By now, Lu Heng was extremely glad that his irksome cousin had inadvertently given him the chance to meet Qin Yining at this stage in life. Although the princess consort didn’t hold romantic affections for him, he had met her at his best and left a good impression in her heart. He was content.
If he hadn’t met Qin Yining in this period of time, or if they’d met when he was a little older, perhaps they wouldn't have developed the mutual trust they now shared. This is what she means by ‘life and death are fated’, isn’t it?
Lu Heng let his imagination run wild just like that, his tired brows knitted tightly together, and managed to slip into a light doze after a long while.
After some time, he suddenly felt like he was embracing an extremely hot brazier. Lu Heng’s eyes snapped open, his tired face unable to hide his anxiety.
Qin Yining was running a high fever that refused to go down.
It wasn’t appropriate for him to wipe down the princess consort in a makeshift bath. He was already crossing the boundaries in taking advantage of her unconsciousness to sleep with her in his embrace. Thus, Lu Heng went out to look for two trustworthy tribeswomen to help wipe her down and reduce her fever.
Qin Yining’s pale face was flushed sickly red from the fever. Her dry lips had split in several places, and a persistent high fever had turned her previously icy-cold body unnaturally hot. As the women wiped her clean, they discovered that she’d gotten so thin that she was incredibly gaunt. In particular, the bones of her wrist were so sharp they looked like they were about to pierce through her skin.
Lu Heng returned after the women were finished with the dry bath and fed Qin Yining some warm water. She subconsciously swallowed a few sips, but when he continued to feed her something else, she refused to open her mouth, as if she had decided to seek death.
Looking at how frail Qin Yining was, Lu Heng couldn’t help but sigh and coax, “Come on, wake up. You must drink some warm water and eat something. Look at you now, you’re so different from when we first met. You’ve become so thin.”
Although he knew that Qin Yining was unconscious and couldn't hear him, he persisted with his gentle persuasion for a long while.
The princess consort alternated madly between freezing cold one moment and burning heat the next, often shoving away her blanket. Right now, it was as if she were in the middle of a raging inferno; large, pea-sized drops of sweat rolled down from her forehead.
Lu Heng hurriedly used his sleeve to wipe the sweat away. As he looked at her sweat drenched hair, sadness suddenly overwhelmed his heart. He’d never been an overly-emotional person; when someone had told him that disaster had befallen the Lu family, he faced the circumstances head-on without fear.
However heartless he might be in other situations, the softest and most vulnerable parts of his heart were reserved for Qin Yining. She was severely ill, but he had no ability to help her at all! He hurt as badly as if someone was twisting a knife in his heart.
If he’d known that something like this would happen, he would’ve found a way to abduct a physician to journey with them when they first entered the desert. If Qin Yining’s cold had been treated appropriately from the beginning, she wouldn't be in such a precarious situation now.
Of course, the princess consort had no idea what the people around her were thinking or doing. All she knew was that she’d plunged into the depths of a pitch-black abyss, that there wasn’t the slightest glimmer of light ahead of her. The bottom of this abyss seemed to be a river of magma, so hot that a single drop would be enough to melt her.
It was so, so hot! Qin Yining whined in distress, then unknowingly fell back into a deep sleep. She didn’t even realize when Lu Heng and the others bundled her up in a blanket and carried her onto a carriage.
Over the next few days, her body grew even frailer and she spent increasingly less amounts of time awake. An ominous feeling in her heart slowly grew as well.
When she next opened her eyes after an indeterminable period of time, she was lying on a wooden cart. Howling wind filled her ears with cries of savagery. Vaguely, she felt someone help her adjust her scarf, a warm hand cover her forehead, and a sigh.
“Don’t be afraid, we’ll walk out of this desert. We have enough rations. You don’t need to be afraid of anything…”
She knew that Lu Heng was comforting her again and was very grateful for the meticulous care that Lu Heng had shown her. “Thank you.”
When Lu Heng saw her move her lips, he moved closer. “Are you awake? Drink something.”
Qin Yining breathed out laboriously, “If I don’t survive, then leave me. Let me go.” After that, she fell back asleep. The last thing that she heard was Lu Heng’s voice, repeating, “Don’t be afraid, I won’t leave you. I won’t leave you…”
After another bout of drifting in and out of sleep to the point where Qin Yining didn’t know whether she would wake again, a small panic stirred in her heart. She still had things to tell Pang Xiao!
When she next opened her eyes, she discovered that she was in a tall mud house. Was she still in the desert? Why would there be such a structure in the desert?
!!! Are we done with desert??