Chapter 262: Pang Xiao’s Circumstances (I)
“Miss.” Bingtang put a tray down on the eight-sided table in the outer room and came inside to pull the bed curtains back, tying them to silver crabapple blossom hooks.
“What time is it?”
“Miss, it’s already the start of the hour of the snake.”
“I slept that long?”
“You did. You haven’t slept that deeply for a while. The prince wouldn’t let me wake you up because he wanted you to sleep until you woke up.” Bingtang merrily helped her mistress into a padded jacket and swept Qin Yining’s locks forward. “Miss, did the prince… last night…”
“You’re awful.” A blushing Qin Yining levied a glare at her maid.
Bingtang giggled even more happily.
Jiyun and Qiulu came in to help Qin Yining awash up when they heard the disturbance. Though they didn’t ask as blatantly as Bingtang, teasing expressions flitted across their faces.
The fourth miss pretended not to see any of it as she picked up a pair of pearl lilacs from her jewelry box. She murmured, “Where is His Highness?”
Bingtang responded in a similar way. “He rose before dawn. After eating breakfast and taking medicine, I changed his dressing. He didn’t wake you on account of how deeply you were sleeping and jumped out the window, saying that he was going to arrange for the four Elite Tigers.”
Qin Yining nodded, Pang Xiao had gone off to arrange for her father’s protection detail. The prince was from Great Zhou; arranging for his own bodyguards to protect an enemy strategist was sure to result in backlash from his own men. Despite that, she trusted that Pang Xiao would be able to handle it well.
She followed her usual routine of making morning greetings to the old dowager, along with the eighth miss and Qin Huining. That was followed by a chat with née Sun before returning to Venerable Study Hall.
Qin Yining specifically stayed in all day, but didn’t catch even Pang Xiao’s shadow. When night fell, it came with Mu Jinghu.
“The fox was coming back when something urgent happened at the front lines. He left in a hurry with Huzi and wanted me to apologize to you. He’ll come see you when he’s free next time.” Mu Jinghu openly assessed Qin Yining’s expression, spilling out his explanation as he was afraid the girl would be angry.
“Don’t blame him, he couldn’t help it. His emperor bullies him into the ground and it was hard enough to come see you even this time. With yesterday’s trip, he not only risked Great Yan finding out, but also Great Zhou’s spies catching wind of his movements. The danger this time seemed to be someone on the Great Zhou side finding out he’d left his post and was accusing him of conspiring with the enemy.”
Worry crept into his tone at this point. “I say Great Zhou’s not any better. They scheme and attack each other without caring about the country’s safety. All of their efforts are focused on framing and dragging someone else down.”
How would Qin Yining not know the difficult situation Pang Xiao was in? She was already immensely touched that he’d gone to the risk of visiting her — how would she ever blame him?
After hearing Mu Jinghu’s words however, she fretted even more at learning how delicate the prince’s situation was in Great Zhou.
“Sir Mu, can you tell me how things are like for him in Great Zhou?”
Mu Jinghu had been deathly afraid that his friend’s departure without goodbye would set off Qin Yining, and delay the fox taking a wife. When he heard the Qin fourth miss’ interest, he was naturally willing to put in a good word or three for his friend.
He spilled the beans on everything he knew.
“Being in Great Yan, all you see is him charging here and there with men at his beck and call. He has elite troops under his command and a ton of prestige in the army. He has a mighty reputation and an illustrious future. But what you don’t see is that he’s actually suppressed by his emperor. You know that the emperor Li Qitian, Marquis of Northern Stability Ji Zeyu, and the fox are sworn brothers, right?”
Qin Yining nodded. “Everyone in the world knows this.”
“But you definitely don’t know that my martial-uncle once read their fortunes. In times of chaos, the temptress would descend to throw the previous dynasty into disarray and exhaust its fortunes. The three violent stars of Seven Kills, Destruction, and Greedy Wolf would aid the Purple Star in ascending to the top and create lasting peace throughout the lands.
“The Greedy Wolf landed in the northern plains, whereas Seven Kills, Destruction, and the Purple Star are Li Qitian, Ji Zeyu, and the fox.”
“You… you said your martial-uncle read their fortunes? Your master’s senior brother is the Soothsayer?” Qin Yining was quite taken aback.
Mu Jinghu clapped his hand to his mouth, slack jawed with horror. He actually looked like he’d swallowed a raw egg. He’d let the truth slip!
He’d spoken one of the greatest of all secrets to help the fox get his wife…
Qin Yining immediately piped up understandingly when she saw the other’s reaction. “Don’t worry, Sir Mu. Since you treat me with honesty, I will never let your identity slip. Only you and I will know of what we talk about today.”
Mu Jinghu nodded slowly after peering into Qin Yining’s sincere eyes. “Alright, I believe you then. It’s not like you know that my martial-uncle is actually…” He cut off mid word.
And punched himself in the head.
He’d almost said that his martial-uncle is his master!
He awkwardly changed the subject. “My martial-uncle had thought this was the beginning of fame and fortune after the reading, but hastily fled after Li Qitian took the throne. Guess why?”
Qin Yining’s mind whirred furiously. Her expression stiffened and she murmured, “Can it be that Pang Zhixi is the Purple Star?”
“How did you think of that?? How are you so smart?!”
She’s just as crafty as the fox!
Faced with a dumbstruck Mu Jinghu, Qin Yining knew that she had to be straight as a rod with the gentleman. Her usual style of leaving things half unsaid wouldn’t work here, plus the other had already spoken of his relationship with the Soothsayer. It really wouldn’t do to keep things to herself.
“It’s because of what Sir Mu just said. You said that Pang Zhixi’s life is very difficult in Great Zhou, then spoke of the Soothsayer’s fortune. This means that’s the reason behind the Great Zhou emperor giving Pang Zhixi a hard time. The answer is also apparent with the order of the Seven Kills, Destruction, and the Purple Star that you gave.
“I’ve often heard that Li Qitian is a careful, paranoid, steady, and thoughtful man. Why is a ruler paranoid? There’s only one reason: he feels guilty.” Qin Yining narrowed her eyes. “He didn’t come about his position honestly, so naturally he worries day and night that someone will take it from him. Everyone must look like they’re plotting against him.”
Mu Jinghu raised his thumb in admiration. “Like is attracted to like alright! You and the fox are equally smart. That’s right, my martial-uncle ran away when the Purple, also known as the Emperor Star, wasn’t the one on the throne. You might have known all this before, or not, but what you should know is that the Star of Destruction is naturally afraid of backlash from the Purple Star after stealing the throne.
“Commoners might comfort themselves in saying that fortunes might not necessarily be accurate, but Li Qitian believes it unfailingly. But Sly Fox Pang isn’t a pushover either! His prestige in the army is terrifyingly high. If he wanted to deploy the Army of Southern Pacification or even Ji Zeyu’s Army of Northern Stability, he just needs to raise finger, much less his Valiant Tigers! He’s a walking command talisman!” Mu Jinghu’s blood was boiling and he slapped the table in appreciation.
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