Long Feiye and Han Yunxi were still making time on the road when Gu Qishao and Ning Cheng started investigating the situation at Blacktower. According to Bai Yuqiao, Blacktower was Bai Yanqing’s stomping grounds near the Three-Way Battlefield. Su Xiaoyu had been moved here afterwards. Because it was concealed from sight, there weren’t many guards around besides a few poison experts. Bai Yuqiao said that she was enough to take care of them. She would also help them lure out Bai Yanqing. However, Ning Cheng and Gu Qishao refused to believe her so easily.
The two of them looked around further and realized that Bai Yuqiao hadn’t lied. Blacktower really did have very few guards. They then returned to the black markets and had Bai Yuqiao brought to them.
“Why did your master kidnap Su Xiaoyu?” Ning Cheng asked coldly.
Bai Yuqiao’s gaze turned complicated. “Master heard that Han Yunxi treated her subordinates extremely well, especially Su Xiaoyu, whom she treated like a little sister. I’m guessing master’s using her to threaten Han Yunxi?”
Ning Cheng and Gu Qishao both laughed out loud at that as if they’d heard a massive joke. But it didn’t last long before they both stopped at the same time. It made them feel awkward as they avoided each other’s gazes. Bai Yuqiao could feel her organs trembling from the laughs. It was scary enough to see Gu Qishao laugh, to say nothing of laughing with Ning Cheng. Silence greeted them afterwards as they each waited for the other to speak, afraid to do something at the same time again.
Go to hell! Gu Qishao cursed internally.
Ning Cheng’s face was like ice. After waiting a bit, he coughed a few times when it was obvious Gu Qishao wasn’t talking. Hearing this, Gu Qishao remained silent, knowing he wanted to speak.
Wasn’t this another form of tacit understanding? For some reason, Gu Qishao suddenly thought of Long Feiye. Being with Ning Cheng felt a lot like being with him. But compared to Ning Cheng, Gu Qishao preferred working with Long Feiye. He was much more challenging.
“Bai Yuqiao, do you treat me as a fool? Or are you treating your master as an idiot? Su Xiaoyu is only a servant girl, not Gu Beiyue! What can Bai Yanqing threaten Han Yunxi with? Speak!” Ning Cheng said coldly.
Han Yunxi treated her subordinates well, but she couldn’t affect the big picture by bowing to Bai Yanqing for the sake of a single servant girl. There had to be a deeper reason Bai Yanqing had taken Su Xiaoyu.
Gu Qishao scratched his chin with a serious look. “Bai Yuqiao, do you think you’re master’s the idiot, or Ning Cheng?”
Ning Cheng’s face blackened at the comment. Before he could retory, Gu Qishao had already walked to Bai Yuqiao’s side and lifted her chin in amusement. He chuckled and said, “Or are you saying my Poison lass is the fool?”
Bai Yuqiao’s face had already been ruined once, so she knew full well how terrifyingly cruel Gu Qishao’s smile could be. If Ning Cheng was the one interrogating her, she had a chance to poison him and escape. But the man wasn’t stupid and always took Gu Qishao with him for their questioning sessions. Despite her years of poison training under her master, it was all useless before Gu Qishao.
“It’s because of the Perplexing Butterfly Illusion!” Bai Yuqiao instantly compromised. She wanted to leave this final chip against the men, but now that was impossible.
At her words, both Ning Cheng and Gu Qishao blanched before looking simultaneously at each other. Whoever owns the Perplexing Butterfly Illusion owns the world. Ning Cheng had heard of the legend before. Meanwhile, Gu Qishao had been searching for ways to break through its secrets for the past two years!
Before Ning Cheng could speak, Gu Qishao beat him to it. “Why does your master know that Su Xiaoyu knows the whereabouts of the Perplexing Butterfly Illusion?”
Ning Cheng found himself speechless after that. Is the Perplexing Butterfly Illusion really in Han Yunxi’s hands? But she’s never mentioned it to me before. If she’s with Long Feiye now, will the Perplexing Butterfly Illusion end up in his hands instead?
