Chapter 297: Alarmed, the person's disappeared
There was no extravagance or pomp when Long Feiye brought Han Yunxi back to Tianning. There weren't even any retainers for their journey, only the two of them riding the same horse. With the autumn winds rising, the weather had turned chilly. Long Feiye had placed his cloak over Han Yunxi's shoulders before pulling her into his arms on the horse. Han Yunxi was probably the only woman in the world who knew how warm this man's embrace could be, despite his icy, cold exterior.
He was handsome enough to agitate the Heavens, a noble and refined man; she was beautiful enough to cause the fall of cities, with an extraordinary aura about her. The two of them drew the attention of all lookers as they emerged from an alley onto the main streets. Soon enough, many of the people recognized Han Yunxi from her bounty posters and started to stare in earnest. More and more people grew interested in the pair until it felt like all of Medicine City had come out to greet them instead!
Within the restless crowd, there were those who admired them immensely, who felt jealous, who adored and venerated. Many of the women fixated their eyes on Long Feiye as they chased after them, afraid to miss a single glimpse, while many others sent antagonistic looks at Han Yunxi before exchanging comments with each other. Even so, nobody dared to block their way. Han Yunxi had always been a stickler for her own ways who ignored the views of others. She'd experienced all sorts of crowds, but right now she felt a bit uneasy. She wasn't scared or nervous, but she preferred to be low-key.
Long Feiye, the bounty posters are still up all over the place. Is it really all right for you to show off your affection like this?
Long Feiye simply kept his eyes forward, his face completely expressionless. He was like a high and lofty king who disregarded everyone beneath him. The news of him traveling through Medicine City's streets with Han Yunxi spread throughout Cloud Realm Continent by the next day. All of the rumors surrounding the bounty posters collapsed as people realized that Han Yunxi really had gone missing, and that Long Feiye really had been worried. Moreover, Han Yunxi's exploits in the medical academy, including her bet with Third Elder, were spread around as well. With this, she enjoyed a moment of fleeting fame to become Cloud Realm Continent's most talked about person. Everyone wanted to take a look at her real face and witness her poison skills.
Chu Qingge got wind of these news on her third day waiting for Long Feiye. Because she was afraid that she'd miss him altogether, she'd been staying at the Association office for three days and three nights. By the fourth day, Wang Shuchen caved and told her that His Highness Duke of Qin had already left Medicine City. Immediately, Chu Qingge lost her temper.
"Why didn't you tell me earlier?!"
Wang Shuchen was very helpless. "Miss Chu, this one was only passing on His Highness Duke of Qin's own words."
Which were none other than 'Have her wait.'
Chu Qingge was left at a loss for words. Embarrassed and angry, she bit her lip and rushed out, not even bothering to ask the Medical Materials Association for compensation. Of all her accursed luck! While Han Yunxi was sharing a horse with Long Feiye and earning fame throughout the continent, she was waiting like a fool here for three entire days. Indignant and sad, Chu Qingge felt utter hatred for Han Yunxi. And yet, she still desperately wished to know how she'd attracted Long Feiye in the first place. The very same day, she left Medicine City to prepare to go to Tianning, but ran into Chu Tianyin at the city gates.
"Elder brother, why can't I touch Han Yunxi? Give me a clear explanation, or else..."
Before she finished, Chu Tianyin said sternly, "If you doubt me, go ask father yourself!"
"I..." Chu Qingge was gloomy to begin with, but grew even more ill-tempered after he'd yelled at her. She simply turned to leave.
"Hold it, where are you going?" Chu Tianyin chased after her.
"Tianning!" Chu Qingge didn't care and told him outright.
But Chu Tianyin simply said, "It'll be the Tianning Empress Dowager's birthday soon. Crown Prince Ye received orders to go and congratulate her, so you might as well come along with us."
Chu Qingge suddenly recalled someone else. "How's Princess Duan doing?"
