Chapter 118: Welcoming Ceremony (I)
“There’s nothing for it either.” Qiulu sighed. “The madame loses her pillar and support when our miss isn’t here. On the other hand, Miss Huining only knows to add fuel to the fire in front of the old dowager. We all know what the old dowager’s temper is like as well. She can’t even find north after someone pays her three compliments.”
“I say she doesn’t even know where north is!” Bingtang stabbed a sole ferociously.
Songlan made a shushing gesture and glanced back at Qin Yining.
“Miss, some people have left our Venerable Study Hall in the days you’ve been gone as well.” Qiulu changed the topic.
This caught Qin Yining’s attention and she smiled. “I see that Liuya and two servings girls have gone missing. Did they go to Snowpear Courtyard?”
Qiulu nodded. “Liuya took the two girls with her and went to Miss Huining. I don’t know what Miss Huining said to the old dowager, but the old dowager agreed to the change in personnel. She said that Songlan and Bingtang were extras in our yard to begin with, but since they were on the Duke of Ding’s payroll, it was acceptable. But now they’re on our payroll, there’s no need for extra people in our residence.”
Qin Yining had long since noted that Liuya was a source of restlessness. The maid had only serve her out of duty, not because the maid truly wanted to. She’d thought that things would be fine as long as Liuya kept from causing trouble. It was unexpected of the maid to take advantage of the situation and leave.
“It’s fine that that kind of person’s left.” Qin Yining responded indifferently.
“She liked to play little schemes and take the lion’s share of all anything good anyway,” Bingtang added. “She didn’t seem good to me either. It’s better that she’s gone! She won’t end up randomly causing trouble for the miss.”
Qin Yining nodded. “I’d rather quality over quantity with my people. In a large family like ours, having more people is actually a hassle.”
“You’re very right, miss.” Bingtang and Songlan both nodded.
As they chatted inside, they heard a serving girl talking outside.
“Go see who’s come,” Qin Yining said with puzzlement. “Who could be visiting so late at night?”
“I’ll go take a look.” Bingtang put down her needle and thread and swiftly descended the stairs. It only took a few moments for her to return. “Miss, a serving girl from the old dowager delivered a message that the family is to go to the second floor of the Drunken Immortal for the emperor’s welcoming ceremony tomorrow. She’s reserved the entire floor and wants everyone to witness the lord’s splendor."
Qin Yining found this a tad funny. For those frightened out of their wits in the capital, the successful conclusion of peace talks between Great Zhou and Great Yan was even more cause for celebration than the new year. The emperor was also placing a lot of emphasis on this matter as well, holding a welcoming ceremony and leading a pack of officials to welcome the negotiation party back. With the old dowager’s bias for Qin Huaiyuan and her love of pomp and circumstance, she’d probably thought of the high likelihood of seeing the other noble families of the capital. She really doesn’t pass up an opportunity to flaunt what she has.
No one yet knew how née Sun was doing in the palace, but this was all that was occupying the old dowager’s thoughts. When Qin Yining’s thoughts ran as far as musing that this was the only sort of treatment her mother had earned after marrying into the Qins for so many years, she instantly lost interest in everything.
“I see. Since this is the case, let’s all rest a bit earlier.”
“Understood.” The servants curtsied and left Qiulu on duty for the night. Bingtang and Songlan went to wash off the dust of the road and settle down for a good night’s sleep.
Qin Yining didn’t have a peaceful night. Her heart was still uneasy as she worried about née Sun. She awoke from shock twice in the night and had all sorts of troubling dreams. However, none of them bubbled to the surface in the light of day. All that was left behind was a disquieting, fearful feeling.
She took a simple breakfast early the next morning and headed to the Garden of Loving Piety to make her greetings. The old dowager was wearing an exceedingly eye-catching shade of plum blossom red and was heavily made up. There was even a headband with a ruby embedded in the center across her forehead. It was a joyous outfit that the matriarch likely wouldn’t wear even if the Qins were marrying off a daughter.
The second and third madame were chit-chatting idly with Qin Huining off on the side. The cheerful chatter made for a bustling scene. Qin Yining took one look at the cherry-red eight-panel skirt that the foster girl was wearing and sat down, expressionless.
