Chapter 131: You Can Do The Honors (I)
Qin Yining knew that her mother was curious and would certainly ask about what had happened. She wasn’t in a hurry to respond, and first placed a cup of warm black tea, sweetened with honey, in née Sun’s hands.
“Don’t fret, mother,” she started slowly. “Father has tacitly agreed to us living here. He’s not feeling put in a difficult position at all. Besides, we’re only going home a few days later. It’s not like I won’t let you go back if something major happens at home. But if we are to return, we should go back with great honor and respect. The old dowager has to give us an explanation so that we can return properly with our heads held high.”
Qin Yining’s voice was soft and warm, slow and measured. It was very comfortable to listen to. The fragrance of the black tea and honey tickled née Sun’s nose, tempting her into taking a sip from the cup. The liquid was warm and sweet, the sensation gently enfolding her heart.
As she looked at Qin Yining’s warmly smiling face, née Sun sighed. “Daughter Yi, tell me truthfully. Did the old dowager make things difficult for you when I was dragged out to the execution grounds?”
“Not really.” Qin Yining smiled. She didn’t want to fling a spark onto the explosive that was her mother’s temper. She could only gloss things over. “Mother knows the old dowager’s personality, not to mention she’s the matriarch of the Qins. She has to consider more than one person’s safety, like the gains and losses of the entire family.”
“You’re still speaking for your grandmother even now.” Née Sun sighed and patted her daughter’s hand. “Your grandmother is exceedingly rapacious, and she threw away her own face in order to suck up to that bitch Cao Yuqing. I’ve spent some time thinking about it these past two days. News of the emperor suddenly wanting to kill me must’ve alarmed everyone at home. I can guess at what happened after without any clues from you. The old dowager must’ve actively wished for my death so that I wouldn’t drag the Qins down with me.”
Née Sun’s tone sounded outraged, but Qin Yining could tell that she wasn’t as mulishly headstrong and self assured before. Although her mother was angry, she wouldn’t just blindly vent her emotions as she would before. Indeed, harsh reality is the best teacher. One always grew faster when they weathered trials and disaster.
“Don’t be mad, mother. We just need to walk steadily on our own path. We can’t dictate what other people think or do, so we’ll just deal with things as they come up. No matter what, all mother needs to remember is that I will always be on your side.”
“Daughter Yi…” Née Sun looked at Qin Yining’s delicate features and pulled her daughter’s hands into her own with great emotion. Through Bingtang’s careful treatment, the scars and calluses on Qin Yining’s hands had somewhat faded. Now, her hands didn’t seem much different from those of typical noble girls’. But when née Sun clasped the girl’s hands, she could still feel the scars and calluses from Qin Yining’s slightly rough palm. When the madame recalled how cold and suspicious she’d been when the girl had first shown up, she felt wracked with guilt.
Qin Yining didn’t know of the somesaults of emotion that were happening within née Sun’s heart. She delicately freed her hands, and started to rummage through the various jewelry items gifted from the emperor and fished out a black wooden box from the pile on the round table. It housed a colored-glass snuff bottle. The yellow oriole drawn near the top looked very lively and joyous.
She thought for a moment and instructed Bingtang. “I’ll have to trouble you to buy a snuff bottle for me over the next couple of days. It needs to be similar to this one.”
“But don’t we have one right here?” Bingtang was puzzled. “Why do we need to buy another one?”
“This one was awarded by the emperor and empress. I wouldn’t dare use it carelessly, it’d be bad if it broke!” Qin Yining put the item down with a chuckle. Despite her words, she didn’t seem to exercise much care. Bingtang asked no further and quickly left to find a similar bottle in the markets.
Qin Yining had Songlan put away the rest of the imperial gifts and chattered about some happy topics with née Sun. Any mention of how much Qin Huaiyuan loved née Sun was more than enough to put her mother in a good mood.
At the same time in the Garden of Loving Piety, the old dowager was in the middle of smashing what was left of her teacups after Qin Yu and Qin Han had delivered their message.
“That wild brat! She’s gone and learned bad habits from her mother and is now spurring that foolish woman on to further heights of idiocy! Fine, very well then! I have no such unfilial granddaughter! If that idiot fool née Sun likes to run wild, then let her do so outside! Is there a lack of people to serve my son?! There are naturally younger, prettier, and more noble ladies to serve him!”
Caught up in her temper, the old dowager had forgotten to consider the surroundings. Some of the girls off to the side didn’t miss the connotations of her words and started to blush furiously. The second madame frowned in displeasure and waved her hand at the third miss, wanting the girl to leave with all of her cousins. Meanwhile, the third madame was trying to talk sense into the old dowager.
