"Please cease your anger, Your Highness! This is all this official's fault for not doing his job properly! It is Jing Zhou's luck to receive Your Highness' attention! This official will make sure that what happened today will never happen again!" says Zhang Huan Shan as he nervously kneels on the ground.
Yun Qian Yu sneers, "Cease my anger? Do any of you even know what just happened?"
The people amongst the crowd lowers their heads quietly.
Yun Qian Yu continues speaking, "I, Yun Qian Yu, is an official that works for the kingdom! While I was busy fending off foreign invasion, the people on Nan Lou Kingdom actually fell for the enemy's trick and tried to conspire against Yun Valley! Yun Clan only wanted to lift Jing Zhou, we wanted to create an influx of young scholars, great minds who can practice medicine, but what did we get in return? A mob that wants to make us their servants! What do you think, Official Zhang? Shouldn't bengong seal Yun Residence and close the academy?"
Zhang Huan Shan has a bad feeling about this. Never mind the drawback it will pose for Jing Zhou's medical and literary advancement, the Emperor will never spare him now that he has offended Princess Hu Guo! Just his luck that the said princess is also the owner of Yun Valley! His head is going to roll several times this time.
Zhang Huan Shan immediately tries to placate her, "The common people of Jing Zhou will forever remember the grace that Your Highness has bestowed towards them!" He quickly signals the crowd to beg for forgiveness. The opening of the academy here has been an opportunity that probably will not grace them for the next hundreds of years! More importantly, if they don't do anything about this, his precious official hat is going to fly off!
Right now, even the dullest of people can understand that they have been used by the enemy and have been turned against Princess Hu Guo, who was merely thinking for their good. If they still don't beg for forgiveness, they are not people.
The people that San Qiu planted quickly kneel on the ground, leading the crowd, "Please cease your anger, Your Highness. It was us who were too muddle-headed and got tricked by the enemies. We took your kind gestures for granted. Please be magnanimous and forgive us, Your Highness!"
Official Zhang quickly adds, "Don't worry, Your Highness, this official will do everything he can to make sure that the academy runs smoothly. This official will not let any other person slander Yun Valley!"
Yun Qian Yu is quiet for a moment.
"Since it is so, bengong will let this matter slide. However, bengong is deeply wounded by this incident. Therefore, the academy will only run for ten years, as a way to repay the Jing Zhou's ancestors' grace towards Yun Clan. After that, the academy will close and we will sell this manor. Yun Valley will no longer has anything to do with Jing Zhou."
"Your Highness….." Official Zhang does not wish to lose the academy.
Yun Qian Yu motions him to stop, "The expense for running the academy for ten years will all be on my Yun Valley. Bengong is not that rich to simply throw money around."
Zhang Huan Shan stares at her with his mouth agape, not knowing what to say. Ten years worth of expenses for those students' meals, for the teachers' pay, most importantly, for those expensive medicines! He probably cannot count them all if he is given the entire day.
"This official would like to thank Your Highness' benevolence on behalf of the common people of Jing Zhou!"
"No need to thank me, just make sure that Yun Valley's labour does not count for nothing." She waves her sleeves and those kneeling people quickly stands back up.
The people in the crowd now really hates those spies. It is their fault that they are currently in this predicament.
When they remember Feng Ran's lovely little snake however, whatever ire they feel towards Yun Valley quickly dissipates.
The truth is that was already Feng Ran's lightest punishment. He only wanted to scare the common people enough that they will not dare to disturb the academy for the next ten years.
The crowd slowly thins. After receiving Yun Qian Yu and Gong Sang Mo's permission, Official Zhang too, left.
"You sneaky girl," Gong Sang Mo smiles at her.
Ji Shu Liu raises an eyebrow, "Using scheme against scheme, killing three birds with one stone. You never really did plan to open the academy forever, did you? At the same time, you got the chance to tell everyone that Yun Valley does not belong to Nan Lou Kingdom. And now, after seeing what Yun Valley can do, people will be too afraid to make trouble in the future. Rather than a trouble, this seems more like a solution for you."
