Chapter 114: Ownership
Qin Yining begrudgingly took hold of the soft, warm bundle. The little thing shifted in her hand, its pure, black eyes looking lovingly up into Qin Yining’s. She felt her heart was going to melt and couldn’t help but smile. She cradled it with one palm and stroked its back with the other.
Pang Xiao thought for a moment and undid the jade pendant at his waist, removing the red, knotted square on top of it. He walked up to Qin Yining, who took a perplexed step backwards. She was on the verge of asking him what he wanted when his large hand reached out to adroitly fasten the red square around the bunny’s neck.
He was leaning over, bringing his face close to her. He didn’t look up at her as he was focused on the bow he was making, but Qin Yining’s attention was quickly drawn by the pretty curve of his brows and his long lashes. She frowned and averted her eyes.
“Its name is Riceball and is a pledge of my affection for you. It’s also the token of negotiations between Great Zhou and Great Yan. If you don’t care for it well, then any agreements made today will be treated as as null and void.”
“Your Highness, you’re being too childish!” Qin Yining’s eyes widened in incredulous shock.
“Say what you will, but I’ve given Riceball to you. You do as you see fit.”
Qin Yining recalled that he’d once said she looked like his pet pug, which was named Salt. And if she remembered correctly, they also had a guard wolf dog named Pepper. And now this bunny would henceforth be Riceball…
If it wasn’t for the situation, she really wanted to laugh at the Pangs’ naming abilities. [1. Translator note: I struggled over and ended up taking larger liberties with the naming of the Pang pets. The pug is actually named Big White, the wolf dog Big Black, and the bunny Second White. However, these aren’t very pet-like names in English, and neither is Second White a cute name for the bunny. I tried variations of Whitey and Blackie, but couldn’t really get anything in the same family for Big White and Second White. I think there might be a Third White coming down the road as well. Not to mention, any variation of black/dark I tried for the wolf dog sounded horribly racist. Thanks to the help of a lot of volare translators, I went for Salt and Pepper for the two dogs since they’re a couple, and to indicate how much the pug likes to eat because salt is an essential seasoning. The white motif was continued to Riceball, of which also hints at how cute and round the bunny is. QYN laughs at PX for naming a bunny 'Riceball' because rabbits can be food. That's like naming a pet pig 'Bacon'. Kinda macabre?] But right now, all she wanted to do was to yell at Pang Xiao for his ridiculous behavior. Didn’t all the rumors say that he killed without blinking and was a war god of unfathomable strategies? Why was that reputation completely different from the Pang Xiao she knew? This guy was just a madman with a mercurial temper!
She looked down at the bunny, nestled in her hand and now adorned with an intricate red, square knot around its neck. It was snuffling around, searching for a comfortable position as it stared up at her with inky-black eyes.
Pang Xiao was standing in front of Qin Yining with crossed arms, admiring the cute human and bunny duo in front of him as if no one else was present. A smile floated unconsciously onto his face. In his eyes, she was just as soft and cute as Riceball. He wanted nothing more than to gather her into his arms and pat her head or give her a good cuddle.
Qin Yining glanced helplessly at her father. He and Cui Wenqing were also paying attention to the events on that side of the tent. Her father’s eyes were calm, revealing no hint of what he was thinking, while Cui Wenqing had an understanding expression on his face. She immediately knew that they’d misunderstood the situation. With Pang Xiao bold declarations and now this ‘pledge of his affections’, she’d now been thoroughly dyed with his label.
Even if the peace talks came to a successful conclusion and she returned safe and sound, rumors would still swirl through the populace about the two of them. Being toyed with by fate like this was something she couldn’t help either.
On the other hand, Lian Shengjie was quite depressed when he saw how Pang Xiao had used a cheap rabbit to gain Qin Yining’s affections. In her plain outfit and white fur collar, the girl really did look like the goddess of the moon with that white bunny in her pale hands. He was unwittingly entranced by the picturesque sight. A pity, what a pity! Not enjoying a night with this beauty was the greatest loss of this trip.
He wanted to steal a few more looks, but Pang Xiao purposely moved forward to block his line of sight. Lian Shengjie almost tumbled down from his chair when the imposing figure moved in front of him. He was quite traumatized by that beating; his facial muscles twitched with remembered agony at the same time as his healing injuries ached in sympathy. He almost wanted to clutch his head with both hands to feel a bit safer.
But he was the Minister of Military Affairs.
No one knew how much strength he used to compose and refrain from embarrassing himself. Pang Xiao was standing in front of him with a supercilious smile, not holding back his aura as he admired the view of the minister seemingly desperate to find a hole in the ground. He didn’t speak for a long moment.
“Minister Lian, has everything been settled?”
