They tangled on the way. Han Jiao realized that the middle-aged man in front wasn’t as skilled as his henchmen, but he had some fighting skills.
At a time like this, he couldn’t just wait and do nothing. He had to make a move.
At least in terms of endurance, Han Jiao had the advantage.
“Gaah!” Liu Changqing’s face contorted as he thrust a dagger.
Han Jiao swiftly sidestepped, and the blade scraped his right arm’s sleeve, tearing it with a sharp sound.
Anxiety caused Han Jiao’s whole arm to go numb. He absentmindedly massaged his arm, finding no blood.
Liu Changqing swung the knife once more!
Han Jiao stepped back, swiftly bent down, and grabbed a fist-sized stone from the ground, aiming it at the opponent’s forehead.
Just as the stone hit the ground, Liu Changqing wildly thrust his knife at Han Jiao, one after another!
Dodging more than ten strikes in a row, Han Jiao stumbled over a stone and fell to the ground as he retreated.
Before Han Jiao could regain his footing, Liu Changqing pounced on him, pinning down his legs and raising his knife menacingly towards Han Jiao’s chest!
Han Jiao struggled to twist his body to the left, but halfway through, he felt his right arm being tightly held. Turning his head, he realized his sleeve was pinned to the ground by a dagger and couldn’t be pulled free.
He wanted to quickly take off his outer shirt, but he couldn’t undo his belt right away.
Instead of removing the dagger from Han Jiao’s sleeve, Liu Changqing seized the moment to tighten his grip around Han Jiao’s neck, grimacing as he strangled him!
Han Jiao, one arm pinned to his side, struggled to break free with his remaining hand. He was quickly overpowered by the deadly force on his neck, his face turning red and his eyes bulging.
Han Jiao frantically tried to push Liu Changqing’s hands away with one hand, but he couldn’t budge them. In his desperation, he cast a hoepful glance towards Xie Duo standing beneath a distant tree.
He had barely exchanged a glance with Xie Duo when he mouthed the words, “I’ll lead him over!”
He wanted to lure the crazed Liu Changqing closer to Xie Duo.
However, even after dodging more than twenty attacks, they had only covered about half the distance, still almost a hundred meters away from Xie Duo.
Right now, Xie Duo had one leg stretched toward him, getting as close as possible. His other leg was bound by an iron chain, and he urgently mouthed something to Han Jiao.
He was probably saying, “Come a bit closer.”
But Han Jiao had done his best, and the lack of oxygen quickly drained his strength.
He shifted his desperate, yearning gaze from Xie Duo and looked towards the direction where his little brother was in the carriage.
It seemed like he could hear his little brother crying and calling out for him.
The surroundings suddenly turned into a blinding, white void.
Han Jiao began to experience intense ringing in his ears.
Just when he was on the verge of losing consciousness, the pressure around his neck suddenly eased.
Han Jiao, able to breathe again, gasped deeply, his throat emitting a sharp wheeze, like a broken bellows.
He shook his head vigorously until the blinding white light slowly gave way to a hazy view.
Han Jiao clutched his throat, weakly swinging his left hand, attempting to continue resisting and striking back. But he couldn’t find the person who had been pinning him down.
After his blood started flowing again, the scene in front of him became completely clear.
Han Jiao noticed that half of Liu Changqing’s body, which had been pressing on his legs, was now lying askew to the side. A long sword had pierced through Liu Changqing’s neck, pinning him to Han Jiao’s right side. His eyes were wide open, fixed on Han Jiao’s side.
The madman was dead.
Han Jiao’s strength drained instantly. He wanted to push the body off his legs but then remembered his right hand was still stuck by his sleeve. He reached out to pull the dagger free.
Xie Duo, who had successfully thrown the sword from a distance, was now drenched in sweat. He sat on the ground, mostly due to being scared.
The distance was just too far. While Han Jiao had been wrestling with that person, the only sword Xie Duo had on hand was the one left by the unconscious thug at his side.
If his aim had been off, he might not have been able to stab Liu Changqing, and there was a risk of accidentally harming the child prodigy.
Fortunately, during Liu Changqing’s stranglehold on Han Jiao, their positions remained stable. This allowed Xie Duo to make up his mind and swing the sword forcefully at Liu Changqing’s neck.
Miraculously, the strike found its mark.
Xie Duo regained his composure, dragging the chain on his feet as he stood up and gestured to Han Jiao, “Retrieve the sword!”
Han Jiao, still shaken and struggling to breathe due to oxygen shortage, made a strenuous effort to push the body off his legs. But his hands were trembling, and despite several attempts, he couldn’t move the corpse.
The Ninth Prince, who was impatiently watching from not far away, was on the verge of losing his temper. “Kick it! Are you made of cotton? Hurry up! Han Xiaobai, pull out the sword first and throw it here!”
At this critical moment, male pride came into play. Despite his half-paralyzed body due to lack of oxygen, Han Jiao, mockingly referred to as “cotton-made,” found a surge of strength from somewhere. He managed to free his legs pinned under the corpse and, panting heavily, unsteadily got to his feet. With one hand gripping the sword handle, stuck deep in the mud, he closed his eyes and yanked it out forcefully.
Hot liquid gushed out from the corpse’s neck artery like a fountain, drenching Han Jiao from head to toe. He held the sword and stumbled towards Xie Duo.
“Where’s the chain?” Han Jiao, appearing confident with a “I can still do it” look, swayed unsteadily while raising the sword, intending to help Xie Duo cut the iron chain.
