Chapter 195: Dine Out, Family Affairs, National Affairs, Hua Lan, Hacking…(121.2)
At that time they had gone to the restaurant, Minglan had enjoyed eating the food there a lot. Ever since then, Gu Tingye always brought the specialty dishes from all the famous restaurants. Sometimes, it was the grilled ginger flavor ribs wrapped by lotus leaf. Sometimes it was the three fresh delicacies soup in thick bamboo tube. He even found duck blood soup with vermicelli and wonton filled with chopped wild mushrooms from the roadside stands at some unknown corners. The dishes were all super tasty and delicious. While Minglan was enjoying the food, she almost swallowed the spoon. Gu Tingye really lived up to his reputation that he had never brought a same dish back home until now.
As Minglan ate those food, she couldn’t help sigh inwardly, ‘It’s not the lack of beauty in life, but the lack of the eyes to find the beauty’. Marrying to a rich guy still had some advantages after all. At least, Changbai was not able to find so many delicacies of all kinds.
Every time Minglan glutted herself with food, Gu Tingye would watch her eating smilingly. Minglan who only focused on eating never noticed that her husband was actually observing her in a weird way as if he was waiting for something. When they had nothing else to do, they would chat about everything from the anecdotes in all corners of the country to the affairs happened in the imperial court. Gu Tingye fancied the warm and lovely aura in the room. Sometimes they would chatter for so long that Sir Gongsun who had waited in the outer study for a long while couldn’t help order someone to call Gu Tingye over.
After a few times, Sir Gongsun couldn’t help but sigh deeply, “No wonder why Sir Fangweng’s mother had to let him divorce Tang Wan!” Once the couple was too close, the man tended to make no attempt to make progress.
However, hearing Sir Gongsun’s words, Minglan flashed a light in her eyes and asked right away, “I heard that the second husband of Madam Tang was even more handsome with a more powerful family. Is that true?” In her previous life, she had heard of that story.
As Sir Gongsun was about to speak, he detected the fierce expression in Gu Tingye’s eyes. Then he only coughed gently and said with a stern look, “There’s no such thing. After she had married to another man, she was depressed the whole time and missed her first husband all day.”
Then, Gu Tingye refilled Sir Gongsun’s cup with tea smilingly.
Gongsun Baishi was from a middle class gentry family in Southern Prefecture Shan. After he had failed in the Eight-Part Essay Exam, he had chosen to abandon himself to nature since his elder brother was able to take care of his parents and his family was rich enough to spare him from the anxiety of the livelihood. He had visited lots of celebrities on his journey and talked about the current politics freely. He had also traveled through famous historic and cultural sites over the past twenty years. Afterwards, he had began to explore the remote areas. A few years ago, he had run into a group of bandits who had no work ethics in the wilderness. Not only had these guys wanted to rob him, they had also wanted to kill him. Luckily, Gu Tingye who had passed by had saved Sir Gongsun’s life.
Sir Gongsun who had been very grateful to Gu Tingye had started to work as the latter’s private adviser. After Sir Gongsun’s elder brother had deceased, Sir Gongsun’s parents had found it hard to teach his nephew, Gongsun Meng who also had no interest in studying and attending the imperial examination. Therefore, they had sent this boy to live with Sir Gongsun, hoping that the boy could learn something from his uncle and also gain some experiences by Gu Tingye’s side. Gongsun Meng had only considered his life with Gu Tingye as a leisure-time activity like a short-time rest during his travel. However, the luck had turned in Gu Tingye’s favor afterwards, which also benefited Sir Gongsun. Nowadays, he was the number one adviser by Gu Tingye’s side and had made a name for himself in the capital.
Ever since Gu Tingye had been in a high position, he who had confidence in his own skill in martial arts was not willing to bring any bodyguards with him. Nevertheless, under Gongsun Meng’s insistence, when Gu Tingye went out of the capital, he would still be accompanied by private guards from the army and when he walked inside of the city, he would be followed by bodyguards including the masters in martial arts like Tu Long and Tu Hu. Gongsun Meng would also follow the Tu brothers to learn some skills and read some books if he had time.
