Chapter 263: Pang Xiao’s Circumstances (II)
Qin Yining basked in shared glory to hear Pang Xiao so complimented, but worry quickly drowned out her joy.
“I’d guessed before that though he seems to have it all, life wasn’t easy for him.” Qin Yining rose to pace anxiously. “He was the vanguard that broke Northern Ji and visited terrible revenge on some of Northern Ji’s officials. There must be some surrendered officials in Great Zhou’s court, and they’re certainly on opposite sides to Pang Zhixi. Add to that his prestige in the army… the Great Zhou emperor must be on high alert against him. Just these two alone is enough for catastrophic consequences. Add that to what you said… the Great Zhou emperor won’t permit Pang Zhixi to remain on this earth.”
Qin Yining paced with a slight frown, her hand clutching the armrests of the round chair and slowing turning her knuckles white.
The color had also drained from Mu Jinghu’s face after her analysis. He also now felt that Pang Xiao was in a very dangerous situation. “Does this mean he’s in a lot of danger after his return?”
The Qin fourth miss shook her head. “These attacks on him only add fuel to the flame, but the Great Zhou emperor won’t do anything to him for now. He needs the prince to conquer Great Yan, and the Valiant Tigers are the main force for the army. It’s a huge taboo to swap out the commander-in-chief on the eve of battle, so he’ll be fine for the time being.”
The gentleman heaved a long sigh of relief. “Thank goodness.”
Wait a second. He’d only wanted to let Qin Yining know of how difficult things were for Pang Xiao outside, but she had a better grasp on the situation than even him! He’d gotten entirely caught up in her analysis.
Mu Jinghu scratched his head. “I’ll be going then, since you know everything.”
“I must thank you though.”
“Uh, for what?”
“Thank you for your efforts on Pang Zhixi’s behalf. It’s his fortune for having such a good friend.”
Mu Jinghu flushed bright crimson with the compliment. It was so straightforward that he didn’t know how to respond. He settled for a stately cough. “It’s nothing. I’m going then.”
To someone unskilled with pleasantries and so very honest, Qin Yining responded with a smile and politely saw him out the door. She turned with a frown and headed upstairs after seeing him walk off swiftly into the distance.
Pang Xiao had kept her company just last night. Though there had been a small table between them, they’d slept on the same bed. They’d been able to hear each other breathing, and she’d been able to strongly feel his presence even after falling asleep.
Alas, their reunion had been so short. Not only had he left, but he’d gone back to face an unknown accusation of conspiring with the enemy. Even though she understood that the Great Zhou emperor couldn’t do anything to him in the short term, Qin Yining still brooded over the prince.
Her mind full of worries, she couldn’t catch a bit of sleep that night. She barely managed to fall asleep when the sky began to brighten. Only an hour of sleep was available to her before she had to rise for the morning greeting.
Even the old dowager’s blurring eyesight could see how wan Qin Yining was, much less née Sun. Worried that her granddaughter’s injury would flare up again, the matriarch quickly dismissed her to rest.
As the Qin fourth miss caught up on sleep, Pang Xiao and Huzi had already returned to Xihua.
Faced with a frowning, scowling white bun of a head eunuch, Zhao Yueshui, Pang Xiao arched a brow. “Zhao-gonggong’s greeting gift is certainly unique. What big labels you’re clapping onto me! Conspiring with the enemy? Treason? Zhao-gonggong, are these the crimes you’ve slotted me into?”
Zhao Yueshui was here on imperial orders to monitor the army, with special focus on Pang Xiao’s movements on the front line. He had the right to make direct reports to the emperor.
Not only did the eunuch enjoy immense imperial favor, but he was also from the same hometown as the approval eunuch of the Directorate of Ceremonial, Li Guanwen. The Directorate of Ceremonial was one of twelve eunuch agencies within the palace, and also the most powerful. Li Guanwen held the power to preliminary approve all decisions within the agency, and happened to be godfather to Eunuch Zhao.
Before Zhao Yueshi had set out with the army, his godfather had given him many reminders in private. Add to that the rumors the eunuch had heard himself, it gave him a slightly dismissive attitude towards Pang Xiao.
Besides, no matter what the eunuch did, his godfather would have his back. And would a smart person be less than polite to the army monitor?
Zhao Yueshui smirked proudly. “Oh how you like to jest, Your Highness. How would I have the power to convict you of any crimes? But as the commander-in-chief, you left your post without any prior approval. This is an affront to His Majesty’s trust in you and his mighty favor!” He raised cupped fists towards the north as he spoke, tilting his chin arrogantly at the prince.
Amused, Pang Xiao moved a cushion to his rear and leaned back comfortably on the round chair. He raised his black-silk clad legs and rested them on the table, responding leisurely, “The enemy’s new commander-in-chief avoids battle thirty days out of a month. This prince has been so terribly bored. What, could I not scope out the terrain?
“The enemy refuses to fight, so this prince is thinking of ways to make them fight. You seem to have a lot of time on your hands — have you thought about how much food and silver the Valiant Tigers goes through in a day? His Majesty trusts you and gives you silver and rations, but this is how you repay him?”
Zhao Yueshui’s tone remained hard. His dark eyes seemed like two black beans embedded in a white bun. “I find myself forced to report to His Majesty what Your Highness has been doing.”
“Tsk tsk.” Pang Xiao played with a whip in hand. “How very interesting. Zhao Yueshui, have you forgotten where we are?”
The prince’s tone was very indolent, so placid that he seemed to be discussing the weather.
The eunuch however, tensed all over. He adopted a stern expression. “Don’t you forget either, Your Highness, who the world belongs to!”
“How dare you!” Huzi had long felt this fat, rotund bun to be an eyesore. With a flying kick, he sent the eunuch stumbling backwards to a sitting position on the ground. “How dare you show such arrogance in front of His Highness!”
“Pang Zhixi, how dare you! How dare you beat me!”
“Beat?” Pang Xiao burst out laughing and propped his forehead up lazily. His phoenix eyes narrowed slightly. “Let’s list out Zhao-gonggong’s crimes: selling himself to the highest bidder, stealing army rations, and colluding with the local gangsters. He’s in cahoots with the enemy and betrayed our nation. This prince’s guards caught him in the act, but he continues to spew nonsense.
“Report all that to His Majesty. As the commander of an army, this prince will not allow such a plague to remain by my side. He shall be executed immediately. Write up another report for me requesting forgiveness from the emperor. Sadly, time was of the essence as we cannot suffer spies to remain in the army.” He closed his eyes in repose.
Huzi assented and, with shining eyes, dragged the eunuch out by the collar.
Terrified, all color had drained from Zhao Shuiyue’s face. He wet his pants. “You can’t do that! This is slander!”
“Slander? Not only did you sell army intelligence for profit, but you blamed all that shit on His Highness! So after taking the enemy’s silver, it looks like you want to erase a loyal subject from His Majesty’s side as well!” Having served Pang Xiao for a long time, Huzi had quite the glib tongue as well. Holding the eunuch up with one hand, he threw Zhao-gonggong onto the parade ground and loudly proclaimed the eunuch’s crimes.
The Valiant Tigers was already resentful of a eunuch throwing his weight around in the army camp, and Zhao Yueshui was truly an irritating character. Now that Huzi declared that the bastard eunuch had attempted to frame Pang Xiao, as the prince’s personal troops, all of them flew into a rage and vied for the right to tear the eunuch apart.
For a while, discussions abounded of Zhao Yueshui betraying the country and furious calls to kill him. The situation had quickly grave. It was likely that the men would revolt if the eunuch didn’t die.
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