Chapter 77: Saving Lives is as Urgent as Extinguishing a Fire
Qin Yining quickly ran to née Sun, who was sobbing broken heartedly on the ground. She helped her mother up from her kneeling position. “Mother, go home first!”
“I’m going to cry my grievances to the emperor! I’m going to the Bureau of Punishment! How dare they, how dare they…” Née Sun shook her head numbly as she hiccuped.
“They dare because they’re holding an imperial decree! The emperor gave the order, who are you going to air your grievances to?!” Qin Yining rested her hands on née Sun’s shoulders and pressed down lightly. She lowered her voice and forced out each word between her teeth. “Mother! The imperial decree has been announced and there’s nothing we can do. We’re only females and Qins as well. Our actions will impact the life and death of the Qins! Mother, do you want everyone in the Qin clan to become burial goods for grandfather and the others?!”
“How can you be so cold blooded?!” Née Sun looked incredulously at Qin Yining and pushed her away roughly. “Do you want me to just watch your grandfather and family die?!”
Qin Yining remained standing firmly where she was, no longer adjusting her grip to née Sun’s motions. She clamped tightly onto her mother’s shoulders until the madame frowned with pain and forgot to cry. “Yes, maybe I’m cold blooded. Although I most recently lived in the mountains, I scrabbled for life out on the city streets when I was young. I’ve experienced life and death and seen the kindness of humanity. But more often, I’ve seen the reality and ugliness of human nature. Disaster has struck, and although father wants to help the Ding Manor, will the emperor listen to him? Think about it, mother. Father is the pillar of the family. Would he dare offend the emperor so deeply that his own family is hauled over the fire as well?
“Father is the grand preceptor and you are a woman of the inner residence. Will you be able to do what he can’t? If you do anything now, you’ll only doom the Qins to the same fate!”
Née Sun looked dumbly at Qin Yining, tears springing forth again. “Then, then we can only watch as your grandfather, uncles, and cousins are beheaded? Your third cousin’s youngest son is only five!”
Tears also brimmed in Qin Yining’s eyes. “That’s reality, mother! Listen to me. Go home right now and refuse all visitors because you’re sick. Don’t see anyone. If the old dowager demands to see you, don’t talk back to her. You have to face reality, mother. You have no family of your own side anymore!”
No family of her own side.
The source of née Sun’s pride and confidence all these years, and the crutch she’d used most often when fighting with the old dowager and Qin Huaiyuan was her family. No one would be able to back her up in the future. Her family was gone!
When Qin Yining saw née Sun stare blankly, she knew that her words had had some effect. She quickly gave orders to Jin-mama. “Help the madame back to the manor first. Press on her the importance of not conflicting with the old dowager or anyone else. Let’s talk when I get home. Everyone will soon know what’s happened to the Suns, and things are about to change for the Qins as well.”
“Understood, Fourth Miss.” The mama nodded firmly. It was the first time she’d felt that, even without the duke’s doting on her mistress, even if her mistress lost the support of her side of the family, they still had someone supporting them as long as the fourth miss was there.
Qin Yining had the groom unharness one of the horses. “I’m going to find Steward Zhong and might get home a bit later. Hold down the fort for me until I get back.”
“Yes miss, don’t worry.” Bingtang nodded. “I’ll take good care of the madame as well.”
Qin Yining jerked the reins around and sent the horse off in a fast gallop. She’d never learned how to ride, but since she’d spent some time with herds of wild horses and even ridden some of them, it wasn’t difficult to command a tamed horse. She quickly arrived at Grand Steward Zhong’s.
He wasn’t at home.
When the pageboy saw that the owner had come, he sprinted quickly to the Rising Delight Inn to bring Steward Zhong back. The steward had heard of what’d happened at Ding Manor and came back on a fast horse when he heard the pageboy’s message. Qin Yining didn’t need to even speak. He already knew what she wanted to do. “Don’t worry, miss. I’ll take out our petty cash 1 and do whatever it takes to hire out the old owner and all female relations.”
Qin Yining was quite touched to see the sincerity in his face and lack of fear of becoming embroiled in this mess. “Then I’ll have to trouble you to go to some effort, Steward Zhong. Although hiring them is an urgent matter, what’s even more pressing is sending doctors and midwives to the Royal Academy. My fifth cousin-in-law is about to give birth and I’m afraid eighth cousin-in-law might’ve affected her child as well.”
Steward Zhong was alarmed by these words and nodded quickly. “Okay, okay. Our Institute has the widest network, to say nothing of anything else. I’ll go make the arrangements now! Mingjie, you stay and carry out the miss’ orders. Saving lives are as urgent as putting out a fire. I’ll go take care of things now.”
“Alright. I leave things in your care, Steward Zhong.” Qin Yining nodded in thanks. The grand steward waved a hand and ran off like a fire was at his back. Qin Yining sent him off with her eyes and sat down with a frown after he was a ways away. She finally noted a man roughly over thirty standing off to the side with his head down. He was of average build and wearing a padded jacket of fine cotton fibers. He wore a six panel hat with sharp eyes set into an honest-looking face.
