T/N: Happy New Year everyone, this chapter is quite long compared to the usual so enjoy!
“Begging the emperor to quell your anger!” Shen Zhen slowly emerged, “This official thinks that the most important thing right now is the safety of the people.”
“This official claims himself guilty like the rest, but I hope that the Emperor would wait until this disaster has been dealt with before pursuing the matter of the debt again.”
“Hmph.” Emperor Xie Yu pointed at Shen Zhen, “What a glib tongue you have.”
“Zhen didn’t forget that your Shen Clan also owes a large amount of silver from the national treasury!”
Shen Zhen hooked up the corner of his mouth, his tone sounding slightly terrified, “Holy Emperor is wise, this official and the others will definitely urge all the clans to pay off their dues as soon as possible!”
“And if you don’t manage to deliver this promise?” Emperor Xie Yu and Shen Zhen’s voices echoed one after another.
“The Holy Emperor can punish us as he sees fit.”
The people, who were still originally fearless, heard the conversation between Shen Zhen and the Emperor loud and clear and began to feel uneasy.
Lord Shen, we didn’t make any promises to be ‘punished as the emperor sees fit’ if we don’t retrieve the silver! Why are you carelessly speaking on our behalf??
“Alright!” Emperor Xie Yu swept a quick glance across the anxiously kneeling crowd and said meaningfully, “Zhen will extend the deadline for a few more days.”
“Once the disaster relief matter has been settled, I’ll make sure that you resolve your debts one way or another!”
“Zhen doesn’t care how you used the money you borrowed.” Emperor Xie Yu said with empathy before he changed his tone and subject immediately, “But when the time comes and you all still haven’t cleared your dues…”
Emperor Xie Yu’s voice wasn’t loud but it heavily wrapped around everybody’s hearts. “Don’t even think about sitting in your seats any longer if you don’t pay Zhen back.”
“Zhen concludes that under this vast world, among the participants of the new policy, there will be a person with knowledge and experience who can always help ease Zhen’s burdens…”
Emperor Xie Yu’s meaning was clear and easy to understand. That is, when time comes and those who stole Zhen’s silver didn’t obediently return them, Zhen will take away their positions and promote anyone who has the money!
These grave words were spoken a bit lightly but it was extremely effective.
For at least the next two months, everyone’s faces in the entire imperial court would suddenly change once money was brought up in the conversation. The ministers, who were generally sharp on the updates, started urging the clans to raise money and consciously pay off their substantial debts.
However, there were also those established and stubborn families, like the Gongsun and the Shen clan, who still did not believe that Emperor Xie Yu would readily dismiss all those who haven’t paid off their debts in anger, and held onto a sliver of hope.
However, this sliver of hope was soon replaced by instant regret.
The Gongsun family quickly became the first example the emperor used to kill the chicken to warn the monkey.
Gongsun Mu was dismissed on the spot by Emperor Xie Yu and ruthlessly thrown into prison.
Additionally, the imperial army had also come to the Gongsun Manor and took away the already retired Gongsun Chang. Gongsun Hui was also escorted off the estate and the whole house was searched with all their expensive possessions confiscated.
Boxes and boxes of jewelry were moved out of the Gongsun Manor. All the gold and silver were affixed with the seal stating that it belonged to the national treasury.
Emperor Xie Yu issued an official decree. Anyone who owed the state treasury money must pay off their debts within three days, otherwise, they will be personally held accountable. If three days have passed and the debt has not been completely cleared, one must bear the grave consequences that would follow suit.
As for what the consequences of conceit was, the Gongsun Clan served as an excellent example.
This time, everyone knew that Emperor Xie Yu had truly meant his words.
Regardless of whether you were an imperial relative or a noble aristocrat, if you don’t return the money, your houses would be searched and all of your belongings will be confiscated.
And so, every clan and every manor started to move with haste.
Raising money everywhere they could.
The Shen family had also begun to grow restless.
