Cold sweat beaded Li Guanwen’s forehead.
Though it was forbidden to postulate imperial intentions, the eunuch had some understanding of Li Qitian’s thoughts and plans after serving by his side for so long.
The eunuch knew of his master’s wariness of Pang Xiao, and that sending Madame Pang to the prince wasn’t necessarily out of good intentions.
The palace supervisor had no right to comment on this matter, but he also knew that the emperor wouldn't want Madame Pang thrown out of the manor like this.
And even if she was, she couldn’t be thrown out while the eunuch was present! What if he was turned into the scapegoat for the emperor’s ill temper after the fact?
“This servant understands Your Highness’s filial heart,” smiled the eunuch. “I’m sure Madame Pang understands your feelings. But as Your Highness knows too, outsiders might not understand your goodwill. What if someone twists Your Highness’s gentle intentions into refusing to serve your official mother?”
Madame Pang breathed in inward relief when she heard this and agreed emphatically. “Your Highness, be angry if you want, but you can’t disregard the Pang reputation. I’m your official mother. Of course you will serve at your official mother’s side. If word of this gets out, you’ll have invited outsiders to defame the Pangs!”
The prince had seemed to waver after the eunuch’s string of words, but the madame’s sudden interjection turned the situation ugly again!
The prince wasn’t a three year old! He wasn’t to be threatened and rebuked at the drop of a hat. Any man with the slightest bit of dignity wouldn’t submit to these words. Besides, Pang Xiao hadn’t even been born in the Pang household in the first place, and his mother had once been hunted down by the madame. It was already beyond surprising that Pang Xiao had obeyed imperial orders and taken Madame Pang in, instead of killing her on the spot.
As expected, the prince’s expression grew even uglier. He completely ignored the madame like she hadn’t said anything, turning instead to the eunuch.
“Many thanks for Grand Supervisor Li’s good intentions. But this prince’s heart is true and I keep only the madame’s wellbeing in mind. It doesn’t matter what others will say as long as the madame lives a happy life. This prince is afraid that if this continues, Madame Pang will take ill from anger sooner or later.”
Pang Xiao glanced coldly at the madame after his words.
An awl seemed to repeatedly pierce the madame’s heart. The look the prince was giving her felt like the yawning maw of a predator poised to leap on its prey!
If I don’t meekly walk out on my own two feet, Pang Xiao will have me carried out on a stretcher!
Why hadn’t she discovered before that the prince was actually a wolf in sheep’s clothing??
Thanks to his previous filial piety and biddability, she even felt that it might’ve been nice to have raised him as her son from the very beginning.
She didn’t understand him at all and thus relaxed her guard, switching from her original intent of observation to their current straits. Had she known earlier that he was such a character not to be trifled with, she wouldn’t have spoken like this at all.
If she really was forced to leave the manor like this, how could she possibly face the towering wrath sure to descend from the emperor?
Her forehead knotted tightly together, the furrows between her brows deepened even further. Fingers clutching tightly at her robes, her lips twitched, but she couldn’t bring herself to say anything. It would be too embarrassing to capitulate.
And even if she did take the lower ground, Pang Xiao still probably wouldn’t let her off the hook. Since it was the same result no matter what she did, why struggle futilely?
Li Guanwen inwardly shook his head, having coolly observed all this off to the side.
Who knew if the emperor really had privately contacted Madame Pang?
If she really was a pawn, then the eunuch could only say that the imperial majesty really had chosen the wrong person this time. The madame had proved to be unobservant, unadaptable, and inflexible. She only knew to put on airs and project the haughty bearing of the family matriarch. Even someone meeting her for the first time such as he disliked Madame Pang, much less the prince who had to see her everyday.
The prince had already given orders for Huzi to ready his horse. He turned back to speak to Li Guanwen. “I'll have to request the gonggong to be a witness in front of His Majesty. Otherwise, there might be those who cry me down if I only present my own testimony.”
With how things were, what could the head eunuch do even if he didn’t want to go along with all this? If he rejected the prince to his face, Li Guanwen would have to constantly be on guard against Pang Xiao’s revenge.
As opposed to that, it was much preferable to forming a congenial relationship.
“Your Highness is much too polite. Though this servant is foolish and slow, I can see clearly what is and is not. If His Majesty asks of me, I will convey the truth.”
“In that case, I thank the gonggong.” Pang Xiao walked out courteously with the eunuch, sliding an exquisite silk pouch into the eunuch’s sleeves under the cover of the prince’s cloak.
Li Guanwen blinked, then fondled the pouch. It was neither silver nor gold inside. Judging from the distinct shapes, it appeared to be a bag of gems.
The Faithful Prince of the First Rank wasn’t the sort to be miserly. Delighted, the eunuch carefully put the pouch away.
Madame Pang stood stock-still where she was, just watching Pang Xiao and Li Guanwen leave the inner residence in high spirits. She clenched her teeth, spitting out, “Two-faced ingrate!”
No matter what the madame thought, Pang Xiao brought his petition all the way to Li Qitian. His wrapped-up wound showing prominently on his arm, the prince stiffly plopped to his knees as soon as he saw the emperor.
He first raised the complaint that Ji Zeyu picked the fight with him, ending with, “I’ve never been so craven even in the battlefield!”
This was what Li Qitian wanted to see most of all. He offered only a few words of consolation to the prince and not much else.
Sighing, Pang Xiao changed the topic to that of Madame Pang moving out of the manor.
This took the emperor by surprise. “Wasn’t everything just fine before? Why is she suddenly moving out?”
The prince summarized what had just happened in the manor and summoned Li Guanwen as his witness.
The eunuch didn’t dare say anything on Pang Xiao’s behalf, but likewise didn’t dare do nothing at all. So when Li Qitian asked for his version of the events, the eunuch conveyed only the facts and waxed eloquent on Pang Xiao’s helplessness. He refrained himself from expressing any opinions, so as to not sway the imperial majesty’s judgement.
After the back and forth, it was so quiet in the study that one could hear a pin drop. A long while later, Li Qitian nodded in assent after weighing up the pros and cons.
“Find a good residence then. She’s General Pang’s right and legal wife at the end of the day. It won’t do to neglect her.”
“Understood. This subject will keep Your Majesty’s teachings in mind. Though the madame is to make her home elsewhere, I will not maltreat her at all.”
“Mm. That’s good.” Li Qitian offered a few more words of comfort before dismissing the prince.
Once Pang Xiao left, the emperor called Li Guanwen over for a hushed conversation. “Was Prince Consort Ji as angry as Pang Zhixi?”Previous Chapter Next Chapter
I think the emperor really blundered this time and picked a bad pawn. Interesting! It's not always the case that the bad guy makes a mistake with who they use. Usually whoever they use is terrifyingly effective.