The First Round of Enticement

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There was a strange smell in the temple. There was mold and trash that had not been cleaned up, and there was the urine and feces of young beggars, as well as the smell of leftover food that had been obtained through begging. When A-Huan and A-Ruo entered, they nearly threw up. If it was not for Zhu Kongshan’s fierce gaze watching them, they would have already turned around and run away, never wanting to return to this place again. Aside from Zhu Kongshan’s threatening gaze, her words did not hold back in the slightest: “If you leave through that door right now, I guarantee you that the people in the Sheng Palace will beat you and drive you out tonight. Don’t forget your status. You’re just a servant. If you no longer have the Zhu family, you will quickly fall to this sort of place.”

The two maidservants had become quite infuriated by Zhu Kongshan, yet Zhu Kongshan had the eighth prince as a pillar of support. She also had a noble lady for an aunt in the Imperial Palace. Even if the two wanted to scurry off, they did not have the courage to do so. They just spent their day thinking about finding a chance to write a letter to the head wife and the eldest young miss in Peng Zhou when they had a chance. Unfortunately, the security in the Sheng Palace was very tight. No matter where they went, there were people watching them. Even secretly sneaking out of the palace was impossible. Even now when they had come out with Zhu Kongshan, the driver of the carriage was not a normal driver. Instead, it was one of the Sheng Palace’s guards, and he was there under the pretense of protecting the young miss. Under this sort of pressure, even if the two did not want to, they needed to listen to what Zhu Kongshan said to avoid being complained about to the eighth prince. That really would be a disaster. Now, they could only hope that the matter in the capital could be quickly resolved. As for what the eldest young miss had said to them about taking advantage of the situation to climb, the two were not even thinking about such a thing.

The temple suddenly saw three people who were different from the usual arrive. The beggars who had not gone out to beg were stunned for a while. They could not understand it. Why would such a fine young miss come to this sort of place? Even if they were looking for laborers, they should have gone to the labor market?

Zhu Kongshan had become accustomed to it. Looking at the confused and worried looks on the faces of the beggars, she took a few steps forward then looked around. In the end, she bent down and squatted in front of a young beggar, gently asking: “Little brother, do you still recognize me?”

The little beggar looked at her for a long time before his eyes suddenly lit up: “It’s you? You’re His Highness the eighth prince’s cousin?” He recognized her: “On the day that you entered the city, you helped me up and gave me some money.” This was none other than the young child that had been helped up by Zhu Kongshan near the embroidery shop. He looked at Zhu Kongshan in confusion, “Young Miss, why have you come here? This place is too dirty. It’s not a place that you should have come to.”

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Zhu Kongshan did not say anything and only shook her head. She then took out her handkerchief and wiped the beggar’s lips. The young beggar was in the middle of eating half of a dirty pancake. Seeing Zhu Kongshan wipe his mouth, he dodged back in fear: “I can’t, I can’t. The handkerchief of a young miss is worth more than my life. It must not get dirty.”

Zhu Kongshan sighed: “What are you afraid of? I’m not a bad person. Regardless of how you viewed His Highness the eighth prince in the past, I have come from Peng Zhou. Although I am his cousin, I have never interacted with him much. I came into the capital to visit my aunts in the palace and did not know what sort of bad things my cousin has done. But I am me, and I never thought of myself as a young miss from a lofty family while in Peng Zhou. Now that I have come to the capital, it’s natural that I still won’t. There’s no need to be afraid of me. There’s no need for any of you to be afraid of me. Since I can help wipe your mouths, I have no intention of arguing with you over a handkerchief.” She was someone who already had an elegant appearance, and her voice was soft and moving. It made the distance between people feel so much smaller. All of the beggars in this temple suddenly felt as though a spring breeze had blown past, making things feel very comfortable.

The young beggar struggled slightly to understand what she was saying; however, he also knew that this young miss did not have any evil intentions, thus he did not continue to retreat and just stared at her.

Zhu Kongshan then continued: “This is just who I am as a person. I can’t bear to see so many people in this world suffer. To me, all people should be equal. It should not be that you are looked at differently because you are poor, or even physically assaulted. In the past in Peng Zhou, I said it to the beggars of Peng Zhou. In my, Zhu Kongshan’s, eyes, there has never been any reason to belittle anyone. Everyone is a citizen of Da Shun. You cannot feel inferior to others just because you are poorer than others. I gave them things, gave them food and encouraged them to use their strength to work. Even if it was for a few copper coins, it would be something earned through hard work and not obtained from begging others. I will say it once more. I have now come to the capital, and I will treat you the same way that I treated the beggars in Peng Zhou. I will not treat you differently. It’s about to be winter, and it’s getting colder with each passing day. I came today to the northern part of the city to see how many people need assistance. I am just one girl. Although I can’t resolve all of your livelihoods, at the very least, I can at least provide everyone with winter clothes, such that you will not freeze during Winter. This is also the most reliable thing to do.”

“Winter clothes?” The beggars immediately became spirited upon hearing this and gathered around, “Are young miss’ words true? Will you really give us winter clothes? Without needing to pay money?”

Zhu Kongshan nodded. Rather than frowning from having so many beggars gather around with twinkles in their eyes, she smiled and said to them: “Of course, it’s true. Everyone will get one. Nobody will be lacking.”

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“But that will need a lot of money.” The young beggar was a bit worried for her, “Young Miss, it really will cost a lot of money. You need to think this through. That much money is not something to play around with.”

