Chapter 119: Welcoming Ceremony (II)
There were roughly twenty of them, all dressed in street clothes. With almost the entire city present on the streets, no one had spared the assassins a second glance when they’d blended in. Moreover, since the emperor’s appearance also brought a heavier security force to the event, no one had imagined that someone would pick this particular moment for an assassination attempt.
The assassins drew swords and brandished clubs as they broke cover, distancing themselves from the crowd in an instant as they charged the imperial couple. But the imperial guards and the men from the Warden’s Office were also quick to react, closing ranks around the imperial majesties and meeting the assassins in open combat.
The common people closest to the assassins panicked, doing their best to back up and flee, deathly afraid of getting involved. However, there were simply too many people on the streets. As people pushed and shoved each other in blind fear, a stampede grew, trampling those unfortunate enough to fall. The assassins hadn’t even reached the emperor yet, but some of the general populace were already close to death.
“My Meng’er! Heavens! Save him, someone go save him!” The old dowager was beside herself in fear.
Qin Huaiyuan was very close to the emperor and the crown prince. Although they had security all around them, they were also the target. The color drained from Qin Yining’s face and her heart almost stopped. It meant nothing if the trash emperor and trampress died, but her father was completely innocent! In that instant, Qin Yining hated the fact that she wasn’t a boy and didn’t have advanced martial arts skills. Her bit of brute strength was nothing here, so she could only watch as her father sank further into danger!
The Qin females shrieked from their vantage point as chaos engulfed the scene. Adults shouted, children wailed, and shrill screams and violent yells beat painfully on everyone’s eardrums.
Unlike her cousins around her, Qin Yining didn’t scream and wail. Rather, one hand tightened painfully on the windowsill as she stared unblinkingly at the situation developing below. A few of the assassins had broken through the melee formed by their assault on the guards and were now sprinting towards the imperial couple. Qin Yining’s sharp eyes took note of their direction. Their target was the emperor and empress, not Qin Huaiyuan!
Her taut nerves relaxed infinitesimally when she drew that conclusion. With the trash emperor and trampress dead, perhaps the nation could actually recover to its previous glory. It was just that, blades have no eyes, and she was afraid Qin Huaiyuan might be injured in the fray.
The thought had just crossed her mind when screams started in a different place; this time, the city gates. Her head whipped around, and her eyes widened as she saw a dozen men wearing Great Zhou army uniforms charge into the crowd. They seemed to have no care for civilians, hacking their way through as they made a beeline for Qin Huaiyuan, bellowing, “Take down Qin Meng!”
The old dowager’s eyes rolled up into her head when she heard the new battlecry, fainting dead away. Qin Yining’s hands went white as her fingers dug into the windowsill. She didn’t even feel it when a nail broke and her finger started to bleed. The way those assassins moved, it was very similar to the way the assassins at the Celestial Nunnery attacked!
Vicious blades and similar figures, even though Qin Yining didn’t know martial arts, she could tell from their techniques that the first group of masked assassins and this second group in Great Zhou uniforms were completely different parties. She didn’t understand; Qin Huaiyuan was someone who’d just accomplished a great feat for his nation and had always had a good reputation. Why would he be targeted after successful peace talks?!
The trash emperor and trampress should’ve died a long time ago, but not her father!
Unless, these people aren’t from Great Zhou! The flash of inspiration only served to make Qin Yining’s face even more solemn.
The streets were now a complete mess. The common people and officials who could run away had long since scattered, and those who were caught in the middle could only seek shelter in the food stalls by the side of the road. With two groups of assassins carving their way through the unfortunate civilians into the center, they looked like they were about to succeed in their assassination attempt!
Qin Yining noted that the imperial guards and Warden’s Office’s abilities were now in grave danger of falling short of their duty. Sweat trickled down her forehead. If her father fell into further danger, she’d charge down to save him herself even if it cost her life!
In that crucial moment, a different group made their appearance. Garbed in black, wearing silver masks and each armed with a sword, this mysterious group came from the direction of the city center, navigating rooftops and building walls with contemptuous ease as they bounded towards the fray. Qin Yining’s heart froze as the dozen figures landed on the street. More assassins? Her father’s life was truly in danger!
Before the girl could do anymore than fret helplessly from the window, the newcomers split into two and charged. One headed straight for the melee of guards and assassins, and the other intercepted the group of purported Great Zhou dissidents. The result was clear in a matter of moments. Like twin black daggers, the silver-masked fighters cut through and suppressed both assassin groups with overwhelming force and technique. They were clearly highly trained, and each one had reached a terrifyingly high level in martial arts. One of them was even a diminutive, lithe woman!
As Qin Yining looked on with surprise, the two groups were quickly beaten into complete submission. Some were dead, others injured, but a majority were captured alive. The girl heaved a long sigh of relief at seeing the situation finally fall into some semblance of control. The imperial couple could also finally relax from their position within the protective encirclement.
