Chapter 571, Part II: The Shadow Group

“How can he possibly be at the eighth rank at his age?” the woman scoffed.

Chu Youzhao nodded in clear agreement. Her own dad was at the eighth rank! Just how old was this good-for-nothing? How could he possibly have such profound cultivation?

The woman’s voice drew a strange look from Zu An.

“I’m not lying! The corpses of the rest of my companions are still here!” protested the ninja, Gui Tian.

Chu Youzhao also felt slightly bewildered by the assassin’s statement. The images of Zu An easily dispatching the assailants appeared in her head. She had to admit that he looked rather dashing back then…

What the heck! He is one hundred percent a scoundrel!

The female assassin looked at the corpses littering the ground in shock, but she quickly said, “In that case, there is no way the two of us can defeat him alone. I’ll retreat and contact the others first.”

“That was my intention as well.” Gui Tian sighed in relief. He’d been under way too much pressure facing Zu An on his own. Now that he had the help of another companion, his chances of a successful escape had increased greatly.

Zu An chuckled. “Look at the two of you, chatting like no one else is here. You’re treating me as though I’m no big deal at all.”

Gui Tian snorted. “This fellow is going to die if you dare to try anything.”

He withdrew towards the door, Chu Youzhao in hand. He had no choice but to use Chu Youzhao as a bargaining chip earlier, but he knew that hoping for Zu An to break his own arm was also wishful thinking. Now that he had his companion covering him, there was no time to waste. It was best if he left as quickly as possible.

Zu An immediately froze. It seemed he had been scared off by the threat.

“You know what happened here best of all. Tell our master about it in detail once you return. Go on, I’ll cover you.” The female assassin walked forward. She held her sword at the ready, prepared for a sudden attack by Zu An.

Gui Tian was overjoyed. “Thank you. I will surely repay this debt.”

Despite his words, he didn’t dare lower his guard. All of his attention was focused on Zu An, afraid he might make a move.

Suddenly, his entire body stiffened, and he turned towards his companion in disbelief. “You bitch… why?!”

A thin vine had pierced through his back. There was no surviving this strike.

As a killer himself, he had never fully trusted his companions, and had been paying attention to her sword the whole time as well. He never predicted that she would employ a different method.

That woman chuckled. “Sorry. I met this guy before I met you.”

Gui Tian’s expression changed greatly. Knowing that he was a goner, he tried to raise his hand, intending to drag Chu Youzhao down with him.

However, he discovered that he couldn’t move at all. He had already been entangled by countless thin vines.

The female assassin was beside him in an instant. She didn’t give him another chance and snapped his neck.

“Ah!” Chu Youzhao screamed in alarm. She subconsciously ran towards Zu An.

Even though that scoundrel was annoying, he was still part of her family. He was a little more reliable than this killer.

As soon as she took a step forward, however, she felt a sharp pain on the back of her head, and she fainted.

Zu An rushed over to support her. “Why did you knock him out?”

The female assassin pulled back her hand with a snort.  “What, you can’t bear to see him get hurt?”

“Like hell I care about him.” Zu An tossed Chu Youzhao onto a couch.

The female assassin was momentarily speechless.

“You should exercise some care, lest your Madam hunt you down for that.”

“This brat needs to experience a bit of hardship.” Even though this was what Zu An said, he still made sure that he was safe. “My clan’s Madam? Is that jealousy I sense?”

He undid her face covering as he said this, revealing her charming face. This was none other than Snow, with whom he had parted ways with a long time ago. Her real name was Qiao Xueying.

“When did you recognize me?” Qiao Xueying looked at him with a big smile, her face glowing with radiance.

“When I saw your eyes.” Despite his words, he felt rather guilty inside. He had only sensed a slight familiarity when he saw her, and hadn’t been all that confident. Only when he heard her voice had he been sure.

Of course, he wasn’t stupid enough to say that in such a situation.

Qiao Xueying was obviously delighted. “Hmph! I thought that you’d already forgotten about me a long time ago.”

