Though those were Pang Xiao’s words, it was crystal clear that Li Helan did have some designs on him. But she was just a little girl. How would she dare be so straightforward if there wasn’t someone supporting her?
The prince knew that this was yet another Li Qitian ploy to worsen the relations between him and Ji Zeyu. The emperor was deathly afraid that the two would ally together against their liege.
In all honesty, if Pang Xiao himself was in Li Qitian’s spot, he’d also worry about his two strongest generals uniting together. Except, he wouldn’t do things in such an ugly fashion.
One could enact stratagems, but one should not lose sight of their morals.
However, Pang Xiao also knew that this was the only recourse available to Li Qitian at the moment. The imperial majesty couldn’t afford to break out into open hostilities with the prince.
Meanwhile, Pang Xiao had his darling Yi thinking up counter plans for him—with one already seeing success in enabling him to avoid all risk and safely enter the council.
He was now Li Qitian’s only confidante in the Grand Secretariat. The emperor needed his vote to enact any policy, so he wouldn’t force Pang Xiao to the edge of the cliff.
My dear really is my lucky star! Happiness flooded his heart whenever he thought of her.
As Pang Xiao remained in the study conversing with Li Qitian, Li Helan stood in the garden outside, looking expressionlessly at the tightly shut doors.
Li Guanwen stood under the covered hallway, at the head of a group of eunuchs. He focused entirely on fascinating floorboards, registering no one else’s existence in sight.
Nonetheless, who would be blind to Li Helan’s mournful resentment?
Serving at the emperor’s side, the head eunuch saw and knew much more than usual folks. He usually kept it all to himself. Now seeing Li Helan so plaintive, he could only sigh inwardly for the princess.
Once someone was part of His Majesty’s schemes, one had to be a good pawn in order to live long. Otherwise, there was never a happy ending in store.
How had a minor eunuch such as he become the de facto chief of the imperial household?
Because he understood that loyalty was of utmost importance in serving the emperor, and being biddable of close secondary priority. The princess looked like she would defy her imperial brother at any moment, putting her in a dangerous situation indeed.
As everyone’s thoughts kept them quiet company, sounds of Pang Xiao taking his leave travelled forth from the study.
Li Guanwen hastily led the young eunuchs in opening the doors, then bid another to present the prince’s brocade cloak that was topped with a gray, squirrel-fur collar.
Accepting his cloak, Pang Xiao casually flung it around his shoulders and exchanged some pleasantries with the head eunuch. Keeping his eyes strictly forward, the prince descended the exposed platform before the hall and made to leave.
When he brushed past the princess, he didn’t spare a single glance for her.
In the interim, Li Helan’s gaze had been firmly glued to Pang Xiao. Lovestruck, she stared at him and didn’t come back to herself until he left turned out of the front gates, leaving her line of sight.
Pang Xiao had left just like that!
He didn’t even look at me!
Flames of fury crackling to life, Li Helan gathered her skirt in her hands and chased after the prince.
Equipped with long legs and sensing that the princess was following him, Pang Xiao quickened his pace.
Pursuing her quarry with palace maid Hexiang, Li Helan had just closed a bit of the distance when the prince sped up again. This was when she realized that Pang Xiao was purposefully walking this fast in order to avoid her!
“Big brother Pang!” Li Helan called softly, unable to believe that Pang Xiao would ignore her.
But like he didn’t hear, the prince didn’t turn back at all.
Much put-upon suffering flooded the dams of her heart, threatening to drown her whole!
Why treat her this way!
Ji Zeyu treated her icily and her royal brother didn’t care about her happiness. Her royal mother even encouraged her to listen more to her brother, as if Li Helan wasn’t her own person, but just someone’s accompaniment, a tool!
And now, even Pang Xiao treated her this way!
