Chapter 285: Discarded After Use
Though Qin Yining was residing in the Valiant Tiger encampment, she didn’t spend much time together with Pang Xiao. The prince had to oversee the process of rebuilding, settle down the refugees, distribute congee, maintain order, clean out and cremate bodies, send in military doctors to work with the ones in the city to avoid the spread of plague, and report to his emperor to send in personnel…
All sorts of duties descended on him, ones that weren’t any less taxing than leading the Valiant Tigers into battle. Pang Xiao was so busy hopping from one task to another that his feet barely had time to touch the ground. Even the meals he spent with Qin Yining were moments that he forcefully squeezed out of his schedule.
However, because he was kept busy spinning from day to night, order soon returned to the city.
The Valiant Tigers were stationed outside the city walls, while Pang Xiao took only a small contingent with him into the city during the day. He would discuss the day’s agenda with Weichi Yan, whereupon Weichi Yan would order the respective officials to carry out the prince’s orders. Pang Xiao would then leave at the hour of the dog and return to the army camp with his attendants.
The prince had a stern and impartial style; he also had quite an awe-inspiring reputation. He generously doled out both favors and threats, quickly winning begrudging acknowledgement from some of the Great Yan officials. They hadn’t wanted to listen to his orders, but for the peace and prosperity of the people, they had to do as they were told.
While there were officials relieved the emperor had agreed to surrender, there were even more willing to martyr themselves in a show of integrity and moral courageousness.
Everyday, bodies of those who’d laid down their lives for the country were lifted out of manors. Some hung themselves, other took poison, some others took a blade to their neck… there was all manner of ghastly deaths.
But none of their actions could budge Weichi Yan’s resolution to submit to Great Zhou.
Though the capital had been dealt a severe blow in this tribulation, reconstruction efforts went ahead steadily. There were no more refugees present in the city after a month, some of the stores had reopened, and the people had the strength to go about their daily business again.
Order had been restored, and in fact, there was an even more vigorous atmosphere reigning than before the war.
It was now the beginning of winter.
“My darling, why don’t I bring you into the city today? You’ll suffer from the cold if you keep living in the tent.” Pang Xiao flung his cotton cape, lined with a sable fur collar, around Qin Yining’s shoulders.
She had indeed felt a bit under the weather these days. Her weakened health hadn’t had the time to recover before she’d suffered through two months of starvation and weariness. When her taut heartstrings had been able to fully relax by Pang Xiao’s side, all the aches and pains she’d staved off came looking for her.
Rain had fallen a few days ago and the days had gotten colder. Qin Yining had only suffered a bit of a breeze before she came down with a cold. She’d spent the past couple of days in a half-feverish state. Pang Xiao could hear her coughing every time he came back from his day’s duties. He knew that he couldn’t selfishly continue to keep her in the military camp just because he wanted to spend more time with her.
Qin Yining smiled. “No worries. I don’t think I’ll be as happy after going back as I am here with you.”
She wanted to stay by his side. Though he was busy during the day, they could still meet everyday. He’d long since asserted his attitude towards her anyhow. It was an unavoidable fact that she was his, so she decided to discard all thoughts of her reputation and just focus on their rare time together.
If she returned home, it wouldn’t be so easy for them to meet again.
How would Pang Xiao not know what Qin Yining was thinking? He rubbed her head lovingly with a smile. “Alright, since you want to stay and keep me company, I’ll have them prepare more silver charcoal for you. Honestly, I don’t feel right if you go back either. It’s better if you stay right beneath my nose.”
Qin Yining covered her mouth as she coughed again, slowly resting her head on Pang Xiao’s shoulder afterwards. Just at this moment, Huzi’s urgent voice carried in from outside. “Your Highness! The emperor’s sent someone!”
Qin Yining looked up at Pang Xiao. To send someone out at this time… did the Zhou emperor have new orders?
Pang Xiao reacted to the news with narrowed eyes, slowly sorting out some possible developments. A black whirlpool slowly grew in the depths of his phoenix eyes. However, he was as gentle as ever with Qin Yining. “No worries, I’ll go take a look. Just rest here, I’ll send Jiyun and Bingtang to keep you company.”
“Alright.” The girl nodded docilely, her long hair spilling down to her chest with the movement of her head.
Pang Xiao rose, put his hand to the back of her neck, and dropped a devoted kiss on her forehead before exiting the tent.
In the adjutant’s tent, the prince strode in to see a familiar face.
“And here this prince was wondering who it was! So it’s Sir Lian! Long time no see, you’re looking much better.” Pang Xiao smiled superciliously and drifted elegantly into the head seat. He pointed a casual finger at a nearby chair. “Have a seat, Sir Lian.”
Lian Shengjie had had fear beaten into him. His heart spasmed when he saw the prince raise his arm, deathly afraid that he was in for another walloping. But when he thought about what he was here for, and how the emperor was his backer, he found new sources of courage.
“The Faithful Prince of the First Rank is so very courteous,” he responded proudly with his hands behind his back. “But this official is an imperial envoy and is here with the emperor’s verbal decree. Please listen to the decree, Your Highness!”
A serious expression settled over Pang Xiao’s face when he heard this, and he rose to bow.
Lian Shengjie delivered haughtily, “The emperor’s words are: ‘The Faithful Prince of the First Rank has done a great deed in pacifying the south. We are quite gratified, and it has been a long while since We have seen Pang Zhixi. We miss him dearly. The ceremony of surrender is a cumbersome and long-winded affair. If it falls on Pang Zhixi’s shoulders, it will consume an inordinate amount of time. How much longer will it be until We can see him? We order Pang Zhixi to quickly return to the capital!”
Another degree of confidence bolstered him after Lian Shengjie finished thoroughly conveying the emperor’s words. A fake smile blossomed on his lips. “His Majesty’s care of Your Highness is on another level alright! He’s afraid that you’ve been overtired from the reconstruction process and has ordered that you not be bothered with the ceremonial affairs. You are to return to the capital immediately.”
Pang Xiao’s expression was the same as usual, with a faint curve upturning his lips. His Majesty really has the best timing!
Or, perhaps Lian Shenjie had been hiding nearby all this time — only sauntering out after all the hard work was done. After all, there’d been a secret envoy who’d contacted the Great Yan officials to plot his murder!
The prince had put in backbreaking effort to conquer Great Yan, then ran to and fro for another month to restore the capital back to order. He’d settled citizen complaints, kept the plague in check, given clear duties to the Yan emperor and officials, and won everyone’s acknowledgement.
He’d put forth so much arduous effort, but it wouldn’t be him at the place of honor for the ceremony of surrender!
Something as momentous as accepting Weichi Yan’s surrender would be recorded in the annals of history. It was an extreme honor for a Great Zhou soldier, and well-deserved after such a long period of hard work.
But the emperor was urgently summoning him back to the capital and refusing to allow him the honor!
Though Pang Xiao knew the emperor was wary of him, he hadn’t thought that his liege would be so obvious about it.
“Well? You best pack your things up, Your Highness, and hurry back.”
Pang Xiao snorted derisively. “Even if this prince is to return, that is out of obedience to the imperial decree and loyalty to His Majesty. It would never be out of fear of a spineless worm like you. You throw your weight around — have you forgotten what happened before? Are you itching for another beating?”
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