Chapter 434: Direction

“What nonsense are you spewing in broad daylight…”

Qin Yining blinked a couple of times before finally understanding where Pang Xiao was coming from. Her cheeks immediately flamed red, and she bestowed a hearty pinch on his arm.  

To the prince, her pinch had no more force than a mosquito bite. He spanned her slim waist with his hands and breathed in the faint jasmine fragrance in her hair. With such a warm and soft body by his side, he stirred restlessly again. 

He buried his face in the crook of his wife’s neck to drink her in, his voice hoarse. “My darling, you smell wonderful.” 

Incredibly flustered, Qin Yining shoved him away with all her might. “Don’t. We’re in the carriage!” 

“I know. I just want to hold you.” Pang Xiao effortlessly swept up his wife with his muscular arms, placing her on his strong thighs. His large hands roved all over her body. “You smell so good and you’re so soft to the touch. I love it.” 

Qin Yining gasped at his wayward hands. “You, stop!”

“Hush. Don’t make a sound.” He went at her lush lips and gave them a gentle nibble.

The carriage traveled onwards, the tightly drawn curtains blocking prying eyes from the wonders inside.

As the entourage made its way to a village, ready to stop and rest for the night, Yu Meng discovered to his consternation that two decoys had replaced Yuchi Yan and Gu Shixiong! 

Enraged, he drew his sword to execute the two frauds. Pang Xiao rushed up.

“Vice General Yu, wait! If you kill them now, don’t you risk destroying all clues and forfeiting further investigation?”

Yu Meng snapped to reason; he was being too brash. He’d been one second away from losing all of the clues that would lead him to the two escapees. 

“My thanks to Your Highness.” Close to forty years of age, the tall, brawny northerner reddened from embarrassment. He waved his hands, summoning his subordinates to take the pair away for questioning. “Your Highness, what should we do next?”

The imperial envoy in charge of this mission was the Commandery Prince of Yan, but the man had taken off! Yu Meng didn’t dare make a decision on his own, so opted to consult the prince instead.  

Pang Xiao lowered his eyes. 

“Our top priority is to track down the whereabouts of the commandery prince and Gu Shixiong. We’re a stone’s throw away from the old capital of Great Yan. I wonder if the two runaways are headed straight for the treasure. Secondly, we must update His Majesty of today’s happenings and await his decision.” 

Yu Meng nodded. “You’re very right, Your Highness. This humble general will notify my men immediately.” 

Pang Xiao didn’t participate in the interrogation because the decoys were Yuchi Yan’s stooges. Those with a discerning eye knew full well that disposable lackeys would be completely in the dark and know nothing of importance. But to avoid arousing suspicion, Pang Xiao kept a respectable distance and ordered his subordinates to keep clear as well. 

Sleepy from exhaustion, Qin Yining was half-asleep by the time the prince made his way back to the farmhouse that was their quarters for the night. Her eyes refused to open when she heard her husband’s light footsteps. She asked lazily in a low, soft voice, “You’re back? Has Yu Meng taken care of things?”  

The seductive huskiness of her tone titillated Pang Xiao again. Desire stirred when he saw the beguiling sight of her reclining languidly against the bed.

“He has.” He sat sideways on the edge of the bed, reaching out with his large paw to massage her back. That hand traveled slowly down her body to an ambiguous area.  

Qin Yining glared at him with reproach, her large eyes glimmering with a light mist, like a small pet that’d been excessively bullied. She complained with resignation, “I’m tired.” 

She usually presented a steady and tactful, astute and resourceful front to the world. Those character traits made it easy to forget that she was still a young girl. A playful bout of a tantrum was an even rarer sight to behold. 

Now that they were married, she revealed to him every side of her in absolute honesty, without filter. She could be mischievous and vivacious, and at times disarmingly spoiled and cuddly. 

Pang Xiao’s heart melted into a puddle of water. He laid down beside her and cradled her in his warm embrace. “Alright, alright. I’ll stop. We’ll take a break today. I’ll hold you till you sleep.” 

