Chapter 130: Nicely Done
The guards and eunuchs outside the study rushed in en masse as soon as they heard the commotion. A feeling of slight relief flashed across their hearts when they realized it was only a display of imperial temper, but their relief was quickly drowned by terror at the revelation. Trembling, they carefully took up positions around the study, not daring to draw closer to talk the emperor down.
Their liege’s temper had grown more and more violent lately, and it often rampaged out of control when his emotions ran high. The head eunuch in charge of the study had only spoken a single word of restraint last time before he was dragged out for twenty beatings of the plank. If the eunuch hadn’t accumulated a good amount of authority and greased some palms beforehand, he wouldn’t even be alive now!
The emperor exhaled comfortably after he’d smashed everything he could smash to smithereens.
“Bring me the divine pill from Priestess Liu.”
“Understood.” The head eunuch immediately took out an exquisite box, wrought of gold, and offered the inky-black medicine pill inside it with both hands.
The emperor tossed it back with a drink of chilled wine and immediately felt highly refreshed. His mood took a turn for the better and he laughed heartily.
“The empress certainly made a good recommendation with Priestess Liu. Have her reward the priestess as she will. She can take what she wants from my personal storeroom.”
“Understood, this servant will go immediately.” The head eunuch’s face was wreathed in placating smiles. He also took advantage of his momentary reprieve to murmur orders to young eunuchs to clean up the mess all over the floor.
The emperor thought for a moment more. “And, go deliver an imperial decree tomorrow. The favor I bestowed on the Qins isn’t to be considered fake. Née Sun now has a title of the paramount rank and what should be awarded to her cannot be found lacking. I’ll write the new signboard to go up over the doors tomorrow. Have it made and delivered. Also, raise a tablet in honor of née Sun tomorrow in front of the Qin Manor. Relay my instructions after you deliver the rewards tomorrow.”
“This servant hears and obeys.”
The emperor wrote out the words ‘Marquis of Anping’, which the head eunuch personally delivered the next afternoon, along with the tablet heralding née Sun’s new rank and various boxes of gold, silver, and jewels.
The old dowager was drinking a bowl of almond milk when she heard the news and couldn’t sit still in her happiness. As a result of her excitement, she ended up spilling half her bowl.
“Quick, quick, set up the receiving table and have all of the females head out to the front of receive the imperial decree!”  She turned around to instruct Qin-mama to help her into formalwear and makeup. The joyous atmosphere spread quickly from the inner residence all the way to the outer residence.
The head eunuch was used to acting as the occasion dictated, so after he relayed the imperial decree and delivered the rewards, he felt no hesitation in asking about née Sun and Qin Yining when he didn’t see them.
“Old Dowager Qin, where might the marchioness and Fourth Miss be today?”
The old dowager blinked once, and pasted a wide smile on her face. “Thank you for your concern, gonggong. The marchioness isn’t feeling well and needs to rest quietly. My fourth granddaughter happens to own businesses outside the manor and says that they’re the quietest place around and most suitable for resting. She’s serving her mother there. We haven’t had time to bring them back due to the tight schedule of the imperial decree.”
Although the head eunuch was sharp enough to pick up the old dowager’s awkwardness, he didn’t dare offend Qin Huaiyuan and so didn’t question the matter further.
“Since this is the case, I request that Old Dowager Qin have someone lead the way. We can have servants set up the tablet, but the emperor and empress has given orders that their rewards be handed to the marchioness and Fourth Miss in person.”
The old dowager quickly agreed and looked at Qin Huaiyuan questioningly. The lord smiled and ordered senior master Qin Yu and second master Qin Han to lead the way. The two masters of the younger generation naturally agreed.
When the two left, the old dowager turned to give some more orders to Qin-mama. “Hurry and catch up to grandson Yu and Han. Bring them a message that they don’t need to be in a hurry to return after guiding the way. Tell them it’s more important to bring their senior aunt and cousin back with them.”
The granny servant felt a headache looming; that would be nigh impossible. But she swallowed her protests. There was no need for her to personally offend the old dowager, so she chased after the two masters.
On the other hand, once they received the message, Qin Han and Qin Yu felt like they’d been put between a rock and a hard place. They didn’t want to be caught between the old dowager and Qin Yining. Qin Yu had his temper and emotions under control, but Qin Han was the explosive sort who like to stand up for justice. He inwardly disdained the old dowager’s instructions, but refrained from showing so on his face because they were acting as guides for the head eunuch.
They made their way to Roamer’s Return where the rewards were appropriately delivered. Qin Yining wasn’t at all surprised to see a head eunuch visit her. When she kowtowed in thanks for the imperial order, she politely sent the head eunuch off and smiled at Bingtang when there was no one around.
The maid immediately came forward amiably and offered a stack of banknotes. “Our miss would like to treat the honored eunuch to tea.”
