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Chapter 220: Lin Beifan, the Imperial Envoy!
The Empress’s eyes lit up because the one who spoke these words was her most trusted minister, Lin Beifan. Whenever he spoke, he could always get to the core of the matter and bring hope.
“Sir Lin, what is your opinion? Speak up quickly!” the Empress urged.
Lin Beifan spoke loudly, “I believe that the disaster-stricken people must be rescued, and immediately! There’s no time to delay! If we don’t save them, the country will fall into chaos, and Great Wu will face destruction!”
The atmosphere in the court changed drastically, and many officials chastised him.
“Sir Lin, do you know what you’re saying?”
“How dare you say that our country will fall into chaos and be destroyed? These are just fear-mongering and deceiving words!”
“Abandoning a group of disaster-stricken people, can it really shake the foundation of our dynasty?”
“Sir Lin, you should choose your words carefully!”
“Wouldn’t you apologize to Her Majesty?”
The Empress’s expression also turned unpleasant, but due to her long-standing trust in Lin Beifan, she calmly said, “My dear ministers, please calm down and listen to Sir Lin’s explanation first!”
The court finally quieted down.
“Your Majesty, I am not fear-mongering; there is indeed a serious matter at hand!” Lin Beifan spoke loudly. “Just now, Minister Li from the Ministry of War made a very pertinent point. The starving disaster-stricken people have lost their humanity. They resort to cannibalism to survive, disregarding all principles and ethics. At this moment, how can we expect these disaster-stricken people to still respect the court and its laws?”
“Could it be that they would… rebel?” The officials’ expressions slightly changed.
Lin Beifan continued, “In Tangzhou, 30,000 soldiers rebelled and turned to banditry because they were deprived of their military pay and couldn’t even afford food. What about this group of disaster-stricken people who are on the brink of losing their lives? They consider food as their top priority! They can’t even afford to eat, let alone survive. What else can they do? They have no choice but to rebel! If they don’t, they can only wait for a slow death! But if they rebel, perhaps there is a glimmer of hope!”
“Let me ask all of you present here, if you were in their shoes, what would you choose? Would you rebel or not?”
Lin Beifan loudly questioned the officials in the court, his voice shaking the audience.
Any official targeted by Lin Beifan couldn’t help but avoid his gaze, their eyes flickering uneasily. “The situation is already evident—they will rebel! Once they do, the resulting chaos will be beyond the scope of food supplies! They will inevitably storm the villages and towns, resorting to arson, murder, looting, and plundering anything they can lay their hands on!”
“At that time, the number of affected people will not be just a million, but possibly several million, even tens of millions!”
“Countless lives will be in misery, and the people will be in dire straits!”
“All the major princes and neighboring empires will undoubtedly seize such a perfect opportunity to attack our dynasty! At this point, we have lost the support of the people and are betrayed by them. We are incapable of resisting the powerful external forces, and facing such internal and external threats…”
Lin Beifan scanned the entire audience. “I would like to ask Your Majesty and all the officials: Can our court still hold on? Will you be able to continue enjoying your current luxurious lifestyle, standing tall and commanding the country as you do now?”
Everyone’s face became solemn, filled with fear and anxiety.
The court was the foundation of their status!
Without the protection of the court, they wouldn’t be able to enjoy all they have now!
They might not even be able to keep their lives!
The Empress’s expression also became serious!
Although she had some strategies in mind, dealing with such a crisis was still challenging!
If she failed, it would be over, with no chance for regrets!
Lin Beifan spoke loudly, “Our court is currently in great turmoil, perilous at every step. We really cannot afford to make any mistakes! Once we make a mistake, the enemy will seize the opportunity! So, please Your Majesty, think carefully, and all of you, think carefully!”
Li Kaiguang, the Minister of War, eased his tone, “But how can we save them? Our capital is too far from Jiangnan. Even if we start preparing food now, it will take at least ten days, and the disaster-stricken people will have starved to death by then!”
“Yes, it’s not that we don’t want to save them, but there’s really no way!”
“Even if the food arrives, the people will be almost dead by then. It’s too late!”
The Empress looked at Lin Beifan with hope in her eyes. “Sir Lin, do you have any solution?”
Lin Beifan bowed and said, “Your Majesty, the Prince of Southern Jiang has been propagating that the capital has ample food supplies, inviting the disaster-stricken people to come here for relief. We can request the local officials along the way to aid the disaster victims! Though their food supplies might be limited, providing one or two meals is still possible, which can sustain them for two or three days!”
“In addition, we must act swiftly to transport relief food by using air-cushion boats. One route will head north, and the other will go south! This way, we have a chance to gather midway and provide relief to the disaster-stricken people!”
“This is the best solution at present. I implore Your Majesty to consider it carefully!”
The Empress nodded, “The army values speed! Where is Qian Yuanshen, the Minister of Household?”
“Here!” The Minister of Household stepped forward.
“Immediately open the granaries and distribute relief food to the disaster-stricken people!”
“I obey!” The Minister of Household said loudly.
“Minister of War, Li Kaiguang, are you here?”
“Here!” The Minister of War stepped forward.
“Quickly set up air-cushion boats to transport food and dispatch soldiers to guard along the way!”
“I obey!” The Minister of War said loudly.
“Commander of the Embroidered Uniform Guard, are you here?”
