Chapter 170: The Soothsayer (I)
Five thousand taels was a large sum. Even someone as highly ranked as Qin Huaiyuan only received a monthly stipend of eighty. Five thousand silver in the hands of an ordinary person would more than feed them for their entire life.
Who knew how Steward Zhong managed it, but he rushed back in less than an hour and handed over notes from a private bank. They could be redeemed in both Great Yan and Great Zhou. The smallest denomination was worth a hundred taels, the largest a thousand. They made up a thick stack of legal tender.
Qin Yining put away the notes carefully. “Mark these down on my personal accounts. This is quite a large expenditure, so let’s think of a way to fill in the hole later, after we survive the crisis at hand.”
“No need to worry, miss. Everything else is a small affair as long as we’re still alive. Besides, the Institute is yours to begin with, so what you say goes.” The steward smiled broadly.
Qin Yining smiled back and nodded approvingly. The steward was highly competent, but not a miserly sort of character. The Ding Manor had an eye for talent. Although her grandmother’s gift had elicited anger from the Caos over Tang Meng, it was also a tremendous addition of wealth. She’d be an ordinary noble girl otherwise, and could probably only run away if she was facing a trampress who wanted to eat her.
She sighed and perked back up. “One more thing that I need you to do for me, Grand Steward.”
The girl murmured a few words by the steward’s ear, causing the man’s face to light up as he applauded.
“Wonderful, good plan, miss! The emperor won’t be able to find an excuse to do anything to you now no matter what the trampress says!”
“Precisely my goal. Then I leave this in your hands, Grand Steward. I need to make a trip out of the city to the Celestial Nunnery and set a few things in motion.”
The steward’s eyes were gleaming with admiration. “Miss, you want to… Good. Good! You are truly unparalleled when it comes to strategy and wits. It is my honor to follow you!”
“Not at all. It’s my great fortune that I have people like you by my side.”
The steward’s face with red from the praise and he humbly raised cupped hands. “I’ll have someone prepare the carriage immediately. You should set out now, miss. We should finish things as fast as possible. Don’t worry, everything you’ve put me in charge of will be done when you return from the nunnery.”
“Then I thank you for your troubles.” Qin Yining quickly pulled Bingtang and Jiyun into the carriage after thanking the steward. She had the groom whip the horse into greater speed as they made for the nunnery with great haste.
The Qin fourth miss kept her eyes closed for some rest within the carriage, while Jiyun and Bingtang were both livid after learning that the trampress wanted to eat their miss. Both had extremely murderous expressions on their faces.
“That bitch Cao Yurou!” Bingtang spat out through grit teeth. “I hope she rots in hell! Curses on eighteen generations of her forefathers! I’m going to make a voodoo doll of her after this and stick her to death!”
Jiyun took out a whistle from the collar folds of her outfit and blew hard on it. The whistle cut crisply through the air with a shrill note, like a bird’s call.
Qin Yining opened her eyes and looked curiously at the maid. A gray, downy messenger pigeon landed on the open carriage window before long. Jiyun had already written a note with a thin brush and tied it carefully to the pigeon’s leg. She shook her hand and sent the bird flapping back up into the sky.
“Are you reporting this to the prince, Jiyun?”
“Yes, miss. His Highness left orders that I was to tell him anything major that happened. Although the miss is smart and quick-witted, there will be occasions in which you need help. I may have strong martial arts skills, but I’m afraid that they’ll try everything and anything now that they’ve decided to hurt you.” Jiyun responded carefully, seemingly afraid that Qin Yining would be upset about her actions.
However, the fourth miss nodded understandingly. Pang Xiao’s starting point was out of consideration for her, and Jiyun was his to command. Even though Jiyun was serving at her side at the moment, that was just to execute a mission. The maid’s mission was to keep Qin Yining safe, and not follow her every order.
She closed her eyes and leaned once more against the carriage walls to rest. The four hour journey passed by in a bleary jostling of wakefulness and drowsiness. It was the hour of the monkey when they arrived at the Celestial Nunnery.  The verdant green of the mountain was dappled with bright sunlight, imparting a few more wisps of ethereality to the nunnery.
Qin Yining had the groom park the carriage with care and started climbing the stairs, tugging Bingtang in her wake. Jiyun had been worried that a noble girl would quickly run out of energy, but her mistress reached the top of the mountain without a change in expression. It was rather Bingtang who huffed and puffed, planting her hands on her waist to pant for air.
Five young nuns were cleaning the limestone tiles in front of the main door with gourd ladles splashing out water from wooden buckets. They looked over when they noticed their visitors and exclaimed in surprise when they saw Bingtang.
“Blessings from the almighty gods. Isn’t it senior Jing Zhen?”
“It’s me.” Bingtang smiled in greeting. “Is our honored master in?”
“Yes, yes she is.” A young nun looked at Qin Yining and Jiyun, quickly making an inviting gesture. “Please come this way.”
Compared to the scenes of winter desolation, the nunnery was now covered with the green of new growth. The meditation room had been renovated as well. Everything brimmed with the vitality of burgeoning development.
Qin Yining’s group made their way to the side yard and waited only a moment before the young nun amiably showed them to Priestess Liu’s quarters. The Qin fourth miss was quite familiar with this residence. It was here that Pang Xiao had taken an arrow in his shoulder in order to save her. The familiar steps and walls evoked images of the prince’s handsome face.
Priestess Liu was standing beneath the covered hallway, her hands raised upwards in the folded Taoist manner. “Great fortune from the almighty gods. This humble nun has not properly greeted Miss Qin’s wondrous arrival. I hope you do not fault me for it.”
“How would I ever? Long time no see, but the priestess remains as healthy as ever.” Qin Yining smiled with a half curtsey.
“All is well, thanks to the miss’ fortunes.” The priestess swept a gaze across the girl’s face. “But Miss Qin looks like she might soon experience a disaster of blood?”
Bingtang and Jiyun’s expressions changed drastically. The former quickly ran up to pull at the priestess’ hand. “Master, you’re so amazing. Please save the miss!”
Priestess Liu stroked Bingtang’s head lovingly. “Jing Zhen, you’re as impetuous as ever. Since Miss Qin has come to the nunnery, that means the hands of fate have brought us together.” She stepped to the side. “I have prepared tea. Would you like to try some, Miss Qin?”
“Many thanks.” The girl turned to her maids. “You two can wait outside.”
The maids nodded as Priestess Liu also dismissed her people.
Qin Yining followed her host inside and took a seat at the square table. Priestess Liu picked up a Yixing clay teapot and personally poured her visitor a cup of tea. “Miss Qin must come with a request today. Please, speak.”
“There’s no need to talk in circles before a wise person.” Qin Yining smiled. “Priestess Liu has a miraculous touch and knows that I’ll likely lose my life this time if I don’t do anything.”
She placed a thick stack of notes on the table, gluing the priestess’ eyes to the dazzling sight.
“Miss Qin, this…?”
“Priestess Liu, you are the Soothsayer from now on.” The stack was slowly pushed in front of the priestess.
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