It was the first time everyone had gathered together to discuss Ji Zeyu’s actions, so all the strategists had come prepared with some thoughts.
What surprised them the most was how perceptive Miss Qin was. She didn’t seem like a typical sheltered, noble daughter at all.
Feeling everyone’s gazes on her, Qin Yining continued. “I’m not too familiar with the marquis, but I remember how he led the charge that day and just hacked around randomly. There was actually a lot of suspicious points about that operation. With the marquis’ abilities, it’s impossible for him not to even find the Qins if he really wanted to kill us all.
“Even I know why the emperor is taking in the surrendered officials, how would someone who serves at court not know? Purposefully slaughtering a random amount of people, and defying imperial orders to hurt surrendered officials—is he really not afraid of imperial wrath?
“Perhaps I’m being petty, but I don’t think that the ties of brotherhood are enough to cause the marquis to throw himself wholeheartedly into pursuit of revenge, without even thinking of his own safety. Not to mention, he didn’t even locate the right people to attack beforehand!x He wouldn’t be that impulsive or that idiotic.”
She looked at Pang Xiao at this point. “If the marquis possesses the same level of fame as Your Highness, then he must also worry about eclipsing his liege with his success?”
Pang Xiao sat silently instead of responding, not a flicker of emotion rippling through his face. The Qin fourth miss’ words demonstrated high clarity in thought. She only had a rudimentary understanding of the capital’s political situation, but had been able to deduce many key points. Though the strategists present could likely do the same, it still merited acknowledgment when a little girl could pinpoint the underlying issues with such coherence.
They no longer looked at her dismissively, as if gazing upon a girl that would be trouble. They seemed to understand now why Pang Xiao viewed her differently. This level of beauty was rare already, but even rarer was her intelligence and able to keep pace with the prince’s plans. It really evoked a brand new assessment of the Qin fourth miss.
Xu Weizhi rose and personally picked up a teapot to add a bit more to Qin Yining’s untouched teacup. When he put the teapot back down, he was smiling. “Miss Qin’s perspective is unique, and this old man happens to share many of the same opinions.”
His courteous attitude was a far cry from the remote aloofness earlier. Pang Xiao nodded to himself when he saw this, and the change also hit the others with surprise.
Xu Weizhi then raised cupped fists to Pang Xiao. “Your Highness, I mentioned to you before that the marquis’ actions aren’t what they appear. The newly arrived Miss Qin has also identified the undercurrents within—meaning that my postulations aren’t without reason. Your Highness treasures relationships, but you must be on your guard.”
Pang Xiao nodded with a solemn expression, prompting a sigh from the old strategist.
“Your Highness is highly loyal and principled, which are your strengths and why all of us follow you. But human hearts change, as does the situation. That is unavoidable.
“Though the marquis has a strong brotherhood with Your Highness, he’s in similar straits as well now. Both of you have prodigious achievements that threaten to eclipse our liege. The marquis must also be thinking of all the things he can do to survive. He wouldn’t destroy his future so easily out of emotional impulse.”
“Absolutely. That’s what we think as well.” The other strategists nodded with sighs and mixed emotions.
Qin Yining could understand the turmoil in Pang Xiao’s heart. Out of the three sworn brothers, one was already openly acting against him. If the other did so as well, then the oaths of yesteryear would be completely broken.
No one would feel good about this outcome at all.
But in these times, one had to accept reality if one wanted to survive.
Xu Weizhi had wanted to express this to Pang Xiao several times before, but hadn’t found the right opening to given the prince’s relationship with the marquis. The Qin fourth miss’ speech today was the perfect chance.
“Everyone, this old man feels that the marquis is killing three birds with one stone. The first of a friendly gesture to His Highness. The second of cozying up to the former Northern Ji officials. And the third of creating a mistake to put into His Majesty’s hands. What do you all think?”
This was how the group of dozen usually discussed things. Since they knew that the prince trusted Qin Yining, they openly debated their viewpoints without concern.
“It’s easy to pick out why this is a friendly gesture. The prince and marquis have been stationed to the north and south for a very long time. Even if they know what’s going on with each other, distance is sure to set in after prolonged absence. The marquis treasures his friendship with the prince, so making a friendly gesture is a given.”
“But just like Master Xu has said, this isn’t a simple gesture of friendship. Honestly, being friendly is likely just an afterthought. The other two points are his real goal.”
“Agreed. The arrival of the Yan dynasty officials means that the Northern Ji officials will lose some of their power. The marquis’ actions may not win Northern Ji’s gratitude, but it will at least ensure that they won’t stab him in the back when he returns to the north.”
“Precisely. And the marquis really is encroaching on the emperor with his merits. He’s careful and meticulous, and never makes mistakes. The emperor wants to have something to hold over him, but has nowhere to start. This looks fine on the surface, but won’t be good for the marquis in the long run. Rulers are only comfortable when they can fully grasp the people they use.”
“That’s right. Now that the marquis has attacked the Yan convoy and returned to accept punishment, he’s handed a scandal right into the emperor’s hands. His Majesty will feel at ease and think that he has a way to discard this sharp knife when he no longer wants to use it.”
Off to the side, Qin Yining listened silently to all of the analysis. This kind of discourse was both novel and delightful. Was this what was meant by pooling the wisdom of the masses and everyone fully expressing their view?
Listening to the intelligent opinions in the room helped her understand more of Great Zhou. Subconsciously, she started analyzing what she was taking in.
Seeing that the girl was deep in thought, Xie Yue smiled. “Does Miss Qin have any thoughts to share?”
The crowd refocused their attentions on the Qin fourth miss.
She hadn’t expected to be called on, but didn’t let that phase her. “I do indeed have some thoughts. I was thinking how this gentleman’s idea that the marquis’ friendliness being an afterthought was a bit off the mark.”
“Oh?” The strategist who’d offered that idea arched a brow, rather disgruntled. Even though the prince liked the girl, she was still just a girl, and a young one at that. How would she have the same masterful insights as a strategist?
“Please share what vaunted insights you may have, Miss Qin,” he said stiffly.
Qin Yining didn’t let the tone irritate her. She smiled instead. “I rather think that the marquis’ main goal was to express friendliness, and that the other two goals Sir Xu mentioned were the real afterthoughts. If it wasn’t for the grudge between the prince and my father, the marquis would’ve never chosen to attack the Great Yan convoy to reach his goals.”
This new casual relationship drew real curiosity.
“And, I think that the marquis has two other more important goals other than the three already mentioned. Sir Xu is absolutely right when he says that the marquis is skilled at schemes. This is killing five birds with one stone.”
The named strategist quite disliked a girl showing off like this, but he couldn’t say anything with Pang Xiao present. His expression a rigid mask, he asked, “What are the other two goals? We would like to hear the details.”Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Goals within goals, can anyone think of what else JZY wanted to do?