Chapter 104: Little White Rabbit
Qin Yining walked slowly into the house. She passed through the openwork screen to see Yao Zhixi sprawled lazily on the luohan bed by the window, seemingly absorbed in his book. Sunlight filtered through the papered windows behind him, outlining his tall figure with a faint, golden halo. Celestial radiance scattered across his inky black hair and the black fur collar of his cape, softening his sharply delineated, strong features with a hint of tenderness.
Put together, the scene in front of her imparted a sense of serenity that she’d never felt before. Qin Yining couldn’t help but smile, the sentiment coloring her tone as well.
Pang Xiao’s lips unconsciously curled upwards when he heard her voice, but he resolutely maintained his casual pose. He didn’t lift his head, responding in a drawl. “What a rare visitor. I’d thought you’d forgotten me.”
Those words fairly dripped with sourness.
“I’ve been keeping tabs on your injury,” Qin Yining answered apologetically. “But things have been busy at home and I haven’t had time to stop by. However, Bingtang updates me on your situation everyday. I’ve been very much at ease knowing that you’re improving.”
"You speak pretty words.” Pang Xiao snorted and lifted his head to look sideways at her. His legs folded together until he was facing her, now sitting cross-legged. When he lifted his chin and continued to train his gaze on Qin Yining, there seemed to be a light in his eyes. This was when she finally noticed that his lashes were very long, and the edges of his brows and eyes quite handsome.
Bizarrely, this reminded her of the handsome alpha horse of the wild horse herd that’d once saved her. They were both so handsome and had prickly personalities. The horse had an explosive nature and would rather die than let anyone ride it. She’d originally had kept it company out of gratitude for her rescue. She had cut grass and bathed it every chance I could. After a while, the horse had actually let her climb on for a ride! So I guess when faced with this kind of temper, whether it’s a wild horse or a wild Sir Yao, I can only stroke their fur to get on their good side?
Qin Yining’s smile grew even warmer as she curtsied sincerely. “The fault is mine for not visiting you these days. There really have been things happening at home…” She thought for a bit. “You know of my situation, and Elder Statesman Cao’s firstborn daughter has become my father’s concubine. The winds of change blow too often these days, and my mother doesn’t have the old dowager’s love. Life has been a bit difficult the past two days, so I was a bit too preoccupied too. You are magnanimous, Sir Yao. Don’t fault me any longer.”
Her willingness to speak of matters at home with him meant that she was no longer treating him as an outsider. Although Pang Xiao had ways a-plenty to find out what was going on in the Qin Manor, it made him very happy to learn this all from Qin Yining, even if she’d glossed over the details. He snorted again, but the beginnings of a smile played around the corners of his eyes. He lifted his chin proudly.
“Ah fine. I’ll graciously let you off the hook for now since you’re apologizing so genuinely.”
“Many thanks.” Qin Yining grinned back at him.
“What are you smiling for? What an ugly sight.” Pang Xiao felt his back and even his brain tingle with happy numbness from the smile. His neck and ears flushed a deep red as he forcefully jerked his eyes away with a cold expression. “It hasn’t been long since you said you’d be responsible and take care of me for the rest of my life. You even called me ‘dada’, but then you went and just ignored me. I really did think you were an ingrate and didn’t plan on repaying this debt!”
Qin Yining’s face burst into flames. ‘Dada’ was what lovers and couples used in private as a nickname for the man in the relationship. She’d occasionally heard the term in the markets, so when he’d tricked her into calling him ‘Yao Dada’ last time, she’d immediately realized that he was teasing her. When she remembered all of his frivolity, it took Qin Yining enormous strength to avoid erasing her savior’s annoying presence from the world with a couple of smacks.
Huzi’d had enough of teasing Bingtang by now and merrily came over with a cup of tea. “Please have some tea, Fourth Miss.”
Qin Yining chose a thickly padded, circular seat off to the side and sipped at her tea with a lowered head, resolutely ignoring her savior. Since she wasn’t looking at him, Pang Xiao propped his chin up and openly admired the beauty in front of him.
