Qin Yining nuzzled lovingly into his embrace.
“You’re spouting nonsense again,” she responded with mock anger. “How could I possibly go back with you now? Everyone already knows that I’m going to participate in the imperial selection—I’m sure the emperor will know soon as well. What will he think if he knows you held onto me, knowing full well that I had to go to the selection?”
Pang Xiao chuckled softly and replied indifferently, “Will he let me off the hook if I don’t hold onto you, and no longer be on his guard against me?”
“At least he won’t have anything to use against you.” Qin Yining reverted back to seriousness. “I don’t want to be a mistake to be wielded against you.”
Her eyes sparkled brilliantly like black jewels in the depths of the dimly lit carriage. They were so deep that they invited one to fall endlessly into them. Pang Xiao couldn’t resist the urge to lean forward and lightly kiss her eyes.
When her eyes fluttered shut, the eyelashes brushed past his lips, setting off an itch in his heart.
The kiss dropped gently and finally moved to her lips. Pang Xiao delicately used his tongue to trace the shape of her lips, kissing her with absolute gentleness.
“How would you ever be a mistake? You’re my motivation.” His deep voice had turned a bit hoarse.
It was because of her that he’d found the persistence to soldier on and gained an edge to duke it out with destiny. Sometimes, caught in the swamp as he was, he wondered just what he was fighting for and how much longer he could hold on.
Sensing his mood, Qin Yining entwined her arms around his neck and gently ran her fingers through his hair. Just a few passes over his scalp with her nails sent shivers down his back, sending him floating up above the clouds. A content grunt sounded as his kiss turned passionate.
The prince only let go reluctantly when his girl found it hard to breathe and was beating on his shoulder with her fists. He licked her bright red lips one more time.
“My darling, I’ll come ask for your hand in marriage when the situation stabilizes.”
Naturally, she knew that he was speaking from the heat of the moment. It wasn’t like him to blurt out something without prior thought.
She didn’t doubt his feelings for her at all, but she was well aware of the current political layout. Their futures weren’t up to them to decide. They could only take things one step at a time.
“It’s too early to talk about marriage. Even if you want to ask for my hand, my father has to come back safely first.” Worry crept into her brows and she looked down. “I’ve kicked up such a ruckus this time in order to not enter the palace. I wonder if the kidnappers will do anything to my parents.”
If her judgment had been off, that meant dooming her mother and father!
She had been wanting to avoid having the family caught in the middle of things, but she wanted even less for her parents to be in danger.
Heart-stricken, Pang Xiao hugged her tightly in comfort. His girl hadn’t known a single day of peace ever since they’d known each other. From eking out a solitary survival in the mountains when young, to plots and schemes abounding after returning home, and then everything that had happened afterwards…
Come to think of it, his darling had always had to work ten times harder to get anything she wanted. But she never once thought of giving up and never blamed the heavens for her lot in life.
She was so mature and resilient! He loved her with every fiber of his being.
“Don’t worry, I’ve already sent people out to investigate the matters of that day. I’ll find my in-laws as quickly as possible. And don’t stress yourself too much either—your body hasn’t fully recovered yet. Your health comes first, no matter what.”
“I know, what would I worry about with you by my side?” Qin Yining curled up quietly by Pang Xiao’s shoulder. She murmured in a soft voice that wrapped around him, “Now that we’re in your territory, I’m looking to you for everything, Sir Yao.”
Said in jest, the name teased a laugh out of Pang Xiao. Memories of how they’d met floated up to contrast with where they were now. It hadn’t yet been a long time, but their love for each other was already so deep. His heart brimmed with sweetness at the memories.
The two chatted lowly for a while longer before Pang Xiao alighted from the carriage. He called Bingtang over and turned his back on Qin Yining to give the maid a stack of bank notes.
“Your miss will find many things inconvenient when she lives with the Qins. Keep an eye out and take care of as many things as possible for her. Also, make sure she makes a full recovery.”
A merrily beaming Bingtang carefully put the ‘household funds’ away. “Don’t worry, Your Highness, if there’s anything we can’t handle, us servants will tell you even if the miss doesn’t want to.”
Pang Xiao grinned at how smart the maid was and handed out some compliments.
When the couple bid each other farewell, Qin Yining climbed back into the carriage with Bingtang and Jiyun. “What did you and the prince talk about just now?”
“What else could we talk about?” Bingtang produced the stack of bills with a flourish and waved them in the air before putting them away again. “The prince gave me these notes and told me to make sure you make a full recovery.”
Qin Yining blinked blankly. “Don't I have my own money? Why should I use his? You shouldn’t have accepted these.”
