Chapter 245: Heavily Injured
“But how can this be! My father is planning on fracturing the nation?!”
Qin Huaiyuan shook his head.
Beads of sweat trickled down from Weichi Yan’s forehead; he grew more disappointed and terrified the more he thought about it. He charged forward and grabbed for his teacher’s hand.
“Can it be that royal father gave up hope on Great Yan a long time ago, which is why he gave the throne to me? He would have me be the emperor of a dying nation while he bleeds the treasury dry. By taking the veteran officials of the various departments, he could then move the capital down south and start the nation anew?”
Qin Huaiyuan finally nodded and whispered, “Please keep your voice down, Your Majesty.”
Color had long since drained from the faces of the palace servants who’d heard all this and they ducked their heads, trying to minimize their existence as much as possible.
But Weichi Yan paid no heed to the reminder. He remained frozen where he was, stunned.
“Laughable, how laughable this all is!” Choked chuckles sounded after a long while. “Did We take the throne to be the ruler of a dying nation?”
“Please calm yourself, Your Majesty.” Qin Huaiyuan could understand it if Weichi Yan lost momentary control of his emotions due to shock. But it was inappropriate to be so impacted. “You don’t need to think about all this now, Your Majesty. You’ve stopped the emperor emeritus from leaving, and our most important task now is to find out where the silver is. Otherwise, we’ll be locked in a bitter stalemate with the Valiant Tigers. Setting aside the complete lack of benefits to us in a drawn-out conflict, life will be very difficult for the refugees created by war.”
Weichi Yan was still overcome by sorrow. He wasn’t listening to the marquis at all as he shuffled distractedly back to the palace.
Qin Huaiyuan frowned, sighed, then chased after the emperor. “Your Majesty, consider investigating those who were going to leave with the former emperor. Maybe some of them know where the money is.”
News of the emperor emeritus almost leaving the capital with his confidantes soon made their way into Qin Yining’s ears. She looked downwards at the eight-sided table as she played with the lid of a white porcelain teacup. She put the lid down with a crisp ding after a moment.
“The old fart’s never done anything good in his life. He’s too brainless and too selfish. Even if he doesn’t know to be on the same team with the new emperor at this point in time, he should at least know that he shouldn’t drag everyone down. But isn’t he something! All he thinks about is being emperor in a new place, but can’t seem to understand that if the country perishes, no one can enjoy freedom and independence.”
“Indeed. You often say that the new emperor doesn’t have enough political acumen, miss.” Jiyun refilled her mistress’ cup. “But I say that not only does the former emperor lack political smarts, he’s completely lacking in morals as well.”
“Don’t let the miss fret over this. Not only do you guys not know to talk her down, but you encourage her in getting worked up!” Bingtang walked in with a frown and ready-brewed medicine. “You haven’t fully recovered yet, and here you are distressed about all this. Do you think losing all that blood is no big deal? There will definitely be a scar left on your shoulder. I don’t know if my medicine will be able to smooth it all away. Now that you have the chance to meditate and reflect, you should take advantage of this to rest up. Don’t dwell so much on outside matters.”
“Yes yes yes. I’ll do everything you say, Doctor Tang.” Qin Yining had developed a healthy fear of Bingtang’s bitter medicines over the past couple of days.
Even though the Qin fourth miss wasn’t a picky eater and didn’t mind bitter things, several days of routine medicine, acupuncture, Bingtang’s stern face and constant nagging had enlightened Qin Yining on how unwise it was for a patient to offend a doctor.
When they saw their mistress’ fearful and resigned demeanor, Jiyun and Qiulu burst out laughing. Even Bingtang was teased into smiling.
The group was chatting away when a patter of rushed footsteps sounded outside.
“Honored master! Is the master inside?” A low, man’s voice called out.
Qin Yining wasn’t yet used to her new title and responded belatedly, her eyes blinking rapidly, “Who is it?”
“In response to Master Xuan Su, chaos reigns in the city. Please close the doors and shutter the windows tightly. Stay inside and don’t go out no matter what.” The imperial guards had their orders to protect Qin Yining. They naturally didn’t want anything to happen to her and wanted to earn some credit with her as well.
