Gu Beiyue’s letter asked Gu Qishao to rescue him and detailed the situation of his house arrest. Although he had no idea where he was being kept, he was already clear on its geography and surrounding environs. Moreover, he had a good understanding of the medicinal plants growing around him. His own guess was that this location was somewhere on the borders of Tianning and Western Zhou. He even included remarks about specific rare plants he’d spotted in the valley.
Gu Beiyue’s best choice was to ask Gu Qishao for help, because Gu Qishao already had a good idea of where he was by the descriptions alone. Who was Gu Qishao, after all? The Pill Fiend! He knew better than anyone else the locations of all medicinal plants across Cloud Realm Continent!
“Black Yimi Flower? Hehe, only three places have those,” Gu Qishao muttered to himself. The Black Yimi Flower (黑依米花) typically had multicolored petals, but Black Yimis were completely black and very picky about their growing climate and soil conditions. Only three places even supported their growth, and each of them were scattered in different locations with descriptions similar to Gu Beiyue’s.
They had deep mountain valleys with running streams, dark colored soil, and damp, gloomy places. Many medicinal plants and ferns thrived in such an environment. All three were located around the Three-Way Battlefield in 1) Prancing Dragon Gorge between western Tianning and Western Zhou, 2) Roaring Dragon Gorge between eastern Tianning and Northern Li, or 3) Crying Phoenix Gorge between Tianning and south of the Three-Way Black Markets. Gu Qishao would naturally start with the last on the list, because it was the closest.
He was about to leave when the servant hastily reminded him, “Is master planning to save him alone on horseback?”
Gu Qishao looked back impatiently. “What else would I do?”
“Master, Bai Yanqing is not an easy opponent. Why don’t master find the West Qin princess to accompany you?” the servant asked.
Gu Qishao was still under the assumption that Ning Cheng had confined Han Yunxi to the West Qin barracks, so he didn’t reply. A sinister look flashed past his eyes before he muttered, “Ning Cheng...just you wait!”
Since Ning Cheng had already used his red-coat cannons, Bai Yanqing must be at Blacktower already. Now was the perfect time to rescue Gu Beiyue while he was alone. He didn’t care a whit about East or West Qin. He only knew that those who tricked him had to pay the price, and those who lied to Poison lass were unforgivable. After leaving the Three-Way Black Markets, Gu Qishao all but vanished.
The Myriad Merchant Hall knew of his departure and assumed he was rushing his way to Blacktower. They didn’t pay him much mind. Meanwhile, the head elder of Myriad Merchant Hall was still circling around Tang Li and Ning Jing.
The head elder had already giving Ning Jing countless veiled hints that ranged from meaningful looks to verbal reminders. He couldn’t understand why someone as intelligent as Ning Jing failed to understand his meaning. He only wanted Ning Jing to find a chance to talk with him separately, but why hadn’t she moved more than a meter away from Tang Li?
Currently, Tang Li and Ning Jing had just finished their breakfasts. Somehow, Tang Li had found a pair of dice in the meantime and was playing with them while Ning Jing sat on one side with hooded eyes, planning her next move.
When the head elder entered, he made a racket on purpose, but the couple only ignored him. He chuckled and said to Tang Li, “Son-in-law, since you’ve gotten up so early, why not go to gamble a few games?”
Tang Li pursed his lips towards Ning Jing and didn’t speak. One might even assume that his wife was keeping him in check. The head elder prepared to speak again, but then a servant suddenly rushed over. “Head elder, there’s a few business deals that require your signature at the gambling house.”
Seeing the servant’s harried features, Ning Jing knew that something had happened. But she ignored it. The black market had seen its share of waves so the head elder could naturally take care of things. Without a word, the old man hurried out. But less than an hour later, he came back with a more flustered expression than the servant. Instead of subtly cueing Ning Jing, he said sternly, “Miss Jing, please come with me for a chat!”
Ning Jing’s heart seized up. Something big must have happened--something beyond the scope of a head elder. She stroked the jade bracelet on her wrist and glanced at Tang Li. He smiled and teased, “A married girl is like spilled water that can’t be put back. Head Elder, Jing Jing can’t take charge of things at Myriad Merchant Hall anymore. You should find my older brother-in-law instead.”
The head elder seemed to keep himself in check as flashes of hatred passed through his eyes. He ignored Tang Li and grew icy towards Ning Jing. “Is this what Miss Jing thinks as well?”
Ning Jing could tell at once that the head elder meant business. She tugged at the thin chain attached to her bracelet and sent Tang Li a pleading look, as if to say, If you don’t yield here, they’ll definitely suspect me! Then it’ll be game over for both of us.
This was the first time she’d so pathetically begged him since their marriage, but Tang Li remained unmoved. No matter how foolish he was, he wouldn’t release her! Once that happened, Ning Jing might run off on her own, leaving him trapped here instead. He avoided Ning Jing’s gaze, and she grew filled with rage before simply telling the head elder, “The son-in-law is no outsider, you might as well say it outright.”
But the head elder only laughed coldly and raged, “Miss Jing, the Tang Clan is too much of a bully! All the needles in the Pear Blossom Rain Needles were used up. The betrothal gift they gave us was nothing more than a worthless piece of metal!”
