Chapter 112: A Forceful Kiss
The night gale made all the flags crack loudly against their poles. The gold embroidered tiger head on the Valiant Tigers’ flags bared sharp fangs under the flickering light of the torches. Qin Yining drew her cloak tightly around herself, her long hair dancing behind her in the wind. She resolutely made her way through the empty parade ground, walking straight towards the opulent tent in the center of the enemy side.
She’d already asked around. Since Lian Shengjie was the supreme commander, he held the highest position within the army and therefore occupied the most luxurious tent. Not only was he allergic to hard work and overindulged in pleasure, he also wanted beauties to keep him company every night.
At this hour, most of the soldiers of the camp were asleep. Only those on patrol or night watch were still awake. The tent in the center was the only one with lamps still lit. The Valiant Tigers on guard took note of Qin Yining’s approach. Her pale-green, brocade cloak glowed dimly in the moonlight, highlighting her flawless, fair face. There were only men in the camp, so naturally they wanted to get their fill of such a beautiful girl in their midst. The ones on guard settled for admiring her in lieu of stopping her.
Qin Yining could feel the countless gazes latching onto her. Like needles pricking her skin, every hair on her body stood on end. But she couldn’t retreat. She couldn’t be afraid. She couldn’t let her father lose his life because he chose to defend her. Before her thoughts could run any further, she arrived in front of the tent, she arrived in front of the tent. She could see the shadows inside due to the lantern light projected on the tent walls.
The two Valiant Tigers looked at each other, a bit hesitant. Such a beautiful girl standing outside their commander’s tent in the dead of the night was obviously here to make a gift of herself. Should they… not stop her? Not block her? Definitely not stop her? They exchanged knowing glances and didn’t say anything.
Qin Yining’s face flushed red and pursed her red lips. “This girl is née Qin and requests an audience with the lord.”
Silence was the only response. As she started sweating profusely from nerves and awkwardness, a voice finally sounded from within, “Come on in.”
Qin Yining tightened her grip on the dagger hidden in her sleeves and mentally admonished herself to focus before she walked slowly forward, lifting the door curtains.
The two Valiant Tigers on duty looked at each other again, flashing identical grins.
Four lamps, each with their own embroidered tassel, were burning in the tent. Immediately to the left of the entrance was a short table that held neatly arranged books and diagrams. A stool with criss-closed legs finished the work table ensemble, and the precious sword on the tent wall added that little bit of flair. On the right, red carpet ran up the floor to a divider in the middle of the room. On the other side of the divider was a stark military bed with blankets neatly folded on top of it.
A lit lamp projected the outline of a bathtub onto the divider, and within the tub seemed to be a figure in the middle of his bath. Water splashed down as he lifted his arm.
Qin Yining’s face flushed a bright red. No matter how strong she might be inside, she was still an unmarried girl. Goosebumps popped up all over her arms whenever she thought of Lian Shengjie’s old, fat body. Disgust roiled in her stomach. It looked like no matter how clearly she’d thought things through on her way here, she still couldn’t remain completely impassive in the face of reality.
“Née Qin greets the lord.” Qin Yining curtsied.
A growling rasp, slow and quiet, filled the air. “Miss Qin, didn’t you not want to see me that day? Aren’t you afraid that I’ll eat you whole if you come here like this today?”
Such candor both embarrassed and infuriated Qin Yining. But she couldn’t explode with rage, and could only respond quietly. “You are quick-witted, my lord. You know why I am here today.”
“Oh? Then tell me, what are you here for?”
Qin Yining wanted nothing more than to reap his life with a swift blow when she heard the amusement in his tone. But the peace talks needed his seal. “If you are willing to seal the matters we’ve already agreed upon, I will naturally satisfy all of your requests.”
“Haha, you little girl! So you know how to consider the needs of the country? And you’re willing to offer yourself for that decrepit emperor of yours?”
Qin Yining didn’t want to give Lian Shengjie the satisfaction of addressing his mockery. The hand that had slowly relaxed its grip on her dagger once again grew tight. “Have you agreed, my lord?”
“And what would you do if I don’t?”
Water splashed freely as the man’s figure rose higher on the divider. Qin Yining hastily ducked her head out of shyness. The rustle of clothes did nothing to conceal the unbridled gaze she felt on her skin. The musk of a foreign male grew ever closer as a naked pair of feet appeared in her lowered gaze. She could clearly see the veins, shoved upwards by the bunched muscles beneath. They were a sure testament to the man’s strength.
Qin Yining clenched the dagger even more tightly and subconsciously backed up a step. However, before she could react, a pair of iron arms pulled her in, enveloping her in a fiery hug. She jerked her head abruptly upwards to look into Pang Xiao’s striking face.
His long hair was tied up high, and droplets of water fell onto the thin, snow-white fabric on his shoulders, turning them transparent in patches. Qin Yining was pushing firmly against his warm chest; she could even feel the soft, yet steely muscles beneath her palms and the firm thumps of the heart beneath.
“Why is it you?!” Her eyes went round with utter shock.
“What, do you wish it was that old dog, Lian?”
“I’m not… I’m here to…”
“You’re here to give yourself to that old dog? Or are you…” One hand firmly grasped her wrist and flipped it, deftly spilling the hidden dagger into his hand. He whirled her around, clamping his hand firmly on her thin waist and planting her back against his chest. He rested his chin on her shoulder, taking in the fragrance of her hair and neck. He murmured, “…here to attempt an assassination?”
