Chapter 168: Wanting a Life (I)
Who in the capital these days didn’t know that the Faithful Prince of the First Rank was throwing away money like it was dirt on the Qin fourth miss? He was raiding execution grounds and gifting her grand manors. And when they met Tatar assassins on his way out of Great Yan, he’d even pulled her onto his horse to protect her.
The females of the eight great noble houses had witnessed Pang Xiao’s dashing flair at close quarters, that day at Ning Park. It would inevitably come up in private gossip with their dear friends. The gossip had made the rounds, and now everyone in high society knew of Pang Xiao’s uncommon gallantry.
Great Zhou and Great Yan were now allies, and marriage was naturally permitted between friends. Here was a handsome hero with impressive military accomplishments, the commander of the dominating force that was a hundred thousand Valiant Tigers, and a steely man amongst men. Such a character was naturally a target of admiration of all the girls, and he loved only one! What an envious and dreamy pairing.
Qin Yining was now a target of aspiration for all Great Yan noble girls, and a bridge through which the old dowager could curry favor with the prince. For the matriarch, it didn’t matter if she failed. It would still be a great help to the Qins if Qin Yining was a concubine or married over as part of another girl’s dowry in the future. Therefore, the old dowager had kept her granddaughter by her side at all times over the past two days.
On this day, Qin Yining excused herself for a change of clothing when she saw Qiulu come to the Garden of Loving Piety. She met the maid in the covered hallway.
“What brings you here? Has something happened?”
Qiulu nodded. “The grand steward sent a messenger just now that a noble visitor is at his residence. His guest has something that he must pass onto you, miss, and the steward requests that you come as soon as possible.”
Qin Yining was quite surprised. What kind of visitor was it that couldn’t just make a visit themselves? Why did she have to make a clandestine visit to the steward’s home?
She paced slowly along the hallway and took a seat on a nearby cushioned bench, propping her cheek up with one hand, remaining deep in thought. This person definitely understood her daily routine since he’d gone to Grand Steward Zhong. The person knew that she often discussed things with the steward, so it wouldn’t raise suspicion if she made a visit. The contents of their impending conversation must be a secret since the visitor hadn’t directly come for her.
After some thought, she felt that the only person who’d do this was her maternal grandmother. The two hadn’t met ever since she learned of her grandmother’s identity as the leader of Azure justice. Did her grandmother need something from her now?
Qin Yining quickly had the servants prepare a carriage and made her excuses to the old dowager before rushing out the door with Jiyun and Bingtang.
They arrived at Steward Zhong’s house before long. As the maids helped Qin Yining down, the doorkeeper welcomed the miss as usual. “You’re finally here, owner! The steward was just standing outside in wait. There must be great, important business to discuss, so this humble one congratulates the owner in advance!”
“Thank you for your auspicious words.” Qin Yining smiled gently and cast a slight look sideways. Jiyun took out a small pouch from her sleeves and grabbed a handful of copper coins for the doorkeeper. The doorkeeper bobbed repeated thanks and respectfully showed Qin Yining the way to the study.
Grand Steward Zhong was already waiting there, having received word from the servants.
“The owner’s come.” The steward’s smile was as usual. “A large transaction has come form the south and needs your decision. This is why I asked you to visit.”
Qin Yining nodded affably. “My experience and knowledge are shallow, being from the inner residence. I’m only here to listen and to learn from the steward.”
The steward quickly raised cupped hands. “Not at all, not at all.”
The Zhong clan servants were viewing their master with newfound respect. This was the official daughter of the Marquis of Anping, the target of affections from the Great Zhou Faithful Prince of the First Rank! It was plain to see how amazing their master was, with how courteous the Qin fourth miss was being.
The steward raised his hand to dismiss his servants, which Qin Yining also did to Jiyun and Bingtang. “Stand guard outside and don’t let anyone near.”
“Understood.” Jiyun and Bingtang nodded solemnly.
Qin Yining followed the steward up the steps into the study. The steward’s study wasn’t as spacious as Qin Huaiyuan’s, but it was neat and tidy. Books of scripture and history were placed into different categories on the book shelves, and a stack of accounts were piled on the table.
A tall gentleman dressed in gray was standing in front of the window with his back to them. He seemed to be admiring the bamboo patch outside the half opened window. Qin Yining raised her brows in slight bewilderment. It’s not grandmother? And the figure actually looked a bit familiar?
