Chapter 187: Livid with Anger
Naturally, everyone understood that she meant Concubine Cao. Although they didn’t know Cao Yuqing’s real identity, the fact that she was Grand Preceptor Cao’s daughter wouldn’t change.
The third elder master nodded. “Don’t worry. All of us are keeping that in mind.”
It’d only been two days, but Qin Yining had established clear order in the inner residence. Not only did she have a firm handle on all matters, but more importantly, she had unified the hearts of the womenfolk.
Panic had descended on the family when disaster befell Qin Huaiyuan. Even the men were apprehensive, much less the women. They were all anxious that they were about to follow the Suns’ footsteps. Who knew that Qin Yining would have everything under control with a few simple moves? None of the womenfolk were carrying-on or causing a fuss, and their mindsets had even solidified against a common enemy.
There was nothing about the fourth miss that the third elder master didn’t like now. Look at her bearing, sensibleness, perception of court affairs, and utter flair in handling things. He sighed mournfully that he didn’t have a daughter like her.
Qin Yining took her leave after discussions had been concluded. Grand Steward Zhong happened to arrive at this point and the two were able to carefully go over the miss’ plan.
“…the valuable plants and animals, furniture and decorations, as well as paintings and calligraphy… basically, sell everything that can be sold. We can use this sum of silver as seed money. Make sure to thoroughly record the refugees’ names, place of birth, whether or not they can read, previous profession, and what they’re most skilled at.
“The men should all be sent to wood chopping and house building for now. I can only supply a large plot of land. It’s up to them to make shelters. Thankfully, there’s no shortage of wood or water on Eternal Spring Mountain.
“The women can do embroidery and work in the kitchens. Two meals will be provided a day. Breakfast will be multi-grain porridge, flat bread, and pickled vegetables. Lunch can be provided appropriately. Those doing hard labor can receive two extra pieces of bread.”
Qin Yining cocked her head in thought. “And the children, make sure we make a detailed register of them and their health. Children are frail and we’re in the middle of a blazing summer. Water is becoming scarce because of the drought. It’s also tough to say if any will contract disease during their flee to safety. We need to pay attention to see if any of the children fall sick.
“Make sure we take down if any of the children can read and write. Children below ten should receive some extra rations of meat. Since it’s the mountain, anyone who can hunt can add to their plate.”
“Understood. This is a very thorough plan, miss. I think their own system will form naturally after these general guidelines are put in place. Also, I think we should become friendly with the local gangsters. There might be some refugees who cause trouble. If they do, we can ask the gangsters to be villains and stomp on the troublemakers. And, we should form a firefighting team, one that will make daily patrols. We’re in the mountains, after all,” Steward Zhong added.
Qin Yining nodded rapidly. “Those are great ideas, Grand Steward. Essentially, we should do the best we can since we’ve decided to help them. We’re preventing them from starving to death, but not live such a good life that they become lazy. With Steward Zhong at the helm, I think it’s even possible that some of them become our helpers in the future.”
The steward finally fully understood Qin Yining’s plan. His eyes sparkled at the miss. “You’re killing three birds with one stone, miss! You’re selling the items in the residence that the Great Zhou prince gifted you and turning it into a refugee shelter to one, save the Marquis of Anping and the Qins; second, to defuse some of the resentment against you because of the prince and win praise; and third, to raise a group of helpers foremost loyal to you!”
“I’m actually not thinking that much.” Qin Yining was embarrassed. “I just want to save my father. Anything else is additional gain.”
“What additional gain? It’s all because you’re a good person, miss! This is karma!”
“What karma. I just want my father and family to be safe. I wonder how much suffering father’s enduring in the cells.” Qin Yining was frowning ferociously again.
“Don’t worry, miss. I’ve already thought of a way to pass things inside.”
Qin Yining started and flashed a gratified smile. “Thank you for your effort, Steward Zhong! Apologies for putting you in a risky position.”
