“Do you remember my residence on Eternal Spring Mountain, third uncle?” A maid immediately appeared to pour tea when Qin Yining took a seat.
“How would I not? There are so many precious flora and fauna in your residence. It’s as opulent as an imperial park and as ethereal as an immortal’s palace. It’s more impressive than your neighbor, the empress’ Oft Spring Garden. The most valuable thing in it is the hot spring…” The third elder master suddenly stopped and tilted his head, perplexed. “Niece Yi, why do you mention that residence?”
Qin Yining dimpled. “I’m planning on selling all of the exotic plants and animals in it, and the costly decorations and furniture inside the house. I’m going to trade all of them in for silver and put up the refugees in it.”
The third elder master was flabbergasted. “Niece Yi. Isn’t that park… I mean, it’s too much of a pity if the park is dismantled for money like this! You don’t need to do this.”
Qin Yu however, was frowning in deep thought. “Fourth sister, are you trying to influence public opinion?”
“Precisely.” Qin Yining’s smile deepened.
The third elder master understood his niece’s proposed plan. News of the emperor’s actions would spread quickly. The marquis was well beloved by the citizenry, so they were sure to be angered by this move. But when the victims reacted with selling all precious items in a valuable park to support the refugees that the government couldn’t take care of, public voice would grow even louder. The emperor wouldn’t do anything to Qin Huaiyuan if he cared about face at all.
Qin Han understood the intricacies now as well but still fretted. “Your idea is good, but our emperor is shameless. He could disgrace himself before by exterminating the steadfastly loyal Suns. Will he let senior uncle off easily now?”
“The situation seems similar, but it’s not.” Qin Yining thought carefully before responding cautiously. “The emperor executed all the males on my maternal grandfather’s side because of the Great Zhou emperor’s letter. Propaganda was plastered all over the streets about his displeasure with not obtaining Sun Yu’s brains, and his intention to take our emperor’s life as compensation.
"Our emperor was afraid that Great Zhou would send assassinations after him, which is why he immediately executed all the Sun males to placate Great Zhou. As for the rumors that’d swirled about ou emperor hoping for lessened anger and peace, I think all of that was nonsense. Our emperor is concerned about his own life first and country second.”
“You’re very right.” Qin Han nodded.
“Even though war has broken out again, with our emperor’s character, he’ll still continue living in the lap of luxury as long as the blade isn’t resting on his neck. The sense of danger isn’t as strong as before. So when public opinion turns against him and gives him pressure, he’ll be unhappy and possibly humiliated, but won’t kill my father just yet.” Qin Yining’s analysis drew intent gazes from the third elder master, Qin Han, and Qin Yu.
“Despite the emperor using Grand Preceptor Cao again, he’s still wary of the grand preceptor. We can see that from the emperor making heavy use of my father before. The emperor is only forced to rely on the grand preceptor because he wants to use the connection with the Tatars to lessen Great Zhou’s pressure on us. However, within court, only my father has the ability to counter the Caos. This is why there hasn’t been an imperial decree issued to execute my father. Instead, he’s just been grounded to the cells for self-reflection, and no interrogation has taken place either.”
The third elder master nodded repeatedly. To think that Qin Yining would have such a clear head for dissecting the affairs of state. She even knew about the relationship between the Tatars and Grand Preceptor Cao!
But this was only to be anticipated since the third elder master wasn’t a court official. His brain power and abilities were fully invested in running the Qin family businesses. He didn’t have anything else to spare for current affairs, so taking in Qin Yining’s analysis seemed to be a jolt of enlightenment.
“So this means that creating some positive public opinion will indeed help big brother.”
“That’s what I think, but I’m not sure if my thoughts are right,” Qin Yining responded. “I just think that with public pressure, the emperor will surely ease the punishment since he still clings to the idea of a good reputation. Besides, he still has to use father to counter the Caos.”
“I think fourth sister’s idea will work.” Qin Han agreed enthusiastically.
Qin Yu tended to think more and was less of the sort to give suggestions directly. But after careful thought, he too nodded in agreement that Qin Yining’s plan made sense.
The third elder master rose to pace a few rounds and finally clapped his hands.
“Alright! Let’s do it this way then!” After careful thought, not only would this plan save Qin Huaiyuan, but it might even be useful to save the entire family in the future. The two elder masters had gotten used to relying on Qin Huaiyuan, so the absence of such a decision-maker was very uncomfortable. They had to get their big brother out of the dungeons first!
“Niece Yi, what are your plans for the refugees?”
The girl mused for a moment. “I’ll have people tell them that there are paying jobs at Ning Park. Whoever wants to go can go. I think that for people whose lives hang by a thread, it’s enough that they have a job, food to eat, and a roof over their heads.”
“So you don’t plan on putting them up for free.” The third elder master was surprised by the revelation.
Qin Yining was in turn startled by the reaction. “I’m just doing charity, not being their parents. Why would I put them up for free?”
Her uncle applauded loudly with a bark of laughter. “Good, good! You’re not overly concerned with building a good name for yourself, niece! Just like your third uncle! Hahaha!”
Qin Yining chuckled. “Since my third uncle and brothers think this will work, I’ll have people on it immediately.”
“Let me know how much silver you need for what you want to do.”
The fourth miss shook her head with a smile. “Third uncle, just to be safe, I’m not planning on using family silver. A small thought also occurred to me that I want to pass on. Perhaps you’d like to keep a close eye on the family business and set up a way out for everyone. Just in case.”
“Are you saying…”
“We shouldn’t have all of our eggs in one basket.” Qin Yining smiled faintly. “Don’t worry, third uncle. I don’t mean anything else by it. As for the refugees, if the plan works, say it was a family effort. If the emperor gets angry, then say it was my idea. I’ll discuss this plan with the grand steward of the Institute of Luminous Charm. I don’t plan on using any family resources in this.”
“Niece Yi…” The third elder master was so touched that his eyes grew hot.
Qin Yu also cast a contemplative look at his cousin. He was most concerned with self-preservation and his face burned when he saw how much a little girl was taking onto her shoulders. And in comparison to their uncle’s gratification and his older cousin’s shame, Qin Han laughed heartily in good humor.
“Alright! We’ll follow your plan, fourth sister.” He rose decisively. “We’re family, so let’s forgo empty pleasantries. Let me know whatever you need, fourth sister. Although I’m not the sharpest, I’m still good for errands!”
Qin Yining was closer with Qin Han and loved a forthright, warm hearted personality like his. Their closeness stemmed from the care he’d shown her on the initial journey home. So she responded candidly, “Thank you for your good intentions, second brother. But truly, if you don’t have anything pressing to do in the coming days, you should probably reduce the number of times you leave home.”
The girl turned to her uncle and other cousin. “There are plenty of eyes on us these days. Any small mistake we make can possibly be magnified. You’re men and so there are bound to be even more eyes on you when you walk around outside. It’ll be slightly better for me, a girl. But all of us need to be careful, even when we’re talking to each other at home. Don’t forget about that one.”