Chapter 323: Lying in Wait

Two more trails of tears trickled out of Li Helan’s eyes when she heard these words. She really wanted to grab Li Qitian’s hand and demand, “Do you mean that? Will you really protect me no matter what? If you actually want to protect me, then betroth me to Pang Zhixi!”

……

But she wasn’t a rash ditz in the end. Though she could be more arrogant in front of her mother, she still knew what the limits of propriety were when it came to Li Qitian.

The bonds between brother and sister could never be as before, once her brother had taken the throne. They were no ordinary brother and sister. He was the emperor, and she the subject-sister. To put it bluntly, her lifelong happiness depended on his favor. A single word from him could determine if she was happy or not, living or dead.

So as much dissatisfaction as she bore, the only thing she could do now was to grit her teeth and shove all those thoughts deep inside. When faced with Li Qitian, she could only be a docile, sensible younger sister.

“Royal brother, Lan’er knows. It’s just a small matter—no big deal. With royal brother’s favor, who would dare bully me?”

Li Qitian couldn’t help but pat Li Helan’s head when he heard this.

She was his only young sister, and he really had used her in this matter. Forget it, it was enough to confirm that Li Helan had reached out to Pang Xiao. He didn’t need to pursue that further. He couldn’t expect a girl like his sister to hold the same political views as him.

“Your royal sister-in-law made a set of hair accessories a few days ago. We feel that it looks quite beautiful and had her make a set for you too. Remember to wear it when it’s delivered. You’re the eldest princess, the purest of royalty. Don’t mistreat yourself out of desire to be thrifty. Even if the nation’s coffers aren’t deep at the moment, you still won’t go without.” He scratched her nose with tender emphasis.

Is he compensating me materialistically because he feels guilty?

Li Helan sighed to herself and curtsied with joy. “Many thanks to my royal brother and royal sister-in-law.”

“We’re all family here, there’s no need for thanks.” Li Helan’s smile was infectious, brightening Li Qitian’s mood. He turned to speak with the empress dowager.

The emperor was the empress dowager’s support, so she basically did everything he said. She would also respond accordingly to his mood. She was a smart woman, just like Li Helan, and fully aware of where her happiness stemmed from. Thus, there was never a conflict with Li Qitian, and mother and son had quite an amicable relationship.

The emperor had a very lovely conversation and left in high spirits.

The empress dowager dismissed all of her servants once he was fully out of the vicinity. She kept only Li Helan with her, and pulled her daughter close to murmur. “Lan’er, you need to be more broad-minded and let some things go. You already have all the happiness a woman can attain. Don’t be greedy. I don’t know why you’ve set your sights on Pang Zhixi, but you must realize that it's impossible for the two of you. 

“It’s set in stone that you will marry the Marquis of Northern Stability. There’s absolutely nothing that can be done to change it. The marquis is also an unreservedly handsome man with stunning ability. You must be satisfied with what you have, understood?”

Li Helan stared at her mother without saying a word, slowly nodding her head after a long while.

The empress dowager could tell that her daughter hadn't taken her words to heart. The older woman sighed with resignation.

A mother knew her daughter best. The empress dowager was very right. When Li Helan returned to her side hall, she burrowed into the blankets and wept bitterly. After thoroughly venting her feelings, she ordered Hexiang, “Have them prepare the carriage. I’m going to wait in front of the Pang Manor. I don’t believe that Pang Zhixi won’t come out!”

“Your Highness!”

“Don’t bother persuading me otherwise! He pretends he’s not home when I visit. He fobs me off with an excuse when I send him an invitation. When will I be able to see him if I don’t lay in wait for him at his front door?”

“But, you’re the purest of royalty. You…”

“Don’t mention that again!” Li Helan finally exploded in fury. “It’s because I’m royalty that my happiness and future can’t be tied to the one I like! If I don’t even have the option to fight for what I want, then I’d rather not be royalty at all!”

Hexiang seemed to have been hollered into submission. She stood there dumbly, unable to react.

“Well?! Go have the servants prepare the carriage!”

“Under, understood.” Color had drained from Hexiang’s face and she quickly took her leave after a curtsey. She breathed out in relief once outside the palace, stopping for a quick word with an unassuming eunuch outside the Palace of Serene Piety, before going on her way.

…..

“Your Highness, why don’t you tell Miss Qin first and bring her with you to look at the manor?” asked Xie Yue with a smile.

Pang Xiao shook his head, adjusted his leather coat, and picked up a horse whip with a smile. “I’ll go take a look first. If even I don’t like it, then there’s no need for her to go look. But with Sir Xie in charge of things, I’m confident that the manor is suitable.”

"It was perfect timing that a family wants to move away from the capital. They haven’t decided if they want to sell yet. We can take a look first, and then talk it over with them then if Your Highness thinks it’s a good fit.”

Pang Xiao nodded, had the servants ready the horses, and left on horseback with Huzi and Xie Yue. But they’d just trotted through the doors when a window curtain lifted in a carriage parked on a street corner.

Li Helan was clad in an exquisite white leather coat, her pale face wrapped by a fur collar. It highlighted her red lips and white teeth. Bashfulness and plaintive complaints brimmed in her eyes, while the sentiments between her brows seemed as deep as the fathomless see. One could nigh well drown in them.

“Your Highness, the days are so cold, aren’t you still recovering? Where are you going on horseback and in the snow?”

Li Helan alighted from the carriage, unable to put up a haughty act in front of Pang Xiao. She spoke gently and with a smile, but the notes of complaint deepened in her tone.

On horseback, Pang Xiao had been prepared to ignore her. But she was the eldest princess after all, with the lofty status to boot. She’d already stepped down, so it’d be inappropriate if he remained sitting in his superior position.

The prince jumped down gracefully and fully observed all the courtesies with his bow. “So it’s the eldest princess. You know the days are cold as well, so why aren’t you resting in the palace? Why have you braved the snow to come here?”

“Why? How would you possibly not know?! Royal brother has betrothed me to Ji Lan! I’m going to marry Ji Lan! What are you going to do about that?!”

The interrogative tone made it seem like Pang Xiao had abandoned her, discarding her by the side of the road.

Pang Xiao arched a brow with a smile. “Yes, I do know of this. I naturally need to prepare a hefty gift for such a wonderful occasion.”

“You!” Li Helan had thought that the man she dreamed of night and day would have similar feelings for her, that it was also unbearable for him too. Who would’ve thought that when she threw the problem to him, he’d only say that he would prepare gifts for her!

Tears flooded out of her eyes; the many days of suffering made her no longer able to control herself. She choked back sobs as she demanded, “Just what do you mean by this, why are you avoiding me?! What about our past together?! How would you possibly not know the feelings I've had for you all these years??”

Pang Xiao’s brow knit together.

At the same time, in another street corner, Ji Zeyu was fully taking in the sight of Li Helan sobbing in front of his sworn brother. Someone had secretly told him that something very important would happen in front of the Pang Manor today, and he’d rushed here out of worry.

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etvolare's Thoughts

OhmahGAWD someone HAUL THIS PRINCESS OFF AND SWAP HER OUT WITH A PEASANT GIRL. What ABOUT your 'past' together? *bangs head against wall*

And Ji bro, don't be taken in like this. C'mon, bros before ditzes aye?