Chapter 162: Random Jealousy
Qin Yining spent most of her days in the inner residence, and though Venerable Study Hall was next to the rear garden, with a manmade lake and artificial mountain visible through a fence, nothing was as expansive and freeing as the scene of nature that unfolded in front of her.
They were now outside the city walls. Spring came early in the south, so by April, the grass had grown tall enough for warblers to dart in and around them. The fresh green of spring stretched as far as the eye could see.
Qin Yining and Pang Xiao walked next to each other, looking around and taking in the sights. Wildflowers poked up here and there in the vast grassland, the mountains overlapping each other in the far distance. Not too far from the pair was a moderately sized creek reflecting a turquoise sky. Water babbled to itself, calling out greetings to the gray-white rabbits that occasionally hopped happily by. White butterflies cavorted over nameless flowers as they swapped dancing partners.
The unique fragrance of grass in the springtime filled their noses whenever they took a breath in. A few horses were grazing on the grass nearby, making Qin Yining feel for a moment that she’d returned to the difficult, but carefree life of the mountains.
“What do you think? Do you like it?” Pang Xiao asked her with his hands behind his back and a careful look in his eyes, like a child who hoped he’d be praised.
Qin Yining chuckled and nodded. “I like it a lot, how did you find this place?”
Noting the departure of her usually stern expression, Pang Xiao was also delighted that the girl next to him wasn’t strictly toeing the line and overly concerned about manners like she usually was.
“I’m used to coming and going and like to go on rides. I found this place by accident one day and wanted to bring you here as well.”
He grabbed her hand as they spoke and walked over to where the horses were tied up.
Qin Yining’s face flamed furiously and she struggled a bit, but that only made his hand hold hers even tighter. She was only slightly more comfortable when she looked around and saw that Pang Xiao’s men were looking down with nothing in particular on their faces.
The prince pointed at a big, tall white horse not too far away. “That’s Whitecloud. It’s for you. Do you like it?”
The Qin fourth miss was mesmerized by the extremely handsome horse with a single glance. Its fur rippled silvery-white beneath the sun, not a single blemish to be seen. It actually seemed more like a silver-white ribbon with the sun’s sheen radiating off of it. Its big eyes were watery and gentle, and the horse struggled free of the groom when it saw Qin Yining draw near. It trotted happily over to the girl and lowered its head to nuzzle her cheek and neck. They seemed more like they’d grown up together than strangers.
Qin Yining laughed with delight and reached out to hug its neck. “You’re called Whitecloud? Do you like me?”
The horse answered with more nuzzles.
“You’re so beautiful, I like you so much!” Qin Yining didn’t relax her hug.
In his memories, Pang Xiao had never seen Qin Yining so happy, nor heard such delighted laughter come out from her. He’d never heard these soft and coaxing tones before either. The Qin fourth miss in his mind was always a cautious, reserved, intelligent, and decisive being. She was rational and strong, more like an experienced adult than a girl who’d yet to marry.
Only in moments like these did she come alive and exhibit joy, acting more like her fifteen years of age.
Her voice was like a little fuzzy brush, poking gently at Pang Xiao’s heart. He wished she too would hug his neck and say, “You’re so beautiful, I like you so much”.
Qin Yining turned back, still hugging Whitecloud. “Is Your Highness really gifting it to me?” Her radiant smile was still blooming, highlighting how adorable her dimples were.
Pang Xiao’s gaze was as soft as it could be. “Naturally. Whitecloud is a Ferghana horse  and Thundercloud’s distant relative. Whitecloud can count as his younger brother. If you miss me in the future, go on a ride with it.”
Pang Xiao took the reins that Huzi handed to him and patted the battle horse with shining black hair.
Qin Yining nodded. “Thundercloud, Whitecloud. They sound like relatives alright.” She took the reins and adroitly flipped onto the horse, her skirts swaying gently as they drew out a graceful arc over the horse’s back.
When Pang Xiao saw how dashingly she mounted the horse and her straight posture on horse back, his heart pounded furiously with emotion. He spent much time in the battlefields charging to and fro on horseback and tramping through obstacles. He naturally didn’t like weak, fragile girls or ones that had pretty faces but only knew to put on a delicate act. He was attracted to Qin Yining because of her looks, but even more because of her personality and way she handled matters.
