Ning Cheng had written only a single line on the back. It didn’t have any useful information beyond haggling terms with Long Feiye. He wanted Long Feiye to relax restrictions on the merchants doing business in the south central regions, then cut down taxes against them. Otherwise, he would not only refuse to cooperate with Long Feiye, but also prevent Ning Jing’s baby from being born.
Han Yunxi was left stunned for a good while before she almost tore the letter to pieces. Even she was angry, to say nothing of Long Feiye. It was already hard enough for the two sides to work together, yet Ning Cheng was still threatening Long Feiye at a time like this?! The restrictions and taxes in the south had caused Cloud Realm Trade Consortium serious setbacks and was the primary reason why they’d been on the decline for the past few years. Han Yunxi could admit that Long Feiye had put them in place for the express purpose of pinning down the consortium, so the terms were especially harsh. Although Ning Cheng wasn’t altogether blameless for demanding terms in their alliance, his actions were forgivable. They could even talk things over before they agreed. However, it was uncalled for to threaten them with Ning Jing’s unborn baby.
This...this was simply detestable!
Does Ning Jing know this? If she did, how bad would she feel?
“What did he write?” Long Feiye urged.
Han Yunxi wanted to hide this fact, but she knew it was impossible to muddle past Long Feiye’s insight. She gave him the letter, and his face turned dark as soon as he read it.
“Threatening me?” he said coldly.
“Threatening you?” Tang Li quickly picked up the letter. It would’ve been better if he didn’t read it, because his temper exploded in the next instant. “That swine! I’m going to find him for payback this instant! Who does he think he is?!”
Han Yunxi quickly pulled Tang Li back while Gu Beiyue and the rest read the message as well. They exchanged surprised looks with each other.
“Big bro, let’s just kill our way ove! First we’ll destroy the Di Clan, then slaughter a path to Northern Li!” Tang Li’s rage dashed to he skies. If Ning Cheng was in front of him right now, he’d throw all the hundreds of hidden weapons on his body at the man.
Gu Beiyue didn’t speak because he’d seen through the situation in an instant. Ning Cheng was demanding compromises at a time like this because he didn’t want to end up as Long Feiye’s subordinate after their alliance was set. If he could use this chance to threaten Long Feiye and get rid of those taxes and restrictions, then Cloud Realm Trade Consortium could earn some ill-gotten gains during this time of unrest. Moreover, it could recover its former strength and rise again within two or three more years. Once that happened, the Di Clan would have enough money to stabilize their position.
Even if the princess and Long Feiye were still together then, the Di Clan could still pledge their allegiance solely to her and not him. In some ways, Gu Beiyue rather admired Ning Cheng, even as he envied the man. He himself owed Long Feiye too much to pay him back in this lifetime. Thus, he had pledged his loyalty to the princess while treating Long Feiye with utmost respect as well.
But Ning Cheng was different. If he could take this chance to rise again, he could hold his ground even in front of Long Feiye himself. The Di Clan would become the princess’s source of strength, independent from that of Long Feiye and his powerful East Qin associates. Naturally, these were thoughts that Gu Beiyue kept to himself. He looked at Han Yunxi and wondered if she’d considered that far. Currently, she only looked angry that the terms involved Ning Jing’s baby.
Ning Cheng was too intelligent. He hadn’t used Mu Linger or Ning Jing as collateral, but Ning Jing’s unborn child. This couldn’t threaten Long Feiye, but it thoroughly tied up Tang Li. Once that happened, Long Feiye would be hard pressed to act. Besides Han Yunxi, he was Long Feiye’s biggest weak point.
Long Feiye didn’t answer Tang Li, but looked towards Han Yunxi. “What do you think?”
Han Yunxi didn’t immediately answer either. After calming down to think and puzzle over the terms, she said, “Long Feiye, perhaps Ning Cheng isn’t threatening you, but just...that he doesn’t have any other choice if he wants to preserve the Di Clan.”
Back at Hundred Poisons Sect, the Di Clan’s military faction and Cloud Realm Trade Consortium’s various reactions had made Han Yunxi realize this problem. If the Di Clan continued to pledge their loyalty to her while she was with Long Feiye, then in the future when East and West Qin merged, there would be unavoidable power struggles within their factions. She thought that this problem was still far off, but never expected Ning Cheng would start fighting for their rights so soon.
All of these old foxes were used to careful planning. They weren’t simple foes!
“What do you plan to do?” Long Feiye asked again.
Han Yunxi cleverly replied, “Long Feiye, if Cloud Realm Trade Consortium rises again someday, you still won’t fear them, right?”
Long Feiye’s unpleasant expression immediately dissipated into a smile at her question. “Han Yunxi, you’ll even flatter the likes of me?”
Han Yunxi grinned. “I’m telling the truth.”
“Alright! I’ll give the Di Clan this chance!”
Long Feiye immediately had someone bring brush and paper before he wrote his promise down. As long as Ning Cheng completed his task, he would definitely tell the south central regions to remove the various restrictions and taxes against Cloud Realm Trade Consortium. Actually, he really had nothing to fear from them or Ning Cheng’s threat. If the Di Clan was wholly devoted to Han Yunxi, he didn’t even mind if the consortium rose to power again. There were plenty of business talents within the organization that he valued highly.
Even Han Yunxi was a little surprised that Long Feiye agreed so easily, much less Gu Beiyue and the rest. After Long Feiye finished writing his promise to Ning Cheng, Han Yunxi wrote a letter of her own to reply regarding Ning Cheng’s offer of alliance. While Long Feiye was distracted, she also wrote a secret apology for injuring his eye with her needle.
