First Entry Into the North
Feng Yu Heng sat in the carriage and gently lifted the curtain. A snowflake immediately entered with the wind. Even if it was her, she pulled her neck in from the cold.
Magistrate Lu glared at her, and Feng Yu Heng quickly lowered the curtain. Madam Lu was currently eating a pastry. Over the past two months, they had mostly been passing their days in the carriage. Even if they stopped, they would go directly to the inn to rest. Over the course of the entire day, all they did was eat and sleep. After two months, she had become quite a bit chubbier.
Feng Yu Heng asked her: “Madam, how much longer until we reach Guan Zhou?” She spoke while holding herself, “It’s so cold.”
Madam Lu also felt cold, but she was chubby and had plenty of fat, thus she did not think that it was particularly unbearable. After finishing the pastry, she took a sip of water before saying: “Roughly two more days. This is your first time coming to the North. You must be careful about your manor of speaking. This place is different from the central region, as the people here are fierce. There are times when buying a steamed bun will result in a fight breaking out.”
Feng Yu Heng pretended to be shocked: “Really?”
Reality proved that this was indeed the case.
Two days later, the Lu family’s carriage stopped outside of Guan Zhou. Feng Yu Heng was the first to get out of the carriage. The driver helped magistrate Lu, while she helped madam Lu.
How could they have known that when madam Lu got out of the carriage, there happened to be a roasted sweet potato vendor just outside the city that was placing the remaining sweet potatoes into the stove. One of them slipped and rolled over, stopping under madam Lu’s foot. She did not see it and stepped on it. She leaned sideways and nearly fell over. Fortunately, Feng Yu Heng and magistrate Lu worked together to hold her up. Only then could they manage to stabilize her body. Madam Lu looked down and took a look at the sweet potato. Raising her foot to take a look, she casually said: “What a group of unruly people.”
Her voice was very quiet, and not even the driver just ahead of her heard it, yet the sweet potato vendor happened to hear it. In addition to madam Lu having kicked the sweet potato, this person immediately lost it. With a thick northern accent, the vendor asked: “Who are you talking about? Who are you calling unruly? Do you think that I’m happy that the sweet potato rolled over here on its own? You even kicked it. This is something that people eat. Is that foot of yours made of gold?”
“You,” No matter what was said, madam Lu was the madam of an official’s family. She was unable to do something like openly cursing at someone in the middle of the road. But her not doing it did not mean that others would not, as she grabbed magistrate Lu and pushed him forward, quietly saying: “A grown man should step forward at a time like this. What sort of situation would it be for you to hide behind me?”
Magistrate Lu also felt that he should step forward, thus he pointed at the sweet potato vendor and fiercely said: “Impudent! A lowly commoner dares to stop an official’s carriage. Even if this official beat you to death today, there would not be anyone to stand up for you!”
Feng Yu Heng secretly laughed to herself. A lowly magistrate really viewed himself as some sort of high-ranking official. But the commoners of the North truly were ferocious and brave. The Lu family’s carriage could not be considered good; however, it was definitely not something that was common. Someone that sold things outside the city’s gates would naturally become accustomed to seeing people coming and going. He should have the most basic ability to make judgments on large and small families; however, he still dared to speak to madam Lu like this. Aside from the nature of the people of the North, there had to be some other reason.
The sweet potato vendor immediately shifted his anger upon seeing magistrate Lu appear. He was not in the slightest scared by the words “this official.” Instead, he pointed at him and said: “A lowly official that’s little better than a sesame seed dares to throw his weight around. Just look at your clothes then look at your carriage. As I see it, you’re at most a sixth rank official, and you don’t have any real power. What are you acting so high and mighty for?”
Feng Yu Heng nearly suffered internal injuries from holding in her laughter. His eyes really were sharp!
Magistrate Lu’s face also turned red from being insulted, as he heard the sweet potato vendor continue: “You don’t even stop to look at what sort of place Guan Zhou City is. This is the southern entrance to the North! After passing through Guan Zhou and continuing North, you will reach Song Zhou. That is where great leader Duan Mu resides. Every year, at this time, there are so many officials that come to celebrate great leader Duan Mu’s birthday that it’s impossible to keep count. Officials of all ranks have been seen, and which of them isn’t more powerful than you? I will tell you that the cost of kicking my sweet potatoes is five taels! Pay up! If you won’t pay, just stay here. Counting the days, it should not be long until leader Duan Mu’s birthday. I really want to see if attending leader Duan Mu’s birthday is more important or if five taels are more important.
Magistrate Lu was completely convinced. The people of the North were all brave people. Did a single one of them know how to be reasonable? Was there any justice?
But his anger was just that. It was as the person had said. There were not many days left until Duan Mu An Guo’s birthday. If they did not quickly depart, he feared that they would be late. Moreover, since he had brought the conversation in that direction, the people that were coming and going all heard this. If he continued to cause a fuss, that would mean that he did not take leader Duan Mu seriously and that he was not even worth five taels.
This accusation was quite good. Even if magistrate Lu was unwilling to accept, he still needed to obediently hand over the money. Only then could he successfully enter the city.
Guan Zhou had a rule that one had to get out of one’s carriage or dismount one’s horse when entering or exiting the city. After being inspected by the guards, they would be allowed in. Especially during this time, the original residents of the three northern provinces had to keep the identification plates that were provided by the government on them at all times. Those that came from the outside needed to have a visitor’s pass before being allowed to enter. Also, there was a limit to the number of servants and attendants that people that had come to celebrate the birthday could bring. Each master was limited to two.
