The Hu man’s blade came flying, in the blink of an eye stabbing Xia Xun’s chest.
He could already feel the chill of the blade when Yuzhu sprang out from behind, flew up, and bit the Hu man’s wrist.
The man flung the dog away. Yushu was thrown high; if he landed like this, his ribcage would definitely be broken.
He was an old, sick dog who absolutely couldn’t stand this fall.
Xia Xun didn’t see anything else; he rushed towards the place where Yuzhu was going to fall, ignoring everything.
He firmly caught Yuzhu but exposed his back to the Hu man’s sword.
It was too late to look back; the man was already behind him. He only needed to send the sword down and Xia Xun’s heart would be pierced.
Qi Yan’s call reached Xia Xun’s ears:
“Xia Xun?! Where are you?? Xia Xun—?!”
His voice was coming from the courtyard, full of panic; he must have seen something terrible.
Xia Xun suddenly thought, just now he shouted several times and no one responded, something big was likely going on in the mansion.
Qi Yan’s shout interrupted the Hu man’s movements. He stopped abruptly and pressed the sword to his chest.
Qi Yan’s footsteps were fast; in the blink of an eye he arrived at the door.
He kicked the door open, anxiously looking for Xia Xun. The Hu man immediately gave up attacking Xia Xun and turned to attack him.
Qi Yan drew out his sword and exchanged several moves with him.
After a short fight, the Hu man realised that Qi Yan’s skills were not inferior to his.
Without the slightest hesitation, he made a false move, drawing away Qi Yan’s attention, and, while he was distracted, leaped out of the window, disappearing in the pale night in an instant.
Qi Yan didn’t go after him. He stepped forward quickly and helped Xia Xun up from the ground.
Xia Xun was in shock, holding Yuzhu tightly.
At this time, Qi Hui rushed in with people.
Qi Yan was wearing his night clothes, his hair half tied up. He must have been resting but for some reason, he came so quickly that he discovered the abnormality in Xia Xun’s courtyard before the guards.
Xia Xun looked out of the house; there were people lying on the ground in various positions. Zhi Gui also lay prone at the door.
They had no obvious trauma, so they must have been drugged.
Xia Xun couldn’t relax for a long time, his hands holding Yuzhu still shaking.
Qi Yan grasped his shoulders and looked at him carefully up and down. Seeing Xia Xun holding a piece of cloth in his hand, he asked anxiously:
“Are you hurt?!”
Xia Xun’s hand trembled, and the cloth floated to the ground.
He took a breath and whispered, “…no.”
Qi Yan picked up the cloth:
“This was torn from the assassin?”
Xia Xun shook his head: “No, it’s from my belt.”
“He cut it down?” Qi Yan asked. “What did he do to you? Have you seen what he looks like?”
Xia Xun calmed down a little, saying: “He was masked and I didn’t see his face clearly, but I saw his eyes and hair. He is a Hu.”
Qi Hui took a deep breath and said hurriedly: “My lord, it seems that he is really from Duke Chen’s people! Rumor has it that Duke Chen secretly nurtures the Hu people that specialize in assassinations!”
Qi Yan did not answer, still clenching Xia Xun’s shoulders, very anxious:
“Then this Hu is highly skilled in martial arts, if I come one step late, the consequences —”
Xia Xun didn’t make a sound.
He knew that the Hu man was here for Qi Yan.
He lived in the main house of Qi Mansion. The man must have thought that it was Qi Yan who was sleeping in the room. After entering the house, he found that he was wrong, so he used the night pearl to identify the man in the bed.
But why did he pick up the cloth that Xia Xun had left? Why did he want Xia Xun to go with him? Was he the one who hid the note in the pastry?
Xia Xun was at a loss and confused.
Outside the house, the servants were cleaning up the mess, and the unconscious subordinates showed no sign of waking up yet.
Qi Yan paced back and forth in the room, trying to find any traces left by the Hu man.
Yuzhu stood next to Xia Xun, clinging to his legs, his whole body trembling.
Xia Xun thought he was scared, so he squatted down and stroked the dog’s fur, trying to calm him down.
Yuzhu’s heart was beating very fast and his breathing was getting thicker and more shallow, as if all his strength was used to breathe. His exposed gums were pale and he stared blankly ahead with empty eyes.
