“His own reasons?” Qin Yining looked askance at Pang Xiao and shook her head. “I don’t understand. If everything’s perfectly fine, why wouldn’t father come back? Does he not want to bother with the mess in the capital?”
She shook her head to reject her own conjecture as soon as she’d voiced it. “No, father has a great sense of responsibility. He would never do something so irresponsible like leaving his family behind and making a run for it himself.”
Pang Xiao had grown used to seeing her calm, steady, and with plenty of wit to go around. She could navigate her way out of any situation with cool aplomb. She was so smart sometimes that he felt there was no point in him being present.
It was a fresh sight, seeing her so lost and directionless. The sight of her frowning ferociously and muttering to herself was rather adorable. He reached out to bring her close. “You’re making things too complicated, it’s actually very simple. It’s only because you’ve just arrived at the capital and are unfamiliar with Great Zhou. You’ll understand everything once I explain them to you.”
He picked up Qin Yining’s tea cup to take a sip from it.
She didn’t mind how heavy his arm was on his shoulder and even less that he’d drank her tea. She looked at him with sparkling eyes of expectation.
Her limpid eyes sent a frisson of desire through him. Swallowing hard with difficulty, he almost couldn’t contain the urge to kiss her.
The girl pushed him when he remained quiet for a long time. “Well? Tell mw.”
The prince burst out laughing and wrapped his arm around her shoulder. “Alright alright, I’ll tell you. It’s simple, really. We have capital evaluations in the capital. I think father-in-law is waiting for that.”
“What do you mean by capital evaluations?”
“The emperor made adjustments to the old Northern Ji policies and created a sweeping, periodic competency assessment on all duty officials. Anyone below second rank and outside of the Grand Secretariat needs to be tested every three years.”
Qin Yining nodded slowly as she mused over his words. “Can you tell me precisely how these capital evaluations are conducted?”
“They’re divided into two stages, the first in which the officials being tested must submit a self-report that’s strictly unbiased about their accomplishments, insufficiencies, mistakes, oversights, and others over the past three years. There can be no falsehood or omissions. When all of the reports have been handed in, the Bureau of Appointments will conduct a uniform, grand review. This report will be an important piece of support during the evaluation.”
“So this means that the capital evaluations will be happening this year?”
Pang Xiao smiled. “If we’re going to be strict about it, it’s the next year. The yamen are on vacation because of the new year, so nothing will start until the festivities are done.”
Qin Yining thought deeply for a moment, her brow slowly smoothing out as she exhaled easily. “So this means that my father should be returning after the new year, when the first stage is complete and all the self-reports are in.”
“Smart.” Pang Xiao scratched her nose.
Qin Huaiyuan was the leader of the surrendered Great Yan officials. Add to that his blood feud with Pang Xiao, that meant he would be certainly made heavy use of after returning to the capital.
The Great Yan officials would be an infusion of new blood in the Great Zhou court. If he came back earlier, the emperor would be forced to start doling out positions and rewards for the sake of imperial reputation.
But the number of positions at court was static. If no good option freed up, the ones awarded to Great Yan officials would be mostly for show.
As long as Qin Huaiyuan didn’t return, Li Qitian wouldn’t be able to assign titles.
Therefore, he was staying away precisely because he was waiting for the capital evaluations to begin. When the first stage was over and a large number of officials detailed their mistakes and how they’d overlooked things in their tenure, positions that Li Qitian wanted to award to Great Yan officials would free up.
Qin Yining was certain that Li Qitian would make heavy use of the surrendered officials precisely because of the structure at court. The former Northern Ji officials occupied most of the civil subject positions, and though Li Qitian’s diehard loyalists held military power, they weren’t able to fight against the horde of civil officials.
The former Great Yan officials lacked a foundation. They could only rely on Li Qitian and their only future was to be loyal to the emperor.
Surely Li Qitian wanted to give them higher positions as well. Qin Huaiyuan’s absence gave him the excuse to not award anything yet and wait for better positions to free up.
“Honestly…” Qin Yining shook her head ruefully. “And I worried for so long over nothing. Why didn’t you tell me when the capital evaluations were to begin?”
“I completely forgot to.” Pang Xiao smiled. “Can you rest easy now?”
Qin Yining nodded. “I was getting suspicious after not hearing anything for so long. Even if something really had happened, it’s not like my father to not send any word home. It looks like he knew I’ll learn about the capital evaluations and will be able to analyze when he’ll return.”
“That’s right, which is why I say having a smart daughter is also father-in-law’s fortune.”
Qin Yining blushed from the indirect compliment. “Did you eat honey today? Your words are so sweet?”
“When is my mouth not sweet? How about you have a taste for yourself?” A face loomed in front of her.
Qin Yining pushed him away bashfully. “You need to be serious now! Stop being silly.”
Pang Xiao chuckled softly and raised his hands in surrender. “Alright, I’ll stop teasing you. We’ll have to spend our days quietly for a while. His Majesty probably wants to put on a show of undying brotherhood over the new year’s, and he’s gone to great effort to find my official mother. I won’t have that much time to come see you then.”
Qin Yining started and sat upright. “What official mother?”
The look in Pang Xiao’s eyes was slightly cold and mockery filled his tone. “What official mother? My late father’s wife, of course. My mom was just a maid and accidentally received the lord’s favor. Madame Pang drove my mom away and even sent killers after her. Thank goodness my mom was smart and evaded them.
“Madame Pang should’ve died with the rest back in the day, but the emperor’s somehow found her. Now that the Pangs are no more, the emperor says that finding my official mother means there’s still a bit of hope for the Pangs. Seniors and juniors are complete, and he wants me to treat her with great filial piety.”
“So you’re going to welcome her back into the manor? What of the old madame?”
“If I really welcomed her back, my mom will naturally still only be a maid. She wasn’t even a concubine, back in the day.” A jeering lilt curved Pang Xiao’s lips.
Qin Yining shook her head. “This is inappropriate. The grand-lord, grand-madame, and old madame can’t be bullied. Who knows if your official mother is the real deal? Why not ground her for now and make a careful investigation? It’s not good to directly go against His Majesty’s wishes, but you can do whatever you want with her when she’s in your hands.”
Pang Xiao looked at her with a smile. “I’d thought you would advise me that there’s a natural order between official-born and concubine-born. You’re an official daughter, after all. I’m not even concubine-born, at most a bastard. If General Pang hadn’t died, none of this honor and fortune would’ve fallen into my lap.”Previous Chapter Next Chapter
What the. Too much info in this chapter. But most importantly, is that official mother of PX's real or fake?