Chapter 146: An Awkward Empress (II)
Almost none of the womenfolk present had seen Pang Xiao before, so the only thought that ran through their mind was how charming this young man seemed. His features were exquisite and deeply set, a pair of long brows imposingly framing a pair of phoenix eyes. Merely a casual glance was enough to send one’s heart pounding hard. Although he was handsome, his body also looked tall and fit. His aura was imposingly domineering, forcing one’s head down after one such glance, and not daring to possibly offend the young man.
Wasn’t the newcomer afraid of the empress taking revenge in the future? How dare he show such a strong attitude to the empress? Just what was his background?
Meanwhile, her imperial majesty’s face had gone ashen. So it was this demon that her father hadn’t wanted her to antagonize! She’d personally borne witness how the emperor had bowed and scraped in front of Pang Xiao at the Meridian Gate that day. She wouldn’t dare say anything even she had a belly full of irritation!
“The Faithful Prince of the First Rank loves to jest.” She laughed dryly. “Those were but words said in anger, how would I possibly force my will on anyone? As the mother of the nation, I naturally rule via virtue and lead by example. Your Highness must have some misunderstandings of this empress.”
The Faithful Prince of the First Rank? The womenfolk looked askance at Pang Xiao. So this was Great Zhou’s unblinking demon of slaughter! After casting a startled glance at the prince, they subconsciously shifted their gaze to Qin Yining.
Rumors had long abounded regarding the two in the city. Combined with Pang Xiao’s heroic actions and proclamation in front of the Meridian Gate, the common populace were naturally curious about things.
This was especially true for the old dowager, second madame, and seventh miss. In their view, the prince was a true northern man who drank blood, possessed a bristling beard, was as stocky as an oxen, had a voice that boomed like a bell, and owned eyes so sharp that they could cut someone to pieces with a single look. Who would’ve thought that he would turn out to be such a good looking person!
The seventh miss stared at Pang Xiao, infatuated, while Qin Yining glared ferociously at him. Just what was he on about now? Although the two nations were at a tentative peace, he was still the prince of another nation. Wasn’t he afraid of getting into trouble with such a high profile face-off with the empress??
Qin Yining’s glare utterly delighted Pang Xiao. He grinned. “Since the empress doesn’t have such intentions, then we can forget about all this.”
A beet red flush crept up the empress’ neck from the awkwardness she felt. How was someone as lofty as her supposed to react now? Was she supposed to wheel around and take everyone away with her again?
Pang Xiao snuck another look at Qin Yining and continued, smiling. “But since the empress is already here, it wouldn’t be the right thing to bar guests at the door. Why not come inside for a tour?”
The empress heaved a silent sigh of relief at this gesture and her expression relaxed greatly. “I naturally can’t decline Your Highness’ invitation.”
Pang Xiao tilted to the side and carelessly welcomed the group inside. He paid no further attention to his new guests and walked back in with Huzi and his men. The empress clenched her teeth at this wanton disrespect and set foot inside, servants showing the way. She was naturally followed by the rest of the group.
It was only after they’d entered that they understood what was meant by the words that described skies filled with flowers and a perfect garden layout. Only then did they truly experience an ethereal palace and an otherworldly set of surroundings.
Setting aside the exotic flora present, even the regular peach and plum blossoms were painstakingly planted in exact configurations. From a distance, they appeared like a patch of fiery clouds. The covered hallway was decorated with exquisite carvings, and wisps of pale-green veils peeked out beneath bamboo curtains. Some cranes frolicked in and about the greenery, adding yet more hints of an immortal realm to the yard.
A burning sensation sprang to the empress’ cheeks. After entering, she really did feel that all her face had been firmly trampled beneath his foot. Oft Spring Garden was nothing compared to Ning Park! To think that she’d so proudly accepted everyone’s compliments earlier. I really don’t understand why father didn’t offer such an exquisite yard to the emperor, but gifted it to someone like Pang Xiao instead!
A covered hallway three meters wide and six meters long lay in front of the main residence. A table and a couple of chairs had been placed there, with tea and snacks already waiting for the group.
