For the first time, Kang Yu didn’t get angry. His eyes were filled with an uncontrollable sense of pride, as if he knew everything about the Shen family’s situation.
Shen An’s eyes narrowed, “How do you know?”
Kang Yu raised his eyebrows, seeming to relish in Shen An’s reaction. He shamelessly opened the covers, put on his clothes, and said smugly, “I told you earlier, you will pay for your stupidity. You and that fool are a perfect match, both so stupid they’re about to die.”
“You son of a bitch, I’ll beat you up!” Wei Jinyu’s handsome face turned cold as he balled his fists, ready to give Kang Yu another punch.
Suddenly, a panicked servant rushed in. He looked like a housekeeper and exclaimed, “Something’s wrong with Miss! Master Shen is being attacked by bandits in Changshan. Miss, please go and save him!”
“Dad?” Shen An’s heart skipped a beat. Without saying another word to Kang Yu, she urgently said, “Take me there!”
Outside the door, a carriage was already prepared. Without much thought, Shen An climbed onto the horse with Wei Jinyu and rushed towards Changshan.
One thing after another, things keeps popping up. It was clear that someone had plotted against Shen Yu by having him encounter bandits at this time. Who was so malicious as to want to bring the Shen family to its demise?
Wei Jinyu tightly wrapped his arms around Shen An’s waist from behind, his thin lips pursed tightly, not daring to say a word.
After leaving the town, they would have to pass through a dense forest. Suddenly, something flashed in Shen An’s mind, and she fiercely pulled the reins.
The horse raised its front hooves and stopped.
Shen An turned to look at Wei Jinyu, her voice cold and serious: “Get off the horse and leave quickly.”
It was an order, not a discussion.
Although Wei Jinyu didn’t know the reason, he could sense that something big was about to happen. He shook his head like a rattle drum: “I won’t leave, I’ll stay with you.”
“I told you to leave, so leave. There is no room for negotiation. Otherwise, you won’t see me again in the future. Hurry!”
Before Wei Jinyu could finish his sentence, he was pushed off the horse by Shen An and fell heavily to the ground. A look of pity flashed across Shen An’s face, but she quickly regained her composure, turned the horse’s head, and was about to go back.
Suddenly, the sound of rustling came from all sides, and then five or six masked black-clad men jumped out, surrounding them.
Obviously, they had been lying in ambush here long ago.
Shen An had already realized that they had been tricked as soon as they left the town. Although the servant was wearing the Shen family’s clothes, it was a stranger’s face that she had never seen before. Besides, after the Shen family’s property was confiscated, all the servants and maids had scattered. Otherwise, her mother would not have come out personally to find her and report the news.
That person obviously wanted to lure her here.
Whoever was behind this had made a big move.
Originally, Shen An wanted Wei Jinyu to leave, but now it seemed that neither of them could leave.
Without any unnecessary words, Shen An’s gaze sharpened as she swiftly drew her hidden dagger and plunged it into the heart of one of the attackers, causing him to fall to the ground lifeless. At the same time, she dismounted her horse with a smooth and agile movement.
The remaining black-clad men attacked her with their swords, but with the help of her companion, Wei Jinyu, they managed to fend them off. Wei Jinyu’s martial arts skills were exceptional, and after a few rounds of fighting, the attackers began to struggle to keep up.
Shen An watched as Wei Jinyu fought with a serious and focused expression, and she couldn’t help but feel a strange emotion stirring within her. She had always thought he was simple-minded, but watching him now, she wondered if she had been wrong about him.
As they continued to fight, Wei Jinyu began to sweat profusely, and Shen An felt a sudden urge to protect him. With all her strength, she swung her hand like a knife and struck the neck of one of the attackers, rendering him unconscious.
Wei Jinyu heard the commotion and turned to see Shen An smiling softly at him. He felt a flutter in his chest but quickly regained his composure and protectively drew her close to him, saying gruffly, “Don’t move, I’ll handle this!”
Wei Jinyu kept his word and didn’t give Shen An another chance to take action, single-handedly defeating all the black-clothed men. Although he didn’t kill them, the remaining black-clothed men took their own lives by ingesting poison.
Shen An had known they were sent by someone, so regardless of whether they lived or died, she would find a way to uncover the mastermind behind the plot.
“Why would someone with such high martial arts end up living on the streets? Who was your teacher?” Shen An doubted Wei Jinyu’s identity, or rather, she had been suspicious for a long time, but had never asked.
Wei Jinyu shook his head. “I only wanted to scare them off because they were bullying you. I don’t have any martial arts skills.”
Shen An didn’t believe him. Wei Jinyu’s identity was definitely not that simple. But since he couldn’t remember, she didn’t ask any more questions. She still hadn’t fully investigated the situation at Shen Mansion, so the most important thing now was to figure out how to clear Shen Mansion’s name and how to relay the news of the incident to Shen Yu, who was doing business outside, and tell him to avoid the situation for a while.
“Let’s go back,” she said.
As for the current situation, Shen An could only go to the inn to discuss with her mother. However, when she arrived at the inn in a hurry, she found that her mother’s room was already locked from the inside. Shen An knocked on the door and shouted her identity, but there was no response.
Shen An had a bad feeling about this and was anxious. She kicked the door open and found that the room was in a mess, with bloodstains on the floor. Her mother had already been murdered and lay dead on the ground.
