I have faith in my character (regarding how senior brother and senior sister escaped from the pursuing troops of the prince)
When Cao Yun was not yet 7 years old, his parents, unable to support him, sent him to the Shadow Guard Camp.
Apart from occasional letters at the beginning, he had no contact with his biological family. But the young boy, who was always composed, never complained. Instead, he found some solace in his circumstances.
In the Shadow Guard Camp, where everyone was suffering, he not only finally had enough to eat but also made acquaintances with the talkative and curious Lin Yan, the straightforward to the point of being a little foolish Ming Qin, and the mischievous and imaginative Song Shu Qing, who became whimsical and loved to ramble since a feverish night.
Just like all the Shadow Guards, Cao Yun’s youth was far from easy at the Night Mist Pavilion.
He forged his will, practiced martial arts, and studied diligently. Even when blisters formed on his hands from gripping the sword, breaking and re-forming, bandages mingling with blood, he, who was already reserved by nature, could only grit his teeth and endure, with no way back.
But fortunately, he had the companionship of his colleagues. They laughed together in sweat and cheered each other on in tears. Now, when he looks back on those difficult training times, the grown-up young man can do so with a smile.
Whether it was secretly roasting sweet potatoes in the snow after arduous training, secretly delivering meals to Qin Qin, who was in confinement without the knowledge of their master, or quietly sharing the rewarded malt sugar among the four of them, he cherished all these memories in his heart.
Just like Master He Jingshou and Mistress Gu Yun, who chose to be together, in the Shadow Guard Camp, many boys and girls who grew up together developed hidden affections over time. Even with the sword at their necks, they still chose to accompany each other in moments that could be abruptly terminated.
Cao Yun and Lin Yan did have doubts about whether they might have feelings for the two girls they grew up with. After all, Ming Qin was innocent and lovely, and Song Shu Qing was clever and intelligent. Moreover, during their most restless youth, they practically lived and ate together, inseparable.
But later on, the two of them realized that the bond between them, built over several decades of supporting each other through life and death, couldn’t be explained by a few youthful infatuations.
Superficial liking seems insufficient to explain the mutual trust among the four of them, the certainty to entrust their backs when surrounded by enemies in a crisis. It also fails to explain the fervor to protect their comrades at all costs, perceiving danger faster than thought and urgently wanting to shield them from harm.
Just like when Song Shu Qing tirelessly studied ancient texts with red eyes, preparing medicine for Ming Qin.
Just like when Ming Qin hesitated for no moment in the forests of Nanyue, intercepting pursuers and saving the injured Cao Yun.
Just like when Cao Yun, without hesitation, sacrificed his arm on the ship to block the sword aimed at Song Shu Qing.
“Oh no… I can’t hide it any longer.”
Song Shu Qing, disguised as the princess, looked through the window paper in the cabin, observing the lurking pursuers outside. Helplessly, she took out a hidden weapon from her bag, preparing to confront the restless individuals outside. “Well, we’ve come far enough ourselves.”
“Junior Sister Song… When I push the door, don’t mind me. Just walk straight out,” Cao Yun slowly unsheathed his sharp dual blades from his waist, advising in a low voice, “You’re an excellent swimmer, and with the dim light, once you dive into the water, they’ll have a hard time finding you.”
“Ah Yun, you’re not thinking of holding them off by yourself, are you?” The vibration from the deck indicated that the Crown Prince’s entourage outside consisted of at least fifty people. Song Shu Qing rolled her eyes. “Have you been watching too many Marvel movies? Don’t think of being a lone hero.”
Frowning, Cao Yun felt helpless. “Junior Sister Song, the water currents are rapid here, and I’m not as adept at swimming as you are. Under the pursuit of so many enemies, I won’t be able to escape their encirclement…” His speech quickened as he tried to convince the woman beside him, but he was interrupted.
“Stop being so talkative. You only have the most to say in times like these.” Without even glancing at the man beside her, Song Shu Qing held a dagger in one hand and a long needle in the other. “You deal with 30, and I’ll handle 20. Don’t complain about the distribution; after all, I’m wearing a dress.”
Cao Yun wanted to speak, but suddenly, a faint glimmer outside flashed as if it were a signal. The next moment, a group of masked individuals kicked open the cabin door and stormed in from all sides, surrounding the two of them.
“Oh dear, everyone already knows who we are. There’s no need to waste fabric on masks. It’s truly unnecessary…” Song Shu Qing spoke in a relaxed tone, teasingly. However, her expression slightly grew serious. “The Crown Prince seems to have a ‘deep affection’ for the princess, sending so many underlings.”
