Chapter 15: Tattling
Sixth Miss Qin Shuangning’s use of “wild wench” was enough to irritate even the most placid person, much less someone as straightforward and tough as Qin Yining. But the latter also knew that if she got into an argument with the sixth miss in front of everyone, the family would only place her on the same level as the sixth miss. There was no need to devalue herself like that. Plus, one had to lose their temper with a purpose. She would only have the upper hand if she was in the right. It wasn’t a matter of having the loudest voice. Otherwise, not only would she not intimidate her opponent, she’d be taken for a common shrieking harlot out on the streets. No one would respect her the longer time went on.
Besides, she’d just shown her edge last night, and the effects of that hadn’t blown over yet. If she continued in the same vein, she’d really become the barbarian of their eyes, someone who only knew how to use brawn and not her brains. Then, it’d be one thing for others to disdain her, but more importantly, how would she gain footing in this manor without favor from the old dowager and the various madames?
On the other hand, who said arguing back when provoked was the only way to gain the upper hand? Qin Yining might not understand the twists and turns of women’s minds, but she believed in one strong person being mighty enough to take on ten who knew martial arts. Qin Shuangning, do you think you’re tougher than wild wolves?! She narrowed her charming almond-shaped eyes, sharp as arrows dipped in poison. The look was so cold that it seemed like Qin Yining would pounce on the other girl and eat her alive at any moment. Qin Shuangning, you’re just a wild beast trying to stare me down!
The sixth miss had always led a sheltered life, how could she possibly withstand such a vicious stare? The hairs on her neck immediately stood on end as chills ran down her back. Cold sweat even trickled down her forehead, and she subconsciously swallowed all of her impolite words. She couldn’t find it within herself to voice “wild wench” anymore.
The sisters had crossed swords for just a breath, but who would’ve thought that the strident sixth miss, causing headaches with all of her shrilling, would suddenly stop after one glance from Qin Yining? First Wife née Yao and Second Wife née Meng found this amazing and snuck curious glances at both girls. Third Madame née Wang smiled with lowered eyes and sipped delicately at her tea cup.
It was rather Second Madame née Su who sniffed contemptuously, rebuking with a dark expression, “Daughter Shuang! Have you no manners at all? What right do you have to be jumping up and down like this when your elders have yet to speak? Old Dowager naturally has the grasp of the situation, stand aside!”
The sixth miss had had no such fortune to be the second madame’s goddaughter, and although she shared the same teacher as her twin sister, her manners had been taught by her concubine mother. The official wife of her family branch openly deriding her lack of manners was a slap to both mother and daughter!
Qin Shuangning felt her face burn hotly and was quite rebellious. She looked again at the swollen Qin Huining. Us sisters share the same fate, Qin Yining got us good this time! She really hated the new fourth miss now.
Qin Yining, the third, seventh, and eighth miss all walked up to the old dowager, kowtowing in the greatest gesture of greeting. The family matriarch had been silent all this time, as if a statue of Buddha. She finally lifted her eyes, glancing first at the sixth miss and then waving her hand in noncommittal indication for everyone to rise.
Qin Yining and the rest shifted to the side. The atmosphere within the room grew a bit heavy. After all, the main branch of the family had had such a great carrying-on last night. The senior madame had fought with the house lord, and then gone back to her own family. Just as everyone was speculating what they’d clashed about, word came that Qin Yining had violently beat up Qin Huining! Compared to the first bit of news, the second was earth shattering. In a learned household such as the prime minister’s, the young masters wouldn’t physically fight when they disagreed, much less the young ladies.
There were many versions floating around of what’d happened. Some said that Qin Yining was a barbarian, and her true nature had shown itself, while others said that Qin Huining had been the one to start the fight as she wasn’t satisfied the official firstborn daughter had come back to step on her. Regardless of who the rumors benefitted, they all served to muddy the waters in the manor. It was entertainment for the servants and afternoon gossip for outsiders. This reminded the old dowager of what Qin Huaiyuan had hurriedly said to her this morning…
“We must handle this as soon as possible. The emperor is growing old and hates seeing affairs like these break out in his subjects’ homes, especially when we’re so swamped with matters at court. Mother must let others know that all is well in our family. How will I be able to administer the nation if I can’t even keep my household in line? If my political enemies seize on this point and exaggerate it out of proportion, the consequences can be disastrous.”
The old dowager’s face sank when she thought of this, and she wanted to close the book on this as fast as possible. There were surely rumors circulating outside already, and Qin Huaiyuan’s child couldn’t bear the fall out, no matter what. Otherwise, this would be giving her son’s political enemies more ammunition! Lack of educating his children properly and protecting them would point to the incompetence of a father, and if others started mumbling that flaws in Qin Huaiyuan’s nature were passed on and being displayed by his daughter… wouldn’t that lead to suspicions about his own character?
When her thoughts traveled here, the old dowager actually began blaming Qin Huining slightly. If it hadn’t been for the girl’s plotting and scheming, why would all of this have developed? I can’t even protect her now even if I want to! The old dowager would rather people say that she’d failed as a grandmother in raising her grandchildren then have people conclude that Qin Yining’s display was a result of bad breeding from her father. Not to mention, the matriarch could indeed see through Qin Huining’s intentions and knew that she was targeting Qin Huaiyuan’s bloodline. Having thought through all this, the old dowager cleared her throat and announced in a stately voice, “You all know what’s happened yesterday.”
