Chapter 214: After The Fact
Although Jiyun didn’t know who Mu Jinghu’s master was, she’d just seen how he’d taken out all the assassins in a mere blink of an eye. She’d also seen the man by the prince’s side before, so she was even more certain that he could be trusted.
“Many thanks to you, sir. Please wait at the door for a moment, I need to tell the marquis of what happened here.”
Mu Jinghu might be a bit wooden and inexperienced with the ways of the world, but he wasn’t an idiot. He knew that there should be a distance kept between man and woman. It was only right that he waited at the door.
He picked up an assassin in each hand and dragged them to the yard like blocks of wood. Coming back for the remaining one, he plonked them all in a row before standing in front of the study door with his hands behind his back.
Jiyun smiled gratefully when she saw this and went to find Qin Huaiyuan with the little packet of medicine.
The marquis had just sent off those from the Warden’s Office when he was greeted with the sight of Jiyun covered in wounds. She was fine just a while ago! Color drained from his face and he came out to meet her. “What is it? Didn’t I tell you to look after the miss?”
Jiyun curtsied and brought Qin Huaiyuan to a quiet corner.
“Three assassins came just now,” she murmured. “They were much more skilled than the group of attackers from earlier. I couldn’t hold them all off and suffered some injuries. Thankfully, the swordsman that the little prince sent arrived here just in time to take them all down. This is the medicine that he brought with him. Will you have the doctor check it, milord?”
Qin Huaiyuan tightened a fist around the little packet, his sharp mind clearly sorting through all the connotations of what had just happened.
Actions from the attackers had been premeditated. They’d first sent a large group to try to exterminate as much of the family as possible, then feinted an attack on the palace so that the Warden’s Office couldn’t rush to Qin Manor in time. And if all that failed, they had people lying in wait to accurately focus on the target and try again when security was relaxed.
These people must be from the Great Zhou emperor. Those in high positions of power had a certain degree of belief in fate and fortune, just like how the emperor of Great Yan hadn’t dared risk bad luck and refrained from doing anything to Qin Yining, whether or not she really could guarantee the security of the nation. The Great Zhou emperor must’ve wanted to eliminate the Great Yan talisman first, regardless of whether there was any truth to the reputation.
Qin Huaiyuan tightened his jaw and turned back to shout for an imperial physician, passing over the packet for inspection.
The physician looked through the packet with wonder. “My lord, this medicine is very fine. I don’t know the prescription, but I can tell that it’s very sophisticated.”
Qin Huaiyuan nodded, imparted his thanks and asked the physician to patch Jiyun up. He himself rushed to the outer study.
Jiyun wan’t at ease about her mistress either. The guard said she was fine after dabbing some medicine on herself and followed the marquis. Dawn was breaking over the horizon and the sun shining down on the three assassins still frozen in the yard.
A tall, skinny man dressed in faded-gray, patched robes was standing under the covered hallway. A tightly closed door and window with a hole in it were behind him.
When Qin Huaiyuan and Jiyun entered the study, the marquis first sized up Mu Jinghu.
The man in turn gazed back with a calm and unconcerned expression. He seemed to think of something a beat later and walked down the steps, offering a cupped fist salute. “Greetings, uncle.”
This took Qin Huaiyuan aback. This gentleman doesn’t seem to know the ways of the world. Using ‘uncle’ in the first line of a greeting gave off notes of purposefully trying to curry favor or pretend familiarity.
However, he maintained a steadfast expression and bowed. “This old man has nothing to repay this kind gentleman with. Thank you for saving my daughter. If there’s anything I can help with in the future, I will do all that I can to repay this deep gratitude!”
“Please don’t be so polite, uncle. My surname is Mu. Most people call me Blockhead. If you don't mind, call me Blockhead too.” Mu Jinghu scrambled to raise Qin Huaiyuan back to an upright position and flicked a glance at the three lying on the ground. “We should tie these three up. Do you need me to interrogate them? I can make them wish for death but not leave a single mark on them.” He spoke quite proudly and shook at a finger at the last claim.
Qin Huaiyuan wasn’t repulsed by the young man claiming familiarity. On the contrary, given the marquis’ experience in reading people, someone with eyes as pure as Mu Jinghu would certainly be an honest and kind soul. Though the gentleman’s clothes were tattered, he was very clean throughout and had a pair of steady, clear eyes. He must be the disciple of a secluded expert to be so unfamiliar with society.
“Many thanks to Sir Mu.” Qin Huaiyuan turned back to Jiyun. “Let’s go find a rope and tie these people up. My apologies for making you run this errand. We’re a bit short on staff given the enormous chaos at home.”
The attention startled Jiyun. “You’re too kind, milord. This servant would never dare.”
“Don’t say that. I need to thank you for saving darling Yi.” Qin Huaiyuan couldn’t mention Pang Xiao’s name because of the three on the ground. “Would you like to go settle in, Sir Mu?”
“Hmm… sure. I’ll look around for a place to stay. I must do well what I’ve been asked to do. Since I promised to take care of the fourth miss, I will do my best.”
“That sounds good. Please make yourself at home. We’ve been struck by catastrophe and everything is a mess. Please excuse us for anything that may be found lacking,” Qin Huaiyuan responded politely.
Mu Jinghu waved his hands with a smile. “Don’t worry, uncle. We’re all friends here.”
The marquis was worried about his daughter and didn’t want to spend more time on pleasantries with this down-to-earth person. He excused himself and went to look in on Qin Yining.
Though the inside of the house was a fearful mess, Qin Yining was under heavy guard. A handkerchief on her forehead was cooked through because of fever.
Qin Huaiyuan dipped his own handkerchief in cool water before placing it on his daughter’s forehead, heaving a melancholy sigh as he did so.
Jiyun had finished tying up the assassins by now. “Milord, let this servant wait on the miss.”
“Alright. I’ll find some more servants to send to you later today.” He did indeed have a lot of things to do. He had to impose order on the chaotic mess that the family had fallen into. He had to hold the last rites for those who’d departed. He had to soothe the feelings of the living and liaise with the officials.
Friends would be arriving soon to express their condolences. All of this was falling on his shoulders. Though he really wanted to stay and take care of Qin Yining, he simply couldn’t. Qin Huaiyuan caressed his daughter’s head once more before leaving with yet another sigh.
News of the palace catching fire and the Qins almost being exterminated was the hottest talk of town that night. Bingtang was half-dead with fright when she heard the news at the Ning Manor. She couldn’t wait for the Prince of Ning to set out and charged back at first light.
When her horse rounded the corner to see the Qin Manor doors wide open, traces of blood on the ground, and burnt houses just visible beyond the door, she almost fainted with horror. She jumped off her horse and rushed in, medicine kit in hand. In her enormous haste, she crashed right into Steward Zhong who was also running into the manor.
“Miss Bingtang! Is everything alright with the miss?”
“I don’t know, I just came back from the Ning Manor.”
“Aiya! What to do?”
The two stampeded randomly in the manor before finally bumping into a pageboy with a white mourning band around his waist.
“The memorial service is set up in the great hall.”
Bingtang grabbed the boy’s hand frantically when she heard ‘memorial service’. “Who died?”
This prompted tears from the boy. “So many people! My older brother died too! The third madame, madame, first wife, ninth master, several misses, and so many older sisters and mamas are all dead!”
“What about the fourth miss?!” The steward roared angrily.
“She was struck by a sword,” the pageboy choked out. “We don’t know if she’ll make it. She’s in the inner residence.”
Bingtang and the steward rushed for the flower-hung gate when they heard this.
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