With great effort, Qin Yining took in deep breaths to calm herself. I can’t panic. Only by analyzing the situation with a cool head will I grasp any chance of escape or to fight back.
Be as that may, her body shuddered uncontrollably. As she kept wriggling backward, the coarse ropes chafed her arms and wrists, tearing open her skin in several places. Compounded with the wounds she’d acquired from the whip, her face went white from the pain. However, it was almost frightening how bright her eyes remained, her beauty untarnished by the blood all over her body and her disheveled state.
The excitement of the eight warriors built with every passing moment. Shrieking and hollering, they rushed Qin Yining.
Anari hugged her shoulders, barely containing the hearty laughter that shook her frame; she was exceedingly pleased with herself. "Let's see how you'll keep up that big ego of yours from now on! Sit back and enjoy the performance—Tatar men are far stronger than your Great Zhou men! Hahaha!"
As she had a rag stuffed in her mouth, Qin Yining couldn't even curse out loud—all she could do was whimper, her eyes red with anger.
The men had drawn close, the two who arrived first looking incredibly eager. One of them ripped off their shirt while the other untied the ropes binding Qin Yining's legs together.
Qin Yining gritted her teeth as they held her down, rendering her struggling useless. As soon as the ropes around her leg loosened, she aimed a vicious kick at the nearest man’s tender regions. Alas, the move she put all her strength behind was caught by her opponent's hand.
These men were highly trained bodyguards, while all Qin Yining had was raw strength. Having never been trained in martial arts, there was nothing she could do to fight back.
Despair slowly wormed its way into the princess consort’s heart. Though she kept persuading herself to think it as being bitten by a dog, what woman wouldn't be affected by this kind of predicament?
Her widened eyes gradually welled with tears. How she wished Pang Xiao would suddenly appear and kill everyone!
But that was simply impossible—how could he possibly sneak into Tatar and make it just in time to save her, what with Ji Zeyu and Li Qitian monitoring his every move? There was also everyone in the Qin and Pang clans to consider. Pang Xiao didn't have the liberty of acting on his own, lest he endanger both their families.
Qin Yining understood all that, yet she couldn’t hold back her tears.
The sorry state of the princess consort pleased Anari to no end, who was all too eager to spectate a great performance.
The leader of the men grabbed a fistful of Qin Yining's clothes. At the sound of ripping cloth, a gust of wind blew the wooden doors open. A black, shadowy phantom drifted inside.
Anari's jaw dropped, dumbfounded. Before she could even process the sight, the eight men were left sprawling on the floor, the room painted in their blood.
Behind her, someone pressed a dagger against her neck and clamped his hand over her mouth. In the Tatar language, they said, "Don't move, khan."
Anari stared as the masked man clothed in black untied Qin Yining. The voice of the person behind her seemed awfully familiar, shocking her into silence. It was none other than Lu Heng!
Qin Yining was freed from her bonds before she could recover from the shock and terror. Her clothes were bloodied from the whip and torn by the men. Every movement hurt—she was truly a complete mess.
In spite of herself, her heart jolted as the man untying her tossed the ropes aside and moved to stand. She already had her answer for his true identity.
Lu Heng kept his hold on Anari. "If the khan agrees to remain silent, I will not kill you," he stated in a low voice. "If you start shouting, I'll have the entire royal clan follow you to your grave!"
Anari's slips twitched as she reached to pull on Lu Heng's arm. He knew she wanted to speak, but didn't let go to prevent her from screaming the moment he removed his hand.
"If you promise you will not make an uproar, I will let go and allow you to speak. Otherwise, I will end you in one move. We can see if your men are faster than my dagger. If you agree to my terms, nod your head."
Despite her immense displeasure, Anari nodded.
Lu Heng relaxed his hand slightly, but drew his knife closer to Anari's neck, forcing her to tilt her head back. Not daring to cause a ruckus, she hissed, "You people from Great Zhou are despicable!"
"Despicable? You flatter us—our methods don't even hold a candle to the khan's."
"You won't escape! When Siqin finds out I’m missing, he’ll dispatch a search party! You won't be able to fly away from all the guards in the palace even if you sprout wings!" At this, Anari regained her composure somewhat. She glanced at the masked man who had already helped Qin Yining to her feet. "A shame you followed the wrong master. Otherwise, someone of your prowess would’ve been a valuable asset for our military forces. I would’ve promoted you to a high position."
Lu Heng drew his dagger across Anari's neck, leaving a faint line. "Sarcastic as ever. Evidently, you don't fear death."
Anari trembled from the pain, but refused to surrender. "If I die, none of you will make it out of Khanbaliq!" she spat. "My consort will avenge me, so prepare to go down with me!"
Lu Heng pressed his dagger against Anari's neck at any sign of her raising her voice, scaring the khan into abrupt silence. Conquests and greatness awaited her future—why was she to meet her end here?
Face still pale, Qin Yining adjusted her clothes so that her modesty was at least preserved. She walked to a window and looked out to see a small courtyard where a few people laid scattered about. It seemed that they’d just been dealt with.
She endured the pain of walking to stand before Anari. "Does the khan insist on acting tough at a time like this?" she murmured. "I know you care for your consort deep down, and I know you dearly wish me dead. However, your consort's public image is more important, no?
"The khan knows that your consort has been discussing a possible collaboration with the Lu clan. If you let us go, not only will I never appear before your consort again, but the negotiations with the Lu clan will not be affected by what you've done. You can kill two birds with one stone. What does the khan think?"
Anari's face grew ruddy with anger and she lost all rational thought.
"What do I think? How dare you ask me that, you slutty fox?! How were my plans for tonight foiled?! I will end you no matter what! If you have it in you then kill me now. We'll see how you can get past my Tatar warriors, you whore!"
At this, Qin Yining couldn't help a wry smile with a shake of her head. "Nearly a dozen of your esteemed warriors have lost their lives thanks to khan's impulsive behavior. Do you still refuse to count your blessings?"
"Was I the one who killed them?! Spare me your crocodile tears! I will never let you go! Either cut me down now or face my wrath!"
Qin Yining pursed her lips. Just as she was about to reply, Lu Heng suddenly raised a hand and hit Anari hard at the base of her skull. The khan’s eyes lost focus before she crumpled to the floor.
"What did you do?" Qin Yining cried out.
"I knocked her out," Lu Heng replied. "She never shuts up and we can't afford to let her waste our time."Previous Chapter Next Chapter