Siqin’s face tightened and he responded gravely, “How could I ever do that? The heavens and earth are witness that my feelings are true. A marvelous woman as the khan is so much more charming and captivating than a pretty vase! My love and respect for the khan has never wavered or changed in all these years!”
The consort’s ardent gaze burned a flushed red onto Anari’s cheeks. She looked back at him with bashful delight, murmuring, “Of course I trust my consort’s character.”
Siqin grasped Anari’s hands with great emotion, bending over and slowly closing the distance between the two. The khan looked down with embarrassment, her eyes fluttering shut in anticipation of a kiss.
The men around them busied themselves with eating, drinking, and hiding their smiles. The khan consort is really something! He’s so good looking and talented, only a man like him can thoroughly conquer a woman as fierce and unreasonable as the khan!
Perhaps out of consideration that there were too many people around them, Siqin opted to rub his forehead against Anari’s instead of a kiss. However, such an intimate gesture was even more heart-pounding than a kiss.
Thoughts of everything else flew out of Anari’s mind at such tender treatment. She was melting into a puddle of water from Siqin’s gentle ministrations. What suspicions from earlier? All of that was cast beyond the horizon.
However, when a sidelong glance caught sight of Qin Yining’s beauty despite the griminess of her face, Anari still felt a knot of ill will stuck in her chest. That vixen is annoying just to look at!
The group rested for a while longer before setting back out. With sufficient water, rations, and a proper direction, their morale was a marked difference from the dejection of earlier. Spirits lifted and minds grew easy as they would be able to leave the desert soon.
However, Qin Yining and Lu Heng weren’t assigned horses, being the captives that they were. They continued to follow behind the group on foot.
The princess consort tried her best to even out her breathing. At least I have food and water now, and I don’t need to worry about them throwing me away in the desert. If Pang Xiao had been here, she would’ve fainted away with peace of mind. But there was no one around other than herself to rely on.
Finally, the group saw greenery at the edges of the desert after another continuous day of walking. Though it was dusk, it was no mirage. They’d finally exited the desert and set foot on Tatar territory!
They stopped at a nearby village for some rest. When the tribesmen heard that it was their khan and khan consort, the village leader immediately offered up his biggest, cleanest tent and sent in the tastiest bits of roasted meat and kumis.
At long last, Qin Yining and Lu Heng could wash away the dust of the road and change into clean Tatar clothing. The village leader offered them his most exquisite selection, sending to Qin Yining a long robe with slits on both sides, an inner layer of sleeves tapering off narrowly sewn to the inside. An outer robe of downy-yellow reached down to the elbows, and the topmost layer of an embroidered, round collar, red vest completed the look. A row of pure silver buttons sparkled in the red fabric.
Qin Yining’s hair was deftly swept up by a maid who merrily chattered at her in the Tatar language. Capping her hair was a hat with tassels of red agate pearls and silver beads trailing down on both sides, and another string of agate pearls dangling across the forehead on the front. The lowest point of the single string of beads hit right between her eyebrows, offsetting her palm-sized face to where it seemed as soft and tender as fresh-made tofu.
Since she couldn’t understand what the maid was saying, Qin Yining responded with a polite smile. The maid garbled another sentence before fetching a pair of soft, red boots detailed with leather tooling.
The Great Zhou princess consort thanked her and slipped the boots on, much to the excitement of the beaming maid. The maid looked at her for a long time, and said something else unintelligible before running out with her face in her hands.
Brows knit together slightly, Qin Yining wearily laid on her side on the wood platform next to the window. She didn’t dare really fall asleep, given her high level of alertness, but the fatigue of a journey through the desert really wasn’t something that any ordinary person could endure. Not to mention, she’d just healed from her injuries and hadn’t had anything to eat.
Sleep slowly, gradually overcome her. Siqin walked into the tent not long thereafter; the sight of a beauty on her side in front of the window the first thing to greet his eyes. Agate pearls and tassels draped across her forehead while one pale, tender arm pillowed her cheeks. The other delicate arm lay across her waist, while the form-fitting robe and sleeveless vest fully accentuated the dips and peaks of her curves because of her sleeping position.
Siqin stared off in a daze by the door, the purpose of his visit not registering even after a long while.
It wasn’t until the kindling in the fire pit crackled that he was startled back to his wits. Great Zhou really is a wonderful place. The earth and waters are fertile, resources are plenty, and even the women are pale and tender. Their skin looks as soft as tofu.
This was why he was so fixated on the land to the south. Compared to a nomadic peoples like the Tatar in constant search of pasture, a country that relied on field cultivation like Great Zhou was patently more suited for the long term development of a country.
Siqin walked quietly to Qin Yining. Footsteps extremely light, like a cat stalking its prey, as he approached the side of the bed. He reached out with his right hand, upon which an agate ring could be found. Just when he was about to touch Qin Yining’s cheek, the eyes of the beauty on the platform snapped open.
Their eyes met; Siqin was so arrested by a sharp look that he forgot what he was doing.
Frowning, Qin Yining slapped his hand away and stood up with a piercing gaze. Her voice was cold as she demanded, “What is the khan consort doing?”
Siqin’s hand burned from the slap, which he placed behind his back in a balled fist. He smiled gently, “A bonfire’s been made up front. They’re preparing to roast a whole lamb, so I’ve come to bring you to supper.”
Qin Yining narrowed her eyes. “I don’t understand your meaning.”
“Don’t understand? What’s there not to understand?” Siqin’s line of sight honed in on her parted lips.
“The khan consort treated me the same as the other captives on our way here. Apart from an occasional word of ordinary topics, the two of us had no further interaction. You are the lofty khan consort, and your wife the ruler of all Tatars. I am just your prisoner. In this scenario, not only do I not have the right to eat a roasted lamb, but there is no need for the consort himself to come with an invitation even if I was allowed to partake. And what was that gesture just now?”
Siqin’s eyes glinted as a hint of a real smile slowly floated onto his face. “You really are a smart girl. I hadn’t thought you’d be this perceptive.”
The princess consort responded with a look that brooked no nonsense. “Anyone can discern something is off with such a noticeable difference in treatment. Or is the khan consort so confident that you think all women will be utterly bespelled by you just because you flash them a handsome look?”
Siqin’s sharp eyes narrowed dangerously when he heard this, killing intent flooding out of them!Previous Chapter Next Chapter
I really apologize for the delay in chapters. @@
And yep, the trouble from last chapter is already coming to fruition...