Chapter 192: Difficulty in Sorting Through Emotions
Qin Yining rose and walked slowly to Qin Huaiyuan, kneeling to place both hands on her father’s knees and looked back up at him.
“Father, you’re disappointed in those people and this world. Your lifelong ambitions have been ruined by that person and I understand the bitterness you’re feeling. If only that person was a noble and wise liege, of if that person could realize your ambitions, then you wouldn’t feel any regret or resentment even if he chewed you up and spat you back out. But that person is an utterly hopeless waste of air. He has no ambition and dismisses your contributions, even persecuting you.” Qin Yining’s eyes were clear. She didn’t voice the words ‘trash emperor’, but everyone knew what she meant.
Qin Huaiyuan looked down at his daughter, his hands slowly balling into fists.
“Father, I grew up in the cities and I’ve seen so many dark things when war tore through the city of Liang. Human life is the cheapest. If a family had seven children, four girls and three sons, the mother would keep the family alive by selling the oldest daughter to start if she had no other choice to.
“Prices were good at first. The oldest daughter fetched a tael of silver. When prices fell later on, five kilograms of buckwheat noodles were enough to buy the youngest girl. The food the girls were traded for kept the three boys alive. The mother was anguished and the brothers felt guilty because their lives were a result of trading away family members. But even so, as hard as their lives were, they would keep on living with every bit of breath in them until they breathed for the last time.
“Even if you’re not a prime minister anymore, father, even if you’re the Grand Preceptor of the Heir Apparent and we need to go back to the farms, we’re all still alive. Being alive is the greatest fortune. Why be so depressed, father? Why lose hope?”
“And you?” Qin Huaiyuan suddenly choked out.
Qin Yining started, confused.
He tried again. “And you? How did you keep on living?”
Tears started flowing for the womenfolk again when they heard Qin Huaiyuan’s dry tone sound, and father and daughter look at each other. Née Sun buried her face in her hands, overcome with sobs. She felt so much regret that she wanted to bury herself alive.
But Qin Yining blinked and grinned widely, her dimples quite endearing. “Me? I ate when I could and sleep when I could. I somehow made it through day after day.”
“That’s right. I didn’t demand anything from myself other than eating when there was food and sleeping when there was space. I had no worries when my days were that easy. Even though I had to do everything myself in the mountains, life was easy and carefree.”
It felt like he was enveloped in clear pools of sun-dappled water as Qin Huaiyuan looked into Qin Yining’s shining eyes. The unsullied resolution within was something that he, steeped in the mud of politics and the world, would never reach.
Tidal waves of emotion assaulted the rest of the family. They’d always been firmly placed in the lap of luxury, wearing silks and eating fine delicacies, surrounded with servants, wreathed with honor and fortune. They’d never suffered in the slightest.
The more comfortable their lives were, the greedier they became. Sisters envied each other if one of them received a prettier hairpin. Relatives looked to when meal boxes were delivered as an indication of their status…
Such complicated mindsets had always been viewed as the just due of a prestigious noble family, but it all seemed such a joke now. They lauded themselves as blue-blooded personages, but they were all greenhouse plants. The slightest wind and rain would make them keel over.
And Qin Yining? She was also an aristocratic daughter, but she’d been moved out of the greenhouse too early. Despite the storms that battered her, she’d taken deep roots in rocky soil and blossomed proudly into a stunning, tenacious flower. There was a certain fearless, unwavering strength in her that roused everyone’s hearts to action.
Their fears seemed over the top all of a sudden. They could just go back to the fields at the end of the day. That was still much better than Qin Yining had gone through. What was there to be afraid of when family was together?
It was the first time that the Qins were reevaluating their lives in the face of danger. It was also the first time they felt such clear admiration and liking for Qin Yining. There wasn’t any motives behind these emotions, just a pure appreciation for this person.
Qin Huaiyuan’s thoughts were the same as everyone else’s. His furrowed brows slowly relaxed and a smile floated onto his face. He buried deeply into his heart the guilt he felt towards this child and patted her shoulder. “I understand.”
