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Chapter 386: Has the Ice and Fire Finally Passed, with Historic Low Death Toll?
After enduring for over half a month, the howling northern winds finally began to subside. The heavy snowfall ceased, and cracks in the overcast sky allowed a few rays of sunlight to break through. Temperatures began to rise, and while it was still quite cold, it was bearable. All of this seemed to indicate that the ice disaster had finally passed.
People started seeing hope again. “The winds have stopped, the snow has stopped, and the weather is warming up. Does this mean the ice disaster is over?”
“Two months have passed since this ice disaster began. Could it be coming to an end?”
“I’ve been in the shelter for two months. I really miss home!”
“Is the ice disaster truly over, or can we trust this news?”
Inside the palace, the Empress and Lin Beifan stood by the railing, gazing at the still snow-covered capital. Sunlight broke through the thick clouds, casting a different hue on the city. The Empress asked with hope, “Minister, has the ice disaster truly passed?”
Lin Beifan smiled and replied, “Your Majesty, indeed it has! After enduring for over two months, we have finally achieved victory! The ice disaster is behind us, and we’ve won!”
“That’s wonderful!” The Empress clapped her hands in joy.
“However, Your Majesty, we are still in the middle of winter. It will remain cold for the next half month, and it might not be until the new year that the situation truly improves. We mustn’t let our guard down,” Lin Beifan cautioned.
The Empress nodded repeatedly and said, “Minister, you are absolutely right! But for now, let’s spread this news across the country and let everyone rejoice! At the same time, let’s assess the losses and casualties nationwide.”
This news quickly spread, and the people rejoiced. “The ice disaster… has finally passed!”
“We endured for over two months and finally have hope!”
“I thought I wouldn’t make it!”
“Thank you, Great Wu Dynasty, for letting me survive! I suddenly feel like crying!”
Some chose to leave the shelters, but most decided to stay. After all, despite the official announcement, people still had doubts, and the outside world was still frigid with limited resources.
And so, another half month passed.
The weather did not grow colder; instead, it continued to warm up. The dark clouds in the sky finally receded, allowing the sunlight to shine warmly. The ice and snow began to melt, and the wind had completely stopped. At this point, everyone was convinced that the ice disaster was truly over. Many people decided to return home; after all, no matter how good the shelters were, they couldn’t compare to the comfort of one’s own home. Furthermore, it was already three months away from home, and preparations for the New Year were in order.
Meanwhile, the imperial court began tallying the losses of this ice disaster.
In the Great Wu Imperial Court, the Minister of Revenue, Qian Yuanshen, reported loudly, “Your Majesty, according to the preliminary assessment by the Ministry of Revenue, during this ice disaster, a total of 125,000 cattle, 85,000 horses, 70,000 donkeys, 230,000 pigs, and over a million chickens and ducks have frozen to death due to our inability to rescue them. Compared to the previous year, the losses have nearly doubled, and it is indeed severe!”
The Empress’s face grew solemn as she nodded, saying, “This was entirely expected. After all, in such icy conditions, preserving human lives is already a significant achievement. We couldn’t have done much for the livestock.”
“You are absolutely right, Your Majesty,” Minister Qian agreed loudly.
The Empress then inquired, “How many casualties among the people?”
“Well…” Minister Qian glanced at the Empress, hesitating for a moment.
Worried, the Empress asked, “Is it too many deaths? Tell me, I’ve prepared myself for the worst.”
Minister Qian shook his head and said with some excitement, “Your Majesty, it’s not too many deaths; it’s too few! During this ice disaster, our Great Wu has a total death toll of approximately 2.5 million people. Excluding those who died from illness, old age, or accidents, the actual number of deaths due to freezing is around 200,000.”
“Whether it’s the total death toll or the number of deaths due to freezing, it’s much lower than last year. I distinctly remember that during the same period last year, the total death toll nationwide was around 3.6 million people, with freezing deaths reaching around 800,000. If we look back 10 years, the death toll for this period this year is the lowest!”
The Empress was shocked, and the entire court was in an uproar. “We experienced an ice disaster, yet our death toll is the lowest?”
“Is that really the case?”
“It’s hard to believe!”
The Empress pressed on, “Minister, is what you’re saying true? We endured a once-in-a-century ice disaster, and the death toll is lower than last year? It’s even a 10-year historical low?”
The Minister of Revenue, both anxious and excited, replied, “Your Majesty, even I couldn’t believe this data at first! After double-checking it repeatedly, I dared to report this information to you. Please examine it carefully!”
“Very well, very well!” The Empress was overjoyed and highly excited.
