Qin Yining had been running over earlier events at the city gate, analyzing Great Zhou’s political situation, and fretting about her family’s safety. With everything she’d been considering, she’d forgotten to analyze her current situation.
Having been ‘kidnapped’ to Pang Xiao’s manor, she was to face not only the prince, but his family as well.
But she was the daughter of Qin Huaiyuan.
Even if Pang Xiao’s father had died because of the tyrant of Northern Ji, Qin Huaiyuan’s plan had been the spark to the fires of destruction. Would Pang Xiao’s mother dislike her? Or even hate her?
And, from what position should she approach the Pangs with?
Great Yan had fallen, she was in the Great Zhou capital as the daughter of a surrendered official. She no longer had a status on par with Pang Xiao. Even if he didn’t mind the change, his elders probably wouldn’t assess her from the perspective of equals, would they?
And the most important thing was, it was her first time meeting the parents, but she didn’t have greeting gifts on hand!
As nerves and concerns vied for dominance, she failed to notice that Pang Xiao had bent at the waist and had been observing her shifting expressions for quite a while.
It was the first time he’d seen such a varied display on her face. He’d only ever known her as an exceedingly rational and sensible girl—so much so that he often forgot her true age. It was only when she blushed nervously that he remembered she was a young girl who’d just come of age.
Shortening the distance between their nose tips, he drew so close that he could smell her unique fragrance. Qin Yining abruptly took two steps backwards when she came back to her senses.
“What, what are you doing so close to me?” Anyone would be startled when a face suddenly loomed in their field of vision.
Pang Xiao smiled. “Oh look at you.” He took her hand and strolled into the inner residence, not caring that others would see them.
“Don’t be nervous. My grandfather and grandmother are all ordinary commoners. My mother is even more gentle. They don’t have the airs and affections of nobility. You’re such a wonderful girl. They’re sure to like you after they meet you.”
Qin Yining nodded nervously. “But… I came in a hurry. I haven’t prepared anything. It’s really too impolite to do so.”
Pang Xiao burst out chuckling. “What do you need to prepare? Just you being here is enough.”
The girl blushed even more fiercely when she heard this, and she picked roughly at his palm with the hand he was holding, prompting more happy chuckles from the prince.
They passed through the second door of ceremony, took a turn past an exquisite garden on their left, and arrived at the flower-hung gate.
A granny servant walked up to them as soon as they stepped through it. “Your Highness.”
“Mm. Send word to the old madame, grand-madame, and grand-lord. This prince has come home with Miss Qin.”
“Understood.” The granny servant didn’t dare say anything else and immediately sent a fleet-footed girl to take the message ahead.
Pang Xiao sauntered into the inner residence, still pulling Qin Yining’s hand. He chuckled and whispered, “My grandmother has a fiery nature and was listed on the jianghu rankings when she was young. She worked as a security escort for a while, so her martial arts are really something. She wanted some peace and quiet afterwards, and was conquered by my grandfather’s cooking.”
Giggles escaped Qin Yining when she heard the description.
“My grandfather is a very gentle, honest person. He has a kind heart, but is also very sharp. I think my mother’s smarts come from him.”
The Qin fourth miss nodded. “I can tell. You’re so smart, so the old madame must be very smart as well.”
The prince scratched the girl’s nose with a smile. “No need to be so reserved. You can call my mother ‘aunt’. She used to be a maid for the Pangs. Though she doesn’t read very much, she’s seen a bit of the world in a general’s manor. If it wasn’t for my father’s official wife running her out in a fit of jealousy, I might not be alive today either.”
“She must be a very resilient person,” Qin Yining commented seriously.
“That’s right.” Pang Xiao smiled. “Don’t you worry a thing. They’re all very easy to get along with.”
Qin Yining smiled in spite of herself, when she saw how warm his smile was. She could feel the genuine, untroubled intimacy when Pang Xiao mentioned his family. From his short introduction, she could tell that it shouldn’t be too hard to get along with them.
Her nervous sweat from earlier had all dissipated.
Soft yips from a small dog suddenly sounded from ahead. A snow-white bundle of fur bounced and tumbled through the main door, revealing itself to be a small, snowy Pekingese. A married servant in her early twenties chased the dog out.
When she saw the prince, she bent her knee in a curtsey and smiled. “No wonder Salt wouldn’t stay in the old madame’s arms just now. He knew Your Highness had returned and came out to welcome you.”
Pang Xiao looked down at the small Pekingese with a smile. “This is Salt, I told you about him before.”
Meeting Salt reminded Qin Yining of Riceball. A wave of heartache and sorrow hit her, but she didn’t let it show. She bent down to take a closer look at the dog.
Salt was covered in white, fluffy fur. He sported a pair of round, black eyes, and a slightly upturned black nose and mouth. The protruding pink tongue panted at her, like he was smiling. It was a sight that induced adoration.
Pang Xiao grinned. “Salt, greeting.”
The dog stood up on his hind legs as soon as the order was given, placed his front paws together, and made bowing motions with his forelegs. That silly look of imitating a cupped fist salute teased a giggle out of Qin Yining.
Pang Xiao patted Salt’s head. “This little guy loves people and doesn’t bite. He’s very even-tempered. If you like, you can come visit my mother often and play with him.”
The girl nodded with a smile.
Pang Xiao pulled her into the upper yard, Salt panting and dancing around the two of them. The married servant followed behind them, sizing up Qin Yining curiously.
In the covered hallway, maids on either side of the door lifted up navy-blue door curtains of fine cotton that were overlaid on thin, wooden slats. The warmth that wafted out to one’s entrance was very comfortable.
Taking off and handing his cloak to a maid, Pang Xiao led Qin Yining to the east side room.
The layout of the houses here were similar to the ones in Great Yan—just that the luohan bed in front of the window had been swapped out for a heated sleeping platform next to the window. The very sight of it looked quite comfortable.
There was a kindly old woman, tall and broad-shouldered, albeit slightly chubby-looking, sitting cross-legged next to a black lacquer table with a brazier beneath it. She looked to be in her early sixties and was looking at the young couple with a smile.
On the either side of the heated table was an elderly man wearing navy-blue, cotton robes. A six-paneled hat warmed his head as he packed tobacco into a brass pipe. A coarse thumb was carefully pressing every last strand in.
Another beautiful, middle aged woman was sitting sideways to the heated platform. The rest of the maids and granny servants were standing next to the divider, divided into two rows and their hands at their sides.
Qin Yining’s previously relaxed mood tensed again, and she rushed forward to make her greetings.
Pang Xiao was one step ahead of her. “Grandfather, grandmother, mother, this is my darling Yi that I’ve mentioned.” He turned back and tugged the girl down to kneel next to him, accompanying her through the formal greeting to an elder.
“Won’t you look at that, our Dafu’s learned to protect someone younger. Are you worried grandmother will bully your beloved?” Grandmother née Ma had the accent of a northerner and straightforward friendliness infused in her tone.
Qin Yining blinked blankly before reacting. So Pang Xiao’s childhood nickname was Dafu, meaning ‘great fortune’?Previous Chapter Next Chapter
I'm back from Japan! Thank you for your patience. For pics and a poll of who's your favorite ROS character, please check out Twitter!