Bingtang rolled her eyes at her mistress. “We’re so close with His Highness already, are you still thinking of not being with him in the future? Since we’ll be one family sooner or later, why draw the lines so clearly?
“If we really want to talk about gains and losses, how will His Highness pay you back for your loss of name and reputation? I’m just getting some interest for you. Besides, when you recover, won’t you be continuing the Pang bloodline in the future? So no matter how we cut it, it’s the Pangs coming out ahead after all this. It’s just a waste of free money if we don’t take the silver.”
Qin Yining didn’t know if she should be angry or amused by this silly logic. But to be honest, there was nothing she could refute about it.
The two of them were very close. She would feel lost and despondent if she couldn’t marry him, and probably wouldn’t ever consider any other man seriously in this life.
Seeing her fall silent, Bingtang and Jiyun looked at each other and started giggling.
The carriage soon returned to the inns. When mistress and maids returned to the Qins’ yard, they were greeted by the eagerly awaiting Qin Han and Qin Yu beneath the covered hallway.
Both of them had yet to acclimate to the northern winters—they’d transformed into two balls from how thickly bundled up they were. Qin Han stepped forward when he saw his cousin return.
“You’re back, fourth sister! How did it go?”
Qin Yining curtsied to Qin Yu and Qin Han with a smile.
“It went very smoothly and just as we thought. I’m sure it will be public knowledge soon. Not only did His Majesty lose his suspicions, but no one will raise the idea of me entering the palace again.”
The men nodded.
“Fourth sister is meticulous, strategic, and courageous,” remarked Qin Yu. “None of this is difficult for you to pull off.”
Qin Yining blushed from the compliment and smiled. “Don’t say that, big brother, I’ll die of embarrassment.” She looked in the direction of the main house and intoned lowly, “Is everything alright with the old dowager?”
“Things are alright,” responded Qin Han. “My father and third uncle have analyzed the ins and outs of this affair for her. The old dowager understands, but she had a good cry for a while.”
I wonder if she’s crying because I won’t be leading the family to new heights after entering the palace, over the lost family fortune, or for my still-lost father.
Having mutually caught up on the latest happenings, the three entered the house one after another.
Qin Yining took off her cold outer jacket and stood for a bit, letting her body warm up before she headed to the side hall.
The second wife’s voice filtered to her ears just as she lifted her feet.
“…though this is the case, it’s still a good thing to enter the palace and serve His Majesty. Since fourth sister can’t be chosen, we should give the chance to some of the other girls in the family. By blowing things up like this, doesn’t that mean our family’s completely lost the opportunity?”
The second and third elder master had just managed to coax the old dowager into a better, more accepting mood. It was the work of a quick moment for the second wife to pull the Qin matriarch back.
The old dowager burst into tears.
Entering the house at the same time as Qin Yining, flames of irritation licked at Qin Han to see his wife behaving this way.
“What are you yammering on about?” he hectored. “Just look after yourself since you’re pregnant. Don’t be spouting nonsense and pretending to know things you’re absolutely clueless about.”
The second wife flushed a painful red and lowered her head with mortification.
The second elder master was much assuaged at seeing his son being willing to publicly rebuke his wife.
“Don’t worry, mother,” he started over again. “Didn’t I just analyze things for you? Our family is new in town and should focus our efforts on resting, recovering, and having the days peacefully pass us by. We’ll be able to revitalize the family soon, but if we get involved in these political messes, we’ll end up caught between the emperor and the prince if we don’t handle things properly.
“We haven’t even found our footing in Great Zhou yet, so how can we make any brash moves? We all know mother is doing this for the good of the family. We can figure out other ways to earn money and feed the family, but we can’t voluntarily stick ourselves in between His Majesty and Highness, when we know full well that the two don’t get along.”
The second elder master had talked himself hoarse and had long since lost his patience.
They were both born of the old dowager, but whenever Qin Huaiyuan was present, the old dowager’s favoritism knew no bounds. The second elder master even felt that if his big brother had been present, it’d be so much easier to convince their mother.
His mood dipped down when he thought of his missing elder brother, and he heaved a long sigh.
It was so quiet inside that a pin drop could be heard. The atmosphere was stifling.
The Qin matriarch shook her head after a long time. “Forget it, let this matter be over with. No one else should think about it. Granddaughter Yi can’t enter the palace and neither can granddaughter Hui or number eight. No one shall think of this anymore.”Previous Chapter Next Chapter
LOL I can just picture Bingtang with a money gun. "Dolla dolla bill yo! That's what the prince gave me!"
Okay, and I honestly thought the second wife was okay, despite eating Riceball. NO SHE AIN'T!