Chapter 182: Compliance
The three were burning with fever from their injuries, particularly Jin-mama. Bingtang and the doctor had carefully looked them over, applied medicine, and went off to brew some oral mixtures.
Née Sun stooped by the bed, holding Jin-mama’s hand tightly with tears trickling down her face. “Nothing can happen to you, wet nurse! You’re the only one left from my family. I’m so useless to drag you down like this.”
Jin-mama’s lips and mouth were dry. She could barely move her tongue and weakly tried to shift her head on the bed. “Don’t cry, madame. This servant is alright, hmm?”
Her voice was so weak that she seemed not long for this world, making née Sun cry even harder. Qin Yining grabbed a stool for her mother to sit down on and handed over a wet handkerchief. The girl then stooped in front of the bed to be on the same level as the mama and clasped the servant’s hand.
“Don’t worry, Jin-mama. Father has left the command token in my hands. I’ll be in charge of the inner residence for a while to come and I’ll definitely exact justice on your behalf. I won’t let off anyone who likes to gossip and spread ill will within the manor. Just rest and recover, not only for my mother, but also for yourself. Although chaos is engulfing our world, I’ll fight for all of you each day I have. I’ll never leave any of you behind.”
Jin-mama was so moved that she wanted to cry. She rasped out dryly, “This servant thanks the fourth miss. I’m afraid the madame won’t have anyone handy by her side these days. I’ll have to ask you to keep an eye on things, miss.”
“Don’t worry, I’ve arranged for maids from the Venerable Study Hall to come serve. They’re all trustworthy people.”
“That’s good.” The old servant finally nodded. Her age and injuries finally caught up to her, sending her into a delirious sleep.
“Take care of her well.” Qin Yining reminded Bingtang.
“Don’t worry miss, I may not know anything else, but this won’t stump me at all.”
Qin Yining then found a quiet corner with Jiyun. “Everything’s going to change now. Who knows how many pairs of eyes will be staring at the Qins? Don’t use your messenger pigeons anymore. You might attract fatal attention as a result.”
Jiyun started and nodded hurriedly. “Your considerations are thorough, miss, and quite right. I’ll be careful in the future.”
Qin Yining nodded and sat down in the side room for a spot of tea. She’d just rested for a while when a report sounded from outside. “Fourth Miss, the granny servants and ladies in charge of managing affairs have arrived.”
“Have them wait in the main hall. I’ll be there shortly.”
The Qin fourth miss rose so that Songlan could help her into the simple aqua sleeveless robe and dress ensemble that she’d just brought over. The maid swept her mistress’ hair up in a new knot and secured it with a silver hairpin that had butterflies overlooking a pearl tassel. The pearl tassel swung behind the ear, matching the pearl studs in the girl’s ears. They exuded a soft, elegant hue, imparting a noble and simple air.
Qin Yining purposefully applied some lipstick and brow dye from Beauty Works. She didn’t use any of this normally, sticking only to lotion to moisturize her skin. But she might be too young to exert control over the situation today and thus decided to spend some extra effort on makeup. Her brows were carefully traced in a slender, upward arc. Some rose-red lipstick dabbed on the mouth brightened the entire face. She was beautiful, but not overly so. Some sternness had been added to her usual demeanor.
“Miss, let me go with you in a moment.” Songlan tucked a white chiffon wrap around Qin Yining and offered a velvet fan in the shape of a crabapple blossom flower.
The fourth miss accepted the fan and picked up Riceball from the table for a cuddle. The bunny had been plopped on the table, staring at her with its large, black eyes. She smoothed its fur down.
“Thank you for the thought. I would’ve brought you today even if you hadn’t said anything. I only know the names of the older servants in the manor, but don’t know anything else about them. Stay by my side and give me your thoughts as well.”
Songlan nodded with a smile. The fourth miss usually brought Bingtang and Jiyun for excursions outside the manor, but Songlan and Qiulu didn’t bear any complaints. Their miss was someone who put people in the place where they shone the brightest.
She needed protection when venturing out, so naturally she brought along Jiyun and her command of martial arts. When she needed to discuss things at home, she would look for the smart, inventive Songlan and her grasp of things and people in the manor. Qiulu was a smart and conscientious person, and was cool-headed and taciturn. Therefore, she was put in charge of safeguarding all important items. As for Yaoqin and Yuqi that her father had gifted to her, Qin Yining treated them as her masters for the zither and chess. She always treated them politely.
