The people of King City were completely unprepared for this year’s winter. Even the Yi family had not predicted a disaster of such scale. At most, they predicted the change in weather, that it would snow heavily earlier than usual.
These people had already announced publicly when it would start snowing.
However, no one knew that ‘snowing heavily’ meant a disaster like this one.
Everyone was gloomy the entire day. Outside the city, in the fields, a huge batch of crops had died. Every landowner’s mood was as bad as the snow, causing the slaves to live in fear every day, afraid of being beaten to death or thrown out of the land with one wrong step. Beaten to death was fine, they’d suffer for a while and die. But if they were tossed out, they’d be tortured by the freezing cold. The snow was half a human tall, how would they survive?
The mood within the Golden Grain Fields was similar to a stormy day.
The landowner, Ji Ju, had already raged several times during the past days. All the staff in both high and low ranks walked with lowered heads, making no sound.
Ji Ju’s anger wasn’t really directed at his staff. Although he was also yelling at the weather, the ones he was the angriest at was actually the Yi family.
“A bunch of absolute idiots!”
An exquisite, colourful teapot was slammed on the ground. It shattered into pieces. Two bronze trays clattered loudly on the ground.
The several lower-ranked butlers stood outside, legs shaking. They dared not enter so all they could do was watch from outside.
Within the house, the head butler waited till Ji Ju was done with his tantrum then hurried to clean up the mess. There were no lower-ranked staff here, only the head butler worked here. Unless they were given permission, the rest of the lower-ranked butlers had to stay far away.
It was still warm inside, there was a fire burning at the fireplace. Ji Ju sat on a thick fur rug, his legs crossed. He was very upset because another plot of crops died this winter.
He had already made preparations for winter but still, the crops could not survive this extreme cold. How many times has this happened already?
Seven times? Eight times?
In the past, other farms might experience their crops dying during winter but this was rare in Ji Ju’s farm. As long as the farm was prepared for winter, one could prevent his crops from dying. He saw dead crops as mistakes. If you did it right, there would be no mistakes.
Ji Ju had always thought that his farming techniques were immaculate. As for the Thousand Grain Gold, yes he was quite upset that the Flaming Horns harvested them before him but it was only temporary. Yet now, the eighth mistake happened! For a perfectionist like him, how could he stay calm?!
Although it was due to the weather, the consequences were real.
“Useless idiots!” yelled Ji Jue again.
The ‘idiots’ he referred to were the Yi family members. In the past, these people walked around with their chins sticking out at the skies, and now? They couldn’t even answer him when he asked how long this situation would last!
All trash! All of them!
Ji Ju wanted to go talk to the most powerful old man of the Yi family. It was a pity that guy hadn’t taken clients for years. Even if Ji Ju personally visited him, he would not show his face, definitely not conduct a reading.
Ji Ju sipped some hot water to wet his throat. “What’s going on outside?!”
The head butler’s eyes darted at the shivering people outside. Bowing respectfully, he said, “They say they’re here to bring a message.”
“What message?” Ji Ju sounded more annoyed.
The butler bowed even lower, not wanting to see his face. “They say…someone wants some grains…”
Ji Ju flung his metal cup on the floor. “Tell them to get the hell out!”
The head butler paused but did not go. “I heard another tribe came to King City. The lord made other aristocrats distribute some grains each. It would be counted as lending to the tribes.”
“They never wanted to come to us in the past, then now there’s a snowstorm and they’re falling one by one!” Ji Ju mocked. “We won’t give them any. Other people offering grains is their business, not mine. Our Golden Grain Fields will not offer any!”
King City’s noble families did want to take this opportunity to take a few tribes under their wing. However, the snowstorm did not look like it was going to stop soon. More and more tribes came seeking help, food was already barely enough to go around. The people at the top were in a tough spot now. Even the nobles did not have enough grains for themselves. They all knew Ji Ju had a good harvest and hoped for some help. They knew that the more tribes relied on them, the larger their kingdom would be. Then they would be immune to other tribes.
Now that Ji Ju had spoken, the head butler did not dare say another word. He only listened to Ji Ju, the rest was none of his business.
Several lower-ranked butlers were called inside because they defended the other nobles, then yelled at. Ji Ju subsequently fired two butlers. He ignored them when they cried and begged.
Just as the two butlers felt their hopes dim, someone rushed in. It was a guard from the fields, he was in charge of guarding the Thousand Grain Gold.
When he saw someone rushing in like that, Ji Ju was about to rage again. However, he suppressed his anger when he recognised the guard. Worried, he asked, “Did something happen there?”
“Yes… N-no! No!” The guard panted, not sure if he was red from the cold or panic.
“So is it yes or no?!” raged Ji Ju.
“Sir, it’s ripe!” blurted the guard.
When he heard the word ‘ripe’, Ji Ju rushed out.
