Time pa.s.sed quickly and over twenty days had gone by, but the rain in the capital had not abated.
Just by looking at the pitter patter of the rain, it looked inconsequential, however, the incessant rain, regardless of day or night, just continued to pour. Within the capital, the widespread death of livestock had begun, not to mention what was happening on farmsteads; the whole kingdom of Great Jin was held captive under the shadows of torrential flooding. Just a few days ago, the water levels in the moat had begun to rise, gushing and destroying the dam, thus resulting in numerous drownings of the commoners who resided close to the river. The authorities sent to aid in the relief efforts were like a mantis trying to block a carriage, thus the management and control of the water overflow had become a matter of top priority.
 Tángbìdāngchē ( 螳臂当车 ) – (idiom) a mantis trying to stop a chariot / to overrate or overestimate one’s ability and attempt something almost impossible.
The imperial court had allocated large sums of silver to the various regions for disaster relief, and from all appearances, it had looked like a copious amount. Yet sadly, as it filtered down and exchanged hands with the various officials who as usual took their cut, by the time it reached the hands of the disaster victims, it was but a smidgen of bare bones.
As such, there was an increase in disaster victims. Moreover, many residences that had been submerged due to flooding resulted in even more homeless refugees. Soon many refugees in quick succession began to pour into the city. First, because the capital was on higher terrain, so was least likely to be hit by the disaster compared to other regions. And second, the capital was under the jurisdiction of the emperor, and people were hoping to get a chance to eat a hot meal distributed by the authorities.
Unfortunately, the rain water seemed to acc.u.mulate more and more, and with the increasing influx of refugees, the authorities were unable to sustain the ma.s.sive need for food provision. Thus, three days ago the officials had ceased provision of food. Subsequently, the starving refugees began to scour the city and loot wealthy affluent homes. Naturally, these n.o.ble folks had personal guards so the antagonism between them and the refugees within the city started to escalate with each pa.s.sing day.
The Jiang fu’s provisions were still sufficient and there was enough to sustain the fu for quite some time. As such, everyone within its walls had not grasped the impact of the crisis. If one were to comment on what was different within the Jiang fu, it would be in regards to the Grand Councillor Li fu’s Second Young Master, Li An. He could be seen entering the Jiang fu every other day without rhyme or reason and even then not doing much per se. With a courteous att.i.tude he would simply chat with Jiang Quan . Jiang Quan was unable to cipher Li An’s thoughts, but based on outward appearance, Li An didn’t seem to harbour any hostility. Furthermore, there were even subtle gestures leaning towards establishing a close relationship.
Lian Qiao walked in carrying a basket of flowers and spoke out contemptuously, “Second Young Master Li is here again! If one didn’t know, they would think that the Jiang fu was his home. It almost seems as though he no longer concerns himself about Eldest Young Master Li’s injury and is ready to bury the hatchet.
Presently, Jiang Ruan was on the couch reading a book, and when she heard those words, her gaze moved slightly. There was never going to be any possibility of the Li fu burying the hatchet with the Jiang fu. Li Yang had become a cripple, and Li Dong and Li An were by no means magnanimous kinds of people. Li An’s current behaviour was merely a pretense to show that he no longer considered Jiang Quan and Jiang Su Su as his enemies.
Bai Zhu frowned, “This morning while I was pa.s.sing by the courtyard, this servant encountered Fifth Yiniang again. Fifth Yiniang said that Master requested Jiang Miss’ marriage geng tie to be delivered in the hopes of rebuilding a relationship with the Li family. Second Young Master Li didn’t accept but he also did not raise any objections. Miss, what should we do?”
 Geng tie – In ancient Chinese wedding customs, red cards with the names of the man and the woman, the birthplace, the eight characters of birth and the names of the three generations of the ancestors were called “Geng Tie“. Some are also called “Niangeng Posts”. “Geng” means year. Geng posts are exchanged between the man and the woman to show their proposal or engagement. More here.
“Don’t take it to heart- it isn’t that simple.” Jiang Ruan smiled slightly, “Li An is a person of abstruse disposition. If I have to really enter the Li fu, inevitably that would have to wait until I was utterly crushed, without even a spark of resistance, so that later he could slowly torture and torment me.” A pity, since this time Li An won’t ever have the opportunity to see that day.
