Ning Jing never expected Han Yunxi to admit her “illicit love affair” with Long Feiye so easily, much less the question she’d asked her in turn. She stood stunned. She assumed that no one in the world would ever ask her about those feelings, which were supposed to break off just like she’d broken things off with Tang Li. It was supposed to remain hidden in the depths of her memory, so she’d never held out hope that someone else would understand.
But so what if someone did?
Ah, love! If she didn’t love him, why would she allow herself to be pregnant with his child? If she didn’t love him, why would she still be keeping his relationship with Long Feiye a secret to this day? But this was a forbidden love, just like the child in her womb. She could only change her name and hide her identity while never finding happiness.
“I don’t love him!” Ning Jing cried.
Han Yunxi knitted her brows and came straight to the point. “Ning Jing, you’re such a coward that I can’t take it! What, you dare to love but don’t have the guts to admit it?”
“I’m not doing that!” Ning Jing rejected again.
“Fine, then I’ll go kill Tang Li right now! In any case, he’ll never betray the Tang Clan even in the Di Clan’s hands. It’s better for him to die early and reincarnate!” As Han Yunxi prepared to call for the guards, Ning Jing rushed over like a madwoman and covered her mouth. A bystander might even assume she was trying to kill the woman instead.
Han Yunxi shoved Ning Jing’s hand aside and demanded, “You still won’t admit it? If you’re so afraid, then stop loving him at all!”
“Han Yunxi, do you think feelings are negotiable? Do you think I can toss them away at will?” Ning Jing had finally fallen apart. She collapsed to the ground as tears streamed from her eyes like strings of pearls. “I love him...Han Yunxi, I love Tang Li, I really, really love him, but I can’t! I can’t betray my big brother again, I’ve already hurt him so much! I can’t love him...I don’t dare…”
Her self reproach and grievances filled her heart as tears flooded her face. Even with an older brother and sister, she had never been doted on or taken care of in her youth. Besides their duties, the Ning siblings only harbored mutually cherished feelings for each other deep in their hearts. She had been crossdressing as a man since she was a child, enough that she often forgot she was actually a girl. It wasn’t until she met Tang Li that things changed. No matter how she ordered him about, tormented him, or even hit and cursed him, he only chuckled and smiled while protecting her constantly. He never cursed back or raised a hand against her. Although she knew it was all fake and kept her guard, she was infatuated with the feeling of being protected and spoiled. In the end, she’d fallen in love with that man and started to depend on him.
At first, Han Yunxi’s expression remained cold, but her heart gradually splintered at Ning Jing’s sobs. To love someone while knowing it was impossible was a pain she knew all too well. Han Yunxi gently cradled Ning Jing in her arms so the girl could bury her face against her legs. She said simply, “Ning Jing, don’t cry. Remember, whoever you like or don’t like is your own business. There’s nothing forbidden about it, only whether or not you yourself are willing.”
Ning Jing suddenly pushed Han Yunxi aside. Her face was streaked by crying, her emotions astir. “I can’t! I can’t! Han Yunxi, you can’t, you’re not allowed! We can’t disappoint the Di Clan like this or hurt Ning Cheng!”
“I didn’t hurt him! That time was an accident!” Han Yunxi grew agitated as well. “Ning Jing, there’s a secret between East and West Qin that stopped the fighting and united them against the Wind Clan. Since I’ve returned to the Di Clan, I’ll act as the West Qin princess and advance or retreat with the Di Clan as necessary, even if that means going to the battlefield. I won’t hesitate even after seeing Long Feiye there! I never thought of letting down Ning Cheng’s loyalty!”
Ning Jing was surprised. “I don’t believe it!”
“Uncle Cheng should know the details. You can ask him if you don’t believe me!” Han Yunxi stated.
Ning Jing couldn’t understand it. “But why?”
“Why?” Only then did Han Yunxi realize that Ning Jing was a foolish girl, too! She countered back, “Because love is non-negotiable. You can’t stop loving someone just because you said you won’t. Because I’m like you, someone of West Qin who can’t betray the Di Clan’s years of loyalty. Thus, I have to love bravely, and shoulder my responsibilities with courage.” A bitter smile graced her features. “Ning Jing, even if there’s no good ending to this, at least it was love on a true and spectacular scale. At least I tried, isn’t that right? Long Feiye and I made a promise to each other that we’d meet on the battlefield, but that we’d never cross swords.”
As she spoke, she took out a certain item: East Qin’s imperial jade seal. Ning Jing gaped at the sight and even stopped crying.
“Long Feiye gave this to me. On the day I leave him for good, I’ll return this to him,” Han Yunxi was smiling, but her eyes had grown damp as well. Still, she forced herself to hold back the tears and keep up her confident grin.
“Ning Jing, do you know why Long Feiye and I are fighting against Bai Yanqing? For the sake of rescuing Gu Beiyue! For the sake of investigating the truth behind the Great Qin Empire’s civil war all those years ago! Both sides had wildly different accounts of the origins, so it’s very possible that everything was a misunderstanding! Do you understand?”
“This…” Ning Jing was shocked.
“Ning Cheng’s convinced that Long Feiye’s been lying to me this whole time to use me,” Han Yunxi said as she put the jade seal away. “Ning Jing, join us to discover the truth about the past. This is the only chance you have to stay together with Tang Li.”
Ning Jing’s hand couldn’t help but touch her stomach, hidden under layers of expansive robes. This wasn’t just a chance for her and Tang Li, but this innocent child as well.
