Chapter 350: Has his feelings changed?
Gu Qi Sha pretended to slice the Serpent Fruit into further pieces, assuming that Long Feiye would stop at the sight. Instead, Long Feiye kept coming and even lifted his other leg!
Gu Qi Sha was floored!
And thus, both of Long Feiye's feet slammed ruthlessly into Gu Qi Sha's stomach. Using the momentum from impact, he kicked off and did a flip in the air before landing in front of the man. Time seemed to freeze as the courtyard fell into a deathly silence. Gu Qi Sha stood unmoving, but the Serpent Fruit in his hands soon slipped out of his grasp and smashed into pieces on the ground. Long Feiye didn't even spare it a glance. He simply glared coldly at Gu Qi Sha. In the next instant, the door behind Gu Qi Sha split into four to five pieces.
Finally, Gu Qi Sha lowered his head to look at the pieces of Serpent Fruit on the ground. He couldn't believe it. "Long Feiye, you..."
Before he could finish, he spat up a mouthful of blood that stained his entire facemask.
Long Feiye wasn't threatened by the Serpent Fruit? So, he doesn't want it anymore? How could that be? What changed!?
Gu Qi Sha could feel his qi and blood circulating wildly within his body. Soon enough, he spat up another mouthful of blood. Long Feiye hadn't double-kicked him in vain! Finally, the leader of Pill Fiend Valley was forced to half-kneel on the ground! Gu Qi Sha was dangerously close to planting a medicine seedling into Long Feiye's body at that instant. One of his seeds would be plenty strong enough to take the man's life.
Yet in the end, he did nothing.
Long Feiye bent down and suddenly lifted Gu Qi Sha's facemask. He saw an extremely pale face, the lips stained with blood. Long Feiye could tell that the person before him looked very young, but he didn't recognize the features. Still, he made sure to examine it carefully before he stood up.
"I still have two more kicks. Old man, you can trade two ingredients in place of those kicks. Your life is in your hands." His voice was as cold as ice as he towered over the other. It was as if he was the supreme sovereign of this world, inviolate and untouchable.
Gu Qi Sha had been defeated, but his expression didn't reflect his loss. A disrespectful, ingratiating smile had been on his bloody lips the entire time. "If Your Highness Duke of Qin wants two ingredients, go ahead and say them. An old man like me fears death a looot!"
"Bear Chuan and Panoptic Red Lotus," Long Feiye got straight to the point. He hadn't come to Pill Fiend Valley simply for the sake for revenge. There were probably less than three people in the world who were more proficient that Pill Fiend in searching for medicine. If Pill Fiend couldn't find them, then Long Feiye wouldn't be able to, either.
"Bear Chuan and Panoptic Red Lotus...tsk, tsk. Your Highness Duke of Qin has a discerning eye!" Gu Qi Sha sighed with emotion.
"I'll give you a year's time," Long Feiye said coldly.
Gu Qi Sha didn't object, but asked in interest, "Serpent Fruit, Bear Chuan, Panoptic Red Lotus? What kind of prescription is that? It's the first time I've heard of it."
Long Feiye ignored him with a warning. "Don't break your promise-unless you die before the deadline."
"Hehe, Your Highness Duke of Qin knows it isn't easy to find them either, don't you?"
Long Feiye's one-year deadline wasn't very long. It was possible to keep searching for three years without finding any one of the two ingredients.
"How is it?" Long Feiye wanted an affirmative answer.
"Did this old man ever say 'no?'" Gu Qi Sha laughed out loud.
Long Feiye stared at him coldly once more before he turned to leave.
"Your Highness Duke of Qin, why not stay to chat a bit more?"
"Hey, don't you want the Serpent Fruit anymore?"
Long Feiye permitted Gu Qi Sha to keep shouting as he disappeared through the front doors. Once Gu Qi Sha was sure he'd gone, he backed up a couple of steps before falling to the ground. His hand clutched his stomach as his forehead creased.
