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Chapter 655: Thank goodness you like me too

    Could Duanmu Yao win?

    Bai Yanqing didn't seem to hear Jun Yixie's question. He grasped a chess piece in one hand while stroking his beard with the other as he puzzled over the board. Jun Yixie was a mad and unruly type filled with overweening arrogance, but before his master he was nothing but obedient and docile like a child. Since master didn't answer, he only stopped asking and buried his curiosity to wait for master's next move.

    His junior sister Bai Yuqiao watched him from the side and only felt a trace of inexorable pity in her heart. As she saw it, Jun Yixie had fully submitted himself to master and trusted him absolutely. However, master hid many things from her senior brother. She didn't understand why master would choose to do such a thing. Silently, she felt that the entire arrangement was unfair, but she never dared to tell him about the truth. She had seen from senior brother's experiences just how horrifying it was to betray their master.

    After a while, Bai Yanqing spoke without setting down his piece, "Whether or not she wins or loses will depend on how and what they're setting to compete in."

    Jun Yixie was thrilled and said quickly, "Then this time, with Empress Xue's matters!"

    "The matter of victory doesn't lie with this trivial detail, but what comes at the very end. Just wait. Duanmu Yao will win," Bai Yanqing said lightly.

    "The end? Could it be, master...you've longed made your own arrangements?" Jun Yixie muttered in a low voice.

    As he saw it, master had kept him away from Han Yunxi and Long Feiye, not because he didn't want him to cause trouble, but because he had his own plans in place. Bai Yanqing didn't reveal a thing, but only said, "Keep waiting. How long until the gaps in South City's horse farms are filled again?"

    Jun Yixie grew gloomy. Master was like this every time, always telling him things by halves before changing the topic. It only left his heart itching for more. When he didn't answer, Bai Yanqing only gave him an unhappy glare. Immediately, he moved to speak. "It'll take at least a year and a half to fill in the reserves. I've already contacted Cloud Realm Trade Consortium's horse merchants to discuss the matter. If our business deal goes through, then the gap will grow smaller."

    "And the cultivation of Snow Mountain for medicinal plants, have you started on that yet?" Bai Yanqing asked next.

    "We're still working out a few details. Heheh, Ning Jing that girl...she's hard and unreasonable to deal with! Because she's been preparing for her upcoming wedding, the matters of Snow Mountain have been delayed." Jun Yixie had been busy bustling about as well. Bai Yanqing only nodded without judgment before continuing their chess game...

    -

    Days passed. News of Empress Xue's true murderer grew more and more widespread, but Han Yunxi and Long Feiye remained unmoved. They neither expressed their stance nor publicized any views on the controversy. That only made people more curious to find out the truth.

    Two days from her appointed faceoff with Duanmu Yao, Han Yunxi was still sitting in the courtyard and grinning foolishly over a pile of letters on the table. All of them had been written to her. There was one from General Mu's estate in Tianan, another from the Commander-in-Chief's estate down in the south central regions, one more from Pill Fiend Pharmacy, then Medical City, Medicine City, and even the black markets. All of them expressed their concerns and reminded her to be careful of Duanmu Yao. By no means should she confront the woman in person.

    Third Elder Shen had written the letter from Medical City. In it he said that he was willing to recommend Cloud Realm Continent's coroner most gifted in the way of public speaking to her assistance-should she wish it-or even appear in person to assist with an autopsy.

    Pill King had written the letter from Medicine City. Though the old man rarely paid attention to worldly affairs, he'd gotten wind of Han Yunxi's predicament. In the letter he'd said that if Han Yunxi was willing, they could send Empress Xue's body directly to the Medicine Hut for him to conduct a personal examination of the corpse. In addition, the eccentric old man from the Medicine Requesting Cave had even sent his respects via the same missive.

    Han Yunxi had only known herself to be unpopular and offend a whole host of people, earning their hatred and grudges. Looking at the pile of letters now, she suddenly realized she actually had a lot of friends. She smiled at Long Feiye and said, "My popularity...seems pretty good. Does this count as having friends in every corner?"

    "These are called social connections," Long Feiye remarked. Even he had to admit that Han Yunxi had gathered an impressive share of contacts over her past few years across Cloud Realm Continent.

    "Esteemed wangfei was popular to begin with..." Gu Beiyue didn't finish before a dark shadow suddenly descended from the skies. This was none other than Gu Qishao!

    His dark hood and cape revealed nothing but a pair of bewitching eyes. Technically speaking, he had appeared before them as Gu Qi Sha, the Pill Fiend. Gu Qi Sha rushed towards Han Yunxi as soon as he landed, but Long Feiye soon stuck out a foot to trip him. Fortunately, he backed away before that could happen. In a rush, he ignored the man and asked, "Poison lass, Duanmu Yao's really coming to challenge you to battle at your doorstep?"

    Han Yunxi didn't speak, but slowly looked inside the building. Gu Beiyue maintained his gentle smile, while Long Feiye drank his tea. He didn't care to get involved as long as Gu Qi Sha kept his distance from Han Yunxi.

    "Poison la-"

    "Your Excellency Pill Fiend!" Mu Linger exclaimed as she rushed out of the building. Aside from her and her own fancies, everyone else in the courtyard knew that Gu Qi Sha had been missing for the past few days precisely because he was trying to avoid Mu Linger! Now they all remained silent, waiting for Gu Qi Sha to run away again. But instead, he ignored Mu Linger altogether to ask after Han Yunxi.

    "Poison lass, are the rumors true?"