Yun Qian Yu stands in front of the entrance to Yun Residence, looking at the plaque hung on the gate. The expression on her face is distant, as though she is about to be spirited away anytime soon.
"Yun Valley is a clean place, the heart and soul of it's every inhabitant. The valley is the home that they depend upon. I only left because I want to help Yu Jian, but even so, I will not allow anyone to smear those people's safe space."
What she truly think is: 10 years. That's how long she will give it before she can return to Yun Valley and live her life the way she wants to. Of course, there will be an addition to her entourage by then, Gong Sang Mo.
Gong Sang Mo holds her hand while smiling warmly, "I will be right next to you!"
He understands her without the need for words. He has always been the one who understands her the best.
She smiles at him beautifully, "10 years should be enough, right?"
"Maybe even earlier," Gong Sang Mo will do anything he can to help her get whatever she wants.
When Ji Shu Liu sees the tacit understanding that they share, his eyes are filled with gloom. He really is too late! What should he do? He likes her from the moment he saw her, is it possible to tell heart what not to feel?
"Please come in, Mistress," says the First Elder.
Yun Qian Yu nods. She pulls Gong Sang Mo by the hand as she walks to the entrance gate. Then, she stops and turn around, "Let's have dinner together, Ding Hai Wang."
Ji Shu Liu smiles, "Alright!"
He flings his sleeves and follow them.
Gong Sang Mo frowns, clearly unwilling, but doing nothing to express his discontent. He will never stop Yun Qian Yu from doing whatever she wants.
The moment they return to the residence, Feng Ran begin interrogating the man who started all of the rumors. Even his accomplice is not spared.
At the end of the interrogation, it becomes clear that those two are with Mo Dai Kingdom!
Mo Dai Kingdom? A calculating look appears on Yun Qian Yu's pretty face.
Long Jin, you really are seeking death.
"Sang Mo, is Long Xiang Luo still alive?" asks her craftily.
"Of course!" Gong Sang Mo naturally knows that she is asking about the impostor.
"That's good. It is time for her to play her last part. I heard that Mo Dai Kingdom is about to have an arranged marriage with Jiu Xiao Kingdom. They are marrying off Long Xiang Luo to Jiu Xiao Kingdom's 4th wangye."
"Correct. If I heard correctly, they are both going to Mount San Xian. After that, they will formally marry," informs Gong Sang Mo.
"From the way I look at it, both of them really suit each other. Just, there is no need for them to go to Mount San Xian anymore."
"Yu Er, don't you have something that belongs to Long Xiang Luo?" reminds Gong Sang Mo.
Yun Qian Yu smiles, "It is time for the original owner to return."
"You can hand this matter over to me. You only need to give the broken sword to San Qiu, he will send people to return it to her. As for the rest, leave it to me!" Gong Sang Mo does not wish to see Yun Qian Yu exerting her energy on something like this.
"Alright," says Yun Qian Yu.
The First Elder orders people to serve dinner, in which Yun Qian Yu, Gong Sang Mo and Ji Shu Liu eat together.
After dinner, Ji Shu Liu stay there, looking like he is not going to leave anytime soon. He completely ignores Gong Sang Mo's stare of discontent. He even says that he is going to go to Mount San Xian with them.
Yun Qian Yu does not stop him, because who is she to stop Ding Hai Wang from going to Mount San Xian?
Once Yun Qian Yu retreats to her own room to rest, Gong Sang Mo finally opens his mouth, "Why are you trying so hard for? You clearly know that it is impossible, why waste your time on something futile? This is not your style."
"It's not like I can force my heart to stop feeling, what do you want me to do?" Ji Shu Liu lazily leans back against the chair, looking helpless.
Gong Sang Mo trains his eyes on Ji Shu Liu. He does not know how to reply to that honest confession.
