“Great Zhou has only just doused the flames of civil war and bears no intention of mounting a new invasion,” said Lu Heng. “Utkin Khan’s sole purpose in his actions is to seize more territory. When I was by his side, the idea was already implicit in his words.”
“Utkin Khan really is ambitious.” Qin Yining nodded with agreement.
The current situation was very apparent. It went without saying why Siqin killed Anari, then pushed the blame onto her and Lu Heng. Since he was preparing for war, then they had to cut off his supply of army rations and fodder.
Firstly, their own tribe was lacking supplies from the start.
Secondly, what was the point of bringing so many tribesmen if they weren’t going to do anything with their superior numbers? Why would they just pass by the opportunity to weaken Utkin Khan?
Thirdly, and most important in Qin Yining’s eyes, was that the Tatars didn’t seem to have much fertile land. They were mostly a nomadic group, so their reserve of foodstuffs were nowhere near as rich as the former Great Yan’s. Having their supply cut off meant a very likely delay to potential war and slightly lessening the pressure on Pang Xiao.
Qin Yining didn’t even need to be in the capital to know what would happen if war broke out. As long as she thought things over calmly and analyzed all sides, it was an easy conclusion that no matter if conflict broke out on the north or south borders, Li Qitian would absolutely have Pang Xiao deployed to the front lines. The Great Zhou emperor trusted Pang Xiao not at all, so it was impossible that the prince would be entrusted with the capital’s safety.
Furthermore, if Li Qitian wanted Pang Xiao assassinated, it would be easier to shirk off the blame if that occurred when the prince was outside the capital.
Pang Xiao was beset by danger on all sides. Qin Yining hated that she couldn’t grow wings and fly back to the capital to help him. Unfortunately, right now, the only thing she could do was to forge onward to the border station.
Amidst everybody’s spirited discussions, Qin Yining seemed to just stand there in a daze. Lu Heng noticed the slight frown on her face and could guess at what she was thinking. His heart stung with jealousy.
Even though Pang Xiao hadn’t protected her properly, even though Lu Heng was the one who’d weathered all these hardships with her, Qin Yining’s heart would always only hold Pang Xiao and no one else. Lu Heng envied Pang Xiao’s luck to receive the wholehearted devotion of such an amazing woman and also pitied himself—no matter how much he loved her, his affections would never be returned.
After a long discussion, the final decision was that they absolutely had to fight for the army provisions. With the rations, they could think of ways to gather with the rest of the tribesmen before finding a safe spot to start a new life.
Morale was high with the anticipation of obtaining supplies. Uncle Alham led scouts in two rounds of reconnaissance missions to estimate the route of the supply trains before reconvening with everyone else to discuss the best ambush sites.
On the day of the operations, Lu Heng and Qin Yining both stayed behind in the camp. Uncle Alham and Harbhara led five hundred soldiers while Caganbhara stayed behind with the rest of the tribesmen as reinforcements, ready to provide support.
The battle lasted the entire day.
The next morning, Uncle Alham successfully returned with the entire supply train. Because Qin Yining and Lu Heng had ensured there were no holes in their tactics, the strike succeeded with only one fatality and three casualties. Not only did they manage to steal the provisions, they even wiped out all of the troops sent to guard it.
This was an incredible miracle.
Uncle Alham bore new levels of respect for Qin Yining and Lu Heng’s intellect, and the tribe’s overall admiration and esteem for the two foreigners rose to a peak. By now, all of the tribesmen knew that Qin Yining and Lu Heng were extremely remarkable military strategists. Their tactics were unmatched, foolproof—following their plans guaranteed victory at the lowest price.
After obtaining the supplies, Qin Yining and Lu Heng discussed next steps. The group didn’t loiter and rushed to the ravine they’d circled around earlier on their journey. They took advantage of the heavy snowfall to cover their tracks, perfectly evading the scouts Siqin had arranged for.
At the same time, news of the supply train being cut off quickly made its way to the khan’s ear.
“What? All of the troops were wiped out? I arranged for a hundred elites to guard it, each capable of fighting off ten men! How could they’ve all been killed so easily! Who did it?!”
The reporting general was ashen-faced, his complexion growing paler and paler with every one of Siqin’s roars. He knelt in a grand gesture of greeting on the floor.
“May the great khan quell your anger, it is all our incompetence. With the snows sealing off the road, travel conditions outside are exceedingly poor. Your subjects… don’t know who did it. When our investigation team arrived, only the bodies of our brave warriors were left. The supplies, horses, and weapons had all disappeared without a trace.”
“Disappeared without a trace?’ Siqin squeezed out through clenched teeth. His lips flattened out again as he regained perfect control over his mood and expression. He postulated in an even tone, “Do the gods really disfavor the mightiness of the Tatar and do not wish for us to take revenge for Anari? Is that why such a farce has found us?”Previous Chapter Next Chapter
I keep waiting for the axe to fall. They've been so lucky so far that I feel like something awful's gonna happen later. @@