Chapter 59: Father’s Decision
Qin Huining was feeling a sense of terror that she’d never felt before. She wasn’t facing her old dowager or née Sun who could be won over by tears, tantrums, and threats of self harm, but rather her stern and awe-inspiring father instead. Qin Huaiyuan had spent many years immersed in the intrigues of court. Even the greatest of officials feared the grand preceptor’s discernment, much less a fourteen year old girl like Qin Huining. She felt like knives were dissecting her whenever Qin Huaiyuan’s sharp eyes swept across her. Surely every twist of her insides was on display, and all lies revealed in their entirety. She absolutely didn’t have the courage to lie to Qin Huaiyuan’s face. But if she spoke of the truth… then her position in her family’s hearts was completely done for.
She gritted her teeth, bowed her head, and spoke in a choked up voice. “Don’t be angry, father. I know the fault of this matter lies with me. My wet nurse came up with an idea when she saw that I didn’t get along well with sister Yi, saying that it could help rein in the fourth miss. I didn’t think it through and let her handle things. I didn’t think that she’d frame sister Yi’s maid Ruilan for theft!” Qin Huining snuck a quick glance up at Qin Huaiyuan at this point, but his expression remained noncommittal, nor had he even moved the slightest bit. He was like a monk lost in meditation, and she couldn’t tell whether he’d actually heard her. Uncertainty began to gnaw at her insides. “I, I wanted to tell someone but my wet nurse had done this all for me, after all. Besides, Ruilan was only thrown out after two smacks of the plank. It didn’t seem like a big deal, and I hadn’t thought that things would develop in this direction.”
She began sniffling again and wiped at her tears with her sleeves, lifting her head to sneak another glance to gauge Qin Huaiyuan’s reaction.
But at that moment, Qin Huaiyuan’s eyes had been fixed on her, and she met his gaze. Qin Huining’s heart pounded from the fright and she almost rocked back to a sitting position.
‘You didn’t think all this would happen?”
“I really didn’t. I only wanted to…”
“Stop. There’s no need to speak further.” Qin Huaiyuan’s tone was cool as he called out orders to Qitai standing outside. “Go tell the inner residence that firstly, Miss Huining’s wet nurse will be hauled outside our front doors and beaten with forty hits from planks. She will be dismissed to her old home afterwards, never to be employed in our manor again. Secondly, swap out all of Miss Huining’s maids for a batch of new ones. Have the old dowager and senior madame reassign her old maids how they will, under one condition. None of them may closely serve the girls in the future.”
Qin Huining stared dumbly at her father and suddenly burst into loud sobs, crawling over to cling to his sleeve. “Father, you can’t do this! Cai-mama and those by my side are all innocent! If you make a move against all of them, how will I be able to lift my head in the future?! Who will dare serve me? Although I’m not your true daughter, I still spent many years by your side! Don’t you care about my life or death anymore?!”
Qin Huaiyuan tugged his sleeve out of Qin Huining’s hands with a flourish and frowned. “Thirdly, Miss Huining made a mistake this time because of provocation from her servants. Everyone is to keep a tight lip and not gossip about this. Fourthly, Miss Huining isn’t suited to live with the old dowager. She can too easily anger the elderly. Have her move to the Snowpear Courtyard. The fourth miss is to be given a new home. Clean out the Venerable Study Hall, and help the fourth miss move in so that she may more easily visit the old dowager in the future.”
The Venerable Study Hall had been the small hall that Qin Huaiyuan had occupied by himself when he was a child. It’d originally been called the Serene Study Hall. Qin Huaiyuan had notably fair looks, so when his grandfather had still been alive, he’d found fault with the original name of the hall. The old lord had been strolling in the gardens one day when he perused the board with the hall’s name. “What Serene Study Hall! This isn’t a monastery! My eldest grandson is so handsome that he’s going to have at least one wife and ten concubines in the future!” He’d then tugged the young Qin Huaiyuan over. “Come come come, recite a poem that discusses beautiful women for your grandfather.”
Qin Huaiyuan was just a child, and had gone red from all the teasing. But he dutifully recited a portion from ‘The Book of Odes and Hymns’ that described the beauty, nobility, and refined looks of women.
“The lady tall, her garb of brocade…. her hands as tender as new shoots, her skin lustrous and fair. Her neck slender and graceful, and her teeth clean and neat…”
“This poem is written for my grandson!” proclaimed the old lord. “This Serene Study Hall will be called the Venerable Study Hall in the future!”
Who would disregard his words? The Qin family hadn’t been as prosperous back then and the manor not as big as present. The rear gardens had been an addition during an enlargement renovation. However, the Venerable Study Hall had always been kept and maintained. After the old lord had sought the west on the backs of cranes 1, Qin Huaiyuan would come sit at the study whenever he missed his grandfather.
Qin Huining had taken a fancy to the scenery around this residence back when she was younger, and had once cutely asked her father to bestow it on her. Her father had rejected her, and then once again when she’d tried again. Her grandmother had comforted her back then by reassuring her that the Venerable Study Hall was meant for the official son. She couldn’t live there since she was a girl. Over time, this had slowly doused Qin Huining’s desire. But now, her father was offering it to Qin Yining of his own accord! Wasn’t Qin Yining a girl as well?! Why could Qin Yining live in it and not her?!
As jealous as Qin Huining might be, now wasn’t the time to dwell on it. She had to think of the unfavorable situation she was in now. Moving from Garden of Tranquility to the Snowpear Courtyard and getting rid of everyone who’d once served her meant that she had absolutely nothing to her name. How would she spend the rest of her days in the future?
