"No, Brother Lu is the one whom I admire. There are no words that can fully express my gratitude, so I can only say that I will be sure to repay you for this one day!" Eyes brimming with sincerity, Pang Xiao saluted once more.
He and Lu Heng were both smart individuals; they needn't exchange any more words to understand the other’s intentions.
Despite himself, Lu Heng felt genuine awe of Pang Xiao's character. Here was a man capable of rational thought and didn't dismiss everything out of hand simply because of Lu Heng’s feelings for his wife. It was no wonder each and every one of the hundred thousand Valiant Tigers acknowledged him as their commander and followed him out of genuine loyalty, what with his open-mindedness and sincerity!
While the two conversed, Qin Yining went to Uncle Alham to discuss having the tribe draw water so that the Elite Tigers could eat, drink, rest, and wipe themselves clean.
Uncle Alham nodded and quickly delegated tasks to his people; the camp quickly blossomed into a flurry of hectic activity. When everything was ready, the entourage was sent to wash up while the Minuo kept careful watch against the Xiyue.
Pang Xiao excused himself from Lu Heng after a while and went to Qin Yining to help her set up her tent.
When Lu Heng watched the two enter the same tent, he turned around with a quiet sigh and went off to help with the cooking stations.
Someone had placed a large tub of hot water and a big bucket of cold water inside the tent. Setting aside thoughts of everything else, Pang Xiao immediately got to quenching his thirst.
After many deep gulps, he finally tossed the wooden ladle aside and smiled at Qin Yining. "My darling, help me wash my hair. I feel as if my scalp is covered in sand."
Qin Yining nodded and stepped forward with a smile to help take off his coat. "It’s too chilly these days. Just wipe your body clean with water and wash your hair so you don’t catch a cold. You get to washing your hair first, and I’ll......"
Before she could finish, Pang Xiao pulled her into his arms and captured her lips in a kiss. All further words lodged in her throat.
Nimble tongues intertwined and danced with each other, while Qin Yining's hands clutched the front of his robes tightly.
That familiar kiss and that familiar breath—she couldn't hold her tears back. Her head tilted upward as she allowed her tears to flow freely from the corners of her eyes into the hair at her temples and down the sides of her face.
"Don't cry, there now, no more crying." Deep kisses turned into doting pecks. His eyes also red, Pang Xiao kissed away her tears with a precious, reverent air.
"My dearest, this is all my fault. I shouldn’t have let you investigate the treasure's location by yourself… I felt as if the sky had fallen in when you disappeared and wanted to die from regret! I don’t care about silver or power! I only want you by my side. When you were gone, I was so beside myself that I wanted to kill Li Qitian the moment I saw him…”
Qin Yining buried her face into his chest, so choked up that words failed her.
Pang Xiao kissed the top of her head again and again. "Thank goodness you’re still alive, thank goodness you live! I set off with my men and met Captain Cao at the borders. I could’ve flown to the moon when she told me you were still alive!
“Fortunately, the Azure Justice comrade capable of using tracking bugs was with her, so we followed him into the desert. My heart was in my throat the entire way here. I was so terrified and so worried that something would happen to you!
"You weren’t in good health to begin with when I sent you to investigate and take the opportunity to return to the capital. After being kidnapped to Tatar, you wandered around in the wilderness and suffered endless hardships. I worried you would fall ill or that you’d be bullied… My darling, I will never let you go again. Be it in life or in death, we must be together. At least, we must live and die together......."
Pang Xiao held onto her like a drowning man clutching at driftwood as he babbled on and on about the uncertainty and longing he’d felt all this time.
As he did, Qin Yining reached out and held tightly onto his strong, slender waist. She nodded firmly. "It was the same for me, quite the same. I really thought I would never see you again. That Xiyue prince lied and claimed I was the goddess of their sacred writings. According to the legends, the goddess is to become his consort.
"After some observation, I noticed that although the Xiyue oasis is nourished by the inner lake and the soil relatively fertile, the number of plants that grow here is limited. They fled here a century ago, sometime during the rule of Northern Ji. At that time, they didn’t bring enough seeds with them, so their diet consists mainly of beans.
“Therefore, they greatly covet the provisions we have with us. He forced me to marry him, then had his soldiers stationed at the tribe campsite. I only agreed because I was afraid the Minuo would needlessly die because of me." Qin Yining lifted her head to look up at Pang Xiao. "I didn't really wish to marry him. I was going to kill him once he relaxed his guard."
Pang Xiao kissed her eyelids. "You don’t need to explain, I understand everything. He must have had a blade pressed against your neck. If you hadn't agreed, he would've executed both you and the Minuo."
Qin Yining nodded, then pulled Pang Xiao over to the tub to help him wash his hair and wipe off his body.
It was only after he took off his inner garments that she realized how thin he’d become. The sight of his skinny behind and lanky, powerful legs had Qin Yining sniffling hard once again. She wasn’t the only one who’d suffered during this period—not a day had passed in peace for Pang Xiao.
Omg, the feels from this reunion!
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