Chapter 381: Long Feiye's methods
The cold voice caused the surrounding temperatures to plunge a few degrees. The crowd began to shake before they'd even seen the owner of the voice, all of them staring at the closed curtain entrance.
The driver Old Lin replied, "I didn't managed to knock them completely aside. May master pardon my offense."
"Continue." Long Feiye laid languidly inside the carriage, one hand propping up his head while his eyes remained closed. He didn't seem to care about what was going on outside at all. Han Yunxi was also leaning leisurely against the wall of the carriage, her eyes fixated on Long Feiye's chilly, quiet face. Her lips were curved up in a smile. She realized she hadn't liked the wrong man after all! Someone like this....was too domineering!
At these words, Nanguo Jun jumped up from the ground in fright, the young driver following in his wake. Both master and servant ran out of the way without a second thought. After all, they had nothing to shield them from the other carriage anymore. If they stayed there, that white horse would surely send them flying! Just the sight of such a tall, strong horse sent fear into their hearts!
At the very instant Nanguo Jun and his driver moved out of the way, Old Lin urged his carriage horse forward. The resounding crash sent fragments of the other carriage scattering into the air. Neither of the occupants in the carriage ever showed their face, nor did Old Lin bother looking back, as they continued down the road at the same sedate pace as before. Everyone stared blankly at the sight. This was the first time they'd seen someone so domineering-and with such elegant style, to boot. Just who was inside that carriage?
Nanguo Jun looked at the broken pieces of his carriage in shock before he finally recovered his senses. He kicked his driver and screamed, "Hurry and call for men! How dare they! How dare they!"
Here was the heart of the entire South Ning Prefecture. It only took minutes to summon men and horses. At Nanguo Jun's command, rows of men poured in from all directions to surround Long Feiye's carriage. When Nanguo Jun saw the carriage stop, he strode forward before whipping at the air. "Listen here, you! This gentleman's name is Nanguo Jun! The young head of South Ning Prefecture! You're simply sick of living for having the guts to crash my carriage!"
"Hmph, this gentleman would like to see just what kind of person dares to provoke me!" So speaking, he waved a hand to let the government soldiers charge forward and apprehend the criminal. But before they got close to the carriage, a long, slender white hand suddenly stretched out of the door's window with a golden seal token held in its fingers. There was a 'Qin' carved onto its surface with powerful strokes.
All of the soldiers froze at the sight and stopped moving altogether. Who else would dare to carve a Qin on their token besides His Highness Duke of Qin? Heavens! His Highness Duke of Qin was inside the carriage! The long missing Duke of Qin had actually shown up?!
In an instant, all of the soldiers fell to their knees and chorused, "May Your Highness Duke of Qin live for thousands and thousands of years!"
All of the surrounding spectators bowed down as well, filled with awe and dread. Nanguo Jun had completely lost his wits. His legs collapsed beneath him before he too, fell onto his knees. His mouth open and closed a few times, but no words came out.
The Duke of Qin...
Nanguo Jun was stunned, his mind completely blank. What should I do? He'd ran into big trouble!
While everyone was kneeling, Long Feiye finally deigned to descend from the carriage before personally helping Han Yunxi down after him. Only then did everyone realize that esteemed wangfei had come with him. Nanguo Jun very much wanted to look up and see His Highness Duke of Qin's face, but he didn't dare. Instead, he remained kneeling in place as he trembled. Long Feiye held onto Han Yunxi's hand as he led her to stand before Nanguo Jun, who was so scared that his head was just short of burrowing into the ground itself.
"Can your lordship afford to provoke you?" Long Feiye asked coldly.
Nanguo Jun didn't have the guts to reply. In fact, he was close to crying. "Your Highness Duke of Qin, have mercy! Spare my life, ah!"
"So you know that your lordship wants your life?" Long Feiye asked with interest.
Nanguo Jun was scared silly as he kowtowed over and over again to beg nonstop. "This one was wrong. This one was completely mistaken. Your Highness Duke of Qin, just forgive this one this time. This one really knows that this one was wrong..."
Han Yunxi looked at him frostily. She despised spineless types like him the most. People could be arrogant, but not cowards! Arrogant cowards were useless beyond compare! He was an annoying guy, but Han Yunxi still didn't understand why Long Feiye had wasted his time on him. It didn't fit his personality, so what was he actually planning?
Very soon, she received an answer for her unasked question.
Long Feiye said icily, "Your lordship can forgive you, but..."
Nanguo Jun cut in before he finished, "As long as Your Highness can spare this one, I'm willing to agree to anything!"
"Then give every person in the city two jin1 of grain before night falls," Long Feiye said coldly.
Nanguo Jun felt thunderstruck by the statement as he gaped. Meanwhile, all the people present, along with the soldiers, broke into shrill cries. Two jin of grain at a time of famine like this was simply a beautiful dream! South Ning Prefecture might be an area of severe famine, but the senior provincial official definitely had ways to get grain! First of all, he and the minor officials below him had to have stored some in their reserves. The reserves could have come from exploiting the farmers or embezzling deliveries from the imperial court. In the midst of their pleasant surprise, the people began to reconsider the rumors they'd heard before. All of them said His Highness Duke of Qin was an embezzler who had abandoned the people, but now they had seen the exact opposite happening with their own eyes. His Highness Duke of Qin had forced the senior provincial officer to spit out his embezzled grain stores on the first day he arrived at South Ning Prefecture!
Who amongst all the other civil and military officials of Tianning had the same skills and daring resolve?
