Edited and Proofread by KitKat
After dinner, Steward Wang came to report that the ya po had selected a few suitable hires and asked when An Chang Qing would like to meet them.
An Chang Qing: “I’ll have a look tomorrow afternoon.”
Steward Wang bowed respectfully and was about to retreat when Xiao Zhige stopped him, “Sort out the account books for the Manor and the stores outside. From now on, Wangfei will be in charge of them.”
Steward Wang had a change in expression. He wanted to say something but seeing Xiao Zhige’s decisiveness, he kept it in and bowed, “Yes.”
After Steward Wang left, An Chang Qing looked at Xiao Zhige and smiled smugly, “You’re giving me control over the businesses as well? Is Wangye not afraid that I will squander all your gold?”
Xiao Zhige was undressing when he heard An Chang Qing’s words. He replied, “No.”
Briefly after, worrying that An Chang Qing would exercise undue caution, he added, “There is no shortage of gold in the Manor.”
The smile on An Chang Qing’s face widened. He rested his chin over his hand and looked at him. An Chang Qing had always known that the Wang Manor housed a massive amount of wealth. In his last life, when Xiao Zhige ascended the throne, due to the previous Emperor’s need for extravagance, the nation’s treasury was almost empty. At one point during the war against the Beidi people, there was not enough gold to procure rations for the soldiers. In the cold winter, the starving soldiers had to kill their warhorses for food. Having heard the news, Xiao Zhige donated chests upon chests of gold to the border to alleviate the famine.
But even the An Chang Qing who was ignorant about war knew that that was only enough for the soldiers to drink bland soup. Later, Xiao Zhige had executed a group of corrupt ministers and seized their wealth, all of which he had sent to the border. The battle which had dragged out for months eventually came to an end with the Da Ye soldiers being victorious.
This was the reason why the hundred thousand soldiers had been unshakably loyal to Xiao Zhige. But at the same time, Xiao Zhige’s reputation as a tyrant had become worse amongst the people.
The ignorant citizens could only see the ruthlessness when he killed the ministers and confiscated their gold but they did not know that without the gold, the starving frontier soldiers would have lost the border, allowing the barbaric Beidi people to charge right into Yejing.
The events from his past stirred his heart. An Chang Qing looked at Xiao Zhige and smiled warmly, “Since Wangye has put your trust in me, I will not disappoint you.”
Again, Xiao Zhige did not want to put any pressure on An Chang Qing and simply said, “I will not be disappointed” before leaving to take a bath. When he was done, it was An Chang Qing’s turn. After finishing his bath, An Chang Qing came out and saw that Xiao Zhige was already lying in bed reading a book.
Seeing An Chang Qing, he put the book away and patted the space next to him, “Come into bed, it’s cold outside.”
There was heating in the room but An Chang Qing did not refuse him. He obediently climbed into his side of the bed. It was then that he realized that the mattress was particularly warm. He looked up at the expressionless man and smiled. The Northern Warlord must’ve pre-warmed the bed for him.
After being together for three days, An Chang Qing found that Xiao Zhige would only do things in silence. Unless asked, he would not mention it. What an awkward man.
An Chang Qing pulled up the blanket but despite being immersed in warmth, he still shifted towards Xiao Zhige all the way until he was in his arms.
Feeling the heat against his body, Xiao Zhige was pleased yet helpless. He put out the light and hugged him back, “Sleep.”
“I can’t sleep.” An Chang Qing who was comfortably wrapped up by the warm body whispered, “You haven’t told me how to use Fei Cui.”
Before, Xiao Zhige only told him to think and did not give him an answer yet.
Xiao Zhige lowered his head and his chin rested nicely on An Chang Qing’s head, “What do you think?”
An Chang Qing thought for a while and hesitated, “Design a plan to expose Fei Cui’s identity to An Zhi Zhou and his wife?”
Xiao Zhige shook his head, “Now’s not the right time. An Zhi Ke can still easily make up excuses and it would not drive the brothers apart.”
“Then what should I do?”
“Wait.” Xiao Zhige replied, “Wait for An Changqi’s death then divulge hints about Fei Cui’s identity. Leave the rest to An Zhi Zhou and his wife to find out. A lot of times, people are more prone to believe what they discovered by themselves.”
“But what if An Changqi doesn’t die?” An Chang Qing was in doubt.
Xiao Zhige looked towards him in the dark, “He won’t live past tomorrow’s night.”
The reason Xiao Zhige agreed to spare An Changqi’s life was that he had done the calculation. With a broken hand and the degree of amputation on his leg that even included his reproductive organ, unless the gods intervened, his death was ascertained.
An Zhi Ke was inexperienced with medicine but Xiao Zhige had been in the army for many years, he was quite well informed about the human anatomy.
An Chang Qing widened his eyes in surprise, “So you’ve planned this ahead. But what if An Zhi Zhou and his wife still sided with An Zhi Ke? After all, we don’t have evidence that he had ordered her to do anything.”
“The doctor who is treating An Changqi comes from De Ren Hall,” Xiao Zhige felt the body in his arms getting closer with excitement, “De Ren Hall is the property of Madame Li’s maternal family.”
An Chang Qing was flabbergasted. Not to mention how An Zhi Zhou would react, his wife, Madame Sun who loved their son as her life would definitely find a place to vent her grief. She couldn’t take it out on the Northern Warlord and his Wangfei but if at this time, she discovered that Fei Cui had been planted beside An Changqi and had caused the dispute between An Changqi and An Chang Qing, she would definitely not let this go. As her suspicion grew, what would happen once she also found out that the doctor who had treated her precious son was related to Madame Li?
