Mu Linger said she’d see them off, so Gu Qishao immediately nodded. “Alright, then we’re leaving!”
The moment he turned around, her heart shattered into pieces. She suddenly regretted why she’d been so impulsive to chase after them. Why not keep pretending that she didn’t know he was Gu Qi Sha, or Medical City’s expelled student, or that he was traveling with Han Yunxi and Gu Beiyue today? She even asked for leave to look for him at the Duke of Qin’s estate this morning.
If she pretended to be ignorant, she could tell Gu Qi Sha, “I like Qi gege, I miss Qi gege.” As long as she could see Qi gege and talk and laugh with him, or hear him call her ‘lass,’ she would be satisfied for the rest of her life.
But from this day on, she wouldn’t be able to say anything at all…
In the end, she held back her tears and picked up the pieces of her heart to put them back together. Strong hearts weren’t unbreakable, but something that could be mended no matter how many times it broke–even if nothing but heartbreak awaited them in the future.
“Qi gege, Linger will wait for you!”
It wasn’t until the shadow guard started to urge her back that Mu Linger finally left. She was only able to catch up with Han Yunxi’s group because the shadow guard was leading the way. The various spies and agents hiding in South Ning knew that the group was leaving, but couldn’t catch up to their travels, know where they were going, or what they were going to do.
Lady Helian went to Pill Fiend Pharmacy first thing that morning, then excused herself because of “estate matters” and slipped into an alleyway halfway on the trip home.
“If you can’t even find out something like this, none of us will escape responsibility when the Lord Master blames us!” the tall, sturdy masked man said with his back facing her.
“Xing Ge, they’re all shrewd people. How did you want me to ask them? Yunxi didn’t say anything about Su Xiaoyu when she returned or ask why Gu Beiyue was poisoned. I think she already knows something!” Lady Helian was worried.
“If she does, then could you still live until today? Do you think Han Yunxi’s as merciful or benevolent as you?” the man laughed disdainfully. “Helian Zuixiang, if you do your work well, I won’t cause any trouble for your son. You can keep being the lady of the Han Estate. He’s the Han Clan’s only heir now, and the family business is big enough to support both of you for the rest of your lives. But if you screw this up…”
Before the man called Xing Ge could finish, Lady Helian was already alarmed. “What are you planning to do? You promised me that you wouldn’t hurt Yi’er!”
It was true, Lady Helian was a spy. She came from Northern Li and married Han Congan on the Lord Master’s orders. He didn’t tell her why, only that she should live well. Her original surname wasn’t even Helian, but the Lord Master had given her this name so she would never forget her origins. Once, she had been naive enough to believe that the Lord Master had let her go since he never gave her a specific mission. She simply followed the rules of the Han Estate after marriage and never vied for favor, nor did the Lord Master contact her after that.
But a few months earlier, Xing Ge suddenly came to find her. Threatening her with Yi’er’s life, he made her deliver reports on the activities of the Duke of Qin’s estate and Pill Fiend Pharmacy. If not for his blade in front of her face, she would never have accepted it as reality. So many years had passed that she really thought the Lord Master had forgotten about her already!
If possible, she didn’t want to betray Han Yunxi. Without her, who knows what could have happened to her and Yi’er by now. But for Yi’er’s sake, she had to follow the Lord Master’s orders.
“Hehe, Heilian Zuixiang, you’re not young anymore. Why are you still so childish?” Xing Ge laughed coldly. “If I let you go, what about the Lord Master? Do you think you can escape from the palm of his hand?”
“Just what does the Lord Master want to do?” Lady Helian demanded.
“That’s not a question either of us can ask. Remember your duty. And also, hurry up and find out where Han Yunxi and Gu Beiyue went!”
As Xing Ge prepared to leave, Lady Helian chased after him and asked, “Is that girl Su Xiaoyu…still alive?”
Immediately, Xing Ge grew displeased. “You have the guts to ask about her? Do you know that damned girl almost blew your cover? You’re the Lord Master’s most hidden chess piece inside the Han Estate. If I wasn’t sharp enough to notice her that that, both of us would have suffered the consequences!”
Disturbed by the thought, Lady Helian gave up questioning and watching Xing Ge vanish into the shadows of the alleyway. Admittedly, she really was a well concealed piece. If Su Xiaoyu hadn’t shown up out of the blue, if Long Feiye hadn’t sent someone to keep an eye on Su Xiaoyu, then nobody would have suspected Lady Helian at all. Both he and Gu Beiyue were aware of this while Han Yunxi remained in the dark. She even told Chu Xifeng to do some investigations before she left. Unless Long Feiye told her, she would never knew that it was “Seventh Madame” who had betrayed her.
Su Xiaoyu had stumbled upon the secret purely by accident. Unfortunately, she wasn’t well at all right now. They had already starved her for five days and five nights without even a single drop of water. Locked in a dim cell with circular walls, she felt like she was in a well. Moss and other unknown vines grew around her as she sprawled listlessly on the ground, her mouth chewing one tendril. If not for these vines over the past ten days and nights, she would’ve died long ago.
