Ruan Zhu moved to the doorway. Calling for someone to extract the socks stuffed in the wet nurses’s mouth, she asked her: “Since you have been breastfeeding Zhi Xi for so long, what other unfinished business do you have? If there are issues with money, perhaps I can help a little.”
The wet nurse had obtained fresh air and gulped it down in large breaths then laid on the ground in kowtow: “Begging niangniang to spare this slave’s life and keep this slave’s hands and feet safe. Even if imprisoned for a lifetime, this slave is willing.” She calculated in her heart: Wait for the Crown Prince to ascend the throne and has exterminated the Prince of Qi’s family and followers. Then it will precisely be her day of freedom.
Ruan Zhu’s expression was firm: “If there was only the charge of having an affair, perhaps I could let you go. But all of your words and actions are ones that demand my life. How could I possibly let off a person who wishes to kill me?”
The wet nurse’s eyes were so wide they practically bulged and became filled with a bit of malevolence: “I breastfed your son for so long but you still want to heartlessly kill me. Your heart is so black. Do you not fear retribution?”
So angry her face was tinged with green, Ruan Zhu snapped towards a palace eunuch: “Plug her mouth and shut her in the woodshed.”
Xuanyuan Zong Zhi’s eyes were as if a fire had been lit: “Why bother? Nangong, quickly dispose of the wet nurse and drag the corpse outside the city to feed wild dogs.” His eyes fell on the wet nurse and he coldly stated: “Your courage is not small to dare curse members of this prince’s family. Originally, this prince was going to kill just you but now the plan has changed. Your entire family will die. This prince has heard that your several husbands are currently serving the Crown Prince as imperial bodyguards. This prince will tell you now–not a single one of them will be able to stay alive.”
The wet nurse became crazy: “If you dare to move, the Crown Prince will definitely not let you go. You and your family will all definitely be killed by the Crown Prince.”
A sinister look flashed on Xuanyuan Zong Zhi’s face. He had Yun Shi Wei take their wife back into the room and waited until the two had entered. Closing the door in passing, he paused for the palace eunuch to stuff the wet nurse’s mouth......His hand grasped the Zhan Lu sword at his waist and slid it out of its sheath. With a wave of his hand, two rays of light flashed; the wet nurse gave a muffled groan as she flopped onto the ground, her two arms now separate from her torso.
“Drag her to feed the dogs.”
Xuanyuan Zong Zhi icily uttered a sentence. Zhan Lu sword returned to his sheath, he turned and entered the room. Stepping to the bedroom, he saw his pale-faced wife being held by Yun Shi Wei on the bed and distress couldn’t help but emerge in his heart.
Qu Gao and He Gua came over to remove his armor and properly store away the Zhan Lu sword before bringing over a clean set of leisurely clothes for their master.
After Xuanyuan Zong Zhi had washed his hands, he sat down at the head of the bed: “You are with child and must take care. Having been tired for this long, you ought to rest a bit. You can just hand over these small trifles for us men to handle.”
Worry flashed in Ruan Zhu’s eyes: “Has the Crown Prince been acting a little abnormally during this period? Such as using some incredible method to expand his strength?”
A smile emerged on Xuanyuan Zong Zhi’s face: “I am also expanding my strength. There is no need for you to be concerned. Your man is not so weak where even protecting one’s wife and child cannot be done.”
Distress that was hard to make sense of flit across Ruan Zhu’s eyes: “The Crown Prince’s side has surely used a peculiar method that has never been used before. For example, the strength of their intelligence has increased, the army is currently conducting very strange drills, and new kinds of military weapons are currently being researched?”
Xuanyuan Zong Zhi was astonished: “How did you know this?”
Ruan Zhu’s mood was heavy, as if lead had been poured over her. She extended a hand to grasp Xuanyuan Zong Zhi’s finger: “The Crown Prince has an extremely skilled adviser, and you must dispose of him. That man is precisely the one who killed Steward Wang–Zhao Hai; the crippled man who came up with the idea of stir-frying tea.”
Xuanyuan Zong Zhi was somber: “So it was him. I was thinking how did the Crown Prince’s strength abruptly increase and inquiries from multiple sides have failed. If we could ascertain the person, then it would be easy to handle. But, Wife, how would you know of this?”
