Chapter 225: Showing of One’s Hand
Zhao Unbreakable laughed heartily. “Little sister Qin, meeting here today means we share a destiny! Since you’re the alliance head now, we’re now brothers and sister who share each other’s joy and troubles. I’m a crude man and don’t know how to say all those slippery, nice sounding words. I just know that we’re doing all this for the people. Just gimme a yell if you need me in the future!”
Zhao Promise smiled as well. “Don’t mind us, Alliance Head Qin. Us brothers are sons of bandits. That’s the only thing we’ve known how to do since being born. We don’t know many words and we’re not as cultured as Qiao Yongming. We talk crassly, don’t mind us!”
“Not at all! My elder brothers are forthright and frank people. You’re shining examples of good people! Too bad there’s no wine today — we should really drink heartily on an occasion like this! I may be a Qin daughter, but I didn’t grow up in a gilded complex. And please don’t treat me as some haughty noble’s daughter. I’m an ordinary girl like all of you. I just have some notions of responsibility and idealism about what we should do for the people.”
“Well said!” Liao Zhibing laughed. “Then we’re settled. The four of us will go back and discuss what we’ve agreed on today. We’ll dismiss any that have questionable morals or want to leave. Just like the old alliance head said, we should go for quality over quantity.”
“Then I’ll have to trouble Brother Liao.” Qin Yining smiled faintly.
“Oh pshaw! Compared to what Alliance Head Qin’s done — selling off your property to keep refugees alive — this is nothing!”
The group returned to the front yard when all was agreed upon.
The bloody pulp that was Grand Preceptor Cao was discarded in a gory heap on the ground, no one caring about him at all. The women were holding each other as they sobbed in anguish.
Qin Yining had servants clean up the yard and roll the grand preceptor’s body up in a grass mat to throw into the mass, unmarked graves. She returned home with Jiyun and Mu Jinghu afterwards.
The group entered the doors to find Qitai waiting for them.
“You’re back, Fourth Miss. The lord is waiting for you in the study.”
“I see,” Qin Yining smiled. “I’ll be right over.”
The fire had burned down half of the houses in the complex and not a single one remained completely unscathed. Qin Huaiyuan’s study in the outer residence had also suffered damage, but the commonly used main house and side room where the library was located were untouched. The broken wooden grid covering the window in the main house had been fixed as well.
When the fourth miss entered the study, Qin Huaiyuan was leaning sideways on the luohan bed next to the window, fanning himself as he paged idly through a book. That relaxed demeanor was the same as ever, giving Qin Yining the sudden illusion that nothing had happened at all.
“Ah, you’re back. Have a seat.” Qin Huaiyuan placed his book on the square table near him and perused her face carefully. “You were busy running back and forth all day today and didn’t have a single moment to rest. Are you doing alright?”
Qin Yining’s complexion was frankly awful, but she was in excellent spirits and her eyes shone brightly.
“I’m fine, especially after I take some medicine and rest after this. Don’t worry, father. I’m still young. I’ll be fine after resting for a while.”
Qin Huaiyuan nodded and rubbed her forehead lovingly. He suddenly changed the topic. “Did Azure Justice catch Cao Bingzhong?”
Qin Yining blinked and flashed a diffident smile. “I really can’t get anything past you, father. They got him. My maternal grandmother, aunts, and cousins-in-law were all there. They got their revenge. Even mother rolled up her sleeves and got a few blows in. She’s still catching up with her family outside.”
Qin Huaiyuan nodded and stayed momentarily quiet, then sighed softly. “Cao Bingzhong deserved his death, but your maternal grandfather’s family still suffered for it.”
Depression took brief hold of Qin Yining when she saw her father thus. Her father really had viewed the Suns as his own family. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have overseen the burial service for Sun Yu despite suffered all of the external pressure on him. He wouldn’t have silently supported her efforts to collect bodies of her grandfather and the others either.
When she hadn’t been this close with her father, she’d once guessed that someone who’d spent half of his life in politics must be utterly cold-blooded and had a rock for a heart. But after prolonged contact, she’d realized that he was flesh and blood and had a very soft heart.
“Don’t be sad.” She purposefully changed the topic with a mischievous grin. “You’ve helped your in-laws get their revenge and and put down the burdens in your heart. You should probably spend some time thinking about how to treat Auntie Cao. She loves you very much.”
