Chapter 400: A Decision

“Please rise first, Lu-gonggong.” The Qin patriarch politely helped the young eunuch up and had him sit down on a nearby round chair. He himself took a seat across from the servant. He looked down, a steady expression on his face and no hint of emotion on his face.

Little Lu fidgeted anxiously, unable to keep still at all. Sweat beaded his forehead before long and he stood. 

“Master Qin, you’re milord’s teacher and the one he trusts the most. Out of those of us from Great Yan, only you have the highest status. The emperor will have to show you some face if you say even a word. Only you can save His Highness.”

Qin Huaiyuan smiled but didn’t deny Little Lu’s words. 

“Tell me precisely what happened. There may be no danger to the commandery prince even after entering the palace. There might be a mission for the prince and princess consort, which is why they’ve been kept behind.”

Even more speculations than that flew furiously around in Qin Huaiyuan’s mind. He suspected that this had something to do with the Great Yan treasure.

When Li Qitian had investigated Yuchi Yan before, the emperor had sent people to keep an eye on Yuchi Yan. Inviting the commandery prince to the palace this time surely meant that important clues had emerged.

Though Yuchi Yan was the ruler of a dead nation, he was also her last emperor. Li Qitian was bound to hold the conviction that Yuchi Yan knew something that others did not.

However glorious Great Zhou might appear on the surface, the nation’s coffers were almost dry.

Though Qin Huaiyuan wasn’t in charge of the Ministry of Revenue or Office of the Paymaster, he could tell that Great Zhou was extremely short on funds. Preeminent aristocratic houses such as the Lus might shore up finances, but there was no free lunch in the world. Accepting Lu wealth meant ceding something equally important in return.

Therefore, Li Qitian had to get his hands on the treasure left by the Great Yan emperor emeritus.

With that kind of mindset, the future would grow dicey if seeds of suspicion about Yuchi Yan flourished in his mind.

The Qin patriarch’s quick mind flitted through all of this within the span of a breath.

“Little Lu, I understand what’s gone on here. I’ll do my best to save the commandery prince. Go back first and wait for news.”

The eunuch looked apprehensively at Qin Huaiyuan. He was truly afraid that the minister was just fobbing him off, wanting to send him away out of concern that he would refuse to leave.

However, he was just a lowly eunuch. He’d long lost the right to say anything in this nation, and had no self-confidence to question anyone.

There was no other recourse to him now other than trusting Qin Huaiyuan.

“Then I leave everything in Your Grace’s hands.” Little Lu knelt on the ground and respectfully kowtowed thrice. “Good things happen to those who do good works. Master Qin hasn’t forgotten the commandery prince nor turned your back on loyalty. Your family will undoubtedly see visitations of good fortune.”

Amused by the well wishes, Qin Huaiyuan smiled. “I understand your feelings. Go back now.”

“Understood, this servant will take his leave.” Little Lu bowed again before leaving reluctantly.

Qin Huaiyuan’s easygoing expression vanished without a trace as soon as the young eunuch disappeared. He took a seat back on the round chair, the nail of his right index finger tapping lightly on the teacup lid. No brilliant plan was immediately forthcoming in how he should handle this.

This pensive sight was the first thing to greet Qin Yining when she walked in through the doors. She put down a bowl of wood ear mushrooms stewed with lotus seeds and said with a smile, “Father, why not rest for a bit?”

Coming back to himself, the man laughed when he looked at his daughter. “I’m just staring off into space. What rest is there to be had?”

“If father doesn’t want to speak about it, does that mean it’s a very sticky situation?”

Qin Huaiyuan knew that it wasn’t easy to pull the wool over his daughter’s eyes. Besides, this had to do with the family and her future. He carefully outlined how Yuchi Yan, Li Yanyan, and Gu Chang hadn’t reemerged after being invited to the palace.

“Daughter Yi, you’re about to marry soon. If I become involved in this, it might drag into other affairs. I might affect your wedding.”

Understanding dawned on the girl. “Father, in your eyes, should you care about the safety of the Commandery Prince of Yan?”

“He was my liege once, and I his teacher. I feel that there’s no reason for me to be so cold-hearted as to watch him head to his death.”

“Then that’s the long and short of it.” Qin Yining smiled. “Just do things according to your heart, father. Don’t think so much. My marriage to Pang Zhixi is an imperial edict, something carved in stone. I’m not afraid of trouble and fear facing it with you even less. What else is there to be hesitant about?”

Her father smiled with gratification. His daughter really did follow in his footsteps! She had a dashing and optimistic personality clean of dirty, petty-minded schemes. She was a good, aboveboard child.

Seeing that her father remained silent, Qin Yining thought that he was still struggling with what to do. “Just do whatever you need to do, father, like how you advised me last time. I trust you as well. You’re smart and know how to judge a situation. I’m sure you know the bounds of propriety in whatever you do.

“We’re all from Great Yan after all, and Yuchi Yan has always treated you with courtesy. If we still look on without lifting a finger after Little Lu’s come to our door, even outsiders will find us too fickle and ungrateful, much less your conscience.”

Her father finally smiled. “I see. I’ll take care of this. You just relax and prepare for your wedding.”

“Understood. Any job is half done when father decides to take action!”

Qin Yining spoke a while longer before returning to her room and back to business at hand.

The next day, Qin Huaiyuan attended court as usual. The Qin fourth miss didn’t pay it any attention.

However, her father unexpectedly didn’t return home after the day’s session. His bodyservant reported back to the old dowager with a long face.

“His Majesty said he has urgent business to discuss with milord. Milord sent this humble one back to let the family know, and for Old Dowager not to worry.”

Qin Huaiyuan was an important official and often kept behind, so the family didn’t think too much of it when it happened again this time.

However, his absence stretched on for two more days. By now, the minister had spent two nights in the palace, but there was still no sign of him.

His bodyservant went back for news, but gleaned nothing at all.

“What to do, oh what do we do!” The old dowager cried anxiously. “What should we do if the emperor flies into a rage and hurts my son? Those in the palace have many ways of just silently killing someone!”

The rest of the womenfolk panicked as well when they saw their matriarch’s tears.

The second wife was already close to her delivery date; agitated emotions and fear pushed her to the brink. Seeking out shelter to birth her child, née Sun and the second madame entered her living quarter to help out.

The old dowager paced back and forth like ants on a hot pan, first worrying about her granddaughter-in-law, then more about her son. Qin Yining, the eighth miss, and Qin Huining stayed by their grandmother’s side in companionship.

At dawn of the next morning, the second wife gave birth to a boy of 3.6 kilograms. Qin Han bounded up in the air with joy when he heard.

But Qin Huaiyuan still didn’t come home.

Now it was Qin Yining’s turn to be truly worried. As she thought of possible plans in her room, Bingtang came in.

“Miss, Old Master Gu requests an audience.”

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