After Siqin took the throne, he sent official correspondence to Great Zhou and hotly demanded the reasons behind Li Qitian sending people to assassinate Anari, as well as declaring that blood would be answered by blood.
The letter so infuriated the Great Zhou emperor that he flung it to the floor and summoned the bedridden Patriarch Lu, Qin Huaiyuan, and Pang Xiao.
“Look at the fine grandson and daughter the two of you have raised! They ran off to Tatar to assassinate their khan! Beloved subject Lu, you are one of Our most experienced subjects. We trust you and the Lus so much, and suspected you not one iota even when Lu Heng schemed to lay claim to the treasure himself. Just look at what your precious grandson’s done now!
“Would he have been captured if he didn’t covet the treasure?! And he doesn’t even know to keep his place after being taken. He assassinates Anari before Our ambassador can negotiate with them! Does he think Great Zhou is too stable and at peace??
“Beloved subject Qin, look at that wonderful daughter of yours. It is indeed pitiable that she was kidnapped, but she can’t go about raising storms and kicking up a fuss in Tatar! A woman’s place is to sit quietly and wait for rescue, but she borrowed a lion’s heart and killed her captors’ ruler!
“She is such a blasted troublemaker, we don’t even dare contemplate how lacking in her womanly virtues she must be!” With that last censure, Li Qitian smashed the teapot that’d been sitting on the study table.
The porcelain shattered with piercing loudness, frightening the eunuchs in the study to their knees—Li Guanwen included. Their foreheads touched the ground in mute reaction, ignoring the fact that they might be cut by broken porcelain.
Patriarch Lu was also on his knees and panting heavily, shaking all over from emotion. However, no one knew if it was out of discomfort from an illness beyond recovery, out of anger from that unfilial Lu Heng, or indignation from Li Qitian’s words.
Qin Huaiyuan struck a prim and proper posture on the ground, head down and eyes on the floor in carefree leisure. No one could tell what he was thinking, but no one thought that he felt the slightest bit of guilt.
Pang Xiao’s back was ramrod straight, his head high and eyes on a straight course to the table next to Li Qitian. Two high stacks of petitions were the object of his focus, and no one knew what the silent prince was thinking about either.
The treasure was lost, the nation’s coffers were empty, and Tatar’s new khan would very likely use current events as a pretext for war. Such a mess of circumstances irked the hell out of Li Qitian like none either.
He’d thought that with a display of temper, Pang Xiao, Qin Huaiyuan, and Patriarch Lu would be sure to kowtow and admit to their faults. He’d be able to take a step back and have the three of them take care of the issue. Whether it was contributing money or ideas, at least someone else would shoulder the burden for him. But none of them were picking up the line of conversation!
Surreptitiously grinding his teeth, Li Qitian cursed inwardly and struggled more to keep his temper under wraps. What a bunch of wily foxes!
“We truly regret having agreed to beloved subject Qin’s request, knowing full well that the Faithful Prince of the First Rank disliked née Qin! Look at what that plague of a woman’s brought upon us all! Assassinating the Tatar khan, inciting war between two nations. Who knows how many innocent citizens on the border will die if war truly breaks out! This is all née Qin’s fault! Beloved subject Qin, you say what should be done!”
The emperor’s voice rose in pitch until it was almost shaking dust down from the rafters. Qin Huaiyuan remained his cool, unruffled self, but Pang Xiao shot to his feet.
“Your Majesty!” he rumbled. The prince had lost a great deal of weight during this time and looked quite the degenerate with a face full of beard stubble. The cold glint in his phoenix-shaped eyes couldn’t be concealed, neither could how handsome his increasingly angular face was. When combined with his deeply resonant voice, his sudden motion made everyone in the study jump.
Likewise startled by the sudden address, Li Qitian flew into a rage. “Pang Xiao, are you looking to rebel?!”
Hands balled into fists, the prince looked Li Qitian evenly in the eyes. “Please choose your words carefully, Your Majesty! You know just as well as I why née Qin was captured! No one present is a fool, and no one is a traitor, including my wife. She’s also an innocent victim!
“How many of the imperial court’s holes has she filled throughout the course of disaster relief? How many lives has she saved? If it hadn’t been for her silver and father-in-law helping, that would’ve been the site for rebellion long ago! Would Your Majesty have the silver to put down a rebellion if that had happened? Has Your Majesty forgotten all of her achievements!
“Not to mention, are we to believe everything Siqin says when it comes to the assassination? Without personal inspection, we can’t confirm that our people killed Anari. Siqin is cunning and shrewd, and he lacks not for schemes. He’s also hotly ambitious—his thirst for power is why he spent so many years suffering by Anari’s side.
“He gained her favor first as a nameless soldier, then became prince consort, then helped her coup, and finally killed her in the end. To be frank, Anari is just a launching step for Siqin to take the throne himself, she was just a pawn. Your Majesty must be aware of such a simple logic, so why speak such unreasonable words in a fit of anger!”Previous Chapter Next Chapter