Mother, but it hurts! Long Feiye, you better not fall in my hands one day. Otherwise, I'll make sure your fate is worse than death, too!
By now, the scared witless steward had finally made his way over. "Master, are you alright?"
"Do I look like I'm alright?!" Gu Qi Sha's smile had long vanished without a trace, to be replaced with displeasure. The steward shut his mouth and didn't dare to say another word. Gu Qi Sha stared at the smashed remnants of the Serpent Fruit on the ground and muttered, "Which damnable person gave him the Serpent Fruit?"
Long Feiye had shown up here in person twice, all for the sake of that fruit. It was impossible that he didn't want it anymore, so that must mean he had acquired one already. Gu Qi Sha's mind ran furiously through the possibilities. If only he knew who gave Long Feiye the Serpent Fruit, he'd make sure that guy suffered more than death! They'd completely ruined his plans!
The steward saw blood flowing unceasingly from Gu Qi Sha's mouth and couldn't help but blurt out, "Master, you should treat your injuries first."
"I won't die!" Gu Qi Sha said irritably. He turned and walked inside, casting his facemask aside so that it smacked the old steward in the face. Crafty foxes like Gu Qi Sha kept their secrets in multiple dens. A man like him had plenty of human skin masks, so it'd be impossible for anyone to see his true face!
Long Feiye, you're hiding the fact that you're searching for the ingredients from Han Yunxi, aren't you? Well then, this old man will make sure to help you find them very soon!
Indeed, Han Yunxi had no idea that Long Feiye had been tracking down the ingredients this entire time. While he was gone annoying Gu Qi Sha, she'd been busy pestering Tang Li for assassination weapons. Even though Tang Li had used up all his concealed weapons, it was still simple enough for him to transfer more out of the Tang Clan. Who told him to have a mother who doted on him so much?
A few days later, Long Feiye returned from Pill Fiend Valley just in time to hear some bad news from Chu Xifeng. Great General Mu and Mu Qingwu had indeed accepted the emperor's decree. Mu Liuyue and Crown Prince Long Tianmo were set to wed by the end of the month!
"Has Great General Mu gone to the palace to meet the emperor recently?" Long Feiye asked.
Chu Xifeng had investigated thoroughly into the issue. "No. Since your subordinate and esteemed wangfei saw the crown prince and Mu Qingwu in person that night at the general's estate, it's possible the Mu Clan was the one to suggest marriage in the first place!"
Mu Qingwu had no way to fulfill Emperor Tianhui's task. Only His Highness Duke of Qin and the imperial uncle had any chance of helping him in the current dynasty. But since His Highness Duke of Qin had refused him, he could only go find the imperial uncle-who was a backer of Long Tianmo. Long Feiye didn't speak, but Han Yunxi was quick to reject Chu Xifeng's speculations.
"Mu Qingwu isn't that type of person. Besides, would the emperor really dare to make a move against the general's estate at a time like this?"
Long Feiye simply asked, "Then do you think that Emperor Tianhui's trying to draw General Mu to his side on his own?"
Han Yunxi rejected that idea as well. "No, I think the crown prince was the one who took initiative. He's certainly...a character!"
Long Feiye nodded his head in interest. He suddenly discovered that this woman wasn't just simply clever, but truly ingenious. Great General Mu may have presented a gift at the empress dowager's birthday banquet, but it likely was only a common offering at most. He had served through two successive generations in the imperial court while maintaining his moderate stance. Neither haughty nor humble, he only thought of himself without moving to support or deny other factions. Naturally, anyone who could act like that already had a counter prepared in their hands.
If Emperor Tianhui really had drawn Great General Mu's estate to his side, there would've been no need to threaten Mu Qingwu with the soldiers' pay and provisions. In other words, it was the crown prince who had drawn Great General Mu's estate to his side. For the sake of dealing with Long Feiye, Emperor Tianhui could only permit the crown prince to grow more powerful. The only thing Long Feiye didn't understand was how the crown prince and imperial uncle had managed to persuade General Mu to join their side.
