Perhaps this was the first time that Bai Yanqing had been left in the dark. He had many guesses of his own, but he couldn’t ascertain any of them.
“Han Yunxi shouldn’t be going to Celestial Mountain at a time like this,” he muttered to himself. “Nor should she be leaving South Ning. Why not? Why?” Eventually, he turned towards Bai Yuqiao.
“Yu girl, why do you think that is?”
“Then maybe they’ve gone to Medicine City?” Bai Yuqiao tried next. Anyone with a brain could tell that Han Yunxi had to take Long Feiye’s place right now to stabilize South Ning’s situation to prevent civil strife from breaking out. Medical City was the source of the mess since they targeted South Ning. Although Baili Yuanlong had complete control of its commander-in-chief’s estate and claimed to fight Medical City until the end, Han Yunxi’s group wouldn’t be stupid enough to seek their death in Medical City itself! Even if they went, it’d be no use! They could bring all the troops they wanted, but that would only anger all of the medical community–perhaps even all of Cloud Realm Continent’s powers and its common people. Then Han Yunxi’s label as a Poison Sect descendant would truly become a criminal name.
“Master, do they have a chance at winning if they join hands with Medicine City to face Medical City?” Bai Yuqiao asked.
“None,” Bai Yanqing was certain. “Medical and Medicine City are of the same cohort. Pill King might help her, but Medicine City won’t give Pill King any face regarding this matter. Just wait and see. Even if Pill King can help Han Yunxi once, he can’t help her for the rest of her life.”
Moreover, Pill King’s medicine couldn’t help everyone either, because most of the illnesses were common ailments. The victims didn’t need rare or precious medicine, but just basics from Medicine City.
Bai Yuqiao was lost. “Master, then where could they have gone?”
Bai Yanqing simply looked at her without saying a word. Bai Yuqiao saw that her master looked annoyed, but not ferocious. Thus, she only waited a while before asking timidly, “Master, does Han Yunxi really have the phoenix birthmark? What kind of thing is that?”
Master told her to interrogate Su Xiaoyu, but she had no idea what he wanted. It wasn’t clear whether Bai Yanqing had heard her or was just ignoring her, but he never answered her question. Bai Yuqiao knew his temper too well to try asking again. She still couldn’t figure out if her master wanted Han Yunxi dead or alive. Thinking up to here, her thoughts went to her senior brother Jun Yixie.
A few days ago, they’d received news that senior brother and the two imperial princes had clashed terribly with the Wintercrow Clan. The crown prince suffered grievous injuries, but the medical skills of the Wintercrow Clan were too backwards to help him. Senior brother thus escorted the crown prince back as fast as possible to treat his wounds. Meanwhile, the second imperial prince had insisted on staying behind, vowing that he’d buy the horses they needed within a month. Bai Yuqiao knew all this was part of senior brother’s schemes. Most likely, the crown prince would die on the way home, while the second imperial prince had grim prospects of survival. She had no idea how he’d face the Northern Li emperor’s wrath, much less whether they’d get their horses at all.
While senior brother’s risking his life with the Wintercrow Clan, master’s done so many things behind his back!
“What are you spacing out for? Get moving,” Bai Yanqing said coldly.
Bai Yuqiao obediently got onto the carriage and asked innocently, “Master, where are we going?”
“Medical City!” Bai Yanqing declared.
It would be ten more days before the Apricot Woods Conference, which showcased Cloud Realm Continent’s best medical skills. Of course he was going to widen his experiences by checking it out. Moreover, he was curious to see what other methods Gu Yuntian had to deal with Han Yunxi besides forcing the doctors out of South Ning Prefecture.
He had schemed for years in order to make all of his preparations. Long Feiye might want to reap in the fish after the clashes between the three nations died down, but he was going to be “the mantis that follows the oriole once it nets the cicada” and steal all of Long Feiye’s hard work! According to his plans, as long as Jun Yixie’s horses arrived, they’d need training for one month. By then the three nations would have exhausted themselves with the war and be low in medicine and rations. When the time came, Northern Li only needed to head south with their crack calvary to sweep away the trio and then head straight for South Ning.
Of course, he knew that Long Feiye had a navy on his hands that could travel up along the Eastern Sea’s shoreline, but he’d never give Long Feiye that chance. There was a huge secret in his hands that was capable of destroying Long Feiye at the most critical moment and send his forces falling apart! Over the past few days, he had divided his time between waiting and observing the situation on Celestial Mountain. But he never expected that Han Yunxi’s identity as the Poison Sect descendant would be revealed, or that Ning Cheng could find so many red coat cannons to speed up the progress of the battle between three nations. He also never thought that Long Feiye could control the energy of the Lustbite Seal.
Because of this, his plans were ruined; fortunately, not on a large scale. In fact, the situation now favored Northern Li and himself more than ever. Now he only needed to accomplish two tasks: 1) keep waiting for Medical City to strangle South Ning and Ning Cheng to send his troops south, and 2) force Han Yunxi onto a dead end.
Only when forced onto a path with no return could one harbor more hatred in one’s heart.
He instigated Carefree City, not to kill Han Yunxi, but to stir up her hatred. Unfortunately, they never got to make a move before Gu Qishao appeared. At this, Bai Yanqing narrowed his eyes. Just who is…Gu Qishao?
