Née Sun sent Qin Huining back to Garden of Loving Piety to rest, but the image of Qin Yining on her knees, looking up at her with tears swimming in her eyes lingered in née Sun’s mind. She dismissed all the other servants and kept only Bao-mama, asking solemnly, “You’ve been by mother’s side for a very long time and have eaten more salt than I have rice. You see things more clearly than I do. In your eyes, did darling Hui really purposefully cause drama?”
“My lady see things clearly,” Bao-mama smiled. “You’ve just been blinded by your motherly heart. You already know the answer, don’t you?”
“Answer?” Née Sun mused.
“Indeed. The duchess always says that if one wants to see how a person is, we just need to look at the results of their actions and disregard anything they might say. This will lead to the surest picture of that person. Although you said you’d never forgive Lord Qin, you still came back to the manor. This is a sign of your genuine feelings for Lord Qin. I feel that he must understand your sincerity and so has loved and respected you all these years.
These words comforted née Sun, relaxing her taut heartstrings. Wasn’t this the case upon further thought? She might kick up a right royal fuss, but she still cared about Qin Huaiyuan. Although he might glare and huff at her, he still very much respected her very much. Née Sun murmured to herself, “Darling Hui is mature and her every word is a comfort to me. But I really did start suspecting daughter Yi’s origins because of a careless word from my dear. I started arguing with my lord because of my suspicions. And... I’d decided to acknowledge daughter Yi when I returned today, but couldn’t control my temper just now and almost hit her...”
Bao-mama lowered her eyes and smiled, not saying anything.
Née Sun shook her head incredulously. “Nonono, darling Hui is kindhearted. This is probably all a coincidence! Wouldn’t you say so, Bao-mama?”
The old servant swallowed her words of, “How can there be so many coincidences?” when she saw how née Sun was. She was just a servant, even the duchess hadn’t been able to set née Sun down the right path after so many years of explanations and exhortations. What use would her words be? Bao-mama spoke a few more words of comfort and quickly took her leave to return to the Ding Manor, leaving née Sun behind in silent thought.
At the same time, Qin Yining was returning to Snowpear Courtyard with Ruilan and Qiulu. It was quiet all around with few other passersby. An occasional flock of birds would suddenly take to the air from a withered tree in the distance. The skies of early winter were a vivid sapphire, and the temperature colder today than yesterday. Qin Yining was strolling along calmly, her beige, damask cloak flaring open slightly. Qiulu and Ruilan supported her on both sides, the former not letting a word escape from tightly compressed lips.
Ruilan on the other hand, felt that Qin Yining was sure to rely on her in the future since she’d been pardoned today. Since she was going to be a trusted maid, it should be fine to say a word or two. “That was an ordeal just now, miss.”
Qin Yining smiled at the maid.
“Bao-mama is the duchess’ trusted confidante,” Ruilan continued, encouraged by the response. “A word from her is more important even the misses in the Ding Manor. Miss Huining was trying to make the senior madame slap you just now, why didn’t you make a big fuss about it in front of Bao-mama? You should let her know how tough life is in this manor, so that the duchess will know as well.”
Qin Yining dimpled, responding softly, “With the madame’s personality, it might not be a good thing to actually make a fuss. It might make her even angrier and hurt her health.”
Ruilan nodded and sighed at hearing these words. “Fourth Miss truly cares for the senior madame. You’re not like Miss Huining at all, who incites the senior madame to rage just for her own matters...”
Ruilan suddenly realized something at this moment! If even she could see this clearly, how would someone as experienced as Bao-mama not be aware as well? If the fourth miss really had called upon her strong side from yesterday and gone all out against the senior madame, she might not have come off worse for the wear, but it would detract from her nonetheless. A wild reputation of being domineering and overbearing might even spread to the Ding Manor.
But allowing matters to develop as they had without saying a single word or reacting strongly had caused Qin Huining’s provocation to be repeated in front of Bao-mama once again! It’d only been Qin Yining’s words before, saying that Qin Huining was sowing discord. It wasn’t enough for unconditional belief. Nothing was more convincing than seeing with one’s own eyes, and hadn’t Bao-mama done so today??
Ruilan looked at Qin Yining with worshipful eyes. “You did right miss, this servant thought wrongly.”
Although Qiulu didn’t speak much, she was one who saw things clearly and knew what was going on at this point as well. “Miss Huining brought this on her own head. She can’t blame our miss now if the duchess dislikes her.”
“Indeed, she has malicious intentions, so why cover up for her?” Qin Yining smiled slightly. The two maids also smiled as they shared the same, unspoken thought. They were greatly impressed by Qin Yining. She hadn’t said much, just a few noncommittal phrases. But that’d been enough to make the madame change her mind from hitting the girl. This was proof that the one they were following possessed wisdom and foresight! She had already thoroughly grasped née Sun’s personality.