Although they observed Jiang Ruan’s unconcerned att.i.tude, Bai Zhi and Lian Qiao were both still somewhat concerned but chose to swallow whatever they were going to say. While they were speaking, Lu Zhu came barreling in, her face awashed with undisguised elation as she brought great news. Once she entered, she closed the main door, then going to the windows, she closely surveyed the surroundings to ensure that there wasn’t anyone loitering before shutting the windows too.
She walked to stand before Jiang Ruan, and lowering her voice she smilingly said , “Miss, a subordinate of Young Master Gu has returned with news that they might have some information regarding Eldest Young Master. However, General Guan made haste to return ahead of time so the rest of the troops are still on their way. They will arrive in about ten days’ time.” She reported, “Young Master Gu said that while he is currently unable to confirm, he is almost convinced that the person is our Eldest Young Master.” Lu Zhu smiled, “Eldest Young Master is currently a Deputy General.”
Lu Zhu and Bai Zhi were stunned, Jiang Ruan stood up and clasped Lu Zhu’s hand, “Really?”
Lu Zhu smiled when she beheld Jiang Ruan’s emotional expression, “It is absolutely true.”
Bai Zhi and Lian Qiao both smiled, “It looks like our hard times are over and it’s the beginning of good times. Once Eldest Young Master returns to the fu, he will definitely protect our lady.”
Jiang Ruan returned to her soft couch, her eyes ablaze with fervor.
Jiang Xin Zhi was still alive! Her only elder brother was still alive! In this world, she was no longer a person without someone to depend on. In this lifetime, there was still time, and she was determined to help Jiang Xin Zhi rewrite the ending to his past unfortunate and violent death!
With this thought, the anguished worrying and melancholy of the past few days dispersed and in its place was the rising of an abundant will to fight. If in this life, Jiang Xin Zhi was alive and well, then this pair of siblings must go forth and ensure that all of their enemies from their previous lifetime die tragically. A debt of blood must absolutely be paid back in blood!
 Xuezhaixuechang ( 血债血偿 ) – Blood calls for blood. / A debt of blood must be paid in blood.
Jiang Ruan abruptly stood up again, her eyes shining and mesmerizing, “Since that’s the case, there are some things that need to be prepared ahead of time.” She directed, “Lu Zhu, you go out and employ a couple of helpers. Just use those refugees that have come from outer regions. Guarantee them full meals as wages. Go and buy a big cauldron.” Hesitantly, Lian Qiao questioned. “Miss, what’s it for?”
“I want to bestow congee.” Jiang Ruan casually replied.
After putting the (chess) pieces in place, the time had finally come to execute the planned strategy.
* * *
In the capital, there was an ever increasing number of refugees, and still larger groups kept pouring in, shrouding the city under the cover of civil unrest. Commoners were darting quickly about on the streets, ashen-faced. Many bore starved bodies, hovering outside n.o.blemen’s residences, in the hopes of obtaining a meal for running an a.s.signed task. The refugees were no different. Those that were strong and robust were robbing people on the streets in broad daylight. The city garrison guards were kept busy day-and-night, however, the local constabulary was unwilling to apprehend and throw these ‘robbers’ into prison — as even prisoners needed food rations.
Even though the situation was as such, the Emperor had not deported nor banished those refugees. While currently the imperial court of the Great Jin empire appeared tranquil, only those within were well aware of the political unrest and turmoil. They were currently at a tipping point, and they could not allow any major situation or calamity to occur. However, with the present circ.u.mstances, the Emperor was not in a good frame of mind. Everyday, hundreds of court officials attended court in fear and trepidation. There were still some upright and honorable ministers that were concerned for the welfare of the people, making suggestions to distribute provisions to aid the disaster. This further incurred the Emperor’s wrath and displeasure as the national treasury was already empty. Some time ago, the last batch of disaster relief funds had depleted the national treasury. Moreover, this year’s farm crops were destroyed, so there was nothing to contribute to taxes.
Then, during this tumultuous time, someone set up a tent and began to distribute provisions.
At this critical juncture, the imperial court had the mind to a.s.sist but was powerless. They had long stopped bestowing congee. Naturally, the commoners and refugees were jubilant in believing that the imperial court had not forgotten to care for the people, and thus rapidly spread the news.