Both Bai Yanqing and Han Yunxi’s group were headed for Medical City. Whether or not they’d meet each other there by chance was still unknown. Han Yunxi’s group traveled on horseback for three days and three nights through deep mountain forests before they saw any signs of civilization.
“Esteemed wangfei, there’ll be more people once we get down this mountain. For safety’s sake, let’s adopt disguises,” Gu Beiyue said. Although they could enter Medical City openly, Gu Beiyue preferred to be unassuming and low-key. He didn’t want anyone to know of their movements in case unexpected obstacles popped up.
This trait of his was quite similar to Long Feiye. Both of them preferred to keep their cool until they made a fatal move that guaranteed victory. Although they gained the same results, their methods differed slightly. Long Feiye was more cruel and ruthless while Gu Beiyue was temperate and mild.
Chu Xifeng had already prepared a large horse carriage for them. Han Yunxi was going to play the role of a weak and sickly girl on her way to seek treatment in Medical City. She was about to get changed when Gu Qishao stopped her. He rubbed his chin, then examined Gu Beiyue.
“Doctor, from what this gentleman sees, it’s better if you play the invalid. You look like one already without even pretending.”
Gu Beiyue only laughed at himself, while Han Yunxi’s expression soured. She jabbed her elbow backwards until it hit Gu Qishao on the chest.
“Aiya, I’ve been injured!” Gu Qishao exaggerated as he clutched his chest, his other hand resting on Han Yunxi’s shoulder as if he’d topple over at any moment. “Poison lass, all of you should give up. I’ll play the patient instead. You can be my wife and wait on me constantly. Gu Beiyue can still be a doctor, but since he couldn’t cure me, he tagged along with us to find a physician from Medical City!”
Gu Beiyue was still smiling. Han Yunxi didn’t get to retort before Chu Xifeng slapped Gu Qishao’s hand away. “Gu Qishao, if you keep having no manners, don’t blame me for being brusque!”
“Boring!” Gu Qishao snapped back.
“Little Qi…” Han Yunxi suddenly smiled, her voice warm and soft.
Sending a premonition, Gu Qishao grew serious. “We can go by the original plan. Let’s not waste any more time, we need to hurry.”
The original plan was: Han Yunxi playing the patient, Gu Beiyue as her brother, and Gu Qishao as their retainer.
“Little Qi, you’re so pretty that you’ll be too conspicuous acting as a retainer. I think you’re better suited for–”
“Better suited to be your big brother, right?” Gu Qishao smiled beautifully. “Poison lass, you’re just as pretty as me.”
Indeed, Han Yunxi was lovely, especially when she smiled. She was born with a special kind of aura that couldn’t be substituted with the best rouge or powder. Right now, her grin was even prettier than Gu Qishao’s.
“No, you’re better suited for a shadow guard. Don’t show your face!”
Gu Beiyue laughed out loud, while Chu Xifeng was at a loss for words. Could he tell esteemed wangfei that his shadow guards didn’t want Gu Qishao at all?
At this moment, Xu Donglin emerged from the sidelines. “Actually, Gu Qishao, you don’t have to travel with us.” Although Gu Qishao had saved his life, he was still firmly loyal to His Highness Duke of Qin. That would never change. What kind of loyalty was that? The kind that risked his life to protect the solid love between His Highness Duke of Qin and esteemed wangfei!
Gu Qishao narrowed his eyes at Xu Donglin, who spoke up again. “Don’t say anything. If you want my life, I’ll give it back to you.”
It was rare for Gu Qishao to be a public target. Before he could retort, a flying messenger hawk arrived amongst them. Everyone immediately grew alert, because the envelope wasn’t the usual all white or all blue. Instead, it seemed to be custom made, a faint purple hue adorned with plum blossom branches and flower petals. Han Yunxi took the letter and recognized the handwriting on its cover to be Long Feiye’s work. Surprised but delighted, she quickly opened it up and found that the letter paper was also a faint purple with flying plum blossoms.
In a rare moment of silence, Gu Beiyue and Gu Qishao simply looked on quietly. The former was always subdued, while the latter only felt silent in front of Han Yunxi when Long Feiye was involved.
“Esteemed wangfei, His Highness has special letter paper just for writing letters to you?” Chu Xifeng broke the silence on purpose.
Han Yunxi didn’t notice his words, her thoughts wholly on the paper. After staring at it for awhile, she raised her head in bewilderment. “Why is it blank?”
That’s right. Long Feiye had sent her a blank letter.
What does he mean by this?
She’d written to say she missed him and cursed him for being a fool, but he replied with nothing at all? What was he trying to tell her? Han Yunxi was truly lost, but her query only left the men around her feeling awkward and unable to respond. These were private matters between husband and wife. Long Feiye was teasing his consort, so how were outsiders like them supposed to have the right to explain?
Even Gu Qishao kept mum.
Han Yunxi quickly discovered that the atmosphere was growing strange. Her face flushed red from blurting her words out of curiosity. She never realized that Long Feiye was playing with her!
“I, I’m going to change clothes!” she ducked into the carriage as she hid the letter into her sleeve. Even then, she was in no mood to change, but simply took out the letter to examine it closely…
1. the mantis that follows the siskin once it nets the cicada (黄雀捕蝉螳螂在后) – huangque buchan tanglang zaihou, a twist on the usual idiom of “the mantis stalks the cicada, unaware of the oriole behind,” by making the middleman mantis as the ultimate victor to the spoils.