Chapter 78: A Father Daughter Chat
Qin Yining was actually quite nervous, because she wasn’t sure what her father’s attitude would be in this situation. To the best of her knowledge, her father was a taciturn and reserved person, an official with unparalleled wisdom. This kind of person was never the kind and benevolent type.
But she had to save the Sun females. Qin Yining wasn’t afraid of the old dowager disapproving of her actions, because no matter how much the old dowager disapproved, the matriarch wouldn’t be able to do anything to directly impact Qin Yining’s plans.
However, father was different. If father opposed her intentions, he would absolutely have multiple ways to control her movements. She apprehensively followed Qitai to the outer residence study, meeting two beautiful maids wearing faint-blue sleeveless robe dresses in the covered hallway. It was Moxiang and Danqing, who curtsied when they saw the fourth miss approach. One went inside to announce her arrival and the other walked up in welcome.
“Greetings to Fourth Miss, the lord has told us to wait here for you.”
“Thank you, big sister Danqing.” Qin Yining nodded with a smile as the maid carefully lifted up the ink-green bamboo and cloth door curtains, walking into the study.
Qin Huaiyuan was wearing a light-gray robe, covered by a navy brocade, padded jacket with a gray squirrel fur collar. He was sitting cross-legged on the black lacquer luohan bed next to the window, leafing through a book. “You’re back? Have a seat.” A long finger slipped down the book, idly turning the page when it reached the bottom.
Qin Yining went through all the proper courtesies first before taking a seat on the other side of the luohan bed. She accepted the teacup that Moxiang offered and carefully set it on an end table. The maids took their leave all at once.
Qin Huaiyuan was still reading his book and asked distractedly, “What did you do today? Tell me everything.”
Although Qin Yining had mentally readied herself for that question, her heart still skipped a beat. She quickly rose, keeping her head low as she responded. “In response to father, I heard that senior and second uncle had returned and wanted to greet them. But mother and I had just gotten to the doors of Ding Manor when we bumped into the scene of the manor being raided.”
“Mm.” Qin Huaiyuan placed ‘The Commentary of Zuo’ softly on the end table.
“Elder Statesman Cao had brought soldiers to arrest everyone and announced that all Sun males will be executed in three days, regardless of age. The females will be sent to the Royal Academy and the servants sold in three days as well. At that announcement, the crowd erupted in indignation, so Statesman Cao killed a citizen to quiet the dissension.”
“And then?” Qin Huaiyuan asked.
“Then, Statesman Cao had the family taken away. Grandfather, grandmother, my aunts and uncles, cousins and cousins-in-law knew then to be their final parting. The scene was… Mother cried out from grief and we were seen by Statesman Cao.” Qin Yining tried to gloss over things, but knew she had to mention the fact that Statesman Cao had seen them. This way, her father would be mentally prepared if anything happened.
Qin Huaiyuan was silent for a moment and then nodded. “And you? Did you do anything afterwards?”
His voice was low and warm. There was even the hint of a smile in his tone, but Qin Yining could feel a cold shiver travel down her back. She dropped to her knees.
“Please don’t be angry, father. Fifth cousin and his wife are a young couple and they weren’t willing to be parted. Fifth cousin-in-law fell to the ground when the soldiers were pushing and pulling at them. But, it affected her baby. The scene was very heartrending. Father knows that the Suns are innocent, and I really couldn’t just sit by and watch her die. So, I ordered people to use their connections to save her. Thankfully, she gave birth to a girl…” Qin Yining snuck a quick glance up at Qin Huaiyuan at this point, but his expression had remained unchanged. It was impossible to discern his emotions.
She could only continue sincerely. “As for the orders I gave to hire the women through the Institute, I thought it was fine. Since the emperor has ordered the Sun women to enter the Royal Academy as servants, then that means the Institute is allowed to hire them. There is no other organization that can hire from the Royal Academy, right? Unless… unless the emperor was so negligent that he didn’t know the Institute of Luminous Grace was already in my hands.”
The emperor really hadn’t known that. He was probably deep in the throes of regret right now. He’d probably confiscated the Duke of Ding’s properties because he’d wanted the Institute. Qin Huaiyuan coughed before saying softly, “Impertinence.”
Although his voice was soft, the velvet in his tone did not hide the steel authority beneath. Qin Yining quickly kowtowed. “Yes, I understand my wrongs. I shouldn’t talk about the emperor behind his back.”
Qin Huaiyuan didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at her response. For some reason, he was actively struggling to keep his lips from twitching. “Are your mistakes only in talking about the emperor?”
Qin Yining pursed her lips and lifted her head. Her eyes were like the clearest spring of water as she looked at her father in confusion. “I haven’t defied imperial orders, nor done anything out of line. The emperor rules the world with the principles of benevolence and filial piety. Even if the Duke of Ding is guilty, there’s never been a precedent set to ignore the pregnancy of a convicted woman. I feel that the emperor would’ve sent someone to help fifth cousin-in-law if he was made aware of the situation. Besides, I’m the owner of the Institute. The Royal Academy has received a new batch of staff and I happen to be short on people. There’s nothing wrong in hiring them. Wasn’t it the imperial family that set this rule?”
“You little chit.” Qin Huaiyuan picked up ‘The Commentary of Zuo’ and lightly smacked Qin Yining’s forehead. “You’ve got reasons for all your actions, huh?”
