“Mother, you shouldn’t speak like that in the future,” the second elder master counseled gravely. “Those of us who hold a position at court depend on royal favor. The imperial heart is hard to fathom and we cannot control our rises and falls in fortune. No one is at fault in this matter. If we must blame someone, then blame the fact that this occurrence was decreed in our fates.
“Niece Yi is a filial child and big brother sees things with an open heart. He is truly filial to you, so speak no more of this. It will sadden others to hear of it and we would be hurt as well.”
“Mother, don’t be bothered with the likes of our generation.” The second madame added with a smile. “The lord speaks too bluntly, but he means well. You are most considerate of your children and the most generous. As the saying goes, ‘a prime minister's mind is broad enough for poling a boat’ and ‘the master should sometimes turn a blind eye and a deaf ear’.
“You are the eldest in the family, mother, and we need you to be in charge of us all. Otherwise, we’ll sorely lack for a pillar of strength.”
The second elder master and madame alternated between projecting a sympathetic attitude and an aggressive one, fully defusing the old dowager’s temper. She was so immensely comforted by her daughter-in-law’s words that she nodded approvingly.
“Alright then, the family will temporarily move to the prince’s manor. However, we’ll move right back if anything happens, so a guard needs to be set over our residence. That ensures we have a place to live if we need to move back in a hurry.”
The second madame nodded while inwardly rolling her eyes. Niece Yi owns the residence since bandits made off with everything we owned when the family traveled here. What residence do ‘we’ own? The old dowager eats, lives, and breathes from niece Yi but knows nothing of gratitude.
As Yining’s aunt, the second madame’s teeth ached from the sourness of it all.
The second elder master went to discuss the matter of moving with Qin Huaiyuan, Pang Xiao, and the others. Actual execution of their plans was easy once they decided upon a course of action.
Servants abounded in Pang Xiao’s household and his personal guard and Elite Tigers displayed dominating prowess on both battlefield and moving house. Since the prince’s manor was amply stocked with bedding and daily necessities, the Qins only needed to pack their personal clothing and belongings. Everything was put in order very shortly.
They readied a dozen carriages and left behind some servants to guard the residence. The rest of the family took their personal servants with them and set out for the prince’s manor. Snowplum Yard was staffed with people at all times; all Pang Xiao needed to do was give orders to his head overseer.
The old dowager, second and third branches of the family settled in Snowplum Yard. Pang Xiao sent his overseer with more servants to help make themselves at home. Qin Yining arranged for her parents to reside in Snowtrace Garden, the place where she’d previously stayed.
Located in an important part of the complex despite not possessing a door to the outside, it was quiet and refined. Close to the outer study and separate from the inner residence, it was ideal for drawing firm and clear boundaries—important due to the fact that Qin Yining had a widowed mother-in-law.
The eighth miss was naturally sent to the old dowager and the household had to accept Qin Huining because she was a foster child. Highly afraid of the girl causing further trouble, Née Sun volunteered to keep Qin Huining under her nose.
“Daughter Hui can stay with me. We’re close enough for you to pay your respects to the old dowager every day.”
Bedazzled by the vast residence and opulent elegance of the prince’s manor, Qin Huining’s jealousy frothed and churned. Highly aggrieved that née Sun was on guard against her like she was a thief, Qin Huining nonetheless nodded demurely when she thought of how she wanted to repair her relationship with Qin Huaiyuan and née Sun.
Née Sun had a maid lead Qin Huining to her room.
Lamps flared to life when the skies grew dark and lit up the indoors like it was day. Qin Huaiyuan spoke to his daughter when he noticed how tired she seemed. “You two must be tired after the events of the day, go get some rest. The rest can wait until tomorrow.” He turned to Pang Xiao. “I’ve already sent people to escort the in-laws home. I’m sure they’ll arrive in a day or two.”
Pang Xiao smiled. “Indeed, thank you, father-in-law. You braved the emperor’s surveillance to look after my mother and grandparents when I was away. You must have expended a lot of time and effort. The two of us shall drink to our heart’s content when we have a moment!”
Née Sun was very surprised by their conversation as she had no idea this had taken place. After bidding his in-laws a good night, Pang Xiao left Snowtrace Garden with Qin Yining.
The sky had completely darkened and a maid lit the way ahead with a lantern. Pang Xiao decided to carry his wife in his arms when he saw how slowly she walked, thanks to her aching waist.
Caught off guard by the sudden weightlessness, she yelped softly and grabbed his neck. “What are you doing? Put me down.”
“You’re exhausted, be a good girl and rest for a bit. I’ll have them prepare congee and a few dishes when we get back. You can rest after you’ve had them.”
Qin Yining chuckled and rested her head against Pang Xiao’s shoulders, relaxing in the feeling of his strong arms wrapping around her with a strong grip. He easily carried her back to their residence. She was so tired that she had no energy to talk. Immensely grateful to Pang Xiao for how he’d handled everything today, she rubbed her cheek against his shoulder.
Pang Xiao’s heart melted and he bent down to kiss her forehead, saying gently, “My heart.” He stopped before walking much further. “My dear, take a look.”
Already drifting off to sleep, Qin Yining blearily opened her eyes. “What is it?”
He tilted his head back and she followed his gaze. The warm illumination of lanterns cast light upon a brand new signboard over the doors. Familiar characters flew across it, denoting Pineheart Garden.
Qin Yining’s eyes reddened and she smiled through a watery gaze. “It’s your calligraphy.”Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Pineheart = Pine and heart. A pining of the heart.