Xia Xun’s heart sank suddenly.
He called his name and wanted to pick him up.
Before he had time to touch him, Yuzhu’s neck suddenly stretched forward, his whole body stiffening, and he fell straight to the ground, his tongue falling out of the corner of his mouth.
“Yuzhu?!” Xia Xun cried out in a lost voice.
He had heard people say that a dog would not fall down unless it was in extreme pain,
Xia Xun rubbed Yuzhu’s head vigorously, calling his name, but the dog was limp like a pile of mud, his whole body twitching violently.
Qi Hui ran out to find the doctor. Xia Xun squatted beside Yuzhu, anxious and at a loss.
Qi Yan immediately pulled off the hairpin on his head, put it in Yuzhu’s mouth and let him bite it, so that he would not bite off his tongue in convulsions.
Xia Xun kept his hand on Yuzhu’s ribs, obviously feeling that the heartbeat under his palm was getting slower and slower.
Xia Xun panicked, caring about nothing else, begging Qi Yan for help:
“Its heart is about to stop beating!”
Qi Yan was calm and composed.
“I’ll do it.”
He knelt aside, put his hands over Yuzhu’s heart and kept pressing up and down.
Xia Xun was disoriented and asked in a panic: “Will it really help??”
Qi Yan’s hands keep moving.
“I rescued it last time it got sick.”
He was engrossed in what he was doing, kept pressing hard, beads of sweat flowing down from his forehead. He didn’t care to wipe it, letting the sweat trickle into his eyes, not paying attention to the stinging feeling.
He kept Yuzhu’s heartbeat going like this until the doctor rushed in.
The doctor was quite familiar with Yuzhu’s condition. He quickly unrolled the cloth full of needles and pulled out several of them. With experienced movements, he inserted them in Yuzhu’s body.
Once the silver needles were applied, Yuzhu’s convulsions stopped.
His heartbeat slowly calmed down, his breathing gradually stabilising and his nose getting pink again.
It didn’t take long for Yuzhu to come round.
He opened his eyes, smacked his mouth, spit out the hairpin and stood up with dangling silver needles all over his body.
Qi Yan breathed a long sigh of relief.
Only then did Xia Xun notice that this doctor was the one who was treating Qi Yan’s heart disease.
After Yuzhu’s condition gradually stabilised, the doctor took out the needles. Xia Xun was worried and asked:
“How can I cure Yuzhu?”
The doctor shook his head:
“It’s too old, the young master has to be prepared. It’s running out of time. Maybe it just has two or three days, or maybe it can last for a few months. No one knows.”
Xia Xun was full of bitterness and melancholy.
Qi Yan stood up, wiped the sweat from his forehead, asked his subordinates to fetch money, gave the doctor a large reward, and asked Qi Hui to personally take him back to the clinic.
Xia Xun sat dumbfounded on the ground while Yuzhu licked his hand with his wet tongue. He was happy and didn’t remember what happened just now.
Qi Yan couldn’t hold back anymore:
“Get up, it’s cold on the floor.”
He wanted to help but Xia Xun avoided him.
Yuzhu was full of hostility towards Qi Yan. As soon as he saw him approaching, he immediately barked and snarled, not grateful for his life-saving grace at all.
Qi Yan took two steps back.
Yuzhu stared at him vigilantly.
After a while, seeing that Qi Yan didn’t move, he slowly relaxed his guard and lay down on Xia Xun’s lap.
Xia Xun stroked its head, and he stared back at his master with innocent eyes.
Xia Xun touched his ears, picked him up and stood up. Yuzhu looked at him curiously and wagged his tail.
Qi Yan watched Xia Xun’s every move, very worried.
“Don’t you have anything else to do?” Xia Xun said.
Qi Yan’s face darkened.
“Then… I’ll go first, have a good rest, don’t worry about the things outside, I will take care of them,” he said.
When he walked out the door, he still couldn’t help but look back at Xia Xun several times.
Xia Xun was indifferent, standing in the dim candlelight, motionless like a stone statue.
Qi Yan sighed secretly, closed the door, and left with his heart heavy.
The night had passed and the mess in the courtyard had been cleaned up, but Zhi Gui didn’t wake up, sleeping in the room where the servants lived.