"What, you can't do it?" Long Feiye said as he elegantly raised a foot to step on Nanguo Jun's head. It was an utterly humiliating move, that of an outright bully. If this was any other time, the crowd might think His Highness Duke of Qin was too merciless and cruel. But now, all of onlookers-including Nanguo Jun's own bullied soldiers-were silently cheering him on in their hearts. Quite a few were hoping he would trample the guy even harder!
With his life at the mercy of a foot, Nanguo Jun wouldn't have refused even if he had Heaven-defying guts! "Your Highness, I can do it, I can! I'll get on it right away!" Nanguo Jun wouldn't think too deeply into the issue. He knew that there weren't many people left in the city to begin with, so it should be possible for his father to wrangle up two jin of grain per person. A few months ago, the national treasury had distributed a large load of grain to South Ning Prefecture. Some of the higher-ups took a portion, while his father took another bit. About a third of the rest were sent from the senior provincial official's headquarters to various counties and villages, where the shipments were further embezzled by the local authorities. If his father didn't have enough grain on hand, they could always ask for more from the surrounding counties.
"And if you can't produce the grain before nightfall?" Long Feiye asked coldly. The scene was absolutely silent. Everyone had unconsciously stood on His Highness Duke of Qin's side while waiting for Nanguo Jun's answer. They were afraid of missing a single word. After all, this matter was related to grain for everyone!
"If I can't...if I can't, then may Your Highness punish this one accordingly!" Nanguo Jun promised in a rush.
"What kind of punishment?" Long Feiye asked next.
Nanguo Jun thought it over, before he declared, "Payment with my life!"
"How much is your life worth?" Long Feiye asked again. Han Yunxi began to feel bewildered. Long Feiye had always been brief with his words, but why did he have so much to say today? What was he planning to do?
Nanguo Jun knew his life wasn't worth much, if anything, in His Highness Duke of Qin's eyes, so after some thought he added, "My father's life will be forfeit, too!"
At this, Han Yunxi suddenly understood! Long Feiye's target was the senior provincial official all along! She chuckled and said, "Nanguo Jun, you really are of a treacherous type. What kind of son barters with his father's life?"
But Nanguo Jun was quite self-assured as he replied. "To reply esteemed wangfei, the father's to blame when the son's uncultured! Today I've made such a big mistake precisely because my father was negligent in his instruction. That's why my father needs to take responsibility!"
Han Yunxi nearly laughed out loud at his words! Heaven knows whether the senior provincial official would die from rage if he heard those words!
"Your Highness Duke of Qin, I'm begging you, please spare me. I'll go begin the hunt for grain right away!" Nanguo Jun was desperate. If Long Feiye kept stepping on him like this, he would start to find breathing difficult. It was only after settling the terms that Long Feiye released Nanguo Jun, who half ran, half stumbled away. Despite this, none of the soldiers or common people wanted to leave. Instead, they surrounded Long Feiye and Han Yunxi on all sides.
Someone shouted, "Your Highness Duke of Qin is wise and brilliant! Your Highness Duke of Qin came to save us all!" Immediately, everyone chimed in to shout and prostrated themselves before the pair. In truth, the common people weren't stupid at all. They were good, honest, simple folk. Their wants were few, and they only worried about basic necessities like food and clothing and shelter. They had believed in those rumors because of those same desires, rather than out of any ill-will. Whoever treated them well and gave them basic protections would earn their deep gratitude. Han Yunxi looked at all their honest faces and expectant eyes and felt both gratified and pressured at once. She glanced back at Long Feiye, only to see his eyes shine with determination. She knew then that Long Feiye had the relief for the disaster regions all planned out!
Here was Tianning's coldest duke, the man who was ambitious enough to want the entire world. His heart was large enough to fit even the most negligible of peasants! As she stared at his icy profile, Han Yunxi suddenly felt herself looking forward to the day this man took over the entire continent as their sole sovereign.
Long Feiye and Han Yunxi didn't head for the senior provincial official's estate, but settled down at an inn instead. Nanguo Jun's mishap soon spread throughout the entire South Ning Prefecture, including its outlying districts. The senior provincial official had long ago received the news.
A resounding slap ran through the entire compound as Nanguo Jun's father slapped his face, sending him tumbling to the ground.
"Unfilial son! Swine! Stupid pig! Worthless trash!" The senior provincial official kicked his son with his foot, so angry that his neck had turned completely red. If this wasn't his only son, he would've hacked him with a sword long ago! He had no idea how his household had given birth to such an idiotic thing. It was nothing short of karmic retribution!
Nanguo Jun was frightened by his father, but not enough to stop his backtalk. "Father, how was I supposed to know His Highness Duke of Qin was coming? Everyone had said he disappeared!"
"You're still talking!?" the senior provincial official slapped him again. He was furious enough to kill himself!
Rumors of His Highness Duke of Qin's disappearance had been fabricated by the higher ups. His Highness Duke of Qin was here this time to relieve the people in disaster areas. If he couldn't buy enough grain to help the victims, he'd definitely check the officials strictly to make sure they weren't embezzling the supplies. Once he found the real embezzlers, he would return the stolen grain to the populace! Under these circumstances, anyone who offended the Duke of Qin was doomed to die!
His Excellency Provincial Official had no desire to waste more words on his idiotic son. He had to figure out what to do next. The imperial uncle had long found him ahead of time to discuss working together. He wasn't going to agree originally, but now it looked like he had no other choice!
1. jin () - unit of weight equal to 0.5kg or about 1lb.