Chapter 123: Mother-in-Law
“You wish to raid the execution place, miss?!”
“Yes.” Qin Yining nodded.
Steward Zhong thought deeply for a moment and nodded. “Our Institute doesn’t have much, but connections are our strong point. I’ll send out people immediately. Rest for now, miss. We’ll do our best. Don’t tire yourself out either.”
“Be careful in this matter. Don’t drag yourself into this by appearing yourself,” Qin Yining responded gratefully. “Just push everything onto me. Don’t remain involved once the hired hands come. Just go be the grand steward of the Institute of Luminous Charm.”
“What kind of words are these, miss! Ole Zhong isn’t the sort to forget debts of gratitude!”
“I know what your character is like, grand steward. But you’re not alone in this world. You have a family to take care of. Listen to me, don’t get further involved in this. Give your orders through multiple layers of people and hire them in a roundabout manner.”
Grand Steward Zhong opened and closed his mouth a few times and still swallowed his words in the end. He nodded heavily and left with quick strides.
Bingtang had found a skirt and was helping Qin Yining change her clothes.
“Don’t worry, miss. Rest for now. No matter what you do tomorrow, you need to rest well so you have the energy to, no?”
Qin Yining nodded with compressed lips and spoke after a moment. “All of you are dismissed. I’d like to spend some time alone.”
It was bound to be a sleepless night. Whenever she closed her eyes, the image of née Sun’s head separated from her body and the ground splashed liberally with blood, the head placed into a wooden cage and hung high on a pole, would appear in front of her. The stinging scent of gore seemed to hang in the air. How could she sleep peacefully then?
The strong wind rattled the shutters as the candlelight flickered with it. She seemed to hear the crying of a woman. The sound startled Qin Yining into flinging off her covers. But when she stood up, the sound seemed to vanish. The room’s unfamiliar items and blackness of the shadows seemed to harbor a violent beast, one that would pounce and devour her at any time.
She rubbed her aching forehead and wearily sat on the edge of the bed again, leaning her head against the bedpost and closing her eyes.
The door creaked open as Bingtang came in with a lamp. She asked anxiously, “Why haven’t you slept yet, miss?”
“What time is it?”
“It’s the hour of the tiger.”  Bingtang placed the lamp on the table and instantly brightened the room, banishing the beast in the shadows. “You must’ve been so worried that you didn’t sleep all night!”
“How could I sleep when something like this has happened?”
Bingtang placed three fingers on Qin Yining’s wrist and took pulses from both hands. “There isn’t much wrong with you, miss. I’ll prepare some calming side dishes later. You should drink more water as well. You’ll be fine in two more days. Does your stomach still cramp, miss?”
Qin Yining nodded. “It does, and my hands and feet are so cold.”
“You suffered from the cold before, miss. And now that your monthly courses are about to start, you naturally have cramps. But don’t worry, miss. I’ll help you adjust your body from now on. I’ll be able to cure you of the lingering effects the cold left in you before a year’s out. You have a healthy foundation, so it won’t impact your child bearing capabilities at all.”
“And what are you talking bout?” Qin Yining was embarrassed.
Bingtang started teasing when she saw Qin Yining’s forehead relax. “Such is what’s decreed in the heavens. This is just nature’s law. There’s nothing bad about it. We who know medicine can see stuff like this, we’re not like those quack doctors, you know.”
“You’re the only one who talks so much.” Qin Yining had almost forgotten that the two were the same age.
“Lay down for a while, miss. I’ll return shortly.”
“I’ll be troubling you then.” Qin Yining smiled gratefully. It should’ve been her mother to tell her all this, but she’d heard some from Zhan-mama and Jin-mama, and now Bingtang was taking care of her. She was very thankful that Bingtang and Songlan were keeping her company at this time. She wouldn’t know what to do if it was just her.
The maids returned before long to help Qin Yining wash-up and change clothes. When all preparations were made, they served warm porridge made of hard rice and some other side dishes. With warm porridge in her belly, Qin Yining felt a bit better, and her face was no longer as sheet-white as before.
“Are you awake, miss?” Steward Zhong’s voice came from outside.
Qin Yining quickly ran to open the door. “How did everything go, Steward Zhong?”
The grand steward looked like he hadn’t slept all night either, but he was smiling. “Thank goodness I haven’t disappointed you, miss. I’ve already hired four experts who promise that they’ll rescue the madame. I promised them five thousand silver each when the deed is done.”
“Wonderful! Thank you so much, Steward Zhong.” Qin Yining’s heart could finally settle back in its proper place. She’d had such a sleepless night because she’d been afraid that even all the silver she could muster wouldn’t be enough. But now that they had their men, she began to worry that the operation would fail.
Songlan observed her mistress’ expression closely and helped her sit down. “Don’t worry, miss. Our plan is a surprise, and the madame will surely be able to transform disaster into good fortune. The hour is a bit early and you’ve done all that you can for all the arrangements you can think of. Rest a little so that you’ve full energy for the matter at noon.”
Qin Yining understood all this reasoning, but it was difficult for her to do so. When Bingtang saw Qin Yining thus, she couldn’t help but be reminded of her own circumstances. Her nose twinged, but there was nothing else that they as servants could do at this time other than take good care of their mistress.
