Chapter 90: In Charge of the Household, Big Family Big Business
Long Heng clenched his fists a little tighter. Numerous punishments flitted through his head, but none of them seemed appropriate for her. In his eyes, Bai Xiangxiu was simply too delicate. She was so weak that none of the punishments were suitable to be used on her.
Finally, just when everyone was starting to have difficulty breathing from the anxiety permeating the air, he stated, “Fine, then you shall stay there forever.” That alone could be considered to be a kind of punishment as well. After all, it was somewhat similar to being grounded. Despite that decree, he was still seething. He immediately mounted his horse and barked, “I will wait for the old madame outside. All of you can continue with your own tasks. What are you still kneeling for?!”
His bad mood had stripped every ounce of gentleness from his manner of speech.
Bai Xiangxiu felt relief as the hoofbeats faded into the distance. Her relief translated into her nearly losing her balance again, but luckily, Xiao Shi was nearby to catch her. Xiao Shi felt a little vexed and complained, “Madame Xiu, what would you hope to gain by doing this?!”
“I don’t know either.” That was too terrifying! The male lead is definitely the male lead alright! The atmosphere had turned frighteningly unbearable when he grew angry. It was just like in the novel. Even the female lead was afraid of him when he was angry, much less an insignificant female supporting character like her!
Luckily, the male lead did not punish her. Only after she’d heaved a sigh of relief did she realize that her back was feeling cold. It then came to her attention that her back was drenched because she’d broken out in a cold sweat.
Xiao Shi assisted her in sending off the old madame. At this moment, the old madame had also realized that Bai Xiangxiu had angered her son.
The old madame had no interest in the matters between a man and a woman. She’d originally thought that this lady had already conquered her son and was capable of wrapping him around her finger. But unexpectedly, he had still yet to fall blindly into the pit of love. This was a good thing. She felt more at ease now that she knew that.
As for the things the old madame needed for the journey, Bai Xiangxiu had already prepared everything sufficiently. She couldn’t be blamed for it if any small mistakes had cropped up. The old madame was feeling weak due to her illness so she didn’t think about too much about those things. She just brought her people with her, setting off on her journey to warmer climes.
As soon as the old madame had left, Bai Xiangxiu turned around and realized that all the servants had a very different air about them compared to earlier. It seemed that she has already entered into a battlefield. A very special battlefield.
She clenched her fist in secret. Since I have already accepted the mission, then I shall complete the mission to the best of my ability!
Unexpectedly, the Prince’s estate was not as simple as she’d originally thought. First, the most important thing was to settle the area that the old madame was in charge of. Only after she’d been handed the authority did she realize that things were a teensy bit more troublesome than she’d assumed.
First of all, as a manager of a household, one needed a certain degree of knowledge in literature. As evidence in some invitations that arrived that had such mangled wording she had to purposefully suppress the urge to smack the writer. The other skill that was very much in demand was mathematics. Even a single second’s distraction would leave them lost in the various accounts.
She really couldn’t understand why did those madams or mistresses in novels would want to fight for the position of being in charge of a household. Was it because they didn’t have an outlet for their excess brainpower? Was that the reason why they wanted to busy themselves with this troublesome task?
She wondered how many years of life would taken away from them by doing this arduous job. She creased her brows as she flipped through the accounting book. When she’d finally flipped through half of it, she felt that her forehead had crinkled into a permanent frown. She needed Xiao Shi to support her to even stand up. She paced in a circle around the room and then looked at the shadow of a person who was waiting outside her room.
It was the chief steward of the estate, Long Shuting. He was one of the innumerable male supporting characters in the novel. Because there really were too many male supporting characters, his popularity was nowhere near the top ranking on the charts. Even the female lead hadn’t realized that he’d been secretly in love with her by the end of the story.
He wasn’t old, only about 25 to 26 years of age. With regular features, he’d originally been a scholar who’d failed the imperial exams. On his way back to his village, he’d almost lost his life to an assassination attempt. However, he was saved by Long Heng. Since he was somewhat capable, he remained in the estate to work as a steward. After they moved into the new prince’s estate, he was promoted to become the chief steward.