The head eunuch beamed merrily at the stack of banknotes and kept bowing in thanks. Qin Yining had been very polite to him all along, so he was in quite good spirits. He knew exactly what he was going to say when he returned to the palace.
Qin Yining returned to the rear residence in Roamer’s Return after seeing off the palace servant. There, Qin Han and Qin Yu were speaking with née Sun.
“…the old dowager means that it’s not convenient for senior aunt to be living outside as there’s not as many servants here as there are back home. There’s better care in the manor, senior aunt. If you like quiet, senior aunt, then the old dowager can exempt you from the morning and evening greetings. You only need to spend your days recovering in the Garden of Tranquility. No one will be allowed to disturb you,” Qin Yu kept a smile on his face as he spoke.
Née Sun was a bit tempted by the offer. She was Qin Huaiyuan’s wife, and now that her husband had been made the Marquis of Anping and she the Marchioness of Anping of the Paramount Rank, her title was now higher than the old dowager’s. She really did feel tempted to return with this.
For one, there would be many congratulatory events held in the days to come, so it wouldn’t look good if she wasn’t home. Secondly, she’d be able to lift her head in front of the old dowager now. She knew that her mother-in-law didn’t like her, but now that her title was greater than that old woman’s, what else could the old dowager do?
But née Sun didn’t immediately make a decision. Instead, she glanced hesitantly in Qin Yining’s direction. It was still unknown if there would come a time when she’d come to depend on her daughter’s opinion for all her decisions, but for now, she was exceedingly reliant on the girl. Perhaps the duchess’ and Qin Huaiyuan’s repeated reminders had convinced her to make it a habit.
When Qin Yu and Qin Han saw née Sun look at Qin Yining, they understood who the true decision maker was. However, they weren’t the most familiar with the girl. Qin Yu’s impression of her were built off the tidbits that first wife née Yao told him. Qin Han was a little better off as, apart from hearing his wife chitchat about affairs from the female side of the family, he had formed a connection with Qin Yining when he’d accompanied her back to the capital from the wilderness and taught her some of the house rules.
Just as Qin Yu was deliberating on how to broach the subject, Qin Han spoke up. “Cousin Yi, do you want to go back?”
Qin Yining had always felt gratitude towards Qin Han. He’d privately imparted the social layout of the manor to her on the way back to the capital, teaching her the rules so she wouldn’t embarrass herself. That was how she’d passed the first test of greeting her new family when returning and had given her a base from which she could adapt to her surroundings. Because she felt closer to him, she retracted her acerbic edge when speaking to Qin Han.
“This errand truly puts my two cousins in a difficult position.”
The two men were smart enough to immediately understand that she wasn’t planning on going back.
“So fourth sister is planning on a long stay outside with senior aunt?” Qin Yu was rather put out by her response. “Forgive me for being blunt, but you’re still an unmarried girl. It’s not good to be this headstrong and show yourself off outside like this.”
Qin Han snorted before Qin Yining had a chance to respond. “Oh, so now she’s a girl? Where were you as her senior cousin when our fourth sister was being sacrificed for the peace talks?”
“You!” Qin Yu glared at Qin Han, who, not to be outdone, glared ferociously back.
Qin Yining started chuckling. “Senior cousin, second cousin, don’t be mad. This truly has nothing to do with either of you. Both of you know why I left home. If I went back just like this, my mother will suffer too much for it.”
“So you mean that you won’t go back unless certain conditions are met?“ Qin Yu frowned involuntarily.
“No, that’s not it. I don’t want to make life difficult for you, cousins. Just go back and tell grandmother that my mother isn’t feeling well. She suffered repeated shocks after entering the palace and needs rest and relaxation for now. Although the Garden of Tranquility is quiet, it’s not as quiet as my businesses outside. I’ll naturally bring mother back with me when her health takes a turn for the better.”
Qin Han was quite pleased with this declaration and clapped Qin Yining’s shoulder with a hearty laugh. “Nicely done!”
Meanwhile, Qin Yu was rolling his eyes with anger. He was used to Qin Han’s prickly nature, but was his second brother really cheering on a girl who seemed unafraid of making things worse? Although the old dowager’s actions were indeed unjust, weren’t women supposed to be virtuous and morally good? No wonder second sister-in-law is so spoiled by Qin Han that she doesn’t even do embroidery.
“Forget it.” Qin Han rose and dusted off his robes. He bowed to née Sun. “Since senior aunt has decided upon this, then we will take our leave to bring this back to the old dowager.”
This made née Sun a bit nervous, but all the same, she didn’t countermand Qin Yining’s decision. When the girl had sent her two cousins off, née Sun tugged on her daughter’s sleeve. “Daughter Yi, isn’t it making life difficult for your father if we stay here? Tell me what happened that day to make you object to my return like this.”