Chapter 278: A Devious Plot (IV)
“…the duke is very quick-witted. We defuse Qin’s nasty plot this way!”
“That’s right. It was my idea first to defect, but who would’ve thought that Qin Meng would beat us to the punch! Not only did he take the declaration and tattle to the emperor, but he also wants to achieve a great deed in the eyes of Great Zhou. Look at him trying to please both sides, are all good things supposed to be his?
“His plan was good, but I got wind of it first. The Great Zhou secret envoy mentioned several times to take out that demon Pang Zhixi. It looks like Pang isn’t doing too well in Great Zhou either, hmph!”
“Your Grace is wise. Pang is simply too arrogant. He doesn’t know to keep his head down and maintain a low profile when his merits eclipse his master. He’s completely brought this down on himself! Your Grace really abounds with wit and resourcefulness. We are truly in awe!”
“This was just a parlor trick. We’ll use the wench to lure Pang over, then frame Qin Huaiyuan after offing Pang. This way, Qin Huaiyuan will be guilty of murdering the Faithful Prince of the First Rank if we really surrender. He won’t be able to talk his way out of it even if he has a hundred mouths! We kill two birds with one stone and avoid having to suffer beneath these people when we get to Great Zhou. This also clears away this bitch for the empress!”
Qin Yining heard everything clearly behind closed eyes. Shock rocked her world. To think that the Duke of An, Li Mian, would be such a treacherous, petty little villain!
And, who was the Great Zhou secret envoy that he was talking about? Who wanted to consign Pang Xiao to death?
Qin Yining’s thoughts flew rapidly as she continued to feign unconsciousness. She carefully opened her eyes to the barest hint of a slit, noting that she was in a very spacious carriage. Just like the fourth miss, Bingtang’s hands were tied. The maid was currently out cold by her feet. The Duke of An and another skinny man were sitting with their backs to her. There seemed to be another person tied up in the corner in front of them.
Just as the girl registered the other person, she heard them make urgent, guttural noises. It seemed to be Qitai, and he apparently had words to say.
The duke chuckled coldly. “Tsk, forgot about that thing. He has something to say, let him.”
An attendant by the duke’s side came up and yanked out the rag stoppering Qitai’s mouth.
The servant heaved rapidly before launching into an interrogation. “Didn’t you say you were going to use the fourth miss to lure over demon Pang Zhixi, that killing him would throw the enemy army into chaos, that we wouldn’t have to surrender then?! You lied to me! Duke of An, you’re a royal father-in-law! How could you have wanted to surrender long ago?? How can you face the emperor, how are you worthy of being a Great Yan citizen?? You had me trick the fourth miss into coming out here so you can plot my master’s death! You’re completely vile and shameless!”
“Hah! Don’t talk like you’re a model of loyalty,” the duke jeered. “Your master has just one daughter. No matter the reason, you betrayed him when you tricked the apple of his eye into coming out here!”
“But I never wanted to hurt milord! I did it for the good of the nation! I did it for Great Yan!”
“What a fool.” The duke closed his eyes and waved carelessly. “Who dumped this dirty thing into the carriage? It’s a drag on the horses. Get it out of here and take off its head.”
The carriage rolled to a stop, whereupon guards rushed up to drag Qitai out.
The servant cursed loudly from horror. “Li, you’ll have a messy end! You’re a dead man walking! Dead man walking!”
“I’m also cleaning house for your lord. A dog he kept for twenty years biting the hand that feeds him? He’s damned useless.”
The curtains were slowly lowered as outside, Qitai abruptly cut off mid-curse. The carriage resumed forward motion.
Tremors wracked Qin Yining. She’d closed her eyes again and was trying her hardest to calm herself. She couldn’t let her captors discover that she was already awake.
If the duke discovered she was conscious, he’d certainly wonder just how much of their conversation she’d overheard. She’d be killed to keep their secrets. They just wanted to use her to lure Pang Xiao with. They could poison her or destroy her body, and then kill her when there was no more use to her.
She was certain that whatever she could think of, a wily old fox like the Duke of An would surely think of the same. She couldn’t take the risk.
But at least I can be certain that father’s fine for now.
The Duke of An wouldn’t let a hint of this operation slip before he successfully killed Pang Xiao. With her father’s reputation as Wise Pan An, he could very well deduce the truth if any tricks were used on him.
Continuing to feign unconsciousness, Qin Yining was already thinking of counter-plans.
The carriage stopped once more before long. There seemed to be flags snapping in the wind outside, as well as scattered footsteps and the jingling of armor. She didn’t dare open her eyes, but she could guess that they’d reached a military camp.
Someone lifted the curtain and respectfully helped the duke down. Another immediately entered to pick her up.
The sour smell of sweat from an unknown male assaulted her nose. Men in the army camps didn’t have access to mountain springs like those in Ning Park did. Therefore, taking a bath wasn’t an easy thing to do during a drought.
The Qin fourth miss held in her discomfort and continued to pretend unconsciousness.
“Put this girl in a separate tent,” ordered the duke. “There’s still some use to her right now, so none of you are allowed to touch her.”
“Your Grace, do you mean…” Blatant excitement crept into the tones of those around her. She could immediately feel numerous unfriendly gazes cast on her. If she hadn’t forced herself to remain limp, the habitual vigilance of many years would’ve caused her to tense and flee far away.
“You bastards, blue balls getting to you?” The duke chortled to the answering laughter of some of the men.
It looks like these are all the duke’s confidantes. He wants to use me and then give me to these people…
“Wake the little girl up and send her to the other side with a message for Pang. Tell Pang that if he doesn’t come, I’ll throw his beloved to the soldiers. Have someone keep an eye on the little girl. Make sure she doesn’t get up to anything!” The duke walked off.
Someone doused Bingtang with a bucket of water to wake her up. Her hands were tied, so when she took stock of the situation after waking up, she could only shriek, “What do you want?! Aren’t you afraid that the marquis will punish you when he finds out?!”
“Punishment will come later. Right now, we’ll kill you if you don’t behave!”
Someone relayed the duke’s orders, and Qin Yining was in the dark as to how Bingtang responded and her general status. She could feel the person carrying her walk off, bringing her to a tent and carefully putting her down.
The man’s coarse fingertips remained on her cheek, smelling of sweat and tobacco. He swallowed audibly, the sounds of his breathing growing heavier.
Previous Chapter Next Chapter