Ning Cheng was clear that Ning Jing and Mu Linger would become Jun Yixie’s hostages as soon as he revealed his true colors to the man. Ning Jing could sacrifice herself for the Di Clan and West Qin just like him, but what about Mu Linger? She had nothing to do with their enmity and was an innocent. Moreover, she was Han Yunxi’s younger cousin. Ning Cheng couldn’t begin to imagine how much Han Yunxi would despise him and the Di Clan if he failed to protect her!
Thinking up to here, a bitter smile rose to his lips. He couldn’t help but touch the phoenix wing mask covering his face. Doesn’t Han Yunxi already hate me regardless? What difference will this make?
“Three months? Heheh, Ning Cheng, what kind of joke are you playing on me?” Jun Yixie’s question broke through his thoughts.
“You can choose to believe it or not. The Ning Clan troops suffered heavy losses in the past year so we’ve lost half of our cavalry forces. It’ll take three months to train up new ones from scratch.” Ning Cheng said seriously. “I don’t fight battles without a guarantee of victory. If you can’t afford to wait, then I’m sorry to say the Ning Clan troops won’t be able to cooperate.”
Jun Yixie’s eyes flickered with complex emotions. He still believed Ning Cheng’s words, because the Ning Clan troops had indeed suffered massive losses in the previous battles. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have cause to fear Long Feiye’s troops now.
“Three months, three months…” Jun Yixie muttered to himself as he tapped his fingers. After a long period of thought, he suddenly rose to his feet. “Ning Cheng, how long can the Ning Clan troops hold back Long Feiye at their current level of strength?”
“What are you planning?” Ning Cheng asked.
“Heheh, as soon as your soldiers’ pay and provisions arrive, this lord will take the Northern Li emperor’s neck within three months!” Jun Yixie smiled coldly.
Ning Cheng understood. Jun Yixie was planning to revolt within three months and conquer Northern Li. Thus, he had to make sure there were no threats from the south in the meantime. In other words, Jun Yixie’s true power and Northern Li’s current forces weren’t as strong as he’d boasted. If the Ning Clan troops failed to block Long Feiye within these three months, then Jun Yixie wouldn’t be able to face the Northern Li emperor head-on and guarantee a win!
Cunning flashed in Ning Cheng’s eyes. Here was his chance to destroy Jun Yixie! He hadn’t wanted the Ning Clan troops to fight against East Qin’s army, but now it looked like the plans needed to change. Perhaps this would help buy time for Ning Jing and the rest.
“It’ll be the fifteenth of the tenth month in three months, right?” Ning Cheng pretended to think. It was a long while before he deigned to speak again, a serious expression on his face. “The Ning Clan troops are superior when it comes to wintertime fighting! Long Feiye’s two main forces consist of the southern soldiers and the Baili Army. Neither of them are familiar with winter warfare.”
Hearing this, Jun Yixie was thrilled. “Whatever the case, your Ning Clan troops can definitely last through this winter!”
“Definitely,” Ning Cheng smiled. “Once they do and spring arrives, the 30,000 cavalrymen will be able to take to the field as well, hehe!”
Jun Yixie was delighted. He slapped Ning Cheng’s shoulder and said, “Brother, let’s pass through this winter first. Once spring comes, Cloud Realm Continent will be ours!”
Ning Cheng had already gotten used to Jun Yixie’s constant probing. He avoided the man’s hand and said coldly, “When the time comes, just leave Han Yunxi for me. No need to waste words on anything else.”
His words were pleasantly sweet to Jun Yixie’s words. Ning Cheng had no interest in fighting over the world for him, which he found cause to rejoice. After getting the man’s promise, Jun Yixie discussed over a few of the finer points with the man. Ning Cheng further won his trust with many careful, well thought out proposals. It wasn’t until late night that Ning Cheng left the main tent for his own quarters. He was supposed to meet with Uncle Cheng and Manager Jin, then Ning Jing. But instead, he didn’t. Under the scrutiny of the soldiers here, his every move and action was cautious and careful. Jun Yixie seemed to trust him immensely, but he had his own guards up. One misstep and all of his hard work would be for naught.
Ning Cheng only hoped that Uncle Cheng and Ning Jing would appear to be standing on the same side to avoid rousing Jun Yixie’s suspicions. Currently, Ning Jing was in Uncle Cheng’s tent. She sat in her high seat while mocking him coldly. “Old Cheng, what gall you had! To ‘execute first, then report to the emperor,’ you even dared to kidnap this young Miss!”
“Miss Jing, why does the Di Clan have to swear loyalty to Han Yunxi after she brazenly ganged up with Long Feiye? Master Ning can take the world, so why should he always condescend to lower himself before a woman’s feet?” Uncle Cheng was bold and assured. “Miss Jing, you must not know yet, but Tang Li has already agreed to exchange the secret blueprints of the Tang Clan assassination weapons in exchange for yourself. He has you in her heart, so as long as you remain calm, you’ll definitely gain the Tang Clan. Miss Jing, you are the biggest chip in Master Jin and Jun Yixie’s alliance! Why are you haggling over such details?”
Ning Jing grew alarmed. She never thought Tang Li would be so impulsive and angrily said, “So are Ning Cheng and I supposed to thank you?”
“This subordinate doesn’t dare accept,” Uncle Cheng quickly bowed his head.
Ning Jing didn’t want to waste any more words with him, but asked, “Han Yunxi and Long Feiye went to Hundred Poisons Sect? Were there any results?” She was more interested in that.
