Chapter 116: Lair, late by one step
Finally, someone couldn't take it anymore and stood up.
Long Feiye firmly believed that there was a traitor amongst the ranks, so they definitely had to exist! His calm, cold eyes finally shifted to look towards the speaker, only to see a middle-aged man. He wasn't dressed like a common guard.
"Huo Yang, so it was you!" Guard Shangguan was astonished. This man was the squad leader of all the guards at south mountain and a candidate for the next supervisor. Guard Shangguan had personally promoted him because he was competent and capable at his work. How could he be a spy? Huo Yang looked at Guard Shangguan before lowering his head in shame, while Mu Qingwu immediately rushed over to hold him in check.
"How was the ambush planned, and its people?" Long Feiye said coldly. He'd finally deigned to personally interrogate a prisoner.
"Those people have been hiding in south mountain for a long time. Their original aim wasn't esteemed wangfei, but..."
Huo Yang had revealed himself with the full knowledge that he'd die. There was nothing to be afraid of. Still, after meeting Long Feiye's cold eyes, he still felt timid and had to pause before he could go on.
"They...they were lying in wait especially for the emperor. I don't know why they moved against esteemed wangfei when they learned that she was on the mountain."
Guard Shangguan suddenly burst out in anger. "That's all and well! Huo Yang, how long have you been hiding this! How did you get those people inside?!"
Over the past few years, Emperor Tianhui always had one day where he paid a personal visit to Celestial Fragrance Teashop to harvest tea. He'd conceal his identity to mingle with the people incognito and every time it was Guard Shangguan who received him. As a result, Guard Shangguan had been increasing the security of the south mountains.
"For half a year now. They're hidden nearby so it's very fast for them to come over," Huo Yang replied honestly. He didn't even have the face to look at Guard Shangguan as he fell to his knees. "Guard Shangguan, I've failed to live up to your expectations! I was forced, they captured my old mother, I had no other choice!"
Hearing these words, Guard Shangguan was beside himself with rage and gave the man a vicious kick. "Are you the only one with a mother? So many of our brothers died today, which one of them didn't have a mother? You bastard!"
Huo Yang was a squad leader, so if he was working from the inside, it'd be much easier for the assassins to avoid the guards and enter the southern mountains. In addition, he'd be the first to know who was coming up the mountain to harvest tea.
"Northern Li Country's people?" Long Feiye narrowly his eyes dangerously, not expecting them to aim for the emperor's assassination as well. Weren't they playing with fire this time?
"Your servant doesn't know who those people are. There was only one woman in contact with your servant. Most of time, they kept hidden in a cave on the most eastern side of the south mountain cliffs. With their speed, travel between there and here would only take as long as the time needed to drink two cups of tea." Huo Yang spoke truthfully. In the beginning, he wanted to get by with a fluke, but the rat torture had frightened him, and the unfair deaths of his fellow brothers-in-arms further made him unable to hold back.
At these words, Long Feiye stood up in surprise. "Then the kidnapping victim would be there as well?"
Shaking in fear, Huo Yang could only stutter. "Your servant...servant d-doesn't know. If they haven't left the mountain, t-then they can only hide there."
Long Feiye didn't say any more but turned to leave, Mu Qingwu hurrying after him. Guard Shangguan looked at Huo Yang, too angry to speak. It was only after some time had passed that he cried, "Someone, lock him up for me!" Then he hurried to chase after the other two, but paused to shout at the door, "And keep looking for the owner! Keep searching!"
He prayed for esteemed wangfei to be in the cliffside cave. Otherwise, Celestial Fragrance Teashop would find itself in dire straits after revealing a traitor within its ranks.
At this moment, the skies outside were gradually growing lighter, with a chill winter wind that cut to the bone. Heaven knows how fast Long Feiye was travelling. Mu Qingwu couldn't even keep up, much less Guard Shangguan. Rescuing someone was a time-sensitive task. The faster His Highness Duke of Qin went, the less esteemed wangfei would have to suffer.
Yet once they reached the easternmost cliffs of the south mountains, Mu Qingwu saw His Highness Duke of Qin stand by the edge without going down. Was he waiting for him?
Mu Qingwu quickly discarded this thought. Neither he nor Guard Shangguan could match Long Feiye in terms of fighting prowess. It was very likely they couldn't even compare to Long Feiye's subordinates. His Highness Duke of Qin wouldn't need any assistance if he fought.
As soon as Guard Shangguan arrive, he reported, "Your highness, this is the easternmost cliff."
"What's below?" Long Feiye asked coldly.
They were already two mountains away from Celestial Fragrance Teashop. Guard Shangguan rarely came this way and wasn't familiar with the surroundings. He glanced down into its foggy depths. The visibility was very low, and it seemed that a lack of light had turned the fog black.
"The morning mists haven't dispersed, right?" Guard Shangguan said, muttering to himself. "But...it seems to be a black fog."
Mu Qingwu looked down as well before asserting, "This is miasma!"
If Long Feiye hadn't experienced the poison mosquito swarm, he might think it was miasma too. But after that, Long Feiye was very certain that the depths of the abyss was swarming with poison mosquito swarms, its scale and scope even bigger than last time. Only, he couldn't be sure whether these were human-controlled swarms here to stand guard, or natural swarms gathered due to timing and climate changes.
"Who's been here before?" Long Feiye asked icily.
Mu Qingwu and Guard Shangguan were both at a loss, but didn't dare ask too many questions. Guard Shangguan hastened to reply, "Huo Yang knows this place, so he should've come before!"
"Bring him over!" Long Feiye said, his icy tone hiding a trace of anger. Heaven knows when he'd finally erupt.
When Guard Shangguan had gone, Mu Qingwu asked in a low voice, "Your highness, this...isn't miasma?"
