Chapter 277: A Devious Plot (III)
Qin Yining didn’t understand why an old servant of more than two decades would suddenly turn traitor. His earlier words of “for the stability of this country” came back to the fore.
She really wanted to know what Qitai was cooking up.
“Hurry miss, let’s go!” Jiyun led Qin Yining with one hand and dragged Bingtang out with the other, speeding to the rear yard. The poor maid was stunned with fright.
The masked men were both surprised and angry to see that Qin Yining’s maid knew martial arts. Fists waved as they came in hot pursuit, spewing malicious threats in their wake.
If Qin Yining had never experienced such things, she might really be scared senseless. But thanks to the rich experience of her youth and participating in negotiations, being chased by killers, and almost eaten by the empress, she’d trained the ability to be calmer the more danger she was in.
The men weren’t armed and were all dressed like commoners. Though they were masked, it didn’t hide their southern accents. So it would seem that people from Great Yan wanted to kidnap her this time.
She was more worried for her father than her own safety. She had an expert by her side for protection, so her life wouldn’t be in danger. As for father… hopefully Cao Yuqing would be able to do what needed to be done.
A multitude of thoughts flitted through Qin Yining’s brain in the span of a breath. The three girls rounded the corner to see no one guarding the bamboo fence of the rear yard.
Jiyun kicked the yard door open with a smooth motion, Qin Yining and Bingtang scrambling to follow her. The three ran into a quiet alley off to the side.
The dozen men were hot on the chase.
Fortunately, there were many twists and turns in the alley. The many nooks and crannies ended up being convenient hiding spots for the three girls.
Mu Jinghu caught up to them when there was no one around. “Why didn’t you let me make a move just now?”
“Something’s really off about this, Sir Mu. Just follow us in private. Don’t come out if my life’s not in danger.”
Mu Jinghu gazed into Qin Yining’s eyes, exceedingly bright in the night light. He was inadvertently reminded of a wild beast on the hunt, his hairs rising at the association. She’s the same kind of person as Sly Fox Pang alright!
“Alright, as you say.” He turned and vanished into the shadows.
A thundering cacophony of boots marching in lockstep and horse’s hooves abruptly sounded outside the alley. There was also the jangling of armor intermixed between the sounds.
Qin Yining’s pulse raced, exchanging an incredulous glance with her maids.
“It’s the army! Only our army can possibly appear here!”
Bingtang was flabbergasted. “Has the world gone mad?! Why does our army want to capture us??”
“Maybe they’re here to capture those bandits…?” Jiyun pushed Qin Yining and Bingtang behind her, sidling to an intersection to sneak a peek out.
The sight that greeted her eyes was a jolt to her heart.
The men who’d been chasing them earlier seemed to be making a report to the officer that’d surrounded the alley. They plainly knew each other!
“Miss, this is bad! They’re in cahoots with each other!”
“What should we do?” Bingtang’s voice trembled.
Qin Yining compressed her lips and thought furiously. “I have a plan, but it’ll put Bingtang through some suffering.”
The maid swallowed hard and nodded with hesitation. “Go ahead miss, I’ll do as you say.”
“Jiyun, take my token and find a way to see your master.” Qin Yining took off the strand of red beans on her wrist. There was a red rope knot on it now, the one that had been on Riceball’s neck before.
Jiyun took the bracelet in a rather confused state. “Do you want the prince to come rescue you, miss?”
“No, you don’t need to say anything like that, just describe the strange events from today. I think things aren’t simple and they’re not just aimed at me. Otherwise, why wouldn’t have these people killed us already? This also has to do with troop movements — there’s no way my father doesn’t know. He’s probably been held up by something.
“Instead of trying to bring a message to my father, it’d be easier to see Pang Zhixi. Qitai is my father’s confidante, so he should have a deep understanding of my affairs. He knows better than anyone that apart from my family, Pang Zhixi has the most to do with me! So apart from threatening my father, they either want to also threaten my family or Pang Zhixi by kidnapping me. No matter what, go tell the prince to be prepared first.”
“I don’t understand…”
“We don’t have time for detailed explanations. Hurry and leave with this. He’ll trust you wholeheartedly. Tell him not to worry about me, I have Sir Mu protecting me in the dark. There’s no danger to my life. I’m here because I want to find out what’s going on. Tell Pang Zhixi to just pay attention to my father and family’s safety.”
“Alright, I’ll do as you say, miss.” Jiyun knew that Mu Jinghu wasn’t far away. It appeared that Qin Yining had a complete plan, so the guard carefully put the bracelet away and sped off in another direction.
Qin Yining took Bingtang’s hand. “I’m sorry, you’ll have to suffer through this with me. If I’d known what was going to happen today, I wouldn’t have brought you out with me.”
Bingtang shook her head. Though she was very nervous, she tugged back on her mistress’ hand. “This is nothing.”
The Qin fourth miss led Bingtang into hide and seek with their pursuers.
There were five hundred Great Yan soldiers scouring the alleyway, gradually decreasing the search radius.
The two girls spent a full forty-five minutes behind a thatched wall. Just as they craned forward to look outside, a heavy object suddenly hit their necks, bringing darkness along with great pain. Unconsciousness descended.
Qin Yining seemed to have returned to when she was seven, when her foster mother was gravely ill. Her foster mother’s illness wasn’t taking a turn for the better with the random herbs the little girl picked in the woods. She chopped firewood all day, but the copper coins she earned wasn’t enough to keep two people alive.
She tried opening a tab at the apothecary, but the shopkeeper wouldn’t let her. A teenage associate picked her up by the collar and threw her out onto the streets. She fell down harshly with her wicker basket, the firewood and wild vegetables within scattered all over the ground.
After picking them up, she used her remaining copper coins to buy two meat buns.
The buns smelled so nice!
She carried them reverently back home, sticking her nose onto the round, white buns to take in a few deep breaths.
The white flour had a unique savory fragrance intermixed with the smell of spring onions. Her mouth watered copiously. The juices and oil from the fillings soaked through the buns in two areas. She carefully pinched off a bit of skin the size of her pinky nail, placing it on her tongue. It was so good! The smell pierced deep into her brain.
Her body shook slightly. …where are the buns?
Qin Yining’s consciousness floated out of a haze and she heard the sound of carriage wheels turning. She fully came back to herself, remembering what had just happened and realizing that she was on a horse carriage.
She didn’t immediately open her eyes, because she heard two aged, male voices speaking next to her.
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