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Qin Feng was, of course, oblivious to the fact that Lady Xie had returned to the Marquis’ camp. Nor did he know that he was the focus of their little discussion. Honestly, he was more concerned about the Barbarians that he had just come across.
And what that meant for the Third Army.
Which was why he had dashed all the way back to the Marquis’ camp instead, rather than continue with the Trial that he had been given.
The sentries at the gatehouse were surprised to see him. But it was Lei Kongwei who was truly startled when he insisted on meeting the sergeant at once. Or rather, it was his sudden presentation of two Barbarian war-axes that shook the sergeant’s calm demeanor.
“There are Barbarians in the forest, and they are closer than you might think. And the ones that I had come across had already slaughtered one of your patrols,” Qin Feng told the man flatly, when he saw that he got the sergeant’s undivided attention.
“You had best bring this to your superior’s attention. Hopefully, he can get word of this to the Marquis. Or one of his generals. You do not have much time.”
Lei Kongwei nodded gravely back at him, as he picked up one of the axes in his hand. “I’ll need one of these, to show the general. And he’ll probably call for you, once he is done shouting in horror.”
Qin Feng chuckled at that, and shook his head. “No, take them both. I have more of such things on me too, if they ask.
“And I’ll go see if I can get a meeting with the Second Ducal Prince. If he believes me, it would be easier to bring this to the attention of the Marquis. And I have a feeling that he will be more than interested to learn about this,” he growled.
“The Second Ducal Prince?”
Qin Feng shrugged at the question and gestured at the axe in Lei Kongwei’s hand. “He is the one who recommended me to this post, so it is only fair for me to warn him that I have … come across something like this. Besides, he has the Marquis’ ear, so he would definitely pave the way for me to tell the whole story, without any interruptions from the generals and such.”
“No need. One of them should be enough. And I doubt that any of the … officers, including the general, would try to stop you, once this reaches … If the Marquis hears of it from his nephew.”
“That may be so. But I think I owe Li Changhai a word in advance. There is something unusual about this, and I think it may reach further than just Changqing City.”
That was the impression that he had, from the fact that two disciples from the Snow Swallow Palace, far in the North, had shown up at the site of the battle. And that they were watching the Barbarians more closely than anyone was aware of. That was certainly something that no one was expecting, surely?
“Then I shall alert … my superiors, while you go warn the Second Ducal Prince. I believe he is resting in his tent. That’s the one next to the general’s, in case you are unaware. There are two guards outside of it though, so you may wish to … approach it with caution.”
Lei Kongwei did not dally, and rushed off at once. No doubt to report to the general. What Ling Yongjian made of the news, Qin Feng could begin to wonder. From what he had heard of the fellow, he did not doubt that there would be a few broken desks and smashed cups and flagons, when he got word that the Barbarians were killing Third Army patrols.
Still that had nothing to do with him, he reminded himself, as he picked up the remaining axe and stored it in his new ring once again. It would draw too much attention, if he walked about the camp carrying that!
But Lei Kongwei appeared again, before he could reach the Second Ducal Prince’s tent. The sergeant seemed a little more subdued, however, when he approached Qin Feng. Had General Ling given him a hard time?
“The Second Ducal Prince is with the Marquis in his Command Tent, together with Lady Xie. They have asked that you join them there, and brief them on … your recent experiences.”
The man’s words were a little obtuse. But Qin Feng remembered they were still in the camp, and that there a great many soldiers walking about. And thought that it was deliberate such that word of the Barbarians’ early attack would not spread.
So he followed after the sergeant, and quickly reached the said Command Tent.
Nor did the Marquis waste any time at all, stopping him before he could pay his respects.
“The Barbarians are already in the Forest? Sergeant Lei claims that the axe came from your hand, and that you have other evidence? But we … our scouts have had no sign of them! How can this be?”
Qin Feng made a show of sighing and quickly drew the dead bodies out from his new spatial ring. Including the scarred and battered heads of the soldiers from the Third Army that he had managed to recover.
That was enough to make everyone in the tent cry out in surprise.
Well, almost everyone.
Lady Xie was the only one who remained calm. And her eyebrow seemed to twitch at the sight of these big strong men who were jumping about in panic. Including her own son and maternal grandson! Which was enough to make Qin Feng look up to her at once. She was far more steady than any of the tales had made her out to be!
“Enough! Aren’t you afraid of disgracing yourselves? And the reputation of the Marquis’ Army? I should have my son throw you lot back into Basic Training! You can’t even keep your head at the sight of a few dead bodies!”
Then she seemed to dampen the fire in her eyes, as she turned to face Qin Feng.
“Where did you find these Barbarians? And the dead scouts? Can you show us? On the map?” she asked in a quieter, calmer voice.
“It would be my pleasure, my lady,” he replied at once, as he drew his own rough map out from his purse. He had not kept it in his ring along with the bodies since he still had to refer to it from time to time, on his way back.
Not that he was about to admit that, in present company!
But the marks on it were drawn by the two young ladies rather than himself, so he was more than confident that they were correct. At least, he hoped so!
* * *
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