Chapter 272: Surrender (IV)
“Please quell your anger, father-in-law.” Pang Xiao dropped to his knees without another word when he saw that Qin Huaiyuan was well and truly angry. He didn’t mind in the slightest his identity as a prince and commander-in-chief of the Valiant Tigers.
“You can berate me however you’d like, but please don’t voice such hurtful things. I know Yining is suffering greatly with the war. Not just her, but the people as well. This is why I’ve forcefully invited you here today.
“Father-in-law is highly preceptive and intelligent, able to arrange the most perfect of schemes. So of course you understand that I lack the freedom to dictate my actions. Your heart goes out to the people and Yining, so you can curse at me however you’d like, but please don’t say that I don’t cherish her. I can feel the blades churning my heart.”
Pang Xiao’s head drooped, becoming more dejected the more he spoke.
He didn’t blame Qin Huaiyuan for being angry with him. A quick description of things in the city had been enough to give rise to unstoppable heartache. Knives stabbed at his heart to think of how Qin Yining was caught within such an environment; her wounds weren’t yet healed and she spent her days hungry.
Qin Huaiyuan looked down at the prince, unsure of how to respond in the moment.
From the nation’s perspective, this person was an utter villain, here to trample all over Great Yan.
From a personal perspective, this was an outstanding young man versed in both martial and civil subjects. He possessed talent, looks, and sincerity in his affections. His schemes and battles not only demonstrated his strategic mindset, but even more so his benevolence. The latter was especially apparent from when he defied the imperial decree and refused to raze a conquered city.
Qin Huaiyuan sat down wearily and rubbed his forehead. “How is Xihua now?”
Given Pang Xiao’s smarts, he could tell from the question that his father-in-law wasn’t so livid as to reject him entirely. A chance was being given!
“All is well in Xihua,” the prince immediately responded.
“But I hear nine houses out of ten are empty, and that your Valiant Tigers have slaughtered all the citizens. Heads are hung on poles as lanterns.” Qin Huaiyuan sneered coldly. “Are you trying to pull the wool over my eyes?”
“Father-in-law sees clearly. That’s just to throw the enemy into chaos.” Well, actually it’s to add to the future wife funds. But Pang Xiao would never say that, even on pain of being beaten to death.
Huzi, also on his knees next to his master, elaborated further. “In response to milord, my prince really hasn’t killed innocents. The heads displayed in front of Xihua’s gates belong to people doing bad things to begin with. His Highness made a thorough investigation after taking the city and recorded all the names of those being called scalpers and demons. They were sentenced only after their crimes were verified.”
“So the story now is that you brought justice, hmm?” Much of Qin Huaiyuan’s anger had dissipated, but he was still uncomfortable at seeing Pang Xiao. He turned his head away, refusing to look at the prince.
Pang Xiao heaved a silent sigh of relief with how things had developed. I think my position as future son-in-law is safe. He hastily kowtowed. “Father-in-law, I would never dare act against my conscience. It’s just that war is war. We stand in opposing camps, so there will be times when we can’t choose our own actions.”
He straightened up, still on his knees, to take a close look at Qin Huaiyuan’s face. Pang Xiao continued when he didn’t observe any displeasure. “Take you for example, father-in-law. Has the thought of surrendering for the good of the people never crossed your mind? Or has it struck you for a while now?”
Qin Huaiyuan’s heart trembled. He closed his eyes with a soft sigh.
On one hand was the issue of whether the Great Yan royals could continue to rule over the land, on the other was sacrificing the people for the authority of one on high. How had the thought never crossed his mind? But he was mired in the muck and couldn’t stick his neck out for this.
“You should rise. As a prince and the commander of an army, it won’t do for you to kneel to me.”
You’d still be angry right now if I didn’t! How would we have had a conversation if I’d put on airs as soon as I saw you!
Pang Xiao complained internally, but was still relieved. He rose to bring over the bowl of noodles with a smile. “Father-in-law’s been out cold for a day and hasn’t had anything to eat. Have a bowl of noodles first, we can talk after.”
Qin Huaiyuan didn’t have much of an appetite due to prolonged hunger. His stomach seemed to have shrank along with his desire to eat.
But the bowl that Pang Xiao was holding out glistened with clear broth, thin and almost translucent noodles with even length, and jade-green vegetables and chopped green onions scattered on top. Light fragrance wafted into the nose, and the entire picture was highly appetizing.
It wouldn’t be proper to have a Great Zhou prince continue to hold a bowl for a marquis, so Qin Huaiyuan took it and ladled some soup into his mouth. It was refreshing with just the right amount of seasoning. His appetite awakening, the marquis lifted the bowl to eat more.
Pang Xiao relaxed even further to see his father-in-law willing to eat his cooking. Huzi brought over a cup of tea when the food was consumed. “Please have some tea, Lord Qin.”
Qin Huaiyuan rinsed his mouth. “The noodles were cooked rather well.”
“It’s the noodles’ great fortune that father-in-law likes them. Darling Yi also likes my noodles.” Pang Xiao’s smile softened when he thought of Qin Yining.
“You cooked them?”
“Yes. Your son-in-law worked at the family restaurant before joining the army. I like to cook, so learned a trick or two from my maternal grandfather and the cooks.”
“Mm.” Qin Huaiyuan looked down, deep in the thought. The prince’s sincerity was highly evident, so it wouldn’t do to continue playing off his own position.
For one, it wouldn’t help relations between the countries at all and secondly, it might backfire on his daughter. What if his daughter still liked this kid? He couldn’t mess things up for them.
The marquis rose and remarked solemnly, “We were speaking of personal affairs just now, let’s turn our minds to official business. For what reason has Your Highness brought this official here today for?”
Pang Xiao privately complimented his father-in-law’s wits. The simple segue wrapped up everything earlier as a personal grudge, one that didn’t impact the relations of the two nations at all.
He was happy to comply and brought out a thick envelope from his robes. “Grand Preceptor Qin, I invited you privately today in order to think of a way out for the people. Please take a look at this.”
Qin Huaiyuan took the envelope with a perplexed look. His expression immediately changed when he saw the handwriting on the paper. He had the ability to remember everything he saw, so he recognized most of his peers’ writing. The characters on this envelope were from the Duke of An, Li Mian!
When he thought of the duke’s attitude towards the war, an educated guess formed in his mind. The marquis hastily tore the envelope open and rapidly skimmed through the contents.
It was a declaration of loyalty and willingness to offer proof in blood.
The gist was that the Faithful Prince of the First Rank needed to only give the word for the duke to open the city gates at an agreed upon time. He would welcome the Valiant Tigers into the city and behead Grand Preceptor Qin Huaiyuan as a gift offering. It would also be revenge for the prince and a sign of the sincerity of the duke’s surrender.
The most important was the long list of names at the end, each written in blood as a token of trustworthiness. Every name’s handwriting was different, and each name accompanied by a hand print.
Ninety percent of Great Yan’s generals and half of the civil officers were on the list!
Qin Huaiyuan laughed tragically. How could they continue fighting the war? It was impossible to!
“I see.” He calmly tucked the letter back into the envelope. “I need to have the emperor look over this letter.”
Pang Xiao nodded. “Don’t worry, Grand Preceptor. This prince promises that I won’t kill a single innocent person.”
I won’t kill the people, and I won’t kill you.
Qin Huaiyuan chuckled. “Naturally, I trust you. Since you can bring me out, then take me back.”
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