Chapter 63: Secret Couple Discussion
Translated by Gumihou
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“Why? Surely my father had no grudges against him?”
Su Nuan Nuan puffed up with indigence. Duan Tingxuan nodded agreeably and said, “As for the reason, I wish to know too. Not only did your father have no enmity against him, they were in fact good friends. If your father did not trust him so much, he would not have fallen so low.”
“Your father had been in charged of the army rations. The amount of grain that went missing was about one million litres. Only soldiers and army officers have access to the grains in the north. If not for Duke Dong Liao’s speedy assistance with provisions and foot soldiers, the battle against the Northern Huns would have gone quite differently. If the Huns had managed to storm into the Central Plains, the people would have suffered a great catastrophe.”
“But, why would King Xiangyang want the army provisions for? Even a woman like me know that his actions made no sense. Isn’t he the Imperial Younger Brother? Could it be that he’s been conspiring with the Huns?”
“He can’t be conspiring with the Huns.” Duan Tingxuan said with certainty. “No matter what, he’s still part of the royal family. Having the Huns storm Central Plains won’t benefit him. Unfortunately, the people your father put in charged of the provisions were now dead, making it impossible to discern King Xiangyang’s goal. However, we can draw some clear deductions on why he would want a million litres of grain.”
“And what deductions could those be? He’s already part of the royal family and have his own territory to rule over. Are you saying he’s not happy with what he has? Even if he plans to revolt, the country is at peace and the people wealthy. Who would be stupid enough to throw their lives with him? Even if he really plans to revolt, why hasn’t he made any move yet? It has already been two years, how long is he planning to wait? Are you trying to say he needed the food for a hundred thousand soldiers? Even if it were so, surely some officials would have noticed it by now, right?”
“You’re unexpectedly insightful, thus far.” Duan Tingxuan slow clapped twice, and said. “You’re not wrong, therefore, we may draw only one conclusion from this. The provisions had been sold off.”
“What does he need all that money for? As a member of the imperial family, what kind of business is closed to him? He should have all kinds of money pouring in from countless businesses, right? What’s the point of messing around with risky things like stealing army provisions? Moreover, there haven’t been any famine or natural disasters in the past two years, would he even be able to sell off the one million litres of grain?”
“The borders of the country is well sealed, there is no way he could simply sell those grains outside. If he tries to bring it across the borders, it’d be tracked down immediately. However, I’ve heard that the Eastern Seas have been restless lately, in addition to civil conflicts, there had been quite a few natural disasters lately. It’s likely that they’d suffer from extreme lack of food. The king might have sold off the grains to them, especially since they produce a great amount silver. As you’ve said, the profits would be pouring in.”
Every single question from Su Nuan Nuan were treated like precious gems by Duan Tingxuan. He spent an unprecedented amount of time in front of her, earnestly discussing matters of the state. It was especially rare for him to even bring up things like army matters to any woman, this was an unprecedented ‘feat’ for the little marquis. Content of the discussion aside, it was a rare thing to see her open up like this in front of him.
“Just as you’ve said, that King Xiangyang was just too suspicious.” Duan Tingxuan’s words reminded Su Nuan Nuan of Prince of Ning. A historical figure who had gained great wealth as a feudal lord. The man had then used his wealth to bribe city officials to prepare a coup. Coupled with Emperor Zhengde’s weak character, his plots had not been discovered until the day he rebelled against the emperor. This King Xiangyang probably won’t dare to be as reckless as Prince Ning, since the current emperor was nothing like that useless spendrift Zhengde. Which explains the whole complicated plot of stealing army grains, framing the theft on Duke of Ping, and then secretly exchanging it for silver. This way he reaped all the rewards while someone else took the fall perfectly illustrates his vicious character. That man was clearly a first class crook.
“Too hateful, horrible scoundrel. Clearly a man who bites without leaving blood, kills without using knives.” Su Nuan Nuan smacked the table angrily. “My lord, you must promise me, this scoundrel must be punished, we must… well, no matter what, we can’t let him get away with this.”
Duan Tingxuan eyed his wife as she abused the table. The meatballs in his bowl trembled at each smack. If she had more power behind her strikes, the whole bowl might actually leap off the table. He quickly stride forward to lean casually against the table in support and cried out, “Naturally! Moreover, even if your father had not been involved in the matter, I shall ensure that the scoundral goes to prison for this.”
“Just prison? At the very least we must slice him up with a thousand knives, this is an actual attempt to revolt, ah. But… I guess we don’t have to go as far as exterminating his entire family…” Su Nuan Nuan muttered under her breath. As a modern woman, she really hated it when dramas ended up pulling the ‘exterminate the whole family’ card, all kinds of innocents often got caught up in one bad egg’s schemes like this.
“Pu–!” Duan Tingxuan nearly choked on his spit, luckily he hadn’t been drinking anything, especially that delicious soup. Otherwise, he’d be hard pressed to decide whether to spit or force himself to swallow. He knocked his knuckles against the table and tried to pull Su Nuan Nuan back to reality. “That… Nuan Nuan, I don’t think you need to worry about that particular punishment. You do realize who King Xiangyang is related to? Extermination of the whole family… that means the emperor, the emperor, you know?”
“Aiya…” Su Nuan Nuan cried out in surprise, she covered her mouth and glanced around hastily, afraid that someone might actually heard their blasphemous talk. When she saw no one in sight, she finally lowered her hands and hissed at Duan Tingxuan, “Hey, you’re the one who said it, not me.”
“Hahaha, Nuan Nuan, just how old are you? Why are you still so cute? Such a maidenly reaction.” Duan Tingxuan laughed out loud, he eventually subsided and beamed at her. “I must say, your maidenly reaction is really cute.”
Su Nuan Nuan scowled at the little marquis. This, she thought, is the most horrible thing about the feudal society. Women have too little power, she was only 20 years old and was not allowed to be ‘maidenly’ anymore? Was she a middle age woman already? Disgraceful, absolutely disgraceful, she couldn’t stand it. Luckily she had no children, if she did have any children, would she be treated as an elderly woman?
“Whatever, let’s go back to the original matter. Surely you haven’t just decided to bring up King Xiangyang and my father’s matter all of a sudden, right? What has this King got to do with the emperor’s fainting fit today?” Su Nuan Nuan had not forgotten what Duan Tingxuan had mentioned earlier, there had to be a reason why he was talking about the King just now.
Duan Tingxuan’s expression grew serious, after a long silence, he said in a low voice, “King Xiangyang had been the doted son of the previous emperor and though he was bestowed the title of a king, he was not granted leave to govern his own fiefdom. When the current emperor ascended to his throne, he continued to take care of this little brother of his within the imperial palace for a further three years before letting him move out…”
Su Nuan Nuan’s eyes widened in disbelief and she cut in, “Wait, wait, are you saying this King Xiangyang had been living in the palace all this while? How old is he now? A man over 15 would have to be ‘snipped’ if they want to hang around the palace, won’t they?” She twitched two fingers making snipping motion. Black lines appeared on Duan Tingxuan’s face, he gritted his teeth, “What the heck are you talking about? Have you forgotten that I too enter the palace often? If it is as you say, wouldn’t I have been snipped over a thousand times already?”