Chapter 529: Trumping up countercharges at the Grand Medicine Testing Convention
The head of the Hundred Poisons Sect! Hearing this, chaos broken out at the convention. Mu Yingdong's expression was the most sensational one of all. Jun Yixie had two identities—that of Northern Li's Duke of Kang and the Hundred Poisons Sect leader. But the young apprentice had purposely called him by the latter name. Just what did that mean? Did he do it on purpose? Had Head Elder Xie discovered something?
Mu Yingdong looked doubtfully at Head Elder Xie, hestitating slightly. Finally, he shot a meaningful look at a nearby retainer, who quickly ran off to remind Jun Yixie that a trap might be afoot. Mu Yingdong had the courage to risk his plot, but he couldn't afford any losses, so it was better to be prudent.
Currently, Jun Yixie was still outside and oblivious to all that had happened. He could only hear sounds of commotion from within, which caused his lips to curve into a cold smile. When I go announce the marriage news, it'll probably be even more spectacular than now.
"The Hundred Poisons Sect has the gall to flaunt their atrocious attitude at our Medicine City? Bring him in, see what he's up to!" Head Elder Xie proclaimed.
The apprentice was about to leave when Mu Yingdong hastened to stop him. "Hold it. Your Excellency Head Elder, we can't stop the Grand Medicine Testing Convention here. No matter what the Duke of Kang is doing, we can discuss it once the competition is finished."
Head Elder Xie glanced at Mu Yingdong's departing retainer but let him go, then said rudely to Mu Yingdong, "Duke of Kang? What, is the Mu Clan head very familiar with this poison sect's leader?"
Mu Yingdong didn't want to acknowledge the comment, but in order to give his retainer more time, he smiled and said, "A few years ago, Northern Li's Imperial Physician Courtyard sent the Duke of Kang to discuss business with the Council of Elders and our city's three clans. Has Your Excellency Head Elder forgotten?"
Head Elder Xie ignored him and ordered the apprentice, "Hurry and get going!"
Mu Yingdong didn't dare elaborate past that. Without knowing what was going on, saying too much would be a mistake. Who knows when a random comment could be turned and used against him? His retainer had been gone for awhile now, so Mu Yingdong could only hope that the man reached Jun Yixie in time. Once he and Head Elder Xie fell silent, the entire arena grew still as well. The ones who earned the right to be invited to this convention, along with the competitors themselves, were all impatient types. But since the first two rings of people were all quiet, no one else dared to speak.
Sitting amongst the crowd, Han Yunxi simply crossed her arms and leaned against her seat, looked with amusement at Mu Yingdong. Next to her, Long Feiye had his eyes shut in tranquil repose, cutting himself off from the tense atmosphere to create his own world. Still, everything happening outside was well within his grasp. Mu Yingdong's retainer never made it out of the forest before he was stopped by the Xie Clan's men. It was obvious that Head Elder Xie had made ample preparations long before the medical apprentice announced the arrival of the 'Hundred Poisons Sect leader.'
Meanwhile, the aforementioned apprentice appeared at the entrance and made a show of respect by saying, "Your Highness Duke of Kang, Head Elder Xie invites you in."
Jun Yixie waved a hand and the procession of servants dressed in celebratory robes strutted in after him through the entrance to the circular stage. Everyone present turned to witness their arrival. At first the crowd said nothing, but as Jun Yixie's group drew closer, their mutterings grew. Jun Yixie himself was dressed in the formal robes of the Duke of Kang, looking proud and arrogantly domineering. It was very clear that he had come under the status of his other title. Behind him were ten or so retainers lined up in a row, each of them wearing red robes and carrying poles holding giftboxes between their shoulders. Each of the boxes were decorated with a large red 囍 character—xi, or double happiness—used in weddings.
He's obviously here with betrothal gifts, but…what is going on?
