Pang Xiao was both amused and horrified by the question. “How would I ever? One, there will never be another girl prettier than you. Two, I don’t want any concubines. I said this long ago, I only want you.”
Qin Yining remained silent, her face buried in the prince’s embrace, but she was smiling and felt much more light-hearted.
Footsteps traveled in from the outside, prompting the two to separate and find their seats.
“Your Highness, Madame Lu is locked away and awaiting further handling,” reported Huzi. “The citizens have charged into the Ding and Pei manors and it’s all a chaotic mess right now. There are casualties on both sides, but the people are worked up and there’s so many of them. The guards for the two families don’t amount to much, so I think we’ll see an end to the turmoil in less than an hour.”
Qin Yining’s mood plunged once more when she heard there were casualties. “Should we send our men to clean up the aftermath? It’s enough to get our hands on the food, there’s no need to wait until the people have wiped out the families.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll handle it all.” Pang Xiao nodded with a smile that was only surface deep. He had limited men and wouldn’t be able to quickly quell the disturbance. It was even more unfeasible to quietly slip in for a rescue mission. It would also give rise to the possibility of unscrupulous people using this incident for their own purposes.
The married couple had indeed used the refugees, but their intent was that more of them would live on. They wanted to trade the smallest sacrifice possible for more lives.
The riots continued for a day and a night, with the curtains falling on three dozen civilian casualties and the extermination of the Dings and Peis. After seizing the food stashed away by the two families, smoke from long-vanished cooking fires rose in the city again.
With this development and Pang Xiao’s arrangements, strong security returned to Yang County and the two hapless families were quickly taken care of.
News of the refugees rioting in Yang County traveled like it’d grown wings, reaching the more populated old capital in no time at all. When Prefect Gong returned to his city, some of the wealthy families actually approached him for a change. Coarse rice that’d been going for twelve taels a stone returned to one tael a stone. With this change, Pang Xiao’s donation would keep the people going for some time.
Everything seemed perfect on the surface, but Qin Yining had already endured two sleepless nights. Images of innocent Ding women and Pei children surfaced to her mind whenever she closed her eyes.
Her idea had indeed saved more people, but it also meant the doom of more than fifty people that comprised of the two affected families. When the refugees transformed into rioters, they looted, raped, and pillaged. Though Pang Xiao hadn’t described the scene to her and refused to let her accompany the cleanup, it was easy enough to imagine what the families’ gruesome ends had been.
Casualties had already been incurred. If one treated the situation as a math calculation, it was perfectly right and proper from a moral standpoint to trade fifty lives for those of thousands.
But from the dead’s perspective? Were they all evil villains deserving of death? What about the innocent women and children?
Knives scraped across Qin Yining’s heart when she thought of the situation.
After treating her with medicines for two days, Bingtang could tell from her mistress’ pulse that the knot of depression yet remained. “Your Highness, please don’t be too sad. Those people were doomed by their stupid patriarchs. The people wouldn’t have resented them so much if it wasn’t for the Dings and Peis being rich on wealth and short on kindness. They tried to profit off of a disaster and refused to share all that food they’d hoarded. Perhaps they committed a great deal of evil when they were alive—it’s just that the people didn’t dare speak of it.”
Bingtang couldn't bear to see her mistress so miserable, so she tried her best to offer comfort.
Qin Yining offered a sad smile. “I know. My mind understands, but my heart thinks otherwise. I think I’ll be better after a while longer.”
The maid could only nod with a sigh. Time was indeed the best balm for any pain.
“Your Highness.” Jiyun entered the room with a slightly strange expression.
The princess consort lowered her voice. “What is it?”
“There’s a friend you once knew who’s here to see you, a woman whose husband’s surname is Liao. She was conducting business in the old capital when the earth dragon turned over. She came to make her greetings after learning you were here. Would you like to see her?” Jiyun nodded meaningfully.
Qin Yining’s heart skipped a bit. It was Missus Liao from Azure Justice, her designated contact with the alliance. Why had she come knocking? Was it for the treasure?
“Show her in, since we’re old acquaintances.” Palms sweaty with nervousness, Qin Yining had no idea why Missus Liao was here or if the emperor’s spies had picked up on the peculiarities.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
My apologies friends -- SOTR ends in three days and I need to launch its replacement next week. The schedule is going to be a bit whacked for the next ten days, mega apologies.