Chapter 393: Qi gege
An imperial decree from Emperor Tianhui at a time like this had to have some sort of encouragement or reward. First, the decree commended the Duke of Qin and Qin Wangfei for their successful efforts in the disaster regions, and for ferreting out the corrupt officials to rid the people of a scourge. But the important points came later.
After the felicitations, Emperor Tianhui ordered the Duke of Qin to assume full control of the disaster regions. Moreover, he had to make sure the people could successfully survive the winter. It even stated that the Duke of Qin could only return to the capital after the three disaster regions recovered agriculturally.
Since Emperor Tianhui had finally sent Long Feiye and Han Yunxi away, how could he let them return so easily?
"Recover agriculturally?! This dog emperor!" Han Yunxi couldn't help but curse. 'Recover agriculturally' looked simple on the surface. As long as spring came with its rains to send the rivers running and the soil moist, the people would be able to eat well and regain their vigor. There'd be no need for any authority to look after them then, and everyone would compete to grow their crops.
But that only happened in the spring! Moreover, Emperor Tianhui had never specified how much of a recovery he wanted before it count. Wouldn't he have to be the judge on that? What a move!
Different from Han Yunxi's indignant mood was Long Feiye's cool calm. He finished his tea and said coldly, "When the time comes, he better not be begging your lordship to go back."
Han Yunxi's lips rose in a anticipatory smile at his words. Although she wasn't sure whether he'd be able to let the people survive through winter, she knew that his words meant the good show was still ahead! She really hoped that the next two months would pass by faster! It was a lot more satisfying to see His Highness Duke of Qin abusing others than doing it herself.
After receiving the decree, Han Yunxi returned to her rooms to resume her experiments in the detox system. She'd been trying to craft an antidote to Baili Mingxiang's poison the entire time. The next two to three days would be the most crucial point of her tests to expel all the poison from Baili Mingixang's body. She closed her eyes and entered her detox system. Fortunately, Long Feiye didn't need to find her for any business.
When Han Yunxi walked towards the back courtyard without even looking back, she had no idea that Long Feiye was staring at her the entire time. The gaze in his dark eyes was intense. For once, the expressionless Duke of Qin had his feelings written all over his face. Chu Xifeng was mesmerized by the sight, even though he couldn't understand it!
Between these two, it was His Highness Duke of Qin who was always calm and unhurried, unaffected by anything. But what had happened last night? Now His Highness was filled with thoughts, while esteemed wangfei seemed perfectly fine. Chu Xifeng couldn't resist coming forward after Han Yunxi disappeared to murmur, "Your Highness, is it because of Mute Granny?"
Long Feiye didn't even look at Chu Xifeng, much less answer him. Chu Xifeng was too timid to ask twice.
Soon enough, a guard arrived with a report. "Your Highness, there's news from Pill Fiend Valley. Gu Qi Sha hasn't returned since the last time he left the place. Supposedly, he's been looking for those two ingredients the entire time."
"Your lordship wants updates on those two ingredients, not him!" Long Feiye said unhappily.
"For now...there's no news," the guard said nervously.
"Send people to find Medicine City's Wang Clan. Bring this to them and have Wang Gong think of a solution. Tell him time is of the essence!" As Long Feiye spoke, he gave up the token that Mu Yingdong had left them, which gave the user permission to enter the Mu Clan's medicinal stores and take away an ingredient of their choice.
As soon as the guard received the token, he made to leave. Chu Xifeng didn't want to speak up, but he decided to take the risk after further thought and held the guard back.
"Your Highness, please think thrice before going to the Mu Clan!" His Highness hadn't given much time to Gu Qi Sha for his deadline, because it really was hard to track those ingredients down. But now he seemed to be rushing things. By enlisting the Wang Clan for help, then using the Mu Clan's medicinal warehouse, was something completely unnecessary. More importantly, Mute Granny's poison might have been done by Mu Yingdong himself. That man would naturally know the antidote ingredients, so if they really did find one of them in the Mu Clan's storehouses, Mu Yingdong would only suspect that Mute Granny was still alive. Once news of this broke out, it'd be impossible to explain things to esteemed wangfei.
Chu Xifeng's reminder immediately sobered up Long Feiye, who realized he'd been impulsive. He had found Gu Qi Sha because the man's talents in hunting down ingredients was unparalleled. If these two ingredients truly existed in Medicine City, Gu Qi Sha would definitely track them down. Who would suspect the man if he was simply searching for ingredients again?
Long Feiye pinched his forehead before sitting down. Chu Xifeng hastened to pour him some tea. "Your Highness, take care not to get distracted."
Take care not to get distracted? For the sake of Mute Granny, he certainly had lost his wits a few times. The wound by his heart also came about because he was so-called 'distracted!' Han Yunxi had been disappointed last night, but she recovered her spirits by the day. Still, he wished she could keep on being disappointed. When he saw her looking so glowing and energetic, he discovered for the first time that he couldn't read her at all. It was also the first time he felt like things were slipping out of control.
She had always circled around him and his actions, but gradually, he found himself pulled left and right by her moods too. Long Feiye remained silent for a long time before he told Chu Xifeng, "Go find Gu Qi Sha personally. Tell him if he can find those two ingredients within six months, your lordship will owe him a favor!"
