Chapter 110: So It’s Him!
Qin Huaiyuan took a step forward and shielded Qin Yining behind him, then turned confused eyes at the elder staring at him. He didn’t know the man and so didn’t understand why the elder was looking at him with eyes of such hate and rage.
Zheng Pei took a deep breath in and let it out slowly. He asked benevolently, “This must be the famous ‘Wise Pan An’, Grand Preceptor Qin?”
“That’s just some over-the-top praise that the citizens have bestowed on me. May I know who this gentleman is?” Qin Huaiyuan raised his hands in a cupped fist salute.
“I am a strategist under the Faithful Prince of the First Rank. My surname is Zheng.”
Qin Huaiyuan and Qin Yining instantly knew why the elder held such hostility when they heard the prince’s title. Qin Huaiyuan was the man who’d engineered the fatal plot back in the day. Given Sir Zheng’s age, it was possibly he’d served Pang Zhongzheng.
“So it’s Sir Zheng, my apologies for not recognizing you earlier.” Qin Huaiyuan looked around and smiled. “This uncommonly dashing lord must be Minister Lian of the Bureau of Military Affairs. I wonder if the little prince is around as well?”
Lian Shengjie had already stuck his neck out for unabashed assessment of Qin Yining’s body. Pride surged when he heard Qin Huaiyuan mentioned himself, but it swiftly turned to displeasure when Pang Xiao was inquired after as well. His face sank.
“I’m in charge of the Southern Pacification Army now and hold my emperor’s decree in hosting these peace talks. Little Prince Pang is just the general of the Valiant Tigers now. What difference does it make if he’s here or not?”
“That’s very true.” Qin Huaiyuan arched a brow and smiled faintly.
Zheng Pei had seized up Qin Yining by now and inwardly spat that here was yet another tramp who would cause the downfall of a nation. Outwardly, he beamed merrily. “ And might I ask what position does this lady official hold in Great Yan?”
This question made the faces of those from Great Yan burn slightly. It was a known fact that their nation didn’t have any female officials. It also wasn’t a secret that Lian Shengjie had a great vice of lust. So therefore, it was self evident why there was a beautiful girl in Great Yan’s peace talk entourage. Zheng Pei’s knowing question was a firm stomp on their dignity. Qin Yining thought very little of this Sir Zheng as a result.
Qin Huaiyuan however, remained smiling. “This is my official daughter. I have no son; she’s the only pearl I have. I have great plans for her in the future, so I like to take her with me wherever I go so that she sees more of the world.”
Those from Great Yan breathed a silent sigh of relief, feeling that they’d regained some of their lost face. Thank goodness for Qin Huaiyuan’s wits!
Meanwhile, those of Great Zhou sneered privately. Using such a righteous excuse in offering a beautiful girl. How shameless can you lot be?
“So it’s Grand Preceptor Qin’s daughter. My apologies.” Zheng Pei was still smiling, but his eyes held mockery now.
If it’d been any regular girl, they would’ve wanted to burrow into a hole somewhere under Lian Shengjie’s lascivious leering and Zheng Pei’s jeering smile. But she remained standing quietly behind her father, as if she really were an official son out on a jaunt with her father.
“Since this is the case, let’s talk inside the tent.” Minister Cui Wenqing smiled. “I’ve ordered food and drink to be prepared. Let’s eat and talk at the same time.”
As the key personnel to the peace talks entered the tent, Qin Yining naturally followed beside her father. The tent was a pure white contraption made of the rough fabric found in armies. A bonfire had been set up in the middle of the room, with an iron pot mounted over it, boiling water. A vivid red carpet covered the ground, with three settings set out on either side at the end of the carpet.
Lian Shengjie, one of his sub generals, and Zheng Pei sat on the left. Qin Huaiyuan and Cui Wenqing sat on the right. Qin Yining picked up a stool and sat behind her father.
Lian Shengjie was sitting across from Qin Huaiyuan, so he could see Qin Yining’s charming face whenever he lifted his head. His heart was capering madly with excitement as his lustful urges reared their heads in full. He was the main host of the talks, but his mind was completely preoccupied by the beautiful girl. He wasn’t paying any attention to the proceedings at all.
Thankfully, Zheng Pei was calmly collected on the Great Zhou side. He was perceptive and engaged in all sorts of verbal feints with Qin Huaiyuan and Cui Wenqing, paying overt compliments while dishing out subtle jeers, haggling and bargaining to the utmost to prevent Great Yan from taking the advantage in the negotiations.
The first bout went for eight hours, but many areas such as tribute and the partitioning of lands had yet to be agreed upon. Great Zhou was making ludicrous demands to maximize their gains as much as possible, while Qin Huaiyuan was clinging bitterly onto everything, trying to decreases their losses as much as possible as well.
When the lanterns outside were lit, so did soldiers bring in lamps for the tent. Everyone had talked themselves hoarse. The food had chilled and been reheated several times in a row.
All Lian Shengjie had done the entire afternoon was to admire the view in front of him and fantasize about all the tricks and positions he wanted to try. When he saw that Qin Huaiyuan wasn’t agreeing to the reparations of fifty million silver, he frowned and pretended to be deep in thought. “This sum is for the losses that my Great Zhou soldiers have endured. It’s actually not a great sum. However, it can still be discussed.”
Zheng Pei wanted to interject, but Lian Shengjie cut him off with a dark expression as soon as the elder opened his mouth. “Sir Zheng has been busy all afternoon. Isn’t it my turn to say a few words now?”
