Published at 11th of November 2019 05:35:34 AM

Chapter 171

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Danju served the fruit to the main room. Before she left, she pondered for a while and then put a fresh red pomegranate in the bowl. Then she put the tea and the fruit in the room with a smile. Seeing that Minglan was only wearing little clothes, Danju took out an informal bluish white coat with red plum in the snow pattern and then threw it gently on Minglan’s shoulder. At last, after Danju had turned up three of the sheepskin palace lanterns, she left slowly.

For all these years, Minglan always kept a good study habit. As she looked through the accounts, she didn’t forget to make extracts (Although no one understands the things she has written). In the meantime, she also muttered something softly. Gu Tingye raised his head to glance at her, finding her jade-like face with blush and her peach-like cheek with pink lips seeming super adorable under the candlelight.

He then clenched his fists and coughed gently. Minglan looked up at him and only found the calm look on Gu Tingye’s face. Then she heard him saying, “I need you to help me clean up the inner study tomorrow. I have already given all the things I want to move into the study to Sir Gongsun. I don’t mind about other things, but I need two reliable maids to guard my things... It’ll be the best if they don’t know how to read.” Minglan was about to say yes. However, when she heard his last words, she thought for a while and then answered, “I don’t know the servants here very well. My own maids all know how to read. Xiaotao is the dumb one among them who hasn’t learned to read for long. But I can guarantee you that she is a reliable girl. Let her guard your documents for the moment. I’ll find someone else for you later. It’s not easy to find dependable servants so quickly. As for these days... If you don’t mind, I can tidy the study for you.”

Whether the maids knew how to read was not important, the only thing that mattered was if the maids were reliable. Since he couldn’t be sure of the loyalty of the maids, he found that it would be better to find ones who couldn’t read. After all, it would be too easy for a maid who had been educated to peek at the documents and remember something. However, for those who didn’t know how to read, they had to carry the documents out secretly if they wanted to steal the information. That was rather a dangerous move and they were easy to be caught.

Gu Tingye nodded with satisfaction. Then he frowned slightly, saying, “Why do they all know how to read? You have taught them that? Is that really necessary?”

Minglan nodded while saying with a serious look, “Only educated maids deserve an elegant madam like me.” As a matter of fact, Minglan had only taught her maids how to read because she had needed them to read the rules of the House of Clear Dusk.

Gu Tingye raised his eyebrows. Right now, the golden line pattern on his dark blue silk robe was flickering slightly. The bluish white sleeping suit on him cast a bright light on his face, which made him seem even more charming. With his fists clenched and his lips curved, he smiled and said, “Nice, nice, Scholar Sheng, come help your husband grind the ink.”

Minglan laughed and walked over to grind the ink for him. Meanwhile, she put on a bitter face on purpose while sighing with her head wagged, “Alas, the master hands of mine.”

Gu Tingye stared at her while chuckling. Then he saw Minglan grinding the ink slowly and elegantly with her snow-like wrists, being a bit stunned. After a long while, Minglan had finished grinding a whole inkstone of ink and prepared to go back to her seat. However, Gu Tingye dragged her all of a sudden and asked calmly, “Don’t you, have anything to ask me?”

Minglan found his question very abrupt. Then she asked in a daze, “Ask... about what?”

“Marquis Ningyuan’s mansion.” Gu Tingye replied, “Are you sure there is nothing you want to know?” The situation in Gu’s mansion was super strange, which was obvious to anyone. Nonetheless, Minglan hadn’t asked anything about that.

Minglan understood what he meant and answered with an innocent expression in her eyes, “I did have some questions. But Old Madam Sheng has taught me not to ask the things I don’t understand so soon. I should always think about it by myself first. In this way, I’ll look very intelligent.”

Gu Tingye’s frowning eyebrows also got relieved. He burst into a laughter and said, “All right, all right, you are the most intelligent girl. So tell me about your thought.”

Having got rid of Gu Tingye’s hand, Minglan dragged the small chair beside her and sat on it, saying in a soft voice, “... When I saw your families for the first time, the first thing I felt strange is their ages. First of all, Old Master Gu was the eldest son of his father, so he must have got married very early. However, brother-in-law Xuan and brother-in-law Yang are both much older than brother-in-law Yu, why is that?”

Gu Tingyu was only twenty-eight years old and had no elder brothers. However, the eldest son of the fourth and the fifth family, which was Gu Tingxuan and Gu Tingyang were already around thirty-three or thirty four years old. So far, the only legal grandchild of the first family of the Gu family was the two-or-three-years-old Xiange’er, who was Gu Tingwei’s son.

As for the legal grandchildren of the fourth and the fifth family, they were no longer kids anymore. Gu Tingxuan’s son was already a teenager while Gu Tingyang’s eldest daughter was old enough to get married.

With a light flashed in Gu Tingye’s eyes, he put on a smile on the corner of his mouth. Minglan stared at him while saying with a sigh, “I guess Old Master Gu and his first wife must be deep in love.”