This sort of rule was far more strict than what the capital would have, but the people were happy to follow it because the local ruler, Duan Mu An Guo, would indeed allow these people to enjoy many benefits. Nowadays, Qian Zhou had rebelled, and the three northern provinces were the entry point into Da Shun. Duan Mu An Guo’s position immediately shot up in the eyes of others. Even if the third prince had become worthless, the people still believed that the Emperor would not touch the Duan Mu family. After all, touching them would be touching the very foundation of the North.
But people did not know that the Duan Mu family had already defected to Qian Zhou. The court knew about this a long time ago, but it had not been announced for the sake of avoiding panic. Duan Mu An Guo also knew that his situation had definitely been exposed; however, he still wantonly allowed these officials into the city to celebrate his birthday. Perhaps there was some sort of agenda hidden here.
Feng Yu Heng stayed beside the Lu family and successfully entered Guan Zhou. This was her first time coming to the North. Snow continued to fall, and the snow on the ground was high enough to cover her shoes. Stepping on it caused a crunching sound.
But she did not display any sort of novel expression. In fact, not even a smile could be seen on her face. This caused madam Lu to begin to ponder. When the three got back in the carriage and continued toward Song Zhou, she asked: “Qian Xi, as I see it, you seem to have been to the North before?”
Feng Yu Heng shook her head, “I have never been here before.”
“Oh, it does not seem like it.” Madam Lu revealed a cautious expression, saying: “The people that come to the North for the first time are mostly intrigued by the world being covered in snow and ice. Why is it that you don’t look intrigued in the slightest by this?”
Feng Yu Heng faintly sighed, “At first, I should have felt intrigued, but this heavy snow caused me to remember the Winter disaster from last year. So many people died. It was so scary.”
When she spoke, she looked quite sad, which caused the couple from the Lu family to recall the previous Winter. That Winter disaster had affected practically the entirety of the North. Not even Xiao Zhou was spared. Feng Yu Heng saying it like this had managed to dispel madam Lu’s doubts. She nodded, saying: “That’s right! That Winter disaster was truly too frightening. The snow was so high in Xiao Zhou that it went up past the waist. I have never seen such a heavy snowfall. Even in the North, I had never seen it before.”
With the conversation becoming heavy, the people no longer had any desire to continue speaking. They simply leaned against the carriage and went into a daze. She looked to be in a daze; however, her mind continued to race. She was thinking about everything that could happen after entering Song Zhou.
The carriage continued for another five days and finally arrived in Song Zhou.
Compared to Guan Zhou, the security at the entrance was even stricter. In fact, people from the outside needed to register. There were even some suspicious people that needed to provide their household registration.
Madam Lu tapped her forehead and said to Feng Yu Heng: “When we bought you, we really forgot to ask them for your household registration.”
Feng Yu Heng also said with a bitter expression: “Even if it was asked for, it would probably have been pointless. It’s impossible for young master to have brought that sort of thing when leaving home. After all, there is nobody around He Tian Prefecture that would have the ability to cause any trouble for him.”
Madam Lu felt that what she had said was reasonable, thus she nodded and said: “It’s fine. In any case, we are related to the Duan Mu family. When we came in the past, they never investigated us too closely.”
Reality would probe madam Lu to be correct. Upon seeing the identification provided by the Lu family, they immediately brought someone out to escort them to an inn to rest.
When madam Lu entered the city, she had her head held high. She was very proud and happy. It seems that she was a step above the rest.
The person escorting them finally stopped before a three-story inn. Pointing inside, he said to madam Lu: “This is the inn prepared by the great leader for the officials that have come to celebrate his birthday. Would madam please take care. There is a specially prepared nice room for you and lord magistrate Lu.”
Arriving in this place, madam Lu’s position was much higher than that of magistrate Lu. It was to the point that the servant would look to her for instructions. Magistrate Lu had immediately become the one of lower standing. He did not seem to be unwilling. He obediently followed the madam into the inn, as a servant led them to their room.
The nice room was composed of two rooms. The masters slept inside the inner room, while the servants would naturally stand guard and sleep in the outer room. Feng Yu Heng quickly brought the luggage out then helped madam Lu sit down. While pouring tea, she very happily said: “Everyone says that when coming to the North, even a third rank official would be inferior to others. Back when I was in the Fung manor, master also said it. Even if he had come to the North, he would need to wait for leader Duan Mu to welcome him before he could meet with him. But this servant saw that the servants here are very polite to madam. Thinking about it, madam is someone that is quite important here. This servant is truly fortunate to be at madam’s side.”
Madam Lu was flattered to the extreme and immediately smiled, “That’s true. Although I am from one of the Duan Mu family’s branch families, I have come to the North quite a bit in the past few years. It’s natural that I would be closer with the family.” She spoke while glancing at magistrate Lu then added: “Moreover, didn’t we have a daughter of a concubine marry over here. Although it is not particularly related to me, she is one of my Lu family’s people. At the very least, they would need to give us a bit of face. Husband, “She turned and said to magistrate Lu: “At a later time, inquire about that girl’s situation. Since we are here, we should go and pay her a visit.”
Magistrate Lu nodded, “But of course. Otherwise, there would be no purpose in sending her here.” While saying this, he stood up and moved to the window to look out. Looking was fine; however, upon looking, he let out an “ah” sound in surprise. He then turned around and said to madam Lu: “Madam, something outside isn’t right!”