Manager Luo used Kangan Private Bank’s specially sealed envelope before writing a line of his own on the outside to guard against tampering with the seal. A flying messenger hawk was immediately dispatched to send the message back to their branch in Northern Li.
Like this, they put an end to this phase of the matter.
Once everything was done, Gu Qishao finally added his two cents. “A brother like Ning Cheng...heheh, he’s not bad! I should make friends with him someday!”
Although Gu Qishao looked like a cheery, mischievous type, it was notoriously hard to get along with him. Besides Gu Beiyue, who else had he ever considered as a brother? Back at Tianning’s imperial palace, he harbored all sorts of dislike towards Ning Cheng, but now his attitude had changed completely?
Tang Li couldn’t stand it and said icily, “Who does he think he is?” It wasn’t clear whether he was cursing Ning Cheng or Gu Qishao, but the latter was content to assume it was the former.
“Anyone with the guts to threaten a certain someone is a true man! This old man likes it!” Gu Qishao said. Immediately after that, Long Feiye’s teacup went flying at his head, but he quickly dodged out of the way. The lethargic Long Feiye then slowly raised his hand. Gu Qishao clearly felt an intense pressure rushing towards him. Privately alarmed, he realized that Long Feiye’s internal energy had increased to terrifying heights in just the span of a few days.
Could this be the power of the Lustbite energy?
Gu Qishao wanted to test just how powerful it was, but Han Yunxi stopped him.
“Gu Qishao, did you find any clues on the Fire of Ten-Thousand Poisons from your past searches?”
They could leave Northern Li in Ning Cheng’s hands, but they had to quickly find all the separate ingredients to deal with the Perplexing Butterfly Illusion. Otherwise, even the best preparations would be for naught against Bai Yanqing. These three months were crucial!
At the mention of Perplexing Butterfly Illusion, Long Feiye stopped fighting with Gu Qishao and demanded, “What about the Metal of Ten-Thousand Poisons? How were you searching back then?”
Gu Qishao was energized at the very mention of their goal. “I don’t have a speck of clue about the Fire of Ten-Thousand Poisons, but I heard something regarding the Metal of Ten-Thousand Poisons. Still, I don’t know if it’s trustworthy.”
“What is it?” Long Feiye asked quickly.
“Qi Sha,” Gu Qishao grew serious.
Qi Sha? (七煞) 
“A star?” Han Yunxi blurted out.
The Qi Sha (七煞) she knew was also written as Qi Sha (七杀), or “seven kills.” In Chinese numerology, it was known as a cruel and unlucky killing star.
Gu Qishao gave Han Yunxi a deprecating look before he replied, “It’s a dagger, one with an evil curse. Supposedly anyone stabbed by it will bleed to death from his or her seven apertures, no matter where the injury is. Thus, the dagger earned the unlucky name of Qi Sha.”
Gu Qishao had heard this legend a few years ago and recalled it when thinking of the Fire and Metal of Ten-Thousand Poisons. Of the five elements, “metal” was written as jin (金), which meant “gold,” but included all things with metal properties. Whether the Qi Sha dagger was made of Xuan gold, Xuan iron, or bronze, all of them counted as metals.
Han Yunxi was very surprised. She never thought such a mystical weapon existed and asked, “You think that the dagger might have poison? And that its victims died not from the stab, but through intoxication?”
Gu Qishao nodded. Long Feiye and Gu Beiyue remained silent, but they agreed with this theory. Everyone was caught up in discussing its potential, so Long Feiye sent his subordinates to go find information related to the Qi Sha dagger. Only Tang Li remained silent and unhappy as he sat on one side thinking of his Jing Jing.
For the next few days, Han Yunxi’s group waited for news from Myriad Merchant Hall while searching for clues about Qi Sha. They found out that a waterside town in Jiangnan had once witnessed the dagger’s appearance. Thus, they planned to wait until Myriad Merchant Hall received Ning Cheng’s true intentions before finishing up affairs at the black market and setting out.
If Ning Cheng had mentioned in the letter that he was being poisoned, perhaps Han Yunxi’s group might have changed their plans about going south so far from the Three-Way Battlefield. Unfortunately, this was the only thing he failed to include in his letter.
Long Feiye and Han Yunxi’s reply soon reached the hands of Bai Yuqiao’s subordinates via the Kangan branch bank. She made sure the envelope was properly sealed before delivering it to Ning Cheng that very night. She was patient enough to wait until the man finished reading its contents before saying, “I’ve finished my task, may Master Ning be satisfied.”
“Not bad,” Ning Cheng praised.
Bai Yuqiao silently exhaled. “Then let’s talk about how to save little Yu’er.”
But Ning Cheng only said, “There’s no rush.”
Bai Yuqiao immediately scowled. “Ning Cheng, what do you mean by this?”
“Help me send out a few more letters and we’ll talk things over,” Ning Cheng said coldly.
“You’re not keeping to your word! Just what are you planning?” Bai Yuqiao was furious.
“You can refuse, but I can also promise you won’t see Su Xiaoyu the very next day,” Ning Cheng smiled frostily.
Bai Yuqiao gave a start and couldn’t help but tremble. She realized then that Ning Cheng was a wolf--a vicious, evil one. How could she have agreed to work with him so carelessly? Ning Cheng now held her in his thrall. He wasn’t aiming to help her, but extort her!
2. It’s impossible to explain this stuff in brief so you can look up more information on the “killing star” here, here, and here. It seems to be related to Chinese fortune telling/astrology, specifically the Four Pillars of Destiny, among other things….I’ll leave it for curious readers to figure it out themselves!