Chapter 30 A Bigger Mess
Unconsciously, Qin Zhi stroked his right arm that was sprained before and cast a look at Qin Yunuan. He was wavering, just like the fallen leaves in the pond.
“That’s right. I prepared this medicine mash for you, father,” Qin Yunuan said feelingly, “I know that you got hurt during the inspection tour to the regions south of the River. So, I grinded the medicine mash especially for you. It may not be so effective as the medicine prescribed by imperial doctors, but I made this with all my heart. Now, mother said that was Cold-Food Powder which… which was so filthy. I was wronged, father.”
After she said this, her eyes were filled with tears, which touched Qi Zhi’s heart slightly. He had never paid any attention to this concubine’s daughter, but what she did made him feel warm. At least, the medicine mash proved that she had put him in her heart.
But Dou Qing’e did not give up. Gnashing her teeth, she said, “Master, even though it was not there, it did not mean she had never taken it. Only her personal maids know those hidden things.”
“Ask nurse Liao, Tong or Maner if you want, mother,” Qin Yunuan straightened up, “They are my personal servants and they know all the things I have done.”
“I will not ask them since they were your people,” Dou Qing’e patted her chest and figured out what to do next, “Liao is your nurse. As for the two girls, one is an orphan who was saved by your mother, and the other has been with you since childhood. Sure enough, they will cover for you.” Then, Dou Qing’e reclined against the chair and ordered, “Take Fusheng over there.”
Fusheng was weak and thin as she always was. After she was sent to Qin Yuwan’s place, she had been beaten and scolded by her every single day for her delicate appearance. However, Qin Yuwan was also careful not to leave any evidence. The wounds on Fusheng’s skin were hard to find even when you lifted her clothes to check, because what Qin Yuwan used was needles that were as thin as ox hair.
Fusheng knelt on the ground like a frightened fawn. She was too afraid to say anything at a glimpse at Qin Yunuan who knelt along with her.
“You. Tell Master honestly. Did you ever see Third Miss take strange things when you were on duty at her place?” Dou Qing’e narrowed her eyes and looked right into Fusheng’s eyes with a provocative and threatening look. “Your sister had been my maid and she did a good job. So, I guess you are also a good girl just like her, right?”
Qin Zhi was now exhausted by the twists and turns of this matter. “Be honest. If there’s anything fake, you will be punished according to family rules.” He said to Fusheng coldly.
At this time, the frightened girl Fusheng was like a straw surrounded by a storm. There was no safe place for her, and she was about to fall. Just now, she was caught and dragged here by Xiu Gu, not knowing what was going on. But she took the hint from the scary glint of Dou Qing’e and knew what she was supposed to do in a sudden. Just as she was about to answer with her trembling voice, Qin Yunuan, who knelt aside, spoke up slowly ahead of her, “Speaking of Lvliu, I had something to say. Being punished at Wan’an Temple, her heart was in the Qin Family with her sister Fusheng. So, as we had been together for a while, she asked me to take a message to Fusheng.”
Fusheng straightened up suddenly. Her gloomy eyes lit up with hope when she heard her sister’s name.
“She said…,” Qin Yunuan said with a drawl, “She said that one had to keep his conscience clear. She regretted her previous mistakes and said that she would not have knocked over the tribute candlestick if she had another chance. Or else, she would not have been left at Wan’an Temple and narrowly escaped from being murdered last night. So, sometimes, a single slip can cause a lasting sorrow indeed.”
That Lvliu narrowly escaped from being murdered was just Qin Yunuan’s speculation. Earlier this morning, she sent Maner to Wan’an Temple to visit Dignitary Hui Neng. To her surprise, Maner was so careful that she found evidences of struggle there. She also heard that last night, Hui An came to a violent death out of no reason and the servant girl of the Qin Family in the wing-room was transferred secretly. Qin Yunuan did not know who sent the assassins, nor did she know whether Lvliu was alive or not. But it could not be denied that Wan’an Temple had been attacked last night. The soldiers at Wan’an Temple were at Leng Changxi’s command, so he would know the truth.
“Enough,” Dou Qing’e could not bear to hear Qin Yunuan’s calm voice, “Fusheng, tell the truth. What have you heard at that courtyard? What have you seen?”
Fusheng heard them very well. She knew what Dou Qing’e did in private even though she hadn’t served her for a long time. Once people could not do things for her, she would not keep them alive any longer. “My sister had gone through fire and water for her for so many times, but she ended up being discarded like rubbish. If I help her this time, Third Miss will get into trouble and I will also lose my value as a snoop. Maybe I will end up like sister…. But if I set myself against Madam….”
Fusheng took a deep breath, as if she had made a big decision. Suddenly, she started kowtowing and said, “Master, Madam, I worked at Third Miss’s court for only two months. During that time, Third Miss had followed the rules and she had done nothing wrong. I was telling the truth.”
