After half a month’s worth of preparations, they were ready for departure.
Having successfully learned the tracking bug technique, Caganbhara and Harbhara further decided that they would pass on the techniques to future generations. If they were to continue living in this oasis, the tracking bug was their best way of getting in and out of Xiyue.
At the crack of dawn, Li Ru headed a dozen Xiyue officials, and the brothers led the Minuo to see off Qin Yining and the group at the edge of the oasis.
Uncle Alham stared at Qin Yining and Lu Heng, vision going slightly blurry. “Come back if you run into any trouble out there,” he said with difficulty. “The Minuo tribe will always be your bulwark.”
Harbhara and Caganbhara nodded as well. “You will always be the chiefs of the Minuo!” they proclaimed in the Tatar language.
Pang Xiao translated the brothers’ words to Qin Yining. Looking at the tribe who’d stuck with her through fire and water together, tears welled up in her eyes as well.
“Take care, everyone. Even if we are parted forevermore, it will be as if we are still together if we keep each other in our hearts.” She raised a hand in farewell.
Compressing his lips, Uncle Alham forced his tears not to fall. He pounded his chest and nodded forcefully.
On the other hand, the Xiyue officials didn’t have such a deep bond with them, but after Li Ru and Pang Xiao’s negotiations, they saw Pang Xiao as Xiyue’s greatest hope; therefore, they also gave him and Qin Yining a solemn send-off.
“May His and Her Highness return soon.”
Pang Xiao nodded with a smile and clapped Li Ru on the shoulder. “A successful ruler will never rush to exclude outsiders or exile those of a different ethnicity. Rather, he would seek to strike the most marvelous balance between different parties and ethnicities. Such is the way of checks and balances. You are a smart man, Minister Li, I hope you can remember this prince’s words.”
Instant enlightenment struck Li Ru; he involuntarily looked back at the Minuo tribesmen who were saying their goodbyes to Lu Heng and Qin Yining. His wavering considerations settled down in that moment.
“Rest assured, You Highness, I understand. This land is prone to sandstorms, but it will not split down the middle. What the people of Xiyue need most is not war, but peaceful development. I will not do anything that is detrimental to the people.”
Seeing that Li Ru understood his intentions with just a hint and even promised not to take military action on the Minuo tribe, Pang Xiao laughed and patted him on the shoulder a few times. “Be well.”
“Be well, Your Highnesses.” With Li Ru at the helm, he and the officials bowed once again.
Qin Yining fastened her head scarf securely. Waving at the Minuo tribe, she left Xiyue together with Lu Heng, Cao Yuqing, Liao Zhibing, Pang Xiao, and the Elite Tigers. Gradually, they disappeared into the desert.
Uncle Alham and the others watched until their silhouettes slowly shrank into a small black dot. Only then did they reluctantly turn around and return to camp.
Caganbhara and Harbhara’s eyes were rimmed with red, and Uncle Alham’s nose also twinged. They had been through thick and thin together, after all—the bond between them was far from any normal relationship.
“Alright, we shouldn’t keep feeling sad. Let’s think about how we’re going to use the tracking bugs, find the rest of our people and children, and bring them all here!”
Before them rose an expanse of blue skies and white clouds, the taste of freedom in the air, and a peaceful environment. The Minuo tribe had finally broken free of the Tatar royals, and were no longer to be oppressed and enslaved. Here, they could continue to grow in number and thrive, and the future seemed filled with hope. Cheering up, Harbhara and Caganbhara both smiled contently.
Though Qin Yining, Pang Xiao and company encountered quite a few snags as they left the desert, they were sufficiently prepared and had Liao Zhibing as their guide. Everything went smoothly overall.
Taking the shortest route, they finally made it out of the desert seven days later and arrived in a remote patch of wilderness within Tatar borders.
It was currently midwinter; snow covered the wild terrain and mountains in the distance. The group chose to set up camp in the downwind side of the slopes, whereupon they discussed what to do next.
“I believe,” said Qin Yining, “that we are a few days away from the border between Great Zhou and Tatar if we keep moving forward. When we reach the border, we should separate from Sir Lu. We would become too big of a target if we stay together, so it’s more convenient for Sir Lu’s plans if he sneaks into the country.”
Lu Heng nodded as well. “Indeed.”
Qin Yining then looked at Cao Yuqing with a smile. “Auntie Cao, do you accept what I discussed with you last time?”
The older woman couldn’t help pinching Qin Yining’s cheek. “You imp. Am I unneeded now that you have your husband?”
“How is that even possible?” Qin Yining blushed at Cao Yuqing’s words and coughed before continuing. “Not only is Auntie Cao highly competent, you are also the most adept at disguises, going undercover and more. It would be a walk in the park for you to disguise Sir Lu so that he can enter the country.”
Cao Yuqing put on a resigned air. “Alright, alright. You call me auntie, after all. I accept. Leave the matter of escorting Second Master Lu into the capital to me.”
Laughing, Qin Yining hugged Cao Yuqing’s arm and swung to and fro. “Many thanks to Auntie Cao.”
Cao Yuqing's fondness of Qin Yining was genuine. Chuckling, she gently flicked the girl on the forehead. Meanwhile, Lu Heng stood and saluted gratefully to Cao Yuqing. “Many thanks to Guard Captain Cao.”Previous Chapter Next Chapter
D'aww, I think that's the last of the Tatar arc?