Chapter 247: Petitioning the Heavens (II)
“Ten taels of silver is enough to buy an acre of rich fields! Are the merchants crazy?! This is daylight robbery!”
The guard was likewise huffy. “Those knavish merchants are definitely blackhearted! Who can afford to eat rice at ten taels of silver per half kilogram? Rumors are everywhere that the former emperor sold off the stored and tax grain, robbed the nation’s coffers dry, and stashed all the money in an unknown location.
“Both the army and the people are panicking. They think that we’ll run out of food soon and no one can afford the merchants’ prices. This is why they thought of you, honored master. You’re the holy girl ordained by the Soothsayer herself, the one who can protect the country, the one personally anointed by the emperor. You can talk to the gods, so the people want you to ask the gods if we’ll make it through this crisis.”
The more Qin Yining heard, the deeper the furrows on her forehead became. She could feel a future migraine throbbing already.
She wasn’t some sort of ‘holy girl’ at all! She’d turned herself into a talisman back in the day because she’d been out of ideas to save herself. Who knew things would turn out this way? Not only had she been forced to become a nun, but she been upgraded to the ridiculous title of ‘holy girl’, and she couldn’t deny or resist any of this!
Ask the gods?
If she could, would she need to stay in this gilded cage?
Expecting her to suddenly sprout a gilded tongue and commune with the gods was expecting a donkey to dance!
“Miss, what are you going to do?” Jiyun was rather worried. “This is very tricky. The emperor himself bestowed your title. If you don’t make an appearance, you’ll end up deeply offending the emperor. But if you don’t do a good job after meeting the people, it’ll be bad for your own reputation.”
Of course the miss knew all that, but what could she do at the moment? She was caught between a rock and a hard place. She’d never thought that a ploy to prevent herself from being eaten would cause this sort of disaster for her later.
“Don’t announce my presence. I’m going to sneak a peek and then decide.”
The guard outside the window immediately assented.
Qin Yining rose, still holding Riceball, and went downstairs with Jiyun and Qiulu.
The white marble platform offered a view of the foot of the mountain. All of the lights in the main hall at the bottom of the mountain were lit and reflected in the lake’s waters. Even when one was physically located at the peak of the mountain, it was easy enough to imagine just how luminous and magnificent the main hall must be. Surely it was as beautiful as a palace of the immortals.
As her gaze travelled across the lake and to the outside, only the restless shifting of a dense mass of heads could be glimpsed. They were too far away for her to make out words, but the faint buzz of conversation was audible all the same.
“It’s past curfew, but the people refuse to leave. This is more than a ready sign of how chaotic things are within the city. Men from the Warden’s Office are all congregated at the doors.”
“You’re very right, honored master. The Warden’s Office has indeed sent men to guard the doors, but no one’s listening to them. They can’t really make a move against the people either. That would cause an even bigger disturbance. They don’t know what to do at the moment.” The guard was also worried by the situation outside.
“Miss, what will you do with so many people?” Qiulu asked.
What should she do? Receive them? Don’t receive them?
The people wouldn’t leave even if she ignored them. And even if it hadn’t been her original intentions, she was now a holy girl to them.
But if she did receive them, what kind of answer could she give them? She couldn’t make any decisions, so what could she do?
“Let me think about this.” Qin Yining pursed her lips and sank into deep thought.
Jiyun and Qiulu didn’t dare interrupt her train of thought. They stood meekly to the side, occasionally shooing away an errant mosquito with a wave of the velvet fan.
At the same time in the Marquis of An Manor, Qin Huaiyuan shot to his feet when he heard Qitai’s report. He circled several times in place like headless fly. “Bad, this is bad!”
“Indeed, milord. Xuan Su Temple has been surrounded by tens of thousands of people. If the situation isn’t handled properly, they might just charge in! As skilled as the imperial guards posted there might be, how many will they be able to restrain by themselves? Thousands of people will be able to stampede right over them!”
“Is there any movement from the Ning Manor? Is the emperor still there?”
“The emperor has already returned to the palace and the Prince of Ning is still unconscious.”
A tight furrow crossed Qin Huaiyuan’s forehead. Behind his back, his hands balled into fists.