“Don’t worry about how I know this now. However, Big Brother Lu, let me remind you–Zhao Hai poses a very large threat to us. If this person is around, we will be in danger. Because......Because the things that I know, that person basically knows as well. You......You must think of a way to eliminate him.” Ruan Zhu was despondent and the hand that had grabbed him unconsciously loosened: “The reason why Steward Wang was killed by him was precisely because Steward Wang understood things that the other man knew. If he knows that I also understand, he will definitely not let me go.”
“This is the reason why you have always been so scared of Zhao Hai?” Xuanyuan Zong Zhi was stunned: “I understand now. I will think of a way to eliminate him. In any case, I must do this for you and the children.”
But Ruan Zhu could hear between his words. It was not merely as simple as him eliminating Zhao Hai; he had decided to set himself against the Crown Prince. She suddenly was full of grief. As a member of the imperial family, even if one did not have the intention to strive and fight for the throne, one still had no choice but to fiercely and heartlessly do so in order to survive.
Ruan Zhu’s mood became a little better as at least the matter with Zhao Hai was now half-solved. The only aspect where she was stronger than Zhao Hai was that she knew the other’s secrets and the other did not know did not know about her.
She would take this opportunity while the Heavens were standing on her side.
Ruan Zhu instructed Qu Gao to send some servants to place Nuan Qing under house arrest. She was worried the Crown Prince’s men would try to get in contact with him and had no option but to be cautious.
Xuanyuan Zong Zhi saw that his wife was exhausted. He still had some questions to ask but restrained himself.
The next day, when Ruan Zhu woke up.
He could no longer resist and asked the question from yesterday: What exactly does ‘strengthening intelligence’ refer to?
Ruan Zhu only responded after thinking for a moment: “I’m also not too sure and can only give a rough direction, but I’ll slowly supplement it when I remember more in the future.”
“All right. Take your time.”
“Intelligence is not as simple as sending out several spies; in fact, it is much more complicated. This is a formidable information network with subordinates across all industries and institutions. The main task is to collect and analyze public and private knowledge that involve domestic and international affairs; businesses and individuals; national secrets; cultural trends; and information regarding soldiers. There is also the allocation of personnel and training consisting of assassinations, destruction, deceiving and changing the popular opinion......”
From the information Ruan Zhu had seen online, she repeated all of the ones that she remembered.
Referring to the CIA of the United States and other famous intelligence organizations, she explained the various tasks of each division to him and also spoke of a few famous spy cases and intelligence agents.
Those spies always wore famous brands, drove limousines, and dined in five-star restaurants. They frequently dealt with elites of society–generals, diplomats, ministers, and bankers......All spies were extraordinary sharpshooters, boxers, and drivers. Shooting, wrestling, driving were all part of the teaching curriculum in spy schools all over the world.
Ruan Zhu spoke of these people and matters by replacing the modern words with their ancient equivalent. It was not a lot, but it was rather clear and thorough.
Xuanyuan Zong Zhi’s mouth was wide open with amazement. These things were unheard of and he had never seen nor heard of any recorded material on this before! But in the end, he heard his wife say: “I don’t know a lot and currently can only say this much. Just choose some based on their usefulness, okay?”
This was still not counted as a lot? When all was said and done, how much more could there possibly be that he did not know?
“Establishing this sort of tremendous information network should require a great deal of money, yes?”
As a child of the imperial family, Xuanyuan Zong Zhi was extremely wealthy, but it was not to the extent where he had enough money to start an organization.
“Money is all earned.” Ruan Zhu thought for a moment, then raised her eyes towards him: “Actually, there are multiple ways to earn money. It only depends on what method you use.”
The country of Tian Chu had entered a drought that they saw once in a hundred years, immediately followed by floods and devastating destruction. Aside from stockpiling food, the masses’ demand anything else–such as for luxury goods of gold and silver jewels–were much less than before. It could be said that with the exception of foodstuffs, there was no profit made from selling all other items.
What about luxury goods that had never existed before in this world, hmm?! For example, glass or mirrors–wouldn’t people be shocked at the magic of a mirror? What a pity that according to this time period, Shen Kuo had yet to be born and the world was missing chiming clocks.[a]
Ruan Zhu explained the process of making glass. It was not too technical and only required a few procedures: Construct a porcelain kiln; find some quartz gravel; then add a few materials; boil them in a graphite bowl; use a magnet to discard the metal material; make it more transparent; then use a pipe to blow glass.
