Chapter 246: Petitioning the Heavens (I)
Qin Yining was rather terrified by the prospect. Life was starting to feel like an avalanche in the face of a furiously rampaging storm. Destiny would grind the entire world into dust given enough time. Such a future inflicted the girl with utter helplessness. She was perched atop a leaf, balancing on the surface of a frothing ocean and about to capsize at any time.
“Bingtang, do you think there’s much hope for the Prince of Ning?”
Both Jiyun and Qiulu frowned when they heard the question.
Bingtang sniffled loudly and shook her head sadly. “His injuries are too severe and he’s lost too much blood. He’s not a young buck anymore, and his wounds are badly infected. It’s a tough situation for anyone to pull through. The emperor was there himself when I came back. All of the imperial physicians were there, brainstorming ideas, but the situation didn’t seem to be improving.”
Some things weren’t within mankind’s purview.
Qin Yining lowered her head sorrowfully and took Bingtang’s hand after a long moment, having the maid sit down next to her.
“Everyone has their own fate. What will be, will be. Just like all of us will become ill and grow old, so will all of us depart this world one day. The prince is a good man and puts his heart into everything he does. He’s lived his life according to how he would — cleaning house, defying invaders. Even if something does happen to him, it’s still a glorious ending for a general. Everything he’s done is an illustration of his moral integrity as a royal. He’s a hero, not a coward.”
Tears dripped down as Bingtang nodded. “I know. To be honest, having grown up in a family of medicine and learning the craft since young, I thought I had a better understanding of life than most. I’ve seen much of old age and sickness, and I’m not that sad whenever I come face to face with them. But this time, I couldn’t harden my heart when I watched the prince teeter between life and death. Though not everything he did was right, he’s still an upright, hot-blooded man at the end of the day. He’s worthy of being called that!”
Qin Yining nodded sadly, with Qiulu and Jiyun also joining in with their grief.
“I still can’t leave the premises, so go spend some more time with the prince. He treated you well before — we can’t forget our debts of gratitude. Besides, isn’t he well enough for now? Try your best, we may see a miracle yet.” Qin Yining rallied to encourage Bingtang. “You have immense talent and enough time left to try. If you still can’t save him after all that, at least you won’t have any regrets.”
Bingtang nodded heavily and wiped away tears to reveal a much more resolute look in her eyes.
“Alright. I’ll look over you first, miss. If you’re recovering well, I’ll head to the prince’s manor after writing another prescription for you. You’re still weak and losing all that blood has harmed your deeply. It won’t be a quick recovery, so you need to take care of yourself.”
Bingtang made a careful examination of Qin Yining’s pulse, the wound on her shoulder, refreshed the dressing of her injury, and double checked everything was alright before making a second trip to the Ning Manor.
Dusk fell as Qin Yining rested on the seat in front of a cupboard ensconced by turquoise veil. She was reclining on a large, soft, baby-blue body pillow and staring off into space while cuddling Riceball. Jiyun approached her mistress hesitantly.
Qin Yining turned to see Jiyun standing outside a thin layer of gauze. She smiled. “Come inside, there are mosquitoes outside.”
“Mm.” Jiyun nodded and carefully rearranged the veils after coming inside, taking a place next to Qin Yining.
“What is it? You seem to have had something on your mind all day.”
Jiyun hesitated. “I do have some questions. I hope you’re not angry with me if I ask them, miss.”
Qin Yining smiled when she saw her guard thus. “Do you want to ask me about Pang Zhixi?”
Surprised, Jiyun nodded after a pause. “Yes, you’re so good at guessing, miss!”
“Not at all. It’s more like your thoughts are written all over your face.” Qin Yining sat up straight. “To be honest, I’ve been thinking about him over the past two days. Previously I felt lost and caught in the middle. I didn’t know what was the right thing to do. Take the Prince of Ning’s injury for example. If I’m on Pang Zhixi’s side, should I prevent Bingtang from treating the prince? Will Pang Zhixi be mad if he learns that I let Bingtang treat his enemy?”
Jiyun nodded with every word her mistress said. “Miss, I didn’t mean anything else by my questions. I just feel that you’re in a difficult position.”
