Qin Yining knew of how much grief and distress lay beneath his surface prestige. Heartsick, she took his hand when she heard the self-deprecation.
“Heroes have never been questioned about their origins. You risked your life for your current prosperity. You traded for it with the scars on your body and battle achievements. You have no need to huddle in the shelter of the Pangs. You’re first generation nobility who built your enterprise with your own blood, sweat, and tears! I know that if General Pang knew of your existence, he’d be proud of you.”
Her voice was gentle, but her tone was the most resolute it’d ever been. It warmed the depths of Pang Xiao’s heart. He was only human at the end of the day; there were times when he too was fragile and uncertain of himself. Touched by the understanding, Pang Xiao was spurred to bare his soul to his girl.
“Even though that’s the case, I’m still a bastard at the end of the day… when my official mother enters the household, the inner residence is sure to be thrown into a mess. I’m also worried that my grandparents and mom won’t be able to handle her.”
“So what if the official Pang madame’s suddenly appeared? She was the lady of General Pang’s house, but you are the Faithful Prince of the First Rank. The general’s household no longer exists, and the prince’s is in its prime. It’s up to you how you want to treat her. It’s alright, we can manage the worry of her bullying Old Madame. Just stick her in a house in the complex and make sure all of her necessities are seen to. Will the emperor force you to respect her as the head of the household?”
“I bet you that’s exactly what he wants.” Pang Xiao smiled ruefully. “The general’s house didn’t know of my existence and I wasn’t recorded in the family records. He wouldn’t have had Sir Zheng come find me if it wasn’t to raise the Pang flag. My mom had already made up her mind to never tell me about my identity, so that I would live a happy and carefree life.”
Anger boiled in Qin Yining when she heard this. “Is this emperor a man or not?! Why has he stuck his hands in the inner residence not just once or twice, but again and again?”
Setting aside the ten beauties in Pang Xiao’s inner residence, how much fuel to the flames had Li Qitian added in that farce with the Princess of Anyang?
Not to mention, the prince’s family was invited into the palace whenever he set off on a campaign. Of course the official reason was a display of friendliness and to show filial piety toward a brother’s elders, but in reality, it was to hold Pang Xiao’s family hostage.
If the emperor had been able to execute schemes in the open and in the shadows, then the Qin fourth miss might’ve respected Li Qitian.
As it were, she found it difficult to scrape together any goodwill toward the emperor.
“None of that matters. We just need to stay alert and deal with things as they come. As for who disappointed who and who suffered more, all that belongs to the previous generation. General Pang is no longer of this world and it’s pointless to quibble over any of that. The most important thing is to lead a good life in the future.”
Pang Xiao nodded slightly in agreement and tightened his grasp around Qin Yining.
The two leaned silently against each other, then whispered for a long time before the prince quietly stole away.
Over the next period of time, the entire capital bathed in the joy of the impending new year.
For Great Zhou, peace reigned beneath the heavens, the country was prosperous, and her people lived in safety. The Tartars were too busy with civil unrest to conduct their usual harassment, making for prolonged tranquility on the northern border. Most of Great Yan had been merged into Great Zhou territory, so calm reigned in the south as well.
There had only been good news for Great Zhou this year, so Li Qitian flew high on the crest of success and was in the finest of spirits.
But for former Great Yan citizens, this was their hardest new year yet. It was the first after their homeland had fallen; they no longer had any foundations from henceforth. Just like they were living under someone else’s roof at the moment, they would still be drifting duckweed in the future even if they were given a position and bought a manor.
The Qins had discussed whether they should ring in the new year with the commandery prince couple, Sir Li, and Sir Gu. But after careful analysis, they felt that Yuchi Yan would only ever be a sparrow in a gilded cage in Great Zhou and never take flight. Li Qitian wouldn’t give him any real power even when completely drunk.
Not only did the commandery prince not have a future ahead of him, but getting too close with him might bring down trouble on the entire family.
Therefore, deathly silence prevailed in the entire building, broken only by the occasional firecracker.
The Qins were gathered in a small residence to partake their new year’s eve meal.
A dazzling array of dishes were on display—Li Qitian had paid special attention to the surrendered officials. The chefs had gone all out for the traditional family reunion meals on new year’s eve. Though they hadn’t gone to the effort of preparing southern cuisine, it was still a feast for the eyes, nose, and palate.
But the Qins didn’t have much of an appetite.
It was supposed to be a family reunion meal, but the family wasn’t together.
The old dowager looked at everyone sitting together and sighed. “Just think of us last year at this time and now. Who would’ve thought this would be how we’re spending the new year this year?”
The second madame was holding her mother-in-law’s hand and patted it comfortingly. “Take care of yourself, Old Dowager. Don’t think of these unhappy things.”
“And how can I be happy? Who knows how Meng’er is faring these days, if he’s even still alive… Our family has finally made it through natural and manmade disaster and arrived at Great Zhou. Just when we thought our future would be smooth and safe, Meng’er was taken from us. I wanted to agree to the kidnapper’s demands, but granddaughter Yi can’t enter the palace…”
Grief struck the old dowager the more she talked and she covered her face to cry.
Sorrow shone through the faces of the family when they saw this and the eighth miss and Qin Huining also teared up as well.
Qin Yining frowned. “Don’t cry, Old Dowager. It’s new year’s eve and a day of great joy. We can’t cry.”
“You cold-hearted wench! The whereabouts of your parents are unknown and you don’t allow me to cry? I say you have no heart and conscience and aren’t willing to worry about your father and mother!” The old dowager slapped the table with her hand through her sobs. “Why is my life so hard! Why has this befallen me!”
The Qin matriarch’s wails grew louder and louder, causing the second madame, second wife, and a bunch of serving girls to weep as well.
Frowning, Qin Yining looked at the elder masters. “Uncles, are we not afraid of angering His Majesty when crying so loudly at this time? So many pairs of eyes are fixed on us. Those in the know understand the old dowager is worried about her son, but those who don’t will think we’re diehard loyalists of Great Yan who are grieving the fall of our nation! Are we to have a single day of peace in Great Zhou ever again??”
Though she spoke to the second elder master, she hadn’t bothered to keep her voice down and indirectly lectured the entire house of womenfolk.
The old dowager’s sobs immediately died down when she heard it would offend the imperial household. The remaining womenfolk were also apprehensive and didn’t dare cry too loudly.
To be honest, the second elder master was also very irritated by the old dowager’s act. He was even nostalgic with admiration of how his big brother used to coax their mother with just a word or two.
“Niece Yi is right,” agreed he. “We need to be careful of our every word and action. Besides, she just told me secretly just now that she has a piece of good news to tell everyone tonight.”
The old dowager wiped her tears away and look at the girl with annoyance. “What good news do you have for us?”
That old fox! He threw the ball right back to me!
“I do have good news. Old Dowager and everyone else doesn’t need to worry about my father. I think he’ll return within the first month of the new year.”Previous Chapter Next Chapter
For someone who wants to strike it rich and famous like the old dowager... she is in serious need of a brain! XD
volare is turning on the advance chapter functionality soon! Honestly, my priority is getting the regular schedule in tip top shape. I have had readers ask me about advance chapters though, so the most I can put out at the moment is all of one. XD Apologies, I just want to make sure the regular schedule is steady first before anything else.
I also note recent increases in readership! Thank you all who've been recommending ROS to your friends! <3