Chapter 88: Perilous Circumstances
Qin Yining was actually already surprised by née Sun’s ability to just sit there for four hours today, listening to unimportant chatter between her, the priestess, and the duchess. Foremost on the girl’s mind was knowledge of née Sun’s desire to hurry back. Concubine Cao would be entering the manor today, and even if née Sun wanted to express the disdain of a wife for a concubine, being fashionably late was enough.
Now that née Sun was growing truly angry, Qin Yining felt that it was alright to tell the others the situation outside. “Don’t be angry or anxious, mother. I’ve been delaying things because I was worried people would be afraid if I spoke the truth.”
Pang Xiao arched and eyebrow and looked at Qin Yining with interest. Drastic shifts in expression occurred on the duchess’ and née Sun’s face.
“What’s going on??” née Sun demanded.
“I found traces of suspicious people when we ascended the mountain earlier.” Qin Yining’s face was serious.
“What?!” Née Sun exclaimed. “What kind of people?”
“Don’t fret, let’s listen to darling Yi first.” The duchess patted née Sun’s hand.
“I’ve started living in the mountains since I was eight. Because I lived alone, I needed to be constantly on the alert against wild beasts. Therefore, I trained a very keen perception. My hairs stand on end whenever someone looks at me with hostility. I had that feeling when we were going up the mountain just now and looked around casually. I discovered two men wearing Great Zhou army uniforms hiding behind the short trees next to the stone stairs. I was worried that they weren’t alone and that our family would be injured if I raised a fuss. So, I just continued going up the mountain.”
Qin Yining comforted the anxious looking duchess at this point. “I already sent half of our guards to the residence that my aunts are in and kept the remaining half here. But, I think that the other half of the family is safe for now. If these people really do have ulterior motives, then anyone worthy of kidnapping or assassinating in this nunnery are all gathered in this house.”
That was right. The priestess, duchess, wife and daughter of Grand Preceptor Qin were all in this house. Compared to the other nuns or females with insignificant status, the most valuable people were gathered here. It was the duchess and née Sun’s turn to have their hairs stand on end. Qin Yining had only seen two, but how many were there? It was also very bizarre that they’d come in Great Zhou uniforms!
“Daughter Yi, are you sure you saw clearly? This is the capital of Great Yan! Even if we’re not in the best of straits, that doesn’t mean Great Zhou soldiers can just take a walk through our streets!” Née Sun’s voice had become slightly shrill from taut nerves.
Qin Yining quickly shushed her mother. “Let’s set aside whether or not they’re Great Zhou for now and when they got their hands on these uniforms. What’s important is what their intentions are.”
Many ideas circulated in the duchess’ mind. Her first guess was that the decrepit emperor had sent these people. Perhaps he’d arranged for his men to wear Great Zhou uniforms and kill the remaining Suns to vent some ill temper, but also give himself the veneer of innocence at the same time. Although it might seem ridiculous, it was entirely possible that the trash emperor would do something this ludicrous.
All was deathly quiet inside the house.
“What do we do, what do we do?! Mother, what should we do??” Née Sun was shaking all over.
The duchess frowned with disapproval. Née Sun’s panicked disarray was a sharp contrast to Qin Yining’s measured pre-knowledge. “Will you be quiet? We’re all here together!”
“No matter, no matter. My house is solidly built and we’ll be fine for a bit.” Priestess Liu piped in as well.
Pang Xiao retracted his cold, dismissive gaze from née Sun and looked calmly at Qin Yining. He admired her wits, pitied her circumstances, and had some thoughts of his own as well. Since she’d noticed the enemy on her way up the mountain and the Celestial Nunnery was about four hours from the city, this amount of time was enough for reinforcements to arrive with all haste. While not everyone was familiar with his looks, what if someone she summoned recognized him? He’d be in real trouble then. The reinforcements would be able to keep the ladies safe because Qin Yining was a smart one. She’d never let her grandmother and mother be in any trouble, not to mention her newborn niece.
When his thoughts traveled here, Pang Xiao shot to his feet with an ashen face and trembling voice. “Why, why didn’t you say so earlier?? What do you mean by all this? You’ll be the death of me!”
His cowardly act was on point as he paced and turned like ants in a hot pan. “This won’t do, we’re leaving right away. Good luck to the rest of you!” He dragged a slack jawed Huzi away with him.
