Née Sun’s initiative in extending an olive branch, even when embarrassed, completely exceeded the old dowager’s expectations.
Qin-mama had just quietly told the old dowager that née Sun had angrily pulled Qin Yining away after speaking with Cai-mama. It’d been obvious that she had been about to vent her spleen on the girl. The old dowager had already anticipated a report from her servants about the newest tantrum her daughter-in-law was throwing.
No one expected that mother and daughter would come back smiling merrily after a short while, as if nothing unpleasant had happened at all. Qin Yining didn’t seem like she’d suffered a lecture, and née Sun had even softened her stance enough to apologize of her own accord.
The old dowager and Qin Huaiyuan were well aware of née Sun’s obdurate personality. As such, they both smiled approvingly at Qin Yining.
“Old Dowager, your daughter-in-law was impulsive just now. Everything is my fault. I was just worried about my daughter, and didn’t have the intention of disrespecting you. You know this to be my personality, I always regret my moments of brashness. So, I am here to offer my apologies.” Née Sun’s voice grew drier with every word.
In all fairness, it was the most conciliatory words she could bring herself to say. Qin Yining had made the effort to show her what a great opportunity this was for a good showing.
At first, née Sun hadn’t the slightest intention of showing weakness, but it’d somehow become “advancing through the art of retreating” in her daughter’s mouth. That made sense to née Sun. Her relationship with Qin Huaiyuan was definitely in need of repair, not further damage. It was the primary reason why she’d listened to Qin Yining.
No matter what née Sun’s thoughts were, Qin Huaiyuan was satisfied that she had gone to the effort.
“Don’t be angry mother, what would I do if you fall ill from anger? Née Sun has a quick temper and often says things she doesn’t mean. She is still very filial towards you.”
Née Sun had shown a willingness to put down her pride, and now her son was coaxing her along. The old dowager felt that she’d been accorded enough respect and didn’t want to make things difficult for her son.
“You might as well rise. We’re one family here, so just don’t be like this in the future.”
Née Sun breathed a sigh of relief and opened the black lacquer box, taking out the chicken soup. She picked up a spoon and prepared to wait on her mother-in-law herself.
The old dowager had just eaten ginseng soup, so she was actually too full for more food at the moment. But out of consideration for her son, she still ate enough to clear half the bowl of chicken soup.
Née Sun could finally relax completely at this unspoken acceptance of her olive branch, and snuck a shy glance at Qin Huaiyuan. Her husband nodded expressionlessly at her, and née Sun blushed, her heart leaping with joy.
With this, Qin Yining also breathed out in relief. Prosperity would follow as long as the home was peaceful. Mother’s actions in criticizing the old dowager and arguing with father were too out of line. Qin Yining had gone to a great deal of effort to talk née Sun around. Thank goodness it’d all been to good use.
The old dowager smiled at Qin Yining and beckoned the girl over. “Your father and I were just talking about you.”
“Was grandmother telling father that I’m not studying well and have angered my teacher?” Qin Yining came forward with a cheeky smile.
“You little imp.” Laughter had been elicited from the old dowager. “I would’ve smacked the back of your hand already if you weren’t studying properly. I wouldn’t wait until now to tell your father!
“Your father has just spoken of his intention of having you move to Venerable Study Hall. It neighbors the rear gardens and has the most beautiful view. It’s warm in the winter and cool in the summer, and there are plenty of your father’s books within as well.
“Your father lived there as a child, and you’ll also be allowed access to his childhood library. The studious air might be a good influence on you too. What do you say?”
The tasteful Venerable Study Hall had caught Qin Yining’s eye on previous walks in the rear gardens. She’d also asked about it before and come to know of its significance, so she was delighted at the arrangements.
“Thank you grandmother, thank you father! I’ll be able to come beg food off grandmother often after moving there!”
The old dowager laughed again and pointed at Qin Yining. “You little rascal!”
Although Qin Yining’s talk of begging food was a joke, it deftly indicated to the old dowager and Qin Huaiyuan that she understood her father’s arrangements and wouldn’t let them go to waste.
Her father was pleased to see this quick comprehension, but artfully concealed his pleasure as he recalled the events of the day. As casually as before, he posed his daughter a question.
“Daughter Yi, did you arrange for the maids behind the artificial mountain?”
The old dowager looked questioningly at Qin Yining, and née Sun’s eyes widened in sudden comprehension, “So it was you!”
Her voice was too shrill, completely destroying the formerly lighthearted atmosphere. Qin Huaiyuan glanced quickly at her, a flash of annoyance appearing on his face.
However, Qin Yining had long since put thought of née Sun’s impression of her to the back of her mind, and pretended that she hadn’t heard anything from that direction.
“In response to father, I did indeed arrange that. Miss Huining made use of my time in the ancestral hall to have Bitong and Cai-mama frame Ruilan, accusing her of stealing grandmother’s jade bracelet. Ruilan was beaten for no reason at all, and if she’d been the slightest bit unlucky, she she might’ve been beaten to death.
“I can understand Miss Huining’s feelings, but I couldn’t forgive her clear disregard for the lives of others in the pursuit of her own happiness. She can be dissatisfied with me and throw everything she wants at me, but so far, she doesn’t dare and haven’t the ability to either. All she can do is plot against an innocent maid at my side. What does Ruilan have to do with all this?
“As for Bitong and Xiao’ai who were swept out today, I only had influence over them because Bitong stole from me, and Xiao’ai has had a problem with sticky fingers as well.
