These were Long Feiye’s three secret orders:
- Warn Gu Qishao that he’d have to shoulder the consequences if he didn’t come to meet him.
- Order Baili Mingxiang to switch destinations and wait for them at Medical City
- Keep a close eye on any paths from Hundred Poisons Sect to Northern Li, in case Bai Yanqing had gone north to rely on Jun Yixie
Medical City was northeast of Hundred Poisons Sect, just past the Three-Way Battlefield. Thus, Long Feiye made sure to travel with care. Since Bai Yanqing had an undying body, even the strongest martial arts would be no match for his retaliation. Thus, he sent five teams of shadow guards disguised as their groups to leave from Hundred Poisons Sect in different directions. Meanwhile, he, Han Yunxi, and Gu Beiyue only brought a few poison soldiers to head for the thick mountain forests of Western Zhou and covertly head for the Poison Sect.
At the very least, their ploy at Hundred Poisons Sect had been a success. Leaving aside everything else, just discovering Bai Yanqing’s undying body was their greatest gain. It was impossible to imagine what the consequences would be if they’d continued being so ignorant.
Bai Yanqing couldn’t have imagined that Long Feiye would come looking for his body even after kicking it into cliff. Currently, the man was heading west. He wasn’t planning to rely on Jun Yixie in the north, but as to where he was going? Only he himself knew.
Once Long Feiye’s group departed, news of Bai Yanqing’s possibility as a Poison Gu human spread like wildfire. Emperor Kangcheng, Long Tianmo, and the rest were still at Great Central County Seat when the news hit them. Besides them, even Mu Qingwu was terrified by the news.
“Poison Gu human, this...how could this be possible?” Emperor Kangcheng suddenly felt unsteady in his seat.
Long Tianmo remained silent, but his complexion looked awful. As his subordinate, Mu Qingwu couldn’t speak out when his master didn’t, so he remained quiet too. Emperor Kangcheng had hardly sat down when he sprang back up again.
“Could this be a plot by Long Feiye and Han Yunxi? Say, this...how is it possible? Didn’t Medical City destroy the Poison Sect back then?”
“They...have no reason to make up such rumors,” Long Tianmo stated. “What are you afraid of? Bai Yanqing has no quarrel with you or me. Even if the sky falls down, there’s still East and West Qin propping it up with Northern Li!”
Emperor Kangcheng disagreed with Long Tianmo’s views. He replied, “You can say things like that. If Bai Yanqing’s really a Poison Gu human, then doesn’t this world long belong to him? A single Poison corpse human is equal to a dozen soldiers, so wouldn’t a Poison Gu be even more fearsome? If East Qin, West Qin, and Northern Li gets destroyed, we won’t last either!”
“Let’s observe the situation quietly for now!” Long Tianmo was actually rather apprehensive inside. By now, he’d lost much of his ambition and only wanted to defend his territory in Tianan and avoid any wars. It was better to be on the sidelines. Only recently, he discovered that Great General Mu had wild ambitions of his own, but he still didn’t understand why the man wanted to make a big deal out of the events at Hundred Poisons Sect. This morning, Emperor Kangcheng had probed him for answers, but he had only given him the bare minimum. Then the news of the Poison Gu human had made him drop the subject altogether.
“It’s getting late. Zhen will bid farewell,” Long Tianmo rose to his feet.
Emperor Kangcheng didn’t leave him. They said their goodbyes before the emperor sent Long Tianmo off at the gates. He was already getting into his carriage when he suddenly remembered something.
With a smile, he said, “Since Western Zhou and Tianan will advance or retreat in tandem, why not continue the tradition of our marriage alliances?”
Emperor Kangcheng was thrilled by the words. Long Tianmo only had a single empress but no issue. By mentioning the marriage alliance now, it was clear that he wanted a Western Zhou princess to marry into Tianan Country.