In this manner, the Empress orderly issued commands. After arranging everything, her gaze fell on a slender figure in the court. She said, “This time, Sir Lin will be in charge of the relief effort! Appoint Lin Beifan, the Prefect of Dedian, and the Principal of the Imperial Academy, as the Imperial Envoy responsible for all aspects of disaster relief! Armed with the royal sword, he will have the authority to act in our name without awaiting approval!”
“I obey!” Lin Beifan accepted the order.
He then received the royal sword bestowed by the Empress and hurriedly began to arrange the relief efforts.
Watching Lin Beifan’s hurried figure, the Empress murmured, “My minister, do not disappoint me!”
At this moment, everyone’s interests in the court were at stake, and no one was negligent. The actions were swift.
Cart after cart of grain was transported from the granaries and delivered to the river in the capital. There, numerous air-cushion boats had already been assembled, forming a vast floating land connected by iron cables.
The grain was loaded onto the air-cushion boats, and they set off southward to provide relief to the disaster-stricken people.
Now, they were racing against time, and speed was of the essence!
“Alright, the food on this boat is enough for the disaster-stricken people to eat for two days. Speed is crucial. Set off immediately! You continue transporting food and stop at various states and prefectures along the coast, preparing to aid the disaster victims!”
After everything was arranged, Lin Beifan jumped onto the air-cushion boat and shouted, “Sail!”
The sail on the air-cushion boat was hoisted, and aided by the wind, it slowly departed from the capital.
At that moment, Lin Beifan waved his hand, and a strong wind rushed in, propelling the air-cushion boat forward rapidly.
Simultaneously, the river beneath Lin Beifan’s feet accelerated as well.
The combination of both factors increased the air-cushion boat’s speed by more than double!
In some waterways, it was even twice as fast!
This situation was quickly noticed by everyone.
“Why is the boat so fast?”
“What’s going on?”
Lin Beifan shouted, “This is Heaven’s will! Heaven blesses Great Wu! Heaven blesses the people of Great Wu! Keep going day and night, full speed ahead!”
“Yes, Sir!” Everyone’s spirits were lifted, and they responded in unison.
With the “Heaven’s will” banner, everyone united as one and sped forward with full force.
The distance between Southern Jiang and the capital was over 800 li (about 400 kilometers). Even if they traveled day and night through waterways, they could cover around 80 li (about 40 kilometers) per day, and it was estimated to take about 10 days.
If the disaster-stricken people were moving northward, it would take seven to eight days for the two parties to meet.
This was already considered quite smooth!
However, now, in just three days, they had crossed over 600 li (about 300 kilometers)!
This is truly an unreplicable miracle!
All of this can only be attributed to Heaven’s will. The Old Deity is blessing us, unaware that someone is secretly meddling.
Lin Beifan also let out a sigh of relief and smiled, “In half a day, we will reach Huazhou, where most of the disaster-stricken people are! Quickly notify the Prefect of Huazhou to light fires and boil water. As soon as our food arrives, we can start cooking porridge!”
“Yes, Sir!” The commander of the Embroidered Uniform Guard received the order and quickly rode off on a large horse.
At this moment, beside the banks of Huazhou.
… …… …
The Prefect of Huazhou looked at the group of displaced and emaciated disaster-stricken people, heaved a deep sigh, and the grain was already gone!
Four days ago, after receiving the disaster relief mission, he immediately gathered food and provided relief to the victims. However, as a local government, the amount of food he had was limited, and it couldn’t sustain a million disaster-stricken people at all.
They could only provide one meal per person per day, and each meal was only a bowl of thin porridge with very little rice, barely enough to prevent starvation but not enough to satisfy hunger.
In order to keep his official position and save face, he had to use some means, even extracting food from wealthy families. They even collected husks and bran to feed the victims.
This could only support them for three days.
Now, they had run out of food, and the disaster-stricken people had been starving for a day and were refusing to move any further.
If one more day passed and the relief food didn’t arrive, there could be unpredictable consequences!
Disaster-stricken people who couldn’t survive would resort to anything!
However, he also knew that the capital was too far from here!
Even if the food was transported from there, it would take at least seven or eight days, and it would be too late for everything!
His official position was also at its end, and whether he could survive or not was unknown!
“What should I do?” The Prefect looked distressed, and his hair had turned white from worry.
Just at that moment, a Embroidered Uniform Guard rode in on a high-headed horse at full speed.
As he rode, he shouted loudly, “Report! There is still an hour left, and the relief food from the court will arrive! Please start the fires and boil water immediately. As soon as the food arrives, we can start cooking!”
The Prefect of Huazhou was shocked, thinking he might be hearing things.
He hurriedly went up to meet the Embroidered Uniform Guard and asked, “So fast? The relief food from the court will arrive in just an hour? You’re not playing tricks on me, are you?”
The Embroidered Uniform Guard looked displeased, “Why would I deceive you? This is military intelligence. Who dares to report false military intelligence? I’d be risking my life!”
The Prefect was overjoyed, “Excellent! Excellent! Is the food transferred from another place?”
The Embroidered Uniform Guard replied, “No, it’s coming directly from the capital!”
The Prefect was confused, “From the capital… How is that possible? Even if it flies, it can’t arrive that quickly!”
The Embroidered Uniform Guard impatiently waved his hand, “Stop talking nonsense and quickly light the fires and boil the water! If you delay the matter, I will report it!”
The Prefect clenched his teeth and shouted loudly, “Start the fires and boil the water immediately!”