Chapter 102: A Daughter’s Forgiveness
Qin Yining still greeted the old dowager every morning and evening as part of her daily schedule. She just didn’t go as eagerly or early as Qin Huining and the sixth miss. When the two saw her walking sedately towards them, they thought her scared after learning she would be part of the parley group and had come to ask the old dowager for help.
Contempt filled Qin Huining’s eyes, a stark difference from the fear that’d resided in them the day before. She crossed her arms and snorted with laughter, circling around Qin Yining.
“It’s a little too late for Little Creek to be seeking salvation as the last minute. If you’d been a proper granddaughter from the beginning, the old dowager might have treasured you a little more and thought to speak a few words in your defense. Who knows, that might have been enough to avert your destiny of serving that old lecher. But what did you do instead? Instead of learning how to be filial, you always make the old dowager mad. Who cares whether you live or die now?”
“That’s right.” The sixth miss smirked coldly. “You and your looks. What gives you the confidence to be so cocky every day? Let me tell you something, the old dowager will send your body to that old lecher even if you kill yourself. She doesn’t want to see our family end up like your maternal relations.”
Qin Yining looked at the splendidly dressed pair and listened silently to their disgusting words of venomous hate. She stared evenly at them without saying a word in return.
Qin Huining and the sixth miss were now firmly convinced that Qin Yining didn’t dare act as brazenly as before, given her current predicament. They finally had a chance to strike back after being bullied so relentlessly before. Of course they would make full use of this opportunity! However, it was more than a bit eerie that Qin Yining wasn’t snapping back, or attempting to beat them up. She’d confined herself to a glare that made their hair stand on end. It took them a great deal of effort to keep from stumbling backwards and focus on glaring back hatefully instead.
“You’re just a barbarian!” The sixth miss found more courage deep within her and started cursing. “Letting you strut around the Qin Manor for so many days is already a favor from the heavens! If you really do come back alive from serving the old lecher, don’t worry. We can still afford to keep a broken and dirty woman like you!”
Qin Yining’s lashes suddenly fluttered, and she lowered her gaze. Those words had seemingly struck a chord. Her plain outfit already made her stand out from the girls clad in auspicious red. And now she was being forced to such an end by fate. There was no way she could decline an imperial decree, and now she had to endure such insults from her cousins! Flinging words like “serving an old lecher” and “a broken and dirty woman” at her, even a full grown woman might not be able to take such humiliation, much less a young, unmarried girl.
When the sixth miss and Qin Huining looked at her aggrieved figure, they felt only the sweet thrill of revenge. The sixth miss grew even bolder. “Aren’t you something normally? Isn’t there no one who can win a fight or argument against you? Try fighting with the old dowager now and see if she helps you! Don’t think you…”
“Are these the manners that second sister-in-law teaches? It seems that I’ve learned something new today.” A low male voice, clearly suppressing anger, sounded from behind Qin Huining and the sixth miss.
The two girls shuddered violently, their eyes widening instantly in disbelief. They turned slowly, and found Qin Huaiyuan in a gray, fur collar cloak standing not too far away with his arms crossed. Next to him, Second Elder Master Qin Xiuyuan was livid, glaring at the sixth miss.
An explosion went off inside the sixth miss’ brain as her knees weakened and she fell to the group with a thump. Qin Huining was also scared out of her wits. No wonder Qin Yining hadn’t said or done anything just now! She’d seen Qin Huaiyuan and Qin Xiuyuan coming from a mile away! Not only had she not prevented them from speaking further, she’d even goaded them onto further efforts!
And I was wondering why that wench wasn’t talking back today! She was waiting for disaster to fall on our heads!
Qin Huaiyuan was looking at Qin Huining and the sixth miss with a dark expression. He hadn’t said a word yet, but his aura was terrifying to behold.
“Don’t be angry, brother. I’ll teach sixth daughter well.” Qin Xiuyuan hastily declared.