Although much had occurred today, the group returned to Snowpear Courtyard with light spirits. Zhu-mama met them at the door with a smile. “You’ve returned, miss! The mama that the lord has requested from the palace is here.”
Qin Yining looked into the yard at these words and saw a demure woman of roughly forty years old walk out. The woman smiled happy and bent her knee in greeting. “This servant is née Zhan. I’m in charge of teaching manners and rules in the palace. I’m here under the empress’ orders to keep the miss company for a few days.”
“The empress?” Qin Yining was a bit surprised.
“The emperor was delighted to hear that the prime minister has found his official daughter. When His Majesty heard the prime minister speak about matters at home, he gave orders accordingly to the empress. Her Majesty is the model of the nation and arranged for this servant to come.”
“Please don’t stand on ceremony, Zhan-mama. This girl is coarse and will need much help from you.” Qin Yining politely welcomed the mama into the main residence, settling down to study hard.
The Duke of Ding Manor.
Bao-mama carefully relayed all that had happened in the prime minister manor to the duchess. The duchess had a strand of jade rosary beads in her hand. They clicked against each other crisply, the pale-purple tassel adorned with gold beads at the bottom of it swaying slightly, perfectly complementing the duchess’ jade ring. The jewelry looked quite beautiful. She stopped her hand’s motion after a while, “It looks like granddaughter Hui really did do it.”
The old servant nodded. “Yes, I could tell that the miss did indeed provoke the lady. You know of the lady’s temperament.”
The duchess rubbed her forehead with her right hand. “Daughter Han is straightforward. She’d be the first to shoot off a cannon if someone fills it with powder beside her. I’d thought granddaughter Hui was a good one before. Why is she now...”
Bao-mama knew that the duchess knew of everything and just wasn’t happy with how things had developed. She didn’t say anything else and busied herself with massaging the duchess’ temples. The duchess gave a long sigh after a while, “Granddaughter Yi really looks similar to Qin Meng?”
“Yes, just like a young Lord Qin. I actually feel that she looks a bit more perceptive than the prime minister, and is very filial as well. She quietly took the punishment even when the lady purposefully gave her trouble. She didn’t cause the lady any anger at all. She’s had such a hard life all these years, it’s a wonder that she’s so mature and that her personality hasn’t been warped.
“It’s a rare situation in which you have endless praise for someone.” The duchess started laughing.
Bao-mama gave an embarrassed smile. “That’s because the girl really is likable.”
“I won’t tease you any further. As opposed to waiting for daughter Han to remember to bring the girl to me, I might as well go get her myself.” Duchess of Ding thought for a moment, “Send someone to take a look in the outer residence. Grandson Ming ought to be back by now.”
Grandson Ming was the duke and duchess’ eldest grandson, Sun Yu 1
“Does the mistress mean to send the eldest master to be the messenger?” Bao-mama was surprised.
“Yes.” The duchess considered thoughtfully, “If we send a servant, it will appear that we don’t value her much. Since we want to invite her over for a visit, and granddaughter Yi is good one, then I must prop up her status as her maternal grandmother. Grandson Ming has a good reputation outside and a high status amongst the scholars. He gets along well with his uncle-in-law as well, so it’d be best for him to make a trip on my behalf.”
“The mistress is most thorough. The eldest master more than gets along with his uncle-in-law! Lord Qin likes the eldest master so much that he wishes Sir Yu was his own son!” Bao-mama gave her orders to a maid with a smile, revising Qin Yining’s position in her own heart as well.
One had to know that the duke’s grandson wasn’t just any ordinary renowned noble. He was a legend amongst the younger generation of Great Yan. Sun Yu, secondary personal name of Ming, was twenty six years old and yet unmarried. It wasn’t that he refused to get married, but that he was waiting for mutual love with an unparalleled beauty. He was a proper gentleman, refined and handsome, the leader of the youth. The most important was that he brimmed with talent and a high comprehension of history, rules, and politics.
When Zhou and Yan had officially declared war two years ago, Sun Yu had written an eloquent and vicious denunciation that flayed every bit of skin off of Great Zhou, utterly humiliating them to the depths of despair. He’d immensely raised Great Yan morale and caused a great deal of hot-blooded youths to join the army. The emperor was greatly admiring of this and gave the personal decree for Sun Yu to join the ranks of imperial scholars. This was when the saying of, “if I could have a son like Sun Yu” had first started spreading.
Even someone as cautious as Qin Huaiyuan had started lauding this youth instead of staying away to avoid accusations of nepotism. The prime minister gave public praise that “Sun Yu was the talent of our era”. Because of Sun Yu’s official denunciation, his name was known throughout Great Yan and Great Zhou. It was said that the Prosperous Emperor 2 of Great Zhou had been so incensed by the diatribe that he’d been gravely ill for a while.
Such an unparalleled, talented, and handsome grandson was the treasure that the duchess cherished. To be willing to send him to the prime minister’s manor was a clear indication of how highly the duchess thought of Qin Yining!
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