“What are they?” A puzzled Qin Yining walked up to Pang Xiao.
He reached out to fling an arm around his shoulder and headed inside. “Zuo Jinwei angered His Majesty yesterday. He’s been caned thirty times in front of the rest of the court and divested of all of his titles. He’s now resting at home with nothing to do.”
The Qin fourth miss smiled, having no comment.
She’d long since anticipated that a good ending wasn’t in the cards for Zuo Jinwei. With how paranoid the Zhou emperor was and the inconsistencies with Zuo Jinwei’s reports, it’d resulted in the large spectacle in front of the city gates and blowing wide open a struggle that had been veiled in the shadows.
The emperor was deeply shrewd and liked to keep his cards close to his chest. He’d been forced to show some clues and hints this time and had lost face. How would he possibly tolerate Zuo Jinwei after all that?
Even if Zuo Jinwei was an unparalleled talent, the emperor’s suspicion of him spelled the end of his future.
Pang Xiao was both gratified and delighted to see that his darling wasn’t surprised at all. He rubbed her nose with his index finger and said fondly, “Your calm reaction gives me no satisfaction of achievement at all. When I left the study just now, Sirs Xu and Xie hailed you as a demigod who can predict anything that’s to happen. I was so proud to hear them say that, but I couldn’t very well strut around in front of them. I kept it to myself with great difficulty, but you don’t even give me a chance to preen in front of you!”
“Well, that’s strange. We knew it would happen, so what’s to be happy about with that?”
Pang Xiao waved a hand to dismiss Xianyun and the others. He pressed down on Qin Yining’s shoulders and had her take a seat on the heated platform next to the window. He bent down to peer at her radiant face, happily placing a kiss on her forehead.
“Anyways, I’m very happy. Not just because of the Valiant Tigers—I’m still their commander to them, but more because my darling is so wonderful. You don’t know how highly they praise you now. I just knew that my dearest had the ability to conquer them all. You’re so wonderful that even if someone is biased against you, they’ll like you after spending some more time with you.”
Qin Yining’s cheeks burned from the compliment and she pushed lightly on his shoulders.
“Alright, alright. They’ll laugh at you for being so proud.”
“Laugh? They’ll be too busy being jealous and envious!” Pang Xiao sat down next to her.
“So that’s one piece of news, didn’t you say there was another?”
“Mm,” the prince responded. “His Majesty has sent men to collect the scattered Great Yan entourage. They’ll be in the city tomorrow morning.”
“So they’ve found my father and mother!” Qin Yining rose with surprised delight.
However, Pang Xiao wrapped his arm around her shoulders and pulled her down again. He comforted, “This is what I wanted to talk to you about. Everyone in your family has been located, but there’s no sign of your father, mother, or auntie in the group.”
It felt like a bolt of lightning had struck Qin Yining. She stared off blankly, all of the suppressed worries over the past few days rushing through, like waters through a broken dam. The onslaught made her dizzy and confused.
“How can that be? How can my parents not be with them? Our family was to the rear of the entourage that day and Auntie Cao knows martial arts. There are also guards and followers with my father, so how could they have not found them?”
“Don’t panic, my darling, don’t panic.” Pang Xiao’s hand around her shoulder, he patted her cheek. “You just said so yourself that the Marquis of Anping has guards with him and née Cao. He’s safe without a doubt, but held up by something. Be at ease, I’ve already sent people out to search for him. They’ll start from the ambush site and work their way forward. They’ll find your parents.”
Qin Yining closed her eyes, still recovering from the news that all of her family sans her parents had been found.
Pang Xiao had his arm around her slender waist while she leaned dazedly into his embrace. She rubbed her head against his shoulder, like a kitten showing affection. His heart overflowed with so much pity and sympathy that it wanted to melt.
“Good girl, don’t worry. Your body has yet to make a full recovery for the longest time. You didn’t fully heal from your previous injury before suffering through a famine. Then you had to go on the run and jump right back into scheming. Even someone made of metal wouldn’t be able to withstand all that. Worrying is the last thing you should do now. Just take care of yourself and leave the rest to me, alright?”
“Mm.” Qin Yining nodded docilely, closed her eyes, and leaned back on him with peace of mind.
