The Grand 100 Family Banquet
100 family banquet, a banquet for 100 families, on the first day of every new year, the leader of the North would have 100 representitive families from all over the three provinces gather for a banquet. For these 100 families, they needed to be of a good northern background and upbringing. They also had to be Duan Mu An Guo’s supporters. Of the families, half had sent their daughters into the Winter Palace.
In short, these 100 families had to be deeply grateful toward Duan Mu An Guo. Only then could they be able to participate in this banquet.
Feng Yu Heng followed the people of Illusory Hall and stood outside the hall. Inside, there was an old man nearing 70 that was kneeling on the ground while slightly trembling. Facing Duan Mu An Guo, he spoke while shedding tears of gratitude: “This year, it got cold early in Jiang Zhou. The majority of the crops froze to death. After great leader heard about this, he reduced the tax collected by 80 percent without another word said. He even allowed us to keep the leftover grains for our families to use. Great leader’s grace of saving our Jiang Zhou’s citizens, we must not forget!” The old man said this then kowtowed to Duan Mu An Guo.
Duan Mu An Guo sat in the head position and held a cup of wine in his hand. He listened very carefully to what the old man had said then said: “I am the caretaker of the North. All of the citizens are my Duan Mu An Guo’s citizens. If you meet with a crisis, I naturally cannot ignore it.”
With just a few words, Da Shun’s citizens had been Duan Mu An Guo’s citizens. Feng Yu Heng though that Feng Jin Yuan had come to the North the previous year to relieve the disaster; however, who knew that the people of the North thought this way.
After the old man finished giving his thanks, someone helped him back to his seat. Immediately following this, a middle-aged woman carrying a child went forward. The woman kneeled on the ground and loudly said: “This is this humble woman’s son. His name is Nian En. Nian En is extremely grateful of great leader’s grace. When this child was born from her mother’s womb, he was frail and sickly, and his life was at risk many times. For the sake of seeking medical treatment, all of the family’s savings were spent, but it was still utterly inadequate. Because there was no money left to see a doctor, the guards of Song Zhou were not even willing to let us into the city. The child was about to perish; however, we were fortunate to have run into great leader. Not only did you give us money to see a doctor, you also announced to the entire city that anyone severely ill could go to the leader’s palace for financial support to seek medical aid. Also, the guards could not refuse entrance to someone that was ill. This child’s life was given by the great leader. When he has grown up, he will definitely need to do his best to repay this and thank great leader for the grace of this life.
It had to be said that the earlier old man’s words did not cause Feng Yu Heng to feel moved, but this woman’s words immediately caused her to remember the plans for “guaranteeing medical care for all citizens” and “reducing the cost of treatment for the severely ill” that she had been wanting to pursue. It was just that Da Shun was too large, and there would always be some resistance when setting it in motion. In addition to this, her efforts were indeed very scattered, and she could not focus entirely on a single matter. That is why it had been delayed to this point. However, who knew that this sort of idea would appear in the North. Although it was not well-developed, she had to admit that Duan Mu An Guo did indeed have some merits on this point.
Thinking like this, she could not help but begin to think about how she would implement the modern conveniences into her Ji An prefecture; however, at this time, the sound of very powerful footsteps in the snow came from behind. It was a feminine voice that spoke, “If it wasn’t for your family’s eldest daughter being brought into the Winter Palace, how could you have enjoyed something so good as receiving treatment without paying money.”
Feng Yu Heng’s mind spun. In her memory, the three voices overlapped. One was from Prince Lian from Qian Zhou, one was the from the ice-breaking fisher girl from earlier, and the other was from just now. It was no wonder that she felt that the girl from earlier had a familiar voice; however, who knew that it would be like this.
Everyone turned around, and just as Feng Yu Heng turned a bit, she saw a large patch of red heading straight for her. The cloak had been picked up by the wind and covered her face.
Feng Yu Heng brushed it away in agitation. Although she wore a veil made of ice silk, she could still smell the faint smell of rouge from the cloak. It smelled good, but it also caused a strange sensation.
At this time, the person that had just come spoke up once more saying to Duan Mu An Guo: “All severely ill in the country? The conditions for this are that a daughter that is not yet of marriageable age must be sent to great leader Duan Mu. Without this, this sort of treatment without payment is something that cannot be enjoyed no matter what.”
Feng Yu Heng laughed. So that was what was going on.
The sudden “disclosure of faults” caused Duan Mu An Guo’s expression to become extremely ugly. At the same time, the officials and citizens that were in the hall were all shocked. Nobody thought that someone so bold and blind would dare to oppose their great leader on the first day of the new year.
But Duan Mu An Guo merely had an ugly expression. There was not a single other reaction. He even stood up and quickly adjusted his mood then smiled while walking over to the woman in red and kneeled. At the same time, he loudly said: “This official, Duan Mu An Guo, greets your Highness Prince Lian!”
Once these words were said, everyone immediately reacted and kneeled. It was just that some people were still unable to understand. Was this Prince Lian from Da Shun or Qian Zhou? If this person was from Da Shun, why did Duan Mu An Guo refer to himself as this official? If they were from Qian Zhou, did that mean that the rumors of the North belonging to Qian Zhou once more were true?