“What’s there to fear?!” She patted the young beggar’s head and said, “Even if elder sister doesn’t have enough money, isn’t there still the Sheng Palace? I don’t care what sort of things His Highness the eighth prince did in the past to make you unhappy, but I have now come. Asking him for a bit of money will be fine.” While she spoke, she looked around then said: “It might be that not everyone is here today. We’ll do it like this, when everyone has returned, do a headcount of how many men, women, and children there are. Or just have everyone refrain from going out tomorrow and wait here for me. I will come over a bit earlier and will bring a tailor to check your measurements.”

Her decision caused the beggars to begin cheering. They might not have thought much of it during spring, summer or autumn, but the arrival of winter was problematic. Which year did not see people die during winter! There were some people that would be warmly speaking with you before sleeping, but they would be dead when you woke up. There would be no place to bury them, thus they could only be thrown out of the temple and wait for the guards to notice before they would be placed in unmarked graves. Now that someone said that they would be getting winter clothes, it was obvious that everyone would be happy. This meant that they would no longer freeze during winters, and there would no longer be anyone who would freeze to death. In an instant, the position of the eighth prince’s cousin was rapidly rising in their hearts.

As for Zhu Kongshan, she felt that this was not enough. She looked around the temple then said to A-Ruo: “Go to a place that sells window paper. Have them send a clerk over to check how many windows there are and how much it would cost to replace all of the window paper. Remember, it needs to be thick paper. It can’t just be broken from some wind.”

When A-Ruo heard that she could go and handle some work, she quickly complied and hastily left. She would finally be able to take a breath of fresh air. Even if she needed to run, she was happy to do it.

“A-Huan.” Zhu Kongshan continued with her instructions, “Go and find a carpenter. Have them come and fit a door for this temple. Leaving such a large opening, no matter how thick their winter clothes, it still won’t be able to do enough.” A-Huan complied and left. Zhu Kongshan began to look around this dilapidated temple with a worried look then helplessly said: “In truth, I really want to bring you all out of this place, but winter clothes are small items. Taking away so many people, I really am powerless to do such a thing. Don’t blame me. Just keep living in it for now. At the very least, I will have some people come and fix it up. I definitely will not let you suffer from the wind and rain.”

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Her words were earnest and caused some of the female beggars to wipe away tears, as they repeatedly called her a Bodhisattva.

Zhu Kongshan felt very comfortable in her heart; however, she continued to say: “I’m not worthy, you must not call me such a thing. I am just doing the things that I want to do. I just can’t bear to watch poor people suffer. Your lives should be the same as ours.”

Very quickly, the two servants brought the window paper merchant and the carpenter. She paid them in banknotes on the spot then chose the best window paper and the best wood. This caused the two clerks to praise her for having a good heart.

Zhu Kongshan had not used all of her ideas. She walked out of the temple and pulled out two brooms from who knew where. Handing one to A-Ruo and one to A-Huan, she pointed at the temple and said: “When we came into the capital, you two spouted all kinds of vile things. You even used copper coins to meddle with the people. Today, you will make amends for those mistakes!”

The two servants were frozen in place. For a while, they could not understand what Zhu Kongshan’s words meant. Thus she explained once more: “Can you not understand? I’m telling you to clean up this temple. All of the trash is to be taken out then taken away. It definitely cannot remain in this temple.”

How could A-Huan and A-Ruo dare to do this sort of thing? Even in the past, before they had climbed to their positions as first-rate servants, they would only take care of cleaning up the eldest young miss’ courtyard. How clean were the courtyards of the wealthy families? At most, there would be some leaves and flower petals that had fallen to the ground, but now…

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Zhu Kongshan knew that the two would definitely be unhappy, but just a single gaze carrying a warning and threatening tone left the two with no other choice. Even if they were unwilling to do it, they could only accept their fate and begin cleaning, yet it happened that the guard outside had come in. Standing at Zhu Kongshan’s side, it was clear that he was supporting her.

The eighth prince’s cousin had made winter clothes for the beggars in the northern part of the city and fixed up the rundown temple. She also had her maidservants make amends and clean up. Before the clothes were even made, this news had begun to spread. Not only did it reach the Sheng Palace and Xuan Tianmo’s ears, but it also reached the Imperial Palace’s Noble Lady Yuan.

Noble Lady Yuan was so happy that she could not stop smiling. She felt more and more that bringing in this niece was too brilliant. She even felt that if such a girl could stay at her son’s side in the future, she really would be able to feel at ease.

Xuan Tianmo was a bit more pragmatic, having the treasury give even more money to Zhu Kongshan to use. He also had quite a bit of clothing made for her while also awarding her a large amount of jewelry. As for Peng Zhou, before the first person that had been sent could return, he sent another group of people, and the things that were sent were even more valuable.

Zhu Kongshan was not too interested in the clothing or accessories that Xuan Tianmo sent. In the end, what she wanted was not this, but she was a smart person. At a time like this, not to mention bringing it but, but she did not even want to think about it too much. In order to become a useful person, she needed to be able to do useful things. She needed to provide Xuan Tianmo with even more help. Only like this could she steady herself in the Sheng Palace and in the capital. It would only be like this that she would have the capital to have Noble Lady Yuan honor her commitment.

For the time being, she accepted the clothing. The more beautiful ones, she did not wear, as she chose to keep the ones that were more subdued. As for the accessories, she had an even better arrangement…

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