“Master said that Su Xiaoyu and Baili Mingxiang are the same, both Han Yunxi’s servant girls. The both learned poison arts from her, so it’s possible Su Xiaoyu could know,” Bai Yuqiao answered quickly.
A crafty gleam shone in Gu Qishao’s eyes. “The same as Baili Mingxiang? Could it be that he suspects Baili Mingxiang as well?” He drew in very, very close until Bai Yuqiao was too scared to hide it.
“Heheh.” Gu Qishao chuckled. “Who are you trying to fool? Just judging by their poison skills? Baili Mingxiang is on Long Feiye’s side, not Han Yunxi’s. This young gentleman’s been with Han Yunxi for so long, but why haven’t I heard of her having any Perplexing Butterfly Illusion? I’m telling you now, if you don’t tell the truth, I won’t just stop at ruining your face.”
Bai Yuqiao was scared to death as she hastened to explain. “Actually--actually, it’s not that master suspects Han Yunxi, but that he suspects Long Feiye. Because Baili Mingxiang’s blood is really weird, so she could probably break through the mysteries of the Perplexing Butterfly Illusion.”
Gu Qishao internally gloated. These were the words he wanted from Bai Yuqiao!
“So you mean to say that the Perplexing Butterfly Illusion is in Long Feiye’s hands, not Han Yunxi’s?” Gu Qishao said. This line was for Ning Cheng’s benefit. Of course he knew the details about the poison inside out. Baili Mingxiang had Beauty’s Blood, which really could be used to clear up the Perplexing Butterfly Illusion. Despite knowing everything, he was using Bai Yuqiao’s mouth to tell Ning Cheng the details. Only then would the man believe that Long Feiye had the poison instead of finding trouble for Han Yunxi.
Finally, the silent Ning Cheng spoke up. “Su Xiaoyu and Baili Mingxiang were both studying poisons from Han Yunxi. Your master suspects Han Yunxi of helping Long Feiye break through the Perplexing Butterfly Illusion? Both Su Xiaoyu and Baili Mingxiang were involved?”
Gu Qishao silently chuckled to himself. Ning Cheng was a smart guy.
“Yes, yes!” Bai Yuqiao nodded furiously.
Gu Qishao pretended to look hurt. “Hehe, so much for this young gentleman treating Poison lass so well. She didn’t tell me a secret as big as the Perplexing Butterfly Illusion! Otherwise, I would have helped trick it into her hands!”
Gu Qishao was doing his best to act so Ning Cheng could pin the blame on Long Feiye, but Ning Cheng wasn’t listening. His thoughts had long drifted away. A bitter smile graced his heart. Han Yunxi’s probably helping Long Feiye break through the Perplexing Butterfly Illusion at this very minute!
The West Qin princess was helping the East Qin crown prince master Perplexing Butterfly Illusion and win the world? What did that count for? It was an absolute insult!
“Someone come, take Bai Yuqiao away. Without my permission, no one is allowed to approach her!” Ning Cheng said as he rose to leave.
“Hey!” Gu Qishao chased after him. “What are you going to do now?”
Ning Cheng didn’t answer beyond leaving in silence. He needed time to calm down and get this off his chest, or else he’d run all the way to the East Qin camp to search for Han Yunxi!
How could she do this?
Even if she wasn’t helping West Qin or himself, she couldn’t help Long Feiye against them!
While Ning Cheng had left out of the blue, Gu Qishao didn’t panic. He had enough patience to wait around since his own plans needed time, too. He’d hardly left the secret room when Mu Linger rushed to him, breathless. “Qi gege! Qi gege, guess--guess who I saw!”
“A ghost? What’s the big deal?” Gu Qishao said impatiently.
Mu Linger had ran back straight from the gambling house without stopping to catch her breath. She huffed and puffed as she sputtered excitedly, “Tang Li! Tang Li!”
Gu Qishao narrowed his eyes. “He came too?”
