Chapter 17: To View With New Eyes
Ruilan had never felt so strongly before that her life was grasped in her mistress’ hands. She felt sick with regret when she recalled her dismissal of Qin Yining yesterday. But things had developed to this point by now, and a single word from Qin Yining would determine whether she lived or died. Nervous sweat made Ruilan’s hands clammy, and she lifted her head to meet Qin Yining’s calm eyes. She hastily looked down again, attempting to show maximum subservience.
Qin Yining blinked, dimpled, and moved to the side. An indication that she wouldn’t pursue things further.
Ruilan’s heart could finally dislodge from her throat to be suffused with gratitude for Qin Yining’s generosity instead. She kowtowed to the old dowager, curtseyed to all the mistresses present, and departed with Qiulu. The second and third madame had witnessed all of this, and they couldn’t help but smile. Further approval of how Qin Yining handled matters colored their thoughts of her. If she’d turned on Ruilan, it’d incite wariness in those who wanted to flock to her banner. After all, immediately selling off someone who’d just helped her wasn’t an action that induced comfort at all.
When they reviewed the matters of the day again, although not everything had gone smoothly, the old dowager was plainly in very good spirits. The second and third madame were quite aware that this calm was only because of Qin Yining’s words just now. The girl had subtly stroked the old dowager’s fur in all the right places. Whether it was because she was a secretively calculating type, uncommonly intelligent, or just had that innate sense, Qin Yining was no ordinary character. They’d thought that she was a “barbarian”, but they were the ignorant ones instead. The girl looked weak and tender, but she had courage, brains, and knew how to react appropriately to the situation. Such a smart, brave, and perceptive girl was much better than one full of knowledge but woefully ignorant of real world knowledge.
The greatest use for women born of distinguished families such as them lay in strategic marriages. If they were full of learned wisdom, but didn’t know how to handle conflict or conduct themselves, it would be extremely difficult for them to establish themselves in their husband’s home. Besides, the commonly accepted notion was that a virtuous woman was humble and didn’t overly flaunt her knowledge. Most families of the current dynasty didn’t require their daughters to be quite so learned. It was enough if they understood the household accounts.
Qin Yining showed signs of reaching these requirements. She wasn’t any weaker than the other girls, and had a good head on her shoulders. She also had an illustrious background and formidable family clan, as well as stunning features that most girls didn’t possess. Just this last point alone was enough to completely entrance her future husband. If such a girl secured the old dowager’s favor, wasn’t her future bright without parallel?
The second and third madame had to look at Qin Yining with new eyes after all this analysis, and their attitudes towards her shifted slightly. Out of concern for the girl’s health, Second Madame asked whether her clothing was warm enough. Third Madame spoke with a smile, “I just received a new set of jade ornaments. 1 Niece Yi has just returned and I don’t have a good gift ready at hand. I’ll have someone send it over later.”
“Thank you, Third Aunt.” Qin Yining rose with a smile to curtsey.
“Aiya, darling child, we’re all family, don’t be so polite! You’ve just come home, so we should visit each other more often. Come visit your third aunt when you’re free. You can come to us for anything.” Third Madame tugged on Second Madame’s hand. “Isn’t that so, sister-in-law?”
“Your third aunt is quite right.” Second Madame nodded affably. The seventh miss smiled also amiably at Qin Yining, indicating that she would fall in behind the official wife of her family branch and greatly welcomed Qin Yining. All was in harmony within the room in that moment.
Qin Yining was the perfect daughter as she kept her elders company. She was very quiet, but this maturity and keen likeness to her father made others attach a greater degree of importance to her.
Qin Huining watched coldly off to the side as jealousy surged and threatened to smash through her heart like a burst dam. She was watching with her own eyes the attention and adoration that’d once been hers become someone else’s. The villain that’d harmed her face hadn’t been punished at all, but was being seen in a new light instead! When had she turned into a stepping stone for others to climb to new heights?!
And yet, she couldn’t resist the new order at all and was powerless to struggle against it. She could only accept it quietly, with a smile… Qin Huining felt the world had done her an injustice. She was enraged, she was jealous, she hated that no one was taking her seriously. But despite it all, she could only stuff this away at the bottom of her heart and not let a hint leak out, lest she lose everything else she had left to her name. She lowered her head, clenching her teeth against the tide of emotions swirling in her.
Head maid Jixiang entered at this time and dropped a curtsey. “Old Dowager, Senior Madame has returned. Bao-mama has also arrived on behalf of the Duchess of Ding. They request an audience.”
The old dowager’s good spirits took a turn for the worse when she heard the words “senior madame”. Her eldest daughter-in-law was haughty and demanded her way, and she’d never been able to bear a son. All this earned the old dowager’s disfavor and ire. But it so happened that Qin Huaiyuan needed reinforcement from the Duchess of Ding when it came to matters of court. The old dowager knew that help from this marriage was of utmost importance, and she could also tell that although née Sun was a domineering sort, she wasn’t a bad egg. Therefore, the family matriarch let a lot of things slide.