Shen Zhichang and Shen Zhimao had also heard the dreadful news of the emperor demanding debts to be returned to the national treasury, but they didn’t treat it as a serious matter at all because they had lived a life of extravagance since they were young and did not know that their lifestyle was ‘borrowed.’
But Old Matriarch Zhu Wanning couldn’t sit still.
She knew that the Shen family owed money.
That was when her husband, Shen Qipeng, was still alive, and when the Shen family was at their most prosperous. At that time, Shen Qipeng was a second grade official, and every day, he only interacted with the nobles of Tianhuang, so he needed a lot of silver to bribe them with.
But an official’s monthly salary was no more than a few silvers, how could it be enough to pay off all sorts of expenses. Even though Zhu shi came with a dowry, those were her private savings. Hearing Shen Qipeng say that his colleagues all withdrew money from the Ministry of Revenue and signed an IOU but had never paid it back, Zhu shi ardently advocated that Shen Qipeng follow the trend and ‘borrow’ the silver for his transactions.
Afterwards, they ‘borrowed’ even more. Although he owed a debt, he never paid it back. Zhu shi then advocated that Shen Qipeng also “borrow” silver to turn around with Daliu. Later, she borrowed even more money from loan sharks and bought some properties. Her private assets also gradually became richer.
But no amount of money could withstand the endless consumption of worthless children and grandchildren.
Shen Zhichang played around every day, sometimes even going off to gamble. He didn’t even have a stable income. Moreover, even though Shen Zhen was an official, he was smug and self-righteous, his income from the Imperial Hanlin Academy was so low that it could barely be considered as anything. As such, the entire Shen Family relied on Zhu shi for support.
However, Shen Zhen was on the path of success, yet, he didn’t come out of her stomach. Zhu Wanning hated that she couldn’t make him disappear, so how could she pathetically rely on him?
During these two months, Shen Zhen had been preoccupied with the policy of ‘Donating to Become an Official.’ He would head off early in the morning and return late at night. He urgently wished to wrap up this matter, so he could properly speak with his daughter-in-law regarding the ‘matter between them.’
But Zhu shi couldn’t wait.
After she finally heard that the Gongsun clan had been dismissed, she hurriedly asked the servants to call back Shen Zhen who had been extremely busy outside.
Then, she gathered all the heads of the households in the rear court’s family hall.
The Shen Zhichang couple, Shen Zhimao couple, and the Shen Zhongxing couple all gathered together.
“Shen Zhen! Kneel down for me!”
As soon as Shen Zhen stepped into the family hall, he heard Zhu shi’s strict rebuke.
But, he was not the little kid who dared not resist these vicious commands back then. He now stood proud and tall but also had an air of imposingness to him.
Ignoring Zhu shi’s aggressive order, he remained calm and stood upright, “Has Shen Zhen done something wrong?”
“As a son of the Shen family, for the sake of your own selfish interests and not considering the interests of the clan, you’ve allowed our Shen family to fall into a quagmire, and you still think you haven’t done anything wrong!?”
Zhu shi angrily splashed dirty water all over him, as if to pin the blame of Shen Family’s unstable situation on Shen Zhen’s head.
“Oh? A quagmire?” Shen Zhen was not afraid of Zhu shi’s intense berate. He was even in the mood to check out Chu Jiao, who quietly sat at the side with lowered eyes.
En. Today, the little girl was wearing a kesi1 Kesi 緙絲: Chinese silk tapestry woven in a pictorial design. dress, which was also the luxurious material he had cheekily asked the Emperor for. As expected, it suited her well. The deep green color was refreshing to the eyes, and the girl’s features became more spread out, exuding a touch of mature charm.
“Hmph, you’re the Grand Assistant Minister of the Ministry of Appointment. Don’t even try to tell me that you don’t know the Shen Family also owes money! That was the debt that your father had left, so naturally the three of you siblings should return it together!” Zhu shi decided to let Shen Zhen carry this responsibility as her tone became softer and she praised, “Your two older brothers aren’t as capable as you are. Old Third, as expected, only you can uphold the Shen Family’s immortal glory.”
