In regards to Fu Ya, Feng Yu Heng continued to have suspicions and reservations. If it was said that there were people that looked alike in the world then it was definitely possible, but for them to look so similar was not too likely. When Fu Ya had gone to the Illusory Hall to register, she had said that she was 13 years old, while Feng Yu Heng had just turned 14. There was a difference of just one year on paper; however, not much could be seen from just her appearance.
Feng Yu Heng had intentionally collected Fu Ya’s fingernails. Even if she did not do it now, she would definitely verify things once she got back to the capital.
Three days later, Xuan Tian Ming led the soldiers out toward Jiang Zhou, leaving ten thousand behind in Song Zhou City. Huang Quan and Wang Chuan were left behind to take care of Fu Ya.
From Song Zhou to Jiang Zhou, the army marched for six days; however, there was a major difference from when they had left Guan Zhou for Song Zhou.
According to the northerners, Guan Zhou and Song Zhou were considered places that were not cold. Although it was a perpetual Winter without four distinct seasons, there were still clear days. There were even days during the middle of the year when the sunlight would melt through the snow and reveal some of the earth beneath.
But once one passed Song Zhou and moved toward Jiang Zhou, they would need to pass through a forest. That forest was called the ghost border because once one passed through the forest, the temperature would rapidly plummet. Sunlight could no longer be seen, and it would be snowing through the entire year. Although it could not compare to thick layers of ice in the heart of Qian Zhou, it was still far worse than Guan Zhou and Song Zhou.
Ever since passing through the ghost border, Xuan Tian Ming dragged Feng Yu Heng to his own horse. At the same time, he gave the order for the soldiers to take out the winter coats that had been prepared and put them on. Even if it was like this, Bai Ze said: “Everyone is still cold.”
Xuan Tian Ming gave the order for everyone to march quickly. The soldiers trotted along and barely managed to endure the sudden cold.
Feng Yu Heng was wrapped up in Xuan Tian Ming’s cloak. She figured that the forest should have been at the edge of a major circle of latitude, resulting in such a great difference in temperature between the two sides. Still unknown, however, was just how cold the colder Qian Zhou would be.
Nobody knew where Duan Mu An Guo was after he sank the Winter Palace and escaped. Also unknown was just what type of people ran away with him. The people that had been dug up from the Winter Palace were identified with help from the people present. Not a single one of Duan Mu An Guo’s family was found. The children and grandchildren that were living in Song Zhou all disappeared. Feng Yu Heng once thought that they would run toward Jiang Zhou and use it as a final line of defense. Unfortunately, once they arrived in Jiang Zhou City, the people immediately denied this idea.
Compared to Song Zhou, Jiang Zhou City was quite a bit smaller. They originally thought that it would be the same as Guan Zhou and Song Zhou, with its gates tightly shut. They thought that they would need to expend a great deal of effort to get inside; however, Jiang Zhou’s gates were opened wide. The citizens continued to move about as usual. People were walking around with carrying poles* and freshly hunted animals and there were some that carried around baskets to buy vegetables. There were children crying and men arguing. Everything looked very normal. Everyone was living their own lives. It was as though the commotion in the three northern provinces was unrelated to them.
Feng Yu Heng was shocked at this sight; however, she heard Xuan Tian Ming say: “The prefect of Jiang Zhou is a smart man. He is definitely still in the city and did not go to celebrate Duan Mu An Guo’s birthday, thus he is also not under the rubble of the Winter Palace. As for the citizens of Jiang Zhou, because of the barrier formed by the ghost border, they do not know about the commotion stirred in the two cities.”
She nodded and added: “Since that’s the case, it means that Duan Mu An Guo did not escape to Jiang Zhou.”
“That should be the case.” Xuan Tian Ming raised his hand and ordered for the army to stop. He then said to Bai Ze: “Go into the city first and call the prefect out to see me.”
Bai Ze complied and left. One hour later, a few fast horses rushed out of the city’s gates, heading straight toward the location of the army.
The prefect of Jiang Zhou was a man in his 50s. Xuan Tian Ming said, “That is an old guy that stood on the battlefield with the Emperor. It’s also because of this that he dares to ignore Duan Mu An Guo’s birthday to continue taking care of his own territory and live out his own life.”
Very quickly, Ba Ze brought the person over. The horses stopped, and the old man immediately leaped down from his horse. Arriving in front of Xuan Tian Ming, he loudly said: “This official, Lu Shang, greets your Highness Prince Yu.”
Feng Yu Heng quickly dismounted her horse, while Xuan Tian Ming personally went to help Lu Shang stand up, saying: “Uncle Lu, it’s been many years since we last met. Have you been in good health?”
Lu Shang appeared to be a bit emotional, holding Xuan Tian Ming’s wrists and saying with a bit of a trembling voice, “Good, everything has been good.” But he could not hide the truth that things had been worrying and difficult. He helplessly sighed then patted Xuan Tian Ming’s shoulder, “It’s good that you came. It’s good that you came! If you didn’t come, this lowly old one really feared that Jiang Zhou would not be able to hold out, squandering his Majesty’s trust!”
Xuan Tian Ming continued to say: “Uncle Lu accompanied father Emperor out to battle many years ago and helped Da Shun secure its territory. No matter who father Emperor distrusts, he will always trust you!”
Lu Shang waved his hands, “Let’s not speak of the past! Let’s go into the city.” While saying this, he dragged Xuan Tian Ming toward the city. When he looked over, he caught a sight of Feng Yu Heng. Stopping in his tracks, he looked her over for a while.
Xuan Tian Ming introduced her: “This is imperial daughter Ji An, who was conferred the title by father Emperor personally. She was engaged to this prince long ago.”