And so Qin Yining sat there until the hour of the snake . She really couldn’t wait anymore, so she summoned Steward Zhong.
“Please prepare my carriage, the one I use normally.”
“Are you still planning to go to the execution place?”
“I need to see things with my own eyes whether or not the operation is a success. If it is, I’ll return back to the manor and continue being a Qin miss. If not…” Qin Yining’s breathing hitched before she forced herself to calm again. “If not, I’ll still return to be the grand preceptor’s official daughter.” Except no one will be able to stop me from whatever I do afterwards.
Steward Zhong nodded with a sigh. Things had happened so quickly, yet the miss had been able to make her preparations in the shortest time possible and think of a corresponding strategy. She could even steady herself so that she didn’t give in to her impulses, and didn’t drag the entire Qin family down into her worries and hate. Compared to her daughter’s methods, née Sun’s unaccountable stirring of trouble appeared even more idiotic.
Such were the steward’s thoughts, but it wouldn’t do to openly criticize the owner’s mother. He just carried out his orders. Qin Yining was dressed properly and climbed into the carriage with an ashen complexion, feeling intense discomfort from cramps. They made for the Meridian Gate.
Grand Preceptor Qin had just successfully concluded the peace talks and brought back peace to citizens of Great Yan, but the emperor was going to execute his wife! This news had spread throughout the entire capital, and many citizens cried out for her innocence. However, the imperial decree had been given and the grand preceptor’s wife had even cursed out the emperor. With the title of “insubordination” clapped to her head, who would dare defy this outcome? There was no point to the pleas of mercy from the populace.
When noon arrived, the executioner roughly pushed née Sun onto the stage. She was dressed in white, her hair a wild mess, trussed up like a chicken, and a dirty rag stuffed in her mouth. When the crowd saw that the star of the show had come, a great hubbub broke out and people started pushing and shoving. If it wasn’t for men from the Warden’s Office and the Bureau of Punishment situating themselves in the right places early on, it was likely that the crowd would’ve rushed into the execution grounds.
Qin Yining stood at the head of the crowd with Bingtang and Songlan. When she saw née Sun’s dirty face, she couldn’t hold back her tears anymore. She cried out, “Mother!”
The young girl’s voice was crisp and brimming with sincere sorrow. It carried out quite a distance in the air. When the people realized that Grand Preceptor Qin’s daughter was next to them, they all shuffled to the side, seemingly afraid of squeezing her. They’d also taken a clear look at her. No wonder the trash emperor had the grand preceptor bring his daughter to the peace talks.
The Qin miss is the daughter of ‘Wise Pan An’ alright.
But the Qins are really too tragic!
No matter who in Great Zhou took a liking to her, the grand preceptor had to offer his daughter for the peace talks and not only was there an attempted assassination after his return, but now the trash emperor wants to execute his wife!
There’s no justice in this, no humanity!
The people grew more agitated and started yelling and shouting.
“What crime did Madame Qin commit?! Why is she being executed and displayed for everyone to see?!”
“Grand Preceptor has done a great service for the country, the emperor should show mercy!”
“That’s right, the emperor should think of the grand preceptor and not kill his wife!”
Née Sun was kneeling on the stage, watching the Warden’s Office soldiers holding Qin Yining back. Tears tumbled down her face as she struggled, shaking her head at her daughter. She seemed to have something to say, but couldn’t voice anything because of the rag. She could only cry anxiously.
Logic snapped in Qin Yining’s mind when she saw her mother thus. She forcefully pushed aside the soldiers and wanted to charge forward, but these were the execution grounds. As strong as she was, she was still just a girl. The soldiers ripped her from her trajectory and threw her back into the ground into a sitting position.
“Miss Qin, we give respect to the grand preceptor, so please think twice about your actions. A place such as the execution grounds are off limits to you!”
Qin Yining clenched her teeth as she got up with the aid of Bingtang and Songlan. She only had four people, but there were so many soldiers. Would they succeed?
Disturbance rippled through the crowd again at this time. There seemed to be someone pushing from the back, making the ones in front stumble a few steps forward. This was when Qin Yining noticed that several tall and stocky men had surrounded here. They were dressed like normal citizens and looked quite ordinary, but they were very fit. This made the girl ponder. Are these my hired help? But they don’t know who the real employer is, so they wouldn’t come protect me.
“The hour has arrived, perform the execution!” The presiding official shouted out, causing an instant stillness.
Née Sun shook her head repeatedly, tears flying everywhere as she sobbed gutturally. The executioner pulled out the plaque tucked in at her back and raised his sword high.
Qin Yining’s heart leapt into her threat as she frantically searched for her men. There were about a dozen men poised at the front of the crowd, ready to charge out. But in this critical moment, a piercing sound broke through the air!
A crisp ding! rang out as the executioner’s sword broke into two. The executioner rocked on his heels onto the ground. The arrow’s momentum wasn’t arrested at all as it flew towards the wooden pole behind the presiding official, burying itself down to the fletching into the pole supporting the tent.
Color drained from the official’s face as he shrieked with fright. “Who is it?! How dare you act like this? Capture him!”
The men about to charge out paused.
“Display this prince’s flag so they can all see just who the hell I am!”
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