Chapter 13: Sensibility
“You might not have a son, but at least you have a daughter. If even the daughter isn’t yours, then think of the consequences yourself! ‘Of the three crimes of filial piety, having no children is the greatest’. If you end Qin Meng’s line, you break one of the seven laws! 1 Both your father and I will have nothing to say if Qin Meng casts you out!”
Née Sun was rendered speechless for a moment, unable to collect her wits. When she could gather her anger again, she shrieked, “He wouldn’t, he wouldn’t dare cast me out!”
“He wouldn’t?” The duchess snorted, feeling her headache worsen as she stared at her seemingly brainless daughter. “What kind of person do you think Qin Meng is?! He has shown nothing but stunning talent and decisive resolve his entire life! He was able to get rid of Northern Ji’s Protector of the Nation as a mere youth, and his career has seen no bump ever since. When has there ever been such a young prime minister in the history of our Great Yan?!”
Née Sun could only shake her head dumbly at this brutal assessment. There truly was no man with as smooth a rise as Qin Huaiyuan in her memory. But she still couldn’t accept this, “That’s all because of father’s help…”
“Idiot!” The duchess flicked her daughter hard in the forehead, the force enough to overbalance née Sun as she collapsed to the floor. “We’re allied to the Qin family by marriage. It is only natural for the two families to help each other. Even I find your constantly superior tone irritating, much less Lord Qin. He’s an outstanding and upright man. Would he be scared to bring back a mistress?”
Née Sun’s lips trembled when she thought of everything that had happened after meeting Qin Yining. She murmured softly to herself, “Did I really give birth to daughter Yi? Daughter Hui was someone else’s swapped in at birth?”
When the formerly enraged duchess saw how heartbroken her daughter had become, her heart softened. Her tone became much more gentle. “Since Lord Qin has said so, then it most likely is so. Even if not, you still have to take this child for your daughter, and that too with joy. If you don’t, you bear the crime of having borne him no children at all. Taking her in as your daughter creates another layer of support for your status in the Qin family. Daughter Han, do I really need to teach you such basic logic?”
Née Sun’s tears trickled down like a broken string of pearls. Sobs began to rack her petite frame, “How could the daughter Hui that I’ve raised for so many years be a fake! It’s all Qin Meng’s fault! If it wasn’t for him making enemies, why would my child have been switched at birth!”
“And have you ever thanked him for all the adoring, fawning attention that’s come to you because of this marriage? A married couple is supposed to go through the ups and downs of life together!” The tiny bit of goodwill born in the duchess’ heart was immediately extinguished by her daughter’s words.
Née Sun was thrown into silence by this retort, but then shot right back. “I don’t care! It’s his fault!”
“Has everyone wronged you in your eyes? Forget it, no need to share that with me. Just tell me, what are you going to do from now on?” Her mother rubbed her forehead resignedly.
Née Sun thought for a moment. “Mother, can’t we quietly get a sample of the girl’s blood and conduct a maternity test without anyone knowing…?
“You cannot conduct a test! Did I not just explain this to you? Was I just wasting my time and effort just now?!” The duchess nearly exploded in anger as she shrilled sharply at her daughter. Née Sun was frightened into absolute silence and lowered her head, trembling.
“You should also know the situation of Great Yan these days. Your father, brothers, and I have analyzed the situation countless times recently. Remember this, Great Zhou is growing stronger by the day. Its emperor is wily and crafty, while Pang Xi 2 ravages the land with brutal ruthlessness. Our Great Yan grows ever weaker, and the future looks dim as well. At this time, it’s even more imperative that our house works well together with the Qin family. There cannot be the slightest bit of discord between us.”
When it came to national matters, even née Sun’s expression grew solemn. The charging Prince Pang and his Valiant Tigers 3 were like a sharp blade sunk into their belly, twisting with abandon until they begged for relief from the pain. Each breath taken was just another moment towards their deaths. Née Sun felt her limbs grow cold at the mere thought. Compared to home and country being lost, losing one’s child and finding them again didn’t seem to be so devastating.
Seeing that her daughter finally a bit calmer, the duchess’ ire abated as well. Her voice turned soothing as she spoke again, “You should trust Qin Meng’s character. He might use schemes in other matters, but he would never tolerate ambiguity when it comes to his children and the Qin bloodline. You shouldn’t have questioned him today.”
Née Sun couldn’t help but feel a bit embarrassed when she recalled Qin Huaiyuan’s beet red face earlier.
“Daughter Han, you should be thinking carefully about this. Now that you’ve found your real daughter and have daughter Hui by your side, an additional daughter means an additional son-in-law in the future. Isn’t that another layer of protection and guarantee for you? So you tell me which is better: one or two?”
Née Sun thought for a moment and nodded docilely in the end. The duchess heaved a silent breath of relief when her daughter was no longer stubbornly throwing a tantrum. That she had to break apart and explain every part of the argument bit by bit to her almost forty year old daughter was a task more tiring than raising her granddaughters. She could make plans for née Sun, but she couldn’t be by her daughter’s side forever! Daughter Han is still so immature at her age, whatever will she do in the future?
By the side, Bao-mama was well aware of the duchess’ concerns and walked up with a smile when she saw that matters had been resolved. “You must be tired after today, my lady. I’ve had someone prepare your old residence. Why don’t you wash up and rest for now, and we’ll take care of the other matters on the morrow?”
