Han Yunxi said, “Your Excellency, it’s still too early to prepare battle horses, recruit men, and collect grain. In this aspect, the Board of War could better use its one to two month window to observe the situation and see if there’s a way to end it without fighting at all. After all, war is the option when none others exist. It’s also used to wrap things up, so it doesn’t need much advance preparation at all.”
Hearing this, the minister of the Board of War felt helpless. But he feared Baili Yuanlong too much to speak out on his own. Unexpectedly, the Minister of Civil Personnel by his side spoke up with a grin, “Esteemed wangfei, it’s all very well to talk, but getting things done is another matter. Judging from the current situation…”
“Are you the Minister of Revenue?” Han Yunxi snapped.
“I...th-this official is in charge of Civil Personnel,” the minister hurriedly stated his identity.
“Esteemed wangfei was condescending to grant instruction to the Ministry of Revenue, not you. Why are you butting in?” she demanded coldly.
The Minister of Civil Personnel was rendered mute. He didn’t know how to reply besides cupping a bow with hands clasped. “Yes, this official was too indiscreet.” He was afraid that Han Yunxi would treat him like how she’d treated the Minister of Revenue. If he didn’t have a plan for that, he’d be ruined.
“Speaking out of turn. Someone come, box his ears!” Long Feiye suddenly ordered coldly.
The hall was quiet except for the sound of rain dripping off the eaves outside. A single droplet fell as soon as Long Feiye spoke, but made no sound. The silence in the room was almost frightening. The Minister of Civil Personnel shot a glance for help towards the clan head who’d pushed him out, only to see the man knit his brows at him. He was obviously unsatisfied with the results, but would just keep quiet.
Soon enough, the guards arrived. The Minister of Civil Personnel fell to his knees and apologized, “Esteemed wangfei, this official had a slip of the tongue and committed a breach of etiquette! May Your Excellency esteemed wangfei show generosity by sparing this official this once.”
Han Yunxi just waved a hand for the guards to dismiss them. The Minister of Civil Personnel exhaled a breath in relief. “Many thanks to esteemed wangfei!”
Baili Yuanlong only fretted as he watched from the sidelines. He feared that Han Yunxi wouldn’t be able to shoulder the consequences of the Duke of Qin’s favor and make herself a laughingstock in front of the other clan heads! Now that things had gotten so awkward, she needed to convince them fast before they sought to pay back what they’d been accused of. It had to be something they accepted and left them staring and speechless!
Han Yunxi said, “Plenty of top-tier natural resources will be smuggled out of the borders during the war between the three nations. These will either be exported to Northern Li or the south central regions. Here is the safest place and most suitable for a residence. Thus, these advantages will draw those exports towards us.”
As she continued, she asked seriously, “What do I mean by top-tier natural resources? Of course, it’s people and material goods. Let’s talk about the people first: who are they?”
The group looked at Han Yunxi with a mixture of curiosity and surprise. They didn’t really understand what she was talking about, but it sounded very interesting. Han Yunxi’s term “top-tier natural resources” was completely foreign to their ears.
Then, Han Yunxi went on to answer her own question, “The people would be talents from all trades and walks of life: farmers, herdsmen, weavers, bricklayers, metalworkers, woodworkers, physicians and pharmacists, wine brewers, tailors and dyers, potters, and all the rest. As craftsmen, they have no choice but to flee if they want to avoid the fighting, so they’ll head for the borders of the south central regions.”
Long Feiye’s lips were already curving up in appreciation as she spoke.
“And material goods? That would include precious and rare animals as well as various metals, stones, and antiques. Chaos births heroes, but treasures as well. These items will follow the fugitives on the run from their home into the south central regions, or be sold to us directly,” Han Yunxi continued. The group of old men nodded in agreement; all this was true.
“Instead of urgently recruiting men and horses, why doesn’t the Ministry of Revenue consider how to keep these top-tier resources within our lands instead? Seize the chance to use them well. How will you keep the treasures and talent to strengthen ourselves? Promote a hundred trades, because their growth forms the basis of any strong nation! A strong nation induces peace and makes itself a naturally formidable foe even without rising to arms!”
Silence greeted her words. You could hear a needle drop. Nobody expected the woman reclining lazily in the Duke of Qin’s lap to speak such things, much less the men present there today.
She’s not a wangfei at all. She has the talents of generals and ministers of state! A rare genius, at that! In the history of the Cloud Realm Continent, all countries debated between issuing troops or selling grain in times of war, but rarely had anyone considered the issue from Han Yunxi’s perspective. Long Feiye’s smile was extremely attractive as he finally released Han Yunxi’s waist. Still, he didn’t release her, but simply wrapped his hands around her so he could clap.
“Good! Most excellent! Esteemed wangfei is wise and brilliant! This soldier is filled with esteem!” Baili Yuanlong rejoiced as his heart settled back into his chest. Even if esteemed wangfei really is a femme fatale for His Highness, I’ll accept, comply, and submit!
“Lofty! Wise and brilliant indeed. It was right of us to come today, hehe!”
“Listening to esteemed wangfei’s words is better than studying ten years’ worth of books!”
“Esteemed wangfei, seeing you in person is much better than hearing of your name. Today, this old man has widened his perspectives.”
“Your Excellency Gao, esteemed wangfei has already pointed out a path for the Ministry of Revenue. You better think it over when you go back. If you dawdle too long and miss your chance, this old man will hold you accountable!”
“May esteemed wangfei condescend to instruct us again in the future, many times and often!”
