Although the waters of the Three-Way Black Market were deep, that was only from an ordinary person’s perspective. Tang Li didn’t fear them, but he made one thing clear to Ning Jing.
“How much silver are you planning to take back?” he asked coldly while examining her from head to toe. Ning Jing silently exhaled. She knew her chance had come with Tang Li’s question.
“They’re banknotes and deeds, so it’s impossible to give an estimate. In any case, it’s enough to support me for the rest of my life,” Ning Jing replied. She had no idea just how much wealth was stored in the warehouses either, nor did she have any key. Myraid Merchant Hall’s warehouses were all under Ning Cheng’s sole rule. She didn’t have a right to them no matter how much she’d done for Cloud Realm Trade Consortium.
In truth, she’d hidden quite a few secret stashes of wealth over the past years. Even if she could spend and squander freely, she wouldn’t risk robbing money from Myriad Merchant Hall! She made up an excuse just to trick Tang Li, including the very existence of “Ouyang Jing!” She knew that they would have to pass by here on on their way to Northern Li. As long as she went inside, she had a chance to shake Tang Li off her tail.
Tang Li, let’s say goodbye after tonight! We’ll never meet again!
You too, Di Clan! Goodbye after tonight, and may we never meet in the next life!
Tang Li was oblivious to the truth. He only thought Ning Jing wanted to find a chance to pass on a secret message to Ning Cheng in the black markets so the Ning Clan could save her. He didn’t covet the Myriad Merchant Hall’s wealth either. His words just then had just been sounding Ning Jing out and to gauge the true wealth of the storehouses.
“What, you only have so little things in your Myriad Merchant Hall storehouse? Nothing else?” he probed.
Ning Jing knew there were other things, but she wouldn’t expose any of the Di Clan’s secrets even if she was leaving them. Arching a brow, she grinned. “Of course there’s other stuff. But I can’t take them away, nor do I want them. Let’s go, you’ll know once we see them in person.”
“Find! I’m going in with you!”
Hearing this, Ning Jing felt inexplicably sick at heart after her days of sunny moods.
Sick at heart? She was such a practical person that she’d never felt that way in her life. She didn’t want to--nor dare--dwell on the feeling, but ignored it completely and clapped Tang Li on the back. “On account of your truth in me, I’ll give you half the money once I get it. When we get back to the Tang Clan, you have to take good care of me. How about it?” Her eyes were shining and her face passionate, almost as if she really meant it.
Tang Li didn’t answer, but took out a pair of exquisite, pretty white jade bracelets from his sleeve. Seeing this, Ning JIng’s face blanched. “Tang Li, what do you mean by this?”
This was a punishment bracelet, one of the Tang Clan’s hidden weapons. It was used to trap a criminal’s hands much like modern handcuffs. However, it was far superior to handcuffs. Its size could be adjusted to the prisoner’s wrist and automatically make them unable to struggle. The two bracelets were connected by an imperceptible chain that was invisible to the naked eye. At most, it could only extend one meter, and was inseverable by even the sharpest sword.
If these bracelets were placed on a person’s hands, then they wouldn’t be able to use their hands anymore. If it was divided between two people, then they would be confined to within a meter of each other. Under Ning Jing’s alarmed gaze, Tang Li slowly slipped a bracelet onto his wrist. Then he raised it up for Ning Jing to see. “Pretty?
Ning Jing suppressed the indignation in her eyes without a sound. Tang Li took the other braceful and adopted an icy tone despite his smile. “Jing Jing, husband will put it on for you. We’ll be together forever, alright?”
For a second, Ning Jing had the misconception that they’d gone back in time. He used to tease and behave like a hooligan just like this, as if...as if they really were a quarrelsome but loving couple, a husband and wife who adored each other. She looked at it for a long time without saying a word.
“No good? Then shall we continue up north?” Tang Li was still smiling, but he had no emotions whatsoever.
Ning Jing gently gritted her teeth. She looked calm, but her heart was long a mess. She knew that Tang Li wouldn’t budge an inch after this. If she refused him, they would continue north. Where was she supposed to find “Ouyang Jing” there? She wasn’t familiar with Northern Li territory at all, so it’d be even harder to find a chance to escape. In the end, it was possible that Tang Li would discover her lies. He already suspected her of wanting to run away, so she’d never escape the Tang Clan again.
But if she agreed to this, then how was she supposed to escape later? She had even planned out an escape route in the black markets in her head, but Tang Li’s move had left her trapped on the tiger, unable to dismount. What to do?
Tang Li didn’t press her, but arched a brow as he waited patiently. His cold pupils seemed to be mocking her plots. Ning Jing looked at him hopelessly, her eyes burning with resentment. If she could, she’d bite him right now. Why did a man like him exist in this world? Why did she meet him at all? Did she owe him a pile of debts in a past life? If she had met someone else on the road that day--a real cultivating disciple--then everything would be completely different! She could remain at Cloud Realm Trade Consortium and focus on business matters instead of getting swept up in all these plots and schemes. She wouldn’t be entangled in the war between East and West Qin or feel so exhausted.
“Tang Li!” she suddenly barked out, as if wanting to tell him something.
“I’m here!” he replied.