“Very good! Excellent!” Emperor Kangcheng nodded with a smile. A princess in Tianan could count as an extra set of eyes and ears too. At the same time, she could solidify feelings between the two nations. In former days, the Western Zhou emperor had been filled with ambitions, but after all these wars--especially when facing the strength of East and West Qin--he had long retreated to avoid an awkward defeat. He and Long Tianmo thought the same way: to protect their own lands and maintain peace in the country for the people. The powers of East and West Qin laid between their territories, but neither of them would ever be able to surpass either faction in an all-out battle. Since they weren’t clashing with each other, a marriage alliance was the best way to stabilize relations. Any princess from Western Zhou who married over there wouldn’t be cast aside too much or forced to remain guarded.
Emperor Kangcheng was no easy foe. He had already looked into Mu Liuyue’s situation. Hearing Long Tianmo’s words today made him realize the man’s silent struggle against the Mu Clan troops. He was certain that any Western Zhou princess who married into Tianan would be favored and doted on. Perhaps they might even give birth to Tianan Country’s first heir! He agreed right away and pledged to give Princess Dehe (德和公主) to Long Tianmo as an imperial concubine.
Princess Dehe’s actual name was Duanmu Jin (端木瑾). She had just turned 16 and was born from one of Emperor Kangcheng’s concubines. As Western Zhou’s youngest princess, she was the daughter that the emperor doted on most besides Duanmu Yao in the past.
A few years ago, Emperor Kangcheng had planned to wait until Duanmu Jin came of age before giving her to Chu Tianyin to control the Chu Clan. However, he never expected them to revolt so quickly. Rumors had it that Duanmu Yao used to oppress Duanmu Jin before she was expelled from the royal clan. Now that both she and the former empress had gotten in trouble, this youngest princess had become the apple of her father’s eye.
Long Tianmo had no idea what kind of person Duanmu Jin was, much less what she looked like. But neither did he care. When he returned to the palace this time, he was going to participate in a concubine selection to find talented individuals capable of suppressing Imperial Consort Mu Liuyue. Since Great General Mu wanted him to work with Western Zhou, then marrying a Western Zhou princess was the most natural choice.
Long Tianmo and Emperor Kangcheng’s meeting went extremely smoothly for them both, which left them delighted. They chatted a bit more in low tones before finally parting. Meanwhile, Mu Qingwu listened to everything with a heavy heart. Because of the upcoming concubine selections, Mu Liuyue had already thrown multiple tantrums back in the palace. He was afraid to report such news to the emperor. If news of the marriage alliance spread back, then Heaven knows what kind of chaos would befall the imperial harem next. Although Mu Qingwu didn’t really want to return, he had to escort Long Tianmo to the palace and ask his father some questions.
Long Feiye and Han Yunxi were gone. Now Emepror Kangcheng and Long Tianmo had left. Gradually, the rest of the audience dispersed as well. In less than three days, news of Bai Yanqing’s status as a Poison Gu human had reached all corners of Cloud Realm Continent, making everyone’s hearts tremble in fear. Many prominent families wrote jointly signed letters to ask Medical City for an explanation. Medical City and the Poison Sect issued a public statement together to acknowledge the rumors while expelling Bai Yanqing from the bloodline records of the Poison Sect.
Soon enough, Jun Yixie caught wind of the news as well and dropped the secret missive in his hands. He fell to his knees soon afterwards. Master had chosen Hundred Poisons Sect instead of him, which was already disappointing enough. Not only that, he’d actually exposed the truth about the Great Qin Empire’s civil war and even turned himself into a Poison Gu human!
While learning poisons from Bai Yanqing, he had asked the man multiple times about the Poison Sect’s Poison Gu humans, but every time his master had only said he “didn’t know.” Why had Bai Yanqing hidden himself so deeply? What was he trying to accomplish? He’d called the man master for so many years, but there wasn’t a speck of affection between master and disciple in him!
“Poison Gu human...hahaha...what a Poison Gu human!”
“Very good...very good!”
