Chapter 177: Loans
Qin Yining changed the topic when she saw that the maid was finally smiling.
“Third cousin’s wedding is next month. I’m thinking of gifting her a set of Beauty Works rouge and powder. She normally shies away from conflicts and treats me quite well, so I’d like to ask you to create a rose-scented set for her.”
Third miss Qin Jianing was very partial to the fragrance of roses and had once spoke admiringly of Beauty Works’ rose-scented ointment. Outsiders didn’t know that Qin Yining had invested in Beauty Works, and the fourth miss wasn’t the type to spread the information around, but she naturally wouldn’t be stingy when her own sister mentioned it.
“That’s nothing,” Bingtang smiled. “The third miss is a nice person, I’ll take care of this personally. I see that you’re almost out of jasmine lotion as well, miss. I’ll make more for you too. You have some more scabs on your hand… you can’t be like this next time, miss. A girl’s skin is quite tender, and scabs can’t always be gotten rid of. You need to bring a weapon along next time you beat someone up!”
Qin Yining burst out laughing. “What kind of words are these? I’m not always beating people up.”
“That’s not necessarily true. Who can stop you when you’re really angry, miss?” Bingtang teased happily.
Songlan, Qiulu, and Jiyun started giggling as well. The atmosphere within the house lightened. Qin Yining’s resolve to kill the trampress grew even stronger as she looked around at the pretty, charming girls loyal to her. She couldn’t just sit here passively and wait for disaster to fall or the blade to be at her throat before she took action. Once was enough of that!
Qin Huaiyuan’s position was now domineeringly unparalleled. Not only was he a prime minister, Grand Preceptor to the Heir Apparent, Marquis of Anping because of the successful peace talks, but he was also the soon-to-be father-in-law to the Faithful Prince of the First Rank. Who basked in greater glory than him? Who boasted of higher honors than him?
Qin Huaiyuan’s increased status brought up everyone’s as well. Apart from Qin Yining’s identity as the official daughter of the Marquis of Anping, she also had the Faithful Prince of the First Rank’s tag on her. The Soothsayer had also said that she was an exceedingly fortuitous person who could safeguard the peace of Great Yan.
Not only did Great Yan nobility not dare run afoul of the prince by asking for her hand in marriage, but her position in the capital was also higher than that of other noble girls. It was a given that the old dowager and her cousins were polite to her, but that favorable attention extended to née Sun as well. Cao Yuqing on the other hand, was quiet for a long time because of the empress torturing Consort Shu and Honored Concubine Xiang to death.
Anping Manor was courted by all these days. Even Qin Jianing, from the third branch of the family, stood in the shared halo of attention. She was wed on the twenty-eighth day of the fifth month.
It was a wedding between Qin Huaiyuan’s niece from his male relations to the son of the Earl of Jianan. Both houses were wealthy aristocrats, and the marquis a very low profile character. His peers ordinarily couldn’t find any opportunity to curry favor, so everyone who was someone made use of this chance to show their face.
The Qins saw such a heretofore unknown amount of hustle and bustle that the old dowager couldn’t stop smiling for days. Née Sun, the second and third madame were busy with attending to the guests as well, smiling so much that their facial muscles almost spasmed.
The third elder master was concubine born and a commoner to boot, so he was immensely gratified to see such a grand to-do with his daughter’s wedding. He felt a great deal of appreciation towards his senior brother and went off merrily to mix and mingle when the wedding carriage left the Anping Manor doors that evening. The third madame however, stayed beneath the covered hallway, wiping tears away.
Eighth miss Qin Baoning, ninth master Qin Xuan, and tenth master Qin Rong clustered around their official mother in comfort when they noted her distress. Née Sun and the second madame also joined to comfort the third madame.
When everything was finally taken care of, née Sun held Qin Yining’s hand with great emotion. “My darling Yi is growing up as well. It’s your coming-of-age ceremony next month. It’s only been the blink of an eye, but you’re already a lady and can marry, which means there will be less time for you to spend by my side.”
Having added to the third miss’ festivities today, née Sun was reminded of when she came of age, the fall of her family, and how her mother and sisters-in-law were far removed from her now. Tears spun in her eyes when she thought of how Qin Yining would also leave her one day, like a sparrow that’d grown up.
The girl clasped née Sun’s hand and soothed, “Don’t worry mother, although I haven’t spent much time by your side, the days are long ahead of us.”
“Ah yes, the days are indeed long.” Née Sun patted Qin Yining’s hand comfortingly.
After her edge had been dulled, Née Sun was now able to see many things clearly and was markedly different from her previous stubborn, hot-tempered self.
