Qin Yining remained as coolly collected as ever, her bright eyes flashing with an icy look and narrowing with displeasure. Sharp as a sword coldly glinting in the desolate light of the moon, onlookers sucked in startled breaths, the hairs on the back of their necks raising.
Zhou Meng was equally shocked, but his heart surged not so much as with fear as with a fierce possessiveness. He’d come to a deep-seated realization the moment he’d laid eyes on this woman that he’d completely squandered his life thus far!
Though he possessed many women, they were all trite trollops who didn't hold a candle to this unyielding camellia of blazing beauty and talent.
Ten thousand of those run-of-the-mill wenches paled in comparison to the one before him. Like a prized possession or a good book, she enticed one to continuously caress and savor her. The more one understood her, the tighter infatuation gripped them. Every encounter left him with a maddening tingle aching for more.
This woman—he was determined to obtain her!
Zhou Meng stood with his hands clasped behind his back, displaying a dominance that he had never shown Qin Yining before. "The banquet will begin shortly. Miss Pang will walk with this prince now."
The surrounding soldiers raised their weapons in silent exhortation, their frosty glint directed at the grim Minuo tribesmen.
Qin Yining didn’t stand down in the slightest, fixing the eyes of a hungry tiger on Zhou Meng. "To see someone invite guests in such a manner is a first for me," she chuckled sardonically.
This prince didn’t seem like he was holding a dinner party in celebration of new life; rather, it appeared as if he were declaring war.
"The prince was speaking pleasantly just this afternoon," Lu Heng chimed in. "Why the sudden change in demeanor? I’d thought the prince to be an enthusiastic and considerate individual whom I sincerely wished to befriend, so I find myself rather disappointed by current circumstances."
Zhou Meng felt quite unsettled by this.
At first, he’d treated Qin Yining with gentle regard because he wished to win the beauty over, and since he’d arranged for her care in the palace, there was no escaping from him.
But look at how things were going now! A few of those foolish harlots had bullied the beauty and she’d taken that as an opportunity to leave the palace. He’d regretted her departure the moment he granted it—what if these people fled in the middle of the night?
If something like that really happened, wouldn’t that mean he’d have lost the provisions and the pretty lady? If that were the case, he might as well have struck first to gain the upper hand. The rest could wait after he had her!
"There’s no need for disappointment. I brought so many men with me so as to not neglect Miss Pang. Even if all of you attend the banquet, my own soldiers will stand guard over your camp, so there’s no need for excessive concern." Zhou Meng's brows scrunched together. "Or might it be that you don’t trust me?"
"Of course not," replied Lu Heng. "If we didn’t trust the prince, we would have taken our leave a long time ago. Why would we have befriended the prince with such sincerity instead?"
Zhou Meng gave a cold laugh—taken their leave? He quite wanted to see if anyone could leave this no-man's land alive! If the Xiyue couldn't escape the vast desert after a century of trying, it was impossible for these people to do that!
Qin Yining studied the prince's expression. Combined with how he had the Minuo surrounded by his soldiers today, she had a good sense of what he was thinking. The situation was developing in a direction she least wished to see, and it was her mistake for provoking this pervert's predatory side.
Seeing Qin Yining's brows slightly knitted together with a worried look in her eyes, Lu Heng was beside himself with anxiety and wished even less for her to attend this red wedding of ulterior motives.
Before he could respond, however, Qin Yining beat him to it. "Didn’t you say there is to be a banquet? Let us go." She called for Uncle Alham, Surnaa, and Ulan. "I am allowed to bring servants and maids with me to the banquet, correct?"
Since he was forcing a young lady at swordpoint to attend a banquet in public view, Zhou Meng felt it would further reflect badly upon him if he didn't even permit her to bring a guard and two maids.
"Naturally, yes," he replied in a magnanimous manner. "There is no request Miss Pang can make that would be inappropriate." The favor in his voice made it seem like Qin Yining was a one-of-a-kind treasure.
Regardless of how the others perceived them, Lu Heng, Uncle Alham and everyone else who understood what Zhou Meng said rolled their eyes in contempt.
Lu Heng helped Qin Yining put on her hat.
"You must be careful," he murmured. Though he dearly wished to accompany her, that would leave the Minuo leaderless like a pile of loose sand without anyone to come up with a plan, should anything happen.
Qin Yining dimpled. "Worry not, things will be fine. I will make ensuring my safety a priority."
"So you say, but who doesn't know how obstinate you are?" Lu Heng sighed. So obstinate that she was willing to throw her life away! She was so unyielding, yet his heart ached for her all the same.
Qin Yining smiled in a comforting manner, then called Uncle Alham, Surnaa and Ulan to walk with her to Zhou Meng.
The Xiyue soldiers surrounding the camp promptly stepped aside, parting for Qin Yining just as the sea once did for Moses.
Zhou Meng's dark eyes looked deeply at Qin Yining, barely able to conceal the anticipation blazing in his eyes. After clearing his throat, he announced in a hoarse voice, "Let us be off."
Qin Yining nodded and followed behind him. After they left, the Xiyue troops reassembled around the tribe instead of standing down.Previous Chapter Next Chapter