The girls were envious of this display of fatherly benevolence. Many of them had superficial relationships and only ever interacted with their fathers during the morning and evening greetings. Very few of them were as close as Qin Yining and Qin Huaiyuan. The touching scene warmed everyone’s hearts.
Qin Yining inwardly relaxed when she saw her father’s gaze turn peaceful again. “You knew this already, father, but you’re not made of stone, so of course you’ll have some feelings about it.”
The girl stood to see that the rest of the family looking back at her with different gazes than usual. It made her self-conscious and she shuffled behind her father, making Qin Huaiyuan break out in involuntary laughter. The others started chuckling as well.
The atmosphere eased from the heavy weightiness of earlier. The marquis looked at the expressions around him and then at Qin Yining by his side. A small smile graced his face. He was immensely gratified and proud that his daughter was so exemplary. He treasured her even more so.
“I talked a bit more than usual today so that we might recognize the reality of our times and understand the position we should occupy. Let’s not make the wrong move outside.” Qin Huaiyuan rose as his usual dependable, genteel self. He smiled. “Let’s go back to our residences and rest.”
“Alright.” Everyone rose to take their leave from the old dowager. The second and third branches headed back to their residences while Qin Huaiyuan and née Sun helped the old dowager back to her room. The matriarch was still caught up in the fear and touching turnaround from moments ago and needed quite a lot of soothing before Qin Huaiyuan could leave with his wife and daughter.
Father and daughter flanked née Sun. The madame’s shoulder touched Qin Huaiyuan’s arm as they walked. Thinner fabric was used in summer clothing, so the couple could sense each other’s warmth. The two looked at each other and smiled involuntarily. Qin Huaiyuan’s smile was as genteel and tender as usual. Née Sun blushed and her smile crept wider, creasing her eyes, swollen from crying, into slits.
Qin Yining quietly let go of her mother’s arm when she saw her parents thus and slowed down, taking her maids back to the Venerable Study Hall.
As Qin Huaiyuan and née Sun made their way back to the Garden of Tranquility, the madame asked how her husband had passed the days in the dungeon. Was he injured? Had he been tortured? How many meals did he have a day?
The marquis didn’t want née Sun to worry and glossed over things with a smile. He was very skillful in his responses, wrapping misdirection in a thick layer of comfort. The madame didn’t grasp any of the main points and even forgot what she’d asked. She paid attention only to Qin Huaiyuan’s smile and gentle tone.
When the two arrived back in front of the Garden of Tranquility, they saw a feminine form standing in front of the main doors, under the large lanterns. She was wearing a vermillion outfit, her lustrous locks combed up into multiple buns. Pearl dangles swayed gently and threw off soft radiance behind the buns.
The figure turned her head when she heard the footsteps, a warm and humble smile on her face. She curtsied. “This concubine greets the lord and madame.”
Née Sun’s footsteps halted and her expression chilled. Qin Huaiyuan nodded. “What brings you here at this hour?”
“This concubine heard that the lord has returned and came to greet you.” Cao Yuqing lifted her eyes, her limpid eyes tenderly seizing up Qin Huaiyuan. Her feelings for the marquis were obvious from her eyes, but he didn’t seem to realize.
“Thank you for your sentiments. I’m fine. The hour is late and bugs abound in summer nights. You should go back and rest.”
Cao Yuqing compressed her lips and fixed her eyes on Qin Huaiyuan for a long moment before bending her knee again.
“I will. Thank you for your concern, my lord. I won’t disturb the lord and madame’s rest any longer.”
“Mm.” Qin Huaiyuan pointed at a random serving girl. “Find a lantern and escort the lady back to her residence.”
The little girl immediately procured a bright lantern to show the way. Cao Yuqing looked deeply at Qin Huaiyuan again before turning away. Her back was ramrod straight, but the pearl dangles swayed in an almost fragile manner with the motion of her walk.
The deep look stayed in Qin Huaiyuan’s eyes for a moment longer before he smilingly walked inside with née Sun.
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