Change in Identity
When the army set out, Feng Yu Heng’s carriage was just about to reach the first town.
The two hidden guards that were traveling with her were named Yuan Fei and Chou Shu. The one currently driving the carriage was Chou Shu, and Yuan Fei was brought inside the carriage to sit alongside Wang Chuan and the person in the main seat. To his two sides were Feng Yu Heng and Huang Quan.
“Alright, it will be like this. When we arrive at the upcoming town, we will have Huang Quan go and buy some clothes for us to change into.” Feng Yu Heng clapped her hands and was very satisfied with her own arrangements.
But Wang Chuan and Yuan Fei were no longer feeling natural, especially Yuan Fei. He did not know how he should sit. He sat up a little straighter as though he was in military posture. He did not know where he should place his hands. After pondering it over a few times, he decided to place them flat on his knees then face forward. He did not even dare look at Feng Yu Heng.
Wang Chuan and Feng Yu Heng were familiar, and there was no need to be reserved, but in regards to Feng Yu Heng’s decision of “You two will pretend to be a couple, while Huang Quan, Chou Shu and I will pretend to be servants” they were not in agreement. She said to Feng Yu Heng: “Young miss, can you not think of any other method. You will force us to pretend to be a couple?”
Huang Quan was a little puzzled, “Is it no good for you to remain a young miss, while we are maidservants and a retinue?”
Yuan Fei looked at Feng Yu Heng with a face filled with expectation, waiting for her to nod and agree. He could be a hidden guard, and there were no problems when it came to killing people. He could be dressed up as a young master and have a fake wife, but having the dignified Princess Yu act as his servant was not something that he could do!”
Unfortunately, it was completely impossible for Feng Yu Heng to be swayed. The more they wanted for her to nod, the more she would shake her head, saying: “No good. If I dressed as a young miss with you guys as maidservants and retinue, it would be too obvious. Everyone knows that imperial daughter Ji An is 13 years of age. Even if the new year passes, I would only be 14. The imperial daughter has two maidservants at her side at all times. This sort of group is too distinct. It will be very likely that it can be seen through. We will be going toward the North this time, and the trip was not something that could be completed in three to five days. As I see it, reaching Guan Zhou in just two months would already be considered quite fast, thus safety is first. We do not have any other choice.”
With her saying it like this, Wang Chuan immediately realized this reality and nodded, saying: “That’s right, it’s us servants that were mistaken. Young miss is really thorough. This arrangement is very good.”
“What was good?” Yuan Fei looked at Wang Chuan. This servant was originally his master’s subordinate. In the past, he had felt that Wang Chuan was very beautiful. After she was sent to the princess’ side, he saw her very infrequently. It was just a few days ago that they had interacted a bit while chasing after those people from Qian Zhou’s divine archery team; however, who knew that he would still be needed this time. Yuan Fei thought a bit. Even if there was a bit of embarrassment, it was worth it.
Thus he also nodded, quietly saying: “Then let’s do it like this!”
Feng Yu Heng smirked and teased Wang Chuan: “Look, your husband was quite quick to agree to it!”
Wang Chuan stomped her foot, her face turning red from these remarks.
The people inside the carriage laughed for a while. Feng Yu Heng then brought out a map that Xuan Tian Ming had given her earlier. Laying out flat on the table inside the carriage, she pointed at it and said: “From the capital to the northern provinces, we must pass through seven provinces. Among them are Xiao Zhou and Qing Zhou that are part of the He Tian Prefecture. Then from Qing Zhou to first province in the North, Guan Zhou, there are six prefectures in between. Each of these six prefectures contains two provinces. If we do not consider the towns and counties, this trip should take roughly 60 to 70 days.”
Yuan Fei nodded, continuing: “This subordinate has been to the North before. The North is considered to be three provinces, but the reality is that they are called: Guan Zhou, Song Zhou and Jiang Zhou. It’s just that the three autonomous regions occupy a large amount of land, as they are much larger than the other provinces. It’s just that people are accustomed to referring to them as the three provinces. After leaving the capital and entering the North, the first autonomous region that we will enter will be Guan Zhou. The leader Duan Mu An Guo’s government office was constructed in the middle in Song Zhou, while Jiang Zhou is closest to Qian Zhou. The main entrance to Da Shun is in Jiang Zhou’s borders.”
Yuan Fei spoke while drawing the locations of the three provinces on the map. He then pointed at the location of the main entrance into Da Shun in the North, giving Feng Yu Heng a brief overview of the geography.
Speaking of, the so-called prefectures of Da Shun are equivalent to modern provinces, and the so-called autonomous regions were just municipalities. It was just that they were not divided into districts, and they were surrounded by a few small towns. The capital was naturally independent, while Xiao Zhou and Qing Zhou to the North belonged to He Tian Prefecture. Even further North of He Tian Prefecture, there were another six prefectures before arriving at the large Gua Zhou. The distance was extremely great, and the trek was difficult.
Ever since the group had accepted their fates and agreed to Feng Yu Heng’s arrangements, Yuan Fei rode in the middle of the carriage, while Huang Quan would alternate driving the carriage with Chou Shu. When passing through the first town, they bought some clothes. Feng Yu Heng changed into maidservant’s clothes, while Wang Chuan put on a young wife’s clothes. Yuan Fei also bought the best clothes from a shop and changed into a brocade robe. But even if they were the best available in the shop, it still did not appear to be very good. After all, the wares of a small town could not compare to those of the capital. Feng Yu Heng thought that once they arrived in Xiao Zhou, they would need to buy some better clothes. It would be best if they were not seen through for the following two months.
They did not rest much along the way. The carriage was pulled along by two horses. Upon arriving in a town, they would switch the horses out. Huang Quan and Chou Shu took turns resting and headed toward Xiao Zhou in this manner.
