Chapter 461: Traitor (I)

“Look over there.” Cao Yuqing took Qin Yining’s hand and pointed at a crack in the ground. “I suspect this is the entrance. I didn’t get close when I was investigating since I didn’t want to attract unwanted attention, but you can see a light glinting from the hole at night. Though they’ve covered it up with leaves, you can still see the reflection from inside.”

Qin Yining nodded. “I trust your judgement. Shall we head down now?”

Cao Yuqing thought for a moment. “Since we’ve come, we might as well take a look inside. I suspect the treasure is here. However, you must keep your guard up and stay close to me. We can’t be certain, but I worry that the ones who hid the treasure will be waiting to attack.”

Qin Yining nodded. Her brain knew it was possible that Azure Justice had betrayed her, but her heart still refused to believe this. 

Hand in hand, the guard captain led the princess consort forward a few steps before suddenly stopping. “Wait. I still think we should send someone to investigate. There’s no rush, seeing as we’re already here. Xiaoxue.”

The dark-skinned Xiaoxue stepped forward immediately with a bow. 

“Take a look, stealthily.” 

“Understood.” As the best of the group in levitation skills, Xiaoxue was able carry out tasks such as investigating the terrain without much trouble. 

Cao Yuqing assumed a protective stance in front of Qin Yining, leading Bingtang, Jiyun and the remaining three Silver Masks behind trees by the roadside. Xiaoxue disappeared into the hole. 

An hour passed before he reemerged. Only after seeing him brush away the leaves covering the hole and nod in their direction did Cao Yuqing feel it safe to venture forth. 

“What’s the situation inside?”

“It’s spacious,” Xiaoxue replied. “The fissure leads to a natural cavern—maybe formed by the earthquake—and there are a few boxes inside. I heard the sound of running water, so there must be other exits, but I didn’t have the time to search for them.” 

Cao Yuqing nodded and looked to Qin Yining in inquiry. The princess consort thought for a moment. “Did you see what was inside the boxes?”

“Silver ingots. Each worth ten taels apiece.” 

Hearing this, Qin Yining was even more certain a portion of the treasure was hidden here.  “Let’s go inside. There’s no one else here, but we should take a look nonetheless.” 

Jingzhe and Xiaoxue went down the fissure first. Next, Cao Yuqing helped Qin Yining in, while Bingtang and Jiyun followed behind them. Xiaoman and Dahan were the last to enter. 

Dahan followed the entire group closely from behind, lighting his way with a torch. However, when they reached a bend in the road, he couldn’t help but look back at the entrance. 

As expected, they quickly arrived at an expansive area after passing through a wide passageway. Dancing torchlight flickered every which way in the wind, bathing them all in an orange hue. Large chests accessorized with camphor corner guards were piled not far away. Red-orange light glinted off the precious snow packed neatly inside, its brilliance dazzling to the eye. 

Qin Yining looked carefully at the wooden boxes, feeling as if she’d seen them somewhere before. “Yes, these are indeed the former emperor’s treasure chests.” 

She and Pang Xiao had been trapped where the treasure was kept for a long time and so were very familiar with the boxes. 

Jingzhe took a big step forward and grabbed a handful of silver ingots for inspection, muttering, “His Majesty, the old emperor, this is really too...”

As a former spy of the previous emperor, it wasn't proper for him to voice his disapproval, no matter how much dissatisfaction he nursed

And yet, everyone present possessed their own grievances toward the former ruler of Great Yan. The emperor emeritus would rather his people starve than bring his riches out from the shadows. He only cared about the opportunity to rise again. The thought of such an incompetent emperor who cared so little about the lives of his people still had them itch with hatred—they’d eat him alive if they could! 

A few of the Silver Masks inspected the silver inside the chests. Meanwhile, Qin Yining’s brows frowned fiercely. Noticing there was something off, Cao Yuqing asked quietly, “What is it? Is something wrong?” 

The princess consort walked over to the boxes and picked up a silver ingot, weighing it in her hand. “Something’s just not quite right here. There was so much treasure, so why are there only a few chests here?” 

Cao Yuqing smiled. “Perhaps the treasure was split up and hidden in different locations?” 

Qin Yining shook her head. “I don’t think that is the case. Under such abnormal circumstances, there’s no need for them to store a portion of the treasure near the epicenter of the earthquake, even if they wish to hide it.” 

“Do you think...”

“I think they mean for such a paltry number of boxes to serve as bait.” As Qin Yining spoke, she tossed the ingot back into the box. When the silver rolled downward, she suddenly realized that the silver in the boxes were only two layers high—a wooden board was underneath. When she lifted the board up, the silver ingots tumbled to the bottom with a crash. Beneath the surface layer of silver, the box was empty! 

Her face fell at once. “This is a trap! We must leave now!” 

The group paled and dashed toward the cavern’s entrance.  Little did they know that Madame Liao and a dozen others were waiting for them there. 

Qin Yining’s countenance darkly brooding, she laughed sarcastically. “I didn't expect to see Madame Liao here.”

Madame Liao stared back at Qin Yining with a faint smile. “I also didn't anticipate seeing our alliance head here either.” 

“Oh?” The girl quirked a brow. “I thought Madame Liao would’ve been expecting me. Hadn’t you already finished laying your trap by the time you came to visit that day?” 

“Why, you wound me!” The older woman frowned and clutched her chest as if in pain. “Do you mean to say we are the villains, Alliance Head?” 

Qin Yining pointed at the armed men wearing cold scowls on their faces behind the older woman. “Madame Liao, do you really think I’d believe that you’re loyal, and that you harbor no malicious intent at a time like this?” 

Hearing this, Madame Liao turned back to look at the men behind her, then covered her mouth with a hand as she laughed. “I’ve always known you to be a clever person, Alliance Head. In that case, I will keep you in the dark no longer.” 

“So you mean to end me?”

Madame Liao looked amazed by the response. “Everyone hails Wise Pan An is a keen strategist—it seems the alliance head has taken a leaf out of his book.” 

That was a quiet affirmation. However, Qin Yining remained unafraid. 

She pursed her lips. “Tell me this first, what happened to my other six subordinates?” 

The older woman beamed merrily. “I imagine someone as smart as the alliance head can surmise what became of them.” 

Hearing this, Qin Yining tilted her head upward and closed her eyes. Though she had never met those six Silver Masks, they’d lost their lives because of her orders—how was she not to grieve their fate? 

Madame Liao stepped forward with her men. One of them handed her a sword. “Those underlings of yours were certainly difficult to shake off,” she said as she approached the princess consort. “If they hadn’t caught on to what we were up to, more of our brothers would still be with us today.”

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etvolare's Thoughts

We finally know who the traitors are! Yewwwwww biatch!!!!