Her Own Man Looks Best No Matter How She Looks
“Hm?” Xuan Tian Ming was very confused by his question, “The three northern provinces are exempt from paying taxes. This was a regulation put in place over 100 years ago. What is it, do you have some doubts?”
The fat boss nodded vigorously, “I do! I have a great amount of doubt!” He seemed to be a bit emotional, his voice raising by quite a bit, as he said in a loud voice: “We have never heard of taxes being exempt. We need to pay taxes on everything that we do, and the taxes are very extreme. Half of the money earned from selling noodles needs to be paid to the government.”
Once this was said, Xuan Tian Ming’s group frowned in unison. Feng Yu Heng immediately realized that something was off, rushing to ask: “Then what about children attending school? What about seeing a doctor? The residences that you live in should have been passed down through the generations, right? There shouldn’t be any need to pay for them, right?”
This conversation was heard by the crowd, and everyone gathered closer with someone saying: “When it comes to children attending school and seeing doctors, Duan Mu An Guo said that Da Shun’s court is paying for half of the cost, and we only need to pay half the normal cost. As for the houses, they are passed down from generation to generation, and it is said that they were built by Da Shun, but we need to pay management fees to the court each year.”
Another person said: “That’s right! But this is already very good. If it wasn’t for the court covering half of the cost, how could children afford to attend school.”
Once this was said, Bai Ze slapped the table with urgency, angrily saying: “You’ve all been cheated by Duan Mu An Guo! You’ve been cheated for over 100 years! Over 100 years!”
“Cheated?” The people were puzzled, “How have we been cheated?”
Bai Ze angrily stomped his feet while Feng Yu Heng and Xuan Tian Ming exchanged a glance. Xuan Tian Ming then stood up and faced the citizens, raising his voice to say: “You have indeed been cheated. Ever since the northern provinces were taken by Da Shun over 100 years ago, my Xuan family recognized the North as a unique environment. Without any ability to produce food, thus it was recommended that you work on other things. We built houses, shops, academies and medical clinics for you. Aside from the base cost of medical herbs, the cost of seeing a doctor and getting medicine, the cost of sending a child to school, as well as the cost of housing, these have all been paid for by the court. There is no need for you to pay for it. Also, 100 years ago, the court had already exempted the northern provinces from paying taxes. You can keep all of your earnings without needing to pay a single cent to the government.”
“What?” Everyone was dazed. There was no need to pay taxes? But… “But only the families with daughters that were selected to enter the Winter Palace as concubines were exempted from paying taxes!”
Xuan Tian Ming shook his head, “Everything that this prince said is true. It’s been over 100 years, and the court has not asked for a single cent. Instead, they need to send a large amount of money to the North for the sake of allowing you to live happily. It was to allow you to experience Da Shun’s kindness and warmth, instead of leaving you here in the cold North for your heart to also become cold. As for the situation that you mentioned, this prince figures that it should be a result of Duan Mu An Guo deceiving his superiors and lying to his followers. At this time, when this prince’s army enters Song Zhou, we will definitely investigate carefully.”
The news brought by Xuan Tian Ming truly caused them to feel overly shocked. The weird voice that had filled the main streets and small alleys earlier had said that if they wished to return to Qian Zhou, they needed to repay the money for the school fees and visits to the doctor. They thought that they needed to repay the half that they were exempted; however, who knew that Da Shun never asked them for it! All of it was done by Duan Mu An Guo!
The crowd became angry. The people of the North all had short tempers, and the men and women present all began to curse Duan Mu An Guo. There were even some that shouted that they wished to join the army to attack Song Zhou and capture Duan Mu An Guo alive to be turned into a meat patty.
Xuan Tian Ming’s group began to calm the crowd. Xuan Tian Ming even promised: “From this day forward, no matter how much money can be retrieved from Duan Mu An Guo’s treasury, all of it will be spread to the citizens.”
The crowd cheered in elation. The last of their feelings toward Qian Zhou and Duan Mu An Guo disappeared.
Feng Yu Heng had the fat boss prepare another bowl of noodles then personally helped the old granny over. Placing the bowl of noodles before her, she said: “Eat. After you’ve eaten your fill, we’ll send you home.”
The old woman’s eyes were filled with tears; however, she repeatedly begged Feng Yu Heng: “Don’t blame my son. There’s nothing that he can do. Blame me for having no ability and not doing a good job of raising him. He only found a wife when he was nearly 40. If he did not follow his wife’s will, she would not have stayed with him. Isn’t this a wasted effort? I won’t ask for anything else. It’s fine for me to beg for food on the streets. I just hope that they can quickly give birth to a child. Like that, I would have the face to meet with that old man when I go over.”
Someone that heard this from the side said: “The man of that family died early, so they had a bit of a harder time. In addition to the son being born lame, no girl wanted to marry into that family. The current wife was brought in from the countryside.”
Feng Yu Heng furrowed her brow and pondered for a while without saying anything. She just pushed the bowl of noodles to the old granny and repeated: “Eat. After you’ve eaten your fill, we’ll send you home.”
The old woman could not understand what these words meant. The hunger had already rendered her unable to continue thinking. Picking up her chopsticks, she began to shovel the food into her mouth.
