Chapter 993: Protracted war, helping them

It was really Ning Cheng’s flaw for not bringing up Mu Linger replacing Ning Jing. However, this was a minor point in the whole alliance plan, after all. This time, he explained everything thoroughly in his letter. Currently, all of the people on Jun Yixie’s side, including Uncle Cheng and Manager Jin, were in the dark regarding Ning Jing’s pregnancy. He had already talked things over with Bai Yuqiao and arranged for her to find a servant girl to wait on Mu Linger. 

In actuality, the servant would be taking care of Ning Jing. Bai Yuqiao had ways to prevent the guards from entering the women’s tent and seeing either of them, but she would have to take precautions to hide the pair from Jun Yixie if he wanted to talk. Thus, the only way to guarantee the women’s safety was to see Jun Yixie up north in the battlefields. 

This time, Jun Yixie had asked Nurturing Heart Pharmacy to send out the extortion letter because of his increased trust in Ning Cheng after East Qin and the Ning Clan troops began to fight. He was now making preparations to fight up north. With winter around the corner, Northern Li’s stock of medicine was very limited. Jun Yixie had a way to obtain grain, but not medicine. Too many grain shops existed in the world. Despite Long Feiye controlling the flow of it from the south, he couldn’t control all the grain businesses in the world. Moreover, Tianan Country had grain merchants of its own who specialized in wartime sales. Thus, it wasn’t strange that Jun Yixie had found sellers.

However, medicine was a different question. Most of it was grown in Medical City or Pill Fiend Valley and Jun Yixie had limited stores of his own. He had no choice but to use Mu Linger’s “baby” to pressure Pill Fiend Pharmacy. Once the in and outs of the situation was clarified, Gu Qishao broke into a chuckle. “This old man’s illustrious name nearly fell to ruin at that stinkin’ lass’s hands! She’s certainly ardent!”

Yes, Mu Linger had been too enthusiastic. She even dared to joke with her own reputation on the line. Everyone had difficulty accepting this, especially Baili Mingxiang. As a woman, reputation surmounted everything else, even one’s life! But Han Yunxi could empathize with Mu Linger’s efforts.

She said, “Gu Qishao, don’t blame Linger. She didn’t do it on purpose.”

Before Gu Qishao could retort, Han Yunxi explained. “Before Ning Jing was kidnapped, she and Linger crashed into each other by accident, causing Ning Jing to have a fall…”

“What?!” Tang Li was stunned.

“Ning Jing almost had a miscarriage, so she was confined to bed for a long while. It was Linger that took charge of her care. She must have been still recovering when they were kidnapping, so Linger had to find a way to protect her,” Han Yunxi intoned.

Now everyone knew the truth. Tang Li was understanding and didn’t fault Mu Linger. He proclaimed, “After we rescue them, I have to thank her thoroughly! If she ever gets married one day, my Tang Clan will prepare a big dowry for her!”

These weren’t simple words! The meaning of a woman’s dowry was twofold: it both represented the generosity of the wife and the power backing her marriage. If the Tang Clan provided Mu Linger’s dowry, it meant that her husband and the rest of the world would know they were her supporters! 

Han Yunxi’s heart was filled with delight for Mu Linger’s sake. Even since the decline of the Mu Clan, Mu Linger had no maternal home to speak of. Of course, she still had to sigh at the sight of Gu Qishao’s indifferent face. Would her silly little sister be willing to marry anyone else in this lifetime?

Gu Qishao’s mood finally turned sunny and light. He placed the extortion letter back onto the table and asked, “How do we reply?”

“Agree to their terms!” Tang Li said quickly. “Big bro, sister-in-law, how much will these medicines cost? I’ll pay for them!”

If they didn’t agree and Jun Yixie’s camp discovered Mu Linger’s pregnancy was a sham, then they’d definitely suspect Ning Jing next. To Tang Li, leaving Ning Jing in the Skyriver army camp was already stretching his limits. He couldn’t accept any more danger. 

“The money has to come from your big brother and Myriad Merchant Hall,” Han Yunxi said before smiling at Long Feiye. “Pill Fiend Pharmacy can give you a twenty percent discount.”

Tang Li didn’t understand, so Gu Beiyue explained. “The princess’s words make sense. From what this one understands, Northern Li’s medicine stores have always been controlled by the Northern Li emperor. Jun Yixie once had a private agreement with the Mu Clan and discussed terms with Cloud Realm Trade Consortium in the past to grant them permission to plant on Northern Li’s snowy mountains. However, the emperor controls all that now, so he has the medicine while Jun Yixie has none. In a strength between equals, the Northern Li emperor still holds an advantage.”

Han Yunxi nodded before picking up the conversation. “In a battle between both sides, anyone with an advantage will see it finished quickly.”

Long Feiye agreed with their views and added, “The longer this battle drags on, the bigger their internal losses and the higher their demands. As long as Jun Yixie and the Northern Li emperor remain evenly matched, we can drag it on to half a year until both sides are exhausted.”

As he spoke, he ordered, “Xu Donglin, reply Nurturing Heart Pharmacy that we’ll prepare the medicine. Moreover, tell Manager Luo to deliver a few cartloads of grain to the Northern Li emperor.”

Kangan Private Bank was a huge moneybags with plenty of profitable businesses. These included the salt, sugar, and grain trade. The Northern Li emperor’s lack of grain had long been reported to them by Noble Consort Xiao, so it was time for a few grain merchants to get some money from the man. 

Gu Qishao disliked such political tactics and trickery, nor did he bother dealing with any, but he understood the principles behind it. Clicking his tongue, he remarked, “Long Feiye, you’re truly the most despicable one!”

