Chapter 75: The Way of the World
“I shouldn’t harp at you given what’s happened with your family, but don’t you forget who you are! Although you’re a Sun, you’re foremost a Qin after crossing our threshold. You need to think of the Qin clan in whatever you do. Don’t forget that your husband is grand preceptor!” The old dowager had been nursing this breath of ill will all these days. Although it was such a pity that a great talent like Sun Yuanming was gone just like that, the old dowager was more worried that the Qin clan would be dragged down by the Duke of Ding’s household.
The emperor had given a decree. Regardless of whether or not it was reasonable, an imperial decor was an imperial decree. Sun Yuanming might be a self made martyr, but his crime of defying an imperial order was very real as well. The old dowager had tried stopping Qin Huaiyuan from going to the Ding Manor after everything had happened on that fateful day, but her son was now an adult and had his own ideas. She’d thought that he’d just take a look, but he’d actually stayed and started helping! When she sent servants with messages that she’d taken ill, he’d only come back to confirm that she was faking, and sprouted all sorts of noble ideals before leaving again.
But what was she doing all this for? Her son wasn’t the sort to forget his mother after taking a wife, so maybe née Sun had said something or done something. Now that the old dowager finally had her daughter-in-law under her thumb again, it was the perfect opportunity for her to vent her irritation.
Née Sun was already grief-stricken and felt even more muddled after all this. She wasn’t the sort to analyze the bigger picture to begin with, and her brains were a complete churned up mess at the moment. She didn’t think deeply about the old dowager’s words at all. She just felt that her mother-in-law was faulting her for spending so much time at home.
Qin Yining needed only one look at née Sun’s expression to know that her mother’s temper was going to make the usual showing. She wanted to stop the proceedings, but née Sun moved even faster.
“Old Dowager, you’re simply too heartless! Such a tragic thing has happened at home and my parents are ill from grief. Yuanming’s funeral wasn’t yet wrapped up either, so how could I possibly have just left them behind? You should be putting yourselves in their shoes and not throwing a tantrum!” Née Sun’s voice was a bit hoarse, so her words were even scratchier than usual when she screamed.
Qin Yining knew that this wouldn’t end well when she heard this. She quickly explained, “Don’t be angry, Old Dowager. Mother didn’t mean that…”
The old dowager had already shot to her feet in anger, completely ignoring her granddaughter. “Me, throwing a tantrum? Is there any daughter-in-law in this world that speaks to their mother-in-law like this? I’ve been lenient towards you all these years, so what, you think I’m a soft target? Put myself in their shoes? I don’t have a grandson who would die for his cause, so I really can’t empathize!”
“You!” Née Sun shook from fury. Her greatest regret in life was that she hadn’t been able to give Qin Huaiyuan a boy after all this time. How much derision had she suffered from her mother-in-law for that in all these years? And here she was, using that to attack née Sun again? Tears trickled down née Sun’s face as she clutched her chest, unable to catch her breath in between sobs. “I know the old dowager doesn’t like the sight of me. I’ll…”
“What, you want to go home?” The old dowager was both infuriated and vindicated when she saw née Sun cry. She snorted coldly. “Do you think the Ding Manor is still the Ding Manor of old? I’ll give you a word of advice since you’re my daughter-in-law. Although Yuanming’s now a martyr, he still showed disrespect towards the emperor. A blade is suspended over the Ding Manor as long as the emperor doesn’t express his stance on this. If you’re truly filial, then you should think about your family!
“You’re not a child, surely you’re not worse at life than your daughter? Look at how a perfectly fine darling Hui’s turned out under your care! When looking at you, I should be rejoicing that my dear Yi was stolen away all those years ago so that she remained free from your influence!”
Such devastating words caused née Sun’s face to drain of all color. The old dowager shouldn’t be lecturing her like this in front of her daughter and servants. How would she have any face or dignity in the manor in the future? She felt that her dignity had already been trampled firmly into the dust by the old dowager!
Meanwhile, off to the side, Qin Huining had been unable to eat or drink for the past couple of days because the one she liked had died right in front of her. Her complexion was ashen and she’d lost a great deal of weight. She felt humiliated, furious, and resigned when she heard the old dowager’s words, heavily ladened with undertones. So were they saying that in occupying Qin Yining’s rightful place, she’d actually saved the old dowager’s real granddaughter?
Qin Yining looked at the bawling née Sun, the hotly glaring old dowager, then at Qin Huining’s lowered head as the foster girl suppressed her emotions. She felt at a loss for what to do. Née Sun didn’t have a clear mind. The old dowager prioritized self gain above all else. Qin Huining was so very sensitive and easily jealous… Something serious would likely happen if the three continued continued in this vein.
Qin Yining sent a request for help in a look to Qin-mama. The old servant immediately nodded slightly with understanding and patted the old dowager’s chest to calm her mistress down. She helped the old dowager to a seat, coaxing, “Don’t be angry, mistress. Senior Madame is straightforward and never means anything else. We’re all one family. You were also concerned about her family, no?”
She then turned to née Sun. “Senior Madame, don’t blame Old Dowager for speaking too harshly. She’s just in too much of a rush. You know how difficult court is for the lord these days. Don’t be sad, the old dowager just means well for the family.”
