Chapter 65: A Verbal Agreement
Weichi Yan was standing in the study, arms crossed within his sleeves. His head was lowered, seemingly deep in thought. He was wearing an exceedingly common light-brown cotton robe today, his hair neatly wrapped up in a traditional, black headband. He looked like any regular noble son, completely different from his usual elegant and royal appearance. It seems he had taken great caution with this trip.
Perhaps he’s discovered the spies by his side. Qin Huaiyuan arrested his line of thought as he entered the study. Weichi Yan caught sight of his teacher and pulled himself from his musings, bowing. “Grand Preceptor Qin.”
“Greetings to Your Highness.” Qin Huaiyuan gave the grand gesture of greeting.
“Please, don’t stand on ceremony.” Weichi Yan reached out. “Have I inconvenienced you with this unexpected visit?”
“Don’t say that, Your Highness. Your visit brings but glory and honor to my abode. Is anything the matter?” The two took their seats in rounded chairs as Qitai offered tea. The follower then thoughtfully closed the door and stood guard some ways away.
Weichi Yan began with a slight frown. “There are indeed two important matters to discuss today. The Prince of Ning’s people has sent word from Xihua that Great Zhou has started fighting again. The two armies have engaged each other at that city.”
Qin Huaiyuan listened with a furrowed brow. Xihua was close to the capital and housed an important port. It was a vital transportation nexus for Great Yan, by land or water. Great Yan would fall much faster if it was taken.
The crown prince also sighed with resignation when he saw Qin Huaiyuan’s solemn expression. “Xihua’s two defending generals are surnamed Sun, your brothers-in-law. I wonder how they’re doing.”
“My brothers-in-law will give their all for their country. Even to their last breath, they will defend that city. However, it is certain that our chances of victory would only increase if we hold that city.” Qin Huaiyuan’s frown deepened. “This is timely news. In a matter of a day or two, it will become common knowledge in court, which will give rise to another set of debates. We will have to come up with a plan of attack.”
Weichi Yan nodded, but his voice held more than a tinge of weariness. “What use is all the clamoring in court? Is Great Zhou afraid of our curses and insults? If that really worked, I wouldn’t mind spending my days on how to curse like a sailor. The most important thing is that we secure a victory over Great Zhou. The Prince of Ning is of a mind to take the field, but my royal father isn’t giving permission for now.”
Qin Huaiyuan understood that the crown prince was sharing his burdens because Weichi Yan trusted him. He was touched by the show of faith, but didn’t dare become involved in family affairs. He lowered his voice as the two began discussing strategy. The two soon engrossed themselves in political affairs. The impatient sky soon grew dark, and it was only by the time lamps were lit that everything was settled.
Weichi Yan wasn’t someone ignorant of manners, so he quickly rose to take his leave. However, it was that which finally jogged his memory for the other important matter that he’d come on behalf of. An awkward tone permeated his next words, “If I may ask… did my royal father summon any ladies from your household today?”
The emperor had summoned three people, but the crown prince had asked only about a lady. This was a clear sign to Qin Huaiyuan. “Indeed, but why do you ask, Your Highness?”
“Royal father, did he…” Weichi Yan stammered. “Did he make trouble—er, yell at the lady?”
Qin Huaiyuan had been pondering why the emperor had suddenly wanted to decree a marriage for Qin Yining. The crown prince’s questions only served to further his speculation, but he didn’t know what Weichi Yan had done to suddenly make the emperor wary of his daughter. So he smiled and purposefully affected a carefree tone. “Truth be told, the emperor and empress summoned my daughter today to decree a marriage for her.”
Weichi Yan’s face went blank, but then slowly showed signs of delight. He asked anxiously, “Who is royal father bestowing your daughter to?”
“The empress says my daughter and her maternal nephew are a match made in heaven.”
Weichi Yan’s joy froze on his face and color drained out of his blushing face. His rapidly fading delight also caused his daydreaming and fantasizing to flee like a flushed bird. He thought carefully about what could have happened and suddenly slumped dejectedly back down into the chair, murmuring, “Ah, I doomed her and myself.”
Qin Huaiyuan’s heart skipped a beat when he saw the crown prince thus. Has he and daughter Yi already… Impossible. They hadn’t even had a chance to meet. It was far more plausible that the crown prince was simply greatly taken with daughter Yi at first sight. He was a man after all, and all men loved beauties. Yining definitely fell into that category. Except, their relationship shouldn’t have developed to the stage in which the crown prince would react thus, no?
“Your Highness, forgive my forwardness. What exactly has happened? I don’t quite understand why the emperor and empress suddenly wanted to bestow marriage today either.”
Weichi Yan thought that Qin Yining had already been given to Empress Cao’s nephew and had no mind to spare for anything else. His gloom was palpable, “It’s all my fault. I couldn’t forget the fourth miss after seeing her, so I drew a portrait of her after returning to the palace. But I didn’t imagine that the empress had people by my side. When her spy told her of this, I knew she’d cause trouble for me, but didn’t think it take shape in this form.”
So that was the case! Qin Huaiyuan finally understood the emperor’s wariness. He was both amused and angered by the crown prince’s dejected behavior. He actually did favor this crown prince for Qin Yining, because even if they didn’t make him part of the family, there would still a relationship between the crown prince and Qin Huaiyuan. They might as well strengthen that relationship. In addition, the crown prince didn’t exactly have a keen political acumen. He was an honest and generous sort, and had the temperament and mentality of a scholar. If his daughter was paired with the crown prince, her days would be easy enough.
The crown prince was also the prospective future emperor. Although thunderclouds had drawn perilously close to Great Yan, it wasn’t as if the nation really would fall in the near future, despite how furiously Great Zhou beat at their doors, right? Everything was yet an unknown, still plenty of room to maneuver and negotiate.
Qin Huaiyuan smiled comfortingly at the crown prince. “Your Highness, I hadn’t finished speaking just now. Although the emperor had wanted to decree the marriage, gentleman Cao misconducted himself in front of his imperial majesty, and his frivolous actions made my daughter cry from humiliation. She almost hung herself, so the marriage is not to be.”
“What?!” Weichi Yan surged to his feet, frantic in his worry. “Is the fourth miss alright?” He met Qin Huaiyuan’s teasing gaze immediately afterwards and flushed a deep red. It was too late for regrets now. He’d already exposed his feelings, so he threw caution to the wind. “I’ll be frank, it’s… love at first sight for me and the fourth miss. Please forgive my audacity.”
“Your Highness has maintained the purity of youth. It’s my daughter’s honor that you like her.”
“Grand Preceptor Qin!” Weichi Yan’s eyes gleamed with delight. “Do you mean that you don’t oppose this?”
“Your Highness’ favor is the fortune of eight generations. I can’t be grateful enough, much less be opposed to it!”
Weichi Yan spun giddily in circles before regaining his usual bearing. He rubbed his hands. “Alright! Since Grand Preceptor Qin has already said so, I will definitely live up to expectations!”