Her father blushed and shook his head with a smile. “I didn’t help my in-laws at all. I was being beaten into the ground by Grand Preceptor Cao.” He didn’t mention Cao Yuqing at all.
“Don’t pretend with me, father. I know that you’re the smartest in the world. The situation was so tense at home when we were accused of embezzlement, but you were able to remain calm and coolly analyze the situation.
“It looked like you didn’t do anything, but everything was under your control. When the embezzlement case broke out, we were unable to fight back against the attacks. The Caos became bloated with self-satisfaction over this and relaxed their guard. I drove a wedge between the Prince of Ning and the Caos, and father followed up with it after learning of my scheme.
“Even without what happened between the prince and the Caos, the prince is still the best choice for commander-in-chief. Father was just going along with the flow and public opinion. So not only did you turn that into doing a favor for the prince, but you also used the prince’s explosive, righteous temper to deal a devastating blow to the Caos. Now that the trampress and Grand Preceptor Cao are deader than dead and the Cao line is ended, there naturally won’t be any further accusations of embezzlement.”
Qin Yining grew more admiring the more she thought aloud. “You had complete grasp of all of these details, father. I wracked my brains on the way back just now and struggled to put everything in place. But you did it all so easily by simply observing the situation.
Her almond-shaped eyes shone brightly with worship. “Father, when can I be as omnipotent as you?”
“Oh you.” Qin Huaiyuan stopped pretending otherwise since his daughter had guessed everything. “I wasn’t near as smart as you when I was your age. So when you’re my age, you’ll be even smarter than me.”
“Really?” Qin Yining was full of yearning for the future, but shook her head when another thought struck her. “I’m actually not looking forward to it at all. I’m just going to rely on you in the future, father, and not think about anything at all.”
The marquis didn’t know whether to laugh or cry with his daughter being deliberately lazy. “Us two are meant for a life of strain and work. It’s not something you can shy away from just because you want to.”
“Father’s right, we’re really in for a life of hard work.” Qin Yining sighed again when she thought of what’d happened today and went over the new developments with Azure Justice.
The marquis arched a brow and nodded after a beat. “It’s good to have such a force in the shadows for you to use.”
“Are you not surprised at all, father?”
“It was within expectations. Your maternal grandmother was wholly focused on revenge. Now that she’s had it, there’s nothing she really cares about anymore.”
Qin Yining sighed again when she thought of how the Sun females had taken revenge today. “That’s right, so what if we’ve gotten revenge? The dead won’t come back to life. Will our family’s burial take place tomorrow?”
“Yep. I’ve already discussed it with your second and third uncle. Tomorrow will be the official burial. When the assassins attacked before and made it clear they were here for you, I was worried this would become a lasting source of trouble for the family. Our branch emerged completely fine, but your second and third uncle’s households suffered the blows. I was originally worried that they’d hate you for it. But you quickly took revenge for the family, so no one bears any ill will for you now.”
Qin Yining nodded, her expression dimming when she thought of the horrific scenes of that day. “This matter did arise because of the rumors I created before to save my life. I wouldn’t say anything if they assign all the blame to me.”
Father and daughter fell silent.
“Oh right, father,” Qin Yining continued after a moment. “I don’t want anything to do with Qin Huining in the future. I know you still think of your fatherly bond with her, so I won’t demand that she be put to death, but I won’t be treating her kindly in the future.”
“Why is that?”
The girl snorted derisively. “Although it’s understandable that humans, selfish by nature, seek to save themselves in the face of life and death, she doomed her own sister to death.”
She stared at Qin Huaiyuan. “Father, do you know how sixth sister died? She didn’t have to die that day. It was because of Qin Huining. Seeing that she was about to be overtaken, she pushed sixth sister out to take the blow for her. Blood sprayed up so, so high when the sword landed on sixth sister’s neck.”
The scene appeared before her eyes again, filling Qin Yining’s voice with pain.
“Sixth sister was the closest to Qin Huining and always stood up for her when Qin Huining got into trouble. But this is how Qin Huining treated her! And then when the assassins declared they were here for me, Qin Huining was the first to point me out. I couldn’t dodge because I was collapsed on the ground. That was when Songlan threw herself over me and took the blow instead…”