Xia Xun walked to the side of the bed and sat down stiffly, his mind still confused.
Yuzhu stepped on the bed and jumped up, found a place among the bedding and curled down in a ball. He was so sleepy that his eyes were blurred, but he refused to close them, staring at Xia Xun.
Even though the light in the room was dim, Xia Xun could see that the dog’s pupils were whitish and cloudy. It was an eye disease that old dogs often suffered from.
Yuzhu probably wasn’t able to see clearly for a long time, so he was no longer as responsive as when he was a puppy.
But when he felt danger, he still rushed forward bravely, risking his life to save his master from the blade of the sword.
Yuzhu blinked, and after confirming that Xia Xun would not leave, he gradually fell asleep.
Xia Xun didn’t feel drowsy at all, and stared at the candle for a long time.
— He tried to make himself accept the facts.
Yuzhu spent a carefree life in Qi Mansion. Unlike his master, Yuzhu did not suffer. At this age, it could be said that he had lived very long. Even if he passed away tonight, there was nothing to regret.
Xia Xun gently lay down beside Yuzhu, listening to his heavy breathing, muttering to himself:
“There is nothing I can do for you… I can’t do anything…”
He put his hand on Yuzhu’s soft belly and slowly fell asleep.
On the next day, Xia Xun found that many guards had been added around the mansion. After last night’s incident, Qi Yan strengthened his defences.
He even sent Qi Hui to Xia Xun’s side, so his closest attendant was now standing outside Xia Xun’s house.
The sun shone on the surface of the lake and reflected on the hilt of Qi Hui’s sword, making Xia Xun unable to open his eyes.
Qi Hui saluted him, but he pretended not to see it.
After breakfast, Yuzhu woke up from his lethargy.
Zhi Gui brought a plate of food for him, with the meat specially prepared. Yuzhu’s teeth were not very good, he couldn’t chew things that were too hard, and the meat was chopped into fine meat puree.
Yuzhu smelled it but didn’t eat a mouthful, didn’t even lick it.
He couldn’t eat anymore.
Xia Xun’s heart jolted suddenly and he remembered the doctor’s words last night.
After a while, he asked softly:
“…Yuzhu, what else do you want to do?”
Yuzhu moved his ears, looked sideways at him, as if he really understood, tilted his head to think for a moment, stood up and walked out of the house.
Halfway there, he looked back at Xia Xun, as if motioning him to follow.
Xia Xun got up and followed him to the courtyard.
Yuzhu walked out the door and continued northeast without hesitation.
After going around the curved corridor, he came to the wall of Qi Mansion, the place where Xia Xun used to climb over the wall.
A few days ago, he went over there to find He Cong.
Now, a new section of the once low wall had been built, and the begonia trees that could be used to climb the wall had also been cut short.
Now even if he wanted to go over the wall, he wouldn’t be able to do it.
Learning her lesson from the past, Zhi Gui never dared to leave Xia Xun’s side again and followed him at a distance.
Even the newly added guards around him glanced at him as if unintentionally and then quickly looked away. Obviously, he was the focus of their attention but they had to pretend to be casual.
Yuzhu’s destination was not the wall, but the grass in the corner.
He used his two front paws to dig the soil under the grass and soon ploughed out a pit, revealing the base of the wall.
Xia Xun thought he had buried something underneath and squatted down to look for it.
When Yuzhu saw the base of the wall, he immediately gave up digging the soil and pushed his nose to the wall to sniff back and forth.
“What’s on the wall?”
Xia Xun touched it lightly with his palm, and the plastering on the wall started falling off, revealing the inner layer.
There should have been a hole here; it was repaired later but the traces remained.
Yuzhu kept digging into the wall with his claws, trying to open the hole again.
Xia Xun suddenly understood.
Qi Hui said that after the Xia family’s incident, Yuzhu got into Qi Mansion through a hole in the wall.
This was probably where the hole used to be.
—On the other side of the hole there was the Xia family’s house.
Yuzhu had lived in Qi Mansion for seven years and had never regarded this place as his home.
At this moment, he instinctively felt that his limit was approaching.
He wanted Xia Xun to take him home and go back to where they first met.