Chapter 126: A Disaster of Marriage
Qin Huaiyuan stooped next to née Sun with a frown and patted her shoulder gently when he heard her words. When née Sun turned her head to see Qin Huaiyuan, she leaned into his embrace to continue crying.
Pang Xiao’s confusion deepened when he studied Qin Huaiyuan’s face.
“Miss Tang, how is my daughter?” Qin Huaiyuan asked worriedly.
“Don’t worry, my lord, madame. There’s nothing really wrong with the miss. She’s only fainted because of sudden anger and extreme weariness. I’ve already performed some acupuncture, so she should be fine soon.” Bingtang held Qin Yining’s hands and continuously massaged her mistress’ fingers and the acupoint between thumb and forefinger.
The soldiers of the Warden’s Office had dispersed the crowds, leaving only Qin Huaiyuan and his family in front of the Meridian Gate, as well as Pang Xiao’s dozen Valiant Tigers. No one had felt the cold since there was a gaggle of people to block the wind, but as the cutting winds swept across the ground, everyone felt the bite of winter’s chill on their faces.
“It’s still cold out. Why not find a quiet place nearby where Miss Qin can stay, so that she doesn’t catch a cold?” Pang Xiao thought for a moment. “I remember the Institute of Luminous Charm has a tavern nearby.”
Bingtang nodded. “The miss stayed at Roamer’s Return last night. My lord, madame, why don’t we rest there for now?”
When Pang Xiao thought of how the Qins acted, he could mostly guess at what Qin Yining had endured. It felt like someone was squeezing his heart, a painful, but dull ache rising in his chest.
“This prince has learned something new today! The Qins can’t even be bothered to put up with a girl!”
Née Sun finally recalled that the person speaking was little Prince Pang, a character who killed his foes without blinking twice. When she thought of how intimately he’d behaved with Qin Yining moments ago, she began crying even harder. Qin Huaiyuan knit his brows together and glanced at Pang Xiao.
“The miss barged her way out.” Bingtang couldn’t very well criticize the Qins in front of the master of the house. She did her best to gloss over the incident and helped Songlan pick up Qin Yining, taking their mistress to the carriage nearby. Née Sun hurried over to help as well.
Qin Huaiyuan’s prodigal wits weren’t about to fail him now, how could he not understand what’d really happened? When he’d brought back his daughter from the mountains, she had been hale and hearty, her face flush with good health, but now look at her! As he watched his wife and the maids work together to help Qin Yining into the carriage, he sighed softly and turned to raise a cupped fist salute to Pang Xiao.
“What plans does Your Highness have now?”
“This prince will naturally go with your group. We can talk about the rest after she recovers.”
Qin Huaiyuan frowned. He was a man and understood a man’s thoughts. His daughter was fair as a flower and as beautiful as the moon, and had a personality that matched her looks. He wouldn’t have objected if it’d been anyone else who’d liked her, even someone as mediocre at politics as the crown prince.
But Pang Xiao was different. His father had been Pang Zhongzheng, the Protector of Northern Ji. The man who’d died because of Qin Huaiyuan’s scheming!
“I thank you for Your Highness’ sentiments and thank Your Highness again on behalf of my daughter. However, my daughter is yet unmarried, and men and women should keep the lines of propriety intact. His Majesty has already prepared a banquet for Your Highness, so why not attend to proper business?”
Pang Xiao burst out in a chuckle. “Her safety is my proper business now. There’s no need for further words, Grand Preceptor Qin, or is it that you’d like to defy the imperial decree?”
The prince walked forward, a corner of his lips turning up in what seemed to be a precursor to violence. “This prince seems to recall that your emperor gave the grand preceptor some orders just now? If Grand Preceptor Qin feels disinclined to obey them, this prince has no choice but to inform the Great Yan emperor of your… insubordination.”
What had been a congenial atmosphere just moments ago had suddenly turned tense and dangerous. It felt like the two men would come to blows at any second! Née Sun, Bingtang, and Songlan nervously returned when they noticed the weird atmosphere, but none of them dared to speak any placating words. Nevertheless, even in the face of such an oppressive pressure, Qin Huaiyuan remained calm and took a moment to compose his next words.
“Little Prince Pang is certainly a hero of the ages. This official admires true men like Your Highness the most. Although you have blood on your hands, they have never been that of innocents. I deeply admire Your Highness’ actions in risking your life when defying your emperor’s decree at Xihua, even though it resulted in an official warning and being stripped of your position as the Supreme Commander of the Southern Pacification Army. This official thanks Your Highness on behalf of the citizens of Xihua.” Qin Huaiyuan bowed to Pang Xiao with his hands clasped at chest level. The tension in the air disappeared with the grand preceptor’s actions.
The others around them were startled by these words. Neither née Sun, Bingtang, or Songlan had thought that a killing machine like Pang Xiao had been stripped of his position because of his refusal to put Xihua under the blade.