The dozen silver-masked fighters swiftly strode up to the emperor and made a grand gesture of greeting. It turned out that the lithe woman was their leader, as she called out loudly, “Please forgive your subordinate for arriving late, Your Majesty!”
The emperor patted his chest to soothe his lingering fear and waved a hand. “Your may rise. Thank goodness We are alright. We will not forgive you if you dare come late again next time.”
“Many thanks for Your Majesty’s mercy!” The woman responded loudly and kowtowed. The others followed her lead.
The emperor coughed and finally settled back down. “Take these assassins to the dungeons and interrogate them fully! We would like to see who wishes death on Our head!”
Thumps sounded out as soon as the emperor finished speaking. He looked back to see the men in Great Zhou uniforms crashing to the ground with purplish-black blood oozing out of their mouths. It would appear that they’d taken a page from the same book as the group from the nunnery, committing suicide via a poison caplet.
Qin Yining’s brows were furrowed tightly. She could be certain now that these people certainly weren’t from Great Zhou. The two countries had just agreed on peace talks, how would they be so idiotic as to send an assassin after Qin Huaiyuan to ruin the accords? The gold, silver, and cities that Great Yan had promised hadn’t been handed over yet! And yet, she had no idea why this group of deathsworn would try to drive a wedge between the two nations.
“Trash, useless trash!” The emperor roared angrily. “There’s so many of you, so how could you not have stopped them from committing suicide?! They’ve died before We’ve found out the truth of this matter, so what use is any of you!”
The assassins dressed up as civilians were inspired and wanted to bite their tongues off as well. But given what the previous group of assassins had done, the guards hastily broke the jaws of the remaining assassins. Even if some of them moved faster than the others, they only succeeded in injuring themselves, and didn’t quite consign themselves to death. The emperor breathed a sigh of relief when he saw that there were still many that could be interrogated.
“Set off for the palace! I leave the Warden’s Office and Bureau of Punishment in charge here. We want to see results in three days!”
“Understood!” Sir Xu of the Warden’s Office agreed with a rueful expression.
Qin Yining looked in her father’s direction with a greatly furrowed brow. Thank goodness that danger had been diffused into nothing and he hadn’t been injured. The old dowager had been revived thanks to some judicious pinching of the acupuncture points between her thumb and index finger. Once she was assured that Qin Huaiyuan was fine, she heaved a long sigh of relief as well.
When Qin Yining saw that her father was about to climb into a carriage, she suddenly recalled that née Sun was still in the palace. She quickly made her way down to the ground floor with Bingtang and the others. Her eyes met Qin Huaiyuan’s when she reached the door of the Drunken Immortal.
The man frowned slightly upon seeing Qin Yining here as well. He thought for a moment and murmured a few words to the little eunuch next to him. The eunuch nodded and walked to Qin Yining.
“Good health to Miss Qin.” The eunuch cupped both hands in a salute.
As a general rule, Qin Yining knew that one should avoid offended palace eunuchs at all costs. They’d never be the nicest or most gentle of folk, but they certainly had a harsh bite if provoked. She immediately reacted with all due courtesy, “Greetings to sir eunuch.”
The eunuch didn’t dare accept Qin Yining’s curtsey and quickly shifted to the side. “Grand Preceptor Qin ordered this lowly one to ask Miss Qin if anything has happened at home, given the miss’ presence here?”
A wry expression spread itself across Qin Yining’s face as her heart palpitated with lingering shock. “The old dowager brought the entire family out early this morning to witness this magnificent occasion. We wanted to glimpse the authority of the son of heaven, but to think such horrifying developments occurred instead! Grandmother is worried about the emperor and empress’ safety, as well as father’s health. Thus, she had me come down for a look.”
“The Qin Old Dowager has an exceedingly loyal heart and the mind of a loving mother.” The eunuch saluted a few times towards the second floor. “The emperor and empress possesses such fortune as to be one with the heavens. They were able to peacefully weather disaster and emerge unscathed. There is nothing untoward, and Grand Preceptor Qin is doing well as well. Please pass this message onto the old dowager.”
“Understood, many thanks, gonggong.” Qin Yining once again curtsied in thanks and lifted her arm to flare out her billowy cloak. She took advantage of the cover to slip a commonly made sachet of exquisite material into the eunuch’s hand.
The eunuch had never seen a noble daughter with such practiced moves. He blinked and squeezed the sachet a few times, his fingers telling him that there were more than a few gold beans inside. He beamed even more merrily at her and accepted the gift without a change in expression.
“This lowly one thanks Miss Qin. Many thanks, Miss Qin.”
“Go well, gonggong.”
“There is no need to send this lowly one off.”
Qin Yining nodded slightly and lifted her eyes to gaze at the carriage when the eunuch turned to leave.