If this matter wasn’t handled appropriately, it really could turn into a public grievance and result in Qin Yining’s death. And even if the crowd’s mood didn’t turn ugly, a ruined reputation for Qin Yining might turn into something that Great Zhou and the Tatars could make use of or other complications.
“Ready the carriage, let’s go to the royal residence. We can’t just sit here at home. Let’s go check out the situation.”
“Understood.” Qitai quickly ran off to prepare the carriage.
The marquis hastily changed clothes and bumped into his brothers when leaving. They’d all heard of the commoners surrounding the royal residence and were worried that something might happen to their niece.
All three set off together.
In the carriage, the three men discussed in low tones what measures should be taken. Qin Huaiyuan had a plan in mind, but he hadn’t been able to coordinate with Qin Yining beforehand, so their hands were tied. The men broke out in a cold sweat from anxiety.
The closer they drew to the residence, the thicker the crowd was. In the end, the three men had to proceed on foot.
They followed the flow of the crowd, surrounded on all sides with panicked trepidation. Some were discussing in low tones, others cursing loudly. There were also the sounds of women crying softly. Qin Huaiyuan’s emotions grew even more agitated when experiencing this.
Clouds of war had loomed over the capital for more than a day or two. Continued years of conscription as well as the former trash emperor’s various tyrannical policies and predatory practices had meted out endless days of hopelessness to the people in the capital. Citizens living elsewhere could only be worse off.
A hero who’d cleaned house had finally appeared, turning the trampress into a human candle and forcing the trash emperor to abdicate. The new emperor seemed so very congenial and willing to listen to the people. He’d set aside his beloved girl for the people and even assigned a royal residence as her quarters.
The people had just started to feel that rays of hope were dawning in their lives when news spread of the Prince of Ning being injured. The national coffers and royal treasury were empty, and the former emperor had sold off the tax grain!
The merchants were now setting half a kilogram of grain at a price ten taels, further confirming the reality that there was no grain to be had in the country’s warehouses.
Who on earth could afford to spent ten taels of silver for a few mouthfuls of rice?
A drought, war, and soon to descend starvation — enormous fear shrouded the capital, driving away the citizens’ wariness of the Wardens’ Office. Everyone was going to die in the end anyways, so who cared about a curfew?
Qin Huaiyuan pursed his lips. He knew that the people were placing all of their hopes on the ‘holy girl’ who could safeguard Great Yan’s fortunes.
When people lost faith and hope in everyday life, they would turn to religion instead for succor. This was why Taoism was so popular and why Buddhism flourished.
In the face of oppression from war, the people’s faith naturally lay with the ‘holy girl’ who could secure the nation’s safety. They were reassured and the emperor have a tremendous load taken off his shoulders.
But all that pressure would land squarely on his daughter! And if mishandled, the holy girl would become the great conman of their age. She might even end up in worse straits than the trampress!
Cold fright gripped the marquis. He sweated all over and his limbs were clammy despite it being a hot summer’s day. He’d never thought that this would be how things would end up.
He detested his own helplessness like nothing he had ever before. He fervently wished that he could sprout wings and fly to his daughter’s side so that they could discuss what to do.
Qin Huaiyuan and his brothers were here early, as evidenced by the countless people crowding behind them. They’d reached the door of the main hall by now. Someone was calling out an announcement.
“Master Xuan Su has heard of everyone gathering here with questions to ask. She will be making a special appearance and has already arrived in the great hall.
“I must remind everyone to not push or shove when the doors are opened in a moment. Please enter in an orderly fashion. There’s limited space within the temple and we’re unable to host too many. Thus, whatever the honored master says today will be passed on to those outside. Please don’t worry or be in a rush. You’ll be able to hear the master’s words whether inside or outside the door.”
Another man repeated the speaker’s words as soon as the announcement was over. Yet more people distilled the announcement down into easy catchphrases.
“Don’t push! Avoid stepping on others!”
“Master Xuan Su is a holy girl! Don’t barge into the holy girl!”
“Please enter the temple in an orderly fashion!”
Qin Huaiyuan and his brothers exchanged glances, slightly more at ease about the situation and headed inside with the crowd.
Previous Chapter Next Chapter