“Han Yunxi, what makes you so certain that I’ll trust you and help you?” Ning Jing asked.
“Because you’re in the same plight as me,” Han Yunxi said seriously. “Rather than hiding your pain, why not let loose? No matter how bad the consequences are, could it be any worse than what you’re dealing with now?”
Ning Jing’s gaze slowly rested on Han Yunxi’s sleeve. There lay hidden East Qin’s imperial jade seal. She stared at it unmovingly until Han Yunxi began to grow doubts. She had devoted herself wholeheartedly to Ning Jing, so the woman couldn’t sell her out now, right? If Ning Jing exposed her secret with the seal, then Long Feiye would be in big trouble.
“Ning Jing…” Han Yunxi tried carefully. She hoped she hadn’t picked the wrong person and misjudged the complicated feelings between the couple.
Ning Jing finally recovered her wits and smiled at herself mockingly. “Han Yunxi, our plights aren’t the same. Long Feiye dotes on you, but Tang Li…”
Her smile was filled with bitterness. She loved her enemy, which was already laughable, but it was even a one-sided love.
“Tang Li doesn’t love me!” Ning Jing declared boldly.
A complicated look flitted past Han Yunxi’s eyes. She couldn’t begin to guess that fellow Tang Li’s thoughts. If she hadn’t guessed Ning Jing’s thoughts today, she would even think the girl wasn’t worthy of him. Now she only hoped that he wouldn’t disappoint her true feelings in turn. While lost in thought, Ning Jing suddenly wiped her tears clean and declared, “Han Yunxi, I’ll take a gamble!”
“Tang Li, he…”
“It’s fine if I just love him. I only have one request,” Ning Jing said before Han Yunxi could finish.
As expected, Ning Jing was a courageous woman.
“What is it? Speak,” Han Yunxi smiled.
“You can’t sacrifice any more gains for the Di Clan!” Ning Jing said seriously.
“I understand,” Han Yunxi nodded.
“Now speak, how can I help?” Ning Jing said breezily.
“Help me take control of Myriad Merchant Hall. Before your big brother comes back, I want the Di Clan to accept me instead of respecting me just for my status as princess,” Han Yunxi said.
“You want to control the Di Clan before my big brother comes back!” Ning Jing was indeed smart.
“Yes”! Han Yunxi admitted openly. “If your brother’s in Bai Yuqiao’s hands, the Di Clan will be in danger.”
“Han Yunxi, do you suspect my brother will betray West Qin?” Ning Jing grew furious.
“I’m afraid he’ll be so disappointed that others will sow discord,” Han Yunxi intoned.
“My brother won’t!” Ning Jing insisted. “I can vow on my life that my brother won’t betray West Qin! Han Yunxi, do you know? Decades ago, before the Di Clan was sure about West Qin’s heir, the Di Clan was still taking upon itself to revive the dynasty. They never stopped searching for the descendents of the Black or Li Clans. Han Yunxi, no one would destroy what they believe in.”
“Ning Cheng won’t, but what about others? There are plenty of people like Fifth Elder, but plenty more like the head elder, isn’t that right?” Han Yunxi said. “Ning Jing, I don’t have much time. Long Feiye still has one more scheme to lure Bai Yanqing out. I hope to cooperate with him in the open under the West Qin princess title, as well as publicize the doubts regarding the Great Qin Empire’s civil war.”
Although Long Feiye hadn’t put it bluntly, Han Yunxi understood that by yielding, he had given her two choices. One was to control the Di Clan within ten days and have them listen to her orders, accept cooperating with East Qin, and unite to deal with the Wind Clan and the doubts regarding the origins of the civil war.
The other was him taking her away so they could deal with Bai Yanqing in private while refusing all help from the Di Clan. If the Di Clan couldn’t capture Bai Yanqing, then they wouldn’t be able to threaten Jun Yixie and lose without fail in any wars against Northern Li.
Ning Jing thought it over for a long time before telling Han Yunxi a crucial piece of news. “Han Yunxi, because the loss of the medicine business, Cloud Realm Trade Consortiu, has been suffering serious losses for the past two years. Also, the south central and Jiangnan merchant regions have all been taken over by the commander-in-chief’s estate down there. Cloud Realm Trade Consortium can’t even get any advantages in its most profitable businesses there. Although we count Tianning Country, the continuous battles have drained a lot of its coffers.”
She paused, then decided to risk it all. “Han Yunxi, right now Cloud Realm Trade Consortium is nothing but an empty shell compared to its former self. It’s been like that for ages now. The gambling houses and auction halls are the foundation of the Di Clan’s wealth. If they collapse as well, then the di Clan won’t be able to afford the expenses of its army in a year.”
Han Yunxi adored Ning Jing. It really was effortless to talk with other intelligent people. She had pointed out the major problems in an instant. Han Yunxi was planning to help Myriad Merchant Hall through their difficulties in the first place so she could control their coffers. Now it looked like she’d taken the right gamble.
“What’s the situation at the two places now?” Han Yunxi asked quickly. Ning Jing was about to reply when a retainer arrived. She quickly wiped her eyes clean and straightened out her clothes.
The retainer only reported, “Miss Jing, Tang Li is clamoring to see you.”Previous Chapter Next Chapter
#6 of the 12 owed PGC chapters! Catching up slowly but surely by the end of the month! That's the last of the chapters released for today, I'll see you all tomorrow!