How would Qin Yining ever have imagined that it wouldn’t be Lian Shengjie in the tent?! Her mind was completely muddled; this was her first time being so close to a man. The only reaction that overwhelmed her thoughts was to struggle fiercely.
“Let go of me!”
“Pang Zhixi, you let go of me right now!”
“Nope, I’m just not going to! What, you came to serve that old dog and you won’t even let this prince hug you?!”
“You’re a scoundrel!”
“I’m a scoundrel?! You came to offer yourself on a silver platter and I’m the scoundrel?!” Rage came out of nowhere as his low voice shivered with suppressed fury. He hugged her tighter, almost painfully so as he deeply breathed in her vaguely sweet scent. He wanted to wring her neck! He couldn’t even bear to imagine what would’ve happened if he hadn’t kicked that old fart out of this tent. What would’ve this stupidly fearless girl have experienced then?? “Tell me, what would you have done if you’d met that old fart today? Would you have offered yourself or tried to assassinate him?!”
“It’s none of your business! Let go!” Qin Yining could sense the hidden fury and hostility behind her. Alarm bells were clanging loudly in her mind as instinctive fear made her hairs stand on end. She used all her strength in trying to wrest free. If she didn’t escape, this man might squeeze her to death!
Qin Yining was deceptively strong, but her opponent was Pang Xiao. He could feel how hard she was trying to get free and interpreted it as utter disdain for him. His rage grew even further! He was trying so hard to control himself so he wouldn’t hurt her, but she didn’t feel any of his consideration!
“You stupid, foolish woman!” He spat out through clenched teeth. He let go of her waist, spinning her around roughly with a hand on her shoulder. The other hand slipped around the small of her back and pulled her close. Leaning in, he bit her lips fiercely.
Well, he wanted to bite her hard, but the soft, sweet sensation instantly enraptured him. He couldn’t bear to hurt her, so he kept his teeth back and just tasted her. His large hand drifted up her shoulder to her chin, forcing her pert mouth open.
An explosion went off inside Qin Yining’s head as she froze stiff. How dare he kiss her! He’d gone and tyrannically claimed her as ‘my woman’ that day in the tent without even considering her feelings. She had just barely managed to explain that as him wanting to help her and her father, so that the Great Yan emperor wouldn’t misunderstand that Qin Huaiyuan wasn’t willing to offer his daughter.
But what now?
He concealed his identity from her and saved her life, striking up an acquaintance. She’d genuinely treated him as a friend and thought hard of how to repay this favor, but now he was taking advantage of her!
Tears spun in Qin Yining’s eyes as she struggled with both hands and feet, making mewling sounds like a little animal being bullied.
Pang Xiao’s fury was thoroughly doused by this kiss. She looked so soft and docile, like a little bunny almost vibrating in anger. He couldn’t help but want to comfort and cheer her up. He moved his mouth away and left a loud, dominating kiss on her forehead.
“Alright, no more antics from me. Shh!”
“Who the hell do you think you are?! How can you do this to me?!” Qin Yining’s lips were drawn into a thin hard line. She rubbed at her forehead with the back of her hand, tears trickling down continuously.
“Who the hell am I?!” His vanished fury reemerged as Pang Xiao cursed with a cold expression. “I’m your man! Who the hell am I, you say? You’d rather sleep with that bastard Lian and not me, is it?!”
“Go away! I never want to see you again!” Qin Yining violently shoved him away and took off running before he could collect himself.
Pang Xiao was poleaxed by that last line. It was almost like something broke inside, as his emotions ran between rage and grief. A variety of emotions assailed him before condensing into a hard-to-explain ruefulness. He took two deep breaths in before running out in hot pursuit.
“Stop right there!” he roared.
The Valiant Tigers outside were tremendously surprised when Qin Yining had come running out. Had she not made a successful present of herself? Or had their prince been found wanting? Their answer came a few seconds later in the form of a barefoot Pang Xiao dressed in only an undershirt. His loud roar made them snap to attention. Patrolling Valiant Tigers unsheathed their swords and started running towards the commotion.
The Great Yan soldiers in the opposing camp also heard this shout. When they saw the Valiant Tigers charging across the camp with bared blades, they thought that Great Zhou was reneging on the temporary ceasefire and started panicking.
“Get up, get up! Grab your weapons! Great Zhou is attacking!”
Qin Huaiyuan and Cui Wenqing flung on clothes and ran out when they heard the alarms go off. The ranks of Great Yan soldiers who were on guard had unsheathed their weapons as well, creating a solid line of defense against the approaching Valiant Tigers.
Qin Yining leaped past them, running to Qin Huaiyuan’s side. When he saw the streaks of tears down her face, Qin Huaiyuan’s heart skipped a beat. He quickly pulled his daughter in. “Daughter Yi, are you alright?!”
“Stupid woman!” Pang Xiao cursed silently. He quickly strode forward, planting himself in front of the Valiant Tigers; barefoot, hands on his hips, in only an undershirt and showing half of his chest. He jabbed a finger at the Great Yan side and shouted, “Stupid woman! I’ll let you off for tonight. But just you wait, you’ll be mine sooner or later!”