“Yes! He’s a great gambler, he’s already won tens of millions of chips! There’s a girl by her side with her face covered up, it’s very possible that she’s Ning Jing!” Mu Linger said anxiously. “Qi gege, Tang Li...Tang Li couldn’t have been tricked inside, right? Myriad Merchant Hall belongs to the Ning Clan!”
Gu Qishao only looked askance at her. “What’s that gotta do with you?”
Mu Linger gave a start but couldn’t answer. Neither of them were very clear on the relationship between the Tang Clan and Long Feiye. They were even murkier when it came to the connections between the Tang Clan and Cloud Realm Trade Consortium. Mu Linger couldn’t figure it out herself, while Gu Qishao had absolutely no interest in finding out.
While she was still puzzling over an answer, he had already turned around to leave, tossing back a single sentence. “Don’t meddle in others’ affairs at a time like this!”
Ning Cheng disappeared for the next few days, but Gu Qishao didn’t bother looking for him. He got a big pile of chips from Myriad Merchant Hall’s people before bringing Mu Linger over to a gambling house next door to Tang Li’s. He staked a thousand pieces of gold on one throw and spent the money like dirt, secretly digging a deep pit of losses for Ning Cheng. Mu Linger was so foolishly happy to be by his side that she almost forgot their purpose for coming here in the first place.
Meanwhile, Tang Li spent his days and nights soaking in the gambling house. He won for a day and a night before giving all of his winnings to the skinny man. Then he took out some silver and bought some more chips to keep playing, dragging Ning Jing to placing bets with him. Again, he continued to win for two more days and nights. But starting on the fourth night, he began to lose. The more he lost, the bigger bets he placed. In one day, he lost everything he won in the last two days and plenty of the silver he paid.
By the night of the fifth day, he had spent everything valuable on his person. There was nothing but a single chip and two taels of silver left in his hands. His temper was so foul that he threw the chips on the table. “I refuse to believe that I can’t win it back!”
Ning Jing looked at his wan and sallow face, her heart aching so much that she felt like it was breaking. She wanted to coax him to stop. A’Li, you said that if you won, you’d bring me back to the Tang Clan to bear you children.
But she couldn’t, not here. Uncle Cheng had already been shooting her looks in the last few days for not urging Tang Li to increase his stakes.
What to do? Ever since Ning Jing had started to understand the ways of the world and lived until this day, she had rarely felt so helpless.
“I’ll bet on the small!” Tang Li hollered as he threw out his final chips.
Uncle Cheng smiled. “Sir, how much could a single chip win you? I see that the bracelet on the madam’s wrist is very pretty. How about using that to bet? We’ll exchange it for 30 chips, how’s that sound?”
Tang Li’s bracelet was hidden in his own sleeve, while the fine chain that linked their together was invisible to non-professionals in the field. Ning Jing’s bracelet only looked like a simple ornament to the public eye. As Ning Jing herself dislike accessorizing, this bracelet was the only valuable item on her person. Uncle Cheng couldn’t see its secrets, but simply wanted to press Tang Li into giving up more valuables.
Ning Jing desperately hated this “bracelet.” She feared at any moment that Tang Li would lost his last shred of rationality and secretly went to hold his hand under the table.
After some hesitation, Tang Li chuckled and said, “I gave that to my wife as a gift. I won’t exchange it even if I die. I’ll just play slowly with this single chip.”
Ning Jing’s heart settled back into her chest. Although she knew he was lying, she was still inexplicably touched.
Uncle Cheng was in no rush. He had Tang Li win a few rounds until he grew excited. In the hustle and bustle of the gambling house, his voice was the loudest one.
Meanwhile, Long Feiye and Han Yunxi had finally reached the Three-Way Black Market…Previous Chapter Next Chapter
So basically, to give LFY and HYX enough time (five days) to reach the black markets and get in on the action, our author made Ning Cheng depressed, Gu Qishao apathetic, and Tang Li into a scheming gambling obsessive!
Ladies and gentlemen, meet the cousin to word-padding in webnovels: THE PROTAGONIST HALO!! Nothing plotworthy gets by the MCs if they have a chance to join in. Lol. >u>