Zu An pulled her into his arms. “How could I dare to forget someone so beautiful?”

Qiao Xueying’s face turned red, and a hint of shyness crept into her expression. “You’ve become more and more of a smooth talker.”

Zu An chuckled. “Wasn’t I this way when you first met me?” 

“You have some nerve! I hated you so much I wanted to chop your tongue off at first.” A warm feeling welled up within her as she recalled what happened.

Seeing the young lady’s petite red lips, memories of the dungeon flooded Zu An’s mind. A great surge of emotion overcame him, and he kissed her.

“Mmm…” Her body instinctively stiffened, but she quickly melted into his embrace. She held her lover, receiving his attentions gently and bashfully.

The moment stretched out, then Qiao Xueying hurriedly pushed him away as if he was burning hot. “The situation is too urgent right now. Let’s talk about important matters first.”

The sound of fighting drifted in from outside. Zu An knew that guards might rush in at any time, so he didn’t dare mess around further. “How did you end up in an organization of assassins?”

“After we separated, I came back to the capital to help my clansmen. Many of my clansmen are serving under the Shi clan. I had to secure the backing of another power, so I joined the Shadow Group.” Qiao Xueying explained.

“The Shadow Group?” Zu An froze. It sounded like some sneaky and shady organization.

“The Shadow Group is the most mysterious and powerful assassin organization,” Qiao Xueying replied. “As long as the payout is high enough, they are willing to complete any hit. Of course, there’s no way they can kill someone like the emperor. I rushed over when I learned that the target of the Shadow Group was you, but I didn’t expect you to have become so strong all of a sudden. You even dealt with four sixth rank assassins on your own.”

Zu An smiled. “You took care of one of them.”

Qiao Xueying rolled her eyes. “Hmph! You always had a soft spot for women. Now it seems you’re interested in men as well.” This fellow still had the nerve to say such a thing after forcing her to do something like that! When this deed was exposed, it would be akin to betrayal. The Shadow Group dealt with such matters extremely harshly.

Zu An chuckled in embarrassment. “What can I do? Chu Chuyan is his big sister, after all.”

Judging from her tone, she didn’t seem to know that Chu Youzhao was a girl, and he wasn’t about to clarify this mix-up. After all, this was probably the Chu clan’s greatest secret. If exposed, it could cause disaster, and he didn’t want to be the cause of something like that.[1]

“By the way, who is the master of this Shadow Group? Do you know who put a hit on me? Or could it be that the Shadow Group is the one who wants me dead?” Zu An asked. There had been many attempts on his life from the moment he’d first set out for the capital. He needed more information on this enemy.

Qiao Xueying shook her head. “The master of the Shadow Group is the most mysterious person in the world. I fear that no one besides himself knows his identity. Though I believe someone else ordered this assassination, the Shadow Group always ensures absolute secrecy when it comes to their clients. No one knows who that person is.”

Zu An reached out a hand to brush away a few strands of hair from her face. “I’m sure it’s been dangerous for you, operating in such an assassin organization.”

Qiao Xueying’s smile grew brighter when she sensed his concern. “Relax, I have plenty of skills to rely on. Things haven’t been that bad. Besides, I need the strength of the Shadow Group if I am to protect my clansmen.

“By the way, I’ve arranged for a group of my clansment to leave the city tomorrow, early in the morning. Come with me. I’ll arrange for you to join them. I’m about eighty percent confident we’ll be able to leave the capital successfully.” Qiao Xueying grabbed his arm and prepared to leave.

Zu An was stunned. “You came to save me?”

Qiao Xueying snorted. “You’re my man, after all. Who else would I save, if not you?”

Zu An was incredibly moved by this, and immediately pulled her into his embrace.

“Oh my gosh, can we hug later? Zhuxie Chixin is going to return soon. It’ll be too late then!” The familiar warmth brought back scenes from their time in the dungeon, and Qiao Xueying felt her legs begin to weaken.



1. In Mandarin, the pronouns ‘him’ and ‘her’ are phonetically the same.

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