But the tap didn’t hurt at all.
In fact, there was even a faint sense of doting affection in the action. Qin Yining rubbed her forehead and then looked at her father, her eyes brimming with the kind of love that only a child shows their parent. Qin Huaiyuan felt very warm as he sensed the depth of her feelings. “Rise. Danqing has just had servants prepare osmanthus cakes. Have some with me.”
Qin Yining wasn’t a picky eater and liked all food, but osmanthus cakes were her favorite. Father knew that? And considered that I didn’t have time to eat today? She was greatly touched and smiled in assent, rising from her knees to take a seat on her recently vacated cushion.
Danqing and Moxiang came in with all sorts of cakes and snacks, placing them lightly on the small table. When Qin Yining saw her father pick up a piece of osmanthus cake, she also reached forward to grab one and bit off a large mouthful. It was soft, fragrant, and sticky, but not overly sweet. The faint sweetness soothed the tightly wound emotions of the day. Her appetite awoke with a vengeance, and she scarfed down four in a row, guzzling down a cup of tea before feeling like her stomach finally had something to work on.
She lifted her head to see that Qin Huaiyuan still holding that first piece of cake. He was just looking at her with a smile on his face. She immediately understood that he’d been afraid she wouldn’t eat anything if he didn’t make the first move, which was why he’d picked up a piece as well.
“Father.” Overcome with emotion, Qin Yining called out to Qin Huaiyuan.
The girl’s eyes were limpid and clear, and onlookers couldn’t help but soften their hearts at the sight. That charming exterior was so like the image that had been reflected back from his mirrors when he was young. Such a smart and pretty child was possibly the only inheritor of his bloodline that he’d ever have in his life. Qin Huaiyuan couldn’t help but stretch out his large hand to rub her head. Qin Yining’s eyes filled with surprise and delight, even butting his hand subconsciously like a little animal, making Qin Huaiyuan chuckle with joy.
So this was the joy of child rearing. Although his daughter had already turned fourteen when she’d returned, at an age where she could marry, she was still just a smart and mischievous child in his eyes. If there’d been peace beneath the heavens, Qin Huaiyuan really didn’t mind Qin Yining getting into all sorts of scrapes. His daughter could freely cause various troubles outside and then come home crying for her father. He would then settle everything for her and receive her worship and admiration in return. How nice would that be.
Sadly, these weren’t such times.
“Full?” Qin Huaiyuan asked when he saw Qin Yining no longer reaching for more food. She nodded, her face blushing red. He spoke on seriously. “Although your actions today are infallible in terms of their logic and justice served, you’ve forgotten the situation we facing.”
Qin Yining kept her head down and responded honestly, “In response to father, I haven’t forgotten, it’s just that…”
“You wanted to do all that, and so you did?”
“Yes.” Qin Yining nodded. “I just didn't want to do anything against my conscience and then live in regret and guilt. I know I took a bit of a risk, but I believe that the emperor still care about his reputation. Even if he wants to find fault, he’ll be able to find an aboveboard and righteous excuse, one that gives him the moral high ground. I spent some time thinking, and still feel that nothing I did was inappropriate. That’s why I did what I did, it’s not that I didn’t consider our family.”
She took a look at Qin Huaiyuan and continued when she saw that his expression hadn’t changed. “And, I’m your daughter. Father is the Grand Preceptor of the Heir Apparent now. If I do nothing when my maternal grandmother’s family is in trouble and refuse to save fifth cousin-in-law when I could’ve, then what will the people think about us? About father? That we’re heartless brutes who only think about ourselves? I didn’t want my momentary fear to stain father’s lifelong innocence!”
Qin Huaiyuan was silent for a moment. He didn’t lecture Qin Yining nor denounce her oversight. “So what do you plan to do now?”
Qin Yining relaxed when she saw that her father wasn’t opposed to her actions. Her father’s character rose more than a few notches in her esteem for that acceptance. She knew that if Qin Huaiyuan didn’t want her to save them, he had thousands of ways to erase what she’d done and make it so that no one could connect her aid to her. Since father hadn’t stopped her, that meant he was tacitly agreeing to what she’d done and would help her as well. Of course, there was some things that he couldn’t do because of his position, which left them up to her.
Her motivation rose, and her thoughts began spinning rapidly. “Father, the most pressing matter is mother, then the execution three days later. If the emperor doesn’t give any other orders, the rule for those executed is to be dumped in common graves. No one will be allowed to bury them.”
“I thought you would have me beg the emperor for mercy for your maternal relatives.”
“It’s easy enough for me to beg you, but it’s hard for you to beg the emperor.” Qin Yining smiled wryly. The emperor had clearly been scared out of his senses by Great Zhou’s response. The only thing he could coherently put together was the intent to pacify Great Zhou. The Suns had simply been the unlucky target, as he’d already made up his mind to make an example out of them.
When faced a choice between one’s life, or another’s, a scared man would obviously choose to save himself. Qin Huaiyuan wouldn't be able to do anything and might even get himself in trouble if he interfered at the wrong moment. If things weren’t handled well, then the entire Qin clan would be dragged in. Qin Yining wasn’t an idiot, she was already grateful enough that her father was letting her operate in the shadows for the Suns.