Chapter 215: Revenge (II)
Though it was a summer night, Qin Yining’s weakened state meant the smallest gust of wind induced bone-deep shivers. She clenched her teeth against the elements and passed through the flower-hung gate.
White cloth drapes and flag streamers greeted her as soon as she turned into the main yard. An absence of color enveloped everything; rows of coffins were laid out in the yard and great hall. Candles within white lanterns flickered with the wind. The burnt smell of burning paper money filled the air.
The sight made Bingtang and Qiulu’s hairs stand on end. Tears fell uncontrollably when they thought about how they knew most of the dead, and that all those dead were innocents.
Qin Yining walked past the open coffins, declining to take close looks after she looked at a few. Qin Yu, Qin Han, the second and third elder master, and Qin Huaiyuan were standing in front of the altar. They were dressed in mourning robes and placing paper money into a ceramic brazier.
“Father.” Qin Yining called softly.
Qin Huaiyuan turned to see his daughter dressed in mourning robes, her face pale as a sheet. “What are you doing here?”
“I’m here to light incense for everyone and offer my kowtows.” Qin Yining was standing in front of the third madame’s coffin. The late madame was dressed in a vivid sapphire death robes. A single look was enough to start tears flowing uncontrollably.
She knelt in front of the altar and touched her forehead to the ground, choking out, “It’s all my fault. I’m so sorry to everyone.” Sobs rose in volume at her words.
The third elder master wiped at his face and shook his head. “Don’t blame yourself, niece Yi. Like I said before, this matter isn’t anyone’s fault. The only fault we have is to be born in these troubled times.”
Qin Yu’s wife hadn’t escaped the disaster either. They’d married each other when young and loved each other very much. Though née Yao hadn’t given birth in all these years, Qin Yu had never been willing to take a concubine. A gaping hole was ripped in his heart now that she was gone. He didn’t add anything to the third elder master’s words, just continued in a trance to place paper money into the brazier.
Qin Yining forced herself to higher alertness and didn’t want to further guess at her family’s thoughts. Even if they hated her, she deserved it for dragging them all down with her. She was more concerned about another matter at the moment.
“Father, do you know where the assassins are from?”
“Yes.” Firelight reflected off of Qin Huaiyuan’s face as he spoke slowly. “The matter has been thoroughly looked into. The Great Zhou emperor sent the assassins. One, because of what the Soothsayer said about your fortunes and two, to assassinate the emperor. There were at least a hundred involved in the operation. They caught the eyes of the Warden’s Offices of the Five Wards and Silver Masks when they entered the capital dressed as merchants two days ago.”
The second and third elder master, Qin Yu, and Qin Han handed their paper money to the servants beside them. There were too many people present; it was inappropriate to have this conversation here. They headed for the flower hall with unspoken accord, arranging trusted confidantes to keep guard outside.
Only then did Qin Huaiyuan continue. “Their plan was very thorough. Attackers were first sent to our manor and the palace while a few of their elites remained in the shadows as a backup plan. If it wasn’t for Sir Mu’s timely intervention, darling Yi would probably not be sitting here right now either.”
The second and third elder master shook their heads with a sigh.
“Who’s Sir Mu?” asked Qin Yu.
“A person that little Prince Pang sent to protect my daughter.”
This took the third elder master aback. “You mean that the little prince sent someone to protect our niece?”
Qin Yining knew that the slightest bit of concealment to her family would easily cause misunderstanding. She quickly set the record straight.
“Yes, when Pang Zhixi learned that his emperor had sent men to kill me, he quickly arranged for a highly skilled jianghu hero to come help. But water far away does nothing for a fire close at hand. He didn’t make it in time for the first group of attackers, only arriving to capture the three later assassins.”
The second elder master nodded silently.
Qin Han frowned. “It looks like the Zhou emperor and Pang Zhixi have different opinions.”
“In my opinion, emperors are all the same no matter where they are.” Qin Han snorted derisively. “They only care about the security of their positions and nothing about the sufferings of the people. It was only some wild and unfounded rumors about fourth sister, but that was enough for the Zhou emperor to send men from far away to come kill her, and kill so many of our family as well! We can tell from this that he’s a law unto himself and thinks nothing of human lives.”
Qin Yining lowered her head. “It’s all my fault in the end.” She took a deep breath in and didn’t wait for the others to console her. Turning to the marquis, she asked, “Father, have you gotten anything out of the assassins?”
“They were tortured, so they’ve spilled the beans on everything they know. A few of their compatriots are still at large. Men from Azure Justice arrived just in time to throw them all out, but the trail was lost later on. Security is very tight in the capital at the moment, so they won’t get away. They’ll just disband and hide amongst the people. The Warden’s Office has been searching and hunting everywhere, but haven’t come up with anything yet.”
“And when we do catch them?” Qin Yining asked. “Has the emperor said what he’ll do with them then?”
Qin Huaiyuan shook his head slowly. “The emperor hasn’t said anything yet.”
“Hasn’t said anything yet?” Qin Yining chuckled coldly. “Things will be difficult if the emperor doesn’t express anything. Father, second uncle, third uncle — would you say that with our emperor’s character, might he give all of the assassins back to Great Zhou if the Zhou emperor demands it?”
“That’s entirely too possible.” Qin Han’s tone was anguished. “Think about what happened to the Duke of Ding. Great Zhou hadn’t even said anything, but our emperor hurried to harm loyal subjects. If the Zhou emperor tosses out ‘hand them over and you won’t die’, our emperor will deliver the assassins wrapped up nicely with a bow! Then our family members will have died for nothing!”
Qin Yu closed his eyes, his hands clenched tightly around the seat of his round chair. The third elder master broke out in loud sobs when he thought of his eleven-year-old son and considerate wife. He wept like a lost babe.
“It’s all because of my incompetence that I couldn’t protect your mother and little brother. If the emperor wants to release these murderers, I’ll, I’ll kill him myself!”
“Father.” Qin Han took his father’s hand. “Don’t cry yourself sick. Mother would never want that to happen to you. Natural disasters and wars are unavoidable. None of this is your fault. Those of us still alive should think about how to get justice for our dead kin. We have an even more important responsibility to bear. Father, you must remain calm.”
The third elder master wiped at his face with his sleeve, forcing his emotions back under control.
Qin Yining also dabbed away tears and continued hoarsely, “We can’t let the emperor hand them over, whether it’s the ones we’ve captured or the group still running. The assassins at large will become a latent threat if we don’t catch them. But if the emperor won’t let us kill them… I’ll have to think of something else.
“Openly defying the emperor is a foolish move. We’d be dashing eggs against rocks in head-on conflict. We need to think of an appropriate way to make these murderers pay!”
“Darling Yi, do you have a plan?” Qin Huaiyuan asked.
“Yes.” Qin Yining nodded with a resolute look. “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. The blood of the Qins stain their hands. I’ll have these murderers pay in blood!”
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