Not only did this pacify the old dowager, it also gave née Sun a face-saving way out. A smart person would go with the flow and offer an apology, thus closing the book on this matter. Née Sun however, shot back, “I know the old dowager wants to distance herself now that something’s happened to my family! What happened to that fawning enthusiasm for this marriage when our family was mighty and awe-inspiring? Now that the lord is in ascension, you forget who made it all possible! You shirk away whenever anything happens. Where is your heart and conscience?! What a low-down display!”
Née Sun spoke the truth, but some truths could only be spoken of at certain times. Did she want to continue living in the Qin Manor after saying that?! Qin Yining held her forehead and pulled née Sun down on her knees. “Please don’t be angry, Old Dowager. My mother is confused with grief. She didn’t mean that.”
“Didn’t mean that?” The old dowager’s face was flushed beet red. No one was certain if this was from fury or embarrassment that her intentions had been found out. “If it wasn’t for the fact that you have such a mature daughter Yi, I’d have my son divorce you today!”
“Have him divorce me if you don’t mind your son having the reputation of kissing up to those in power and kicking them away when their use is up! I’ve had enough of in-laws like this!” Née Sun flung away Qin Yining’s hand and whirled to leave. The girl quickly caught up to stop her mother, throwing a look at Qin Huining as well.
Qin Huining was at least more quick witted that née Sun. Even though the two girls didn’t get along normally, they still knew who was family in critical moments. They were all members of the main branch, and all of them would lose face with née Sun’s actions. Sadly, Qin Yining overestimated Qin Huining’s emotional intelligence and underestimated the girl’s selfishness.
“Old Dowager.” Qin Huining knelt, a layer of mist in eyes swollen from crying all these days. “Don’t be mad. Mother didn’t mean what she said. She has a very loving relationship with father, so please forgive her on account of father, if nothing else.”
These were persuasive words, but they were just a ladle of hot fuel to the fire that was currently the old dowager. She loved sons more than daughters and felt possessive about them. Although she wanted her sons to coexist well with her daughters-in-law and grew angry whenever the latter did something wrong, she was still secretly gleeful when her daughters-in-law showed their failings. This way, her sons would realize more firmly who was closest to them.
This mentality was precisely what Qin Huining grasped. Née Sun already didn’t love her, why should the girl speak on her behalf? There wasn’t a single good thing in this family!
As expected, the old dowager exploded into new fury when she heard this and smashed the teapot and teacups. “You idiot woman! I knew you were goading Meng’er and making him stay at the Ding Manor to help your family! Take a look around and see the times we’re in! Your nephew’s dead, do you want your husband to be dragged in as well?!”
Née Sun had just been pulled to a stop in the courtyard and was livid at the old dowager’s words. She opened her mouth to retort hotly, but chest pains struck and everything went black in front of her eyes. Her body softened in a faint.
“Mother! Mother!” Qin Yining caught the unconscious née Sun.
“Oh no, Senior Madame’s fainted!” Qin-mama quickly summoned servants and sent more to fetch a doctor.
The old dowager was jolted out of her rage. Was this a new trick? Had née Sun really fainted or was this an act? Was she trying to pull the wool over the old dowager’s eyes or something else?!
Qin-mama came running out of the house. “Quick quick quick! Bring Senior Madame into the house!”
The serving girls and granny servants moved into flustered action.
“Don’t move her randomly.” Qin Yining peeled off the people wanting to help. “I’ve seen people who’ve suddenly fainted actually fail to recover after being moved. The doctors later said it was palpitations and that patients shouldn’t be moved when it flares up. Hurry, go find Bingtang!”
The last was to head maid Jixiang, who nodded rapidly and sprinted off. Qin Yining had sent Bingtang and Songlan back to prepare a bath after they returned to the Qin Manor. While waiting for Bingtang, she repeatedly pressed the acupuncture points beneath the nose and between thumb and index finger.
Qin Huining was also kneeling at née Sun’s side, sobbing over her mother. “Mother, don’t scare me! Hurry and wake up!”
Qin Yining smiled coldly and didn’t care that the old dowager and Qin-mama were behind her. She cared even less that a yard full of servants were standing around them. She raised her hand and gave Qin Huining a resounding slap!
She held nothing back in this slap and sent Qin Huining crashing to the ground seeing stars. The foster girl turned to the side and spat out a mouthful of blood. A tooth was actually mixed in the blood!
“Ah! My tooth! You!”
“Let me tell you something, Qin Huining! I’ll let you off the hook if mother’s fine. If anything happens to her, I’ll be the first to slice and dice you!”
“How dare you?!”
“Just try me!” The look in Qin Yining’s eyes was so cutting that it made Qin Huining shudder. She didn’t dare meet the fourth miss’ eyes and weakened.
“How is this my fault?”
“Then is it the old dowager’s?! The old dowager is benevolent and wasn’t thinking those thoughts before. It was you stirring up trouble and leading her to say those words!” Qin Yining continued rubbing née Sun’s clammy and spasming hands, pressing down on acupuncture points. She continued anxiously, “I won’t argue with you now. I’ll let you live if mother’s fine. If she’s not, dust off your neck and wait for me!”