“I’ll handle it myself.” Xie Duo took the sword from Han Jiao, knelt down, and began to fiercely hack at the iron chain.
However, the ankle chain was quite thick, and the sword wasn’t sharp enough. Before long, both sides of the sword’s edge had rolled, but the iron chain remained intact.
Han Jiao, standing there like a lifeless red mess, lowered his head and looked at the iron chain, providing a scholarly judgment, “This won’t work. We can’t cut through.”
The Ninth Prince, now nearly rolling on the ground in frustration, glared at the little child prodigy with raised eyebrows. “Thanks for the insight. I wouldn’t have figured it out without you.”
With a thud, Han Jiao sat down in front of Xie Duo. He lowered his head to focus on the junction of the iron chain at Xie Duo’s ankle. His eyes, still somewhat dazed from the shock, began to regain a hint of scholarly sharpness.
“There’s a keyhole.” Han Jiao, with a blank expression, reached out to feel the gap in the iron chain. “We need to find some wire. I can pick the lock.”
“Really?” Xie Duo tossed aside the sword he’d been using to no avail, sitting cross-legged on the ground. He looked at Han Jiao with a “Well, why aren’t you searching then?” expression.
Han Jiao immediately staggered to his feet. He knew he wouldn’t find any wire nearby, so he had to search for some flexible wild grass or roots in the vicinity.
He found a few strands that were just about sturdy enough. Han Jiao knelt next to Xie Duo and fashioned the grass into three loops, connecting them and carefully inserting them into the lock’s opening and seams.
Xie Duo had little faith that a few strands of grass could open the iron chain, but the little child prodigy was entirely focused on his task. After fiddling for a while, he somehow managed to hook onto something.
There was a rusty friction sound within the lock seams, as if something was slowly moving.
Han Jiao pursed his lips, concentrating, worried that a bit too much force might break the grass strands. So he had to extract them at a steady, slow pace.
He could see the lock was about to release when the big boss, sitting in front of him, suddenly jerked up the collar at the back of his neck and flung it to the side!
Han Jiao was thrown far back, crashing into a tree. His lock-picking efforts came to naught.
Before he could even let out a stream of curses, he saw arrows whizzing and hitting exactly where he had been working on the lock just moments ago.
The coachman had returned!
Han Jiao looked up in shock and saw Xie Duo swiftly pick up the coiled-edge iron sword, deftly swinging it to block two incoming arrows.
Xie Duo shouted fiercely toward the distant bushes, “Your master has gone to meet the King of Hell. If you want to join him, shoot another arrow. Let’s see!”
With a sharp whiz, someone from the bushes indeed shot another arrow, as if to show the prince.
“Your Highness!” Han Jiao suddenly yelled.
Xie Duo turned to look at him.
Han Jiao pointed to a large tree behind him. “Circle around the tree to dodge the arrows!”
Xie Duo didn’t have a chance to express his opinion about this suggestion when he saw Han Jiao turn his head, rush to the carriage, scoop up the child inside, and sprint into the depths of the forest without looking back.
Han Jiao had unexpectedly fled in the heat of the moment.
The Ninth Prince was so furious that he could hardly swing his sword.
In this chaotic moment, the person in the bushes surprisingly switched to a crossbow!
Faced with the speeding bolts, blocking and evading became even more challenging. Xie Duo had no choice but to dodge behind a tree.
However, one of his legs was still held by the chain and couldn’t be pulled back, making it the target for the attacker.
Perhaps not accustomed to using a crossbow, several consecutive bolts from the bushes missed their mark.
Continuing like this would only end in disaster, so Xie Duo pulled out the scattered arrows and hurled them toward the opposite bushes.
But the distance was still too great.
Xie Duo shouted towards the bushes, “Your master is already dead. Who are you loyal to now?”
The arrows from the bushes suddenly ceased.
After a moment, a hoarse voice echoed, “He’s not my master. He’s my uncle!”
Xie Duo was taken aback.
The voice from the bushes cried out, “You damned aristocrats! You won’t spare us a way out! If you won’t let us live, we’ll go down together with you!”
“Who exactly is denying who a way out?”
The voice from the bushes yelled, “It’s all of you! My uncle was just a minor official, and suddenly Prince Yan sent a bunch of fierce enforcers to take the account books away. The news reached the higher-ups, and they passed the blame down the chain. If we can’t recover the records, it means the lives of our entire family! You aristocrats don’t even dare to reason with Prince Yan, yet you bully us. What kind of courage is that?”
Silence fell upon the scene.
Xie Duo lowered his head and planted the sword into the ground, then inquired with a solemn tone, “Who are these ‘higher-ups’? Do you know?”
From the bushes came a frustrated shout, “Why should I tell you anything!”
“Tell it all, and I’ll help seek justice for your family.”
There was a moment of silence from the bushes, then the voice became somewhat fearful. “Are you… Are you a big shot?”
“It depends on who you’re comparing me to, but I have enough authority to deal with those who are responsible for your situation.”
The person in the bushes fell silent.
It seemed like he was contemplating whether Xie Duo was deceiving him. The person in the bushes remained still for a long time.
A burst of wild roaring shattered the silence, “Raaahhhh!”
Xie Duo turned to look at the source of the sound and saw a bloodied figure clutching a large wooden stake, running towards him like a crazed, unleashed wild dog!
Wonderchild Han, who had hidden his little brother, had returned to the scene!