Chapter 138: Kidnapping (II)
A loud hum filled Qin Yining’s mind, and the light dagger in her hand suddenly seemed to weigh a thousand pounds. She looked back at the unconscious Cao Yuqing on the ground. Killing a woman who was out cold was the definition of easy, and certainly much easier than hunting in the mountains. But could Qin Yining possibly kill Cao Yuqing?
It wasn’t that the girl was afraid of killing. Nor was it a matter of motivation; she still felt a righteous anger over what had happened to her maternal grandfather and male relatives. She hated the trash emperor and trampess’ oppression of the Suns with a fury, matched only by the rage she felt over how the imperial couple toyed with her father and mother.
In reality, she very much supported Azure Justice. But her mind was not one to fall to momentary impulse, as consequences and possibilities revealed themselves in all their dark and twisted glory in her head. Her grip tightened, and she tookthe duchess’ arm.
“Grandmother, shall we talk outside?”
The duchess’ slightly upturned mouth froze for a second, almost curving downward. A sharp light shone out of her eyes once again, seemingly assessing Qin Yining. It felt rather unnerving to Qin Yining, and the girl once again pressed, “Grandmother, can we talk outside? I have a few words I’d like to exchange privately with you.”
The duchess hesitated for a moment before finally nodding. “Alright then.” She turned to two Azure Justice members holding the door open for her.
Qin Yining followed the duchess to a field out front and discovered great mountains to their rear. Fields covered the other cardinal directions, houses dotting the landscape not too far in the distance. Each house was separated by large tracts of land. Because it was early spring, hints of green could be found in the fields closer to the forest, but the chilly wind here was even more biting than in the winter time.
The two walked deeper into the field, leaving the alliance members on guard behind. There was no fear of being overhead, but it was still advantageous for the duchess. The alliance members would be able to rush to aid their leader in plenty of time if Qin Yining tried to make a move against the duchess.
When Qin Yining saw how the guards positioned themselves, her heart chilled some more. It looks like not only does grandmother want to drag me into her quest for revenge, but she distrusts me on a fundamental level.
“Grandmother, are my people alright?”
“Naturally. Would I harm an innocent little girl?” The duchess laughed mockingly. “Aren’t you too concerned about your servants. Why don’t you ask after your aunts-in-law and cousins?”
“Grandmother’s ability is without parallel, so I trust that the Sun females are naturally in good hands.” Qin Yining responded, keeping her tone measured and not rising to the duchess’ bait. “Please forgive me for being unable to do what grandmother spoke of today. I won’t spread the word that you’re the leader of Azure Justice, nor will I leak information about your movements. But I really can’t agree to joining you.”
The duchess’ lips pursed unhappily, but her face remained expressionless as she responded. “Do you have no desire for your own faction? Or the power that comes with it? Do you know how many more you’d be able to call upon if you were the head of Azure Justice?”
“Your granddaughter is but an ordinary noble girl, what would I do with so much power?”
“Others may not see it clearly, but would I be that blind?” The duchess laughed coldly. “You’re smart, and ambitious enough to desire it. I wouldn’t gift you the position of the alliance head if I didn’t know you personally either.”
“Does grandmother think that the alliance members really would follow and believe in me, an unmarried girl, if I simply kill née Cao? Since grandmother says I’m smart, why do you try to lull me into false security like a fool? What people respect isn’t me, but my identity. The fact that my father is Grand Preceptor Qin, Marquis of Anping!” Qin Yining’s tone turned sad. “I understand grandmother's pain and hate, but I’m still a Qin daughter. I can’t endanger the entire Qin clan for my own desires. I have no right to dictate the lives of the rest of the family.
“And grandmother, had you really not thought of any of this before kidnapping me today and forcing me to kill née Cao?” Qin Yining lifted her eyes to look at the duchess, tears gathering in them. “I will never forget the love and protection that you showed me, but grandmother, you shouldn’t have tried to use me as a flag to delineate sides or as a blade for your purposes.”
The duchess’ expression had already flickered through several faces by this point. Qin Yining’s words made perfect sense, and the girl wasn’t in the wrong to take those factors into consideration.
But the hate burned! The Sun matriarch couldn’t let her family die for nothing! She was going to use everything at her disposal to exact revenge! The kidnapping today was a step they’d taken to tie Qin Huaiyuan to Azure Justice and get some initial interest by eliminating the trampress’ sister.
“Granddaughter Yi, do you recall your maternal grandfather’s face? Do you still remember the appearance of your senior cousin and fifth cousin?” The duchess’ tone was bleak and desolate.
Qin Yining closed her eyes, the tears swimming in them escaping down her cheeks. “I remember. I’ll never forget!”
“Then why don’t you want to take revenge for them?!” The duchess suddenly shrieked.
“I want to, but I know I can’t.” Qin Yining responded evenly. “I can’t turn the Qins into my funeral pyre or put my father in a position where he’s attacked on all sides, unable to take a single step!”
The duchess looked at Qin Yining with a complex and resigned gaze. All of the emotions in her eyes were slowly crystallizing into tears, but she didn’t shed them. Instead, she suddenly smiled.
“Granddaughter Yi, if you’re not willing to kill Cao Yuqing, the alliance members will kill you and your servant. I won’t be able to do anything about that.”
“Grandmother!” Qin Yining’s head jerked up. She looked incredulously at the elder who’d done nothing but impart endless warmth and love since the girl had returned home. Had her shrewd and just maternal grandmother, who’d once spoken up on her behalf and gifted her the Institute of Luminous Charm, become so blinded by hate that she refused to recognize her family?
“Grandmother, you want to kill me?”
“Not me, them. How would they let you live if you won’t be the alliance head and know so many of our secrets?” The duchess looked at Qin Yining. “Cao Yuqing more than deserves her death. You can receive the adoration and respect from all of Azure Justice if you rid the world of one bitch. Is that not enough for you?”
Qin Yining sighed lightly and tilted her head back to look at the azure sky. “I don’t care about worldly goods, or receiving adoration and respect from others. My desires have always been very simple, grandmother. I want my family to be safe and sound. Although I’m not terribly smart and can’t do much for them, at the very least, I know what I can’t do. Grandmother, I really can’t do what you ask of me.”
The duchess stared fixedly at Qin Yining, her hands clenching and unclenching, forcefully tamping down her rage.
Qin Yining’s heart softened when she thought of the hate coursing through her grandmother, and the difficult position they were both in. She gingerly approached the elderly woman and wanted to speak words of comfort when a terrified yell rang out. A man quickly ran up to the duchess and pointed at the woodshed door not too far away.
“Bad news, née Cao’s run off! Two of our brothers at the door have died!” He panted out.
“Run off?” The duchess was taken aback. The woman’s hands and feet had been tied, and there were two men standing on guard at the door. Who could possibly be so skilled and vicious to kill the guards without anyone noticing and save née Cao? The duchess looked suspiciously at Qin Yining.
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