She was struck with stupefaction when the man turned around and identification was possible. She quickly curtsied. “This subject greets Your Highness. Please forgive me for any discourtesy in not knowing that Your Highness had graced us with your presence.”
Weichi Yan quickly stuck out his hand in a gesture of support and looked intently at the girl. “Please, rise. There’s no need to be so polite. You’re the grand preceptor’s daughter and thus my junior sister. Why stand on such courtesy?”
“There is a difference between liege and subject,” Qin Yining stood properly with her head down. “The rules cannot be ignored.”
“You’ve always been so polite.” Weichi Yan laughed wryly. “This seat behaved ludicrously that day and didn’t consider enough. That was why I said all that in front of others, so I hope you don’t take it to heart.”
She knew that he was speaking of his sendoff, the day that she’d been forced to join the peace talks. He’d blathered on something about how the position of Crown Princess Consort was going to be hers and made an incredibly blatant declaration of love. It’d resulted in some scandal, and worst of all, could’ve resulted in trouble for her father had she not turned him down severely on the spot.
To think that the crown prince had thought of that all this time!
“You speak too solemnly, Your Highness. This subject was discourteous and begs forgiveness if any offense was given.”
“Not at all.” Weichi Yan sighed. “I had indeed listened to the goadings of others that day and didn't think things through properly. It won’t happen again.”
Understanding dawned on the grand steward when he saw how careful the crown prince was acting towards the miss. Because he’d told his servants that business was taking place, he couldn’t very well go back outside. He settled for excusing himself to the side room and leaving this room to the two of them.
Qin Yining invited the crown prince to take a seat and took a lower seat herself. “Are there any pressing matters to do with your visit, Your Highness?”
Weichi Yan finally recalled the purpose of his visit and spoke rapidly. “Miss Qin, the trampress wants to kill you, be careful!” His words tumbled forth like an upended bucket of beads. “My man has just found out that the trampress played coy in front of my royal father and wants a medicine ingredient to improve her looks. She said that the Soothsayer says that she needs the heart, bones, and flesh of a girl born on a certain birthdate. The Soothsayer says that girl is you, and my father has already permitted it! I think that with how my father acts, he’ll move against you in the next two days. You, you should flee!”
Qin Yining was flabbergasted as color slowly drained from her face. She’d guessed that the trampress would take revenge. The feud between the Qins and the Caos had been well and truly cemented when her father had been elevated to the position of grand preceptor. The trampress had also caused her eldest cousin to commit suicide and the downfall of the Suns. I suppose I need to commend the harlot for biding her time for so long after publicly losing face in the Ning Park matter, given her temper. In fact, the trampress was downright mature in her restraint.
However, she’d never thought that the trampress would want to kill her, and with such violent methods to boot!
She’s a fast learner. Great Zhou had come up with the idea of Sun Yu’s brains as medicine. The trampress had immediately copied that and wanted Qin Yining’s bones and flesh as an ingredient. Isn’t she afraid that everyone beneath the heavens will curse her name once again after goading the trash emperor like this?
Or, the trampress didn’t care at all! The emperor was the master of all beneath the heavens, so she could do whatever she wanted as long as she had the emperor’s protection!
Sadly, every living being was likely his personal property in the trash emperor’s eyes, his to kill and slaughter like a dog or pig as he wished. Wasn’t there a saying that a subject had to die when his liege wished it? She was just a little girl and worth absolutely nothing in the trash emperor’s eyes. He’d destroyed a great family such as the Duke of Ding’s just like that, so what of her?
“Your Highness, is this certain?” She was trying to keep her calm with all her might, but her voice was still a bit hoarse.
Weichi Yan inclined his head solemnly. “My man serves in the imperial study and heard it with his own ears.”
“Why didn’t you tell my father about this, but ran to tell me about it instead?” Qin Yining looked at the crown prince with her clear eyes.
The man started and blushed. “I… I forgot to… in my hurry…” He’d even forgotten to refer to himself as ‘this seat’ or ‘this prince’.
Qin Yining smiled and shook her head at this. It looked like the crown prince really didn’t have any skill with politics.
“It’s just as well that Your Highness told me about it. This matter might’ve had adverse effects if you told my father.”
“Right, right. The grand preceptor is loyal without a fault and I wouldn’t want anything to come between the grand preceptor and my royal father. Except, my father’s already agreed to the trampress’ demands. …Miss Qin, you should flee!”
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