Qin Yining hastily put a slender finger to her lips, signalling for him to hush before continuing in a whisper. “From here on out, you and Lu Heng will work together and think of a way to protect the tribe. Forget about me here.”
“You…” Uncle Alham wasn’t dumb and guessed her intentions with just a glance. He immediately shook his head. “No, no, you can’t do this.”
“We don’t have any other choice right now.” Qin Yining said calmly, “When I do things, I always seek the path with the greatest benefits for the lowest price. Just do as I say and don’t make things difficult for me.”
Seeing the firm, decisive look on Qin Yining’s face, the words that Uncle Alham had prepared to change her mind were suddenly stuck in his throat. He knew her words rang true: there was no better way to resolve the situation at hand. He too couldn’t bear to see the innocent tribespeople lose away their lives because of this.
Uncle Alham shook his head, filled with self-loathing. In the end, he too was selfish. He would rather have Qin Yining, an outsider, sacrifice herself than most of the tribe. The guilt in his heart was like an ever-expanding pool of water, threatening to drown him whole.
Seeing that the elderly man still refused to move, Qin Yining changed tack.
“Didn’t you say before that whoever kills Anari would become the new Minuo chief? Lu Heng and I are your chiefs—are you disobeying your chief’s orders?” This was the first time ever that she’d used her position to demand obedience. But even still, she was doing so to ensure the Minuo’s survival, instead of her own gain.
Tears welled up in Uncle Alham’s eyes as he clenched his teeth with a nod. “Yes, Chief. No matter what happens, we’ll never forget you. You’ll always be our chief.”
Qin Yining smiled when she saw him finally nod. “Alright, remember your words. When you go back, you should also tell Lu Heng what I said.”
After saying that, she called Surnaa and Ulan to help her dress.
The wedding robes prepared were bright-red formal robes of fine cotton. The style didn’t differ too much from Great Yan or Great Zhou, but the embroidery on it was very simple. It looked like something scrounged up at the last minute, as there wasn’t even time to rush a job through. In contrast, the jewelry was pure gold and precious gems. Though the craftsmanship was a little rough, the totem motif added a clear Xiyue touch to it.
Qin Yining coiled her hair into a bun and chose only the golden phoenix pendant to top off her hairstyle. She abstained from the rest, then turned to a small mirror to do her makeup. If nothing unexpected happened, this would possibly be the last time she’d ever work on her appearance in this life. Even if she were to die, she would do so with dignity.
She looked at her blurry reflection in the mirror and realized that she had really lost a lot of weight from her illness. Her eyes looked even bigger than before due to her gaunt appearance, and her complexion was terrible.
She put on makeup, shading in her slender brows and dabbing on a little rouge on her lips before finally making her face a more presentable shade.
Although Surnaa and Ulan didn’t understand what the topic of conversation had been about earlier, the sorrow and decisiveness that revealed itself from time to time in Qin Yining’s eyes as she drew her brows gave them an foreboding feeling. They both felt terrible.
At this time, gates set in the palace’s mud walls slowly creaked open. A group of palace servants walked out, swiftly decorating the palace gates and setting up a platform in the plaza in front of the structure.
Passersby who didn’t understand what was happening approached with curiosity. Servants brimming with excitement answered, “Our prince is about to marry the goddess!”
“Really? Really?!” Joy and delight crossed their faces. The sacred texts of their tribe denoted that a goddess would come bringing large quantities of grain and seeds, and become their princess consort.
That the goddess had agreed to marry their prince meant that he really was Xiyue’s true prince, and that the supplies would be theirs!
The news spread like wildfire. Shortly thereafter, a large and lively crowd assembled in the main plaza.
Back at camp, the Minuo were still surrounded by soldiers. When the surrounding commoners gathered up their friends and left, puzzlement descended upon the tribue.
Lu Heng frowned worriedly, a bad premonition striking him. The Xiyue people were treating something with grave importance and everyone was so delighted that it looked like New Year celebrations had arrived early. That meant something wonderful for them was about to happen.
What did the Xiyue lack here if not for grain and seeds? Were the people happy because they thought they were going to be receiving grain? What would make them think so?
It was hard for Lu Heng not to connect it with the prophecy of Xiyue’s sacred texts. With that thought, all blood suddenly drained from his face.
“Don’t tell me…” Qin Yining’s agreed to marry Zhou Meng?!
Lu Heng swiftly analyzed the current situation and Zhou Meng’s character, instantly guessing that Xiyue prince had used the Minuo to threaten her.
Qin Yining was both intelligent and kindhearted. She would never let others die for her sake. That meant the only outcome was that she had agreed for the tribe’s sake.
Were these people all going to attend the ceremony?
Lu Heng’s head spun with thoughts, already having a handle on the approximate situation. He forced down his fury and worry before turning to face the Xiyue soldiers with a smile. “I see a lot of people are happily going somewhere. Are we celebrating some sort of holiday today?”