Chapter 38: Smarts from Urgency
It was dusk by the time she reached the Qin Manor. Powdery snow danced in the evening wind as Qin Yining walked to Garden of Loving Piety. A wax paper umbrella shielded her from the elements as the two maids followed her to make their evening curtsey to the old dowager.
Dinner had just been set, with née Sun, the second and third madame serving on the side. Meanwhile, Qin Huining was keeping the old dowager company.
“Granddaughter Yi’s returned. Have you had dinner yet? Come and eat with me.” The old dowager smiled when she saw Qin Yining and issued orders to Jixiang, “Have someone bring over the miss’ meal box.”
Jixiang assented with a merry smile and dipped in a respectful curtsey as she passed by Qin Yining.
“Many thanks to Old Dowager.” Qin Yining breathed a soft sigh of relief. At least she could have this one meal. She’d already brainstormed the various ways that her father and the old dowager could punish her on the way back. None of them were good, and the worst case scenario was if they’d act immediately, without leaving her time to prepare. It seems she was lucky enough to have a good hot meal before everything went south. It even crossed her mind that if father and the old dowager knew that food was her primary focus, they’d probably be even angrier. That’s funny. This new frame of reference put her in a slightly better mood after the dejection that’d descended after she’d gotten herself embroiled into trouble, despite doing something good.
When they were finished with dinner, Qin Yining delivered the excuse that Steward Zhong had thought of. “I looked around today and took too a bit too much time doing so. I’ll have to go another day to go over the accounts.”
The old dowager didn’t care about that at all. Qin Yining was just a girl, she wouldn’t be able to get into any amount of trouble. Just as a happy atmosphere pervaded the room, footsteps sounded from outside. A servant’s respectful greeting sounded as the footsteps stopped, “Senior elder master.”
“Old Dowager, the lord has returned.” Someone called into the room as they lifted the door curtains for Qin Huaiyuan. Qin Yining’s heart skipped a beat. She knew that things were about to take a rapid turn for the worse. She rose, standing to the side along with Qin Huining.
Qin Huaiyuan entered and bowed to the old dowager, then nodded at née Sun, second and third madame.
“Have you had dinner, Meng’er? Shall I have them prepare some?” The old dowager asked affectionately.
“No need, mother. I have something important to attend to.” Qin Huaiyuan turned to look at Qin Yining, his gaze cold. It was a sternness that she’d never seen in her father. When Qin Huaiyuan looked at the face that was so exceedingly like a younger version of him, his fist clenched even harder. His voice was hoarse and shook from suppressed rage as he snapped viciously, “Qin Yining, what did you do today?!”
The abrupt question shocked everyone who’d been laughing and chatting away. They all turned to look at the face-off between father and daughter. Qin Huining just barely kept herself from smirking gleefully.
Completely baffled, née Sun asked, “What’s wrong, my lord? Let’s talk about things properly so we don’t alarm mother.” She’d changed her opinion of Qin Yining somewhat after what’d happened at the Ding Manor, so she subconsciously wanted to help the girl.
Qin Huaiyuan couldn’t be bothered to respond to née Sun. He didn’t even look at her, keeping his stare focused on Qin Yining.
The girl sighed softly and lifted her hem to kneel. “In response to father, I fell into the Prince of Ning’s trap today. Things indeed developed in a direction that I didn’t anticipate.”
The old dowager, née Sun, Qin Huining and others still had no idea what was going on, but those words completely stoppered Qin Huaiyuan’s explosive rage from erupting. He’d originally thought Qin Yining to be just a young and naive girl with heroic airs, nothing more than an impulsive, noble girl. But those words “falling into Prince of Ning’s trap”, she was quietly displaying her sensitivity of politics.
It looked like he’d underestimated his own daughter. Not only was she brave, but intelligent as well. Qin Huaiyuan had been overflowing with anger and thinking of ways to punish Qin Yining, but now he just felt resignation. If only… if only she was a son instead of a daughter…
If he had a son who’d gotten into trouble of this quality, it would’ve been quite an interesting sight to see his son kneeling nervously, begging daddy to bail him out. What a pity…
Qin Huaiyuan pursed his lips and stared wordlessly at Qin Yining as she looked down at the ground, her back ramrod straight. Although her expression was composed, she was so nervous that her hands and feet were clammy.
Those assembled didn’t know what this newfound charade was, so the old dowager couldn’t help but ask, “Meng’er, what’s happened?”
Qin Huaiyuan heaved a sigh, swept the front of his robes to the side and sat down. In but a few words, he summarized the events that led to Qin Yining succesfully rescuing Tang Meng from Prince of Ning, stunning everyone with openmouthed shock!
“How dare you! Granddaughter Yi, how dare you!!” The old dowager pointed at Qin Yining. “A girl not yet of age going to see an outside male by herself?! Were all the rules you learned these days fed to the dogs?!” She then glared fiercely at née Sun. “Eldest daughter-in-law, this is the kind of daughter you’ve raised!”
Née Sun felt utterly bereft of face and leaped forward to viciously slap Qin Yining. She put all her force behind it, so her sharp nails left two trails of of bloody marks on Qin Yining’s face. Her hand stung from the impact while Qin Yining’s face quickly swelled up. A droplet of blood trickled down from the corner of the girl’s mouth.
