Finally Arriving in Xiao Zhou
As for the other nine corpses, they were found ten li ahead. The same thing was repeated for them, as graves were dug, a plaque was inserted, and they bowed.
When Xuan Tian Ming’s group set out once more, Feng Yu Heng faced the wind, and tears began to trickle out.
Xuan Tian Ming rode alongside her and reached out to wipe her tears, loudly saying: “Don’t cry! Just remember this hatred. People who oppose me will definitely be repaid!”
Another day and night passed, as they passed by another town. The horses had once again been bought out. Xuan Tian Ming was about to laugh out of anger. Sitting at a tea shop on the side of the road, he ate and said: “I believed that they had some ability. They’re just slowing down our speed.”
Feng Yu Heng’s expression was dark. After she finished eating, she began to clean her bow. The bow was not the Hou Yi bow that she had kept inside her space. It was the bow that Xuan Tian Ming had given her at the military camp. It had a good toughness and a moderate weight.
Zi Rui being kidnapped was something that had caused a knot in her heart. It was so painful that she could not breathe at times. All of her movements when cleaning the bow were unconscious. The final scene that these hidden guards saw before dying replayed before her eyes again and again. Although she did not personally see it, she understood the tracking arrow all too well. She knew that aside from the pain of dying, the horror and despair from the tracking arrow were the worst. These people with amazing qinggong abilities were still unable to get away from these tracking arrows that grew closer and closer. She was able to feel the same way because she had also received similar psychological training when she was learning about the tracking arrow.
Feng Yu Heng stared at the horses that were eating. Some of the horseshoes were falling off, and some of the horses hooves had become torn, but they did not have any other horses that they could switch to. They could only grit their teeth and continue on the backs of these horses until they collapsed and could no longer continue. She just hated that she did not know about this transmigration thing; otherwise, she would have placed an off-road vehicle inside her pharmacy.
Unfortunately, how could there be so many “if only” situations! She poured some more tea for Xuan Tian Ming and gently sighed. She quietly said: “I keep feeling that this situation is not so simple. Why would Qian Zhou kidnap Zi Rui? Is it to deal with me? To delay the production of steel weapons? But steel production is progressing without me being there. Even without me, Da Shun is currently able to produce steel forever.”
Xuan Tian Ming furrowed his brow and said: “National enmity is one matter, and a more personal hatred is another. Ru Jia’s debt and the debt of those other people from Qian Zhou, they have resolved themselves to settle it with us. It’s just that the enemy has such a clear grasp on Zi Rui’s movements, and they were able to get rid of all of the horses along the way so cleanly. It should not be something that just one group can accomplish. They must have help somewhere.”
She thought a bit and said: “Feng Jin Yuan has hidden guards from Qian Zhou at his side, but there should not be many. Looking at it now, there must be quite a few people from Qian Zhou hiding inside Da Shun’s borders.”
Xuan Tian Ming coldly snorted and said: “It’s also possible that they are not people from Qian Zhou. After all, Da Shun has been quite strict with its protection of the border for the past 100 years. It’s not easy for them to sneak into the country.”
“Hm?” She was stunned and immediately reacted, “You mean to say… the North? It’s the Duan Mu family?”
Xuan Tian Ming nodded and was about to continue explaining. At this time, he saw a group of fast horses suddenly appeared on the main road from the North. The horses rushed toward them, their hooves kicking up a cloud of dust behind them. The sound caused the birds in the forest to fly away.
Huang Quan had sharp eyes and immediately recognized the rider. She could not help but point at the person and urgently say: “It’s an official! That is an official from the courier station!”
With her shouting like this, Ban Zou did not say another word and rushed forward, stopping the person and horse.
The official on the horse was given a fright and rushed to say: “Impudent! I am a courier of the court and have to deliver something urgently to the capital from 800 li away. Not a single person is permitted to stop me!” This person was a little bit courageous. Ban Zou had good martial abilities and was able to easily stop a horse that was in a rush. If it was a normal person, they would be scared witless, but he subconsciously announced his own status, and he even looked toward the tea stall where Xuan Tian Ming was.
The couple that operated this tea stall had already run off to the side to hide. That person looked around and very quickly turned his attention back on Xuan Tian Ming.
“You are…” He was clearly startled then said in surprise: “Your Highness the ninth prince?”
“Oh!” Huang Quan asked him: “You recognize his Highness?”
The official struggled a bit, trying to get out of Ban Zou’s hold. Unfortunately, he did not succeed. He helplessly said: “Since you are with his Highness the ninth prince, there is no need to continue holding onto me. I truly am a court official that handles carrying messages. I have never met his Highness the ninth prince before, but the mask and the purple lotus, I do have some understanding of.”
Xuan Tian Ming waved his hand to Ban Zou, gesturing for him to let the person go. When Ban Zou let go, the official immediately rushed to kneel in front of Xuan Tian Ming. Without another word, he looked at Xuan Tian Ming and looked him over.
Wang Chuan looked at this person’s cautious actions and knew that this person had a request. To have rushed for 800 li, unless there was some sort of urgent matter, there would be no need for him to rush this distance. Thinking of this, she spoke up and said to the official: “Don’t worry. The person before you is indeed Da Shun’s ninth prince. The person at his Highness’ side is imperial daughter Ji An.”
When she mentioned imperial daughter Ji An, that person let out an “ah” sound and turned to look at Feng Yu Heng. Upon seeing her, he could not help but rejoice: “Indeed, indeed! Although I knew about his Highness the ninth prince’s gold mask and purple lotus, it was only through rumors. This lowly official had never seen them before. But this subordinate does recognize imperial daughter. Back then, imperial daughter was still county princess. During the Winter disaster, you were standing in front of Hundred Herb Hall and giving out hot tea. This lowly official managed to get a cup.”