Therefore, though there were many head maids in the Venerable Study Hall, they got along well and no one felt that someone else was stealing their limelight. Qin Yining thought for a moment and summoned Jiyun with the command token as well. The three made their way to the main hall together.
Granny servants and ladies from various residences were waiting in the yard in front of the main hall. Little groups of two and three had formed and an overall hum of conversation buzzed. Surprise and uneasy shock was the reaction after learning that the command token had been handed over to the fourth miss today. The fourth miss was a renowned barbarian tyrant! She was quite something and beat people up with a deadly look in her eyes! Even Miss Huining had been beaten up at the drop of a hat, so what of them in the future?
“The fourth miss is here,” the serving girl at the moon gate called out.  Everyone straightened their postures and looked snuck glances at the door in unplanned unison.
The fourth miss was holding a bunny the size of a palm and slowly entering with two beautiful maids. Leafy shrubbery was her backdrop and the snow-white moon gate a foil. The trio was such a pretty sight that it invited the crowd to sneak a few more glances. But when their eyes travelled across Qin Yining’s face, everyone subconsciously lowered their heads again.
The miss was smiling gently instead of being angry, but they still had the nervous palpitations that arose when facing the lord, the feeling of being deathly afraid of committing any mistakes.
Two second class maids brought out a chair from the house and put it beneath the covered hallway of the main house. A black lacquer table with tall legs was placed off to its side and tea set out on it.
Qin Yining sat primly in the chair, placing the docile Riceball on her legs and slowly stroked its fur. She looked over the rough dozen people assembled and spoke slowly. “With today’s summons, I’m sure everyone knows that the inner residence is under my care for a few days.”
“Yes.” The mamas and ladies responded.
“Father has given me this important duty despite my youth and immaturity. I’m looking to help and support from all of you in the days to come.”
“This servant wouldn’t dare.”
Qin Yining smiled. “I won’t talk of rules since everyone has served the manor for a long time. I only want to emphasize a few things. Firstly, no one can exit the manor unless sent outside with specific business. Private transport of items is to be strictly prohibited. The guards will be on careful watch for that. The doors will be unlocked at the hour of the rabbit [5-7am] and locked at the hour of the dog . Doors to the various residences will be kept locked, and no one not allowed to enter a specific area may exchange items or information there.”
In any large manor, it was inevitable that the servants would slack off, shirk their duties, or run off randomly to visit some of the other residences. Qin Yining’s new rules weren’t anything strange and in fact, ones that should’ve been followed in the first place. But, people were used to being lackadaisical and naturally didn’t accept things so readily when they heard about these new requirements.
“I know some of you might not feel happy about this, but no worries, I’d like to prune the trees anyways. Feel free to break the rules if any of you want to leave the manor! If I catch any of you, that’ll be twenty hits of the plank first before being thrown out. If anyone catches someone breaking the rules and brings them to me, I will award twenty taels of silver.”
The servants shivered when this was all announced. The miss was just as fierce as the rumors said, alright! But twenty taels of silver was also very tempting. That was more than a year’s worth of salary!
“Secondly, the guard is to be tripled from today onwards. Whether it’s the inner or outer residence, or even the night watch, drinking and playing cards is strictly prohibited! If I catch anyone neglecting their duties because of drinking or playing cards, that’ll also be twenty hits of the plank before being thrown out. In addition, a careful record of the names and times of those on duty will be kept, to be handed to me everyday for confirmation.
“Those who have more duties than before because of my orders will receive triple their pay during overtime. The night watch will receive a midnight snack.”
The mamas and ladies looked at each other when they heard the last bit. The practice of overtime pay and a midnight snack had never been implemented in the manor before. This miss may seem harsh, but she was a fair one.
“The original rules of the household do not change. I’ll listen to reports everyday in the main hall of the Garden of Tranquility. I’ll take the night report at the hour of the dragon  unless there’s an emergency. Is this all clear?”
“We understand,” came the resounding chorus.
- A circular opening in a garden wall that acts as a pedestrian passageway, and a traditional architectural element in Chinese gardens.
- Author footnoted that she meant 8am here] and give orders for whatever everyone needs to be careful of. Those who need to pick up something or request funds should try to be present at this time to retrieve their command tokens. [5. These gave servants the right to enter and exit the manor or any other level of needed authority.] Those who can’t make this hour can report in at the hour of the monkey. [6. Author footnoted 3pm