Chapter 1248: [YeXi] Sowing discord

What would Han Yunxi decide? 

If possible, she would demote the Baili Clan into commoners, but she wasn’t so headstrong. As the empress, she had to shoulder responsibilities. As the head of the military, burdens weighed on her shoulders. Moreover, now that Long Feiye had given her the right to decide, her duty was even more important. 

All those people coveting her spot as empress and military commander only saw its power and glory. Had they ever considered how much one had to give up to sit by the emperor’s side? 

The Baili Clan could not fall. Once it did, the Jiangnan faction would increase its strength and incite unavoidable struggles for power within the military factions. The balanced state of affairs at court would shift as a result! With the north still in turmoil and all of Cloud Realm Continent still recovering from war, it would be extremely unwise for everyone to focus their attentions on internal conflicts! Moreover, Baili Yuanlong didn’t control just the Baili Clan, but countless soldiers who were completely innocent! 

Han Yunxi had never considered eliminating the Baili family because she couldn’t find a suitable candidate to replace them in leading the troops, much less the navy. More importantly, only the Baili Clan was capable of fighting on par with the southern generals at the moment. Instead of destroying the Baili and allowing the southern generals to gloat, she might as well...sow discord between them!

Just who had leaked the news about the “tableware?” Most likely, the Baili Clan were suspecting the Xiao Clan. As long as she pushed them from the shadows, the Baili and Xiao families would find it impossible to cooperate in the future. And once the Baili Clan held a grudge against the southern generals, they would save her and Long Feiye plenty of trouble. Of course, the Baili Clan still had to hurt even if they weren’t destroyed. Only then could they continue to resent the Xiao Clan.

“Your Majesty, the crown prince’s birthday banquet should be a joyous occasion. It’s already gloomy enough that we’ve seen blood. As chenqie sees it, we can simply lock up the person for interrogation in the prisons. As for how many members of the Baili Clan were involved, we’ll have the justice courts investigate and deal with them accordingly!” Han Yunxi said.

Long Feiye nodded. “Someone come, arrest Baili Lixiang!”

Baili Lixiang didn’t resist, but she did look towards the Xiao Clan. They had agreed to admonish the empress as a team, but no one from the Xiao Clan had stepped out. They must be the ones who exposed the “tableware” secret to the rioters!

What a Xiao Dong! How dare he bite back to implicate me and the Baili Clan! Even if I die, I’ll drag the Xiao family down with me! I’ve got plenty of evidence on my hands!

After Baili Lixiang was taken away and Baili Yuanlong sent off, Baili Qiyu and his wife bid their respects and withdrew. No one else in the Baili Clan dared to budge. When something this monumental had occurred, it was natural that the emperor and empress would be in a foul mood. Everyone kept their heads down in fear, afraid to make a peep as they hoped for the banquet to end sooner. 

Yet Han Yunxi only sighed with feeling and remarked, “Emperor, it looks like there are plenty of people outside with objections against chenqie. If I don’t explain myself, those still ignorant might really think chenqie forgot about the Northern Li disaster victims!”

Everyone grew guarded at her words. Even those who didn’t fear her before or never witnessed her strength first-hand began to feel dread. A few Madams had been planning to use this banquet to expose Han Yunxi for her empty red envelopes, but now they simply exchanged looks and shook their heads. They didn’t dare cause more trouble!

The Madams tacitly agreed to drop the matter just like that.

Would Han Yunxi drop her matters as well?

“Heheh, how will the empress express  herself?” Long Feiye asked.

“Emperor, the crown prince received many gifts today. Why don’t we put them up for auction and donate the proceeds to the Northern Li victims?” Han Yunxi asked.

“Excellent,” Long Feiye naturally agreed. His gaze swept over Gu Qishao and added, “Let’s start with the title and deed to No. 7 Teahouse.”

Gu Qishao had no interest in any of the palace politics and was currently sitting lazily in his seat. He was tired, hungry, and bored! But Long Feiye’s words immediately made him alert. “What?” he asked loudly.

“What now, does the Prince of Yu have objections to bidding on the crown prince’s property?” Long Feiye asked.

“Of course…” Gu Qishao began, but Gu Beiyue pulled him back as a reminder that this was a public space where he couldn’t act out.

“Of course not!” Gu Qishao changed his tune, but his eyes were filled with angry resentment. I spent a whole year painstakingly preparing that teahouse, and now it’s being auctioned off for silver? Long Feiye, are you that short of money?

He looked back at the ministers and said coldly, “No. 7 Teahouse is priceless. This prince would like to see the kind of price it fetches in an auction!”

Long Feiye replied, “The tea infusion hot springs at No. 7 Teahouse has won Zhen’s heart. In Zhen’s opinion, it must be a sky-high price.”

Now Gu Qishao was even more indignant as he cursed inwardly. Long Feiye, you’re still selling it off after it won your heard? Is there something wrong with your brain?

