Qin Yining was in no hurry. Her unadorned hand reached for the teapot to refill Li Yanyan’s cup, then pushed the refreshment to her visitor’s side.
Li Yanyan smiled at her host. “His Majesty has bestowed a manor upon the commandery prince. It’s a bit of a distance from your family’s. We’ve just finished moving, so I wanted to come pay you a visit. We’re all from Great Yan, after all. No matter what unpleasantness we had before, we’re all one family now that we’re here in Great Zhou.”
The commandery princess consort’s visage was gentle and friendly, the same amiable air that Qin Yining had seen on Mt. Eternal Spring.
The reversion was surprising, but the Qin fourth miss smiled and didn’t express anything. “So His Majesty has already gifted you a manor. I’m stuck in the Qin residence all day and have become a frog at the bottom of a well. I don’t know anything about what’s happening outside, so am deeply embarrassed that Your Highness has visited before I’ve tendered my congratulations on your new home.”
Li Yanyan heaved a silent sigh of relief to see how polite Qin Yining was being. It looked like she’d been thinking too much just now. There were no hidden barbs within the Qin fourth miss’ greeting of ‘an honored guest truly brings grace and fortune to our home’.
“Not at all. Everyone’s in the same difficult straits, having newly arrived in Great Zhou. I understand, even if nothing is explicitly said.”
Qin Yining responded only with a gentle smile. It suddenly felt bizarre to be speaking of matters of the heart when the two of them weren’t that close. They were only acquaintances to begin with, and then enemies after both ended up in the Great Yan palace. It was then that the Qin fourth miss had known that the two of them wouldn’t suddenly become fast friends.
Seeing that her host wasn’t saying much, Li Yanyan proposed topics of her own. She mostly stuck to the prosperity of the Great Zhou capital or what print fabrics were most in vogue. What she never brought up was the purpose of her visit.
Impatience brewed when Qin Yining saw that her guest was beating around the bush. But she'd always had a lot of patience and could keep her cool. Since Li Yanyan wasn’t being forthright, neither would she ask anything either. She merely kept her guest company and piped in with a word or two whenever appropriate.
The princess consort talked herself hoarse, fully imparting the undertones of, “I have something to discuss with you.” But the Qin fourth miss refused to rise to the bait.
Li Yanyan was quite resigned. When back in Great Yan, this move was more than effective against middle-aged noblewomen. Why wasn’t it working on a girl sixteen years of age?
Seeing the day grow old, she couldn’t linger much longer. “I have something to discuss with you,” whispered the princess consort.
Finally out of patience?
Arching a mental eyebrow with a hidden smile, Qin Yining waved a hand behind her back to Jiyun.
The maid dismissed herself and the others, while Li Yanyan’s maids also retreated to the covered hallway, standing guard at the doors to prevent anyone from drawing close.
The Qin fourth miss smiled. “Please speak freely of whatever’s on your mind.”
“I’m actually here today for the most important matter in your life.”
“Oh?” The Qin fourth miss raised a brow. “I hadn’t realized Your Highness likes to play matchmaker now.”
Is she mocking me?
Li Yanyan held in her discomfort with force of will and smiled demurely. “I didn’t have anything else to do either, and it’s not like I’m worrying about an outsider.”
She looked at the Qin fourth miss gently. “The commandery prince and I have heard about the suffering you underwent a while ago in the manor of the Faithful Prince of the First Rank. The prince is really quite heartbroken on your behalf. But alas, none of us are in full command of our fates. I know Miss Qin is one with high moral character and won’t have your heart swayed by crass silver and gold. Therefore, I didn’t bring any of that with me today.
“I won’t talk in circles given our relationship. I’m here today on behalf of you and the prince. The prince only has me and Gu Chang by his side these days. The other concubines have all died, wasted away from illness, or were lost on the way here. The prince genuinely likes you. As long as you give the nod, he will immediately request an imperial decree to welcome you as his concubine.
“I rather feel that it doesn’t matter if one is a consort or a concubine. The most important thing is that the prince really does like you. I know that younger sister Qin has suffered a lot in the outside world. It’s so wonderful now to have such a good shelter opening his arms in welcome to you.”
Qin Yining kept her primly seated position as she listened mildly to Li Yanyan’s words. It was impossible for the commandery princess to detect the girl’s preferences, and the former grew more and more uncertain.
However, she also strongly felt that it was already unparalleled favor for the prince to create a spot for the Qin fourth miss. Surely the girl would understand that she should be content with a peaceful, stable home!
Ever since Gu Chang’s purposeful words in front of Yuchi Yan, Li Yanyan could feel that her husband’s affections for Qin Yining had grown a little deeper.
As opposed to having Yuchi Yan raise the issue himself, or let that little bitch claim all the glory, it’d be better for her, the official wife, to think of it first. With Yuchi Yan’s identity, she would be unable to prevent more women from entering through his doors, but it would be easy to be a virtuous wife.
Qin Yining’s long lashes fluttered down and she shook her head after a moment. “Thank you for your sentiments, Your Highness. But you also know the situation at court, right? I’m no longer the noble daughter from before. My father is an official at court and has his hands tied in many things. I’m the same way, being a Qin.”
The princess consort looked blankly at the response. She didn’t understand what the fourth miss was getting at, but the notes of rejection rang loud and clear.
If anything was proposed, the Qin fourth miss would refuse to join their household!
Yet Li Yanyan actually felt relief at this outcome. Gu Chang was already showing her up with those fake, simpering affectations. If Qin Yining came to their manor, then it was only a matter of time before Li Yanyan lost her position of commandery princess consort.
“Don’t be in a hurry to turn it down, younger sister Qin.” She sighed. “Though Great Zhou is good, it’s still different from our nation. Every man here bristles with strength and martial arts, but that also means a lack of tenderness and care. Why don’t you think about it some more?”
Qin Yining smiled faintly. “You don’t have to try to convince me anymore, Your Highness. My intentions are very clear. I won’t marry into the imperial family. Even if the commandery prince is only former royalty, I still won’t marry him.”
Li Yanyan was secretly delighted by this declaration. As long as the girl refused to acquiesce, that meant the princess consort still had hope in the fights to come.
And if the Qin fourth miss was even willing to speak a few good words on her behalf, Li Yanyan was certain that her future would be one of blissful, marital contentment with Yuchi Yan.
But the princess consort also knew that it was impossible for Qin Yining to say anything good on her behalf.
“Alright then.” Li Yanyan had delivered her message. Her husband had hinted for her to play matchmaker, and she had done so. Whether or not she had succeeded had nothing to do with her.
She rose and nodded. “Do think it over, younger sister. Perhaps next time it’ll be His Highness visiting you.” She covered her mouth as she giggled, like she’d delivered a joke.
Qin Yining smiled faintly and called Bingtang and Jiyun over to send Li Yanyan out.
When the princess consort reached her carriage, she continuously reminded Qin Yining, “Your family has fallen on hard times now. If younger sister is willing to follow the prince, you’d be able to save your family quite a bit of expense.”
For a noble daughter who’d never known the value of silver, this kind of excuse perfectly illustrated how pinched for money Yuchi Yan was, and how fixated he was on Qin Yining.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
So much info in that last line... and what a zinger it is too!