Chapter 430.1: Togetherness

Qin Yining’s expression grew somber at her visitors’ notification.

“Is the prince still in the palace?”

“He is,” replied Xu Weizhi. “Huzi accompanied the prince into the palace, so His Highness must’ve sent the man back on the sly to notify us in advance, so that we’re prepared.”

Qin Yining nodded in understanding. That was how her father conducted businesses of a more sensitive nature as well. 

Was the emperor pulling one of his tricks again by sending Pang Xiao on a disaster relief mission? That was the most concerning. 

The national treasury was dry; His Majesty’s private purse had little to spare. The destruction of the earthquake was so extensive that a large sum of silver was necessary for emergency relief! How would His Majesty manage to make that happen? 

Even the cleverest housewife couldn’t cook a meal without rice. 

Sure, Pang Xiao had the wherewithal to lead a disaster relief mission, but he couldn’t create something out of nothing. Wouldn’t the victims blame the prince if he failed to scrounge up enough silver for relief operations?

A foreboding sense of recall enveloped Qin Yining. Things were obviously proceeding to the same ending as the emperor defaulting on pay and provisions to the Valiant Tigers. 

Won’t my husband become the scapegoat if he ends up being short on money for assisting the disaster victims? 

“This doesn’t bode well.” Qin Yining rose and paced, speaking in a soft voice. “We can’t allow His Highness to be a sitting duck. It’s not that we don’t want to do something for the people, but we can’t simply leave the prince out on a limb. Sir Xie, Sir Xu, have you any more news?” 

The two strategists exchanged a look and Xie Yue elected to answer. 

“We do. The Lu second master is in the south and he wasn’t far from the old Great Yan capital when the earthquake struck. So it seems that he’s embroiled in the tragedy as well. Our spies were tipped off so they could preempt others, but the Lus must have been informed as well. I wonder how Patriarch Lu’s taking it.“ 

Qin Yining thought of that map that she’d haphazardly drawn. It happened to depict a desolate mountain north of the old Great Yan capital. That drawing was at best a piece of random doodles, and it’d been a move borne out of desperation, given the circumstances of that time. She’d anticipated that someone would take the bait. 

Who would’ve thought that the Lu second master would be there just when the earthquake struck. What poor luck!

It will be my fault if Lu Heng perishes!

All sorts of feelings welled up in Qin Yining’s heart.

Perceptive as they were, the pair of strategists immediately detected the subtle change in Qin Yining’s expression. They were reminded of the rumors and several incidents in the not-too-distant past, and how the Lu second master had always been drawn to the princess consort. Seeing how off Qin Yining’s expression was, they couldn’t help but wonder.  

The princess consort raised her eyes and saw the looks in her visitors’ gaze. Realization hit her. Amused, she revealed to them the truth with her randomly scribbled treasure map. 

“….that’s why I feel that I’d be responsible should anything happen to the Lu second master.” 

“I see.” Xu Weizhi grinned. “Your Highness need not worry. Even without the treasure map, the Lus would’ve sent someone to the old capital to hunt for clues. The Lus may have money to burn, but regardless, they don’t want His Majesty to get his hands on it. That’d be one less bit of leverage against him. They would travel to the old capital with or without the map. Natural disasters are impossible to predict, and it’s not as if you can command them at will.” 

“Even if that’s the truth, I still feel uneasy.” Qin Yining mulled over the news. “Ask someone to keep tabs on the Lus, now that things are the way they are.” 

“Understood. A scout’s already been sent.” The pair of strategists smiled in reply. 

At this very moment, someone returned with a message about a visitor needing a word with Xie Yue. The strategist stepped outside, quickly returning with another piece of news.

“Speak of the devil. Our scout’s returned with a report that Secretariat Lu heard about his grandson possibly being buried under the earthquake debris. He’s already paid His Majesty a visit to plead for help, though he’s supposed to be sick and recuperating at home.” 

Worrying her bottom lip, Qin Yining thought about the developments. “Secretariat Lu loves the Lu second master dearly. If he could travel down south to search for his grandson, he would oversee the relief mission for it. That’d relieve the prince of responsibility! His Highness can go with Secretariat Lu as his escort and that will be just fine.”

“Most certainly.” Xie Yue sighed. “But if the prince was put in charge of the mission, His Majesty would withhold Valiant Tigers from the prince’s deployment. He might assign a couple of hundred Dragon Riders from Prince Consort Ji, so he doesn’t run the risk of the prince stirring up trouble with renewed command of the Valiant Tigers.”

“His Majesty would naturally be wary. The prince’s military exploits and reputation among the troops are hard facts, after all.”  

As Qin Yining and her two visitors waited for updates, they also discussed the current affairs of court. 

Meanwhile it was deathly quiet in the morning court. 

The only audible presence was Li Qitian, who sat on the dragon throne rumbling commands. 

“There is no time to waste for the disaster relief mission in the south. Now that Great Yan has surrendered to Great Zhou, that swath of territory is now part of Great Zhou, and its people Great Zhou’s people! How can we stand on the sidelines and not lift a finger?” 

A few officials previously opposed to the relief mission were rendered speechless by His Majesty’s remarks.  

Yuchi Yan, who’d been a prop since the surrender, finally found his voice and stepped forward. He raised a cupped fist salute. “Your Majesty. This subject wishes to say something.”

“Oh? So it’s the Commandery Prince of Yan.” Li Qitian seemed uncharacteristically patient. “Please go ahead, beloved subject.” 

The emperor enunciated those “beloved subject” with excessive clarity.

If this was another time, Yuchi Yan would’ve cowered in a corner with a wan face after this round of humiliation. He’d be doing his best to stay invisible.

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etvolare's Thoughts

Y'know what, piss off already Li Qitian. All he cares about is rubbing his victory in the faces of others.