Chapter 218: Revenge (IV)
Qin Huaiyuan was well versed in knowing when to advance or retreat. Otherwise, his outstanding talents alone wouldn’t have been enough for the emperor to trust him for so long. So with the summons today, the emperor was quite confident that the marquis would fall in line after a round of conversation with Grand Preceptor Cao and his own imperial majesty.
But who knew that Qin Huaiyuan would fall to his knees after entering the imperial study, wailing in between kowtows and decrying the tragedy that had befallen the Qins?
“…this humble subject doesn’t dare defy anything the emperor orders, but the assassins were simply too brazen! The capital is the doors to the son of heaven, right beneath your imperial majesty’s eyes! How dare the Great Zhou assassins be so insolent to not only send large numbers of attackers, but raid my home as well! They’re completely ignoring your authority, Your Majesty!
“The emperor’s fortunes are unparalleled and your might shakes the world. Now that Great Zhou and Great Yan are at war, wouldn’t we be indicating to everyone that you’re afraid of Great Zhou if we let the captives off lightly? Therefore, out of consideration for your imperial dignity, we must put these three to death! Please decide with clarity, Your Majesty!”
The emperor wavered when he heard this.
Though he was deathly afraid of triggering fiercer attacks after angering Great Zhou, he still had the matter of his own face to consider. News of the Qins planning to dismember the assassins had already spread; if he openly opposed this, the populace would definitely talk about him behind his back.
But still, he was genuinely afraid of actually letting the Qins rip those three apart. A compromise struck the emperor when his thoughts travelled here. He lifted the marquis up with a smile.
“Beloved subject Qin, We know of what’s happened to your family and Our thoughts are with you. However, dismemberment is much too gory. You can hold the three and whip them in front of the tombs when you bury your family as a warning. But let’s forget about pulling limbs off.”
The remaining spark of passion in Qin Huaiyuan’s heart vanished with this.
This was the liege that he’d served all his life.
Incompetent, decrepit, cowardly, selfish, and inability to see his subjects as human. How extraordinarily lucky Qin Huaiyuan was to advise such an emperor! He’d wasted half his life on such a piece of trash!
Sorrow threatened to overwhelm the marquis. Though he felt that men shouldn’t easily shed tears, his eyes reddened and he lowered his head, discomfited.
Some guilt and heartache struck the emperor when he glimpsed the marquis’ expression. But if Qin Huaiyuan doesn’t do as I say and angers Great Zhou, what happens to my plan if Great Zhou accelerates their attack?
The emperor hardened his heart and threw guilt out the window. “Well? Qin Meng, do you want to defy an imperial order?”
Qin Huaiyuan brought his emotions back under control. “This subject would never dare. I hear and obey.”
“That’s more like it.” The emperor’s expression softened slightly. “Since we’re decided, you may go back home. The burial is tomorrow, correct?”
“Yes.” Qin Huaiyuan lowered his head.
“Mm. My condolences. Take care of yourself, We look to you to serve the country in the future.” The emperor laughed heartily and clapped Qin Huaiyuan’s shoulder. The marquis jumped from the startling flattery. This reaction pleased the emperor greatly and he offered a few more words of comfort before dismissing the marquis.
When Qin Huaiyuan returned home, Qin Yining, the second and third elder master had camped out in the study for a while.
“So the emperor really did react as we thought?” the fourth miss asked when she saw her father’s expression.
Qin Huaiyuan nodded.
Qin Yining closed her eyes for a silent moment as she leaned against the armrest of the round-bottomed chair.
The third elder master snorted derisively. “Just as we thought. Then we don’t need to have any reservations in what we do next.” He wasn’t an official, so his thoughts about the emperor were vastly different from his two brothers.
Only the second elder master truly understood Qin Huaiyuan’s feelings at the moment. He patted his elder brother’s arm. “Thankfully there’s a follow-up part to niece Yi’s plan. It doesn’t matter if we don’t actually end up dismembering them since the news has already spread everywhere.”
“I know, I know.” Qin Huaiyuan smiled wryly as he ran a hand over his face. “I just feel… well, maybe I’m not that loyal a subject after all.”
“Don’t force yourself to be a saint, father,” Qin Yining consoled. “We’re just mortals and we should just do what we can do.”
