Chapter 484: Unexpected turncoats
There were assassins!
Neither Han Yunxi, Gu Beiyue, nor Gu Qi Sha had expected killers to target them here. There was no more time to consider it twice because the arrows came fast and furious. Gu Qi Sha completely ignored Gu Beiyue to focus on Han Yunxi's safety. He shielded her with his body, one hand flinging up his cloak as a shield while the other unsheathed his sword to deflect the incoming arrows. At the same time, sounds of combat broke out from beyond the walls. Most likely, the guards who had tailed Han Yunxi were now fighting against enemies, too.
"Gu Beiyue! Protect Gu Beiyue!" Despite her alarm, Han Yunxi didn't forget the imperial physician who didn't know martial arts. No matter whether the assassins were targeting her or Gu Qi Sha this time, Gu Beiyue was still an innocent bystander! It was impossible for her to break free of Gu Qi Sha's grasp under these circumstances, however. Even breathing became difficult, much less trying to see what was going on. Still, the endless swooshing of arrows and the clang of their points against Gu Qi Sha's sword was enough to make a sizable din. She knew the situation was bad. There had to be at least a hundred archers around them. But Gu Beiyue didn't know a speck of martial arts, so even a single arrow would be enough to take his life!
"Gu Qi Sha, save Gu Beiyue!"
"Gu Qi Sha, I'm begging you, save Gu Beiyue!" Han Yunxi didn't usually cry, but now she was coming close to tears.
Fortunately, Gu Beiyue hadn't been hurt because Lil Thing was shielding him from harm. It was a lot faster than Gu Qi Sha, its tiny body darting around Gu Beiyue's form like a streak of white as it bit through the arrows raining down on him. Their fallen fragments formed a circle around his feet.
Han Yunxi wasn't wrong with her guess. They really were surrounded by archers on all sides. Moreover, their assailants were using a rare make of crossbow to attack them. In the world of archery, bows and crossbows differed. Regular bows shot arrows using a parabolic curve with a hand pulling back the string. Without adequate stamina and power, it was impossible for the user to shoot their arrows very far or quickly, or for long periods of time. Crossbows, on the other hand, were different. They had a smaller curve and could be shot only using one hand. What they relied on was mechanical energy, and their arrows traveled in a straight line for farther distances. The explosive force behind each shot was immense, as was their killing strength. Compared to the long and slender bows, arrows shot from a crossbow were much harder to dodge. One crossbow could stand in for the killing strength of ten regular bows.
It was unclear how many archers had hidden themselves around Gu Beiyue's courtyard, but their arrows really did fall like rain upon the trio. When Gu Beiyue heard Han Yunxi's cries, his eyes turned inexpressibly gentle. Their current dangerous circumstances didn't affect him at all, but neither Han Yunxi nor Gu Qi Sha noticed anything peculiar about his state of being. Gu Qi Sha was wholly focused on blocking the incoming arrows but kept getting distracted by Han Yunxi.
Finally he lost his patience and cried, "That poison beast of yours is shielding him, so he's not going to die! But you've nearly talked this old fellow to death, so be quiet!"
Han Yunxi finally remembered its existence. Her heart sank back in her chest. With Lil Thing's skills, Gu Beiyue should be perfectly protected. Instead of shutting up, however, she cried, "Gu Qi Sha, take me away, quick!"
If she and Gu Qi Sha could leave the Gu Estate, Gu Beiyue should be safe. The sudden onslaught could only mean that their enemies had prepared ahead of time. There was no way they'd let them off so easily.
"Where to? It's safest here, the imperial guards will show up eventually if this keeps up. Motherf***er, even Long Feiye's guards aren't enough to beat them back. Just how many of them are there? This old fellow's having trouble holding out!" Gu Qi Sha spoke the truth.
Chu Xifeng should've followed Han Yunxi out with his guards publicly to protect her. If even he was having trouble, then the enemy's preparations must have been extremely thorough. There had to be plenty of archers and assassins hidden in wait. Under these circumstances, their only hope laid in reinforcements from the imperial guards. Something this big would never escape their notice. As soon as the capital's soldiers arrived, they wouldn't have trouble surviving.
Hearing this, Han Yunxi could only relent. She was still anxious, but she couldn't do anything else in this situation. Even poisons and hidden weapons wouldn't help her now. If only I knew how to fight with a sword. Then things would be much better!
She thought of Long Feiye then and wondered where he'd gone with Duanmu Yao. What are they doing now? Why did he disappear now of all times?
In the midst of the chaos, one single arrow pierced through the crowd and straight into Gu Qi Sha's shoulder. It narrowly missed Han Yunxi, who was still hidden within his cloak! The arrow had hit the same shoulder that Long Feiye stabbed in the past, but Gu Qi Sha only acted like nothing had happened and kept dodging more arrows. Nestled within his embrace, Han Yunxi didn't see or feel a thing.
Gu Beiyue furrowed his eyes at the sight. The tiny flying dagger hidden in his palm began to reveal itself, but its owner still held back on using it in the end. Lil Thing paused in reaction to the shot, but it was this moment of inattention that caused yet another arrow to sink into Gu Beiyue's shoulder this time, sending out a fresh spray of blood!
Gu Qi Sha was dressed in black robes, so no one could tell he was bleeding, but Gu Beiyue was dressed in white. His wound was starkly obvious against the pale cloth, blood pouring from the injury. This particular arrow was stranger than the rest; Heaven only knows where it'd came from. It was hard to block! This time, it was Gu Qi Sha who got distracted, causing two more arrows to sink into his back. He spat up blood from the wounds but remained indifferent, using all his stamina to block the rest of the projectiles. It was as if he wasn't injured at all.
