The arrow that landed inside its mouth finally finished off the poison python. It turned over and stopped moving without spraying any more poison gas. Only then did a satisfied Long Feiye withdraw his bow and arrow. Meanwhile, a certain cowardly lady was still hanging off him, completely oblivious to what happened. His lips quirked into a slight curve before holding onto her and landing lightly before the python's corpse.
"You can let go now."
When his icy voice rose in the air, Han Yunxi recovered her senses from her fear and realized she was standing on solid ground. She raised her head to catch a certain person's heartless eyes before releasing her hands as if she'd been electrocuted. Long Feiye ignored her, pulling out a dagger to collect the snake dan. Han Yunxi coughed lightly and pretended nothing had happened while she observed from the side. His movements were quick and efficient, and it wasn't long before he retrieved a tiny sphere-shaped object that was what she believed to be the snake dan. Having this in hand was equivalent to having the Life Blood Pill, sparing them half the effort.
Han Yunxi steadied her nerves before withdrawing an acupuncture needle to collect some poison python blood. Of course she had to take this rare poison back for research.
"What are you doing?" Long Feiye asked coolly.
"Nothing much," Han Yunxi's face was serious, her voice frosty. Right now, she didn't want to speak much with him.
"Coward," Long Feiye retorted.
A flash of anger passed through Han Yunxi. She clenched her hands into fists but didn't reply. After collecting the blood, she spoke again. "Since you have the snake dan, I'm pretty much useless to you now. I want to go back."
Long Feiye gave a slight start but didn't persuade her to say. "Then go, your lordship will take you out of the gorge."
Thus, the two of them silently went back to where they came from. However, they discovered that both the horse and its driver had been poisoned to death, leaving no one to protect her way home. Han Yunxi was secretly delighted as she spoke. "Now see what you're going to do with a burden like me! That'll teach you not to look for trouble again!"
But Long Feiye only gave her two choices. "You can either go back on your own or travel with your lordship."
He didn't give Han Yunxi time to think when he finished, but started walking back towards the gorge. Han Yunxi cherished her life. There were quite a few bandits on the road which made it very dangerous. How could she dare go back by herself? More importantly, she didn't even know the way home!
While she hesitated, that guy was already far away.
Was he serious?
Han Yunxi grew agitated and chased after him, yelling all the way.
"Hey! Long Feiye, you're too much!"
"Stop right there, Long Feiye!"
"If you don't stop, I'll leave immediately!"
Long Feiye heard her shouts. Instead of slowing down, he actually sped up, the curve of his lips growing wider and wider. Han Yunxi had no choice but to run after him. Thus, the two of them-one in front, one in back, one walking along, one running after-quickly passed through the gorge.
Atop a tall tree in the gorge, Duanmu Yao lay listlessly on a branch, a trickle of blood by her mouth. Long Feiye had used the perfect amount of strength to heavily wound her so she couldn't move, but not enough to take her life away. Her appearance resembled that of a celestial being, but at this moment, those phoenix eyes were as sinister and ruthless as a witch. She stared icily after those two departing figures in the distance.
"Han Yunxi, you're really shameless! You actually hugged my Senior Brother!"
What happened just then was inconceivable even to Duanmu Yao's maidservant. The mysophobic Duke of Qin allowed a woman to get close to him? And let her embrace him that tightly?
They didn't see wrong, did they?
"Slut, I'll definitely kill you," Duanmu Yao grew indignant the more she thought. To be honest, she'd left the palace this time just because of Han Yunxi.
Her servant spoke in a low tone. "Princess, it's essential to treat your wounds."
"I won't! See what he does if I die! See how he explains to Master what happened!" Duanmu Yao's furious voice set off her temper and internal injuries, forcing her to spit out a mouthful of blood.
"Princess, you should know that the Duke of Qin hates people threatening him, yet why did you..."
Before the servant could finish, Duanmu Yao cut her off. "Do I count as just anyone in his eyes? He'd even injure me to protect that woman's life? Since when did Han Yunxi become more important than this princess in his heart?"
"Princess, Han Yunxi was the Qin Wangfei assigned by Tianning's empress dowager. The Duke of Qin probably has no choice," the servant comforted her.
Duanmu Yao wore a cold smile. "If he isn't willing, then nothing under Heaven can force him to do anything."
Han Yunxi married into the Duke of Qin's household on Tianning's emperor's orders. But why did Long Feiye allow her to stay in the house? So much time had passed since the wedding. She had been waiting for him to finish off Han Yunxi, but he didn't make a move. And now he was bringing her with him? They'd been senior brother and junior sister for years, but he'd never taken her with him to do anything.
That useless and cowardly woman, what part of her had caught his eye?
The more she thought, the angrier Duanmu Yao grew. "Qiu'er, let's go to Tianning's capital city. I want to live in the Duke of Qin's residence...to nurse my injuries!"
"Princess, His Highness Crown Prince is still trying to ask for medicine for imperial mother from Pill Fiend Valley. For better or worse, you should take a look over there first," the servant reminded her.
Only then did Duanmu Yao remember this fact. She nodded and mused that it wouldn't be too late to go to the capital after getting the empress's medicine.
Han Yunxi was currently in Long Feiye's arms, flying quickly through the trees. Although she showed nothing but coldness towards Long Feiye, she was still curious about that white-robed female. Only, she couldn't guess at her origins.
It was true that curiosity killed the cat, because she finally couldn't help but blurt out, "Hey, who was that white-robed woman back there?"
She'd been wanting to ask for ages, but Long Feiye acted as if he heard nothing. He kept his eyes facing forward with an expressionless look. Han Yunxi rolled her eyes and completely lost all her curiosity.
They traveled for a day before reaching Pill Fiend Valley the next morning.
