Large Pit in Song Zhou
Prince Lian withdrew her troops and removed the large chunk of ice blocking the city gate. She turned around and faced the thousands of soldiers before waving behind her and saying: “This prince will be leaving. Ya Ya, remember that Duan Mu An Guo is getting old and won’t be able to survive for much longer. That alone is not enough to dread. What’s truly frightening are the children and grandchildren that he has scattered around the world. Who knows just how many that old thing pumped out. Even fewer people will know where he sent them. This secret is perhaps something that even he does not know.”
Even when leaving, she was abnormal. The current Prince Lian really did have a bit of a royal bearing. The bright-red dress billowed in the wind, and she was once again filled with confidence.
“The entirety of the area under Song Zhou is hollow.” Prince Lian said: “Back when he helped Qian Zhou secretly dig at the dragon vein, he used Qian Zhou’s money to construct an underground palace under Song Zhou City. At this time, I fear that old guy has already run away without a trace!”
While saying this, he waved his hand and changed his tone to be much more relaxed: “Alright comrades, let’s go home! Ya Ya, we’ll meet again in Qian Zhou!”
Amidst the crowd of green, there was a single dot of red. In this massive army, she alone stood out. With a charming aura, it was unique and caused people to want to look at her a bit more.
Xuan Tian Ming pulled a certain person’s face back, no longer letting her continue watching. Feng Yu Heng said: “Don’t be so stingy. Although she is a person from Qian Zhou, she has indeed helped me out a number of times. Most importantly… she is beautiful!”*
“There are plenty of beautiful women. If you like, this prince will bring some more into the inner palace for you in the future. Just spend all your time looking at them. But there is one point that we need to agree on, those people cannot be called my concubines. I figure they should be considered your playmates.”
Feng Yu Heng snorted coldly, “If you truly have the heart, just find some male concubines. This imperial daughter will find them more appealing.” She rolled her eyes. Not wanting to continue any longer with this person, she turned around and walked toward the city gate.
Xuan Tian Ming followed behind with a smile on his face. While walking, he discussed with her: “In the worst-case, just find some good-looking eunuchs. Either way, they’re just there for you to look at.”
The two bantered until they arrived at the entrance of the city. Working together to open the gate, Xuan Tian Ming then shot off a signal firework. At the same time, this communicated with the army to enter the city.
However, after everything was taken care of, a loud rumbling sound suddenly came once more. The ground shook with a deafening grumble.
The two were extremely shocked and looked in the direction that the sound had come from. Feng Yu Heng subconsciously said: “It wouldn’t be an avalanche, right?”
Xuan Tian Ming shook his head, “It doesn’t seem like it. The source of the doesn’t seem too far. It must be in the city. Although the North is surrounded by snowy mountains, Song Zhou City is located on flat ground. It’s impossible for an avalanche to occur. Let’s go and take a look.”
The earthquake stopped very quickly, and the extremely loud sounds did not continue for too long. The two rushed in the direction of the sound. The closer they got, the more familiar with were with the area. “This is the way to the Winter Palace.” Xuan Tian Ming calculated the distance to the source of the sound to be around where the Winter Palace was. He very quickly came to the conclusion, “Something must have happened in the Winter Palace.”
“Un.” Feng Yu Heng nodded; however, she could not think of what could happen to cause such a large tremor. Normally speaking, if this sort of thing happened in the modern world, her first reaction would definitely be to assume that the Winter Palace had been bombed, but this era only had fireworks. It did not have explosive charges. Bombing the Winter Palace was not a possibility, then what could it be?
From the city gate to the Winter Palace was not a short distance. The two ran on the streets and did not bother with hiding in the space like before. Running openly in the streets combined with the movements of soldiers in the streets caused the people that were too afraid to open their curtains to run out of patience. Unable to hold back their curiosity, they peeked out of their windows. Some of the braver ones even went outside and looked around. Some of the even wiser went in the direction of the Winter Palace, but the people that ran over all had flustered expressions. There were also some madams that began wiping away tears.
Only when everyone was gathered around the Winter Palace did Feng Yu Heng understand why those people were crying. It was more accurate to say that the Winter Palace was already missing. All that remained in its place was a very deep pit. That pit was so deep that the end could not be seen because of the snow. The entire Winter Palace had sunk underground. When it had begun sinking, the snow gathered to the sides also began to sink down, covering up the Winter Palace.
That loud boom was the sound of the Winter Palace sinking. The entire thing had sunk, causing a large tremor. It brought down everyone inside the Winter Palace, not sparing a single one.
Countless citizens collapsed in tears next to the pit. Everyone was screaming the same thing: “My daughter!”
Feng Yu Heng told Xuan Tian Ming: “The Winter Palace conducts selections for concubines in the same way that the imperial palace looks for talent. Most outrageously, the girls that participate in these selections must not be older than 13 years old. Only by being eliminated from the selection can they choose to marry of their own volition. Once they have been selected, they must go and take care of that old man, Duan Mu An Guo. They must spend the rest of their lives in the Winter Palace.”
There were some citizens that tried to jump into the pit. While crying, some people began trying to dig up the gathered snow, hoping to try and dig people up from underneath.
This was an idiotic idea, but it was the only thing that they could do. Xuan Tian Ming made a prompt decision and loudly said to the citizens: “Everyone, go back to your homes and bring out all of your tools. There must still be survivors down there. Each person saved is a life saved!”
