Worried, Harbhara muttered, "What should we do? Clearly, they're forcing Chief Qin to go against her will."
"If we can’t outwit them, all we can do is attack them in a full-frontal assault." replied Lu Heng. "However, she won’t allow that. Just yesterday she said she wouldn’t let anyone lose their lives for no reason."
Harbhara and Caganbhara were deeply moved, but also felt guilty. Having weathered numerous storms together, they trusted each other with their lives. Not only did Qin Yining refuse to abandon them at a critical moment, but she’d even conquered the no-man's land of the desert with them. And now, she was entertaining that old man's empty gestures of goodwill for their sake!
While Lu Heng and the tribe floundered in worries, Qin Yining's horse-drawn carriage was ‘escorted’ to the courtyard outside the palace gates by Zhou Meng's soldiers.
Through the gaps between the curtains, she was surprised to see a sizable crowd of Xiyue citizens gathered in the yard. People both young and old chattered enthusiastically amongst themselves and strained their necks to peek at the approaching line of soldiers.
"Long live the prince! Long live the prince!" Upon seeing Zhou Meng atop his horse, everyone knelt in a gesture of greeting.
Zhou Meng was deeply pleased; as the supreme lord of Xiyue, there was nothing that could escape his grasp. Whatever he wanted, he would get. Brimming with confidence, he looked at the carriage carrying the goddess.
They slowed to a stop once the carriage arrived at the gates. Surnaa and Ulan stepped forth to help Qin Yining alight while Uncle Alham stood by with a somber look.
As soon as she stepped off from the vehicle, Zhou Meng swiftly dismounted and strode commandingly toward her. To the citizens gathered behind him, he announced, "This is the goddess of our Xiyue legends, the goddess who shall bring us supplies and hope!"
Though night had fallen, the courtyard was lit as bright as day. The people were greeted with the sight of a slim yet curvaceous lady cloaked in red. Though half of her face was under her hood, there was no concealing the refined aura emanating from her being.
They were already aware that the goddess had come to Xiyue bearing provisions. Hearing their prince announce her arrival thusly, the gathered citizens’ only reaction was to cheer with delight.
"Long live the goddess! Long live the goddess!"
Their cheers roared as loudly as the sea, resounding with an intensity that surpassed even their greeting to Zhou Meng. It was clear how highly revered the goddess of the Xiyue legends was by the people, as well as how much they desired the provisions.
Even Uncle Alham's brow broke out in a cold sweat at such a reception, while Surnaa and Ulan's faces went white from shock. After a moment of hesitation, Qin Yining removed her hood from her head.
Back in Great Yan, she had once declined to become a part of Yuchi Yan's imperial harem. Having thus incurred his wrath, he bestowed upon her the title of Spiritual Master Xuan Su and assigned her to a royal estate, along with a hundred other actual nuns.
She’d also once become the ‘holy girl who safeguarded the country’s fortunes’ to escape the oppression of the trash emperor and trampress, a title which then inspired the suffering citizens of Great Yan to flood into the estate for aid and succor. That scene had been considerably bigger than the one now before her.
Thus, Qin Yining wasn’t intimidated in the slightest. She adopted a certain aura of mystery and nobility; even the way she walked and held herself was different from usual.
She tilted her chin slightly upwards and addressed the crowd in an aloof, yet gentle manner. "This goddess wishes the people of Xiyue prosperity and peace. May the lands of Xiyue be plagued by famine no longer!"
Upon freezing from the shock of a direct address, the crowd immediately dropped to their knees and frantically cheered wildly. "Long live the goddess! Long live Xiyue! Long live the prince!"
Uncle Alham, Surnaa and Ulan found themselves utterly dumbstruck by the sudden shift in her bearing.
Zhou Meng stared at her silhouette from behind, mixed emotions he couldn't quite put into words stirring inside. Perhaps her beauty had blinded him into only seeing her as a beautiful face to possess. Now seeing her address such a large crowd without any fear or weakness and putting forth the due bearing of a goddess, winning over the people with a single concise statement… well, it left a very sour aftertaste in his mouth.
He was the true master of this land, but it seemed as if the people revered the goddess even more than they honored him!
Pursing his lips, Zhou Meng called Qin Yining away and led them all to the main hall. As they moved away, the crashing waves of the citizens' cheers continued.
Inside the main hall was a long table with seat cushions and smaller tables on either side. Dozens of court officials and their families were already kneeling beside the table to greet the prince.
Qin Yining was seated right next to the prince, while Uncle Alham and her two maids stood behind her. The final thing she noticed was that Zhou Meng had more than twenty guards subtly encircle half of the room, surrounding her and Zhou Meng.
The banquet began in the midst of court officials curiously sizing her up. Though it was supposedly a party, Xiyue admittedly didn’t have much to offer in terms of cuisine as they didn’t grow a wide variety of food here. Qin Yining took only a few cursory bites and thrice declined a toast from Zhou Meng.
"I have received the prince's good intentions, but am truly unwell. What’s more, I cannot hold my liquor."Previous Chapter Next Chapter