Pang Xiao leisurely took a seat at the head of the table, leaving the empress to take a seat beneath him with clenched teeth. The womenfolk of the eight families took their seats according to family prestige.
Meanwhile, the Qin old dowager, who had oh-so-complicated relationship with Pang Xiao, was shown a seat across from the empress. The matriarch sat in the front, followed by née Sun and the second madame, and then Qin Yining and the seventh miss.
Their host didn’t bother fulfilling any of his duties, eating and drinking as he pleased while ignoring the ladies. And since the empress was a guest, she couldn’t do anything that would overstep the limits of propriety. She finally understood that agreeing to come inside for a tour had simply been inviting humiliation on herself! The Great Zhou prince was now taking advantage of the situation to deliver a hearty face-slapping, but she could do nothing in return!
She hadn’t suffered such treatment in many years. If the emperor had been present, she would’ve long since flung herself into his embrace for a good cry. But for the moment, she could only mutely endure it all under a veneer of calm.
Apart from the empress’ family, everyone else felt a secret thrill to see Pang Xiao treat the empress this way. These titled womenfolk appeared respectful and fearful on the surface, and even fawned adoringly on her at times, but all secretly cursed their liege as a trampress under their breath.
How many loyal subjects had the trampress harmed for no reason, all because she enjoyed the emperor’s favor? Great Yan wouldn’t be in these dire straits if it wasn’t for her! And so, to a one, they all felt that Pang Xiao was much easier to the eye when they looked again at the legendarily cruel god of war. Plus, he’s not bad looking at all. How rare.
“If the seating here lacks interesting things, madames and ladies, feel free to walk around.” Pang Xiao waved a careless hand as he addressed the group. But really, who would dare wander around the yard when the empress’ expression spoke of armageddon and extermination? Although no one here liked the empress, they all had a healthy wariness of her access to the emperor’s ear.
When Pang Xiao saw how no one dared move and the mute suffering written all over the empress’ dark expression, he found the situation quite funny. “Never mind that if no one wants to enjoy themselves in the park. It’s actually perfect that all of Great Yan’s highly prestigious womenfolk are present. You all can bear witness for me today.”
Everyone, including the empress, focused on Pang Xiao while Qin Yining’s eyebrow started to twitch. Something wicked this way comes…
The prince was already beaming at the crowd. “This prince has newly come into possession of this park. It used to have another name, ‘Spring Portrait Garden’. Does anyone know why this prince changed it to ‘Ning Park’?”
A daughter’s given name was a private, family matter. So even though those present were all fellow women, they only knew each other’s surname and placement in the family hierarchy. As a result, they usually called each other Second Miss Zhang or Senior Madame Wang. Only the closest of friends would know each other’s given names.
Therefore, they didn’t immediately understand the prince’s words, but given the rumors between him and the Qin fourth miss, they had a couple of pretty firm suspicions.
“This prince has rampaged through battlefields for many years, hands deeply stained with blood. This prince’s heart has long since turned to stone, never thinking that there would be a day when it would be besotted with a girl. However, the girl this prince now admires has a ‘Ning’ character in her given name. Even though the girls of her generation all have this character, apparently there were those who said she wasn’t worthy of the name when she first returned to the family, that she wasn’t worthy of being listed in the family book.”
Pang Xiao cast a sidelong glance at the old dowager. The mute recipient reddened involuntarily as cold sweat broke out over her body.
“But in this prince’s eyes, there is no one who is worthy of this character! As such, this prince has renamed the premises ‘Ning Park’ for two reasons. One, in honor of her given name, and second, to call upon the peaceful meaning behind this character. This park is now bestowed upon her in front of all of you. This prince promises her a life of tranquility, free from worries and years of quiet happiness. So it is witnessed.”
Pang Xiao walked up to Qin Yining and bent down to peer at the girl’s extremely flushed face. He chuckled softly. “There’s no other meaning behind this gift. It’s just for your own amusement. Do you like it, my dear Yi?"
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