Pang Xiao shook his head and gestured for Jiyun and Bingtang to rise. “My darling shouldn’t be under this rubble,” he deduced. “We can safely assume she’s been abducted along with Azure Justice and Lu Heng. Your four Silver Mask escorts are still unconscious, but Guard Captain Cao is nowhere to be seen. Knowing her, she must be doing all she can to catch up with the kidnappers.”
“Indeed. The guard captain remained next to Her Highness and never backed down even once. Together, the two of us shielded the princess consort behind us, but my fighting skills are less than the guard captain’s. She charged forward with utmost ferocity and should be more heavily injured by the skirmish than myself,” Jiyun asserted.
Pang Xiao nodded. “In other words, those four unconscious Silver Masks were most likely rescued by Guard Captain Cao, and she may very well be chasing after the kidnappers as we speak, in spite of her wounds.”
Jiyun and Bingtang’s eyes brightened. “So that means Her Highness should be alright!”
The prince breathed out a small sigh. “At least she was still alive when the earth dragon turned over again. As for what happened to her after she left, I can’t say.” He frowned once more out of worry. “After all, she was injured and had taken ill not too long ago. She must’ve lost quite a lot of blood once again from her wounds. I don’t know if...”
He found himself unable to continue speaking.
A bloody, kidnapped Qin Yining was an impossible thing to imagine. The thought of her in such straits left him wanting to visit death and slaughter upon everyone who had allowed such suffering to befall her, including himself!
Not only was he mired in self doubt, but also regret.
If only he hadn’t clung onto Qin Yining so persistently! Even if she was wed to a lowly peddler, she still could’ve lived a happy and fulfilling life. It wouldn’t have been difficult for someone of her abilities to run a successful business. A peaceful life would wrap itself around her, and not one inundated with all these disasters and suffering!
Back then, he had thought he should live his life to the fullest—if there was something he wanted, he shouldn’t give up on it. He never fathomed that would ensnare her in the filth of politics and cause her so much pain.
Jiyun and Bingtang could understand Pang Xiao’s inner turmoil and how harshly he was chastising himself. However, there was nothing they could do other than offer a few words of comfort. After all, they blamed themselves with aching hearts as much as he did. They had been unable to do anything to save her.
If the worst had befallen Qin Yining at long last, there was nothing left for them but to follow her in death.
Even as Li Qitian oversaw the disaster relief efforts, he continued sending out men to search for the treasure, but to no avail. It was as if all that gold and silver had vanished into thin air.
He couldn’t prolong his stay in Yang County—someone might capitalize on his absence to stir up trouble. Therefore, he elected to return to the capital and ordered his men to keep searching.
Before he left, he summoned Pang Xiao. “Come back to the capital with Us. You have been away for so long, surely you’ve accumulated many duties that require your attention. You won’t be of much assistance here, and affairs of the nation are of greater importance. We have already ordered some of my men to search for née Qin. You need not worry.”
Pang Xiao only smiled wryly at this. “Return if you must, Your Majesty. Your men can’t even find inanimate objects—how is this subject to entrust them with finding the living? I will search for my wife myself. As for government affairs, Your Majesty is more than capable. Seeing how you have so many competent subjects at your disposal, my absence will not be missed.”
Li Qitian’s face flushed beet red, his blood boiling at Pang Xiao’s words. “Pang Zhixi, who do you think you are addressing?! Your impertinence is toeing the line of treason!”
“This servant is unworthy of such high praise.” Pang Xiao’s smile was laced with disdain, his words dripping with sarcasm. “If I had even the slightest heart for treason, I would not be in these shoes, lacking even the manpower to search for my own wife!”
If he still had command of the Valiant Tigers, never mind searching for a person—he could’ve tracked down even an ant nest. Now, he had neither manpower nor military power. Even if he disregarded Li Qitian’s disapproval and surveillance and summoned every one of the Elite Tigers, that still meant only one hundred of them.
Li Qitian’s eyes narrowed dangerously. “You dare place the blame for your grudges upon Us!”
Pang Xiao raised his voice in turn. “This subject has not the energy nor the heart to blame anyone. I only wish to find my wife. If I can find her, then all the better. I trust Your Majesty has questions for her as well. However, if I cannot find her, who knows what I will do?
“What has she done wrong? She only wished to return to the capital to recover from her illness. Not only was she kidnapped on her way back, every one we have dug up was one of Your Majesty’s Dragon Riders!”
“Enough with such baseless speculation.” A twinge of guilt pulled at Li Qitian.
“This subject is not grasping at straws, merely restating the evidence before us! I have put even my life down on the line for Your Majesty, yet Your Majesty would have my wife die!”
“You! Pang Zhixi, how dare you! Do you really think We wouldn’t dare kill you?!”
“Everything beneath the heavens belongs to Your Majesty—is there anything you wouldn’t do?!” Pang Xiao seethed, his usual calm and intellectual demeanor replaced by tyrannical violence.
Something had sucked his soul out of his body when harm had befallen Qin Yining. He felt incomplete. Unless he found her, he really didn’t know what acts of lunacy he would commit. His desire to protect his nation was gone—in its place was the desire to destroy this empire. Human lives meant nothing to him.
The prince was one who’d drawn actual blood from his enemies on the battlefield; he needed only to steel himself for the air around him to freeze. Superiority always wrapped around Li Qitian when Pang Xiao displayed subservience, and he found himself truly afraid of provoking an incensed Pang Xiao.
“Fine, have it your way!” Li Qitian knew better than to fight when the odds were against him—it was best not to have Pang Xiao snap and injure him in the process.
Pang Xiao saw right through the emperor’s reservations and couldn’t help but snort inwardly. When Qin Yining was with him, all was right with the world. Come what may, the future was something to look forward to.
With her gone, he was left in agony as he searched for her. Now he understood his blissful days of peace were all tied to a single person. If that person no longer existed, what use did he have for bliss or peace?
He might as well destroy everything!
After Li Qitian returned to the capital, he sent Pang Xiao a letter every four or five days urging him to return. However, the prince pretended not to see them and continued his tireless search around the old capital for clues, covering more ground with every passing day.
Three months had passed in the blink of an eye. The old capital was already blanketed in snow.
Pang Xiao defied twenty-three royal decrees and was censured for misconduct by other officials over fifty times, yet Li Qitian never spoke a word. It was a gesture of endless indulgence that never seemed to end.
This was the first for such a thing since the founding of the nation.
As Pang Xiao fervently searched for Qin Yining, a caravan was threading their way with great difficulty through a vast Tatar desert in the borderlands north of Great Zhou.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
We really do see the depths of Pang Xiao's love here. This is no mere whim or momentary puppy love, he really does love her from the bottom of his heart.
Folks, if you're enjoying ROS, would you be willing to take a moment and review it on NU so more people can discover it? :D Be sure to add it to your reading list please!