In recent times, this was their second time coming along this path; however, the mood was different. The previous time, they were chasing after the people that had kidnapped Zi Rui. Their nerves were wound up the entire time, especially Feng Yu Heng, who could not relax for even a single moment. As for the present, although they were also exercising great caution, it was still much more relaxed than before.
But the path was still the same. No matter what, they would need to pass by where old sixth and the other hidden guards were buried. When passing by, it was Huang Quan that was driving the carriage. She had turned to look back and ask Feng Yu Heng if she wanted to stop. Feng Yu Heng immediately called for them to stop but did not get out of the carriage. She just lifted the curtain and looked over.
She quietly said to the group: “Although we did not notice anything on this trip so far, we cannot relax. Who knows what angle the enemy may be watching us from. Thus, even if we want to get out to pay respects to the fallen, now is definitely not the time.” She then raised her head slightly, and her lips parted once more; however, she spoke toward the graves: “Comrades, just wait a little longer. Wait until we conquer Qian Zhou. We will definitely bring their imperial family before you and use their blood as a sacrifice for your souls.” After saying this, she lowered the curtain and said in a low voice: “Let’s go.”
Huang Quan swung her horsewhip and got the horses moving once more.
The mood was a little heavy, and nobody said anything for a long time. They just continued to rush forward on their way. Entering Xiao Zhou, they replenished their supplies and continued to advance. Finally, on the fifth day at dawn, they arrived at the dock that they had visited the previous time.
“Young miss, we need to cross the river once more. When we go this time, who knows just when we can return. There’s no point in storing the carriage, so it will be sold off.” Huang Quan quietly discussed this with Feng Yu Heng.
Feng Yu Heng nodded then reminded Wang Chuan, “We can speak however we want while inside this carriage, but once we get out, the master will be Wang Chuan and Yuan Fei. No matter what happens, discuss matters with them.” She then said to Yuan Fei: “When it comes to trivial matters, leave it to Wang Chuan to handle. Either way, it’s usually a woman’s job to handle the management of the family; however, if there are any important matters to be decided upon, that is when it will fall on you.”
Yuan Fei thought a bit and said: “There are some things that this subordinate cannot make decisions for.”
“There’s nothing that you can’t really make a decision for.” She waved her hand, “As long as our goal is clear, the rest is trivial. We’ll do as you say.” After she said this, she was the first to move to the front of the carriage and lift the curtain. Standing outside the carriage, she raised her voice to say in a crisp voice: “Young master, young madam, we have arrived at the dock. Please come out of the carriage!”
With the curtain lifted, a cold wind blew past. The wind at the side of the river was strong. That combined with the arrival of Winter gave them the feeling of heading North. Fortunately, they had changed into Winter clothes back in Xiao Zhou. Wang Chuan had a cloak covering her head, giving her the appearance of a young mistress from a wealthy family.
Huang Quan held the tickets to get onto the boat and said to them: “If we stay in the elegant rooms, the tickets were easier to buy, but if we were to buy the normal rooms, they had apparently run out of space yesterday morning.”
Wang Chuan spoke on and off with Huang Quan, but Feng Yu Heng had secretly turned her attention toward the dock. The dock was a place where both good and bad people gathered. There were merchants, people rushing to their destinations, slave merchants and people that were looking for protection fees. Looking around, all kinds of people could be seen. She very quickly found someone familiar. It was the slave owner that had been waving a whip around. Who knew where this person had gone, but he had another group of slaves. Once again, it was a group of children under the age of ten. Their hands and legs were tied together using iron shackles.
She quietly asked Huang Quan: “What’s the system for slave selling in Da Shun? When I was in the capital, even when I saw servants that had handed over slave contracts, they were not treated this poorly. We have also purchased slaves. Although the clothes that they wore were a little shabby when they first arrived, they were still very clean. They did not look like they had been abused. Why is it that this is the sight that I see outside the capital?”
Huang Quan explained to her: “These servants are different from us. The slave merchants of the capital follow the rules. Also, those slave merchants in the capital only have the slave contracts, but these young slaves belong to the slave merchant. They are part of his family registry. A slave contract demands one’s body, but a registry demands one’s life. Someone that has signed a slave contract can still run as long as they could do it. With their registration, they would not be investigated when passing through checkpoints. But without a registration, just crossing the borders of various autonomous regions is fine, but once it came to passing through provincial prefecture’s borders, unless one crawled through a small hole, they could not even get in.”
Feng Yu Heng was stunned. There was this sort of thing happening? Was this not the equivalent of something like a registration card or identification card? Put plainly, the slave contract was simply a deed. If you defaulted, you would at most be chased after for breaking the law. But the registration was one’s identification card. Without this identification card, it was difficult to go anywhere.
It was only at this moment that she found out that such a rule existed, but she immediately let out an “ah” sound and said: “Then what about us? We’re about to pass through so many prefectures. Did we bring our registrations?”
Wang Chuan told her: “Don’t worry. They’ve all been brought along. His Highness had them prepared a long time ago. We are registered as being from a courtyard that his Highness has in Xiao Zhou. When we get onto the boat, this ser… I will show young miss.”
Feng Yu Heng nodded, finally calming down.
Not long later, a sound came from the dock. The boat had arrived. Feng Yu Heng and Huang Quan helped Wang Chuan stand up then followed the flow of customers toward the boat. The group squeezed and pushed its way forward. From time to time, there would be sounds of cursing and children crying. There was a dark-faced man that also pushed his way forward. Behind him were around ten girls dressed in beautiful clothes. There was a pungent smell coming from a low-quality rouge that was blown over by the wind. Feng Yu Heng looked up and took a look. Staring at a back, she revealed a puzzled expression…
TN: The term “zhou” can mean autonomous region, state, prefecture or province.