With Gu Qishao’s reminder, Mu Linger recalled Han Yunxi’s earliest words and compared it to the contents of the letter. She finally understood.
Anxious, she asked, “Qi gege, could Ning Cheng have done something to my big sister? Is he going to betray the West Qin Dynasty?” Han Yunxi was the West Qin princess, Ning Cheng’s master!
Since Ning Cheng had fabricated Han Yunxi’s letter, he must have kept the real one for himself. What was in that letter? A revelation of the truth? A cry for help? Just why had East and West Qin come to a ceasefire?
“Qi gege, Ning Cheng wouldn’t put my big sister under house arrest. Could they be planning a puppet regime just like the Chu Clan did before?” Mu Linger’s heart was in chaos.
Gu Qishao had been full of worried too. He had long sent men to investigate, but no one could get any definite intel. His men had entered the West Qin camp but were unable to find the main barracks. He didn’t dare send any more letters either, afraid that they’d fall into Ning Cheng’s hands and expose himself. Many times he considered making inquiries around East Qin, but held back in the end. What was there to find out from that guy Long Feiye? He’d only be treated as a joke if Long Feiye found out the situation here.
Gu Qishao could only lay low and make his move from Ning Cheng’s side. No matter what devious ideas Ning Cheng had in mind, he wouldn’t really do anything against Han Yunxi. Gu Qishao would just have to keep the guy in check. He refused to believe that he couldn’t exchange Ning Cheng for his Poison lass eventually!
“Qi gege, say something. What do we do now?” Mu Linger was so impatient, she stamped her feet.
“What are you so anxious for?” Gu Qishao said unhappily.
“Why aren’t you anxious at a time like this, Qi gege?” Mu Linger didn’t get it. Qi gege had rushed in like a madman the last time Han Yunxi was in Tianning palace.
“Because Poison lass has forgiven me!” Gu Qishao chuckled. He was only playing to his whims instead of being impulsive. The last time he’d been so anxious, it was because he feared Poison lass would never acknowledge him again. As long as he forgave her, his world would remain intact no matter what he faced.
Mu Linger avoided the brilliance in his eyes and asked, “Qi gege, then what are your plans for coming onto Ning Cheng’s turf?”
Gu Qishao sat up and rapped her on the head. “Who told you that the Three-Way Black Market is Ning Cheng’s turf?”
Mu Linger felt wronged. “You said he was the host…” But she suddenly remembered something and grabbed his hand. “Qi gege, you...what do you mean by this?”
Gu Qishao’s smile turned cold. “Cloud Realm Trade Consortium’s influence in the Three-Way Black Market pales to its prestige in the past. Ning Cheng doesn’t even count as its co-owner right now.”
Mu Linger sucked in a cold breath. “Qi gege, you, you…”
“Shhh…” Gu Qishao’s long, slender finger pressed against Mu Linger’s lips as he looked mysterious.
The Three-Way Black Market used to be dominated by the Di Clan, but as new consortiums grew and developed, the Cloud Realm Trade Consortium gradually lost power. About twenty years ago, the black markets here were split into three evenly-matched factions: Cloud Realm Trade Consortium’s Myriad Merchant Hall, Gu Qishao’s Golden Wing Hall, and the East Origin Hall of unknown background. Gu Qishao had no relations with the Three-Way Black Market in the beginning beyond coming here occasionally to auction medicinal ingredients. Five years ago, the leader of the Golden Wing Hall fell ill and personally went to Pill Fiend Valley to beg for medicine. Gu Qishao thus opened his lion’s maw and asked for the entire hall in exchange for a single ingredient.
The leader of the Golden Wing Hall loved wealth, but valued his life more. For the sake of survival, he gave all of Golden Wing Hall’s wealth and power to Gu Qishao, making him a big financial backer of Three-Way Black Market. He had silently funneled in medicinal ingredients of his own to buy and trade here, thus creating plenty of revenue for Golden Wing Hall and cementing his position as leader.
