Chapter 148: I’ll Hold It Up For You
Those words caused the second madame to frown fiercely and the seventh miss duck her head out of embarrassment.
Née Sun could finally take no more. She shot to her feet with a slam of her hand on the table. “Are these words that the old dowager should be saying to her granddaughter?! Is this how a grandmother behaves?!”
“What does it have to do with you how I act as a grandmother?! Look at the good daughter you’ve raised and how dirty she’s become before even marrying and leaving the house! Seducing men in broad daylight! And with so many in the city witnessing it, am I wrong to ask her about things as the titled old dowager of the house?”
“You!!” Née Sun was so enraged that she wanted to tear the old dowager’s tongue right out of her mouth. “Have a conscience when you speak! It wasn’t darling Yi’s desire to go to Xihua for the peace talks, you know full well how and why she ended up going! If I’d known that the old dowager was going to slander my daughter this way, I shouldn’t have let her go, no matter the danger it posed to the Qins! So many men couldn’t step up for the good of the country, so why did my daughter have to be sacrificed instead?!
“And now a pure and innocent girl has to be pointed at and gossiped about like this. Even you, her own grandmother, hesitate to believe her. Put your hand on your heart and ask yourself if what you’re doing is truly right! Yes, you ask rightly. You’re quite amazing. You gave birth to Qin Meng, a fine son, so how could you ever be wrong? We’re the ones who are wrong! We should’ve defied the imperial order in the beginning and tossed all you Qins on our funeral pyres!”
“Well, I never! Née Sun, you think you have a silver tongue, don’t you?! I’ll go to the ancestral hall and divorce you right now for slandering your mother-in-law like this!”
“You’ve wanted to divorce me for a long time now! You couldn’t do it before, so let’s see how far you get now! I have a paramount rank title now and there’s a tablet erected in my honor outside the Qin Manor. Divorce me?! Dream on!”
“You unfilial bitch!”
The old dowager and née Sun were now openly shrieking at each other, startling the second madame and seventh miss so much that they forgot to pull the two sides apart and convince them to back down. On the other hand, Qin Yining was much more composed. She pulled née Sun a few steps away and helped her mother sit, handing her a cup of tea.
“Don’t be angry, mother. The old dowager is such a good grandmother. It’s the first time I’ve seen any grandparent talk about their granddaughter this way. I need to thank her for this lesson, so don’t be angry, mother.”
Qin Yining had thought things through. Open hostilities had erupted between her and the old dowager ever since the matter of née Sun’s execution. She no longer looked at the old dowager with any hope, and as a result, didn’t mince her words anymore.
The old dowager snorted. “Just answer my question. As the matriarch of the family, I consider all of the girls’ futures. I’ll make plans for you too, so don’t you be ungrateful!”
“Many thanks for your good intentions, Old Dowager. But it rather seems that you’re making plans for the business opportunity represented by the prince instead. You want to sell your granddaughter off at a good price in order to maximize the benefits for the Qin family, am I right?”
The old dowager erupted, stabbing a finger in Qin Yining’s direction.
“You wild, rebellious brat!” She raged. “Strutting and throwing your weight around, are you?! Don’t go forgetting your surname after a few compliments from little Prince Pang! Take a look at yourself in the mirror! Do you really think the prince would look twice at you if it wasn’t for the Qin family?!”
“Who is so bold as to surmise this prince’s thoughts?” Huzi lifted the bamboo curtain from outside the pavilion.
Pang Xiao had changed into a dark blue outfit suitable for the moment, his hair combed into a ponytail that trailed down his back. Compared to his restrained gentility from earlier, his appearance now seemed much more like an unsheathed blade.
The old dowager was completely taken aback by Pang Xiao’s reappearance and rose, at a loss for words.
Pang Xiao carefully sized up the Qin matriarch and smiled. “It looks like the rumors are true. You really don’t treat darling Yi well.”
It was just a run-of-the-mill statement, but it made the color drain from the old dowager’s face.
She was deathly afraid of Pang Xiao, not just because of his infamous reputation, one so pervasive that it made children stop crying and bussing, but because Qin Huaiyuan had once plotted against and eliminated Pang Zhongzheng. It was because of this that she refused to believe Pang Xiao’s motives regarding Qin Yining were as simple as mere affection.
One did not suffer to share the same plane of existence as a father’s killer. The old dowager firmly dismissed any possibility that Pang Xiao had forgotten the events of the past. How would her family be able to endure his revenge? Even the emperor bowed his head in front of Pang Xiao these days, much less the Qins!
The old dowager had spent recent years living in fine style. Qin Huaiyuan was an exceedingly filial son and rarely disturbed her with anything. And so, the matriarch hadn’t handled any major affairs for many years. When faced with Pang Xiao’s piercing gaze, so sharp that it felt like he would devour her at any moment, she felt like prey affixed in the sights of a tiger. Courage and any thoughts of resistance deserted her. She only had room left to tremble and shudder, her mind spinning and her mouth not finding any words at all.
Pang Xiao snorted coldly and stopped intimidating the old woman. After all, she was still Qin Yining’s grandmother. His beloved would have a difficult time explaining herself at home if her grandmother really did die from fright. He waved a hand, making a signal to the perceptive Huzi. The guard summoned a young and beautiful maid from outside.
