Chapter 166: Deploying Charm
What else would Qin Huaiyuan not understand after seeing his daughter like this? Pang Xiao had uncommon looks, charisma, strategy, and was a heroic character that could pen grand designs to pacify the world and immediately settle things with his martial skills. He was going to great effort for Qin Yining and had saved her multiple times. The girl’s heart wasn’t made of stone, so how would she remained unmoved?
As he looked carefully at his daughter, Qin Huaiyuan shook his head with a laugh. No wonder a heroic character such as Pang Xiao hadn’t been able to keep himself apart from her.
“Never mind that. I won’t ask about what’s between you two. You’re a smart girl and know the limits.”
An embarrassed look still clung to Qin Yining’s face, but she was also slightly surprised. “Aren’t you opposed to this, father?”
“Opposed to what? He’s a hero amongst men. That makes him worthy of you.”
“But there’s so much between us.”
Understanding dawned. Qin Huaiyuan smiled and tucked his hands behind his bank. “Setting everything else aside for now, if the prince was truly caught up in the death of his father, then I wouldn’t be standing here now. I did use a scheme to drift a wedge between his father and emperor back in the day, but the prince is likely well aware that if it hadn’t been for the Northern Ji emperor’s long-standing paranoia of Pang Zhongzheng, nothing would’ve resulted from the plot.
“And, my dear daughter, perhaps you don’t know of the prince’s background.”
Qin Yining cast a curious look at her father.
“Pang Zhixi’s mother, née Yao, was a maid in the Pang Manor. Pang Zhongzheng lost control of himself once when drunk and forced himself on née Yao. His wife was an extremely jealous sort, and had née Yao thrown out of the manor before the maid could be raised up as concubine. The madame even sent people to further harm the maid, to prevent a concubine-born son from being delivered. Thankfully, née Yao was smart and evaded that disaster.
“Pang Zhongzheng had no idea when his love of a night was sent away and so never knew that she was later pregnant. Disaster befell the Pangs later on, and even upon death he didn’t know that he had this descendent in the world.”
“So this means that little Prince Pang has no love for his birth father and official mother.”
Qin Huaiyuan nodded. “You can say that. He was also forced to join the army when he was young, so he likely hates his background.”
“Why is that?”
Qin Huaiyuan sighed. “How do you think he became a god of war who kills without blinking? He was with his maternal grandparents and birth mother, living out peaceful days in a small town. His grandfather used the silver that née Yao came back with to open a small restaurant. They weren’t rich, but they didn’t want for food or clothing. But when the Great Zhou emperor Li Qitian raised high the banner of rebellion against Northern Ji tyranny, he did so primarily with Pang Zhongzheng’s old troops. He found née Yao and was convinced of Pang Zhixi’s identity from the prince’s looks.
“The Great Zhou emperor was just the leader of a bunch of mutinous farmers at the time. He didn’t have much charisma. And so, he forced Pang Zhixi into the army, keeping the prince in line with both threats and cajolery, doing everything he could to keep the prince there. In reality, all he wanted to do was to recruit men under the guise of taking revenge for the Protector of the Nation, Pang Zhongzheng. The little prince ended up in the army because he was kidnapped from home. He refused to accept things at first, but gradually accepted reality.”
“So he didn’t join the army voluntarily.”
To think that he has this kind of past.
A fifteen year old young man, living out his days in peace, was suddenly informed that he was the son of General Pang. He was then roped into the army and had to face not only scenes of blood and gore, but even more plots and schemes on his life. Li Qitian had hoisted the banner high for Pang Zhongzheng only because he wanted his rebellion to be legitimate. He probably didn’t care about Pang Xiao’s life or death at all.
The prince must have weathered great trials in order to live through an environment like that. He had to learn martial arts, how to kill, and how to plot. He tempered himself though the fires of battle, learned strategy, how to recruit people, and developed his own faction.
He climbed to great heights one step at a time, to the point where the Great Zhou emperor didn’t dare kill him. Instead, Pang Xiao was the only common-born prince in Great Zhou.
Qin Yining felt that mere analysis of such hardship was enough to crush her. But Pang Xiao had done it all. He hadn’t received a day’s worth of fatherly love or have any relationship with his birth father, but destiny had dictated his life based on his background.
