Chapter 212: Bloodshed (I)
Qin Yining didn’t know that her father had paid a visit to Ning Manor, and neither did Qin Huaiyuan inquire what his daughter had done outside. Bingtang remained at Ning Manor to look after the princess consort, leaving Qin Yining to pass the days peacefully with Jiyun, Songlan, and Qiulu.
Things looked calm on the surface, but the fourth miss felt that this was the calm before the storm. Her heart was stuck in her throat, not knowing what would happen to the Caos, if they would continue persecution of the Qins, and if the conflict between the Prince of Ning and the Caos was enough to have the prince extend a helping hand.
She’d done all that she could. The rest was up to fate.
But that night, when she heard Steward Zhong’s men report that the prince had gone to apologize and offer gifts to the Caos, her heart chilled.
It looked like the prince was another one afraid of imperial authority and the Caos. True, it wasn’t good timing to clash with the Caos. The imperial prince was actually showing that he could bend and extend with the times.
But what about her family?
Qin Yining was so worried that night that she couldn’t sleep. She laid awake inside mosquito netting and waved her velvet fan listlessly. Perhaps due to her anxiety, or maybe the muggy summer nights, but she felt like a flat cake being flipped over and over again in a pan. It wasn’t until the hour of the rat that she finally felt a bit sleepy.
Just as she was drifting off, the clang of gongs suddenly sounded outside. Her eyes popped open.
The fourth miss’ heart skipped a beat and she quickly put her shoes on, heading for the balcony outside the loft. All of the girls and servants inside the Venerable Study Hall were awake as well, clustering on balconies and around windows.
A sea of fire had engulfed the houses in the direction of the Garden of Tranquility.
“Fourth sister, what’s, what’s going on? No one lives in those residences anymore, so how could they have caught on fire?” The eighth miss pulled incredulously on Qin Yining’s hand.
She too found it odd. In these tense times, she’d arranged night patrols in the empty residences to prevent something like this. It was very late, so perhaps the granny servant on watch had dozed off?
Qin Yining returned to her room to dress properly. “I’ll go take a look.”
“I’m going with you.” Jiyun dressed as well. The fourth miss nodded and gave orders for Qiulu and Songlan to look after the residence.
The other girls weren’t in charge of the household, so they were just curious about the fire and didn’t pay much heed to it. They smiled to see Qin Yining come downstairs and reminded her to be careful.
“It’s no big deal, everyone go back and rest. Be careful of bugs and mosquitoes outside.” She smiled in response.
The eldest third miss had married and the fourth eldest was normally in charge of inner residence matters. All of the younger girls respected her immensely and went back to their rooms to rest.
But when Qin Yining and Jiyun reached the yard, a shriek abruptly broke through the air.
“Jiyun, did you hear that?” Qin Yining’s hand grew clammy.
“Something’s wrong.” Jiyun’s expression was serious. “Miss, why don’t we…”
Another shriek sounded before she finished speaking. It sounded much closer this time and was swiftly followed by the clang of weaponry.
Qin Yining grabbed the guard’s hand. “It’s probably enemies!”
The girls in their rooms also heard the commotion and came downstairs with jackets on. Some of the bolder mamas stood at the yard’s entrance, guarding the door with wooden clubs.
“Robbers have entered the manor, close your doors and windows!” came a shout from outside.
“Who are you! How dare you barge into the Qin Manor!” was another yell.
“We’ve already notified the authorities, men from the Warden’s Offices of the Five Wards will be here soon!”
Only the Qin guards were roaring and shouting; the enemy didn’t make a peep. Sounds of metal clashing and their guards’ voices filled the air, occasionally punctuated by the cry of a serving girl or granny servant. The clamor was just outside doors to Venerable Study Hall.
“Miss, what should we do??” Songlan and Qiulu’s faces were ashen with fright.
The other misses were equally terrified and huddled together for safety. Qin Yining was a bit too stunned to react.
Who was attacking their manor?
The Caos? Or other enemies of her father?
The fires set in the inner residence must be the handiwork of these robbers. They’d just picked some random targets to burn down. Judging from the sounds outside, were they here to wipe them all out??
Amidst the chaotic mess of fire glow, ghastly screams, and sounds of fighting, someone crashed into the doors of the residence, startling a collective gasp from the females inside.
“Mommy!” The eighth miss wailed.
The sixth miss clapped a hand over her sister’s mouth. “Shush!”
A rough voice sounded crudely from the other side. “The wenches are all in here!”
