A beautiful woman with skin fair as snow was mounted atop a chestnut steed cantering over rolling green plains. The two were framed beneath an azure sky streaked with white clouds. Clad in the narrow-sleeved robes of the Tatar, her jet-black locks billowed in the wind. Eyes set beneath willow-thin brows burned brightly, her alluring lips pursed with concentration as she tamed her horse...
The portrait painted was so impactful that words such as “beautiful” or “ugly” weren’t enough to describe the scene. The ferocity and tenacity in her bones moved onlookers to their core—though she was too delicate and slender compared with the feral stallion, the power she exuded was no less than the strength of the beast she was wrestling with, hair in disarray.
Lu Heng was long enraptured by her visage.
Siqin also squinted slightly, astonishment coloring his features.
Anari bit her lips—who knew this vixen could bewitch men just by taming a horse! She wanted nothing more for that fox to fall off so that the wild beast would step on her and break her bones.
Alas, the khan wished in vain.
Qin Yining pulled tightly back on the reins, clutching the saddle as she wrapped her entire body around the horse’s back. She held no fear of the chestnut’s viciousness—feral horses were no strangers to her, and she’d even ridden the head stallion of a wild herd once. Even if he had no wish to follow her when Qin Yining left, she genuinely loved and respected these wild, intelligent animals. As such, she had her ways to tame them.
She’d decided she wouldn't surrender under any circumstances, and the feral stallion was equally stubborn-willed. As neither party was willing to back down, the chestnut realized it wasn’t able to throw her off. With a furious whinny, it began galloping around madly.
The princess consort was caught off guard—eliciting alarmed gasps from her audience—but she reacted quickly and corrected her posture immediately, letting herself go along with the rowdy stallion as it bolted around the arena, fast as lightning.
Hair streaming out behind her, she lowered her center of gravity and focused on keeping herself steady as she attempted to control the horse. They’d already made a circle around the riding range, leaving a storm in their wake. Before the surrounding crowd could get a clear look at the expression on her face, she whizzed straight past them in a flash.
Their speed was much faster than Anari’s when she was racing the others.
After all, that’d been a friendly match with the khan—those men cared not for winning, but for making the khan happy. In contrast, Qin Yining was taming a horse, so her top priority was to let it run to its heart’s content.
There was no question which of the two women was more genuine and possessed greater riding skills. The khan had actually lost the match as soon as she’d chosen a feral horse for Qin Yining, in hopes of the princess consort falling off to her death.
Anari’s grip on her whip tightened as she watched Qin Yining gallop in circles before her, clenching her teeth so hard that they nearly cracked to pieces in her mouth.
Meanwhile, the princess consort sensed the chestnut was submitting to her—not only did it slow down, it was no longer dashing around recklessly. It even accepted her commands.
After taking the chestnut around the range for nearly a dozen laps, Qin Yining attempted to lead it to the crowd and halt it in front of them. To their surprise, it gave another long whinny and stopped.
Her audience cried out in amazement, admiration and adoration filling the eyes of many young men. Sitting primly atop her steed, she dimpled at Anari. “Let us begin our match, khan.”
What was there to compete?
Qin Yining had tamed her own horse in an awe-inspiring display of her superb riding skills. If Anari went up against her and lost, wouldn’t that be a ridiculous embarrassment?
With a scoff, she jerked her chin up and sneered, “I’m not in the mood.” With that, she walked off toward Siqin.
The princess consort blinked a few times with a gentle smile, as if indulging a headstrong child. “Very well, then.” She gracefully unmounted and passed the reins back to the man who had led her the horse.
What they didn’t expect was for the stallion to snort and toss its head over to nudge at Qin Yining’s cheek and nuzzle her neck. No one would have imagined this docile creature was the same tyrant that’d wanted to fling her off its back to her death just moments earlier.
The man was rather straightforward—laughing, he formed the language of Great Zhou in a choppy and thick accent. “Horse, yers.”
Qin Yining dimpled. “Thank you for allowing me to borrow this horse.”
"No no, horse, likes yeh. Yeh tam-med hem, so horse, horse is, yers!”
Those who were more fluent in the language of Great Zhou kindly piped up to help translate. “Miss, what Sangda is trying to say is that the horse is yours. You tamed it, and since it has taken a liking to you, it naturally belongs to you.”
“That won’t do,” Qin Yining replied in a hurry. “I was merely borrowing it.”
“Actually miss, Sangda found this horse in the wild. It took three months of training for it to accept him on its back, yet you tamed it in no time at all. We of the grass plains also believe in fate, and you seem to have a greater destined bond with this one.”
The other nomads laughed and nodded with genuine smiles upon their faces, as if they had all forgotten how Anari had tried to embarrass her. That was what was so charming about the common people—they were honest and kind people who didn't regard others with malice and upheld their traditions in a straightforward manner.
Qin Yining did wish to accept their gift.
Without a doubt, she didn't wish to remain here forever—she couldn't become a weakness that others could use to manipulate her father or Pang Xiao. Rather than resigning herself to her fate, she might as well make her move. Having a horse greatly improved her chances of escaping.
Yet even if she did accept, Anari would do anything in her power to take something away from a lowly prisoner. As the khan, she couldn't directly seize possessions by force due to considerations of dignity. Thus, her best option was to have the horse die.
Then, the horse would be rendered completely useless.
With this in mind, Qin Yining smiled and replied, “I accepted the match under the khan’s invitation, so I must respect her wishes. What’s more, I don't have anyone in my service. So if the khan agrees to help look after this fine stallion, I can accept your kind offer then.”
Finished, she fixed a look on Anari.
The khan nearly spat on that hateful face right then and there—the nerve of her! If she agreed, did that not place the horse’s wellbeing under her responsibility? Why did she have to help Qin Yining take care of it?
“What place does a lowly prisoner have to talk terms with me?” Anari smiled coolly, silencing the crowd with a single sentence.
Qin Yining flashed a faint smile and inclined her head. “As you say. I was so moved that the khan was willing to compete with someone below her station that I forgot my place.”
With that, the princess consort made her way to her tent, leaving the crowd with the image of her retreating silhouette.
When Anari watched her go, she gnashed her teeth to the point where she could almost taste blood. She turned her head, only to see Siqin’s gaze fixated on Qin Yining’s back. There was a predatory look of a man’s lust toward a woman in his eyes that had Anari’s heart thumping in her chest.
Her worries weren’t unfounded after all. That was a vixen through and through!
The knuckles of Anari’s clenched fists cracked loudly. This woman was a great threat to her—she had to find a good reason to do away with Qin Yining!Previous Chapter Next Chapter
At this point I'm really starting to worry if Qin Yining will make it back to Great Zhou in one piece...