Chapter 380: Zhao Qianqiu’s Bamboo Tube!
"What the heck is with this mission! There are so many of us, but we can't even catch a brat!"
"Who knows? But still, to think that that brat would have a Heart Fortification Mirror on him, causing even that fellow to fail. Could he have known that there would be assassins going after him right from the start?"
"That's impossible! How could he have known that? Don't spout nonsense! If such words reach that person's ears, we might be killed!"
Beneath the ground, Wang Chong's heart jolted upon hearing those words. However, in the time to come, there was not a single sound to be heard.
The area by the lake had plunged into silence.
Wang Chong couldn't help but sigh deeply within. These assassins were indeed professional. Even in a remote forest, they knew better than to reveal crucial intelligence.
"At this point, the only thing I want to know is what is with the steed of that brat," a voice suddenly broke the silence. "There are so many of us, and the steeds we are riding on are top-grade breeds carefully selected for this mission. Yet, they can't even compare to that colt, resulting in that brat escaping right beneath our eyelids. This is a huge humiliation!"
This mission was by no means difficult, The six of them were top-notch veteran assassins, and they had even prepared themselves thoroughly for the operation.
Yet, due to that colt, they actually screwed this up.
Despite their efforts, they weren't able to catch up to that horse. As powerful as they were, how could they kill a target who they couldn't even catch up with?
In fact, at the very start, when the six of them first rushed out from the forest, had Wang Chong's reaction been an instant slower, he would have already died. However, that colt reacted far swifter than any other steeds would have in the face of danger. It was that split second of a difference that turned a certain kill into a pursuit.
To see their prey slip right through their fingers was extremely frustrating.
"That colt... It looks very familiar. Hooves as white as snow... Could it be the royal breed, White-hoofed Shadow? If that's the case, it's impossible for our steeds to match up to it!" a hesitant voice sounded after a moment of silence.
Even though they were a little doubtful, that did seem to be the case, especially considering the incredible speed of that colt.
"Damn it! That wasn't in the intelligence we received!"
"If I ever get my hands on that beast, I'll surely skin it alive!" a voice overflowing with killing intent spoke up.
Beneath the ground, Wang Chong heaved a long sigh of relief after hearing those words.
It seems like they didn't manage to catch up to Little Shadow, so he's still fine for now!, Wang Chong thought.
The one he was the most worried about at the moment was Little Shadow. From the looks of it, even though they did notice that there was no one on Little Shadow's back, they weren't able to keep up with him.
As soon as they realized that Wang Chong wasn't on his steed, they immediately rushed back to comb through the area.
At least Little Shadow got away safely, Wang Chong thought.
This was the best piece of news Wang Chong had received ever since the assassination began.
"I found traces of blood! With this, we can confirm that he did hide in this lake at one point!" Suddenly, an excited voice carrying a hint of savagery shouted out by the shore of the lake.
Wang Chong's heart suddenly froze.
He instantly recalled the blood he had coughed when he first stepped out of the lake.
The masked assassins immediately rushed over to where the voice had come from.
"These are indeed blood traces! Judging from its color, the brat should still be in the vicinity!" a voice sounded as a tense atmosphere lingered in the area.
"Not bad, he's indeed smart to know how to lure us away. However, it's useless! He can't possibly get far. Even with the Heart Fortification Mirror taking the brunt of the impact, that fellow's arrow isn't something that one can take that easily.
"With this kind of injury, he couldn't possibly have gotten far!"
"Everyone, comb the area thoroughly. He must be in the vicinity!"...
The masked assassins immediately scattered to search the area, and a strong scent of danger lingered in the air.
Beneath the ground, Wang Chong's face turned grave.
Those assassins were more formidable than he thought.
He had already cleaned up the bloodstains by the lake, but those assassins were still able to find a trace and deduce the rough area he was in through it. This put him in an extremely disadvantageous situation.
Wang Chong immediately shut all of the pores throughout his body and even halted his breathing. He pushed all of his bodily functions to the minimum, to the point where even his senses became dulled.
In the time to come, Wang Chong would be at risk of being found at any moment.
"Search every nook and cranny, don't overlook anywhere at all. There is a high chance that he's still around here!" A vicious voice sounded.
The six masked assassins immediately combed through every bush, tree, and shrubs in the region. Even the crevices in boulders, they would check thoroughly without fail.
Suddenly, the ground shook as a large foot fell not too far from where Wang Chong was hidden.
Wang Chong could feel his heart pausing for an instant.
He had tried his best to conceal himself, but his technique wasn't foolproof. Assassins possessed far sharper instincts than an ordinary man, so there was still a possibility that he might be found should they come into proximity with him.