“What chaos? What’s going on?” The news greatly took her aback.
“In response to Master Xuan Su, apparently the Prince of Ning’s fallen into little Prince Pang’s trap. Most of his troops of ten thousand were either killed or captured. Our prince is also heavily injured and has been brought back into town for treatment. The citizens grew alarmed and took to the streets when they heard about this because they’re still grateful to the prince for clearing away the old emperor.
“But somehow, news of the old emperor selling off the tax grain spread. This caused even more trouble and many are queuing up at any shops selling food. They’re worried that we’ll run out of food soon!”
Qin Yining looked down and thought for a moment. “Thank you for your efforts, you’ve done well.” She cast a glance at Bingtang.
The maid understood immediately and exited the residence to give the guard a hefty pouch.
“We’ll have to trouble you to keep my mistress safe in the future.”
“The honored master is too kind. Then I’ll be taking my leave.” The guard jaunted off cheerily. He’d shown himself in front of Qin Yining, been complimented, and received a decent payout for his efforts.
But it was a different picture within the residence. Who would be left in Great Yan to lead the troops if anything happened to the Prince of Ning? It would be the fall of a mountain if he was out of commission!
News of the former emperor embezzling all of the national treasury, and even selling off the tax grain, would be a further catalyst for panic during these precarious times. The people would make a grain run on all of the stores, which in turn would encourage the merchants to raise their prices.
Those who concerned about living would pay no heed to the prices and seek to stockpile grain at all costs. As that happened, stores of grain in the city would be slowly depleted.
The current situation of the capital was that of being eyed by the Valiant Tigers, water to the rear and potential gaps to the south for people to easily escape through. But purchasing more food would be very difficult. And having take in one round of tax grain, the next round of rations would come at a high monetary cost.
The national treasury was empty to begin with. What could it bring out to feed three hundred thousand troops?
Qin Yining closed her eyes with a sigh. “The situation does look pretty bad. Bingtang, you have some history with the Prince of Ning. Why don’t you go look in on him and see what you can do?”
Bingtang had been hesitating earlier, wondering if her mistress would allow her to go visit the prince. The miss was Pang Xiao’s fiancé after all, and the prince had met with his injuries at Pang Xiao’s hands. The two were enemies.
But now, the maid felt that she’d been too narrow-minded.
“Understood, thank you, miss.”
“We’re a family, what are you thanking me for? Take two guards with you and be on your way. Tell the prince that I’m under imperial orders to stay in the residence and can’t pay him a visit. Please tell him to take care of himself.”
“I will.” Bingtang left with her medicine kit and explained the purpose of her trip to the guards at the door. She rushed off with two guards in tow, plummeting Qin Yining’s mood with her departure.
The Qin fourth miss was deathly afraid of something happening to the prince. But sometimes, what one fears the most is the matter to come visiting.
The next day, Bingtang came back with eyes puffy from crying.
“Miss, I’m afraid this is it for the Prince of Ning! He was in a feverish stupor when I left. His many blade and arrow wounds are infected and his fever won’t break. When I got there yesterday, he boasted proudly to me on how he gave little Prince Pang as good as he got. But come nightfall, he fell delirious and we can’t get any water or rice into him today. Miss, I’m, I’m really afraid!”
Qin Yining understood that Bingtang had a relationship with the Prince of Ning. It’d been the prince who’d stretched out a helping hand to the girl after the Tangs fell. He’d shouldered awful criticism and misunderstanding to keep Bingtang safely by his side.
If it hadn’t been for the Prince of Ning, Bingtang would’ve never escaped pursuit from the Caos. The Caos were used to doing absolutely anything and everything they wanted. The trampress had once steamed and eaten human flesh; it was entirely possible that they would’ve skinned Bingtang alive and pulled out all of her tendons if they’d gotten their hands on her.
Though the Prince of Ning was an unbridled and domineering sort, and rather lascivious, he still had a keen sense of what was right or wrong. He was only probably the only one who could lead the troops into battle against Great Zhou, so chaos was going to grip the armies if anything happened to him!
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