Pang Xiao rose with a bit of worry and caught up to Qin Yining and née Yao. He grinned merrily. “How about I keep the two of you company? It’ll be too boring with just you two.”
Née Yao turned back to glare at her spineless son. “What are you listening in on womenfolk for?”
The Pang matriarch was in an enormously good mood when she saw how lovestruck her usually cool and aloof grandson was. She laughed heartily. “Dafu, come here. Come chat with grandma. Let your mother chat with the lass. Don’t go sticking your nose into things.”
Née Ma adroitly hopped down from the heated platform and pulled Pang Xiao down to sit with her.
Resigned, since he couldn’t push his grandmother aside, he cast a grin at the two leaving—the absolute epitome of a foolish grin.
Finding it ludicrously funny, née Yao glared at her son once more and tucked Qin Yining’s hand into her arm, walking into the outer room.
Maids immediately brought their cloaks forward and offered bronze hand braziers at the perfect temperature. Servants followed them out to the covered hallway, whereupon née Yao waved a hand. “You’re all dismissed.”
“Understood.” Maids and granny servants retreated to the sides after curtseying respectfully.
Née Yao and Qin Yining strolled slowly along the covered hallway that connected the flower-hung gate to the rest of the residence. The Yao madame didn’t say a word, and neither did the Qin fourth miss blurt out questions. She remained half a step behind née Yao.
After one full circuit of the hallway, the madame nodded to herself when she saw that the girl was still the picture of solid dependability.
“Dafu is often out in the battlefield.” She started the conversation softly. “When he turned sixteen, the grand-lord and grand-madame wanted to rustle up a wife for him, so that there would be someone at home for him. But he said he wasn’t guaranteed to even live out another day in the battlefield, so he didn’t want to detain a good girl.”
Qin Yining smiled wordlessly.
“Then they fought to conquer all and the war grew tense. I hadn’t been in favor of Dafu hastily marrying someone, but also encouraged him a few times later on so that he might pass on the family name. He wouldn’t listen to me—just saying that he got along well with his brothers in the military camp, and that a wife would only crimp his style. Listen to that, what kind of words were those?”
An involuntary smile spread across Qin Yining’s face. The image of a young, hot-blooded Pang Xiao came to life in her mind.
Née Yao smiled as well and patted the back of Qin Yining’s hand. “The days passed one by one. All of his brothers got married and we urged him to as well. But as he refused again and again, there was nothing we could do about it. The band of brothers that’d fought by his side are all married with children, apart from him and Ji Lan. As a mother, I can only look on enviously at other families’ grandchildren. Don’t laugh, but Dafu’s grandmother once said that we’re already lucky he didn’t bring his sword or battle horse back as a wife!”
Qin Yining chuckled as she carefully turned over née Yao’s words in her mind.
“When he learned that you were in danger, he immediately charged out with his men. His grandfather said that the child finally won’t bring a sword or battle horse back home, which delighted his grandmother. I also think that it’s a good thing for someone to have tamed his wild heart and have him spend more time and effort on his own life. We’re all very happy that you’re here in the capital.”
A sinking feeling visited Qin Yining’s stomach. It looked like her future mother-in-law didn’t have a good first impression of her.
Née Yao was showing courtesy only because Pang Xiao liked her. The prince’s mother had said so much, but the last brimmed with the most meaning.
Née Yao and Yao Chenggu were actually highly dissatisfied that Pang Xiao had charged off without paying heed to anything else when she was in danger. Née Yao in particular, felt that her son valued Qin Yining too much. It wasn’t necessarily a good thing for him to have such a tie at the moment.
As elders, they wanted most to see Pang Xiao safe and sound, and to pass on the family name. They didn’t actually care who it was passed on with. After all, they’d just mentioned that the emperor had bestowed ten concubines onto the prince.
But née Yao was a very self-restrained person. She was the sort to tactfully express her opinions, as opposed to openly denounce someone. Someone rough around the edges would probably completely miss her meaning.
Qin Yining sighed to herself.
Back in the Duke of Ding’s manor, she’d once heard her maternal grandmother chat with her two aunts about one of her cousin’s marriage. Her grandmother had been against her cousin marrying a certain scholar.
Her grandmother’s reasoning had been that since the scholar was very smart, so must be his mother. The scholar was highly filial, and if the household culture wasn’t an upright one, Qin Yining’s cousin would face a highly intelligent mother-in-law and a husband who only knew to listen to his mother. The girl wouldn’t have easy days ahead of her with that.
For some reason, Qin Yining was reminded of her grandmother’s words today. She really didn’t know who Pang Xiao would choose if it came down to her and née Yao.
But she wasn’t some sheltered or coddled noble girl. She’d always known that she had to work hard for what she wanted. Who said that people had to like her as soon as they met her? Even her own mother had hated her at first. It’d taken a long period of living together before they’d grown closer.
Since she liked Pang Xiao, she would play her part well and not have her beloved caught between her and his mother. There was also no possibility of her backing down.
All these thoughts flitted through Qin Yining’s mind in the span of a single breath.
“Many thanks, aunt. The situation outside is complicated, and as a little girl, I don’t understand much. I’m afraid I’ll have to impose on the family over the next couple of days. I will leave when my father and family arrives at the capital, and will return with my parents to express our thanks.”
Née Yao arched a brow. So not only does the girl have unforgettable looks, she has an exceedingly smart mind and a core of inner steel belying her outward gentleness.
The Qin fourth miss was subtly indicating that she didn’t need to rely on Pang Xiao for survival. She had her own family and her own foundations.
Though Qin Huaiyuan was a surrendered official, it could be seen from the big picture that the Qins would be entrusted with important positions. Compared to Pang Xiao, a prince in title with no power or authority, the Qins had an unlimited future ahead. In fact, it might be the prince who needed help from a strong father-in-law.
Not only had the girl understood née Yao’s masked complaints, she had even more quietly offered a rebuttal!
Née Yao couldn’t find it within herself to dislike the girl. In fact, she was rather gratified that Pang Xiao liked a girl with this kind of personality. With his state and current situation, it was a good thing for the family if he had an intelligent wife at home helping him.
Née Yao smiled. “There’s no need for thanks, you’re not an outsider. I rarely involve myself in outside affairs, so you can just discuss them with Dafu.” Meaning that she wouldn’t intervene and all Qin Yining had to focus on was coordinating with Pang Xiao.
The Qin fourth miss relaxed when she noted that the madame’s smile was genuine, without a hint of unpleasantness. She nodded firmly. “Don’t worry, aunt. I will.”
Lunch was served in the upper yard. Yao Chenggu had personally stewed a fish for Pang Xiao and prepared a few signature dishes. There were fewer meal-time rules to observe in this household, but many more hints of familial warmth.
After eating, Pang Xiao declared, “I invited Sirs Xie and Xu. They should be waiting in the study with the other followers. Darling Yi and I will pay a visit there first.”
Yao Chenggu and née Yao started. Pang Xiao had many followers and resident experts. The shrewd Xu Wei and the decisive Xie Yue, adept at disguises, were his right-hand men. To think that Qin Yining would be introduced to them!
When the prince left with the girl, Yao Chenggu took a pull on his tobacco pipe before asking née Yao, “What do you think after talking to the Qin lass?”Previous Chapter Next Chapter
The quiet snick of a knife hidden in a smile... this is a type of conflict you don't usually get in wuxia! What did you guys think?