Pang Xiao was so moved by the words that it took a long while and a great deal of effort to calm his tumultuous emotions.
“It seems the Tatars pinpointed the treasure's location a long time ago. I'm afraid my darling’s kidnapping was just collateral damage. The situation in the cavern was complicated: Siqin suddenly arrived at the scene with his men, and seeing the key players were all present, he decided to nab them all in one fell swoop. We still don’t know what became of the Azure Justice. However, I would presume what happened to those who were captured wasn’t pleasant."
Qin Huaiyuan nodded. "I agree. Considering the allure of the treasure, it’s impossible for the Tatars to not take any interest in its whereabouts after almost four months.
"If they weren paying this much attention to the treasure, they will definitely seek to use my darling and Lu Second Master as bargaining chips." Pang Xiao surmised with a note of worry. "My circumstances are rather tense right now, though. His Majesty has yet to set a punishment for me defying thirty-odd royal decrees, and I’ve offended quite a few people during this time out of stress. I only fear His Majesty doesn’t care about whether my darling lives or not."
"The most important matter at hand is that the Lu patriarch has been extremely ill of late, and the change in guard at the Lu clan is at a critical stage. I worry the Lus will elect to abandon their second master." Qin Huaiyuan stood to pace, hands clasped behind his back. "My daughter is a woman, so I assume anyone outside of family considers her as a piece of furniture. Even if the Tatars succeed in negotiating terms, they would focus on the Lus. If they can’t procure the treasure, they can still obtain ransom money or other benefits. If even the Lu clan gives up, I fear that would place my daughter at an even greater disadvantage."
"Highness! Your Highness!" Just then, Huzi ran inside and shoved a messenger pigeon at Pang Xiao. "Look, this is from Sir Mu."
Pang Xiao sprang to his feet and removed the small roll of paper from the pigeon's leg. He hastily unrolled the note and was met with three words: Khan killed. Escape.
"Father-in-law." Pang Xiao passed the note to Qin Huaiyuan, brows pinched.
The elderly man looked at the message and muttered, "What is the meaning of this? The khan has been killed? No… can it be?"
"Who’s killed the khan and escaped after the deed? My darling?”
"It must be, or Sir Mu wouldn’t have sent you this message. My daughter isn’t one to act recklessly, so she must’ve had a reason for killing the khan. However, her consort Siqin has most certainly filled the power vacuum she left behind. Someone as cruel as him is sure to magnify her assassination." Qin Huaiyuan could already envision what Siqin planned to do—he had gathered substantial intel regarding the khan's consort, so he had some notion of the man’s ambitious nature.
"Things aren’t looking good if they continue like this. Whether my daughter truly killed the khan or not, this news comes from Sir Mu, so everyone in Tatar must already think her to be the killer. The way I see it, Siqin will surely use this as a pretext to take the throne for himself before planning his next move. Perhaps the assassination was all according to Siqin's plans," Qin Huaiyuan surmised.
Pang Xiao nodded in agreement. Father and son-in-law both fell deep into contemplation and worry.
If news of Qin Yining assassinating the khan had already spread throughout Tatar, that meant regardless of the terms Siqin wished for Great Zhou to comply with, Qin Yining was most definitely in danger. The two men shared a look, then threw themselves into discussing the many possible outcomes and solutions.
Meanwhile, Qin Yining had recovered significantly from her injuries and remained hidden among the Minuo tribe, along with Lu Heng.
Over the past few days of getting acquainted with the Minuo, she came to see that they were warm-hearted, kind, and honest. Brothers Harbhara and Caganbhara, for example, both had a shrewd streak about them since they’d been exposed to politics as the sons of the former chief. However, they went about whatever they set their minds to in a straightforward manner. It was clear they didn’t possess a rotten core.
Anari had refrained from killing them because of their unique status and young age. It had been better to keep them around as punching bags and scapegoats. However, the humiliation they’d endured and their hatred of their parents' killer were deeply ingrained in their hearts.
They were also people of their word—they had sworn whoever avenged their chief and people would be their next leader. Thus, even if Harbhara and Caganbar weren’t entirely happy with the appointment of Lu Heng and Qin Yining, they went through with it all the same. They especially held Qin Yining in high regard.
After days of searching, Siqin had nothing to show for turning the entire city of Khanbaliq inside out. Busy with solidifying his hold on the throne, he could only send subordinates to supervise the search. Despite combing through every nook and cranny, they found no trace of the ‘murderers’.
When the situation returned to the forefront of his mind, he considered his options with furrowed brows. "Search again. Pay close attention to tribes that were wiped out by the late khan such as the Minuo tribe. They hold a grudge against her, so it is highly likely that they are working with the killers.
Having received their orders, his subordinates went straight to the slums of the city.
"Oh no, a search party is coming!" A little girl dressed in rags ran inside and tugged at Harbhara. "The soldiers are coming! They'll be here soon!"
Harbhara's face went stark white as color drained from his face. He scrambled to his feet and dashed into the house to fetch Qin Yining and Lu Heng, pulling them to the backyard to escape.Previous Chapter Next Chapter