“What happened today was simply just punishment for their crimes. However, they won’t starve to death as they can go find new livelihoods. So today, all I did was let the truth come out.”
“All you did?” Qin Huaiyuan laughed softly. “This was an impressive ‘all you did’. You could’ve told me directly or even told your grandmother. Why catch the crown prince’s attention with it? Aren’t you afraid that you could’ve wrecked your father’s career?”
Qin Yining could tell that her father was half serious and half joking, and the old dowager’s brow indeed furrowed when Qin Huaiyuan’s career was mentioned. But, the girl’s voice was as serene as ever, without a hint of nervousness.
“I did indeed think of that. But, I don’t believe father’s career would’ve been impacted. The crown prince’s personality is gentle, and he’s deeply vested in painting. Although he has the desire to rule shrewdly, he lacks the talent to do so successfully.
“Father happens to possess what he needs. You have strong political acumen and are decisive in court matters. You also have a keen eye for sizing up the situation. The crown prince will make frequent use of father’s wit and power in the future.
“So therefore whether it’s consideration of his personality or his future, the crown prince won’t pay heed to the little matters of girls. Not to mention, this was father’s first lesson to him.”
“What lesson?” asked Qin Huaiyuan.
Qin Yining smiled brilliantly. “What it is to be benevolent.”
Qin Huaiyuan threw his head back and laughed loudly. His daughter had used the crown prince’s presence to secure her father’s reaction, knowing full well that her father would never give orders to kill in front of the crown prince as he wished to set an example. This had actually ensured the two maids’ safely beyond doubt, and had also given her the basis for this flowery speech.
Despite being played so masterfully, he found it difficult to get his mirth back under control and clapped Qin Yining’s shoulder.
“Daughter Yi’s ability to flawlessly offer compliments has reached new heights!”
The old dowager smiled as well when she saw how happy her son was. It was a rare occasion in recent times that Qin Huaiyuan had the opportunity to laugh so happily. As she carefully considered her granddaughter’s words, the matriarch discovered to her very great surprise that Qin Yining had already considered all the consequences when she took action. Her actions had been exceedingly precise, steering everyone in the plan away from the wrong path.
She’s the daughter of my precious firstborn son alright! The old dowager put an arm around her granddaughter and tapped her nose.
“You little rascal! You were the one up to no good, and yet you were able to come up with this boatload of justification! I’ll let it go this time since granddaughter Hui was at fault first. But you aren’t allowed to do anything like this in the future!”
“Grandmother speaks truly, and your granddaughter will remember this well.” She naturally wouldn’t scheme and plot against innocents. She just hadn’t been able to keep enduring the bullying this time.
Qin Huaiyuan felt his bottled up, dejected feelings disperse after a good laugh. Having gained an understanding of Qin Yining’s abilities, he had to reconsider his thoughts of her future. He hadn’t been so naive to allow a foolish girl to marry into a place where schemes and deception abounded, because even the most illustrious of backgrounds wouldn’t guarantee her happiness. She might even lose her life in such a snake’s pit.
But a daughter that was this smart and skilled at reading the situation… someone of that caliber had to be placed in a position of importance.
“Mother, it’s been a tiring day, make sure to rest early. Your son and daughter-in-law will be taking our leave now and will come see you on the morrow.” Qin Huaiyuan rose to his feet. Beside him, née Sun was still immersed in the shock of the earlier revelation. She abruptly came to her senses when she saw Qin Huaiyuan rise and bow.
The old dowager knew that her son would have to spend a great deal of effort explaining matters to née Sun when she saw the stunned look on the latter’s face. She sighed and spread out her hands. “You may go.”
Qin Yining smiled up at the old dowager after her parents left. “The servants must be just about done moving. Your granddaughter will take her leave as well.”
That took care of the last of the old dowager’s guests, which would finally allow the old dowager to rest. The matriarch nodded and dismissed Qin Yining.
Qin-mama stepped forward, helping her mistress lie down with a smile. “Now there’s nothing to worry about, right?’
The old dowager lay back and sighed at the picture of the five fortunes holding peaches on the roof of the bed. “There’s always a good one and a not so good one in a family. The two will tug and pull at each other. It’s this way in the main branch, but also in the second, and third branch as well. But I’ve gotten old… and don’t have the strength to look after everything all at once.”
“Oh how are you old, mistress! This servant still wants to serve by your side for another fifty years.”
“Fifty years? Then we’ll all be ghosts or spirits!” The old dowager broke into laughter. “Speaking of moving, how is granddaughter Hui?”
Qin-mama thought for a moment and replied strategically, “Miss Huining is alright. She just feels like a great injustice has been done to her, so she’s probably still crying in Snowpear Courtyard. However, everything has been arranged for properly. I’ve appointed Wife Ge to be the overseer mama. I’ve also selected your Fugui and Caiyun as her head maids. The newly bought maids will arrive tomorrow, and I’ll select the best of the lot for Miss Huining.”
The old dowager nodded. “Wife Ge knows her place. I hope she’ll be able to speak some sense into darling Hui. I’ve always thought that my darling was a mature one, so how is she now… ai!”
Qin-mama comforted her mistress a bit longer with a smile and tucked her in.
Meanwhile, Qin Yining had already arrived at Venerable Study Hall with her people. She’d also invited Zhan-mama to move over as well. The palace mama had gotten a good idea of all the Qin misses over these days and knew that Qin Huining was an unstable element. There would certainly be much happening in Snowpear Courtyard, so she accepted happily when Qin Yining extended her invitation.