Hearing this left Mu Linger stunned. When she recalled how she claimed to understood Qi gege well, she couldn’t help but feel sick at heart now. Perhaps her Qi gege still had plenty of other unknown identities in wait.
“Qi gege, then who’s the leader of East Origin Hall?” Mu Linger muttered. “A name like East Origin...does it come from the idiom purple vapor from the east,
If that was the case, then the background of East Origin Hall could be related to royalty. The original idiom referenced auspicious signs, but was also used to describe the aura of royal monarchs.
“I couldn’t find out. The East Origin Hall has always kept a low profile, but they’ve snatched a few big businesses in recent years. If it came to a measure of strength, it’s uncertain if Myriad Merchant Hall could beat them,” Gu Qishao stated.
“Qi gege,” Mu Linger said hastily, “Then if we fight Ning Cheng without provoking East Origin Hall, they won’t bother with us either, right?”
Gu Qishao smiled guilelessly. “Don’t worry, they can’t control us.”
Mu Linger stopped fretting and grew excited instead. “How are we going to fight Ning Cheng, Qi gege?”
Gu Qishao drew closer to her ear and murmured a bunch of things that made Mu Linger laugh secretly up her sleeve. She was looking forward to it!
Ning Cheng and Gu Qishao made arrangements to check out the path to Blacktower tomorrow and figure out the situation before moving in. After all, they couldn’t trust Bai Yuqiao’s words completely, and it was possible things had changed since she left. Ning Cheng had only stationed men to keep a close watch on Gu Qishao and Mu Linger, but didn’t visit them afterwards.
As soon as the manager of Myriad Merchant Hall heard that he had arrived, he came to pester Ning Cheng. There was a pile of business deals waiting for his approval. Late at night, the black markets only grew more lively. Ning Cheng split his attention between listening to the manager report on the past six months and walking past various auction houses. He had no idea that Ning Jing and Tang Li were having an argument right at the gates to the black market.
No longer did Ning Jing disguise herself as a boy. She was currently dressed in a simple but elegant goose-yellow dress with a sleeveless gauze jacket on top. Her hair had been pulled up into duomaji, or “falling off a horse” coiled hairstyle, that made her look noble and elegant. While dressed as a boy, anyone could see she was female, but no one in Cloud Realm Trade Consortium recognized her as Ning Jing while she was dressed as a female. After all, few people in the world had ever seen her hair coiled up above her head in such charming and elegant ways.
Although these days hadn’t been as easy as the past, she was a bit chubbier than before. By contrast, it was Tang Li who’d grown thinner than before. As they traveled north to find Ouyang Jing in Northern Li and grab Ning Jing’s personal stamp, they had passed by the Three-Way Black Market. Tonight, Ning Jing was determined to drag Tang Li here for some fun.
“Don’t think I don’t know that the Myriad Merchant Hall in there is your Cloud Realm Trade Consortium’s true den!” Tang Li exposed her in a flash.
“Hehe, you know a lot about Cloud Realm Trade Consortium!” Ning Jing smiled coldly. “Tang Li, did you really meet me by coincidence back then?”
Before they met, Long Feiye had long known about the relationship between Cloud Realm Trade Consortium and the Di Clan’s Ning (Ouyang) Family. How could Tang Li not know, either? Although she was the one who drugged him first, it was Tang Li who ended up winning while her clan got the short end of the stick.
“You’re overthinking it! If I’d known who you were that day, I would’ve called a prostitute rather than touch you!” Tang Li’s mocking sneer made Ning Jing’s eyes sting.
But they more they hurt, the more arrogantly she smiled. “It’s a pity you didn’t know ahead of time. Hehe, in the end you were forced into it by me!”
Tang Li narrowed his eyes. “Are you going or not?”
