Chapter 118: Unforeseen, the master appears
Mu Qingwu and Guard Shangguan chased Long Feiye to the cliff, where they immediately saw the dense black mass gathering by the northern forests like a dark cloud.
What's going on?
The two men were like monks who couldn't touch their heads as they saw His Highness Duke of Qin's figure rushing off into the distance. Both of them hesitated: should they give chase? But just as they were wavering, an oval-shaped mass in the north suddenly shifted and lengthened into a long strip that headed towards the north.
What was the matter?
Was it possible for the poison miasma to change shape? Even if the wind was to blame, it should change so quickly and uniformly. Not to mention, the wind was blowing from the north.
"Young General, this...is this really poison miasma?" Guard Shangguan couldn't help but think that something was off.
Mu Qingwu's eyes were fixated on the black mass until he saw it start to flow and circulate. From a distance, it resembled a black ribbon drifting towards the north as it increased in speed! Even an idiot would be able to tell this wasn't miasma!
"Chase it!" Mu Qingwu said as he leaped down to follow. Guard Shangguan didn't think much before going after him.
By this time, Long Feiye had already closed the distance between him and the swarm of mosquitos. He landed on a nearby tree and watched clearly as the mosquitoes seemed to fight over something in the air, struggling while they fought against each other to fly forwards. If he went in the same direction, would he catch up to Han Yunxi?
Long Feiye didn't rush to the front of the swarm, but remained behind it. He knew that he wouldn't lose his way if he followed them, because mosquitoes had a much sharper sense of smell than humans. And since the swarm didn't move very fast, it was easy to keep pace.
About one li away from the swarm was Qingyi and Han Yunxi, traveling along at high speeds. There were somewhat far ahead, but the mosquito swarms were so silent that it remained unnoticed behind them. First and foremost, Qingyi had to successfully escape while guaranteeing their safety. Secondly, Master said to bring this woman to their hidden headquarters in Tianning. As long as she could complete her tasks, she'd be able to go back. She too, was a hidden agent with a sensitive identity. Her responsibilities were heavy, so it'd be suspicious if she went missing for too long.
Qingyi was traveling at unprecedented speeds, but close behind her was a red shadow that streaked through the underbrush like an arrow in close pursuit. It wasn't clear how long they ran before the red shadow suddenly ground to a stop to hide behind a large tree trunk.
Who else could this be but Gu Qishao?
He only stood after seeing Qingyi's group some distance away, lifting his head to sniff at the air. Then he spread out his palm and raised it against the wind for a few moments. When he withdrew his hand, it was to sniff his palm. Surprise came first, followed by laughter.
"Poison lass...you've got good skills!" Those long, narrow eyes were beautiful when he smiled. Glancing back, he playfully licked his lips before turning to renew the chase.
The mosquito swarm and Qingyi's group were already two mountains apart. As the mosquitoes gave chase, they fought in the air for the powder, so their speed wasn't very great. Add that to Qingyi's own fast pace and the mosquitoes chased all the way until early morning the next day without finding the source of the powder: Han Yunxi's hand.
Right now, Long Feiye's group was still one mountain behind after Mu Qingwu and Guard Shangguan had caught up.
"Your Highness, what's going on?" Mu Qingwu asked intently. He had his own guesses, but wasn't certain. Once Long Feiye clarified the situation, both Mu Qingwu and Guard Shangguan were astonished.
"In other words, the assassins are just up ahead. Your Highness, why not give chase?" Guard Shangguan was very excited.
"Your lordship's very curious to see where they're taking Han Yunxi." Long Feiye was full of interest and not worried at all. If he wanted to give chase, wouldn't he have long saved Han Yunxi by now? He didn't because he was setting out a line to hook a bigger fish.
Mu Qingwu and Guard Shangguan immediately understood his words, but Guard Shangguan grew puzzled soon afterwards. If His Highness Duke of Qin really worried about esteemed wangfei, his first reaction should be to save her, right? But today he was treating esteemed wangfei as bait so he could storm the thieves' lair. If things didn't go right, they might kill the hostage!
Looking at His Highness Duke of Qin's frigid expression, Guard Shangguan was more convinced than ever than Mu Qingwu's words from yesterday had been wrong. Sacrificing a single Han Yunxi to expose a den of traitors was killing two golden eagles with one arrow for His Highness Duke of Qin, getting him the best of both worlds. If Han Yunxi was killed, the Duke of Qin's residence would still shine bright.
Since he'd already spoken, neither Mu Qingwu or Guard Shangguan dared to urge him otherwise. They could only follow closely behind.
Qingyi's group was in the lead, with Gu Qishao behind them and the mosquito swarm behind him. Long Feiye's group was at the very end. This chase was like a mantis stalking the cicada while being unaware of the oriole behind. Just who would be the oriole by the end?
Time trickled by. A few days had already passed, and as the distance closed between the groups, the concentration of Mosquito Incense grew thicker and thicker, gradually slowing the progress of the swarm. Early this morning, Han Yunxi had stopped releasing the powder. So many days had passed with Qingyi maintaining her silence, but Han Yunxi could sense that they were close to their destination.
She'd created such a huge swarm of mosquitoes behind her for the past few days, but had no one discovered any peculiarities in the forests yet? Unless everyone had scattered after the mosquito swarm spread, so all the men in the mountains had retreated without leaving one behind? In this way, nobody discovered the newly formed mosquito swarm? Even if Mu Qingwu and Guard Shangguan overlooked the detail, Long Feiye wasn't the type to give up so easily. He should know that she'd have a way to use the poison mosquito swarms!
