“It is truly our oversight to keep Your Majesty and the empress dowager waiting. We were delayed along the way.” Pang Xiao bowed with a smile.
Li Qitian wrapped a friendly arm around the prince’s shoulders and patted them. He smiled knowingly, “We understand, We understand. We’ve been there before.”
Off to the side, Qin Yining kept her head bowed. She didn’t like Li Qitian’s show of intimacy, but neither did she dare express the slightest hint of dissatisfaction. A bashful blush was the only proper answer.
The two men exchanged a few words before Pang Xiao took a few steps back to prepare for the gesture of gratitude.
The sight of his blushing wife with her hands down by her sides filled his heart with fondness. He wanted to envelope her in a bear hug and bring her in for a good cuddle, but maintained a distant expression on his face. “What are you just standing there for? Come over here to thank His Majesty.”
The girl instantly grasped the game afoot when she heard Pang Xiao’s tone. Closing the distance while slightly hunched over, the very image of a berated wife, she knelt next to Pang Xiao and kowtowed to express their gratitude to Li Qitian.
The emperor closely observed the two, nothing that Pang Xiao was indifferent to his new wife. It eased the annoyance in Li Qitian’s heart. If the prince had obtained a highly capable father-in-law who could take on an army of scholars and a pretty, intelligent wife, then it really would’ve been a misstep in strategy.
“You may forgo the courtesies. The best satisfaction of Our painstaking efforts on your behalf if the two of you lead a happy and harmonious life together in the future.”
“This subject does solemnly commit Your Majesty’s teachings to memory.” Pang Xiao bowed.
Likewise, Qin Yining responded woodenly, “Many thanks for Your Majesty’s teachings.”
His mood greatly lifted, Li Qitian changed the subject. “Go make your kowtows to the empress dowager. Zhixi, come back after you’ve done so. We have urgent business to discuss with you. We’ll take lunch together.”
“Understood. Thank you, Your Majesty.” Pang Xiao once again bowed, Qin Yining curtseying by his side. The married couple slowly backed out of the emperor’s hall.
The Qin fourth miss didn’t relax her guard even once in the yard. Who knew how many pairs of eyes were staring at them from a random corner?
Pang Xiao took large strides behind a young eunuch while his princess consort shuffled behind him, her head lowered. Her distance was just close enough to not register as estrangement, but enough to reveal a few hints of fear.
The prince inwardly grinned from ear to ear. I really need to think about how to compliment my dear’s quick reaction and smarts when I get back home! Outwardly, his expression was so cold that any passing palace servant quickly scuttled out of the way.
The group arrived at the Palace of Benevolent Harmony before long. Emerging soon after popping in to announce their arrival, the young eunuch stated respectfully, “Her Majesty invites the prince and princess consort to enter.”
“Thank you for your trouble, gonggong.” Pang Xiao smiled gently and casually awarded the young eunuch a silver ingot.
A smile blossomed on the young face and the servant quickly bowed, “Thank you for your reward, Your Highness.”
All was as usual in the empress dowager’s abode. Pang Xiao swept through the water chestnut-relief door and headed straight for the side hall.
Close on his heels, Qin Yining had just reached the door to the side hall when she heard the empress dowager’s enthusiastic response, “You’re here. How about your wife?”
“Greetings to the empress dowager.” Qin Yining knelt on the ground to pay her respects.
The older woman waved kindly. “Come, come closer so I can take a look.”
The girl rose docilely and took a place in front of the empress dowager.
After close inspection, a smile was the final pronouncement. “The Qin daughter has become even prettier after a few days of absence. And here I was, just thinking of making good matches for the youngsters. Shared destiny between you two has arrived so quickly. What a sublime development for celebration!”
Is the empress dowager obliquely explaining away her actions of randomly trying to bestow marriage onto me last time?
Qin Yining snorted coldly to herself. This imperial majesty was really taking everyone for fools, wasn’t she? She obviously wanted to drive a wedge between Pang Xiao and an aristocratic house last time. All this nonsense about making good matches? She certainly knew how to wrap her gibberish in gold.
“Many thanks to Your Majesty.” Not wanting to exchange another word with the woman, Qin Yining ducked her head shyly.
Her husband smoothly took over the conversation. “Have you been well, Your Majesty? Did you enjoy the meal box I had the servants bring in last time?”
“Of course, how would I not partake of a meal box from you?” The empress dowager smiled. “You have to great efforts to express your filial piety.”
Pang Xiao congenially reminded the empress dowager to look after herself before rising. “In response to Your Majesty, the emperor has given orders for this subject to return to the Hall of Moral Cultivation. His Majesty has urgent matters to discuss, so I’m afraid I must take my leave.”
Reluctance crossed her face when the empress dowager heard the departure. “Ai, you kids always have something to busy yourselves with. Never mind that. Since it’s urgent matters, be on your way then. Leave your wife here to chat with me. Come have lunch back here when you’re done.”
The prince grinned. “I was just thinking of imposing on Your Majesty.”
The empress dowager beckoned amiably at Qin Yining. “Come here and sit next to me so we can have a nice chat. Pay no heed to those men. All they know is to rush madly to and fro.”
Pang Xiao dismissed himself after a pleasant bow. He looked back anxiously at Qin Yining before he exited the room.
Though he was very confident in her, he couldn't help but worry. Though man may not harbor ill intent for the tiger, the tiger bore malicious intentions toward man.
But relief bloomed in the next moment. Thank goodness his girl was so intelligent. If it was a regular noble daughter by his side, she would’ve been bowled over by the endless variety of sudden developments a long time ago. He couldn’t keep her company all the time—they would be at a loss for what to do if she didn’t have the ability to protect herself.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
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