“You!” Li Qitian was robbed of his breath by the prince’s rejoinder. Though these were obvious truths that he knew deep within, they made him look like a tantruming brat when Pang Xiao put it that way.
His dignity as an emperor had been violated! Li Qitian strode forward angrily and grabbed Pang Xiao by the collar, leaning in to snarl next to the prince’s ear, “Pang Xiao, are you rebelling?!”
This prince looked at Li Qitian calmly and responded in a deep voice, “If this subject had such intentions, would I be in a position of being a scapegoat for my wife being kidnapped?”
“What do you mean by that?!” Li Qitian glared hotly, venom spewing out of his eyes. Pang Xiao was clearly saying that if he harbored mutinuous intentions, he’d be the one sitting on the throne!
This was a truly insubordinate remark, and to add insult to injury, anyone with a discerning eye could tell that it was the truth. All of the eunuchs and two old officials in the study had heard him loud and clear as well. This was a blatant slap across the face!
Li Qitian flushed beet red with anger. Hands that were crushing Pang Xiao's collar trembled, and he couldn't utter a single word for a very long time.
“Eldest brother, you and I are sworn brothers. Would you not know what I’m thinking of?” Pang Xiao’s tones took a sad turn. “I could overlook my father’s murder and accept née Qin simply because I do love her. If I didn’t love her, why would I accept an enemy’s daughter into the family and address an enemy as my father-in-law?
“It’s all in the past and I don’t want to dwell on it anymore either. We’ve been through hell and high water all these years and have finally found some peace. I too want to live a quiet life, but my wife was snatched from my arms just after our wedding. And now, out of the blue, that mutt Siqin is accusing née Qin of murdering Anari!
“That’s just what he says, are we to accept it as incontrovertible evidence? Well I don’t, and I don’t believe it!” Pang Xiao looked like a child who’d been driven into a corner by his bully. He slumped to the ground with reddened eyes and looked like he was about to cry.
Li Qitian was baffled by the sight and at a loss of what to do.
This ruthlessly domineering man known as a ‘violent demon’, slayer of countless enemies on the battlefield, was now a helpless child. The emperor didn’t know how to react to the stark contrast. If he continued to blame Pang Xiao while the prince was in this state, then he would appear a heartless ruler.
Pang Xiao’s weakness at this moment shocked even Li Guanwen and the rest kowtowing on the ground. So it would seem that even the most valiant of heroes will fall to a beauty’s allure in the end! Even someone as tyrannical as the Faithful Prince of the First Rank would find himself in circumstances in which his valor didn’t win out.
Qin Huaiyuan glanced at his aggrieved son-in-law out of the corner of his eye, then flicked a glance at Li Qitian. Amusement crept into his heart, but the expression on his face remained clear of expression.
Such was Pang Xiao’s modus operandi. Sometimes he’d throw his weight around like the most uncivilized barbarian and even swear in front of Li Qitian. If he decided to defy an imperial decree, there was no changing his mind. Other times, he would show the most tender side of his vulnerabilities, particularly when Li Qitian was irked to the point of wanting to kill someone. Thus arousing pity in others, Li Qitian wouldn’t be able to punish him then, out of consideration for his own reputation. Such flexibility carved him the greatest space to maximize his gains.
Qin Huaiyuan kowtowed at an impeccable timing, then offered earnestly, “Your Majesty, please quell your anger. The Faithful Prince of the First Rank spoke rashly only due to his heightened temper from all his worries as of late. Please overlook his tantrum for the sake of his devotion toward his wife.”
Li Qitian seethed through clenched teeth. Tantrum? The man was in his twenties; commoners his age were the father of multiple children already. This was supposed to be the fretting of a child??
But if he were to hold Pang Xiao accountable for this, then wouldn’t that make him someone who argued with a child? If he did that, his subjects would surely perceive him as immature as well.
In any case, Li Qitian had also calmed down after losing his temper.
Since he was a noble and wise emperor, he couldn’t ignore his reputation and take Pang Xiao to account for this. Moreover, the Tatars intentions to invade the south were more than obvious. There was no telling when he might need Pang Xiao to go into battle.
Pang Xiao and Ji Zeyu were valuable assets of the Great Zhou court, and he felt far more confident with the two generals by his side. Factions abounded in his enormous court, while the imperial treasury sat empty. Lacking the Great Yan treasure, how was he to continue occupying the throne if he didn’t even have at least a capable general to fight Siqin?
Furthermore, even if the sight of Pang Xiao irritated him to the point of wanting the prince’s death, his intentions couldn’t be obvious on the surface. He’d run the risk being judged for murdering a meritorious official. There were many ways he could take Pang Xiao’s life, so it would only be wise to strike when no one knew it.
With this in mind, Li Qitian put his arms around Pang Xiao and helped the prince up. He then turned to Qin Huaiyuan and Patriarch Lu. “You may all rise, We acted too much in haste just now. Li Guanwen, fetch some chairs.”
“Understood.” The servants quickly moved forward in an orderly fashion to arrange the chairs, then helped the trembling Patriarch Lu to his seat. Pang Xiao took the first seat. He had his head lowered and was lost in thought.Previous Chapter Next Chapter