Marquis Qin felt as if his vision was blurring. He had reached such a high point of rage that a vein popped on his forehead, yet he could do nothing to her. He clenched his fingers together and gritted his yellow teeth so hard, it was going to crack and shatter.
From all of the stress lately, he had lashed out more than usual at his concubines and children. As a result, they became a bit detached from him. So many things were put on the line just to please the Crown Princess.
And after everything that he had lost, she sat before him, unbothered and unyielding. She sat with poise, her head as raised as he had remembered, her eyes as bright as ever. There was not a single change in her appearance that glowed with youth, her skin smooth and free from worry-lines.
The Crown Princess had been flourishing whilst he had been suffering.
"I don't understand…" he finally breathed out in a deep, irritated voice. It took everything not to glare at her. "I didn't sleep f-for the entire two weeks since the first time you made this request, all because I was so worried of failing you, Princess."
Marquis Qin was glad there was not a teacup placed in front of him or else, he would have lost his control and hurled it at her. It would be a crime punishable by death, but he was so infuriated that the thought crossed his mind.
"So?" she mused. "How is that my problem?"
At this, Marquis Qin snapped. He stood up from his chair, breathing heavily as his hands itched to grab her by her slender, pale throat, and slam her on the ground. He envisioned choking her out, slapping her in the face, and watching tears fill her eyes, like many of his concubines who infuriated him.
"Oh dear, are you leaving already, Marquis Qin?" she asked.
Marquis Qin narrowed his eyes into slits. Her light and airy voice once sounded like music to his ears, but now it resembled a dark and insulting curse.
"I deeply apologize, Princess," Marquis Qin heaved out through gritted teeth. His fists trembled from how tightly he clenched it. Red clouded his vision, but he was not a raging bull. That was not how he held himself around his customers.
"But it seems we have too deep of a misunderstanding to find a solution," he said. "It is with great regret and heavy guilt that I must abandon this request of yours."
The Crown Princess raised a brow. Her lips curled in amusement. And in the exact moment, a pretty maidservant stepped into the pavilion with gentle, quiet footsteps.
Marquis Qin watched with enraged eyes as the maidservant bowed her head and placed the wooden tray filled with tea and snacks on the table. He breathed out through his nose, wishing for a much-needed patience that would never come.
All these years, he had remained unfazed, even with the most troublesome and tedious customers.
But today, the Crown Princess was too much and had crossed the line. He could handle her occasional jabs, for she was but a tiny kitten exercising her meager claws. He could smile during her scowls, for she was a wealthy person. But he could no longer tolerate her disrespect anymore, for she was a woman.
"Really, now?" she whispered whilst resting her fingers on the teacup. It was almost as if she was upset to see he didn't sit down for a cup of tea, that was no doubt, cold like her frigid heart.
Marquis Qin was already familiar with her tactics. She was always going to mess with him, wasn't she? How many times must he fall for her tricks and traps for her to be satisfied? He could not understand what personal vendetta she had against him.
As a matter of fact, Marquis Qin had stimulated Wuyi's economy through consistent trade with them. Though, one of his more useful trading partners had suddenly disappeared off the map. It was such a pity, considering the fact that their youngest daughter used to be such a delight.
"Is that all you have to say?" the Crown Princess asked. She didn't bother to lift the cup of tea to her mouth or spare him the decency to look him in the eyes.
"Yes, Princess," Marquis Qin said. Her royal title tasted bitter on his tongue. "Now, if you will allow me the liberty to be excused."
Marquis Qin adjusted his clothes and bowed his head. He brushed past her, grumbling inside of his head. He would never accept her invitation again. He made up his mind to never see her again. Sure, the Crown Princess would've made for an exceptionally wealthy customer, but her demands outweighed the benefits.
Marquis Qin wondered what she meant by that, but didn't indulge his curiosity. That is until he heard the tinkle of her bracelets when she waved her wrists, and armed men and guards came dashing into the pavilion.
One by one, they surrounded the circular structure, forming a human barrier. The entrance was blocked off.
Marquis Qin frantically turned around, looking everywhere. He seeked for an escape. His face paled. His blood turned cold. His fury was replaced with fear and disbelief.
"Master!" his servants cried out in fear when weapons were turned towards him.
Marquis Qin could not fathom this outcome. He could not believe that such a teeny tiny woman held this much power. She commanded the Imperial Soldiers, the most elite group of fighters in the entire Kingdom. Who gave her such a privilege? He thought it was just the guards, but who would've thought, soldiers were also under her control?
Since when were they present? Were they always accompanying her, but just far, far behind, and hidden from plain sight?
"What is the meaning of this, Princess?!" Marquis Qin barked out in a horrified voice. He turned on his heels, desperately seeking an opening. But there was none.
It was an ambush on all sides.
"If you hold me hostage here like this, I can only assume your conscience has fleeted from you, Princess!" he argued.
Marquis Qin was afraid, but he was confident she would not have the guts to kill him. He was a high-ranking aristocrat whose title was just a rank below that of a Duke. He had connections in the palace, from the affluent Lady Ge Beining to his ultimate trump card, the sick Emperor.
Without Marquis Qin's crucial aid, the Emperor would die. His Majesty had only been able to live this long because of Marquis Qin's medicine. There was one more merchant, but he had never been able to produce the pills that quickly.
"If you kill me right here, Princess, blood will forever stain this floor, and everyone will think less of you," he said.
"You do not desire that Princess, especially after all of your hard-work. You did not come this far only to be sent back," he reasoned with her.
Marquis Qin faced her, but she showed her back to him. At a leisure pace, she brought a cookie to her lips and bit into it.
In the heat of the moment, all of his displeasure and wrath resurfaced. He trembled, not out of fear, but out of sheer rage.
In a low and barely controlled voice, he hissed out, "Princess."
The Crown Princess continued ignoring him. She rested her chin upon a propped up arm and looked to the side, almost as if she was seeking for the lovely view of a pond. She was met with the view of nothing but her men, dressed in armor, sword in hand.
"Crown Princess," he gritted out. "Harming me will not bring you any benefit. It will only harm you further, Princess. Please think of your reputation and the things at stake here."
Marquis Qin jumped when she suddenly laughed. It was high-pitched, and filled with amusement. She turned her head, revealing the tiny smile on her face.
"Did you think I would hurt you, Marquis?" she teased.
Marquis Qin's brows wrung together. He tilted his head towards the heavily armed soldiers. "Certainly, these men did not bring their swords to have a playdate, Princess."
"I wouldn't hurt you, Marquis, goodness no," she laughed.
Marquis Qin's shoulders sagged in relief. He let out a sigh that he did not know he was holding in. She turned in her seat and crossed one leg over the other, an action that revealed the smallest glimpse of her slim ankle.
He stared in confusion as she stuck a hand out. Immediately, a maidservant stepped forth and placed a scroll upon the Crown Princess's palms.
"As you promised," she mused, "failure to meet my request results in death by your own two hands."
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