“That much??” exclaimed Qin Yining with surprise. “I remember we spent a lot of silver back then, but so much income is still really surprising.”
“That much indeed. When we bought the farms, they were selling for less than a third of their usual going price. No one fathomed that Great Zhou’s takeover would be so peaceful. There was no looting or raiding, and definitely none of the city-wide massacres that everyone was so terrified of. We’re familiar with the prince and so could analyze a thing or two about the future, but the people couldn’t.”
Steward Zhong burst out in laughter when his thoughts travelled here. “Not only are our farms striking it rich, but so is the prince from the storefronts we pawned off on him!”
Qin Yining nodded slightly, deep in thought. She was actually feeling a bit guilty from profiting off of a national disaster. It felt like she’d taken advantage of the commoners.
The steward could guess at her thoughts when he noted her expression. He sighed. “Miss, you’re too kindhearted. With how things were back then, everyone was starving and our country and homes would be lost any day. You bought their land so that they would have some silver to flee with, no?”
“That may be the case, but I still feel like I’ve unfairly taken advantage of them.”
“Not at all. You didn’t force them to sell their homes or land. They voluntarily sold it cheaply because they wanted to make a quick exit. If you hadn’t bought their land, they might not have gotten a single silver for it. They would’ve just left their homes behind and ran.
“And when Great Zhou took over things, unclaimed property would be confiscated by the new government anyways. Even if the people returned home then, they wouldn’t have any farms of their own to work on. With us being the landowners, at least we can hire them and give them a job.”
Qin Yining blinked, forced to admit that the steward was right.
“Those who haven’t starved to death have mostly returned to the old Yan capital by now. They have no homes, land, or jobs. I employed many of them to work on our farms—that’s also giving them a future.”
Qin Yining sighed and then smiled with an open mind. “What’s done is done, there’s no point in thinking about it now. Let’s take only seventy percent of this year’s produce. Leave thirty percent to them so that everyone can rest and recover.”
Steward Zhong was highly taken aback. “Miss, thirty percent for each household is a large sum in total!”
“I know.” The Qin fourth miss was back to sighing. “But there’s always money to be made. As much as I can earn, it’s all just a number in the end, isn’t it? Leaving thirty percent for each household won’t affect my foundations at all, but it will relieve so many burdens for all of them. We were all once fellow Great Yan citizens. Let me do what I can for them.”
The steward stared at Qin Yining for a long while before responding. “The miss is highly moral and righteous. This old man is overcome with admiration.” He rose to bow to his employer.
“Oh not at all. No matter what I do, I still rely on you to carry it out.” Qin Yining rose to return the gesture. “I actually do have a use for silver in the Great Zhou capital.”
“Please speak of it, miss.” Steward Zhong adjusted his collar sternly and sat down ramrod straight.
The girl smiled. “I’m sure you’ve heard of what happened on our way here. The old dowager of my family and others lost all of the silver they brought with them. Though my third uncle is a businessman, his businesses are far away and they don’t seem to turn a large profit.
“Therefore, I’d like to secretly purchase a residence. I’d like for the deed to be held by someone unrelated to me for now, and have it turned over to my father when he returns. The family will have a place to live then. The prince has actually already filtered several locations for me, but so much has happened in recent days that I haven’t had time to go look at them.”
“Don’t worry, miss. I’ll take care of this for you.” Her trusted employee was silent for a moment. “The rumors outside say that you… and the prince…”
“Don’t worry, we’re still the same as before. We have to bow to the circumstances in some things, but you can trust him.”
The confirmation set the older man’s heart at ease. He heaved a long sigh of relief. “That’s good, that’s very good!”
He’d witnessed with his own eyes how the two lovebirds had slowly ended up together. The couple cared for each other so deeply and was quite a good match! It would be such a shame if certain factors of reality forced them apart.
The two talked for a while longer before a married servant came to convey that food was ready.
Qin Yining took her meal with the Zhongs, Lu Dehan, and Liu Jiu’er. The group chatted idly for a while after. Before she returned to the inns, the Qin fourth miss also imparted that the steward could seek out Xie Yue or Xu Weizhi at Pang Manor to send word to the prince.
The steward made his way to Pang Manor the next day.
Pang Xiao introduced Steward Zhong to his two right-hand men, saying, “This is Zhong Yucheng, darling Yi’s trusted man.”
Xie Yue and Xu Weizhi bowed courteously to the steward, their attitudes circumspect and cautious.
The steward had learned from Qin Yining that these two were the prince’s most trusted strategists. From their attitudes towards him, he could tell that his employer commanded high regard from the two.
He politely returned their gestures.
Over the next few days, Steward Zhong and Xie Yue went out to tour the manors. Out of the three possibilities, he chose one that was two houses deep on the eastern side of town. Upon purchase, he made the deed out in Lu Dehan’s name.
As for Qin Yining, she used the excuse of buying silk thread to take a look for herself one day. The location being optimal, it only needed minor renovations before the family could move in. She had craftsman focus on the inside for now. The outside could be taken care of in the next year.
As time passed, there was still no word of Qin Huaiyuan, née Sun, or Cao Yuqing.
The Qin fourth miss grew steadily more worried. Who knew if her father’s kidnappers would do something to them after she botched the imperial selection?
The five convoys of surrendered Yan officials had all made it to the capital by now. The welcoming inns and residences around them were crammed full of former Yan subjects and their families—uncomfortably so.
However, Li Qitian only told the Ministry of Personnel and Rites to treat the newcomers well. Those who wanted to purchase their own manors could do so. If they didn’t want to and didn’t mind the guest inns, they were welcome to stay put. Of course, those with the silver to do so were also free to seek accommodation elsewhere.
With the surge in population, taverns and restaurants saw a corresponding boom in business.
But, the emperor refrained from bestowing titles and positions. Everyone was just twiddling their thumbs, waiting.
When it was new year’s eve, blisters formed on the corners of Qin Yining’s lips because she was so worried about her father. Her mouth full of cold sores, it hurt to take even a sip of water.
Pang Xiao made use of midnight to jump through the window and visit his beloved. He found her propping her chin up next to the embroidered lamp, the hard-fought, slight roundedness to her cheeks completely gone.
“What happened to you?” he asked with heartache. “Have you not eaten these days?”
Qin Yining jumped from the sudden voice and glared at him before blowing out the lamp. This way, his silhouette wouldn’t be highlighted on the window.
“I haven’t been able to eat,” she whispered back. “I’m so worried about my parents. I had a nightmare last night that the kidnappers killed them. It startled me awake and I haven’t been able to sleep since.”
Pang Xiao sighed. “Don’t worry, father-in-law is surely alright. My guess is that he’s actually not in the hands of kidnappers. He hasn’t returned yet for his own reasons.”Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Ohh?? Anyone guess that QHY wasn't actually kidnapped? Pats all around for you!