Chapter 403: Counterattack (I)

The girl sighed with a noncommittal smile. 

“I can tell that His Majesty values the prince highly. After all, the prince is a founding member of the dynasty! He enjoys quite a bit of prestige in the army. The emperor won’t do anything to the prince, if only out of consideration for imperial reputation. You worry too much, Old Master Gu.”

The response so irked the old official that a knot of words stuck in his chest. Even when right, a scholar could never win an argument against a soldier!

People described the daughter of Qin Huaiyuan as brave, decisive, and intelligent, that she had a uniquely keen eye for politics.

It now seemed that the rumors were false. They’d probably been circulated in an attempt to curry favor with that stinking Qin Huaiyuan! His daughter was just an ordinary, foolish girl who couldn’t even see the crux of such dangerous circumstances.

The old man analyzed the situation for the Qin fourth miss with a solemn expression. “Miss Qin, you shouldn’t be too simple or naive in this. The emperor’s wariness of the Faithful Prince of the First Rank is more than readily apparent. It may not be obvious to you because you don’t normally pay much attention to what happens at court.

“This old man feels that the treasure would be wasted in the hands of any other. If in the future, it helps the prince due to being in your hands, then that would be like gifting a treasured sword to a hero.

“Besides, don’t forget that even with the imperial decree, the old feud of Minister Qin dooming the prince’s father will still exist. With this treasure in your pocket, you’ll be able to stand up straighter after entering the Pang manor doors.”

The old official’s analysis seemed highly logical and rational; each and every single word was out of consideration for Qin Yining’s future.

The senior official is truly an old hand at playing with people’s hearts! She’d likely already believe him if she was any ordinary girl.

It’d always been her perspective that everyone relied on their own skills and talent in finding their own place at court. Open plotting and underhanded schemes were all very normal.

But Gu Shixiong was willing to drag the innocent Qins and an unmarried girl into his plans, all in the name of reaching his goals!

Even if these actions stemmed out of loyalty to his old nation, they still induced contempt from Qin Yining.

“You are very right, but I’m afraid that this little girl will have to disappoint Old Master Gu. I am sympathetic, but truly have no way to help.” The fourth miss curtsied in apology.

The old official’s wizened eyes dimmed when he met the girl’s resolute expression.

Despair truly descended at this time.

Everyone was out for their own gain and cared only about their own safety. No one cared at all about rebuilding Great Yan. Was he to stand by and watch the only legitimate bloodline of his nation be cruelly injured?

Gu Shixiong slumped against the round chair, shaking his head with resignation.

“If you don’t help me, then there really is no one who can save the Commandery Prince of Yan,” murmured the old man.

Qin Yining seemed unable to bear the old official’s helplessness. She compressed her lips in momentary thought. “Old Master Gu, don’t panic yet. Listen to me first.”

The old man lifted his eyes to look at Qin Yining.

“You don’t necessarily have to come to me. As an unmarried girl, the only person I can rely on is my father. My father isn’t home and my future in-laws are ambivalent towards me. Who can I entreat at this time?

“I feel that you should reach out to those with the ability to help. Think about it, who else has the ability to go toe-to-toe against the emperor in the capital?”

Gu Shixiong sat upright and looked down in thought. Inspiration struck.

“Do you mean the Lu clan?”

The girl smiled without a response, but for Gu Shixiong, it felt as if the walls had shifted in the dead end in front of him, revealing a bright avenue leading off into the distance.

“The Lus are a good choice indeed.”

There was none other in the capital who could oppose the emperor with such strength. The power of House Lu was not to be underestimated.

Hope flourished anew in the old official’s heart, but he shook his head with resignation after a moment. “But, what if the Lu moral character doesn’t pass muster? If they take the treasure but still don’t help the commandery prince—what then?”

The Qin fourth miss flashed a smile. “Old Master Gu is too closely involved to see clearly. When you came to me, weren’t you also worried that I would do nothing after taking the treasure?”

That response provided another stroke of enlightenment.

Indeed, whether it was the Lus or Qin Yining, either party could possibly take the treasure for themselves and then send the old official away.

Seen in that light, what difference was there in seeking help from the Lus compared to Qin Yining?

As inadequate as the Lus might be, at least they could call the shots for themselves.

Meanwhile, a mere woman like Qin Yining would still have to look to Pang Xiao for help after obtaining the treasure. In light of that comparison, it was better to seek out the Lus directly for help.

“Your words make sense, but I have no relationship with the Lus. There are no doors for me to bring my petition to. Why would they see me, and why should they believe me?”

Qin Yining took a deep look at Gu Shixiong, seeming to make up her mind after a while. “We are both of Great Yan. I find myself compelled to act at this point. Well then. Jiyun.”

The girl turned back to her guard. “Go fetch the box I placed in the bottom of that cabinet.”

Jiyun murmured her assent and backed out of the room, returning before long with the box that her mistress had prepared beforehand.

Qin Yining put the box on the side table and pushed it over to the old official.

“Old Master Gu, to be honest, I have some connections with the second official young master of their house. Take this token with you to see him. He will absolutely help you once he sees it.”

The old official picked up the wooden box to find that it was completely nailed shut. There was no way of opening it.

“What is in the box, pray tell?”

“Don’t open it yourself, Old Master Gu. The Lu second master will be able to open it, and he’ll help you when he sees the token. I’m just a weak girl, and this is all the help that I can offer to you.”

Gu Shixiong knew that there was nothing else that could be done after hearing this. Offering his thanks to the Qin fourth miss, he stowed the box away and rushed back home.

The Gu Manor was very far away from the residence of the Commandery Prince of Yan; it was an abode only two houses deep. It had been bestowed unto Gu Shixiong as a display of imperial benevolence, seeing that the old official had served three emperors.

He hastily summoned servants after setting foot through the door. “Quickly now, go find out where the Lu second master is at this very moment.”

His confidante hastily scurried off to carry out his orders. 

A response was quickly forthcoming. “In response to milord, the Minister of Military Affairs is out for an inspection tour of the Division of the Three Thousand. The Lu second master has gone with Minister Cheng to the division’s camp outside of the city.”

Gu Shixiong thought for a bit and handed the box to his confidante. “Take this token with you to the division. Ask for an audience with Lu Heng and say that I have urgent business to discuss with him.”

“Understood!” The confidante bowed solemnly before taking his leave. He’d only taken a few steps when his master called him to a halt.

“Wait, I should go myself to show the depths of my sincerity. Just you alone won’t show enough significance. Prepare the carriage for me.”

The confidante ran off to prepare the vehicle after seeing how serious Gu Shixiong was.

Fifteen minutes later, the old official was sitting in a galloping carriage, hugging the wooden box to himself.

His heart on afire with worry for the commandery prince, but he gradually calmed down after the carriage was halfway to its destination point.

The more he thought about it, the more things seemed off.

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etvolare's Thoughts

Ohhhhhh? And what seems off, pray tell?

Full list of presents for the ROS 400 giveaway is up! Pins galore (two designs of etvo!), washi tape galore, dimsum erasers, tea-scented oil blotting paper, a cross stitch wooden Christmas ornament — what Qin Yining is doing for her wedding, bookmarks, and adorable post-it’s.

Three entries are in so far, so there's plenty more to go around!