Longing from an extended period of separation and reunion after trial and tribulation quickly gathered tears in Qin Yining’s eyes.
When she’d been chased by assassins and huddled in a one-person shelter, attempting to find cover from the snow and wind, without any food or water, she’d once prayed in the deepest part of her heart that Pang Xiao would appear.
When she learned that Pang Xiao had still opted to search for her, even running the risk of insubordination, emotion had broken through the barricades of her heart. Sadly, the young lovers had been caught by circumstance and the prince had had to rush back to the capital before he could see her.
Sentimentality had slowly morphed into yearning. As she played the part of Pang Xiao on the way back, she would often stare at herself in the mirror. A bizarre sense of wrongness jarred her with the reflection of the prince’s face, but there was also a bit of comfort from the sight.
Now that they’d finally met, her taut heartstrings could finally relax. The tough obstinance she showed outsiders vanished, leaving behind only overflowing grievance—like a child lost for many days finally finding her way home.
The ardent look in Pang Xiao’s eyes echoed her feelings.
She took one involuntary step forward, but the prince remained where he was, unmoving, and even stiffly turned his head aside to not look at her.
She froze in place, cold water instantly dumped over the raging emotions in her heart.
There was a split second worth of hurt.
But her thoughts moved quickly. She was in the capital of Great Zhou now, and Pang Xiao in difficult straits. She was also the daughter of a surrendered official, and caution was indeed required when it came to their words and deeds. Qin Yining ducked her head and didn’t look at the prince anymore.
At this time, Qi Rugang and the others had finished arranging for military camps outside the city walls, and normal passage had been restored through the gates. The rescued Great Yan officials were welcomed by officials from the Ministry of Personnel and Rites and whisked off to the guest inns.
Someone approached Qin Yining. “Miss Qin, please head to the guest inns with us.”
The Qin fourth miss nodded silently and followed the speaker.
The guest inns were where Great Zhou welcomed honored visitors. The emperor’s arrangement was highly ceremonious for the families of surrendered officials.
These folk had starved and thirsted in the Yan Dynasty, spending day-to-day on tenterhooks and then running into extreme danger on the road. Uneasiness still yawned in the bottom of their hearts, even though they were in Great Zhou. Some even felt that it was already good enough they hadn’t been thrown into the dungeons as soon as they’d arrived. They’d never thought that the Zhou emperor would be so generous as to put them up in luxurious inns!
They were first startled by the flattery, then enveloped by reassurance. With this display of the emperor’s attitude, that meant their safety were secure.
Qin Yining moved towards the carriage, Lian Xiaozhou in hand. They climbed adroitly onto the vehicle.
Xie Yue was highly relieved to see how rational the Qin fourth miss and the prince had been upon meeting each other. He continued playing the role of an elderly Qin servant and followed the girls into the carriage.
Their carriage set off, following the officials from the Ministry of Rites. Pang Xiao stood by the side of road, expressionlessly watching Qin Yining’s vehicle enter the city. A familiar figure then caught the corner of his eye.
The prince looked around to confirm that everyone had dispersed, before slowly striding over to the cloaked man in the shadows who was hiding his face.
“What are you doing here? Enjoying the show?” Pang Xiao kept his voice low.
Ji Zeyu looked back at the prince. “Your beloved has entered the city. Aren’t you going to go after her?”
Pang Xiao stared back expressionlessly.
Ji Zeyu typically wore a blank expression as well; this time was no exception. The two looked silently at each other for a while.
“Thank you for the reminder. I do need to go after her.”
Ji Zeyu nodded coldly. “Then go.”
Pang Xiao stared at Ji Zeyu for another long moment, refraining from interrogative questions in the end. He turned back to his carriage and ordered frostily, “Catch up to the Qin carriage.”
Huzi and the accompanying Elite Tigers all trembled when they glimpsed their master’s wooden expression. Though the prince wasn’t outwardly expressing his anger, his aura flared like he was on the battlefield, about to reap heads. It was an obvious indicator of his rage.
Huzi snuck a look at Ji Zeyu in the distance, then back at his master climbing into the carriage. He clucked inwardly to himself. The prince would’ve beheaded anyone else, much less talk to the guy! He didn’t lose his temper at the marquis even though he was thoroughly enraged, and didn’t pick a fight or start an argument. They’re sworn brothers alright!
Their carriage also set off on its way, the Elite Tigers steering it in Qin Yining’s direction.
Ji Zeyu watched the prince’s vehicle vanish through the city gates, he himself coldly re-entering the city moments later.
Qin Yining’s carriage trailed the others to arrive at the guest inns, and she was about to follow the officials inside to rest when fast hoof steps sounded from behind them.
Those who hadn’t gone inside yet looked back to see an opulent carriage careen down the road. The window curtains were cracked open to reveal a half-visage of the Faithful Prince of the First Rank. He glowered in Qin Yining’s direction.
When the vehicle slowly rolled to a stop, he leered and pointed at the Qin fourth miss. “Take her back to this prince’s manor.”
“Eh?” Huzi drew a blank. What did his master want? What kind of attitude was this?
Those equally stunned struggled to make their brains operate again. Was the prince kidnapping someone in broad daylight?
Qin Yining looked calmly at the flinty Pang Xiao in the carriage, feeling that something was gravely wrong. His current attitude was very hard to bear.
He’d always been exceedingly gentle and tender with her, so she was certain that he felt something for her. If not, would he have taken the risk to personally go rescue her?
But now, he was the very image of a darkly dangerous tyrant.
Her mind spinning rapidly, Qin Yining abruptly grasped his intentions and couldn’t help but sigh admiringly at his thoughtfulness.
“You, you…” Anger seemed to overcome her as she swayed on her feet.
When Pang Xiao saw her wobble, he sat bolt upright with his hands clenched tightly. But his hands relaxed a breath later.
“What ‘you’?! Now in my territory, you’re not allowed to even think no!” Pang Xiao turned to his attendants. “What, does this prince need to tell you what to do?”
“Huh? Um. Understood!” A heavy fog of bafflement still wreathed around Huzi, but he knew how to follow orders and issued his own to take the Qin fourth miss.
The color drained from Xiaozhou’s face when she saw that so many were here to take her big sister away. She frantically grabbed Qin Yining’s hand and ran off.
The fourth miss was led away for a few steps, upon which the Elite Tigers caught up and surrounded them. Xiaozhou’s eyes were that of a terrified, puffed-out cat as she maintained a death grip on Qin Yining’s hand.
Xie Yue wailed accordingly, “What are you all doing?! Kidnapping in broad daylight?! Our miss isn’t someone you can just offend like this! She’s the daughter of the Marquis of Anping! You can’t do this!”
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So many undercurrents of emotion in this chapter!
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