Chapter 213: Bloodshed (II)
The Silver Masks were highly trained and immensely proficient. Four of them held off the assassins while the remaining one covered Qin Yining and company’s retreat throughout he back door. They took the small path of the rear garden to where fewer people were.
Qin Yining’s right shoulder was on fire and blood trickled down with every movement, dying half a sleeve a bright crimson red. Black spots appeared in her vision. She undid the handkerchief around her waist as they ran, wrapping it firmly around her shoulder as Jiyun fumbled it into a tight knot.
They met other Silver Masks escorting the old dowager and other family members before long.
Qin Huaiyuan and the third elder master were flanking a disheveled old dowager, Qin-mama stumbling closely behind them.
Née Sun was right behind them, fifth master Qin Xian in one hand and Jin-mama in the other.
Qin Han was holding six-year-old tenth master Qin Rong and gripping his wife née Meng with his other hand.
Senior master Qin Yu was carrying a bloody eleventh master Qin Zong while the second elder master supported the second madame, equally covered in blood. Several concubines, serving girls, maids, and granny servants followed. Guards and Silver Masks brought up the rear.
But where was the third madame? And cousin Qin Yu’s wife? And ninth master Qin Xuan, only eleven years old?!
Qin Yining’s mind buzzed loudly and the scene went dark before her eyes. If it weren’t for Jiyun holding her up strongly, she would’ve tipped over onto the ground.
“Darling Yi, are you alright?” Qin Huaiyuan rushed up and grabbed his daughter, keeping her on her feet. Color drained from the marquis’ face when he saw the girl half drenched in blood. “Where are you hurt?”
“I’m fine.” Qin Yining buried her face weakly into her father’s embrace.
“Where are my sixth and seventh granddaughter!” The old dowager shrilled urgently.
Frantically circling the crowd, the eighth miss wasn’t able to find the third madame or her birth mother either. She bawled, “Where’s my mother? And my auntie?” 1
Eleventh master Qin Zong and the eighth miss were both born of Concubine Ge. The boy burst out in loud sobs, “Auntie!” The six year old boy would never forget the sight of his birth mother meeting a blade head-on in order to shield him.
The third elder master also broke down at the grisly memory of his wife holding their son, both pierced through with the same sword.
The scene was beyond chaotic. It was at times like these that everyone realized how horrifyingly close death was to them. The merest blink of the eye had been enough to part family members forever.
The assassins still continued their fierce offensive. Under the protection of the Silver Masks, the remaining Qins kept retreating. Men from the Warden’s Offices of the Five Wards should be here soon since they’d received word.
However, a Silver Mask hacked his way through to report to Qin Huaiyuan. “The outskirts of the palace are on fire and they’ve been attacked by assassins as well. Our leader and the Warden’s Office are guarding the imperial harem and can’t come. Our leader wants milord to take shelter!”
The others might not know who the Silver Masks’ leader was, but Qin Yining did. No wonder she hadn’t seen Cao Yuqing in the crowd! Something had happened at the palace as well. The fourth miss’ heart had settled down not long ago, but it leapt back to her throat upon hearing this.
The Warden’s Office had no men to spare for the Qins, but there were still three dozen highly skilled assassins left. Only ten Silver Masks and a few surviving guards were on their side; they wouldn’t be able to withstand the assassins in a prolonged battle.
Their people constantly fought losing skirmishes to just barely protect the enormous Qin family. Many residences were on fire, blocking off paths they would’ve taken. With pursuers to their rear and blazing flames staring them down, the harried family soon had nowhere to go.
The old dowager wailed with despair. “The heavens want to end us Qins, they want to end us!”
The second madame leaned on the second elder master, also shedding tears of hopelessness. At this moment, someone asked quietly in the crowd, “Didn’t the assassins want us to hand over someone just now?”
A singular cast stone could cause countless ripples. Another voice sounded amidst the miasma of traumatizing distress. “I heard it too! They wanted the fourth miss!”
Everyone’s gaze instantly converged on Qin Yining, barely holding onto consciousness in Qin Huaiyuan’s arms. The old dowager looked at her son’s back, her lips quivering without a sound. A variety of thoughts arose in this delicate instant.
“They want you! Why didn’t you die instead of your sisters!?” The trembling, raspy voice belonged to Concubine Lin of the second branch. She was the sixth and seventh miss’ birth mother and had almost lost her mind earlier when she hadn’t seen her twins. This revelation gave an outlet for all of her fury. “Isn’t it enough that you’ve brought all this down on us?! Do you want the be the death of the entire family??”
“Shut up, née Lin!” The second elder master commanded.
