Anari stood rooted in place, so overwhelmed that even the most beautiful of scenery could no longer capture her attention. Her mind echoed with what the Soothsayer had just imparted. When those of similar destinies met, it was unknown who would take away the good fortunes of the other.
No wonder her relationship with Siqin had been so fraught with tension lately! She could already feel the distance grow between them. But who was someone of her status to compare to the likes of Qin Yining? How could that girl even hope to rival her greatness?
As if the dead had any to speak of!
The Soothsayer observed Anari with a smile for a good while before finally inquiring, "Noble khan?"
Anari came back to her senses with a smile. "Thank you for your counsel."
"There is no need to thank me.” The Soothsayer bowed solemnly and answered gently, “It is not my place to receive your gratitude. The khan's destiny is one blessed by the heavens. With your extraordinary fortunes, you are sure to achieve greatness. Everything that is happening now is but a fork in your road to success—you need only step around it. You are no mere commoner, so you need not allow unrelated persons to obstruct your footsteps."
Warmed to the cockles of her heart, Anari replied with great sincerity. "Many thanks to the honored priestess. I know as the irreplaceable leader of Tatar, I shoulder the responsibility of my nation's safety. Should a pebble get in my way, I need only kick it aside."
"This lowly nun is truly in awe of the khan's great ambitions."
The two strolled about and chatted about inconsequential matters for a few moments more before Anari excused herself, saying she had state affairs to attend to.
Only when they were completely alone after the khan’s departure did Mu Jinghu frown at the priestess. "Uncle-master, what did you mean by what you just said? Your words may cause the khan to hate née Qin!"
The Soothsayer yawned and wiped away the moisture that had sprung to the corner of her eyes.
"I know," she answered lazily. "You are on good terms with Pang Zhixi, who you've helped and also protected his wife. However, you helped him not out of the goodness of your heart, but because you owed him. After you gave him your assistance, you ceased to owe that lot any favors. Your current mission is to protect me—why ask about redundant matters? Don't tell me you've developed a soft spot for née Qin and want to help her escape?"
Mu Jinghu worried at his lips as he stood by the Soothsayer's side. He opened and closed his mouth several times before finally responding, "Not once have I disobeyed uncle-master's orders. However, Pang Zhixi is my friend. Though I initially helped him because I owed him a favor, that wasn’t my only reason for doing so. If that were the case, it would’ve been a transaction, not a friend helping a friend."
"I'll just take you as an obedient blockhead—even Pang Zhixi calls you that." The woman gave Mu Jinghu a sidelong glance. "Who knew you had such a loyal streak in you?"
The young man bit his lips and lowered his head, not knowing how to respond.
She slowly walked up to Mu Jinghu, her voice turning frosty. "Remember what you call me. You are of my sect. Should your actions go against my plans, you betray your master."
Head bowed, Mu Jinghu looked up at the Soothsayer and nodded slowly.
"I've read your fortunes—you sticking with me will ensure your safety. I don't keep you around me entirely for my own benefit. Whether it comes to public or private affairs, you must listen to me. Understood?"
Mu Jinghu's lips vibrated, but he remained silent.
In a grave tone, the Soothsayer repeated, "Have you committed my words to memory?"
After a long while, Mu Jinghu nodded. "I have, uncle-master, but née Qin..."
"You're afraid Pang Zhixi will not be able to handle her death?"
The young man fell silent while the Soothsayer clasped her hands behind her back and paced back and forth. She then made a few calculations with her hands before the smile returned to her face.
"Don't you wish to see the golden age of a united nation in which the people are happy? Living in peace without the threat of war looming over their heads or starving and freezing to death... There would be no question then of which nation to which you belong—Tatar, Great Zhou, or Southern Yan would serve the same emperor. Do you look forward to such a prosperous era?"
Drawn to the blueprints of the Soothsayer's words, Mu Jinghu's eyes filled with longing. "Of course I wish for the coming of such a world. I'm certain all the people hope for the same. But uncle-master, what do your actions have to do with this golden age?"
"They're all related. Everything I do is to reverse wrong and restore order. So long as Seven Kills sits at the top and the Purple Star is left bowing to others, the destiny ordained by the heavens will not be realized, and these times of turmoil will never cease. I have always worked toward the revival of a new golden age of peace that will last at least a century."
"Uncle-master, you mean Great Zhou… you speak of helping that Purple Star restore order, but I only see you stirring the storms of trouble and provoking unrest within nations, as if worried the world isn’t chaotic enough as it is."
"If my machinations remain a mystery even to someone who’s with me every day, then how is the rest of the world to understand?" The Soothsayer put her hands behind her and stood up straight with a sigh. "Mountains and seas of dead bodies merely serve as the bedstones of the road to realizing this era of peace. Every sacrifice is worth the price. Otherwise, wouldn't our lives have no meaning at all?"
Mu Jinghu stared at her back, swallowing his many questions. He knew even if he asked, no answers would be forthcoming. He’d always respected his master and followed her every command, but his bond with Pang Xiao was never far from his mind. It made no sense for him to not lift a single finger to help his wife in her times of need.
He found himself stuck between a rock and a hard place.
Meanwhile, Qin Yining returned to her quarters, only to be met by two more old mamas tasked with keeping a sharp eye on her. If she wasn't summoned by the khan, she wasn't allowed to venture outside, never mind speak to anyone.
Being a hostage meant she was barred from going out, so stay in her quarters she did.
Though Lu Heng attempted to visit her several times, the guards kept him outside every time. His restlessness and worry continued to grow, as he had no way of knowing how Qin Yining was faring if he couldn't see her. Knowing Anari's temper, Qin Yining was good as dead should she be bullied or injured to the point of falling ill.
Since he wasn't allowed entrance, he shouted at Qin Yining from behind her door. "Your Highness, are you well? This is Lu Heng speaking. I have come to see you."
In truth, Qin Yining had already heard Lu Heng earlier. However, he always spoke in the Tatar tongue, the rapid-fire delivery of his words making it clear to her that he was arguing with someone. She couldn't have interjected even if she wanted to.
This time, however, he addressed her in the language she was familiar with. She sprang to her feet at once and walked around a room divider to call out at him. "All is well with me. Many thanks to Second Master Lu for his concern."
Hearing the frailness in her voice, Lu Heng sighed, "You must hold on while I think of a way to free you from house arrest."
As he finished, Anari piped up behind him in a menacingly dark tone. "Not bad. You’re still able to tempt people despite being locked up.”Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Hmm.. what do you guys think the Soothsayer is really up to? And yeesh, Anari gave me the heebie-jeebies at the end.