"Poisonous mosquito swarms."
Long Feiye kept his gaze on the black mass in the abyss, a serious set to his brows. Against poison mosquito swarms, all of the poison masters amongst his subordinates had been at a loss. Only Han Yunxi had a way to deal with them. A pity that she was the very person he needed to rescue now.
That godforsaken woman, she was perfectly fine! Why did she climb up the mountain to pick tea?!
"Poisonous mosquito swarms, this..." Mu Qingwu was astonished.
But while they were talking, the black mass in the abyss suddenly starting rising upwards and scattering in four directions. Was a human controlling them? Did the people hiding in the abyss want to escape to the surface? Long Feiye's eyes turned frosty as he prepared for battle. But very quickly, the situation exceeded his expectations.
The mosquito swarms started spreading out faster and faster until it completely filled the abyss and started diffusing in four directions into the surrounding forests. Long Feiye and Mu Qingwu could only keep backing away to higher ground as they observed the situation below. As the day grew brighter and the light grew stronger, they could see more and more clearly. Below them, the swarms of poisonous mosquitoes resembled a sea of dark clouds, surging forward with great momentum as they gradually enveloped the trees. Guard Shangguan escorted Huo Yang over in a hurry. When the two men saw this situation, both of them were so shocked that they turned wide-eyed and speechless.
Huo Yang's face was white as he shouted, "Run! Masters, hurry and run! The poison miasma's erupted! Once every ten years, that miasma will break out, I saw it once when I was younger! All of the surrounding mountains will be covered in it, hurry and escape! If we touch this thing, we'll be poisoned to death."
It was here originally?
Long Feiye was very doubtful and asked, "How many mountains will it endanger? And how long will it last?"
Huo Yang started gesticulating with his hands. "All of the surrounding area will be in danger. Before long, the mountain will be covered in poisonous miasma. At the quickest, it won't disperse until tomorrow noon."
Long Feiye immediately understood! This large-scale mosquito swarm wasn't controlled by any human, but it could be used by them all the same. The ones who'd kidnapped Han Yunxi were poison experts that naturally had no fear for poisonous mosquitoes. Right now, all the exits off the mountains were sealed, and three teams of men and horses were searching the mountains. The assassins hadn't dared to show their faces or blackmail him for demands because they were waiting for everyone to leave first! The diffusion of this poisonous mosquito swarm was their perfect chance to escape.
Things...had gotten complicated!
Long Feiye looked at the growing black swarms covering the area before them, his eyebrows furrowed. His only weak point was attack from poisons. Huo Yang stood to one side, watching the swarm spread out unceasingly with growing dread. Many times, he wanted to open his mouth and speak out, but didn't dare. Finally, neither Mu Qingwu nor Guard Shangguan could take it anymore.
"Your Highness, let's evacuate!" Mu Qingwu said sincerely.
Only then did Guard Shangguan dare to open his mouth. "Your Highness, if we don't withdraw, it'll soon be too late. They definitely kidnapped esteemed wangfei to make demands, so the matter's still worth further thought."
Long Feiye's hands were clenched into tight fists inside his sleeves. They were so close until poison struck again.
All of his failures came from brushes with poison!
Very well, then!
He'd like to see exactly how far these enemy spies could run!
"Withdraw!" Long Feiye said coldly, turning to leave. Mu Qingwu and the rest didn't linger but hurried after him.
By now, the poison mosquito swarms had scattered all over the mountains. Han Yunxi was dragged to the cave mouth by Qingyi. When she saw the dense black mass, she couldn't help but suck in a cold breath. So many, how frightening!
"You...you...impossible, you can't control these!" Han Yunxi shook her head. A swarm of this size couldn't be controlled by human means, even if the climate and location were ideal.
Qingyi smiled. "Right, the one who can control them is already dead."
Han Yunxi was surprised by her words. Last time, she'd helped Long Feiye finish off that very same spy. It was evident that Qingyi didn't know this fact, so she wouldn't be stupid enough to volunteer the information. Now she finally understood what the woman had been waiting for.
"This is a natural phenomenon. You were waiting for this chance to escape in the chaos!"
Qingyi looked over before suddenly grabbing Han Yunxi's chin and stuffing a pill into her mouth. Not expecting this, Han Yunxi swallowed it in one gulp.
"Don't worry, it's to keep you alive," Qingyi snorted coldly.
At these words, Han Yunxi realized another thing. If this woman had the antidote to the poison mosquito swarm, then she must understand the raising of poison mosquitoes. Last time the mosquito swarm-controlling spy had been called Sister Snake. Long Feiye heard from his prisoner that this Sister Snake was the group leader of all the female agents. Which meant, this Qingyi must be Sister Snake's direct superior! In other words, Qingyi was responsible for all the Northern Li spies hidden in Tianning Country.
"You must have been the one who created Mu Qingwu's poison?" Han Yunxi said coldly. She was completely convinced. After interacting with that Sister Snake, she could gauge that the girl had no ability to create Ten-Thousand Snake Poison. But Qingyi might have the skills.
"Han Yunxi, it's not good for a woman to be too smart," Qingyi reminded her coldly.
Han Yunx didn't reply, but her eyes flickered in thought. She mused that she couldn't find Mu Qingwu's direct poisoner, but finding the creator of his poison should count as finding the culprit too, right?
Qingyi...this wangfei's got her eye on you.
At this time, another black-robed figure flew out from the mosquito swarm to give a respectful report. "Sister Qing, we can leave by the northwest way."
Qingyi nodded as she dragged Han Yunxi with her to leap into the abyss. Just before they fell, Han Yunxi saw a flash of red dash past the cave entrance...
That Gu Qishao fellow isn't afraid of poisons?