Chapter 413: Grand Wedding (1)
Qin Huaiyuan stared into his mother’s eyes; they sparkled like a child hoping for a piece of candy. He was actually momentarily at a loss for words. His Adam’s apple bobbed up and down for a while before he found his voice. “Mother, we can’t possibly keep these betrothal gifts.”
“Why not?!” The old dowager shot to her feet, her shriek shrill and strident. “Did that ill-omened née Sun bend your ears about this? Don’t tell me you’re disobeying your mother now! We keep the gifts if I say so! Not only are we keeping the little golden fish, we’re keeping much more!
“You have no idea how pricey kindling and rice are because you aren’t in charge of the manor’s day-to-day affairs! Can that paltry sum of a stipend sustain a family as big as ours? Income from your youngest brother’s trading business is still trickling here bit by bit. Have you any idea the loss his business has suffered?!
“So we’re saying no to the gifts because your wife doesn’t wish it! A donkey must’ve kicked her in the head to cause this level of idiocy! Has your mind wandered off as well?!
“She claims she’s worried about granddaughter Yi being slighted by her husband’s family, oh, isn’t that just the funniest! Granddaughter Yi was kidnapped by Faithful Prince of the First Rank before! Whatever’s supposed to happen between the couple has already happened! If anything, her husband’s family should already spurn her! Will they hold her in higher regard just because we return the gifts?” Minister Qin gazed at his mother quietly. His rhetorical reply didn’t come until quite a bit later.
“Mother, should that speech of yours be made by a grandmother on the eve of her granddaughter’s wedding?”
“You… Meng’er, what do you mean?” The old dowager stared at her son incredulously.
“Daughter Yi didn’t lose the family silver. Why should we take her betrothal gifts to recompense for our lost fortune?”
“How do you call this a recompense? Since she is a Qin, all that she owns belongs to the Qins. She already has it made and is soon to be a princess consort! What’s the big deal with sparing a small chunk of her fortune to tide the family over?” The prime minister shook his head.
“Mother, you’re in the wrong with this scheming and cabaling. Daughter Yi doesn’t owe us anything. Quite the contrary, it’s I who’s fallen short of my responsibility as a father. She’s been a scapegoat to serve a greater good for the family and country.
“This match might be less than satisfactory, yet it was imperially decreed with due pomp and circumstance. As the daughter of a surrendered official of Great Yan, how do we expect her to have a steady footing in the prince’s manor?
“And even if we aren’t strong enough to be daughter Yi’s backup, as her family, we should never pull her down! How do you expect her to live with dignity in the prince’s manor if we embezzle these goods?
“Not to mention, there’s something that mother has been kept in the dark about. Upon arriving in Great Zhou, how did I possibly have any silver on me? The residence our entire family lives in was purchased by daughter Yi with her private savings.”
“What?” Obvious incredulity registered on the old dowager’s face as she shook her head. “Impossible!”
“What’s so impossible about it? Do you not know daughter Yi’s character? She knew I lacked silver, so borrowed my name while covering all of the expenses. She kept everyone in the dark because she didn’t want you, mother, and her uncles to feel uncomfortable while living here. Daughter Yi is a filial child, and it wasn’t she who lost the family property. Why can’t you show more compassion towards her?”
The old dowager remained where she was, her lips pursed tight. She took in the earnest look on her eldest son’s face, feeling her standing in the family trembling precariously. Meng’er had always been her most filial son, and now even he was disobeying her. What else could she say about the matter?
“Never mind then. Had I intended to spend the silver on my own wants and needs when I proposed keeping it? It was this family’s interest I had in mind! If you say no to the gifts, then no it is.”
Qin Huaiyuan inwardly breathed a sigh of relief. “It’s wonderful that mother can think this through. Daughter Yi is my only offspring, and I want to do right by her as much as possible. I hope mother understands.”
“I understand, I do. Things are the way they are now, what else can we understand?”
Seeing that the old dowager was in a sour mood still, Qin Huaiyuan lowered his voice to soothe her with pleasant words.
Qin Yining was blissfully unaware of these happenings.
