Chapter 230: An Atypical Selection (II)
Lu-gonggong understood that if he expressed a single iota more of unwillingness, he’d be thoroughly offending the future empress. And truly, if the emperor hadn’t made such specific demands, the eunuch wouldn’t have wanted to make the situation so sticky.
Therefore, he was the epitome of patience when waiting for the two maids to return. He didn’t dare express any impatience at all.
Not long after, Jiyun and Bingtang returned with the old dowager, née Sun, and the second madame. Qin Huaiyuan had gone to his daughter as soon as he returned, so the rest of the family didn’t know what was going on outside the complex.
Apart from packing a few things, the maids had taken advantage of this timing to pass word onto the old dowager.
The new emperor had ascended the throne and one of their girls was entering the palace! Such wonderful news elicited happy tears from the old dowager. The Qins had suffered so much lately and had a complete death of good news.
Now that Qin Huaiyuan had been restored to his positions and Qin Yining was headed for the palace with great imperial favor, the family could finally heave a sigh of relief.
“My daughter, are you going to the selection now?” Née Sun frowned. “This seems much too rushed.”
Her daughter would most likely be chosen if she entered the palace. It’d be hard to visit home in the future.
“We just need to follow the emperor’s decree.” Qin Yining looked smilingly at Lu-gonggong and made her curtsey to the old dowager, second madame, and née Sun. “Old Dowager, mother, second aunt, things are happening quickly with no time for explanation. The emperor wants Lu-gonggong to return quickly. I can’t drag my heels and miss the auspicious time. That will make things difficult for the gonggong.”
The Qin fourth miss being so considerate made the eunuch’s face burn hotly.
Née Sun walked up to offer a large red envelope. “Thank you for making the trip on such a hot day. This is for your refreshment and just a small token of our respect. Please do accept it.”
“Not at all, madame. You’re being much too polite.” The eunuch preened at the words but didn’t dare indulge in self-congratulation for too long. He quickly bowed. These were the family of the future empress! He couldn’t afford to give short shrift to them at all.
Qin Yining cradled Riceball with her uninjured arm, offering a smile after Bingtang placed her items on the carriage “Lu-gonggong, shall we be on our way?”
The eunuch nodded, immensely relieved. “Let’s!”
The fourth miss merrily took her leave of her female relations and boarded the carriage under the caring eyes of her family. Lu-gonggong followed behind with Zhan-mama, the other palace maids and eunuchs. The carriage exited the main doors and trundled on its way.
The old dowager grasped Qin Huaiyuan’s hand, still unable to process. “Meng’er, am I dreaming? Has granddaughter Yi gone to become an honored lady in the palace?”
The second madame piped in before Qin Huaiyuan had a chance to respond. “This is wonderful!”
Though it was a good thing, the family’s joy wasn’t as strong as it might have been in times gone by.
True, it was good for the family if one of their own was a beloved imperial concubine, and the most obvious connection was that this would benefit the unmarried girls at home. But there was only the concubine-born eighth miss of the third branch and an unrelated Qin Huining at home now.
So although this was a pleasant surprise, the mood turned morose once more when thoughts settled down.
The second madame felt even more regretful that this was how things had turned out. Though the sixth and seventh miss were concubine-born, the two girls called her mother as well. Two charming, pretty girls were gone, just like that. They truly hadn’t enjoyed good fortune. Otherwise, their futures would be unlimited now with an imperial relation.
Various thoughts churned in everyone’s minds. Only Qin Huaiyuan and née Sun were genuinely concerned about Qin Yining’s safety.
“My lord, the palace is an exceedingly complicated place. Even I’m all turned around when I make a trip, to say nothing of a little girl like daughter Yi. It’s a place where you’re plunged into the abyss with the slightest misstep. Daughter Yi is still young, and she’s injured. Her complexion looked very out of sorts when she left just now. This is honestly very worrying.”
And how would Qin Huaiyuan be any less anxious? But some things were better off kept between the two of them. There was no point in voicing them and having the entire family brood over this as well.
He voiced a few words of comfort to his wife and escorted the old dowager and others back to the Garden of Loving Piety. The manor was still in tatters. All of the unmarried girls still remained in the Venerable Study Hall, while everyone else resided in the Garden of Loving Piety.
After soothing the old dowager, Qin Huaiyuan asked servants to bring Mu Jinghu over.
The man had been hesitating all during this time whether he should enter the palace as well to ensure Qin Yining’s safety. But that eunuch earlier hadn’t allowed her to bring even her maids. How would a whole man like him make it in? He received Qin Huaiyuan’s summons just when caught in the throes of indecision.
“Uncle.” Mu Jinghu greeted the marquis with the same friendly, yet polite attitude as ever. He wasn’t more respectful because Qin Huaiyuan had regained his positions, and made the bow of a junior greeting a family senior.
After this period of observation, the marquis understood that Mu Jinghu wasn’t someone with complex twists and turns to his mind. He’d first treated Mu Jinghu’s presumptuous closeness with suspicion, but now understood that the gentleman was simply honest to a fault.
Mu Jinghu was more like a naive child with little understanding of the ways of the world. It must be because of a close friendship with Pang Xiao that Mu Jinghu respected Qin Huaiyuan as Pang Xiao’s father-in-law.
So when Qin Huaiyuan spoke with Mu Jinghu, he put aside his usual demure style and cut straight to the chase. “Sir Mu, let me be frank. The emperor likes daughter Yi. He wants to make her the empress. As subjects, we can’t defy an imperial decree. Men from the palace came just now and I could only let them take my daughter. You know as well that her injuries are not yet healed. She’s lost so much blood and is still extremely weak…”
“If Miss Qin becomes the empress, then that fox loses his wife!” Mu Jinghu’s eyes went wide with franticness.
The marquis blinked, taken aback by the style of the response. “I can’t do anything now. It’s easy to leave the capital, but not so easy to come back in. My identity is also quite sensitive, and I’m sure there are many pairs of eyes staring at me now that I’ve been restored to my former positions. I don’t dare send anyone to Xihua, so I’d like to ask if you have a way to contact the little prince and let him know what’s going on?”
“It’s very easy for me to get a message to Xihua with no one being the wiser, but uncle, don’t you want Miss Qin to be the empress? She’ll be so much more noble as the empress than a princess consort.”
Qin Huaiyuan blinked again, then smiled. “We can’t just look at things that way. Just look at the trampress who was just sentenced to death. She was very noble as well. However, her days weren’t peaceful or filled with contentment because of that.”
Mu Jinghu thought for a moment and sighed. “I understand. Forget that then. Don’t worry, uncle. I’ll figure out a way to get word out.”
“Many thanks to you.”
“Not at all.” The gentleman grinned. “I might need to ask you for the food I’ll need for the trip though, uncle.”
“Of course, don’t worry. I’ll make sure all of that’s prepared.” Qin Huaiyuan had also become familiar with Mu Jinghu’s thrifty ways. He grinned despite himself. It’s rather nice to deal with someone so real.
Qin Yining had no idea that her father was sending word to Pang Xiao via the Mu Jinghu express. She’d already arrived in the palace, the carriage having taken her to the doors of the Jade Palace.
Zhan-mama helped her down from the carriage. They lifted their heads to see two other carriages with opulent, ruby brocade coverings slowly roll to a stop. Both had various mamas and palace servants lift the carriage curtains and help two magnificently dressed young girls down.