In the end, Ning Jing forced her true words back down into her stomach. No matter how sincerely she spoke, would he even believe her? Even if he did, could she really stay by his side? Ever since she was young, she never backed down when it came to what she wanted or fought for. She did as she dared. If Tang Li wasn’t part of East Qin, she could keep fighting for his affections even if he didn’t like her. But he wasn’t just part of East Qin, but a loyal member as well. She didn’t have a chance.
She could escape the Di Clan, but she couldn’t betray them!
Finally, her words melted into a charming laugh instead. “Alright. Help me put it on and we’ll be husband and wife forever.” As she finished, she added, “And we need to be together in our next lives too!”
“Alright!” Tang Li agreed readily. He lowered his head and slipped the bracelet onto Ning Jing’s wrist as if carefully giving his wife a gift. Ning Jing looked at him with a cold smile in her heart.
Together forever? Does that even exist in this world? Once I cut off this hand, our ‘“together” will just be a joke.
Tang Li, let’s stay together in our next life instead!
Once the jade bracelet was on, Ning Jing raised her hand to examine it with a grin. “It looks rather pretty.”
“If you like it, I’ll give it to you. You can keep wearing it, alright?” Tang Li grinned back.
Ning Jing turned serious. “Let me say this now. Take this off me as soon as we get out of the black market!”
Tang Li didn’t answer, but helped Ning Jing put on her face veil. “Let’s go,” he said simply.
For the sake of disguising her identity, Ning Jing didn’t take Tang Li in through the secret passage. She had ways to change her identity and avoid the inspections all the same. Actually, Tang Li also had his own methods, but he didn’t offer any of them. After bypassing the last scout, Tang Li quietly shot a look at Ning Jing, who didn’t notice.
Late at night, the markets were a bustling scene, especially at the auctions and gambling houses. Tang Li and Ning Jing successfully slipped in before she took him to a gambling house on the very outskirts. He could tell at a glance that this one was owned by Myriad Merchant Hall. As the festive scene swept over them, Tang Li muttered beneath the hubbub, “Are we going to the warehouse right now?”
“Of course. This is the busiest time of night for Myriad Merchant Hall, so it’s our best chance. I know a secret passage. When we get there, you help me deal with the guards. Once we get the things, we’ll leave by the passage!” Ning Jing muttered back.
Before them was Myriad Merchant Hall’s most lively gambling house. Inside, she could seize the chance while Tang Li was distracted to cut off her hand and slip away in the chaos. There was a secret passage beneath the house that connected to a private passageway of Myriad Merchant Hall. She’d be safe as soon as she slipped in there. The Myriad Merchant Hall guards would prevent Tang Li from entering. In any case, Ning Cheng was still at the army. Her current status was still enough to give her some say here. None of those guards would dare to bar her way, and she’d find some excuse to slip away later. Once the secret was out and Ning Cheng came to interrogate the guards, it’d already be useless!
Ning Jing was definitely a merchant at heart. In her eyes, it was worth losing a hand to win freedom for herself and the baby in her womb. Gradually, the two of them were swept up into the ground and surrounded by people on all sides. They squeezed and pushed past the pair while Tang Li’s complicated gaze remained hooded. As they walked, he couldn’t help but pull Ning Jing into his arms to shield her from being bumped. His grip was a bit tight as he muttered, “You better behave and not try any tricks.”
“You’re overthinking things,” Ning Jing remarked. She was focused on the gamblers around them. There were many taboos in a gambling house, but causing a ruckus was the biggest one because it’d only lead to trouble. As long as she found a rough time and crashed into him hard, chaos would break out here within fifteen minutes!
Very soon, she set her sights on a well dressed strongman. She glanced at the pile of chips on his gambling table and was certain he had lost quite a bit of cash. Losers had the worst tempers and nowhere to vent. If she crashed into him…
Gradually, they drew closer to the man, but it was then that someone suddenly squeezed their way over.
“Be careful!” Tang Li exclaimed as he shielded Ning Jing. “He didn’t hit you, did he?”
“I’m...I’m fine,” Ning Jing replied. Even if she was hit, she’d be okay. That person was moving very aggressively. Both of them had already ripped each other apart, so why protect her now? Ning JIng suddenly realized that she missed Tang Li’s hugs. After today, he would probably never hug her, protect her, or be just above her head with his celestial countenance when she looked up again.
Step by step, they made their way through the crowd. Right before reaching her target, Ning Jing still hadn’t made her move. In the end, they passed by the man without anything happening. Soon enough, she spotted a second target, but missed a chance right in front of her. The third and fourth passed by without anything happening as well.
Sometimes, all it took was a single hug to make someone miss them for a lifetime.
If they went any further, they’d reach the secret passage. Ning Jing had to make a choice. She found her fifth target and prepared to struggle out of Tang Li’s hug when a familiar figure flitted into her sights. He was wearing a bronze mask that obscured his mouth and nose like a cough mask, leaving his dark brows and chilly eyes exposed!
Ning Jing suddenly lost her cool to shiver, because this was none other than her big brother, the leader of the Myriad Merchant Hall, Ning Cheng!Previous Chapter Next Chapter
#6 of the 7 owed PGC chapters.
Oh man, here we go...chaos suite deluxe!