Magistrate Lu’s words caught madam Lu and Feng Yu Heng’s attention. Both of them moved to the window to look outside, but they saw that there was a group of people arguing in front of the entrance to the inn.
Normally, this sort of arguing on the streets was very common, and it would not catch their attention, but this quarrel had coincidentally occurred in front of the inn that they were staying at.
The person that had brought them here had said that this inn was specially prepared for the guests that had come early to celebrate his birthday. The people living here were all officials and their family members that had come from far away. Outside the door, the leader’s palace had sent soldiers to stand guard, ensuring the safety of these officials.
Normally speaking, this sort of arrangement was very reasonable, thus the people did not have any objections. There were even some that were thankful for the Duan Mu family’s thorough arrangements. But right now, there was a woman outside, loudly saying: “What are you doing? We came to the North from far away. After settling in, we want to go out and wander the streets to experience the snow of the North. Why are we not allowed out?”
The leader of the guards replied: “There is no reason why. Not allowed to go out means not allowed to go out. This is also for your own safety.”
“What could possibly happen to us while strolling around the streets?” One of the young misses was dissatisfied and said: “Could it be that this place is filled with bandits?”
A madam to the side quickly covered her mouth and scolded: “Don’t speak nonsense!” But she was also in agreement with what the young miss had said, thus she pointed at the people walking around in the streets and said: “Look, aren’t all those people walking around outside. Did anything happen?”
However, who knew that the guard would say: “You are different from them. They can, but you can’t. Quickly go and rest. There are three days until the leader’s birthday banquet. During these three days, nobody is allowed to take half a step outside the inn!” After saying this, the guard immediately arranged for the people to be pushed inside. At the same time, he slammed the door of the inn shut with a “bang!”
The guard that had been speaking earlier suddenly looked up the building. In an instant, the people that had been watching this scene from the windows immediately pulled back and closed the windows.
Magistrate Lu also closed the window and quietly said to madam Lu: “Let’s go down and see if we can go out.”
Madam Lu became cautious and thought a bit, nodding and saying: “Alright.” She then brought Feng Yu Heng along and began to descend the stairs. Magistrate Lu also followed behind.
The madams and young misses that had been forbidden to go out was still in the hall on the first floor of the inn. They were discussing this, and their voices were filled with dissatisfaction. The shopkeeper of the inn consoled them from the side: “Everyone, this is for your own good! Presently, Qian Zhou is a mess. The North is close to Qian Zhou. If some enemies managed to sneak in, it would be too dangerous for all of you, as the family of officials.”
“Even then, we can’t have the door closed on us. Isn’t this just like being imprisoned?” Who knew which young miss suddenly muttered this in an extremely quiet voice; however, it was still heard by Feng Yu Heng.
Imprisoned? Was it like this? She squinted her eyes and looked at the tightly-shut door. She felt that the young miss’ analysis was completely correct.
Madam Lu’s expression became serious, as she walked over to the door. Upon seeing her fierce appearance, the madams and young misses causing a fuss all quieted down. They all turned to look. The shopkeeper quickly went forward and said in a fawning tone: “Madam, sir official, you really can’t go out! Would you please do me a favor and not trouble this lowly one.”
Madam Lu’s eyes became fierce, as she loudly said: “I am a member of the Duan Mu family. Leader Duan Mu is my granduncle, and a daughter of a concubine from my manor resides in the ninth residence of the leader’s palace, and she is the most favored concubine. How can we be treated in this way!” As she said this, she glanced at the madams and young misses with a face filled with disdain.
The shopkeeper was a little troubled. On one hand, he did not dare go against the leader’s orders. On the other hand, he was truly afraid of madam Lu’s background. But after thinking a bit, he had to correct her, saying: “Presently, the concubine that is most favored is the one in the twelfth residence. It’s not the one in the ninth residence as madam said!”
Magistrate Lu was startled and rushed to say: “It hasn’t even been a year, yet he has already taken in up to twelve?”
The people inside the banquet hall were very dissatisfied with madam Lu, but the matter of concubines had successfully changed the subject, as someone said: “I heard that the concubines being taken in are getting younger and younger. The youngest is not even of marriageable age.”
The shopkeeper repeatedly waved his hand, quietly said: “This can’t be talked about! This must not be said! If word of this was to get out, you really will not get able to go out!”
Magistrate Lu’s face had already reached the gloomiest point possible. Madam Lu was also feeling unreconciled, thus she simply went forward and slammed on the door a few times, “bang bang bang!” Finally, someone outside scolded: “Stop causing a ruckus!”
Madam Lu loudly said: “I am a member of the Duan Mu family. Lord leader Duan Mu is my granduncle. Let me out. I want to greet granduncle!”
“You can’t!” The person outside did not even think before frankly saying: “Lord leader has given the order that the people that have entered the inn are not to be let out. He did not mention anything about relatives. You are not permitted to continue causing a fuss; otherwise, don’t blame us for not being polite!”
This shout managed to scare the people inside the room. They all understood what not being polite meant. It was just that they did not understand why guests needed to be treated in this manner.
Magistrate Lu furrowed his brow tightly and did not look at his wife. At this moment, madam Lu was also fuming with anger. But no matter how angry she was, there was nothing that she could do. With things as they were, she also wanted to know why; however, there was nobody that could tell her.
