Chapter 127: The Reason Behind It All
Qin Huaiyuan couldn’t help but caress his daughter’s head. This caused an increasing sense of wrongness to grow in Qin Yining. Why are the sensations so real in this dream? Her mother’s hug felt so warm. The few drops of tears that had landed on her had now turned cold, while her father’s hand felt equally warm and so real. There was also Pang Xiao smiling at her from the side, as well as Bingtang, Songlan, and Huzi.
Qin Yining abruptly came back to herself. “Mother, you’re alright!”
“Yes, I’m completely fine.” Née Sun stroked her daughter’s cheek. “Are you feeling better?”
“I’m fine, there was nothing wrong with me at all.”
“That’s good, I was so scared when you fainted.”
“Mother was the one who scared me. I thought I’d never be able to see you again.” Tears rolled in Qin Yining’s eyes as she spoke. However, she forced herself to smile and strove mightily to not let them fall. She looked at Qin Huaiyuan. “It must’ve been father who rushed to mother’s rescue.”
Otherwise, her men would’ve made their move, even if Pang Xiao was present.
“It was little Prince Pang who saved your mother.” Qin Huaiyuan responded, a tad shamefaced. “I was in the palace with the emperor all along and didn’t have a chance to come out. It was only when the emperor heard that His Highness had made a personal appearance that I managed to make it to the execution grounds.”
Qin Yining looked at Pang Xiao in surprise. She remembered. Pang Xiao had arrogantly ordered the executioner to bring the emperor himself for questioning. With the trash emperor’s personality, he’d likely have peed himself upon seeing Pang Xiao. Naturally, whatever the prince said went. So… Pang Xiao really did save mother?
Counting his actions at the Celestial Nunnery for her, mother, and maternal grandmother, then how he’d protected her at Xihua, and now rescuing née Sun at the execution grounds, he’d saved her three times by now. Qin Yining pushed the covers aside to stand beside the bed. She got down on her knees in order to kowtow to Pang Xiao.
Her face was as white as snow, without the slightest trace of color in it, and her body was still weak from what she’d just endured. How would Pang Xiao be willing to let her go through with the courtesy? He quickly supported her. “What are you doing? Get up.”
Qin Yining refused to rise, but was unable to kowtow given that he had an arm holding her up. She could only gratefully lift her head up to the man leaning down to her.
“I have nothing with which to thank Your Highness for your repeated rescues, as well as the rescue of my mother this time. If Your Highness has a need in the future, just speak it. I will enter frothing currents and pools of fire, and will not shrink from dying ten thousand times over.”
Who could bear to let you die ten thousand times?! Pang Xiao’s ears were now flaming red since Qin Yining was in such close proximity. He exerted a bit of force and lifted her up.
“You don’t need to be this way, Miss Qin. This prince just happened to be close by.”
Huzi’s mouth twitched twice from off on the side. What, you were just fine in the nunnery, my prince, but charged here as fast as possible when you received the Elite Tigers’ secret report. Don’t you know to make a big deal of it in front of the person who matters? What’s this bullshit of ‘happened to be close by’? How are you ever going to win the lady? This would be the death of him!
“How is it possible for there to be so many matters of convenience in the world?” Qin Yining chuckled. “Your Highness’ identity is special and it’s already difficult for you to walk about in Great Yan. I’m not a mulish brat to not know right from wrong. Although Your Highness voices… rather rebellious words sometimes, I see your actions as well. If I say I’ll repay a favor, I will.”
Pang Xiao’s admiration deepened with these words. He knew she was a smart one and indeed, she’d lived up to his affections for her. She could wisely see to the heart of a matter. Although she didn’t like his words, it hadn’t erased what he’d done for her. He waved a hand nonchalantly.
“Think nothing of it, Miss Qin. Since you’re fine, this prince will be leaving now.”
Qin Yining knew that he must have other matters to attend to. She curtsied solemnly. “Go well, Your Highness.”
Pang Xiao took another deep look at her before leaving with Huzi. Qin Huaiyuan rose to see the prince off.
Qin Yining pulled on her mother’s hand. “Mother, you’ve suffered greatly. I only found out that you weren’t at the manor when I returned home. They said that née Cao brought you into the palace? Did anyone treat you badly?”
“It was a short stay in the palace. No one there would treat me badly, I was just very nervous when facing the empress.”
Qin Yining nodded. “Why did you offend the emperor and empress that day?”
Née Sun started when she heard the question and responded in surprise. “Just when did I offend the imperial couple?”
Qin Yining grew even more perplexed when she saw née Sun thus. Suspicions had already taken root when she saw her perfectly fine mother sitting in front of her. Née Sun wasn’t a bold or courageous person. She’d almost died earlier, so she’d normally still be in the throes of shock and quite weak as a result. Why did it seem that all was fine with her world?
“So mother didn’t insult the emperor and empress? The rumors outside are that the empress bestowed two imperial concubines to father, and not only did you not agree, but you even clashed with the empress on the spot. They also said that you were sentenced to death after insulting the empress. The emperor tried to smooth things over, but you shouted that he’s a trash emperor instead. Thus, the emperor sentenced you to death via execution and public display in his anger.”
“Do you think I’m crazy?” Née Sun had gone white, and shook her head furiously. “I know what can or cannot be done! Where would I get the guts to curse the emperor as a trash emperor? As for me giving offense because of the empress bestowing two concubines, that’s even more impossible. I’m not that kind of jealous woman. …well, alright. I may not like your father taking concubines, but still, I’m not the sort to forbid it from happening. When did I ever talk back to the empress?”
