Qin Yining quietly committed their behavior to memory. One could tell from these displays which ones were part of the emperor’s faction, and which ones in others. Those who were taken home by their fathers and grandfathers were absolutely in for a healthy application of the house rules when they returned home.
After all, the situation at court was taut these days. As an official, one had to choose the proper side for a good career.
The senior generation schemed incessantly, choosing to stand firmly in the emperor’s camp or that of the aristocracy and old officials, depending on results of careful deliberation.
But who would’ve thought that their positions and set up would be ruined by their own good-for-nothing sons before anything had borne fruit!
A giggle teased itself out of Qin Yining, her weighty feelings swept away by this entertainment.
She had Bingtang return home first with Lian Xiaozhou.
“Go home and explain things to the old dowager and mother, but there’s no need to go into too much detail. Just tell them I have some business at the yamen and don’t know when I’ll be back. Tell them not to worry. Be careful not to give any details if my mother asks you a lot of questions. Otherwise, I’m afraid she’ll give the guards a difficult time in the future.”
She was well aware of her mother’s personality. Née Sun’s protective tendencies would make her put the hidden guards and Cao Yuqing in a difficult position.
Bingtang also knew that she and Lian Xiaozhou would only be underfoot when Qin Yining had business to attend to. The maid nodded and left, leaving Jiyun and the three other guards at her mistress’ side.
In the interim, Sir Zheng didn’t fall short on hospitality. He had servants bring in food and drink, and prepared a guest room for the girl when there was still no news from the palace after the hour of the dog.
The Qin fourth miss didn’t announce her intentions to depart. So highly worried about potential imperial punishments, she couldn’t sleep at all. Thus, she thanked the warden and remained where she was.
Sir Zheng was even more impressed by such ties of comradeship. He didn’t force her to rest and left her to her own devices.
Xiaoman and the others felt such loyalty for Qin Yining as they’d never had before. If it was said that ties of profit and money bound them together before, the bonds had morphed to those of emotional ones. As guards, they lay their lives on the line for anyone they worked for. To meet a mistress who viewed them as actual human beings and cared about their safety was their greatest fortune.
The Qin fourth miss spent the night at the warden’s office, closing her eyes for a few moments whenever weariness really got to her.
Word finally came from the palace at mid-morning of the next day.
Sir Zheng entered the door with smiles and raised a cupped fist salute. “Congratulations, congratulations! His Majesty has determined that this matter has nothing to do with Miss Qin. It was a subordinate offending his superiors and harming Minister Cheng’s son. His Majesty has only sentenced your guard to be executed and will not pursue anything else further. Minister Cheng isn’t allowed to either. You’re safe, Miss Qin!”
The warden’s every word chilled the girl’s heart. At the end, it felt like she’d been plunged into an icy abyss.
Jingzhe is to be executed!
Trash emperor, decrepit emperor!
An inner voice roared inside of her, but she strove with all of her strength not to say anything ugly. Forcing calm on herself, she asked, “Sir Zheng, did you say my guard is to be executed?”
“Precisely. But that’s just a servant, there’s no need to think too much about it.” Respecting the Qin fourth miss’ sense of righteousness, the warden felt compelled to add further advice. “The current lay of the land is the result of balance attained between many different parties. Sacrificing just one servant to maintain this equilibrium is a good thing for your father.”
Qin Yining naturally knew the truth of Sir Zheng’s words. But how was she to tolerate her own security to be built on the sacrifices of others?
There was a natural hierarchy in society, whether upper, middle, and lower class. However, her experiences growing up distilled in her the notion that even the lowest of the low were people. No one was to be looked down upon; everyone was born and raised by their own parents. Was her life more noble than anyone else’s?
Having stayed up all night, Qin Yining’s face was completely bloodless, paired with dark circles under her eyes. The thunderbolt of bad tidings made the scene fade in front of her, her brain absolute glue. She wanted to save Jingzhe, but had no idea how to.
Just as Sir Zheng was about to inquire after her wan complexion, a message came in from the outside. “Reporting to milord, Minister Qin from the Bureau of Personnel and Rites is here.”
“Have him come in, quickly.” Sir Zheng went out in welcome.
A haggard Qin Huaiyuan was still wearing yesterday’s court robes. It looked like he hadn’t slept well the last night either.
Qin Yining curtsied to her father.
“My daughter,” smiled Qin Huaiyuan. “Come home with me.”
Qin Yining’s lips vibrated and she wanted to say something when her father cut her off. “You’ve been outside for a full day and night. It’s time to go home and rest.” He turned to Sir Zheng. “Brother Zheng, we’ve imposed on you long enough. Thank you for taking care of my daughter.”
“Not at all, we’re all friends here.” Sir Zheng responded with some pleasantries.
Feeling that it’d be futile to stay longer, Qin Yining left with her father to take the carriage home.Previous Chapter Next Chapter