Chapter 500.1: Treacherous Heart

"N-none at all. Brother-in-law, I-I'll be excusing myself then." The eighth miss curtsied, her earlobes bright red and face pale as a cloud. Lowering her head, she moved to make herself scarce.

Pang Xiao sniffed at the eighth miss' retreating form and cut to the chase. "Who sent you?"

The eighth miss stopped in her tracks and looked back in both alarm and embarrassment.

"It is impossible for the Qins to not have any maids around to serve tea. You, at the very least, are a Qin daughter. Whose idea was it for you to come to the front hall and wait upon me?"

Pang Xiao had yet to rein in his imposing aura—his temper was already volatile as of late, punctuated by his haggard appearance and the hostility tinging his features. His chilling glare seemed as piercing as arrows, sharp enough to strike terror in even big, burly men, much less a little girl like the eighth miss.

She scrambled back until her back was pressing against the wall by the doorway and stammered, "It w-wasn't anyone's idea."

"Lies." Seeing how terrified she was, Pang Xiao didn't bother elaborating. "Whoever sent you clearly doesn’t know their place. Though you may be concubine-born, your senior uncle is still the Minister of Rites. This alone makes you eligible to be another man's official wife, yet the person ordering you to attend to trivial matters means to make you a concubine. You are no longer a child, so I shall offer some words of advice as your brother-in-law: don’t listen to just anyone from now on. You would be wise to think for yourself more."

Finished, Pang Xiao waved his hand. "You are excused."

Not only was the eighth miss' face ruddy, but her eyes were red as tears streamed down her cheeks. She turned to leave, only to immediately run into Qin Huaiyuan as soon as she reached the covered hallway. She had no idea how much he had overheard of her encounter with Pang Xiao.

The eighth miss felt so ashamed that she couldn't bring herself to look up. She hastily curtsied with her head down as she addressed her senior uncle.

"Tell the old dowager she should focus on her health," Qin Huaiyuan remarked. "She will not overcome her illness if she continues meddling with the affairs of others."

The eighth miss nodded, her tears pouring even more freely. She ran away, sobbing.

Qin Huaiyuan had taken to dressing himself more simply than usual—his inky blue Taoist robes complemented his slim physique perfectly, accentuating his otherworldly elegance. When he was greeted by a slovenly Pang Xiao, he couldn't help but sigh. This period of time hadn’t been easy on the prince either.

"You've come."

"Father-in-law." Pang Xiao knelt before Qin Huaiyuan and raised a cupped fist salute.

Qin Huaiyuan sighed as he helped Pang Xiao to his feet. "We are family, so there’s no need for such formalities. Does your sudden visit imply there is news regarding my dear daughter?"

The minister’s wit was as sharp as ever.

Pang Xiao didn't beat around the bush, either. He passed the note to Qin Huaiyuan and replied, "This is a message from Sir Mu, Mu Jinghu. He is currently in Tatar, where he spotted Yining."

Qin Huaiyuan carefully reread the note several times, looking as if he was rearranging every written character to ensure he wasn’t seeing things. "Are you certain this is from Sir Mu?"

"Yes."

Qin Huaiyuan's shoulders instantly relaxed, the news of his daughter's safety assuaging his tense nerves. "This is good news indeed." He let out a long sigh and closed his eyes.

Qin Yining was his only daughter. When he first learned of her disappearance, he’d been so frustrated at how he was unable to personally conduct a search. When Jingzhe returned with the others and briefed Qin Huaiyuan on what had happened in the cavern, he felt the situation grow ever bleaker. Now that he learned that Qin Yining had made her way to Tatar—what was there not to understand about what that entailed?

"It appears the Tatars infiltrated Great Zhou to find the treasure, and had been tailing you for quite some time."

"Indeed, father-in-law. It was my carelessness that allowed this to happen. If I had taken care to set up necessary precautions, I wouldn’t have been so oblivious to their presence that I didn’t even realize they were here." Pang Xiao was torn with regret—if he had the chance to do things all over again, he would have rather disobeyed orders than bring Qin Yining with him.

Qin Huaiyuan smiled as he consoled Pang Xiao. "You’re not the one at fault. How could you rush to take action with His Majesty setting up troops around the old capital? What's more, the disaster zone was in a dire state. The people lacked access to medical care and government aid didn’t arrive in a timely fashion. You also had to deal with the possibility of riots at any given time. You had so much to consider that you couldn’t have anticipated this turn of events."

Qin Huaiyuan had described the situation completely, but at the end of the day, Pang Xiao couldn’t forgive himself for losing his wife. The minister reached out to clap the prince on the shoulder. "Don’t shoulder all the blame for what had happened."

Pang Xiao's heart clenched and swelled, his eyes reddening. He would’ve preferred it if Qin Huaiyuan beat him within an inch of his life and yelled at him. The more understanding the man was, the more his guilty conscience gnawed at him.

Qin Huaiyuan shook his head with a sigh, "Alright. Since you and my daughter are married and you call me your father-in-law, I consider you my son.

"If I’m to be completely honest, even if the worst were to happen to my daughter, you’re still half my son. That is the indisputable truth. If I were to lose my dear, I cannot go on to lose my son. Wouldn’t that be a terrible loss for an old man like me? Even if you remarry, you would have to continue calling me your father-in-law, regardless.

"Fortunately, we can rejoice over the fact that darling Yi is well, so you shouldn’t blame yourself any further. What happened to her was not your fault to begin with. Our priority now is to discuss how to ensure her safety going forward."

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etvolare's Thoughts

500 chapters of ROS!!!! Don't forget the art contest!