Chapter 511.1: Negotiations

Tense all journey, Qin Yining could finally relax after following the tribesmen to the camp. Upon her arrival, she found that Uncle Alham had already led a group in tidying the site up. But most importantly, there was a stream close to the camp!

Though it was still wintry outside and the stream frozen over, none of that mattered for the group that’d just escaped the desert. No one cared that the premises had been a war zone moments before. Cheering raucously, they chiseled away at the frozen water surface. Some folks immediately tossed large chunks into small pots for heating back at camp. 

Tents of varying sizes soon sprang up all over the campground. 

Qin Yining was assigned a tent for herself and left Lu Heng in Harbhara and Caganbhara’s care. She ran off to chisel some ice and grabbed one of the camp’s pots, intending to freshen up after boiling the water.

To the tribe, Qin Yining was the hero who’d rid them of Anari and the one who’d gotten them out of the desert alive. All proper respect and obedience was her due, so when they saw that she wanted to boil some water, they all rushed to help her despite their own exhaustion. They even fetched some of the stored firewood for her. 

After trudging in the sands for half a month, this was her first chance for a hot bath. She scrubbed herself clean before washing away all the filth from her clothes. By the time she completed her thorough ministrations, her hair was already half dry. Towelling it further, she coiled it into a simple bun and tossed on a hat, leaving her tent and walking to Lu Heng’s. 

“Is Second Master Lu resting?”

The tent’s entrance quickly lifted, permitting a rush of hot steam to escape outside. Harbhara stuck his head out, beaming at Qin Yining as he tried out some words in clumsy Great Zhou, “You’ve come!”

Qin Yining nodded with a smile. The boy shifted to the side to make space for her, giving room for the princess consort to enter the tent with a quick bend of her body.

A wooden bucket rested on the floor, full of dirty water. They hadn’t had the time to empty it out yet, but the men were all dressed neatly. Lu Heng had changed into a fresh set of clothes and his eyes were lowered as he leaned on a bed of dry hay and wooden planks. Damp hair that still dripped with water hung loosely down his shoulders. 

Qin Yining noted the sight with a frown and grabbed a towel. “How can you be so careless when you’re not fully recovered yet? Aren’t you afraid of getting even sicker, going to bed with your hair wet like this?”

She hesitated for a moment before reaching out to dry his hair. 

Lu Heng’s heart raced. In fact, he had just finished cleaning up and was planning to dry his hair later. Sick people didn’t have much strength to begin with, so after cleaning and changing, he couldn’t even muster up the energy to lift his arm. 

He didn’t expect that Qin Yining would actually do it for him!

“My thanks.” Lu Heng’s voice was hoarse. He didn’t say any superfluous words, and his tone was weak. 

“There’s no need to be so polite. We finally managed to exit the desert and our homeland’s just a few steps away. Wouldn’t it be a shame if you aren’t careful and worsen your illness at this stage?” Qin Yining swapped out the wet towel for a dry one and continued to carefully dry his hair. 

Since her own hair was mostly dry, she took off her hat and slid out the silver tassel comb from the side of her bun. She ran her fingers through his hair to smoothen it out first before carefully combing through it, delicately going strand by strand. 

Lu Heng closed his eyes, enjoying the gentle pressure from Qin Yining’s fingertips as she ran the comb through his hair. Even his scalp and back of his neck tingled with pleasure as his eyelids grew heavy.

What a wonderful feeling it was, that she would care about him. Even though he knew deep inside that Qin Yining didn’t hold the slightest trace of romantic affection for him, Lu Heng’s heart was still fully content. 

“Don’t worry, I’ll be fine. We’ve conquered the desert twice, I won’t die like this.” Lu Heng said softly. 

The princess consort tidied his hair and finished it off by binding it with a ribbon. She tucked the comb back into her hair before putting on her hat again. 

“Indeed, we’re both of tough stock. We’ll be fine. When we have the chance, I’ll fortify your body with something nutritious. If only Bingtang was here, you would recover so much faster!” 

Qin Yining’s smile dimmed as she thought back to that fateful day of their parting. It wasn’t even a certain thing if Bingtang and Ji Yun were still alive. 

Discerning her thoughts, the Lu second master gently comforted her. “Don’t worry, with how much the prince loves you, he won’t sit on his hands and do nothing after your capture. He certainly would’ve rushed to their rescue, and none of your subordinates are weak targets. They’re definitely all fine.”

Qin Yining’s heart turned warm as she thought of Pang Xiao. “You’re right, they should all be fine. We’ll all be fine.” 

She helped Lu Heng lie down and used a cotton jacket like a quilt, laying it over him. “Rest well, we still need to discuss our future plans tomorrow morning. I can’t speak the Tartar tongue and Uncle Alham can only understand simple Great Zhou words, so it’ll be a lot easier with you as the interpreter.” 

Lu Heng laughed softly, his features glowing with warmth. “Alright, I’ll try and recover as quickly as possible. Things really have been hard on you these days.”

Qin Yining shook her head with a smile. “As long as everyone can live peaceful, happy lives, all this is nothing.” 

“True, nothing can be more important than life and death. Your Highness, you are a stunning woman.” 

Qin Yining’s face flushed from his praise as she smiled. “If I was that stunning, I wouldn’t have dragged so many down with me. Alright now, you should sleep.”

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