Ning Jing never thought she’d see Ning Cheng here. Wasn’t he supposed to be with the army? Although Ning Cheng was the leader of Myriad Merchant Hall, it was rare for him to deal with things here in person after Tianning’s internal unrest. What was he doing here now?
Ning Jing only knew that East and West Qin had stopping fighting, but not the specific reasons why. Nor did she know that Han Yunxi had already gone to Long Feiye’s side. Her second thought was to wonder whether Han Yunxi was nearby as well. One thing she had never understood was why Han Yunxi never bothered telling Ning Cheng the connection between the Tang Clan and Long Feiye herself. She must have known it the earliest of them all.
When she was taken back to the Tang Clan after the interrogation in the forest, she had waited for Tang Li to hold discussions with the Cloud Realm Trade Consortium elders. From there, she was certain Han Yunxi hadn’t revealed the truth to Ning Cheng.
As West Qin’s princess, what was Han Yunxi plotting?
Despite her suspicions, she couldn’t bother with so many details when her own life was currently at stake. Flustered, she felt at a loss for what to do. All she did was lower her head, afraid that Ning Cheng would recognize her. But soon enough, she realized she was wrong!
She had a face mask on, but Tang Li hadn’t bothered to disguise himself at all. Once he was seen, then Ning Cheng would guess her identity soon enough.
What to do?
Ning Jing wanted to calm down and think up a plan. There had to be a way! But she couldn’t still her nerves. If Ning Cheng was at the Three-Way Black Market, then her plan was a failure. She couldn’t escape today or ever leave Three-Way Black Market again!
Agitation, gloom, alarm, despair, and grievances filled her heart. Ning Jing suddenly felt exhausted and wanted to have a good cry. What was she supposed to do? Although she had older siblings, she’d never relied on either of them. She had always been stubborn and persistent on her own. Now she desperately wanted someone to lean on and tell her how to act. Her own brother was right there and her husband by her side, but she couldn’t depend on either of them.
Ning Cheng had just finished his rounds of the auction houses and was planning to go back and rest when he inexplicably entered this gambling house. The first lesson he learned in his youth after entering the army was not to fight a battle he couldn’t win. The Three-Way Black Market’s gambling houses never dealt with games of calculation, but ones based on pure luck. Thus, Ning Cheng disliked them and rarely visited the premises.
But he was feeling gloomy today and had nowhere to vent. Would he feel better after some random gambling?
Only the Di Clan and the highest echelons of Cloud Realm Trade Consortium were aware that Long Feiye had taken Han Yunxi hostage. He himself had only told Uncle Cheng about Han Yunxi’s feelings for the man. After she left, his heart had been in perpetual shadow.
“Bring out 30,000 chips,” he instructed Uncle Cheng.
“Master, you’ve never gambled before,” Uncle Cheng reminded him in a low tone.
“I said, bring out 30,000 chips! Do you need me to say it a third time?” Ning Cheng snapped.
Uncle Cheng backed off, and Ning Cheng’s gaze drifted through the crowds before catching a familiar face.
“Tang Li…” he muttered to himself.
Uncle Cheng returned with a box full of chips and followed Ning Cheng’s gaze. He saw Tang Li immediately, but was drawn to the masked girl he held in his arms while weaving in and out of the crowds.
“That couldn’t be Miss Jing, could it?” Uncle Cheng was surprised.
“Why is she hiding her face?” Ning Cheng sensed something off instantly.
Ever since the Di Clan and Cloud Realm Trade Consortium’s identities were exposed, there were no more secrets. Even common people knew that the Three-Way Black Market’s Myriad Merchant Hall was under his Di Clan. Naturally, Tang Li should know this as well, so there was no need for Ning Jing to disguise herself. She must have avoided the private tunnels, so she hadn’t tipped off any member of Myriad Merchant Hall. Her mask was to prevent people from recognizing her.
Ning Cheng’s comment left Uncle Cheng puzzled as well. “Strange! Could it be that Miss Jing is here to play and didn’t want to alarm the people on the floor?”
Ning cheng’s eyes flashed shrewdly. Others might not understand, but he knew Ning Jing quite well. That girl placed emphasis on wealth and would never frequent a gambling house like this. If she wasn’t dragged here by force by Tang Li, then there had to be an agenda!
After some hesitation, Ning Cheng dropped his head to tell Uncle Cheng a few words before entering the secret passage. Tang Li had yet to notice Ning Cheng, but Ning Jing already knew that they’d been caught. She noticed how her brother had whispered into Uncle Cheng’s ear. She wished she could take Tang Li and leave, but now they were in a tight spot. If she departed right now, Ning Cheng would be too smart and suspect her. The Three-Way Black Market by the Three-Way Battlefield nearby were all Ning Cheng’s turf! They’d never be able to escape!
In the midst of her chaos, her hands drifted to her stomach again. Once there, it stayed as she brushed her fingers against her slightly showing belly. She suddenly fell quiet. There was still one more person she could depend on in this world to give her strength: the tiny life within her womb, the mark left on her by Tang Li. This was the only memory she could take away from him.
Mothers had strength!
Once she calmed down, Ning Jing adjusted her thoughts. No matter whether she escaped in the end, she had to deal with Ning Cheng first and eliminate his suspicions against her and Tang Li. Otherwise, Tang Li would die here. At this thought, Ning Jing suddenly gripped Tang Li’s hand in fear. He had no idea how weak her heart felt at this instant, so he only muttered, “What is it?”
Before Ning JIng could answer, a skinny middle-aged man suddenly popped out of nowhere to take Tang Li’s hand and stuff some chips inside. “Sir, sir, I’ve lost all my luck tonight! I can tell it’s your first time here, so I beg you to help me play a few rounds and change my luck!”
