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Return of the Swallow

Chapter 21: Jealousy Inducing

Chapter 21: Jealousy Inducing

In the main residence of Snowpear Courtyard, Zhan-mama snuck a look at the burnt incense stick and nodded with a smile. “Miss, you’re Prime Minister Qin’s official firstborn alright! You’re indeed uncommonly smart and only need a hint before comprehension. You’ve learned this standing position quite well! You should be tired by now, why not rest a bit?”

“Many thanks to Zhan-mama,” Qin Yining replied but didn’t allow her proper posture to lapse. Only her expression relaxed slightly.

The palace servant was even happier to see this. “You’re putting what you’ve learned into practice immediately. This shows a high degree of perception. Everyone understand rules and manners, but not everyone can execute them beautifully. What you need to do is to imprint these new habits into your bones. Make it so that every bone and muscle has these new memories. Only then will you gain a bearing that remains constant in the face of all changes.”

“Zhan-mama speaks truly.” Qin Yining nodded quite seriously as she felt the same way.

“I will thoroughly explain your every move and gesture in the future, whether when sitting, lying down, walking, every movement of your hand and feet, and every smile and frown. I will help you understand what feelings you induce in others with your motions and looks.”

Qin Yining blinked, trying to understand what the mama had just said. Zhan-mama couldn’t help but continue on when she saw the girl like this, “You’re a grown-up miss and will understand some things without me explaining them. For a noble daughter like you, your future entirely depends on the marriage you make. You have an exceedingly strong family background, so your future husband will be of a similar position.

“It is important to focus on the proficiency of your household duties, embroidery, character, and talents so that your in-laws like you. Interacting with others is a large part of life in these manors, so it’s vital that you honor your elders and coexist peacefully with the ladies. To precisely express a variety of thoughts with your motions, and to analyze others’ moods and mentalities from their mannerisms, isn’t something that everyone can learn. But you miss, can try to understand it.”

Qin Yining looked at eyes full of gratitude when she heard this. It was the first time that someone had laid out her future so clearly since she’d returned to the manor. And yet, the person who’d done so wasn’t her mother, grandmother, or any female relative, but a mama here to teach her rules and manners. She knew only that was the scope of the mama’s responsibilities, the palace servant didn’t need to say all this to her. Qin Yining was quite thankful for this additional attention.

Zhan-mama was quite delighted by Qin Yining’s limpid, expressive eyes. “Just like I can tell from the look in your eyes right now that you’re both happy and grateful—this is precisely what I mean. If you can use your own body language and be able to read that of others, you’ll have a much easier time in your future life. You might not have consciously thought all this through, but you’re already using the skills subconsciously. I can also sense your kind intentions.”

A faint blush had appeared on Qin Yining’s face as she nodded, “I understand.”

Zhan-mama continued, “Rules and manners can actually be split apart into two concepts. Rules must be followed. Breaking them would make a fool out of yourself, or even invite fatal attention. Manners on the other hand, is the ability to make others feel comfortable when you interact with them.

“This doesn’t only cover gestures, but also words and tone in conversation, one’s outfit, colors used and others. During this time, this servant will go over the principles of wearing clothes with the miss, explaining how different color combinations will change the perception of others, and what accessories go with what outfits. This will help you understand a person from just what they’re wearing when you meet others in the future.”

“Therefore, when I see someone, they may be wearing something on purpose to lure in others or enhance a certain feeling they’re projecting? Or it could all be a purposeful act for me?”

“Precisely, the miss is quite smart.” Zhan-mama’s smile deepened.

“No, this is due to the mama’s care. I grew up in the countryside and mountains and have never been exposed to any of this. It’s also likely that no one will explain all this to me in such detail. I have learned greatly from your pointers. This will all help me immensely in the future.” Qin Yining performed a curtsey out of gratitude. “I will have to rely on Zhan-mama in the future as well.”

The mama avoided accepting the girl’s gesture and returned a grand gesture as well. Although she was here on the empress’ orders, she truly liked and respected the young girl in front of her after an afternoon together. The palace servant felt that the Qin fourth miss was both sincere and adorable, without a hint of superficiality to her. Having served in the palace all these years, she’d seen all sorts of women. There had been beautiful ones and smart ones, but one that was so pleasing to her eye like Qin Yining was a first.

She never once had the feeling that Qin Yining was over-fawningly polite to the point where she lost her dignity as the prime minister’s daughter, but also never had the feeling that the girl was prideful and couldn’t be bothered to even speak to others. She had maintained their relationship at a comfortable distance, making someone as worldly as Zhan-mama unable to keep from imparting some more knowledge to her. “The hour is growing late today and you must have other affairs to attend to, miss. This servant will take my leave now then.” Zhan-mama rose with a smile.

“Mama’s had a long afternoon. I’ve already ordered servants to prepare dinner. Will you stay and share a meal together?”

“This servant is quite gratified by the miss’ offer of food. However, you are the apple of the lord’s eye and have a noble identity. I would not dare impose on you. I thank you for your good intentions.” Zhan-mama declined with a smile.

