Chapter 380: Crash...for your lordship
The South Ning Region was the largest prefecture in Tianning Country, and one of the areas to suffer the severest effects of famine. If these were normal times, any visitors to the region would be able to sense the lively, flourishing effects of its residents before they even crossed the borders, but now a lifeless air pervaded over everything. Han Yunxi and Long Feiye saw nothing but bleak and desolate scenes their entire trip in. The fields were completely parched without even a single blade of grass, much less grain. All of the village hamlets they rode through seemed dead and stagnant, discouraging visitors in favor of a hasty exit.
Typically speaking, the countryside suffered more from famines, since most villagers were too poor to buy grain in times of need. They were self-sufficient enough to support themselves, but not to buy surplus grain. When harvests failed, they didn't even have enough to pay the landlord for their land, much less feed themselves. In the past, famines would drive hordes of victims across the lands in search of edible herbs and plants to appease their hunger. It was even common to see wild fights break out for a single weed. But this time, Han Yunxi and Long Feiye didn't see any famine victims. Occasionally, they'd spot a few elderly people huddled up on the doorsteps of their home, suffering from hunger.
The South Ning Region was a large prefecture whose rural population far surpassed that of its city residents. From what they understood, the famine this time hadn't caused a mass migration of starving victims because the surrounding counties and prefectures had held a tight rein on the borders to prevent potential rebellions.
But why couldn't they see any victims at all? Were they all hiding inside their houses?
With uncertainty in their hearts, Han Yunxi and Long Feiye slowly made their way to South Ning City at the heart of the prefecture. A city was still a city in the end, the home of the wealthy and nobility. Even though signs of famine still lingered, order still prevailed. 'Behind the red doors, meat and wine go to waste; while out on the road lie the frozen bones of the poor'-such was a quote to describe how the rich never lacked in grain. As the carriage sluggishly rumbled forwards, Long Feiye had his eyes closed in a nap while Han Yunxi was looking outside the windows. She only saw that the streets were far less prosperous than usual, but still clean and tidy. There were still pedestrians walking on the lanes as well, if fewer than usual. Despite changing their carriage, Long Feiye and Han Yunxi had yet to expose their whereabouts, so their ride earned only passing glances from the people below. None of them knew that it housed none other than the imperial envoy sent by the palace-the same man behind the hottest gossip topic spreading across the country, His Highness Duke of Qin.
Naturally, they were heading for the estate of the senior provincial official, but suddenly a carriage started racing over from the opposite direction, causing chaos in the streets.
"Move aside, move aside! All of you, out of the way!"
"No reparations for anyone who gets hit! Get out of the way!"
The driver was a young man, yelling at the top of his lungs as he whipped the horses pulling the carriage. Pedestrians on both sides of the street scurried out of the way, the few unlucky slow ones tripping and falling to the sides instead. Han Yunxi had long stuck out her head for a closer look. She saw a double horse-drawn carriage racing towards them, the outside decorated luxuriously with a curtained door made of pure silk. Each of the four corners of the carriage bore a gold tassel. She couldn't see the insignia of the carriage from here, but from appearances alone, it had to belong to someone powerful and wealthy.
Han Yunxi and Long Feiye's carriage was meandering leisurely forward in the middle of the street. They had no intentions of clearing the way, but they weren't stopping, either. The other carriage was coming at such high-speeds that it had to have sizable momentum; if they couldn't avoid an accident, then there'd be severe consequences. It was the first time Han Yunxi had met with such a situation. She was a little harried by the sight of the charging carriage, but when she glanced back to Long Feiye, she calmed down. He was still lying lazily in the carriage with his eyes shut in a doze, ignoring the outside completely. After being with him for so long, Han Yunxi had picked up a skill: whenever Long Feiye didn't care, she didn't have to worry, either. As a result, she withdrew into the carriage and curled up lethargically.
Long Feiye's carriage didn't make way, while the other way refused to stop. They were no more than 20 meters apart now and had quickly attracted a crowd of spectators. The young driver of the other carriage had already noticed this, and urged on the horses as he asked, "Master, there's a carriage blocking the path that refuses to yield!"
An arrogant voice came out of the carriage, "Blocking my path? Are they seeking death? Charge at them, see if they yield then!"
"Yes! This one understands!" the young driver would rather cause a row. Excited, he furiously whipped the horses so they charged forward faster than ever. Anyone else would be frightened by such speeds!
The driver assumed that the other carriage would yield, but they only kept moving without even acknowledging their existence! Soon enough, the distance between the two carriages grew closer. All of the onlookers quaked with terror! Finally, the driver grew nervous too. "Master," he said urgently, "They're not stopping, what do I do?"
A young gentleman stuck his head out of the carriage. He looked every inch the noble and was dressed in brocade robes. Under such circumstances, he still managed to keep his cool and said disdainfully, "Force them to stop, then. I refuse to believe that they'll be fearless in the face of death!"
