Qin Yining was quite surprised beyond belief.
What was she?
Just a young girl. Why would she possibly have the ‘honor’ of bandits setting their sights on her and kidnapping her family, all in the name of wanting her to enter the imperial selection?
Ludicrous, absolutely ludicrous!
Upon seeing their niece’s expression turn very ugly, so did the two Qin elder masters hang their heads.
“Niece Yi, your second aunt told me everything that happened when she came with your grandmother,” said the second elder master. “Just now, your third uncle and I also saw how their butler gave you the cold shoulder. It’s obvious that the prince holds a grudge against you. He must still resent his father's death.”
This was precisely the show that Qin Yining and Pang Xiao had wanted to put on, so all the girl did at the moment was nod glumly. Her forlorn, downcast figure evoked great pity.
The second elder master sighed. “Uncle knows that you haven’t known a day of peace since returning home. You’ve always had to sacrifice for the greater picture. It’s the same story this time. Your grandmother is worried about your father and afraid that the family will be reduced to ruins, so poor that we can’t eke out a living in the capital. That’s why she submitted your name without even asking you. Uncle knows that this is a great wrong towards you.
“But, a girl must marry one day, doesn’t she?
“Uncle used to think that there might be a future between you and the Faithful Prince of the First Rank if he could set aside the past and devote heart and soul to you. But given his attitude towards you now, your life won’t be good if you stay with the Pang Manor.
“Then it’s all the same whether you enter the palace or stay in the manor. With your smarts, you might have a better future if you enter the palace.”
The second elder master was someone who’d spent many years in politics, alright. His words were measured and nuanced, employing both emotional and logical arguments to make it impossible for Qin Yining to argue back.
She really wanted to ask, “Even if it’s all the same whether I enter the palace or stay in the manor, don’t you still need to ask what I think about it all?”
She also wanted to ask, “Is having a better future and thus being able to help the family more your real goal for making me enter the palace?”
But the answers to those were already obvious; there was no need to ask those questions at all. That was precisely her family’s intention.
Qin family members had to step up when the bugle for help was sounded.
The Qin fourth miss agreed with this notion and also understood that having enjoyed the comfort and benefits of the family in its glory days, she had no right to refuse to help during the family’s time of need.
But at the same time, there was a small voice inside of her, asking with hurt and confusion, “Why me? Why is it me, again?”
With her head lowered in silence, the Qin men felt the situation was painfully awkward. At the end of the day, it really wasn’t… right for an uncle to force his niece to serve a man.
The second and third elder master wasn’t accustomed to making a scene or throwing a tantrum like the old dowager, so they too fell silent when the moment stretched awkwardly on.
After a brief period of struggling with how unfair things were, Qin Yining abruptly recalled the heart of the matter.
“Second uncle, third uncle, why do you think the bandits wanted me precisely to enter the palace?”
The men looked at each other and shook their heads with incomprehension.
“Though our family was prestigious in Great Yan, Great Yan is no longer. Coming to Get Zhou means starting all over again. You’re a girl, but they specifically said you had to participate. There must be a secret reason behind it all. Why else would they target you?”
“Is it because the Faithful Prince of the First Rank was once so affectionate towards me in Great Yan… so certain people think that he must really like me a lot? Add to that me being taken here as soon as I entered the city…”
As an official of long tenure, though the second elder master wasn’t as famed for his talents as Qin Huaiyuan, he was still a sharp individual. The third elder master was highly skilled in commerce, so he was no fool either. A few hints of what Qin Yining was getting at was enough to impart the entire picture to the men.
The third elder master lowered his voice and asked urgently, “Niece Yi, do you suspect that someone’s trying to attack the relationship between the Great Zhou emperor and the prince?”
Qin Yining nodded heavily and whispered back, “Or, someone wants to accelerate the worsening relationship between the Great Zhou emperor and the prince.” She sniffed self-deprecatingly. “They certainly think highly of me, don’t they? They’re so sure that me entering the palace will absolutely cause things to become worse between the two parties.”
“To think that the Great Zhou court would be a swamp like this as well!” remarked the third elder master emotionally.
“Where there are people, so is the jianghu. Isn’t that the case anywhere? I just hadn’t thought that the clashes in the Great Zhou court would already be so fierce. The person behind the scenes wants to make our niece a pawn in creating discord!” The second elder master abruptly turned solemn when his thoughts travelled here. “Niece Yi, you can’t enter the palace.”
“Second brother? If we don’t send her into the palace, what about big brother and our sister-in-law? And our family valuables…”
“We can earn the family fortune back again, and we don’t need to worry about big brother and sister-in-law’s safety.” The second elder master waved a hand to interrupt his younger brother and looked at his niece. “Since we’re certain that someone wants to use you to drive a wedge between the emperor and the prince, our family can’t be dragged into this mess.”
If Qin Yining became a favored consort in the palace, that would paint the Qins into a new target, a counterpoint to the emperor, Pang Xiao, and the old Northern Ji officials.
The Qins were newly arrived—they didn’t have the confidence or ability to be involved in this madness.
Though Qin Yining knew that her second uncle was just saying this out of consideration for family interests, and not out of love for her, it was still a breath of relief. With her uncles’ support, it would be easier to decline the imperial selection.
“Second uncle, I suspect that the old Northern Ji holdouts are behind this.”
The man thought for a moment and slowly nodded their head. “They are the most suspicious, yes.”
“If it really is them, then we really don’t need to worry about mother and father’s safety. They still want to live, so they can’t offend the emperor to the point of no return. It’s the carrot and the stick. The first group of Great Yan officials were personally requested by the emperor. My father is also a representative Great Yan official. The Northern Ji officials won’t be able to explain themselves to the emperor if they killed my father.”
These people knew very well what their boundaries were. They wouldn’t really go head-to-head with Li Qitian. They too knew what the bottom line was, which was why they were able to do so many irritating things, yet never receive any real punishment.
The Qin men turned her words over in their minds and nodded as well.
“Niece Yi is right. Then we’re settled. We need to think of a way not to enter the imperial selection. But your name’s already been submitted… ai. Your grandmother is really too impatient,” complained the second elder master.
Resignation tinged Qin Yining’s thoughts. True, the old dowager was worried about her eldest son, but she was probably most worried about the family fortune.
That was understandable, since the Qins were a large clan with a long heritage. If they sank into poverty, then it would be very difficult to live in the lap of luxury and be waited on hand and foot in the short run—or at least for the remainder of the old dowager’s years.
“Don’t think too much, second uncle. Grandmother was doing this for the family as well.” Qin Yining thought for a moment. “I have a way to resolve this issue.”
“What are you planning to do?” The third elder master asked curiously.
Mischief flashed through the girl’s eyes. “Dare you appeal for imperial justice?”Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Oh? Eh? Hrmmmmm?