ddmcmc: this recap is modified on 17.Oct, which is enriched with the aspect of the emperor, who is actually determining the development of the whole famine rescue issue. It is now easier to understand why Zhao Yang and the other central officials can be such bold on their dirty businesses, and why Yue is confronting huge obstructions for doing something for people.
In a small wood from a-far, CQ watches the plain carriage of Zhao Song and Xiao Ba slowly vanishing at the horizon. She is deeply sorrow for the two loved ones to whom she owe the most, yet she must continue to carry on her own duties and to guard those she must protect. Turning the horse head, CQ heads back to the magnificent ancient city of Zhenhuang. Times ago, everything there had been extremely disgusted for her, but now she is willing to step into that huge cage, just as Xiao Ba had volunteered to be registered as a slave of Zhao Song, this is the choice of their own. But she is not alone in that city, now her battlefield, because in the middle of that cage, there is one person, waiting for her.
Another year end is approaching, the city of Zhenhuang is prosperous and harmonious as usual, at least on its surface. It actually has been a very severe winter, and the northwest provinces are suffering from a vast snowstorm, plus a poor grain harvest in the southwest, one third of the territory in Daxia is threatened by a critical famine. All the disaster relief allocated from the central government had been exploited by the local officials and the noble families that nothing reached to the civilians. Being the real ruler of the western part of the empire, Zhao Yang is so eager to satisfy those local powers for the political favorite over Zhao Che, that he connived the open corruptions of his subordinates and the local nobles. More than 200 000 people starved in less than half a month, millions of people were flocking to all directions, even to the west where Yan Bei locates. Outside the cities to the west of the state, hundreds of thousands of refugees were collecting, starving, freezing, and dying, yet those in the capital would rather throw immense on renovating the palaces and flourishing the coming spring fest, just to please the emperor who had been sick and weak since long.
Yue has written more than a dozen reports to the emperor, but all his efforts had been ignored. The emperor, who despite his poor health still holds firm on the political authorities, is too old and weak to hear anything bad. At this critical moment of power transferring, even Zhao Che is not dare to annoy the emperor with any single bad news. The central officials, who are flattered by the bribes and praises from the locals, are more than glad to hide the bad newses from the emperor, and to keep blind to the real jeopardy of the disasters, thus, they had allied to refute Yue’s arguments about the worrying situations. While Yue reported about the casualties, the refugees, and the risks of riots, they responded that the people of Daxia were enjoying a peaceful life. They’d even framed Yue of being exaggerating the disasters to taking advantage of the relief measures for his own benefits. While the morning assemblies in the royal court flooded by the saliva, people are dying at any time in the remote west. In the end, they’d asked from Yue for evidences of the great famine.
“Evidence?” CQ heard Yue furiously cursed those dumb busters in his study. Hundreds of people are dying everyday, corpses are lying everywhere, yet they are asking for evidence of the casualty! That night, before sleep, he has whispered to the ear of CQ that he would prefer to kill those borers one by one with his own knife. He has said it in such a depression, that CQ feels her back covered by a layer of frost. She holds him from his waist, his muscle is tight and skin is cold, frozen as a piece of hard ice. After all, he is just saying it. CQ knows that even he is superior, even he holds the military power, there are things, peoples and responsibilities that he can never ignore. Zhao Che is not in Zhenhuang for the time being, so Yue has to manage the reliefs all by himself against the hindrances from the others. He has squeezed all his resources and arranged some relief to the west. However, his efforts are minor comparing what is needed (in a better phrase from pinayatsunshinestate: “yet his contributions are but a drop of water in a bucket because of the sheer numbers of the needy”).
Even such efforts are not necessarily appreciated. Since the available reliefs are limited, the porridge for the refugees at the Yaoguan city was made thin. A soldier has argued back when some refugee complained about the porridge, which triggered a riot between the soldiers and the refugees and produced several casualties on both the sides of the soldiers and the civilians. The incident has provided an excellent excuse for those central officials to criticize Yue in front of the emperor, blaming Yue of being arrogant, peremptory, and disrespectful to the emperor. While among the refugees, it has been rumored that all the governmental reliefs had fallen in control of Yue and been exploited by him, and that was the reason why the porridge had been kept thin.
CQ is accompanying Yue in his study when Yue Qi comes to report. As a tacit understanding, CQ has never intervened any of Yue’s business and Yue has never hid anything from her. Yue asks Yue Qi to report thoroughly regardless how bad the situations and the criticisms have been. He has listened quietly, expressionless hearing about all the slanders of the officials and the curses of the refugees. After Yue Qi finished reporting and left, he sits there still, sipping the tea, as if nothing had happened. The afternoon sun projected a slight blue light of coldness and brightened his skinnier cheeks, then, as CQ sees, the white jade tea cup in his hand is cracked and the water inside has leaked.
It is fine whatever the political rivals would like to say about him, but it is hard to be misunderstood by the people. For those who’re cursing him of providing them the thin porridges, they could never know that every meal for them had come from Yue selling his own properties. Proud as he is, must lower his head and please those merchants in the capital city, just to ask them to give a hand to support the refugees to survive from this severe famine. He is extremely exhausted, yet he continues his efforts on rescuing people despite all the rumors and curses. He has got to sleep more and more late, very often almost worked through nights, the look on his face is getting worse and worse, but his back is still straight like a beautiful javelin.
Finally, Zhao Che comes back to the city. On that evening, CQ heard a hearty laugh of Yue approaching from outside, then she saw Zhao Che coming in following Yue. This is the first time CQ met with Zhao Che after the breaking out of Zhenhuang with Yan Xun, and he just politely greeted her as usual. They had enjoyed a great night together, especially for Yue, who has finally got someone to chat and drink with. CQ listened them recalling the old days of them being students of Shang Wu Tang, how they had looked down on each other, and how they had finally get along with each other until the state of Daxia fallen apart. They also vented their disappointments on the political situations, cursed those heartless selfish bores of the corrupted empire. Seldom has CQ seen Yue in such a good mood and high spirits, and first time has she seen Zhao Che with ease and free.
Soon, both got extremely drunk. Yue is not a good drinker, but he has a good self-discipline, so he rarely gets drunk. He is totally relaxed in front of his only friend, and he is too tired. That night, when CQ sends Zhao Che away, the also drunk Zhao Che suddenly looks at her in a sober gaze and says: ”get back, take good care of him.” CQ looks back at him, silently. Then he seriously says to her: ”Lao Si (the 4th, Zhuge Yue’s nick name by Zhao Che) is a good man, don’t let down of him.”
“So are you.” Answered CQ, who had narrowed her eyes to a line, and the wave of light flashed in them is as sharp as sword.
Zhao Che understood that, it is a warning.
ddmcmc: sorry for the delay, but this is a chapter of very intense political flavor. However, this is a part I personally loved, cause it is where readers could learn more about Yue as a respectful leader, not just a good lover.