Some people heard him and ran back to fetch tools, but there were also some that did not move. They just watched vigilantly with looks of wariness on their faces.
He was not in the mood to argue with these commoners. Picking up the military knife given to him by Feng Yu Heng, the two leaped into the pit with their blades out. They began to work together with the citizens. At the same time, he shouted while digging: “In a moment, Da Shun’s army will be entering the city. Song Zhou is part of Da Shun’s territory, and you are all Da Shun’s citizens. The goal of Da Shun’s army is to protect the citizens. Only with the army entering the city can the people down below be dug up.”
He just continued to dig while consoling the citizens. Gradually, the citizens that were originally cautious also joined in, digging with them. Very quickly, more and more of the citizens in the city gathered in the area. They all began participating in the rescue efforts.
Feng Yu Heng told Xuan Tian Ming: “The Winter Palace was built as a replica of the imperial palace. The place under our feet is the location of the inner palace.”
Xuan Tian Ming nodded, immediately waving for people to gather and dig.
Da Shun’s troops entered Song Zhou City four hours later. There were citizens that had been arranged to welcome them and bring the soldiers straight to the Winter Palace.
With the soldiers joining in, the speed of the digging increased by many times. During this time, Feng Yu Heng saw people from the Illusory Hall arrive, but the woman with the surname Qi was not there. Only Shen Yu Ning and Zhang Ling Xi had brought a group of young girls over.
When Shen Yu Ning saw Feng Yu Heng, she was slightly startled then nodded toward her; however, she did not know what she should say. Instead, it was Zhang Ling Xi that tugged her sleeve and quietly said: “Regardless of whether or not she is Xiao Ya, we have our duties as people of Song Zhou.”
The two arrived at Feng Yu Heng’s side, and Zhang Ling Xi said: “The Winter Palace has an underground dungeon. After your situation was concluded, the officials that had come to Song Zhou to celebrate were all gathered there. That includes Xiao Ya’s family along with the lord prefect of Song Zhou.”
Shen Yu Ning took a deep breath and looked at Feng Yu Heng once more. She still felt that the girl before her truly resembled Fu Ya. Aside from the bearing, there was practically no other difference in terms of appearance. She gathered herself and sighed before saying: “Please save them. Uncle Fu and aunty Fu are quite pitiful.”
Feng Yu Heng understood her feelings. Shen Yu Ning and Fu Ya were very close. She would naturally be closer with the Fu family. In the end, this was a result of her not being thorough with her plans. She had to take responsibility for this.
“Don’t worry.” She patted Shen Yu Ning’s shoulder, “I’ll do all that I can.”
Just as they were speaking, a citizen suddenly began shouting: “We got one! We dug one up!”
Everyone ran over to look, but they just saw two soldiers pull a young girl out of the snow. The girl was very young and looked to be around the same age as Feng Yu Heng; however, her belly was very large. Based on her belly, it seemed that it was full term. The girl seemed to be awake, but her expression was very pained. Holding her belly with both hands, a cold sweat appeared on her forehead despite the cold temperatures.
Feng Yu Heng stepped forward and felt the girl’s pulse with one hand while the other gently felt her belly. At the same time, she bent down and gently said: “Don’t be scared. I am a doctor. With me here, it will be fine.”
The girl was calmed down, but the abdominal pains continued, and more sweat appeared on her forehead.
Upon seeing that the situation was dire, she quickly ordered for the pregnant girl to be carried indoors. But once this was said, there was a citizen from Song Zhou that immediately said: “The area around the Winter Palace belongs to lead Duan Mu. There are no other buildings. If this girl is carried a further distance, I fear that the child will be born before she can get inside!”
Only then did she realize this point. She had also been muddled by panic. She had forgotten about the Winter Palace’s surroundings.
Just as she was panicking over the situation, Xuan Tian Ming moved forward and made a prompt decision, directing: “Carry her up to flat ground!” He then ordered the soldiers: “Stand side by side and create a small encirclement. Take off your armor and lay it on the ground.” After saying this, he removed his own cloak and covered up the girl’s body. Patting Feng Yu Heng’s arms, he spoke in a gentler tone, “I’ll be troubling you.”
She smiled wryly and waved her had, climbing back to the surface with the soldiers. What mention of trouble or not, ever since she had made the decision to come to the North, she had already made up her mind and planned to endure any hardship. She even thought of suffering injuries and sacrificing herself if necessary. Compared to that, this bitter of hardship was easy.
The soldiers acted as Xuan Tian Ming ordered, and this caused the citizens of Song Zhou to feel quite moved. Some of the people wearing more also removed their outer layers to lay them atop the armor. This managed to create a temporary bed.
Feng Yu Heng directed the soldiers to place the pregnant girl on the clothes. Then, everyone aside from her turned around and formed a circle. This managed to open up a bit of space. There was even another circle of soldiers on the inside that held up large cloaks above, providing cover for both Feng Yu Heng and the pregnant girl.
The pregnant girl was on the verge of being in labor; however, she was not an obstetrician. Her space did not have any medicine that could induce labor, and the conditions did not allow her to perform a C-section. Everything would rely on the girl herself. At most, she could only provide a helping hand at the most critical moment.
The birth of a child was a difficult trial for the women of the ancient world. Even in the modern world, there could still be unexpected problems that would arise. For a girl around 13 or 14 years of age to safely give birth under these circumstances, everything was an unknown.
*TN: Once again, the pronoun for he/she/him/her are all pronounced the same in Chinese.