Qin Yining took the chance to formally introduce Uncle Alham, Harbhara, and Caganbhara to Pang Xiao.
“If it weren’t for Harbhara and Caganbhara helping us hide in the Tartar capital, we probably would’ve been discovered and arrested right at the beginning. I also have the Minuo to thank for sheltering us and giving me the chance to recover. Otherwise, I don’t know if I would’ve been able to press forward to where we find ourselves today.”
A vein in Pang Xiao’s forehead throbbed with rage when he heard Qin Yining recount how Anari wanted her guards to defile her. He ground his teeth painfully. “That bitch deserved her death a thousand times over!”
Lu Heng took up the reins of conversation. “Since Anari fed the Minuo chief and some of their leaders to the wolves at the hunting grounds, Harbhara and Caganbhara vowed that whoever killed Anari would become the new chief. It was sheer coincidence that Her Highness and I happened to be at the right place at the right time.”
Since Uncle Alham understood Lu Heng’s speech, he quietly translated it for the two brothers off to the side. They nodded along and added in Tatar, “That’s right. The chiefs act with great responsibility and take great care of us, so we’re all very grateful.”
Despite the free-flowing conversation, Pang Xiao could tell that Lu Heng was holding something back. He’d wondered from the beginning if there was some other explanation behind Anari’s death anyhow, so didn’t point out anything in front of the tribe.
Instead, he turned to the two brothers and responded in kind. “We’re all comrades and family here, there’s no need to be so polite. Still, I must thank you all for taking care of my wife!”
Qin Yining’s eyes turned round with astonishment when she saw Pang Xiao how fluently spoke Tatar. Delighted by the turn of events, Uncle Alham and the Harbhara brothers chatted up a storm with the Great Zhou prince. They felt that their ethnicity and language were being accorded proper respect with this kind of response.
Qin Yining couldn’t help but shake her head with a sigh. It was clear now that she was the slowest of the bunch. She’d been with the Tatars for such a long time, but had only picked up a few basic phrases for everyday use.
The group relayed everything to Pang Xiao, how they’d waylaid and stolen the supply convoy, how they’d fought off and evaded their pursuers, why they’d entered the no man’s land in the desert, and their current accommodations in the Xiyue oasis. They especially emphasized the local culture and customs, as well as the situation with the Xiyue prince.
Pang Xiao listened attentively before frowning at the last bit.
“The last part is a bit tricky. Although these people aren’t very strong, they’re desperate for provisions. Winning wouldn’t be a problem if we were just fighting the Xiyue soldiers. But if all of the common people charged us, things would be much more difficult. For the time being, we should try to avoid conflict and absolutely refrain from turning the entire Xiyue populace into our enemies.”
“His Highness is right.” Lu Heng nodded in approval. “Though... your group has already disrupted the wedding and even forced the Xiyue prince to take shelter deep within his palace. We’re only safe for now because the people of Xiyue haven’t experienced battle for a very long time. They’re bewildered and caught on the backfoot. When they come to their senses and rally their troops, things will be much more difficult then.”
Pang Xiao nodded, “I was thinking that as well. However, I have an idea that can settle this matter without a single casualty. It’s just… well, a little bit shameless.”
“What idea? Let’s hear it,” Qin Yining asked curiously.
Pang Xiao grinned and lowered his voice, repeating his idea in both the languages of Great Zhou and Tatar. Stifled chuckles echoed around the tent.
Lu Heng smiled broadly. “Such devious tactics befit he-who-makes-all-tremble-at-his-name—the great war god himself! You have my deepest admiration.”
“Brother Lu isn’t making fun of me, are you? There’s nothing honorable about such tactics.” Pang Xiao laughed heartily.
“Although His Highness’ idea is deceitful, it’s one that will result in the least loss to both sides. It’s the most merciful solution, and I think it feasible.”
Pang Xiao smiled and turned to Qin Yining. “My dear, what do you think?”
“I too think it’s feasible.” Qin Yining nodded.
Uncle Alham, Harbhara, and Caganbhara all nodded merrily.
“Alright then. My dearest, please ask Guard Captain Cao for her help. Matters like these are best left to the professionals. We can make the other preparations.” Pang Xiao ended the meeting.
“Alright!” The group split up to get to work.
Soon enough, before true night fell, the Elite Tigers left the campsite to distribute fliers that everyone had hastily scribbled out.
Since those of the Xiyue who could read could understand the characters written on the fliers, general curiosity grew at the sight of black-clothed men popping up to hand them out. As the black-clothed men were congregating in the goddess’ camp and not committing any evils, the people’s courage grew a little greater.
Some of their boldest walked out to mingle with the strangers. When nothing untoward happened, the people further relaxed and turned their attention to the fliers’ contents. Groups of people went visiting house by house to chat about what they’d read.
“Tomorrow at noon, the goddess’ wedding to the Xiyue prince will be held on the platform at the general plaza. After the grand wedding, grain and seeds will be distributed to all of the Xiyue. Everybody is invited to attend and bear witness.”
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