Chapter 173: The Final Conclusion
Qin Yining hadn’t thought that her father would ask just like this. This is so embarrassing!
“You’re a big girl.” Qin Huaiyuan smiled to see his daughter so shy. “Our family is different from most. Your mother isn’t suited to participate in matters of court, but your marriage will be inextricably involved with politics. With my current status and you being my only child, I’ll have to take a hand in your marriage.”
“Yes, I’ll follow everything father says.” Qin Yining nodded docilely.
The marquis grinned. “And if I tell you to be the crown princess consort?”
Qin Yining’s heart skipped a beat as an unexplainable wave of sadness passed through her, but she still nodded. “As long as father thinks it’s appropriate, I will naturally listen to father.”
Marriage was always decided upon by the parents. She couldn’t abandon her family in pursuit of her own happiness. What kind of person would she be if she enjoyed the perks of being a Qin in normal times, but wouldn’t do anything for the family at critical moments?
Qin Huaiyuan suddenly wanted to tease this daughter of his and spoke on, carefully monitoring her expression.
“The crown prince is a kind and lenient person. Although he doesn’t have much talent in politics, he’ll be sufficient enough to guard the nation from further decline. He’s wholeheartedly devoted to you and rushed to let you know as soon as he learned the emperor and empress wanted to kill you. I think his feelings for you are genuine.”
Qin Yining pressed her lips together lightly and nodded. “Father speaks truly. The crown prince does have his strong suits, but one thing. Guarding the nation from further decline? The nation of his is simply too decrepit.
“To say something extremely disrespectful, father, Great Yan’s days of peace are only temporary as the world is engulfed by chaotic times. Even if there were no external enemies, the corrupt air at court must be righted and the people’s suffering must be resolved. The emperor focuses only on his own entertainment and thinks nothing of the people. I think it’d be faster to wish the emperor to pass on from this world than for him to rule the country well!
“With the crown prince’s talents, he won’t be able to handle such a mess if it was handed over to him, not to mention the Tatars and Great Zhou salivating over our borders. It’s my clumsy analysis that the Qins need to start thinking of ways out for ourselves. Even if father doesn’t mind sacrificing your life for the country, you must think of the old dowager and the others.
“The lesson of the Ding Manor is right before our eyes. Even if we’re unafraid of death, we can’t die for someone like this trash emperor. Therefore, my recommendation is that we have nothing to do with the imperial family.”
Qin Huaiyuan had known that his daughter was quick-witted and saw things clearly, that she could accurately analyze politics and mistakes. But to hear such brazen talk openly laid out like this today gave him a completely different sensation.
Although the scoffing in her tone was greatly disrespectful, he had to admit that Qin Yining spoke rightly. He had this kind of feeling with every second he spent at court. He wanted to turn back the tides and have the crown prince take the throne, righting the path that the nation was going down. But the pity was that the crown prince’s talents were all on painting and drawing, not on politics.
“You little girl. I’m talking about your marriage, but you use politics to decline the crown prince.”
Qin Yining blushed and smiled. “I’m not talking nonsense. Since my marriage will be decided upon politics, why can’t my suitors be declined by politics as well? Father is an official at court, so I naturally have to consider the matters within.”
“Does this mean that you lean more towards the Faithful Prince of the First Rank?” Qin Huaiyuan was filled with curiosity.
The girl’s breath hitched and she responded after a beat, “Father should focus on declining the crown prince first. Let’s just take things as they come up for anything else.”
The marquis could identify the undertones in these words and chuckled. “You mischievous rascal! This is obviously you not thinking much of the crown prince, but not wanting me to give your hand in marriage to anyone else either.”
Qin Yining blushed even harder. She really didn’t want to admit that she had some feelings for Pang Xiao, but when her father really did bring up her marriage in earnest, she couldn’t help but compare those men with the prince. She somehow felt that the crown prince lacked talent when compared with Pang Xiao, and she’d never seriously considered any of the other noble sons.