“That’s right, big brother,” the third elder master joined in. “It’s enough if we have a clear conscience.”
Qin Huaiyuan nodded and squeezed out a smile. As he looked at his ashen-faced daughter still struggling to stay upright, his already resolute mind grew even firmer.
Daughter Yi is right. Why should I expect to be a saint? It’s enough to be a good, upright mortal.
The Qins’ vast funeral procession was an affair for the entire city. It would be difficult not to be a high profile event given the tragic affair that had befallen the Qins.
Given the old dowager’s age and how there were further plans at play here, all of the women and children remained home.
Qin Huaiyuan, the second and third elder master, Qin Yu, Qin Han, fifth master Qin Xian, and Qin Yining headed the convoy of three dozen caskets. The immense procession headed for Mt. Jadecloud located on the outskirts of the city.
The Qins’ ancestral tombs weren’t actually there, but the vast army surrounding the capital made travel impossible. Given the circumstances, they could only settle for a random mountain on the city outskirts to bury everyone together with and hope to move them later on.
Jolts and bumps from the road made Qin Yining severely sick. Thankfully Jiyun had brought some tart, dried crabapples. Eating one of those helped greatly to keep down an urge to vomit.
Qin Huaiyuan was worried for his daughter and took the same carriage as her. He sighed when he saw her state. “Your health has been severely set back because of all this. We’re lucky that you’re young. It would cause lasting damage if you were older. You have to listen to Miss Tang’s instructions when this is all over and rest well.”
A dried crabapple adorably puffed out Qin Yining’s cheeks when she smiled. “Don’t worry father. I’m here today because of someone else’s sacrifice. I wouldn’t be able to live up to their actions if I didn’t treasure it.”
“Ai!” Qin Huaiyuan sighed as he ruffled his daughter’s hair. He knew that this matter was a great impact on her. How many girls her age could remain unmoved when witnessing such horrors? Even the third miss, who’d been absent that day, shivered all ever from just hearing a recounting. It was very admirable that Qin Yining could remain calm and think of revenge.
“Milord.” Qitai steered his horse close to the carriage. “A messenger just brought news that the emperor has made the Prince of Ning the commander-in-chief of the armies. He holds the seal of authority and token for deployment. He may do as he sees fit with the military without imperial approval.”
“I see.” Qin Huaiyuan was quite at ease, but Qin Yining was extremely surprised.
The emperor was willing to give the prince so much power? But if I think about it carefully… we have a greater chance of winning if the prince is the commander-in-chief. At least he’s very skilled in leading men into battles.
But she didn’t quite understand why the emperor had made this decision. Did it have something to do with the prince displaying goodwill to the Caos?
If that was the case, there was nothing to be mad or calculating about. The prince would be able to do more with military power in hand, and it was much better than Grand Preceptor Cao at the head.
The journey continued in silence as the convoy quickly reached Mt. Jadecloud. They slowly rolled to a halt as the path ahead wasn’t suitable for carriages. Strong men began lifting the caskets up the mountain. Guards and other personnel bound the assassins and dragged them uphill as well.
Within the mountain greenery, a black-clad, masked man tracked the group’s movements and also noted Qin Yining sitting on a litter in the procession. He went back to report in as he didn’t want to alarm the targets.
“Boss, I saw them. They’re here and with that wench!”
The man hailed as ‘boss’ was quenching his thirst and hunger with rations. He snorted. “Alright. We’ll let them strut a bit longer and also wait for news from Ole Five.”
“Damn this shitty luck! We should’ve kept charging that day, but we got scared off by a mob! I still feel like this when I think about it!”
Those around the speaker all wore righteous expressions. They were scared off by the din of the crowd, and it wasn’t until they ran off that they realized there weren’t that many skilled in martial arts in that crowd. It would’ve been a piece of cake to kill the Qins, but they let that golden opportunity slip right through their hands!”
They’d numbered a hundred strong when sent out for the mission. Split into two, the group attacking the palace had already been wiped out. There was only thirty left of their group, and they wouldn’t be able to conclude their operation if they failed.
“Those three are seriously idiots. They’re supposed to be experts, but they still failed at taking out Qin Si.”
“Yeah, who would’ve thought they’d be captured and now dragged up a mountain to get their limbs hacked off?”
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