The day of the challenge was drawing closer, but there was no news from Bai Yanqing, no reaction from Hundred Poisons Sect, and no signs of consciousness from Han Yunxi.
The deadline was tomorrow!
By now, Long Feiye’s group had already reached the Hundred Poisons Sect base at Great Central Peak. It was the tallest mountain in Western Zhou’s eastern region and the sect had claimed it for themselves. Although it was located within the country, it remained independent of its administration. The Western Zhou imperial clan couldn’t do anything about it, so they’d ignored the issue for years. It wasn’t until recently that Emperor Kangcheng assumed the role of host to denounced the Hundred Poisons Sect and invite various visitors to the scene.
After taking over Great Central Peak, the Hundred Poisons Sect had covered the mountain in poisonous plants and animals, especially snakes. Han Yunxi’s group had chosen the right time to come, because most of the toxic animals were slipping into winter hibernation at this time of year, thus saving them lots of trouble. All sorts of little palaces and pavilions littered the slopes, but the main quarters of the sect was located at its peak. One could start the trek from the base of the mountain via a set of stone steps that wound its way up to Hundred Poisons Hall.
Below Great Central Peak was the Great Central Garrison Post. Thanks to its relation with the Hundred Poisons Sect, all of the villagers there relied on selling medicinal plants to make a living. Their customers weren’t sect members, but people aspiring to enter the sect and learn about poisons, or victims who needed antidotes. The members of the sect involved themselves in all sorts of business. Their main work was robbery, murder, and the buying and selling of poisons, but some of their disciples also helped others treat poisons. However, they charged exhorbitant fees for their services. Of course, their most important job was cultivating poison masters and nurturing Poison Humans and Poison Corpses for Jun Yixie’s use.
When Han Yunxi had exposed Jun Yixie’s knowledge of Poison Gu back at Medical City, the city had sent many spies to slip into Hundred Poisons Sect to launch an investigation. Unfortunately, none of them had succeeded. Meanwhile, the Wang Clan in Medicine City had acted on Long Feiye’s orders and did manage to slip in a few successful scouts, but none of them ever got in contact with Bai Yanqing or his two disciples. The intel they collected was sparse.
This wasn’t a fort that could be taken by strategy. Only brute force would work!
Long Feiye’s group didn’t settle down at Great Central Garrison Post, but arrived in secret to live in a private residence north of the town. The land itself belonged to Medicine City’s Wang Clan. Meanwhile, Emperor Kangcheng had found a place located ten li from the town to receive his guests, which included Long Tianmo himself. It was already noon, which meant Long Feiye’s group had half a day left before their appointed deadline. But Han Yunxi was still lying motionless.
After arriving there early this morning, Long Feiye had done nothing except sit by her side, entwining their fingers together. Gu Beiyue waited in attendance, absolutely silent. If he had been holding out hope the entire trip, keeping grips on his rationality while helping Long Feiye assuage his worries and planning for the Hundred Poisons Sect attack, one could say that now he couldn’t think of anything at all. Although he didn’t bring anything up to Long Feiye, he couldn’t help but feel anxious. Han Yunxi had never been unconscious for so long!
All kinds of cultivation ways ran the risk of going astray into deviation, including the poison storage space. If Han Yunxi had really deviated in her cultivation, would she never wake up again?
Was Long Feiye worrying about the exact same possibility?
While all of Cloud Realm Continent was holding its breath for the big battle at Hundred Poisons Sect, its various power factions had already gathered around Hundred Poisons Sect. It must have been ages since the continent was so lively, right? But these two men had forgotten it all in the face of Han Yunxi. They only wanted her to wake, not because they needed her for the attack, but because their world was incomplete without her presence.
But time didn’t stop for them. Soon enough, it was afternoon. The lunch that Baili Mingxiang had delivered was quickly removed, untouched. She was standing right outside, her hands pressed in a silent prayer. Despite cooking, she hadn’t eaten anything either. Whether it was the princess, His Highness, or Doctor Gu, seeing the sight of her made her uneasy.
At this moment, Xu Donglin and Uncle Gao came back. Xu Donglin stood by the door and reported, “Your Highness, this subordinate and Uncle Gao just went around the town and saw a few familiar faces!”
If the princess wasn’t unconscious, Xu Donglin would definitely bypass His Highness and have her guess who they were, but under these circumstances, he didn’t have the motivation to act so wanton.
“They were Carefree City’s City Lord Qi Zonglin and his successor Qi Yaotian. They’re joining in on the action, too,” Xu Donglin announced.
Long Feiye had been in a bad mood for days, but the sound of “Carefree City” only sent his temper boiling. He sprang to his feet and stuffed Han Yunxi’s under the covers before telling Gu Beiyue, “Look after her well!”
Then he stepped out and told Xu Donglin, “Lead the way!”
For a while, Xu Donglin was lost as to what His Highness wanted. Long Feiye’s eyes were like ice as he asked, “Where’s Qi Zonglin?”
Back then, he’d sent numerous high level experts to escort Han Yunxi down Celestial Mountain back to the south central regions, but she’d been ambushed by Carefree City on the way! Despite being an official city lord, Qi Zonglin had led all of Carefree City to surround Han Yunxi, a single woman who didn’t know any martial arts. That wasn’t just bullying Han Yunxi, but humiliating her man, himself!
