The tension in the air was so thick that one could cut it with a knife. Qin Yining couldn’t help a frown. It would seem that Zhou Meng was well and truly stirred up this time.
If she tried to oppose him now, they would immediately break out into open hostilities. Disregarding how their chances of success weren’t nonexistent with Lu Heng leading a stubborn defense, what if the common people of Xiyue suddenly decided to make a move on the supplies? What then?
If that happened, they wouldn’t just be facing a thousand soldiers, but the entire insatiable Xiyue tribe. The consequences would be unthinkable. Furthermore, it was impossible for Uncle Alham to protect all four of them here into a safe retreat.
If she resisted, regardless of how Lu Heng’s side fared, the small group here tonight would be in dire straits. At the same time, it would lead to a massacre and a raid on the Minuo.
If she agreed, no matter how she truly felt, at least the innocent Minuo would be safe.
At this point, Qin Yining was ready to make her decision. She could see that Zhou Meng wanted her more than the supplies. Could she really throw away the tribe’s lives for herself?
She shut her eyes. When she opened them again, they were filled with resolve and determination.
“I understand Your Grace’s intentions. However, marriage is a momentous event and Your Grace forcing me to make a decision now is simply too much. You must give me some time to think it over.”
“What’s there to think over? This prince is the best candidate.” Jubilation seized Zhou Meng’s heart. Qin Yining’s response meant she had already come to terms with the situation! But when he saw the beauty’s brows knit, a sliver of pity for the fairer sex finally crept into his heart.
“Alright, alright, this prince won’t force you to agree immediately. However, you’d better not spend years thinking it over. I won’t wait that long. How about this: I’ll disband the imperial harem and make you my only consort. In return, you will give me a reply tomorrow morning. If you still haven’t thought it over by then, then I’ll order an attack on your tribe. You don’t want your people to die because of you, right?”
Qin Yining faced Zhou Meng with a slight smile, but a cold, mocking look was in her eyes. “Be at ease, Your Grace.” This prince really deserves to die!
The farce of a banquet had been tidied away at some point. Zhou Meng swept out of the room with swaggering grace, taking his guards with him and leaving Qin Yining’s group of four alone in the grand hall.
Qin Yining remained where she was, her mind spinning as she analyzed the situation. She wanted to take advantage of this time to figure out a feasible solution, but even as she turned over everything in her brains until dawn, she still couldn’t think of a better countermeasure apart from agreeing to Zhou Meng’s demands.
Thus, the only possible way forward was to agree. However, how could she ever marry another man?
She stood up and stretched her limbs, stiff and tired after sitting all night. Behind her, Uncle Alham asked anxiously, “How about we run away? I’ll make sure you can escape safely!”
She shook her head, “I can’t flee and drag the innocent tribespeople into this. Besides, it’s not really all that bad marrying this prince.”
“Absolutely not! Just look at how calculating and brutal he is, he’s not a good man at all!” After so much time together, Uncle Alham had truly accepted Qin Yining as his chief and even more so, his own family. How could he possibly watch such a delicate girl be married to somebody as vile as Zhou Meng?
“Uncle Alham. We have no choice right now. If hostilities break out, the Minuo will absolutely suffer the worst of it. Think of how difficult it was for us to get here and how much energy it took to preserve the tribe. We can’t let it all go to waste.”
“I’ll be fine.” Qin Yining gave a slight smile, “Doesn’t he want to marry me? Then he can marry me.”
In any case, she’d already decided she wouldn’t yield to another man. If worst came to worst, she’d just go down with Zhou Meng! Even if she died, the Minuo would still continue to prosper in Xiyue territory. She wouldn’t have let them down.
Qin Yining was resolved to die.
In fact, she’d been prepared to risk her life long ago. She’d given up struggling against life the very moment they entered the no man’s land. Since then, she considered every day alive to be another day cheated from fate.
Although she could never see Pang Xiao, her parents, or her family ever again, Pang Xiao would surely take care of her parents even if she passed away. Furthermore, he was still young. Surely, with sufficient time, he would slowly forget about her. Perhaps in the future, he would come across a good girl and they could live together, birth and rear children...
When she thought of this, her nose twinged and eyes stung, tears rushing to the fore. She bit firmly down on her lip and screwed her eyes shut, struggling to hold back the floodwaters.
No one had forced her to do anything in all of the events preceding this. Her own decisions had led her to this point. She didn't blame anyone else for her circumstances, nor did she regret anything. Being Pang Xiao’s wife brought her great happiness, even if only just for a little while. Her life hadn’t passed by ordinarily and she’d lived it with purpose. From start to finish, she had never betrayed her own conscience.
Uncle Alham stood behind Qin Yining, watching her put up a brave front. His hands were clenched with enough force to crush bone. No one present was an idiot. They all understood that right now, in the current situation, Qin Yining marrying Zhou Meng was indeed the best choice. But how could he simply watch such a heroic girl sacrifice her life for the Minuo? How could he remain unmoved?
“If I’d known this would happen, I would’ve forced your aunt to take you away.” Uncle Alham thought of Cao Yuqing, possessing beauty was on par with Qin Yining and also incredible martial arts skills. He sighed, “Why did we just listen to you?!”
Qin Yining had made up her mind. She wouldn’t waver no matter how much pain and anguish wracked her heart, and would regret her actions even less so.
She realized how Uncle Alham was blaming himself and tried to console him. “Uncle, don’t think too much. Everything I did was after careful thought and planning. I choose to do this, it doesn’t have anything to do with anyone else.”
Uncle Alham’s lips pursed tightly. The calmer Qin Yining acted, the more his heart hurt.
A creak sounded at this time as the large wooden doors to the hall were pushed open. Zhou Meng led his group in, lifting his chin up arrogantly. “So, have you finished your thinking?”
Qin Yining nodded with a smile. “I agree, but Your Grace must promise me an official, legitimate wedding and a guarantee that my people will have equal status with the Xiyue in the future. They can’t be discriminated against. Furthermore, my tribe should have their own chief and listen to his orders, just as before. My people will not surrender and pledge fealty to Xiyue. We are just friendly, neighboring tribes.”
Uncle Alham’s eyes rimmed with red, struggling to hold back his tears as he listened to how Qin Yining continued to fight for the Minuo’s best interests even now.
Zhou Meng frowned and contemplated briefly before smiling, seeming to have figured something out.
“Alright, I do promise you. Then we’ll hold our wedding this afternoon and I’ll publicly declare our agreement then. After our bridal night, your people may live according to your demands.”
Qin Yining had a slight smile as she nodded, but her eyes were cold as ice. Zhou Meng couldn’t be permitted to live. She believed that with Lu Heng’s strength, as long as the man in front of her died, he would be able to lead the Minuo to wrest control of this area!
Hope 2021 is already treating everyone much better!