Bao-mama had been part of the duchess’ dowry, and so her position amongst the servants in the duchy was quite elevated. Even née Sun had to give the old servant a certain degree of respect when she saw her. Née Sun gave the old servant a grateful smile, then snuck another look at her mother’s visible agitation. She spoke with some embarrassment, “Don’t be angry, mother. I’ll do whatever you want, alright?”
The duchess shook her head wearily. “Bao-mama, have someone send medicine to daughter Han later. And you, think of an explanation! You’re going back first thing tomorrow morning, and you will need a good explanation for your mother-in-law.”
“What’s there to think about? I’ll just say that Qin Meng bullied me.” Née Sun sniffed.
The duchess was strongly tempted to bury her head in her hands. “How can you possibly say that to your mother-in-law? If I were her, I’d punish you with the house rules until you cried! Just tell her that you were in a rush to come here because I wasn’t feeling well. That’s a reasonable explanation for traveling through the night.”
“That won’t do! How could I say that when you’re not sick, mother? Besides, I made such a big fuss that the second and third branch of the family probably knows as well. They’ll know that I’m just making up excuses.”
This silly girl even let the matter spread! If nothing else, the Duchess of Ding felt ten years closer to the grave when speaking to her daughter. She could take it no longer, and waved her hand like she was shooing away a fly. “Go rest, we’ll talk tomorrow.”
Née Sun could tell that her mother was well and truly irritated. She didn’t dare make any more of a fuss and left docilely. Bao-mama told Jin-mama and Cailan to serve their mistress well before sending them all on their way. When the old servant saw how tired the duchess looked, she spoke with a smile, “Don’t take it to heart, mistress. The lady is much grown compared to before. It’s just that this matter has to do with the children, and a woman cares most about her children. It’s understandable that she’s reacting like this.”
Parents were always somewhat biased towards their children, so although the duchess felt that her daughter had the finesse of a bull in a china shop and was quite brainless to boot, she was comforted by these words. “Daughter Han’s always worn her heart on her sleeve ever since she was young. I just hope the Qin family will think this way as well.”
“You need to worry even less about this, madame.” Bao-mama handed an exquisite, white porcelain tea set to the duchess with a smile. “You see, our lady is still so straightforward even after so many years of marriage. That’s more than enough proof of how well Lord Qin has protected her.
“Even the Qin’s old dowager is rather tolerant of her daughters-in-law. Otherwise with the lady’s intelligence, wouldn’t she have become rather skilled in schemes and plotting after so many years of conflict in the rear court? Naiveté has its strengths as well. At least this means that the lady has never suffered in Lord Qin’s manor.”
Bao-mama was the most competent servant by the duchess’ side alright. Her persuasive words so comforted the duchess that it felt like she’d eaten a sweet, late night snack instead, and all of her anger from earlier dissipated.
The duchess turned her thoughts to the problem at hand. “You should accompany her back tomorrow. Daughter Han is in the wrong, and we’re not a family who disregards the rules. We will need to express our stance clearly and show the Qin family our sincerity. Give the old dowager a detailed explanation… and take a look at the two children.”
Bao-mama nodded carefully. “This servant understands.”
“Also, find out discreetly just what’s happened since granddaughter Yi returned. Pay close attention to both granddaughter Hui and Yi’s reactions. I’ll need a thorough report afterwards so I can make some plans for daughter Han.”
“Understood.” Bao-mama’s expression had lost its smile. She knew what to do.
Qin Yining rose before the sun had even broken the horizon, as was her custom. After washing up and changing clothes, she hiked her skirt up and fastened it in place, and started running laps around her yard.
Yuxiang had been charged with boiling water last night and hadn’t slept until midnight. Ruilan had endured her pain, grinding ink until the hour of the rat 4 . They’d thought that the miss would sleep in today after all the exertion, but who would’ve thought that they’d wake up to their mistress running laps in the yard? What miss of a noble family would even do something like this in the morning?!
Ruilan didn’t dare dally as she quickly wiped her face clean and flung on some clothes. Fortunately, Qiulu was already standing under the covered hallway holding a beige cloak. Ruilan walked over, all smiles, and asked in a low voice, “When did the miss wake up?”
“About two hours ago.”
Two hours? Ruilan took a close look at Qin Yining. Her mistress’ face was only slightly flushed; even her breathing remained unchanged. Waves of shock roiled in the maid’s heart. The miss’ energy is greatly different from that of typical noble daughters’!
Qin Yining felt rather relaxed after her exercise. When she took a look at the time, she and summoned Ruilan and Qiulu to help her get ready. “We’ll go to Garden of Loving Piety later to greet Old Dowager.”
Ruilan and Qiulu looked at each other, both a bit nervous. Matters last night had grown a bit out of hand. No one knew how the second and third branch of the family would react, nor how the old dowager would respond.
- The seven laws are ancient Chinese regulations that allow a man to cast off his wife if any of them are broken. They are 1) a lack of filial piety to the husband’s parents, 2) no children, 3) adultery, 4) excessive jealousy when it comes to concubines, 5) contracting severe disease, 6) overly gossipy, and 7) committing theft ↩
- Remember, this is Pang Xiao. “Xi” is his secondary name ↩
- His troops ↩
- Between midnight and 1am ↩