Thankfully, Qin Yining had weathered many hardships and trials. Pang Xiao shook his head and set aside his worries, making fast time to the Hall of Moral Cultivation. The faster he completed his duties, the sooner he could take his beloved home.
Meanwhile, Qin Yining kept the empress dowager company with conversation.
Able to endure even the old dowager’s temper, the empress dowager was no sweat off her brow. This imperial majesty was a smart individual. She liked to gossip and didn’t offer the most meaningful of conversation topics, but she also deftly took cues from words and expressions. She always knew what to say to delight her conversation partner.
She really has tremendous skill in handling situations. Perhaps this is why Li Qitian is able to be all things to everyone. Only with a mother like that can he be someone so smooth and outwardly flawless. This is why he sits on the dragon throne.
But having to constantly put up a front was a truly exhausting existence.
“Your Majesty, the Princess of Anyang has arrived.”
A report from outside cut into the happy chatter. Not waiting for a response, Li Helan barged straight on in.
“Royal mother, I hear you have guests. Just who is it that even your daughter is kept outside?”
The princess whirled in like a small tornado, her smile stiffening when she saw Qin Yining.
Pretending not to see the newcomer’s expression, Qin Yining rose politely to curtsey. “This subject-wife greets Your Highness.”
The self-reference of ‘subject-wife’ slapped Li Helan like a ladle of hot oil. Fires of fury ignited with almost an audible whoosh.
This was the empress dowager’s palace, her own mother’s territory. There was no need to hold anything back. Plus, her mother knew about her matters.
Li Helan snorted coldly without any qualms. “Forgo the pleasantries. This seat is unable to accept your courtesy.”
Hackles rose at the response. It looked like Li Helan still hadn’t given up on Pang Xiao. Acting out so brazenly in front of the empress dowager… was the princess planning on giving her a hard time today?
“Your words are too grave, Your Highness. You are a princess, and this one only the wife of a subject. How would you be unable to accept my greeting? If others learned of this, they would say you improperly belittle yourself. If someone with ulterior motives caught wind of this and spread stories, it would impact your prestige.”
Primly performing a curtsey, Qin Yining stand with her hands by her side.
Startled, the empress dowager looked at the girl. Though these words were evenly delivered in a composed tone devoid of any anger, the imperial majesty could decode the formidable notes inside.
With the eldest princess’ temper, she would explode!
The thought of extending conciliatory words had just crossed her mind when Li Helan took a step forward. “Aren’t you proud of yourself for being the wife of a subject? That’s right, your father is just the surrendered official of a tiny nation. He only became royal brother’s vassal because daily living was getting too hard. As the daughter of a surrendered official, how are you supposed to live your life if not as the wife of an official at court? Not to mention, you long since lost your…”
Covering her mouth as she chuckled, the sardonic notes within Li Helan’s response were readily apparent.
Qin Yining inwardly sneered at the princess’ stupidity.
There were a hundred, nay, a million ways to take her down a peg or humiliate her. However, the princess had picked the most inappropriate method.
The only thing on Li Helan’s mind was that, being her birth mother, the empress dowager would back her up in anything she did. What completely failed to register was that Qin Yining was here because of Pang Xiao. The empress dowager would naturally keep Li Helan in check if she didn’t want to thoroughly offend the prince.
Therefore, a defender would come to Qin Yining’s aid whether the girl did anything or not.
“Lan’er, don’t sprout nonsense.” Indeed, the elder woman voiced a rebuke and looked warningly at her daughter.
Girlish tittering screeched to a halt. Li Helan stared incredulously at her mother.
“The fine wine that your royal brother bestowed upon you is for you and the prince consort to enjoy, not just you alone. You’ve always liked your drink and had a bit more of it today, but look at how your tongue is wagging now. Thank goodness the Faithful Princess Consort of the First Rank is no outsider, or I’d punish you well for that!”
Blinking at her mother’s stern expression, Li Helan knew that she shouldn’t let her emotions run amok like this. After all, she had no right to vie with Qin Yining or be jealous anymore.
But who could understand the grievances and frustration of her heart? It was all so unfair!
“I’ll listen to whatever you say, royal mother,” muttered the princess reluctantly.
Qin Yining’s insides hurt from repressed laughter, but she continued seriously, “To think that Your Highness enjoys the nectar of the cup! I have an excellent jar of high-grade huadiao wine. I’ll have servants deliver it to you.”
Li Helan didn’t care about that bloody wine at all. But a warning look from her mother made the princess stretch her lips into a curve. “Then, my thanks.”
“There’s no need to be so polite, Your Highness. Milord tells me that the empress dowager treats him like a son and makes sure he wants for nothing. He has always been deeply grateful. Now that I have joined his household, I can realize milord’s wishes, if nothing else.”
“This seat advises you to spend your days quietly and refrain from overstepping. Don’t you brag or show off in front of me!” Li Helan gnashed her teeth, wanting to fling a slap at the girl’s hateful face.
Qin Yining smiled. “Understood, this subject-wife will spend my days quietly. However, I don’t understand what you mean by bragging. You are the eldest princess and the noblest of royalty. What would this one have to show off in front of you?”Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Damn, I think this is the first time I've seen Qin Yining pissing someone off like this!