When Matriarch He heard Chu Lian's explanation, she sunk into silence.
In her heart, she knew that Chu Lian was right. She just wasn't willing to face the truth.
Chu Lian didn't want to force her into making a decision, so she softened her tone. "Grandmother, let's wait until Eldest Brother comes back. We can discuss this with Eldest Brother."
Matriarch He nodded with a grave expression on her face.
It took He Changqi an hour to rush back to the estate. Once he passed the main entrance, he hurried over to Qingxi Hall.
When He Changqi looked up and saw that Chu Lian was present as well, he seemed slightly surprised.
Matriarch He pointed at the chair next to her. "Take a seat and rest for a while before we speak."
Muxiang served some tea to He Changqi. However, he only managed to finish half of it before he could no longer sit still. He set down the teacup and said with a serious face, "Grandmother, what if I plead with the Emperor and ask him to allow me to go to the northern border?"
Matriarch He was an exception amongst women. She had experienced great upheavals and changes when she was younger. As they waited for He Changqi to arrive, she had continued to think on the matter and came to a conclusion.
Sanlang's wife was right. Dalang couldn't leave the capital, so they would have to depend on Sanlang's wife for this trip to the north.
After she heard Dalang out, Matriarch He shook her head. "Dalang, you know the situation our family is in now. The Emperor will never agree to let you leave the capital. But our He Family can't just watch Sanlang fall into danger without doing anything. This old woman has already decided. We'll send Sanlang's wife out to the north."
He Changqi's shout was full of disbelief and surprise. When he realised that his reaction had been a little over the top, he coughed awkwardly and cast a suspicious glance at Chu Lian, who was sitting beside Matriarch He.
"Grandmother, this isn't fitting. Third Sister-in-Law is only fifteen and she's a girl. How can we send her to a place as cold as the northern border? What will we do if something happens...?"
Matriarch He's expression hardened. "So what if she's a girl? So what if she's only fifteen? Lian'er managed to make Guilin Restaurant famous at the young age of fifteen. Are you able to do the same? What's more, this old woman followed your grandfather all the way to Xinjiang when I was younger. At that time, I was only sixteen. Rest assured, we're not going to send her off right this instant. We're definitely going to prepare her as much as possible. I'll send some of our estate's secret guards to follow Lian'er when it's time to go. She'll be fine!"
Although He Changqi looked like a rough, burly military official with all brawn and no wits, he was actually very aware of the overall situation.
Seeing how decisively Grandmother had spoken, he had already guessed that Grandmother had already made her decision earlier.
He also knew that he couldn't leave the capital that easily. However, as he looked at his young and fragile Third Sister-in-Law, He Changqi couldn't help but inwardly sigh. Could such a small girl really bear these great responsibilities?
The mission was to head to the northern border to send help to Sanlang. At the most critical time, she might even have to use all the resources at her disposal to rescue Sanlang; this required both wisdom and foresight. It wasn't going to be as easy as opening a restaurant and cooking up some dishes!
He Changqi lamented once again in his heart. He regretted sorely how he hadn't discovered He Sanlang's desire to go to the north earlier. If he had known, he would have stopped him on the spot.
"Since Grandmother is already decided, I have nothing to say. However, your grandson has a request."
"I will send someone to help out on this trip to the north. If Third Sister-in-Law can't give out orders in the spur of the moment, my representative will make the decisions for her."
Upon hearing He Changqi's words, Chu Lian paused before looking at her eldest brother-in-law.
Actually, to tell it straight, He Changqi didn't trust in her capabilities at all. However, that was a normal reaction. Although He Changqi hadn't been very successful in managing his marriage, he was a responsible and careful person. If not for the identity of House Jing'an's eldest son binding him here, he would have definitely become a brave and wise general in the military.
Matriarch He cast a glance at Chu Lian. Seeing that she hadn't gotten angry because of He Changqi's words, she laid her worries to rest. Although Matriarch He hadn't said it out loud, she had also thought of the same possibility that He Changqi was trying to prevent.
Chu Lian's calm demeanour gave Matriarch He the feeling that she could rely on this young, tender granddaughter-in-law of hers.
"Of course, it's natural for Eldest Brother to make such a request. If I fail to help Husband myself, I can't be a burden to others trying to help him. Husband's safety is the most important."
He Changqi hadn't expected Chu Lian to be so level-headed and rational. If it were some other family's young wife, they would have cried themselves to sleep in their own courtyard. How would they have thought of personally going out to save their husband? After a moment of stunned surprise, He Changqi nodded and had nothing left to say.
The preparations were left for Matriarch He and He Changqi to make.
The next day, Matriarch He sent her token to the palace and requested a meeting with the Empress Dowager.
Just two days later, the Empress Dowager's imperial decree was sent out, ordering Honoured Lady Jinyi to bring the cotton-padded clothes and blankets that had been donated by the citizens of the capital to support the warriors fighting in the extreme cold of the northern border.
Actually, this was just a cover-up for Matriarch He's real request to the Empress Dowager. No one had actually collected donations from the citizens- the supplies had been prepared by House Jing'an themselves to perpetuate the lie.
He Changqi had already notified Prince Jin; the prince had sent a reply back, saying that he would send some men on the trip as well.
The most surprising thing was that Princess Wei had somehow gotten wind of the news too. She personally visited the Jing'an Estate along with Royal Princess Duanjia to see Chu Lian.
It wasn't just Chu Lian who was surprised by this. Even Matriarch He needed some time to recover from her shock.