Chapter 283: Farewell
Pang Xiao and Qin Yining looked at each other, immediately rising and exiting the tent.
Mu Jinghu looked to be in great health. Though he’d lost a lot of weight when keeping Qin Yining company on the mountain, he had a deep foundation of cultivation. He brimmed with vigor after two full meals and a night of rest.
Pang Xiao walked up smilingly and clapped his friend’s shoulder intimately. “Did you sleep well last night?”
Mu Jinghu returned the smile with a nod. “Very well. Things are much better here than in the city. I haven’t had a full meal in a long time. I ate well, so naturally slept well. But you, did you sleep well last night?”
He was just purely curious and kept sneaking glances at Qin Yining. His gaze was very pure, but given the gentleman’s antics, mortified understanding dawned on the girl.
Her face exploded with red and she wanted to find a place to take cover in. She’d gone straight to rest in Pang Xiao’s tent yesterday, who knew what everyone was speculating??
Naturally, this occurred to Pang Xiao as well. He turned back to see Qin Yining’s flaming red cheeks and coughed dryly. “What the heck, Blockhead. Why are you talking like this?”
Mu Jinghu was a pure individual and also felt that he’d gone overboard with how he’d approached things. He didn’t insist on an answer and changed the topic. “I’m here to bid you farewell. Your war is over, so it doesn’t matter if I’m around or not anymore. I’m going to the Tatars to look for my martial uncle.”
Pang Xiao and Qin Yining were both startled by this. The Soothsayer is with the Tatars?
The girl was reminded of the gentleman’s words that the Greedy Wolf Star was with the Tatars. Was there a connection between this and the Soothsayer’s visit?
Pang Xiao nodded. “Alright, thank you greatly for your help this time. Just let me know if you need my help with anything in the future. I’ll help you without reservation.”
“What kind of talk is that? I lost to you this time, so this is what I should’ve done. This wasn’t any sort of help.” Mu Jinghu was an honest man. Pang Xiao wasn’t someone with power or nobility in his eyes, but just an ordinary friend. From his relaxed expression, he wasn’t trying to toady up to the prince and receive credit for his achievement.
The less important he thought this was, the more precious his sincerity was. Pang Xiao clapped the man’s shoulder with a smile. “When do you set off?”
“In a moment.”
“Then I’ll have people prepare dry rations for you. Also, take two good horses with you.”
Mu Jinghu nodded with a smile. “Alright.”
A small smile crossed Qin Yining’s face as she watched the two. It was Pang Zhixi’s good fortune to have such a real friend.
At this moment, Qin Huaiyuan was frowning slightly as he perched sideways on the grand preceptor chair, keeping the emperor company. News had reached him of the emperor visiting the empress yesterday after his excursion, and the two having an enormous fight. The emperor had even whipped the empress!
The marquis wasn’t someone who who easily believed wild rumors, but he was well acquainted with Weichi Yan’s personality.
That declaration of fealty had enraged Weichi Yan beyond belief. Add to that all the external pressure he was under… It wouldn’t be surprising no matter how crazy the emperor became.
He watched Weichi Yan run the conversation in all directions. The emperor seemed to want to say something, but couldn’t bring himself to voice it. The marquis didn’t rush his liege, but listened quietly with a faint smile.
Weichi Yan had officially run out of things to discuss when he blabbered on about Great Zhou people and culture. He took a sip of tea to cover up the awkwardness.
After a long afternoon of carrying on about nonsense, the emperor politely sent Qin Huaiyuan out of the palace in the end. “We’ve kept you from many things in requesting your presence over the past two days.”
Weichi Yan was being courteous to the point that it greatly took Qin Huaiyuan aback. The emperor had been always been polite, but such courtesy was a rare sight after he’d gained the status and presence of one who ruled over all.
The marquis quickly rose to bow. “Your Majesty treats me with too much honor.”
“None of that, Grand Preceptor Qin.” Weichi Yan rose as well and continued with some awkwardness. “Um… We actually have another matter to inform you.”
“Please do, Your Majesty.” Qin Huaiyuan raised cupped fists.
The emperor continued bracingly, “The Duke of An used one of your servants to lure the fourth miss out. He wanted to use her as a hostage to bait and kill the Faithful Prince of the First Rank. After some investigation, We have discovered that they are in contact with Great Zhou.”
Qin Huaiyuan’s heart skipped a beat. Out of his servants, only Qitai had sufficient prerogative to successfully lie to Qin Yining. No wonder he hadn’t seen Qitai over the past two days.
“I see.” The marquis responded without a flicker in expression.
Weichi Yan had been thought Qin Huaiyuan would ask more, making it easy for the emperor to launch into an explanation. But the marquis had responded curtly with just that, how was the former supposed to continue from there?
The emperor coughed dryly to cover his guilty embarrassment. “The fourth miss was already in the army camp when We received word. We specifically paid a visit and discovered that she was well. Because they threatened the prince, the prince wrote a letter to Us…”
A hitch appeared in his throat. It was too mortifying to relay the full contents of the letter.
“We felt that the prince was sincere and had the fourth miss sent to him. We know that they have a good relationship. After we surrender, those formerly of Great Yan will move to Great Zhou. Things will be smoother then if we have a relationship with the Faithful Prince of the First Rank.”
Qin Huaiyuan nodded. “Your Majesty is wise.”
From the emperor’s halting attitude and vague summary, the marquis had more or less guessed what had really happened. It was likely that the emperor had been involved from the very beginning. He wouldn't have kept Qin Huaiyuan in the palace for the past two days otherwise — supposedly for conversation and company. The letter that Pang Xiao had written to the emperor had probably scared the latter stiff.
Rage boiled in Qin Huaiyuan’s heart.
But the matter had already passed. There was no point in pursuing things further. Though they’d decided to surrender, the process hadn’t started yet and so Weichi Yan was still the emperor. He still grasped the power of life or death in his hands.
Qin Huaiyuan felt that there was no need to erupt in open hostilities over something that was over and done with. He also trusted Pang Xiao’s feelings for Qin Yining. His daughter would actually have a better time of things at the prince’s side. It beat suffering on the mountain, in any case.
However, the marquis no longer bore any goodwill for the Weichi clan.
Qin Huaiyuan didn’t express it, instead maintaining his usual humble and genteel demeanor. He bowed. “Your Majesty is wise. This is a good way of approaching things. The prince is sworn brothers with the Great Zhou emperor. It will do Your Majesty good to be friendly with the prince.”
The marquis’ complete lack of displeasure and in fact, being so understanding, make Weichi Yan even more abashed. He spoke warmly with Qin Huaiyuan for another long while before instructing imperial guards to accompany the marquis back to Ning Park. He also sent some rations back with the grand preceptor.
Qin Huaiyuan reunited with his family on the mountain after thanking imperial favor. Everyone in the park was frantic with worry after Qin Yining’s disappearance. Née Sun had cried buckets upon buckets. When she saw Qin Huaiyuan and Cao Yuqing returned, she flung herself into his embrace. “You’re finally back! Daughter Yi’s gone missing!”
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