She had simply put some lighter fluid in the pistil of the ice flower, hiding it in the deep. If she had not seen it before in her previous life, she really might not be able to handle this bit of magic.
Feng Yu heng had never been good at this sort of thing, but she would always be a little better off than the other girls. Producing a flame in the ice flower allowed her to successfully differentiate herself from the 17 other girls.
“You, what is your name?” The woman in charge of teaching asked her, a smile appearing on her face.
Feng Yu Heng said: “My name is Fu Ya.”
“Fu Ya, very good. Out of the 17 of you, there are spots for ten to come with the Illusory Hall to enter the Winter Palace tomorrow. You will be one of them. The remaining nine spots will depend on your results. I will give you two hours. Once you’ve learned how to do it, come to the front hall to find me.”
After the woman finished talking, she followed the middle-aged man into a room. The girls in the courtyard began a new round of practice to start a fire on the ice flower.
Feng Yu Heng carried her ice flower to the side and sat down. Two of the girls immediately moved over. She could recognize them. These two had accompanied Xiao Ya to the Illusory Hall yesterday. One of them had even tried to convince Xiao Ya for a long time. Yesterday, she had used the condition of treating Xiao Ya’s mother’s condition to trade for her identity, thus she could come on this trip. But there was nothing to fear during this aside from being recognized by Xiao Ya’s close friends.
However, reality proved that her worries were unnecessary. In her eyes, she and Xiao Ya were 70 percent similar. In the eyes of these girls, that would be a complete similarity. It was at most: “The rouge that you used today is definitely different than usual, but you are definitely prettier than before!” The one that spoke was the girl that had advised Xiao Ya to come and register here. She slightly furrowed her brow and asked her: “Today is new year’s eve. Will your mother be able to get out of bed?”
Feng Yu Heng’s expression became downcast, replying to her: “She can get out of bed, but she needs to rest after just speaking a bit. There are times when she will cough up blood. Father is worried about her catching a cold, in addition to me not being at home, this year’s new year’s dinner will be just the two of them. It’s most likely that they will just have a few bites at mother’s bedside.”
“Hah.” The girl sighed, telling her: “There’s no need to worry. Just now, yours was the first to catch fire. Sister Qi has already agreed to bring you into the Winter Palace. This means that you will receive some money. I heard that you can get 30 taels. This morning, right before we came here, I even said to father to go to the Fu residence to send some meat. Our family prepared a large amount.”
Feng Yu Heng revealed a thankful expression, repeatedly giving thanks. She knew that this girl was called Shen Yu Ning, and she was a good friend that had been with Xiao Ya for many years. Although Shen Yu Ning was hoping to climb to Duan Mu An Guo’s higher branches and wanted to stand out among others, her nature was quite good. She had taken extremely good care of the Fu family over the years.
As for the other one, her name was Zhang Lin Xi. She was also like Xiao Ya and did not want to come to the Illusory Hall. To deal with her greedy father, she was forced to do her best to get into the Winter Palace. Like this, their family would never need to pay taxes again.
Zhang Ling Xi said to Feng Yu Heng: “Xiao Ya, teach us how to do this. You know, if I can’t get into the Winter Palace, I will get beaten to death by my father.”
Feng Yu Heng helplessly shook her head; however, she still taught the two how to start a fire on the ice flower. The two praised Feng Yu Heng for being smart, and Shen Yu Ning grabbed her wrist and said: “If the three of us can become imperial concubines in the Winter Palace after getting in, we definitely need to support each other. I heard that the concubines in the Winter Palace all fight battles to the death. Some of them lose their lives after just falling asleep once.”
Zhang Ling Xi was very afraid, and tears nearly spilled out. Feng Yu Heng, however, had an unnoticeable flash of light pass through her eyes. Imperial concubine of Winter Palace? This Duan Mu An Guo really viewed himself as a little local emperor! He even prepared the positions of empress and imperial concubine.
After Shen Yu Ning and Zhang Ling Xi learned how to perform start a fire on the ice flower, they immediately went to the front hall to look for sister Qi. As for the other girls that saw Feng Yu Heng successfully teach the girls, they also gathered around, asking Feng Yu Heng to teach them.
Feng Yu Heng was very patient, teaching the foundations of this trick. Many girls were able to learn through this. Someone praised her: “Sister Xiao Ya, you really are beautiful.”
Someone immediately corrected her, saying: “The important thing isn’t beauty, it’s the elegance. Lord Duan Mu likes elegant girls the best. It’s best if they have a bit of a cold expression like Xiao Ya. The icier the feeling that they give off, the more lord Duan Mu likes them. As I see it, when we go to the Winter Palace tomorrow, Xiao Ya will definitely be chosen as an imperial concubine of Winter Palace.”
However, at this time, they suddenly heard a bitterly sarcastic voice. It was a girl saying: “What’s so great about it. Isn’t this just a blind cat running into a dead mouse?”
Everyone turned around and saw three girls walking over. The one in the middle looked to be around 13-years-old, and her chin was raised, her face filled with pride. After getting a little closer, she stopped and stared at Feng Yu Heng, saying: “You have a poor look to you. You want to enter the Winter Palace with such shabby looks? Dream on!”
