Chapter 190: Reunion
Qin Yining’s hovering heart could finally settle back down in its rightful place when she saw Qitai lead Qin Huaiyuan through the doors. But when she saw how bedraggled her father looked, her speed petered out and she almost burst into tears.
When he’d been thrown into the dungeons, Qin Huaiyuan had been stripped of his court robes, boots, hat, and other accessories. He was only wearing a filthy undershirt and silk pants now. His hair resembled a crushed bird’s nest with strands pulled out from it. There were two pieces of straw stuck to his head and even his beard was gnarled and knotted.
To think that her elegant and ethereal father, a wise sage, would be in these straits!
Qin Yining clenched her teeth and used every iota of strength in her body to keep her sobs down. She flung herself to the ground with a few steps and wrapped her arms around Qin Huaiyuan’s legs.
Qin Huaiyuan looked down and and wanted to pat his daughter’s head. But when he saw how his dusty palm and the dirt between his fingernails contrasted with his daughter’s neat and gleaming locks, he hesitantly put his hand back down. He settled for a smile. “Do get up. I’m alright, see? I’ve come back just fine.”
The scene made everyone around them choke back tears. Qin Huining on the other hand, was standing dumbly in place. To think that the master of the house would sink to these straits!
Qin Yining rubbed her cheeks fondly on Qin Huaiyuan’s knees and blinked her tears back before rising again. She flashed a dazzling smile at her father. “Will you shower and change clothes first, or go directly to see the old dowager?”
The lord smiled. “I’ll shower first so I won’t scare her.” He caught sight of Qin Huining out of the corner of his eye. “So you’ve come back, daughter Hui?”
Qin Huining came back to her senses and quickly walked up to perform a grand gesture of greeting.
“Father, your daughter has returned. I was immature before and disappointed you with many mistakes. Please be magnanimous and forgive me.” Qin Huining’s forehead was on the ground in an utmost gesture of humility.
Qin Huaiyuan rested a complicated gaze on the foster girl for a moment. “Mm. You may remain since daughter Yi has allowed you to come back. Keep to what’s proper in the future and don’t repeat your previous actions.”
Qin Huining’s heart skipped a beat. Since coming back, this was the first time she’d so objectively observed Qin Yining’s current status in the manor. The fourth miss was the real ruler of the inner residence now. Even the old dowager, née Sun, second and third madame had to listen to her orders!
Why had Qin Huining worked so hard to get into the old dowager and née Sun’s good graces before? Because they had the power in the house! It was now Qin Yining at the reins and Qin Huining had just tried to scheme against her…
Enlightenment struck the foster girl. It was impossible for her and Qin Yining to be opponents, because opponents fought on an even playing field. She would never be on the same level as Qin Yining anywhere.
The fourth miss could easily and arrogantly step on Qin Huining’s head, but the foster girl had to cling to the Qins if she wanted to live. She couldn’t offend Qin Yining as long as she wanted the shelter of this family.
The understanding twisted her heart with pain, but there was nothing she could do. She’d had enough suffering at the country manor and didn’t want to spend another day as a refugee with her home torn apart by war.
“Father, I understand. I’ll listen to the old dowager, father, and mother’s words from now on and to the fourth miss’ orders.”
Qin Huaiyuan nodded when he heard the sincere tone and change in address. “Good.”
The fourth miss had already sent runners to the inner residence with the good news and had servants prepare a fragrant bath in the side room of the outer study. When Qin Huaiyuan and Qitai headed in to refresh themselves, Qin Yining had the kitchen prepare a banquet, to be set up in the flower hall of the Garden of Loving Piety later. Her father was safe and sound and the family was together again. This was a cause for celebration!
She still couldn’t sit still after arranging all that. She was filled with relief and excitement at her father’s safe return, so she decided to stand outside the study and wait for him to come back out.
It was a full hour before Qin Huaiyuan emerged again. His hair was half dry and loosely pinned on top of his head, secured with a black silk ribbon. He was wearing straight, jasper colored robes made of Hangzhou satin and walked forward in cloth boots. Although he was thinner than before, he’d reverted to use usual elegant, genteel, and handsome self.
Qin Yining dimpled. “Father, let’s go back together.”
“Yes.” Qin Huaiyuan nodded smilingly. “Qitai gave me a rundown of what’s happened in the manor. You’ve done very well.”
“Don’t praise me father. It was my first time as the head of the household. I was so flustered and all over the place. It was thanks to the old dowager and mother that I kept my head.”
“Oh you.” Qin Huaiyuan burst out laughing. “You’ve learned how to be humble. You’re very smart, charismatic, and are a good judge of character. That’s all very good. You’ve done very well both at home and outside. If it wasn’t for you taking in the refugees, it would’ve taken more effort for me to return.”
The girl was naturally delighted by her father’s praise, but she cared most about his last sentence.
“Father, is the emperor angry?”
“That he is.” Qin Huaiyuan nodded. “After all, your residence on Eternal Spring Mountain neighbors the empress’. Setting aside what the people think, I’m sure you can grasp why the emperor is angry. But it was also the force of public opinion that made Grand Preceptor Cao unable to make a move against me, and instilled some wariness into the emperor. When the Clearists begged for mercy on my behalf, it finally moved the emperor. But it’s a pity that your second uncle was dragged into this. He was moved to the Ministry of Rites as an attendant gentleman.”
When comparing the same third rank position, one at the Ministry of Education was far superior to the Ministry of Rites. But the emperor had likely let Qin Huaiyuan out earlier probably because he was worried the grand preceptor would be up to something. After all, no matter how irate the imperial majesty became, he’d retain that last bit of reason and know that he had to keep this good helper alive to help him rein in the grand preceptor in the future.
To be honest, Qin Yining was quite gratified that the emperor hadn’t stripped the Qins of all of their positions in one go. Thank goodness her plan had been right.
“As long as it helped you, father. I was most worried of doing something wrong.”
“How could you ever?” Qin Huaiyuan smiled faintly. “Thank goodness for you, your second, and third uncle’s efforts outside. I received the things you sent to me. The bug repellent was very useful. I might be full of bug bites otherwise.”
“Hehe, it’s thanks to Steward Zhong for being this thorough.”
The two chatted idly like they would never run out of topics, and Qin Huaiyuan hadn’t endured a stint in the dungeons. Their attitudes were as usual, seemingly unaffected by the times.
Everyone was gathered in the Garden of Loving Piety, even Qin Yining’s elusive eleventh male cousin.
Tears streamed unceasingly when the old dowager saw Qin Huaiyuan. She clung to her firstborn and covered her face with tears from her eyes and nose. The second and third elder master circled Qin Huaiyuan, clapping his shoulders and comforting their big brother.
The ladies and misses were smiling off to the side and wiping their tears. Née Sun was grinning through her tears.
It wasn’t long until the servants reported that the banquet was ready.
Qin Yining went to support the old dowager with a smile. “The family is together now, so we should enjoy a family meal together. The old dowager is blessed with fortune and longevity, so our family will spend our days in peace, fortune, and longevity in the future.”
“Yes! Good, very good!” The old dowager was very pleased by these words.
The family chattered and laughed their way to their seats. Since it was a family meal and Qin Huaiyuan had just returned safely, the old dowager had the divider in the room taken away. The family followed the rule of not speaking when eating, but the atmosphere remained lighthearted and joyous.
Qin Huaiyuan spoke slowly after the servants had cleared the tables, helped the family rinse their mouths, and brought forth tea.
“Since the family’s here today, there are a few things I’d like to say.”
Previous Chapter Next Chapter