She suddenly understood her father’s meaning. The prince likely had absolutely no feelings for his birth father, or perhaps resentment, if there was anything there. Apart from his own helpless circumstances, his birth mother had suffered grave injustice as well.
This was why Pang Xiao could coolly, logically consider the matters of yesteryear and not just react viscerally to proclaim a death sentence on Qin Huaiyuan.
After a round of analysis, Qin Yining bizarrely felt much more lighthearted. “To think that father knows this much about the prince!”
“I naturally have to investigate someone who likes my daughter,” Qin Huaiyuan responded straightforwardly. “I can’t just watch him scheme against my daughter for the sake of revenge.”
Qin Yining’s face was red, but her heart was happy. She trusted her father’s abilities. If he’d said all this, that meant Pang Xiao really wasn’t getting close to her for revenge, but because he genuinely liked her. But… so a family feud wasn’t an issue. There was still the issue of the hate between their nations…
She sighed softly. What was the point in thinking so much? Just let things take their natural course. Pang Xiao had even specifically told her before he left that he’d take care of everything.
Qin Yining didn’t realize that she’d subconsciously accepted Pang Xiao’s claim of ownership and the fact that they’d marry in the future.
Qin Huaiyuan thought for a moment. “Go back home first. I’ve already sent Miss Tang back to the manor. Say that I brought you along for the send-off. Don’t mind how others talk about it.”
“Understood.” Qin Yining nodded. “Take the carriage, father. I’ll ride back on Whitecloud.”
Qin Huaiyuan nodded and heaved another complicated sigh when he saw Qin Yining take the reins for the handsome white horse from a servant. “His plan was quite watertight.”
“Indeed, and he gave us a big present as well.” Qin Yining jumped onto the horse and didn’t perceive the double meaning in her father’s words.
The marquis shook his head and didn’t voice the rest. “Go on back.”
“Yes father, I’ll go back first then.” The girl rode Whitecloud back with a carefree heart.
Qin Huaiyuan remained where he was a while longer before seeking an audience with the emperor. He conveyed the news that Tatars had attempted to assassinate the prince, but that a furious prince had fled his way out of Great Yan.
The emperor didn’t immediately express a particular viewpoint when he heard this, so Qin Huaiyuan reported the matter again the next day during court. He requested that the emperor investigate how the Tatars were able to thoroughly grasp Pang Xiao’s schedule and route. The marquis once again made the same request, and tacked on that there must have been Tatar spies in the prince’s retinue!
The emperor was already wary of Elder Statesman Cao. Combined with that Cao Yuqing’s evidence of the statesman colluding with the Tatar princess and the possible consequences of the an assassination on Pang Xiao, all three together were enough to make the emperor fly into a rage and harshly deride the statesman.
The Minister of the Department of Personnel , Wang Yuxian, was Statesman Cao’s acclaimed pupil. A dozen days later, furious emperor stripped the minister of his title with a flimsy excuse. That made for a loss of the statesman’s right hand man and an immense decline in status in just half a month.
As the official credited with the successful peace talks and the one who’d taken Statesman Cao down a peg, plus his usually good reputation, Qin Huaiyuan was unstoppable at court for the moment. But when Qin Yining, reviewing the Institute’s accounts, heard this news from the grand steward, she frowned involuntarily.
The smile slid off the steward’s face when he saw this reaction. “Miss, is there anything bad about this?”
Qin Yining shook her head. “I just feel that things won’t be as simple as this. The Caos aren’t an easy target as they’ve been able to remain standing for so many years. I’m afraid of what they’ll come up with after this.”
Just as Qin Yining thought, the empress was currently sniffling with a lowered head in the imperial study and pouting in soft tones.
“…there are few males in my family line and father has only a few pupils. Although we’re just a poor official's family, that was enough to prevent outsiders from laughing that our family would come to an end. We had just enough people to take care of each other. But now that you’ve demoted Wang Yuxian, isn’t that putting my father in a difficult position? Consort Shu and Honored Concubine Xiang taunt me, so I’ve been unable to eat or sleep these days. Take a look, Your Majesty, there are wrinkles at the corners of my eyes now. Will you stop loving me now that I’m old?” She was lying pitifully in the emperor’s arms after this cloyingly sweet spiel.
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