Qin Yining nodded. She felt especially thankful toward Liao Zhibing and even more guilty about how Madame Liao had been abandoned by Siqin in the desert.
“Mister Liao, thank you.” She solemnly offered her appreciation to Liao Zhibing.
Liao Zhibing hurriedly shifted to the side, avoiding her curtsey. “Alliance Head, there’s no need to be so polite.”
Uncle Alham was a forthright man and Pang Xiao used to army culture, so it was easy for the two to form a connection. By now, they held a mutual admiration for each other.
“Come on, let’s go storm the camp.” Uncle Alham changed the topic.
Pang Xiao nodded with a smile. “A wonderful idea! Journeying through the desert has been a great warmup to loosen our muscles, so it’s the perfect time to get some exercise!”
“Yes, sir!” The Elite Tigers’ imposing manner astonished and awed as their shouts threatened to shake the heavens.
Pang Xiao jumped back on his horse and reached out to Qin Yining with a smile; she dimpled in response and placed her hand in his without hesitation. A quick tug from the prince helped her up and into a side-saddle position in front of him.
The group sped southwest, kicking up clouds of dust in their wake. Hiding in their houses, the Xiyue shook and trembled, occasionally venturing a glance through windows or doors to peek at the group of black-clothed people on horseback. Every single one of these strangers was plainly very fierce and strong, so none of the people dared to venture out at all.
In the Minuo camp, Lu Heng’s face was as white as a sheet of paper. He stood by a carriage with a cotton overcoat draped over his shoulders. He’d already given secret orders to Caganbhara and Harbhara that the tribe must be prepared to fight.
For some reason, the commoners who’d headed off the plaza to celebrate the wedding had come streaming back, fearfully shutting their doors tight in a panic. They were clearly terrified out of their minds.
Lu Heng could only guess that something momentous must’ve happened.
The general of the troops surrounding the Minuo wore a solemn look on his face, keeping a tight watch on the camp. However, his soldiers were all youths born and raised in Xiyue. They had no idea what the current situation was and if their family was safe. Heads constantly swivelled in the direction of the palace, hoping to glimpse anything to clarify the situation.
The surrounded Minuo bristled with menacing intimidation, whereas the soldiers surrounding them looked much more like ants on a hot plate. Suddenly, everyone heard the din of hoofsteps drawing closer and closer, evidently approaching at great speeds.
The din startled the general, who hastily ordered everybody on alert. Lu Heng also frowned, looking off into the distance.
A group of black clad men on horseback came into view, storming toward the Minuo camp like brewing thunderclouds. The cold sheen of their weapons glinting in the sun made for a terrifying sight.
When the newcomers drew close enough to reveal that their leader was Pang Xiao, and that Qin Yining was tucked away in his embrace, Lu Heng broke into a broad smile.
“Wonderful, simply wonderful!” He turned back and called out in Tatar, “Be ready to fight. The group in black is our allies!”
Caganbhara and Harbhara sprang into action, immediately leading the tribe toward the Xiyue soldiers.
Pang Xiao led his men in a charge and shouted loudly, “Your prince has fled and abandoned you! You should look out for yourselves and go home to see if your family is well! Don’t throw away your lives for a coward!”
When Lu Heng heard the prince’s words, he immediately changed tactics. “Don’t kill anyone, just scare them off!”
“Understood!” Loud cries soared up to the heavens.
The two sides met in battle with the Elite Tigers and Minuo executing a perfect pincer movement. Though the Elite Tigers were dusty and weary, they were all cream of the crop—elites who’d undergone stringent training. In optimal condition, each of them could best a hundred enemies. Although they had orders not to kill, the strength behind just simple punches and kicks was still terrifying.
The Minuo had both numbers and teamwork on their side. Morale ran high at the sight of reinforcements, and they answered in kind.
On the contrary, while the born and bred Xiyue soldiers were young, they were frogs at the bottom of a well. Setting aside their poor martial art skills, they’d never even seen true battle before. Their minds were a morass of fear and panic, and they had no idea what they should do.
The battle was completely one sided. The Xiyue soldiers quickly fled in disarray, leaving behind a whimpering few on the ground that’d suffered more serious injuries. Pang Xiao ignored them, leading the Elite Tigers to camp before they neatly dismounted together.
Uncle Alham, Surnaa, and Ulan ran forward, happily reuniting with their people. Qin Yining walked over to Lu Heng, her happiness clear to all within the curves of her eyes and crinkle of the brows. “Is everyone alright?”
Lu Heng’s heart stung with bittersweet emotion, making it difficult to speak. He was very glad that Qin Yining didn’t have to marry trash like Zhou Meng, but he also couldn’t help but feel a little forlorn at seeing her returned to Pang Xiao’s embrace.