Chapter 410: Pride of the Duke of Qin Original and most updated translations are from volare. If read elsewhere, this chapter has been stolen. Please stop supporting theft.
Make a bet? What are the stakes?
Last time, when they were at the black market, Han Yunxi had successfully cut a deal. Long Feiye had promised to reward her handsomely, and she’d say she wanted his everything! He’d asked her whether she was certain, and to answer him when she’d thought it over thoroughly.
It all sounded like a joke, but she took the whole thing seriously! Debts needed to be paid eventually!
“Your Highness, what are the stakes?” she asked with interest.
Han Yunxi had thought it over carefully before saying she wanted his all. The statement was so broad that it covered all of his things as hers, didn’t it? This time, she felt like she should aim for something more tangible, so she chewed on her thumb while she was lost in thought.
Long Feiye glanced at her and wondered where this woman got the confidence to bet with him in the first place. After a while, Han Yunxi spoke up. “Your Highness, if I win, can you take me to look around Celestial Mountain Sword Sect?”
Long Feiye and Duanmu Yao were both talented martial artists and closed door disciples of the Celestial Mountain Sword Sect’s head. She had no idea what kind of man their master was to dote on Duanmu Yao so much and make Long Feiye protect her until her 18th birthday. If he’s a sect head, can’t he see through Duanmu Yao’s personality at a glance?
“And what if you lose?” Long Feiye asked back.
“Then your lordship can decide the terms,” Han Yunxi said magnanimously.
“You’re so certain that you’ll win?” Long Feiye didn’t understand. She’s such a smart woman, though. Perhaps she hasn’t woken up fully yet?
Han Yunxi simply laughed. “Chenqie will definitely win, because chenqie bets that Northern Li will never wage war!”
Long Feiye’s expression stiffened at her reply, while Han Yunxi burst into bright laughter. Han Yunxi, ah, Han Yunxi, is there anyone else who makes a fool out of people like you do? You’re nothing but a hooligan!
Afraid that Long Feiye would regret it, Han Yunxi quickly added, “Your Highness, we’ve already discussed the terms! No takebacks!”
A old idiom went that villains and women were the hardest types to discipline! What else could Long Feiye do? He looked at her with his hopelessly doting eyes and promised, “When there’s a chance, I’ll take you there. But we won’t be able to go to Celestial Mountain in the near future.”
Han Yunxi was thrilled. “Alright, chenqie will make a note of it!” Currently, this man owed her both his ‘everything’ and a trip to Celestial Mountain, while she didn’t owe him a single thing.
“Your Highness, how are you so sure that Northern Li won’t wage war? Do you have a brilliant plan in place?”
Was it really alright for Han Yunxi to start questioning her bet right after she won it? Long Feiye simply glanced at her and said, “Not telling.”
This too, could be counted as a minor penalty for her gall. Han Yunxi and her guilty conscience asked no more. I’ll just wait and see how it plays out instead! The bet between the couple soon reached the ears of Chu Xifeng, who spoke to all his guards in a serious tone, “Whatever you do, never bet with our mistress. She’s yet to lose a gamble!”
As usual, Han Yunxi spent her day studying Baili Mingxiang’s poison for a cure. In her spare time, she researched Northern Li Country as well, but still couldn’t figure out how Long Feiye had the confidence that he could stop the powerful country in its tracks. After all, Northern Li was a spartan country that encouraged military growth. It had always awed its neighbors with its impressive strength. Many of the border skirmishes over the past few years had been instigated by Northern Li’s side.
Does Long Feiye hold some sort of power in Northern Li? Han Yunxi could admit that her understanding of tactics was inferior to Long Feiye’s. In the end, she decided to stop thinking about it. Over the next few days, Emperor Tianhui kept pressuring them to return, either by sending messengers or missives. But Long Feiye had maintained his claim of illness, too lazy to even open the incoming letters. He handed them off to Chu Xifeng to deal with instead.
Emperor Tianhui had been recovering steadily under Gu Beiyue’s diligent care, but Long Feiye made him so angry that he fell ill again. “Just what is he doing? Is he planning to revolt?! ‘Military forces stationed to fight have no need to acknowledge imperial summons?!’ He even dared to say such things! It’s backwards, all backwards!”
“Zhen shouldn’t have left him and his mother alive back then. I should’ve killed everyone off!”
Emperor Tianhui paced huffily in his sleeping quarters, dressed only in his nightgown as the palace servants, Noble Consort Xue, and Gu Beiyue all remained kneeling in the room. The emperor was only too eager to issue an imperial decree summoning Long Feiye back immediately, but Noble Consort Xue’s reminder had always stayed in the back of his mind. When he’d met with a few ministers in his imperial study, their conclusion had been the same: an imperial decree was inadvisable!
Although the decree represented the highest form of order in the imperial court, everyone knew that Emperor Tianhui couldn’t afford to be labeled as a self-indulgent tyrant who used his power as he pleased. Moreover, he couldn’t even use the excuse that Long Feiye was mobilizing General Baili’s navy to trap Jun Yixie on Fishery Island! The entire burden of that matter had fallen on General Baili’s shoulders, but his remark on military rights–via Long Feiye–had gone directly from him to Emperor Tianhui. Long Feiye had only given a brief, vague explanation of his reasoning for the move, leaving Emperor Tianhui with no handle on the matter!
This would’ve been the perfect chance for Emperor Tianhui to reduce General Baili’s military power too, but the timing was all wrong. First off, Northern Li was pressuring them to arms. Tianning’s national treasury was still suffering losses from last year’s famine. Both soldiers’ provisions and their funds were in a state of emergency, so there was no way they could prepare to fight on such short notice. Secondly, if he pushed Long Feiye and General Baili too hard, they could revolt at a moment’s notice, judging from their current attitudes. Emperor Tianhui labored over the problem before his anger slowly changed to melancholy. He didn’t understand how he’d been so dull over the past few years, or how he’d been completely oblivious to the Duke of Qin’s consolidation of power.
