Qin Huaiyuan hadn’t expected that his younger brother would mention the capital evaluations. He looked at his daughter with surprise and smiled approvingly.
She was his daughter alright! Her political acumen as sharp as ever. She hadn’t become tepid or hesitant just because they were in a new country.
Blushing from her father’s approving look, Qin Yining smiled bashfully. “Father being back is better than anything. Our family needs to work together in the future. There’s no way we won’t have good days ahead if we’re all of one heart!”
“That’s right!” Everyone nodded. They’d never been in a better mood since coming to Great Zhou.
Qin Huaiyuan looked at his family with great emotion. It was already a blessing from the heavens that they were able to reunite after weathering so many hardships and traveling such an enormous distance.
Caught in the depths of his emotions, he was about to say something when a maid’s report travelled in from outside. “The Commandery Prince of Yan has come to visit!”
The door curtains raised to admit an urgent Yuchi Yan with a black sable cloak flung around his shoulders. He paused by the door when he saw his former teacher, breathing out in relief after a close study confirmed that everything was well.
“Grand Preceptor Qin! You’re back!” The prince’s gaze subconsciously drifted to Qin Yining. This was their first meeting in Great Zhou territory after their long parting.
He gaped foolishly at her, taking in her slender brows, the brilliance in her eyes, her pert nose and cherry lips, the general dashing air around her…
She was becoming ever more the stunning beauty; her every dimple and chuckle were invitations to adore her. An uncontrollable impulse raged through his chest and he almost voiced words of concern.
Thankfully, he still retained a sliver of rationality when surrounded by so many others. it wasn’t an appropriate time to chat about old times. Deciding to set aside his feelings for now, he turned to Qin Huaiyuan.
“Have you been well, Grand Preceptor Qin? It was a long wait for your return and the outside world all said… We… this prince was quite worried when hearing of it.”
A wave of sadness rose in Qin Huaiyuan to see the white by Yuchi Yan’s temples and his former liege’s concern. The grand preceptor performed the bow of a subject meeting his emperor. “It’s my mistake for having the commandery prince worry about me.”
“Please hurry and rise, Grand Preceptor Qin.” Yuchi Yan was extremely touched to see Qin Huaiyuan go through all the motions like nothing had changed.
With the fall of Great Yan, while not all of his former subjects might enjoy the same rank and prosperity as before, all of their futures were brighter than his. He was destined to be a gilded pet for the rest of his life, unable to help their careers one bit.
But Qin Huaiyuan still displayed the same attitude; he was just as respectful and friendly as he’d been in Great Yan. Though Yuchi Yan’s title had changed, it seemed that nothing else had.
This threw the commandery prince off into a spin of despondency and loss. At the same time, he was also very gratified.
“Great Zhou is a more appropriate stage for Grand Preceptor Qin’s aspirations. You must be diligent in the future to protect Great Yan dignity in front of the Great Zhou officials. I leave the care of your countrymen in your hands.”
Yuchi Yan’s words weighed heavily on those present, and they also couldn’t help but sigh at their former emperor’s magnanimity. Whether or not his words were genuine, his concern for Qin Huaiyuan was real.
The Qin patriarch bowed respectfully. “I listen to the commandery prince’s commands. I will naturally try my best in everything.”
“I am at ease with your words.” Seeing that he was surrounded by womenfolk and knowing that all of his moves were kept under close watch, Yuchi Yan wasn’t at liberty to remain for long. He only inquired about the old dowager’s health before leaving.
But before he fully left the Qin residence, the former Yan emperor paused, surrendering to his bone-deep yearning and anticipation. He turned with a statement on his lips. “Fourth miss, I have something to ask you.”
Qin Yining frowned slightly. Unhappy memories of being forced against her will in the palace were ones she’d never forget. Though she felt bad for the commandery prince that he’d undergone so much suffering to already have white hair at his age, it was impossible for her to bear no grudge at all against him.
But they were no longer in the Great Yan palace, and Yuchi Yan was kept under close surveillance. He couldn’t possibly do anything to her now.
Her thoughts traveling here, Qin Yining looked at her father to see him nod at her. Only then did she fall-in behind the commandery prince.
In a good mood, the old dowager teased cheerfully, “It looks like the commandery prince still likes my granddaughter. They didn’t have enough of a shared destiny for her to become his empress. Now that her reputation is ruined, it would still be a good thing if she can be his concubine.”
Qin Huaiyuan frowned and was about to respond when née Sun cut in ahead of him. “Though Old Dowager makes sense, daughter Yi is no ordinary girl. The lord must make the decision when it comes to her marriage.”
