Judging from the helpless look on Mu Jinghu's face, Qin Yining could tell he was having a hard time choosing between the Soothsayer and Pang Xiao.
He was an honest man. Since he’d already received orders from his grandmaster—his true master—to protect the Soothsayer, he would never go back on his word. In truth, he’d already taken a substantial risk by defying her to come rescue Qin Yining.
Given the Soothsayer's actions, she was certainly greatly valued by the Tatar royals. There was no telling what would happen if she knew Mu Jinghu had squandered the favoritism she’d earned. The priestess didn't stand a chance against Mu Jinghu's superior martial arts skills in a fight, but Mu Jinghu was far too honest for his own good. There was no way he would raise a hand against his uncle-master.
Qin Yining also knew from the priestess’ nature that she wouldn't spare Mu Jinghu any mercy. With this thought in mind, she urged, "You best hurry back. I fear it won’t be good if your uncle-master found out what you've been up to. Second Master Lu and I will manage on our own. We’ll figure out a way to slip out once the city gate opens."
Mu Jinghu shook his head. "Forget it. I’m afraid the khan will immediately start searching for you once she wakes up. I'll go scout around outside and find some food and clothes for the two of you. And medicine for your injuries—it would be troublesome if you fell ill now."
"I’ll be alright. These are mere flesh wounds. My body recovers quickly, so they won’t hinder me."
In truth, Qin Yining's body ached terribly, but their abnormal circumstances called for her to endure the pain. Mu Jinghu had already gone against his sect by saving her, so his obligation toward the wife of his friend was no more. She had no wish to cause him further trouble.
Mu Jinghu, however, shook his head. "You should still be careful," he insisted. "You will suffer once you leave Khanbaliq. It’s not certain you’ll have the chance to recover from your wounds, so you should at least procure some medicine and basic necessities for your journey."
Finished, he made a hand gesture indicating for Qin Yining to stop arguing with him and promptly turned to exit through the door.
As Lu Heng watched Mu Jinghu disappear into the distance, he sighed, "We are indebted to this hero. Were it not for him, I couldn't have fended off the khan's bodyguards on my own. It seems that birds of a feather do indeed flock together—a good friend of Pang Zhixi would naturally be skilled at martial arts like him."
Qin Yining seated herself atop the worn old wooden recliner and heaved a long sigh.
"He’s an old friend of His Highness and his uncle-master is the Soothsayer. I daresay the priestess did something to provoke the khan into going after my head so aggressively."
Lu Heng nodded. He didn't probe into the relationship between the priestess and Pang Xiao, but the way she’d provoked Anari was highly suspicious indeed. "An esteemed hermit like the Soothsayer wouldn't waggle her tongue arbitrarily. She must have her reasons for doing so."
Qin Yining nodded and wearily leaned back against the wall. "She certainly isn’t someone who would stir trouble for no good reason. However, this matter is all the more perplexing should this be the case."
"Indeed. That’s why I think she’s plotting something," Lu Heng lamented with a touch of helplessness. "There’s no use in overthinking things, though. Our main priority as of now is to make it out of here alive. If we breathe our last here after surviving the earth dragon turning over, a trek through the desert, and all these days of suffering, don’t you think that would well, really suck?"
Qin Yining admired how Lu Heng still had it in him to crack jokes despite how the odds were stacked against them. Perhaps there was a certain fragility to those who attained a status similar to that of Lu Heng. It wasn't that they didn't feel fear or terror; rather, they were merely adept at controlling their emotions and keeping their cool. Because they were able to maintain a level head, their judgement remained unimpaired.
In truth, she had felt genuine fear today. In the heat of the moment, she’d been able to put on a brave front and convince herself to think of whatever to come as dog bites. However, when she thought back to how she’d been surrounded by Anari and her bodyguards, the looming despair she’d felt at the sight of their leering faces squeezed her heart tightly.
If they’d actually laid a hand on her, even she didn't know what drastic measures she would’ve resorted to.
These thoughts flashed through her mind but for an instant; a carefree smile still shone brightly on her face. "Well spoken. We’ve already survived the worst of the tempest—it would indeed suck if we fell down here."
Lu Heng gazed at Qin Yining's profile, his eyes warm with gentle admiration. "As you say. You should rest awhile, considering how you’re injured."
Qin Yining dimpled. "Very well. You should rest for a while and conserve your strength. We may have rendered the khan unconscious and escaped, but we don't know what kind of tantrum she’ll throw once she comes to. She may very well dispatch her entire army after us."
Finished, Lu Heng promptly seated himself three meters away from Qin Yining. Seeing how there was only the one old wooden recliner in this shack, she didn't particularly mind sharing it. They were running for their lives—what was the point of worrying over propriety? Furthermore, Lu Heng was a man of honor. She had nothing to worry about.
Qin Yining then closed her eyes and fell into a light slumber.
Lu Heng, however, didn't sleep. Through the holes in the roof, he stared at the twinkling stars scattered across a pitch black sky. In his mind, he mapped out their escape route again and again. If they were to go around the desert they’d passed through, what direction should they head in?
As Qin Yining rested and Lu Heng fell into deep contemplation, Mu Jinghu suddenly sidestepped inside. His voice was hushed with anxiety as he exclaimed, "Something’s gone wrong!"
Qin Yining opened her eyes with a start and a frown. "What is the matter?"
Lu Heng's brows also pinched together in a grave expression.
"The khan has been assassinated," Mu Jinghu explained. "People are being told that the two of you worked together to murder her. Her consort has already called for a meeting with all the officials to discuss the matter. All of the city guards have been sent out. The entire city is searching for you as we speak!"
Lu Heng gaped at him, dumbstruck. "But we did no such thing! I only knocked her unconscious!"
"Everyone is saying how they saw her consort carrying a bloody khan. Rumor has it she was stabbed three times and completely bled out. The civilians are in a state of panic and anger."
Qin Yining pressed her lips into a thin line as she considered Siqin's treatment toward her, Anari's jealousy, and the Soothsayer's actions. Once she connected the dots, the answer became clear as could be.
"I'm afraid Siqin and the Soothsayer probably made a pact to drive Anari insane with jealousy of me. The priestess’ words to Anari that day were the final straw. Even if the two of you didn't come to my rescue today, Siqin most likely wouldn't have killed me off because his target was Anari all along!"
Lu Heng figured everything out as well. "Has he gone mad?!" he hissed angrily. "Anari is his childhood friend! They were fond of each other from a young age! Yet he murdered his own wife in his lust for power!"Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Hello all! There will be quite a ROS event announced tomorrow in anticipation of ROS 500! This will be the mid-way marker for the series, so please keep your eyes peeled!