Muttering to himself, Jun Yixie suddenly erupted into a shout. “Bai Yanqing! You lied to me!”
The anger and resentment hidden in his heart finally exploded. His eyes red with fury, Jun Yixie screamed, “Bai Yanqing, my Black Clan breaks all ties with you! From now on, we’re irreconcilable!”
Jun Yixie spent an entire night calming himself down and convincing himself to break off master-disciple relations for good. No matter what Bai Yanqing wanted to do, the next time they met, they’d be enemies. At first light, he went to find Ning Cheng. After all, there were more important matters to discuss. Long Feiye and Han Yunxi had made up, so East and West Qin were no longer an alliance, but one family now!
He wanted to see what Ning Cheng thought of all this.
By the time Jun Yixie arrived, Ning Cheng had just got out of bed. The floor around him was littered with wine tankards and the stench of alcohol hung in the air. Of course, these were ordinary wine issued to the army, not Bai Yuqiao’s specially purchased jars.
“What, drowning your worries in wine?” Jun Yixie mocked him. “Your West Qin princess can finally justify standing by Long Feiye’s side. Ning Cheng, you’re done for!”
Ning Cheng looked at him, drowsy-eyed and drunk, dejected and despairing. He smirked and said, “Hehe, wasn’t I done for ages ago?”
Jun Yixie abruptly grabbed him by the collar and roared, “Ning Cheng, you told me that the world was mine and Han Yunxi yours! Pull yourself together! You want 30,000 battle horses, don’t you? I’ll give them to you right now!”
A spark of life flashed in Ning Cheng’s eyes, but he continued feigning depression and shoved Jun Yixie’s hand aside. With one turn of his body, he fell off the bed and onto the ground. Pointing at Jun Yixie with a tipsy smile, he said, “Alright, then it’s set! The world is Long Feiye’s, and Han Yunxi...Han Yunxi is Long Feiye’s too! She’s Long Feiye’s! Haha!”
Jun Yixie was already in a foul mood, but these words only ignited his temper. He picked up a basin of cold water and emptied it on Ning Cheng’s head before throwing the thing at his face. “Ning Cheng, come to your senses! Right now!”
Ning Cheng massaged his temples as if he’d just regained his wits. He glanced at Jun Yixie before silently striding towards the door.
“Stop right there!” Jun Yixie demanded.
Ning Cheng kept walking. Over the past few days, he and Jun Yixie had been in a deadlock. Jun Yixie refused to give him any horses while he didn’t offer pay or provisions.
“Ning Cheng, write a letter to Myriad Merchant Hall this instant and have the Ning Clan troops make preparations. The 30,000 horses stationed at Skyriver City--I’ll give them to you!” Jun Yixie said generously.
He’d already said it once, but Ning Cheng had been playacting to dispel any suspicions the man might have. Jun Yixie didn’t immediately bring up demands for pay or provisions, which meant he had accepted Ning Cheng’s terms: to have the battle horses successfully in the Ning Clan troops’ hands before he paid him a cent.
“Alright!” Ning Cheng neither rejoiced nor turned his head, but took on a complicated expression. He hadn’t been drunk at all last night, but was thinking of which person in the Di Clan to address his letter to. It would be a hard letter to write with Jun Yixie’s eye on him the entire time.
After some thought, he finally settled on one person. That was…
1. Princess Dehe (德和公主) - De means “virtue,” He means “peace.” In this case, Dehe refers to her title, not her actual name. (Don’t ask me about Princess Changping, I don’t know because the author never told us that one haha.)
Reading this made me think of Western Zhou and Tianan as two tottering old grandpas ready for a long life of retirement. They don't want any part of the East and West Qin mess, hahaha~
And that marks the end of our 12-chapter bonus release! We got through a mini arc and started another one along the way! Hope you enjoyed the ride! There's still the regular ol' chapter teaser for c963 after this, but make sure to check out the announcement post for our poll results too!