Qin Yining was introduced to her new third cousin-in-law on the day the new couple were to visit the wife’s family. She and the second master of the Jianan Manor made their acquaintances, the latter giving a red envelope to the Qin fourth miss. She was finally at ease when she noted the faint smile always playing around the third miss’ face. Qin Jianing was newly attired in the outfit of a married woman.
For families like theirs, marriages always had to do with politics and profits. Her third sister seemed happy enough. With the wedding over, the manor returned to normalcy.
Summer was almost over, and the large transactions that Qin Yining had Steward Zhong conduct were starting to bear fruit.
“Miss, your idea was wonderful. Quite a few people have used their houses as collateral for loans in which we collect three percent interest. With the Institute’s reputation, we’ve actually taken business away from many of the loan sharks out there. I never thought before that making loans would be a way to earn money!”
“Don’t you joke, Steward Zhong. I haven’t seen much of the world and have only a few ideas to earn money fast. If it wasn’t for your stellar abilities, what use would a mere idea be?” Qin Yining held back her pale-blue, wide chiffon sleeve with one hand and picked up the teapot, pouring the jade-colored tea into a cup embossed inside with carp frolicking amongst lotuses. She handed the cup over to the steward, startling the man with the show of attention.
Steward Zhong stammered out his thanks to Qin Yining’s slight smile. The fourth miss picked up a fan painted with a cat chasing after butterflies. Some wisps of hair mischievously stuck to her cheeks, which drew her absentminded attention as she swept them behind an ear.
“Our Institute of Luminous Charm bears the imperial mark, after all. The emperor and empress have absolutely no rhyme or reason to their actions, and I’ve been able to find out that the emperor definitely desires to make the Institute his own. It was one of the reasons why he so easily destroyed the Duke of Ding’s household. But he can’t do anything now due to considerations of face, my father’s status, and those previous rumors. However, I don’t think he’ll give up on this, so we should hurry and make money while we can, while the winds are calm.”
Steward Zhong easily followed Qin Yining’s line of thought. He nodded. “I understand your meaning, miss. Don’t worry, I’ll smooth over what we’re earning so no one will discover it on our books. We’re making a lot of money from short term, large sum loans, so we’d actually attract hate from others if we spread news of this around. This was something to stay a secret anyhow.”
“That’s good.” Qin Yining smiled slightly and waved the fan absentmindedly, her eyes looking out past the half-opened window to the little girls under the covered hallway across the way. Their hair was hanging loose and they were playing jacks. The girls’ innocent and delighted laughter was infectious, deepening the smile on the fourth miss’ face.
“My foster mother played this with me when I was young. She collected some apricot pits and sewed a small bean bag. We’d pick up one pit the first time, two the second, three the third… when our hands were full, we’d throw all the pits into the air and catch them on the backs on our hands. My hand was small then and couldn’t hold the same amount as my foster mother. I promised myself that I would win when I grew up, but who would’ve thought that she’d pass on before I could grow up?”
Steward Zhong sighed. “Your foster mother must’ve been one exceedingly gentle and kind woman.”
“Yes, yes she was. But good people always have a hard life in times like these. We live in troubled times and so many have no homes to live in. But when the Great Zhou army threatens our city walls, the capital still makes merry and leads an opulent life.”
“It’s the trash emperor setting the tone at the top. He doesn’t know how to do much, but is highly skilled at harming loyal subjects. He’s blind to the suffering of the people, but keeps a sharp eye on which subject is stealing his thunder. With such an emperor, corrupt officials feel at ease with what they’re doing.”
Qin Yining shook her head. “Everything looks peaceful now, but the successful negotiations safeguarded the wealth and riches of only a portion. The people still suffer.”
Steward Zhong sighed again when he heard this. He’d seen much of the world and experienced plenty. Although he hadn’t led as tough a life as Qin Yining, he’d seen the ghost towns and malnourished corpses lining ditches after many years of war. There’d also been little rain since summer started, so signs of drought were appearing in many places. The people’s lives would become even more difficult then.
“It’s a pity that my abilities are limited.” Qin Yining shook her head. “I don’t have the strength to extend virtue into the world. Sometimes I want to beg the heavens to open its eyes and just take the trash emperor and trampress away from us.”
“Ai! Isn’t that so! As opposed to hoping for the trash emperor to come to his senses, it’d be faster to have him enter the cycle of reincarnation! That’s probably what the people think as well, but we can’t say this outside. We need to be careful above all else. There’s been three teachers arrested already, under charges that their teachings harbor thoughts of rebellion.”
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