Even without substantial evidence, she would still turn against An Zhi Ke.
A scorned woman was difficult to deal with. Especially one who had just lost her son. Besides, An Zhi Zhou had always been dependent on his wife. When this matter turned for the worse, the entire An household would not be able to live in peace.
It was indeed killing two birds with one stone.
After analyzing the situation, An Chang Qing’s eyes were filled with admiration towards Xiao Zhige, “Was that why you stopped me from killing him?”
Xiao Zhige patted him on the back. With words meant as guidance, he said, “If you lose eight hundred just to kill a thousand, that’s not a desirable outcome.”
An Chang Qing thought over his words and nodded, “I understand.”
Xiao Zhige touched his head, “Go to sleep. You’ll be able to think clearer tomorrow.”
The next day, Xiao Zhige had to leave for the barracks. After An Chang Qing sent him out, Steward Wang brought the ya po to see him.
The ya po brought with her ten youths who were all carefully selected. Although wearing commoner’s clothes, the boys all had a bright appearance.
An Chang Qing interviewed each of them and picked out four honest-looking ones. He did not put them to work in the yard but instructed Steward Wang to find a mentor to teach them how to read.
Steward Wang could not comprehend his intentions and thought that he was inexperienced with handling the servants. He advised, “They are just a few servants meant for labor work, teaching them how to read and write could make them sprout misguided ambitions.”
“I have my methods. Steward Wang only needs to find them a mentor.”
Steward Wang had more to say but thinking about Xiao Zhige’s instructions yesterday, he could only keep silent.
After arranging for the boys, An Chang Qing continued, “When will the account books be ready?”
Steward Wang hesitated, “It’ll have to take a while to get them all up to date.”
“It’s alright, just send me those that are ready,” An Chang Qing withdrew his smile and said solemnly, “Wangye has left me in charge of the Wang Manor, I have to show him good results or else he’ll blame me.”
Steward Wang’s expression turned bitter. He knew An Chang Qing was insinuating him to do his job well. Based on his observations over the last few days, the new Wangfei was very much pampered by Wangye, he would not do anything to upset him.
Thinking of the shop’s accounts, Steward Wang was sweating bullets. He bit his teeth and said, “In three days, I will instruct them to finish it and send it here.”
With that, An Chang Qing was satisfied and let him leave.
After lunch, An Chang Qing went out with Anfu. The people Xiao Zhige said he would allocate for him were still unavailable. While Zhao Shi was assigned to the An Manor, he could only take Anfu along.
An Chang Qing got changed and left on a carriage to the western part of the city. In this area, there were brothels, gambling houses, and other facilities that catered to people from all walks of life.
An Chang Qing entered a restaurant discreetly. He sat in a private room and sent Anfu to bring back a couple of older beggars.
Anfu was puzzled. Lately, his master’s reasoning had grown beyond his understanding but it was not his place to question. He nodded and did as told. Moments later, he came back with two beggars in tattered rags.
An Chang Qing was sitting behind a screen and the two beggars could only see his silhouette. They dared not linger their eyes on him and asked humbly, “How may we be of service to you Sire?”
“Marquis Wu’s son, Wu Juan Shu, do you know of him?” An Chang Qing asked in a deep voice.
The two beggars looked at each other and one of them answered cautiously, “We have heard of him.”
An Chang Qing beckoned Anfu to hand them five taels of silver and said, “Follow him and tell me everything. This is just the deposit, you’ll receive fifteen more once this is done.”
The two beggars’ eyes were wide open seeing the five taels of silver. They kowtowed and thanked him several times.
“Do not let him discover you.”
After taking the silver, the beggars set up a time and place to exchange the news with Anfu before leaving. After they left, Anfu was still doubtful, “What information can two beggars find?”
An Chang Qing assured him, “They’re more capable than anyone in gathering information.”
These beggars were found all over Yejing and formed a big network amongst themselves. The amount of information they could gather was quite impressive. In his last life, it was thanks to them that he knew the truth behind his sister’s death and the hardship she had gone through in the Wu manor.
At that time, Wu Juan Shu had already officially brought his mistress into the main house and he had been unable to trace her background. This time, he would be able to do so with the beggars’ help.
Anfu was still muddled-headed. He scratched his head and giggled.
An Chang Qing knew Anfu’s brain capacity and did not further elaborate. Next, they left the restaurant and went to the eastern side of the city.
Looking out from the carriage, An Chang Qing ordered for the coachman to stop once he saw the high hanging plaque of a large medical institute.
Other than the matter concerning Wu Juan Shu, this trip was also to find a doctor for his mother. Although he told An Zhi Ke that he would be bringing a doctor from the Wang Manor, the truth was, there was no such person. With his mother’s background, it was impossible to have the imperial doctors treat her. He could only seek help from the renowned doctors in Yejing.
He could still remember that his mother was in perfect health until he turned ten. It was after he had fallen ill that she had to take care of him for several nights without rest. When he finally woke up, her health had started deteriorating ever since.
The doctors all claimed that she had been too worried which had permanently damaged her internal health and could only take medicines consistently to cure. Later when An Chang Qing was married off, his mother’s illness had become worse and she had died shortly after. After unearthing the truth behind his sister’s death, An Chang Qing had learned that many things were more than what meets the eye. He had always felt that his mother’s illness was a little strange and after his rebirth, he had decided to look into it.
But after consulting with every doctor available, they all stated that there was nothing wrong with the prescription according to his mother’s symptoms.