Mu Jiang already knew that he could no longer avoid this trial. When he saw the imperial guard bring the bloody pearl over to his side, he had already prepared himself for the seventh prince coming to settle this debt with him; however, he never thought that the seventh prince would actually come when the fourth prince was in the middle of berating him. What was he doing? Was the group of princes teaming up? Would he be able to scrape through this sort of firepower on his own?
Mu Jiang understood the situation very well and chose the term “scrape through” instead of “deal with.” What a joke, looking at things as a whole, who had the ability to deal with a prince? Which one of these princes was not exceedingly domineering. Today, he had been placed in this bad spot by that damn girl. He thought to himself that after he got back, he would definitely lock that girl in her courtyard and never let her out.
“Your Highness.” Mu Jiang saluted once more, as sweat appeared on his brow. Da Shun’s seventh prince was most like a deity; however, he was also an existence that nobody dared to ignore. If there was anyone that truly believed that the seventh prince’s personality was the same on the inside as the way he looked on the outside, that would be the greatest mistake. In truth, if this prince was offended the retribution would be far worse than the ninth prince.
“Lord Mu.” Xuan Tian Hua had already sat down on the other side of Xuan Tian Ming, sweeping his clothes with a hand. Every move that he made was heavenly and refined. But the words that he said were difficult to accept: “I trust that Lord Mu has seen the pearl that was ruined by your daughter, right?”
With all that was said, it seemed to have skipped over how the pearl had been removed by Feng Yu Heng from the hairpin then tossed out. All that was said was that it had been ruined by his daughter. This sort of ability to speak nonsense was something that Mu Jiang could not compete with. But so what if he was inferior. With things as they were, he could only accept it. “This lowly official has already seen it.” Mu Jiang continued to quietly apologize: “This dispute between girls was the result of this lowly official not teaching my daughter well. It was all this lowly official’s fault.”
“Of course, it’s your fault.” Xuan Tian Ming interjected, “Could it be that your daughter is not at fault, and it was this prince’s wife that was at fault?”
Mu Jiang trembled: “Not at all, Imperial Daughter is not at fault at all.”
“Un.” Xuan Tian Ming nodded, “If you’re able to think like this, that could not be better. This matter will also be much easier to discuss.” He then asked Xuan Tian Hua: “The pearl from the Eastern Sea that Seventh Brother brought back was something that Heng Heng liked greatly.”
Xuan Tian Hua continued: “This prince has been in this world for over 20 years, and it was my first time seeing that sort of pearl. That was something that was found in a thousand-year clam on my way back to the capital from the East. The color was extremely beautiful, and it is very rare. Even in the imperial palace, such a beautiful pearl has never been seen before. That’s why, Lord Mu, think a bit about the price.”
Before Mu Jiang could speak, Xuan Tian Ming spoke up once more: “Lord Mu must think carefully. Allowing you to think of the price is already very magnanimous.”
Mu Jiang nodded his head with difficulty, but the pearl had already been described in that way by Xuan Tian Hua. What should the price be? He thought long and hard; however, all he could muster was: “The pearl… shouldn’t be considered ruined, right? It… it’s just been covered in a bit of blood.”
Xuan Tian Ming picked up his wine cup and threw it out, smashing it right next to Mu Jiang’s foot. In an instant, the entire hall turned toward this side. Even the people that had been engaged in conversations stopped talking and held their breath. They were all speculating about Mu Jiang’s end.
Xuan Tian Ming then asked Mu Jiang: “You mean to say that you want this prince’s wife to wear a pearl that has been covered in your daughter’s blood?”
The fourth prince Xuan Tian Yi also spoke up: “Really so shameless.”
Mu Jiang could not remain standing and simply kneeled on the ground, “Would Your Highnesses please allow this lowly official go and let this matter pass. This lowly official is willing to accept any reparations.”
“Very good.” Xuan Tian Ming nodded, “This is more like it. As long as you are willing, matters are easier to handle.” He then asked Xuan Tian Hua: “Seventh Brother knows best about the value of the pearl. Let’s have Seventh Brother come up with a price.”
Xuan Tian Hua agreed but did not rush to provide a price. Instead, he asked Mu Jiang: “How about Lord Mu reports your family’s financial situation first. This will allow this prince to understand. This way, we can avoid asking for too much, where you won’t be able to pay. If we ask for too little, it won’t be able to pay for the pearl.”
Everyone that heard these words trembled. Report the family wealth? This was trying to clean him out.
Sweat dripped from Mu Jiang’s brow to the ground, as his heart began to tremble. Report his family’s wealth? He was not unwilling to part with his wealth, but could officials report their family’s wealth? Which family did not have two separate accounts, one public and one hidden? If he reported it in front of so many people, it would be better to just execute him now.
He had a heavy expression and kneeled in place without speaking for a long time. In his mind, however, he was thinking. If he obediently reported his public account, would it anger the princes? Would they really execute him on the spot? In the end, he still needed to live.
Seeing that Mu Jiang did not speak, Xuan Tian Hua did not hold back in the slightest. It was fine if the opposition would not speak, as he said: “It seems that Lord Mu’s memory is not too good, not even able to remember your own family’s accounts. Then allow this prince to help you calculate it.” As he spoke, Xuan Tian Hua began to add things up, from Mu Jiang’s annual salary as an official to how many farms, shops and residences he owned in Luo Province without missing a single one. All of them were placed in the open.