Qin Huaiyuan nodded and made straight for Qin Yining. The other two girls were so frightened that all color had drained from their faces. They scuttled to the side to let him pass. When he reached his daughter, he took a good look at her and rubbed her head, then lovingly adjusted her cloak. “Come, eat breakfast with your father in the outer residence.”
“Alright.” Qin Yining touched her forehead, right next to where Qin Huaiyuan had just patted her and smiled contentedly. She dutifully followed by her father’s side to the outer residence. She didn’t spare the two girls even a single glance. Minor characters weren’t at all worthy of her attention or fear. Someone else would take care of them without another word from her.
Qin Yining brought Bingtang and Songlan with her to the outer residence. “Didn’t father send someone to get me? Why didn’t you wait for me to leave the inner residence?”
“Mm.” Qin Huaiyuan was distracted by his thoughts. Qin Yining knew that her father was wholeheartedly concentrating on other matters when he was like this and didn’t speak again.
The two arrived at the outer study and Qin Huaiyuan led his daughter to a side hall for breakfast. Six small dishes of tantalizing food, fragrant thick porridge, a large platter of steaming buns, and two plates of gleaming, stir-fried vegetables sat on the table. They would normally be quite appetite inducing, but neither father or daughter had much appetite right then. After a few mouthfuls for the sake of courtesy, they both set aside their chopsticks.
“I’m sure you know of everything.” Qin Huaiyuan sighed.
“Yes,” Qin Yining answered. “The news is everywhere. It’s rather difficult for me not to know.”
Qin Huaiyuan frowned as he stared at the steaming hot dishes in front of him, silent for the longest time. When she saw how conflicted her father was, Qin Yining smiled.
“Father, the imperial decree has been announced. You can’t defy it or disregard the lives of the family. I’ll make this trip with you.”
The lord of the household jerked his head up violently, looking deeply into Qin Yining’s unconcerned, smiling face. “Daughter Yi, aren’t you afraid? Do you not resent this?”
To say nothing for her chastity or life, her reputation alone would be utterly ruined after such a matter. Any other girl would’ve tried to hang herself by now, or throw themselves into the closest river. But here was Qin Yining, living her life in tranquility. She wasn’t even thinking of running away! Qin Huaiyuan already felt her behavior to be a display of great maturity, but she had enough presence of mind to comfort him with smiles instead! But she’s the one who’s being hurt here!
Emotions assailed him as his eyes grew hot. For once, Qin Huaiyuan’s titanic self control was of no use to him.
When Qin Yining saw the black circles beneath her father’s eyes and how he seemed to want to say something, how could she not understand his thoughts?
“With what happened to the Duke of Ding still fresh in our minds, my death or attempt at running away in this crucial moment will only result in complete disaster to the family. The only thing I can do now is quietly set off for Xihua in nine days and broker peace at whatever cost. I can’t let this sacrifice go to waste. It’s enough that our family stays safe and sound and I remain alive. I’m not thinking too much about chastity and reputation. You shouldn’t either, father.”
“Daughter Yi…” Qin Huaiyuan never thought that Qin Yining would be so unruffled at such a critical juncture. Shouldn’t she be the most pitied and innocent one at this moment?
“Don’t be sad, father. I’ve seen too much of death and parting in the outside world. There, one’s life and death is the result of merest chance. Children of poor families die from accidents, or are run over by carriages, or are dragged off by wild wolves or dogs, or even drown after slipping into water. Life is precious, but lives can also be the cheapest of commodities. When enemies raze a city or a natural disaster claims food stores, the poor will sell off a perfectly healthy girl for half a bag of flour…
“Father, in my view, hope exists as long as we stay alive. Aren’t I hope to you? I once thought I would have to hunt and pick herbs in the mountains for the rest of my life. But father found me! Every life contains trials. Those who live through them, smiling to the end, have the best lot in life. As for what we endure in between, well, I don’t care about that… and neither should you, father. I’m not one of those weak, teary noble daughters. I’m not afraid of this. Any of it.”