Chapter 343: What was the motive?
Han Yunxi had been waiting for the best chance to strike, but she never expected the assassin to easily dodge her needle! To avoid her attack in such a situation meant the assailant was either very familiar with her methods, or superbly skilled. She realized in hindsight that she'd underestimated these attackers. Zhao mama was an old woman without the strength to truss a chicken. Han Yunxi's needles had failed to injure the other party as well. The sword looked on the verge of stabbing Zhao mama completely while she stood rooted to the spot with fear. Han Yunxi abruptly pulled Zhao mama to her side, and they both toppled backwards onto the bed as the sword brushed past them.
Strangely enough, the high-level expert's sword brushed straight past Zhao mama without hurting her at all. Moreover, Han Yunxi, who was standing behind Zhao mama, was even safer. In an instant, she struck out with her foot to kick the assassin. The moment he dodged, she pushed Zhao mama aside and prepared to flee as well. But in the next instant, another assassin aimed his sword directly at Gu Beiyue.
"Chu Xifeng, save him!" Han Yunxi cried as she unleashed her arrows. Unfortunately, Chu Xifeng couldn't budge at all. The black-robed assassins were too strong, and the sound of weapons clashing filled the room. Two of their own guards rushed to the rescue, but one of them had their throat slit and expired. The sole remaining guard had no way to face off against the remaining killers.
"Esteemed wangfei, hurry and escape! Don't bother with me!" Gu Beiyue cried in alarm. He remained unmoving on the bed, but he had been observing the assassins the entire time. They seemed to be aiming for esteemed wangfei and himself. Where had they come from?
A complicated look flickered past his eyes. Just what kind of man was capable of fostering experts strong enough to attack the Duke of Qin's estate in broad daylight-and succeed?
"Stop with the nonsense," Han Yunxi looked unhappy. She personally shoved Gu Beiyue back into the bed as she stood guard in front of him. Gu Beiyue's lips curled up into a helpless smile, but that quickly disappeared.
"Aiya, esteemed wangfei, you..." Zhao mama was infuriated. She might be scared, but she would never allowed esteemed wangfei to get hurt before she died! She crawled up from her corner and dragged Han Yunxi aside. As soon as she was gone, two assassins aimed straight for Gu Beiyue. It was obvious that he was their target!
Gu Beiyue's brows furrowed at the sight of those swords. Like anyone who didn't know martial arts, his face was full of fear. But he was still sane enough to keep his reason as his hands clenched into fists. He seemed to be dreading death, but he also looked somewhat hesitant about something. In the end, his hesitation vanished as he watched the swords draw closer and closer...
"Imperial Physician Gu!" Han Yunxi screamed as she sent a torrent of needles flying. One of the assassins fell, but another quickly took his place. Moreover, other assassins came aiming for her instead. Han Yunxi shielded herself as she cried for help. "Someone come, protect Imperial Physician Gu, quick!"
It was utter chaos!
Suddenly, Gu Beiyue groaned. Han Yunxi's head whipped over to see that one of the assassin's swords had stabbed his arm, while the other assassin was aiming his weapon at his stomach!
Han Yunxi sucked in a cold breath. Forgetting about her own troubles, she released all the needles in her bracelet to aim for that assassin. He was hit by five of them, three which struck right on target and sent him toppling to the ground. But things didn't end there. Another assassin had taken his place before Han Yunxi could so much as take a breath. At the same time, the other assassin viciously withdrew the sword from Gu Beiyue's arm and prepared to attack him again! Gu Beiyue's eyes flickered coldly. The hand hidden under his covers finally grasped a small flying dagger between his fingers. But before he could attack, Lil Thing suddenly jumped out from its sleeping place in the cabinet. With teeth and claws bared, it pounced on the attacking assassin and starting scratching at his face!
Despicable! You dare to hurt my gentleman? Then it's time I act like the Gu Shu I am!
The assassin's face was reduced to a mangled mess. No matter how he clawed, Lil Thing remained lying stubbornly on his face.
"Ah... AhHHHHhhhh!" the assassin screamed in agony. Despite this, the other assassins were unaffected. They were thoroughly trained killers, merciless men who would fight to the death. Nobody paid any attention to the cries of their companion, but kept on with their assault. Very quickly, another assassin killed his way out of the guards to head for Gu Beiyue. Yet Lil Thing sensed the killing intent as soon as he drew near. It leaped onto the head of the assassin closest to Gu Beiyue and started clawing like mad. Fresh blood was soon flowing down the culprit's face, before the assassin crashed to the ground, completely dead...
Finally, the rest of the assassins held back as they realized how dangerous the squirrel could be. Lil Thing crawled to the edge of the bed, its eyes narrowed fiercely. It had been thoroughly exhausted, but the hints of killing intent in the air had woken it up immediately. It had to protect Mama Yunxi! And yet, it discovered that the gentleman was in even more danger when it jumped out of the cabinet. Although the black-robed assassins were targeting Mama Yunxi, they had no intent to kill her. Their murderous intentions were all aimed at the gentleman.
Lil Thing had no idea where these assassins came from, nor why they didn't want to kill Han Yunxi, but it knew it wouldn't let anyone hurt the gentleman! To it, the gentleman and Mama Yunxi were both equally important. As soon as Lil Thing took over guard duty, the black-robed assassins held themselves back. Someone shouted 'retreat' before all of them withdrew.