Loud collisions sounded against the door, scaring the two granny servants with clubs so much that they backed up.
“Everyone stay quiet,” Qin Yining hissed, “and run!”
The doors crashed to the ground right after she spoke. Masked attackers wielding blades charged in. They slew the two granny servants closest to the door with one thrust each, spraying blood everywhere.
Qin Yining’s pupils contracted violently and she sprinted away, dragging the closest eighth miss away with her. They really are here to wipe us out!
Jiyun, Qiulu, and Songlan followed close behind. The sixth and seventh miss bolted frantically with Qin Huining.
But there were too many robbers. Even with some guards hastily rushing in to protect the Qins, a few of the attackers still broke through.
The servings girls and maids were better off. They had a decent amount of daily exercise and their feet weren’t bound. But that wasn’t the case for the Qin misses!
Loyal maids protected their mistresses by keeping to the rear. They ate a slash whenever a robber caught up. Several serving girls and granny servants fell in quick succession.
Seeing this, Jiyun unfurled the soft sword wrapped around her waist and grabbed Qin Yining. She ignored everyone else and sprinted for the back of Venerable Study Hall.
“Miss, I can’t fight that many!” There were too many! She only had two hands and orders from the prince to protect the Qin fourth miss. She had to harden her heart and leave everyone else.
Qin Yining ran a little faster with Jiyun dragging her along. She turned back as she ran, her other hand was still holding onto the eighth miss.
She saw the seventh miss, trailing at the rear, take a blade to her stomach. Cold brilliance reflected fiery sparks into the girl’s eyes when the sword was pulled back out.
She saw Qin Huining, about to be overtaken, push out the sister running in front of her — the sixth miss.
The sword’s edge arced across the sixth miss’ neck, sending up a spray of blood several feet tall.
Tears blinded Qin Yining. She thought she’d shrieked loudly in horror, but only a soft grunt came out of her mouth. Everything was happening too quickly, making her feel like she was moving in a nightmare.
Blazing light filled the skies while corpses littered the ground. The yard had turned into Shura’s hell. Perhaps slaughtering a group of women and children was too easy? The robbers started guffawing as they chased and killed.
“Isn’t one of you the Qin fourth miss? Has the Great Yan capital been destroyed yet? Why is your home ruined first?”
“Hand over the fourth miss and I’ll give you all a quick death!”
Qin Yining widened her eyes. They were here for her? Anyone who was here because of that rumor would be someone from Great Zhou!
Qin Huining was about to be run down again and frantically pointed at the fourth miss when she heard this. “That’s the fourth miss!”
Her words had the desired effect. The assassins skipped past Qin Huining and Qiulu, making a beeline straight for Qin Yining.
Jiyun grit her teeth and shoved the miss behind her, brandishing her soft sword to stop the people charging at her. “Go, miss!”
With the guard holding off the attackers, Qin Yining backed up, hating her own incompetency with every step she took. She had no other choice but to run!
There were too many assassins. One of them circled past Jiyun in the blink of an eye and brought his sword down on the Qin fourth miss.
Qin Yining gasped and turned sideways, but she was too slow. Heat seared her right shoulder and blood spurted out as she pitched forward.
Next to her, the eighth miss and Songlan cried out in horror. The maid grit her teeth and pounced forward, holding tightly onto Qin Yining and protecting her mistress with her own body.
The assassin followed up with another stroke and the blade bit deeply into Songlan’s back.
“Songlan!” Qin Yining finally sobbed when she felt the weight on her body and the warmth of fresh blood.
The assassin yanked his weapon out, ignoring the blood that sprayed onto his face and kicked Songlan aside, raising his sword for another strike.
Jiyun has rushed over by this point, but she was a beat too slow. She could only scream with panicked dread, “Miss!”
A dirk shot into the assassin’s arm in the nick of time, making him drop the sword. Qin Yining took advantage of this to roll to the side and rose to see five silver-masked figures dressed in black descend from the sky, stoutly standing in front of the survivors.
It’s the Silver Masks!
The five were obviously highly skilled and blocked off the oncoming eight robbers. One of the Silver Masks called out, “Men from the Warden’s Office will be here shortly! Protect the miss!”
One of them came forward and hauled up Qin Yining, who was still clutching Songlan. “Let’s go!”
Jiyun brought up the rear, fighting off more assailants as they left. The remaining eighth miss, Qin Huining, and Qiulu were hot on their heels.