Uncle Cheng smiled coldly. “Miss Jing, can’t you tell? Han Yunxi and Long Feiye have long since been lovers. Teaming up kill Bai Yanqing and lying about the origins of the enmity between East and West Qin were only a big misunderstanding. The Di Clan has long harbored thoughts of rebelling even before Jun Yixie’s battle horses headed south!”
Ning Jing’s heart was beating fast, but she still asked, “Why do you say that they’re lying?”
“Heheh, if they didn’t have a guilty conscience, why kill Bai Yanqing at all? Miss Jing might not know, but all sorts of people were present at the assembly at Hundred Poisons Sect. Representatives from both East and West Qin attended as well. Heheh, but none of them saw Bai Yanqing!” Uncle Cheng replied.
Ning Jing didn’t speak, too unwilling to continue the conversation. She rose to her feet and strode away. She needed to see Ning Cheng. No matter what she saw or heard, she wouldn’t believe a thing unless Ning Cheng told him personally that he was betraying West Qin.
By the time she reached Ning Cheng’s tent, Uncle Cheng caught up as well. The guards on duty naturally let them pass, but it wasn’t until Ning Jing and Uncle Cheng went in that they saw there were three more guards around Ning Cheng inside. They weren’t stupid and instantly realized that Jun Yixie had kept a close watch on him. Only then did the two of them remember a problem they’d placed at the back of their heads.
Jun Yixie’s battle horses had already left Skyriver City and Ning Cheng had already finished discussing all the details he needed with the man. It was about time for Ning Cheng to go back! Why was he still in Jun Yixie’s camp? Could it be that Jun Yixie had another handle on Ning Cheng that forced him to stay?
Ning Cheng personally lit two oil lamps before signaling Ning Jing and Uncle Cheng to be careful with his eyes.
“Have a seat!” Ning Cheng said while heading for the tea table. Ning Jing sat down while Uncle Cheng stood on one side. But when Ning Cheng didn’t speak, both Ning Jing and Uncle Cheng remained silent as well, unsure of how to proceed.
“Heheh, Uncle Cheng should sit as well! You’ve certainly done impressive work this time!” Ning Cheng said.
Finally, Uncle Cheng realized that he’d made a huge blunder! If Ning Cheng was truly unable to leave Jun Yixie’s clutches and this godforsaken place, he’d just brought his master more trouble by leading Ning Jing and Mu Linger here! Whether or not the alliance between both leaders was real, Ning Jing and Mu Linger would only became Ning Cheng’s stumbling blocks here.
Uncle Cheng’s face turned white. “This subordinate doesn’t dare.”
Ning Cheng didn’t persuade him again, but told Ning Jing, “Jing’er, I trusted that you’d take care of that Tang Li. As expected, you didn’t disappoint big brother.” As he spoke, he fixed her with a meaningful look, then continued, “Do you trust big brother when I say I’ll take care of Han Yunxi too?”
Ning Jing almost burst into tears. She knew what Ning Cheng meant! He was asking her if she believed that he would never betray Han Yunxi or the West Qin Dynasty!
“I do! Brother, no matter what, I’ll always trust you…” she paused on purpose, then continued, “I even trust you to take care of Han Yunxi. You definitely will!”
The soldiers nearby stopped their conversation, but didn’t do anything else.
“As long as you trust that, it’s fine! Just wait and see!” Ning Cheng too, knew that Ning Jing had understood.
Uncle Cheng got the message as well, but he was only severely disappointed. Master Ning was nothing but a hopeless loyalist! It wasn’t convenient to speak here, but he had to find a way to coax his master otherwise. Ning Cheng and Ning Jing exchanged a few more immaterial remarks before Ning Jing took her leave. She too, was trying to think of a chance to meet with him in private and figure out the situation here. On the other hand, Ning Cheng was contriving to find a chance to see Ning Jing, Uncle Cheng, or even Mu Linger to tell them about the true misunderstanding between East and West Qin. He also wanted to expose Jun Yixie’s identity as a member of the Black Clan and how this fake-real alliance had come about.
When Ning Jing returned to her tent, she quietly told Mu Linger about everything she’d learned, leaving the girl surprised.
“Ning Jing, if my big sis knew how loyal your big brother was, she’d definitely find a way to save him!” Mu Linger declared.
“It’s impossible to get news out from this place, but I bet Han Yunxi’s already guessed that we’re here. She’ll hate my brother to death!” Ning Jing felt miserable.
“Aiya, don’t get anxious, you’ll hurt the baby!” Mu Linger coaxed. There was no way something could happen to Ning Jing’s stomach at a place like this, or else it’d be impossible to hide her pregnancy. When that happened, Jun Yixie would be even less willing to let them go.
“Ning Jing, don’t panic. Let’s wait a couple more days. Maybe your brother already has a plan to deal with Jun Yixie, so let’s find a chance to talk things out more clearly,” Mu Linger encouraged.
However, for the next three days none of them got a chance to meet. Instead, Jun Yixie personally paid visits to Mu Linger and Ning Jing. While the former ignored him, the latter calmly acted out a farce with Uncle Cheng in tow.
Very late on the fourth night, someone gave Ning Cheng his chance, but it was none other than Bai Yuqiao!
“Ning Cheng, I have to beg you for a favor!” Bai Yuqiao said before falling to her knees.
Although unexpected, Ning Cheng retained his lofty attitude and looked coldly towards the girl. “I can hardly accept such a grand ceremony of greeting. Speak, what do you need?”Previous Chapter Next Chapter
I am so, so relieved that Ning Jing and Ning Cheng know each other well enough to guess the other's true intentions. For all his flaws, Ning Cheng's doing his best and I can respect him for that in this arc! Ahhhh....
Okay okay now Bai Yuqiao you go do your conveniently plot-contrived thing, quick!