When he sensed that Qin Yining was sizing him up, he bowed. “Greetings to the owner. This humble one is Jing Mingjie. My mother serves in the kitchen of the Qin manor.”
So it’s him! When Qin Yining had been locked in the ancestral hall, it’d been Jing-mama who came by with food and information. She’d helped Qin Yining pass along messages as well, and had conveyed then that she had a son who was a third rank shopkeeper under Grand Steward Zhong.
“So it’s Shopkeeper Jing.”
“Not at all. It’s because of the owner that I can learn at Grand Steward Zhong’s side.” Jing Mingjie bowed.
Qin Yining knew that Steward Zhong was a highly competent person, so anyone he sent to her would be someone exceedingly trustworthy. One didn’t doubt the people they made use of, so Qin Yining asked, “The Institute originally had two brothels. One of them’s been converted to a tavern, what about the remaining one?”
“In response to the miss, there’s no use for the remaining house for now. We’ve only set some staff to keeping an eye on it.”
Qin Yining mentally counted up the numbers of Sun clan females and then thought about the sizes of the two inns the Institute was running. It wasn’t appropriate to arrange them at the inns. There wasn’t enough space, and given the general flow of people, it wasn’t safe enough either. She had to make appropriate arrangements for them after hiring them. There were already no more males in grandmother’s household, Qin Yining couldn’t separate the remaining family. She thought for a moment more and felt that the only place she could shelter them was the empty house that’d originally been a brothel.
“Shopkeeper Jing, please have someone clean up the empty house and place all daily necessities within them. Record all of your expenditures and just turn them into Steward Zhong.”
Jing Mingjie understood what Qin Yining wanted to do. “You’d like to house the Sun females there? That’s a good arrangement. The house has already been cleaned up and is very suitable for people to live in. We’ll still need to arrange for some guards though. Don’t worry, miss. I’ll go make the arrangements now.”
Qin Yining nodded and had Jing Mingjie go about his business while she waited in the outer study of Steward Zhong’s home. He returned when night fell.
“Thank goodness we got there in time. If we were even a little bit later, we’d only be in time to deliver two corpses. The child has just been delivered and it’s a girl. Both mother and daughter are safe. I’ve handled everything at the Royal Academy. We can take them all tomorrow morning.”
Qin Yining’s heart could finally settle back down in her chest. She clasped her hands together and motioned a few times in gratefulness. “Thank you so much, Steward Zhong.”
“Say none of that, miss. You saved my entire family’s life, and the old owners have always treated me well. You are a heroic lady possessing of great loyalty and justice. You uphold righteousness, so I really have no reason to watch idly off on the side.”
Qin Yining stood up and thought for a moment. “The Institute has such a wide network, can we get anyone to pass a message into the dungeons of the Bureau of Punishment? If we can, let’s get a message to my grandfather and them, letting them know that fifth cousin-in-law has delivered a girl.” She sighed. “It’s just as well that the child is a daughter. If a son…” The emperor probably wouldn’t let even a newborn off the hook.
Steward Zhong also gave a long sigh. “What’s happened at the Duke of Ding Manor has spread all throughout the capital. Everyone knows that they’re innocent. Many scholars who admire the duke are signing petitions for leniency. I hope the emperor will hear the voice of the people and lighten the punishment.”
“May that be the case.” Sudden hope ignited in Qin Yining’s heart, but when she thought carefully of what Elder Statesman Cao had said today and the emperor’s personality, the hope began to fizzle out. “I’m afraid that the emperor will think the Suns are skilled at manipulating public favor and be even warier of them…”
Steward Zhong’s expression grew stern as he too became uncertain. Qin Yining gave her remaining orders and relayed to the steward that she’d had Jing Mingjie clean up the house for the Sun females before she headed home.
She’d been out all day while mother had returned home earlier. I wonder if anything’s happened because of this enormous change? Qin Yining knew that the old dowager was an extremely materialistic person who sought personal gain at all cost. However tolerant she was of née Sun before, that’d been because the madame had the Duke of Ding Manor at her back. Now that the Suns were tarred with crimes, the old dowager would most likely be afraid and hate everything to do with the Duke of Ding. She’d be worried that the Qins would be affected.
Therefore, née Sun’s position would take a tremendous fall. Even a granddaughter who’d received some Sun businesses like Qin Yining would probably come in for her share of wariness from the old dowager, not to mention that she’d immediately hired out the Sun females. The affection that she’d worked hard to win from the old dowager would likely be wiped out entirely by this event.
But Qin Yining didn’t regret things nor find it a pity. Even if the old dowager disliked her, she’d be able to live out her days happily. She would never disregard the lives of the females on the maternal side of her family just to win favor from the old dowager. She was saving them not to be benevolent, but because of her mother and for the family that the Ding Manor had given her.
When Qin Yining returned home, Qitai immediately called out to her.
“You’re back, Fourth Miss! The lord told me to wait here for you and have you go to the study as soon as you return. He needs to talk to you.
- Money that’s immediately available on hand ↩