This... Owed favors needed to be returned! If Gu Qi Sha had to ask His Highness Duke of Qin for a favor in the future, then he wouldn't be able to refuse. Chu Xifeng wanted to persuade him otherwise, but after seeing the determination in Long Feiye's eyes, he submitted to his orders.
While Long Feiye was impatient to track down those two ingredients, Mu Linger was also waiting impatiently in the far off Medicine City. Since she'd made a decision without authorization at the empress dowager's birthday banquet while acting as a representative of Medicine City's, she'd been condemned by all their prominent families. Even Mu Yingdong, who doted on her, couldn't shield her from them all, and told her to keep her distance from Medicine City until things cooled down.
Instead, this girl went straight back home right after Gu Qishao left her with a word. Of course, she hadn't dared to tell her father. After getting her notes from the Mu Estate, she secretly slipped into the Mu Clan's medicinal fields and had hidden there ever since. She found her notes on Panoptic Red Lotus, taken when she was still very young. The Mu Clan had planted one of them on their grounds, but she'd yet to find a hint of it after three months. Other families had medicinal storehouses in place of fields, such as the Han Clan. But the three great families of Medicine City had entire fields of medicinal herbs that took up the same area of multiple mountains! The Mu Clan had the largest swath of land that took over three whole mountains and countless valleys within.
Mu Linger not only had to hunt for plants, but take precautions against the guards that did their nightly sentry duties, as well as the youths in charge of taking care of the plants. It really was hard work. She would get up to hunt for plants as soon as it was daylight, then find a tree to lean against for sleeping through the night. Over the past three months, she'd eaten nothing but field rations. There wasn't even a bowl of hot soup to drink despite the fact that it was winter, because she was worried a campfire would only attract attention. She was thin to begin with, but now she was even skinnier than before, looking both wan and sallow.
Today as always, she headed out as soon as day broke, but the skies suddenly turned cloudy around noon.
"Dammnit!" she spat, her lips pulled up into a pout. As soon as she cursed, bean-sized drops of rain fell from the skies. A winter shower was absolutely freezing! Mu Linger looked around her until she found a place to hide from the rain-the old wizened tree where she'd slept last night. There was also a cave and thick forests nearby, but guards and the medicine youths would pass by those places, so it'd be easy to discover her.
The rain fell fiercer and faster before it was pouring in sheets from the skies to thunderous effect! Mu Linger quickly ran to the wizened tree and sheltered herself beneath its branches. By now, she was thoroughly soaked. Although she was freezing as well, she didn't mind it much. She wasn't some hothouse flower. She casually crossed her legs to sit down on the damp earth, two hands propping up her chin as she waiting impatiently for the storm to pass.
But how much rain could a few paltry branches block? Soon enough, she couldn't sit still any longer. She ended up huddled up on the ground, curled into a ball as she trembled. It was freezing! From a distance, Mu Linger looked no different from a lost little animal trapped in the rain, a truly pitiful sight. But she didn't show a trace of regret despite her plight. She kept her head bowed and allowed the rain to run down the sides of her head and face before dripping onto the ground. As she shivered, she did her best to recall exactly where she'd seen the Panoptic Red Lotus in these parts in her childhood. She wouldn't have remembered the wrong thing, so the plant had to be somewhere within these three mountains.
Moreover, she was sure that only father had the right to pick such a rare and valuable plant. But he hadn't needed to use it over these years. She wiped her face and said with determination, "It has to be here!"
As soon as she spoke, the rain stopped!
No, wait. It was still raining in front of her, so why was there no more rain falling on top of her head? Mu Linger looked up doubtfully, only to see a shade of seductive scarlet that looked like demon flames in the winter rain! Within that haze of red was a man with fine eyebrows and a dimpled smile. In a flash, Mu Linger's entire world transformed into clear skies and blooming flowers.
"Qi gege!" she stood up in pleasant surprise and threw herself at Gu Qishao, who was squatting on the branch right above her. One hand rested against his forehead, while the other held a large red umbrella. He allowed Mu Linger to jump him without a single shift in his smile. But the girl who'd been as stubborn as a weed suddenly burst into tears when she was resting in his warm lap.
"What's wrong?" Gu Qishao asked gently.
"Sobsob...I've...sobsob..." Mu Linger was still crying, a complete contrast to her staunch determination from before. Her wretched sobs made it impossible for her to talk and like a poor, pitiful creature.
Gu Qishao looked helplessly at the skies. "Crybaby...go ahead, cry as you like."
When he wasn't here, she was strong and firm. As soon as he came, she collapsed into tears. Was she pretending? No. Even the strongest girl was capable of casting away her strength when she found a shoulder to lean on. Mu Linger cried from a long time, only saying 'Qi gege' between her sobs. He didn't complain a single time.
When she finally stopped, she sniffled and looked up at Gu Qishao. "Qi gege!"
"Finished crying?" Gu Qishao asked as he arched an eyebrow.
"I've cried my fill, so I won't cry anymore!" Mu Linger gave him a drippy smile.