How can this be?
If it was just Ning Cheng missing, then it was likely he’d gone to search for a poisons doctor to treat his eye. But his guards were lying poisoned on the ground. What was going on?
It was impossible for even Bai Yanqing to escape in such a short amount of time. There was no way the old man had doubled back on his tracks, so who poisoned these men? Had Ning Cheng been kidnapped?
“Baili Mingxiang, call over Xu Donglin to send men to search the mountains immediately!” Long Feiye ordered.
Baili Mingxiang had long wanted to check on the status of Blacktower, so she left in an instant.
Han Yunxi treated Ning Cheng’s guards without another word. These two couldn’t die! If they did, her misunderstanding with Ning Cheng would only grow. She quickly had them swallow down antidote until she was sure they were fine, then exhaled in relief. Fortunately, they’d rushed back in time before the pair died. Her sins would be too heavy for even the Yellow River to wash out then.
The two guards quickly regained consciousness and recoiled in panic at the sight of them. But soon enough, they were kneeling before Han Yunxi.
“Princess, please save Master Ning! He can’t go blind, ah, he still needs to lead our brothers on the battlefield!”
“Princess, you...you can’t do this! How could you…” the guard didn’t manage to finish before Long Feiye’s chilly gaze scared him back. He fell silently and began to kowtow repeatedly for Han Yunxi’s help.
Han Yunxi’s heart was full of misery as she replied. “Just then was an accident. I didn’t want to kill him. See now, haven’t I come back to save him? Where is he?”
Where was he?
The two guards only then realized that Ning Cheng was gone and fell into a panic.
“Master Ning sent archers to chase after Bai Yanqing. He was standing right here just then, and we couldn’t coax him away no matter how we tried.”
“This subordinate...how could this subordinate have been sneak attacked?!”
“Just what happened here?” Han Yunxi demanded as she began to grow agitated too. Ning Cheng never left. Was he waiting for her to save him?
“This subordinate was guarding Master Ning. After his poison spread, he collapsed to the ground. This subordinate wanted to take him away, but somehow...that’s right, someone must have sneak attacked us!” the guard exclaimed in disarray.
Han Yunxi exhaled. At this moment, Baili Mingxiang rushed over. “Your Highness, princess, something’s happened! Xu Donglin’s been poisoned!”
Long Feiye immediately brought Han Yunxi over to the scene of the crime. At Blacktower, they saw Xu Donglin and his shadow guards collapsed amongst the ruins, all of them unconscious.
“They’ve been afflicted with the same poison,” Han Yunxi quickly took out some antidote for Baili Mingxiang to treat the guards. After a while, the men gradually woke up.
“Your Highness, this subordinate brought men here but was about to dig around the crossbeams when we got poisoned. We never got inside the building.” Xu Donglin reported hastily.
“Bai Yuqiao? She’s not dead?” Han Yunxi wondered.
“Where’s little Yu’er?” Baili Mingxiang asked anxiously.
Long Feiye personally helped the guards move aside a few large crossbeams and multiple huge boulders. They saw many bodies of other guards inside, as well as the dead figures of the two shadow guards that had acted as agents within Blacktower. But after searching multiple times and even digging into the ruins, neither Xu Donglin nor his men could find Bai Yuqiao or Su Xiaoyu’s bodies.
Without a doubt, Bai Yuqiao had set the poison and kidnapped Ning Cheng!
“That girl was lucky to escape death,” Long Feiye remarked coldly.
Han Yunxi was both surprised and relieved. At least little Yu’er wasn’t dead, and at least someone who knew poisons had taken Ning Cheng away. Although she had hypertoxic poisons in her needle, Bai Yuqiao’s skills were enough to cure it. If anyone else had taken Ning Cheng away, he’d certainly die. Han Yunxi’s heart settled back in her chest and tensed over the previous events. Her needle had been on impulse after seeing Ning Cheng trying to use the Pear Blossom Rain needles. She didn’t give it a second thought, or else she would have stopped herself!
Poison needles were completely ineffective against Bai Yanqing! Coincidentally, he had evaded Ning Cheng’s nonexistent attack at the same time she shot her projectile. Since the poison needle hadn’t caused Bai Yanqing any injury, it wasn’t automatically absorbed into his poison storage space. A single misstep had caused a massive misunderstanding.
Back at Tianning’s palace, Ning Cheng had witnessed her breaking through Bai Yanqing’s defenses firsthand and understood how the poison storage space worked. Any toxins used against either her or Bai Yanqing would be useless. No wonder he had suspected she was targeting him all along, and no wonder he’d asked her, “Princess, is this the extent of your disappointment in me?”
Yet despite all his doubts, he had stood waiting for her to come back. How disappointed he must have felt when she didn’t show up? When she saw the two guards she’d saved running towards them, Han Yunxi wasn’t sure how much these witnesses could justify her actions in Ning Cheng’s eyes anymore. But there was no time to worry about that now, because they had to find their people first.
“Xu Donglin, hurry and send men to search the mountains, quick!” Long Feiye said coldly.
Bai Yuqiao was the only one who knew that she was heading to Northern Li to seek refuge with her senior brother. Long Feiye and Han Yunxi were more concerned that she’d tried to meet up with his master. That would cause massive trouble for Ning Cheng and the Di Clan. When Han Yunxi told Ning Cheng’s guards about the situation, she added, “One of you should call back the archers. There’s no way they can catch up to Bai Yanqing. And it’s no use even if they do. Have them search through the mountains as well and we might be able to rescue Ning Cheng. The other should hurry over to Myriad Merchant Hall and call for reinforcements. After something this big, the Di Clan needs someone else to take the reins.”
