The prince wasn’t worried that his darling wouldn't be able to handle someone harsh and caustic like Madame Pang. It was just that, if he could clear away annoyances with a simple bit of planning, why allow them to stay and exasperate his beloved?
Turning back happily, Pang Xiao was about to head inside when he saw Huzi winking and making faces at him.
“What is it?”
Huzi silently pointed at the alley across from them.
Flicking a sidelong glance without reaction, Pang Xiao caught sight of an unfamiliar pageboy standing at a corner of a wall.
As far as looks went, the pageboy couldn’t be any more ordinary. But while laymen wouldn’t be able to tell anything special, experts would be able to see that this was a highly skilled martial arts fighter. He kept a fixed stare on the manor doors and didn’t dodge the prince’s stare when their eyes met. He just gave a coolly composed nod.
Inspiration flashed across Pang Xiao’s mind as something occurred to him. Tamping down brimming excitement, he turned expressionlessly back into the manner.
When they reached the study and closed the door, he finally whispered, “Do you think darling Yi is here?”
“Naturally.” Huzi chuckled. “The fourth miss cares about Your Highness so much. How would she not worry when news of your fight and injury from the prince consort is the talk of town? She must’ve come to take a look for herself.”
Pang Xiao smiled tightly and nodded. He adopted a seemingly maturely demeanor with his pacing, making two circles before commenting with regret. “Too bad there’s still spies in the household. Otherwise I’d bring her in so grandfather and grandmother can have a look. Grandmother’s been talking about her nonstop in her absence.”
“The days ahead are long. Your Highness should go meet the fourth miss first and put her at ease.”
Pang Xiao nodded and went for a change of clothing, swapping out the bloodstained gauze on his arm and sneaking out the rear side door when no one was around. He had Huzi follow him from a distance, just in case the prince overlooked someone tailing him.
Before long, he made his way to Qin Yining’s carriage.
Jingzhe, Xiaoman, Xiaoxue, and Dahan were scattered around the vehicle and alley. They snapped to attention when they saw someone approach, but relaxed again when they saw who it was.
Next to the carriage, Xiaoman whispered, “Miss, the prince is here.”
Qin Yining blinked and quickly flung open the window curtains to see a beaming Pang Xiao next to the window.
Throwing a few winks at her mistress, Xianyun smartly alighted from the carriage and made a smiling curtsey at Pang Xiao. She gestured for the former Silver Masks to clear the area.
Embarrassed by her maid’s antics, Qin Yining’s discomfort transformed into sunny smile when she saw the prince deftly jump onto the carriage.
He took a seat next to her, put the curtain down, and stroked her cheek with his uninjured right hand. “What brings you here?”
“I heard about your injury and came to take a look, but actually watched a great show instead!”
Pang Xiao chuckled. “Those women were seriously too annoying to remain in the manor. They’ve already severely disturbed my grandparents and mother’s lives.”
Though what was even more important was that he didn’t want Qin Yining to suffer a single bit after she married him, but he was too embarrassed to say that in front of her. He didn’t want her to think that he was fishing for praise.
The prince’s meaningful look elicited an answering chuckle from the Qin fourth miss. She flung an arm around her man’s neck and adopted a brotherly leer. “Does Brother Beauty not have anything else to say?”
The teasing tone greatly amuses Pang Xiao, but the nickname of Brother Beauty set his heart afire. He wrapped his arm around her waist and pressed her into his embrace. “There’s not much else, but let’s hear another ‘Brother Beauty’ from you again.”
Tittering, Qin Yining complied. “Brother Beauty obviously used the excuse of the emperor’s brother-in-law injuring you to demand compensation! You sent away an official mother and swept out your concubines while you were at it. I’m sure there’s still quite a few concealed spies in their servants, right? Killing many birds with one stone has always been Brother Beauty’s style.”
She drew closer to his ears and whispered, “And I think that your biggest goal was to get rid of all the concubines. Were you worried that I’d make life hard for them in the future?”