Magistrate Lu coldly snorted then turned around and went upstairs. Feng Yu Heng quickly went to support madam Lu and followed behind him. After the three entered the room, magistrate Lu said: “Back when we were in Xiao Zhou, I heard that the North and Qian Zhou’s relationship was ambiguous. I said that we should not make this trip, but you insisted that we come. What of it now? Something has happened, right?”
Madam Lu heard this and immediately erupted, “You’re blaming me? Who did I do this for? I am just a woman. Could it be that I can go and become an official? If it wasn’t for your yearning for that lucrative position of magistrate of Qing Zhou, would I have ignored my maternal family’s opposition and made this trip North? Also, it does not seem that something has definitely happened. With Qian Zhou rebelling, this place being so close, and so many of Da Shun’s officials coming, safety is definitely important.” Her voice became soft, consoling: “Don’t panic. Let’s think of some more ideas.”
“Things have already been made clear. You just don’t want to believe it.” Magistrate Lu had a gloomy expression and glanced at Feng Yu Heng. With great disdain, he said: “The more disorder there is, the more people will try to cause trouble. Bringing this child along will be troublesome. We should just discard her and be done with it.”
Feng Yu Heng hid behind madam Lu in fear, but madam Lu did not protect her this time. She just furrowed her brow and did not say anything.
Magistrate Lu continued to ponder. In the end, he made a decision: “Escape! We should think of a way to escape. I have this sort of premonition that if we don’t escape now, I fear that we will never be able to escape.”
“I fear that it’s already too late to escape.” Feng Yu Heng suddenly spoke up, saying this sort of thing. Seeing him glare at her, she pointed at the door and quietly said: “Listen.”
The Lu family couple immediately went to listen. Only then did they notice the footsteps quickly moving outside. The thunking sound of boots on the wooden boards did not hide from anyone. Following this, someone shouted: “For the sake of protecting everyone, starting from today until the leader’s birthday, nobody is permitted to enter or exit!” Immediately following this, someone quickly moved outside the door. It was clear that every room was now being guarded.
Magistrate Lu inhaled sharply in fear, his face turning slightly pale.
Madam Lu collapsed on a chair, her body trembling slightly; however, she continued to say: “How could that girl be so useless. She can’t even manage to stay favored. She was in the ninth residence, and now there is already a twelfth. Thinking about it, that bit of favor that she had disappeared a long time ago.”
Magistrate Lu also let out a heavy sigh. Although she was just a daughter of a concubine, he was not exactly a high-ranking official. His family was very small. In addition to this, madam Lu had never given birth. In his heart, a daughter of a concubine was the same as the daughter of the first wife. During Duan Mu An Guo’s previous birthday, they had personally brought that daughter into the leader’s palace. At that time, it was extremely glorious, and Duan Mu An Guo had even toasted them. But it was as madam Lu had said. Not even one year later, the twelfth one had already been brought in. What favor would remain with the ninth concubine?
He had a sad expression, and he could not help but feel distressed for his daughter. But madam Lu was able to think faster than him, and she did not have any feelings for that daughter of a concubine. She very quickly began to think about a way out. She thought for a while, and a showed a trace of decisiveness: “Escaping is definitely impossible. Moreover, if something really did happen in the North, even if we returned, it would be hard to reach Da Shun.”
“Then what do you think we should do?” Magistrate Lu was also out of ideas. The madam was correct. Even if they returned, if Da Shun investigated, it would be hard to deal with. His wife was a member of the Duan Mu family. Once something went wrong with the Duan Mu family, his Lu family would not be able to escape. For the first time in many years, magistrate Lu began to regret marrying someone from the Duan Mu family. When he looked over once more, his eyes were filled with irritation.
Feng Yu Heng saw the mental state of the two and could not help but sneer. She thought to herself that the saying really was accurate. At first, a married couple is like a pair of lovebirds, but once trouble came, they would fly in separate directions. The Lu family couple had not yet come to an impasse, yet there was already a divide between the two. It was no wonder that the maidservant was able to insert herself between the two.
Magistrate Lu had already voiced two complaints, but madam Lu was still focusing entirely on planning for her husband. She said: “Rather than going back and being troubled by Da Shun, it would be better to put in effort. It’s not like you cannot succeed in the North.”
“What are you saying?” Magistrate Lu was shocked.
Madam Lu, however, suddenly stood up, a joyous expression appearing on her face. She did her best to lower her voice, saying: “My meaning is that it would be better for us to stay in the North. Based on my maternal family’s connections, you should be able to find a job. Husband, it’s not that I am not caring for the Lu family, but with the arrow already drawn back, even if you don’t loose it, it cannot be put down!”
Magistrate Lu naturally understood this reasoning, but this meant that the home in Xiao Zhou would be completely abandoned. Not only would the home be abandoned, but the people in the home, his concubines and his daughters would also all be implicated. This method of preserving his life carried too steep of a price.
He slightly closed his eyes and listened to madam Lu say: “Husband, now isn’t the time to say whether or not you want it. We have been left without any other option! Even if we don’t make this decision, do you believe that the Lu family will have any way out after we return? If the North did not defect, it would be easier to handle, but if it did, Da Shun would not forgive anyone related to the Duan Mu family. Husband, make a decision!”
Magistrate Lu felt that this decision was truly too difficult, but even if it was difficult, he still nodded. After all, in his heart, his own life was the most important. He could marry more women, and he could have more children as long as he could survive.
But how should he seek a position in the North? How could they get close to Duan Mu An Guo? He opened his eyes and suddenly glanced sideways at Feng Yu Heng with a scheming gaze…