Chapter 174: Pang Xiao’s Plans
Zheng Pei was Pang Zhongzheng’s old confidante. When the general had sensed that death was coming for him, it spurred the strategist to make some plans. After the strategist luckily escaped death, revenge was the only thing on his mind.
He first successfully used medicine to sterilize Qin Huaiyuan after some complicated twists along the way. Zheng Pei then stole away Qin Huaiyuan’s only daughter, so that the marquis would be wracked with pain when he found out the truth one day.
As for finding Pang Xiao, that was thanks to the smallest detail in his memory; he happened to run into Madame Pang sweeping née Yao out the door that day. When Pang Zhongzheng’s family was exterminated, he went in search of née Yao, just wanting to try his luck. Who would’ve thought that née Yao really would be pregnant after just one night?
When Li Qitian hoisted the banner of rebellion, it’d been Zheng Pei who led the now-emperor to the Yaos and taken away the fourteen year old Pang Xiao for the army.
The strategist felt that he’d truly lived up to the principles of fidelity and constancy. He was a long time subordinate of the late general, whereas Pang Xiao wasn’t an official son or even a concubine-born one. Zheng Pei had also witnessed the initial days of Pang Xiao being too timid to take a single life; so no matter how awe-inspiring the prince was now or how his name struck fear in the hearts of others, the old strategist still viewed the prince with certain condescension. He would always lecture Pang Xiao whenever the strategist felt that the prince had done wrong.
In return, Pang Xiao had always treated the strategist with utmost respect and courtesy. But today, he remained quietly seated at the head seat, a slight frostiness emanating from the sharp ends of his brows. Zheng Pei’s heart quailed when a frigid look, honed by the sands of battlefields, glinted at him.
“Little prince?” Zheng Pei’s voice was a bit dry.
Pang Xiao snorted in soft laughter. “Sir Zheng, I think there’s one thing you haven’t understood yet.”
“Please enlighten me.” Zheng Pei raised cupped hands.
The prince rose and took slow steps towards the strategist, keeping his hands behind his back. He flared the aura of a towering mountain, so domineering that Zheng Pei involuntarily took two steps back and lowered his head.
“Don’t forget, Sir Zheng. This prince is the master here. You are the servant.”
The statement widened Zheng Pei’s eyes incredulously. He jerked his head up to look at Pang Xiao with sheer disbelief, his face beet red and whiskers trembling from indignation. “What do you mean by this, Your Highness?”
“It’s obvious that Sir Zheng has forgotten his position. Or do you think that this prince is still the same mewling kid to be manipulated however people want to?”
To be manipulated?! This is what he thinks?! Zheng Pei was absolutely livid.
“What do you mean with these words, little prince?! I cannot bear the responsibility of the word ‘manipulate’! Don’t forget that if it wasn’t for this old man mentioning you to the emperor, you would be…”
“If it wasn’t for Sir Zheng mentioning it to the emperor, I would still be called Yao Xiaoyao  and would still be living with my mother, grandfather, and grandmother in a small city. We’d still have our small family restaurant. We’d stir fry some dishes when the mood takes us, and go drinking with a few friends when down. Even if we wouldn’t be the leader of the pack or enjoy great riches and fortune, we would still happily live out our lives without going hungry or needing clothes. I wouldn’t be thrown in a gory battlefield filled with hacked off limbs and violence at a young age, and wouldn’t have to suffer through persecution and pressure, trying to eke out a living in the cracks! And I would never be lectured like I was the bottom of someone’s shoe by a servant!”
Pang Xiao’s words brought tears to Huzi’s eyes and made the color drain from Zheng Pei’s.
“You follow this prince but don’t place yourself in your proper place. Do you think I’m still that naive, young boy of yesteryear? Since you’ve pulled me into this circle and I’ve climbed to this height through my own efforts, then I am not someone to be manipulated by you anymore!
“Don’t talk to me about my father’s enemy, this prince has never seen my father! I recognize no official mother who is such a jealous shrew! I feel no affection for the Pangs, and my surname from the very beginning was Yao. All of you made me change my name because you wanted to use Pang Zhongzheng’s name!”
“Does this prince speak wrongly? None of you ever thought that I would escape your grasp after you’ve thoroughly used me, did you? You can also write about this in your secret report to the emperor today. Tell His Majesty what I said today as well!”
Zheng Pei’s eyes widened with horror and his lips trembled, the shaking extending to the rest of his body. He knows! He knows everything!
Huzi looked at the old strategist with disbelief, murmuring, “Sir Zheng, how… how could you…” Someone who he’d always thought was staunchly loyal to the prince was in fact, a spy that the emperor had arranged??
Pang Xiao took his seat again with a dismissive snort and proclaimed imperiously, “Sir Zheng, this prince allows you to live because of my father. You were a loyal subordinate to him for your entire life, after all. But I warn you, don’t you think about doing anything to the Qin fourth miss! And don’t you dare be disrespectful to her in front of me! Be careful of getting your hand chopped off if you reach too far with it!”