Just then, the medical apprentice hadn't mentioned any of these details. The whispers and murmurs in the crowd grew louder. Mu Yingdong's expression looked ghastly. He could sensed that something was wrong, so he tried multiple times to send Jun Yixie meaningful looks to salvage the situation. Unfortunately, the man simply strode rampantly onto the stage.
"Head of the Hundred Poisons Sect, this is…" Head Elder Xie trailed off.
Jun Yixie heard the name but didn't think much of it. He simply assumed that Head Elder Xie wanted to be more realistic in acting out his surprise. Making a bow with clasped hands, he replied, "This lord is representing Northern Li's imperial clan today to pay my respects, Head Elder Xie!"
Head Elder Xie gave him a disdainful look as he replied rudely, "Northern Li's Duke of Kang, is it? Heheh, what did you come for?"
"Head Elder Xie, this lord didn't originally plan to disrupt the Grand Medicine Testing Convention, but our Northern Li crown prince entrusted me to entreat a favor!" Jun Yixie proclaimed loudly.
"Does it have anything to do with our Grand Medicine Testing Convention? You had to pick now of all times to come?" Head Elder Xie asked impatiently.
"It has nothing to do with the convention, but it is related to all of Medicine City. Therefore, this lord is taking the chance with all of Medicine City's denizens here to make a request," Jun Yixie replied.
Now everyone in the crowd was curious. How could a marriage proposal have anything to do with Medicine City?
"What is it?" Head Elder Xie asked, causing the crowd to quiet down nervously.
"My Northern Li's crown prince has long loved the Mu Clan's ninth young Miss. He strove to get approval from the emperor to cede Skypeak Mountain's snowfields as a betrothal gift to wed ninth young Miss!"
Head Elder Xie was all astonishment at his words. "What did you say?!" he cried.
Mu Yingdong relaxed upon seeing this reaction. He inwardly smiled coldly and thought to himself, Xie Deyi, ah, Xie Deyi, you old skank. You certainly know how to put on an act!
Mu Yingdong and Jun Yixie were both thinking the same thing, assuming that Head Elder Xie was acting for the public to throw off suspicions that he was in any liasions with the Hundred Poisons Sect. Of course, the truly shocked ones were the members of the audience, who were now in an uproar. No one was spared from the surprise.
"Isn't the Mu Clan's ninth young Miss that Mu Linger?"
"Skypeak Mountain as a betrothal gift! What a grand move! Does he mean the entire mountain?"
"The Mu Clan's made a fortune!"
"Mu Linger is a criminal, she can't be married off!"
The crowd was already surprised that the crown prince wanted Mu Linger's hand in marriage, but a mountain as a gift left them even more speechless. Every member of Medicine City knew the significance of such a gift, and how many types of plants they could cultivate from its lands. No wonder Jun Yixie had said the proposal concerned all of Medicine City. Even if the smallest, weakest family got a pass to the snow mountain, they would grow to be a flourishing clan within the span of a few years, perhaps even becoming outstanding members of Medicine City itself.
All kinds of commentary rose up at the announcement, making Jun Yixie very pleased. He finally looked at Mu Yingdong, whose misgivings had disappeared with time. He indicated that Jun Yixie should go on. Jun Yixie was quite enjoying Head Elder Xie's realistic performance, so he purposely said, "Head Elder Xie, this lord said that I am acting on behalf of Northern Li's Duke of Kang to ask for ninth young Miss's hand in marriage with the snow mountain as a betrothal gift. What now, did the news scare you?"
Head Elder Xie only smiled coldly. "Northern Li's crown prince certainly makes sweeping moves. However, Your Highness Duke of Kang should be asking the Mu Clan for these marriage affairs. Why find this old man instead?"
"I heard that Ninth Young Miss Mu commited a fault and was locked up by the Council of Elders as a result. Thus, this lord came today in public to request a pardon from Head Elder Xie on Northern Li's crown prince's sake. May Head Elder Xie be magnanimous and release ninth young Miss."