The Minister of Revenue continued, “Your Majesty, the reason for this is entirely due to our early preparations. We constructed numerous shelters nationwide and stockpiled enough supplies to help the common people endure the severe cold. That’s why the casualties reached a historic low.”
The Empress was beaming and exclaimed, “You’re absolutely right! It’s because we prepared in advance that we could safely pass through the ice disaster. Even though it came at a great cost, it was completely worth it. Because where there are people, there is hope!”
“Long live the wise Empress!” the officials cheered, their faces relaxing.
As the Empress stated, despite the massive losses the Great Wu Dynasty endured during this ice disaster, its people were safeguarded.
Where there are people, there is hope, and a stable nation.
The Empress inquired, “What about the losses in other countries?”
“Your Majesty, the losses in terms of livestock and poultry are still incalculable. But in terms of population, after preliminary estimates…” The Minister of Revenue’s expression turned grave, “The Great Yan Dynasty suffered at least 20 million deaths in this ice disaster! The Great Xia Dynasty had it worse, with around 25 million casualties! And our neighboring Dayue Dynasty had approximately 8 million deaths…”
As everyone listened, their faces grew solemn.
The death toll was simply too high! In the equally powerful Great Xia and Great Yan Dynasties, one out of every ten people perished!
The Dayue Dynasty had it even worse, with a total population of just over 40 million and 8 million deaths, meaning 20% of their people were gone. It was truly horrifying! And these were only preliminary estimates!
In many remote mountainous regions, the count wasn’t complete yet, so the death toll would likely be even higher.
“It’s terrifying! So many lives lost!” The Empress shuddered, “If our Great Wu hadn’t prepared adequately, the death toll could have reached a staggering 200 million, leading to widespread suffering and hardship!”
“Your Majesty speaks the truth!” the officials concurred. “Minister Lin, thankfully, we have you!” The Empress exclaimed with excitement, “Without your early warnings and preparations, we wouldn’t have safely endured this ice disaster. You’ve almost single-handedly saved 20 million common people and saved Great Wu! On behalf of the people of the world, thank you!”
“Your Majesty, as the Prime Minister of Great Wu, it is my duty,” Lin Beifan humbly replied.
“Sir Lin, you have once again achieved immeasurable merit for our court! No reward can truly match your contributions. I grant you a noble title, making you the Hereditary Loyal and Valiant Duke!” declared the Empress loudly.
This time, the courtiers had no objections. First, Lin Beifan’s contributions were indeed immense, equivalent to saving 20 million lives and pulling Great Wu back from the brink, securing its foundation, and leading it far ahead of other nations. Second, Lin Beifan had long been above them in stature, holding positions such as the Prime Minister of the court and Supreme Commander of the Imperial Army. Another noble title seemed inconsequential. It must be said that the adaptability of the courtiers was remarkably strong, and they had become somewhat numb to it all.
“Thank you, Your Majesty, for your generous favor!” Lin Beifan exclaimed loudly.
The Empress, in a cheerful mood, said, “Sir Lin, I hope you will continue to utilize your wisdom and abilities for the court and for Great Wu. I need a few days of rest, so if there are any matters, consult with Minister Lin; he will make decisions!”
“Your Majesty, hasn’t your illness already recovered? Why do you need more rest?” Lin Beifan asked, confused.
The Empress’s expression became somewhat unnatural, and her eyes flickered. Her illness had indeed recovered, but resting a bit longer brought her more comfort and relaxation. It had been the most carefree month for her. With someone else worrying for her and handling state affairs, she didn’t have to engage in political maneuvering or toil day and night. She was completely at ease and unburdened, living life to the fullest. Besides, there weren’t any major issues at the moment, so she planned to rest a few more days.
The Empress pretended to cough and said, “Sir Lin, although my illness has recovered, my body is still somewhat weak, and I cannot handle state affairs. So, I have to trouble you once again!”
Lin Beifan inwardly sighed, thinking, “You’ve rested for over a month, and your illness is long gone. It’s time to get up and work! You can’t just keep treating me like a workhorse!”
Lin Beifan started to advise, “Your Majesty…”
The Empress waved her hand gracefully and said, “Sir Lin, with you by my side, I am very at ease. Due to my lingering physical weakness, I must return to rest. If you have any matters, please consult Minister Lin. The court is dismissed!”
Lin Beifan: “…”
The Empress finished speaking and swiftly left, paying no heed to Lin Beifan’s resentful gaze.
Thus, Lin Beifan had to continue the arduous task of governance. Looking at the mountain of official documents before him, his face was numb, and his heart was as cold as the external weather. His heart was as cold as the weather outside. The Empress, on the other hand, returned to her palace, continuing her feigned illness and leisurely vacation, thoroughly enjoying herself!