Qin Yining closed her eyes as she leaned against the side of the tub, various thoughts swarming in her mind about the situation they’d face as soon as they returned to the capital. Though she pondered for a long while, she couldn’t come up with a surefire solution.
She was deeply concerned that Li Qitian would put Pang Xiao under strict investigation, and also worried that the emperor would sacrifice her for peace talks, which would further heighten tensions between Pang Xiao and Li Qitian.
It seemed there was nothing they could do against imperial power.
But then again, returning to the capital meant she’d be able to see her family whenever she wanted to. With how intelligent her father was and Pang Xiao not that far behind, the two of them would definitely be able to think of a solution.
When she thought of this, Qin Yining relaxed, feeling a burden shift off her shoulders. Compared to when she always had to have a firm grasp of the situation and how the fate of the Minuo hung on her every decision, the feeling of being able to depend on someone else for once was such a balm for her heart.
Her tense mind slowly relaxed and her eyelids grew heavy; she drifted off to sleep unknowingly. Since she didn’t allow anybody to serve by her side, the maid that Madame Chen had arranged for her didn’t know to enter and wake her up.
When Pang Xiao returned from the feast and didn’t see anybody in the front hall or bedroom, a sudden fit of panic beset him. He rushed into the bathroom, only to be greeted with the picturesque scene of a hazy beauty within a dense fog.
Her head drooped to one side as she slept, hair loosely pulled together and features hazy in the steam. Delicate shoulders and a jade-like neck were visible above the water, and a few strands of wet hair stuck to her skin. Her snow-white skin sparkled with the lustre of jade, only a slight silhouette of her curves visible.
Such a sight was more arousing than if she had nothing at all covering her.
The wine he’d drunk spontaneously turned into heat and rushed downwards as he reached forward to carry her out.
Fast asleep, sudden cold stole over her body when Qin Yining was abruptly lifted in the air. Yelping with shock, it took a moment for her eyes to focus and realize it was Pang Xiao holding her. Her face flushed red with embarrassment when she recalled that she’d just been bathing and she covered her face with both hands. “W-When did you get back?”
“Just now.” Pang Xiao swiftly wrapped her in a towel and put her on the heated platform.
Qin Yining clutched onto the towel tightly, “You, you…”
Pang Xiao stood by the couch, grinning as he undressed. “Marshal Kang’s wine was most excellent. I enjoyed it, but it’s a pity you couldn’t attend the banquet and missed out.”
Qin Yining blinked her wet lashes as she couldn’t help but be drawn by the hard muscle on his abdomen. When she realized what she was staring at, she hastily averted her face with a soft “oh”.
It absolutely delighted Pang Xiao to see her like this and he deftly hopped onto the platform. “Would you like to try their wine?”
Qin Yining felt a burning desire to distract herself, so the wine Pang Xiao mentioned fit her intentions perfectly. She nodded along, “Sure, why don’t you ask them to bring you some more?”
“There’s no need, I have some here…” Pang Xiao cupped his hand around the back of her head, drawing her close and entwining their lips together.
There really is a faint fragrance of wine and tea, Qin Yining thought dazedly. Whether it was due to the richness of wine or Pang Xiao’s passionate murmurs as he embraced her, she felt like she was drunk too. She fuzzily mused that if they continued in this vein much longer, they would probably have a child very soon.
Kang Qiong was very thorough in his hospitality, so Qin Yining and Pang Xiao quite enjoyed their stay. The princess consort wasn’t in the best of health after enduring so many hardships, so the next day, Pang Xiao asked née Chen to find a doctor to help his wife recuperate.
The doctor who arrived was an old man with grizzled hair and a beard. After examining Qin Yining, he also looked over Pang Xiao and wrote a prescription to fortify both of their bodies. The prince handed the prescription to one of the Elite Tigers proficient in medicine, ensuring that there were no problems before they took it.
At the same time, Kang Qiong brought Pang Xiao around to tour the Dragon Riders’ barracks.
Given his title as the God of War and his close friendship with Ji Zeyu, the former commander of the Dragon Riders, his visit caused quite a stir of excitement. Although there were rumors of discord between him and Prince Consort Ji, with some saying that the two had completely broken off ties, just his personal charisma was something the Dragon Riders couldn’t resist.
Those who already revered Pang Xiao worshipped him even more after seeing him in person. Those who didn’t were convinced after a quick round of sparring.
Furthermore, with Pang Xiao’s own frank and generous nature, it proved easy for him to mingle and interact genuinely with the soldiers and military officers. He lectured when he had to, punished when he was supposed to, and offered compliments and rewards when appropriate.
With that, he quickly built easy familiarity with everyone after a few fights and communal meals in the barracks.
While Pang Xiao and Qin Yining leisurely enjoyed their days, Yi Binghu was as anxious as a cat on a hot tin roof.
His mission was to arrest Pang Xiao and bring him to the capital. However, with how freely Pang Xiao spent his days and the number of people supporting him continued to grow, Yi Binghu felt like completing his task in Skyzone Pass was absolutely impossible.
But even if he failed his mission, he wouldn’t let himself be the only one to take the fall.
Yi Binghu immediately drafted a secret message to the emperor, listing how Pang Xiao had thrown his weight around after the two met and spicing it up with a detailed recounting of how the prince was buying popular support. Signing his name with a flourish, he ordered someone to send it at full speed that very night.
“Master,” Huzi reported with a smile, “That Yi Binghu’s sent a secret message to His Majesty. Shall we intercept it?”