But today, her fluid motion onto the horse’s back truly clobbered his heart. He could hear fireworks exploding in the air. She was meant for him! She knew both civil and martial subjects, could be soft and stern…
How would Qin Yining have any moment to spare for the lovestruck loon behind her? She shook the reins and sent Whitecloud excitedly galloping down the plain. She kept her body down, her long hair streaming behind her, and her skirts flapping in the gale. Wind howled by her ear and gusted into her face, clearing away all of the frustration and dejection in her heart with a refreshing breeze of grass scents intermixed with flowery fragrances.
Huzi and some other Valiant Tigers tore off in hot pursuit when they saw Qin Yining gallop away as soon as she got on horseback. Please! Their prince would swallow them whole if something happened to Miss Qin on their watch!
However, Whitecloud had already left them in the dust after a few breaths. Although their horses were fast, they were no match for Whitecloud’s speed at all. Thankfully, they could tell that Qin Yining had superb riding skills when they took a closer look.
Huzi turned his horse around and rode back to his master, only to see that the prince was still holding onto Thundercloud’s reins and staring blankly, deep in thought.
“Master, the fourth miss is already a long ways away. Aren’t you going to go after her?” The guard was a tad worried.
This nudged Pang Xiao back to his senses and he too jumped onto his horse after steadying his emotions. Qin Yining’s figure was already a small dot in the distance. He laughed.
“With Whitecloud’s speed, no one’s going to be able to catch up to them. Don’t worry, she’ll come back in a short while.”
“To think that the fourth miss has such riding skills!” Huzi reflected. “And Whitecloud is usually such a proud and arrogant horse, he doesn’t even let me touch him! But he sidled over as soon as he saw the fourth miss, throwing away all of his pride as a Ferghana horse! Do horses also like beauties now?”
A frosty chill grazed his back as soon as Huzi finished speaking. He turned back to meet Pang Xiao’s unfathomable look. The guard’s brain spun at high speed and he carefully reviewed what he’d just said. He instantly started sweating profusely. I swear to the heavens that I had no intention of making fun of my prince!
“Heh. Eh, master, I’m going to look in on Miss Potato Spud.” Huzi hauled his reins around and fled, making for the safe harbor that was Bingtang on a chestnut horse.
Pang Xiao found this mildly amusing, but his heart turned over a certain question as he rode towards Qin Yining. Did he make a mistake when he gifted Qin Yining a stallion?
He should’ve picked a mare!
The prince actually became a bit depressed when he thought of how Qin Yining kept hugging the horse and complimenting its beauty, even saying how much she liked it. She’d never done that to him!
He was less than a horse!
It’d been a long while since Qin Yining had felt so happy-go-lucky. Her life in the manor was one of treading on thin ice. She had to devote every fiber of her being to plotting how to live on. She’d experienced the fall of her maternal relations, forced into joining the peace talks, her mother almost executed, and then she herself almost kidnapped by her maternal grandmother…
When all was said and done, she’d had to use her brains more in the half year she’d returned home, than compared to her fourteen years in the wild. Her self-regulation and restraint had also reached a boiling point. Now that she could run wild and carefree, it was as if her troubles were being left in the dust as well.
Whitecloud started slowing down. A man seated upright on a large horse, wearing a robe with a python pattern, came into view. He was tall and handsome, his steed of shining black fur equally good looking. His back and waist were ramrod straight, honed with the unique masculinity and bearing of a soldier. They were paired with his slender brows, phoenix-shaped eyes, tall nose, and thin lips. A dashing air interwove with his charm, and tinges of happiness and innocence were present in his smile.
Qin Yining lost track of her thoughts for a moment. Unbidden, scenes of everything that had happened since their meeting appeared in her mind. An uncontrollable blush colored her cheeks and she forced her eyes away, afraid that his noble air and edge would burn her.
Pang Xiao steered his horse close and both pulled back on the reins. Whitecloud and Thundercloud sneezed at each other and walked close, their necks touching as they nuzzled each other’s faces.
Pang Xiao smiled at the girl. “How do you feel? Better after a run?”
Qin Yining nodded firmly with her cheeks still red. “It’s been a long while since I’ve run so freely around. Thank you for giving Whitecloud to me.”
“Are your thanks only words?”
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