The Ones That Should Come Have Already Come
The snowfall in Song Zhou finally stopped on the night before Duan Mu An Guo’s birthday celebration. Feng Yu Heng sat alone in the room while looking out from the window, but she found that every house was decorated with lights. The leader’s birthday was very close to the new year. For the people of the North, this was the equivalent of having two holidays. It was natural for things to be lively. Even the pedestrians appeared to be a in good mood.
Feng Yu Heng knew that for the people, it did not really matter whether the North belonged to Da Shun or Qian Zhou. In fact, they hoped that it would fall into Qian Zhou’s control. After all, the three northernmost provinces were forcefully taken from Qian Zhou back then. In the end, the blood that flowed in these people came from Qian Zhou. No matter how well Da Shun treated them, these roots could not be cut.
The Lu family couple finally managed to sort something out with the guards and were led by someone to see the leader. Feng Yu Heng slightly closed her eyes and lay next to the window. She was like a lazy cat. But at this moment, if someone could see her eyes, they would find that there was a sharp look in her eyes.
She knew that if the Lu family couple could successfully meet with Duan Mu An Guo, all of their schemes should be able to succeed. Although she still did not know what sort of gift they had brought for Duan Mu An Guo’s birthday, based on the looks that magistrate Lu would occasionally cast at her, the matter of sending her into the leader’s palace was most likely determined.
There was no dinner on this night. The Lu family couple had gone out, and only she remained inside the room. The people of the inn would not specially send food for just a servant. This was the degree of human rights under the feudal system. Feng Yu Heng was always thinking that if there came a day, if she had that power, she hoped that, even if this era was imperial, she would still be able to improve the basic human rights of all. For the slaves, this would be the greatest change.
Feng Yu Heng believed that all people should be equal. Although origin and personal ability determined the quality of one’s life, there should be no toll on one’s body and mind. It was just that this way of thinking was truly too unprecedented for the people of this era. Even if she wanted to do it, it was impossible to do such a sweeping reform. Feng Yu Heng thought that once the matter with Qian Zhou was resolved, she would think of a way to go and take a look at the lands conferred with her title of imperial daughter Ji An. Perhaps that place could be used to perform some small-scale tests.
For the time being, she tossed those abstract ideas to the back of her head. Standing up, she closed the window then dove into her space to eat. When she came out after enjoying a hot bowl of noodle soup, the Lu family couple still had not returned, but it seemed that there were some movements in the inn.
Feng Yu Heng went to the door and went to listen. Amidst the disorderly footsteps, the sound of strong footsteps came. Starting from downstairs it moved upstairs. Not long later, it reached the second floor. After getting upstairs, it stopped around the stairwell and did not move. After a while, the shopkeeper of the inn said: “My lord, there is someone in every room. Aside from the distant relative of the great leader, everyone else is still in their rooms.”
The official let out an “un” sound then sighed twice and raised his voice to say: “Everyone inside the rooms, tomorrow is the birthday of the leader of our three northern provinces. The great leader has said that he is thankful that my lords have come to the North from so far away. The gifts that everyone has prepared will be taken away first. You will be able to travel light tomorrow!”
Once this was said, the people inside the rooms were no longer able to sit still. They all opened their doors, wanting to go out and ask some questions, but the guards that had been keeping watch outside immediately brought out their weapons and said in unison: “Get back!”
Feng Yu Heng also opened the door but did not move out. She just stood inside the room and watched. She saw that the person at the stairs was a man in the prime of his life. He was born rather tall and had a full beard on his face. He had round eyes that were comparable to a copper bell, and he looked to be thoroughly ferocious. He said that he had come to pick up the birthday gifts, but if people met him outside, they would mostly think that he was a bandit.
Reality proved that Feng Yu Heng was not the only one with these thoughts. There was even a young miss that was quick to speak, who said without thinking: “You’re from the leader’s palace? Why do you look like a mountain bandit? Everyone says that the North has plenty of criminals. It would be best if you aren’t a scammer.”
Once this was said, everyone immediately agreed. After all, the birthday banquet had not yet arrived, yet someone had come ahead of time to receive the gifts. They also spoke so impolitely. Everyone was questioning it.
But the man looked even more ferocious upon hearing this. He raised the sword in his hand and pointed it at the young miss that had just spoken and loudly shouted: “I am a general of the leader’s palace. Anyone that dares to question it, be careful that I don’t cut your tongue out!”
The young miss was given a fright but was still feeling unreconciled, thus she added: “I am the young miss of the magistrate of Gan Zhou. My father is a court official. What right do you have to speak to me like this?”
With someone taking the lead, the bottleneck was broken through. All of the officials, madams and young misses on this floor began to report their ranks. Upon hearing this, Feng Yu Heng thought to herself, very well, there were provincial officials, city officials and magistrates on the same level as magistrate Lu. There were county magistrates and even a couple prefects. Either way, aside from officials from the capital, there were practically all kinds of people from all other areas.