Those who had a heart and mind for principles would understand even without being told. Someone without a heart like Qin Huining would never develop a mind for principles even if she was lectured ten thousand times. The foster girl didn’t care about her family on the Duke of Ding’s side anyways, so it was more than likely that her grandfather, uncles, and cousins in the underworld wouldn’t care about what she wore either.
The second and third elder lord had arranged for pageboys to keep an eye on the road. One of them came in at the hour of the dragon .
“Reporting to Old Dowager, the emperor and empress’ sedans are nearing the city doors. Their Majesties are trailed by a hundred officials. They’ve almost reached the welcome party.”
The old dowager nodded repeatedly, all smiles for once. “Well then, let’s be on our way as well. Let’s circle around to the Drunken Immortal first. It’s not too far from the city gates and the view from the second floor is particularly good. We’ll be able to take in the entire return party from there.”
“Mother thinks most thoroughly,” the third madame flattered.
“Indeed, grandmother’s plans are the best. We all want to see father’s triumphant return. This brings great honor to our ancestors!” Qin Huining also chimed in.
The old dowager was filled with happiness and felt very relaxed. Peals of merry laughter sounded in the air as they all jostled each other jovially.
Qin Yining felt increasing irritation at the sight of these people. None of them valued relationships and thought of née Sun at all, so there was no point in hoping any of them were worried about the senior madame’s safety.
Another pageboy politely entered amidst the cacophony. “The carriages have been prepared. This way please, Old Dowager, madames, and misses.”
Everyone smoothed out nonexistent creases on their outfits a old dowager as they headed out as a pack. The convoy took a longer than usual path to the Drunken Immortal. When they ascended the stairs and pushed out the gridded windows on the second floor, they discovered that the streets were lined with a great many people, all craning their necks for a look.
It was a sea of people, stretching as far as the eye could see in both directions. One could barely make out individual heads and smiles as they laughed and chatted with each other. The Qin females rarely ventured out of the manor, so the sight of so many people was quite intriguing to them as well. They gathered around the windows, pointing and murmuring to each other. Qin Yining was standing at the window furthest to the right. It offered her a view of the city gates that she could access with just a tilt of the head.
The newly swept streets reached towards the city gates, and someone on the back of a fast horse suddenly appeared in front of them. The rider was wearing the gray-blue robes of a eunuch and called out shrilly, “The emperor and empress have returned!”
The announcement triggered the release of firecrackers, sending furls of smoke everywhere and bits of red paper dancing in the air. The people smiled and laughed with joy, applauding fiercely for the happy news. The Qin females stretched their necks out for a better look as well.
The emperor and empress were walking at the head of a large crowd near the spacious city gates. Qin Huaiyuan and the crown prince followed close behind, with neatly dressed civil and martial officials lined up in order of rank behind them.
Qin Huaiyuan was upright and tall in his crimson robes that sent him greatly apart from the mass of officials. He looked very uncommon and different from them, even exuding a few hints of an ethereal immortal in his bearing as he strode forward.
The emperor was dressed in golden dragon robes, holding the hand of the empress wearing red phoenix robes. They proceeded under the protection of guards, waving at the people lining the streets.
Whether heartfelt from the populace or from people planted in the crowd, someone suddenly shouted, “May the emperor live for ten thousand years! May the empress live for a thousand years! The protection and fortune of the emperor causes all to be well and at peace within Great Yan!”
The citizens all knelt, and the Qin females curtsied as the royal entourage passed by the Drunken Immortal. None of them dared look straight upon the imperial visage. The old dowager then led all the females in kneeling on the ground and kept murmuring, “A good Qin son! A fine Qin son! It’s all thanks to the ancestors that we can bring glory to the family name!”
The old dowager was not the only one to feel proud of this all; it was a feeling shared by Qin Yining. This was the peak of glory and prosperity for an official. Qin Huaiyuan was in a position where many could only hope to beg for.
These thoughts had just crossed her mind when an uproar sounded in the distance, interspersed with angry yells and screams from the people.
The girl’s heart skipped a beat as she quickly rose to take a look outside. More than twenty men with covered faces charged out from the crowd, weapons unsheathed. It was an assassination attempt!
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