The food tent was simply erected. On one side were people distributing food and on the other side were people standing by frames that supported a huge cauldron cooking congee, promising that there would not be a shortage. The queue was so long that it filled up and almost blockaded two city streets. A total of eight persons were guarding the cauldron, and these eight people were strong and formidable men of valor. Their statures were all tall and beefy, each having a brutish appearance. Thus, those that were restless and attempted to threaten by trying to take advantage of the crisis had all their ill-intentions squashed very quickly.
The person distributing the congee was an amiable looking woman. She loudly spoke, “There has been a change to our current situation, the flooding has created havoc in our land, and all of us are having a difficult time during this situation. Our family’s General sympathizes with the people, and has specially spent half of his family’s fortune to exchange for provisions to distribute and share with everyone. From today onwards, every morning we will be here to distribute congee and everyone will get a bowl, but only a bowl each. It’s not easy to do something significant in this world, however the General has said that if the funds from the first half of this fortune are used up, he will take out the remaining half for the emergency relief of the people as well. So everyone, we sincerely appreciate your understanding. The heavens will favor the Great Jin empire, our Majesty is benevolent and brilliant, so trust me, we will get through this calamity.”
Her speech was morale boosting and in a flash, it gave everyone a sense of hope. Someone asked, “Daring to ask this madame, who’s your family’s General?
“I’m merely a servant woman, how could I even dare accept the term Madame?” the woman smiled in reply, “My residence is General Zhao’s fu.”
“General Zhao!” Those gathered there began to discuss this. The people overall had a pretty good impression of Zhao Guang. As such, they began to raise their voices, “Many thanks to General Zhao for your benevolence.”
*** You are reading on https://webnovelonline.com ***
“General Zhao is indeed a hero.”
Eldest Young Master Zhao, Zhao Yuan Jia, sighed, “What Second Brother says is true, but why would Eighth Prince suddenly think to target the Zhao family. He has not eliminated the powers of Fifth Prince, and we are in support of Crown Prince, so why would he suddenly act without consideration?”
“I’m afraid that they are ready to wage war.” Zhao Guang’s gaze was deeply set, “His Majesty had been shielding Crown Prince for many years, but based on Eighth Prince’s ability and wisdom, I’m sure he has always been well aware of it. I believe he intends to drag our Zhao family into the fray.”
“Then, what should we do?” Zhao Yuan Feng asked unwillingly: “Just let him scheme against us?”
“Old Duke Jun has adamantly refused to disclose even a sliver of information,: Zhao Guang sighed, “I’m sure it’s no small matter.” Then he changed the topic under discussion, “Currently the population of refugees has steadily increased in the capital and the rain doesn’t seem to be stopping anytime soon. Moreover, His Majesty has appointed Eighth Prince and the Li family to manage and control the reservoir. I’m sensing that it is not as simple as it looks.”
When Zhao Guang was younger, he had fought and won many a battle, as such he had a natural perceptivity toward danger. It was a military man’s intuition.
Zhao Yuan Jia muttered to himself irresolutely, “Over the past few days Yi’er has also said just as much; the garrison within the capital has more than doubled. I’m afraid the capital will undergo a change.”
As they spoke, suddenly a fl.u.s.tered manservant came running in exclaiming, “Old Master, something has happened!”
Zhao Guang’s brows creased, “What happened?”
The young manservant was witty and articulate, so with a few sentences, he was able to concisely explain the situation, “There’s someone distributing congee within the city, a bowl everyday, but under the banner of our General’s fu.”
“What?” Zhao Guang stood up from his chair with a “ceng” sound, “Seriously?”
Zhao Yuan Feng added, “This can’t be? Father, is this the handiwork of Eighth Prince? Has he lost his mind?”
Zhao Guang frowned, “Do we know the person?”
The manservant shook his head, “The staff from the manor has gone to take a look, and none of them recognise the person. However, those people didn’t do anything else beside distributing congee.”
“Father, should I go investigate?” Zhao Yuan Jia asked quietly.
“No,” Zhao Guang batted his hand, “There’s something fishy about this situation, let’s wait out a few days and see.”
It can be concluded with absolute certainty that the person distributing the congee was not from the General’s fu, so what was the purpose behind the other party’s use of the fu’s name. Was it one of Xuan Li’s men or someone else? If it was Xuan Li, what was he planning? But if it was another person, to be able to come up with such a huge quant.i.ty of provisions at this time, just what kind of backing did they have and what were their motives?
Whatever the case, with regards to this matter, they could not afford to act blindly without thinking.
*** You are reading on https://webnovelonline.com ***