Chapter 41: Great Joy
Qin-mama felt immensely gratified when Qin Yining halted and a thoughtful expression floated onto the girl’s face. It looked like the fourth miss wasn’t the impulsive, brash sort. The old servant had had a good impression of Qin Yining to begin with, and this only heightened her impression. She’d only wanted to help the fourth miss a little bit, but that feeling was now greatly magnified.
“Miss.” Qin-mama quickly walked up to Qin Yining. “You’re a smart person and know what kind of action is most appropriate. You are hard pressed to save even yourself now. If you disregard the lord’s words to charge out, you might fail to save Ruilan and lose the lord’s affection as well. How will your future look then?”
Qin Yining knew that Qin-mama was right. Ruilan had been caught redhanded and she had no evidence to prove otherwise. She could only beg the old dowager for mercy if she wanted to save her maid. However, she didn’t command much face with the old dowager. But could she possibly just hang Ruilan out to dry? Even though Ruilan had made mistakes, she’d repented and had taken good care of Qin Yining all this time.
Qin Yining’s expression was tight in this moment as she hated Qin Huining like she never had before! How much trouble had the foster girl created for her since she returned home? She’d wanted to empathize and forgive, since it wasn’t Qin Huining’s fault that the two girls had been swapped at birth. Her sense of danger was understandable. But as threatened as she felt, she couldn’t harm innocents just for a moment of petty revenge!
Ruilan had never harmed Qin Huining or done anything that endangered the latter’s interests. Qin Huining was more frightening than wild beasts in threatening someone else’s life like this! Wild beasts would starve if they didn’t eat humans, but what would Qin Huining lose if she didn’t scheme against others?
Qin Huining could be a filial child to the old dowager and mother if she wanted favor. She could display her charms and vie openly with Qin Yining! Qin Huining didn’t offer sincerity but demanded it in turn, becoming vengeful when she didn’t receive it, eaten up with jealousy when others outshone her, and disdained other lives for a moment’s revenge.
Qin Yining didn’t think that she herself was a good person as she would strike back without hesitation if someone tried to harm her, but she would never use her identity to hurt innocents.
“Thank you for your warnings, Qin-mama. But Ruilan is my maid and was dragged into this because of me. I feel very guilty. I am her mistress, and it’s my incompetence if I can’t save her after the best of my efforts, but my lack of morals if I ignore her because all is well for me.” Qin Yining felt incredibly weary in both body and soul with these words. But this weakness was only momentary, and the look in her eyes incredibly resolute when she lifted her head again. “Qin-mama, I would rather be someone incompetent than one lacking in morals.”
She started walking out after saying this. Qin-mama’s original favorable disposition towards the fourth miss spontaneously grew to deep esteem. She was a servant herself and had weathered the elements of life with the old dowager for most of her years. They’d made it through untold hardships and trials together, and she had a deep relationship with her mistress. Qin Yining’s words had touched the deepest, most tender parts of the old servant’s heart. Qin-mama quickly snaked out a hand to grab the fourth miss.
“Miss, please listen to me.” She drew close to Qin Yining’s ear and spoke at a volume only the two could hear. “There’s nothing to gain and everything to lose if you go. I can guarantee that Ruilan won’t die. Any further plans can be made as long as you pass the lord’s test and leave the ancestral hall, miss. Do you still wish to leave after hearing this?”
Qin Yining halted in her tracks. If Qin-mama could guarantee that Ruilan wouldn’t die, wouldn’t that be more useful than her own presence? After all, the only thing she could do was to beg the old dowager for mercy. She could only acquit the maid when she found evidence in the future. Qin-mama was doing what she wanted to do with this promise!
The last time she’d written lines for her punishment, it’d been Qin-mama speaking offhandedly in front of the old dowager that resulted in the number of copies being checked. After being grounded in the ancestral hall this time, it’d been Qin-mama making a personal visit that resulted in seven days of comfort for her, in an environment where servants would change like the wind and short her on food and necessities for her fall in favor.
“Mama, you…” Qin Yining was at a loss for words. “Why are you helping me like this?”
Qin-mama curtsied and smiled warmly. “You are the old dowager’s granddaughter, miss, therefore my mistress as well. Serving my mistress well is my duty. Besides, I serve at the old dowager’s side. Whatever I do is behalf of the old dowager as well. Please go back, miss. We’ll pretend that nothing’s happened today. Just study at peace. You never heard any disturbance.”
Qin Yining immediately understood what the old servant meant. The mama was here purely out of her loyalty to the old dowager. She wanted to create a good relationship for the old dowager, and was helping balance out the various parties in the family so that no particular side would grow too strong. As the matriarch of the family, it was no good if any family member grew particularly entrenched. As it was in court, so too was it at home. With the old dowager’s personality, Qin-mama’s wisdom, maturity, and loyalty were all integral to the matriarch maintaining the livelihood of the Qin family and receiving a title in her own right as well.
