Chapter 287: Prospects Ahead
Anxiety crossed née Sun’s face. “Your father has been discussing this with the emperor these days. Right now, the date to set off is the day after tomorrow, but I don’t know if there have been any further changes.”
“Is father at home?”
“Your father was urgently summoned into the palace yesterday and hasn’t returned yet. I believe it has something to do with the surrender. Many details need to be discussed. Your father is still thinking wholeheartedly on the emperor’s behalf, so he doesn’t want the emperor to come out worse for the wear.”
Qin Yining nodded understandingly. With her father’s personality, he would be standing firm on the last shift.
Seeing that Qin Yining was talking only to née Sun and not even greeting her, the old dowager felt some affront to her dignity. The smile she’d forced out gradually faded away.
“Granddaughter Yi, why do you have not even a word for your grandmother? Have your days in the military camp been so comfortable that you’ve forgotten all your manners? Our family has never had such a rude daughter.”
Qin Yining chuckled at this and looked gently at the old dowager, the girl’s words anything but.
“If our family has no rude daughters, then might I ask Old Dowager, does our family have the kind of petty thief who takes without asking?”
A dark cloud descended over the old dowager’s face and she responded resentfully, “I only ate a rabbit of yours. Is there a need for you to bear a grudge until now? Your filial piety has all been eaten by the dogs! What kind of times were we in? And you were still keeping a rabbit away from me! Were you going to just sit on by and watch me starve to death?”
“If you’re ranked second when it comes to weak arguments and irrational logic, no one would dare say they’re first.” Qin Yining sneered mockingly. “Did I hoard any food for myself and keep it from you? Aren’t you afraid that you’ll chill the hearts of listeners with your words? Did you or second sister-in-law ask me beforehand? Taking without permission is stealing! What justification does a thief have?”
“You! Your father is such a filial person, how could he have raised such an unfilial daughter like you!”
Qin Yining’s expression chilled. “Whether I’m filial or not isn’t determined by you alone! Everyone saw clearly how I treated you when disaster struck. Not just our family, but the refugees in Ning Park too! And how did you treat me? The old dowager is being so aggressively overbearing — do you want to lay this out before others and have them judge who is right or wrong??”
The matriarch’s expression froze completely when the idea was floated of having others weigh-in on the matter.
Qin Yining had spent her days with the Faithful Prince of the First Rank. If it came to passing judgement, they’d naturally look to the prince. Though they still had the signboard of ‘marquis’ over their doors, ‘Marquis of Anping’ had been bestowed by the emperor of the former dynasty. Who knew what their days would look like once they moved to Great Zhou?
Their prospects ahead were murky, but this granddaughter of hers was destined to become the prince’s woman. No matter if she was a bedwarmer or a concubine, she was in for a lifetime of fortune and glory.
She only needed to whisper some quick words when sharing the prince’s bed, if she wanted to cut short their lives.
When her thoughts travelled here, the old dowager’s unbridled aura faded away. She wanted to say something nice to smooth over the situation, but couldn’t bring herself to do so. She stood there awkwardly, unable to retreat or advance.
Standing off to the side, Qin-mama had always been most attentive to what her mistress desired. The granny servant immediately sank to her knees when she saw that the old dowager was caught in a difficult spot.
“Please don’t be angry, Fourth Miss. That day’s matters were all this servant’s idea. It was my own selfishness. Please forgive me.”
Qin Yining’s gaze softened. She had tremendous respect for Qin-mama. Not only was the granny servant staunchly loyal to the old dowager, but Qin-mama always kept the greater picture in mind. Plus, the girl often recalled that the servant had once reached out a helping hand to her.
Her expression easing, she reached down with both hands to help the granny servant up. “Don’t be like this, Qin-mama. I hadn’t planned on pursuing this any further to begin with.” She cast a detached look at her grandmother. “We’ll each walk our own paths in the future and be responsible for our own dignity.”
The old dowager glowered, but it was a relief that Qin Yining was no longer pursuing the matter. Still, it felt like a loss of face all the same.
The girl refused to pay attention to the old dowager and equally ignored Qin Huining. She nodded only at the eighth miss and wrapped her hands around née Sun’s arm. They returned to Qin Yining’s room to carefully discuss what had happened in the manor over the past couple of days.
Née Sun only said that all was as usual before taking her daughter’s hand and asking in a low voice. “Daughter Yi, you and the prince… …have you made up your mind to follow him in the future?”
The fourth miss’ face was so red that blood could be squeezed out of it. She naturally knew what her mother was asking, and coughed a few times before she felt less awkward.
“Don’t think too much, mother. Me and him… there’s nothing. But everyone’s long since viewed us as a couple. It doesn’t seem like public opinion will stand for us not being together.”
Née Sun well understood things. “I don’t mean anything by it. I’m just concerned about your happiness. Our family’s status isn’t like it was before. You two used to be well-matched, of equal standing, but now Great Yan is no more and your father is about to report to Great Zhou. We don’t even know if we’ll become prisoners. I’m just worried that you’ll get the short end of the stick.”
The girl quietly laid her head on the madame’s shoulder with a smile. “I know you’re worried about me, mother, but don’t be. The Great Zhou emperor is an exceedingly shrewd person. His current situation at court doesn’t give him leeway to treat any surrendered official harshly. Not only will our family keep our heads, but father may even have greater room to stretch and flex his talents in.”
“Really?” Née Sun looked hopefully at her daughter.
Qin Yining answered with a smile. “Of course. Great Zhou hasn’t been established for too long. Those prolonged years of war in the early days drained Northern Ji’s coffers, giving Great Zhou a complete mess to take over. The Tatars have continuously invaded their north in the past two years, and they’ve waged a war against us in the south. They’ve exhausted a lot of resources, and will need at least twenty years of peace to develop their economy, to rest and recover. They’ll need competent officials and talent to develop the country.
“Besides, the Great Zhou emperor isn’t decrepit like our previous trash emperor. He won’t kill a chicken for its eggs. He’ll naturally want to make heavy use of someone skillful like my father. And, he needs the surrendered Great Yan officials to be a faction that balances the scales of power at court.”
Née Sun wasn’t a fool. Though she may not think of these things on her own, understanding was quick to dawn when her daughter explained them to her.
“What do you mean by balancing the scales of power?”
“The art of ruling lies in balance. Great Zhou’s current political layout is made up of the emperor’s personal troops — the ones who followed him in conquering the world, and the surrendered Northern Ji officials. The emperor urgently needs a third faction to join in. Checks and balances from three parties will create the most stable situation. My father also happens to be the representative figure of the surrendered Great Yan officials, so don’t worry, mother. Not only will the emperor not maltreat us, but he’ll make heavy use of my father in the short term.”
Née Sun was finally at ease after hearing her daughter analyze things so clearly. She was about to respond when they heard Qin Huaiyuan chuckle from outside the door. “It looks like daughter Yi has made more progress yet again.”
“Father!” Qin Yining stood up with delight.
The door swung open, admitting her smiling father. “To think that a rare visit to see you would catch you having a heart-to-heart with your mother.”
“Please excuse my nonsense, father.” Qin Yining curtsied to her father. “Have you seen Lian Shengjie? Did he raise any ludicrous requests?”
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