The five clan heads had changed their attitudes completely. Of course, they didn’t forget the man behind Han Yunxi and flattered him, too. In total, the Six Ministries asked their share of questions, all of which Han Yunxi answered smoothly. Since she came from the present, her mind was full of the wisdom assembled after thousands of years. Although she was no expert in administering a country, her unique perspective and vision was far beyond what the present party could grasp.
The group finally broke up at noon. Long Feiye was in no mind to leave for lunch, so they were tactful enough to withdraw. During mealtime, Baili Yuanong found a pretext to invite Long Feiye into a side room.
“Your Highness’s insight is indeed indisputable. Esteemed wangfei--”
“Is there any other business?” Long Feiye asked coldly. Hadn’t he heard enough flattery this morning? He was already sick of it all.
Helpless, Baili Yuanlong could only get straight to the point, “Your Highness, it may still be too early to offend the power of the old established families.”
Although esteemed wangfei had convinced them thoroughly this morning, it was only with today’s talking topics. Her performance today would only dissatisfy and put them more on guard in the future.
“What, they’re still discontent after we’ve given them the Ministry of Civil Personnel, Revenue, Rites, Justice, and Works?” Long Feiye asked back. Right now, he neither had the time nor clout to change these families, but suppressing their arrogance with a warning was well within his means.
While Baili Yuanlong stood speechless, Long Feiye said coldly, “Baili Yuanlong, those men aren’t idiots! Before your lordship proclaims myself emperor and establishes a nation, they won’t dare to act rashly. Your lordship is simply reminding them to stop entertaining notions of striking back against Han Yunxi!” In the end, Long Feiye’s true motive in suppressing the clan heads was to have Han Yunxi show off her impressive might. She didn’t disappoint him today!
Back in the dining hall, Han Yunxi was chewing thoughtfully on her food when she saw the two men return. She hastily said, “General Baili, come join us for lunch.”
Baili Yuanlong didn’t have the nerve to share the same table as Long Feiye and made an excuse to leave. Han Yunxi was left bereft. Originally, she was hoping she could talk about some of the things that had happened in the commander-in-chief’s estate here. After all, it was hard to get into the details with outsiders around just then.
“Long Feiye, are you happy that I’ve offended all those clans back there?” Han Yunxi asked with a grin. Although she’d been praised all morning, she could see those men’s true faces behind their words.
“I am. How else can you show off your power without antagonizing them?” Long Feiye asked back.
She smiled helplessly in response. “Alright, fine. You win.” It wasn’t the first time her natural personality had offended someone else. Even if it wasn’t today, her status as Qin Wangfei would’ve displeased them sooner or later. What was the most glorious thing for a daughter of an old, established family? To marry into an imperial clan!
She, too, knew exactly what those old men were plotting.
“Long Feiye, it’s really not easy being...Qin Wangfei!” Han Yunxi sighed.
“Afraid?” Long Feiye asked.
“Comfort soldiers with generals and stem water with earth--I’ll do what’s necessary!” Han Yunxi didn’t hesitate.
Very pleased, Long Feiye spooned up some hot soup and fed it to her. She drank it in one gulp out of habit, long used to the motion. But the servant girls around them, who were serving His Highness Duke of Qin and esteemed wangfei for the first time, only felt their heart rate speed up even further from the sight. Heavens, this legendary ice-face duke really knows how to dote on a woman! They didn’t have the courage to feel jealous of Han Yunxi, only the spoon in his hand.
Long Feiye and Han Yunxi chatted as they ate. It had been too long since they had a chance to sit down and enjoy a leisurely meal.
“Find some time to clarify the situation with Pill Fiend Pharmacy and let go of Cloud Realm Trade Consortium,” Long Feiye said lightly.
“Ning Jing doesn’t have time to take care of the snow mountain deal with Northern Li. Even if they’ve settled on a deal, no one in the medical community will dare to use Cloud Realm Trade Consortium’s medicine for sale if someone reports the matter to Medical City.” Han Yunxi had a good grasp on the situation.
Long Feiye nodded. “There are three major agricultural districts in the south central regions, split up between its three prefectures. Jiangnan has four big grain regions as well that I wanted you to see, but Tang Li’s matters took up all our time. We can save it for an inspection tour of the south in the future instead.”
“I’ll be looking forward to it.” Han Yunxi had no objections.
After all these years in Cloud Realm Continent, she had grown a preference for the Jiangnan, or south. All of the continent’s beautiful scenery and tasty eats were concentrated here, so it was a wonderful place. Even Jiangnan’s Plum Blossom Sea didn’t count as the true “Jiangnan,” as it lay on the north, by the borders of Tianning proper.
“I estimate that custody of the seven agricultural regions can be handed over to the Ministry of Revenue. These are for you.” As Long Feiye spoke, he took out three thick account books, much to Han Yunxi’s bewilderment. Where did he get those from?
But when she flipped through the pages, she understood. These were none other than accounts of Long Feiye’s enterprises all across Cloud Realm Continent. All of them were big businesses, with over sixty percent of them concentrated in the south. Moreover, the majority of them centered around food and drink, inns, and private banks. They were supplemented by fertile farmland.
Han Yunxi finally understood where Long Feiye got his money. Although these couldn’t compare to Cloud Realm Trade Consortium, good management would make it a rival for the consortium in the future. She looked over the books before suddenly raising her head. “Hold it, Long Feiye. Are you saying you’re handing over all your accounts to me?”
This man…! First he makes me show my strength against the clan heads, then he gives me all his estates and properties. It feels like he’s preparing for something…