This time however, née Sun had unceremoniously returned home after a fight with Qin Huaiyuan. This kind of daughter-in-law really invited rebuke. As a mother-in-law, if she kept retreating due to wariness of her in-laws, her own family members would peg her for a pushover, and inward dismissal a given. How would the old dowager wield any authority in the future? And wouldn’t everyone start to imitate née Sun? Her face sank as she waved her hand, “You may all go.”
The old dowager looked like she was readying for a fight with née Sun. Not wanting to get involved, the second and third madame left with their children. Qin Yining was about to leave as well, but the old dowager spoke up after a moment’s thought, “Lujuan, take granddaughter Yi and Hui to the inner room and bring them medicine.”
“Understood.” Qin-mama nodded meaningfully. It looks like Old Dowager is planning on letting the miss meet Bao-mama. Bao-mama had been part of the duchess’ dowry and was highly trusted. The duchess likely wanted to offer an explanation or apology. In addition, voicing certain things to the old servant meant telling them to the duchess as well. Yesterday’s matters involved both girls. It was a good idea to explain things thoroughly to Bao-mama, lest things become more complicated with random speculation.
Qin-mama took both Qin Yining and Qin Huining to the inner room. There was only an openwork screen 2 that divided the inner room from the side hall. All sorts of exquisite items were placed on a curio shelf within. A pot of green chrysanthemum flowered vigorously in a corner. The cushions on the seats were a similar shade of pale-green as the flowers. The entire color palette brightened up the room quite a bit.
Qin Yining and Qin Huining sat down on the pale-green satin cushions on the luohan bed, separated by a small tea table. Qin-mama brought over some ointment and helped the two apply it. Back in the side hall, Jixiang and the servants by née Sun’s side: Jin-mama, Caiju, and Cailan were helping née Sun through the doorway.
The old dowager was seated as usual in the head seat. Everything appeared to be normal. Née Sun sheepishly walked forward to curtsey. “Old Dowager, your daughter-in-law has returned.”
The old dowager’s expression was noncommittal. Although she didn’t break out into loud curses, she was still fully expressing her anger. Née Sun felt quite awkward. How can this old woman give me no face in front of those from my family! But as much as she didn’t like the situation, she didn’t dare go against her mother-in-law. Her own mother’s words were still ringing in her ears, and née Sun couldn’t ignore them. She could only continue doggedly, “Don’t be angry, Old Dowager. I learned that my mother didn’t feel too well last night and was so anxious that I failed to tell you before I returned to the Duke of Ding Manor. Please forgive me as this was all out of filial piety.”
Née Sun felt her face burn after she said all this. She had always been a lofty character, since when had she ever spoken so humbly to anyone?
Although the old dowager knew that née Sun was lying, she couldn’t do anything to her daughter-in-law as née Sun had adopted such a deferential attitude. Matters last night couldn’t spread further; her son had already said to resolve things as soon as possible. This had to be swept under the rug. If she continued to make a fuss about this, the old dowager worried that it would negatively affect her dear son. Besides, it was rare that née Sun was like this. The two of of them had to live together in the future, and the old dowager had to give a certain amount of face since Bao-mama was here. “Never mind then, rise. How is your mother now?”
“Much better.” Née Sun heaved a silent sigh of relief and poured more tea into the old dowager’s teacup with a smile. Bao-mama made the grand gesture of greeting 3 to the old dowager.
The old dowager’s smile became exceedingly warm. She remained sitting on the luohan bed, but reached out a hand and went through the motions of helping the old servant up. “Please rise. It’s been a long time since I’ve last seen Bao-mama. Please, sit. Jixiang, serve tea.”
Bao-mama made polite protestations as she sat sideways on the edge of a stool cushioned with brocade. Jixiang handed the old servant a white porcelain teacup as Bao-mama inquired after the old dowager’s health. The two exchanged amiable pleasantries for a while before circling back to the newly returned fourth miss.
“Old Dowager, our mistress is beyond delighted that the lord has found his long lost pearl. She had me accompany our lady back, partially to request leniency in her matter and also because I’ve brought some of the best medicines and several bolts of satin that His Majesty has just bestowed on us. Most importantly, my mistress would like me to take a look at the miss and decide on a date to invite her to our manor.”
Bao-mama’s words were a salve on the old dowager’s heart. Not only had she received an apology, but gifts as well. There was no reason that the old servant couldn’t meet the child.
“Duchess Ding is surely too polite. We’re all family here, there’s no need to stand on ceremony. Please thank her when you return, Bao-mama. It so happens that the girl is inside at the moment.” The old dowager had Jixiang bring the girls out while the old servant quickly got to her feet, looking towards the inner room with a smile, curiosity and reservation in her eyes.
- This is much more important than it appears. Often found in the hands of noble ladies, sets of hair ornaments usually numbered about forty pieces. The types of precious stones used in them was an indicator of rank, and gemstones were reserved for royalty. ↩
- This is any piece of internal architecture that creates decoration via holes in solid material, such as a panel of wood in this case. ↩
- This usually involves kneeling on the ground and some sort of obeisance, depending on the dynasty. ↩