Chapter 234: A Self-Conscious Someone
“Heh, say that again? Weichi Yan wants my darling for his empress?” The prince narrowed his phoenix eyes.
Huzu adroitly backed up a few steps, not wanting to be caught up in the mess. Mu Jinghu however, nodded emphatically without fear of death.
“That’s right. I can’t follow her into someplace like the palace. I’d be easily discovered. But I still wanted to protect her. Do you know that when the new emperor sent servants to bring her in, he wouldn’t even let her bring her most trusted maids? He didn’t even want to let her bring a change of clothes at first, and definitely didn’t let her bring any medicine even though she’s hurt. What do you think the new emperor wants to do? Get your wife all alone and then cook the rice, making things a done deal?”
Huzi backed up further. Sir Mu! I’m begging you! Can you not add fuel to the flames??
Pang Xiao barked a frosty laugh and spat out between grit teeth, “The Weichi clan has deep foundations alright! The son is going to inherit the father’s legacy!”
Mu Jinghu found himself a stool and poured a cup of water while Pang Xiao gripped the hilt of his sword so tightly that his knuckles went white. Only then did his anger seem slightly abated.
She’s a weak girl and injured. How can she resist imperial might? If something really happens to her in the palace…
But he was the commander-in-chief of the army and old codger Ning knew a thing or two about fighting. Their battles were hotly contested, so it was even more impossible that he leave the military camp on his own. Pang Xiao was stymied by his inability to leap into action. He couldn’t even protect the girl he liked!
“Take a deep breath, master. What we need to do first is to think of a plan.” Huzi tried to talk the prince down.
“Think of a plan?” Mu Jinghu set the ceramic cup down and considered things seriously. “I actually think your wife has enough qualifications to be empress.”
Pang Xiao glared coldly at Mu Jinghu, who didn’t seem to think there was anything wrong with what he’d said. The oblivious man counted off his hands in continuing solemn analysis.
“See, her family background is good and she’s pretty. Her talents aren’t bad either and she’s very smart. Her father’s a good man. Whoever’s his son-in-law will benefit greatly from that relationship.
“And, she’d be the mother of the nation if she’s the empress. She’ll only be a princess consort with you. No one would dare bully her if she’s the empress, but if she follows you to Great Zhou, she’ll have to suffer with you.
“Your position right now is also really awkward. Who knows how many people are plotting against you? She’ll be dragged into all that. From her perspective, there’s nothing bad about being empress.”
Huzi covered his face with his hands and silently retreated to a corner of the tent.
He’d just found a good spot when Pang Xiao shattered the square table in the middle with a single palm strike. The teapot and large, ceramic cups on it tumbled to the ground, splashing Mu Jinghu’s shoes with liquid.
“What are you doing?! Look at what you’ve done to that fine table, and this teapot and bowls are probably worth two strings of copper coins! You really waste too much money.” Mu Jinghu sadly picked up two halves of a teacup and tried to piece it back together.
Those on patrol rushed over to ascertain the situation when they heard the commotion. Huzi quickly met them outside with a smile. “No worries, friends. His Highness is sparring with his brother.”
“We see!” The Valiant Tigers were comprised of northern men, all of them hearty, loyal, and straightforward. They knew that their leader liked to go several rounds with the boys, so they didn’t think much of what they’d heard.
Back in the tent, Pang Xiao hauled Mu Jinghu up by the collar. “Rotten Blockhead! What do you mean by that?!”
Mu Jinghu shrugged off the hand and responded honestly. “I’m just telling you the truth. You think so too, right? Why else are you feeling guilty? Fox, you’re so selfish. You like her and you’re doing everything you can to get her, but you don’t know if she’s willing or not.”
Pang Xiao’s expression grew even uglier when his friend hit on the heart of the matter. He shook his hand free of Mu Jinghu’s collar and slammed it down on a nearby round stool — which naturally shattered with the sound of impact.
Mu Jinghu’s heart went out to the furniture and he stooped on the ground next to it. “Really, what are you doing?! This is all money!”
Anger burned in Pang Xiao, what did he care about furniture for?
Mu Jinghu had indeed struck straight at the core of the issue.
Because the prince liked Qin Yining, he tried every method possible to obtain her and win her heart. He didn’t even ask if she was willing before he stamped his own mark on her. What if she wants to be the empress?
The prince gnashed his teeth and spoke after a moment, “Huzi.”
“Master.” The guard stepped forward with a bow.
“Go with Sir Mu and find a way to get a clear answer back to me.”
“What kind of answer do you want, master?” Huzi was rather baffled.
“The Marquis of Anping sent Blockhead here to sound me out. But what I think isn’t important here. What’s important is what dearest Yi thinks. How can I interfere if she wants to be empress and not my princess consort? Find a way to get in touch with Steward Zhong. Their Institute’s network is vast and they must have a way of getting word in and out of the palace. Just ask dearest Yi if she’s willing to be with me.”
“Master, don’t doubt the fourth miss. I think she likes you too.”
Pang Xiao laughed ruefully. “I’m not doubting her, I’m afraid of impeding her.”
He knew the straits he was in. In the eyes of outsiders, he was a prince of common blood that was the sworn brother of the Great Zhou emperor. He held command of the Valiant Tigers and the future ahead looked glorious; the sky was the limit.
But in reality, it was difficult for him to take even a single step in the Great Zhou court.
When they’d destroyed Northern Ji, he’d been the vanguard and the Valiant Tigers had done all of the killing and raiding. Even now, the surrendered Northern Ji officials still hated him. He’d also widowed and orphaned many when taking revenge for his father, which only further intensified the hate from former Northern Ji citizens.
The old emperor of Northern Ji had been decrepit and useless, long since draining the national coffers. So when the nation was destroyed, there hadn’t been much in the way of war spoils. When the Great Zhou emperor had hoisted the banner of rebellion high and led the men in conquest, he’d made lavish promises of rewards and titles for all. Two years after the founding of Great Zhou, there were titles to be had aplenty, but the promised silver was still forthcoming.
Many soldiers who’d been part of the initial conquest grumbled privately, but there was a new strain of gossip now that whoever had been the vanguard had taken all of the loot for themselves.
Wasn’t that pointing fingers at Pang Xiao?
And even setting all that aside, his Valiant Tigers were so exemplary that they put the other troops to shame. This naturally elicited jealousy from other generals and officers.
But the emperor needed to bring peace throughout the lands and so military officials were of utmost importance. This rankled the officials of the civil subjects. Pang Xiao was the representative of the military officials, which only painted a larger target on his back.
Thinking about it closely, Pang Xiao felt himself just a crude brute with a whole slew of people eyeing his back covetously. There really was nothing he could bring out to be proud of…
In conclusion, the Faithful Prince of the First Rank suffered from low self esteem after Mu Jinghu’s words.
Huzi sighed. “Then I’ll go and ask. What do you plan on doing next, master?”
A brilliant light sparkled in Pang Xiao’s eyes as he toyed with the hilt of his sword. He arched a brow with a smile. “I’m going to give them a thorough beating no matter what, and take that arrogant Prince of Ning down a peg or two. Their morale’s grown greatly after their trash emperor abdicated. I think they’ve forgotten what their names are! I’ll help them remember that they’re still the trash they were before!”
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