“And, I sent out men to investigate in secret. Apparently your old dowager, second and third elder master found the convoy when it was close to the capital. They’d been swept apart from the group and it looked like all of their valuables were robbed.
“Their clothes were torn and ragged in these harsh winter conditions. It was quite a stroke of good fortune that they ended up together after being separated. My scouts said that there seemed to be something off about them. You should brace yourself and be mentally prepared.”
“Alright, I understand.” Qin Yining closed her eyes wearily and didn’t want to move at all.
She just wanted to empty her mind of everything right now. She didn’t want to fret about where her parents were or speculate what had happened to the old dowager and others. She even less wanted to think about where to settle the Qins after they arrived in the city proper.
She just wanted to sleep and throw all these cares away—to think about absolutely nothing at all.
Pang Xiao patted her back gently, finding that she was sinking further into his arms until her whole weight was on his body. He sighed softly, kissed her temple, and carefully picked her up to place her on the heated platform. The prince carefully tucked the blankets in around her.
She must be really worried, isn’t she? So worried that she was using sleep to escape from reality.
Pang Xiao caressed her face with heartache and took a seat next to her. While admiring her sleeping form, he turned over the current situation at court in his mind.
At this time, a soft summons came from outside the door.
Pang Xiao immediately rose when he heard and tiptoed outside. Only after closing the room door softly did he whisper, “What is it?”
Xianyun made her greeting and whispered back, “The servants outside say that the Marquis of Northern Stability has sent an invitation. Please go take a look.”
The prince blinked when he heard the words ‘Marquis of Northern Stability’. He gave orders for Xianyun to look after Qin Yining well and strode outside.
Ji Zeyu was inviting Pang Xiao to go for a ride tomorrow and have a drink together.
Subsequent to Ji Zeyu’s return to the capital to admit to his guilt, and ‘request’ to wed the Princess of Anyang, the emperor had suggested that he stay in the capital for now to hold the wedding. The Tatars were busily caught in internal conflict, and all was calm on the other borders.
This finally gave Ji Zeyu an opportunity to stay in the city and seek out Pang Xiao like in old times. The unemployed prince could come out for a night of drinking.
Pang Xiao sent a messenger to respond that he would absolutely be on time tomorrow.
After giving the matter some thought, he went back to the outer study and summoned his strategists for a meeting.
The next morning, Pang Xiao left with Huzi and a few other guards.
After a night of sound sleep, Qin Yining’s heart had calmed down. She’d thought things through. With how everything was, they’d just handle things as they came up. To worry about things that hadn’t happened yet was to entertain imaginary fears, and to worry what had already happened was a pointless exercise. It was more productive to focus well on the here and now
She called out for Lian Xiaozhou and smiled. “Let’s take advantage of this quiet period to teach you a few more words.”
At the same time, an opulent carriage slowly rolled to a halt in front of the Pang Manor.
Several pale-faced, young eunuchs lifted the door curtain to allow head maid Hexiang to carefully escort the princess down.
Li Helan raised her eyes to the signboard over the door, the words ‘Faithful Prince of the First Rank’ gilded in gold. She smiled and ordered, “Knock on the door.”
The young eunuch assented and trotted up to knock.
The doorman answered shortly afterwards and opened the door to look at the visitors. He quickly came forward to bow politely, “This humble one greets the eldest princess.”
Li Helan lifted her chin slightly and lifted her long and narrow eyes. Still looking at the signboard over the door, she declared softly, “Send word to your prince that this seat is here.”
The doorman bowed again. “In response to Your Highness, our prince isn’t at home.”Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Hey everyone, question for you and please do sound off in the comments. I actually think I asked you guys before but hey, HUMOR ME! XD
I've always published what I could because I figured you want stuff sooner rather than later -- even if that ends up being a half chapter sometimes. A troll on Discord today makes me wonder if that's not the case. Would you rather wait three days for a full chapter or have half chapters coming out everyday?
I'm still working on consistently getting my speed up, and I really do apologize that we're not just ripping straight through the novel. The long and short of it is that while I love ROS, it comes nowhere near to paying my bills. And I'm sorry such a stupidly mundane thing has to be so important, but it is. :( And also, I believe the novel speaks for itself in that it's not done on autopilot.