“So, you didn’t do any of that? Then why did you end up on the execution grounds?”
Née Sun shook her head. “I’m just as confused about that as well. I was resting in the palace when a mama called me out. The palace servant only said that they wouldn’t really be killing me before shoving a gag into my mouth and tying me up. They then just took me to the Meridian Gate.”
The door creaked open as Qin Huaiyuan slowly walked back in. Qin Yining looked at her father quizzically. She believed née Sun. Her mother had never been the calculating sort and wouldn’t lie about something like this. So then, why had an official’s wife, who’d been enjoying a stay in the palace, be suddenly summoned from her bed, bound, gagged, send off to the execution grounds?
Although the imperial family had a great deal of authority, how would father not have a single word of complaint? Unless, they’d explained things to Qin Huaiyuan already? The emperor may be able to destroy the entire Qin family with one hand, but Qin Yining also believed that her father was absolutely not the kind to take this kind of treatment lying down.
So there was only one explanation.
Father knew of this.
“Father?” Qin Yining asked, perplexed. “Do you know what’s going on here?”
Qin Huaiyuan took a seat in the round chair by the window and played with the teacup lid in his hands.“I don’t know the particulars either.” He sighed. “The emperor kept me in the imperial study and said he wanted to chat, so he didn’t allow me to return home. As for what happened in the execution grounds, I didn’t know about any of it until I got there.’
“So, there was no palace banquet either?”
Qin Huaiyuan shook his head and lowered his head, not meeting Qin Yining’s eyes. She frowned in deep thought.
The emperor had used their family to set up a plot. But to what end?
Née Sun had been spontaneously sent to the execution grounds, and was supposed to have her head publicly displayed after an execution. This now seemed to be an enormous trap and in fact, seemed to be testing someone.
Qin Yining mentally jumped with shock as her thoughts ran to a close. The emperor hadn’t really wanted to kill her mother, so if her men had really raided the execution grounds, what would’ve happened then? The emperor must’ve had additional men lurking in the shadows. She’d only had four on her side, and there was no saying whether they would’ve escaped successfully or not. If they’d been captured and the emperor had found out that she was the one behind everything, then the Qins…
Cold sweat broke out all over the girl. She was beyond grateful that Pang Xiao had gotten to the scene in time and made a royal mess of things. Otherwise, her impulsive actions this time likely would’ve spelled doom for the Qins!
And father… Qin Yining looked at her father in terror and murmured, “Father, a-after the peace talks, did, did the emperor’s attitude towards you change at all? Should we be keeping a lower profile?”
The emperor had most likely been testing her father this time. Perhaps he suspected that Qin Huaiyuan harbored traitorous intentions?
Qin Huaiyuan looked at Qin Yining with a complicated look. There were some things that he couldn’t tell her or his wife, so he could only let his daughter continue down her current train of thought. He was apologetic about his inaction, but some things would only result in greater trouble if he explained. He could only sigh softly.
“Don’t worry, daughter Yi. I’ll take care of this. Now that you’re awake, and we’re in the capital, I’ve yet to set foot back home, so why don’t we pack everything up and return to the manor.”
Qin Yining knew that her father must have his troubles, so she didn’t press him further. But when she thought of the old dowager’s irritating behavior, the Qin fourth miss shook her head. “You can go back first, father, but I won’t go back so easily with mother.”
“Daughter Yi, what do you mean?” Qin Huaiyuan blinked and questioned in puzzlement.
“Father, I don’t want to discuss the rights and wrongs of my elders.” Qin Yining smiled, but that smile was uglier than crying. “You’ll know what’s happened if you ask after returning home. I’m not being unfilial, but for the sake of me and my mother’s future in the manor, please understand why I’m doing this.”
Qin Huaiyuan looked at his daughter with a deep look, as if he was assessing something. A weighty aura flared unconsciously from his figure.
Née Sun was trembling inwardly as she looked back with worry. “Daughter Yi, why don’t we listen to your father and go home with him? I’ve been in the palace for a while now and should go back to greet the old dowager.”
Qin Yining looked piteously at née Sun. Her mother had spent many days in the palace and was still unaware of the old dowager’s heartlessness. Née Sun viewed the old dowager as her mother-in-law, but the old dowager treated her like an outsider. The old dowager was an exceedingly selfish and heartless individual, but Qin Yining didn’t want to tell née Sun about any of what had happened.
The senior madame wasn’t someone who was accustomed to concealing her emotions. She had to continue living in the manor in the future. If she knew everything, how would she be able to calmly face her mother-in-law from now on?
Therefore, Qin Yining only shook her head. “I hope father and mother can forgive my stubbornness. It’s not that I’m disrespecting the old dowager, but that I have to do this so that those in the manor don’t bully us to excess in the future.”
Qin Huaiyuan could vaguely surmise what had happened when he saw his daughter so restrained and unwilling to tell née Sun what had happened.
“I understand, then stay here for now.” He rose with a sigh. “I will look into this upon my return.”
“Many thanks, father.” Qin Yining smiled gratefully, her dimples exceedingly adorable and likable.
Qin Huaiyuan couldn’t help but smile. “Take care of yourselves well.”
“My lord.” Née Sun looked at her daughter in resignation and rose to see her husband off. “I’ll speak to daughter Yi and return as soon as possible.”
“Our daughter has her own plans.” Qin Huaiyuan nodded with a smile. “Just stay here with ease.”
Née Sun returned to the room after she’d sent Qin Huaiyuan off.