“You are my rules teacher now,” Qin Yining shook her head with a smile. “You’re my master as well then. That a disciple shares a table with the master actually counts as the disciple overstepping themselves. Please don’t stand on ceremony.”

These words were simply too apt, making it impossible for the palace servant to refuse again. She also did want to spend more time with Qin Yining, so she accepted this time with thanks.

Dinner wasn’t quite that sumptuous, but Qin Yining had purposefully sent Zhu-mama to the main kitchen with silver to order some additional dishes. There were four meat and four vegetarian dishes, as well as one soup. Since Zhu-mama’s daughter-in-law worked in the main kitchens, the food tasted more sophisticated than ordinary offerings. Although the two kept to the rule of not speaking when eating, they felt that they’d grown closer after one meal. They enjoyed tea afterwards, and Qin Yining had Ruilan and Qiulu accompany the mama back to the guest quarters after dinner. Qiulu also remained at the mama’s side as a personal maid, with orders not to be lax on care at all.

In actuality, the manor hadn’t paid much attention to a mama here to teach rules and had arranged for the palace servant to take up residence in the west wing of Snowpear Courtyard. Qin Yining had sent Ruilan to Garden of Tranquility that afternoon to speak with Jin-mama, explaining that the mama was here on the empress’ orders. Née Sun immediately placed more importance on their visitor and set up the guest residence after a discussion with the old dowager.

Zhu-mama had already set up the paper, ink, and brush for the fourth miss to copy “The Classic of Filial Piety” when Ruilan returned from accompanying Zhan-mama to the guest residence.

“Miss.” The maid took the mama’s position with a smile after making her greeting. “Everything’s been arranged for properly. Jin-mama has put Zhu-mama in Jade Bamboo Veranda, to the east of the bamboo forest. It’s a very elegant residence.

Qin Yining didn’t lift her head as her brush flew over paper. “I see.”

Those in the manor had been too lackadaisical. She herself was fine if the mama lived in the same residence as her, but if the palace servant felt that she’d been insulted, then they would receive hard questions from the empress.

When Ruilan thought of how exquisite Jade Bamboo Veranda was compared to Snowpear Courtyard and took a look at her mistress’ charming profile, she heaved an imperceptible sigh. Qin Yining also wanted to sigh when she looked at the chicken scratches on the paper. She was certain that the old dowager would be utterly disdainful of this copy of the classic, and might even fly into a rage saying that Qin Yining hadn’t treated this matter with the proper gravity. She’d tried to summon the best of her handwriting, but her writing was extremely ugly. She had to give up on this.

Penmanship wouldn’t be mastered overnight, but the deadline to hand in her punishment wasn’t far off. She had to think of a way to pass this challenge...

The warm interior of Garden of Loving Piety.

“What? The mama here to teach Qin Yining manners is here by order of the empress herself?” Qin Huining paused from applying lotion to her face and turned from the mirror. “The empress is such an exalted figure, how could she possibly think of arranging a mama for that wild brat? It has to be father!”

Cai-mama sighed, “That must be the case.”

“Father’s never cared about me like this before...” Qin Huining felt lost all of a sudden, and her eyes glinted coldly in the next moment. “What kind of person is that mama?”

“Apparently, she used to serve Dowager Consort Xuanyi and Imperial Noble Consort Luming. She then went to Palace of Accumulated Purity and oversaw the education of the selected ladies during the imperial harem selection.”

“What a strong background!” Qin Huining pursed her lips and gazed upon her reflection in the mirror, slowly losing herself in her thoughts. She knew that her origins were unknown, and although she could vie with Qin Yining for a bit in terms of status, that was due to her foundations of spending fourteen years within the manor. What if Qin Yining surpassed her one day? Her parents and Old Dowager were already biased towards their real daughter. Although Qin Huining was superior when it came to literature, she had to admit that her looks weren’t as striking as the barbarian. Even though Qin Huining was outwardly dismissive and mouthed the words “take a wife for her virtues, take a concubine for her looks”, and that her future in-laws might not like a temptress for their daughter-in-law, what man didn’t like a good looking woman?

Her position as the official firstborn had already been replaced, making her future marriage a difficult thing. If she allowed Qin Yining to have such an outstanding mama teach her rules and help the barbarian never to make a mistake when it came to manners, wouldn’t that give Qin Yining another arrow in her quiver? No! No! She couldn’t let matters proceed like this!

Qin Huining bolted to her feet and tightened her hands around the hem of her skirt until her fingertips were white. She loosened them after a while as the look in her eyes turned into one of happy confidence. “Wet nurse, go see if grandmother’s had her tea yet. I should go wash grandmother’s feet at this time.”

Cai-mama responded affirmatively.

Qin Huining appeared in the old dowager’s house before long, wearing a placid and docile expression on her face, washing the old dowager’s feet and lighting her tobacco pipe. As the two chattered, the girl mentioned casually, “...Zhan-mama has such an illustrious background, it would be helpful for all the girls in the manor if they could learn together. ...Second Uncle and Third Uncle would be thankful to father if they learned that their daughters were benefitting as well.”

The old dowager began musing on this.

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