Qin Zhi looked a little bit relieved. Maybe he had inclined to believe Qin Yunuan when he saw the bottle of medicine that she had prepared for him.
Fusheng’s words were beyond the expectation of Dou Qing’e. Her eyes narrowed, revealing her intention to kill.
Qin Yunuan said calmly, “Actually, it’s irrational to say that I had taken Cold-Food Powder. My monthly allowance is only two taels of silver, while a small amount of Cold-Food Powder worth a thousand tael of silver. Even if I did not eat or drink, I could not have so much money.”
“Two tael of silver?” Qin Zhi was surprised. He had always left domestic affairs for Dou Qing’e to deal with because he believed that a man should have higher aspirations. In their family, the monthly salary of a first-class servant girl should be more than two tael of silver. So, it was understandable that he was quite astonished when he heard that Qin Yunuan only had two tael of silver every month. After all, she was still his own child despite her status as a concubine’s daughter.
“What can she do with only two tael of silver? Some needlework, handkerchiefs, preserves and stationeries will cost all her money.” Qin Zhi murmured. Nobody knew who he was speaking to.
“You have no idea, father. The money cannot be used on those sundries. I must spend it on food first to support all the people at my place, and the money left can be spent on some old books for Baochuan. Paper and writing brushes are luxury for us. Baochuan usually learn to write on sand, yet he has never complained about it. Seeing that he works so hard makes me feel warm. The money is trifling but the feeling is profound.”
Qin Yunuan did not point out the misappropriation and hypocrisy of Dou Qing’e, but these seemingly fulfilled words had revealed the true colors of Dou Qing’e very well.
“Nonsense,” Dou Qing’e showed a strange look, “The expenditure of all the courtyards was kept on the accounts. Besides, we all know that Baochuan is arrogant and willful. Yesterday, many people had seen him complaining about his clothes. I’m afraid that it was your overspending that makes you hard up. I’m in charge of the domestic affairs of our family for years. How dare you point a finger at these things!”
The more arrogant Dou Qing’e appeared, the more panicked she was. As for the accounts, she herself might not remember how many times she had falsified the accounts.
Outside the study, the old housekeeper who led the way for Su Chenghai was about to step up and make an announcement, when a thunderous sound crashed from the room.
Qin Zhi was furious. The piercing pain on his palm could not take his attention away from the rage. What made him angry was not her embezzlement and abuse of Qin Yunuan, but her conceit and arrogance. It seemed that she had taken herself as the master of this family and wanted to control everything behind his back. Now, he had to let her know who the real master was.
“Master… Master.” Dou Qing’e shed a few tears, which dropped on her pale purple silk dress embroidered with clouds, leaving an ugly mark.
“You have the nerves to say that! For years, I have let you take charge of the family affairs. But our family became a bigger mess with a pestilential atmosphere under your control. Now, even His Majesty knows that my family is not harmonious.” Finally, Qin Zhi gave vent to his grievance like an erupting volcano. He would have been awarded since the imperial edict had been written, but because of that, the emperor changed his mind at last.
Dou Qing’e was frightened by him. “Master, all this is the plot of Qin Yunuan, can’t you see? It was that bitch who trapped me into this. It was her!” She pleaded.
A flush of blood reddened Qin Zhi’s forehead and made him more dazed. “All I see was you. It was you who told on Yunuan in front of me that she had taken Cold-Food Powder. It was you who continued to hurl accusations at her to disturb the peace when no evidence was found. All this thing was started by you vulgar shrew. Remember this, Dou Qing’e. You are at the Qin Family in the Royal City, not your own home in Hangzhou.
Qin Zhi became angrier as he said this. Suddenly, the thin string in his mind that kept him being sensible was broken from tension, which resulted from upwelling emotions. He fainted and fell straight onto the ground after feeling dizzy.
“Father, father! Dr. Chen, please look over my father. Security! Move father into the house.” Qin Yunuan knelt beside Qin Zhi, whose face was as pale as a sheet, and then stared at Dou Qing’e. “Mother, can’t you just let go before father fainted with anger?”
Two agile servants lifted Qin Zhi with their hands crossed together and carried him into the house. Dou Qing’e had recovered from bewilderment and followed them into the room. Thankfully, the old doctor who searched the courtyard with Dou Qing’e was also a well-known doctor in the Royal City.
The servant girls went in and out with hot water, which made Dou Qing’e feel more annoyed. She was stopped by Dr. Chen for several times as she tried to get into the room and took after her husband by herself.
“Madam, His Excellency fainted out of exhaustion and irritation. My suggestion is that you’d better keep away from him right now. Besides, there are too many people inside. They might dirty your clothes.”