“This official is the supreme commander of the Southern Pacification Army and the host of these peace talks! You’re just… you…” He swallowed his remaining words when he met Pang Xiao’s domineering stare.
“Minister Lian has simply delayed the emperor’s affairs too much this time, dragging your heels and making excuses again and again during the peace talks. This prince will be sure to harshly censure you in my report.”
“How dare you censure me instead!” Lian Shengjie flew into a towering rage. “You’re the one who beat me up first, so how dare you criticize me?!”
“This prince beat you up? Who saw that? Who’s your witness? All that happened is that you behaved inappropriately to begin with by treating a good girl with utter disrespect. Then you received a beating from her family. You should be considering your family’s reputation at your age, minister. Instead, you’ve come all the way to the country of Yan to act so shamefully. Even if you’re not embarrassed by this loss of face, will your children be able to live with your behavior?”
“Bullshit! My sub-commander saw everything that day!”
“Is that so? Then whatever you say. Let’s seal the accords first.” Pang Xiao dropped casually into a seat nearby and picked up a teacup.
Lian Shengjie was shaking from fury, so it took him a moment to realize. Had he seen his sub-commander recently? The hairs on his body stood on end as he thought about Pang Xiao’s preferred style. Could my sub-commander have…
It was easy enough to come up with an explanation for a death when you were on the front lines. Pang Xiao could likely come up with all sorts of convincing reasons for the emperor if the sub-commander had indeed fallen victim to foul play. Anyone else would have some reservations about taking action like this. After all, if their achievements had built a reputation that threatened even the emperor’s, they’d act with more restraint as to avoid making themselves a target.
But Pang Xiao was different. He didn’t follow the rules of logic when he moved. He was sly and slippery, at times dependable, other times devious. He could appear as a learned scholar, but also came across as a complete ruffian. The only thing one could say about him was that it was hard to say anything about him! A cold chill gripped Lian Shengjie’s heart and he no longer dithered. Without further ado, he sealed the negotiated terms with his personal and official seal.
When they saw the two copies of the agreed upon terms, both Qin Huaiyuan and Cui Wenqing heaved an enormous internal sigh of relief.
Pang Xiao also smiled and crossed his legs. “This is most wonderful. There will be no more warring between us in the future. Trade and diplomatic relations can once again resume, and peace will reign again!”
He then turned to Qin Yining with a cocked head and a devious half smile. “This way, I can go take a stroll around your nation and see just what things look like from all walks of life.”
Qin Yining blushed. You speak so seriously, but just look at the expression on your face! You’re obviously a good-for-nothing fop!
Qin Huaiyuan stood up and exchanged some polite words with Lian Shengjie and Pang Xiao. The two parties then took their leave of each other.
“Take good care of Riceball.” Pang Xiao looked meaningfully at Qin Yining.
She rolled her eyes at him and stroked the bunny’s head. “What kind of name is that! You might as well call a pig ‘pork bun’!” 
Pang Xiao blinked and actually began seriously considering the matter. “That does seem a bit inappropriate after some thought. So what do you think its name should be?”
She felt completely speechless at the situation. Not only does he tie a collar around a bunny, he even names it. She also felt that she was getting too deep into this, arguing with a silly Pang Xiao over a rabbit’s name. She turned and walked off with the bunny in hand. “Forget it, Riceball will do.”
“Yo! So you think I gave it a good name as well?” Pang Xiao laughed and walked after her. The only response that came was the sight of her backside and the rather strange looks from the Valiant Tigers around him.
Pang Xiao snapped back to attention, his usual expression slipping back into place as he gave orders to take down the camp. Huzi was still desperately trying to keep a straight face, nearly giving himself an internal injury from holding in his laughter. He kept his head low, knowing that it was exactly the wrong place and time to start laughing.
When the Great Yan contingent heard the peace talks were a success, their cries of jubilation rattled the heavens. They prepared to take down the campground as well, while Qin Huaiyuan and Cui Wenqing took Qin Yining back to the capital first.
They’d originally left on the winds of certain death, so everyone was beyond themselves with joy upon their return. The celebration that ensued almost eclipsed that of new year’s. Qin Huaiyuan had sent messengers on first, so when they arrived at the city gates, General Wang Hui and Prefect Liu were already waiting with a large delegation.
The people had heard the great news as well and rushed over as if they were celebrating a national holiday. They lined the streets, cheering and yelling with all their might. The news of little Prince Pang falling in love with the grand preceptor’s daughter at first sight also spread rapidly throughout Xihua. Everyone knew that Miss Qin had accompanied her father to the peace talks, but had been instantly claimed by the little prince. That lecher Lian Shengjie hadn’t been able to take a single step near her.
Her reputation wasn’t ruined at all, but a new name was now tied with hers.