After Gu Tingye had heard of that, the look on his face slowly turned sullen. Minglan’s words also had another meaning. It could be inferred that if Old Master Gu loved the first Old Madam Qin very much, then he wouldn’t treat Old Madam Bai who had married to him afterwards so nicely. Meanwhile, his love to the first Old Madam Qin might extend to the second Old Madam Qin who was also the current Old Madam of Gu’s mansion.

Gu Tingye held Minglan in his arms gently and said softly, “I have heard from my Fifth Aunt that the first Old Madam Qin was the childhood sweetheart of my father. They were deep in love with each other. She has suffered from illness all the time, then my father submitted a proposal to the emperor to garrison the frontiers just because he didn’t want his elders to interfere with his family affairs. The second Old Madam Qin also keeps saying about the beauty, the elegance, the virtue and the kindness of the first Old Madam Qin all the time as if the latter was the best woman in this world. As for my father, he has cherished the memory of that woman for a lifetime.”

Minglan pouted in Gu Tingye’s arms while saying gently, “The second thing I don’t understand is the age of Old Madam Qin.” As saying this, Minglan felt the muscle of Gu Tingye tightening. Then she continued, “Judging from Old Madam Qin’s year of birth, she is forty-four years old this year. When you were born, she was already nineteen. It meant that when she married into Gu’s family, she was already twenty years old. In other words, when the first Old Madam Qin died, the second Old Madam Qin was already around sixteen. What... was this all about?”

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If Old Master Gu really was deeply in love with the first Old Madam Qin and had wanted to marry another lady of Qin’s family to let her take care of Gu Tingyu, he could have married the second Old Madam Qin at that time. Why had he married Old Madam Bai before he had married the second Old Madam Qin?

Minglan sensed that Gu Tingye’s body went stiff. Having got up from his arms, she looked right into his eyes while saying in a firm but gentle voice, “At that time, what reason did Old Master Gu have to marry Old Madam Bai?” That was rather an awkward question but also the root of all the problems.

Gu Tingye gazed at Minglan for a long while, not knowing what to say. For all these years, Gu Tingye hadn’t known how to speak about his own family issues even if he had always depressed. He didn’t even know how to start. Minglan never asked about that too. However, she was good at recognizing the whole through observation of the part. Thus she was already clear about some of the facts of Gu Tingye’s family. Minglan had never seen Gu Tingye putting on a look like this on his face. Right now, his eyebrows raised up highly, his eyes were sunken with gloomy expression. He seemed very dangerous but also quite indifferent as if he didn’t know what to do. After a long time, he spoke slowly, “My grandfather’s family is the Bai family of Haining. Have you heard of that name before?”

Minglan would love to express her admiration. However, she really hadn’t heard of the Bai family. The most famous families from Haining were Chen family of which seven family members were Jinshi, Zhao family of which the father and his two sons were all Hanlin, Xu family which the former official of the Cabinets came from as well as other influential and prestigious families. Anyway, Bai family was not in that list. So, Minglan could only shake her head.

Gu Tingye laughed ironically, saying, “Of course you haven’t. Bai family was not a noble or scholar-gentry family. They are salt merchants.”

Minglan was stunned. When arranging the four major careers of the ancient times by social class from the highest to the lowest, it would be scholars, farmers, artisans and the merchants. As a family which was occupied in business, it would be better if the family members were the Confucian Businessman or the Righteous Businessman. But Bai’s families happened to be the salt merchants who were always disdained by other businessmen. Eh... it was really hard to speak her respect of Bai family out loud.

Gu Tingye continued, “Do you know what kind of thing the salt merchant family has the most?”

“Salt.” Minglan blurted it out without any hesitation. The next second she got a knuckle on the head. Then she covered her forehead right away while cried out lightly, “Silver. The most thing they have is the silver.”

With his index and middle fingers bent, Gu Tingye glared at Minglan while showing a faint smile. He really didn’t know how she managed to spoil the sad and serious atmosphere.

Minglan looked at his two bent fingers in fear while saying, “Don’t tell me that your father has married your mother because of the silver!” The merchants were in a low social status, so they were not able to threaten the influential officials.

“But that was the very truth. I guess no one would believe it. But I have looked into this and finally knew about the whole story.” The look on his face suddenly turned gloomy. Then he put his finders on his knees and said with cold expression in his eyes, “That year, Empress Jing’an deceased. Emperor Wu who had been eaten by his sadness and anger suddenly changed into a suspicious and raging man. Not only had he beaten lots of imperial concubines and maids to death, he even ordered the Imperial Noble Consort to commit suicide and exterminated her whole family. At that time, the uncle of the Imperial Noble Consort was in charge of the Ministry of Revenue. After he had been found guilty, the great deficit of three million ounces of silvers which was caused by all the noble and influential officials was also exposed. It was not a huge matter that could weaken the nation, since the debt could be paid off slowly. However, Emperor Wu vented his anger on all those noble officials and decided to punish them severely. He gave the order that the officials who were not able to pay off their debts within half a year would be deprived or their titles!”

Minglan was startled. After a long while, she asked, “How much did Marquis Ningyuan owe?”

“Not too much.” Gu Tingye wore a scornful look on the corner of his mouth, saying, “Just eight hundred and eighty thousand ounces of silvers.”

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