Chapter 139: Hostage
Qin Yining was also filled with confusion. They’d just exited the woodshed and spoken only a few words, but that’d been enough time for née Cao to escape! Was someone protecting them from the shadows?
She didn’t have anyone by her side like this, but Cao Yuqing was a Cao, so it was possible that she did. But, if that was the case, why hadn’t the rescuers appeared earlier? Why had they waited until she’d woken up and gone out to speak with the duchess?
Perhaps the Caos wished nothing more than for her to die here? Or perhaps they felt that she was in cahoots with the duchess! This would spell great trouble if the Caos really did think that she was on the same side as the Duchess of Ding!
Although the Caos and Qins were connected by ties of marriage, Qin Huaiyuan wasn’t warm towards née Cao and he’d taken over Elder Statesman Cao’s old position. Even if Statesman Cao was no longer an official, his connections were everywhere and his network wide and complex. The Qins didn’t have the ability to resist them at all.
Quite a few thoughts occurred to Qin Yining in an instant, and she felt that this development was quite tricky. All of this had happened because of her maternal grandmother, and the latter happened to be assessing her with a suspicious glance. At the moment Qin Yining really didn’t know whether to be angry or resigned.
The duchess sized up Qin Yining for quite a while and didn’t read anything from the girl’s expression. She laughed self-deprecatingly. “Well, she’s run off now, so nothing I say will make a difference. But you live under the same roof as née Cao, so you’ll have plenty of opportunities to kill her in the future.”
Qin Yining looked back at her grandmother and responded seriously. “Grandmother, I think I was quite clear just now. I won’t tattle on you or make life difficult for you, and I’ll even continue looking after everyone’s lives here. But I really can’t drag the Qins into this.”
The duchess shook her head with disappointment after the repeated rejections. Those remaining on guard around the duchess had gathered not too far away. When they heard Qin Yining’s repeated rejection, they couldn’t help but grow angry.
“Leader, why waste all these words with her? I can tell this girl lusts after wealth and glory and is the same as that dog of an emperor!”
“That’s right, Leader! Not only is she the same as the dumperor, she’s long since forgotten the ties of family she has with you and is even involved with Great Zhou!”
“Right! I heard that that Pang fellow from Great Zhou is overly intimate with her!”
“Perhaps old man Qin brought her to the peace talks to turn traitor!”
“Not only is she so blind as to serve that fool of an emperor, but she’s a traitor as well! Leader, kill her!”
“Kill her! Kill her!” The men had violent grimaces on their face as they hoisted their iron blades high, looking at Qin Yining in a bloodthirsty fashion. They were like feral dogs, ready to pounce on Qin Yining and rip her to bits at any moment.
But she wasn’t afraid. She merely looked calmly at the Duchess of Ding.
“Everyone, be quiet.” The duchess’ voice wasn’t loud, but it was full of authority that really did quiet everyone down. “The Marquis of Anping is wholeheartedly devoted to Great Yan. He is the same as the males of my house and would never betray his country. As for my granddaughter, do you really not know why the trash emperor had her join the peace talks?”
The group thought carefully of Qin Huaiyuan’s character and quieted down again.
“Didn’t we want Miss Qin to be the leader today because the Marquis of Anping is trustworthy?” the duchess continued. “I hope we don’t act emotionally and just impulsively call for someone’s head. Wouldn’t that make us the same as those greedy and corrupt officials who murder and harm innocents?”
These few words were enough to make hands wielding blades trail down, their desire to hurt Qin Yining waning. The girl heaved a silent sigh of relief, gaining a deeper understanding of her grandmother’s place in Azure Justice.
“Bad news! Everyone run!”
Qin Yining was interrupted as soon as she’d spoken. She quickly looked backwards at the source the voice and her eyes widened with shock. Cao Yuqing was wielding a longsword, dressed in silk skirts and a flaring cloak around her shoulders! She was at the head of ten other silver masked, black garbed men and charging in from the distance!
