Silence came with late night.
With the ceasefire in effect, the West Qin barracks were no longer illuminated by bright lights, but covered in darkness. In the main barracks, everything was black except for the moonlight shining through the window to illuminate a small area around the study desk where Ning Cheng sat with his back to the wall. The light didn’t reach his face, only the outline of his figure. He looked cold and solitary, his form effused with loneliness.
It was a type of feeling that emanated from his entire body to envelope the darkness of the main tent. Because it was the start of autumn, the nights were cool. The next full moon would bring them around to mid-autumn again.
Abruptly, Ning Cheng leaned back until his chair hit the desk and got stuck. He turned sideways to lie on his back, looking up into the moon with his cold and handsome face. His expression resembled that of an abandoned child, so much that even the gentle moonlight pained him. He shut his eyes and lost himself in memories, but they were filled with nothing but Han Yunxi.
Back then, she wasn’t some West Qin princess, but simply Qin Wangfei, simply “Han Yunxi.” Her delicate, pretty little face was filled with wrath, her cold phoenix eyes flaming with rage. She stomped towards the pavilion in a huff to stop in front of him, pick up the wine from the table, and splash it onto his face.
She had said, “Ning Cheng, this wine is to wash your face so you can remember to stop being so shameless! Don’t think nobody else knows you used Distiller’s Grain #7 in that jug!”
The same scene repeated over and over again in his head along with her voice. That petite woman showed no sign of fear in front of his 1.8m form. In fact, her aura far overpowered his own. Love at first sight didn’t necessarily come from a glance, but perhaps a single movement, a spoken word, or even a smile or angry face that became unforgettably etched into one’s bones. Han Yunxi would never know how beautiful her angry face looked in Ning Cheng’s eyes.
No one else knew that Ning Cheng had grown seemingly possessed after that moment. His mind would fill with images of Han Yunxi’s angry face unbidden as something unnameable scratched at his heart. He desperately wanted to capture that woman, but all he got was her acupuncture needle.
As the scenes replayed themselves in his head, Ning Cheng’s chilly face gradually relaxed into a smile beneath the moonlight. It was a pure and happy smile, but it only made one ache.
Compared to the “West Qin princess,” he loved “Han Yunxi” more, a pure and simple emotion. Nobody else was like her.
Love was submission, pledging one’s heart and soul.
But now he was entertaining thoughts of other things. If--if he wasn’t the descendant of the Di Clan or its leader, if he wasn’t her subordinate--could he let go of everything and just act for himself? Could he struggle, fight, and go mad for the woman he loved?
Suddenly, a voice interrupted Ning Cheng’s thoughts. His normally cautious self had completely failed to realize that someone had entered the tent.
“Master’s only realized that this subordinate came in now?” the shadow guard’s voice was very serious. He was different from the other guards and in his forties, having been Ning Cheng’s father’s personal bodyguard. Later on when the man had died, he began serving Ning Cheng up to the present. He was also Ning Cheng’s teacher who taught him the basics of martial arts and someone who’d watched him grow up. Despite being Ning Cheng’s current personal guard, he had the power to take part in many matters of the Ning Clan troops and Cloud Realm Trade Consortium. Everyone thus called him Uncle Cheng.
“Master, this is the letter that the princess sent to Gu Qishao. It almost ended up in his hands, but we stopped it in time,” Uncle Cheng said as he handed it over.
After Han Yunxi left with Long Feiye, Ning Cheng knew that all she’d told him before were lies. His first thought after that were Gu Qishao and Mu Linger. Back then, he’d used Gu Qishao to act out a play and win Bai Yanqing’s trust, but never expected Gu Qishao and Han Yunxi would be acting to hide things from him too. Once Han Yunxi left, he had reminded Ning An to arrange for some people to keep a lookout. As expected, they’d caught secret communication between Han Yunxi and Gu Qishao.