In contrast, Lil Thing gave a cheep of alarm at Gu Beiyue's wound. It didn't dare pause any longer, but flew into action to dart around Gu Beiyue once more as a white, streaking shield. Now it was thoroughly incensed, squeaking angrily as it wished it could bite all the archers to death.
But there was no helping it. With so many arrows attacking them all at once, their only choice was to beat their opponents' speeds and block the weapons first before they hit. When Han Yunxi heard Lil Thing squeaking so, she couldn't help but cry, "What's wrong, what's happened to Imperial Physician Gu?"
Gu Qi Sha wasn't affected by his injuries, but his body shook minutely at Han Yunxi words. He suddenly asked, "Lass, why aren't you worried about me?"
Han Yunxi suddenly felt like she'd heard his voice somewhere before. She was about to ask him when Chu Xifeng's voice called out, "Esteemed wangfei, are you alright?!"
Chu Xifeng was severely injured, but he still braved a mob of enemies to dash into the courtyard. Both him and his guards had been ambushed and overwhelmed, thus allowing the archers to slip successfully into the courtyard. Their enemies had not only brought along archers, but mercenaries to target their guards. Chu Xifeng had killed through ten of the hired killers before he made it inside. He dodged a slew of arrows to head for the pavilion, but was soon blocked by a high-level expert dressed in black robes and a face mask. As he struck out with his sword, Chu Xifeng had no choice but to retreat. Soon enough, he was fighting with his new assailant.
Han Yunxi's train of thought was interrupted by Chu Xifeng's shout. Meanwhile, Gu Qi Sha had recovered his calm. He didn't know why he'd almost forgotten to change his voice just then, either.
That was a close call!
The rain of arrows was fierce to begin with, but now their numbers were increasing. As the onslaught intensified, the trio and one poison beast were reaching their limits. If the number of arrows exceeded their ability to block them all, then they'd be shot to death or die of exhaustion! What they desperately needed now were reinforcements!
Finally, Gu Qi Sha lost his temper. "Is that cur of an emperor raising rice buckets for soldiers? Why aren't they here yet?!"
It would've been better if he kept quiet, because the arrows came even faster at his declaration. Meanwhile, the masked assassin had kicked Chu Xifeng to the ground; fortunately he still had enough strength to climb to his feet.
"Your Excellency Pill Fiend, hold on! They've already gone to send for help, the imperial guards will arrive very soon!" Chu Xifeng shouted back.
Gu Qi Sha could only grit his teeth and continue to endure. His martial arts skills really weren't all that spectacular. When he turned his back to Gu Beiyue, the latter couldn't help but suck in a cold breath! There were a total of five arrows sticking out of Gu Qi Sha's back, all of them pouring fresh blood. In the midst of his astonishment, Gu Beiyue furrowed his brows to look closer at the fresh blood before he seemed to realize something. His expression gradually grew solemn.
At last, when Gu Qi Sha was about to give out, the imperial guards arrived! The group inside the courtyard had no idea what was going on beyond the walls, but the sounds of fighting stopped before they realized the guards were here. The black-robed assassin fighting Chu Xifeng abruptly back away and shouted, "Disperse!"
Immediately, the rain of arrows lessened by half. The assassin himself fled with them, leaving Chu Xifeng to knock away stray arrows as he rushed to Gu Qi Sha's aid in the pavilion. Soon enough, less and less arrows came at them. The sounds of blade against arrow grew weaker as well, while the combat noises outside the courtyard intensified. It looked like the imperial guards were now dealing with the stragglers amongst the archers. Gu Qi Sha stopped holding onto Han Yunxi so tightly, allowing her to breathe in some fresh air. She looked at Gu Beiyue and Lil Thing, then at all the arrows on the ground, and gasped in relief.
It felt like everything that had happened just then was only a nightmare.
Once everything grew still, Lil Thing flopped onto the table and panted for breath, nearly dead from exhaustion. Chu Xifeng stood paralyzed in a corner, his body stiff from all his wounds. Gu Qi Sha still kept a tight grip on Han Yunxi until she struggled free with effort. Aside from Gu Beiyue, who was still studying Gu Qi Sha's blood from a distance, everyone else was still suffering from fear in hindsight as they recovered from the shock.
At this moment, the head of the imperial guards entered the courtyard with a team of archers in tow and appeared before Han Yunxi. This wasn't Mu Qingwu, but another young commander. He didn't go any closer, but stopped outside the pavilion and fell to his knees. "This soldier was late to the rescue, may esteemed wangfei mete punishment!"
He might have knelt down, but none of the archers behind him did.
Han Yunxi was just wondering how strange that was when Chu Xifeng bellowed, "Esteemed wangfei, be careful! It's a trick!"
He'd barely spoken when the kneeling man waved his hand. All of the archers leveled their crossbows and aimed at Han Yunxi! Nobody expected the reinforcements they held out for to be turncoats. Gu Beiyue was about to throw himself in front of the archers when Gu Qi Sha pulled Han Yunxi into his arms and turned his back to the attackers!
Swoosh swoosh swoosh!
Countless arrows buried themselves in his back. Han Yunxi didn't even need to prompt him before he fled from the courtyard!
The imperial guards had turned against them, so they had to leave this dangerous place!