"Something's definitely fishy about all this. Did the crown prince get ahold of something to control Mu Qingwu?" Han Yunxi couldn't figure it out. She silently wondered whether she should pay the young general a visit. If the wedding was set for the end of the month, that would mean ten days later.
Han Yunxi wavered for a while before she finally made an appointment to meet Mu Qingwu at the second-story private room of a teahouse in the capital. If she recalled correctly, Mu Qingwu had been filled with indignation after discovering how the imperial uncle had embezzled the disaster relief granaries. She had always thought that Mu Qingwu had the most generous heart in the capital. His open and honest eyes would never cheat other people. Han Yunxi had already thought up of multiple possibilities for his current plight before Mu Qingwu even arrived. And yet, his answer went completely beyond her expectations.
"Esteemed wangfei, my little sister's getting on in years."
After Mu Liuyue's reputation had been ruined, her marriage prospects were only suitable for families with lower status than the general's estate. But how could Mu Liuyue ever accept that?! People already sneered at her faults before she lost face by refusing to honor her bet. If she married an inferior family, they'd turn her into the butt of their jokes! Han Yunxi knew that both Mu Qingwu and Great General Mu doted on Mu Liuyue like the treasure of their family.
She knitted her brows and asked, "Do you honestly think Mu Liuyue will find happiness after marrying the crown prince? She'll be nothing but a tool!"
"Esteemed wangfei, Liuyue only wants repute and renown. At least it'd make her happier than marrying someone from a lower class," Mu Qingwu replied mildly.
"So for the sake of Mu Liuyue's so-called 'happiness,' you're willing to associate yourself with the likes of the imperial uncle's estate?" Han Yunxi challenged angrily.
Mu Qingwu didn't reply, but he avoided Han Yunxi's glare. She grew even more incensed by his action.
Should she be regretting saving the wrong person, or seeing him in a different light than he was now? Perhaps she should be rueing the fact that people changed so quickly? The honest and frank young general she knew soon faced her with an earnest expression.
He said, "Esteemed wangfei, if you need any help from this official in the future, please make sure to tell me." Despite saying this, he was already standing on the Duke of Qin's opposing side. Mu Qingwu hung his head in silence.
This was his choice? Han Yunxi would rather he refute his claims, but Mu Qingwu simply kept his head down like a coward. She thought much less of him as a result.
"Young General, let's just pretend this wangfei never saw you today." Han Yunxi rose to her feet and left, extremely disappointed. Though she was surprised as well, in the end she realized that today's events weren't wholly unexpected. Once, Mu Qingwu had even took off his robes and ran around the capital city in Mu Liuyue's place.
It was a long time before Mu Qingwu slowly raised his head and looked outside the window. He saw Han Yunxi's figure retreating into the distance and heaved a muddled sigh. "Esteemed wangfei, Qingwu really hopes that I can help you someday," he muttered to himself, so softly that he couldn't even make out his own words.
Nobody would ever know the chaos that had happened at their estate for the sake of alliance with the crown prince. Long Tianmo had found him personally that day to draw him to his side. He was willing to cover the costs for the soldiers' pay, provisions, and grain. Mu Qingwu knew his chance had come, so he'd agreed without a second thought towards the consequences. On the one hand, he wanted to get back the grain that belonged to the commoners in the first place. On the other, he wanted to seize the chance so he could help esteemed wangfei in the future to pay her back for saving him.
It was the crown prince's idea to marry Liuyue. Long Tianmo had persuaded Emperor Tianhui to decree the marriage, while Mu Qingwu had used Liuyue's vanity to persuade his own father. For the sake of the marriage, Mu Liuyue herself had raised a fuss for three days and three nights, even threatening to kill herself in order to force her father to agree. By the time the imperial decree arrived, General Mu had been too physically and mentally exhausted to refuse.
The end of the month would come very soon. He only hoped that everything would go smoothly...