So speaking, he took the whip and reins from the driver and started to drive the carriage himself, speeding up even further as he charged forward. It really was a spine-raising sight. The two carriages were set to collide at this rate, earning the stares of all the other pedestrians. They were worried that they'd miss the moment of impact! As the distance between them closed, the young gentleman's expression shifted from its haughty look to one of serious concentration. Meanwhile, the driver of Long Feiye's carriage looked as calm as ever.
Only six meters left! The ones at the reins could clearly make out each other's faces by now.
Three meters! Not long before they collided!
Now two! They were really going to hit at this rate unless one of them stopped. Any closer than this and it'd be too late. Everyone watching held their breaths, waiting for Long Feiye's carriage to move out of the way at the last second. Instead, his carriage kept moving forward.
Heavens! They're going to crash! Are they really....
At the critical moment, the young driver of the charging carriage abruptly pulled on the reins, using massive strength to turn the horses to the side. The two stallions reared up on their hind legs before coming to a sudden stop, causing the carriage to tilt back 90 degrees before dropping to the ground! The skills of this young driver were indeed formidable, as he'd managed to stop the carriage under such circumstances without causing the ride to flip over! His horses whinnied a few times as they came to earth. Everyone else sucked in a cold breath, rejoicing for both parties. Quite a few of them had to admire the young driver's skills.
But his young master had been seriously spooked! His complexion was ashen white, the hand gripping the whip still trembling from the aftereffects. After all, he'd been planning to make the other party stop or get out of the move with their charge! He assumed the other side would yield at the last second, but they hadn't! He'd done this over and over again in the streets, and each time it was always the other side that let him pass. He'd never seen someone so reckless before!
Because of the carriage in front of him, Long Feiye's driver had no choice but to halt his horses. Though the young gentleman was covered in cold sweat, he quickly assumed his usual arrogant air. He tugged on the reins until their horses were directly facing Long Feiye's own. Waving the whip, he pointed at them and shouted, "Are you guys blind? You actually had the gall to block this gentleman's carriage!"
He didn't care how reckless the occupants of the other carriage were. In any case, anyone in South Ning Prefecture had to make way for him on the roads! Otherwise, they'd face severe consequences! The onlookers watched with the jitters as they started worrying for Long Feiye's sake. After all, this young gentleman was none other than the treasured son of the South Ning Prefecture's senior provincial official, Nanguo Jun.1 He relied on the fact that his father was the de facto leader of the prefecture to ride roughshod over the residents here. Privately, people referred to him as the 'crown prince of South Ning Prefecture!' There was even a local saying about the man: One who rather offend the senior provincial official than the senior provincial official's son.
Faced with Nanguo Jun's rampant aggression, Long Feiye's driver remained unmoved. "Sir, this one doesn't know who you are. I'd like to trouble you to make way." As expected of one of Long Feiye's subordinates, even a driver like him was calm and unhurried in a situation like this, displaying his good training and upbringing.
"Hahahah, there's actually someone who doesn't recognize this gentleman! This must be your first time in South Ning!" Nanguo Jun laughed out loud.
"Sir, who you are has nothing to do with me. My master has business to take care of, so please move out of the way," the driver requested a second time.
Nanguo Jun's face was full of disbelief. He looked at the surrounded crowd and guffawed. "Did you all hear that? He actually told me to make way!"
Members of the crowd only smiled sheepishly at him. After Nanguo Jun had his fill of laughter, he lifted his chin and looked over with a cold stare and warning, "The person inside the carriage, get off! Otherwise I won't be polite!"
But the driver didn't take his threat seriously at all. Instead, he glanced back and said, "Master, he won't get out of the way."
Nanguo Jun had been utterly disregarded in front of everyone else. He was about to explode when a low, chilly voice emanated from the depths of the carriage. "Crash them aside."
Crash them aside? What did that mean?
Nanguo Jun and the crowd was still puzzling over the words when Long Feiye's driver whipped his horse and urged it forward. The white horse pulling their carriage seemed to be aware of what was happening, because it stamped it hooves as it prepared to charge. The second time the driver whipped him, the white horse displayed startling strength as it rushed towards the obstacle in front of it! None of the humans reacted in time, but Nanguo Jun's horses did. Both of them jerked in opposite directions as Long Feiye's white horse rammed into their carriage shaft and broke it in two! At that, the two horses were startled enough to break free and run off. Nanguo Jun and the young driver went crashing to the ground, completely floored by what had happened.
Finally, they understood what 'crash them aside' meant...
Everyone was shocked by the sight. Nanguo Jun was such an aggressive, domineering type. His fierce and truculent ways still didn't give him the gall to ram into the other carriage, but stop at the last second. Instead, the other carriage had ran into them on purpose anyways! Even if they didn't care about their horse or carriage, they should value their own human lives! While everyone was stuck in the throes of amazement, the icy voice inside the carriage spoke up for the second time.
"Old Lin, you're still not leaving?"
1. Nanguo Jun () - Nanguo is a two-character surname that individually means "south" and "outer wall of a city," Jun is "handsome, pretty, of outstanding talent."