He’d taken precautions against the man for so many years, but it’d all come to naught in the end! Although he and the empress dowager both claimed that it was their kindness that spared Grand Concubine Yi and her son in the past, though they both knew the truth of the matter. The late emperor’s favoritism towards Grand Concubine Yi, combined with Long Feiye’s possession of the emperor’s command tablet in the past, were the real reasons that protected that mother and son pair!
Now he could neither urge the Duke of Qin back or use an imperial decree, so Emperor Tianhui went hunting for Empress Dowager Li instead.
“Muhou, there’s been a bit of news from Northern Li. They say the incident at Fishery Island is related to Han Yunxi, and that her gecko cinnabar mark is still present on her arm.” Emperor Tianhui murmured in a low voice. The news hadn’t been publicized because Jun Yixie and Northern Li’s imperial clan weren’t stupid enough to ruin Jun Yixie’s reputation before sullying Han Yunxi’s namesake. If that kind of news spread throughout the two countries, Jun Yixie would definitely be publicly condemned.
Still, gossip and hearsay still had their ways of reaching the empress dowager’s ears. She’d heard about this tidbit long ago. “And Your Majesty’s meaning is…?” Empress Dowager Li asked.
“Erchen would like muhou to step out on behalf of me…” Emperor Tianhui leaned in close to whisper by Empress Dowager Li’s ear. The two of them conversed in low tones for a while, Empress Dowager Li nodding repeatedly until she accepted the suggestion.
A few days later, the empress dowager’s secret missive had reached Jiangnan’s Plum Blossom Sea, addressed to Han Yunxi instead of Long Feiye. Some men fought battles over women while others used women to fight their wars. The advice of a wife to her husband in bed could carry the most influence with certain men. Long Feiye and Han Yunxi had both just woken up and were drinking their afternoon tea when Chu Xifeng handed over the letter.
“For me?” Han Yunxi was surprised. She glanced at Long Feiye before hastily opening the envelope. Inside was a long, lengthy letter of great verbosity that made her laugh coldly.
Empress Dowager Li had used all sorts of persuasion methods to lay out the pros and cons, but in the end her message was clearly this: if Long Feiye and Han Yunxi returned to the capital and had General Baili withdraw his navy, then she wouldn’t look into the issue of the gecko cinnabar mark. She would also be willing to speak up for General Baili’s unauthorized mobilization of military forces and guarantee that the emperor wouldn’t pursue the issue.
“Bestowing favors with imperial might while leaving plenty of face for the emperor!” Han Yunxi remarked as she handed the letter to Long Feiye, who passed it to Chu Xifeng without a second glance.
“Your Highness, how should we reply?” Chu Xifeng asked modestly.
“The letter was addressed to wangfei, so wangfei can decide,” Long Feiye said mildly.
Without much thought, Han Yunxi said to Chu Xifeng, “Take care of it the same way you took care of the other letters.”
While Empress Dowager Li’s letter appeared to read favorably, she was actually threatening them. But neither Long Feiye nor Han Yunxi could be coerced into action at this point. Chu Xifeng ended up sending the Duke of Qin a questioning glance, but the man only ignored him. He privately thought that their mistress was becoming more and more like a master everyday.
Like so, Emperor Tianhui’s planned threats failed again. The Northern Li imperial clan was still piling on the pressure. News even came of the Northern Li emperor mustering troops for the upcoming war. He was planning to send out his army to the Three-Way Battlefield! Emperor Tianhui’s greatest fear in this lifetime was Northern Li’s armored cavalry. He sent frequent letters to Western Zhou’s emperor, asking him to prepare for imminent war, while dispatching the crown prince to personally invite Long Feiye back to the capital to discuss military matters.
That’s right, it was an invitation!
Urging and threatening both didn’t work, so an invitation was the only option left. The pride of the Duke of Qin really was imposing! The empress dowager had even demanded that General Baili withdraw his troops in her letter, but Emperor Tianhui caved into the other side only after a few days. All he mentioned was discussing military matters instead of asking for removal of the stationed troops.
It was clear that he was very anxious.
Long Tianmo invited Mu Qingwu to come along, and the two of them cracked their whips against their horses to gallop to Jiangnan. They used up a total of six horses before reaching Jiangnan’s Plum Blossom Sea in the shortest possible time. One was a crown prince, while the other was the young general. The Duke of Qin would naturally receive them, but he ended up greeting them from his bed. Their third month in Jiangnan saw the advent of white apricot flowers, pink peach blossoms, and tender green willow leaves. The plum blossoms were still falling in the Plum Blossom Sea, their petals scattering in the air with the wind. Compared to cherry blossoms, they lacked that soft, romantic air and held an unyielding spirit before adversity instead.
In the tearoom, Long Feiye laid lengthwise on the tatami, his face chilly and indifferent. It seemed like nothing in the world ever held his interest or attention long enough to warm his heart. Long Tianmo and Mu Qingwu were both kneeling in front of him after asking about his health and delivering well-known nourishing medicines. Right now, they had both fallen into silence. Although the Duke of Qin was only older than them by a few years, Long Tianmo and Mu Qingwu treated him with the utmost respect. If it was possible, they didn’t want to make him into an enemy.
Mu Qingwu discreetly tugged on Long Tianmo’s hem, allowing the crown prince to steel his resolve and start speaking. But then, Han Yunxi suddenly appeared before them…