Because no one knew the current situation at Xuan Zhou, Ji Feng Li dispatched several soldiers to find out. They swam out and scouted the city, only to return two hours later. They reported, “The water rose by a meter, forcing most residents to climb onto the rooftops to escape. Many people have gotten sick in the past few days, however they didn’t have access to any medicine or food. Those able to swim have already left and are currently congregated at the ruined temples outside the city.”
Ji Feng Li lifted his head in the downpour and looked up at the sky, his eyes growing increasingly cold. She knew that if the flooding wasn’t controlled and the damaged alleviated soon, it was likely that the entire city of Xuan Zhou would be submerged underwater.
“It will take at least two more days before the provisions from the Imperial Court arrive. Go to the neighboring province; using the name of the Imperial Court, collect the necessary provisions and medicine. Think of a way to transport everything into the city. Also take some people and set up tents for the victims at the ruined temples. Go quickly!” Ji Feng Li gave his orders in a clear, cold voice. The soldiers, feeling the pressure, immediately split up to carry out his commands.
Ji Feng Li’s tent was already set up earlier. He entered it and took off his cloak. His clothes were soaked through and the hem of his robe was covered in mud. Seeing this a guard brought him a change in clothes, but was waved away. “No need, this Chancellor will leave in a moment! Instead bring a map of Xuan Zhou’s city defense over.” Once the map arrived, he stood in front of it with his hands clasped and a look of intense concentration on his face. A long time later he yelled, “Prepare a horse!”
A guard quickly brought out a horse. With a turn of his body, Ji Feng Li mounted the horse. Pulling the reins, he descended the mountain road. Hua Zhu Yu and the group of guards rushed to mount their horses and follow.
Against the intensifying wind, their cloaks trembled in the air. Up ahead they could only see a white expanse of torrential rain while the grounds below were uneven, puddled with muddy water. Traveling amid these conditions, they reached the outskirts of Xuan Zhou city and witnessed the overwhelming flood. The people were trapped within the city walls with no way out. With the water risen so high, employing a large boat to enter the city would not bode well. They could only utilize a small boat to enter and save a number of people at a time. If this flood was not dealt with promptly, the death toll would surely escalate.
A strike of lightning flashed in the sky.
Up ahead, they saw an old man with a little girl around 8-9 years old, huddled beneath the shelter of a large tree.
The flash of lightning was like a piercing sword, striking down the tree.
Hua Zhu Yu cried out in alarm. Amid the flashes of lightning and heavy onslaught of rain, a dark shadow bolted at lightning speed towards the tree. His black cloak was blown backwards, pulling down his cap to unveil his dark locks of hair. Flashes of lightning struck not too far from where he was, clamoring and piercing as though aspiring to destroy all in its path. But in front of his presence, it paled in comparison, merely resigning to serve as his backdrop.
With one hand, he pulled the little girl into his embrace and pushed the old man out of harm’s way with the other.
Concurrent with the resounding thunder, the tree split in half, tumbling down towards the spot the old man was standing just seconds ago. The man staggered back on the muddy ground, scared senseless. Cuddled in Ji Feng Li’s arms, the little girl was also frightened, bursting into tears.
Hua Zhu Yu was shocked. She wasn’t sure if she was startled by the thunder or by Ji Feng Li’s actions.
“Thank you for saving our lives,” the old man said as he knelt on the muddy ground, continuously kowtowing to Ji Feng Li.
Releasing the girl in his arms, Ji Feng Li said, “Don’t continue taking shelter under this tree. The court was set up several tents near the temple, you can temporarily stay there to escape the rain. Quickly stand, I have some questions to ask you.”
The old man staggered to stand up as he asked, “What would you like to ask?”
“How did you leave the city? When you left, what was the situation inside? Have many people died?” Ji Feng Li asked in a soft tone.
Hearing his series questions, the old man’s eyes grew red as tears streamed down his muddy face. “I swam out of the city. My wife and 1 year old son succumbed to the waters and passed away. All that’s left of my family is just me and this child. Many people have already died in the city,” he informed while wiping his tears. As though he suddenly realized the man before him was an official, he eyes brighten as he asked, “Is sir a high official from the Capital? You must help us, that Magistrate Wang embezzled the money the Imperial Court sent to reinforce the dam. Just last year, the Imperial Court had sent a hundred thousand silver taels to strengthen the dam yet he kept that money all to himself, not reinforcing anything. If not, how could the dam collapse so quickly, flooding the whole city of Xuan Zhou!”
Ji Feng Li slowly got up, his robes trembling in the howling wind. A faint streak of coldness flashed through his long, narrowed eyes.
“This matter, this official will surely get to the bottom of. You should stand up first. Let me ask you this, outside the city walls of Xuan Zhou, is there a place the flood water can drain to?” Ji Feng Li leaned down to help the old man up and asked with a solemn expression.
“Xuan Zhou is surrounded by three small towns, all of which have already flooded. There is only one place farther up Qing Jiang River where no one lives. We sought out the magistrate to see if that place could be dismantled so that the flood water could drain there, but the magistrate said it was impossible,” the old man said in distress, hugging the little girl.
Where is that place?” Ji Feng Li asked with suspicion.
The old man slowly replied,” It’s the Qing Cheng Palace of the Imperial family.”
Hua Zhu Yu expression grew solemn. The Imperial family indeed had built a Qing Cheng Palace near Qing Jiang River, occupying an area of over a thousand hectares. Later, the Imperial family built a Qing Jiang Palace at Qing Cheng mountain so the other palace was basically vacant, no longer used.
“Qing Cheng Palace?” Ji Feng Li’s eyes lit up. He thanked the old man and then gave orders to his guards to bring them to the tents before instructing someone else to bring forth the map of Qing Jiang River.
With the relentless down-pouring rain, their clothes were completely soaked when they finally returned to their tents. But instead of changing out of his clothes, his attention remain fixed on the map.
Folding the map, he called for Tong Shou, instructing, “Lead 300 soldiers up Qing Jiang River. Evacuate any personnel still within the Qing Cheng Palace, then break down the palace walls and let the flood drain their.”
Tong Shou’s eyes widened in surprise as he asked in concern, “Lord Chancellor, you really plan to use Qing Cheng Palace to drain the floodwater? Are you certain you shouldn’t seek His Majesty’s approval first?”
Ji Feng Li’s lips hooked up in a smile yet his eyes remained cold, “That palace should never have been built. Hurry, an imperial decree can be sought later. Now there is no time to delay.”
Tong Shou nodded and withdrew to carry out orders.