    Seeing this, Mu Linger halted her steps, her joyful expression turning stiff on her face. She was stunned by how anxious Gu Qi Sha was acting. Although she should be happy that he'd finally appeared without fleeing at the first instance, she still...felt pained at heart. Why?

    "It's true!" Han Yunxi replied before pulling Mu Linger over. "This girl's been waiting for you for days. You certainly put on airs, old man!"

    Gu Qi Sha ignored them both and looked towards Long Feiye next. "Duke of Qin, you're really going to let Poison lass fight one-on-one with that slut Duanmu Yao?"

    Long Feiye refused to answer because Gu Qi Sha didn't need to worry about the issue in the first place.

    "Wait until she shows up. She's not even here yet, so Heaven knows what kind of proof she has on hand! If I don't accept it, what else can she do to me?" Han Yunxi explained before changing the subject again. "Linger's here to discuss the Mu Clan's matters with you! Lady Lianxin's business has been delayed for ages. You should give her an answer by now, right? The two of you should talk it over! And also, I've given Pill King's medical textbook to Linger. You should teach her about the parts she doesn't understand. The two of you have important roles to shoulder for Pill Fiend Pharmacy!"

    Gu Qi Sha finally looked towards Mu Linger, who felt her chest constrict. She didn't express any views beyond feigning an air of reverence. Giving him a flattering smile, she said, "Senior Pill Fiend, I offended you last time at Pill Fiend Pharmacy. May you forgive me for any affront on behalf of esteemed wangfei!"

    Last time, Mu Linger had challenged him publicly on Pill Fiend Pharmacy's grand opening day. Gu Qi Sha had long forgotten about the incident, so he simply nodded and went to sit by Gu Beiyue's side. Mu Linger immediately scooted over and respectfully poured him a cup of tea. "Old senior, please have some tea. Be careful, it's hot."

    Gu Qi Sha arched a brow at her before saying in his eerie voice, "You've almost turned me into an old man with those monikers."

    "How about I call you master then?" Mu Linger asked quickly. She was obviously meaning to take him as her teacher. Gu Qi Sha only shielded his face while lifting his teacup to drink, ignoring her utterly.

    But Mu Linger was even better. She immediately fell on her knees and kowtowed loudly on the ground. "If master has no objections, then please accept this bow from your disciple!"

    Gu Qi Sha spat out his mouthful of tea. "This old man hasn't agreed to anything! Get up!"

    Mu Linger blinked innocently. "But I've already kowtowed. What should I do now?"

    How am I supposed to have any freedom after accepting a disciple like her? Maybe she'll even discover my true identity one day. Gu Qi Sha was thoroughly scared and said, "How about this old man return the bow to you instead?"

    Mu Linger's eyes grew wet with tears, but she still managed a laugh. "Senior certainly knows how to joke. If senior isn't willing, then forget it."

    It wasn't clear how many people present noticed Mu Linger's wet eyes, but Han Yunxi certainly had. Looking at the stubborn girl, she couldn't help but feel her own heart ache. Perhaps she saw a shadow of herself in Mu Linger, or because blood ran thicker than water and they were related, or because she could emphatize after they had found common ties.

    But in the end, Han Yunxi knew that this was as much as she could do to help the girl. If she tried any harder, she'd do more harm than good. Things such as feelings had to come from both parties. She was touched by Mu Linger's sincerity, but she still couldn't force Gu Qi Sha's side or set a plot against him.

    Long Feiye handed her a cup of tea, breaking her train of thought. Han Yunxi looked over, only to see him brewing more tea for himself. From this angle, his profile was as icy as ever, making him distant and aloof. Over three years had passed since their marriage, but he was still the same man as always. She sighed internally. Long Feiye, thank goodness you like me too.

    Mu Linger's words made it impossible for Gu Qi Sha to disagree. He smiled strangely before saying, "Forget it, forget it!"

    "Then may senior give me some pointers regarding Pill King's ancient medical text?" Who said Mu Linger had given up? She was still trying her hardest to win him over.

    Han Yunxi was caught between heartache and wanting to laugh. Gu Qi Sha's face had long turned black; fortunately, his hood hid all of his expressions.

    "Alright already. Just ask me if there's anything you don't understand. What's the use of acting so polite?" Even if he agreed, there was no guarantee that Mu Linger would be able to find him for advice in the future.

    "Many thanks to senior!" Mu Linger was still delighted by the results. She even took out the book right then and there-along with a thick-looking notebook. "Senior, I've already finished reading through the entire volume. I've taken notes on everything I didn't understand. For example, there are 100 things I need clarification on for the first part. Let's take care of these today first," Mu Linger said seriously.

    Before Gu Qi Sha could answer, Gu Beiyue spoke up. "This one is weary. You two can discuss this while I take my leave first."

    As soon as he left, Long Feiye rose to his feet as well. Han Yunxi quickly followed suit with a smile. "We still have things to take care of. You two take your time and discuss things slowly."

    Gu Qi Sha wanted to retort, but found himself utterly without words now. For the next two days, Mu Linger clung to Gu Qi Sha and learned studiously from his guidance as she took her notes. Their time together was enough to assuage most of Gu Qi Sha's suspicions against the girl, because all she did was ask him about the medical text and nothing else. Perhaps he was overthinking things. Mu Linger could simply be girl who loved to learn, rather than someone who'd discovered his secret.

    There was no harm in teaching a little lass a few things. In any case, all of Pill Fiend Pharmacy's duties would fall on her shoulders one day. He wasn't going to look after the place forever!

    Once the two days passed, Duanmu Yao herself came knocking on their doors just as promised...
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