Ji Shu Liu smiles, "Besides, are you sure you don't want me to tag along to Mount San Xian? Do you think she can endure it when the time comes?"
Gong Sang Mo's eyes dim down.
"With me there, I can support her when you are not around," a trace of bitter smile can be seen on Ji Shu Liu's face. Never would he imagine sinking to this kind of low.
Gong Sang Mo does not deny what he said.
The main rule of Mount San Xian is that under no circumstances are the students allowed to commit fratricide. That was why Long Xiang Luo had dared to act so unruly back then. Because she thought he would never turn his back against the rule, and partly because she thought she could quietly take care of Yun Qian Yu behind everyone's back. What she did not expect was Gong Sang Mo would actually turn his back against the school and would kill her with his own hands for the sake of Yu Er.
The truth is, he did not have to kill her with his own hands. He could simply order someone to do it for him. However, that method would be really lowly and he does not wish to sink to that level to deceive his teacher.
If he had not done it himself, Yun Qian Yu would have done it, and she needs to be in Mount San Xian's good grace in order to recruit Su Huai Feng. Needless to say, killing a disciple will not land her in their good book.
Besides, he killed Long Xiang Luo for Yun Qian Yu, that is not something that he is ashamed of. He will not regret it even if he gets kicked out of the sect. Despite that, he still wish to obtain his shifu's forgival. The honourable Sheng Xue Tian Zun has done so much for Gong Sang Mo, he is like a father to him. Sheng Xue Tian Zun has always been an important figure in Gong Sang Mo's life.
Just how severe will the punishment be for Gong Sang Mo to be so wary?
One's punishment depends on their position. Since Gong Sang Mo's position in Mount San Xian is not normal, his punishment will also be different from other people's. The higher the position that one holds, the more conscientious of their behaviour will they become.
Gong Sang Mo's position is higher than his Senior Brothers, that means that his punishment will be on that level as well. His punishment will be the worst one the sect has to offer; nine deaths for one life.
He did not tell Yun Qian Yu all that because he did not wish to worry her. He does not wish to hear the sound of her weeping again; that time in Tian En Temple is enough. He does not have the heart to subject her to that again.
With that in mind, he realizes that when he is subjected to the punishment, Yun Qian Yu will need someone else to support her while he is not around. No one can be better than Ji Shu Liu.
Ji Shu Liu has heard about the strict rule of Mount San Xian from Su Huai Feng. He wonders how Yun Qian Yu will take it once Gong Sang Mo is punished.
Both of them becomes quiet, each immersed in his own thoughts.
His heart a mess, Gong Sang Mo does not sleep in Yun Qian Yu's room tonight. He spends the night in his own room sleeplessly.
Without Gong Sang Mo's embrace, Yun Qian Yu cannot sleep as well. She tosses and turn on her bed.
As a result, both Yun Qian Yu and Gong Sang Mo did not get a good sleep that night.
Even Ji Shu Liu cannot sleep. He originally thought that he can pose a little threat to Gong Sang Mo, but now that he is here, he can see that the bond between Yun Qian Yu and Gong Sang Mo are deeper than what he expected.
He cannot accept this! He feels very helpless! This is the first woman that he likes, and to lose before he even gets to compete is not a very good feeling.
The next day, Yun Qian Yu goes to the academy after breakfast to check on the academy. She is very surprised to find the number of students now rapidly increasing. The literary hall used to have only 22 students, but now it has 46 students! The medical hall used to have 14 students, but now it already has 38 students. There are still many more people waiting to register outside.
Yun Qian Yu announcing that the academy will close after ten years makes people realize that this is once-in-lifetime opportunity, so people who fits all the criterias quickly register to study here.
Yun Qian Yu does not mind. Accepting these people means cultivating talents from Jing Zhou, which also means cultivating talents for Yu Jian. It will really help the common people. It also provides a way out for these poor students.
Now that there are more people here, they need to increase the number of staffs. The kitchen is in immediate need of additional staffs. There are more than 80 students, if one adds the teachers and their helpers, the kitchen will need to cook for more than 100 mouths.
