Chapter 965: The seventh slave

Mu Linger ignored Manager Jin as he sat by her side. She was wondering why Qi gege still hadn’t found the secret signals she’d left behind during the entire trip. Could it be that Qi gege ran into trouble too? If Qi gege returned to Myriad Merchant Hall, he would definitely know that she and Ning Jing had been kidnapped. He should have remembered the secret signals she’d told him before. 

Just what had Qi gege done the day he slipped silently away towards Blacktower?! 

Mu Linger creased her forehead at the thought. Seeing this, Manager Jin looked away as if reluctant to see her make such expressions. But after some silence, he still spoke up. “What are you worrying about?”

Mu Linger glanced at him before asking back, “Hey, you are Manager Jin, aren’t you!”

Although she’d never stopped asking and was always sure, Manager Jin still refused to answer her outright. For some reason, he’d started finding Mu Linger to start conversations. Mu Linger didn’t care what he talked about, but always asked him the same question. 

Like always, Manager Jin only turned his head away to look elsewhere. Mu Linger began to fret about Ning Jing and looked back. Once she was sure the older man wasn’t bothering her, she turned around again.

“Jin Zi,” she asked, “This isn’t far from Wintercrow Country, right? If I remember right, this should be Northern Li’s Skyriver City.”

She and Ning Jing had no idea where Manager Jin was taking them, but every since entering Northern Li, they had started to lose hope. 

Manager Jin remained silent.

Mu Linger asked next, “Can’t you give us some tips, like if the Di Clan has any news about Ning Cheng yet? I’m not thinking up any schemes, it’s just that Ning Jing’s worried for her big brother.”

Manager Jin still didn’t speak.

Mu Linger’s face fell as she prepared to leave. If she couldn’t get any intel, she wouldn’t sit with this guy at all. But abruptly, Manager Jin opened his mouth. “You know about Wintercrow Country?”

Mu Linger’s heart gave a start before she immediately sat down. “Are you really taking us to Wintercrow Country?”

“It should be snowing there by now,” Manager Jin sighed.

“Didn’t you still want to ransom my big sis and Qi gege? Let’s talk it over, I have ways to get you even more silver. Don’t bring us to Wintercrow Country, I can’t stand the weather there,” Mu Linger was on the verge of tears. That place wasn’t fit for birds to poop or chickens to lay their eggs. She and Ning Jing would never survive if they ended up there.

Manager Jin ignored Mu Linger’s panic and simply said, “East Wu’s winter clothing is silver and white, clean and pure. When the spring comes and the snow melts, warblers fly over the meadows. It’s very, very beautiful.”

Mu Linger looked at Manager Jin and saw that his face was filled with charmed rapture for somewhere nostalgic. She couldn’t resist asking, “Have you been there before?”

“No, I only heard it from others who’ve been there,” Manager Jin intoned. He was sold to the black markets as a child, so his memories of Wintercrow Country were blurry at best. The Wintercrow Clan was famed for its horses and precious gems. Merchants who didn’t fear death would travel there to purchase the goods at low prices and resell them at Three-Way Black Market. Gradually, some of the smarter members of the Wintercrow Clan began to imitate their methods and bring horses and gems directly to the black markets for sale. But that was rare, and their numbers could be counted on one’s fingers between the years. Most of the horses and gemstones of Wintercrow Country were heavily controlled by private businesses. The only reason Jun Yixie could get so many horses on his own was because he’d gone as a Northern Li imperial clan representative, not a private individual. Naturally, he’d paid a large sum as well.

“You really want to go back, don’t you…” Mu Linger probed carefully.

Manager Jin nodded.

Mu Linger’s heart throbbed before she asked, “We’ll...be there very soon, right?”

Manager Jin was about to nod when he suddenly sensed something amiss. For some reason, he broke into a chuckle. Mu Linger knew then that she’d failed and further probing would be useless. Manager Jin looked at her for a good while before telling her the truth for the first time. “We’re not going to East Wu, but to meet a certain person.”

“Who?” Mu Linger’s head whipped up.

“You’ll know in a few days,” Manager Jin still had his limits.

Mu Linger was full of doubt. If they’d know in a few days, then their person must be near Skyriver City. She didn’t understand much about Northern Li’s situation, nor could she find any clues. She decided to wait until Manager Jin and the older man were asleep before secretly telling Ning Jing. She was smart enough to list a few potential suspects.

“Jin Zi, will you go back to the Wintercrow Clan in the future?” Mu Linger kept probing. Although she considered this a trial interrogation, Manager Jin’s own motives were unknown.

“I will!” he declared confidently. 

“Jin Zi, do you have a home in Wintercrow Country?” Mu Linger asked next.

Manager Jin shook his head. “I don’t know.” He only knew that he had been a slave and nothing else. 

Actually, leaving aside the fact that Manager Jin had worked together with Ning Cheng to trick her Qi gege, Mu Linger still sympathized with the man. She even planned to return his gold card originally.

“Is your surname really Jin? Why do they call you Jin Zi?” Mu Linger asked.

“I…” After a moment of silence, he still decided to answer. “I’m just a slave, so I’ve only got a number, not a name.”