She went to bed early after washing up, to be roused by née Sun the following morning.
“My daughter, hurry and get up now for hair and makeup. The hour has grown late.” Née Sun had on a festive red garment, her face ruddy and glowing with joy.
Qin Yining rubbed her eyes. “Mother, I thought escorting the bride is to come at night. What am I doing being up so early?”
“Silly girl! Is there any bride who sleeps in until late morning on her wedding day? We have a lot of ground to cover. The madame of all-embracing fortune would be here for your bridal makeup soon if you don’t get up now.”
Qin Yining obeyed her mother’s command with resignation and rose to wash up. She stuffed a snack into her mouth and called it breakfast before being hustled to the trousseau.
Mother and daughter locked eyes in the mirror and smiled at each other.
Née Sun pinched Qin Yining’s cheek and heaved a sigh. “Time does fly. Daughter Yi has only returned for a few days before you are to marry! I haven’t coddled you as much as I want to.”
The madame’s eyes welled up as she spoke. Qin Yining hurried to her feet and hugged her mother in comfort. “Don’t ever be sad, mother, and don’t worry. The prince will treat me well. His manor is in the capital and we can easily meet in the future.”
“I know. I’m not sad. I’m just overjoyed.” Née Sun sniffled, then smiled at the circle of servant girls in the house. “You have all been through thick and thin with my daughter, and I trust you the most. Make sure you tend to her needs well and watch out for her after she makes the Pang Manor her home.”
“Yes, madame, we will see to it.” Bingtang and her group curtsied in response.
“Elder sister-in-law, the madame of all-embracing fortune is here.” The second madame’s voice sounded outside the door before she was off to greet the new guest.
The candidate filling this respectable position had determined by Pang Xiao and Qin Huaiyan first, with the invitation summarily delivered by the prince.
The invitation was extended to née Miao, wife to the Marquis of Commanding the Troops  and elder madame of the Sus. This madame was noted for family harmony, conjugal bliss, a daughter and son in good health, and a household of children and grandchildren. She was indeed a veritable madame of all-encompassing good fortune.
Née Sun hurried to the door to join her second sister-in-law in ushering Madame Miao through the door. Although already in her early sixties, Madame Miao still boasted a full head of shiny, sleek dark hair; her figure hadn’t at all been ravaged by age.
Qin Yining’s eyes glided to meet those of Madame Miao’s in the mirror. The visitor proclaimed in praise, “What a fine girl!”
Madame Miao fetched a cotton thread and dabbed it with powder to begin facial threading on Qin Yining. She recited poems of auspicity as she went about her ministrations. She also trimmed a few of the bride’s errant hairs around the temples, then picked up a rhino horn comb to style Qin Yining’s hair.
Well-wishes had to be recited as the bride’s hair was being tended to. Madame Miao muttered messages of auspiciousness as her hands worked. “May the first stroke bless your marriage with conjugal love, so shall the second stroke impart blessings of an abundance of children, grandchildren and wealth…”
Sitting wordlessly, Qin Yining stared at her reflection in the mirror as she followed Madame Miao’s movement. She found it hard to come to terms with the fact that the day was actually her big day.
Time indeed flew in flashes. It seemed not so long ago when she was worried about her future with Pang Xiao, but now all those concerns were resolved.
What had she done to deserve a family that loved her so, and a husband who treated her with the sincerest of affection?
Perhaps the hardships she had suffered in her first dozen years of life were intended as a depository for all her good fortune, to be withdrawn for use on this day?
“Miss, this phoenix coronet is the most exquisite I’ve ever laid my eyes on!” Née Miao placed a triple-pheasant coronet on Qin Yining’s head, and neatened the tassels of ruby beads that veiled the face. 
Qin Yining gave a quick smile in reply. She’d been showered with gold and gemstones. Would Pang Xiao squander all of his fortune on this wedding?
2. The description suddenly mentions pheasant here, which does make sense as the phoenix would be reserved for the empress. In ancient China, the long-tailed pheasant was drawn with a strong resemblance to the phoenix, and it was a high-level pattern second only to the phoenix.
Bloody hell. Ruby beads? Pang Xiao!!