But even so, she’d accept reality if she had to.
“Don’t worry.” Her father finally stopped teasing her. “Which of the official families at court would dare pursue you now?”
“What do you mean, father?” Qin Yining’s mind couldn’t respond fast enough.
The marquis chuckled. “Oftentimes, those caught up in a situation aren’t able to read it clearly. Think about it, the Faithful Prince of the First Rank set his eye on you during the peace talks. Those rumors were purposefully spread after we returned to the capital. He’s never concealed his liking for you, and the rumors were validated when he rescued your mother. He gifted you Ning Park to make you happy, and the females of the other seven great aristocratic families all saw it when he suppressed the empress. And when he was waylaid by Tatar assassins on his departure, he didn’t think of anyone else. He only thought of pulling you onto his horse and running away with you.
“Pang Xiao is intrepid and astute. He laid down every step of his plan early on and waited for you to set foot in it. Now that everything is said and done, you’re stamped with his mark. Anyone who wants to wed you or do anything to you must consider that they’ll face his towering fury. With his violent reputation spread far and wide, who would dare make a move against you? And of those with a family background on par with ours, who would dare ask for your hand in marriage after seeing how Pang Zhixi treated you that day at Ning Park?”
Qin Yining’s face was flaming red. In fact, even her ears and neck were scarlet.
“So you already had your own ideas in mind, father. You were just teasing me!” She turned her head away angrily and refused to look at Qin Huaiyuan.
The marquis roared with laughter at his daughter’s rare display of shyness. “The days are too boring, we’ve got to have some entertainment.”
“How can you treat your own daughter as entertainment!” Qin Yining glared huffily back.
Qin Huaiyuan shook his head with amusement, eliciting a smile from the Qin fourth miss as well.
So it would seem that she would never be free of Pang Xiao in this life. Not only was she not angry after understanding this, but she even felt a tad bit of elation. Qin Yining stroked the bracelet of red beans on her wrist, its cool sensation calling to mind the night when Pang Xiao left. A smile inadvertently drifted onto her face.
At the same time in the Great Zhou army encampment outside the Liang city walls, Pang Xiao furiously flipped the table in front of him after reading a note. Both Zheng Pei and Huzi were open mouthed at the loud crash.
Pang Xiao wasn’t the sort to wear his heart on a sleeve, unless he purposefully wanted to express his emotions. Most of the time, especially in private, he was so calm to the point of being remote. That a messenger pigeon could bring news to infuriate him so badly truly took Zheng Pei and Huzi aback.
“Has the old madame and dowager madame been invited into the palace again?” Zheng Pei asked worriedly.
The strategist’s concern wasn’t unfounded. Although the Great Zhou emperor called Pang Xiao his brother and had a healthy respect of the military power that the prince held, the prince’s mother, maternal grandfather, and grandmother were often invited into the palace when Pang Xiao was out fighting the war.
Of course, the high-minded excuse of being brotherly was always given, but in reality, this was a sort of threat to Pang Xiao. If the prince dared rebel or not listen to orders, then the elderly within the palace might pass away from ‘illness’.
Pang Xiao had lost his temper on many occasions because of this and had put up with it for a very long time. Now that he was this wrathful again, it must be because the emperor had done so once more.
The prince remained stony faced and silent. Huzi observed his master’s expression and picked up the note, exclaiming with surprise, “That shameless old fart Weichi! He wants to dig out the fourth miss’ heart and pound it together with her bones and flesh for that Cao bitch! For, for her looks?! He’s less than animals!”
Zheng Pei took the note and read it carefully, his frown deepening as he did so.
“Your Highness, what you should be paying attention to now is your rear. It’s one thing to leave a guard for the Qin fourth miss, but why are you keeping an eye on Great Yan now? If someone seizes upon this, they can clap a title of traitor onto you! Besides, the Qin fourth miss’ father is Qin Meng! The enemy who killed your father! How can you do this? Can you face your father in doing this??”
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