“If the whole world is at peace, I wouldn’t be meddling. But now His Majesty...” Sir Gongsun said that worriedly. As the cool breeze was blowing in the pavilion, with a white chessman between his fingers, Sir Gongsun still couldn’t decide where to put this piece facing the chessboard while saying, “Every month, there will be people being fetched for interrogation to Dali Temple, ministry of justice, the imperial prison day and night. Some of them... never came out and were sent straightly to the jail.”
Minglan pondered for a short while and then said, “ At the critical moments when Lord Jing plotted treason and Jie Nu invaded our country, half of the solders of the Three Large Camp couldn’t be mobilized by His Majesty. More than half of the officials in the capital could hardly absolve themselves from that. Luckily, His Majesty had a back up plan, so the situation at that time was only threatening but not dangerous. But His Majesty would never leave that matter at that.”
Sir Gongsun nodded, saying, “Now Liu Zhengjie is the one who takes charge of the imperial guards of the imperial prison. This man used to be the private military officer of the Eighth Prince’s mansion and is regarded highly by His Majesty. And he does carry out his task resolutely. At that time when His Majesty has used the excuse of observing mourning for our last emperor to sentence some of the members of the imperial family. His Majesty has meant to use that punishment as a warning to others. However, some people who are unable to see that even do things more recklessly. Yesterday His Majesty only stated the mistakes that a few commanders of border-provinces have made, then there were heated debates on the imperial court right away. Thus it could be seen how complicated the situation was. As for the military camp, when commander Gu first took charge of the army, he has already found many problems in the troops. There are people with the freeloading problems, stealing the army provisions, occupying citizens’ farmland, giving loans to others using their provisions, opening the border trade in private. Even the armory was half emptied... All those things are just so shocking!”
Minglan smiled, seeming to be rather light-hearted, “Our last emperor, as kind as he was, has reduced the burden of taxation and cost, encouraged frugality and humbleness, enjoyed happiness with people, treated the officials and the nobles nicely just like Emperor Wen and Emperor Jing. Now our national treasury is abundant and civilians are still able to eat their fill.”
“But some influential officials are still drinking people’s life-blood. They only seek their own gains and feather their own nests with public funds...”
“But when their properties are confiscated, our country will get more income too!” Minglan added at once, “Think of the huge amount of money! The property of a grand coordinator of Anhui is equal to half year’s salt tax of our country. And after the properties of two earls who have joined the rebellion and a marquis have been confiscated, His Majesty has gained more than half years profits of the national treasury!”
Sir Gongsun simmered with laughter with a few beards of him floating in the air, “That’s right! Even we have already fought two wars, the national treasury still have enough money to spare.”
Minglan also grinned and said, “There are always some little problems in times of peace and prosperity. Our last emperor preferred gentle and kind political tactics while His Majesty do things in a resolute and steadfast way. The loose and right managements of them are exactly the reason for our flourishing age. ‘The Jing Tan Mutiny’ has brought disaster to three provinces and four territories, but after His Majesty has distributed the lands which were occupied by the guilty lords and their followers, those places have gradually recovered to their original states.” The people who dealt with politics always liked to show their care for the nation on their faces. Then she continued, “Moreover, what else could Commander Gu do except for following His Majesty’s orders?”
After Sir Gongsun had thought about Minglan’s words, he could only give out a wry smile– Without Eighth Prince, Gu Tingye would only be a stroller who wandered around the country.
“Act cautiously, don’t be in the frontline of the political struggles. That’s all the thing he needs to do. It’s not a good thing to offend too many people.” Minglan said that in a low voice. Like Chair Mao had said, “We can despise our enemies strategically. But we must attach great importance to them tactically.”
Sir Gongsun laughed breezily and said, “That wouldn’t be a problem. Commander Gu is crude in most matters but subtle in some. Let alone that he has dealt with all kinds of people and is already not an innocent boy.”