After discussing with the First Elder, they decide to buy a couple more servants, which will be better than hiring temporary staffs.
After seeing the way the First Elder handle the academy, Yun Qian Yu decides to stop lingering in Jing Zhou. She tells him that they will continue the journey to Mount San Xian today. She tells the First Elder to not work himself too hard, and to hand things over to the other Elders' disciples once things begin to run smoothly. He can then return to Yun Valley.
The First Elder looks at Gong Sang Mo reluctantly. Yun Qian Yu does not know what to say. Two days worth of chess playing is enough to vanquish him?
Gong Sang Mo smiles warmly, "I will play with First Elder again when opportunity presents itself."
The First Elder laughs heartily, "Good! Good! Good!"
Chen Xiang and the rest have packed things up. Even San Qiu has arranged all the necessary mode of transportation.
Ji Shu Liu's carriage also reaches the gate in time.
After bidding the First Elder goodbye, they board their carriages and continue the journey.
Not long into the journey, Yun Qian Yu falls asleep while snuggling against Gong Sang Mo.
Gong Sang Mo smiles as he looks at Yun Qian Yu who is sleeping soundly. He slowly close his eyes, falling asleep as well.
San Qiu who is navigating the horses outside tries his best to smoothen the ride, preferring to take flatter road.
Both of them falls into the rhythmic rocking of the carriage, none of them stirring awake.
For the next couple of days, their lives consist of mostly idle story-telling from the moment Yun Qian Yu is awake until she is asleep again.
After four days, their carriages finally reach the border to Lan County.
The weather is very cold here. Everywhere they look are barren landmarks. Branches of trees are laden with snow. It makes one feels cold just by looking at it.
All of them have already changed into thicker robes, lined with fox fur.
Even the windows of the carriages are lined with fox-fur. Yun Qian Yu is even holding a hand-warming stove.
The governor of Lan Country, Wang You Tian has already been informed of Princess Hu Guo's coming. He has been waiting for the entourage for the past couple of days in the nearest town to the border.
He had thought he would only be in charge of Princess Hu Guo and Xian Wang, but who would have thought that Ding Hai Wang, Ji Shu Liu will also be here?
The governor is a very smart and meticulous person. His arrangement has always been very reasonable and thoughtful.
Yun Qian Yu and Gong Sang Mo does not have any plan to rest. They want to get to Mount San Xian as soon as they can. That's why the moment they reach the little town, they only rest for a short moment before preparing to eat lunch. During lunch, they inquire about Jiu Xiao Kingdom and Mo Dai Kingdom, even though they already keep tabs of everything during the journey.
"People from Mo Dai Kingdom and Jiu Xiao Kingdom already reached this county at noon yesterday. By now, they should already reach Mount San Xian," says Wang You Tian.
Gong Sang Mo raises an eyebrow, "Together?"
"Not together. They entered the county separately. They originally journeyed together, but nobody knows why, Princess Long of Mo Dai Kingdom suddenly killed Jiu Xiao Kingdom's 4th wangye. Her sword is the evidence. Jiu Xiao Kingdom's 4th wangye's guards hunted the princess to avenge their wangye's death. They cornered her into a cliff and stabbed her. She fell down. When Mo Dai Kingdom's soldiers searched for her later on, they discovered her remains, maimed by wild beasts. Her face is not recognizable, but her clothes and the hilt of her sword are found with her. The relationship between the two kingdoms are now in ruins," replies Wang You Tian.
Those are pretty much the reports that Yun Qian Yu and Gong Sang Mo got beforehand.
Yun Qian Yu smiles, their temporary aim has been reached.
Ji Shu Liu noticed the pleased look on Yun Qian Yu's face. His lips unconsciously curls as well.
They continue the journey after lunch.
Around two hours worth of journey later, Yun Qian Yu opens the window. The sight of a large, snow-covered mountain greets her. The gigantic mountain looks imposing, like a king.