Chapter 348 - A Rain of Arrows
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The carriages raced under the sweltering hot sun, inching closer and closer toward Shanhuai County. The rumble of the carriage wheels against the pebbles of the path accompanied the clip-clop of the horses’ hooves. Together, the racket was reminiscent of the battlefield.
The carriages finally reached a dense forest after four hours traversing hilly plains. Evergreens reaching at least twenty meters stood tall along the official path, their boughs bending under the weight of their own leaves, gathering in the middle to form a canopy shading everything beneath them from the heat of the sun. This was the only road wide enough for sedans to pass that led to Shanhuai County. The vast forest felt as cold as an icy underground cave, making their hairs stand on end. Several weak beams of light squeezed their way through the dense cover, providing them with the only light source in this dark abyss. Luckily, this official road was not too long - it was only about a kilometre in total.
As soon as they entered the forest, Jing Rong ordered four beacons to be lit, two at the front and two at their tail.
A cacophony of crows streaked across the sky, scaring Wei Yi into Ji Yunshu’s embrace, “Shu’er, what kind of place is this? Why is it so dark?”
Ji Yunshu held on tightly to him, comforting and consoling him carefully, “Don’t be afraid. It’s just a mountainous forest - everything will be fine once we pass through it.”
“What’s a mountainous forest?”
“Alright, that’s enough questions.” If he were to continue questioning, Wei Yi would surely conjure up even more absurdities. Their carriages were chugging steadily along, but Ji Yunshu’s heart began to fluster the deeper they travelled into the forest.
A sudden gust of wind blew into their sedan - there was also a faint flowery aroma. Ji Yunshu felt her head becoming heavy as her temple began to throb, and she closed her eyes helplessly, falling into a daze.
“Shu’er, I’m… I’m sleepy…” Wei Yi muttered. Ji Yunshu could not even look at Wei Yi as she herself fell into a stupor, losing consciousness.
In the carriage ahead.
“There really is such an eerie place.” Mo Ruo pushed his curtains away to peek outside, “No wonder those bandits are this lawless.”
Jing Rong sat properly, his eyes shut as he rested. He frowned, asking, “What’s this forest have to do with those bandits’ behaviour?”
“Look at this place. If we didn’t have any beacons or fire, we would be travelling in complete darkness. The forest terrain itself is as complicated as a maze; if one were not a local or familiar with this place and entered blindly, one would surely get lost and starve to death in this vast place. But those bandits must know this area like the back of their hands - if soldiers really arrived to annihilate them, all they have to do is to duck into the forest to hide and escape successfully. The government can’t burn this entire forest down, can they?”
Of course not! If they were to burn the entire plot and a northerly wind happened to blow, the fire would even spread to the surrounding villages! Mo Ruo’s words were not without fault. Jing Rong listened patiently with his eyes still closed, when he suddenly gasped, eyes now wide open in alarm. “Something’s wrong!”
Mm? Before Mo Ruo came around, Jing Rong was already out of the sedan. Who knew, as soon as he stepped out, an arrow flew out from the deepest part of the forest, embedding itself into his sedan only several centimetres away from his eyes. If it were any closer, that arrow would have passed through his left temple and out the other side.
A second later, twenty-odd arrows flew out from the darkness of the forest. Lang Po responded reflexively. He unsheathed his sword and ordered, “Protect everyone in the carriages.” The guards obeyed, surrounding the carriages in an orderly manner as they directed those arrows away with their swords.
Mo Ruo also jumped off their carriage. He flicked his large sleeve, gathering several arrows in it. He swung his sleeves again, and those arrows shot towards the deep forest, followed by the painful shrieking of crows resonating through the air.
Jing Rong quickened his pace towards the last carriage, perfectly avoiding every arrow flying at him. He pulled away the curtain to Ji Yunshu’s carriage, only to reveal an empty carriage.
“Yunshu…!” Jing Rong screamed crazily into the sky, his voice booming across the dense, dark forest. The rain of arrows was relentless. Jing Rong had momentarily lost his mind and he stood frozen before Ji Yunshu’s carriage. An arrow flew his way that instant, lodging itself into his chest as blood began to spurt out of his wound, staining his onyx robes red. Mo Ruo managed to get to Jing Rong’s side in the nick of time, blocking him from the remaining barrage of arrows as he flicked them away.
This shower of arrows did not last for long; those bandits must have run out of arrows!
Mo Ruo turned his attention to Jing Rong. He squatted down, pressing down firmly on Jing Rong’s shoulder, “Endure this.” He gave Jing Rong no time to consider as he held that lodged arrow and pulled it out in one breath. Mo Ruo sighed with relief as he looked at the bloody arrow, “Luckily it wasn’t poisoned.”
“Yunshu… Yunshu’s missing.”
Mo Ruo looked inside the sedan, “Wei Yi’s gone too.”
Both of them had disappeared! Jing Rong winced in pain as he tried to prop himself up, but was pushed back down by Mo Ruo, “The arrow might not have been poisoned, but the tip scratched a large artery in your chest. I need to stop the bleeding immediately and you need to stop exerting, otherwise your heart will rupture along with the damaged artery - nobody can save you then.”
“Move. I need to go to where Yunshu is. I don’t care even if it means I have to kill off the entire Gaoshan Gang.” He clenched his teeth as he began to stand, his gaze full of determination and worry. He flung Mo Ruo’s hands away as he rose, but his legs gave way and he fell backwards onto the sedan, almost collapsing to the ground.
Mo Ruo tried to convince him, “If those men were going to kill them, they would have done the deed here and not take them away. The most important thing now is your injuries.”
“If anything happens to Yunshu, I couldn’t possibly live.”
“Do you want to die first when she’s not even dead yet?”
The two of them started a shouting match there and then, but Jing Rong began to puff and his answer was never offered.
Lang Po ran over to the two of them, sweating. He asked worriedly upon noticing that his own Highness was hurt, “Your Highness, are you alright?”
Jing Rong eyed Mo Ruo, his anger beginning to dissipate as he regained his composure. He commanded Lang Po weakly, “Let’s get to Shanhuai County first. Send some men to Gaoshan Village to see if Teacher Ji and Wei Yi are there.”
“Teacher Ji and Master Wei are missing?” Lang Po peeked into the sedan puzzledly. As soon as he looked, he knew; he hurriedly replied, “Yes, this servant understands.”
Jing Rong began to break out in a cold sweat as he could hold on no longer, his face turning ghastly pale. The tip of the arrow only narrowly missed his heart - if he tried to use any strength, a tearing pain would rip across his chest. Mo Ruo quickly helped him into the sedan, not forgetting to ask Lang Po outside, “How are Aunty Xie and Miss Ji?”
Lang Po replied, “They are a bit frightened, but have been comforted now.”
“Mm. Let’s get out of this bloody forest and head first to Shanhuai County. Don’t forget to send men to investigate at Gaoshan Village.”
Grenn Rants Corner
Oh no! This is the karma brought by Ji Wanxin! Sometimes, I think Ji Wanxin had the potential to become Er Qing from the cdrama Yanxi Palace.
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