Thoroughly scolded and humiliated, tears poured down née Yao's face as she sniffled and sobbed. Meanwhile, Yao Chenggu put down his pipe and knelt to prop the table upright.
"Alright, alright, let’s all of us settle down. Don’t we all have Dafu's best interests in mind? We’re just talking, there’s no twists or turns about this. All in all, if née Qin manages to return, she is still the princess consort. Even if Dafu takes a hundred concubines, none of them will ever rise above her."
White with fury, née Ma glared at Yao Chenggu, not knowing what to say.
"It’s normal for a man to have multiple concubines and bed warmers, no?” Yao Chenggu patted his wife on the shoulder to console her. “Don’t you wish for a few more grandchildren to spoil?"
"I do, but there’s a time and place for that! It would be normal for Dafu to marry other girls he fancies or if lass Yi arranged marriages for him. I don’t care about official or concubine-born children, any child of his will be my dear grandchild. But if you look upon the lass with disdain just because she was kidnapped, that’s betrayal!”
Née Yao and Yao Chenggu exchanged looks, silently agreeing to cease arguing with née Ma. The matriarch’s obstinance meant there was no getting through to her in certain matters. Furthermore, it was too early to elaborate upon the subject.
The two fell silent and listened to née Ma nag for half a day.
Meanwhile, Pang Xiao had raced to the Qin residence on horseback and was waiting in the front hall.
"Please wait momentarily, Your Highness. Milord is currently attending to the old dowager’s illness. This servant will send someone to inform milord of your visit and ask him to come meet you." The steward leading him around the estate bowed respectfully.
"Is your esteemed old dowager unwell?" Pang Xiao inquired with a hint of worry. "Has she seen a royal physician?"
"Thank you for your concern, Your Highness. The old dowager has caught a cold, and a doctor has been by already."
Pang Xiao's brows knitted even closer together. He waved a hand, indicating for the steward to send in the messenger. Unlike young folks who could make a full recovery from a cold, the elderly had weak bodies. Someone of the old dowager’s age was a ripe melon waiting for the heavens to pluck her from the vines. Considering Qin Huaiyuan’s filial piety, it went without saying for him to attend to the old dowager on her sickbed.
Qin Yining's disappearance coinciding with the old dowager’s illness had taken a great toll on the minister. Pang Xiao couldn't help but feel even guiltier. He lowered his head to look at the note's contents again.
Perhaps Mu Jinghu had been worried that the note would fall into someone else's hands, for his words were rather vague. However, they got the main idea across: Qin Yining and Lu Heng had been captured by Siqin and they were alive. No further details were provided.
That simple statement had Pang Xiao’s worried thoughts spiraling down several possible outcomes. If Mu Jinghu was in Tatar, that meant the Soothsayer was as well. The priestess was a wily one who kept her cards close to her heart—there was no telling whether she would scheme against Qin Yining and Lu Heng or not.
Though Mu Jinghu didn't specify the circumstances of his encounter with Qin Yining, he was the Soothsayer’s bodyguard. According to Pang Xiao's understanding of the priestess, it was very likely she was currying favor with Siqin and residing in the Tatar royal palace.
Qin Yining and Lu Heng were held captive at the palace, so clearly Anari and Siqin wanted to use them to negotiate with Great Zhou.
However, Pang Xiao knew that Li Qitian's fear of him was growing. If the Tatars merely sought to use the two of them as blackmail, the emperor would never agree to any of their terms. He cared most about keeping up with appearances—how could he possibly allow barbarians to threaten him?
But Qin Yining was his life, as little as that mattered to others. Ever since he’d lost her, he felt like he’d lost his soul with her. Disobeying more than thirty royal decrees was grounds enough for an execution, but Li Qitian had seen how driven to distraction Pang Xiao was. Fearing that outsiders would criticize him for treating meritorious subjects harshly, Li Qitian opted to leave him alone.
How Pang Xiao wished he could sprout wings so he could fly directly to Tatar and bring Qin Yining back!
"You Highness." Just as Pang Xiao lost himself in thought, a girl called to him gently from the doorway.
Following the voice to its source, he was met with the sight of the eighth miss, Qin Baoning. Dressed in a pink cotton jacket and a matching eight-panel skirt, she walked up to him holding a black tray to serve him tea with a smile.
"Here is your tea, You Highness."
Pang Xiao didn't have much of an impression of Qin Yining's younger cousin. He didn't dislike her though, so he inclined his head in thanks. He didn't take the tea, nor did he strike up a conversation; he was evidently waiting for the eighth miss to put the tea down and make herself scarce.
Gingerly placing the tea set on the table, Qin Boaning hugged the black rectangular tray to herself and nervously lowered her head, her eyes flicking up shyly to steal a glance at Pang Xiao.
Perceptive as he was, Pang Xiao noticed something was off about her. However, he was preoccupied with thoughts of his darling's safety—he couldn't care less about what a little girl he barely knew was thinking, so he cut to the chase. "Do you have any other business here?"Previous Chapter Next Chapter
...something fishy. is. going. on.