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Chapter 86: Meeting Once Again (I)
Qin Yining understood that such an enormous tragedy had resulted in permanent trauma to the surviving female members of the Ding Manor. Living meant shouldering all of the pain, and it was much easier to just die and let go of it all. The duchess had lost everything in just one night, but still had to grit her teeth and carry on. She had to lead the rest of her family, loved ones who had lost all thought of what to do, on with their lives. The path ahead would be troubled and full of obstacles, particularly when their hearts were full of hate.
Although Qin Huaiyuan had tacitly allowed Qin Yining to help the remaining Suns and hadn't taken advantage of their current straits to further raise his position higher, he was still a favored official and Grand Preceptor of the Heir Apparent. Now, he was being forced to accept née Cao as a concubine, to speak of nothing in the future. Qin Yining's own marriage might be closely tied in with the royal family in the future.
The Sun females hated the royal family to a one, and it was now unavoidable that the Qins would be tightly connected with the royals in many ways. They walked different paths, so nothing the duchess said would make a difference. The only thing she could do was distance herself from Qin Yining. The girl wasn't angry or disappointed. She was just sad that the tides of circumstance would ebb and flow this way.
When the duchess saw her granddaughter's expression, she sighed softly once again, and wordlessly patted the girl's shoulder. Née Sun found it hard to control her emotions, covering her face as she sobbed. In the past, her sisters-in-law would dote on her and naturally comfort her when she cried. but now that they themselves were almost drowning in sorrow, they were unable to pay attention to anything else.
Qin Yining pulled on née Sun's arm as a hint to her mother to stop crying. When the madame actually did stop crying, the girl continued, "Grandmother says you've already arranged for your next stop, but where are you going? This is such a large family and all of the Duke of Ding's businesses have been confiscated. Moreover, you're all women and have no guards for protection. How will you settle down?"
The duchess smiled gratefully, it seems that Qin Yining still retained her sincere attitude and hadn't been put off by the earlier proclamations. "If you're worried, darling Yi, you can come with us. It's not far from here."
Qin Yining's thoughts started spinning rapidly as she looked at her grandmother. Not far from here… able to house so many females… and grandmother moving in with peace of mind… Inspiration struck as she exclaimed with surprise, "You're going to the Celestial Nunnery?!"
The duchess was surprised that the answer had been guessed so quickly and nodded.
Qin Yining and née Sun left Jin-mama, Caiju, Songlan, Bingtang, and Qiulu to help the duchess get everything in order. The Qin fourth miss took time to have Songlan pass a message to Steward Zhong to prepare a hundred tael bank note and a three thousand tael money order.
On this day, the remaining Sun family took six carriages and arrived at Celestial Nunnery after noon. A little nun had been waiting for a while and ran inside when she saw them in the distance. When the group reached the doors, Priestess Liu had already come out with some younger nuns.
"Oh Great High God! Are you alright, Elder Madame, madames, misses? When I heard that you wanted to seek sanctuary here, I had someone clean up a residence for everyone to inhabit." Priestess Liu was wearing a gray-blue Taoist robe and a new black cape. She seemed to have put on some weight as her round face beamed merrily with shrewd smiles.
"Many thanks for your succor, Priestess Liu." The duchess sighed and brought her family into the nunnery. "Priestess Liu's vision is divine. Everything you said came to pass."
"Ai, I'd rather wish I was inaccurate." Priestess Liu also sighed and looked at the cleanly dressed, pretty Bingtang who was blinking her large eyes back at her old master. The priestess couldn't help but smile. "Aiyo, it's Jing Zhen! Come over here and let master take a look at you."
"Master!" Bingtang let go off Qin Yining's arm and came forward to make a smiling curtsey.
Priestess Liu patted Bingtang's head. "It looks like you're living well. Miss Qin is indeed a kind soul."
Qin Yining dimpled as she supported née Sun. "The priestess praises me too highly. I am unworthy."
"It's cold outside, why don’t we have the madame and ladies rest inside?" Priestess Liu said when she noted the women dressed plainly in white and two granny servants holding up a young wife with an ashen complexion, and another woman in early pregnancy holding a baby.
"That would be wonderful. Thank you, priestess." The duchess smiled thankfully.
"Take our guests to the side yard." Priestess Liu summoned two disciples.
"Yes, master." The two nuns cupped their hands in a Taoist greeting and took the group to the west side yard while the priestess invited the duchess, née Sun, and Qin Yining to her own.
As they walked, Priestess Liu kept looking at née Sun with her face drained of all color. They'd just reached the doors to the yard when they heard a young man complain, "What's taking so long? My master is impatient."
Both Qin Yining and Bingtang widened their eyes. The young man facing them was about eighteen years old and average height. He was muscular and had thick brows set into very regular features. He was wearing a navy blue cotton jacket and a wool shrug thrown onto his shoulder. A six panel hat kept his head warm and did nothing to conceal the surprised look he was shooting them. When his look fell on Bingtang, his fair face instantly flushed beet red.
It was the young man who'd clapped his hand around Bingtang's mouth in the temple! If he was here, then the young man that Priestess Liu hailed as her patron must be here as well!
Indeed, the bamboo slats and cotton door curtains lifted to reveal a charming gentleman. His squirrel fur collar, brocade cape flared as he strode out. He was tall, had long brows and a pair of phoenix eyes, and a gentle demeanor. It was the young man that Qin Yining had met before, alright.
When she thought of what'd happened when they met, she flushed an awkward red. While Pang Xiao had been assiduously looking off into the distance and had even slouched to change his aura, he too looked away awkwardly when he saw Qin Yining's reddened face.
Priestess Liu's shrewd look flickered between several people before she grinned widely. "Come, it's cold outside. Let's chat inside. My place is small and only this house has an active brazier at the moment. You've all met anyways. Please come in, patron."
Guests followed the host's lead. Since Priestess Liu had already expressed her stance and the duchess was to settle here in the future with the rest of her family, Qin Yining was in no position to express disdain. She could only help née Sun and the duchess inside.
It really was as warm as spring within. Priestess Liu occupied the head seat and had the others take seats where they wished. The young patron sat at the head left seat while his strong follower stood behind her. The duchess and née Sun sat in front of him while Qin Yining took up her usual position behind her grandmother. She sent Bingtang and Jin-mama to the outer room.
When Qin Yining saw that Priestess Liu was taking her time and drinking tea, she didn't want things to drag on further consider the priestess' personality. She stepped forward and curtsied. "Apart from entrusting my family to you today, I also have something to ask of you, honored priestess."