The girls that were present all fell silent. Feng Yu Heng immediately understood upon looking. The opposition definitely had some sort of backing, thus she dared to act arrogant and bossy. But…” Girl, if you feel that you have the backing to be arrogant, you can speak a little more arrogantly. But I must remind you, have you ever tested how sturdy your support it? Is there a chance that it is as hard as tofu? Otherwise, you could have relied on this support to get sent straight into the Winter Palace. Why bother with coming through the Illusory Hall and playing around with these tricks?”
Just a few words from her caused the ambitions of the girls at her side to perk up. Although they did not collectively denounce her, they were clearly no longer afraid. At this time, Shen Yu Ning and Zhang Ling Xi had returned. Shen Yu Ning saw this scene and immediately said: “I was wondering who it was, isn’t this the Qi family’s young miss? What is it? Just because you have an elder sister that became an imperial concubine in the Winter Palace, you feel that you are a step above everyone else? You haven’t even stopped to think how long it has been since your elder sister stopped sending money back. Or you should ask around to find out how long it has been since your sister last saw lord Duan Mu.” While scoffing at her, she said to Feng Yu Heng: “Don’t pay attention to her. I met this girl a few months ago at someone else’s place. At that time, she just flaunted the fact that she had an elder sister that had become a concubine in the Winter Palace.” As she spoke, she turned her head: “Qi family’s young miss, did you never stop to think that in Song Zhou city, there is one family in every ten families that has sent someone into the Winter Palace? Do you still feel that your status is that intriguing? You really are short-sighted.”
Zhang Ling Xi also spoke up, saying: “That’s right! There are too many concubines in the Winter Palace. Everyone is familiar with what goes on there. We are the newcomers. Although it’s uncertain whether or not we can get in, we need to be of one mind. If we already do not get along at a time like this, how should we handle it once we get into the Winter Palace.”
“Tsk.” Zhang Ling Xi’s quiet words of advice were not very effective. The Qi family’s young miss raised her voice once more and said: “Who wants to stand together with you? What a group of poor people. It would be odd if you could be chosen.”
Zhang Ling Xi was not an impulsive person, and she was a little quiet and cowardly. Shen Yu Ning was different. She was clearly an expert troublemaker, and she covered for the weak. Fu Ya was someone that she had always protected. How could she be bullied like this by someone with the surname Qi?
She was fuming with anger. Reaching out, she pushed the Qi family’s young miss on the shoulder. This push ended up causing trouble. The Qi family’s young miss had a personality very similar to her’s, and she was an expert in baring her fangs. Upon seeing Shen Yu Ning do something to her, she immediately raised her hands, and the two began fighting in the blink of an eye.
As for the two girls that had accompanied the Qi family’s young miss over, they also joined in the fray. Even Zhang Ling Xi was implicated, ending with her getting hit.
Feng Yu Heng furrowed her brow and could no longer bear to watch. Just as she was about to think of how to stop them, they heard sister Qi raise her voice and angrily shout: “Is the Illusory Hall a place for you to fight? Have you all forgotten the rules of this place?”
In truth, Illusory Hall did not have many rules. It was just that anyone that was not obedient, not honest and did not put forth the time to practice their craft would be punished. All around the backyard, there were ten water tubs that were half a person’s height. Those that were punished would normally be sent to fill the ten tubs with water. If they could not fill them, they naturally would not be allowed to eat nor sleep.
Feng Yu heng glared at the Qi family’s young miss then took a couple steps forward to say: “This matter was completely the result of the Qi family’s young miss and Xiao Ya. Would sister Qi please hand down a punishment.”
The Qi girl turned her attention on the Qi family’s young miss. Just this glance caused her to feel irritated. When she looked at Feng Yu Heng, however, a look of approval appeared. She nodded and said: “Since that is the case, only the two of you will be punished. You,” She pointed at the Qi family’s young miss, “Go and fill ten tubs with water. Remember, go to the ice well and break the ice yourself to fetch the water.” After saying this, she said to Feng Yu Heng: “You, fill five tubs, but you don’t need to use the ice well. Go ahead. You must remember to finish before nightfall; otherwise, there will be no dinner for you to eat.”
The Qi family’s young miss was dissatisfied, but she did not dare to defy this order. She could only stay quiet and glare at Feng Yu Heng, shooting over a venomous glare.
A servant brought Feng Yu Heng over to the well then pointed at the well, telling her: “Just fill up the water here. This is the only well in the Illusory Hall that does not freeze over.” After saying this, they quickly turned around and left before she could ask any questions.
Feng Yu Heng stared at the well for a while then found that bubbles would occasionally appear on the surface of the water, thus she could determine that there was flowing water down there. With air flowing, it did not freeze. But even if this was the case, filling five tubs of water would still take multiple hours. That would also be for someone like her that had martial abilities. For that Qi family’s young miss to fill ten tubs, even if she continued until the next morning, she would not finish.
She covered her mouth and smiled. That was not something that she had considered. Either way, she had a space that would allow her to cheat. In the worst-case scenario, she would just fetch some water from inside and pour it out here. This would save her some energy. She just needed to make sure that she was not noticed.
As she was thinking about this, she was about to toss the bucket in her hands down the well; however, it was at this time that she suddenly noticed a person’s figure flash behind her. In the time that she reacted and looked more closely, it had disappeared. At the same time, a strong force suddenly came from behind. She lost her balance and ended up leaning forward. Bumping against the well, both of her feet left the ground, and she fell toward the water in the well.
TN: The teacher (戚) and the young miss (齐) have different last names.