Chapter 211: Wise Pan An
The prince waved a hand to his son, indicating a dismissal. The prince walked down the red-painted stairs in front of the house and asked the butler, “How many know he’s here?”
“In response to Your Highness, the marquis disguised himself somewhat and came in the side door. No one saw him. Only you, your eldest son, and I know. If someone saw the marquis, they wouldn’t recognize him. I’ve put him up in your small outer study. He’s taking some tea right now.”
“Well done.” The prince and butler disappeared around a corner.
The Ning heir understood then that this was something he wasn’t to interfere in. He just needed to keep his mouth shut.
Qin Huaiyuan had never been particularly close to the Prince of Ning; they’d both concentrated on their own careers. It was the first time that the marquis had paid a visit to the prince.
When the prince arrived at the small study, Qin Huaiyuan was sitting properly in a round chair and half a pot of tea in. He rose to bow upon seeing the prince. “Greetings to Your Highness.”
“As you were.” The prince swept his gaze around and noted an elaborate gift box on the table as well as a pot of resplendent coral the height of a child on the ground. He casually opened the box; it was a book from the hand of Yan Zhenqing! 
Works from the master himself were priceless, so how could Qin Huaiyuan be willing to let it go??
A ball of anger rose in the prince’s heart and he looked sideways at Qin Huaiyuan with derision. The imperial prince took the head seat and remarked coolly, “The Marquis of Anping’s items are much too precious.”
Qin Huaiyuan knew that he was being looked down on, but wasn’t irritated by it. He smiled gently in response. “How does the rare book look to you? Is the coral dazzling enough?”
Derision deepened in the prince’s heart. The marquis is here with such a valuable present to smooth things over for his daughter! He doesn’t want anything to do with me and wants to offend the empress even less!
Is he a man at all??
The Caos are almost stripping the pants off him, but this cowardly turd doesn’t dare resist!
In an official capacity, the Caos were a blight on the nation. In a personal capacity, Grand Preceptor Cao was persecuting the Qins and the trampress had even wanted to eat their daughter.
But the Marquis of Anping could endure this great grudge and had even come cap in hand to draw the lines between him and the prince!
The fire in the prince’s heart ignited with a fury, as if hot oil had been poured onto it. He slammed a a hand on the table and shot to his feet, yelling, “The Marquis of Anping is a pillar of the court. This prince had always thought you were a heroic character! But to think you’re this cowardly, to fawn over power in a bid for survival! The Caos are no good and they have you underfoot! But you still want try and coexist peacefully with them!? What, are you worried that I’ll drag you down? Just having your daughter’s maid treat my wife is enough to scare you witless? Qin Meng, are you a man!? You’re a lily-livered nothing!”
The prince had nursed a day of bad temper. It finally boiled over when he saw two such precious gifts and Qin Huaiyuan’s smiling, genteel demeanor despite the insults. The Prince of Ning thoroughly laid into the marquis, stabbing a finger at the other man’s nose for a good round of denouncement. He made a complete series of greetings to the Qin female relations and Qin ancestors. He just about ordered servants to throw the marquis out.
Meanwhile, Qin Huaiyuan remained elegantly seated on the round chair, watching the prince rant and rampage like a volcano from hell. The marquis seemed be observing an impulsive child instead. He even handed over a cup of tea when the prince paused for a water break.
The Prince of Ning wanted to smash the teacup onto the ground.
“Please quell your anger, Your Highness.” Qin Huaiyuan smiled placidly.
The prince felt that he’d punched cotton. Why the hell did I run into this damnable fellow!
The marquis spoke gently. “Don’t be angry, Your Highness. Take a break and listen to me too. These two gifts aren’t for you.”
This time, the teacup really almost did flying thanks to a sudden tremor through the prince’s hand. He blushed furiously and asked awkwardly, “Not for me? Aren’t you here to smooth things over for your daughter?”
“You’ve misunderstood, Your Highness.” Qin Huaiyuan flipped the pages of the precious book. “Do you know what Grand Preceptor Cao likes?”
“The old fellow likes calligraphy. His penmanship isn’t bad either,” the prince murmured.
“That’s right.” The marquis smiled. “These two presents are right up his alley. I’ve brought them so you can go apologize to the grand preceptor.”
