Pang Xiao nodded in response, looping an arm around Qin Yining’s shoulders as he raised his head to look at the palace made of mud.
Zhou Meng and some of his officials happened to poke their heads over the walls at the same time to connect with Pang Xiao’s eagle-like stare. Startled, they uniformly whipped their heads back in.
“Bunch of lily-livered rats!” Pang Xiao sneered.
Zhou Meng also felt his instinctive reaction to be rather shameful and immediately plastered a solemn expression onto his face, straightening up to rest a hand on the castle wall. He bellowed, “Who are you to dare rashly intrude on my territory and steal my fiancée?!”
The joy of reuniting with Qin Yining still lingered in Pang Xiao’s heart, but it transmuted completely to rage at Zhou Meng’s words. Who would tolerate having their wife stolen?!
He couldn’t be bothered dignifying that tripe with a response. Instead, he grabbed his bow and shot an arrow at the Xiyue prince.
Great Zhou’s prince was too fast. By the time anyone reacted, all they could hear was the ‘thwick’ of the arrow leaving the bow. Zhou Meng’s face paled as he scrambled to duck and dodge.
The arrow pierced right through the small golden crown on his head, causing him to stumble back and fall to a sitting position on the ground. The sharp arrowhead drilled deep into the earthen wall behind Zhou Meng, nailing him tightly to the spot.
“Your Grace, Your Grace, are you alright?!” His officials were terrified and hastily rushed over to pull out the arrow and help him up.
Zhou Meng’s mind was still spinning. He gingerly felt the top of his head—the crown holding his hair up was completely pierced through, scattering his hair over his shoulders. In fact, much of it had been chopped off from the sharp keenness of the arrowhead; a large chunk of hair came away with his exploratory touch...
If he hadn’t dodged that arrow in time, it probably would’ve gone right through his skull! At the thought of that and the enemy’s savage stare, a tremor ran through Zhou Meng’s body. His legs started to shake and suddenly, he felt a warmth in his trousers—he’d just pissed himself.
Pang Xiao couldn’t be bothered with Zhou Meng anymore. That useless fool didn’t have to die right this second. They could preserve the status quo for a bit longer and prevent the people from rising up in fury.
He lowered his head and couldn’t help himself from kissing Qin Yining again. It didn’t matter that they were in public! “My dear, is there anywhere we can stay for a bit?”
Qin Yining had stopped sobbing, but now suffered a headache from her weeping. Her face flushed at the public display of affection and she coughed to conceal her embarrassment and bashfulness.
“The Minuo tribe I came with have made camp in a remote spot to the southeast. However, the Xiyue prince has deployed soldiers to encircle the area to keep the tribe under control. From what I heard, he sent out roughly four hundred soldiers.”
Pang Xiao tousled her long hair with a smile. “Don’t worry, there’s nothing to be afraid of when the enemy is of this level. It’ll take a hundred of them just to match one of my Elite Tigers. Even if this is a spot of paradise, that also means they’re so completely isolated that they’ve probably never seen outsiders or engaged in actual combat before. Just giving them a fright is enough to scare them off.”
Qin Yining nodded and thought of her people lost somewhere in the crowd. They searched everywhere until they finally located Uncle Alham, Surnaa, and Ulan.
“Your Highness, this is Uncle Alham. He speaks the language of Great Zhou the best out of all the Minuo, and it’s thanks to their care that I am alive today. When I fell delirious from sickness in the desert, they didn’t abandon me and brought me here for treatment.”
Hearing that, the pain in Pang Xiao’s heart only grew greater.
When he next looked at Uncle Alham and the rest, it was with a look brimming with gratitude and appreciation. He patted Qin Yining on the shoulder before jumping off his steed, quickly walking up to Uncle Alham and cupping his hands with a deep bow.
“Uncle Alham, thank you so much for your kindness to my wife!”
The elderly uncle had sighed inwardly when he saw Qin Yining sobbing in Pang Xiao’s embrace. Now that the chief’s husband has come in search of her, Sir Lu has no chance. However, he was also very moved.
He knew a little bit about Pang Xiao’s identity. Before him stood a prince of Great Zhou who’d left behind his riches and glory to head into Tatar territory, who’d braved the dangers of the desert and traversed all of no man’s land to reach the Xiyue oasis—all in search of his wife.
Such courageous deeds left Uncle Alham no choice but to admit this was truly a man worthy of respect.
“Prince of Great Zhou, you are too courteous. The princess consort and Sir Lu helped us kill that she-devil, Anari, and avenge our people. They are our chiefs, and not only did the princess consort show us great grace all this time, she also stood by us with steadfast loyalty. How can the little things we do for our chiefs count for anything in comparison?”
Although the relationship between Tatar and Great Zhou had always been strained, the Minuo had been labelled traitors by Utkin Khan. The Tatars had prosecuted them again and again, leaving them destitute and homeless, yet those of Great Zhou had protected the tribe from harm and even endured hell and high water with them. At this point, Uncle Alham no longer cared about nationality.
Qin Yining also dismounted and wrapped her arm around Cao Yuqing. She smiled at Liao Zhibing, having already grasped everything. “Auntie Cao is so very smart. How did you think of using the tracing bug?”
Cao Yuqing jabbed Qin Yining’s forehead with resignation.
“You mule-headed chit. You don’t listen to anyone when you get stubborn. You were determined to stay, so what could I do? Without any other options available, I talked with Mister Liao, who happened to have placed a tracing bug on Sir Lu before. You would definitely be travelling with him, so after you entered the desert, only Mister Liao could determine where you went.
“At first, I wanted to go back to the capital to ask your father for help. Fortunately, when I neared the Great Zhou border, I ran into the prince and his troop of Elite Tigers on his way to find you. After making preparations, we raced into the desert.”
For those of you interested and understand Chinese, I was recently interviewed on a podcast and talk about translating from the Chinese side!