Chapter 113: The Goddess of the Moon
Deadly silence fell across the scene. The Valiant Tigers had thought something enormous had gone down, but now they completely understood. So their prince liked a girl! He was truly an uncommon man, even chasing after a girl with such thunderous methods. Pang Xiao had a monumentally important place in their heart, so they all craned their necks curiously as they stared towards the other side. They wanted to see just what kind of beauty had caught their prince’s eye to the point where he was making such a big fuss in declaring ownership.
Meanwhile, the soldiers on the Great Yan side were livid. They felt it was shameful enough that their emperor wanted Grand Preceptor Qin to offer his daughter, but when she was being humiliated in public like this, they all felt the hearty smacks to their faces. They itched to fight, grips tightening on weapons as they yelled curses at the Valiant Tigers.
When the Valiant Tigers saw the other side thus, they too grew serious and faced their opponents solemnly. The situation was taut, balanced on the edge of a knife.
However, Pang Xiao glared fiercely at Qin Yining and waved his hand. “Retreat!”
The Valiant Tigers were well trained, and sheathed their weapons in synchronized unison, turning to march back to their positions. Last to turn, the prince sauntered back to his own tent, still barefoot and in his undershirt.
The Great Yan side heaved a sigh of relief when they saw the enemy retreat. After all, the true danger of the Valiant Tigers came not just because of their commander’s tactics, but because of individual battle ability. A regular Valiant Tiger soldier was worth more than five elite Great Yan soldiers, a disparity likely due to differences in climate and training regimen. This sort of gap left the Great Yan soldiers with a deep feeling of helplessness.
“Let’s return as well. Everyone to their posts!”
“Understood!” The soldiers retreated.
Cui Wenqing looked at the fresh tear streaks on Qin Yining’s face and at the frowning Qin Huaiyuan. He sighed and returned to his tent. After all, offering up one’s only official daughter to another man was an immensely humiliating matter. He wasn’t inclined to closely question Qin Huaiyuan as to what was going on, but it was also unexpected that the little Prince Pang would be so interested in the girl.
As he thought about everything, Cui Wenqing still decided to truthfully relay the events of the night in a secret report. Grand Preceptor Qin has already offered his daughter. Lian remained unmoved. The Faithful Prince has openly expressed his affections.
The emperor was up all night with delight when that report reached the capital. This little Prince Pang was a genuine war god and possessed great authority. He was even blood sworn brothers with the Great Zhou emperor. If they could please this man, then maybe things would take a turn for the better.
However, he was instantly torn internally and wanted to hit himself for his negligence. If he’d known beforehand that Prince Pang would like the grand preceptor’s daughter, he would’ve chosen another beauty for Lian Shengjie! Then, both of them would be happy, and this fight over the same beauty wouldn’t happen. What if things become worse because they fight over the same girl?
The emperor considered things all night long and sent out another urgent order. Qin Huaiyuan received it noon the next day. “…make your moves accordingly. A successful end to the peace talks is of utmost priority.”
…basically, gift Qin Yining to whoever can make the decisions.
Qin Huaiyuan smiled faintly at Cui Wenqing after he sent off the eunuch with the message. The latter felt both guilty and resigned. He was here on two imperial orders, first to participate in the negotiations, but also to monitor Qin Huaiyuan. The emperor was worried that Qin Huaiyuan would resent having to offer his daughter and thus seek to betray Great Yan. Cui Wenqing’s daily secret reports were something he did out of great resignation.
“Grand Preceptor Qin, now that the other side isn’t doing anything, should we add fuel to the flames? The talks have dragged on long enough, and I’m worried that the emperor will grow anxious.”
The emperor was prone to anything if he grew anxious. If the talks this time weren’t a success, he might ignore everything and slaughter both of their families to vent his rage.
Qin Huaiyuan naturally understood the awkward situation Cui Wenqing was in and his concerns. “Let’s observe things for one more day. If we can’t reach a conclusion tomorrow, let’s relax the conditions some more.”
Cui Wenqing nodded. It was because Lian Shengjie’s temper that some of the conditions hadn’t been agreed upon and caused the talks to stagnate. He’d been feeling rather conflicted because he wanted to retain as much for Great Yan citizens as he could. However, he knew full well that the emperor didn’t care how much silver and cities they handed over. As long as Great Zhou agreed to a ceasing of hostilities, the emperor would likely even happily grant positions to their envoys. Every time he thought of his liege’s behavior, he wasn’t sure if he should sob out loud or not.
The next day, Qin yining was resting in her tent. Sleep was scant all night, as the previous night’s events kept replaying behind her eyes everytime she tried to close them. Pang Xiao’s hot embrace, his tyrannical kiss, the furious growling, the marginally gentle coaxing, as well as that final roar in front of everyone. “You’ll be mine sooner or later!”