Ning Cheng opened the letter to read its contents before breaking out into a cold laugh. But beneath the chilly sound hid his own pain and ruthlessness. Han Yunxi and Long Feiye had told the whole truth to Gu Qishao. If he saw this letter, would he be in just as much pain and suffering?
Han Yunxi, ah, Han Yunxi. Have you always been this cruel, or is Long Feiye just that great? Do outsiders have no hope of catching your eyes or your heart?
“Master, since the princess is in secret communications with Gu Qishao, he’ll grow suspicious if he doesn’t receive this letter,” Uncle Cheng’s implied meaning was that Gu Qishao wasn’t someone easy to deal with.
“Have Ning An find a way to send Mu Linger aside. I can deal with the rest,” Ning Cheng said icily. He at least needed a hostage on his side, and it looked like Mu Linger would do the trick now. Long Feiye wouldn’t care about that girl, and Gu Qishao probably didn’t truly mind either, but Han Yunxi would definitely take note of her cousin! Gu Qishao really was no easy foe. To take Bai Yuqiao off his hands would require careful thinking.
“What’s the situation on Jun Yixie’s side?” Ning Cheng asked next.
“The 30,000 horses have all been left in the western suburbs of Sky River City. A few days ago, the president of the main Northern Li trade consortium and its directors were entertained at a dinner feast by the emperor. Our people even got a chance to speak, but I believe East Qin had a hand in making that happen, too.”
When Uncle Cheng saw that his master had no reaction, he warned, “We’ve already sent men to Sky River City, but Jun Yixie’s people are all from the Hundred Poisons Sect. Their poison skills are formidable, so it won’t be easy to get close to him. Even if Bai Yanqing’s there, we’re quite helpless.”
In other words, Uncle Cheng meant to say that things would be much easier if a detox expert like Han Yunxi could help them out. How could Ning Cheng fail to read his intentions? But as he continued to remain silent, Uncle Cheng continued to speak.
“This subordinate has heard that the princess has been training a team of poison guards these few years, hand-selected from amongst Long Feiye’s shadow guards. She taught them poison skills herself. Although there aren’t many of them, but each of them has consummate poison skills. There are also rumors that after Long Feiye gifted the City of Daughters to the princess, she stationed her poison guards there to pass on their poisons knowledge. Master, the princess is administering the City of Daughters as a mercenary army. Once those female assassins learn how to poison, the consequences will be unthinkable!”
“Heheh, I never expected her to have such ability,” Ning Cheng laughed coldly.
“With Long Feiye giving her a boost, there’s nothing she can’t do. Master, if we can’t use the princess for our own--”
Uncle Cheng never got to finish before Ning Cheng gave him a sound slap. “The princess will never be used by us, because we’re supposed to be used by the princess! Uncle Cheng, this clan head will spare you once on account of my late father, but if there’s a next time...you can go serve him in the afterlife!”
Uncle Cheng slapped himself in response. “This subordinate knows his wrongs.”
“Are there still no news of Gu Beiyue’s whereabouts?” Ning Cheng exhaled darkly. He dearly needed a companion right now.
“We’re still looking, but I fear...the results bode grim,” Uncle Cheng admitted, before adding, “That’s right, last night Ning An received a secret message from Tang Li. Ning Jing was sent back unharmed and has already reached the Tang Clan. Master, if we can gain the Tang Clan’s assassination weapons as part of our armanments, we’ll have a chance to win!”
“Tell Ning Jing that the one year deadline is almost up. If she still can’t manage it, never come back!” Ning Cheng said coldly.
That night, Ning Cheng remained sitting on his chair the entire time. The very next morning, he resolutely set out on a journey to Tianning’s capital city. Currently, Gu Qishao and Mu Linger were in the capital and had already interrogated Bai Yuqiao for multiple days. She truly was a tight-lipped girl. No matter what kind of terrifying torture methods Gu Qishao tried on her, she still wouldn’t say a peep. Mu Linger finally couldn’t take the sight of her blood-drenched form anymore. Bai Yuqiao was even younger than her and didn’t deserve to suffer such torment.
