Chapter 260: Hide and Seek
Qin Yining put the medicine down and yanked Pang Xiao’s hand, turning round and round like ants in a hot pan, looking for a hiding place.
The prince was utterly amused by her antics. He’d always felt tender affection for her mature, crafty, and serene demeanor, but she was even cuter when she panicked!
That reaction earned him a glare. “Stop grinning! Go hide in the cabinet. …wait, you’re so tall that you won’t fit. You should hide in the washroom!” She pushed and stuffed him in with the toilet and whispered a reminder, “Don’t make a sound whatever you do. If my mother learns of this and throws a fit, we’ll both be in for it!”
Pang Xiao allowed himself to be shoved forward and chuckled lowly at her nervousness. “Don’t you think we look like a pair of illicit lovers caught in the act?”
“What the heck?? You look like a proper gentleman, but your words are anything but proper.” She finally crammed him into the washroom. “I’m telling you to hide for your own good.”
“I know, I know everything.” The prince brought Qin Yining close and gave her a quick peck on the lips.
Her face flamed red again. She wanted to push him, but was afraid his wound would open up again. She had to settle for pinching him. “Cut that out! I can hear my mother coming up the stairs!”
“That doesn’t hurt at all.” Pang Xiao laughed heartily and stole another kiss from her forehead before releasing her with satisfaction.
Qin Yining rolled her eyeballs fiercely and patted her burning cheeks, adjusting her emotions as she checked her clothes and headed outside. She couldn’t let her mother discover Pang Xiao, no matter what.
It didn’t just have to do with her reputation, but it had to do with matters between the two nations.
She could look at war and her emotions separately, but others might not be able to. If the enemy commander-in-chief fell into their hands, it would be an event worthy of much jubilation for Great Yan. She couldn’t be certain that her family wouldn’t hand him over for that.
He’d already taken a big enough risk in coming to see her, she couldn’t let him fall to any harm on her behalf.
She’d regained her calm by the time she reached the door. Née Sun was making her way upstairs with support from Jin-mama and Bingtang.
“Mother, what brings you by now?” Qin Yining took née Sun’s arm with a smile as the two took a seat in the outer room.
“I was bored, so decided to come by for a chat.” The madame sized up her daughter’s complexion. “Are you not recovered yet? I see that Bingtang is brewing more medicine.”
“I’m fine, that’s just a nutritional supplement.” Qin Yining smiled at her maid.
Bingtang joined in obligingly. “Don’t worry madame, the miss just needs to rest and eat well. She’ll be up and about in no time at all.”
Née Sun nodded, reassured. “Since the medicine is ready, go ahead and take it.” She thoughtfully lifted the bowl that’d been meant for Pang Xiao.
In the washroom, the prince frowned anxiously.
Jiyun and Bingtang looked at each other.
Jiyun shared the same concerns as her master, worried because she didn’t know if Qin Yining could take this without harm.
Bingtang had looked at her colleague out of amusement. Though their mistress usually took her medicine straightforwardly with nary a frown, she was quite afraid of anything bitter. In fact, she’d even asked Bingtang before if it was possible to add some of the licorice plant into the herbs.
Both maids stared at Qin Yining, wondering how she would respond.
The subject of their attentions calmly placed the bowl back on the table. “I’ll take it later, it’s too hot right now. Plus, I just took some other medicines. Bingtang says that these two can’t be taken so close together.”
Jiyun heaved a silent sigh of relief and commended Qin Yining’s fast thinking. Bingtang ducked her head and choked down laughter.
Qin Yining pretended not to see her maids’ antics and turned to her mother with a smile. “You’ve usually turned in for the night by now, mother. Are you worried for father?”
“Yes.” Née Sun nodded with some dejection.
After the Duke of An, Li Mian, had accepted command of the armies, he’d refused to meet the enemy in the field at all. Compared to the late Prince of Ning, the duke was far lacking when it came to courage and resolve.
Meanwhile, the Valiant Tigers were unmatched in valor and Pang Xiao adept at setting up battle formations. The duke had lost countless battles in the past month, with the Valiant Tigers whittling away 30 thousand of a 350 thousand strong army.
As ill-suited to games of power and strategy that Weichi Yan might be, even he could tell that this wouldn’t do. Thus, an imperial decree had come yesterday that delegated Qin Huaiyuan as the army strategist. He was to head for the army camp and fight alongside the duke.
After the marquis had set off on his way, Cao Yuqing had packed a bag and followed his footsteps without another word.
When the Qins had been attacked, Silver Masks had come to protect the family. When the household had been vindicated during the new emperor’s reign, Cao Yuqing had also marshaled her people to help. Even though outsiders might be in the dark, all of the Qins knew that this beautiful woman was the leader of the Silver Masks, a group of secret service under the emperor emeritus’ command.
Née Sun was very happy that such an expert was at Qin Huaiyuan’s side to protect him.
But when she thought of how young and beautiful Cao Yuqing was, how skilled in martial arts and how true her feelings ran for Qin Huaiyuan, sadness and resignation assailed the madame.
It was difficult to say if feelings wouldn’t develop in a battlefield of shared hardships. This had cause the senior madame to be unable to sleep. But she would never speak of such embarrassing things with her daughter.
However, Qin Yining had guessed a lot of what was on her mother’s mind given her constant flickering expressions. But as a junior, she had absolutely no right to comment on the relationship between her parents.
Her father wasn’t someone who wouldn’t take a concubine. The Caos were destroyed and the emperor emeritus grounded because of the embezzled funds. Cao Yuqing had been cast adrift. Though she controlled the Silver Masks, she now wholeheartedly worked for Qin Huaiyuan and neither did the former emperor seem keen on taking back his secret agents.
Qin Huaiyuan was in the prime of life: brave, intelligent, and handsome. Cao Yuqing had carried a torch for the marquis for many years, and it was quite easy to see the sincerity of her feelings. The former emperor had once been a factor of consideration, but now that restraint was a non-issue.
Even water could drip a hole through stone given enough time, so nothing was impossible or unacceptable. But as logical and appropriate as this matter might be, it was still a blow to the official wife.
Qin Yining wanted to comfort her mother, but she couldn’t say anything if née Sun didn’t bring it up herself. The girl would just be making her sad in that event. “Don’t worry, mother. I’ve heard that the duke is avoiding battle lately, so father won’t be in any danger. Even if there’s fighting, father won’t have to be on the frontlines. Don’t worry.”
Née Sun nodded and forced a smile on her face to chat a bit longer with her daughter. However, her interest quickly flagged and she departed with Jin-mama.
Qin Yining was a bit downcast after sending her mother downstairs. It wasn’t until she reached the door that she recalled Pang Xiao was still in the room. She turned to her maids. “You can go rest. I won’t need you on night duty tonight.”
Bingtang arched an eyebrow and flashed a teasing smile at her mistress, making Qin Yining blush furiously.
Jiyun bit back a giggle and still acted very much the loyal servant. She curtsied and tugged Bingtang away.
Qin Yining actually found herself a bit nervous when she pushed the door open. But this is my room! What am I being nervous for?
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