Chapter 58: Belief and Disbelief
Née Sun had always been the apple of her family’s eye, and highly feted by everyone else. When had she ever suffered such censure? She lost all face in the face of the old dowager’s hectoring. Her face flushed beet red as she leapt to her own defense. “That’s not fair, Old Dowager. You’ve always said that you were the one who raised daughter Hui whenever she does something worthy of praise. You even said that you would take over looking after her to take some of the load off of my shoulders a while back. But now it’s my fault that those by her side have made a mistake? I wasn’t solely responsible for her upbringing!”
The old dowager almost spat out a mouthful of blood in anger when she heard this self serving reasoning. How could she have ever been so blind as to think that Sun Haihan, an ignorant, stupid, almost painfully naive woman, was worthy of her marvelously talented firstborn?!
“Née Sun, is this the kind of tone a daughter-in-law should take towards her mother-in-law?! What do you mean by all this carrying on? I helped take care of your daughter, and not only are you not grateful to me for the help, but you blame me for not teaching her well? Am I her mother or are you her mother?!” The old dowager was beside herself with anger and her finger shook from rage as she pointed at née Sun. “I’d thought you were a bit more mature this time because you’d come back on your own. But you’re still the same, a hopeless fool!”
Tears swam in née Sun’s eyes. Feeling attacked on all sides, she doubled down on her stance. “Just tell me if you’re worried about your darling granddaughter, Old Dowager! Why are you turning on me instead? So now I’m a hopeless fool? It wasn’t my Sun family who tried every method under the sun to secure this marriage back in the day! It was your household who sent people over to our Ding Manor to raise this matter. I don’t dare say that I’ve been brilliant all these years, but at the very least, Qin Meng has had a smooth career, so I brought fortune that helped my husband. How is it that you find fault in everything I do now!?”
“You! You!” The old dowager was absolutely livid. “I would’ve slapped you into next winter if you were my daughter!”
Mothers-in-law could theoretically punish their daughters-in-law if needed, but the noble circles would laugh themselves silly at her if she really did raise a hand. The gossip mill would also make her out to be a horrible mother-in-law if word of this managed to spread. This was why, despite almost earth shattering arguments over the years, the old dowager had never laid a single finger on her daughters-in-law. However, née Sun had gone far beyond the line today. The old dowager had been angry enough about the Qin Huining affair, and now… her eyes fluttered as her vision grew dark. The old dowager raised a hand to her head and swayed, on the verge of collapsing.
“Old Dowager!” Qin-mama and Qin Yining quickly rushed over to support the matriarch. “Are you alright? Come, let’s go inside and rest.”
Qin Yining shook her head surreptitiously at née Sun, silently telling the madame to refrain from speaking anymore. The fire was already burning hot, there was no point pushing herself further into it. The girl then slipped into the house alongside Qin-mama, leaving née Sun standing outside with her fists clenched, her body shaking from suppressed emotion. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to control her temper, but it was so unfair to have her rein herself in all the time. She’d been the treasured pearl of her grandmother’s eye since she was a little girl, and both her parents had been loving and kind to her all her life, so when had she ever suffered from such indignity? If it wasn’t for Qin Huaiyuan, she wouldn’t have bothered with such a shrew of a harridan mother-in-law either!
She really wanted to stomp off just like this, but upon further thought she realized that she still had to ask after the old dowager. Otherwise, people would criticize her afterwards. Therefore, she ended up going inside as well.
Further in, Qin Yining and Qin-mama had already helped the old dowager to bed. After making sure that her health wasn’t in danger, they spoke soothingly to her, keeping their voices low and calming. Née Sun stood to the side, watching them help the old dowager out of her shoes and socks with gentle voices. The matriarch had closed her eyes and seemed disinclined to speak another word. Née Sun knew there was no use in pleading for any more leniency today. Darling Hui doesn’t seem to be this kind of person. Maybe someone’s stirring up trouble from the shadows and purposefully framing her.
Née Sun decided to go to Qin Huining’s quarters herself, and summoned Cai-mama for a thorough explanation. Cai-mama was Jin-mama’s niece, and Jin-mama was née Sun’s wet nurse. Therefore, née Sun felt like she was meeting one of her own when she saw née Cai and cut straight to the point. “Did daughter Hui give orders for Bitong to frame daughter Yi’s maid?”
“Madame, how can you think that?! You know how gentle and mature Miss Huining is. She walks as carefully as one on thin ice in these days, and is so distraught that she almost committed suicide last night. She didn’t hang herself, but then the fourth miss choked her and even said that that she could help Miss Huining if the miss wanted to die but didn’t have the courage to…” Cai-mama broke into pitiful sobs. “If even you don’t believe Miss Huining now, madame, then the miss will never see the light of day! Bitong is a proud one to begin with. Maybe she had some crooked thoughts and decided to harm our miss as well!”
The mama snuck careful glances at née Sun as she wiped vigorously at her tears, relaxing inwardly when she saw that the senior madame probably believed her. How would the old servant possibly admit that Qin Huining really was the culprit? She’d been the one who’d given Qin Huining the idea in the first place! Now that everything had blown up to this extent, Cai-mama was deathly afraid that her influence over her mistress would come out, so she would swear to the death that Qin Huining was innocent.
Née Sun was completely convinced by the old servant’s words, especially when she saw how resolute the mama was. She frowned when she heard how Qin Yining had treated Qin Huining. However, her impression of Qin Yining had taken a turn for the better now, so she chalked it up to exaggeration on the mama’s part and didn’t ask further. “I believe daughter Hui then, because of what you said. But who would frame her like this? And how did Bitong and Xiao’ai so coincidentally bump into the lord and crown prince passing by? This smacks of careful design no matter what.”
Cai-mama relaxed fully at those words, but quickly pursed her lips in feigned thought. “You’re a smart one, madame. Some things don’t need to be spoken out loud. It’s easy to see who would’ve framed Miss Huining. Who’s benefitted the most from all this?”
Who’s benefitted the most? Née Sun thought back to the matters of the day. Although she hadn’t been present in the old dowager’s rooms, she knew that Qin Yining had brought back two maids from the Ding Manor, and one of them was the accused Ruilan. So who’d benefitted the most? Obviously Qin Yining.
Lines crisscrossed née Sun’s forehead. She wasn’t willing to believe that Qin Yining would harm Qin Huining, but her heart wavered when Cai-mama spoke of it. Just as her brains were dissolving into a bucket of glue, Qin Yining arrived at the rooms.
“So you are here, madame. I guessed that you would be.” Qin Yining was tailed by Bingtang, Songlan, Yaoqin, and Yuqi. Née Sun was quite busy today and so only had Caiju by her side. The maid wasn’t even here at the moment. When she recalled how bereft Qin Yining had been when she’d first arrived at the manor, and compared it to her entourage now, née Sun was struck by the stark difference. Could Qin Yining really have the desire to harm others, given how good her methods are?
“What’s wrong, mother? Why are you looking at me like this and not saying anything?” Qin Yining actually did have her speculations as to her mother’s thoughts, but she maintained a smile on her face.
“Come with me.” Née Sun frowned and pulled on Qin Yining’s hand, making swiftly for Garden of Tranquility.
Meanwhile, Qin Huaiyuan was standing in front of a kneeling, sobbing Qin Huining. His arms were crossed as he rumbled, “Speak everything you should speak of. Don’t drag things out. My patience is at its limit today.”