Han Yunxi had exposed Duanmu Yao's alliance with the Duke of Kang before Long Feiye had asserted the claim. She hadn't even returned to Western Zhou before Emperor Chongrui1 had decreed that she be sent to the cold palace, a place for disgraced members of nobility. Moreover, he'd even handwritten a letter to Emperor Tianhui to explain everything that had happened.
Last time, Western Zhou had created difficulties for Tianning because of Duanmu Yao's failed marriage alliance. It was uncertain what Emperor Tianhui would do now, so Crown Prince Ye's visit wasn't simply to congratulate the empress dowager on her birthday.
"I heard she still doesn't dare to come back yet. Most likely, she went to Celestial Mountain," Chu Tianyin said, before adding, "Things are still uncertain, so keep your distance from her."
Chu Qingge had no interest in Duanmu Yao at all, now that she'd fallen from imperial favor. Right now, her only focus was on Han Yunxi. She was definitely going to Tianning!
Han Yunxi, I won't let you off lightly without a good reason.
Because of Long Tianmo's illness, Long Feiye and Han Yunxi had been away from Tianning for some months. Still, they came to a tacit understanding to take their time going back, neither of them in a rush. This wasn't the first time they had traveled together, but it was one of the most carefree ones.
Long Feiye wore his usual indifferent expression, keeping taciturn the entire trip. Han Yunxi was her usual self as well, a little nervous before him. Sometimes she'd sneak peeks at him and stare until she was lost in her thoughts. The only difference was that she was more used to his hand pulling her into his embrace. There were a few times that she even fell asleep in his arms.
Lil Thing was probably the most pitiful of the group. Every time Long Feiye found it, he'd toss it far, far away. Lil Thing had to run for his life to catch up to their horse, then jump on its back. After a few times, it learned to be docile and kept a fair distance from the pair, choosing to ride on the horse's butt instead.
It felt so disconsolate!
In the past, it used to hide in its owner's sleeve for a nap every time it ate its fill. But now Long Feiye's hands were either pulling its owner into his arms, or resting against its owner's waist. Sometimes he'd hold on to her arms as well, making it impossible for Lil Thing to nap there in peace. Lil Thing poked its paws together in resentment, unaware that it was the own cause of its misfortunes. Still, it was quite ambitious. It silently bared its two front teeth. Hateful Duke of Qin, you better hope you're not begging me for mercy one day!
"Long Feiye, do you think my father could be both a descendent of the Poison Sect and the West Qin imperial family?" Han Yunxi had been thinking over the possibility for the whole journey.
She'd asked him the same question back at the poison grounds, but Long Feiye had simply said it wasn't likely to dismiss her concerns. Actually, she'd never planned to hide her birth origins from him at all. Naturally, she suspected Mu Xin of connections to the West Qin imperial clan, but that didn't seem very likely. Instead, her father looked like the more probably candidate.
A complicated look flitted past Long Feiye's eyes before he said mildly, "The West Qin imperial clan is already extinct. Its last heir was a baby boy who was shot to death with arrows by the Nether Clan2. The history books didn't record this in detail, but many members of the Seven Noble Families witnessed the assassination with their own eyes.
The meaning of his words was obvious: West Qin's imperial clan had no orphan.
But Han Yunxi still had her doubts. "That white-robed man..."
"He was aiming for the poison beast," Long Feiye's tone was decisive.
But Han Yunxi didn't believe it. "Perhaps he wasn't..."
If the white-robed man hadn't saved her from Jun Yixie's clutches, she might have thought he was there for the poison beast as well and sought her help to steal it. But the man had risked his life to save her, so she couldn't help but suspect. She'd asked the white-robed man, but he only said he'd tell her the next time they met. After some hesitation, Han Yunxi revealed the details of how the white-robed man had saved her, though she avoided telling Long Feiye how Jun Yixie had taken advantage of her. What was past was passed, and she wasn't used to telling others about her sufferings, especially a man.
