"In other words, not only does that prince want to acquire the Minuo, he also wants to take our provisions without lifting a finger." What Lu Heng left unsaid was that Xiyue’s prince also wanted Qin Yining for himself!
He ground his teeth whenever he thought of how perversely Zhou Meng leered at Qin Yining everytime he laid eyes upon her. It was normal for one to sneak an extra glance or two at Qin Yining, considering her beauty, but Zhou Meng supposedly already had four consorts, more than thirty concubines, and a dozen sons. How dare someone of his age set his sights on such a young lady; the integrity of his character was questionable indeed!
"What do you plan to do? We should come up with a plan for all of us to stay together. I worry for your safety." Lu Heng's eyes were filled with concern.
Qin Yining's teeth also ached at the thought of Zhou Meng’s behavior.
"I will think of a way for everyone to stay." She pointed at the gathered individuals one by one. "You are my older cousin, the three of you are my bodyguards, and the two of you are my maids. He only let me see you because I told him that."
Uncle Alham laughed at that. "The one who summoned us said the same. We guessed that was what you told them, so we didn't correct them. They can't understand our language, anyway."
Qin Yining's spirits rose at this. "All the better, then. That will make it a little easier for you to communicate among yourselves. Have they restricted your movements these past few days?"
"Either because they want to show courtesy to those they deem beneath them, or because we’re guarding the supplies, but they have treated us with much respect. Many of their girls deliver water and food to our warriors and intentionally stay behind to strike up conversation, so that they can take a look at the provisions before leaving."
In that case, the Xiyue tribe's intentions were as clear as day.
They were evidently acting on their prince’s orders. If not, Zhou Meng must have already ordered his underlings to spread the word that he was about to take a goddess as a wife. Only these two possibilities would result in his subjects acting like this.
Qin Yining nodded. "I understand. I may have to circle around with him for a while. Once we figure out a clear escape path, we will adjust our plans accordingly."
With that, Lu Heng translated Qin Yining's words to the gathered people behind them. They all nodded to indicate that they understood.
"Let us first integrate ourselves into their daily lives and obtain a firm understanding of the terrain.” Qin Yining then lowered her voice to speak with Lu Heng. “We must also formulate a clear plan for when we decide to leave and not act blindly. It won’t be worth throwing innocent lives away.
“The way things are now, these people recognize us as those who have also escaped into the oasis. Though they throw the word ‘goddess’ around, I doubt their prince believes the words of their sacred texts that are meant to soothe the people. It’s more likely that they want to blackmail us. Let us first observe them and play things by ear as we go."
Lu Heng nodded, a note of resignation in his voice as he remarked, "We’re out of the wolf's den and into the tiger's mouth. It’s been no easy feat avoiding danger in the desert, yet we just had to encounter these people."
Qin Yining, however, laughed confidently. "This is nothing. As long as we are still alive, there is hope. We lack not for food or water now, and don’t have to worry about being buried alive after a sandstorm. It’s just a battle of wits, something you and I are old hands at. What is there to be afraid of?”
Having just recovered from illness, her voice still seemed slightly feeble as she spoke, as if she was out of breath. Her face wasn’t as full of vitality as it’d been when they’d first met—she was too thin. Sunken cheeks and a sickly pale face only as wide as a palm imparted one with a feeling of frailness. However, her eyes were the same as ever: bright, lively, and full of confidence.
This person seemed to glow from within with her own light, her radiance filling those who laid their eyes on her with hope for the future.
"As you say. When it comes to battles of the wit, we need only to keep calm and think things through." Lu Heng couldn't help smiling.
Qin Yining dimpled as well and nodded. She patted Lu Heng on the shoulder. "Many thanks."
All this time, she’d wished to thank Lu Heng for saving her life, keeping her company and never giving up on her, not even when she fell ill.
Instantly understanding Qin Yining's intentions, Lu Heng couldn't help a smile. "What are you thanking me for? When I fell ill, not only did you not abandon me, you took care of me in every possible way. When I was kidnapped, I heard from Uncle Alham that I was rescued because you insisted on tracking me down. It is I who should thank you. However, there’s no point in us constantly thanking one another. We are partners, and the Minuo is our family. What is the point in such words of gratitude?"
Uncle Alham nodded his head furiously as he listened from the sidelines. "Yes. We're a family, so no need for thanks."
Qin Yining's brows and eyes curved with mirth. She nodded. "Very well, then we shall speak no more of such things. There is no need for formalities between partners."
Lu Heng also nodded with a smile. Mentally, he took great pride in his contentment.Previous Chapter Next Chapter