They had played the chess for three rounds. Minglan ended up in one win, one defeat and one tie game. They were both not satisfied with this result because the two of them all consumed themselves as the master in chess game. Then the two discontented players made a deal to play for another day! Sir Gongsun who had confidence in his own memory only mumbled something when he left there with his hands crossing behind his back. Minglan was the modest one. She asked Xiaotao to carry the chessboard back to her room in order to investigate the the final phase.
At this moment, someone from the outside reported that Cuiwei had brought her husband and her child here.
It had been a few years Minglan hadn’t seen Cuiwei. Now this woman had already given birth to a girl and gained lots of weight. She looked good with that rounded and rosy face. The moment she saw Minglan, she started to cry instantly, which made Xiaotao, lvzhi and other maids weep too. The girls chatted and laughed together. As Cuiwei talked about how much she had missed everyone, the other girls all got very joyful. Then they all asked at once about what had happened to Cuiwei lately.
“I thought Old Madam Sheng would keep you by her side for a bit longer, my lady. I mean, I thought you would get married next year. When you got married, there was already not enough time for me to get back to the capital!” Cuiwei wiped the tears on her face and said smilingly.
“Well, our madam is just so attractive that our master couldn’t wait any longer to propose to her!” Lvzhi chuckled and said that.
Cuiwei goggled at her with a smile, “You still talk so glibly. Aren’t you afraid that no one would marry you?”
Lvzhi flushed right away. Then she flew into a rage and went to thump on Cuiwei. Danju, with a sincere look on her face, comforted the angry girl immediately, “Sister Cuiwei, don’t be so anxious. Our madam will definitely find a good man for you!” Lvzhi was even more embarrassed. Then she started to chase those girls all over the place.
After they had enjoyed their times together, all the other maids dismissed themselves. Minglan only called Cuiwei and her husband over to talk. Cuiwei’s husband called He Youchang and was the son of Steward He who had looked after Sheng’s old mansion in Jin Ling. The man had a round face, looking neat and honest. As the couple stood together, Minglan found them looking quite alike.
“Your dad works for Old Madam Sheng, so I trust him a lot. You are still young, so I’ll let you start working in the gate house. Afterwards you can learn about managing. You should know how to read people’s thoughts and say things properly. Anyway, you should at least have an overview of the affairs in the outer yard.” After the small talk, Minglan held a tea cup in her hand and said slowly with a smile, “Your daughter is still too young to unattended all day and all night. So Cuiwei can start working by Liaoyong’s wife side first. Help me observe the other maids first. Liaoyong’s wife is a sensible woman, she will know what to do.”
Cuiwei and He Yongchang are both clever persons. They had already known the situations in Gu’s mansion. Now that Minglan didn’t have any one to trust in both inner and outer yards, they would be like Minglan’s ears and eyes and figure out the backgrounds and characters of each steward as well as the connection between the things happened in inner yard and outer yard. As long as they did their jobs well, Minglan would definitely promote and award them.
After the couple had left the room, they watched at the view in the mansion smilingly while talking with each other in a low voice.
“Our madam still treasured the old memories. I heard that Madam Wang has wanted to send another couple to our madam. But our madam has begged Old Madam Sheng to let us come back from Jin Ling.” He Youchang said that. He was a young man who knew the difference between looking after the old mansion in Jin Ling and working in a prestigious family. “I have to thank you for this.”
“... We have to dedicate in out jobs and share our madam’s worries.” Cuiwei looked at her husband gently. Then she raised her head and said, “When I came to her yard in that year, she told me, Danju and other girls, ‘I’ll give you authority to rule those young maids. Consider this as a constraint and also a test to them.’ Now it seems that our madam has known what kind of a person Yancao was from the beginning. We have to do our jobs fairly. It doesn’t matter if we make any mistakes or screw up a few things. But if our madam knows that we have evil thoughts... that’s the thing our madam will never tolerate!”