The repeated calls of Brother Beauty utterly melted Pang Xiao’s heart. A wave of warmth rose in his body, leaving only the girl’s tender voice and hot breaths registering in his senses.
He’d never been a bashful person, so decisively flipped her down onto the carriage and bent down to the small mouth that he’d been yearning for many days.
The world spun round and round before Qin Yining had a chance to react. Her struggles futile, she decided to quietly accept the attention.
Pang Xiao didn’t rise until his darling was almost out of air. “How would I be worried for them? I was thinking of you.”
Qin Yining's beautiful eyes sparkled and she chuckled softly, “I know.”
Unable to help himself, Pang Xiao dropped another featherlight kiss on her eyelashes. “I know you know. You were just teasing me.”
The two grinned at each other.
The Qin fourth miss pushed the prince away so they could sit up straight. “Where did Prince Consort Ji injure you? I can see the bruise by your mouth. He really put his back into it.”
“It wouldn’t have been realistic otherwise.” Pang Xiao smiled. “He broke the skin on my arm, but it’s no big deal. Ah Lan knows the limits very well.”
“So you guys planned this out beforehand?” Qin Yining rifled through Pang Xiao’s sleeve. He obligingly took off his outer robe so she could take a look at his injury.
“Not at all. I dropped in for a visit and we chatted over tea. The princess came as I was about to leave. Since it was such a rare coincidence, I thought it’d be best to make full use of the opportunity. Ah Lan is in similar straits as me so he probably thought the same too. We guessed each other’s intentions after exchanging a few words, so decided to have a fight.”
“You two are really… something, to be so much on the same page when you didn’t come up with this beforehand!”
“We honed this out in the battlefield. Though our circumstances are greatly different from before and we may sometimes stand on opposing sides from each other, we still have that previous understanding of each other.”
Qin Yining nodded understandingly and sighed. “That can’t be helped, given the times we’re in. But Prince Consort Ji has a sharp head on his shoulders and is decisive when he needs to be. He’s a good brother.”
“That’s right.” Pang Xiao agreed with emotion. “Our situation now isn’t as before. We may scheme against each other now, but we understand why the other has to do so. Sometimes, our hands really are tied behind our backs.”
Qin Yining nodded. “This must be the difference between men and women. If it was two close girlfriends having to plot against each other to keep themselves safe, they wouldn’t keep such an open mind about it all. The friendship would long since be over, but you men are different.”
“It’s not a matter of gender, but who we’re talking about. Ji Lan and I have a brotherhood forged through life and death, and I’ve always admired his character and martial arts skills. He’s an upright and straight-laced individual. I’m willing to treat him with sincerity as well. Our circumstances now are similar, so we understand each other even more so.”
The hilarity of the situation suddenly occurred to the prince. “We’re both plotting against each other now to ensure our security, but we also know full well that we’re being set up.”
“So it’s not a bad thing to have such an unspoken accord between you two. Your wound is still bleeding,” Qin Yining noted with worry when she saw blood see through the gauze around his muscled arm. “Don’t move around much over the next couple of days. Don’t get the wound wet and be careful of what you eat. Don’t think that you’re invincible. You hurt too when you get injured! Look at all those scars and marks all over your body. They’re such an ugly sight.”
“Heh, you don’t like them? That’s too bad, I’m all covered in them now. Why don’t you tell Bingtang and have her think of a way to get rid of the scars? Tell her they don’t feel good to you.”
Bingtang would laugh her head off if Qin Yining said that!
A furiously blushing Qin fourth miss glared ferociously at the prince. “Look at you, not taking things seriously!”
Pang Xiao put his shirt back on with Qin Yining’s help and whispered, “Did that Lu fellow give you a hard time?”
The girl smiled back. “Not at all. But now that I’ve caused Madame Lu to lose face, I wonder what she’ll do next.”
“Madame Lu isn’t a soft character. You must be careful. With her nature, she takes revenge for every slight. Things won’t be over this easily.”Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Aha, wordplay in the title! The unspoken accord is between PX and QYN, but also PX and JZY! Awww the PX and JZY ship~~ who's on it?