As soon as they entered the valley, Han Yunxi could smell all sorts of fragrances from medicinal plants. Heaven knows how many species of flora grew here, but it really was a mystical place. Soon, they came to the true entrance to the valley: a vine-covered gate guarded by two medical youths. There were two groups of people by the gate-ones lined up in a queue, the others kneeling on the ground.
It looked like the people in line were here to buy medicine, while the kneeling ones came to beg for it. Han Yunxi observed them for awhile. She noticed that the people in line all spoke with an old steward first before turning crestfallen. They then joined the kneeling group that had failed to buy what they wanted.
Suddenly, a kneeling person rushed over and shouted, "Your Excellency Pill Fiend, I'm willing to offer 10 million taels of gold for a stem of sabaigrass! Elder, please be merciful! I'm waiting for this grass to save a life!"
The old steward immediately walked over to denounce him. "What are you making an uproar for? You think you can flaunt your wealth here? Someone, drive him away!"
"Steward Ming, how could this small one dare to flaunt his wealth? This small one is offering the wealth of my entire clan to beg for this medicine! Please be merciful, Steward Ming, and tell this to your master!" that person pleaded hastily. But Steward Ming had no sympathy for him and waved at his men to drive him off.
Han Yunxi knitted her brows at the sight. She knew how precious sabaigrass was, but it wasn't worth anything like 10 million taels of gold! Moreover, it'd leave that family's fortune in ruins. She was extremely uncomfortable seeing his despairing, tearstained face and wanted to give him a stem of sabaigrass. There were plenty in her detoxification system. Unfortunately, she gave up the idea at the sight of hundreds of others before her. She could help one person, but not all of them.
If she only aided one man before all of the helpless rest, she wouldn't be a good person. She'd be labeled a heartless villain just like the Pill Fiend Valley's men. Furthermore, she and Long Feiye were here to ask for medicine themselves, not break up the existing market. Steward Ming saw them next and pointed a finger as he walked over.
"Hey hey, you two. I'm talking about you guys. What're you standing there for? Don't you know the rules? Aren't you getting in line?"
Long Feiye's reply was cold. "You, come here."
Steward Ming jerked in surprised disbelief. "What did you say?"
"I told you to come here. Are you a monkey who doesn't understand human speech?" Long Feiye retorted.
Steward Ming flared up and rushed over. He could tell at a glance at Long Feiye and Han Yunxi weren't ordinary people, but wealthy and respectable. But plenty of those types visited Pill Fiend Valley for medicine. He'd seen all sorts of honorable types yet never one this arrogant!
He sized up Long Feiye with a disdainful glance. "What kind of thing are you, speaking to me like this? If you want medicine then, heheh, I'm afraid you have no chance!"
Unexpectedly, Long Feiye grabbed him by the neck and raised him in the air. "Scram and tell Gu Qi Sha that Long Feiye's brought the poison python snake dan. Ask him if he wants to trade."
Steward Ming was almost out of breath, but the words 'Long Feiye' made him widen his eyes. Then he heard 'poison python snake dan' and furiously nodded his head. Only then did Long Feiye release him. The old steward didn't leave immediately, but quickly turned respectful.
"I didn't know it was Your Highness Duke of Qin and offended you greatly. Forgive me, forgive me. Please wait for a while, Your Highness Duke of Qin, this one will notify my master immediately."
Han Yunxi stood stunned on one side. Only now did she realized that the three words 'Long Feiye' were useful both in and out of Tianning's capital city. Tianning's emperor had valid reasons to fear him.
Not long afterwards, the old steward stumbled and ran outside, every inch a lackey. "Your Highness Duke of Qin, His Excellency Pill Fiend invited you in, please come with me!"
Long Feiye and Han Yunxi entered a carriage as soon as they passed through the vine-covered gates, speeding along the road. Han Yunxi discovered that all the plants beyond the gate were medicinal ones that grew more and more precious the deeper they traveled. Goodness. This fellow Gu Qi Sha might not have medical ethics, but he really was a rarely-seen talent!
The carriage soon stopped before a refined and tasteful courtyard bordering a small stream. Steward Ming didn't follow them inside, but only announced, "His Highness Duke of Qin arrives."
Soon, a queer and enigmatic voice floated out, extremely abnormal. It didn't sound quite human.
"Your Highness Duke of Qin, your first visit here brought me the poison python snake dan. With what should this excellency use for the trade?"
"Life Blood Pill," Long Feiye replied.
These words left the rooms within in silence.
A long time passed before the ambiguous, androgynous voice spoke again. "You should...come inside."
Han Yunxi had a body full of goosebumps from that weird voice, but followed Long Feiye inside. She grew more goosebumps after seeing the person in the room. He was dressed all in black and seated on a chair, tall and imposing. Dark robes covered his entire body while an oversized cowl shielded his features, making him look faceless from a distance.
This was the fiendish genius Gu Qi Sha.
Han Yunxi thought he'd be an old man, but now she couldn't guess his age at all. Even his gender seemed wrapped in obscurity. She was very curious, but Long Feiye wasn't interested at all.
"Gu Qi Sha, are you trading?" he asked coldly.
"Aye..." Gu Qi Sha's voice was faint as he gave a deep sigh. "As luck would have it, someone brought the Seven Stars Caterpillar Grass to trade for the Life Blood Pill too. I've dreamed of having both these items for a while now. How am I supposed to choose?"
 Qiu'er (??) - Qiu is 'autumn,' Er is a general denominative added on to names and nicknames.
 Steward Ming (???) - Ming guanjia, in which ming means 'inscription, engrave.'
 Seven Stars Caterpillar Grass (????) - qixing chongcao, 'seven stars' is an euphemism in Chinese for the Big Dipper constellation. A fictional species.