Though Qin Yining had heard of the venom techniques from the Miao territories, she had yet to see them actually in practice. Hearing Liao Zhibing mention it now took her aback. "You can detect his movements?"
"Yes. The response to the tracking bug isn’t as obvious if he’s within close proximity, but he got too far away, so I’m able to sense him."
Deep down, Qin Yining trusted Lu Heng. Having been through thick and thin together, she’d long since gained a clear understanding of his character. He was a comrade worthy of complete trust.
"Perhaps he still has matters to attend to?" Qin Yining couldn't help rationalizing Lu Heng's actions.
"Alliance Head, I can sense he is headed southeast," Liao Zhibing replied, "and he’s moving very fast."
The technique was even capable of sensing the cardinal direction of his movements? No wonder it was called a tracking bug!
Qin Yining fell into deep contemplation of these ramifications.
Cao Yuqing ventured, "Southeast, isn't that where the border of Great Zhou is located? Can it be that hanging between life and death by a thread because of pursuit has gotten him so anxious that Second Master Lu decided to return to Great Zhou alone?"
"If he were simply returning to Great Zhou, then there would be nothing to worry about. I'm only worried he'll rat us out," Liao Zhibing growled. "If he reveals our location to the pursuing soldiers and diverts their attention away from him that way, he'd be able to return to Great Zhou more easily. If so, we will truly be in danger."
Qin Yining's brows scrunched together even more tightly at that.
"I still can’t believe Second Master Lu would betray us. However, his sudden departure really is suspicious." She looked at Liao Zhibing. "Can this tracking bug you speak of sense his location? What’s the extent of its range?"
"The closer he is, the more accurately the mother bug will be able to detect its child," Liao Zhibing replied. "After a certain distance, we’ll only be able to know his general direction. As for the range," he smiled confidently, "he could travel through half of Great Zhou and there still won't be a problem."
Qin Yining marveled, "This is indeed an impressive technique." She contemplated for a moment before continuing, "How about this—let’s refrain from making this public for now and take the Zhao brothers with us. Let’s pay a visit to their tent and see what the situation is there. Once we confirm he has indeed disappeared, then we pursue him."
Liao Zhibing nodded. "That’s a good idea as well."
Qin Yining quickly got dressed, putting on a thickly padded cotton jacket and a cotton hat, then covered half of her face in a scarf. She walked to the other side of the camp with Cao Yuqing and the three Azure Justice members, a casual air about them as they made their way to Lu Heng's tent.
Just as they reached his tent and were about to lift the entrance flap, someone poked their head out of a neighboring tent.
"What brings you here?" Uncle Alham inquired.
Everyone was highly vigilant due to pursuit constantly nipping at their heels. Uncle Alham was staying in the same tent as the brothers Harbhara and Caganbhara, the three of them taking turns to keep watch at night. He’d just woken up from a nap when he heard the sound of footsteps, prompting a quick check.
Qin Yining put a finger against her lips in a shushing motion. Though people were talking outside Lu Heng's tent, there was no response from inside. It seemed he was indeed absent.
She pushed the flap aside in one smooth motion to see the tent completely empty. Not only was Lu Heng not there, but his guards Feilian and Feiying were also gone. Most importantly, their bags were also missing!
"So he really has run away," Liao Zhibing muttered quietly.
Now fully dressed, Uncle Alham crossed his arms as he came over to peek inside the tent. His expression changed instantly. "Where is he? Where is the chief?"
Qin Yining furrowed her brows. "Did you hear any movement next door?"
"No. I took a nap just now, but I've been on the alert. I could even hear snoring, but no commotion from his tent."
That proved Lu Heng hadn’t gotten into a scuffle when he left; otherwise, those in the tent beside him would've heard something.
"He must have snuck out while everyone was resting," Liao Zhibing surmised. "The soldiers have been hot on our heels these past few days, so perhaps Second Master Lu wished to return to Great Zhou more."
Qin Yining shook her head.
"I don't believe he would do such a thing," she refuted in a serious tone. "Please don’t say so, Mister Liao, before we have concrete proof that he ran away. We don’t need to impact the tribe negatively. Furthermore, though our situation is indeed bleak, we can’t blame the second master for wanting to return to his home if that were truly the case. He’s free to choose whether he stays or leaves."
Liao Zhibing's lips twitched. In the end, he didn't continue arguing with Qin Yining, merely asking, "Then what do we do now? According to the alliance head, he's free to leave, so we needn’t concern ourselves with him anymore."
Qin Yining shot Liao Zhibing a severe, commanding look of disapproval. Only after he lowered his head did she continue, "No matter the reason for his departure, we should go after him and clarify things with him. Even if he wishes to return, it’s not like him to leave without saying farewell. We must make certain of his safety."
"Her Highness has a point," Uncle Alham agreed. "The entire tribe sees Her Highness and Second Master Lu as our chiefs. Your wish is our command, Highness."Previous Chapter Next Chapter