Li Qitian continued awkwardly, “Never mind that. If you’d like, We can send a few gentle and charming palace servants to your residence. We will also lecture Anyang about this.”
“Many thanks for Your Majesty’s consideration.” Ji Zeyu bowed quickly. “However, your subject has not given thought to this kind of situation.”
It was very surprising that the emperor would offer to send beauties to a prince consort. When one wed a princess, they married a superior. Prince consorts were not allowed to take concubines or have bed warmers—they could only wait in their residence for their noble wife’s summons. But Li Qitian was voluntarily expressing a willingness to gift women to Ji Zeyu?
The gesture spoke volumes of how important the prince consort was to the emperor.
The two men chatted for a while further before Li Qitian said, “You've done very well this time and kept the bigger picture in mind. We will be awarding you a hundred tales of gold and a treasured sword. They will be sent to your residence shortly.”
Ji Zeyu lowered his head in thanks for the display of imperial favor.
Such a prominent exhibition from the emperor would give rise to varied interpretations in the eyes of others. Those on Pang Xiao’s side would think that the prince consort had accomplished something unsavory for the emperor.
But so what?
Ji Zeyu’s expression remained as cool as ever. He always followed his heart and did whatever he felt was right. He never worried about the consequences.
In front of the Qin Manor, Qin Yining and née Sun tightly hugged each other with wracking sobs as soon as they saw each other. Their reunion brought tears to the eyes of all womenfolk present—apart from the old dowager and Qin Huining.
Qin Huaiyuan and his brothers led Pang Xiao inside and instructed the servants to prepare dinner. Meanwhile, the second madame approached née Sun wailing outside the front door.
“Sister-in-law, niece Yi has returned safely, has she not? Not only is she alright, but she’s even pregnant. Now now, don’t be so busy with tears of joy that you forget to consider your daughter’s health.”
Née Sun nodded at these words and took her daughter’s hands. “Right, right, right. Just look at me, I’ve forgotten all about this after your father told me about it! How are you feeling?”
Qin Yining wiped at her eyes with her sleeves and responded with resignation, “I’m fine, mother.”
“Good, good, let’s head inside to talk a little further.”
The family joyfully traipsed into the manor, womenfolk heading to the front hall of the inner residence while Qin Huaiyuan, his brothers, his nephews, and Pang Xiao sat in the outer hall to partake tea.
After several rounds of battle with ailments, the old dowager was much skinnier than before. Wrinkles and furrows on her face had deepened after the hardships and her eyes drooped down to form triangles. She looked more caustic and harsher than before, and was reeling from surprise.
Qin Yining had returned safe and sound from Tatar, and was pregnant?
The old dowager raked the girl with suspicious eyes, trying to read something from the flat stomach.
Is she really pregnant?
Or is she so skinny that her monthly messes can’t make it out of her body?
Is the child really Pang Xiao’s?
The last thought scared even the old dowager when it occurred to her. That demon Pang Xiao would chop up all of the Qins and feed them to the dogs if he learned that Qin Yining’s child wasn’t his!
Color drained from the old dowager’s face and she beckoned urgently to Qin Yining. “Granddaughter Yi, come over here. Grandmother has a few words for you.”
If Qin Yining hadn’t known about the dirty things that the old dowager had committed behind her back, such as wanting to shove the eighth miss and Qin Huining into Pang Xiao’s bed during her absence, she might’ve been able to squeeze out a smile for her paternal grandmother. As it were, the old dowager’s actions completely froze her heart.
Out of consideration for face and the eighth miss’ dignity since she wasn’t a thoroughly rotten girl, Qin Yining refrained from jeering in response. She looked expressionlessly at the old dowager before making her way over in a very reluctant and slow manner. She didn’t take a seat, but remained standing.
Her lukewarm attitude ignited the old dowager’s suppressed fury with a roar. Why else would her most loving firstborn no longer be so close to her if not for this wench??
As a senior, the old dowager nursed a certain amount of pride. She wanted to warm the relationship with her son again, but he seemed to be holding a grudge against her and she couldn’t bear to lower herself to extend an olive branch.
Now that the source of all the tension with her firstborn stood in front of her, though the old dowager kept reminding herself that this granddaughter was a princess consort rather than an ordinary girl, her emotions still flared out of control. The corners of her lips twitched with effort to keep them pleasantly noncommittal.
“Was your trip smooth and safe? Did anything occur along the way?”
“There’s no need to worry, Old Dowager,” Qin Yining responded coolly. “Nothing happened, this granddaughter is fine.”
“Oh? Then how come I heard that the emperor wanted to interrogate the prince in morning court earlier?” the old dowager’s tones turned very gossipy.
Qin Yining’s expression sank and she responded sternly, “Some things are better left unsaid, Old Dowager. They will easily bring trouble to the family. His Majesty greatly favors and trusts the prince. In fact, I have been bestowed a paramount rank in recognition of that. The old dowager’s words would be immensely discouraging if the emperor caught wind of them.”Previous Chapter Next Chapter