If Gu Qishao hadn’t made it in time, Heaven knows what Qi Zonglin could have done. His crime was unforgivable! Despite the fact that he told the martial arts circles that anyone who took Qi Zonglin as friend would be his foe, that didn’t count as revenge. He had always wanted to settle accounts in person, and now that the man had delivered himself to his doorstep, no one should blame him for being in a foul mood!
Under Xu Donglin’s guidance, Long Feiye soon arrived at the door to a brothel in Great Central Garrison Post.
“Your Highness, this subordinate saw the Qi father and son enter here,” Xu Donglin said.
“Call them out,” Long Feiye said simply. He was so mysophobic that he’d never step into such a filthy place. The one exception was when he was searching for Han Yunxi. With hooded eyes, he stood without casting a single glance at the building.
“Yes,” Xu Donglin obeyed. He was very clear that the quieter His Highness grew when he was angry, the fiercer his temper became. Xu Donglin couldn’t imagine what would happen later as he stepped inside. Very soon, he tracked down Qi Yaotian. His last encounter with Han Yunxi had left him without an arm thanks to her poison. Currently, he was watching the singers and dancers from the second floor of the building, his left sleeve empty and listless. Xu Donglin climbed up the stairs and greeted him politely.
“This shaoxia, my master requests your presence.”
Qi Yaotian looked back coldly. “Who is it?”
Anyone who wanted to see him either wanted him dead from a grudge or needed him to murder someone else. Since Xu Donglin was being so polite, he assumed it was business knocking at his doors.
“You’ll know when you get there,” Xu Donglin didn’t dare to tell the truth. What if Qi Yaotian turned tail and fled instead? He’d never be able to catch up or find him.
Those who wanted to hire mercenaries all used the same lines. Xu Donglin was obviously being vague on purpose, so Qi Yaotian didn’t ask more and simply said, “Lead the way.”
“Please!” Xu Donglin invited while silently exhaling in relief.
Qi Yaotian never expected his “client” would be waiting at the front doors. He lowered his head and started walking. Although he was missing an arm, he was dressed as a mercenary and had a cold face, so people naturally dreaded him. Everyone who saw him descend from the second floor got out of his way.
Outside, Long Feiye had long attracted a crowd of his own. He was handsome enough to arouse the indignation of both men and gods; what’s more, he was standing outside a brothel. With his tall, straight form and chilly visage, what kind of picture did he paint?
Qi Yaotian was stunned as soon as he saw Long Feiye outside the entrance. His body reacted before his brain as his face paled. The next instant, he turned to run. It was from pure instinct, because members of Carefree City had long learned to fear Long Feiye from their very bones.
It had been a long time since Long Feiye used his sword, but even Xu Donglin missed the moment he unsheathed his blade, blinded by its momentary glimmer in the air. The next instant, Long Feiye’s vicious slash had cut through Qi Yaotian’s empty sleeve. He hadn’t seen him move either, but the fearsome aura from his sword awn was clear enough. It was a far cry from its previous state.
Just how much had Long Feiye’s martial arts improved after his descent from Celestial Mountain?
Qi Yaotian could never match him, so he could only escape. But very soon, the whistling of the blade flew past his ears again. At the same time, his right arm was sliced clean from his body, spraying blood all over the ground. It was already vexing enough to lose one arm, but losing the other precluded all possibility of him wielding a sword. He gave a great cry and turned back to throw himself at Long Feiye. Only then did he see the man move his sword to aim for his legs.
So Long Feiye’s going to cut off my legs as well?
Qi Yaotian fell to his knees and cried for mercy. “Long Feiye, Carefree City was aiming for the West Qin Princess! We never meant to disrespect you! I beg you to spare my life in light of our previous collaborations in the past! My Carefree City is willing to pledge loyalty to you forevermore!”
Only then did the crowd find out Long Feiye’s identity, leaving them shellshocked! No wonder the man was so eye-catching. He was the East Qin crown prince, Long Feiye! If he was here, where was the West Qin princess Han Yunxi? Was she around too?
Back then, Carefree City had been bullying the West Qin princess, so what was Long Feiye doing now? Avenging her? Both her and him shouldered the responsibility of their national enmity on their shoulders. They had long become enemies, so their alliance their time couldn’t be more than forced. Just what did Long Feiye mean by this? Most of the onlookers were people who rushed here to see a show, so now they broke into fervent discussion.
Without a word, Long Feiye prepared for his third strike when Carefree City’s City Lord Qi Zonglin called out. “Who has the guts to bully my--”
Qi Zonglin had been enjoying himself with some women when he heard the procuress of the brothel say that someone was beating up Qi Yaotian at the door. Without asking for details, he’d rushed right out, because anyone that could beat Qi Yaotian down was no easy foe. Yet he was forced to swallow his words as soon as he reached the exit.
He didn’t pay any mind to his son’s injuries, but stared at Long Feiye in shock. “You…”
Seeing Qi Yaotian didn’t raise Long Feiye’s ire as much as this city lord. His eyes flared up with rage…
1. shaoxia (少侠) - the specific term used to refer to members of the jianghu and wulin (martial arts circles). English has translated it to knight-errant, hero, or other similar terms, but it doesn’t quite have the same connotations as the Chinese, so I’ve chosen to keep the pinyin form here.