Zheng Pei was in Pang Xiao’s camp and was known as the ‘Advisor’ in the Valiant Tigers, but he didn’t have an actual title or army commission. He was sitting here today completely because of Pang Xiao. The prince wasn’t in residence at the moment, and the Valiant Tigers had to be represented. This was why Lian Shengjie didn’t actually dare do anything too blatant, but neither could Zheng Pei do anything when Lian Shengjie pulled rank.
Seeing that Zheng Pei wasn’t saying anything else, Lian Shengjie stood up and pretended to stretch and walk around to loosen his joints. He ended up next to Qin Huaiyuan and leaned sideways to look at Qin Yining’s pale face. Greed was written all over his eyes as he spoke to Qin Huaiyuan.
“Of course, we should talk about everything in peace talks! I love drinking and hear that Grand Preceptor Qin is raising this daughter like a son. Then her tolerance must be good. If she’s willing to have a drink or two with me, then we can still talk about those conditions!”
It’s come. Qin Yining closed her eyes. Qin Huaiyuan’s hands slowly balled into fists. He remained smiling, but he was torn between rage and resignation inside. She didn’t want to put her father in a difficult position, so stood up to bend her knee in a curtsey.
“Sir Lian is a renowned hero with a forthright personality. I truly do admire such a person. Therefore, allow me to make use of this opportunity to toast you, sir.” She picked up the wine jar as she spoke and filled a large bowl, while she herself picked up a small, delicate white porcelain jug.
When Lian Shengjie accepted the white porcelain bowl from the beauty, the only thing in his eyes were the flashes of her pale skin and the only thoughts occupying his mind were lewd. He didn’t pay any attention to what he was drinking, keeping his eyes trained on Qin Yining as he emptied the bowl. Only when he felt the burn in his stomach did he realize he’d been served a large bowl of potent liquor!
The alcohol rushed to his head but he didn’t grow angry. He smiled instead. “Ai! The favors from beauties are the hardest to digest and beauties always pour the finest wine.”
“Is that so? Then please have another. They say that three cups of alcohol will be enough to render even heroes drunk. Since the lord is a great hero, you must have three bowls of it.” She poured another bowl and looked at Lian Shengjie with bright eyes.
He was well and thoroughly tipsy now, and while still relatively clear headed, his courage was bolstered by the alcohol. he was very worked up and didn’t care about the others present. He grabbed Qin Yining’s soft hands and dragged her into his embrace.
“Beauty, are you trying to get me drunk? Let me tell you something, I’m most afraid of the gentle affections from women. We can talk about anything in these negotiations if you serve me well. My emperor is far away and waits for my report, hmm? I can loosen my lips a little. I can tell that you’re a perceptive one. Let’s get to know each other better. Heaven’s bestowed this fate on us, hmm?”
Qin Yining had stiffened all over and her face was beet red. Her round, almond-shaped eyes were filled with humiliation and indignity, but resignation even more so. Wasn’t this her goal in coming here today? Get to know each other better? I suppose I should be happy that the heavens haven’t arranged for Sir Lian to take me away with him.
A tendon throbbed on Qin Huaiyuan’s forehead as he shot to his feet with unrepressed fury. He dragged Qin Yining behind him with one pull.
“Sir Lian, I brought my daughter with me to see more of the world and add to her knowledge. We should focus on our business at hand.”
Qin Yining looked at the tall, broad figure shielding her through teary eyes. Her father was on her side in the end. Even though they couldn’t defy the imperial decree, her father was still shielding her in pivotal moments! But how could she let her father protect her like this? If the peace talks failed, the emperor would blame their family!
“What? You know this is what I like! Didn’t you bring a beauty for my pleasure? I’m giving you face in playing along! So you regret things now huh?! What was all this earlier then huh?? Fifty million silver and another fifteen cities, and not one bit less!” Lian Shengjie’s face had gone dark with his voice climbing an octave due to the alcohol.
He’d only wanted five cities beforehand, but had just raised the price for no reason at all! Qin Yining bit her lip and didn’t things to be ruined because of her. She was satisfied enough that her father wanted to protect her.
Qin Huaiyuan was grappling with an immense internal struggle, and his face alternated between red and white. Lian Shengjie smirked cockily and pushed Qin Huaiyuan away, grabbing Qin Yining’s hand again and headed outside with her. He was certain that no one would dare stop him this time!
But at this time, the tent flap was harshly flipped aside. A large figure wielding a large blade strode in with an immense aura, light refracted every which way off the weapon. He had broad shoulders and an upright back, his arms rippling with strength and waist with vigor. His black fighting robe made him appear the very picture of noblesse, but a storm brewed within phoenix-shaped eyes that were set under slender eyebrows!
Qin Huaiyuan was startled by the sight when he looked back, and Qin Yining even more so.
“Yao Zhixhi…” Her thoughts spun furiously. She thought he’d barged in to rescue her and was assailed with a conflict of emotions. She almost started crying and frantically tried to gesture to him. “Go away, quick! You shouldn’t be here!”
Pang Xiao paid attention to nothing apart from drawing his arm back and slashing forward with his sword! The stroke was aimed straight at Lian Shengjie’s face. If it connected, the minister’s face would be split down the middle!
“Little prince, you can’t!” Zheng Pei was scared silly off to the side. Qin Yining paused, her eyes wide with surprise as she took another swift look at Pang Xiao.
The proceedings scared Lian Shengjie into sobriety and he backed up two steps with a cry of dismay, falling to the ground on his butt and just barely managing to avoid the sword. Nervous sweat dripped down his face as he pointed at Pang Xiao with shaking fingers, “Pang Zhixhi, what do you think you’re doing?”
“F*ck you motherf*cking piece of shit! How dare you lay hands on my woman?! I’ll f*cking hack you to pieces!” These words were followed up with another mighty stroke!