The butler, who was crying hysterically on the ground, wondered if the boss’ mood would improve if something good happened. Was this his chance to beg for mercy?
When they thought of this, the two fired butlers rushed out without their furs.
Ji Ju’s Thousand Grain Gold had ripened in the middle of a snowstorm. This was a lot earlier than anticipated.
The golden husks were vibrant against the white snow. The guards could smell its delicious fragrance, a faint whiff was enough to make them drool.
Ji Ju harvested these grains himself, then peeled the husk off one grain.
After the golden husk was taken off, the grain inside was white.
Ji Ju’s pupil constricted as he thought about what Shao Xun said.
“Shao Xuan, what colour do you think mine will be?”
“White,” blurted Shao Xuan.
White. That was what Shao Xuan said.
“It really is white.”
The ripening of the Thousand Grain Gold seemed to be a sign.
The white Thousand Grain Gold gave a feeling of satiation upon consumption that could last at least a day. And it was not a hallucination, one would actually be satiated.
Just as the city needed grains most, the Thousand Grain Gold ripened.
He looked at the snow outside in silence. After a pause, he told the head butler, “Call them here.”
“Them” referred to the lower-ranked butlers.
Ji Ju decided to open his warehouse. He never liked those people who only came begging for help, yet never talked to him before this. However, he was willing to obey the hints given by this THousand Grain Gold. Even if he analysed this wrong, at least he tried.
At this moment, there were several special guests visiting the Yi family at King City.
Since everyone was discussing newly-arrived tribes, these guests were unnoticed. They were from the tribe too.
The person who came to the Yi family was the Fox tribe’s chief, plus the seductive lady.
When they escaped the salt flats, only a hundred of his people were left. They could not return to their tribe because they changed directions after the King Beast started chasing after that. The Shen people became the ‘bait’, that was the only reason why they successfully escaped.
After leaving the salt flats, the Fox chief brought his remaining people out of the forest. He did not return to the tribe. He had lost the salt rocks, fire crystals, and so many lives. He would be shunned by his people if he returned, his position as chief would be taken away.
That was why he wanted to get a solution before returning.
The lady with him was actually half a Yi. She did not have many talents in divination so she wasn’t treated very well in the Yi family. That was why she mostly stayed with the Fox tribe. However, both the Fox tribe and Yi family still maintained relations.
The Fox chief knew when the weather would change because of the Yi family.
This time, the Fox chief came to ask for aid.
He wanted the Yi family to team up with him to fight the Flaming Horns.
Perhaps the Yi family would not agree to fight Mountain Wind and Taihe. If they won, they would still suffer major losses. Not worth it. However, they could consider fighting the Flaming Horns.
That was because the Flaming Horns were considered outsiders here. The several families in King City, including Yi, were cautious against them. That was what the Fox chief heard from the lady. She had received news before winter at King City. He could offer a solution to that now.
Although the Fox chief wanted to destroy all three tribes, to succeed, he had to do it one by one. The first one was Flaming Horn. These days, the more he thought about it, the more he felt like all of this was because of the Flaming Horns.
He did his best to provoke the Yi family.
“The Flaming Horns seem to know when the weather would change, they are even more accurate than your predictions too. When they arrived, they were just in time, when they left, it was the same day as the winds stopped…” Although they were just guesses that the chief didn’t believe himself, he had to sound confident to provoke the Yi family.
“Also, I definitely heard the King Beast roaring at them, yet we never saw their bodies! Even if they were eaten, not all of them would be eaten. There wasn’t even blood, and they brought so much salt and fire crystals with them…”
Initially, several Yi family members were already upset when someone could make more accurate predictions than them. Now that they heard the Flaming Horns escaped the king beast, they were even warier of the Flaming Horns. The fire crystals became secondary.
“What you say… is true?!” said the person at the head of the table in a booming voice. He already decided to forget about the matter that the Fox people had been hiding good quality salt from them. That was just salt, the Yi family did not care. But the rest was different.
The Fox chief looked at the lady. She quickly got up and bowed towards the head. “It is true.” As her head was lowered, her slanted eyes flashed with an odd look. While the Fox chief might not believe himself, she knew that it was likely to be true. The Flaming Horns might have a larger secret.
The Yi family would not trust just two people. However, after they talked to different members separately, they believed it.
They were good at asking questions and trickery so they didn’t believe that the whole tribe could lie to them. That was why even if not all of the chief’s words were the truth, it was at least a partial truth.
The several high-ranked members of the Yi family discussed.
“I’ve said before that we’ve got to watch Flaming Horn.”
“Flaming Horn must fall!”
“Tomorrow, I’ll talk to the lord and the other families,” said the person at the head of the table.
They had to deal with the Flaming Horns. Perhaps this change in weather was a hint from the heavens?