It was rare for Jun Yixie to plea on others' behalf. Han Yunxi and Long Feiye simultaneously grinned at the sight.
"Release her?" Head Elder Xie stroked his beard in thought, his position very firm. "Mu Linger committed a crime and escaped punishment for a year. She has looked down upon the Council of Elders, thus her crimes are unforgivable!"
The crowd stilled at his words. Jun Yixie remained silent, waiting for Head Elder Xie to go on. Before, they had talked it over proposed that Head Elder Xie use 'performing merits to pay for one's crimes' to resolve the issue. But after waiting for ages, Head Elder Xie still hadn't spoke.
Isn't this old thing going to keep talking? What is he playing at?
At this moment, one of the Mu Clan's concubine-born sons stood up and shouted, "Head Elder Xie, why not have Mu Linger earn merit to pay off her crimes?"
Jun Yixie assumed that the man had been purposely planted by Mu Yingdong, but the latter only felt his heart give a lurch, feeling that something was off.
"How should she pay off her crimes with merit?" Head Elder Xie asked.
"With her betrothal gifts. The Skypeak snow mountain can be publically owned by Medicine City, while the Council of Elders can look after the nurturing and research of medicinal ingredients. It could count as our Mu Clan's contribution to the medical community, how about it?" the man replied quickly, too fast for Mu Yingdong to stop him.
The crowd only found his words suspicious. The Mu Clan is generous enough to yield the entire snow mountain to the rest of us? Could it be that Northern Li's imperial clan has already given them benefits on the side? Or are they donating Skypeak Mountain just for the sake of saving Mu Linger?
Mu Yingdong's expression turned ugly. Ignoring the potential rank of that concubine's son, he lectured him publicly. "Ignorant little boy, is this any place for you to talk?"
Jun Yixie was stunned at the words. Only then did he realize that the concubine's son wasn't planted by Mu Yingdong at all. He then looked stunned at Head Elder Xie, who retorted coldly, "Your Highness Duke of Kang, what do you think of that suggestion?"
How was Jun Yixie supposed to reply? His gaze turned dark as he fell silent. Head Elder Xie next asked Mu Yingdong, "Head of the Mu Clan, what about you? What do you think?"
Mu Yingdong didn't know what to say, either. Although he was tense, he still tried hard to think of ways to salvage the situation. Unfortunately, it was all too late. Head Elder Xie exploded in a fit of temper and proclaimed, "Someone come, bring out that agreement paper!"
The entire place was silent. Nobody knew what was going on. What agreement? But Mu Yingdong and Jun Yixie's faces blanched at the words. If looks could kill, they would have murdered Head Elder Xie a thousand times over already! One of the retainers handed over a roll of paper as he ran to the stage. Head Elder Xie said coldly, "Read it out loud!"
The retainer had a high, clear voice. He detailed every word in the agreement, which was the very paper that Jun Yixie and Mu Yingdong had signed on before the former handed it over to Head Elder Xie. Most of the contents centered around how Jun Yixie would publicly request a marriage alliance and give the snow mountain as a betrothal gift; meanwhile, Mu Linger was to pay for her crimes with such merits and marry Northern Li's crown prince. Once everything was done, the Northern Li imperial clan would present another snow mountain as a private bride price.
Jun Yixie and Mu Yingdong had originally proposed this idea to cheat Head Elder Xie so he could agree to their plans without worry, but now it had turned into evidence that bit them back! After the retainer finished reading, everyone was left dumbstruck by the news. They never expected the show to hide such an agreement behind the scenes, nor for the Mu Clan to gain such hefty benefits!
"Someone come, pass the agreement around so everyone can see the Mu Clan Head's own authenticating seal!" Head Elder Xie's face was filled with indignation as he detailed how Jun Yixie had tried to bribe him. Both Han Yunxi and Long Feiye were surprised to hear his admission. They had expected the old man to take revenge on just the Mu Clan instead of spilling everything. Now…