Chapter 169: Wanting a Life (II)
Qin Yining smiled wryly at this exhortation. “Where can I run to at this time? If the Qins don’t give me up when the emperor sends his decree, how do you think he’ll treat them?”
“This… ai! What can we do?”
Weichi Yan was extremely familiar with his royal father’s temperament. If it’d been him, Weichi Yan would’ve felt only admiration for Sun Yu having such grit to refuse to submit to the Great Zhou emperor’s threat, and to die in such a strong manner. He would’ve commended the Duke of Ding and treated them well. But what had his father done?
The crown prince felt tremendously embarrassed when he thought of how the Suns were Qin Yining’s maternal relations, and how her maternal grandfather, uncles, cousins, and little nephews had all been executed by his own father. A deep flush crept up Weichi Yan’s neck and face at this.
He might look like a lofty, noble crown prince to others; the emperor’s only heir, the future son of heaven, and a born favored son, but Weichi Yan knew full well that the identity of a prince hadn’t brought to him honor or glory, but chains and burdens instead.
Because of his father’s ineptitude, he didn’t have the courage to confidently pursue the girl she liked, even when he came face-to-face with her. And now his father wanted to grind up the girl he liked for the empress to eat…
Qin Yining could more or less guess at what the crown prince was thinking, given how much he resembled an eggplant at the moment. She didn’t keep discussing the matter and curtsied sincerely. “Many thanks for Your Highness standing up for the right thing today. Had it not been for your early warning, I likely would’ve been offered up by my family.”
Weichi Yan quickly helped the girl up when he saw her sweep a graceful curtsey.
“Don’t be so, Miss Qin. I really am incompetent,” he spoke with ashamed tones. “I can do nothing other than tell you, and can’t think of any appropriate plans at the moment… But don’t worry, Miss Qin. I’ll contact my people when I go back, and we’ll all request that my royal father retracts the imperial decree if it’s given. We won’t have you lose your life for nothing!”
“This subject thanks Your Highness for your kind thoughts. However, I feel that we shouldn’t take any risky actions for the nonce.” Her face was slightly wan, but her brows were relaxed and the look in her eyes clear. It was apparent that she’d already recovered from her initial panic.
Ever since he’d frantically chased down the peace talks entourage with thoughts of declaring his love occupying his mind, Weichi Yan had come back to the understanding that the Qin fourth miss was no ordinary girl, after he’d thoroughly analyzed all of the ins and outs of the situation. Her public rejection demonstrated her high intelligence and illustrated why she was called the daughter of Wise Pan An.
She was able to remain calm in the face of danger, and in fact brimmed with self-assurance. Her unruffled manner and nonchalance was infectious. If he were to ask himself, Weichi Yan knew that he wouldn’t be able to be this unconcerned if he suddenly learned one day that someone wanted to grind him up as a medicine ingredient.
Veneration grew, the precursor to a tide of uncontrollable emotion. He blurted out something that’d been circling his mind for a very long time.
“Miss Qin, have you and the Faithful Prince of the First Rank really made promises to each other? Do I have absolutely no chance at all?”
Qin Yining’s charming face and ears suddenly went scarlet. “Your Highness, this matter is decided by each of our parents. It’d never fall to me to make promises in private. Please don’t speak like this anymore.”
Weichi Yan felt that the sunset-graced cheeks of the girl in front of him was the most adorable thing he’d ever seen. Every part he set eyes on was most exquisitely pleasing. She was just standing in front of him with a lowered head, but it made him feel like he was in a beautiful landscape painting. He could hear birdsong and smell the fragrance of flowers. It swelled his heart with such emotion that he could barely contain himself.
“Alright, I understand.” He smiled genteelly. Her words meant that he only needed to convince Qin Huaiyuan. Although his royal father was a bit of a family embarrassment, he could at least guarantee the quality of his own character. “You must have matters to attend to. I’ll be on my way as well, lest I arouse suspicions by staying here for too long.”
“Yes, many thanks to Your Highness today.” Qin Yining curtsied again.
The crown prince waved a hand and took another long look at her before reluctantly flinging on a pale-blue, opulent cloak. The steward was already waiting at the door as the crown prince headed out, and he respectfully saw the visitor out. Steward Zhong even put on the regretful expression of an unsuccessful business meeting, so as to prevent any suspicion from arising.
Qin Yining sat at the table, sinking into deep thought as she meditated on the dark-green tea leaves within her cup. The steward frantically came back in after a while.
“What should we do about this, miss? What should we do? Ai! That trampress isn’t human! How can such a vicious woman exist in this world? She wants to use human flesh to improve her looks, and the emperor actually agreed to it! What do we do, miss?? We need to tell the marquis so he can think of a plan!”
The study wasn’t large, so he’d naturally heard all of the conversation between Qin Yining and the crown prince. However, the girl shook her head.
“If we tell my father, he’d only tell me to run away or sacrifice me, based on his position and perspective. And the Qins are a large clan, would father sacrifice the entire family for me alone? I should take any action by myself, just to be safe.”
“But what can we do?” The steward’s hair was about to go spontaneously white in his anxiety.
Qin Yining paced slowly as she thought aloud. “The two nations have a truce at the moment and peace has descended beneath the heavens. There is no Great Zhou army on our doorsteps, so the emperor will be hard pressed to find a suitable excuse to have me surrendered to the empress. It’s not like the emperor can give an imperial decree that says, ‘Give your daughter up so my empress can eat her. If not, you’re a traitor!’.”
“With the emperor’s style, he may very well do something like this.” Steward Zhong sighed with a frown.
The girl shook her head rapidly in response. “He’d be throwing away all dignity if he really did that. He can lose face to save his life when the war raged, but keeping face is once again a great consideration if the emperor wants to rule firmly in times of peace. Therefore, he won’t give an imperial decree to seize me, but dump some sort of crime on me so that my death is justified.”
“Crime? Your father is the official of great merit who hosted a successful peace negotiation, and so did you put forth great effort on that behalf, miss. Your entire family is loyal. It’d be very difficult for the emperor to pin any sort of crime on you.”
Qin Yining suddenly stopped and tightly clenched the back of the round chair. Actually, there really was an excuse the emperor could use. Azure Justice!
Her maternal grandmother was the leader of the rebel alliance, and the culprit behind an assassination attempt! What if the emperor seized upon her identity as the granddaughter of the leader of Azure Justice?
However, this alarming possibility was quashed as quickly as it appeared. The emperor had given the leader of his most trusted secret service to Qin Huaiyuan. This meant that her father was the greatest weapon the emperor had against the Caos and Elder Statesman Cao. The emperor would never do anything to the Qin clan, because he wanted Qin Huaiyuan to focus his efforts on the statesman. Therefore, she would be the only one affected in this quest to eat her.
And so, something as major as the Azure Justice wouldn’t be revealed, since it’d impact the very foundation of the Qin clan. Besides, keeping the rebel alliance a secret meant that the emperor had another card to play to keep the Qins under control.
Qin Yining started pacing in thought again and murmured to herself, “…since this matter won’t be revealed, what will be the excuse?”
She turned over every possibility and thought for a long while. Inspiration suddenly dawned.
“Miss, what do you plan to do? Just give the word and I’ll brave even death for whatever you need!” The steward knew that Qin Yining’s gleaming eyes meant that she had an idea.
She shook her head with a smile. “It’s hardly that serious, but the cost will be a little high for our plan this time. Please prepare bank notes for five thousand silver. The faster the better. In fact, having them now would be best.”
The steward nodded immediately with no questions asked. “Will do! I’ll go do that now!”
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