The situation was developing as exactly as Pang Xiao planned; naturally, Qin Yining wasn’t about to allow any mishaps to disrupt the turn of events.
“One cannot be held responsible for their actions if they were not in the know. The will of the gods is to bring seeds to the people of Xiyue. Naturally, that includes each and every one of you.”
Elated, the second consort kowtowed repeatedly. There was no possible chance of her continuing to be a princess consort, but if they could obtain the seeds, provide for themselves and live together with family, then she saw nothing bad about such an outcome either.
Evidently, many shared the second consort’s sentiments. Everyone present collectively thanked the goddess.
Qin Yining and Pang Xiao’s wedding this time around was a simplistic, yet grand affair as they joined hands amidst the cheers of the Xiyue. Soon after, they ordered their people to distribute the provisions and seeds, everything proceeding exactly as Pang Xiao had planned.
Three days passed before they ensured that every Xiyue citizen had been given food and seeds and everything documented.
The Minuo no longer had to stay confined to their campsite and were free to move about as they wished. They were always greeted passionately whenever they encountered citizens of Xiyue. Even the soldiers previously stationed around the campsite acted warmly to them; some of them even approached to apologize.
Zhou Meng, on the other hand, was buried after simple funeral proceedings.
As for the senior consort and other equally uncooperative parties, Pang Xiao handed them over to the Xiyue officials and allowed them to conduct the situation as they saw fit. His own standing was rather awkward, after all—no matter what he did, someone would have something to say about it, so he was better off letting the people of Xiyue deal with the situation themselves.
In the afternoon, everyone gathered inside the largest tent in the Minuo campsite.
“Your Highness,” said Lu Heng, “what do you plan to do next moving forward?”
Uncle Alham and the others all looked at him as well.
Pang Xiao laughed heartily. “Truth be told, I did come here without permission. His Majesty refused to allow me to leave the capital, and I trust everyone knows why that is without needing an explanation. However, I worried that something would happen to my darling, so I stole out on my own with my subordinates. My actions angered His Majesty, so by the time I left the country, His Majesty had already charged me with treason and announced it to the entire nation.”
His words had everyone furrowing their brows. Qin Yining’s brows could have crushed a fly to death from how tightly they were pinched together.
“How can this be? Why didn’t you mention something as serious as this until now?” Lu Heng sucked in a breath, tsking. “His Majesty is truly… How hard has His Highness worked for all of Great Zhou? One can even say that without His Highness, Great Zhou wouldn’t exist. Who knows if we could’ve successfully defeated Northern Ji without you!
“Furthermore, the princess consort had just killed the previous khan of Tatar then, yet he said that you committed treason? How treacherous could you be? Is he trying to make people laugh until their teeth fall out??”
His words aggravated everyone present and stirred them up into righteous anger. Qin Yining was also furious; however, her anger left her with a sense of clarity and helplessness.
Her husband’s many achievements left his liege feeling threatened—such was the near inescapable dilemma of accomplished subjects and aristocrats from all dynasties throughout history.
She didn’t wish for history to repeat itself with Pang Xiao, but how could anyone escape history’s heavy wheels when it came barreling their way?
Seeing his beloved scrunching her brows wordlessly, Pang Xiao patted her shoulder in a reassuring manner. “It’s of no concern to me, this isn’t my first time being scolded. Didn’t the Yan citizens used to invoke my name to stop children from crying through the night? Yet here I am, alive and well, very much in one piece. A man of honor sees the bigger picture and cares not for hollow prestige.”
“Is being so scary that you stop children from crying something to be proud of?” Rendered speechless, Qin Yining rolled her eyes at Pang Xiao, though her anger and stress did alleviate considerably.
Lu Heng had been observing them closely all the while. Pang Xiao didn’t seem to care about his predicament in the slightest, nor did he blame his troubles on Qin Yining. On the contrary, he thought extremely little of such pretenses.
This display of magnanimity and loyalty elicited great respect from the Lu scion. Though they were rivals in love, he couldn’t bring himself to hate Pang Xiao at all.
“If that is the case, I fear returning will be dangerous,” Lu Heng mused, brows furrowed. “His Majesty is a paranoid person, and he is especially mistrustful toward you. Now that you’ve been branded with the crime of treason, I'm afraid you will face arrest and interrogation upon your return. Not only will you be in trouble, your families may not get off easily either.”
How would Pang Xiao not understand such a thing?
However, he couldn’t not return, as his family and Qin Yining’s were still in the capital. Even though Li Qitian didn’t dare take action lightly, that didn’t mean that he wouldn’t fly into a rage and take out his anger on their families.
Neither of them were people who could sacrifice their families for the sake of their own happiness, so returning to Great Zhou was non-negotiable.