“Brother-in-law, shall we be on our way then?” asked Qin Han.
Pang Xiao found himself extraordinarily pleased with Qin Han’s address, more so than when he was called your highness or lord secretariat.
At this time, the carriage rolled out of the manor. Pang Xiao stepped up to help his wife get on the vehicle. Concerned with Qin Yining’s poor health, he was this close to carrying her into the carriage with a strong embrace.
Sensing the slight pressure of her husband’s hand on her slender waist, Qin Yining immediately realized what Pang Xiao wanted to do. Heat rose to her cheeks, and she gave him a nudge along with a glare. Too many pairs of eyes are watching!
Resigned, Pang Xiao let go of his hands.
He took the reins and mounted the horse adroitly after Bingtang and Jiyun were settled in the carriage.
Qin Han and Qin Yu took everything in, their observations putting them at further ease. The brothers mounted their horses as well and chatted with Pang Xiao, leading the carriage along.
Qin Yining felt a surge of wistfulness sweep over her. She’d worn a maiden’s twin buns the last time she was in this seat! Now, it was a married woman’s hairdo she was styling.
Their mistress’ knitted brows concerned Bingtang and Jiyun.
They’d witnessed firsthand the tricks née Yao had pulled in the prince’s manor, and felt indignant on behalf of their mistress. Thankfully the prince didn’t take his mother’s side, or Qin Yining would be even more afflicted.
The entourage traveled to the street where the Qin manor sat. It was greeted by a wide-open front door as soon as it turned the corner. Standing in front of the door was Qin Huaiyuan, clad in a casual, round collared long shirt, and a née Sun anxiously craning her neck in wait.
She hurried out to welcome the visitors as soon as she saw the three men come around the corner on their steeds. They quickly dismounted at the sight of her.
Pang Xiao stepped up and bowed. “Mother-in-law.”
It was that familiar address again, but after such a monumental string of events. Née Sun could no longer be certain if the prince would treat her daughter sincerely, so she merely nodded. “You’ve returned. Come on inside.”
The carriage slowed to a stop.
Qin Yining pushed the curtain to the side with a smile. “Mother! What are you doing outside?”
Née Sun reached out for her daughter’s hand and supported her off the carriage. “I came outside as soon as your cousins took off. I couldn’t sit still in the house anyway. Let’s hurry inside.”
Hand tucked into her daughter’s arm, the two women set off together.
Pang Xiao gave Qin Huaiyuan a bow. “Father-in-law.”
The patriarch nodded with a smile. Turning, he called out, “Let’s go, we can chat after getting home.”
The doorman had raced in to notify the family as soon as Qin Huaiyuan and née Sun greeted their daughter and son-in-law. The courtyard of the Qin manor wasn’t that big to speak of. The rest of the group arrived in the main house of the inner residence with just a few steps.
The old dowager wore an eggplant-dyed house robe with buttons down the front. Her hair was brushed and styled until it shone, secured in place with a jade hairpin stuck at an angle.
She sat cross-legged on the heated platform by the window. The second elder master, second madame, third elder master, and the rest of the family were gathered around her.
The host and the guests exchanged greetings and pleasantries when all had crossed over the door. Qin-mama placed two brocade mats on the floor.
The newlyweds knelt and kowtowed to the old dowager.
“Greetings to Old Dowager. Your granddaughter bows in respect to you.”
Pang Xiao followed suit. “Greetings to Old Dowager.”
The family matriarch was overcome with mixed emotions, so much so that her hands were slightly trembling.
Kowtowing to me is Great Zhou’s Faithful Prince of the First Rank! He’s that evil god of violence and the Grand Scholar of the Brave Warrior Palace with unrivaled power and authority in all of the imperial court!
She’d never be privileged to such greetings if her granddaughter hadn’t grasped the chance to ascend to princess consort!
“Don’t stand on ceremony. You may rise.” The old dowager kept her smile in check and ordered Qin-mama to deliver the greeting gifts. Her gift to the prince was a piece of premium Shezhou inkstone.
Pang Xiao congenially handed it to the servants for safekeeping.
Next to follow was the formal introduction of relatives from the bride’s family. Qin Yining had Pang Xiao meet her second uncle, second aunt, third uncle, eldest cousin Qin Yu, second cousin Qin Han, his wife née Meng, fifth cousin Qin Xian, eighth cousin Qin Baoning, tenth cousin Qin Rong, eleventh cousin Qin Zong, and the youngest—cousin-nephew Qin Yuzhen.
After individually greeting all of them and bowing to the elders, Pang Xiao presented greeting gifts to the elders and received them back in kind. His peers followed by presenting their presents as well. The one he gave back to the youngest was a bag of gold bits, making his mother, née Meng, beam from ear to ear.
Qin Yining skipped but one person in this round of introductions: Qin Huining.
The foster girl stood in the corner, her head hanging as she wished for the ground to open up and swallow her in whole.
She really shouldn’t be present for today’s gathering. Yet, her absence would be a sign of disrespect to Pang Xiao and Qin Yining. But coming here, she’d also bring disgrace upon herself.
If she hadn’t come at Qin Yining the way she did and resorted to petty scheming, she wouldn’t have forfeited her parents’ love and compassion. Someone as high-ranking and loyal as Qin Huaiyuan wouldn’t have mistreated her even though she was just a foster girl.
But there was no such thing as remedy for bygones in the world.
Second wife née Meng also noticed that Qin Yining had bypassed the foster girl in her introduction. Thinking that they were all family, that it would be awkward to exclude Qin Huining from the occasion, née Meng took it upon herself to make an introduction.
“This is cousin Hui, senior uncle’s foster daughter. She’s the same age as cousin Yi.”Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Superficial as ever, never change, Old Dowager, lol. XD