Chapter 100: Pang Xiao’s Fury
However, the granny servants roughly jerked them out, pinching the concubines fiercely when they refused to go. After enduring several vicious pinches on their delicate waists and backs, even the most recalcitrant concubine let go with a wail. The granny servants hadn’t been fully confident earlier, since the only order they’d heard was Qin Yining’s. But now with the old dowager’s support, their reservations had been wiped clear. When the concubines kicked up an unholy fuss in screeches, the servants decided to use the handkerchiefs around the former’s waists as a makeshift gag.
Garden of Tranquility quickly regained its peace and quiet. The remaining servants looked at Qin Yining and née Sun with new eyes. Who said the senior madame had fallen from grace? Who said that the fourth miss had lost favor? If that really was the case, would the old dowager have backed them up so decisively?
Those four concubines had been old hands in the manor, but here they were, sold off just like that, all because of a disrespectful showing to the senior madame and fourth miss! Thank goodness the remaining servants hadn’t run afoul of these two, or they’d also be part of the ones being sold off today!
Qin Yining understood that she had reached her goal after sweeping her eyes across those assembled in the yard. It looks like it isn’t too difficult to have the old dowager do things my way as long as I say the right stuff. She hadn’t gone head to head with the matriarch this time, but had still accomplished her goal of making an example out of the four concubines. If she hadn’t been successful today, then even the servants wouldn’t hesitate to bully them in the future!
The fourth miss was naturally very grateful for her grandmother’s ‘help’ and invited the matriarch in for a spot of tea. When the old dowager saw the expressions on the crowd’s faces, she immediately realized that she’d been used. Although her actions also signaled goodwill towards née Cao, they’d also helped née Sun and Qin Yining. Not only had she been played, she’d willingly gone along for the ride.
Some irritation inevitably arose after being used so. She knew she’d choke on anger if she conversed with Qin Yining and née Sun after this! The old dowager whirled huffily and left, leaving behind an indifferent Qin Yining who curtsied politely with the others. The second and third madame flanked the old dowager and accompanied the matriarch back, quietly reassessing née Sun after witnessing Qin Yining’s methods.
Née Sun was a brash, headstrong, arrogant, and frankly brainless character. Qin Yining was the very opposite. Setting aside the fact that Qin Huaiyuan knew the matters of the inner residence like the back of his hand, née Sun still had Qin Yining by her side. It would be more than just difficult for the second and third branches of the family to pull one over the main branch.
After everyone had left, Cao Yuqing nodded with a smile at née Sun and turned to Qin Yining. “Fourth Miss, your wits are unparalleled. This concubine is filled with admiration. Please do come and visit my residence when you’re free in the future.”
Née Sun glared at Cao Yuqing, her eyes wanting to rip the concubine to pieces. Qin Yining didn’t give her mother a chance to respond as she also returned a smiling nod. “Many thanks to Auntie Cao today.”
“No need to be so polite, Fourth Miss. This concubine merely lifted a finger.” Cao Yuqing dimpled.
The two smiled at each other. Yet the slightly strange smiles on their strikingly beautiful faces had nothing to do with Cao Yuqing preventing Qin Yining from kneeling in punishment. How many days had it been since the new concubine had entered the Qin Manor? She’d ‘merely lifted a finger’ today and used Qin Yining’s hand to bloodlessly and easily take out four potential opponents. Whereas, Qin Yining was ‘thankful’ that this matter had reestablished née Sun’s authority and forced the old dowager into publicly supporting the senior madame’s actions, making the servants respect the senior madame and fourth miss again.
It was win-win.
Qin Yining understood this. Cao Yuqing understood this. A silent moment later, the two flashed knowing smiles at each other. Meanwhile, née Sun was still off on the side and completely lost. All she could tell was that something seemed to be going on, while Qin Huining was almost drowning in envy.
She didn’t understand! She’d been the one to successfully claim Cao Yuqing as a foster mother, so why did it still feel like she was inferior to Qin Yining? Qin Yining only had that good-for-nothing née Sun! It’s not fair that she gets to live such a high and mighty life! Why was née Cao treating Qin Yining so kindly and even asking for leniency on the latter’s behalf?
Qin Huining wracked her brains, but couldn’t figure out when these two virtual strangers had the chance to interact with each other before. She only knew that her brave decision to shoulder the ugly name of ‘fence-sitter’ hadn’t brought her the power to suppress Qin Yining. This was hateful, just too aggravating!
Qin Yining helped her mother inside to finish her meal after Cao Yuqing and Qin Huining took their leave. While they ate, she gave née Sun a rough explanation so that she finally understood Cao Yuqing’s scheming and Qin Yining’s intentions. After the madame understood how things had gone, she grew even more convinced of her daughter’s great wits and methods.