“Father, please! Have mercy! You can’t treat me like this! Your daughter still has a life to live in the future, I’ll have no face to keep living like this! You might as well give me a rope and have me hang myself!” Qin Huining scuttled over to once again latch onto Qin Huaiyuan’s leg.
The Qin lord took two steps back and shook his head with a frown. A girl growing up in the lap of luxury by the old dowager and née Sun’s side had only petty schemes and plots in her empty mind, with no consideration of the greater picture at all. It seemed that she only knew to throw a tantrum when running into trouble and had no bearing to speak of whatsoever. It’s apparent from this,at least, the importance of one’s own children. It’d been his own daughter who’d inherited his bloodline after all. Although Qin Huaiyuan did have fatherly feelings for Qin Huining, he was quite dissatisfied that his biological daughter had been framed.
As for why he and the crown prince had so coincidentally overheard Bitong by the artificial mountain… it went without saying that it’d been that girl who’d arranged it all. Qin Huaiyuan was both angry and amused that his daughter had made use of him in this manner. However, educating one’s daughter was one thing, and punishing those with malicious thoughts was entirely another.
“Daughter Hui.” Qin Huaiyuan’s voice was as usual. Not a single flicker could be detected as he laid everything out. “As my daughter, you should be well aware of what can and cannot be done. You don’t need to threaten me with words of self harm. I’m not the old dowager.”
Qin Huining’s tear ducts went dry from fright. Father knew about that! She’d always thought that father never involved himself in matters of the inner residence!
“Lying to others is also lying to yourself. You said it was someone by your side who did all this and made you shoulder the blame. Alright, I have chosen to believe you and accordingly, dealt with those by your side. Now, it won’t be because of your servants if it happens again, correct? If you have no ability to control your servants, then I must reconsider your future as well. Do as you see fit.” His tone never once broke form, even when delivering that enormous blow. After a moment, Qin Huaiyuan strode away.
Qin Huining sat on the ground in a long daze. Every single one of her father’s words had been a brutal slap to the face. Although she hadn’t been physically hit, her face quickly swelled beet red, and the resentment and begrudging feelings she harbored sunk further into her heart. She may not be his real daughter, but he still couldn’t treat her like this! She’d been spoiled for so many years and was now suddenly told that she wasn’t the official daughter after all. Everything she’d had had been taken away and given to Qin Yining, but Qin Huining was innocent in all of this!
Although Qin Huaiyuan had given his orders to Qitai, some of those matters still had to be broached himself. Therefore, he made directly for Garden of Loving Piety after leaving the woodshed. The old dowager had almost fainted from anger just now and initially had trouble breathing. By the time Qin Huaiyuan arrived, she’d slowly recovered and was leaning against the soft body cushion, sipping some ginseng soup. She revealed a happy smile when she saw Qin Huaiyuan. “Are you done with matters outside?”
“Yes. What’s wrong, mother? Are you not feeling well?”
“Ai!” The old dowager sighed and relayed the fight she’d had with née Sun earlier.
Qin Huaiyuan was silent for a bit. “Don’t be angry, mother. You know of née Sun’s temper. I’ll have a few words with her later.”
The old dowager grew even more displeased with née Sun when she saw that her immensely busy son still had to worry about irritating matters like this. But out of concern for her son, she wouldn’t continue denouncing her daughter-in-law for the latter’s behavior.
Qin Huaiyuan conveyed his decision to the old dowager, and the matriarch frowned when she heard that Qin Huining was to move to the Snowpear Courtyard. “Just beat and punish her servants if they’re no good. the Snowpear Courtyard is so out of the way. Just have her go back to Garden of Tranquility if she’s to move out, why send her so far away?”
“Mother, it’s likely that née Sun will get up to even more trouble if the girl goes back to Garden of Tranquility. Besides, if daughter Yi could live in the remote the Snowpear Courtyard, why can’t daughter Hui do so as well?”
The old dowager had no decent comeback to that and could only remark with some embarrassment, “Didn’t we suspect granddaughter Yi’s origins at that time? It was just something I said out of anger. What, am I a bad grandmother who’s harsh to her granddaughters? And how come you’re finally willing to give the Venerable Study Hall to someone?”
Qin Huaiyuan didn’t dwell on the point. Instead, he flashed a smile. “It’s sitting empty anyways. Daughter Yi is already fourteen and will come of age in a few years. It’ll be fine if an official son moves into it later.”
When the conversation turned to Qin Yining, the old dowager recalled the crown prince’s glance today. “Is the crown prince… granddaughter Yi…”
Qin Huaiyuan smiled meaningfully. “Mother, I’m Grand Preceptor to the Heir Apparent now, and my status naturally not what it was before. It’s not up to us anymore how my daughters marry. We’ll just have to be patient and see what happens.”
“It’d be our family’s honor if the imperial family is willing.” The old dowager immediately understood her son. “It’s a good thing for granddaughter Yi to move to the Venerable Study Hall as well. She’ll be much closer to me, and it was where you used to live and study. The studious air will be a good influence on her.”
“Precisely my intentions.” Qin Huaiyuan smiled slightly.
“Old Dowager, my lord, the senior madame and fourth miss are here with chicken soup that they’ve prepared for the old dowager.” Jixiang came in smiling merrily, followed by an abashed née Sun carrying a black lacquer, raden meal box. 2 At her side, Qin Yining politely greeted both the old dowager and Qin Huaiyuan.