Chapter 133: Slapping Herself
Distressed tears rolled down Qin Yining’s face as she rebutted defiantly. “The emperor’s imperial decree told us to use them as we would normally! Of course we’d take out something as exquisite as this bottle and use it! Old Dowager, instead of saying something about you randomly breaking an imperial gift, you blame us for following the imperial decree? This really doesn’t make any sense!”
The old dowager was now so panicked that beads of sweat had popped out all over on her forehead. White hairs were likely spontaneously appearing on her scalp.
“Old Dowager, that was a snuff bottle that the dowager empress used and a treasured item that even the empress kneels to. How could you, how could…” Née Sun had finally recovered from the shock and covered her face as she began sobbing.
“What snuff bottle? I didn’t see anything like that. I don’t know what you're talking about.” The old dowager snorted, regaining her calm in all of a moment as she turned to leave. When she passed through the pearl curtain, she lifted it aside with extreme caution. It wasn’t until the old woman had cleared the curtain that Qin-mama, Jixiang, and Ruyi realized what was going on and quickly curtsied, going after their mistress in panicked pursuit.
A deathly silence reigned inside, the shards of the snuff bottle on the ground and mint tobacco smell hanging in the air the only silent witnesses to the farce that had just occurred. Songlan and Bingtang looked at each other, then tiptoed over to the yard for a look. As soon as they confirmed that the old dowager’s group was far in the distance, they burst out in laughter.
Jin-mama helped née Sun sit down and had Caiju and Cailan grab dust pans to clean up the mess. “The miss must’ve already thought of this possibility when you had Bingtang go find a similar snuff bottle, right?” The old servant smiled.
“That’s right.” Qin Yining smiled delightfully. “Although, I hadn’t thought that she’d be even more cowardly than I’d imagined.”
Née Sun also enjoyed a chuckle when she thought of how the old dowager had run away with her tail tucked between her legs. Much of the anger and resentment she’d felt from earlier dissipated with this burst of levity. However, soon, bewilderment and anxiety settled in.
“Daughter Yi, your father probably won’t like it if he finds out how you’ve pranked the old dowager. Even though he’s tacitly agreed to us living here, he’s still a very filial person. Since the old dowager believes that she’s broken an imperial gift, and something that the dowager empress once used, she might be very frightened. She might even fall gravely ill when she gets back.” Née Sun frowned at this point. “If your father asks, say that it was my idea. I don’t have much of a good image with the Qins anyway, but you’re different. You still have to marry in the future.”
Qin Yining was quite touched and she hugged her mother’s waist in a display of cute affection. “Mother dotes on me, but aren’t you worried about father lecturing you?”
“I’m not afraid. Your father and I are an old couple. It’s not like we haven’t had our share of nasty fights. This is simply how life will be in the future since my family has gone.” Née Sun was used to Qin Yining’s affectionate behavior now and put her arm around her daughter for a good cuddle. “You’re different though. You’re still an unmarried child.”
“Mother, you’re so good to me.” Qin Yining hugged née Sun with a merry chuckle. This made née Sun feel extremely guilty. She wasn’t actually that good to Qin Yining, and even though she’d tried her best to grow closer to the girl and be better to her, the truth was that they’d only known each other for a short time. The amount of effort and attention she’d spent on Qin Yining was far less than she’d spent on Qin Huining.
Also, comparing Qin Huining’s behavior to Qin Yining, the latter’s filial nature and loyalty stood in marked contrast. The easier Qin Yining was to satisfy, theguiltier née Sun felt. She rocked Qin Yining lightly, like she was soothing a baby in her swaddling cloths. “Mother will treat you well in the future.”
“Mother taking care of herself well is the greatest treatment you can give me.” Qin Yining’s tone was lighthearted and content.
The loving scene caused the eyes of Jin-mama and all the other servants to glisten. Trials and hardships were the truest test of relationships. Mother and daughter had finally established a connection after all, and now, sunny days were definitely ahead after a tumultuous start.
Qin Yining lazily made herself comfortable in née Sun’s embrace, but quickly thought that her mother might get tired and sat up straight after a short while. She thought for a moment and summoned Songlan.
“Let’s pack our belongings.” The fourth miss then turned to Jin-mama. “I’ll have to trouble you to pack all of my mother’s things as well. We’ll return to the manor shortly.”
“Why are we suddenly going back?” Née Sun was quite taken aback at this abrupt change of pace. She’d thought Qin Yining had made up her mind not to return. It wasn’t just her, everyone else in the house had the same question as well.
