Chapter 333: Counter-Attack

“Appeal for imperial justice? Do you intend to sue the Northern Ji officials?” Apart from being shocked, the third elder master couldn’t really wrap his mind around the idea. He urged lowly, “This isn’t a good idea. They didn’t reveal themselves from beginning to end, and their men always had cloth wrapped around their faces. They didn’t let any clues slip. We have no evidence and are strictly going off of our analysis. How will we win our lawsuit?”

The second elder master stroked his beard and smiled with a shake of his head. “Third brother, you’re being silly. Since we have no evidence, how would niece Yi sue them?”

The third elder master wasn’t a fool; he’d simply been too shocked moments ago. He understood what his niece intended to do after some quick thought and looked worryingly at Qin Yining. 

“Niece Yi, third uncle understands what you want to do. But this won’t be good for your reputation…”

“Third uncle, it’s been a rough and bumpy road since I’ve returned home. I’ve experienced a lot, and my reputation was no more the moment I set off for war negotiations with father. And who knows what the people say about me, given how the Faithful Prince of the First Rank and the now-Commandery Prince of Yan treated me?”

Qin Yining smiled wryly. “My reputation is what it is. It doesn’t matter if it’s ‘ruined’ or not. If our family can be plucked from this mess, it’s no big deal to sacrifice just a single me. The winds and tides of the Great Zhou court are capricious and treacherous. Everything is very complicated. Our family has no foundations in Great Zhou and no backer. It’ll be hard enough to keep the family in one piece—what remaining energy do we have for a power struggle between those two factions?”

One would often achieve exactly the opposite effect if only the facts of the situation were laid out and logic the only tool employed. The other party would never do what the speaker wanted then.

The most effective negotiation tactic was to have the other party understand how much they stood to gain from what should be done. Using tangible benefits to guide the other party down the desired path was most optimal. 

Indeed, the two Qin men looked at Qin Yining with gratification. They’d wanted her to enter the palace on the family’s behalf. Now that they’d thought things through, they wanted her to refuse, also on the family’s behalf. 

It was an injustice to her no matter how they cut it.

“Niece Yi, if we really do this, I’m afraid it’ll affect your future marriage.” The second elder master was an upright individual and Qin Yining was his junior. He clearly laid out the pros and cons of what she wanted to do.

Qin Yining smiled gratefully. “Second uncle, I understand your concerns. But who can remain safe when family and home is ruined? Only when the Qin clan prospers will I do so as well. Besides, when my uncles rise in the world, how will you possibly just look on if I can’t find a husband then?”

Infected by her playful smile, the second elder master grinned as well. He sighed as he promised, “Don’t worry, I know how much you’ve done for the family already. Due to consideration of family safety, this time you’re sacrificing a glorious future in the palace and ruining your own reputation. I remember everything you’ve done. All of your matters are second uncle’s matters in the future as well.”

“That’s right, your third uncle may not be skilled in much else, but I’m decent enough at business. You won’t go hungry in the future as long as I have even a bite to eat,” promised the third elder master too.

Not all girls could withstand the temptation of fortune and grandeur beckoning right at them. There were countless examples of girls sacrificing family and relationships when it came to their own future.

The Qin men sighed when they thought of this.

Qin Yining knew that she’d managed to convince them to draw the same battle lines as her. She heaved a sigh of relief.

Whether it was for the Qins’ future or because she’d promised Pang Xiao she wouldn’t leave him, she really couldn’t enter the palace at this time. Now that she’d reached an understanding with her uncles, she wouldn’t be fighting a lonely battle when it came to her family. 

The womenfolk didn’t understand her thoughts and she wouldn’t be able to change their minds by herself. But with her uncles also present, sooner or later, the old dowager and others would come around.

Having made a decision, she further discussed the detailed with her uncles. 

She finally sighed when wrapping things up. “Alright then, just leave it to me, uncles. Don’t show yourselves too often in this matter.”

The Qin men wouldn’t feel easy leaving this in just anyone else’s hands, but Qin Yining had always been dependable. Both nodded after momentary consideration.

The girl rose to send them off, running into the ‘unreasonable and rude’ butler along the way. Fully carrying out the act, the Qin men further confirmed that Qin Yining no longer enjoyed Pang Xiao’s favor.

The two left sighing and shaking their heads.

Qin Yining took Jiyun and Bingtang back to Snowtrace Garden with her, carefully going over everything that had happened. She quietly wrote down what she was planning to do.

Court wasn’t dismissed until very late today.

It wasn’t until after the sun had set that a serving girl came with a message. “His Highness has returned and wishes you to serve tea in the study.”

The Qin fourth miss immediately understood that Pang Xiao must have something he wanted to discuss. She hurried to the outer study.

Xu Weizhi and Xie Yue were also on their way in. The two parties greeted each other and entered the study together.

Pang Xiao had Huzi arrange for a guard outside.

“Everyone, please sit down.” The prince smiled.

Her eyes sparkling, Qin Yining dimpled back. “Your Highness is in high spirits. You must’ve successfully joined the council.”

Her merry eyes brought and answering smile to Pang Xiao’s face. “It’s all thanks to your wonderful plan.”

“So Your Highness has resolved this crisis?” Xie Yue asked excitedly. “Hurry and tell us, Your Highness! What happened at court today?”

Pang Xiao was in a great mood and started his story with a grin.

As it turned out, Li Qitian had summarized Pang Xiao’s achievements in conquering Great Yan at the start of the grand court session. He closed out the remarks with compliments and, “We are extraordinarily delighted that the Faithful Prince of the First Rank has pacified the south and thus bestow…”

A Northern Ji official interrupted loudly before the rewards could be announced.

Li Qitian was very irritated at being cut off at the height of his enthusiasm, but there was an image of a reasonable, wise monarch who listened to his subjects to uphold. He naturally wouldn’t stop an official from speaking, so swallowed the rest of his words and asked about the interruption.

This particular official was someone of mediocre status in the Northern Ji faction. Yet today, he’d cast off his customary prudent caution and loudly impeached Grand Secretary of the Hall of Preserving Harmony, Zhou Min!

Zhou Min was the father of the empress and a solid Li Qitian supporter. As a royal father-in-law and the Secondary Grand Secretary, he’d already been tapped as the next leader of the Grand Secretariat. He’d be able to take his new position as soon as it was vacated.

Used to coasting proudly through the days, it was mind boggling that someone would want to impeach him at the grand court session!

Rendered completely senseless, so too was Li Qitian absolutely baffled.

Before the two could recover, the Northern Ji officials who’d gotten word that “the emperor wants to sweep all Northern Ji influence out of the council” jumped out in squads, tag-teaming all of Zhou Min’s heinous crimes.

There were ten combined counts of grand felonies such as embezzlement, disregard of imperial authority, and treasonous intentions. The rest ran the gamut from disrespecting elders to carrying off women to causing others to commit suicide from showing lack of mercy. There was even an uproar over the fact that the patterns embroidered on his underwear violated regulations!

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etvolare's Thoughts

333! What a lovely number. Can't wait to get to 666 heh.

I ROFLed at the underwear charge. These old guys really know how to throw down! Too bad we didn't get a detailed recounting of that conversation, it would've been so much fun to translate!