Lu Heng’s heart ached as he looked upon her beautiful face, much skinnier after days of being tossed around by sandstorms. However, this distress was something he couldn’t openly show. From her tone, it sounded like she still felt guilty for the fallen Minuo?
When he’d been bathing earlier, he overheard Harbhara and Caganbhara mention that almost two hundred tribesmen had died from the soldiers’ pursuit. More had given their lives to take down this camp, and some lay mortally wounded.
The casualties also gnawed at his heart. However, in their dire straits, it was an enormous victory just for the Minuo to have defeated Siqin’s soldiers. After all, not only were those soldiers cavalry, they were also specially-trained elites.
In comparison, the Minuo troops were just ordinary herdsmen and even consisted of quite a few women. They were truly an outstanding and valiant tribe; no wonder that they had once been a large, strong tribe of over 40,000 people.
Anari had likely persecuted the Minuos to the depths she had because she was afraid of them growing too strong and threatening her authority.
Lu Heng truly wanted to comfort Qin Yining, but right now, he was really too tired. Lead weighed down his eyelids, and even his quick mind was turning sluggish. His lips vibrated as he arduously forced out, “it’s not your fault,” before his eyes shut, succumbing to the sleep.
Seeing him fall asleep, Qin Yining felt his forehead, tensing when she noted that it still ran a slight fever. She watched over Lu Heng until midnight before finally retiring to her own tent to rest.
The next day, Uncle Alham gathered all of the squad leaders to the central tent for a meeting with Qin Yining, Harbhhara, Caganbhara, and Lu Heng, who was practically a ball with how many layers he was wearing. He’d gotten up early to drink a bowl of soft, glutinous rice porridge and take the last of his medicine, making him much more alert than yesterday.
Qin Yining dimpled when she saw that he had come. “What a reliable friend you are, waking up early just like you said you would.”
“I slept enough yesterday.” Lu Heng smiled.
Uncle Alham grinned as he clapped Lu Heng’s shoulders, speaking in Tartar, “It looks like you really are a lot better now, my boy. So it seems all the care the princess consort gave to you along the way was worth it in the end. If something had still happened to you, I’m afraid Her Highness might join you in falling sick.”
Uncle Alham was a blunt man accustomed to saying whatever came to mind; he didn’t realize how improper his words were. However, there were many youths in the group that adored Qin Yining, as well as a number of those who’d noticed Lu Heng’s affections for her. Involuntary looks scanned the pair.
Lu Heng’s heart pounded furiously, thumping like a hare as his face flushed red. “Uncle Alham, please don’t joke around like that.”
Alham looked at Qin Yining, thought of her identity, looked back at Lu Heng’s reddened face, then heaved a sigh. He clapped Lu Heng’s shoulder again, conveying a world of meaning with no words at all.
Qin Yining didn’t understand what they were saying since the words used had been too complex, and their speed too fast. Although she’d been studying Tartar recently, she could only understand basic words and phrases.
Worry rose when she saw Lu Heng’s face turn red. “Are you alright?” She habitually reached out to take his temperature.
“I’m fine.” An easy smile belied the turmoil of conflict, wryness, and sweetness within him. Lu Heng turned to address everyone in the Tartar tongue. “You protected and helped your fellow tribesmen out of the desert, and for that, you are all heroes. I’ve long known that the Tatars are an incredibly strong people, and seeing you now, I know that the rumors are true.
“Indeed, you are a people worthy of great respect and admiration! And we Minou are exemplary among the Tatar! Having journeyed alongside you all, I am truly moved and amazed by what I’ve experienced.”
Emotion threatened to overwhelm Uncle Alham, while joy and pride flooded the rest. They were all hot-blooded men, each with a tenacious and unyielding heart. Every one of them had preserved through all kinds of trials and hardships, and was now praised and recognized by a foreigner. High spirits seized their hearts, in a feeling they didn’t know was called patriotism.
Although Qin Yining didn’t know what Lu Heng was saying, she could tell from everyone’s expression that his words had touched their hearts. She couldn’t help a sigh at Lu Heng’s skill.
He really is a very capable leader, blessed with the ability to convince others to happily follow his lead. No wonder he could leave the shelter of his family to start from scratch at such a young age, and then reach heights that no one else can contend with before telling everybody he’s a Lu.
“Although we won, I know that Siqin’s men will certainly make frequent rounds of these outposts,” continued Lu Heng, “we can’t stay here for long. Everything must be packed and ready to go by today. We don't know when the outposts last contacted each other, so if we’re exposed by the next messenger, it will result in unnecessary trouble.”Previous Chapter Next Chapter
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