Apparently, the Duan Mu family did not just fill out this inn. There were another two inns that were the same. It was clear that the number of people that had come North for this was not low. This was also the situation after the people in the capital had found out about it. If this was in the past, perhaps this year’s new year’s celebration in the North would be even livelier than the capital! Those officials in the capital, even if they had the right to attend the new year’s banquet, they would still arrange for someone else to come North. The Duan Mu family would make quite a profit every year at around this time.
With all of the officials revealing their statuses, they had thought that they would be able to stop the bearded man; however, who knew that this would cause him to snort coldly. “Hmph! Officials the size of little green peas really view yourselves to be something important? Why don’t all of you think a little about it. Why did all of you come North? If you didn’t have the intention of currying favor with our leader, what have you come all this way for instead of staying home for the new year? Since you have already come, don’t keep pretending. The North will not accept that act!”
Feng Yu Heng shrugged and smiled. He was right! They had already come to the North. They were just dissatisfied with their current situation. They just wanted to use this opportunity to gain a bit of a relationship with the Duan Mu family. They would try this to try and climb the ladder. They’d already sold themselves out, so why bother will building themselves up.
For a while, everyone shut their mouths and fell silent. But the bearded man had not finished speaking, as he sheathed his sword once more and said something that shocked everyone, “There is a matter that this general will tell all of you about before the great leader’s birthday. You don’t know about it, right? Including Guan Zhou, Song Zhou and Jiang Zhou, these three northern provinces have already separated from Da Shun many months ago. Presently, we are the three southern provinces of Qian Zhou.”
“What?” Everyone was dazed from hearing this. Da Shun’s three northernmost provinces had become Qian Zhou’s three southernmost provinces? When had this happened?
“Impossible!” Someone raised an objection, “If the North had defected to Qian Zhou, Da Shun would definitely dispatch troops to subjugate them. It’s definitely not possible for them to allow the North to separate so easily.”
“Right!” Another person said: “For such an important matter, how could the court not have made an announcement. We didn’t even hear about it. This must be a lie! What exactly is your goal with making up such a lie?”
Feng Yu Heng leaned on the door, her arms crossed across her chest. It was as though she was a spectator to this comedy. The North did not, clearly having no intention of continuing to play along. They had chosen this time to announce it, just after the last room of the inn had been filled. Duan Mu An Guo’s birthday banquet would be tomorrow, but at this moment, the ones that should be coming had already arrived.
“I’m lying to you?” The bearded man coldly snorted three times, “Who would be bored enough to make up such a thing for fun? You are all officials, so why is it that your brains are so slow?” While speaking, he displayed a look of great contempt. In fact, even the soldiers that had accompanied him were filled with pride and smiling. Their smiles caused the officials to turn red in the face.
Everyone began to quietly whisper. They had finally realized the main problem. The North had defected, yet they had come to celebrate Duan Mu An Guo’s birthday. What sort of situation was this? Were they abetting the wicked?
The bearded man coldly looked around at the officials, another look of contempt appeared on his face. When the voices grew louder while discussing things, he threw down the sheath of his sword to remind everyone to stay quiet.
After a long time, someone finally asked the key question: “General, I ask you, what exactly is the goal of your visit? It definitely isn’t something as simple as collecting the gifts, right!”
The bearded man nodded in satisfaction, “It seems that there is still a smart one. Since you’ve asked, this general will be direct. This visit to these various lords is for the sake of passing along a message on behalf of our leader. Da Shun did not announce the matter of the northern provinces rejoining Qian Zhou, but just after you entered the North, Da Shun’s courts have begun to act. What are they doing? I trust that even if this general does not say anything, you should be able to guess a thing or two. That’s right, it’s your family members. Da Shun had already taken the decision to take action against your families. In fact, while on my way here, this general heard that the entire family of a prefect living in an inn down the road has already been executed.”
Everyone inhaled sharply. If it was just said that they were just worried before, then once this news was revealed, they were completely filled with a sense of danger.
The young misses with less courage had already dropped the ground and became choked with sobs. Even some of the officials began to sob, calling out apologies to their mothers and how they had let down their ancestors.
The bearded man revealed an irritated expression and waved his hand: “Stop causing a fuss! Listen to me speak! We can understand your feelings. Great leader has already dispatched countless guards to Da Shun for the sake of safely bringing your families over from Da Shun. As long as you quietly stay in the North, the Duan Mu family can guarantee the lives of you and your family. The North will do its best to provide you with peace. Of course, those that wish to leave can leave now, but you need to think about the consequences. As long as you walk out of Song Zhou’s city gates, the North will not be responsible for you or your family. Even if they have been saved, they will immediately be handed over to Da Shun’s government.”
Once this was said, who still dared to bring up leaving? With them being forced into this corner, they could only remain to preserve their lives. Only by remaining in the North could they save their family’s lives.
Seeing that everyone had begun to feel panicked and regretful, the bearded man was very satisfied with this outcome. He smirked then began to laugh. As he laughed, his eyes landed on the room where Feng Yu Heng was located…