Qin Yining and her companions wrapped up discussions of their planned route within forty-five minutes. By then, the tribesmen were also ready to go.
As they knew that their pursuers had already locked onto their position, everyone was exceedingly quiet and orderly as they followed the crowd and advanced west in the wind and snow.
As expected, a troop of almost a thousand soldiers quickly reached the spot where the Minuo had camped. The cavalry hauled back on their reins and bade their horses circle around the campground. Jumping off his horse, the leading general squatted down to inspect a spot where a campfire had burned. It was now covered with a thin layer of snow.
“What a bunch of devious scum!” He smashed a furious fist into the ground.
They were only a step too late. If they’d arrived just a little earlier, would these elite soldiers have failed to retrieve the provisions? Their opponents would surely fall in close combat!
With how furious the khan was and how anxiously their superiors were pressing for results, if they couldn’t retrieve the grain, none of them would have an easy time of it once the khan lost his temper!
“General, what should we do now? This snowstorm really has bad timing. Now that they’ve had some time for the snow to cover up their tracks, I’m afraid it won’t be easy if we want to continue the chase.”
“We have to even if it isn’t easy! I don’t believe that their plodding wagons can outpace our galloping horses! Everyone, look sharp! We must complete this task perfectly, or nobody will like the consequences!”
That single statement made everybody’s blood run cold. Even if the khan were an eminently wise and reasonable person, they would truly be useless if they couldn’t complete a single one of the tasks assigned. Even worse, what they’d lost this time were the army provisions crucial for war.
The troops carefully inspected the tracks left behind on the snowy ground, trying to close the distance between them and the Minuo. At the same time, Qin Yining and her companions had also received the news brought back by the scouts.
“Did you say that there’s already a troop of almost a thousand calvary on our tail?” Lu Heng asked gravely in the Tartar language.
The scout replied, “Yes, I couldn’t have seen wrongly. Every one of them were mounted, and they’re obviously different from the small teams that we had encountered before. Chief, what should we do now?”
In the hearts of the tribesmen, Qin Yining and Lu Heng were their chiefs. Because Lu Heng had been unconscious in the desert, they’d depended wholly on Qin Yining’s directions to endure the hardships until they found their way out. Thus, the tribesmen trusted and held Qin Yining in higher esteem than Lu Heng.
The scout looked expectantly towards Qin Yining as he asked this question, but Qin Yining had no idea what he was saying. Lu Heng translated what the scout had said and added, “What should we do now that the situation is so tense? Should we meet them head-on or continue fleeing?”
Qin Yining’s brows scrunched together into a knot with worry as she worried a hole into her lips with her pearly-white teeth.
“The situation is dire,” she replied seriously, “Our opponents are a troop of mounted cavalry. Even though we also have horses, we are carrying many supplies and there aren’t enough horses for every one of us. If we just run away mindlessly, I’m afraid that they’ll catch up with us before long.”
How could Lu Heng not know how serious their situation was? But the Minuo were an extremely close-knit group. After travelling through the desert together, they were connected not merely by history and blood-ties, but also the fervent camaraderie. By now, it was impossible for them to leave behind any of their group. Similarly, it was impossible to make some of them ride ahead on their horses.
“About the military provisions, do you think we should…”
“... give up on the provisions?”
“That’s right. If we weren’t carrying the supplies, perhaps the troops wouldn’t follow us so closely and refuse to let our tribesmen go,” Lu Heng muttered, “I wager that the troops’ mission isn’t truly to force us into a dead end, but more importantly, to recover the military provisions.”
Qin Yining pondered over his words. “I beg to differ.”
“Oh? What say you, then?” Lu Heng asked.
Qin Yining said slowly, “Having lost their provisions, it is unlikely that Siqin will refrain from persecuting the culprits even if he manages to recover them.”
Enlightenment struck Lu Heng and he acquiesced lowly, “I understand.”
In their current situation, if they discarded the provisions and ran off without them, their pursuers would treat it as merely recovering their own lost goods. Ultimately, Siqin would still want to capture them for persecution.
Regardless of whether Siqin’s true priority was the provisions or persecuting them, his subordinate troops wouldn’t know the khan’s intentions; they would be concerned only about completing their task perfectly and without fault.Previous Chapter Next Chapter