A civilian that was a little bolder asked this question, and Duan Mu An Guo let out a loud laugh, saying: “The three northern provinces were originally part of Qian Zhou’s territory. Over the years, we have been held at a distance by Da Shun. We were neither subjects nor family. Just how many relatives were scattered and how many of our families were ruined. I know where the roots in your hearts lie. I, as the caretaker of the North, also know what is most important. In a person’s life, the most difficult thing to give up is one’s roots. The North’s roots lie in Qian Zhou. Even if we are separated for hundreds or thousands of years, the blood of Qian Zhou still flows inside us. Today, his Highness Prince Lian from Qian Zhou has personally come to the North to celebrate the new year with everyone. This official will also use this opportunity to announce to the world that the North will be rejoining Qian Zhou!”
To the civilians, these words had come too suddenly, but even if it was sudden, it still elicited cheers from the crowd. Salutes continued on and on, as people endlessly expressed their joy in returning to Qian Zhou.
This scene shook everyone present, as the people in the Illusory Group also kneeled on the ground. Feng Yu Heng had no choice but to kneel, but there were two questions that were racing through her mind. Were the people of the North really that excited to belong to Qian Zhou once more? Qian Zhou’s Prince Lian was a woman?
She could not help but secretly look up, but she only saw Prince Lian dressed in red walk past Duan Mu An Guo and walk straight toward the front. At her side were two servants holding lotus flower ice lanterns. They stood to the sides of a seat then welcomed Prince Lian to be seated.
Duan Mu An Guo stood up a little awkwardly then returned to his seat. The two then received the worship of everyone in the hall.
Thanks to the arrival of Prince Lian and Duan Mu An Guo’s announcement of the north belonging to Qian Zhou once more, the order of the performances had changed once more. Before the Illusory Hall’s performance, another song and dance was added to the list. Shen Yu Ning furrowed her brow and said: “This is a song and dance from Qian Zhou. They really know how to lick their boots.”
Duan Mu An Guo used this opportunity to exaggerate: “In the past 100 years, there has been too much of Qian Zhou’s blood that has been shed outside its borders. You all know that I have a daughter that was sent into Da Shun’s imperial palace and became an imperial concubine of Da Shun’s emperor. But because she had the blood of Qian Zhou flowing through her, even if she gave birth to the third prince, she was still unable to escape a tragic fate. As for the third prince, he was also killed by Da Shun’s emperor.”
This matter was not much of a secret, and everyone sobbed upon hearing this.
Duan Mu An Guo continued: “Although Da Shun would distribute money for the Winter every year, the clothes that they send are not as warm as the ones sent by Qian Zhou, thus there are always people that die on the streets each year. Qian Zhou is so close to us, but, unfortunately, there are some homes that you cannot return to. This was the sorrow of the northern provinces.”
This incited an uproar and caused the civilians present to begin weeping. As they cried, someone finally shouted: “We want to go back to Qian Zhou! We want to go home!”
In an instant, the shouts of the civilians grew louder and louder, and the satisfied look on Duan Mu An Guo’s face became more and more pronounced. Feng Yu Heng squinted while looking over and happened to see Prince Lian glance at Duan Mu An Guo, her face filled with contempt.
Finally, the illusionists’ performance began.
With illusionists leading the group of girls into the hall, the fantastic magic performance with a focus on ice began. The illusionists’ wonderous hands caused the spectators to cheer endlessly.
Feng Yu Heng and the other girls were not particularly important members. They just needed to stand there and flick their sleeves from time to time or turn around a couple times. Like flower vases, they needed to help the illusionists create a colorful atmosphere.
Of course, the main highlight was after the show had concluded. As everyone expected, Duan Mu An Guo had the girls line up in the front, remove their veils and announce their names. Just like when choosing a concubine, the ones that he had taken notice of would be given an ice flower. Those that were not selected would have their veils put back on by a servant.
Every year, the Illusory Hall would always send out a group of girls after the performance. Duan Mu An Guo especially liked the girls trained by the Illusory Hall because these girls were capable in singing and dancing. They also knew a bit of magic and could bring a smile to his face.
One by one, all of the girls stepped forward. There were those that were chosen and those that were eliminated. Shen Yu Ning and Zhang Ling Xi had succeeded in receiving an ice flower, and Feng Yu Heng heard Zhang Ling Xi faintly sigh, revealing the bitterness in her heart.
Finally, it was her turn to step forward. She had her head slightly lowered and stepped forward in large strides then bowed: “This lowly one greets great leader.”
Her voice did not have the same hope that was present in the voices of the other girls. It also did not have the lack of confidence that was present in Zhang Ling Xi’s voice. It was just calm and cold.
But it was this coldness that had attracted Duan Mu An Guo’s attention. It was just that his attention was suddenly focused on Feng Yu Heng’s face. Duan Mu An Guo suddenly stood up, as he glared with his eyes opened wide. He pointed at her with a look of utter disbelief: “You! You actually dared to come here?”
Feng Yu Heng was puzzled, “Why can I not come?”
The illusionist felt his heart go “thunk.” Fearing that something would happen, he quickly went forward and asked: “This is the daughter of the Fu family in the Southwest side of Song Zhou City. Great leader, is something wrong?”
“Fu family?” Duan Mu An Guo was startled and looked closely at Feng Yu Heng. The girl before him looked exactly like the one that had set fire to his palace. For a while, it caused him to feel as though he was mistaken.
He shook his head and said with a heavy voice: “What Fu family. That is clearly the one that I could not find…”
“You’re clearly the ice flower deity that I could not find!” A voice suddenly spoke up.