Another foot fell at a distance even closer to him. He could feel the light trembling of the ground above him.
As if having noticed something, the assassin carefully searched through the bushes in the area.
Weng! The ground trembled once more.
Yet another step closer to him.
Wang Chong could feel goosebumps rising all over his skin. Just another step forward, and the assassin would be stepping on the ditch he had dug.
At such a distance, the chances that Wang Chong would be found was extremely high.
"Number Two, have you found anything there?" a voice in the distance asked at this moment. Instead of addressing one another by their real name, assassins tended to use numbers and nicknames.
Upon hearing that voice, the footstep above him halted just a chi away from where Wang Chong was hidden.
"Nothing at all!" At an area where Wang Chong's eye couldn't see, a slender masked assassin gazed upon the ground above Wang Chong and poked at it casually with his sword before replying.
From his perspective, there was indeed nothing doubtful to be found in this area.
"Damn it! Search through the vicinity once more! He can't have gotten far with his injuries!" the man who seemed to be the leader of the assassin band howled. His voice seemed to have come from a high altitude. Perhaps, he might be standing on top of a tall tree.
The footstep just an inch away from Wang Chong paused for a moment before walking in another direction. Beneath the ground, Wang Chong heaved a very long, very slow sigh of relief.
In the days to come, the assassins relentlessly combed through the area, seemingly intent on overturning the entire place until Wang Chong was found.
In the first day, it was just the group of six. However, the situation afterward developed far beyond his expectations.
Based on what he heard, it seemed like four more batches of men had arrived over the next few days. These men had distinctly different footsteps from the assassins, as Wang Chong could perceive from the shaking of the ground above him.
Several times, Wang Chong even seemed to sense war steeds stepping over the ground above him. However, the senses of a horse were far duller than a martial artist's, and Wang Chong was concealed under four chi of dirt on top of that, so his hiding location wasn't compromised.
What is going on?, Wang Chong thought in astonishment. The arrival of the six assassins on the first day was understandable to him, but to send four batches of men after that to look for him... What did that mean, exactly?
Was the person who wanted to deal with him sent four different batches for fear that the first might fail? Or could this mean that there were several powers who wanted him dead?
But he shouldn't have so many enemies in the capital! Did Geshu Han join in the hunt as well? But would he dare to make such a brazen move?
Wang Chong suddenly found himself confused by the situation before him. What had baffled him further was that two groups above him even came to blows with one another.
Just what is going on?, Wang Chong pondered, but his head seemed to be growing heavier and heavier. His already severe injuries had worsened over the last few days, leaving him in an extremely weakened state.
Slowly, he fell into a deep sleep…
Perhaps it might be a day, two, or three, but by the time Wang Chong woke up, the ground above him was completely devoid of movement. Or perhaps, it might be more accurate to say that it was the bizarre silence which had woken him up.
Are they all gone?, Wang Chong thought.
Even so, he dared not to make any large movements. It was impossible to tell whether his enemies were hiding in the region, waiting for him to reveal himself. As impossible as it might sound, assassins tended to behave unpredictably, relying more deeply on their instincts than common sense, so it was better to be safe than sorry.
After a long moment of silence, Wang Chong finally confirmed that there was no one around. Thus, he carefully emerged from the ground.
The forest was perfectly tranquil. The ground was slightly damp. It seemed like a rain had just passed.
Wang Chong focused the entirety of his attention to his ears, trying to perceive every single sound that reached him. However, he couldn't discern any possible anomaly. Nevertheless, he didn't put his guard down.
After all, the ones who were after his life were no ordinary men.
As long as he remained in this forest, he would be surrounded by danger. There might be no one around him at the moment, but the plight he was in hadn't changed by much.
Sometimes, it is the danger beyond one's eyes that was more frightening.
While gazing at his surroundings warily, his mind scrambled to find a way he could escape from this area with his life.
Without the White-hoofed Shadow, it would be difficult for him to get to the capital on his own two feet. Putting aside whether he would be caught by the assassins before then, just given the severity of his injuries, he would fall before he could make it to the city gates. That wasn't a feasible solution.
At that moment, an incongruous sound echoed by Wang Chong's ear. Something seemed to have fallen from his sleeves.
He instinctively lowered his head to take a look.
It was a normal-looking bamboo tube that was around a thumb thick. Taking a slight shade of gray, it looked inconspicuous on the ground.
Staring at the bamboo tube, Wang Chong couldn't help but fall into deep thoughts.
He recognized the bamboo tube.
Before leaving the training camp, Zhao Qianqiu had given this to him with these words, "Brat, if you find yourself facing some kind of difficult problem, open it and take a look. It might just prove to be of some help to you."
A complex expression slowly emerged on Wang Chong's face.