Née Sun carefully drank in everything her daughter relayed, growing increasingly relaxed as she did so. She nodded in the end. “Your father is a highly capable individual. A match that he himself’s given the nod for won’t go wrong.”
“Mother defends father so fiercely!” Qin Yining chuckled. “I must tell father later so he knows how deep your feelings run.”
A rare flush of bashfulness crept across her mother’s face. She playfully shoved the fourth miss. “You naughty girl!”
As mother and daughter whispered in the room, Pang Xiao and Qin Huaiyuan arrived in the outer study. The minister took a seat on the heated platform next to the window, while Pang Xiao genteelly knelt down again.
“This son-in-law pays my deepest respects to my father-in-law. Please accept my kowtow.”
Qin Huaiyuan merrily helped the younger man up. “Get up, get up. We’re all family here. There’s no need to be so polite.”
“No, father-in-law must accept my kowtow. I wanted to thank you long ago—thank you for acquiescing to me and my darling. It wasn’t convenient to speak outside, so I didn’t have the chance to express my gratitude until now.”
“Do get up.” Qin Huaiyuan helped up his son-in-law with a smile. “You’re an open-minded person. It’s I who must apologize to you for the affairs of yesteryear.”
Pang Xiao hastily shook his head at this response. “Father-in-law, no matter what the others say or label you with, please listen to me. Back in the day, you were of Great Yan and my father of Northern Ji. You were on opposing sides to begin with, and each did things to the best of his ability.
“Though your plot to drive a wedge between him and his emperor worked brilliantly, that tyrant viewed my father as a thorn in his side a long time ago. He was worried that my father would mutiny and was just looking for an excuse to get rid of my father.
“Therefore, a lot of factors came together with the passage of time to result in this conclusion. It didn’t have much to do with your plan at all.
“And even if it was because of your plan, there’s nothing for it either.
“I didn’t blame things on you to begin with. If I had, why would I have sought out my darling back in the day?”
“Back in the day?” Qin Huaiyuan adroitly captured the crux of the matter.
The prince nodded. “I learned about it from my father’s old strategists. They hatched a plot to swap out the enemy’s daughter. I heard my father’s guards say that they swapped out my darling with an orphan from the Hall of Fosters. But, the strategists said that the babe wasn’t an orphan, that she’d been bought with silver.
“Anyways, they threw Yining’s swaddling clothes away after swapping her out. It was only after they followed up that they found out née Liu had taken my darling home with her.
“I was fourteen or fifteen then. When I heard my father’s men talk about the enemy’s daughter, I felt she was quite innocent in all this. So I went to look for her in the city of Liang.”
Pang Xiao then described how he’d seen the Qin Yining thrown to the ground after being chased out by the medicine shop associate. She’d stubbornly refused to cry after that treatment.
Following her, he witnessed how she bought buns for her foster mother and displayed a strength beyond her seven years of age.
At the end of the prince’s recollection, he mentioned how he’d left her some money. “It was a pity that when I went back the next year, Yining’s foster mother had already passed away. I was unable to find her again. I didn’t have much money when I gave her what I had. I’d just joined the army then and my father’s strategists were mostly focused on using me. I had no silver or actual power.
“If I only had even thirty percent of what I do now, my darling wouldn’t have suffered in the mountain for so many years.”
Qin Huaiyuan silently took all of this in with a calm expression. “So it seems your destinies crossed paths long ago. This is all heaven’s will. The silver you gave her then saved her life, which is why you are husband and wife now.”
The prince’s ears turned scarlet and he murmured, “Perhaps this is what’s meant by fate.”
“I don’t have any requests of you, just that you treat my daughter well.” Qin Huaiyuan smiled. “She’s had a tough life and never enjoyed much of good fortune. After returning home, she suffered even more because of me. I can’t stay by her side for the rest of her life, but you can. I give my daughter to you now.” His tone was very serious at the end.
Pang Xiao rose to bow. “Understood. Please be at ease, father-in-law. I will treat my darling well.”
The conversation was mutually enjoyable, and matters of business raised after concluding the personal ones.
“Casualties in the wake of the earthquake must be very severe this time,” analyzed the minister for his son-in-law. “His Majesty’s private purse is empty. He’ll undoubtedly hasten his efforts to find the treasure when he urgently needs money. My guess is that he’ll also assign missions for various officials in order to add to the national treasury. The golden fish that you gifted my daughter were simply too eye-catching. If the emperor cares about this and asks to borrow money, what will you do?”
“Don’t worry, father-in-law. I have my ways if he really does ask. His Majesty still owes the Valiant Tigers a year’s worth of pay.”Previous Chapter Next Chapter