Although they were trying to calm the old dowager down, the two madames disagreed heavily with the old dowager’s actions. As a fellow daughter-in-law, all of this might be happening to née Sun at the moment, but what if it similar straits befell them in the future?
Née Sun was lucky in that even though her family had fallen mightily in the world, she had a filial and capable daughter of her own. The lord also wasn’t a bastard who could led willy nilly. If any of this happened to them, who could predict how the situation would turn out? Setting aside a comparison between their husbands, none of their daughters were as competent or charismatic as Qin Yining.
It’d been eight days since the whole execution ground debacle had happened, and the manor had swapped out their old signboard for the new ‘Marquis of Anping’ signboard over the main doors. Craftsman had also mounted a tablet for née Sun in front of the manor doors. That a woman would receive an imperial compliment and have a tablet erected in her honor was unparalleled glory enough, but how many madames boasted of a paramount rank title in Great Yan?
The days were slowly growing warmer now that spring was here. The noble madames and ladies who’d grown lethargic in winter hibernation had started to spread their wings. And so, a continuous string of invitations for née Sun and Qin Yining started to arrive at the manor doors.
The old dowager declined them at first, citing née Sun’s fragile health, but continued use of this excuse made it seem that the matriarch was purposefully obstructing the senior madame. But if she had the invites sent to Roamer’s Return, it would appear that she, as a mother-in-law, couldn’t bear to put up with her daughter-in-law and had chased away the proper mistress of the Anping Manor.
In actuality, the old dowager had already heard multiple sets of rumors, each version going further and further in speculating that she was too narrow-minded to allow her daughter-in-law to stay and that she wanted to vie with née Sun. The matriarch gave orders to Qin-mama early that morning for the old servant to make a visit to Roamer’s Return, instructing her to bring back née Sun and Qin Yining no matter what. But the granny servant came back with nothing to show for her efforts as well.
This finally set the old dowager off and she summoned Qin Huaiyuan, newly returned from court for the day, for a thorough lecture. However, to her surprise, her son’s response made it clear what stance he was taking in the matter.
“I’m not the one who caused my wife and daughter to leave out of anger. I’m very tied up with the matters of court and have no time to pay attention to this. Please shoulder some of the burden, mother.”
“You mean for me to personally pay a visit and request that they return?!” The old dowager gaped in shock.
Qin Huaiyuan smiled gently. “Mother is the best at keeping the inner residence in order, what would your son know of this? All shall be as you say.” Without further ado, he quickly took his leave afterwards to meet with his peers in the outer residence study.
The old dowager’s gums positively itched with anger, but maintaining face was still the most important. She could only turn to Qin-mama.
“Prepare a carriage. I’m making a trip to Roamer’s Return. Let’s see if that damn brat can still throw her weight around when she sees me!”
The old servant quickly acknowledged the order and had servants prepare the carriage, providing transport for the old dowager, Qin-mama, Jixiang, Ruyi, and other servants for a quick trip.
“Miss, I was chatting with some others outside just now and saw a luxurious carriage parked in front of the main tavern doors.” Bingtang’s voice preceded her lithe figure as she bounded excitedly into the house. “I went to take a look and found out that it was Qin-mama asking where the miss was! You’re so smart miss, the old dowager really has come in person!”
“How could she not?” Qin Yining toyed with a brand new snuff bottle and dimpled. “There’s been an unending stream of people asking us to return over the past two days. Something must be happening in the manor that the old dowager needs my mother present for. She probably can’t handle it by herself. Bingtang, request the madame to join me and have Songlan wait for our honored guests outside.”
“Understood!” Enthusiasm gleamed in Bingtang’s big, round eyes as she merrily trotted out.
It wasn’t long until Jin-mama, Caiju, and Cailan accompanied née Sun in. The madame took a seat by Qin Yining and smiled at her.
“Is there some good news? Bingtang’s eyes were creased from the force of her smile, like she’d found a big gold ingot.”
Qin Yining rose to fetch a platter of snacks and a cup of hot tea. She placed the white and blue porcelain teacup lightly by née Sun’s hand. “Those outside say that the old dowager has descended upon us with her personal servants.”
Née Sun’s teacup froze halfway to her lips. After so many days apart, she was actually a bit nervous to hear that the old dowager was here for a visit.
Qin Yining understood her mother’s apprehension and smiled. “Don’t be nervous, mother. Just be as you normally are. Besides, you haven’t done anything wrong at all.”
True! It was the old dowager who’d been utterly heartless towards her.
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