Han Yunxi almost laughed out loud. She had only suggested the auction, but for Long Feiye to play like this was truly masterful! If he said the teahouse was worth sky-high prices, then the ministers who bid on it would never offer low prices. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be giving Long Feiye face. Moreover, Long Feiye had mentioned how much he liked the tea infusion hot springs, which meant he appreciated No. 7 Teahouse deeply. If someone did win the teahouse afterwards, would they dare to keep it? Wouldn’t they offer it back as a gift instead?

Moreover, rumors had long spread around the court that Long Feiye and Gu Qishao didn’t get along. The only reason Gu Qishao made it as prince was because of her relationship with Mu Linger. As things went, people with ability would definitely vie with Gu Qishao if he bid a high price, all the better to beat him and get in Long Feiye’s good graces. 

To put it bluntly, Long Feiye was outrightly cheating the ministers of their silver! 

Would Gu Qishao refuse to bid at all? Of course not! 

As soon as the auction started, he tossed out, “30,000,000 taels of white silver!”

His price shocked the crowd into keeping their mouths shut. Everyone used to be wealthy, but all these years of war had affected the various trade consortiums so they were less mighty than before. Tang Li was eager to have a go himself so he could help his big brother suppress Gu Qishao’s arrogance for once, but Ning Jing held him back. 

The Baili Clan had to offer a price as well, but none of them dared to speak while they were still under suspicion of guilt. Meanwhile, the ordinary ministers hardly had the money to pay for such things, much less daring to bid higher. Suppose they were misunderstood as officials who hoarded wealth for themselves? That would be disastrous. 

Thus, Long Feiye was planning to use Gu Qishao to cheat the Jiangnan trade consortiums of their money! They were currently the richest consortium after Long Feiye’s Kangan Bank had poured its reserves into the imperial coffers. Because it had to support various projects, it had long fallen behind its Jiangnan peers. The national treasury couldn’t compare to the Jiangnan trade consortiums, which had enough wealth to contend with an entire nation. 

You could use one sentence to describe Great Qin’s current finances: Great Qin’s emperor and empress were not poor, nor were its princes, dukes, and nobles; but its national treasury was clinking poverty! Its main reserves had come from the war a few years ago, when it had amassed the wealth of Western Zhou, Tianning, Tianan, and Northern Li along with inventory from the south central region’s commander’s district. Although the saying went that a starving camel was still bigger than a horse, last year’s expenses had been heavy, ranging from dealing with the aftereffects of the war to saving the Northern Li citizens. The Ministry of Revenue was probably the busiest faction in court this year besides Long Feiye himself.

They were in charge of looking after the national treasury so even the emperor and empress had to go through procedure and applications before they had access to its stores. Everywhere in Great Qin needed funds this year, both within the central government and various officials who came crying because they were too poor. Fortunately, the construction of Yunning palace and Tianan palace came from Long Feiye’s personal funds instead of the treasury, or else they’d be seeing the bottom of their reserves by now. 

Over the next few years, the treasury wouldn’t be enough to keep up with expenses. The Ministry of Revenue and the head of the Department of State Affairs had already made calculations. If they continued to issue taxes at current rates, the national treasury would still be depleted within the next three years unless they received a substantial amount of aid. The alternative was to dig into the imperial clan’s personal funds. 

Most of the revenue for the national treasury came from agriculture and trade, with the former accounting for the majority of gains. Many businesses could take advantage of the war to earn money, but the agriculture section was heavily affected by the battling. When farmers were recruited to fight as soldiers, how many men were left to plow the fields? Moreover, how many fields were destroyed in subsequent battles? 

80 to 90 percent of the silver in the past year had come from the southern regions while the other regions were simply losing revenue instead of paying it in. It was precisely because of their generous contributions that the south central regions were behaving so wantonly and self-satisfied now. Those Guogong and old established families assumed they’d contributed enough merit to Long Feiye’s cause to leave him carefree. Furthermore, they helped the most when it came to reconstruction in post-war efforts and aiding Northern Li past its woes. Thus, they expected Long Feiye to repay them with the highest honors and glory. 

But when Tianning Country had suffered civil unrest, how could the south and central regions have survived the subsequent years in peace if Long Feiye hadn’t traveled south himself? After all, they had the best soil and farmland as well as water for growing rice. Who didn’t covet such rich territory? 

If Long Feiye had headed west or north the year Tianning broke into civil war, then the south central region would’ve succumbed to war first! The relationship between the Great Qin’s national treasury and the southern regions was quite intimate, but the imperial family’s private coffers and the southern trade consortiums hid huge conflicts! 

The so-called imperial coffers were the royal family’s personal store, or to put it plainly, the emperor’s treasury. Typically speaking, imperial coffers earned revenue from taxes on monopoly of the silk, tea, salt, and mining industries. It also incurred a broad range of expenses ranging from constructing palaces, supporting the royal family’s expenses, and raising the imperial relatives, Guogong, and nobles. For example, the ranks of Guogong were traditionally raised by generation after generation of imperial clans. 

Currently, Great Qin’s imperial coffers were made up of Long Feiye’s personal funds and hadn’t earned much revenue. That was because most of the silk, tea, salt, and mining industries were under control of trade consortiums in the south, and the taxation system hadn’t been revised yet to redirect their earnings...

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Ruyi's Thoughts

palace terms always take longer to translate oof~