“Big brother Pang!” Li Helan’s voice rose out of outrage and grievance. Her shout was so loud that it sent a layer of melting snow cascading down from the hallway roofs. The eunuchs and maids in the passageways jumped in fright, but quickly lowered their heads and retreated when they saw it was the princess.
And yet, Pang Xiao continuously marched forward, paying absolutely no attention to her.
Skirts in hand, Li Helan called out as she ran, “Big brother Pang! Pang Xiao! Stop right there!”
Huffing and panting, her hairpins and hairstyle were all askew, but her voice crescendoed to new heights with each yell.
A frown crossed Pang Xiao’s face, so tight that it almost turned his forehead into knots. How could Li Helan be so unbridled and uncircumspect in the palace?! She might not care for her own dignity, but he still had his friendship with Ji Zeyu to think of!
He abruptly stopped and spun around, fixing a frosty look on the princess.
Out of breath, Li Helan’s hair was knotted with the gold and pearl tassels of her hairpins. Sweat beaded her face, turning the imperial presence into a dearly bedraggled sight. However, her eyes shone more brightly than usual, full of indignation and affront.
“Big brother Pang! Why did you ignore Lan’er!”
Pang Xiao repressed an eye roll and responded respectfully, “In response to Your Highness, this subject was pondering over His Majesty’s instructions just now and was lost in thought. I didn’t hear you.”
This was an impeccable excuse that Li Helan could find no fault with!
“Alright, very good!” She gnashed her teeth for a long while. “This princess hereby orders you to take me to a tavern and have a drink with me! Do you hear me?!”
The prince smiled faintly. “This subject hears you, but Your Highness must certainly be joking. If you wish to drink, seeking out the prince consort is the most appropriate course of action. Who am I to do so? Please don’t joke at my expense, Your Highness.”
“Who are you?? You ask who are you to me?!”
Pang Xiao adroitly took a few steps backwards, as if avoiding the plague. “Do stop joking, Your Highness. This subject has no association with the princess. Your words and actions go against common propriety. Others might misunderstand if they see this. Even if Your Highness doesn’t care about your own reputation, this subject does about mine.”
“You! Just what has this princess done to you, for you to avoid me like you’re fleeing a terrifying monster!”
“I would request the eldest princess to not pester me endlessly. His Majesty’s orders are urgent. This subject takes his leave.” Pang Xiao mercilessly raised a cupped fist salute, turned on his heel, and left.
Li Helan wanted to chase on, but Hexiang quickly pulled her to a stop. “Don’t be impulsive, Your Highness. This is a public passage in the palace. Many come and go, and there’s a variety of people who pass by. What if this makes it into the prince consort’s ears? Won’t that give rise to further misunderstanding? Please think twice, Your Highness!”
Weeping like the rain, Li Helan wiped her eyes with her hands. “What do I care? One after another, all of them don’t care about me! No one would shed a single drop for me even if I die right now!”
“Please don’t say that! You’re the princess, the purest of royalty, the treasured pearl of the empress dowager and the emperor. Who wouldn’t care about you?”
“Piss off! This seat doesn’t need you sticking your nose in my affairs!” Li Helan flung off Hexiang’s hand and walked off, her face in her hands.
Hexiang watched her mistress walk off, sighing and shaking her head with a frown. Even she, a servant, could see to the truth of these things. Why did the princess remain so obtuse? This interlude was going to become public knowledge again.
Or, that’s probably exactly what the emperor wants?
The maid shook her head rapidly, chasing away everything she shouldn’t be thinking. She was just a servant. She had no right to inquire about the affairs of the masters. Only in obediently toeing the line would she keep herself safe.
And yet, secrets never remained secret in this world.
It took less than half a day for word to get out that the Princess of Anyang had blockaded the Faithful Prince of the First Rank in the palace, weeping and professing her love.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Okay, I get that it's very sad indeed that LHL is just a pawn for her brother now and no one seems to care about her.
There are good ways to deal with that, and lusting after two men at the same time is nooooooooot it. = =