"Capture them alive, the archers will arrive immediately!" Chu Xifeng ordered coldly. Another round of fighting began. Many of the guards were killed or injured along with the black-robed assassins. Unfortunately, not a single one of their enemies survived. By the time the archers arrived, the remaining assassins had ran far away. There was nothing but disordered chaos left in the room. Lil Thing was extremely tired. It flopped over by Gu Beiyue's side, using the last vestiges of its energy to keep its eyelids open. Its eyes fluttered as it looked towards Mama Yunxi.
Zhao mama was sitting on the ground, too scared to get up. Han Yunxi rushed forward and asked, "Gu Beiyue, are you all right?"
Gu Beiyue had a panicked expression on his face, but he was as polite as always. "Many thanks to esteemed wangfei, this official is fine."
"Esteemed wangfei, are you all right?" Chu Xifeng asked anxiously.
Han Yunxi looked at the listless Lil Thing and felt miserable with distress. "What were our archers doing? Why did they show up so late? If it wasn't for Lil Thing, we all would've died!" Han Yunxi cried angrily.
The assassins had been very strong, so Chu Xifeng and the guards couldn't be blamed for having a hard tie. But their archers had come too late to help with anything!
Chu Xifeng issued orders, "Someone, call over Li Defu!"1
Li Defu was the commander of the Duke of Qin's archer guards. He knelt as soon as he came in. "Your humble subordinate neglected his duty, may esteemed wangfei mete punishment!"
"Why did you come so late?" Han Yunxi had a stomach full of hot air. Leaving aside today's events, their slow reaction time was a threat to the Duke of Qin's estate and its safety! Anyone who could charge into the estate and kill people wasn't an easy foe. They might have escaped this time, but there would definitely be a next. If she didn't know herself that Long Feiye's men were highly disciplined, she might have even suspected the archers had come late on purpose.
"To reply esteemed wangfei, the ancestral hall in the northwest corner was also infiltrated by assassins planning to kidnap esteemed imperial concubine. Your humble subordinate gathered the archers to deal with them and thus had no time to attend to matters here. Your humble subordinate neglected his duty, may esteemed wangfei mete punishment!"
Before Han Yunxi could speak, Chu Xifeng cut in, stunned. "What's going on? Why didn't anyone report it?"
"This subordinate had just gathered the archers before we received pleas for help from the northwest corner. There was no time to send a report!" Li Defu replied seriously.
"Then did you capture the culprits?" Han Yunxi was shocked as well. Could the two wave of assassins belong to the same group? Had they split up on purpose to divide the Duke of Qin's guards? Were they aiming for her and Gu Beiyue, or Grand Concubine Yi? Or perhaps, both?
"To reply esteemed wangfei, your humble subordinate was useless. The three assassins we managed to take captive all committed suicide, while the rest of them escaped," Li Defu said honestly.
Han Yunxi furrowed her brows and looked at Chu Xifeng, who wore an imposing expression. He leaned in close and whispered in her ear, "Esteemed wangfei, could they be aiming for Grand Concubine Yi?"
Han Yunxi had guessed as much herself. If the real target of these assassins was to kidnap Grand Concubine Yi, then attacking her and Gu Beiyue was just a way to divide the Duke of Qin's forces while keeping Chu Xifeng in check. She made a prompt decision and said, "Li Defu, immediately send for the men stationed at the Solitary Enclosure. Strengthen the guards here. Chu Xifeng, hurry and report this to His Highness Duke of Qin!"
This was Han Yunxi's first time issuing direct orders to the Duke of Qin's subordinates. She carried the aura of a female master very well. Li Defu didn't dare delay, but left immediately. Chu Xifeng's eyes flickered with admiration before he said, "This subordinate understands!"
Gu Beiyue watched the entire scene in silence, his brows wrinkled in thought. Soon enough, the corpses of the dead men were cleared away, leaving the room clean and spotless once again. By now, Lil Thing had curled itself up next to Gu Beiyue, seemingly asleep. In truth, it'd completely sank into a stupor. Gu Beiyue gently stroked its pure white fur but poor Lil Thing didn't feel it at all.
"It's all thanks to Lil Thing," Han Yunxi murmured.
"Esteemed wangfei, these assassins..." Gu Beiyue trailed off.
"They were aiming for me. No helping it now, I've offended too many people!" Han Yunxi said helplessly.
If these assassins had really been targeting Grand Concubine Yi like she and Chu Xifeng thought, then the mastermind behind the plan would have to be that pair in the palace. Although the empress dowager had never concerned herself with Long Feiye's birthright again after Mama Su's death, it didn't mean she or Emperor Tianhui would forget the issue. To the imperial clan, Long Feiye's birth origins were more important than anything else! Because Mama Su and the rest of the attending servants had all died with the truth, only Grand Concubine Yi would know the full story better than anyone else! After all, if Long Feiye wasn't part of Tianning's imperial clan, asking Grand Concubine Yi would be the most straightforward way to find out.
Han Yunxi put the burden of the blame on her own shoulders so Gu Beiyue wouldn't suspect anything amiss.
"Esteemed wangfei, you must take care of yourself." Gu Beiyue said with a heavy tone. In that same instant, a fierce whistling wind shrieked in from outside, bringing along an arrow aimed straight at Gu Beiyue.
Nobody expected the sudden attack, nor the sheer speed of the attacking arrow. By the time everyone recovered their senses, the arrow had already sank into Gu Beiyue's stomach, causing him to spit up a mouthful of blood!
1. Li Defu () - Li is a surname that means "plum," De is "virtue," and Fu is "good fortune, blessings."