Chapter 229: An Atypical Selection (I)
Grand Supervisor Lu knew quite well that he couldn’t afford offend any of the Qins. Grand Preceptor Qin was the emperor’s most valued official and Miss Qin the emperor’s beloved girl. The palace servant put away his usual temper and bent even lower at the waist. He smiled fawningly. “In response to my lord, we’re here to escort Miss Qin into the palace for the selection.”
“This early?” Qin Huaiyuan raised a quizzical brow, his voice as gentle as ever but somehow exerting a heavy atmosphere.
Eunuch Lu smiled most apologetically. “It’s His Majesty’s wish. Apart from your noble daughter, Miss Li from the Duke of An’s household and Miss Sun from Master Gu’s household will also be entering the palace today.”
“Do you mean the imperial strategist Master Gu?”
What was happening here was immediately apparent to Qin Huaiyuan. The Duke of An, Li Mian, was a general. Together with the late Duke of Ding, they’d been hailed as the ‘Double Heroes’ of Great Yan. Apart from the Prince of Ning, the representative general still serving at court could only be the Duke of An.
Imperial strategist Gu Shixiong was deeply trusted by the previous emperor. The Gus themselves were a family with foundations of a hundred years old. Many of its descendants served at court as well. Now that the Caos had been wiped from the map and the cards of officials reshuffled, the Gus had one of the largest networks at court.
Though Qin Huaiyuan was at another peak of his career, his family’s foundations were shallow and the clan’s descendants few. And even though he was a leader of the officials for civil subjects, he wasn’t their representative.
The emperor must’ve chosen one civil and one martial family to balance each other out. As for Qin Yining, she was already a must-have in his heart, so he didn’t factor her in the balance at all.
That had given rise to a blind spot. The Duke of An was a general, but Qin Huaiyuan and Gu Shixiong were in the civil subjects camp.
In times of war, the emperor should be promoting large numbers of generals to raise troop morale, and not take the age-old path of valuing civil over martial.
Qin Huaiyuan shook his head with resignation. He would offer his advice in any other matter, but since this matter had to do with the Qins, any other opinions would result in imperial paranoia.
“You know as well, Lu-gonggong, that we just weathered a tremendous disaster a few days ago. Just look at the houses behind us.” The marquis pointed behind him with a smile and a sigh. “To be honest, my daughter was wounded by the assassins as well. She’s burning with fever even now and I can’t bear to let her leave home.”
From the eunuch’s perspective, he could indeed see the many burnt and ruined buildings in the complex. It was also no secret that a good number of Qin clan members had died. Besides, off to the side, the fourth miss looked sickly and was only standing upright thanks to her maids supporting her.
It really was a bit over-the-top to have her move into the palace right now.
But when he’d left, the empire had reminded him again and again that just anyone could be sent to welcome the other two girls; the eunuch had to personally go to the Qins and have Qin Yining brought into the palace immediately.
A conflicted expression filled the eunuch’s face. “You’re very right, Grand Preceptor. It’s just that I daren’t disobey an imperial decree. But don’t worry, the emperor’s told me in confidence that the selection is just a formality. The other two girls are just a show of imperial favor for two veteran officials. They’ll be given some concubine title. Only the miss of your house is his true love.”
Lu-gonggong looked up with a fawning smile at this point, but was greeted with two utterly bland expressions from the Qin father and daughter. Their genteel, elegant demeanors stopped his next ingratiating words in their tracks. These two have identical reactions when it comes to both favor and humiliation. The old fox has raised a young fox alright!
He was even more careful with what he said. “The emperor won’t mistreat Miss Qin, and I know that Zhan-mama and the young miss are already acquainted with each other. The palace will assign fine people to take care of the miss.”
Qin Huaiyuan frowned with unwillingness when he saw the unnatural flush of his daughter’s cheeks and her bloodless lips. He wanted to continue fighting for some more time at home for her, but Qin Yining walked up to tug on her father’s sleeve.
In the emperor’s eyes, any further protestation wouldn’t be doting on a daughter, but growing arrogance from a showing of imperial favor.
“Don’t worry, father. I’m sure that Lu-gonggong has arranged for everything properly. There are imperial physicians in the palace who can also look after me as well.” She turned to the eunuch and smiled politely. “Please excuse us, gonggong. I’m my father’s only child and you also know that it hasn’t been long since I’ve returned home. Now that I’m injured, my father is even more concerned about me.”
“Aiyo, of course this servant understands. It’s deeply touching that milord cares so much for his family.” Eunuch Lu nodded repeatedly. As expected of someone who the emperor thinks can be empress. Her looks are excellent, her wits sharp, and her style mature.
Qin Huaiyuan could tell that things were set in stone and that no further wiggle room was possible. “Alright then, please wait a moment. My daughter will bid farewell to the family and pack her belongings.”
Awkwardness crossed the eunuch’s face again. This actually wasn’t an unreasonable request. The marquis’ sole daughter was leaving the family and naturally had to bid farewell to her female relations. It was also commonplace that she bring some of her necessities.
It was just, the emperor had given him repeated reminders when he left that, “It doesn’t matter if the others want to do all that, but everything should be as simple as possible for Miss Qin. Everything can be settled later as long as she enters the palace first!”
It was obvious that the emperor was deathly afraid of any further unexpected changes.
The eunuch could only speak on with dogged persistence. “The emperor has spoken. Only Miss Qin needs to enter the palace. After all, everything is ready in the palace and your family can visit anytime, no?”
Flames of anger licked at Qin Huaiyuan’s heart. The emperor was being too crassly impatient. Had he forgotten all of his manners after being made emperor? This was an uncouth, lowly display!
Qin Yining was worried that the scene would become awkward if her father erupted. She offered a smile. “The emperor speaks truly. Then I’ll have to be a bother and follow the gonggong into the palace. I do have two bodyservants…”
“His Majesty means that although the maids in the manor are good, they don’t understand the rules of the palace. He will naturally arrange the best of servants for the miss in the palace.” You can’t bring any of your servants with you.
Now it was Jiyun and Bingtang’s turn to become panicky with anger. And what the hell is this?
The miss couldn’t bid farewell to her grandmother and mother, she wasn’t allowed any luggage, and couldn’t even bring her trusted maids! Could she not even change her clothing?! She was going into the palace all alone like this!
Just what do they think our miss is?!
A slow fury was also burning in Qin Yining and her smile faded. “Are these the emperor’s orders? My maids do lack knowledge of palace rules, so I suppose I could do without them, but I’m injured. You should at least let me bring my medicine.”
Sweat beaded Lu-gonggong’s forehead. This was the future empress! Sir Qin was the future imperial father-in-law!
Forget it, forget it. The details don’t matter as long as I can bring her back. He was just a eunuch; he wanted to keep his head! “Of course, but please keep an eye on the time.”
Warmth returned to Qin Yining’s expression and she turned to Jiyun and Bingtang. “Go fetch my medicines and daily necessities. Ah yes, pack my books as well. Bring Riceball with you too. I’m afraid it’ll be boring in the palace.”
“Yes. Then your clothes, miss?”
“We probably don’t have time for that. You can send them into the palace later.” The girl turned to Lu-gonggong with a smile. “Please allow the deliveries to go on through then.”
The eunuch sweated profusely. “Yes, yes of course!”