She shot the long needle from her hand, but the enemies evaded, and the weapon merely grazed their necks. “Tsk, they’re skilled. The troublesome kind.” While firing another hidden weapon, she raised her dagger to fend off the masked assailants’ close-quarters attacks.
On the other end of the cabin, Cao Yun wielded his dual blades, gritting his teeth. His movements were urgent.
Junior Sister Song excelled in hidden weapons and cleverly used environmental advantages and strategic thinking to win. However, in this confined cabin, facing such a dense group of enemies, it was highly disadvantageous for her, who was not skilled in close combat.
He needed to quickly take down more of the enemy forces.
Without a moment to catch his breath, he swung his arms, and wherever he went, crimson flowers bloomed.
But the enemies were no pushovers either. With their swarm tactics, they managed to hold their ground against the two skilled shadow guards, engaging them in several rounds of combat and leaving scars on their bodies.
“Damn it.” Song Shu Qing shot the last remaining hidden weapon in her hand, knocking down an enemy who had leaped onto a beam. She muttered under her breath, “This is troublesome.” She evaded the attacks aimed at her and sought an opportunity to leave the crowded cabin, making her way onto the deck.
“28, 29…” Quietly counting, Cao Yun cleared the enemies around him. The marks of his blades crisscrossed, yet he didn’t pause for a moment, hastily lifting his blade and rushing towards the deck.
Song Shu Qing wielded an unfamiliar weapon, being restrained by 4 or 5 formidable opponents. Her long hair scattered, and she appeared inexplicably disheveled.
In one moment, she defended against an attack from a battle-axe with her held dagger, but in the next moment, her hand was numbed by the impact, and her weapon slipped from her grasp.
“Oh no!” Song Shu Qing watched as a sword, seizing the opportunity in the corner of her vision, swung towards her. She had no means to evade it, and in her heart, she silently thought, “Damn it, am I going to die again?”
No, I’m still single!
She closed her eyes, but the expected pain didn’t come.
On her cheek, she suddenly felt warmth splashed upon it.
As she opened her eyes, she saw Cao Yun rushing towards her, his eyes filled with determination. In an instant, he stood in front of her. His raised left arm was abruptly severed, blood gushed from the stump, and the severed limb fell to the ground, still tightly gripping the hilt of his blade.
Without a word, though his face turned pale, the man continued to wield his remaining right arm, beheading two enemies before him with swift strikes.
But then, he stumbled and collapsed.
Song Shu Qing shouted, rushing forward and embracing the now limp man, her heart torn apart. “Ah Yun! What are you doing? Why did you do this?”
As he looked at the panicked woman before him, Cao Yun opened his mouth slightly, but no sound came out.
With no time to spare, Song Shu Qing forced herself to gather her spirits. She hurriedly applied pressure points to her injured comrade and picked up Cao Yun’s curved blade, slashing towards the remaining two opponents.
The normally self-controlled woman felt her head heating up as a surge of killing intent overwhelmed her. Somehow finding the strength, she wielded the unfamiliar weapon with straightforward moves, inflicting substantial damage on the enemies, but still unable to overcome them in an instant.
Just as she felt that both she and her senior brother were about to meet their end, the remaining two foes suddenly retreated and headed towards the back of the deck.
Feeling puzzled, Song Shu Qing looked back and saw several ships with the Crown Prince’s flags approaching from behind. Their intention was to surround them, and several individuals at the bow were wielding iron chains, preparing to board with more reinforcements at any moment.
No wonder those two people stopped attacking.
If this continues, we’ll be done for sooner or later.
Gritting her teeth, she crouched down and pulled out a handful of healing pills from her pocket, stuffing them into the man’s mouth. Then she tore strips of fabric from her skirt’s hem and tightly bound them around his bleeding wound. She lifted Cao Yun, who had already lost consciousness, onto her back and made her way to the edge of the deck.
Gazing at the crashing waves against the ship’s hull, dark and ominous like a predatory beast ready to devour its prey, Song Shu Qing took a deep breath, suppressing the rare fear that lingered deep within her.
“Should I use freestyle or breaststroke in a situation like this? My swimming coach never taught me for this kind of scenario…” Forcing a smile, she muttered to herself, “Oh well… as a noble representative of good deeds and helping others, I believe in my luck.”
Taking a step forward, denying herself any time to hesitate.
Song Shu Qing, carrying the unconscious Cao Yun, plunged straight into the icy river water.