“I only understand the process, and the technical aspects can only be slowly mastered. It will be easier to make if you request a few pottery masters.” Ruan Zhu recalled the over-one meter wide glazed tile lamp that the Ruan family only brought out during the New Years. It had been purchased from a Persian merchant and its value was a hundred thousand taels of silver.
Glazed tile was precisely glass but because of technological limits, it was not clear like conventional glass. There was originally a quite mature glass-making industry during China’s Spring and Autumn period,[b] but later years saw the crack down on foreign goods and the several-hundred years of Chinese glass culture faded away. It did not rise again as it was mainly porcelain that flourished.
“Glass can be manufactured in mirrors that will be incredibly life-like, as if people had placed themselves inside it. The manufacturing process is even more simple–just apply quicksilver on one side. But it needs one month before it can be used and the yield is also not that high. However, the price is very expensive. The manufacturing cost of one mirror as large as a palm is only several taels but the market price will be over one hundred taels.”
A hundred taels. An ordinary civilian working hard every day would require ten years to be able to earn that amount.
Better glass mirrors are actually silver-plated goods but Ruan Zhu’s knowledge was not that extensive. Mirrors coated with mercury were the first choice of many transmigrated stallion males in their plans to get rich, and as she had read quite a few transmigration novels, she naturally understood this.
Mercury mirrors were first invented by Venetians and they monopolized the production of mirrors around the world.
The French loved beauty and soon, an unending stream of francs flowed into the Venetians’ pockets. As the Head of State ordered his ministers to steal the glass-making technique, they used a large sum to bribe four Venetian mirror artisans. Thus, the secrets of the mirrors were publicized for all to know, causing prices to take a dive and ordinary civilians could now afford them.
“Actually, there is not much point in using glass to make household goods; it is better to use porcelain that is more durable. Not only is glass fragile, but if the skills are not up to standard, it will explode into fragments upon coming in contact with boiling water so people who are afraid to injure their mouths will not dare use it. It is best to make glass into mirrors as all men and women are fond of having one, and it can also be sold overseas at sky-high prices. At that time, silver will fly like snowflakes over to us and you will have the money to even easily establish a country.”
Xuanyuan Zong Zhi held his breath and also did not blink, as if afraid he would miss a word. The information his wife spoke of was like the exceptional sounds from a guqin, beautifully sonorous and resounding. He hugged her, completely full of emotion: “Wife, this husband is fortunate to have you in this life.”
A smile danced on the corner of Ruan Zhu’s mouth. To be able to help him was truly a great feeling.
Xuanyuan Zong Zhi remembered something and his brows creased: “Does Zhao Hai also know of these things?”
Ruan Zhu heavily nodded her head, her two eyes similar to small lanterns: “He definitely knows.” Producing mirrors and glass was not too technical and knowing of it was also not difficult.
Xuanyuan Zong Zhi stood up: “This man cannot remain.”
A small palace eunuch stopped outside the beaded curtain and bowed before reporting:
“Prince, niangniang, the ones below have just transmitted a message–Nuan Qing has committed suicide.”
Ruan Zhu instantly became silent and only murmured after a while: “Why would he kill himself?” She had never thought of wanting his life. Was it that he no longer had any meaning to live or did he truly have feelings for the wet nurse and decided to accompany her?
“Nuan Chun is currently handling his funeral arrangements and is asking if niangniang has any instructions?”
Instructions? What instructions? Ruan Zhu felt a little lost. Before her eyes flashed the image of that man who had never really liked to speak and had always done his job properly.
When all was said and done, they had been together for this long! Ruan Zhu suddenly felt her nose was sour: “Find the Steward to set aside some silver and buy the best coffin! His parents and brothers......” Right, they were still in Lan Zhou. She would wait until the day she had returned to Lan Zhou to compensate them then!
[a] 沈括 Shen Kuo (1031-1095) was a Chinese polymathic scientist who was the first to describe the magnetic needle compass and true north. (Wikipedia) Chiming clocks are, well, clocks that chime with every hour. I didn’t find any information relating them to Shen Kuo, but he did invent a new form of inflow water clocks.
[b] 春秋时代 Spring and Autumn period was roughly from 771 to 476 BC.
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