Ning Jing could tell at a glance that Uncle Cheng had sent this man to them. This was a peddler! Anyone caught in his grasp would be guaranteed to lose everything of worth in his gambles. Was Ning Cheng planning to have Tang Li lose the entire Tang Clan? If that really happened, she wouldn’t have to worry about the matter of getting their assassination weapons. This was a fatal strike against Tang Li! She couldn’t begin to imagine how much he’d be ruined after such a serious outcome, or how Long Feiye would punish him in turn.
How ruthless, Ning Cheng!
If she unmasked herself and dealt with the problem for Tang Li now, Ning Cheng would definitely sense something wrong. She could only remind him in secret. But even so, Tang Li could tell this man was a swindler already! Her reminder only offered him further consolation. He happily agreed to the skinny man’s demands. “Alright, this gentleman will change your luck free of charge first. Which table? Let’s go!”
A shrewd look came into the man’s eyes as he quickly led the way. Ning Jing panicked. She furiously gripped Tang Li’s hand, but he allowed her to fuss before a glad smile rose to his lips. Even he himself didn’t notice. Finally, Ning Jing couldn’t take it anymore and muttered, “Tang Li! This is a trap! I saw Ning Cheng just then and he recognized us!”
Tang Li murmured back, “Aiya, my family’s Jing Jing finally has her heart on my side this time.” Her reminder to him this time proved that she was really here to steal the black market’s silver, not lie to him.
“I...I…” Ning Jing suddenly didn’t know how to explain herself. In the end, she decided to let him misunderstand to the end. “You can’t possibly win. These peddlers lead people to tables where they swindle them out of their cash! Tang Li, you should stop playing after a few rounds and just then the dealer you’re the Tang Clan head. Say you want to see the manager, then I’ll pretend to urge you to keep gambling in case Ning Cheng suspects me.”
Tang Li looked down at her and suddenly smiled. It was the brightest one he’d worn since they left Medical City. “Jing Jing, since you didn’t lie to me, I’ll help you win back everything you deserve. We won’t lose until we’re bankrupt tonight.”
“Tang Li! You can’t win against them! They’ll cheat!” Ning Jing panicked enough to stomp on his feet.
“Wanna bet?” Tang Li chuckled under his breath. “If I lose, I’ll let you go. If I win…” He thought it over, then whispered by her ear, “When we get your personal stamp, go back to the Tang Clan and bear my children, alright?”
With a child, it’d be easier for him to override his mother and preserve her life. Ning Jing’s eyes grew red with impending tears, but her voice remained icy. “I don’t have the right to bear your children, nor do I want to! I’m telling you now, don’t blame me for not reminding you if anything happens!”
Tang Li chuckled coldly without replying. Very soon, the skinny man led them to a huge gambling table. Ning Jing recognized the dealer at a glance to be Uncle Cheng and felt pure despair. His hawk-like eyes made it impossible to her to even speak to Tang Li now.
What to do?
Tang Li, you idiot. How can you fight against Uncle Cheng’s set of tricks!
“This is…” Uncle Cheng smiled.
“This is my friend, hehe. Help me a few rounds. Any losses count as mine, any wins count as his!” the skinny man answered hastily.
“Hehe, as long as it’s agreed,” Uncle Cheng nodded before shuffling the cards. The entire table was playing Yadaxiao, where the winner would be determined after revealing their cards. Without a word, Tang Li played with the chips in his hands while quietly observing Uncle Cheng shuffle the deck.
It had to be said that neither Ning Cheng nor Ning Jing understood Tang Li very well. He was someone who ate, drank, and gambled well in his time as the young Tang Clan head. All he was missing was whoring. At age 13, he followed the Tang Clan guards to gambling houses in secret and lost for five years straight. But after turning 17, he’d never lost a single game--if only because he was an expert cheater.
None of Uncle Cheng’s moves went by his eyes!
Daylight came and found Tang Li still at the gambling table. At the beginning, he’d lost and won a few rounds in turns, but by the end they were nothing but successive victories. He began to put higher and higher stakes and almost seemed to go wild with betting. Ning Jing was too familiar with this set. Uncle Cheng would allow Tang Li to keep winning and going mad. Only then would he start betting his own family assets. Meanwhile, Ning Cheng kept watch from the shadows until Gu Qishao urged him to leave. He, Gu Qishao, and Mu Linger all headed towards Blacktower.
At the same time, Long Feiye and Han Yunxi had already received news from the shadow guards that Tang Li and Ning Jing had headed to the black markets.
“Why did he bring Ning Jing there?” Long Feiye didn’t get it. Although Tang Li was good at gambling, he didn’t indulge in such vices. He wouldn’t deliver Ning Jing right into the Three-Way Black Market now when he knew it was Ning Clan territory.
“Let’s not enter the city tonight. It’s pretty close to the Three-Way Black Markets from where we are, so let’s make more headway and check it out?” Han Yunxi asked seriously. She was afraid that Long Feiye would disagree, so she patted her legs and added, “As long as I apply medicine when I’m supposed to, they’ll be fine. Eating regular meals don’t have as much effect.”
Long Feiye finally agreed. “If we move fast, we’ll be there within five days. We can rest at Three-Way Black Market, that’s not far from Blacktower.”
Han Yunxi hadn’t seen Tang Li for ages and rather missed him. How would that guy react after finding out she and Long Feiye were actually together now?
1. Yadaxiao - sounds like Baccarat, but that has a different name. For the life of me I can’t find an English equivalent to this one, which literally means “Big Crushes the Little,” I’ll update name/notes when I do.
#7 of 7 owed PGC chapters, wooooot!
And now I'm tired so teaser coming another time! It looks like we have a spot of hope rushing to our Tang couple's way, woot~