Gu Qishao picked up a red-hot poker and played with it in his hands. His long and narrow eyes danced with laughter like a fox, sly and crafty.
“Bai Yuqiao, although you’re not as pretty as my Poison lass, nobody will want you in the future if I ruin this face.” Recently, he had been in high spirits. Whenever he thought of saving Gu Beiyue, then joining hands with Medical and Medicine City and helping Poison lass fight for the world with Ning Cheng, his mood would improve. Even without those two, there was still the Perplexing Butterfly Illusion in Poison lass’s hands. The knowledge of the Fire of Ten Thousand Poisons was also in his grasp. Those two items would forever be beyond Long Feiye’s grasp!
Own the Perplexing Butterfly Illusion and one can possess the world. After he saved Gu Beiyue, he’ll go straight to hunting down the Fire of Ten Thousand Poisons. When he imagined Long Feiye’s eternal iceberg face turning ghastly, he was filled with vigor.
The scorching poker drew closer and closer to Bai Yuqiao’s face until she clearly felt the hot air against her skin. Actually, she was almost at her limit. Master had ruthlessly thrown her away, so she long harbored thoughts of betraying him. But she didn’t dare confess because of the fear in her heart. She had to find a solution that would be foolproof; otherwise, even if Gu Qishao’s group let her go, master wouldn’t spare her.
Her only solution so far was her senior brother Jun Yixie.
Moments before the poker reached her face, Bai Yuqiao prepared to shout when Mu Linger pulled Gu Qishao’s hand away. “Qi gege, don’t…”
Gu Qishao had already saw that Bai Yuqiao was ready to compromise, but Mu Linger stopping him ruined all of his fun. He impatiently wrested himself free. “Are you annoying or not? Get out!”
Gu Qishao was always yelling at her, but Mu Linger never felt afraid or sad. She was used to it by now. “Qi gege…” she grasped his wrist, but in a fit of fury Gu Qishao simply flung her to the ground. She crashed against the floor, feeling unwell all over. A flash of helplessness flitted past Gu Qishao’s eyes before it quickly disappeared.
He said coldly, “Do you believe me when I say I’ll send you back to Pill Fiend Pharmacy this instant unless you get out?”
“Qi gege, don’t ruin her face. Give her another chance…” Mu Linger didn’t get to finish when Gu Qishao’s expression darkened. Without a choice, she could only leave. As soon as she was gone, Bai Yuqiao suddenly broke out into laughter.
“Gu Qishao, I never expected there to be such a foolish girl in this world.”
“Is she any more foolish than you?” Gu Qishao’s lips curved into a cynical grin. “Bai Yanqing used you as a human shield, but you’re still willing to give up you life for him? Lass, Qi gege will teach you a saying: the world will destroy a person who doesn’t look out for herself!”
“Yes, I’m a fool! But Mu Linger’s even more of a fool. All of Cloud Realm Continent knows that you’re a freak and monster, but she still fancies you. Haha, say now, do you think she’s brain-damaged?” As Bai Yuqiao spoke, she broke out into laughter. Over the past few days, Gu Qishao had almost tortured her to the brink of death. Even though she’d decided to confess, she still had to bite him back a few times before she was satisfied.
Unfortunately, she was mistaken. How could anyone simply bite Gu Qishao’s heart and make it actually hurt?
“She is pretty foolish. It’s a pity, ah, but this young gentleman just doesn’t fancy her back!” Gu Qishao chuckled.
Outside the door, Mu Linger still hadn’t left. She heard everything as clear as day…
The lesson to be taken from all this is that loving the female lead is just asking for misery...unless you're sure you're her OTP! P.S. Welcome to our new story arc! We've moved on from HYX x LFY shenanigans to take a peek at our allies on the West Qin side, among other factions! ^-^