One of the guards immediately left, but the other fell to his knees. “Princess, you’re the master of the Di Clan, ah! May princess please preside over the conclusion!”
Han Yunxi couldn’t answer. She glanced towards Long Feiye, but he was only looking coldly at the guard with killing intent in his eyes. Baili Mingxiang and Xu Donglin sensed his intentions. Did the guard mean for the princess to return with him?
Before Long Feiye could speak, Han Yunxi beat him to it again. “Of course I’ll go back to preside over the conclusion. Just for now, you go back first. If I can’t find Bai Yuqiao, I’ll return immediately.”
Long Feiye instantly gripped Han Yunxi’s hand so tightly that it hurt.
“Yes! This subordinate will report back immediately.” The guard had no idea why the princess was with the East Qin crown prince instead of at the barracks, but since she came back to find Master Ning, she had to still have the Di Clan and West Qin in her heart.
Long Feiye couldn’t take it once the guard was gone. “You’re planning to go?” he asked icily.
This fellow. He can stay calm even after Bai Yanqing escaped, but now he’s flaring up?
“Long Feiye, unless we can rescue Ning Cheng within the next couple of days, I’ll have to go back. If he falls into Bai Yanqing’s hands, the entire Di Clan will be in danger and East and West Qin will definitely go to war. Moreover, they’d start fighting ahead of schedule!” Han Yunxi analyzed seriously.
Heaven knows what that mule-headed Ning Cheng might do after misunderstanding her! Suppose Bai Yanqing successfully sowed discord between them? What then? Suppose Ning Cheng completely lost faith in her as a West Qin princess and decided to betray the West Qin? What if he teamed up with Bai Yanqing? No matter what, his kidnapping left the Di Clan in danger and posed a plethora of problems for Long Feiye’s side as well. At a time like this, she had to go back even if she didn’t want to, for the sake of controlling the Di Clan and taking responsibility!
How could Long Feiye fail to understand her reasoning? He fell silent as his eyes flickered with complex emotions. No one could tell what he was thinking. After a long time, he finally said, “We’ll discuss this after we track him down!”
“Alright!” Han Yunxi dearly wished they could find him.
Long Feiye grabbed her by the waist and she lowered her voice to murmur back, “Feiye, we’ll definitely find him.” In other words, she didn’t want to leave him.
Long Feiye’s tone remained cold. “I never agreed to let you go. We’ll discuss this after we find him!”
He held onto her before quickly vanishing into the woods. Baili Mingxiang and the scattered shadow guards didn’t dare to delay, but chased after them posthaste.
Would they be able to track down Bai Yuqiao’s traces? If not, would Han Yunxi stay or leave? And what were Long Feiye’s plans?
Everything was yet to be determined.
Han Yunxi’s group scoured all over the mountains for their man, while news of Blacktower’s explosions had already spread as far as the Three-Way Black Market’s gambling houses. The Three-Way Battlefield was a sensitive place to begin with, so explosions like these turned things even more delicate. News spread fast along with all kinds of conjectures until everything grew exaggerated. Naturally, they reached the black markets first.
Gu Qishao and Manager Jin were still at a tie after playing countless rounds against each other. Although they were getting more into the game as they played, the onlookers had long grew weary and most of them had left. They figured they could come back after a few more days to see who won in the end. At this rate, it’d take at least three to five days longer. Of course, still others preferred to hang around even though the games were all tied. They didn’t want to miss a second. It was a rare chance to see two masterful gamblers at work. In the future, the two of them would become a topic of talk in the gambling houses.
Mu Linger was definitely Gu Qishao’s most ardent fan. While the others grew quiet and chattered casually amongst themselves, she kept her eyes on the table. But Gu Qishao suddenly stopped in the middle of lazily opening his box of dice to look behind him. At this, the people speaking in hushed tones all grew silent.
Gu Qishao scrutinized them coldly before asking, “Who just said there’s been an incident at Mt. Yue?”
Mt. Yue was the location of Blacktower.
A middle-aged man timidly replied, “It was me.”
“What’s happened at Mt. Yue?” Gu Qishao grew stern as he strode over in one stride.
Scared, the middle-aged man stammered back, “There was an explosion at Mt. Yue this morning. Many people are saying…” Before he could finish, Gu Qishao leaped over the crowd and ran towards the back rooms.
An explosion at Mt. Yue! What could this be except Ning Cheng’s red coat cannons? What a Ning Cheng, he’s set up such a fine play!
Mu Linger was completely lost, but she quickly realized what was wrong.
“Qi gege! Qi gege, wait for me!” she chased after him desperately. But Gu Qishao was already gone by the time she reached backstage. He hadn’t been able to find Ning Cheng or anyone who knew his whereabouts, so he had headed for Myriad Merchant Hall.
Mu Linger couldn’t find him either and prepared to head for the main hall when a few strong men moved in to block her path…Previous Chapter Next Chapter
#4 of the 12 owed PGC chapters! And here we go with another (potential) hostage situation...
Readers: Are we getting moar?
Ruyi: Yep, so STAY TUNED TONIGHT FOR C900!
(Who knows, maybe you'll get a nice surprise.) ;)