These words made irritation flare anew in the prince. But he’d learned his lesson and didn’t explode into another diatribe. “What does the Marquis of Anping intend?”
“Your Highness also knows that our 350,000 strong army consisting of the Three Circuits, Division of the Five Armies, Division of the Three Thousand, Firearms Division, and the Metropolitan are without a leader. The commander-in-chief seal rests on the table. Pang Zhixi’s 100,000 Valiant Tigers occupy Xihua and have their sights set on the capital. All of these troops naturally need someone to direct them in defending the capital. But the emperor continues to drag his feet on who should wield the seal.”
A princely snort sounded. “My royal brother hopes to get help from the Tatars.”
“The issue is that we can’t look to the Tatars for help. According to what I know, the Tatar princess supports her younger brother as the new khan. She and her consort are joint regents for now. The old Tatar officials refuse to accept this, and supporters of the new khan refuse to accept her rule as well. Their country is a chaotic mess at the moment. It’s impossible for them to send any troops. Besides, they’re very far away. What use are their troops? The emperor will understand this sooner or later.”
The prince nodded when he saw that Qin Huaiyuan’s Tatar intelligence matched his.
The marquis continued. “The emperor is slow to decide a new commander-in-chief because he’s in a difficult position. Grand Preceptor Cao’s position has been restored, and although he’s failing with the Tatars, there’s no need to rebuke him for that. The grand preceptor has become involved with many affairs of state again after his reinstatement, so the emperor would never give him command over the military on top of that.”
“And the emperor doesn’t trust you now either,” the prince added.
“Indeed, so he won’t give the seal to me. The emperor has to choose someone he can control, but with enough authority to lead 350,000 men. But we also need to keep in mind that while the grand preceptor himself isn’t a candidate, he has veto power. If he thoroughly opposes whoever the emperor chooses, the emperor will have no choice but to concede…”
The prince understood the remainder without needing things to be spelled out.
“So you want me to curry favor with the grand preceptor?”
“Not precisely. Stratagems can be devious. You’re a hero of the battlefields, Your Highness, so you don’t need me to say much. A real man can adapt to the circumstances. This is just giving him a present, making an apology, indicating some goodwill so that the grand preceptor relaxes his guard against you. This will make him feel that you’re someone who can be controlled. When that happens, the seal of the commander-in-chief will come into your hands.”
The marquis rose and made a grand bow to the prince, continuing solemnly. “Your Highness, how can one speak of home when the nation is in peril? You’re the only one in our entire nation who can lead our troops in effective combat against Pang Zhixi. If the seal falls into the hands of those idiots around Grand Preceptor Cao, then that really will be our doomsday. Thus, out of both personal and public consideration, I ask that Your Highness take action.”
The prince’s earlier misconceptions of the marquis vanished when he saw Qin Huaiyuan’s sincere expression. How was this a cowardly turd? This was a real man! His flawless plan made him worthy of the moniker Wise Pan An alright!
When he thought of how he’d pointed angrily at the marquis’ nose earlier and verbally flayed all of the Qin clan, the prince’s face burned ever hotter. He coughed delicately, rising to return the bow. “This prince was brash and impulsive earlier. Please don’t take it to heart, Marquis of Anping.”
“I can understand your anger, Your Highness. I would be the same.” Qin Huaiyuan offered a gentle smile.
The prince was reassured to see that Qin Huaiyuan really hadn’t minded the verbal abuse. He carefully put away the book and nodded. “Alright, I see what you mean. Except, I still have a question for you.”
“Please go ahead, Your Highness.” Qin Huaiyuan raised a quizzical eyebrow.
“Are the matters of today a result of a plot by you and your daughter?”
Qin Huaiyuan burst out laughing and waved a hand. “You think too much, Your Highness. I had the spontaneous thought to visit with these things when I heard that you’d requested Miss Tang’s presence and that the princess consort had been plotted against.”
The prince nodded, not inquiring further. Whether everything today had been a plot or not no longer mattered. There was hope shining in front of him. He didn’t need to remain idle anymore if he controlled the army. He’d be able to do more, to do something for his country.
*bursts out laughing* All of these chapters have been so fun to translate. Which was your favorite insult so far? Hollerrrr in the comments if you like ROS!