The new knowledge took Qin Yining aback. “You’ve set everything up already?”
“Aye. When we set out, I worried that we might lose all contact with the outside world. We’d be left in the dark if that happened, and with our eyes blindfolded at the mercy of others. So I sent some men to father-in-law. He’s highly intelligent and knows when to send information to me. He’s in charge of scrounging up information that my men deliver, so that we always have insight into the most reliable information from the capital.”
Qin Yining was floored. Hidden somewhere in this whole thing was her father’s signature. “When did you consult my father? I never knew!”
“Truth be told, it was father-in-law’s idea to begin with. I didn’t think of it until he broached the topic. He really is something else, my dear. He’s meticulous, anticipates challenges, and makes plans as such. In all honesty, all of my strategists combined are no match for him.”
Qin Yining could discern the genuine sincerity in Pang Xiao’s admiration. He wasn’t saying this on purpose to lull her into a happier mood.
Qin Huaiyuan was a good father and deserving of the illustrious reputation of “Wise Pan An.” For Qin Yining, her father had always been a source of pride and the strongest shield at her back that enabled her to move onward.
Take their trip for example. Her assurance was rooted in the knowledge that the Qins and the Pangs would fare just fine as long as her father was around.
“I saw you met with father all the time before we set out.” Qin Yining grinned. “So it turns out the two of you put your heads together to come up with all of these arrangements and kept me in the dark. What a conspiracy!”
“Nonsense. What conspiracy is there?” Pang Xiao’s own mood was much improved after putting his beloved in lighter spirits.
They burned the secret message and discussed further in a low voice.
Setting aside other business for the day, the couple partook a simple supper of watery porridge and called it an early night.
This was their first real bed in a long while. Fatigued by the travel, Qin Yining was fast asleep as soon as her head hit the pillow.
Given how hale and hearty he was, long journeys were a walk in the park to Pang Xiao, which was why he found himself bursting with energy still. But his wife was a warm ball of softness next to him, inspiring him to exercise extra caution when cradling her. There was simply no other room for indecent thoughts.
It was a night of deep sleep and good dreams.
Early next morning, Pang Xiao headed to the bailiff’s office to meet with Gong You and discuss official business at hand.
“Although we can’t be sure when supplies from the emperor will arrive, what we can do now is to set up soup kitchens and hospital tents. People are dying of starvation every day—that can’t be allowed to continue. Otherwise, the departed would’ve died for nothing when imperial aid makes it here.”
“Your Highness speaks truly.” Gong You nodded with agreement. “This humble official didn’t make any moves because I really had no idea where to begin. The amount of food in the storehouses will last only ten days on a diet of watery porridge. This doesn’t factor in the people who will rush here when they get wind of the help available.
“We didn’t set up any soup kitchens because our investigations showed that every family had food in stock. Foraging for wild vegetables also helped tide things over for a while. We wanted to save the rice for truly dire times. That way, we could buy some time until aid arrived.”
Pang Xiao nodded in approval. “That was the correct decision. You’ve done well. This isn’t the time to let people have their fill, but to make sure that a greater number can survive. All of our problems will be solved when relief arrives.”
The prince finished his remarks by fishing out a stack of bank notes from his clothes. Prefect Gong stared at the notes in astonishment, his lips quivering. “Your Highness, what are these?”
“Before we set out, the princess consort sold all of the valuables in her betrothal gifts and dowry, the farmland to her name, her ancestral home, and gathered revenue from her storefronts. Ah, this stack also includes the silver I’ve made from my battles over the years.
“However, you know that I also commanded one hundred thousand Valiant Tigers. Plenty of silver was made, and plenty of silver spent. Not much was saved, sadly. These bank notes are one thousand tael apiece, fifty in total. That’s fifty thousand taels of silver.
“Hurry and use these to relieve the food shortage. I trust that the silver will help more people live to see another day.”
“Your Highness…” Gong You’s lips quivered. His eyes rapidly reddened and he almost burst into spontaneous tears.
The seasoned consultant by the prefect’s side was already moved to tears, and the four yamen soldiers on-duty sniffled as well.
All of them were natives and their families had suffered from the ravages of the earth dragon. A few were bereaved of relatives; while the lucky ones didn’t suffer any loss, they were barely keeping their heads above water.
The fifty thousand taels of silver gifted by the prince could fund enough troops for a battle. However, transportation was currently almost impossible and food prices outrageously inflated. Even with this money, there was no food to be bought.
But still, they hadn’t heard of any local wealthy houses generous enough to make a donation, let alone an official from the imperial court.
They still thought of Pang Xiao as the great enemy responsible for the fall of Great Yan, the one who charged into their homes with his soldiers. Come to think of it now, how lucky it was to be the subjects of Great Zhou and thus on the receiving end of the prince’s sincere generosity.
Pang Xiao was a general, and it was his job to slay enemies in battle. He had to go wherever His Majesty directed him to. He was a sharp sword wielded by the emperor’s behest.
Was it really fair to hold this man personally accountable for all the evils of war, a man so magnanimous in his care for the people?
“Such moral integrity and thoughtfulness for the people. Your Highness, you’re donating family property for disaster relief! This lowly official cannot lift my head in front of you!”
“Pfft, none of that. In times of disaster, those with money should pitch in, and those of us with time and energy should roll up our sleeves. Sir Gong’s hair has already gone white out of worry. This prince arrived too late and this donation is the least I can do for the cause. We share the same goal, which is to help the people survive and live on. That alone gives me great peace.”
“Your Highness… I see. This lowly official will most certainly inform His Majesty. We cannot allow the prince’s act of kindness to be overlooked.”
Consultant Lu chimed in, “Those in the capital as well. We should let everyone know where the silver for food comes from.”
Pang Xiao waved his hand repeatedly. “Please, His Majesty’s made all this possible. What this prince did was nothing, really.”
Gong You and Consultant Lu understood. Pang Xiao didn’t covet credit for his contribution; he only aimed to do what was right, and wished that the people would receive what they sorely needed. If they went overboard in advertising Pang Xiao’s contribution, it might give those with ulterior motives the chance to accuse the prince of nursing treacherous intent by buying the people’s hearts.
The two understood, and were deeply moved, but they played along and nodded.
“Yes, this is all because of His Majesty.”
Pang Xiao and Gong You went on to arrange the inspection order of the four major counties. However, would this be kept under wraps just because the prince wished it so?
The four soldiers on-duty told their families as soon as they reached home.
The families had friends, and those friends had their own circle of confidants. Each quiet whisper of “don’t tell anyone else, I’m telling only you this” swiftly spread the incident.
Soup kitchens were erected and open for service the following day. Long lines of hungry people quickly formed, exchanging information among themselves that it was Faithful Prince of the First Rank who contributed to the purchase of food. The news spread like wildfire and soon became public knowledge.Previous Chapter Next Chapter