Because he was an orphan, he had no parents to help him arrange a marriage. As such, he was still currently a bachelor. Add to the fact that he had a fastidious personality and some arrogance due to his identity as a scholar, most women did not quite match up to his standards. The old madame had tried introducing some of the female servants to him, but he had rejected them all.
He was the one that had brought the accounting books to her just now. After looking through the books for a bit, she felt that this chief steward probably looked down on her a little. To be fair, there was a reason she felt that way. Although the accounting books that he had brought to her were indeed the latest, it wasn’t the complete set. He had only brought the estate’s expenditure accounts to her.
That was why Bai Xiangxiu had felt tired looking at them. Some of the withdrawals only stated the date of withdrawal and what the money was used for, but no other specific details. Since the two of them were separated by a screen, Bai Xiangxiu paced for another two circles before she said, “Chief Steward, I only have the general accounting books for the estate here with me, but not the specific accounting books for businesses outside the estate. Tell me, how am I supposed to look through them with only this?”
The teacup in Long Shuting’s hands shook trembled. He had indeed looked slightly down on this little concubine from the rear court, a place that seemed to value beauty over brains. Traditionally, most people held the stereotype that concubines were just a plaything for men.
He had been born in a respectable household as well. He’d only ended up here because his family’s fortunes had declined. If Long Heng hadn’t saved him, he probably would’ve died in some foreign land long ago. Although the old madame instructed him to temporarily give his stewardship duties to this concubine, he had always had the impression that she was just a woman who’d merely earned the prince’s adoration with her beauty and didn’t have much ability to her name
Seeing that she had asked for the other accounting books, he laughed and said, “Fourth Madame, the accounting books other than the estate’s are quite complex. Maybe when the old madame returns…”
Today is the day for the monthly audits, and I have to settle the outstanding bills afterwards. Only then can I check the books for inconsistencies. Is he implying that he doesn’t trust me by saying something like this?
“Since the old madame has entrusted the entire matter to me, it seems inappropriate of you to be doing this, chief steward.”
“No, I simply did not want to tire you out with work, Madame.”
“I’m just afraid that if I do not finish up the tasks the old madame has entrusted to me, when she returns, she will be the one tired out by work.”
“……” Long Shuting put down the tea cup. This fourth madame’s speech is orderly and logical. She doesn’t seem like a girl without any brains. Maybe I can allow her to take a look at things? As long as she didn’t mess up the accounts or point fingers, then everything would be fine. After all, these women from the rear residences probably never understood the matters outside of their estates. So, he calmly responded, “Then I will have somebody bring the books.”
Soon, the accounting books for businesses outside the estate for the current month arrived. There were more than 10 accounting books, with full details of everything within.
Bai Xiangxiu really hated looking through the books, but she had no choice. To earn a favorable impression from the old madame, she had to properly finish up the tasks she was entrusted with. So, she began to earnestly look through them. She went to wash her face in the middle of looking through them. The complicated account books had left her almost dizzy.
When she was finally done matching the receipts with the accounts, she realized that the estate actually had quite a few businesses in the capital city. However, some of the expenditures were quite odd.
She pointed at a page on the balance sheet and said, “This shop isn’t making money at all. Why are we wasting so much money to keep it running every month?”
Long Shuting was stunned. He had not thought that she would actually notice that particular shop. He had done some very detailed work to try and hide the accounting, and the old madame was extremely scrupulous about keeping that shop hidden as well. He couldn’t believe that she’d noticed it. Since she had asked, he could only answer. “Actually this shop is not part of the estate’s assets. It was a shop from the old estate when the Long family decided to split.
“However, not many people in the old estate are good at managing the business. So, the old madame secretly sends some money over to the shop every month in the hopes that they will sustain their business and not come to the Prince’s estate to stir up trouble.”
“Oh, I see.” Supporting them financially yet trying to hide the fact from everyone. The old madame must’ve put in a lot of effort to maintain this status quo.
“The prince doesn’t know about this matter then. Right?” A thought suddenly came to Bai Xiangxiu’s mind. If the prince knew about this matter, then they wouldn’t have had to mess about in the accounts anymore.
Not only did Long Shuting now feel that the fourth madame was good at reading the books, he also felt that she was a quick thinker as well. When she first brought it up, he’d thought of asking her to keep it a secret from the prince. But now, that didn’t seem necessary!