“A number?” Mu Linger was genuinely curious. She knew nothing about slaves.

“Slaves from slave markets never have names. There’s 10 to a cage, so the numbers go from one to ten. They’ll only get named once they’re sold to new masters,” Manager Jin explained. 

“What was your number?” Mu Linger blurted out.

Qi,” Manager Jin intoned.The number seven.

Because of Qi(Seven) gege, Mu Linger had a good impression of the number seven. She couldn’t help but mutter to herself, “Little Qi…”

Manager Jin had only heard of Gu Qishao’s full name and didn’t know much about him. For a second, he didn’t realize that Mu Linger’s “Little Qi” was Gu Qishao and not himself. Feeling a little awkward, he looked away. Mu Linger suddenly missed her Qi gege and grew sorrowful. She stopped asking him any questions, but Manager Jin spoke on his own.

“The day that Myriad Merchant Hall bought me, I ran into Ning Cheng by accident. He asked me what I wanted, and I said gold. Thus, he awarded me with the name ‘Jin Zi’ (金子), or ‘gold.’” 

Jin Zi…

He wanted lots and lots of gold, enough to buy his own indenture agreement. His whole life had existed for that purpose. Mu Linger suddenly looked at Manager Jin with a stifled heart. Even she felt perplexed by the emotion. This fellow’s business had nothing to do with her! She wouldn’t pity him a bit. If she did, who was supposed to pity her?

“Jin Zi, I’ll ask you one last time: are you going to work with me? I swear on my life that my big sis will sell the indenture agreement to you as long as you bring me and Ning Jing back to Myriad Merchant Hall. We’ll even pay off your debts!” Mu Linger declared.

Manager Jin gave her a scrutinizing look before smiling coldly and walking away. It was as if they’d never chatted at all. After that face-off at Hundred Poisons Sect, Han Yunxi would face the Di Clan’s condemnation very soon. It was impossible for her to wield control over Myriad Merchant Hall anymore. He had already thought it over: meet Ning Cheng, deliver the hostages. He’d get the indenture agreement and pay off his debts, then immediately head for Wintercrow Country. He wasn’t a bit interested in the power struggles of Cloud Realm Continent. He only wanted to hide far, far away.

Mu Linger watched Manager Jin’s retreating back and only felt that he was so random! Why did he change moods at the drop of hat? That night, she found a chance to whisper with Ning Jing about everything she’d heard. 

“Say, where do you think we’re going? This is by Skyriver City, will they be teaming up with Jun Yixie?” Mu Linger muttered.

But Ning Jing’s first reaction was, “Ning Cheng.”

Mu Linger almost cried out at the name. Fortunately, Ning Jing muffled her mouth in time. 

“Jun Yixie has no money. My brother was kidnapped by Bai Yuqiao, so he must be in Jun Yixie’s hands! My big brother has money, or else that old man wouldn’t bring us here. Neither would Jin Zi come along!” Ning Jin declared.

“Your brother’s teaming up with Jun Yixie? He’s going to betray my big sis!” Mu Linger was more concerned about that.

“Impossible!” Ning Jing was serious. “Mu Linger, remember this: even if the entire Di Clan betrays the West Qin imperial clan, my brother never will! He must have been threatened.” As she spoke, she looked towards the sleeping old man on the pile of thatch and murmured, “I’m rather suspecting that this old man’s colluding with Jun Yixie instead. Remember, if we meet them in a few days, don’t say a word. Act according to discretion, understand?”

Mu Linger only murmured resentfully, “Ning Jing, why do you trust you big brother that much?”

“West Qin is his faith and responsibility. Do you understand?” Ning Jing answered.

Mu Linger didn’t, so she shook her head and asked, “Ning Jing, then do you trust Tang Li?”

Tang Li. It had been so long since anyone brought up his name to her face. But she still missed him everyday. In the past, she always want to run far, far away, but now that they were actually separated, she realized that she didn’t feel as carefree as she expected. Day by day, the child in her womb was growing bigger. She was almost at the five-month mark, but the baby’s father didn’t even know of its existence. 

Without a word, Ning Jing shut her eyes. Mu Linger hesitated for a long, long while before she scooted over and muttered, “Ning Jing, can I tell you something else?”

“Mm,” Ning Jing seemed tired.

“I, I was thinking about this time, if we...we can’t go back, or ending up dying away from home. Well, if you never found out, you would have lived in vain,” Mu Linger grew serious.

Ning Jing immediately looked her way. “What is it?”

“A-actually, Tang Li likes you too,” Mu Linger was afraid that Ning Jing wouldn’t believe her, so she quickly told her about Tang Li’s situation in the prisons, and how Han Yunxi had hatched a plan to let him take her away.

Ning Jing abruptly sat up in disbelief. Nearby, Manager Jin sensed the movement and looked their way, causing Ning Jing to still her nerves and lie back down again. 

In a low voice, Mu Linger coaxed, “Aiya, don’t get excited. Be careful of hurting the baby again!”

She had spent all that effort taking care of Ning Jing’s womb during this entire trip. If anything happened again, she’d definitely cry.

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Ruyi's Thoughts

All I can say is, MU LINGER YES!