Even if he didn't remember, with his personality, he wouldn't back off just from a single obstacle, right? Or did he really not come? But even so, if he really didn't come, Mu Qingwu and Guard Shangguan would've sent men to search the mountains again after the swarms scattered! Judging by the time, someone should've discovered the new swarm of mosquitos. Why wasn't there any reaction after so many days?
Unless...Mu Qingwu and the rest had given up the search?
The kidnapping of Qin Wangfei was a big deal, so who could stop Mu Qingwu and Guard Shangguan from searching? Only Long Feiye. If he didn't come himself and stopped caring, did it mean he was seizing the opportunity to let her die? Thinking up to here, Han Yunxi's lively pupils gradually turned dark. She stared blankly for a while before the corners of her lips tugged into a mocking smile.
Why would Long Feiye come? Why would he save her?
The weather was so cold that he was probably spending his time in a hothouse by the fire, patiently waiting for these kidnappers to come knocking on his door.
Or maybe he'd allow them to kill the hostage without feeling threatened by them at all.
The empress dowager bestowed their marriage, the emperor forced them to marry. If there wasn't sufficient reason, he couldn't divorce her. Even if she died, the Duke of Qin's residence would still have to provide an adequate reason to convince everyone else.
Wasn't this the perfect chance?
Right at this moment, Qingyi suddenly landed on the ground. Han Yunxi's feet hit the dirt hard, causing her ailing right foot to send a wave of pain that stretched her nerves taut. At this pain, Han Yunxi's derisive smile turned into soft laughter. All that fellow did was massage her foot a few times. How could she forget the awkwardness of her identity and really treat herself as someone special?
Why did she climb the south mountains? Why go harvest Red South Peak?
"What are you laughing about?" Qingyi asked guardedly.
Han Yunxi glanced at her, her smile turning cold as she refused to answer.
This woman's smile was determined and decisive, carrying with it a fierceness to rival a man's. Qingyi couldn't help but suddenly feel a sense of dread as she snagged Han Yunxi by the collar. "What are you smiling for?"
The silent Qingyi had finally opened her mouth to speak. Han Yunxi looked at her coldly, her smile turning even more intense. She just wouldn't open her mouth.
Qingyi grew even more anxious as she jostled her collar. "Talk, why are you smiling?"
Yet right at this instant, a low, fierce voice suddenly rose from behind them. "Qingyi, you idiotic woman, you've been tailed!"
Qingyi gave a start and turned her head, only to see a masked figure had suddenly appeared behind her. His figure was tall and lofty, the wind whipping through his dark cloak. A ferocious-looking mask obscured his face, only revealing his mouth. His gaze was cruel and vicious enough to distract viewers from his mask so that they only saw his eyes.
"Master!" Qingyi blurted out.
Han Yunxi's chest heaved. She knew that this masked figure had to be the official leader of the Northern Li spies and the high-level poisons expert she was curious about. All of a sudden, the masked man pressed closer, mysterious and dark, his fiendish eyes staring straight at Han Yunxi. Frightened, she wanted to back away but found that Qingyi was holding her in place so that she couldn't budge a step.
"You were the one who released the Mosquito Incense, right?" the masked man asked, voice so low that it might have come from the depths of Hell.
Han Yunxi shivered involuntarily. But despite her fear, she was more interested in the words he'd just said. Qingyi had been followed? It couldn't be that someone had really chased them here by following the mosquito swarm?
Seeing that Han Yunxi hadn't answered, the man seized her roughly by the chin, enough to make Han Yunxi feel like her bones were about to break.
"Answer your lord's question!" his voice was filled with killing intent, enough to turn Qingyi timid.
But Han Yunxi firmly wrenched her chin aside with a cold voice. "So what if I did?"
The masked man's hand turned stiff. He was about to rage when Han Yunxi spoke again. "You and your quibble with Long Feiye are your own business. Aren't you ashamed of kidnapping a weak woman like me to threaten him?"
"Impudence!" Qingyi exclaimed, raising her hand for a slap. No one had ever dared to be so presumptuous with the master.
Yet the masked man actually moved Qingyi aside, voice cold. "Worthless, you can get lost."
So speaking, he tugged with his hands to forcibly drag Han Yunxi from Qingyi's arms into his own. Han Yunxi's face smashed against his chest so hard that her face hurt, almost enough to make her tear up. Such an embrace was filled with his overbearing, tyrannical air, both unfamiliar and terrifying. Han Yunxi indignantly raised her head and snarled, "Let me go!"
But the masked man only smiled coldly. "Han Yunxi, you've misunderstood. Your lord didn't kidnap you to threaten Long Feiye. Rather...you're the one I want!"
He wanted her?
She didn't understand what his words meant, but just by looking into his eyes, Han Yunxi could sense the strong possessive desire hiding within those pupils.
Now, she was truly afraid!
 li () - Chinese unit of measurement equivalent to approximately 500 meters.
 a mantis stalking the cicada while being unaware of the oriole behind (, ) - tanglang buchan, huangque, zaihou, a Daoist idiom from the classic Zhuangzi. It means (in the case of the mantis) to pursue a narrow gain while neglecting a greater danger.