“Heh… only me…”
When Shen Zhen realized that the moment he had long waited for had finally come. He didn’t feel as excited as he thought he was going to be. Instead, he was calm and rational as though he was talking to an outsider.
“You’re nothing but a concubine’s lowly seed…”
“You’re nothing but a slave…”
Shen Zhen repeated the malicious, cold words that had been ringing in his ears since his youth, his face revealing foul mockery.
“Mother, how could such a person like me be able to assume the glory of the Shen family?”
The hate in Zhu shi’s heart brewed powerfully. She hadn’t expected this lowly man to be so vengeful. However, the words that came out of her mouth right now made her sound like a kind and caring mother, “Aiii, Back then, mother did not manage the servants properly. Those who had let their tongue loose had already been sold early on. Old Third, are you still blaming your poor mother and holding a nasty grudge? Is that why you are unwilling to rescue the Shen Family from its time of trouble?”
If Shen Zhen answered “Yes,” then he would be considered petty and narrow-minded, completely disrespectful to the first wife. On the other hand, if he answered “No,” then Shen Zhen had no choice but to help the Shen Family get through this severe crisis.
“Mother,” Shen Zhen took three incense sticks from the side of the incense burner table and kindly lit it, offering it to the tablets of Shen shi’s ancestors in front of him, while saying lightly, “It’s not that I’m unwilling to save the Shen family, it’s that I can’t save you.”
“If you had paid off your debts in the first place, the Shen Family wouldn’t have been in any trouble.”
“If you can’t…… ” Shen Zhen turned around, his black eyes staring straight at Zhu Wanning, “Then, the Shen Family will be the next Gongsun Family…”
In a split second, Shen Zhichang’s legs softened. He appallingly threw himself forward, desperately holding onto Shen Zhen’s hand, “Thi-Third younger brother, s-save your older brothers. I don’t want to get caught and thrown into prison!”
Shen Zhen nimbly evaded him. “Big brother, forgive this younger brother for being powerless.”
“Mother! I blame both you and father!” Seeing that he couldn’t rely on Shen Zhen, Shen Zhichang’s fear turned into rage as he turned around and vented it onto his own mother. “We weren’t the ones who borrowed the money, why should we be the ones to return it!”
Having a son that was like a mud that couldn’t support a wall2 Mud that can’t support a wall: useless or unsuccessful , the taste of irony blood was stifled in Zhu Wanning’s throat but she still persisted on, “Chang’er, don’t worry. A family that sticks together through thick and thin will always find a way out.”
She promptly turned her gaze to the side where Chu Jiao had been standing silently and frantically asked, “Isn’t that right, Zhongxing’s wife?”
To go through thick and thin and to say such things under such circumstances, Chu Jiao certainly understood that she was obviously hinting at the idea of her offering her dowry to repay the debt.
She elegantly emerged out of the shadows, pushing Shen Zhongxing towards Shen Zhen, and stood beside him.
Chu Jiao paid a few respectful salutes to several elders before saying, “This servant is already a member of the Shen Family’s third household.” She emphasized the words “Third Household.” “And will naturally advance and retreat along with the third household.”
Zhu shi’s smile had yet to reach halfway when her face darkened because of what Chu Jiao had to say.
“So… this servant had given all my dowry to father for him to handle.”
Meanwhile, Shen Zhen’s next sentence left Zhu Shi unable to breathe, making her simply faint from shock.
“Previously, I didn’t know that the Shen family owed money, so I thought about donating to obtain an official position for Zhongxing. And so, I’ve donated all of Jiao’er’s dowry to the national treasury.”
Little Author’s Note:
I saw a little angel saying that she was eating too much vegetarian food…but the thing is I want to finish writing the plot first. I also want to have meat as soon as possible. Believe me (cover my face)…
(T/N: A reader wanted more smut than plot lmao)
You’ll probably be able to start eating meat in the next couple chapters? It’s almost time to change the plan..
TOC for advanced chapter – ICD
Translation status of advanced chapters: 4th and 5th world Completed