Chapter 301: Being a Scapegoat

Ji Zeyu adjusted his hat and buried his face even deeper into the shadows, not wanting anyone to see that he was here at this time. Pang Xiao’s actions had really ventured out of the scope of his expectations this time.

If he’d known that this sworn brother of his would privately send troops out to investigate the Qin fourth miss’ whereabouts, he wouldn’t have sent his own to intercept and kill the Qins.

It hadn’t crossed Ji Zeyu’s mind at all that not only would Pang Xiao refrain from pulling up an old enemy by the roots, but he’d fall for their fourth miss! The marquis had always felt Pang Xiao was a highly principled and rational person. Who would’ve thought that the prince would one day put it all on the line for a girl he liked!

Ji Zeyu didn’t know how to describe his mix of emotions, but they didn’t feel good.

He’d been stationed at the Tatar border for almost a year; Pang Xiao had spent the same amount of time fighting the war to the south. Being unable to meet up, he didn’t know much about his brother’s personal affairs. He’d thought that Pang Xiao was the same as before, that he wouldn’t change. But to think that in a short half year, so much of the unanticipated had happened!

No wonder the marquis had randomly picked up Pang Xiao’s beloved snow-white horse! It was incredulous that he would’ve ever been willing to gift such a valuable Ferghana to a girl. And now, he’d committed such a grave crime and handed this enormous opening to the emperor out of rescuing the girl!

Indeed, Ji Zeyu believed that Pang Xiao really had led the Valiant Tigers out for a search and rescue mission.

The emperor seemed to be certain beyond a doubt as well, which was why the Dragon Riders had been ordered to hold down the fort. The imperial majesty was planning on thoroughly crippling Pang Xiao this time!

The marquis and prince were usually both exceedingly cautious. They were on the same footing when it came to eclipsing their master with their accomplishments. The marquis understood all of Pang Xiao’s difficulties, and the former had carefully committed a mistake that the emperor could seize upon — so that he would keep himself safe. But to think that the coolly collected Pang Xiao had set aside personal safety for a girl?

As Ji Zeyu’s thoughts ran their course, his fists slowly tighten inside his cloak. He couldn’t describe what he was feeling. Does Pang Xiao not want to take revenge for his father anymore?

Has he lost sight of the bigger picture because of a girl?

Or was the marquis irritated at himself for attacking the surrendered Yan convoy and causing a whole slew of trouble for his brother?

He could no longer sort through his tangled feelings. All of them mixed together just made him even more cantankerous, so ill-tempered that he wanted to kill someone!

As the marquis’ thoughts twisted and turned, Qi Rugang finished his close inspection of the Valiant Tigers. He’d even scrutinized the dozen or so rescued Yan officials and their families. At the same time, a group of people surrounded the carriage that Zuo Jinwei had put a heavy guard on.

“Your Highness, why have you still not alighted to receive your punishment!?” Qi Rugang and Zuo Jinwei approached the carriage, one after another.

The surrounding citizens and Valiant Tigers, as well as the disguised Li Qitian, Li Guanwen, and Ji Zeyu all looked at the carriage. 

The curtains lifted as a grizzled, stooped, seventy-some elder lurched his way down from the carriage. A young maid dressed in a downy-pink double layered jacket, her hair swept up in looped pigtails, followed after.

The elder placed a wooden footstool in front of the carriage, drawing muted commotion from the crowd. A strapping man like the Faithful Prince of the First Rank needed a footstool to get out of a carriage?

At this time, the navy blue, cotton curtains were lifted by a pale, jade-like arm.

What came into view was a young girl with her head lowered, her inky-black long hair and soft features on display. The scene quieted down as she stepped down with the help of her young maid.

It was a beautiful young girl wearing a pale-green skirt combination, draped with snow-white fox fur; her hands neatly tucked into white fox fur hand muffs that were embedded with rubies.

She stood a bit helplessly in the crowd, not sure what to do with herself. Her lively, almond-shaped eyes were dewy, likely out of fright. Slender fingers adjusted her fur collar as she looked down, hiding half of her face in the snowy fur. 

Beneath the winter sun, the collar perfectly offset her clear skin and she seemed to glow in the celestial radiance. The green of new growth in her clothes brought a hint of spring to the gray-white winter, so stunning that it shook one’s heart.

Within the crowd, Li Qitian narrowed his eyes. Head eunuch Li Guanwen’s mouth had dropped open; he had no idea that he’d sucked in a mouthful of glacial air.

Ji Zeyu was expressionless, save for a shrewd light flashing through his attractive eyes. There seemed to be a voice pointing out to him that this is the Qin fourth miss.

Close at hand, Qi Rugang and Zuo Jinwei were completely flabbergasted. The Valiant Tigers next to them were more steady. They’d all seen Qin Yining before, and knew that she was the future princess consort.

Dressed as a seventy-some year old elder, Xie Yue shook as he walked forward, making his greetings to Zuo Jinwei in a raspy voice. “General Zuo, this isn’t what we discussed before. Didn’t you say that you were going to escort my miss into the capital? Why is she barred from entering the city and even asked to alight?”

Zuo Jinwei could only reply in a daze, “Who are you? When has this official ever met you?”

“Now this won’t do, Master Zuo!” Xie Yue roused to anger. “Although Great Yan has submitted to Great Zhou, my miss is still the official daughter of the Marquis of Anping! Minister Qin was a renowned official in the former Yan dynasty! What do you mean with this denial?!”

“You, you!” Zuo Jinwei couldn’t quite wrap his mind around things. The sense that something was wrong pricked at him. He hastily asked his confidante, “What’s going on here, isn’t that the Faithful Prince of the First Rank in the carriage?! How did you all guard that vehicle?!”

His vice general was likewise addlepated. “Please, please quell your anger, sir! This subordinate kept a close eye on this carriage all this time. Even a sparrow wouldn’t have flown out of it, much less a person. It, it really is the prince in that carriage!”

Qin Yining’s slender eyebrows drew together slightly, her tone gentle but colored with a few hints of anger. “Where is this even coming from? I’ve been in this carriage all along. Aside from me, there’s only an elderly senior and my eight year old maid inside the vehicle. What outside male could there be?” 

She glared hotly at Zuo Jinwei and hectored severely, “Master Zuo, I was grateful to you for the rescue, and you even promised to keep looking for my father and missing family members. I agreed to introduce you to my father for your efforts, but you’re slandering me like this in broad daylight! What do you mean by this?? 

“Great Yan has surrendered to Great Zhou and submitted to His Majesty because His Majesty is a wise ruler. But to think that sage emperor would have such a flip-flopping subject! I have truly learned something new today!”

Qin Yining’s words were logical, plausible, and self-assured. There was also entirely too much information in them. A dull roar broke out in the crowd.

What deployment of troops for personal use?

What falsification of imperial orders?

It was all bullshit!

In reality, Master Zuo Jinwei was cozying up to the surrendered Yan officials! That’s why he’d sent troops out to rescue them—who else held the Valiant Tiger command token, hmm?

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