“Ah!” Lu Shang’s eyes lit up. Stomping his foot, he asked: “Would that be old man Yao’s granddaughter? The fierce girl that helped Da Shun produce something called steel?”
Feng Yu Heng’s lips formed a smile. Bowing toward him, she politely said: “Uncle Lu is exaggerating. Just call me A-Heng.”
“A-Heng.” Lu Shang pondered for a while before saying: “I heard long ago that the Feng family’s second daughter was engaged to his Highness Prince Yu, but to tell the truth, I quite dislike your father. That’s why I never viewed this engagement favorably. Not to hide it from you, but I even sent his Majesty a letter secretly to have him reconsider the matter. That Feng Jin Yuan’s desires truly do not allow for anyone to feel at ease. But over the past two years, Jiang Zhou also received a bit of news about the happenings in the capital. They said that you were even more capable as a doctor than old man Yao. They said that you made a thing called steel that could break Zong Sui’s iron essence weapons. They also said that your archery skills are exceptional, winning both the Hou Yi bow and phoenix hairpin.” While saying this, he sighed in disbelief, “If such a person really did exist in the world, would she not be considered a goddess? How could Feng Jin Yuan have such good fortune?”
Feng Yu Heng continued to smile and did not put in any effort to speak for herself. She just told Lu Shang: “My surname is Feng, and my given name is Yu Heng. This name is one that will be praised around the world like a fine jade. Thinking about it, the Feng family once placed some hope in me, but they gave up on it along the way; however, this helped fulfill my marriage to his Highness.”
Xuan Tian Ming laughed loudly. Holding the girl with his hand, he said to Lu Shang: “If you say that she is a goddess then she is a goddess. There would have been no hope of this prince ever walking again if it was not for Heng Heng taking care of treating them. Uncle Lu, let’s go into the city to speak.”
The army entered the city but the majority still remained outside to set up camp. Lu Shang brought Xuan Tian Ming straight to the prefectural office. When they finally got inside, his expression sank, and he finally returned to the previous topic, “I heard that Duan Mu An Guo ran away. Is there any news on him?”
Xuan Tian Ming shook his head, “This was also something that I wanted to discuss with uncle Lu. Duan Mu An Guo fled Song Zhou and disappeared without a trace.”
Lu Shang stomped his foot and sighed: “That Duan Mu family has always been vermin. They’re most adept at moving around, hiding all over the place. They even learned how to dig holes. That Song Zhou City is on the verge of being completely hollowed out by them. Nobody can say for certain just how many secret passages there are. That is his territory. If he wants to escape, nobody can stop him.”
“Is there any news here, uncle Lu?” Xuan Tian Ming asked him, “For Duan Mu An Guo to get close to Qian Zhou, he must pass through Jiang Zhou’s territory. I wonder if uncle Lu has any knowledge of him.”
Lu Shang said: “Duan Mu An Guo needs to come to Jiang Zhou countless times each year. He passes through Jiang Zhou to reach Qian Zhou. This matter has continued for a few decades. I spend every day trying to send reports to the capital, but the North belongs to his Duan Mu family. They can’t do anything else, but they are top tier when it comes to intercepting reports. No less than 100 reports have been intercepted. If it was not for me having served in the army alongside his Majesty many years ago, perhaps Duan Mu An Guo would not have allowed me to live until today.” Lu Shang shook his head bitterly. It seemed that he was reminiscing about those times. Unfortunately, these were experiences of the past. His youth was gone, and the environment had also changed.
“From Jiang Zhou to Qian Zhou, the first city has a four-colored lake. That is one taken care of by Qian Zhou’s imperial family. It’s a place dedicated to raising fish.” Lu Shang continued to tell them about the situation in the North, “The fish in the four-colored lake is apparently very delicious. Unfortunately, over the years, I have not dared to take a single bite. Apparently, those fish are grown by being fed the flesh of dead people. Qian Zhou regularly sinks dead bodies in that lake for the sake of raising those fish.”
Feng Yu Heng suddenly dry heaved. Her stomach tossed like a turbulent sea. She covered her mouth and ran outside. Before she could take many steps, she began to vomit. Everything that she had eaten along the way was vomited out. Not even stomach acid remained.
Lu Shang was very shocked and subconsciously looked at Xuan Tian Ming, who had already rushed out. He could not help but mutter: “That girl does not look to be of marriageable age, and I did not hear of their marriage. Could it be that the imperial family’s old ninth has the same hobbies as Duan Mu An Guo?”
These words were heard by Ban Zou, who stayed in the room. Angrily rolling his eyes, he could not hold back and reminded: “Our master isn’t pregnant. It’s because you spoke of that fish.”
Lu Shang was stunned and glanced at Ban Zou, saying: “She became nauseous because the fish were fed dead human flesh?” While saying this, he shook his head, “That should not be! I heard that imperial daughter Ji An was also a general. When killing enemies on the battlefield, she is very relaxed and free. How could she become disgusted by such things as a normal girl? I only told the truth. The fish in the four-colored lake are fed human flesh.”
Ban Zou could no longer bear to continue listening. Upon thinking of Feng Yu Heng’s actions in the Winter Palace, he also felt his stomach revolt. He had no choice but to tell Lu Shang: “My lord, it really would be best to not mention this matter anymore. That four-colored lake… I fear that master will give the order to fill it.”
Lu Shang replied very seriously: “That cannot happen. The lake is massive.”
Even in her wildest dreams, Feng Yu Heng never expected that the extremely delicious fish was actually raised in that manner. She had a sudden urge to pull her stomach out and have it washed. Xuan Tian Ming patted her back while asking her: “What exactly happened?” Sleeping together under cotton blankets would not cause pregnancy.
Feng Yu Heng gulped down a large mouthful of air and told him through gritted teeth: “The fish in the four-colored lake… this grandaunty ate it!”
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