Sandy River so you can have a look?!” Long Feiye fumed.
Ning Cheng gave a start.
If Long Feiye wasn’t lying, then East Qin really wouldn’t have given up on the Bai Clan’s loyalty for the sake of a single mine. In that case, it was very possible the civil war from the past arose from a misunderstanding. Or perhaps, like Han Yunxi suggested, a plot was afoot.
“The Wind Clan…” Ning Cheng’s heart trembled with fear. He remembered how the war between the two dynasties began because the Wind and Black Clans had been the vanguards on both sides. The Wind Clan’s successive defeats had led to the quick termination of West Qin itself. Meanwhile, the Black Clan had first destroyed West Qin, then turned their backs on East Qin.
“The Black Clan…” Abruptly, Ning Cheng looked towards Long Feiye, whose lips were drawn up scornfully. Naturally, he had come to the same conclusions long ago. Yet after a moment, Ning Cheng still raged, “These are only your personal conjectures!”
“Ning Cheng, this is only a conjecture, but it’s also a chance--an opportunity to redeem everyone!” Han Yunxi raised her voice.
Ning Cheng looked into Han Yunxi’s eyes. He stopped calling her princess and went straight to her name. “Han Yunxi, if the truth turned out to be mutual enmity, what choice will you make then?”
Han Yunxi didn’t hesitate. “I’ll answer you once I find out the truth.”
“And if I want an answer right now?” Ning Cheng challenged.
Han Yunxi laughed out loud. “Ning Cheng, I...as the West Qin princess, do I have the right to refuse you?”
Ning Cheng seemed to suddenly realize something as he fell silent. But Han Yunxi pressed closer and asked in a frosty tone, “Ning Cheng, I’ll answer you right now. Even if I go back with you, Long Feiye will still cooperate with me and join hands to defeat the Wind Clan. Once that’s done, I and Long Feiye would fight each other for the right to this world based on our own ability!”
Ning Cheng and Long Feiye were both looking at her by this point, but Han Yunxi wasn’t finished yet. She continued to speak.
“But no matter whether I win or lose, as long as I finish my duties as the princess, I’ll still want to be by his side. The only exception is if I die, or if he doesn’t want me anymore! So no matter whether we triumph or fail in the future, once everything’s over, you can consider me dead.”
If she won, then Long Feiye would submit; if she lost, then Long Feiye would win. In either case, they’d hold no qualms towards East and West Qin or their own hearts. Long Feiye had even brought out his imperial jade seal, so why would she care about so many other things? If that day really came where she lost her title and status, she would still be happy if she could be by his side. Why not?
Long Feiye stroked her hair and smiled faintly. “You’re not allowed to die. Whether or not I win or lose, I’ll always want you and marry you again. Believe me.”
Ning Cheng looked at them both as his left hand ached. Still, he slowly formed it into a fist in spite of the pain, increasing his own agony.
“I trust you!” Han Yunxi said. She broke free of Long Feiye’s hand to stand in front of Ning Cheng. “Let’s go back.”
Long Feiye’s eyes were filled with reluctance, but he didn’t stop her. Although this woman had almost crushed his hand in the carriage, she still stood strong in the end--much stronger than he imagined. Firm and resolute, clear-cut and straightforward, she was natural and unrestrained!
Han Yunxi had already taken a few steps, but Ning Cheng didn’t budge. In the end, he told Long Feiye, “No matter what, I won’t cooperate with you. We can have a ceasefire, but dealing with the Wind Clan will rely on our individual skills! My West Qin princess doesn’t need you to show her any concessions, either!”
He chased after Han Yunxi and stuffed East Qin’s imperial jade seal into her hands. “Han Yunxi, hold onto this. Wait until I destroy the Wind Clan, then return this to Long Feiye. Don’t forget to come back after that! I’ll wait for your return so we can stand shoulder-to-shoulder in the battlefield!”
Ning Cheng’s obstinacy only infuriated, but his attachments made one ache.
But at least he’d given way to go along with Han Yunxi’s plan. At least this time, he’d remained attached to West Qin and the painful token of love in his left hand until the end!
He walked right past Han Yunxi without a second look back. Seeing him disappear into the distance, Han Yunxi was filled with emotions. Even though Long Feiye had stopped the fighting and rid a care from Ning Cheng’s mind, the man still couldn’t beat Long Feiye to destroying the Wind Clan, ah!
Long Feiye walked over. “He’s sure to lose. You’re not allowed to help him!”
Han Yunxi didn’t speak. When it came to the Wind Clan, she would neither help Ning Cheng or Long Feiye. Let those two measure their strengths on their own. Whether it came to love or hate, victory or defeat, everyone had to rely on their own abilities. But it felt wonderful to confess everything and reveal the true thoughts at the bottom of her heart. Without lying or reproach, her heart felt much lighter. What a beautiful feeling.
She said, “Long Feiye, if we really can’t avoid meeting each other with arms bared, then let’s have a good fight out of it all and stay together forever when it’s done, alright?”
Long Feiye took her into his embrace. “We’ll talk about it when we capture Bai Yanqing. Why are you thinking so much? Come back!”
The words ‘come back’ awoke Han Yunxi from her complicated thoughts. That’s right, why am I thinking so much? I should be enjoying the present right now.
Back on the carriage, Han Yunxi waited a long time. She assumed that Long Feiye would ask her about her pledge to Ning Cheng, but he didn’t…