“I thought so too, but I’m keeping an open mind about it all now.” Qin Yining stroked Riceball’s soft fur. “He’s a smart man and knew we were on different sides from the very first day he approached me. Even so, he still approached me. This means he’s thought of everything and has a plan in mind. He’s also told me before that he’ll take care of everything, that I only need to focus on being the Qin fourth miss. And so, I trust him.”
I trust that he won’t be mad and trust that we’re on the same page.
“Miss, I don’t understand.” Jiyun frowned.
“I just need to do the things that a Qin daughter would do. My surname is Qin and my father is of Great Yan. I am a Great Yan citizen before I am a Qin daughter. I won’t harm a fellow countryman for Pang Zhixi. Everything is up to ourselves in times of war.”
“But miss, what if my master wins? Won’t the Great Yan people will curse your name for being with him? Or what if my master loses? Will he blame your father, or you?”
“All of that can happen, but so what?” Qin Yining laughed softly. “I’m still me, and he’s still Pang Zhixi. We knew this day would come from the very first day we met. Since we were mentally prepared beforehand, what’s there to worry about? The nation’s affairs are the nation’s, and matters of the heart remain with the heart. I am well aware of the difference. I‘m sure Pang Zhixi is as well.”
Jiyun turned over the miss’ words in her mouth. Understanding dawned a moment later and she nodded. “You’re so open-minded, miss. I’m much less than you in this regard. I admire your personality very much so.”
“How am I being open-minded? I’m just going with the flow.” A resigned smile spread across Qin Yining’s face. “What’s done is done and we have no ability to change anything. The only thing we can do is to follow heaven’s will and do our best. Do you not see it still? Such is life, and it’s over very quickly. If there’s something you can grab onto right now, hang on tight and don’t let go.
“Even though Pang Zhixi and I have gotten to this stage, I won’t resent him because of the hostilities between our countries. Neither will I set a trap for him. If I really had these thoughts, then I wouldn’t have struck up a relationship with him in the first place. As for differences in position, well, we are enemies right now. We might have to meet each other face-to-face one day, but even so I’ll only fight him in a fair and square way.”
There was some heat on Jiyun’s cheeks. She had been slightly worried that Qin Yining would leverage her identity to entrap Pang Xiao. After all, the prince wasn’t on his guard against the girl. If she was loyal to her country to the bitter end and wanted to set something up for Pang Xiao, it would be difficult for the prince to escape a trap.
She hadn’t voiced her question plainly, but Qin Yining had astutely answered it anyways.
The miss smiled faintly when she saw her guard thus. “I’ve always felt that we can play with power, play with schemes and plots, but we can’t play with emotions — particularly someone who is genuine to me.”
“You’re so very right, miss. It’s my fault for thinking otherwise.”
“Not at all. You’re very loyal and it only makes sense that you would ask these questions.”
This teased a smile out of Jiyun and she changed the subject. “Now that your one hundred disciples are settled in and the front hall has been cleaned up, the emperor says that we can receive visitors starting tomorrow. With the rumors in the outside world, there will be many worshippers here to pray for good fortune.”
“Thank goodness for those one hundred oh-so-wonderful disciples outside! I can’t be bothered to deal with the crowds. I’m no holy girl or a priestess. The gig will be up as soon as I open my mouth.”
“You’re so smart miss, that the people will believe you as long as you’re not sprouting nonsense.”
Footsteps sounded as soon as Jiyun finished speaking. Mistress and guard looked at each other, then both looked downstairs through the window screen.
The guard on duty at the flower-hung gate was downstairs and raised a cupped fist salute to the ladies. “Reporting to the honored master, large masses of commoners have gathered outside the temple and are raising a fuss to see you. The guards don’t dare let them in because of how late it is, but they’re also refusing to leave. More and more people are gathering and they’re blocking off the entire entrance.”
“What are people doing here so late at night?” Qin Yining was immensely surprised. “The emperor gave orders for the temple to be open only starting tomorrow.”
“This humble guard went to ask them and learned that there were great difficulties when purchasing grain in the city today. The merchants have increased prices to ten taels of silver per half kilogram!”
“Ten taels?!” Qin Yining clucked her tongue in amazement. Everything was clear to her! She’d underestimated just how blackhearted the merchants could be. She’d thought they’d only raise the prices slightly, but it seemed that they planned on hoarding grain as a rare commodity!
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