Meanwhile, the prince was looking at Qin Huaiyuan with a complicated gaze. Not only had the grand preceptor sincerely expressed his gratitude, he’d also showed his hand. He had just admitted to the prince that he had spies in Great Zhou, and highly placed ones at that! What did Qin Huaiyuan want in revealing his cards like this?
“You and I are both men,” Qin Huaiyuan rose and continued. “Feuds between men shouldn’t extend to families and children. I once targeted your father with a plot and indirectly engineered his gruesome death, but it was truly something I did only because of the differences in our position. If the little prince hates me and wishes revenge, you can come at me with everything you have.
“But as a father, I implore and beg you to not harm my daughter. She was lost to us ever since she was young and is innocent of all the pain she’s suffered.
“Your Highness took the risk of standing on the side of justice for those completely unrelated to you when caught between two armies. So now, please lift your hand from another innocent and don’t involve daughter Yi in all of this.” Qin Huaiyuan bowed once more. His sincere words had prompted fresh tears from née Sun, and Bingtang and Songlan had also grown teary-eyed as well. Even a hot-blooded man like Huzi, standing behind his master, couldn’t help but be touched.
Even though Qin Huaiyuan is a damnably sly bastard who harmed my prince’s father, he’s still a genuine and sincere man.
However, thunder-like anger replaced Pang Xiao’s admiration for this display of sincerity.
“So it turns out that this prince is that much of a base and despicable character in the grand preceptor’s eyes? If I’d wanted to take revenge, who knows how many times you would’ve died already! Do you really think you’re that fortunate?!”
“I’ve never thought that way.”
Pang Xiao smiled coldly and took two steps forward. His hawk eyes pierced sharply through Qin Huaiyuan, wordlessly telling him that he wasn’t about to back down, “It’s not up to Grand Preceptor Qin who this prince likes!”
Qin Huaiyuan met Pang Xiao’s look evenly, and suddenly smiled. “Since this is the case, then let’s be on our way to Roamer’s Return.” Without another word, he turned to stride back to the carriage, the very picture of being in a hurry to have his daughter settle in.
Pang Xiao looked at the grand preceptor’s back and couldn’t help but laugh. He finally understood where Qin Yining got her infuriating habits from, the one that made one’s heart itch with anger but even still left one unable to smack her. Her wisdom and wits had completely been inherited from her father.
“Master, are we going to Roamer’s Return?” Huzi stepped up to his master’s side. Pang Xiao nodded and tugged his beloved steed over, mounting in a dashing fashion. The other Valiant Tigers also took their places and trailed behind Pang Xiao behind the Qin family carriage.
Huzi steered his horse next to his master’s and murmured in worried tones. “My prince, I’ve just received word from the Elite Tiger scouts that His Majesty has appointed Lian Shengjie as the ambassador to Great Yan. He should be here in two days. With our presence here already, will Great Yan think that you’re an imposter?”
Pang Xiao didn’t care. “They can think whatever they want to think. What can they do to me?”
Huzi could only shake his head resignedly. However calm and calculated his prince was normally, it was exactly how reckless he became when it came to anything concerning that Miss Qin. It was as if he was reserving all of his impulsiveness for her. This woman will be a disastrous trial for my prince.
Qin Yining felt like she was a small fish floating in the river. The sunlight dappled river was warm and clear. She felt free of all worries, and her heart felt light as she swam lazily through the river. She didn’t remember who she was and where she was swimming to.
But the waters gradually grew shallower, until a large hand broke the water’s surface to scoop her up. The owner of the hand had a half smile on their face and brought her up to a pair of clear, phoenix-shaped eyes. She seemed to hear someone calling out to her—Little Creek, Little Creek. Little Bunny, Little Bunny.
She suddenly grew angry. She was called Little Creek, yes, but her name was Qin Yining now. And who was Little Bunny? The momentary flare of anger brought her memories rushing back and she suddenly recalled her mother on the execution grounds. Her eyes sprang open as she shot to an upright position.
“Miss, you’re awake?”
“Are you feeling better, daughter Yi?”
Qin Yining looked blankly at her mother sitting on the side of the bed, holding her hand, then at her father who was looking back with a face full of care. She then looked around the unfamiliar room, but wasn’t able to react to what was in front of her before née Sun pulled her into a hug.
“You’re finally awake, daughter! Do you know you’ve slept for an entire day?”
“Mother?” Qin Yining slowly lifted her arms to return née Sun’s hug. She felt that she was still in the dream. Her mother was usually much more distant and cold towards her. When had née Sun ever shown her such tenderness? She rested her face on née Sun’s shoulder. If this is a dream, then please, let it continue for a bit longer.
Her incredulous and exceedingly careful motions, as well as an attitude of immensely treasuring this treatment brought twinges to both Qin Huaiyuan and Pang Xiao’s nose. The latter frowned. Just how much ill will did this née Sun vent on this silly girl?