Chapter 200: Understanding
Qin Yining only took note of Pang Xiao’s outfit when her cheeks were chafed by his coarse robes. Coarse indigo cloth with patched sleeves hung on his body. His hair was randomly tied up behind his head, a few strands escaping here and there. There was a tattered straw hat on his back.
“How dare you come into the city at a time like this!?” Qin Yining stopped crying and glared huffily at him.
Pang Xiao held her with one arm and took her wrist with the other hand. He lightly thumbed the red bean bracelet on her wrist and flashed a wide grin. “I missed you, so came to see you. Plus, I’ve come to do a spot of business so I’ll accrue more wealth for my future wife.”
Qin Yining snorted. “And aren’t you afraid that I’ll hand you over right now? I wonder how great a merit I’ll earn if I give you to our emperor.”
“Could you bear to do so?” Pang Xiao brought her hand up to his mouth for a kiss, brushing his slightly dry lips still bearing traces of blood over her fingers, then swept his tongue over the bracelet on her wrist.
The ticklish and electrifying sensation burned Qin Yining, making her tremble. “What are you doing!?”
“Can’t I express how I’ve missed you over these days? But really, if I let myself to be captured by you, would you really give me up?”
Qin Yining glared at him with slightly reddened eyes. She’d purposefully tried to avoid and refrained from even thinking about questions like that. How could he just ask it so casually?
The prince sighed when he looked at the girl’s eyes. “I was worried that you’d think too much. I know that thanks to your father, you’re slowly forgetting the years of suffering in your youth. The nation of your heart hasn’t given you any shelter, and the emperor you look up to is trash…”
“I know all of this already.” Qin Yining interrupted and lifted her eyes to look into his nearby face. “The emperor is trash and the country corrupt. But does that mean we deserve to be invaded by outside forces?”
“My dearest Yi…”
“Do you know what kind of lives people are living?! I’ve sold all the valuables in Ning Park and sank a lot more silver in to barely make sure that only a thousand people won’t starve to death. There are still so many more homeless on the streets! The weather has been unkind this year and no crops have been able to be planted because of the war. So many are abandoning their homes and selling houses and land to go on the run. I’m sure there will be people selling sons, daughters, and wives before long! This is all because of Great Zhou! Pang Zhixi, I really ought to hand you over to the emperor!”
Her harsh words were belied by the trickling of tears. Pang Xiao kissed her forehead, pulled her to his chest, and smoothed down her hair with his hand.
“If you really could’ve done it, you would’ve handed me over a long time ago. You have Miss Tang, she knows poison. You’re smart and crafty, and I’m not on my guard against you. You’ve had plenty of chances to hurt me.”
Qin Yining gave up on everything and buried herself soundlessly in his embrace. She would have a mental breakdown if torn between the greater good and personal feelings.
“But you need to know that I’m waging war so I can end these troubled times.”
This shook her heart and she raised her head to look at him again. The prince wiped off her face with his sleeve. “The sooner we end these troubled times, the sooner peace will descend for the people. It’s what I thought when I fought Northern Ji and it’s still what I think as I fight Great Yan. The people will have at least a hundred years of peace if all lands were united, no?”
“Although a lot of people die in battle, the sacrifices of now are nothing when compared to eventual peace. Those who die leave this world so that everyone else can have a good future. I won’t shy away if even my life is demanded one day.”
Qin Yining looked down and leaned against his shoulder again, silently thinking over his words. Perhaps one unified land and world peace is the greatest good for everyone?
She identified as a Great Yan citizen, so she hated Great Zhou’s invasion. She hadn’t thought that Pang Xiao wasn’t fighting the war to conquer and dominate, but for the good of the world. He held not only his country in his heart, but all the people beneath the heavens. She didn’t doubt the truthfulness of his words at all. Compared to him, her thoughts had been much too limited.
The prince knew that Qin Yining had lost her earlier anger and resentment when she laid docilely in his arms. He wouldn’t be Pang Zhixi if he didn’t take advantage of this to get a few kisses in! As she thought over things, he quickly kissed her cheek and snow-white neck, then buried his face in her hair, breathing in the faint jasmine fragrance wreathing her and refusing to lift his head.
The hot huffs of his breaths brought Qin Yining back to herself. She pushed him away and jumped down from his lap with a bright red face. “Don’t you think it’s too hot?”
Pang Xiao was indeed very hot. All of the warmth in his body was surging to one place and it was taking a lot of energy to maintain control over himself. Therefore, he didn’t stop her when she walked away.
The Qin fourth miss fanned herself furiously before remembering why she’d come today. “You’re here to buy some shops?”
“That’s right. I ordered some men to buy some property in secret, but they somehow got in touch with Steward Zhong instead.”
She narrowed her eyes in thought. Enlightenment suddenly struck. “You’re so devious!”
“What really happened at Xihua must not be what the rumors say. You didn’t raze the city at all, did you?”
“Mmhmm. I only killed some landlords who specialize in fleecing the people and some corrupt officials.”
“But you displayed their heads and spread news that you were about to raze the entire city.” Qin Yining leaned over to whack the prince’s head with her velvet fan. “You did all this to add to your own coffers! No wonder the steward was so happy. If the commander-in-chief of the enemy army is buying property in the capital, that means you’re not going to raid and loot when you enter the capital. It’s a guarantee that everything will be as usual.”
“Isn’t that obvious?” Pang Xiao smiled. “I’m not a serial killer. Am I fighting so I can slaughter people? We want to conquer Great Yan so we can add to Great Zhou’s economy and help the people live better lives.”
The prince shook his head with a tsk. “It looks like you don’t know me well enough, since you’re affected by those rumors. You actually think I’m a demon murderer!”
“You might think so, but your emperor doesn’t necessary think so.”
The prince fell into momentary silence. The two thought of how Pang Xiao had once refused to follow an imperial order to raze a city, resulting in his demotion.
Pang Xiao propped his chin up with a hand and looked at her merrily. “Are you worried about me?”
Qin Yining started and her blush deepened. “No.”
The girl was uncomfortable by the gaze and decided to turn in another direction. Pang Xiao burst out laughing and decided not to tease her anymore. He took her hand. “Come, let’s have share a meal. I prepared some food.”
“You? Prepared food?” Qin Yining was very surprised.
“Yep.” Pang Xiao turned back with a smile. “Why are you so surprised? Don’t you know that my grandfather used to own a restaurant?”
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