The girl curtsied with a smile. “Many thanks to mama, I understand now.”
“Please don’t be this way miss, this servant isn’t worthy.” Qin-mama avoided Qin Yining’s gesture and turned to Qiulu. “I won’t take you to task for this on account of your loyalty. You should go back and reflect as well. As a servant, you need to manage affairs for your mistress, not create more problems for her. do you understand that?”
Qiulu nodded repeatedly, her face burning with contriteness. They’d saved Miss Tang last time because she’d said too much, and it’d happened again today. She now knew that she’d brought trouble for the miss in barging here. Thankfully, Qin-mama was tolerant and kind. “This servant understands. Thank you for your teachings, Qin-mama.”
The old servant nodded. “Go back and study in peace, miss.”
It was enough at the moment for Qin Yining to know that Ruilan wouldn’t die, and Qiulu wouldn’t be punished. The rest could wait until she was released. It was up to her whether Qin Huining could make a move against her or not! She’d never wanted to harm anyone, but now that someone was in her face, there was no reason to not strike back!
Although circumstances and situations changed drastically in the world outside, life within ancestral hall remained as peaceful as always. On this day, it was an old woman over sixty years old that came to deliver Qin Yining’s meal box.
The fourth miss found it a bit odd. The newcomer was wearing a brand new, inky green padded jacket made of fine cotton fibers. The material and cut of the jacket were the most current fashions. There was a golden hairpin stuck in her hair and a pair of bracelets made of interwoven gold on her arms. She looked like someone with status and not someone who would usually be delivering meal boxes. When she saw Qin Yining, the old servant curtsied respectfully, “Greetings to Fourth Miss, my husband’s surname is Jing. I’m in charge of the meal box today.”
“Please rise, Mama Jing.” Qin Yining helped the other up with a smile. Mama Jing handed the meal box over to Wife Ge and Xiaoling with an affable expression.
As the two servants set up the table, Mama Jing spoke lowly to Qin Yining. “Fourth Miss, I’m an overseer in the kitchens of the outer residence. I’m here on behalf of Steward Zhong today to convey that Miss Ruilan has been taken to Cloudsoar Inn. She’s not injured seriously, it’s all superficial wounds. A few days of medicine will sort her out. Don’t worry, miss.”
“Mama Jing is one of the Institute’s?” Qin Yining responded with surprise.
“In response to the fourth miss, my son is a third rank shopkeeper beneath Steward Zhong. Our entire family depends on Steward Zhong’s promotions. Now that you are the owner of the Institute, I must depend on you too in the future. I’m just here to deliver a message, it’s no big deal. I am old anyways, and plan to retire to days of peace at home.”
“I see, thank you for making the trip, Mama Jing.”
“You’re too polite miss, it’s this servant’s honor to be able to meet you.” Mama Jing looked around before continuing in a low voice. “Steward Zhong also wanted me to bring some news. The Prince of Ning censured Grand Preceptor Cao in front of the emperor a few days ago. Others had dared to criticize the grand preceptor before, but most remained neutral. The prince led the group this time, and many neutral parties supported him. The emperor immediately criticized the grand preceptor and removed his position, commanding him to go home in forced retirement.”
What?! That old fellow Grand Preceptor Cao was over just like that? It went without saying that the neutral folks suddenly tilting towards the prince was a result of the good relations between the Duke of Ding, Qin Huaiyuan, and the prince. But had they discussed it with the prince beforehand or just moved with the wind?
Regardless of which it was, the successful actions against Grand Preceptor Cao had much to do with her rescuing Tang Meng. Qin Yining never would’ve thought that she’d become the catalyst for the grand preceptor’s fall!
Grand Preceptor Cao deserved his fate, but his daughter was still the empress. How would she react to her father losing power, and how would she treat those responsible for this outcome? In addition, the position of Grand Preceptor to the Heir Apparent now sat empty. The emperor only had one son, so he would certainly find an appropriate candidate to tutor the heir. Who would take up this mantle? This candidate would’ve great influence over the movements of court and the future of Great Yan!
Qin Yining didn’t eat much of breakfast because Mama Jing’s news had been too surprising. Her presence had also helped Qin Yining really just how widespread the Institute’s network was, and how great its capability. No matter the changes in court, the Institute of Luminous Grace wasn’t simply a treasure vault, but ale to do much more. She became greatly excited and confident at this thought.
A flurry of door pounding suddenly sounded when it was past noon. Wife Ge opened the door to see head maid Jixiang by the old dowager’s side. “The lord has been honored with the position of Grand Preceptor of the Heir Apparent! He’s returned home now. Hurry and have Fourth Miss dress formally, the lord is going to lead the entire family in praying at ancestral hall later and report these great tidings to the ancestors!”
Wife Ge and Xiaoling beamed when they heard this. “This is absolutely wonderful! The lord really possesses untold fortune. Fourth Miss, we’ll help you dress immediately!”