Née Sun still felt quite put out and aggrieved that her mother-in-law had accused her of not raising her daughter well. “I told you to put away those base airs after returning home, but you didn’t listen to me! How could you, a young girl, go meet an outside male by yourself?! My words went in one ear and out the other, haven’t they?! ignorant of what’s right and wrong, and now you’ve dragged down our main branch as well! Unfilial child, see if I don’t beat you to death!” She drew her hand back for another blow.
Qin Huaiyuan had turned a cold eye to the old dowager and née Sun’s yammering. Of all the things to focus on, they’d chosen some unimportant thing like “meeting an outside male”. He suddenly felt a bone deep weariness settle on him. How would they understand matters of the court? And yet, in stark contrast to them, his daughter’s words had neatly exposed the heart of the issue. No, Yining had certainly not earned his dislike, even if she’d gone and done something wrong.
“Enough.” Qin Huaiyuan impatiently blocked the second slap née Sun was about to let loose. He frowned at his wife, “Your own manners aren’t much to sniff at. Using such force in disciplining your daughter? I say you should go brush up on your manners!”
Née Sun’s eyes widened incredulously, two pools of tears quickly gathering as she retorted hotly, “What do you mean by this, my lord? What do you mean my manners aren’t much to sniff at?! Don’t I discipline my daughter for you?? If you can’t bear to see her disciplined, why tell us what happened? Don’t tell us if you don’t want to teach her a lesson!”
“You! You’re impossible to talk to!” Qin Huaiyuan drew his brows together tightly and turned to Qin Yining. “Daughter Yi, come with me.” He didn’t wait for a response, and his tall figure swept out the door.
Qin Yining silently rose and curtsied to the old dowager and the others, then quietly followed her father out into a side hall.
Née Sun burst into angry sobs when she saw Qin Huaiyuan and Qin Yining leave. She pounded on the table in her distress, rattling the porcelain sitting on it. “I see it clearly now! I’m old and no longer catches Qin Meng’s eye! He can no longer bear to look at me and wants me dead!”
The old dowager was no fool, she had been musing over what’d happened and her son’s strange reaction. Her thoughts were a completely jumbled mess as she tried to sort things out. But who would’ve thought that née Sun would throw a tantrum at this precise moment? She couldn’t calm down and carefully consider the reason for her son’s attitude with this wailing, and her impression of née Sun dropped increasingly with the nonsense being voiced.
If Sun Haihan wasn’t the official daughter of the Duke of Ding, I would’ve thrown out this shit stirrer long ago!
“Stop your caterwauling!” The old dowager bursted out angrily. “Meng’er is right about you. Your manners aren’t much either! Don’t cry at my place, go back to your Garden of Tranquility to cry! If you’re too angry, then you can pack your bags for home right now!”
The second and third madame all hastened to speak calming words of peace when they heard that irritated snap. Qin Huining, on the other hand, clung to her mother’s arm in tears. “Mother, hurry and admit your wrongs to grandmother. You can’t go home!”
Née Sun’s temper had a short fuse and she never thought things through in the heat of the moment. She only followed her instincts and bounded to her feet at hearing Qin Huining’s words. She slammed her hand on the table again. “I can’t? Why can’t I?! Have Qin Meng divorce me now if he dares! I can’t give birth to a son and none of his concubines can birth anything! I know that Old Dowager blamed me for this for quite a while and dislikes even the sight of me. If you have someone in mind, then just bring her into the manor so she can bear Qin Meng a son! I wash my hands of this!”
Née Sun whirled around to leave and paused after two steps, tugging Qin Huining after her. “Hui’er, you’re coming with me!” She won’t bear the brunt of things if she doesn’t stay.
Qin Huining’s expression changed drastically and shook her head vigorously. “Mother, don’t go! I’m not going with you!” Are you kidding me? If I go to grandparents’ now, the duchess will hate me!
But Née Sun had made up her mind. She’d lost so much face tonight that she would make Qin Huaiyuan welcome her back with a luxurious sedan chair borne on the backs of eight bearers! At the very least! [This meant this would be a very big, mighty sedan chair.] She’d already felt quite humiliated last time in having to come back herself and apologize first. Was she going to hold it in every time!? Née Sun completely ignored Qin Huining’s protests and dragged the girl away.
The old dowager pounded the table in her anger, almost sending the nearby brass pipe and its accompanying tobacco pouch flying. “Get out, get out! It’s a first even for me to witness such manners! My Meng’er is genteel and educated, well versed and logical. How could I have been so blind as to find him such a harpy of a wife?!”
The second madame rolled her eyes privately. You did it to build a connection with the Duke of Ding! Why didn’t you call sister-in-law a harpy when you were making use of her family’s power to climb up? She didn’t agree with the old dowager’s ingratitude, and so did nothing. Therefore, it was up to the third madame to come forward and calm the old dowager down again.
By now, Qin Yining had followed Qin Huaiyuanto the study in the outer residence. She’d just knelt when a pageboy came to report, “My lord, someone from the inner residence has come to say that the senior madame is going home again. She’s carrying on as we speak. Jin-mama sent people to ask for my lord to come.”
Qin Huaiyuan knitted his brows as his brewing headache intensified. He wordlessly waved the pageboy off and took the head seat in the study, his expression as dark as a storm.