“It’s been too long since I’ve spent any money, so my hands are itchy. Let me in to buy a few things and we can leave when it gets light. I promise I won’t expose my identity,” Ning Jing said.
“Not a chance!” Tang Li grabbed her arm and pulled her away, but Ning Jing suddenly relented as she wrapped her arms around his neck and looked up at her with a whine.
“A’Li, just listen to me! Just let me do as I want! I promise I won’t reveal my identity, I swear! A’Li…”
Tang Li’s face was cold. He pretended to hear nothing as he strode forward. Ning Jing didn’t give up, but gently cupped his face with her hands, warm and soft. “A’Li, we already agreed. You promised to spare my life once we get my stamp. Then I’ll stay at the Tang Clan forever by your side. A single day as husband and wife means a hundred days of mutual favors. We’ve been married for close to a year, so would I go back on my words?”
Tang Li turned away, a cold smile on his lips. He felt that Ning Jing’s words were fake enough to be laughable. “You’re thinking too much of it. Who wants you to stay by my side forever?”
“Then you can let me go?” Ning Jing arched a brow.
Tang Li’s heart felt stifled as he fidgeted. Instead of hugging her, he placed her on the ground and took her hand to lead her away. But Ning Jing suddenly hugged him so he was forced to look at her. “Actually, A’Li, I don’t want to go back to Cloud Realm Trade Consortium either. I didn’t complete my mission, so I don’t know what kind of punishment I’ll face. Ning Cheng won’t let me handle the consortium after that. If needed, he’ll probably send me off as a plaything to some old consortium member one day.”
“Enough!” Tang Li said sternly. He didn’t even know himself why he was so angry.
“Being trapped for a lifetime in the Tang Clan is better than going back to Cloud Realm Trade Consortium. I’m not an idiot,” Ning Jing had never spoken to Tang Li so gently before. Although Tang Li knew she was just pretending, he couldn’t bear to interrupt her. He might never be able to hear this woman’s voice sound so soft again.
“A’Li, the past was my fault. Let’s start anew,” Ning Jing hesitated before circling her arms around his neck again so he was forced to look into her eyes.. “A’Li, I’ve fallen in love with you!”
Tang Li gave a start before he pushed her aside in fury. “Ning Jing, have you had enough of fooling around? Do you think I’m some three-year-old you can easily trick? Hehe, I’m telling you now, I don’t feel anything for you even if you really love me! Get your joke of a face out of my sight.”
Ning Jing’s faint melancholy faded from her face. Although she was putting up an act, she was also searching for answers. Tang Li had given her a definite rejection. She silently laughed at herself. Why bother? I’ve already steeled my heart to leave, so why keep up an act?
She straightened out her messy strands of hair and said coldly, “Fine, I’ll tell you the truth. Myriad Merchant Hall has three big storehouses and I have the key to one of them. I want to take away the money there. If you come with me, I’ll split halves with you. What I said just then was the truth--I won’t have easy days if I return to Cloud Realm Trade Consortium. I only want to take back what’s rightfully mine.”
Tang Li’s eyes flickered with a complicated look. He didn’t lack for wealth, but here was a chance to investigate deeper into Myriad Merchant Hall. Even if Ning Jing tried any tricks, he should be able to deal with them. The Ning Clan wasn’t the only one calling shots in the Three-Way Black Market!
#5 of the 7 makeup chapters for PGC's lost week.
For reference, this is the 墯马髻 (duomaji, or "falling off a horse") hairstyle that Ning Jing is wearing in this chapter.
I'm a bit confused because I thought Han Yunxi dealt with the Three-Way Black Market in an earlier story arc, but maybe the author meant the Tianning black markets instead. Author is not very good with consistency--then again, I suppose that's hard with stories hundreds of chapters long, haha...
Okay, I was the one who was confused. The black market where HYX had her big grain sale was actually the Sky Domain Black Market (referenced in C369), which also gave a nod to the older, bigger Three-Way Black Market. Cheers!