When Qin Yining had decided to be with Pang Xiao, long before she followed Xie Yue to the Great Zhou capital, she’d wondered how her father would take the decision. He might advise her to keep the prince at an arm’s-length, or tacitly remind her that the family was more important. The only possibility she hadn’t thought of was his actual reaction.
As the patriarch of a large clan, shouldn’t he be wholeheartedly dedicated to the family to maximize profit for the Qins, even to the detriment of his children’s desires?
Someone as materialistic and profit-seeking as the old dowager, who based all of her decisions on family and personal gain, was the norm.
But her father was putting her happiness and desires first!
Warmth filled Qin Yining’s heart and her nose twinged. She took in a few deep breaths to suppress the urge to cry.
“I knew that father would back me up, so I was never afraid when facing Pang Zhixi.” She smiled back up at Qin Huaiyuan. “I knew that even if I chose wrong or failed, I would still have a home to come back to.”
“That’s right, that’s the only thing you need to remember.” Qin Huaiyuan clapped his daughter’s shoulder. “You suffered since young because of me and never once experienced the life of a noble daughter. Finally living through your fill of pain and misery in the outside world, you still shouldered the family’s suffering after returning home.
“Nothing that you’ve experienced is what an ordinary noble daughter should’ve gone through. As you’ve never enjoyed the luxuries of being a noble daughter, how can I be so shamefaced as to restrain you with the rules for a noble daughter? That’s simply too unfair to you.”
Qin Huaiyuan plodded forward as he spoke, his daughter following slowly as well. They crunched through the yard, leaving a set of large and small footprints.
“Thankfully I have a bit of ability to my name. I’m sure the Zhou emperor will want to use me in the overall picture of things if he wants the situation at court to stabilize. I have enough capital to protect you. I know you’re a smart child. You know what can be and can’t be done. I won’t nag, but just one reminder: learn how to protect yourself well, whether in terms of physically, emotionally, or your life in general. You have to protect all aspects of yourself, do you understand?”
Touched, Qin Yining nodded firmly. “I understand, father. I’ll keep the boundaries well in mind and won’t hurt myself. I know that there’s a lot of important things in life, that romantic love isn’t everything.”
Qin Huaiyuan stopped and looked at his daughter with a smile. “You being able to think this way already makes you very different from a lot of girls your age.”
“Maybe it’s because I saw more than my fair share of things in the city when I was young.” Qin Yining smiled. “True human nature is most easily revealed in front of hunger and poverty, and even more so when faced with life and death. The city of Liang was close to the border and often affected by the war. You get used to it when you see those scenes often.”
Qin Huaiyuan sighed, huffing white mist in front of him.
“Oh right, father,” chuckled the girl. “The old dowager lost all of the family valuables on the way here. We really have been scraping by in recent times. I secretly asked Pang Zhixi to find a good manor for us, and had Steward Zhong purchase it under someone else’s name once he arrived in the capital. It’s been renovated and is move-in ready now.”
“Oh?” smiled Qin Huaiyuan. “You've thought of everything. I was thinking about how to resolve this problem on my way back, but you’ve already taken care of it.”
“It’s all thanks to the little bit of money I still had left. Father should take care of the paperwork with its current nominal owner when you have time. Once the manor is under your name, our family will be able to move in. We can’t exactly stay at the inns indefinitely, after all.”
The man arched a brow with a smile. “It looks like the Institute brought in quite a bit of revenue for you. For that we need to thank your maternal grandparents.”
Qin Yining respectfully agreed, but decided to come clean to her father.
“Actually, the Institute didn’t earn all that much. It’s from when a lot of Great Yan citizens were in a rush to flee when the Yan capital was surrounded. They sold their land, houses, and stores for cheap.
“I felt that since there was no way I could get away—even if I had the Institute’s silver, it would be embezzled by the Great Zhou representatives. It seemed a better idea to give the money away so that people could run. Who knew that the anticipated raiding and looting didn’t happen? I accidentally profited off a national catastrophe.”
Her father arched a brow with a smile. “Or in other words, you reaped positive karma from a good deed?”
Qin Yining chuckled ruefully. “The amount of income I get from my properties now is roughly…”
But Qin Huaiyuan waved her off before she could finish.
“Daughter Yi, you’ve chosen a hard path in deciding to be with Pang Zhixi. You don't need to tell me how much silver, businesses, or networks you have. Just treat it as your personal wealth. The two of you might run into a great deal of trouble in the future. I’ll be more at ease if you have money and people around you.”
Qin Yining blinked, a layer of mist slowly gathering in her eyes. She sniffled loudly before nodding. “Alright.”
Her father tapped her nose cheerily. “I saw an unfamiliar little girl just now. I hear that she saved your life?”
Her heart skipped a beat. It didn’t seem like the right thing to do, keeping Lian Xiaozhou’s secrets from her father. He was so good to her!
But Xiaozhou’s identity as a Northern Ji princess was simply too extraordinary. The fewer who knew meant the safer she’d be. It might be a good thing if her father didn’t know either.
Having made up her mind, she trotted out the same background story that she’d told others.
Qin Huaiyuan wasn’t the least bit suspicious. He sighed. “To think that this child would have such a similar background to you. The two of you meeting is your shared destiny. Since she has no family, you must take care of her well. It’s not just a function of thanking her for saving your life, do you understand?”
“Yes, father, I do.” Qin Yining flashed a brilliant smile, which was answered by a slight one from her father.
The two made countless circles of the yard, talking idly as they created rings upon rings of footprints.
They returned back to the house after discussing everything there was to discuss as well as the particulars of moving.
An imperial summons came the next day, declaring that Qin Huaiyuan was to enter the palace for an audience. News of him receiving imperial favor the day after his return quickly spread throughout the capital.
Once the capital evaluations were over, the character flaws of the Minister of Rites, Lian Shengjie, came to light. He was publicly reprimanded and demoted three ranks from a principal second rank minister to a principal fifth rank vice director.
Meanwhile, Qin Huaiyuan was made the newest Minister of Rites, principal second rank.
When the news spread, the surrendered Great Yan officials were both jubilant and jealous.
In Great Zhou, apart from exceptions with great deeds of valor like Pang Xiao that were personally promoted into the Grand Secretariat, any officials who wanted to join the council had a long journey ahead. They had to be first chosen as Hanlin Bachelors—graduates of the Hanlin Academy with exception literary promise. After a decade or two at court, they would only have a chance at entering the council whenever they made principal second rank of one of the six ministers.
As the newest head of the Ministry of Rites, it was a general announcement that Qin Huaiyuan would be the next candidate to join the Grand Secretariat.
In their new manor, the old dowager was taking tea in the flower hall of the main house in the rear residence. Her eyes creased into a pleased line when she heard the news from a newly-bought serving girl.
“That’s my Meng’er alright!” She turned to the second elder master. “Go have a chat with your brother and see what kind of position you want.”
That brought a frown to Qin Yining’s face. That wasn’t something her father could just decide.
At this time, Jiyun quietly snuck behind Qin Yining for a few whispers. Her mistress raised a brow and then nodded.
Jiyun walked over to the old dowager to curtsey. “Old Dowager, Madame Lu, wife of the late Marquis of Valiant Faith, has sent a banquet invitation for the fourth miss.” She handed over a card with gold embossed edges.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Why do I feel like... something wicked this way comes O_O
Btw, I feel like this gif is super appropriate for this chapter... you think? XD https://twitter.com/etvofluff/status/1162665932046524416