Even now, she had no idea who had kidnapped her. These people only delivered her food and water once every half-month. No matter how hungry she was, she didn’t dare to finish it all at once, but ate through it slowly until she ran out. After that, she’d gnaw on the vines. She had forgotten the training Chu Xifeng had taught her, but she still had survival skills. Because of that, she wouldn’t die so easily.
Curled up on the ground, she covered herself with her hair to maintain some warmth and prepared to sleep. That could help her conserve energy and slow down her digestion. Unexpectedly, the cell door opened. She grew cautious–this wasn’t supposed to be her meal delivery time.
As expected, a new visitor was here. She was a girl of sixteen or seventeen, dressed in clean pink robes. Against the backdrop of the grimy cell, she looked especially radiant. Su Xiaoyu couldn’t see her face clearly in the dark, but she saw a pair of sparkling eyes. She blinked and thought to herself, my eyes are definitely bigger and prettier than hers.
“Aiya, you’re still not dead?” the girl had a rather acrid tone as she spoke. “I thought I could pick up your corpse today. Should I be happy or unhappy about this?”
Unwilling to be outdone, Su Xiaoyu snapped back, “Did your father or mother die? What’s with this rush to collect a corpse?”
The cold room grew colder at her words. Even the guards outside couldn’t help but feel their hairs raise. Offending Miss Yu’er was simply asking for trouble! She was the Lord Master’s most trusted disciple, with equally horrific methods. Of course, the “Miss Yu’er” they meant wasn’t Su Xiaoyu, but the other angry girl currently in her cell.
“Dead father? Dead mother?” Miss Yu’er suddenly broke into a cold laugh. “I’m sorry to say that I haven’t had a father or mother since I was young. I really can’t collect their corpses.”
As she spoke, she walked towards Su Xiaoyu, who felt her intense killing intent. She could estimate that the other girl had superior martial arts skills. What now? Huddled in her corner, she didn’t move but stared until the girl was standing right in front of her.
Su Xiaoyu grabbed a handful of mud and slinged it at the girl, who dodged to the side in amusement before brushing its remnants off her shoulder. Su Xiaoyu had naturally put poison in the mud and was silently rejoicing when the girl gave her a disdainful glance.
“You dare to show off your trifling skills against me? What a joke!”
Crouching down, she pressed down on Su Xiaoyu’s right shoulder, making it impossible for her to raise her hand and use more poisons. Very soon, she held down Su Xiaoyu’s left shoulder as well.
“You know poisons? Just who are you?” Su Xiaoyu demanded while hiding her internal alarm. She could already feel the sensation of thousands of ants gnawing at her shoulders. The aching pain was indescribable!
“Who I am isn’t important. The important thing is, who is Gu Qishao?” the girl asked.
“I don’t know! I’m not close with him!” Su Xiaoyu exclaimed.
“Not telling?” the girl smiled.
“I don’t know. If I did I’d tell you right away!” Su Xiaoyu was speaking the truth. She wouldn’t suffer for the sake of someone she hardly knew. If the poison on her shoulders wasn’t treated soon, her hands would be permanently crippled.
“Fine then. Let me ask you this: is there a phoenix birthmark on Han Yunxi’s back?” the girl asked.
The query sounded familiar to Su Xiaoyu, but she couldn’t remember anything.
“Is there?” the girl was getting impatient.
“I don’t know!” Su Xiaoyu said loudly. Even if she did, she wouldn’t tell. Anything about her master would be kept top secret!
The girl smiled brilliantly, her bright eyes sparkling in the darkness. “Alright. Tell me what you do know?”
“I don’t know anything, I’m just a servant girl!” Su Xiaoyu cursed. “Aren’t you jsut a serving dog, too? You should know the customs as well!”
Slap! The girl’s hand send Su Xiaoyu crumpling to the ground, her shoulders in so much pain that her hands couldn’t move. She glared at the girl so viciously that latter backed away a few steps.
“You’ve got quite the skills for someone so young. I’ll give you one month’s time. If you’re not dead by then, we can take our time playing together!” the girl said before swishing her sleeves and stalking off.
Outside the cell, the sunlight illuminated the girl’s young face and her large, bright eye. She was none other than Bai Yanqing’s disciple, Jun Yixie’s junior sister Bai Yuqiao. In other words, Lady Helian’s Lord Master was none other than Bai Yanqing!
“Miss Yu, the Lord Master is urging you to hurry,” the attendant reported with a mutter.
“I know,” Bai Yuqiao lowered her voice and issued orders. “Keep a close eye on that girl. She’s Han Yunxi’s servant girl, so it’ll be useful to keep her for the future.”
Then she hurried off to meet Bai Yanqing, who was waiting in a horse carriage by the side of the road.
“Master, that girl won’t say a thing,” she reported truthfully.
“There’s no rush,” Bai Yanqing set down the chess manual in his hands. “Yu girl, where do you think Han Yunxi and Gu Beiyue went?”
“Maybe Celestial Mountain? I heard Gu Beiyue’s medical skills aren’t bad, could they have gone to treat Long Feiye’s injuries?” Bai Yuqiao asked.
1. Xing Ge (星戈) – Xing is “star,” Ge is “dagger-axe,” a type of weapon with a long shaft and a horizontal blade. This seems to be more like a nickname or pseudonym than an actual name.