The old dowager had never fathomed that Pang Xiao would actually hit her! At her age, she wouldn’t have any face left to see anyone if she really was punished in the Pang Manor!
“You can’t slap me!” The Qin matriarch stared at the servants streaming into the hall and yelled threateningly. “I’m the titled old dowager of the Marquis of Anping! Which one of you dares hit me?!”
Though her voice was strident, her frantic retreating proclaimed her panic and fear.
Her nerves extremely taut, the second madame spread out her hands to protect her mother-in-law and looked pleadingly at her niece.
Qin Yining frowned, but didn’t say anything.
Xu Weizhi had received a summary of the old dowager’s personality from Xie Yue earlier. He very much disliked such self-serving people. He jeered, “The Marquis of Anping? Never heard of him. Which court does this official come from?”
“You!” The retort almost robbed the old dowager of her breath, and the fear deep inside of her intensified.
That was right. Great Yan was no more, and the status of her most accomplished son unknown. She could no longer strut her title in front of the Faithful Prince of the First Rank.
She slightly regretted her earlier actions. She shouldn’t have been so rude to Qin Yining just for momentary satisfaction. The situation now wouldn’t be so unpleasant otherwise.
“What are you all waiting for?? Drag her away.” Pang Xiao waved an impatient hand.
It was rather Xu Weizhi and Xie Yue who hesitated.
With their master’s identity and current situation, he really shouldn’t go head to head with the old dowager. However, given how furious the prince currently was, he’d become a laughingstock if the two strategists tried to calm him down. It would appear like he was afraid of the old woman.
As the two dithered with hesitation, servants flanked the old dowager and dragged her out.
“You, you can’t!” The old dowager was terrified of not only the pain, but most importantly the loss of face. She’d always been the ones slapping others, when had anyone else ever done the same to her? At her age, being dragged out for a face-slapping because of offending nobility was the shame of a lifetime.
Qin Yining sighed softly with resignation when she saw how frightened the old dowager was.
Though she hated the Qin matriarch, from Pang Xiao’s perspective, it wasn’t a smart move to punish the old dowager at this time.
Li Qitian quite obviously wanted to recruit the services of the surrendered Yan officials. If Pang Xiao punished the Qin old dowager on her behalf, the old dowager would absolutely make a mountain out of a molehill when she was free to do so. It would just end up putting the prince in a difficult position.
The Qin fourth miss appreciated Pang Xiao’s consideration, but wouldn’t allow him to offend the emperor again for her.
When her thoughts travelled here, Qin Yining looked meaningfully at Pang Xiao. Their eyes met, followed by the girl dropping a graceful curtsey. “Please quell your anger, Your Highness.”
The old and second madame sighed with relief when they saw the girl intercede on their behalf.
Off to the other side, Xu Weizhi and Xie Yue looked sharply at Qin Yining. They understood her intentions and silently showered her with praises. Thank goodness for the miss being a clear headed person. If the prince really did slap one of the women in his rage, he’d only be creating an enormous amount of trouble for himself later on.
When even outsiders could tell Qin Yining’s intentions, how could Pang Xiao not?
But as a man, not being able to stick up for his girl when she was being bullied felt beyond awful. Neither was he the sort to hide behind a woman. For someone used to being in control of the entire situation, it was revolting to be confined like this by reality.
Glowering, there was nothing he wanted to do more than gather Qin Yining in his arms and comfort her. But in front of the others, they had to stick to the script.
Thus he kept his expression dark and responded with irritable disdain, “Who do you think you are now? You can’t even save yourself. What right do you have to beg for mercy for others?”
Qin Yining lowered her head without a word. Her pitiably thin form and absolutely-not-luxurious clothes on her back once again reminded the Qin women that the girl no longer enjoyed the prince’s favor. Pang Xiao would never dote on her as he had before.
But she’d been willing to speak up for the old dowager and had been rebuked in the same unforgiving manner. This made the Qin women feel much better; they resented her less.
Pang Xiao called over Xu Weizhi and whispered a few words by his ear. The strategist blanked for a moment, then nodded. He turned to Huzi to murmur a few things. The guard’s eyes shone when he heard and he quickly excused himself.
The prince ordered again, “What are you lot just standing around for? Are you all deaf? Drag out this dithering old hag and slap her across the face!”
“Understood!” Xu Weizhi urged the servants onwards and grabbed the two women, pushing them out of the hall.
The old dowager really was terrified out of her mind this time. Her pleas for mercy fell on deaf ears, and seeing no response, she turned back to her old tricks and insulted Pang Xiao loudly. She abused the Pang ancestors several times and specifically inquired about the Pang female elders.
The female servants tugging them along found the crude language hard to bear and surreptitiously pinched the old dowager a few times.
Walking behind them, Xu Weizhi and Xie Yue fumed increasingly the more they heard. How could someone as smart, knowledgeable, and wonderful as Qin Yining have such a shrieking harlot for her grandmother? Was this what they meant by bad bamboo stalks producing good shoots?