Wang Chuan continued: “Since you have confirmed their identities, speak quickly. What is the matter that required you to rush 800 li?”
The official let out a long sigh before saying: “This lowly official is a messenger stationed in Yu Zhou. This urgent message came from the North and was reported to Yu Zhou. This message was brought by an official that risked his life to deliver. If the contents of this urgent message could not be delivered to his Majesty, it must be delivered in some way to your Highness the ninth prince or his Highness the seventh prince. In the worst-case scenario, I was to find imperial daughter Ji An. Your Highness,” The person stared at Xuan Tian Ming with a bitter expression: “The three northernmost provinces have rebelled.”
“What?” Feng Yu Heng subconsciously spoke then looked at Xuan Tian Ming: “So quickly?”
Xuan Tian Ming furrowed his brow tightly. Very clearly, this news was too unexpected for him. The official continued: “The three northernmost provinces have followed leader Duan Mu An Guo in joining Qian Zhou. Qian Zhou has promised the three provinces that their status will not change, with the Duan Mu family remaining in charge. At the same time, Qian Zhou will no longer supply Da Shun and will also be stationing troops. The person from the courier office said that the three northernmost provinces belonging to Qian Zhou is a matter that occurred at least two months ago, but the news had always been kept secret; however, quite a few people from Qian Zhou were let in. They had sent messages toward the capital a few times, but the messengers were always killed en route.” He wiped away some sweat from his forehead and said: “It’s this lowly official that has good fortune and was able to run into your Highness and imperial daughter here.” While saying this, he pulled out a letter that had been sealed with wax and handed it to Xuan Tian Ming.
Xuan Tian Ming received the letter and opened it up to look. He then handed it to Feng Yu Heng, and the two began to contemplate after reading it.
The contents of the letter were exactly as the messenger had said. The Duan Mu family had rebelled then kept this news under wraps. Presently, it was unknown just how many people from Qian Zhou were let in. The matter of them joining Qian Zhou was something that happened a few months prior. That meant that things had already started before old third, Xuan Tian Ye, caused trouble. The Duan Mu family truly had fierce ambitions.
“Continue toward the capital.” Xuan Tian Ming ordered the messenger. At the same time, removed one of his own jade pieces, “Bring this into the palace. Just tell the Emperor that you have already seen this prince. This prince is currently going toward the North. Tell the Emperor that there is no need to worry.”
The messenger also knew that the situation was urgent. Quickly drinking a mouthful of tea, he got on his horse to continue on his way. Feng Yu Heng got up and looked at the exhausted horses that were still eating. She felt a little concerned.
“How much longer can we ride for?” She asked Xuan Tian Ming, “When the time comes that we no longer have horses, what should we do?”
Xuan Tian Ming calculated the distances and said to her: “From here to Xiao Zhou, it will take at most one day. Those people were able to buy out all of the horses from small towns; however, it’s impossible for them to clear out the entirety of Xiao Zhou. As long as we can get to Xiao Zhou, there is still hope.”
Ban Zou also nodded and said: “We will get as far as we can. If the horses are truly unable to continue running, we will run on our own. Master, don’t worry. With so many comrades, someone will be able to give you a ride.”
“Good.” Feng Yu Heng did not continue to feel tangled, frankly saying: “Then let’s quickly get moving. We will go as far as we can.”
By the time the day turned to night, all 17 horses collapsed to the ground, unable to get up. Seeing the horses that had struggled to bring this far, Feng Yu Heng began to feel choked up. Xuan Tian Ming made a prompt decision and carried her on his back, telling everyone: “Abandon the horses!” He then took the lead and continue to rush forward using qinggong.
Feng Yu Heng’s qinggong was still lacking. Although she had already improved greatly from last year, being able to leap from roof to roof, she was still unable to use qinggong to increase her speed. She could only accept her fate and lean on Xuan Tian Ming’s back while being carried. Feeling the wind blow past her ears, a feeling of awkwardness filled her heart once more.
She leaned close to Xuan Tian Ming’s ear and quietly said: “I will definitely save Zi Rui. I must ensure his safety. Xuan Tian Ming, if I lose Zi Rui, it’s impossible for mother to forgive me.”
Xuan Tian Ming was startled, and he wanted to ask, what wrong did you commit that you need to be forgiven? But the words that had reached his lips were swallowed back down. He could see the love that Feng Yu Heng had for Yao shi. Although that mother was not very likable, Feng Yu Heng still called her mother. Forget it, if she liked her, he would do his best to support her.
“Don’t worry.” Xuan Tian Ming said, “Wherever he is taken, we will chase them there. Even if they run all the way to a den of danger like the center of Qian Zhou, husband will rush in there with you!”
When the sun came up, this group of 17 people finally stood outside Xiao Zhou. This was the first large province that they would be passing through on their way to the North. Although Xiao Zhou did not prosper any less than the capital, because it was not as closely guarded as the capital, it seemed to be even more lively.
After Xuan Tian Ming’s group entered the city, they immediately looked for a stable. As expected, the enemies ahead did not dare to take action against a large province. The resources of Xiao Zhou’s stables were very sufficient, and there was more than enough for them to use.
But just as everyone was focusing on choosing horses, the owner of the stables stared at Feng Yu Heng for a long time. Finally finding the courage to walk over, he probed: “May I ask this young miss, is your surname Feng?”