Qin Yining smiled. “Mother, we didn’t immediately return to the manor and lived for a while outside because we wanted an explanation. That way, no one would look down on you when we returned. I wanted to ensure that your days would be as smooth as before. Now that the old dowager herself has come to request our return, this much face is more than enough to cancel her previous jeering. She’s slapped her own face and we’ve reached our goal. We can look upon a fascinating array of expressions now if we return, but the fault will become ours if we still hold out.”
It was to their credit that they’d forced the old dowager far enough to make a personal visit and invite them back. But if they still refused to return, they would be seen as the unfilial ones. Reason would no longer be on their side, even though they were in the right. Jin-mama and née Sun both nodded in agreement.
“Since this is the case, why did you set this up to trick her?” Née Sun followed up.
“She’d take us for dead cats if we always keep our claws retracted.” Qin Yining dimpled. “This incident will be enough to demand her good behavior for a few days.”
“But it wasn’t really an imperial gift that was broken. If she goes back and spreads word of this, wouldn’t you have committed the crime of lying to your liege?” Née Sun’s expression twisted a little as the thought crossed her mind.
“She won’t mention this to anyone at all if she has any brains at all,” Qin Yining soothed. “Breaking an imperial gift is a crime in itself. There’s nothing she’d rather do than absolve herself of all responsibility. How would she possibly spread word of this? If she doesn’t have enough brains, then she’ll definitely mention it to father, but father is smart. He’ll definitely keep this under wraps and come ask me about it.”
Née Sun thought for a moment and nodded slowly. Another question instantly occurred to her. “How will you respond if your father asks you? He’s very sharp and won’t be hoodwinked by any lies.”
“Don’t worry, mother. I’ll have my ways.” Qin Yining smiled affectionately at her. “We should get ready now so we can be on our way soon. We can return before dinner and make our greetings to the old dowager as well.”
Née Sun lightly pinched her daughter’s cheek. “Naughty girl, you have so much mischief hidden up your sleeves.”
Jin-mama smiled warmly. “Thank goodness for the miss’ mischief, or we’d be long bullied and ground into the dust.”
Née Sun recalled how her days had been after the Ding Manor had been raided and exterminated. If it hadn’t been for Qin Yining constantly by her side and shielding her from all worries, she might’ve been driven crazy by now. The madame subconsciously tightened her grip on her daughter’s hand.
Everything was packed in less than half an hour. Qin Yining headed to the front desk to have the shopkeeper run a message to Steward Zhong that she was returning to the manor.
The group availed themselves of a carriage to return to the Qin Manor. Soon enough, when they rounded the far corner of the manor, they could see craftsman hard at work with their crew. The workers were busy erecting the tablet in honor of née Sun.
When they arrived at the main doors, the original ‘Qin Manor’ signboard over the doors had already been swapped out for the gold-trimmed ‘Marquis of Anping Manor’ board, penned by His Majesty himself. The walls had been repainted and the clay tiles cleaned and re-organized. The manor exuded a vibrant aura of prosperity when one stood in front of the main doors.
Although the emperor was a fool, having an imperially penned signboard over one’s doors was still an utmost honor. Pride grew from the bottom of née Sun’s heart when she looked at the words ‘Marquis of Anping Manor’. She even held herself straighter.
Qin Yining had a few runners enter the manor before helping née Sun down from the carriage. She murmured in her mother’s ear, “You’ve been resting outside, mother, but you still haven’t fully recovered. We could only do our filial duty today after the old dowager personally requested our return. But please avoid becoming angry no matter what happens. Just take care of yourself and leave the rest to me.”
Née Sun suppressed her mirth and nodded. “I know.” She put most of her weight on Qin Yining, actually looking a bit sickly and fragile.
Meanwhile, inside the manor, the old dowager was acting like ants in a hot pan. She was tugging anxiously on Qin Huaiyuan’s hand. “Meng’er, I have something important to tell you!”
“Please speak, mother.”
The old dowager peered left and right for a second, only speaking when she saw that only Qin-mama was by their side.
“Today, granddaughter Yi broke the snuff bottle that the emperor bestowed upon her! I saw it with my own eyes! This was something that the dowager empress once used, a treasure that even the empress kneels down to! That flighty girl didn’t know to put away the imperial gifts properly and actually took them out to use however she would! Now that it’s been broken, what do we do if the emperor finds out?! It’ll drag the entire family down if the emperor finds fault with us!”
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