Cao Yuqing’s face was frost and the edge of her blade keen. The agility she displayed in her twists and turns demonstrated an even higher grasp of martial arts than the Silver Masks behind her, and it was clear that the men looked to her as their leader!
In her extreme surprise, Qin Yining suddenly recalled the Silver Masks who’d come running down walls to protect the emperor on the day of the welcoming ceremony. Their leader was a woman, and her figure had been remarkably similar to Cao Yuqing’s!
Even though her brain was sluggish from the unexpected development, Qin Yining had realized by now that Cao Yuqing was the leader of the Silver Masks that served the emperor! So she was the one who’d killed the guards and run away, there was no one else!
Cao Yuqing had purposefully brought Qin Yining with her to the nunnery and allowed herself to be captured, likely because she already knew that the leader of Azure Justice was the Duchess of Ding! She was testing me and using me to lure grandmother out!
And if the Silver Masks that served the emperor knew of the duchess’ involvement, would the emperor remain in the dark? Now that née Cao was Qin Huaiyuan’s concubine, did he know of Cao Yuqing’s true identity as well?!
The color drained from Qin Yining’s face the more she thought about this. Cao Yuqing was charging in with her men, slaughtering people like she was slicing vegetables. A handful of alliance members were dead on the ground already and the Silver Masks were about to break through. Qin Yining frantically threw significant looks at the duchess.
The Duchess of Ding was also arrested in her tracks by Cao Yuqing’s momentum and instantly understood when she saw the girl’s looks. Qin Yining was telling her to use the girl as a hostage! Mixed emotions assailed the duchess. She’d wanted to use and had then threatened Qin Yining, but her granddaughter was still trying to protect her!
There was no time to think and the duchess immediately threw an arm around Qin Yining, yanking a blade from the hands of a man next to her. She rested the blade on Qin Yining’s pale,slender neck, “Halt, or I kill her!”
Cao Yuqing pulled out her sword from another’s chest and looked expressionlessly at Qin Yining and the Duchess of Ding. She snorted coldly. “The ties of family run deep between you two, huh? This is certainly eye-opening.”
“Oh I’m unworthy of that sentiment. The eldest Cao daughter is the trash emperor’s secret service. This is certainly eye opening as well. I wonder if your father, mother, and younger sister know of your identity?” The duchess was coolly composed as she backed towards the outskirts of the fields, the blade still on Qin Yining’s neck.
Qin Yining was panicking wildly and sobbing ferociously through her struggles. “Let me go! I was so filial towards you, but this is how you treat me! I was wrong about you!”
“Shut up! You’re just a dog for that pathetic excuse of an emperor. How dare you talk of filial piety with me?! If you really are filial, why didn’t you kill her just now?!” The duchess steeled her heart and banged the sword hilt firmly onto Qin Yining’s shoulder. When the girl shouted with pain, the blade was once again pointed towards her neck. “Have all of your men move away and let us leave, or I’ll kill her!”
Cao Yuqing could see that Qin Yining’s face was mottled with tears and that her complexion was wan from nerves. Her slender hands were grasping one of the duchess’ arms, but the cold blade edge was pressing against her neck. It seemed that blood would paint the scene if the girl leaned forward even the slightest bit. And so, Qin Yining was frozen with fear, prompting a dark and vicious expression on Cao Yuqing’s face.
The concubine had been certain that Qin Yining wasn’t in the same camp as the duchess when the fourth miss had refused to kill her. Now that she saw how heartless the duchess was being and ignoring ties of family with her granddaughter, Cao Yuqing was even more certain that Qin Yining had nothing to do with Azure Justice.
Cao Yuqing wouldn’t have cared if it’d been any other Qin daughter. She would’ve ordered her men to charge forward and execute all of the rebels. But this hostage was Qin Huaiyuan’s most beloved daughter. He had no son and loved this firstborn daughter like no other. Cao Yuqing was devoted to Qin Huaiyuan and if his daughter died here, he would hate the concubine even if it wasn’t née Cao’s fault. Wouldn’t that form a moat between the two of them that could never be bridged?
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