Just look at how gnarly this old dowager is! I wonder how the prince’s future father-in-law will be like.
The old dowager’s curses littered the way from the front hall to outside the manor doors.
She didn’t quite understand what was happening when Xu Weizhi and Xie Yue instructed the servants to throw the two Qin women outside the main doors. Did Pang Xiao mean to slap them in front of his residence?
Just as the notion struck her, the two strategists turned and re-entered the manor.
Extreme self-satisfaction flooded the old dowager. She spat viciously, “You mewling baby! I knew you were just bluster! Touch a single hair on my head if you really dare! When my son returns, I’ll censure you in court like you’ve never known before!”
“Old Dowager, Old Dowager…” The second madame put her weight on her mother-in-law’s arm, trying to drag her away.
The old dowager’s attitude was a very big reason why things had turned out this way. They’d been swept out the door before they could even tell Qin Yining what they’d come to say! Thankfully the prince had just wanted to scare the old dowager and hadn’t gone too far. Where was the bearing befitting their status in making a scene like this outside the Pang Manor?
Just as these thoughts crossed her mind, they heard a series of low barking.
A black shadow darted out from a crack in the manor’s corner gate. They looked over to see a large, black dog with fur gleaming from health staring fixedly at them. It barked incessantly, drooling from its half open mouth like it’d been starving for the past couple of days.
The two women stiffened from fright, but it didn’t care about their terror at all. Howling, it charged them.
“Ah! Help!” The old dowager paid attention to nothing else and spun around, running for her life.
The second madame fled madly as well, taking the old dowager’s hand as the two women labored to reach the carriage on their bound feet. Scrambling into the vehicle, they urged the groom to drive off before even settling down in their seats.
Barking followed them for an entire street before the black dog turned away, seemingly tired.
Huzi was crouched in front of the manor doors, quickly offering some jerky when he saw the dog return.
“Well done, Pepper!” the guard praised. “That old fool was cocky as hell. She was just asking for a beating!”
After the dog happily devoured the jerky, Huzi patted it on the head with a smile. “Alright, let’s go back.”
Pepper barked a few times before following Huzi to the front hall.
Qin Yining was holding Salt, a worried expression on her face as she stroked the small, white dog. Seeming to detect the girl’s low spirits, Salt remained docilely curled up in the girl’s arms, its little tail thumping occasionally.
Pang Xiao was standing with his hands behind his back at the window, his face dark. He finally managed to suppress his explosive fury after a long while.
“Go back? How the heck can you go back? Go live in the inns with a group that’s lost their humanity?? Just ignore them. I’d like to see what kind of fuss they can kick up! The imperial selection?? There are so many girls in the family, why not any of them? Are you the only Qin daughter? They’re shameless to the extreme, not wanting to let things rest without wringing every last drop of value out of you!”
“How can I ignore them? I could stay here with peace of mind before because everyone knew that you kidnapped me. I had no other choice. But now that the old dowager’s told me about the imperial selection, I’d only be hurting you if I remained.”
“You don’t need to be afraid, I can protect you!” Pang Xiao whipped around, the flames dancing in his eyes threatening to set one aflame.
Qin Yining shook her head. “I know you can, but just think about how many people are waiting to pounce on you. The emperor’s wariness remains unchanged. You destroyed Great Yan for him, but he hasn’t given you any tangible rewards. Instead, he keeps sowing discord between you and the marquis. You yourself are treading on thin ice. How can I create more trouble for you?
“Besides, setting everything else aside, you already know that I’m the Qin representative to the imperial selection. If you still refuse to let me go, that’s blatant disrespect to the emperor. If someone really wanted to make a big deal out of this, how will you defend yourself if they make an imperial report about you?”
Pang Xiao understood everything she said. But it was precisely because of this and not having a concrete plan to resolve things that made him so infuriated.
“Are… are you actually planning on participating in the imperial selection?” Pang Xiao strode quickly up to the girl and grabbed her thin shoulders. “Qin Yining, I forbid it. You can only be mine, do you hear me!?”
It was the first time he’d say her name so solemnly, or even wrathfully. The fire burning in his eyes felt that it would reduce both of them to ashes.
Qin Yining patted his hand comfortingly and nodded. “I was yours a long time ago. How would I serve anyone else?”
Her tender gentleness doused his fury.
The prince really was feeling unsure. He himself was caught in chaos and trouble; he really wasn’t able to immediately give Qin Yining days of peace and fortune. He could only guarantee that his heart was true.
Any woman who was the slightest bit profit-seeking would never consider a husband like him—one that the emperor constantly guarded against. With her abilities, she’d soar to new heights if she served the emperor.
But she'd chosen him.
Pang Xiao looked intently into her limpid eyes, kissing her fiercely when suddenly overcome by emotion.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Friggin'... the ODO deserves some big time face-smackin', but even that can't be administered!
And aw, I really love the relationship blooming between our two leads. ROS really does romance right! <3