The other citizens surrounded Xuan Tian Ming and asked about all kinds of things. The fear that they had towards the ninth prince was now being replaced with familiarity. Xuan Tian Ming even invited some of the older people to sit with him. Those people did not push and went to sit across from him. These people then told him about the situation over the years in the northern provinces. They told him about everything from Duan Mu An Guo collecting taxes to the annual selection of concubines into his Winter Palace.
There was a middle-aged wife that spoke with red eyes: “My daughter only just turned 14 years of age. Last year, she was sent to Song Zhou. Apparently, it was Duan Mu An Guo that immediately showed interest in her because of her beauty, keeping her in his Winter Palace. Our family was exempted from paying taxes, and we were given quite a bit of money, but what family truly wants for their beloved daughter to be sent away for money? She is still so young. How could she be sent away to be someone’s wife. Duan Mu An Guo really is committing a grave sin.”
Under her lead, the people whose daughters had been taken into the Winter Palace began to voice their complaints. Someone even kneeled to beg Xuan Tian Ming to save their daughters. Regardless of whether or not they could be married in the future, being at home would be better than living together with that pervert, Duan Mu An Guo.
In regards to Duan Mu An Guo taking in concubines, Xuan Tian Ming had asked about it in the past; however, he did not think that it would be so severe. This trip into the North allowed him to directly hear all of the citizen’s complaints. His heart was immediately filled with rage, and a sudden impulse surged forth. He could not help but say: “This is a fault of the court. It was Da Shun’s court that has let you down. We have trusted Duan Mu An Guo too much over the years and did not put in the time to gain a deeper understanding of the situation in the North. Don’t worry. This prince will definitely do all that I can to save the girls in the Winter Palace.”
In truth, he knew that it was not everyone in the court that trusted Duan Mu An Guo. It was just that the North belonged to the Duan Mu family. This was something that had been decided upon over 100 years ago. At that time, the Emperor was different, and nobody could make this sort of decision. The disadvantages were inherited generation after generation. By the time the current Emperor came to power and wanted to make changes, Duan Mu An Guo’s influence in the North was already deeply entrenched. That is the reason it’s said that three feet of ice does not form overnight*. The slightest movement could affect everything else. This was why the North was not so easy to take care of.
But now that he had brought the army to the North, everything would need to be brought to a conclusion.
After entering Guan Zhou City, whether it was Xuan Tian Ming, Feng Yu Heng or even deputy generals like Qian Li, they all came to understand one thing very profoundly. That was: To gain the hearts of the populace is to gain control of the world. Without the hearts of the populace belonging to Da Shun, no matter how powerful the army is, there was no point in setting up camp.
They were all looking for opportunities to interact with the citizens, gradually trying to use their own thoughts to try and affect these people. Their decision to go for a walk and Feng Yu Heng’s decision to eat at a stall on the side of a street, they were all for the sake of improving the public perception of them. However, who knew that they would encounter such a miracle, attracting such a large group of citizens. The atmosphere was peaceful, as they all chatted together and ate together. In fact, by the end, Xuan Tian Ming was already asking them if the North once again belonged to Da Shun, what sort of appearance would they like for their hometown to have?
The citizens were looking forward to this future. Gradually, more and more people surrounded the small noodle booth. The fat boss had never felt so proud. He stood very close to where Xuan Tian Ming was and would occasionally stop people from getting too close, and every time, Xuan Tian Ming would say: “It’s fine. You can come closer. The people further back will also be able to hear this prince’s words.”
Some people were puzzled. They had heard that the ninth prince of Da Shun had always been a capricious person with an explosive temper. Anyone that he found to be irritating would be whipped to death. Anyone that he did not like would have their house burned down. But looking at him now, this did not look like a person with an explosive temper! How good was this person? He did not flaunt his power at all. Getting so close to the people, not to mention that he was a prince, even the former leader, Duan Mu An Guo did not dare to get so close for fear of assassins or something of that sort. Now, it seemed that the saying really was true: The more a person expresses something, the more that person is lacking. Duan Mu An Guo had put on such a grand front, making it clear that he was truly lacking in a noble status. On the other hand, the ninth prince was like this. He was a son of the emperor. In this world, aside from the Emperor, who else had a higher standing than him? There was no need for him to act out and prove it. His status was clear for all to see, thus he acted much more intimate.
Feng Yu Heng thought that they really needed to thank Duan Mu An Guo for such a harmonious atmosphere. If it was not for the Duan Mu family acting against the court over the years and embezzling the funds provided by the court, the citizens might not have been so quick to warm to Xuan Tian Ming. It was the Duan Mu family causing trouble on its own that gave them the chance to capture the hearts of the North.
Feng Yu Heng smiled and looked at Xuan Tian Ming. No matter how she looked, she felt that the man that she had chosen really was the best in the world. There was nobody else that could be as glorious. There was nobody else that had this sort of naturally great temperament. Really, no matter how she looked, her man was the best.
She could not help but cover her mouth and smile. This smile caused Ban Zou to quietly say from the side: “Love-struck idiot.”
She raised an eyebrow: “I’m happy with it.”
However, at this time, a deputy general from Da Shun’s army squeezed through the crowd and arrived before Xuan Tian Ming. With an exhausted look, he urgently said: “Your Highness, it’s not good. Duan Mu An Guo has begun killing people in Song Zhou!”
TN: The more common translation would be “Rome wasn’t built in a day”