Qin Yining and Qin Huaiyuan were noncommittal on their way home. But after they were served tea and no one else present in the outer study, they grinned at each other over their teacups.
“That Madame Lu was really too impulsive,” commented the fourth miss with a shake of her head. “I don't know if she’s really that simple. If she is, I’ll feel a bit guilty using her like this.”
Qin Huaiyuan took a sip of tea. “Daughter, shouldn’t you feel guilty regardless, as you had your cake and ate it too?”
Qin Yining burst out in chuckles. Her father joking was a rare sight. “Everything proceeded smoothly today. I wonder what the Lus will do next.”
Her father lifted his eyes to look at her and put down the tea cup to tap his index finger the table. He responded after a moment, “You must stay on the alert. The Lus won’t let things go just like this. They’ll find another excuse to drive a wedge between me and His Majesty. You’re my daughter, so you may very well become their next target. Not to mention…”
He hesitated, but spoke his mind in the end. “That Second Master Lu is a sharp one. He’ll definitely guess that you had something to do with today. Though he’s not expressing anything and kicked Madame Lu out of the capital, he’s probably already committed this slight to memory.”
Qin Yining arched a brow. “So what if he does? It’s better if our opponent’s in the light rather than the dark. We’ll just deal with whatever he throws at us.”
The Qin patriarch raised his eyebrows faintly in response. That wasn’t the type of ‘committing to memory’ that he meant.
He was a man with an uncommonly beautiful daughter. As a benevolent father, he naturally worried that his daughter would be abducted by others. Therefore, he paid attention whenever a male so much as looked at his girl twice.
As an exceedingly accomplished individual, Second Master Lu’s eyes had been startlingly bright when he looked at Qin Yining. While the young man himself may be oblivious or think that he’d concealed his emotions well, none of that escaped the watchful eye of a caring father.
But since the thought hadn’t occurred to his daughter, Qin Huaiyuan didn’t feel the need to go into details. Given her smarts, she would discern hidden intentions and be wary when she needed to be.
“Father, if the emperor gets wind of today, he’ll have a better impression of you, right?”
“Mm.” Qin Huaiyuan nodded with a faint smile. “The emperor is a sharp individual himself. Naturally, he doesn’t want his trusted men to be incompetent. If I ended up firmly suppressed by the Lus or Northern Ji officials, that would mean I’m an easily controlled official of no use. Fighting back and forth like this is actually perfect.”
“Father always has the best grasp of what’s appropriate. I’ll just listen to you in everything in the future.”
Qin Huaiyuan burst out laughing and poked at his daughter’s head. “That sounds nice and all, but you may not really listen to me when something does happen.”
“Nuh uh, how can you say that, father!” Qin Yining was unwilling to accept that assessment.
Her father smiled. “You’re my daughter, do I not understand you? You listen to me now because our thoughts happen to intersect. You’re not a child of blind obedience.”
Qin Yining thought for a moment and felt that her father’s words made a lot of sense. She made a silly face at him instead of refuting them, sending her father in another hearty bark of laughter.
As fun and laughter surrounded the Qin father and daughter, Li Qitian also brimmed with good humor.
Ever since numerous versions spread of the fight between the Faithful Prince of the First Rank and Prince Consort Ji, positivity persisted in the emperor’s mood.
Walking side by side with Li Helan in the imperial gardens, Li Qitian tilted his head up to gaze upon the azure blue skies. Even the air drifting into his nose with each breath seemed pleasantly scented.
Though it was early spring and the imperial gardens still bereft of people since snow was just starting to melt, everything was pleasing to the eye when one was in a good mood.
The princess carefully considered her royal brother’s expression, relaxing greatly when she saw that he was in a lovely mood. Even Li Guanwen and guards following at a distance were affected.
A guard rushed up to Li Guanwen at this time to whisper a few words. The grand supervisor immediately reported to his master. “Your Majesty, a great matter has just happened.”
“What is it? Come closer and tell Us in detail.”
“Understood.” The guard took a knee and bowed, pouring out the details of what a scout had seen at the Drunken Immortal.
Li Helan listened carefully off to the side. She frowned in the end and looked worriedly at Li Qitian. She’d spent some time by Madame Lu’s side so that the woman would become one of the princess’s pawns. But this carefully cultivated puppet had been thrown out, just like that!
“Royal brother, what do the Qins mean by this? They’re simply too arrogant! They’re behind big sister Lu being sent to a countryside manor. She can still be very useful.”
A frowning Li Qitian waved his hand, dismissing the guard. After a few moments of deep thought, he chuckled. “Lan’er, you did very well this time.”
Li Helan shuddered. She had no idea if Li Qitian’s compliment was genuine or sarcasm.
“Royal brother, Lan’er is in great fear. Lan’er didn’t complete well what royal brother wanted.”
“No, We know you did your best.” Li Qitian patted his sister’s shoulder and continued walking forward with his hands behind his back.
The princess didn’t dare remain side by side with the emperor. She docilely fell back a few steps, turning over the matter in her mind. However, she still didn’t have a clue as to what was going on.
Meanwhile, Li Qitian was in an even better mood now.
Others may not know how tenacious the Lu clan was, but he had a deep understanding of that fact. Lu Heng, in particular, was a wily fox. yet Qin Huaiyuan had been able to dissolve the Lu plot, obtain a manor for his family, and wreck the Lu plans for estrangement!
It looked like Qin Huaiyuan well deserved his title of Wise Pan An.
On this day, not only had Li Qitian obtained a competent subject, but he’d seen the kernels of discord planted between the Qins and Lus. How would he not be happy with glad tidings of twin developments?
Add to that Ji Zeyu and Pang Xiao’s frosty relationship—everything happening was good.
And his sister had contributed a great deal to all this.
“Lan’er, you have indeed worked hard these days. Tell your royal brother whatever you’d like.”
Li Helan looked at the emperor and hesitated, opting for an appropriate response in the end. “Lan’er is very content to be able to share royal brother’s burdens. Lan’er is insensible sometimes and makes royal brother mad. Lan’er is happy as long as royal brother doesn’t get mad.”
Li Qitian was rather touched by this. When it came down to things, he’d ended up using his only sister’s marriage for his own gains.
“When we eat dinner at royal mother’s palace later, We’ll have Prince Consort Ji summoned into the palace for family meal. We happen to have an important matter to delegate to him. His behavior lately has been very pleasing.”
Li Helan’s eyes widened with delighted surprise and she curtsied happily. “Understood. Thank you, royal brother!”Previous Chapter Next Chapter
In case you didn't catch the live reading and AMA in honor of SOTR 2000, it's been recorded by reader rain!