The maids were shell shocked to be so unceremoniously thrown out of the manor. They looked at each other, more concerned about Qin Yining’s devastated mood. They wanted to comfort her, but didn’t know the right words to say.
Qin Yining patted Bingtang’s shoulder comfortingly and took Lian Xiaozhou's hand. She wiped away the tears on her face.”Let’s go. We need to make it to the inns before curfew. I’m unfamiliar with the roads in the capital. Jiyun, Xianyun, do you know them?”
They nodded and knew that this wasn’t a convenient place to talk. They suppressed their inner confusion for now and led Qin Yining in the direction of the inns.
The dusk of northern winters arrived with a biting wind that was interspersed with snowflakes. No matter how warmly Qin Yining was wrapped up, she still couldn’t get used to it. She was freezing inside and out. Her own breath wafted back in her face as white mist, quickly forming a layer of white frost on her collar and hair by the side of her temples.
Supporting Qin Yining, Jiyun was quite vexed. “What is with the prince? We can’t hire a carriage so late at night…”
Because she didn’t know what had happened between the lovebirds and out of concern that her mistress would be sad, she swallowed the rest of her words.
Thankfully, Qin Yining wasn’t a finicky, delicate beauty. All of them had had their share of tough times as well. They made it to the welcoming inns just before curfew fell.
The second and third elder master rushed out when word of her arrival was sent in. First master Qin Yu, second master Qin Han, and fifth master Qin Xian followed closely after, with tenth master Qin Rong and eleventh master Qin Zong bringing up the rear. Finally, eighth miss Qin Baoning and Qin Huining rounded out the group.
Aside from the old dowager, second madame, and second wife, as well as the kidnapped Qin Huaiyuan couple and Cao Yuqing, essentially everyone in the family was present and accounted for.
“Niece Yi, why have you returned at this hour?” the third elder master asked urgently as he descended the stairs. He looked at the girl up and down, and up and down again, deathly afraid that she’d been humiliated.
Qin Yining smiled and didn’t respond, instead sweeping her eyes over her family. “It’s been a long time. Thank goodness a family reunion is still possible.”
That singular sentence voiced endless helplessness. After weathering the destruction of their family home, famine, ambush, and kidnapping, it was unprecedented good luck that they could all still gather together.
The idea brought tears to the eyes of those gathered.
The eighth miss came up and grabbed Qin Yining for a hug. “Fourth sister, you’re finally back. I was so worried.”
Fifth master Qin Xian brought his two younger brothers forward and had them bow to the fourth miss. “Fourth big sister.”
“You’ve grown a lot taller, fifth brother,” said Qin Yining with a smile.
“What about me, fourth big sis?” The newly turned six-year-old Qin Zong tilted his head up at the older girl.
“Eleventh and tenth brother have also grown a lot taller. Come to think of it, our family’s been separated for a very long while.”
“It’s cold outside and not the best place to catch up. Let’s go inside first.” The second elder master looked at everyone cheerfully.
With Qin Huaiyuan absent, he was the pillar of the family. Everyone headed inside when he gave the order.
There were several three-story lofts to the rear of the inns; several options had side yards as well. Due to Qin Huaiyuan’s prestige, the Qins were assigned a loft with a side yard. They were neighbors with the Commandery Prince of Yan, Yuchi Yan, and the princess consort Li Yanyan. Across the alley were the Lis and Gus.
The group entered the yard, closed the doors, and reconvened in the old dowager’s main house.
The old dowager was being served snacks by Qin-mama and the second madame. Her expression turned very ugly to see the family pour in through the door, clustered around Qin Yining.
Sitting on the heated platform next to the window and leaning on a soft cushion, awkwardness also blossomed in the second wife’s face when she saw the fourth miss. It’d been she and the old dowager who’d eaten Qin Yining’s pet rabbit.
However, there was no trace of ill will on the girl’s face at all. She curtsied to the old dowager and then to her second aunt and cousin-in-law. Their initial discomfort was assuaged by Qin Yining being just as friendly as before.
The family gathered around for a sharing session, and with unspoken accord, refrained from mentioning the dishonor to Qin Yining from being carried off to the Pang Manor as soon as she entered the city.
Night had well and truly fallen after a bit of conversation.
“Niece Yi is tired too, go rest with your maids,” said the second elder master. “We don’t have that much space, so I’m afraid you’ll have to bunk with each other and make do with what we have.”
The old dowager sighed. “Space is at such an incredible premium in the capital. All of our family valuables are gone. Who knows how long the inns will let us stay and eat here for free?” She look at Qin Yining. “My granddaughter, the family will be depending on you in the future.”
Of course, the Qin matriarch was referring to the girl entering the palace for the return of Qin Huaiyuan and the family fortune.
Qin Yining looked questioningly at her uncles. She could tell from their ensuing expressions that they hadn’t discussed the matter with the old dowager yet.
Thus, she smiled and didn’t respond, leaving with Bingtang and the others to the side room that Qin-mama had just helped clear out.
She’d just reached the corridor when she heard someone mutter, “We have to squeeze and pack in tightly, but her servants are so very noble huh? They live better than us masters.”
Qin Yining turned back to see Qin Huining quietly grumbling as she tugged on the second wife’s arm.
The fourth miss smiled. “So despite not dying in the face of multiple tragedies, it seems that Miss Huining hasn’t grown up at all.”
It’d never occurred to Qin Huining that the fourth miss’ ears would be so sharp that she would pick up such a soft voice. Embarrassed, the foster girl didn’t dare give offense since Qin Yining might have a glorious future after entering the palace. She lowered her head and didn’t look at the fourth miss.
Qin Yining couldn’t be bothered to fuss about this. She took her maids to their room and closed the door before she whispered lowly what everything today had been about.
The night had settled down for Qin Yining, but disaster was just rearing for Pang Xiao.
Shoe in hand, née Ma heartily smacked it down again and again on the prince’s back.
Though there was a satin jacket cushioning the blows, the blows rang out so loudly that listeners winced with each blow.
The beating didn’t satisfy the Yao matriarch at all.
“You self-serving little dirtbag! Playboy rotten to the core! How wonderful did you say lass Yi was? And how much you liked her? Then all of a sudden you humiliate her and throw her out! Are you a man or not? Are you??”
The shoe came down mercilessly as she cursed, multiple thick layers forming a fearsome ‘family weapon’. Even a tyrant of the battlefield like Pang Xiao cowered and shrank to the side, but there was no place to hide as née Ma had a firm grip on his collar.
“It’s freezing outside and dark, AND it’s snowing. How could you be so cold-blooded as to throw her out? How will she face the people she runs into, a poor little thing like her? I’ve wasted all my time raising you! To think that our family would produce such a wicked weasel like you!”
“Grandma, don’t be so angry, let me explain.” Pang Xiao felt that his back, shoulders, and arms would be beaten to a pulp soon that if he didn’t defend himself.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Here is where I beg everyone's forgiveness. I'd previously translated the Yan emperor's name as Weichi Yan. "Wei" is the pronunciation of that character if it's a surname, but when combined with "chi", it actually turns into "Yu".
The proper pronunciation of his name is Yuchi Yan -- it's an uncommon name derived from an aboriginal tribe who later settled in ancient China and assimilated into the local culture. *kowtows* in apology.
But, haha! Go grandma! XD