The riposte stoppered the old dowager’s words in her throat. Based on the family’s current circumstances, they really did have to depend on her eldest son for everything in Great Zhou. She actually couldn’t use her seniority to force things to go her way.
But the Qin matriarch had never liked née Sun and naturally wouldn’t leave any face for the senior madame. She jeered, “They say that a scholar who’s been away for three days must be looked at with new eyes. It seems that’s very true. Someone who used to be simple-minded now knows to drag Meng’er into their arguments.”
The old dowager was being so prickly right after their return! Née Sun had never been someone to just swallow an insult. She opened her mouth to retort hotly back.
Cao Yuqing however, was one step ahead. She took the madame’s elbow and squeezed it warningly. “The old dowager is getting up in the years and should take better care of yourself. Don’t be angered so easily like this—it will just harm your own body.”
How would the old dowager ever have thought that Cao Yuqing would speak up on née Sun’s behalf? Didn’t these two used to point their spears at each other? Now they had teamed up and were pointing at her instead!
However much the old dowager had fawned over Cao Yuqing before was purely due to the concubine’s family background. Now that the entire Yan dynasty was finished, Cao Yuqing was just a drifting leaf. She was just her son’s minor concubine, so what did the old dowager care about her?!
“Don’t you know the rules well. Since when was it a concubine-servant’s place to speak when the masters are talking?”
Cao Yuqing arched a brow and snorted. “I walked through the Qin doors because of an imperial decree to cooperate with Sir Qin, so I could coordinate our operations with his plans. Becoming a concubine was just a cover. I’ve requested my emancipation papers from the lord a long time ago. I am no longer a Qin concubine in name, but the head of the lord’s guard. Treat me with more respect, Old Dowager, unless you want the Silver Masks to pay you a late night visit one day!”
She was someone who’d seen her share of bloodletting and killing after all. It was a sight to behold when Cao Yuqing grew fierce.
Thinking of Cao Yuqing’s abilities when facing down enemies and the legends surrounding the Silver Masks, the old dowager swallowed hard. Blinking silently, she had nothing to say.
Née Sun, on the other hand, was still caught in the throes of shock from the retort and forgot to react at all.
The scene quieted down and Qin Huaiyuan stepped into the void. “I have my plans for daughter Yi. There’s no need to worry, mother.”
Qin Yining was the only apple of his eye. He hadn’t liked what his mother had said, which was why he’d allowed the womenfolk to get in a few words. But he was his mother’s son at the end of the day, so he couldn’t anger her too much.
Qin Yining knew nothing of what had occurred inside the house. She was walking side by side with Yuchi Yan beneath the covered hallway, proceeding slowly to the front door. Their servants followed far behind.
“You’re looking well lately, you must’ve made a full recovery?” ask Yuchi Yan.
There had been a glut of medicinal porridge, abalone, and sea cucumber in the Pang Manor. Her body had recovered greatly.
“Many thanks for Your Highness’ care. I’m quite well, please take care of yourself as well.” Qin Yining slowed down and dropped half a step behind Yuchi Yan.
The commandery prince slowed as well when he saw this, insisting on being side-by-side with her. “No matter how I take care of myself, this is all my life will ever amount to. I’m worried about you.”
The Qin fourth miss felt these words were way too suggestive. There was nothing going on between them, so what was there to worry about?
“Many thanks to Your Highness.”
Her perfunctory response gave rise to helplessness. “You’re still the same old. It looks like you’re holding a grudge against me.”
“You speak too severely.” Another aloof pleasantry.
Yuchi Yan stopped and looked seriously at her. “I know what happened to you in recent times. Don’t worry, I’ll discuss this with your father. You don’t have to worry about not being able to have a good marriage with the ruin of your reputation. Why don’t you be with me? Though I don’t have the opportunity to soar through the heavens anymore, I can still respect, protect, and give you a warm home for the rest of your life.”
The prince tightened his fist out of nerves and asked apprehensively, “Darling Yi, let me take care of you, alright?”
The girl frowned, but was interrupted by a cold snort from the front door. “Well, isn’t the commandery prince in a good mood.”
Everyone looked over to be greeted by the sight of a purple brocade wearing, silver fox-fur cape sporting Pang Xiao!Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Author bonus content:
Qin Yining: Why do I suddenly feel very nervous…
By the way, a shout out to Sinister Ex-Girlfriend!
Mysterious Ex-boyfriend who seems to be the Boss of a department? Psshhh. Move aside. Big man-eating tiger? Lol, don't waste my time, get outta my way. Dream Demon out to one up the MC? Heh, imma beat yo ass. Join our journey with these two lovebirds as they hop through worlds, develop their relationship, overcome their troubles, possibly create an AI kid and finally have a happy ending (probably)!!