“Now what kind of words are those, miss? The Institute has a wide network. This was easily taken care of with a bit of silver and flapping some lips. It was nothing.” Steward Zhong waved off the thanks with a broad grin.
The answer brought an answering smile to Qin Yining’s face. “There’s something else I wanted to talk to you about. Things are very chaotic at court these days. You might want to think of a back-up plan. You have a large family, after all.”
Who’d ever seen a mistress worry about her servants’ safety? A sincere smile crossed Steward Zhong’s face. “Right, don’t worry, miss. I’ll make the proper arrangements. Besides, I have sons. I can leave all that to them. I should spend most of my attention on our important matters.”
“I’ve very grateful for your efforts.” Qin Yining thanked with exceedingly polite tones.
The two chatted for a while longer before the grand steward excused him to go back to the day’s work.
Qin Yining had done everything she could do. She exhaled relaxedly. She just needed to wait for good results now.
The steward was strikingly efficient and an expert at using the right people. Thanks to his many helpers, much of the valuables within Ning Park found new homes after two days, resulting in a sum that was five times the value of all of the Institute’s assets.
Steward Zhong clucked his tongue as he counted the money and went over the accounts. The Faithful Prince of First Rank really went to huge effort to please the owner!
What he didn’t know was that Grand Preceptor Cao had initially gifted the residence to the Tatar princess, who’d in turn gifted it to Pang Xiao. Pang Xiao had only regifted it to Qin Yining. So all of these transactions were a sale of Cao assets! It was an unanticipated conversion of Cao silver to Qin Yining’s pockets.
Steward Zhong naturally didn’t know how furious Grand Preceptor Cao was. When he heard that the Qins were gaining a good name due to selling the valuables in Ning Park for the refugees, the grand preceptor almost fainted from the rush of blood to his head. Qin Huaiyuan’s an old fox and Qin Yining a young one! Both of them should die!
He’d just regained his position and his place in the emperor’s heart was far from before. But all the same, he’d been seized with glee when he saw Qin Huaiyuan stripped of his court robes and thrown into the dungeons.
“It serves Qin Meng right to end up like this!” Grand Preceptor Cao chuckled lowly and toyed leisurely with a blue and white porcelain teacup lid. “I’d once thought that we could form an alliance after he became my son-in-law. A marriage always draws families closer, and we would’ve been able to help each other at court. If the Caos were allied with the Qins, we would truly be unstoppable. Who would be able to shake our foundations then? But Qin Meng completely refused to listen to me and was even the first to jump out against me. What a complete and utter fool who didn’t understand the favor he had!”
Off to the side, the empress was dressed in bright red court robes, a silk wrap draped around her, and a gold dangle swaying with each movement of her lowered head. The effect further highlighted the daintiness of her face. She tapped the table with lacquered nails and care pensively, “It’s not that this seat is over thinking things, but you need to exercise great effort in this matter, father.
"Maybe the emperor already knew of our connection with the Tatars, given his request to have you contact them. I’ve been uneasy by the emperor’s side these days. I’m worried that he’s discovered something and is keeping it to himself for now. It really troubles me.”
“Your Majesty speaks truly,” the grand preceptor agreed. “But don’t fret too much. With Great Zhou’s armies threatening our borders, the emperor has to rely on me. I know what I’m doing with the Tatars.”
“That’s good. I’ll pay attention to the emperor’s mood and try to sway him at appropriate times. But that slut Qin Yining really needs to die! How dare she use father’s things to win favors and a good name for herself? And those idiotic peasants don’t even think of who those things used to belong to!” The empress gnashed her teeth.
“That little bitch was born to be a thorn in my side! She sheltered the damn Tang girl, builds a close relationship with Pang, protects the unlucky Sun widows, and now even openly challenges us! I wasn’t able to slice and dice her last time because the Soothsayer tricked me, but are we supposed to just let her have her way like this??”