The maid was roughly seventeen, and possessed a refreshing, exquisite beauty. Lithe in form, she had a pair of exceptionally bright eyes.
“This maid greets the miss.” The maid knelt to perform a gesture of greeting.
“This is Jiyun. She’ll serve you in the future,” Pang Xiao explained.
“Many thanks for Your Highness’ good intentions. I have enough people serving by my side and don’t need anymore.”
“I’ll pay her monthly stipend. She knows some martial arts and can protect and help you. Listen to my words. Don’t you dare reject me!”
Qin Yining pursed her lips. He’s still being so commanding.
Pang Xiao seemed to realize that the girl wasn’t happy and reflected that his words might’ve been too harsh. He quickly tried to salvage the situation. “I’m doing this for your own good. You don’t have to hold it in in the future if anyone tries to bully you. Don’t waste time with words when you can just use fists. Save some energy that way. Don’t shy away from having Jiyun just end the life of whoever irritates you.”
“You…” Qin Yining was so stunned by this line of reasoning that she didn’t know what to say anymore.
The prince seemed to understand her reservations and lightly tapped her pert chin with his index finger. He loomed close. “Remember, I can hold up the sky for you even if you poke a hole in it.”
Qin Yining shuffled backwards, avoiding Pang Xiao’s finger and the heat he brought with his proximity.
The old dowager, second madame, and seventh miss had long since been lost in a daze. Who would’ve thought that the prince would be so indulgent? The old dowager’s lips moved as she wanted to say something, but the second madame squeezed her arm.
The second madame hailed from a family of scholars, but the old dowager didn’t like her very much since she didn’t fawn over the matriarch like the third madame did. Even so, her action right then was enough to spark some enlightenment in the old woman’s mind.
Right, it was best not to say anything at this time and avoid offending this god of violence. Otherwise, no one knew whether they’d be able to make it home, what with his mercurial temper and utter disregard for human life.
“Go tell the servants to prepare the carriage. This prince will personally escort Miss Qin and the Marchionness of Anping back to the manor.”
“Understood.” Huzi saluted and left to make the preparations.
Pang Xiao looked back at the old dowager with a smile. “As for you all, do as you see fit.” He lifted the curtain and left before the old dowager could formulate a response.
Qin Yining was supporting née Sun, trailed by a flabbergasted Jin-mama and Bingtang. For her part, Bingtang was trying so hard to hold in laughter that she was almost giving herself an internal injury. The small group exited the park doors and set foot on the small path. The skies above were filled with the branches of the peach blossoms that stood along their path. Pang Xiao took the lead, his figure tall and commanding, an intense aura emanating with each stride. He seemed more like a fierce tiger making its way down the mountain, drawing attention with sheer force of presence.
This person, who everyone saw as a threat to their life whenever he turned to them, spent so much time and energy lowering himself in front of her and did his best to make her happy. If he really wanted her, Qin Yining knew that one word would be enough to make the Great Yan emperor pack her up and send her to him. Yet Pang Xiao had never done so. He’d rather blacken his own reputation and bolster her dignity in front of others, and had indulged her wishes on more than one occasion.
Qin Yining’s heart wasn’t a lump of iron, so how would she remain unmoved through all of this? Even though she didn’t like how flamboyant Pang Xiao was, she well and truly felt the depth of his affections.
The girl stared at the young man’s back, her brow tightly furrowed in deep thought. Pang Xiao seemed to notice a pair of eyes staring at him and turned around, just in time to witness the deep look in Qin Yining’s eyes before she turned her head away.
But their eyes had met.
The prince quickly turned back to the front with seeming nonchalance to continue down the mountain. However, his quickened heart rate betrayed his nerves and excitement. That kind of look… S-so, Qin Yining, she liked him too. Right?
Being supported by her daughter, there were several moments when née Sun wanted to speak up, but in the end, she settled for a quiet sigh every so often.
Meanwhile, the old dowager and the others were relegated to the back thanks to Huzi. They were barred from approaching Qin Yining, demonstrating how serious Pang Xiao had been when he said that they could do as they wished. The Qin matriarch’s brow could not be more furrowed. She felt like she lost enough face today for several lifetimes.
Even if she didn’t like Qin Yining because the girl’s intelligence made her too hard to control, the fourth miss was still a Qin daughter. Little Prince Pang’s obvious favor and indulgence stood in stark contrast to his ruthlessness towards others. Such a strong disparity kept the old dowager on her guard. For starters, the maid called Jiyun couldn’t be allowed to stay.
The rest of the journey down passed unnoticed as the old woman remained deep in thought. It wasn’t until she, the second madame, seventh miss, Qin-mama and others had all climbed into their carriage that she realized Pang Xiao and Qin Yining had left them far behind. The old dowager raised the blue brocade curtains of her carriage and saw Pang Xiao following Qin Yining and née Sun’s carriage with roughly a dozen men on horseback. Even the maid called Jiyun was riding a horse, and her clean riding form gave away her proficiency in martial arts!
Anger made the old dowager’s head hum and she bit off fiercely, “Let’s go slower so that they leave first. They can have their moment of glory for now, but let’s see how they clean up this mess in the future!”
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