The crowd—who’d just been basking in joy over escaping the desert and conquering the army camp—sobered considerably at Lu Heng's words. They calmed themselves and considered their predicament.
These outposts on the outskirts of the desert were surely Siqin’s doing. They’d ran into a smaller troop division only because Qin Yining had proposed for them to travel in this direction.
Some of them didn't even know where they were anymore and simply went with the flow. Meanwhile, the others who knew their bearings understood they were moving further and further from Great Zhou, so they thought Qin Yining's instructions were incorrect.
In retrospect, the princess consort must have predicted that Siqin was lying in wait for them, like someone guarding a tree stump, waiting for rabbits to come along.
Having just recovered their strength, their chance at victory was questionable if they were to encounter a large hoard of soldiers, much less if that happened when they’d just made it out of the desert and were exhausted.
Qin Yining's decision to go this way had saved all of their lives. Otherwise, they would’ve sacrificed a lot more than the two hundred people who died.
Recognizing the precariousness of their situation, everyone came back down from the clouds of euphoria and firmly planted their feet on the ground.
"Second Master Lu's words make sense. Uncle Alham, what do you think we should do next?" Caganbhara asked, his brows furrowed.
Alham pondered for a moment, then responded, "Our best option is to send people to scout the road ahead of use. Once we get a clear picture of the situation outside and confirm the location of their campsite, we'll have an easier time hiding from them."
Harbhara, however, shot back, "We're not afraid of them! None of our warriors will retreat without putting up a fight if we really do run into the khan's army!"
Lu Heng smiled and nodded. "Indeed," he replied calmly. "The Minuo warriors don't fear them. But if I may offer my humble opinion, unnecessary confrontation will be of no benefit to us unless we have good reason to fight them, such as the prospects of provisions and other things that will help us."
Caganbhara laughed, "Right, if we gave it our all in a fight, but are only fighting for the sake of fighting, wouldn't that be too silly and brash?"
The people gathered in the tent laughed at that. Though Qin Yining didn't understand what they said, she relaxed upon seeing that the heavy atmosphere had lightened up once again.
In the end, Lu Heng and the tribesmen agreed they would first arrange for parties to scout the area, while those left behind at camp tidied up their belongings so that they were ready to depart at any time.
Once word got out, tribesmen immediately got to work without a single complaint. Compared to the perilous desert, hope for the future filled them, despite having to weather the frigid cold and the occasional blizzard.
Upon Siqin’s ascension to the throne, he spent some time stabilizing his court. Eventually, his council raised the question of filling the imperial harem. Some of his officials proposed a pageant, in which every tribe in Tatar was to send in their beauties.
By the time Anari assumed the regency, the royal family had already died off almost entirely. Initially, the court had thought her children would become heirs to the throne.
Yet she’d been assassinated and Siqin didn't have any other woman by his side. If something were to happen to him, wouldn’t that mean the end of Tatar royalty? For the stability of their nation, his officials pleaded and begged for him to host a pageant and appoint a Khatun.
Siqin, however, sternly refuted them in morning court. "The only one I love from the depths of my heart is Anari. If I must have a Khatun, I wish for Anari to assume that position. I will have heirs. However, no woman but Anari has the right to bear the title of Khatun. I will take wives and produce children for the sake of Tatar's royal lineage and stability. As for matters concerning the Khatun, you will cease your attempts to persuade me otherwise."
One of his older subjects was even moved to tears—he placed a hand on his chest and bowed deeply. "I do believe Anari Khan's soul will be moved by the khan's devotion from where she is in the heavens."
All of his officials bowed and shouted, "The khan's deep love and devotion is the blessing of Tatar!"
Regardless of whether Utkin Khan wished to appoint a Khatun or not, there was no need to fret over the heir to the throne so long as he didn't become a monk. All would be fine if he bedded beautiful women and had as many children as possible. His officials were smart; they knew not to oppose Siqin on this matter.
Seeing that his subjects had come to an agreement, he somberly brought up Anari once again.
"My heart aches for the suffering Anari endured. Alas, the assassins are far too sneaky. I have sent so many men after them, yet their capture still eludes me. In fact they’ve gained the protection of the Minuo traitors! There would be no reason otherwise that I have yet to receive any word of their capture." Siqin's voice rang clearly, yet he spoke calmly without a trace of excessive emotion.
His officials, however, bowed deeply once again. "Your subjects have been incompetent."
"Do rise at once, I didn't intend to blame you." Siqin stood and clasped his hands behind his back. "No matter how fierce a warrior may be, even he cannot secure absolute victory over the slippery Great Zhou."
Someone who was able to read between the lines of Siqin's words stepped forward. "Khan, those two assassins must have been sent by Great Zhou's dog of an emperor! They were able to escape because they had their emperor's help from the shadows."Previous Chapter Next Chapter
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