She was still stunning even after so many days of not seeing her. She’d chosen to dress plainly, without powder or gold and jade ornaments, seeming as pure as a spring. Her silent sipping of tea was a beautiful sight, almost straight out of a painting, but she also seemed like a docile little bunny, leaving one feeling the desire to to feed her with carrots and vegetables.
Pang Xiao naturally knew of Qin Yining’s wit and abilities, but to him, those methods seemed as terrifying as an angry bunny scratching its enemies, almost completely harmless. How odd. When he’d seen little rabbits before, all he’d thought about was whether he should roast them or braise them. But now he wanted to keep one as a pet! He wanted to hug it and tug on its ears, or firmly squeeze its furry roundness.
His eyes rested on Qin Yining’s slightly skinny and diminutive form. Tsk tsk. This bunny is too young. I need to feed it more carrots.
“Sir Yao!” Qin Yining was very uncomfortable from the close scrutiny and finally put down her teacup to glare at him with unconcealed anger. But, she really was very beautiful and not truly angry. Therefore, she didn’t come off as threatening at all.
“Alright, alright, I won’t tease you anymore.” Pang Xiao burst out laughing at this cute and fuming form, almost wanting to stroke her face. It’d be tough to pacify her if he really did make her angry. “I heard that you’re going to the peace negotiations with your father. But, Great Zhou’s Minister of Military Affairs isn’t a good person. I can help you if you want.”
When it came to the peace talks, although Qin Yining’s expression didn’t change, Pang Xiao could immediately tell that she had fallen out of her previously good mood. Perhaps because she was talking to an outsider, and because his actions wouldn’t impact her mood or life and death, Qin Yining subconsciously lowered her mask of fortitude.
“You, help me? How? Tell the emperor to change his mind? Or have Great Zhou swap out the official for the peace talks? Sir Yao, I know you don’t have an ordinary background, but neither you nor I can change anything about these two matters. I can’t run. I can’t hide. I can only accept my fate.”
“If you really go, you’ll have to call that Sir Lian ‘good dada’ in the future.” Pang Xiao arched his brow. “From what I know, Sir Lian isn’t someone to just verbally take advantage of you like I do.”
“So you also know that your crooked mouth takes advantage of others, hmm?” Qin Yining glared at him.
Pang Xiao leaned forward, supporting himself with one hand and pointing at his lips with the other. He widened his eyes and slightly curved his thin lips. “My mouth’s crooked, you say? Where, pray tell? How come I’ve never seen it that way?”
Qin Yining’s eyes almost lost focus when the handsome face suddenly drew near her. She jerked backwards with a reddened face. “W-what, you can’t take a joke? I meant you’re too mean and always bullying others, I didn’t say your mouth was actually crooked.”
“Is that so?” Pang Xiao had drawn close and couldn’t help but cross his arms and loom slightly over her, unconsciously moving closer when he saw the deep blush on her face. “Then I suppose I misunderstood.”
Qin Yining lifted her head and tumbled right into his deep, fathomless eyes. His eyes arrested her thoughts, and his nose was firm and straight. His lips were thin and though they were solemnly shut, she still felt that the slight curve upwards spoke of a hidden smile. She suddenly realized that she was studying his face and quickly looked down, her eyes resting on his Adam’s apple, half exposed outside of his snowy-white, intersecting collar.
That doesn’t seem like the right place either. She decided to turn her head in another direction.
Pang Xiao started laughing and crossed his arms, pretending to pace nonchalantly in front of her. Although he wasn’t looking at her, all of his attention was on her.
“Tsk tsk. To think you’re the kind of girl who knows to accept fate like this. I was thinking you’d do something else, like run away.”
“If I run away at this time, what will my family do?”
“They don’t treat you well anyway, nor did they raise you. Are you willing to sacrifice yourself for them?”
“They may not treat me genuinely nor raise me, but what have I ever done for them? I’m not a gold bracelet, able to make everyone who sees me to like me.”
“That’s not necessarily true.” Pang Xiao’s expression relaxed as he chuckled.
“What?” Qin Yining looked at him with confusion.
“I rather liked you from the moment I saw you.”
An explosion went off in Qin Yining’s head as her cheeks flooded with color again. Her lips twitched, but no response came. She simply didn’t know how to respond.