Meanwhile, news of the fourth miss sending away four concubines with just a few words and doing so with the old dowager’s support quickly traveled all over the manor. The old dowager had thought that Qin Huaiyuan would at least ask when he heard about his four concubines being sold. She’d already prepared her response, but the lord had shut himself in the study after returning from mourning court. He even missed the evening greeting at Garden of Loving Piety, not even emerging when the old dowager sent servants to inquire.
Fortunately, the second elder master Qin Xiuyuan had also attended court. The news he brought back was so unexpected that the entire family was stunned.
“What? Say that again! Great Zhou wants to parley?”
“Indeed.” Qin Xiuyuan nodded. “The Great Zhou envoy announced that he was willing to discuss peace during our court session. The military campground outside Xihua has been chosen as the location. After a few rounds of discussion, big brother won out over all proposed representatives. The emperor has made him the envoy of peace.”
“Wonderful, wonderful!” The old dowager nearly danced in her joy. The other females also sported slight smiles. No matter who went to speak of peace between Great Zhou and Great Yan, this would be an enormous achievement! The representative would be recorded in the annals of history! Qin Huaiyuan was already the Grand Preceptor of the Heir Apparent. If he could successfully broker peace, then it would be another marvelous stroke for his reputation amongst the populace and through the eyes of historians.
“Great honor to our ancestors, great honor!” The old dowager was immensely gratified. “But this is a good thing. Why is your brother depressed after coming back and refusing to see anyone?”
A strange look flitted across Qin Xiuyuan’s face. “In response to mother… it came down to big brother or Elder Statesman Cao. When big brother was chosen, Statesman Cao… offered… a ridiculous idea…”
“What, what ridiculous idea?” The old dowager leaned forward with widened eyes.
“Elder Statesman Cao said that…” Qin Xiuyuan’s voice almost became inaudible. “Great Zhou’s main representative this time is their Minister of Military Affairs, Lian Shengjie. This person is extremely wily and crafty, but he has been known to have a weakness for beauties. The statesman recommended the emperor try seduction as a tactic. His Majesty felt that this was a wonderful idea, saying that ‘heroes always become prisoners of love’. The statesman then followed up with the statement that since ‘Grand Preceptor Qin is called Wise Pan An, and that his daughter bears a remarkable likeness, she must be a stunning beauty. In the interest of national peace, it would be a great achievement if the grand preceptor is willing to offer up his daughter’.”
“What?!” An explosion went off inside the old dowager’s head. She wanted to save Qin Yining for the crown prince! If the girl was sent to parley, then this pawn would be completely ruined! She’d heard of Lian Shengjie. He was known as an old lecher. If Qin Yining truly made this trip, her chastity would be gone for sure! Their house finally had a girl so eminently suited to be the crown princess consort, but now she was to be sacrificed for peace?! The old dowager tripped over her words in her haste to ask. “And the emperor? What did the emperor say? Did he agree?”
Qin Xiuyuan sighed and nodded. “The emperor’s already given the decree that big brother is to set off ten days from now, and take niece Yi with him. He must successfully broker peace, or offer up his own head in apology. This is why big brother is so depressed.”
His words plunged everyone into an icy cavern of dread. An imperial decree had descended. If Qin Huaiyuan couldn’t bear to sacrifice his daughter, the Qins might be eradicated. But realistically, the family would never give up so many years of effort to save a single girl, so Qin Yining’s sacrifice was a foregone conclusion.
The old dowager sat primly in her seat, her lips tightly compressed. She didn’t utter another word. Everyone looked at each other, various thoughts rattling around in their brains.
Back at Cloudsoar Inn, Pang Xiao had given orders for Huzi to send Bingtang back when he received a message from his subordinates. A black fur cloak was draped around his shoulder as he stood in front of a window. After perusing the note thoroughly, he threw it into the charcoal brazier. He made sure to incinerate it completely, staring at the live coals with his forehead tightly knitted.
Huzi came back inside to see an exceedingly ugly expression on Pang Xiao’s face. “Are you alright, master? Is it your injury?” he asked anxiously.
Pang Xiao’s complexion was still a bit pale, but when he turned to face Huzi, his phoenix eyes had turned into furious orbs of fire. Huzi had spent enough time at his master’s side to recognize the warning signs and smartly hopped back two steps. A moment of silence passed, and his master exploded into action, upending the charcoal brazier with a mighty kick!
Huzi quickly splashed a basin of water over the coals scattered all over the ground, causing them to hiss in dismay. “What’s wrong, master?”
“F*ck that motherf*cking old f*cktard Weichi!” Pang Xiao roared. “His Majesty ordered Lian Shengjie to negotiate for peace, but the Great Yan emperor wants to gift Qin Si to Lian Shengjie!”
“Ah!” Huzi sucked in a breath. This was a fresh flower that even his master couldn’t bear to pluck! Would it be planted on that turd heap Lian Shengjie?