“Why must I shut up!? It’s all because of Qin Yining! It’s all the main branch’s fault! All of you caused the death of so many and killed my Shuang’er and An’er!” Concubine Lin seemed to have gone insane and dashed forward to push Qin Yining, but was halted by Qin Huaiyuan’s upraised arm.
The second elder master yanked his concubine roughly away. “What happened tonight isn’t anyone’s fault!” He admonished angrily. “What’s the meaning of this, née Lin!?”
The roaring fire was to her back and bloodthirsty assassins almost to her front. Both of her daughters were gone.
“Ah——“ Concubine Lin shrieked wretchedly and charged head first into a nearby wall.
A loud impact resounded as red and white matter splashed all over the ground.
“Sister!” The second madame choked out.
I caused another person to die.
As this tragic thought echoed in Qin Yining’s mind, she finally sagged weakly to the ground, unconscious.
“My dearest daughter, how are you feeling?!” Qin Huaiyuan completely panicked and he held onto his beloved daughter tightly, moving with her to sit on the ground. “Don’t scare me!”
Née Sun flew over and yanked Qin Yining out of his hands. “My child, my child!”
“Madame, the miss has lost too much blood. She’s going to be in a lot of danger if we don’t treat her now!” Jiyun applied pressure to Qin Yining’s shoulder and yanked harshly on the handkerchief around it. But this was treating only the symptoms.
Liberal amounts of blood made Qin Huaiyuan’s hands sticky. That was Qin Yining’s blood.
His only daughter’s life hung by a thread and his family was being hunted down like animals, with wounded and dead all around him. Was this to be his end after being a loyal subject all his life?
Had he done something wrong? If this was karma, why couldn’t it come for him alone?
Chapter 213 (II): Bloodshed (II)
“Protect the Marquis of Anping!”
Thunderous roars sounded from outside the flower-hung gate when despair had fully gripped everyone. It sounded like a crowd of a hundred!
The assassins judged the defense too hard to penetrate and were even less inclined to continue the fight now that reinforcements had appeared. At the same time, men dressed in ordinary clothing wielding axes, metal bars, wooden clubs, and knives poured in. Qin Huaiyuan could tell with a glance that they were the Azure Justice!
Though the rebel organization was a civilian-organized one, the leaders were boxing teachers and rogue fighters. They streamed in to see the three dozen assassins making their escape. Azure Justice chased after the attackers without skipping a beat, the Silver Masks joining in the pursuit as well.
And so the danger to the manor was suddenly defused.
Qin Huaiyuan oversaw fire extinguishment efforts from the survivors, sending others to search for any who might still be alive and others for the doctor.
Tardy help from the fire department also finally arrived.
Qin Huaiyuan hugged his daughter to himself and put her down in the outer study, which was untouched by the fires. He set Jiyun on guard. Due to the high number of injured and dead in the manor, née Sun, Jin-mama, and Qiulu were sent to look after the old dowager, second madame, and others.
The full list of casualties was generated when the fires were extinguished.
Half of the 39 inner resident servants were dead and only 10 outer residence guards and servants still lived. From the second branch, Concubine Lin, the sixth miss, the seventh miss, and the first wife were gone. From the third, the third madame and her son the ninth master were also sadly departed.
The heavily wounded Qin Yining and eleventh master Qin Zong were in comas. Countless others had injuries of varying degrees.
The old dowager broke into tragic sobs when she heard that her favorite daughter-in-law, eldest granddaughter-in-law, two charming granddaughters, and even her loyal Jixiang and Ruyi had been summoned by the underworld. She almost fainted several times.
The imperial physicians and doctors entered the manor, frantically attending to the wounded.
Qin Huaiyuan, the second and third elder master were beside themselves with picking up the pieces, burial matters, and setting up memorials.
When men from the Warden’s Office arrived, they thoroughly scoured the manor with Qin Huaiyuan leading the way, deathly afraid of any remaining assassins hiding in the shadows. However, no one noticed that three black-clad men evaded the Warden’s Office reinforcements and rushed to Qin Yining’s room.
The fourth miss’ shoulder wound was three inches deep, running from her shoulder blade to her upper right chest. There was also a cut one inch deep in her right arm. Thankfully she’d created a makeshift tourniquet in time, or she never would’ve hung on until the imperial physician arrived.
Stitching her wound up took a little bit of time. The physician rushed off to look at the injured eleventh master when he was done.
Jiyun held a chilled handkerchief to Qin Yining’s forehead. She was so worried she wanted to break out into tears as she watched over her mistress’ uneasy, feverish sleep. She knew that the fourth miss was in a coma not only because of blood loss, but even more so due to guilt towards the rest of the family.