Zheng Pei had always been a center of attention and occupied an unparalleled position in the army. To think that Pang Xiao would criticize him so mercilessly!
He felt the sting of losing a great deal of face and fired back rapidly, “I have nothing to say if the little prince suspects my loyalty. But you should certainly, absolutely, and definitely not cavort with the enemy’s daughter…”
“Father’s achievements were already such a high level that they threatened to eclipse his master. That dog of an emperor was already very wary of father. How else would a little divisive plot, easily seen through, result in father’s death? You know as well as I do that that was just an excuse. The real enemy was never Qin Meng, but that dog emperor! Shifting the blame onto Qin Meng like this is an incompetent display of not being able to keep your priorities straight!
“This prince has long since exacted revenge for my father! I destroyed Northern Ji, killed the dog emperor, and sliced to a thousand pieces every single corrupt official that spurred the dog emperor onto greater heights. I slew so many of them that the old Northern Ji officials still hate me and curse me for being a demon incarnate behind my back. If this doesn’t count as revenge, what does? Sir Zheng’s indiscriminating actions against a female baby? If this prince is disloyal or unfilial, then is Sir Zheng loyal, with your wavering between this prince and His Majesty?”
Each word made Zheng Pei’s complexion even more ashen, and he didn’t actually have a response ready. He’d lost all of his prepared arguments the moment Pang Xiao pointed out that there was secret correspondence going on with the emperor. The old strategist didn’t know why his blood was thrumming at the moment, he just wanted to get away from Pang Xiao as far as possible, so that he didn’t have to look into that pair of eyes that seemed to peer through everything!
Zheng Pei tightened his lips, raised cupped hands, turned and left. Huzi didn’t chase after him this time, but looked worriedly at Pang Xiao.
“Master, if Sir Zheng tells the emperor what happened today, His Majesty will be even more wary of you.”
“His Majesty’s suspicions of me have never decreased! Even if I keep a humble profile, he fears the military power in my hands. Even after I hand it over, he fears the authority I have in the army. And even without that authority, he would still fear destiny.” Pang Xiao snorted coldly and drummed his fingers on the round chair. “I’ve long since known of Sir Zheng’s thoughts. I laid everything out today so that he doesn’t think too highly of himself and does something that I would actually have to kill him for. His loyalty towards my father is real, at any rate.”
Huzi nodded and thought of what his master had said earlier. Sadness welled up when he carefully recounted what Pang Xiao had gone through the years. The prince had no choice but to reach his current height and endure this tremendous pressure!
The guard’s eyes shifted when he saw the cold expression on his master’s face and turned the topic back to Qin Yining.
“Old fart Weichi is truly vicious! I wonder how the fourth miss is. Shall we think of a plan to help her?”
I thought so! Pang Xiao’s frosty expression melted somewhat when Qin Yining was mentioned, and a warm curve graced his lips.
“Don’t worry, didn’t Jiyun say that they were headed to the Celestial Nunnery? My dear Yi must’ve thought of a plan. Just wait, we’ll receive further word before tomorrow’s up.”
“Your Highness has such confidence in the fourth miss.” Huzi arched a brow.
“Of course, how would someone I like be unable to handle such a small matter?”
Huzi inwardly rolled his eyes a thousand times, but spoke every word of agreement he knew.
Indeed, more news came from Great Yan the next morning.
Pang Xiao burst out laughing as he read the note, his laughter growing heartier and heartier. He threw the note to Huzi at the end and kept laughing.
Huzi took the note and read it carefully, exclaiming with admiration at the end. “The fourth miss thought of a fantastic plan alright! This gags that old fart of an emperor! Except, do you think that the fourth miss knows that Priestess Liu is the Soothsayer? How else would she dare use the Soothsayer’s name otherwise?”
“No, she shouldn’t.” Pang Xiao thought carefully and laughed again. “She must’ve brought silver to ask the priestess to pretend to be the Soothsayer. That must’ve delighted the tricksy person quite a lot!”
The prince suddenly grew solemn. “Have someone secretly keep watch on the nunnery and pay attention to the Soothsayer’s movements.”
“Why?” Huzi started. “Is Your Highness afraid of the Soothsayer running away?”
Pang Xiao only smiled. “Send a calling card to ‘Blockhead’ saying that I’ll visit the day after tomorrow.”
This surprised Huzi even more. “Your Highness, are you planning on having Sir Mu pay up for the bet?”
“A son pays the debts of his father. The Soothsayer is his master. It’d be very normal for him to pay the debt if his master runs off, wouldn’t you say?”
Eh… uh… what? Sir Mu was an honest man and had been dragged into things by the Soothsayer many times. I really pity the guy!
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