Political trickery, base methods, schemes, subtle thinking, intelligence, and wisdom were all words with varied meanings depending on the speaker, time, and location. Long Feiye was very clear on what he wanted, so he never bothered with other people’s views. He only knew that to conquer the world meant being fearless in the face of people’s curses! When it came time for him to write Cloud Realm Continent’s history one day, the various people of the lands could draw their own conclusions!

Long Feiye siad, “Everyone should make preparations. No need to wait for the battle horses to arrive when Ning Cheng will definitely pay Jun Yixie within the next few days. Northern Li’s civil war is approaching soon…”

He had even given Jun Yixie the medicine he needed, so Ning Cheng should know it was time to pay up his half of the deal too. Long Feiye’s guesses ended up being right. The second day after Pill Fiend Pharmacy gave up the medicinal ingredients, Ning Cheng went to find Jun Yixie of his own accord.

He said, “I’m afraid Tongyang Prefecture is a lost cause. I’ve ordered the army to prepare a retreat to Heyang Pass.”

Jun Yixie was a little taken aback. He thought the Ning Clan troops could hold Tongyang Prefecture for a month at least. “How long can they hold out?”

“They’ll lose the prefecture within 10 days,” Ning Cheng’s face was heavy.

“You!” Jun Yixie was furious. “When did the Ning Clan troops turn so weak?”

Ning Cheng gave a cold snort. “Heheh. If you let me go, I promise they can hold on for two more months.”

Since Ning Cheng wasn’t with the army, his deputy general’s erroneous tactics had cost them victories. This was a very sensible excuse, so Jun Yixie only pursed his lips and simply pretended that he heard nothing. His hands tapped impatiently against the map on the table, expressing his unease. Ning Cheng’s lips curved into a cold smile as he stood in the darkness. The phoenix wing mask covered his eye, leaving the other exposed. But it was a cold and dark pupil that stared back, absolutely inscrutable.

After dawdling for a while, Jun Yixie finally joked, “Ning Cheng, there’s no need for you to return. In seven days, the battle horses will reach Tianning. Why don’t you pay up the soldiers’ pay and provisions first?”

Ning Cheng was waiting for those very words, but he pretended to hesitate. “How much do you want?”

Before, Jun Yixie had asked for the lion’s share of one billion taels, but Ning Cheng had haggled with him to pay up 500 million first once the horses arrived. The other half would come later. Ning Cheng was both a military man and a merchant, so he had long calculated all of Jun Yixie’s costs despite lying low in his army.

Jun Yixie had quite a few expenditures ranging from his cavalrymen’s pay here, his soldiers’ pay from the scattered forces in Northern Li, and bribes to win over the moderate factions to his side. In addition to all that, there were transport and payment fees for the battle horses from Wintercrow Country. 

The second deliver of 30,000 horses were almost due to arrive at Skyriver City. If he wasn’t so strapped for cash, they would have arrived a few days earlier. The last 30,000 were still awaiting payment back in Wintercrow Country. Jun Yixie’s plan was to use the second deliver of 30,000 horses along with Northern Li’s central and southern forces to besiege the Northern Li emperor’s strength. He himself was located in the southwest borders, while Wintercrow Country laid in the northwest. Once everyone was paid, he could order his men to get the final 30,000 horses from Wintercrow while leading his forces to attack the emperor from that end.

In any case, Jun Yixie had made ample preparations to surround the Northern Li emperor on three sides. All he lacked was the money to push his plans forward. He wasn’t in a rush, however, but now that Ning Clan troops had suffered their first defeat, he worried whether they’d be able to stall Long Feiye for the next three months! Thus, the earlier he began his assault on Northern Li, the safer.

“200 million.” Compared to his initial quote of 500 million, Jun Yixie was being quite thoughtful.

Seeing Ning Cheng hesitate, he added, “Ning Cheng, the faster I deal with Northern Li, the sooner I can go south to assist your forces. Think it over clearly!”

“100 million!” Ning Cheng said in a tone that invited no rebuke. “That’s enough for three months’ expenses and the money you owe Wintercrow Country. I’m already breaking the rules--as long as the battle horses reach the Ning Clan, I’ll give you the rest of the payment without missing a cent.”

100 million was more than enough money for Jun Yixie to fight the Northern Li emperor. Ning Cheng wasn’t planning to give him any more, but he understood Jun Yixie couldn’t be too weak. If that happened, the emperor would crush him entirely and end the battle all too quickly. A short-term battle could only lead to a victor and a loser instead of both sides suffering losses. Spending some silver to keep Jun Yixie occupied with the Northern Li emperor was better than having the Ning Clan troops charge through enemy lines themselves.

With their agreement before them, Jun Yixie couldn’t very well pressure Ning Cheng. He knew that 100 million was enough for his needs, too. Just like that, Ning Cheng easily gave two gold cards into Jun Yixie’s hands and told him the private bank to withdraw the funds. Then he wrote a letter so he could collect the money. A few days later, Han Yunxi and the rest received news of Northern Li’s internal conflicts in Three-Way Black Market.

Jun Yixie was waiting for the second round of battle horses to acclimatize themselves with his cavalrymen, so he hadn’t made a move yet. It was the south and central forces that would move their troops. Yet only two days later, Han Yunxi’s group received news from Ning Cheng that Jun Yixie’s horse trainers were excellent at grooming the stallions. He would set out for battle in the next few days. 

It was also within these next few days that Jun Yixie would make arrangements for Ning Jing, Mu Linger, and Su Xiaoyu…

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