Doesn’t my prince like Miss Qin? Shouldn’t he step forward at this time and promise manfully that “I’ll keep you safe” to win her over? My dear prince, aren’t you afraid of leaving a bad impression running away like this?! The befuddled guard chased after his lord.
Qin Yining narrowed her eyes and laughed softly, the sound appearing particularly crisp. “Sir Yao, don’t you think you’re being very suspicious?”
Pang Xiao halted, an admiring look appearing in his eyes. He looked back, still appearing like someone about to wet his pants. “What, you nobles brought the bad guys here and don’t let us escape? I don’t have the time to waste with you. Our family has only one male carrying on the family name in the last three generations! Do you want me to stay and protect you? Not happening! You better get out while you can too!”
“Stop joking, Sir Yao.” Qin Yining focused her eyes on Pang Xiao, the sharp light in her limpid, charming eyes making her hard to ignore. Although her body was pliable and soft, her aura wasn’t one bit less than that of a mature man’s. Pang Xiao was almost completely taken in by her dazzling gaze.
“If Sir Yao was any normal person, you’d think about how it’s much more dangerous outside than inside, right?
“I see only two suspicious people here. Any normal person would wonder if the enemy had already surrounded the nunnery.
“You probably won’t get out now even if you know how to fly!
“Unless… you brought those people and you’re in a hurry to go meet up with them?
“Or are you worried that my reinforcements will unmask you for who you truly are?” Qin Yining took a step forward with each line until she was in front of the duchess and née Sun. A light danced in her eyes, that of a small animal that wasn’t willing to accept defeat. Even if she was small and weak, she would bristle all of her fur to meet the enemy. Pang Xiao’s heart pounded wildly when he saw this. He really wanted to just take her away and tame her at his side!
Qin Yining grew even more nervous when she saw the man remain silent. She tugged the duchess and née Sun in the direction of the door, calling out for her people as she did so. Because the priestess hailed Sir Yao as her patron, even the priestess couldn’t be trusted at the moment.
Four tall and stocky guards charged in with wooden bats, almost breaking the door. They put Qin Yining, née Sun, and the duchess behind them. Bingtang, Songlan, and Qiulu also came rushing in, blocking the way to their mistresses. Qin Yining was standing very close to the door, a position making for easy escape.
Priestess Liu slapped her thighs with a loud cry. “Oh gods above! My redwood table! And that’s jade embedded above the door curtains! What do you want? Get out!”
Pang Xiao wasn’t in a mood to pretend anymore and discarded all pretense in front of Qin Yining for the first time. He was no longer the elegant gentleman, the scholarly merchant, much less a death-fearing coward. He straightened his slightly stooped back and flared an exceedingly domineering aura, making it difficult for others to breathe. His long and slender brows gave one a sharp and cutting feeling. Arrows of ice seemed like they would shoot out of his angled phoenix eyes as a teasing and dominating smile played around his lips. He brazenly seized up Qin Yining while the girl’s mind sent her the signals indicating the arrival of danger.
It felt like she was staring down a tiger or panther. “So it really is you? Who are you?” Her voice trembled slightly.
“Why should I tell you who I am?”
“I have a thousand methods if I really wanted to do anything to you. Would I have to go through all of this mess? Little girl, it’s good to be smart, but don’t be so confident in yourself.”
Qin Yining thought furiously, trying to see if her four guards could fight him and his follower. He seems quite domineering, but does he know martial arts? As she hesitated, cries and shrieks suddenly traveled in from the front door, swiftly followed by yells of violence and slaughter that made listeners quail. She thought it was the arrival of reinforcements, but the sight of a group of men in Great Zhou uniforms greeted her quick peek. They hacked at everyone they saw without mercy!
“Oh heavens!” Née Sun screamed loudly.
“We can’t stay trapped in the house!” There were too many she couldn’t trust inside and so many enemies. They would be fish in a barrel if they stayed! Qin Yining pulled née Sun and the duchess out with her, calling out to the guards as well and wanted to leave via the side door. They’d just set foot outside when a sharp, earsplitting sound broke through the air!
She felt a sense of danger she’d never experienced before. All of her hairs stood on end and she subconsciously wanted to duck to the side. But her mother was behind her! What would her family do if she dodged? This mometary hesitation was enough to let a bulky, uniformed man come charging over with blood dripping from an upraised blade. She also saw two archers on the walls. It’s too late!