She pressed her face into the crook of his arm and nodded with exhaustion. Soon, her breathing slowed and evened out.

Pang Xiao looked down at long lashes that fluttered with sleep, slightly-parted cherry lips, and jet-black locks scattered atop a pillow. His heart burst with love and fondness, and he furtively planted a tender kiss on her forehead. 

Seeing his wife in deep slumber, the prince decided to undo his hair from its topknot, letting it cascade down. He reached over the top of his head to entangle his hair with hers and settled in for a catnap. 

Outside of the village was a scene of hustle and bustle. Three hundred Dragon Riders pitched tents and encamped, built fires and cooked. Yu Meng, on the other hand, fiercely interrogated the two decoys in the woods.

The small courtyard in the village where Pang Xiao and his wife rested remained unusually serene and quiet. 

The two frauds were merely scapegoats. What kind of valuable information could be possibly pried out of them? Yu Meng unleashed every trick up his sleeve, but only managed to learn that the two performers were hired by a lad surnamed Lu. That was all. 

It so happened that Yuchi Yan’s trusted bodyservant was called Little Lu. 

The commandery prince’s escape was already an actuality. The discovery of his trusted eunuch hiring decoys was completely useless. If they informed His Majesty of Yuchi Yan’s flight, it was likely that he’d give them a harsh dressing-down and then demote their ranks by three grades! 

Yu Meng felt anxiety settling in. But since he had an imperially commission himself, he had his own share of extraordinary capabilities. He was by no means someone who easily lost their cool. 

Observing how things were developing, Pang Xiao waited until the next day before summoning Huzi for a quick whisper. In less than two hours, the searchers that Yu Meng had dispatched returned to camp.

“General! We are fortunate to not fail the mission! We have tracked down the whereabouts of the commandery prince.” 

“Really!?” exclaimed Yu Meng, delighted.

“Indeed. Two of our brothers are following them secretly. General, do we set off ourselves?” 

His position no longer dangled precariously in the void! Relieved, Yu Meng’s smile at Pang Xiao was much more sincere. “What do you think, Your Highness?”

“Mm. Let’s go then. The rest of our entourage trails far behind us. As for disaster relief, that’s on hold now that the imperial envoy in charge of everything has fled. Let’s wait for His Majesty’s orders.”

“Yes. Pass on my orders. We’re decamping and leaving!” Yu Meng did as he was told.

Pang Xiao wrote a note and released a messenger pigeon back to the palace.

Seeing the prince wait until now to send a report, the vice general asked in surprise, “Did Your Highness not send a message yesterday?” 

“His Majesty attends to numerous state affairs everyday and oversees a myriad of court proceedings. Wouldn’t it proclaim our incompetence as subjects if we bother him with every little concern? 

“We haven’t had updates on the commandery prince since his escape, so we would’ve only added to His Majesty’s troubles if we sent a message then. With a read on his location today, we can notify him without causing undue worry—though he might still be wrathful. Not to mention, this gives you and me a bit of a buffer.”  

Yu Meng nodded with a smile, yet deep down he sighed with mixed emotions. No wonder Pang Xiao is a common-born prince at so young! How can he manage to be this self-assured and poised in everything he does? How come I wasn’t born with that extra wit?

His Majesty would naturally erupt in fury if they simply notified him of the commandery prince’s escape.

Yet it’d be a different story if their report said that they were secretly tracking Yuchi Yan and might even find the treasure, thanks to his disappearance! His Majesty would commend their pluck and wit instead. It would seem like they’d let the commandery prince go by design.

That was the true dao of being a subject!

Yu Meng’s thoughts inadvertently strayed, making Pang Xiao larger than life.

As usual, Qin Yining remained in the carriage. The party traced the direction of the commandery prince’s flight and tracked them from afar.

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etvolare's Thoughts

Man, Pang Xiao plays this real well.