Qin Yining’s horse was a tall, well-built chestnut. A quiver filled with thirty arrows hung on the pommel, and the bow next to it was the same half-stone weight bow that Anari used.
Hunting wasn’t an activity that would stump the princess consort. In her early days up the mountain, hunting was how she’d eked out survival. She’d approached things by first trapping small animals and identifying wild herbs and vegetables, then taking wild fungus and herbs to sell at the market when she was older. When she learned that furs sold for more money, she picked up some basic hunting skill and knowledge from local hunters.
Though she hadn’t wanted for food or clothing over the past three years, she hadn’t forgotten her acquired skills. Granted, shooting from the back of the horse was a bit more difficult. It’d be much easier if she was standing on ground.
However, she didn’t want to show off anything; her existence was cause enough for Anari to submerge herself in a vat of jealousy. Displaying any hunting prowess would likely anger the khan to death on the spot. Therefore, Qin Yining only picked up the bow for self-defense.
Lu Heng patently had the same thoughts as her. He too cradled the bow loosely, holding the reins with his other hand and staying by the princess consort’s side.
A boundless grassy plain greeted their eyes after leaving Khanbaliq. The weather of the tenth month of the year bestowed a layer of frost onto yellowed grass, which was interspersed by the occasional copse of pine trees. The trees were neatly arranged, but few in numbers. Clouds dotted the skies, forming a thin layer of fog in the far-off peaks. Even the air they breathed in seemed particularly humid.
The group flew along the plains, reaching the foot of a large mountain an hour later. Pine and cypress trees unique to the hinterlands of the north forested the mountain. They were much taller and bigger than the scattered bunches of trees the group had seen along the way.
Anari waved the group to a halt. “We hunt here! Let’s see who bags the most kills!”
“Understood!” The hunters, soldiers, and slaves still panting from the forced run followed their khan into the forest. Smaller groups naturally splintered off from the larger entourage, dismounting from their horses to travel on foot.
Qin Yining and Lu Heng naturally joined Siqin’s retinue.
Ruddy-faced with how the shameless princess consort was for sticking with Siqin, Anari suddenly wasn’t in a hurry to seek out prey anymore. Instead, she turned to stay by Siqin’s side.
The Great Zhou princess consort quietly observed the terrain, making not a move. Meanwhile, Anari seemed to be showcasing her skills—shooting down a wild chicken here, tracking a wild rabbit there. Boredom set in after a short jaunt through the pine trees. “Our luck is bad today to find only these animals. Why don’t we take the horses outside?”
Siqin was only here to coax the khan into a better mood, so whatever she said was his command. He whistled to signal the group to gather outside of the woods and return to where the slaves were keeping watch over the horses. Everyone mounted their steed and set course once more for the plains.
A group of wild Tibetan gazelles came into view after rounding a slight slope. Interest seized Anari and she whipped her horse forward. Startled, the gazelles scurried away after seeing that humans had found them.
Anari adored a chase and led her men onto the hunt. Whooping and hollering, soldiers unexpectedly panicked the gazelles and sent them scattering in all directions after they crested another hill.
“A herd of wolves! Khan, it’s a herd of wolves!” The men shouted.
“Perfect! I was just thinking it’s boring to hunt gazelles, so let’s catch a few wolves for some fun!”
An idea suddenly struck her and she pulled her horse to a stop. Standing at a high vantage point, watching the wolves drive off the gazelles, she smiled at Qin Yining.
“I’ve long since heard that the Faithful Prince of the First Rank is brave and valiant, a war god of Great Zhou. Even his princess consort is a hero among women and an invaluable talent. I’m sure the princess consort has learned much from your husband. Why don’t you go down there and show us your skill.”
Lu Heng’s expression shifted drastically when he heard this and darted in front of Qin Yining before she could respond. “Please retract your order, great khan! The customs of Great Zhou are different from that of Tatar’s, our women are not skilled in riding or shooting. The princess consort is a noble daughter and would never be able to defeat a wild wolf. Even some of our men might not be able to take down a herd of them, much less Her Highness. The khan’s order might be misinterpreted as intent for premeditated murder.”
That was precisely what Anari wanted to do! Anyone could see that, but that was what she wanted to do, regardless! She was the ruler of this country and what she said was law. Whoever she wanted alive would live, and wanted dead would die!
Irritation crept over Anari to see Lu Heng jump out so nervously to Qin Yining’s rescue. Her laughter shrilled coldly, “You again! Lu, what is your relationship with the Faithful Princess Consort of the First Rank? Why is your nose in all of her business?”
The khan purposefully raised her voice in surprise, “Aiya, are the two of you, that kind of relationship? Qin, you wench really think highly of yourself huh? Look at you flirting and seducing another man in public. You may not want any face, but your husband sure would like some!”
Qin Yining’s fist tightened painfully around her bow, her grip so firm that her knuckles were white. Anari had slandered her again and again, she really couldn’t take it anymore!
The princess consort abruptly drew out two arrows with an adroit movement, took two steps forward to fix her aim, and drew back the bow in a full draw.Previous Chapter Next Chapter