Chapter 558.1: Secret Imperial Decree

Pang Xiao’s face turned grave upon hearing this. Anything that concerned Qin Yining was his bottom line. Even if Li Qitian hadn’t done anything yet, just hearing anyone speak of it was intolerable for him. 

Tao Jun couldn’t help a sigh either when he saw the unsightly look on the prince’s face. Although the regular folk might not care all that much about everything Pang Xiao had done for Great Zhou, those in the military remembered his deeds all too clearly. They would never believe the rumors about the prince turning traitor. 

For a man of such high esteem and brilliant military achievements, how would their khan actually trust him even if he really did defect to Tatar? What if he remained secretly loyal to his former nation? What if he won the popular opinion in Tatar and commanded even greater influence than the khan? 

Therefore, anybody with a discerning eye could immediately tell that the emperor’s actions were an attempt to suppress the prince. 

“Alright, I understand the full picture now.” Pang Xiao smiled. “I’ll be careful and pay more attention to this. However, I think that His Majesty will also keep our nation’s dignity and reputation in mind. If news spreads that we had to surrender a woman to Tatar to sue for peace, it would be quite an embarrassment for Great Zhou.” 

Tao Jun nodded. “I hope that is the case.” 

Pang Xiao then inquired about recent happenings with the Tatar.

The general wouldn’t have shared knowledge so easily if it’d been anyone else asking him. However, the war god himself was in front of him, and he possessed Ji Zeyu’s token. Thus, he answered without reservations and went into full detail regarding the current situation with the Tatar.

Pang Xiao listened earnestly, commenting frequently and reminding Tao Jun of certain details he needed to pay attention to at the border frontier. 

Seeing how the prince still fretted over the border situation despite being targeted with a hefty mix of doubt and ire, Tao Jun couldn’t help but grow a bit emotional. Outstanding subjects always attracted their liege’s wariness and suspicion, such was a rule of thumb that’d held since the ancient times.

In this case, one didn’t even need to look far. Pang Xiao’s father, Pang Zhongzheng, was a prime example. In the year of his demise, his prestige had shone so bright that it brought down a cloud of mistrust and suspicion from his lord, the emperor of Northern Ji. That was why the emperor had gone along with the enemy’s false intelligence and, in fact, made use of it to remove a perceived threat. 

Having received Pang Zhongzheng’s legacy of wisdom and experience, Pang Xiao had grown into such a talented figure that he also garnered his emperor’s suspicions like his father once had. Such a situation truly inspired lamentation from onlookers. 

When Pang Xiao returned to his room, Qin Yining had finished her bath, changed into new clothes, and freshened up. Her long, half-dried hair scattered loosely over her shoulders as she sat on a heated platform by the window, using the light from a lantern to mend Pang Xiao’s trousers.

Hearing the door open and close, she raised her head with a smile. “You’re back.”

“Mmhmm.” Pang Xiao’s heart turned soft when he looked into her eyes that sparkled like the stars. He quickly walked over and leaned down, placing a kiss on her forehead. He couldn’t help but chuckle when he saw her mending his trousers. “You can just leave things like that for the servants.”

“I have nothing to do these days. Besides, the people you brought are all a bunch of coarse men. What do they know about needlework?” Qin Yining didn’t raise her head, her fair hands working nimbly. Orange lighting casted a soft glow on her face, creating a heartwarming sight. 

Pang Xiao’s heart sang with happiness and he kissed her cheek. “I’ll go bathe.”

“Go ahead, the maids have already prepared warm water and I placed the outfit you like on the screen.”

“So I see.” Pang Xiao smiled and carressed her face before quickly making his way to the bathroom. He washed his face, rinsed his mouth, changed into a fresh set of clothes, and tousled his hair dry before coming out. 

Qin Yining had finished stitching his trousers and was now mending a frayed cuff on one of his outer robes. She smiled to see the ends of his hair still dripping with water. “Come sit, I’ll dry your hair.” 

Pang Xiao sat in front of his darling with a smile. Qin Yining knelt behind him, using a cotton handkerchief to gently dry his hair. 

Pang Xiao closed his eyes with great contentment, enjoying this beautiful moment of tranquillity. When his beloved moved onto massaging his scalp, he smiled. “Alright, that’s good enough. Your arms will grow tired if you keep this up.” 

“How tired can they possibly get?” Qin Yining refused to stop. “What did General Tao request your attention for earlier?”

Pang Xiao didn’t reveal his earlier mood and also skipped over the important things. 

“I asked about the current situation with the Tatar. Siqin is recruiting men and amassing supplies again, so it looks like he hasn’t given up on his plans to invade the south. He seems like a man possessed and will not be deterred from expanding his territory. It’s a bit strange, really.” 

Hearing that, Qin Yining also began to ponder. 

“I was thinking the same thing as well. I’d previously thought that he only wanted to grasp political power in Tatar. Though his ambitions are great, he’s already the Tatar khan and after his machinations, his popularity in Tatar is very high. 

“He should be very satisfied with this if he just wanted to rule a corner of the world. However, his ambitions seem more like he wants to conquer everything beneath the heavens, which is rather surprising. In fact, I have a little unconfirmed suspicion about all of this.” 

“Oh? Let’s hear it.”  Pang Xiao reached out, pulling Qin Yining onto his lap.

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