Chapter 64: A Filial Son and Wise Granddaughter
Qin Yining, the old dowager, and née Sun were currently in a small imperial carriage, on their way to leaving the palace. Qin Yining was still crying into her hands and mumbling, “I’m not marrying that lecher! If I’m given to this person, then I’ll hang myself, I’ll throw myself into the river, I’ll…”
Her voice wasn’t loud, but the eunuch accompanying the carriage clearly heard every word. The old dowager was as if a monk deep in meditation, not saying a single word. Née Sun however, itched to gag her daughter and had already cursed out Qin Yining thousands of times over in her heart. She’s already embarrassed us all in front of the emperor, and she’s still carrying on even now?! Née Sun wanted to lecture her daughter, but held her tongue out of consideration for their surroundings and the eunuch next to the carriage.
Qin Yining finally stopped “crying” when the three had swapped out for their red wheel, tasseled carriage and their loyal servants had hurried the vehicle out of palace vicinity. Née Sun could no longer hold her temper and erupted. “You ignorant, foolish brat! You throw your weight around like the Monkey King at home and can turn the entire household upside down if you had a stick, so how dare you cry in front of the emperor when someone’s only said a few words to you? What if the emperor or empress finds fault with us? Who can take the blame then? Are you trying to make trouble for the family?!”
Qin Yining quickly wrapped her hand around née Sun’s arm to have her mother sit down. “Don’t worry, mother. Listen to my explanation.”
“What bullshit explanation! You’ve already cried up a storm. The emperor’s probably already marked us if he’s going to blame us for this! What use are your explanations! Your father should’ve never brought you back! Our calm days at home have all been wrecked by you!”
Qin Yining was still smiling, but the levity in her eyes slowly dwindled. Although she understood née Sun’s personality and didn’t want to quibble, she was sometimes still hurt by one of née Sun’s random outbursts. But at the end of the day, née Sun was still her mother. Was Yining supposed to just idly sit by and watch her mother be lectured by her grandmother? She widened the smile on her lips. “Don’t be angry mother, listen to me. I purposefully cried just now. I was being harassed by a lecher after all. If I hadn’t made a fuss, the emperor likely would’ve married me off to the Caos right then and there.”
Née Sun’s anger instantly dissipated when she heard this. She’d only been mad about Qin Yining crying in front of the emperor, but she didn’t actually want her daughter to marry that good-for-nothing. When she thought about it carefully, her remonstrations didn’t make any sense. Was Qin Yining supposed to just quietly accept this marriage decree? Once she collected her wits, née Sun awkwardly coughed twice and received an irritated eye roll a lā the old dowager.
“I’m not opposed to marriage,” Qin Yining continued. “It’s just that I don’t know what father’s plans are. How can I haphazardly agree to my future without that knowledge?”
She knew very well that her marriage would be a strategic one. Her future husband would have to be someone who could further her father’s career. She’d already considered this when she agreed to return to the Qin family. Parents were the ultimate facilitators in the weddings of their children. While her father would focus on a beneficial match, it was all the same to her. Who does it matter who I marry?
Née Sun had fully returned to her senses now. To think that Qin Yining had thought of so much when she was preoccupied with worry and nerves! No wonder mother said to ask Qin Yining’s opinion on things because the girl sees things clearly. Come tot think about it, when she listened to the girl and softened her stance to the old dowager first, not only did Qin Huaiyuan not lecture her, but had actually been kind to her. And this time Qin Yining had kept such a clear head around the emperor…
Née Sun smiled with satisfaction and tapped Qin Yining’s forehead. She felt a bit guilty at how vehement she’d been earlier, but felt that there was no reason for a mother to apologize to a daughter. “Your maternal uncle sent some things to your maternal grandmother yesterday, and the duchess sent over two white fox pelts that were among them. She said it’s for the two of you to make into collars for overcoats. I’ll have Caiju bring it over when we return.”
Qin Yining knew that née Sun was softening with these words. She put the words that née Sun had just said out of her mind and didn’t quibble that the pelts weren’t only hers. She only smiled happily. “Thank you mother. Thank you to my maternal grandmother.”
Née Sun was happy to see Qin Yining smile as she usually did. The old dowager had grown used to scenes like these over the past couple of days, and her fondness for Qin Yining deepened a tad further. She’d wanted to extort her daughter-in-law, but now that Qin Yining was holding née Sun’s hand and merrily chatting together, the old dowager didn’t want to ruin the amiable atmosphere.
Several pageboys came out when the carriage stopped in front of the Qin manor doors. Qitai, the follower at Qin Huaiyuan’s side, bowed. “Old Dowager, Senior Madame, and Fourth Miss have returned! The lord has been worried about you and told me to wait here. I’ll go make a report to him now.”