"Jun Yixie..." Long Feiye muttered to himself. If Han Yunxi hadn't mentioned him, he would have neglected him! He assumed that Jun Yixie would think the white-robed man was after the poison beast as well. That way, he wouldn't suspect Han Yunxi's identity too much. But as things stood, now there was one more person who might connect the dots.
"Mu Xin's identity can't be wrong. The Shadow Clan wouldn't mistake their master," Han Yunxi said with determination.
Whether Mu Xin was Lady Tianxin and how she got involved with the Poison Sect were all questions for Mute Granny after she was cured. Still, Han Yunxi was convinced by the Shadow Clan's protection. When Long Feiye heard Han Yunxi say the exact same things that Tang Li had spoken, he couldn't help but laugh coldly at himself.
Instead of explaining, he asked, "If he's sure about your identity, why didn't he tell you the truth?" Long Feiye himself had been pondering over this question, but he only gave the problem to Han Yunxi for consideration. He didn't put much stock in the answer himself. In his heart, there was only one answer. Han Yunxi wasn't the descendent of the West Qin imperial clan, not now nor ever.
"He said he'd tell me the next time we met," Han Yunxi murmured to herself.
Long Feiye's eyes flickered with a complicated look again, but he didn't continue the topic. A few days afterwards, they reached Tianning's capital city. As soon as they arrived at the Duke of Qin's estate, Chu Xifeng hurried over, covered in blood and wounds.
Han Yunxi was shocked. "You...where's Mute Granny?"
Chu Xifeng furrowed his eyebrows so fiercely that wrinkles appeared between them. He was covered in sweat and extremely anxious. "Your Highness, esteemed wangfei, this subordinate ran into a group of assassins on the road. We fought at close quarters for an entire day and night, but we didn't have enough people on our side. Your subordinate really couldn't..."
"Where's Mute Granny?" Han Yunxi was ill at ease.
Chu Xifeng hung his head, his voice heavy. "Mute Granny was stubborn and would rather jump off a cliff than submit. Your subordinate's already sent people down to search, but..."
Han Yunxi's face immediately paled. She never thought that this would happen. She had already told Long Feiye the prescription for Mute Granny's antidote on the way back so he could start searching for its ingredients!
"Which cliff was it?!" she cried.
"The one in the west, behind the Dragon King3 temple," Chu Xifeng hastened to reply.
Without another word, Han Yunxi prepared to dash over. Mute Granny was the key to unlocking the truth. Moreover, she was only an innocent old woman who'd been maltreated enough. And now...
Long Feiye pulled back Han Yunxi. "Where are you going?"
"To find her!" Han Yunxi was frantic. If she knew this was going to happen earlier, she would have never let Mute Granny go.
Long Feiye ignored her and held on tightly. "Chu Xifeng, add more men to the search. If she's dead, I want to see a corpse."
"Yes!" Chu Xifeng obeyed and left.
Only then did Han Yunxi calm down. She knew that it'd be useless for her to go herself, so she sat down as her eyes turned cold. "Was it the Mu Clan?"
Who else would want to silence Mute Granny besides the Mu Clan?
"Let them search before you jump to conclusions," Long Feiye said calmly.
Han Yunxi remained sitting for a while before she rose to her feet. "Where's Mu Linger? I want to see her."
1. Emperor Chongrui () - Chong means "high, lofty, sublime; esteem, worship," Rui means "auspicious, lucky."
2. Nether Clan () - one of the Seven Noble Families of the Great Qin Empire. You is a word that could mean multiple things: "deep and remote, secluded, dim, secret, hidden, quiet, serene, imprison, of the nether world," so I went with the last example. Most of the Seven Noble Families will be named with English equivalent names to maintain a sense of consistency throughout the story.
3. Dragon King () - in Chinese mythology, dragon kings were deities that ruled over rain.