Ning Jing sprang to her feet while Tang Li’s head whipped back. He loosened his grip on the porcelain bowl in his hands, which shattered on the ground. The Pear Blossom Rain Needles was the Tang Clan’s number two assassination weapon. Even when given as a gift, they didn’t include the details on how to use it so as to prevent others from uncovering its secrets. Thus, the Ning Clan only knew how to trigger the weapon, not how to open it up and check its insides.
Who would have expected the Tang Clan to sabotage something as important as the betrothal gift? Everyone assumed the weapon was fully loaded, including Ning Jing herself. Now Tang Li knew that Ning Cheng must have tried to use the weapon and discovered its secret.
“Tang Li, you big liar! Even your betrothal gift was a sham! Your Tang Clan has gone too far!” Ning Jing raged. She hadn’t even sensed Tang Li’s danger yet because she only felt that her wedding was nothing more than a laughable mockery. Any woman would dream of a perfect wedding, even one as coldhearted as herself. She too, understood that it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Once, she had secretly comforted herself with the fact that her wedding with Tang Li had gone through all of the proper steps despite being built on a web of lies. She was married to him properly as his official consort and never lacked for anything.
But now she had discovered the betrothal gift was a lie!
Now she suddenly remembered what Tang Li had said on the day he picked her up. Could I marry Ning Jing if I didn’t have a heart?
She had retorted, If I say that you can’t, will you give up on marrying me?
What a joke it seemed like now. She gave a sardonic laugh “Tang Li, I never thought you and the Pear Blossom Rain Needles were the same--both lacking hearts!”
At this moment, Tang Li couldn’t tell whether Ning Jing was putting on a show for the head elder or truly angry. He was still figuring out how to reply when the head elder cried, “Miss Jing, Master Ning’s met with trouble!”
Ning Jing suddenly realized that Ning Cheng was in mortal danger. That would be the only reason he tried the Pear Blossom Rain Needles in the first place. “What happened to my big brother?”
The head elder threw caution to the winds and told Ning JIng and Tang Li everything. Nobody had needed his signature in the gambling house just then. It was just Ning Cheng’s guards who had returned to report the bad news. Hearing this, Tang Li was stunned. He never realized his big brother was together with Han Yunxi. Ning Jing’s face had all but turned white.
“My big brother...my big brother was poisoned...and blinded? No...I don’t want this!” As she spoke, she broke into tears. “I refuse to believe it! I don’t want this!”
She wanted to run away from the Ning Clan because she disliked Ning Cheng and his strict ways, but she had never hated him. Nor was she angry at him! Ning Cheng wasn’t just the Ning Family Head, but her older brother, her very own! Their parents had died young, so it was Ning Cheng who supported the Di Clan and propped up the Ning Clan! Her brother was like a father, sacrificing so much more than any of his siblings. She knew how to run away. Perhaps Ning An and Ning Nuo did too. But Ning Cheng never ran. He had his own selfish thoughts too, but he would never allow himself to give up.
No matter how heavy the injury, good days would come after surviving the bitter ones. But eyes were different. And the needles had hypertoxic poison as well. How was he supposed to recover? Even the head of Medical City, Gu Beiyue, might be helpless before the cause!
Ning Jing couldn’t help but slap herself in the face. Tang Li cried out at the sight. “Ning Jing, what are you doing?!”
What was she doing?
If she had controlled her selfish impulses and the feelings she shouldn’t have, then Ning Cheng wouldn’t have fallen to this point! She should have long told him about the relationship between the Tang Clan and Long Feiye! Then he’d suspect the validity of the Pear Blossom Rain Needles!
But she hadn’t!
She was one of the guilty ones as well!
The ever stubborn Ning Jing started to cry uncontrollably for the first time in front of outsiders.
Big brother, I’m sorry!
The head elder didn’t want to believe it either, but the guards and archers had all witnessed what happened with their own eyes. Still, he had no idea what Ning Jing was going through right now. In an angry voice, he cried, “Miss Jing, it was all because of that Pear Blossom Rain Needle! If it wasn’t for that, Master Ning wouldn’t have ended up like this!”
Ning Jing’s vision was blurry with tears as she glared furiously at Tang Li. At this point, Tang Li knew his agreement with her was invalid now. Their game of true and false had come to an end. He assumed that she’d interrogate him, but she only raised her hand and demanded, “Tang Li, are you releasing me or not?”
Tang Li hesitated, but Ning Jing didn’t give him a chance to delay. She coldly said, “Someone come, cut off his left hand!”
Tang Li unclasped his own bracelet and shrugged his shoulders. “Ning Jing, you’ve won.”
“Keep an eye on him,” Ning Jing said before stalking off.
The head elder stared at the bracelet on the ground and finally realized why Ning Jing hadn’t been able to leave Tang LI a step. He couldn’t figure out why the two needed handcuffs, but there was no time for questions. Right now, the Di Clan not only faced the issue of Ning Cheng in danger, but Myriad Merchant Hall in trouble as well…
1. Black Yimi Flower - as far as I can tell, there’s no English name for it (the Yimi flower). You can search the Chinese term on Google and some sources will tell you it (the Yimi flower) is a plant that grows in the African desert that suddenly blooms into four-petaled flowers against a different colored bed of underlying petals. Black Yimi seems to be a subset of this variety.
Nothing like a healthy dose of drama to move the plot along...ohohoho...
(Edited 8/23 for typos/confusing words.)