The old dowager alighted with the help of Qin Yining and née Sun. “Tell your lord to come to the Garden of Loving Piety for a chat. Tell him I have urgent matters to discuss with him.”
Qitai bowed in acknowledge and left for the study in the other residence after helping the three ladies into a small carriage. Qin Huaiyuan immediately rushed in when the group returned to the Garden of Loving Piety and had just undone their capes and had a sip of hot tea. Qin Yining and née Sun quickly stood up to make their curtsies.
Qin Huaiyuan waved his hand to omit the courtesies and studied their faces. He relaxed slightly when he saw nothing out of the ordinary. Qin Yining felt that the old dowager must want to discuss with Qin Huaiyuan what had just happened in the palace. She took née Sun’s arm. “Didn’t mother say you have fox pelts to gift? I also want to eat Jin-mama’s pine nut and osmanthus candy. Shall we go to the Garden of Tranquility together? I’ll have someone send over my meal box earlier and we can eat lunch together. May we?”
Qin Yining’s “may we” was soft and sweet. No one who heard it could bear to decline. Née Sun naturally liked growing closer with her daughter, and she wanted to make up for wrongly yelling at her earlier. She nodded with a smile and curtsied at the old dowager and Qin Huaiyuan. “Then we’ll be leaving first.”
The old dowager nodded affably, her expression darkening only after the servants had helped née Sun and Qin Yining into their capes and the two had departed. “Disaster was averted today thanks to granddaughter Yi’s quick thinking.”
Qin Huaiyuan took a seat by the old dowager’s side with a frown. “What happened?”
The old dowager relayed in detail the happenings of the day, everyone’s bearing and words. She ended with, “If it hadn’t been for granddaughter Yi working herself up and saying that she wanted to be a nun or hang herself, the emperor and empress likely would’ve decreed the marriage right then and there. The Caos obviously mean nothing good in this, and I feel that this matter isn’t over yet. The empress clearly hates our family and wants to make an example out of Yining.”
“I understand the matter,” responded Qin Huaiyuan. “The emperor favors only the empress, so it’s only natural that he listens to her pillow talk. But as for why the emperor acted this way…”
His finger rubbed the smooth, shining tabletop as he mused. He actually knew the answer already. “It’s probably because I’ve become Grand Preceptor of the Heir Apparent.” But why would he suddenly do this? Was it premeditated or spur of the moment?
“Oh?” The old dowager didn’t fully understand matters of court. “What’s so bad about you becoming the crown prince’s teacher that it causes the emperor to go to these depths?”
Qin Huaiyuan knew the answer but didn’t want to bring up these messy affairs with his mother. He didn’t want her to fret and possibly become ill from worry. He only smiled noncommittally at his mother and handed her a cup of tea. “Don’t worry about this, mother. I can handle all of this. You just need keep the inner residence in order. I will be eternally grateful for that.”
“You child, what’s this talk of seemingly two families.” Her attention successfully diverted, she started talking about some preparations for the new year. Qin Huaiyuan patiently discussed mundane topics of New Year’s Eve and other future arrangements, and even joined the old dowager for lunch.
Qin-mama came in with a smile when they were rinsing their mouths and took over the duty of handing the old dowager a warm hand towel. She joked, “Are you in such a good mood today, mistress, because the lord is better at serving you? Will this old servant be out of a job soon?”
The mama gave Qin Huaiyuan a meaningful look at an angle that the old dowager couldn’t see. He instantly understood that something had happened.
“Lujuan, how are you comparing yourself to Meng’er at your age!” The old dowager laughed heartily.
“I naturally can’t compare to Qin-mama,” Qin Huaiyuan joined in. “The mama has served mother with lifelong diligence and loyalty. I can go about my matters with ease outside because I know mother is being wonderfully cared for at home.”
“This praise is too high for this old servant. Serving the old dowager is my duty.” Qin-mama turned to curtsey to Qin Huaiyuan and made a hand gesture, mouthing, “The crown prince is here.”
Qin Huaiyuan nodded without a flicker in expression. “Enjoy your nap, mother. I have some things to take care of.”
“Go on, I’ve kept you long enough.” Her son had a multitude of things to take care of in his capacity as a court official. She was already very satisfied that he’d taken time out to chat about new year plans and even eat lunch with her.
Qin Huaiyuan bowed courteously and retreated out of the house. Once he exited the Garden of Loving Piety doors, Qitai quickly came up to his side. He murmured, “Milord, the crown prince is here in casual clothes and without any followers. I feel that he wanted to keep a low profile and didn’t dare spread the news of his arrival. I have him drinking tea in the study.”
“Mm,” Qin Huaiyuan acknowledged. Perhaps the crown prince’s hasty visit will answer some questions for me. He still didn’t know the precise reason for the emperor suddenly wanting to marry his daughter off to the Caos. What good would that be for the emperor if the Qins and Caos were tied together?