“Yes.” All of the women and girls curtseyed in unison.
“Granddaughter Hui is ignorant in her youth and unknowingly incited née Sun’s temper with her words,” the old dowager continued slowly. “Granddaughter Yi couldn’t accept this and taught dear Hui a lesson. The two little girls don’t know that they should coexist in harmony, and actually ended up fighting instead. I’ve already set them to copying ‘The Classic of Filial Piety’. This matter is now over. None of you shall bring it up again.”
The old dowager’s words glossed over the details and turned Qin Yining’s single-sided beating into a mutual fight. This actually cast the girl in a sad light as well, and really turned Qin Huining into the villain who’d been punished for provoking the official wife. Those assembled all nursed different thoughts and looked at Qin Yining differently when they saw even the most biased old dowager actually lecture her pearl, her apple, Huining.
The second madame, third madame, first wife, and second wife assented in unison. The sixth miss looked incredulously at the still piteously crying Qin Huining, while the third miss and eighth miss all studied their feet. The seventh miss however, looked at the quiet Qin Yining with some curiosity. Qin Huining on the other hand, felt like she’d plummeted into an icy cavern. Her very core was frozen, as the bitter taste of her expectations being met welled up. Right, Qin Yining is the one with blood ties to the Qin family. All of the love and favor I had vanished as soon as she’s come back.
She even held a bit of a grudge against the old dowager. The grandmother who had loved her so much no longer did so now, and was just blindly helping her real granddaughter suppress Qin Huining! What gratitude I should have for her care, what love that we’ve shared all these years?! Blood is thicker than water in the end! She felt so very, very angry and alone, but was afraid to break out in a tantrum. She had to live in the manor after all. Qin Huining didn’t want to be sent away just for struggling over momentary pride. Her tears plopped off her face continuously, presenting an incredibly heartbreaking sight along with with her reddened, swollen face.
The sixth miss was both anxious and pained. She wanted to comfort her sister, but the second madame glared at her as soon as she took a step. The sixth miss didn’t dare talk back to the official wife of her family branch, so she switched to lowering her head without another move after some hesitation.
The old dowager rubbed her forehead with irritation when she noted everyone’s reactions. Life had been easy in the past couple of years. There hadn’t been a need to think about all the ins and outs of the inner residence for a very long time. Qin-mama had a deep understanding of the old dowager’s temper and offered a cup of black tea at the perfect temperature at this time. The exquisite tea cup rimmed with gold was her favorite, the tea fragrant and strong. It was flavored with honey that was a hit of sweetness to the taste buds, settling warmly in the stomach. The tea washed away some of the old dowager’s earlier unhappiness.
A sharp, sobbing cry traveled in at this time. Careful listening identified it as a girl loudly yelling, “Justice, Old Dowager, I seek justice!”
The voice was quite familiar to Qin Yining as her memory was exceedingly strong. Even though the voice had cracked from how strenuously it was being used, she could still make out that it was Yuxiang. So she does as she says! She’s really come to complain to Old Dowager!
The old dowager frowned ferociously and set the tea cup down heavily onto the table. “Who is it outside?! This kind of commotion is ludicrous!”
Qin-mama hastily trotted outside and lifted the door curtains, seeing a maid with disheveled hair and a dirty face being restrained by two serving girls outside. The maid was begging and crying piteously. All of the other maids on duty heaved a sigh of relief when they saw the old servant. One of the little serving girls reported softly, “Yuxiang of Snowpear Courtyard barged in and said that she has a matter she wishes the old dowager to give her justice for.”
“Justice is one thing, you’d still have to see if Old Dowager is in the mood to listen to you had you asked nicely. But here you are, carrying-on and making such a fuss. Can you afford the consequences if you disturb the old dowager?!” Qin-mama commanded deep authority in the manor and frightened Yuxiang into silence with these words. But when the old servant turned to go back into the house, Yuxiang’s confidence grew again as she mentally repeated that she was the child of a servant, and that her overseer mother was her support.
When the old dowager heard Qin-mama’s words, her expression darkened again. “Who is this?! Bring her in!”
Ruilan and Qiulu were waiting in the outer hall when they heard the disturbance and were pacing around in an anxious frenzy. Qiulu blanked when she saw Yuxiang enter, and Ruilan knitted her brows together tightly, feeling something bad was going to happen. Yuxiang on the other hand, arched her brow after seeing Ruilan and smirked proudly. She then grabbed Ruilan before the other had time to react and turned on her spigot of tears. “You’re here too sister? You’re still serving today after suffering so much last night?! Old Dowager is kind and never mistreats the servants. Come! We’ll have her give us justice!” She forcefully dragged Ruilan unwillingly in with her into the inner hall.
Ruilan struggled free of the grasp with effort and almost broke out into tears from fright herself when she saw the various mistresses adorned with jade in the room, and met Qin Yining’s own coolly composed gaze. Heavens be my witness, I really don’t want to come make trouble for the miss!
Yuxiang had already knelt down in a kowtow, her tears creating two clean streaks down her dirtied face. Her bleak appearance made her seem more like someone who’d just returned from exile. “This servant is Yuxiang, a new second-rank maid of Snowpear Courtyard. I’m here risking death today to seek justice! Please, Old Dowager!” She kowtowed with audible thumps after these words.
The old dowager frowned and looked unhappily at Qin Yining, exhorting, “This is your maid?! Why can’t you keep your servants in line?!”