“Mother!” Shen An rushed over to lift the body, and there was a fine mark on her neck where her artery had been cut by a wire. The body was still warm, indicating that the murder had happened not long ago.
It turned out that the person who had lured her into the forest not only wanted her life, but also wanted to draw her away from home and then take her mother’s life!
Shen An’s tears finally broke free at this moment. The woman’s love for her was still vivid in her mind, and now she had suddenly become a cold corpse.
Who could have done this?!
Who wanted to destroy their family?!
Wei Jinyu could only whisper beside her, “Don’t cry, don’t cry.”
Shen An’s nails dug deep into her flesh, her eyes bloodshot. If the killer were standing in front of her now, she would surely tear them apart and drink their blood to ease her hatred!
After a while, Shen An placed the body down and, with Wei Jinyu, went downstairs to find the innkeeper and gave him a large sum of money to help with the funeral arrangements.
The Shen family mansion was already sealed off, and they couldn’t go back. For the time being, they could only find a temporary place to stay.
After the waiter went out with the money, he hurried back in a panic, and when he saw Shen An, he said anxiously, “You…you need to go to the Yamen (1)!”
Shen An was startled. Could something else have happened?
She was now on the brink of despair, but still managed to ask in a trembling voice, “What happened?”
“Your father, Shen Yu, and your stepmother’s bodies were sent to the Yamen. You need to go quickly…”
Shen An was shocked.
Before the waiter could finish his sentence, Shen An took a step forward and rushed out. By the time the waiter caught up with her to return the leftover money, their figures had disappeared at the end of the alley.
The waiter sighed heavily, “It’s really pitiful…”
Perhaps even heaven felt too compassionate, and the weather suddenly changed from clear skies to strong winds and heavy rain, hitting their bodies with painful, bean-sized drops.
By the time they arrived at the county yamen, they were soaked through, and fearing that Shen An might catch a cold, Wei Jinyu took off his coat and draped it over her.
As they approached the entrance of the county yamen, they were stopped by guards with guns, who asked, “Who are you people?”
Jinyu thought they were going to harm Shen An, and was about to take action, but Shen An quickly grabbed him and truthfully said, “I am Shen Yu’s daughter, my father is inside!”
The two soldiers looked at each other and put away their guns, letting them pass.
Shen Yu and Shen Man’s bodies were covered with white cloth in the courtyard of the Yamen, and Shen An went over and lifted the soaked white cloth. Their familiar faces were immediately in her sight, but there was no trace of blood on the faces and their eyes were staring wide open, as if they couldn’t close.
“Dad!” Shen An screamed in grief, regardless of the mud, and sat down on the ground. The last line of defense in her heart collapsed completely, and she gritted her teeth and said, “Who did this? Who did it?”
“This was done by Xiangma (2). I am also powerless. Miss Shen, please take care and comfort yourself.”
A calm voice suddenly sounded, and Shen An, with red eyes, slightly turned her head and saw the county magistrate standing on the roof with his hands behind his back, looking down at them with a regretful and helpless tone, but his expression was indifferent, without any change.
“Xiangma? Xiangma did this?” Shen An suddenly laughed loudly, both sarcastic and sad. “Sir, I just want to ask you one thing. Are you not afraid of being struck by lightning when you say this?”
The county magistrate furrowed his brow slightly.
“Outrageous!” The magistrate’s attendant next to him shouted loudly, “Shen Yu privately built a project that caused the deaths of many people, and he was guilty. Now that he is dead, the county magistrate shows mercy and will not punish you. Yet you dare to speak recklessly and act against authority, you are simply audacious!”
The county magistrate continued, “I have considered that Shen Yu has been a blessing to the town, so I will allow the Yamen to take care of the Shen family’s affairs and give them a decent burial. Are you satisfied with this?”
Shen An stood up and walked towards him step by step, her tone suddenly sharp: “If my father was killed by Xiangma, why didn’t you lead soldiers to eradicate them as a government official? Also, you said my father privately built a project that caused deaths, where is your evidence? And why was my mother killed when she was perfectly fine? Each event is connected, so please give me an explanation!”
She was pressuring him to reveal the mastermind behind the scenes.
And this county magistrate, he was probably colluding with the culprit.
The magistrate’s brow furrowed deeper, and his tone became grim: “Shen An, you are a clever person.”
“Huh, a clever person.” Shen An sneered, her eyes blurred, not knowing if it was rain or tears, and said desolately, “Even if I am clever, I am still being manipulated by you, the county magistrate. Sir, I don’t ask for much, just want the truth!”
“The truth is as I have said, if you continue to be unreasonable, it will only do you harm and no good.” His voice was not loud, but every word was a threat.
1. Yamen : a government office in Imperial China that was responsible for law enforcement, public security, and administration of justice. Yamen usually housed officials such as magistrates, judges, police officers, and clerks, who dealt with civil and criminal cases. The Yamen system was a key feature of the imperial Chinese bureaucracy and was established in every administrative unit, from the central government down to the local level.
2. Xiangma : a term in Chinese martial arts that refers to a style of fast and explosive footwork. It involves light and quick steps, sudden changes in direction, and the use of body momentum to generate power and speed. The name “响马” literally means “ringing horse,” which may be a reference to the sound of the horse’s hooves as it gallops, and the quick and agile movements of a horse in motion. The xiangma footwork is commonly used in various styles of Chinese martial arts, such as Baguazhang and Xingyiquan.