Of course, if it was just this, Mu Jiang was not afraid. After all, which official did not have farms and shops. This could not be any more normal, but what caused him to feel dread was that Xuan Tian Hua was actually able to clearly speak about every single deed that the Mu family had. There were even some that he himself was not clear on. This caused Mu Jiang to feel shocked. At the same time, he also understood that they must have secretly investigated the Mu manor’s hidden accounts, and it was not limited to just one.
However, even more terrifying than this was what Xuan Tian Hua said next, “It’s reported that this is not even the main source of the Mu family’s wealth. Luo Province is Da Shun’s last province in the South. It is next to Lan Zhou, and the numerous businesses from the countries in the South must pass through Lan Zhou to do business with Da Shun. After Lan Zhou, they must pass through Luo Province, where even more people have Luo Province as the place where they will conduct their business. For all businesses that wish to enter Da Shun, Lan Zhou is a barrier, and Luo Province is even more of one. The taxes produced by this trade as well as the tariffs that must be paid upon entering Luo Province have never once been part of the reports to Da Shun. You have said that there was only one business person that came, thus there was only one. But in truth, perhaps an entire country had entered. And when you say that a country has come through, perhaps there were ten. Deep in the desert, there are a total of 16 small countries. Lord Mu, one of the daughters of a concubine from your manor married into one of those countries. On the day that she married, the dowry procession was ten li in length. The value of that is a third of that small country’s wealth. At the same time, the betrothal gift that they provided is a sum worth clicking your tongue at. Has this prince said anything wrong?”
Mu Jiang kowtowed with his head hitting the ground. He did not say another word.
The officials in the hall all inhaled sharply. The officials of the South were a bit better off, as they were all clear on this matter, but the people that had come from other parts, including the officials from the capital, were hearing about it for the first time. Upon hearing this, they could not help but feel shocked. All of them began to calculate. Precisely how wealthy was Mu Jiang? When the daughter of a concubine got married, there was ten li of gifts, and it was enough to be worth a third of a small country’s wealth, so what would happen if it was the daughter of the first wife? How much would that be?
The people sighed in shock and were even more interested in the wealth of the Mu family. How much would be extorted by these princes?
Xuan Tian Hua raised his voice once more: “Lord Mu, everything that should be said, this prince has already said. This prince will not try to force you to do something you are unwilling to do. During the banquet, think carefully. Come tomorrow to the Chun Palace to provide this prince with an explanation.”
Just after he finished speaking, the fourth prince, Xuan Tian Yi, also laughed, “Lord Mu, who knew that your Luo Province would be so wealthy. Since that’s the case, this prince will not hold back. The matter of your daughter hitting the Feng family’s third young miss is something that I have deliberated on for a while. How about this, just use the same ten li of dowry that you sent into the desert as reparations for this. The Feng family is currently in a poor state, and it does not have much money. Third Young Miss Feng is a girl that has not yet been betrothed. In the future, she will need to get married, but she won’t be able to rely on the Feng family to provide her with a plentiful dowry. We’ll simply have you prepare it. Whether you use money or items, we will not quibble with you over that, but before those items are handed over to third Young Miss Feng, would Lord Mu please not leave the capital.” As he spoke, he looked over to the two princes at his side and said: “The matter of keeping an eye on Lord Mu will be left to ninth brother.”
Mu Jiang heard this. They were placing him under house arrest in the capital, and he said in fear: “This must not be done. Luo Province is the last province in the South. If this lowly official does not return, the official matters that have been piling up…”
“This is not a problem.” Xuan Tian Ming spoke up, “This prince will dispatch someone to act as your substitute and take care of the Luo Province. When the matters in the capital have been taken care of, we will have someone send you back.”
Once these words were said, it was the same as making Mu Jiang a figurehead. Who knew how long it would take for this matter to be resolved. From the capital to the South, it would take at least two months. The person that substituted him very well might squeeze him out. This was a big matter.
His attitude was very resolute, shaking his head and saying: “Absolutely no good.”
Xuan Tian Ming, however, nodded his head, “Since Lord Mu does not agree, let’s forget about it.”
“Hm?” Everyone was confused. The ninth prince had given up this quickly? This was not his style.
Of course, this was not Xuan Tian Ming’s style. His style was: “Then let’s just file a report, you’ll say that Imperial Daughter Ji An carved out some flesh from the palm of your daughter’s hand. We’ll say that you embezzled money from the taxes owed to the court. The amount is extremely large. It should be enough for an execution, right?” While he spoke, he looked toward the standard first rank official that was in charge of the court, “Lord Xu, is it worthy of execution?”
The official in charge of the court was most definitely aligned with Xuan Tian Ming. Hearing him ask, he quickly got up and replied: “It’s definitely enough.”
Thus Xuan Tian Ming nodded, “Then we’ll do it like that.”
Mu Jiang was stunned and rushed to shout: “No, no, we can’t do it like that. Wait a moment.” He then looked toward Xuan Tian Ming. There was a bit of anger in his eyes; however, there was far more despair. In the end, he gave up, “Forget it, the reparations mentioned earlier, this lowly official… will accept them.”
“That’s more like it.” Xuan Tian Ming spoke up, “If you have money, just pay it. Insisting on using your life as an exchange, Lord Mu really was foolish in the calculation of this debt.”
“Then following this…” The fourth prince, Xuan Tian Yi, still had not finished expressing himself, “Allow me to continue. Aside from the dowry as a reparation, I have another two claims to make.”