The scenes seemed to be different colored dyes, mixing and tumbling in her mind to create a vortex of emotions. She didn’t understand why Pang Xiao would do any of this. She was used to weighing pros and cons of any situation she encountered, but her mind was a complete mess when it had to analyze herself as a variable.
She wasn’t valuable at all to Pang Xiao, so why had he wanted to get close to know her… to strike up a friendship, to save her, or even rescue her from Lian Shengjie twice? She wasn’t so narcissistic as to think that Pang Xiao liked her. But since she had no value, so why was he doing this? Most of all, her father had played a crucial part in the death of his. His reasoning for his actions only grew more puzzling when she considered herself as the daughter of his enemy.
But she had to admit, she was feeling quite relieved for now.
Thankfully she’d walked into the wrong tent, one that didn’t shelter Lian Shengjie. Being forcefully kissed by Pang Xiao was still better than offering herself to Lian Shengjie.
Her face burst into flames whenever she thought back to that kiss, and she tossed violently to bury her face into the pillow. Although her father hadn’t said anything last night, with his intelligence, he definitely knew that she’d gone to the other side to do something. Some things didn’t need to be spoken of, but they shared the same thoughts all the same.
Her plan had failed. She hadn’t even glimpsed Lian Shengjie’s shadow. So what would happen to the peace talks now?
“Miss Qin!” A soldier called out to her from outside the tent. His voice was tinged with joy. “Miss Qin! The grand preceptor requests your presence at the supreme commander’s tent! Great Zhou has come to talk to us of their own accord! The little prince demands your attendance there!”
Qin Yining bolted upright and blinked blankly. “I’ll be right there.”
Great Zhou had come to talk to them? Had she misheard?
There wasn’t time to consider anything. She fixed her hair, flung on her cloak, and ran straight to the Great Yan supreme commander’s tent.
The sight of a bruised and battered Lian Shengjie, looking darkly around him, greeted her as soon as she walked in. He was speaking quietly with Qin Huaiyuan while Pang Xiao was off to the side in a black battle robe. Huzi was next to him in a guard’s uniform, keeping his master company as the prince knelt, murmuring to a little white bunny he had cupped in his hands. Cui Wenqing was also awkwardly stooped next to Pang Xiao, his expression very stiff.
Needless to say, Qin Yining was taken aback. The lofty Faithful Prince of the First Rank was holding a bunny… in a military camp… and at a solemn occasion such as a peace negotiation between two enemies? She couldn’t help herself, “Little Prince Pang, are you pretending to be the goddess of the moon?” 1
Pang Xiao had been in a very good mood as he coaxed the bunny, but his cheer vanished instantly when Qin Yining mocked him the moment she entered the door. His expression sank as he rose elegantly to his feet, still holding the bunny.
“It’s for you! Catch!”
Qin Yining was once again caught on the back foot. She took a closer look at the bunny. It was different from the typical rabbit. It looked a bit fatter and had rather round cheeks. Its ears flopped happily on either side of its face and it was only the size of a palm. The snowy fur was marred only by a black circle around its left eye. It actually looked rather comical.
“What does the little prince mean? Rewards can’t be accepted when a service wasn’t rendered. How can I keep you from playacting as the goddess?” She almost smiled when she saw Pang Xiao come up to her with such a small rabbit.
This girl’s still holding a grudge! Fine, he did take slight advantage of her yesterday, but would she still be standing here arguing with him today if he hadn’t happened to be in that tent yesterday? He’d gone to so much effort to find such a cute bunny as a present, all in the hope that she wouldn’t be angry anymore. But not only was she not thankful, she was making fun of him!
“It’s for you, so take it.” He responded darkly and took two steps forward, wanting to shove the bunny into Qin Yining’s hands.
She quickly stepped back two steps, refusing to accept it. “I don’t want it, you keep it.”
Pang Xiao’s expression was terrifyingly unpleasant now, and a storm was ratcheting up in fury in his eyes. He nodded grimly. “Fine, you don’t want it? Then I’ll smash it to death!” He lifted the bunny high into the air, as if he was about to slam it into the ground.
Qin Yining jumped in fright and quickly leaped forward to tug on his sleeve. “What are you doing?! You’re being ridiculous!”
“It’s you who refused a toast only to drink a forfeit!” Pang Xiao lowered his upraised arm and thrust the chubby bunny at Qin Yining. “Here, take it!”
- This is a character out of Chinese mythology. A goddess lives on the moon with white rabbits. Sometimes they’re making mochi. ↩