Songlan had died to save Qin Yining.
The sixth miss and seventh miss had died in front of her; Concubine Lin had committed suicide with hate in her heart.
These were all overwhelming blows to the honest and kind Qin Yining.
Just who were the assassins and why had they said those words? Many of the survivors had lost family members, what if they hated Qin Yining for that? How would she continue to live with the Qins from henceforth?
A sudden, violent shudder coursed through Jiyun when her thoughts turned to Pang Xiao. She was supposed to protect Qin Yining, but the miss had suffered such a severe injury. The prince would probably take her skin off if he knew…
She abruptly sensed abnormal movement from the roof as her imagination ran wild. Jiyun stood up alertly in front of the bed, her eyes darting to and fro as she scanned her surroundings.
Thanks to the bright lamp, despite the decorative lace covering over it, she saw a smidgeon of dust fall from the roof rafters.
Alarm sounding wildly, the guard blew out the lamp and unfurled the soft sword from her waist. Her weapon glinted coldly in the minimal light.
Roof tiles fell in explosively at the same time. A man clad in black landed from the skies and ran at the bed, brandishing his sword. Jiyun blocked him with a move as two more burst in through the windows, also wielding swords.
Their leader sneered. “Little girl, get out of the way if you want to live. We won’t kill you.”
“Just who are you and why are you trying to kill my mistress?!” Face full of sweat, Jiyun adopted a ready stance in front of the bed. She didn’t back down in the slightest. “I won’t leave the miss behind!”
“Haha! Since you’re such a loyal servant, I’ll tell you why so you can go to hell with your questions answered!” The man carved a fancy pattern in the air with his sword. “We’re here on behalf of His Imperial Majesty of Great Zhou! Don’t they say that this nation won’t fall as long as this little girl exists? The emperor wants us to get rid of this talisman!”
“You!” Flabbergasted, Jiyun had never thought that the Great Zhou emperor was behind these men! No one knew better than those by Qin Yining’s side just how talk of a ‘talisman’ had come about. It was something made up so the fourth miss could escape being eaten! “Does the Faithful Prince of the First Rank know you’re here??”
“Hrnn! You little girl know a thing or two, hmm?” The man snorted and couldn’t be bothered with an answer. He raised his sword for a charge.
Jiyun hastily parried it, but quickly realized that these three were much higher skilled than the previous mass of assassins. She couldn’t take them on just by herself!
Many things were becoming clear to her. That large group earlier had killed indiscriminately because they didn’t know who their target was, while these three had remained in the shadows to ensure the success of their mission.
And indeed, Qin Yining lying here for treatment had given away who the Qin fourth miss was. Now that the manor was a chaotic mess and everyone was preoccupied, that created an opening for these three to slip in.
Jiyun met each move with great difficulty, but she grit her teeth and hung on grimly. She wouldn’t allow anything further to happen to Qin Yining on her watch. She’d be dead meat if she did! Besides, she genuinely respected and loved the Qin fourth miss now, how would she possibly let the miss die?
However, martial arts was just like stamina, not something that could be increased just because one wanted to. Jiyun slowly faltered and suffered several blows. She cried out loudly for help, but no one answered.
When all seemed bleak, a white light flashed past the window. The assassin that was about to bring his blade down on the bed suddenly halted.
The room door was kicked open and a white figure dashed inside, freezing the other two where they stood with a quick reach of its hands.
All three assassins had been apprehended in the blink of an eye!
The figure panted. “Sorry I’m late!”
Jiyun had suffered shallow injuries in several places and was also huffing wearily. But she refused to relax her guard. “Who are you?”
The person produced a fire-starter from his clothes and lit the lamp again.
Jiyun took a close look and exclaimed with surprise, “You’re… Sir Mu?”
The newcomer was in his early twenties, tall, skinny, sporting delicate features, and wearing patched robes. His breathing was unsteady due to the great rush he’d been in. Mu Jinghu answered with a frown. “That fox had me race here when he heard the news. But it looks like I was still a bit too late.”
He turned back to look curiously at Qin Yining, cocking his head and considering the unconscious girl on the bed for a long moment. He nodded solemnly and spoke without a change in tone, “Oh, no wonder he had me come. She’s a beauty.”
Jiyun finally heaved a sigh of relief and collapsed on the footrest. She pointed at the three immobile assassins. “Sir Mu, what about them?”
“Do you want me to kill them? I actually think it’s better if we capture them alive.” Mu Jinghu rifled his worn sleeves for a small packet. “This is some medicine I put together.” He turned back and jabbed roughly at the three assassins’ acupuncture points.