The days passed one by one as the weather grew colder.
As November arrived, the skies seemed to be covered by endless snow. Xiao Hua felt that the snow outside hadn’t stopped once these past few days. However, since she never left the hall the cold didn’t really affect her, and she also didn’t have time to check whether the snow had stopped falling.
During this time the Jing Prince had left the estate once again. Only after he departed did Xiao Hua find out from two low-ranked eunuchs that one of his counties had been snowed in1 and the situation seemed quite serious. Therefore he personally made a trip to check it out.
Xiao Hua had come to the conclusion that the Jing Prince was a good vassal prince.
Xiao Hua hadn’t seen a snow-in before.
After she was sold off as a child, she stayed in several rich households as a maid and no longer experienced any natural disasters. When she was young she did witness flooding, but she couldn’t remember much of it. All that remained in her memories were her parent’s and brothers’ faces, and crying everywhere.
As Xiao Hua concluded the Jing Prince was a good vassal prince, the person in question was riding on horseback through the snow. The estate’s guards had recommended him to take the carriage, but he felt it would be too slow and thus chose to continue on horseback.
The Jing Province was always a bitter and cold place. The bitter part comes from the difficulty of growing crops which caused its people to live in poverty, and the cold part because it was located in the north which made the weather cold and snow fall heavily come winter.
Because the land was barren, the emperor was extremely generous. The Jing Province was the largest vassal state in terms of area.
The so called vast, distant plains referred to this place.
Actually the prince didn’t have to go. There was no reason for the prince to personally head out for a small county that was snowed in. But the Jing Prince had always been serious in handling his affairs. In his past life he wasn’t as diligent in operating his vassal state, and the place had always been impoverished. In this life, he decided to put more effort into his land.
Since crops were hard to grow, he had specially gathered some talented farmers who grew crops suitable for the Jing Province’s climate. For example, high yielding crops from foreign lands such as potatoes and yams. These two years under his rule, there had almost been no cases of people starving to death.
Since business was hard to develop, he had his own people go to estates of prosperous provinces to conduct business. He even had the specialty products under his jurisdiction, good stuff such as fur clothing and ginseng, sold outside in order to attract business.
The Jing Prince’s way of thinking was simple. If he couldn’t even govern his vassal state properly, then he had no business trying to change his destiny.
The effect was pretty good over these few years. Not only did the amount of taxes they received increase, the Jing Prince’s own coffers were sufficiently filled as well.
The reason for his trip this time around was also a show of force, warning the various governors not to mistreat the people under his eyes. He didn’t need to do anything else. He just had to spend a few days and make a round trip for all his subordinates to take him seriously, and there would be no one starving or freezing to death. The Jing Prince thought this was a pretty good deal.
Although the prince’s way of thinking was different from others, the commoners under his rule lived pretty good lives. In recent years, they had all praised him as a good vassal prince.
When he set off it hadn’t been snowing hard, but on the way it had grown steadily heavier. The winds had picked up as well, and combined with the snow it had become hard to see the road conditions up ahead.
A guard wearing the honor guard’s armor and a black cape with crimson lining on the inside approached the Jing Prince’s mount with his own.
“Highness, there is a village nearby. Let us go there first to take shelter from the snow. It’s snowing too heavily.” The moment the guard opened his mouth he caught a mouthful of snowflakes.
The Jing Prince didn’t take his time in responding and instead nodded his head right away.
The guard was very familiar with the prince’s character, and with a wave of his hand had another guard ride forward to lead the way.
The group galloped for another while before seeing a village far off into the distance.
From afar, the village didn’t seem too big. The houses were small and crude, but in this weather the sight made everyone joyous and eager.
After riding closer but before entering the village, the wind carried over faint sounds of screaming and weeping.
The Jing Prince was in the lead and pulled on his reins. His steed came to a halt and the guards behind him mimicked his actions.
The Jing Prince wasn’t the only one who heard the abnormal sounds. The guards behind him had all heard it too. One of them waved his hand and a few broke off from the formation to enter the village first. The Jing Prince and the rest followed after.
The moment they entered the village, a tragic scene greeted their eyes.
There was a lot of blood on the snow covered ground. A few corpses lay strewn on the narrow streets of the village, clearly villagers based on their appearance.
Seeing that there were dead people, the group all froze in shock. The prince opened his mouth: “Go take a look.”
The Jing Prince brought with him dozens of guards this time. No matter what had happened there wasn’t anything to fear. Hearing the prince’s order, a group of people broke off in a clearly disciplined manner and split up, galloping towards the cries.
The prince and the remaining ten or so guards stopped at the crossroads of the village, and an armored officer spoke: “Highness, this subordinate will look for an empty room. Take shelter from the snow first.”
The Jing Prince nodded his head and got off his horse. They found an empty house nearby and entered.
Actually they didn’t have to look around for one They had long since seen many wide opened doors. The guards’ eyes were sharp and naturally saw that there were also corpses inside those houses.
Just who had the guts to massacre a village? Just from what they saw alone they could tell many had died.
By the time the Jing Prince entered the room, the guards who had entered first were already clearing it out. Two had found a space for them to sit and the other two were dragging corpses to a different building.
There was an old and young corpse, and also one of a missus. There was also a child’s corpse who was only a few years old. They were clearly a family of four, but had all lost their lives at the strokes of a blade. Unexpectedly the random house the Jing Prince chose to enter would have such a tragic scene.
These guards were all unafraid of blood and death, but seeing someone treat innocent villagers this way they were also angered and found it hard to look at.
“Son of a bitch, which bastard was so ruthless?” There was no lack of coarse men amongst the guards, and as their tempers flared they naturally were unable to control their curses.
Yet the Jing Prince acted as if he hadn’t heard it and remained seated, though his normally apathetic eyes were extremely cold.
After around fifteen minutes, the guards who were sent out gradually returned.
The Jing Prince Estate Guards’ vice commander Lin Qing Ting, Vice Commander Lin, went to ask about the situation. After a moment, he came back to report to the prince.
It was indeed a massacre.
When the arrived, there were several men holding sabers who were hacking away to their heart’s content. They were split into several groups and were combing through the houses one by one, killing people.
“Highness, there were around forty perpetrators. As we approached to stop them, several resisted and were killed. The rest have all been captured and thrown outside.”
“Were there any survivors?”
“Yes.” Vice Commander Lin paused, and continued with a lowered voice, “There are less than twenty people remaining. We came too late. When they saw us come to stop their actions, they actually weren’t scared and didn’t run. Instead, their blades fell even faster. The guards only managed to save a little over ten people.”
Everyone remaining in the village seemed to have gathered outside the house. All sorts of noises intermingled as the sounds of cursing and crying rang out.
When the Jing Prince went out, he saw several people dressed as villagers who were kicking and beating the tied up perpetrators.
“You heartless things, what have we ever done to you….” An elderly woman seemed to feel the kicking and beating wasn’t sufficient. She picked up a rock from the side and smashed it upon one of the people’s bodies. “Give my son back to me, and my grandson….”
Similar situations were happening with the other sorry looking villagers. They all picked up various objects and used them on the criminals. The guards outside didn’t prevent them from doing so, because many of them had witnessed the devastation that had occurred, and naturally allowed them to vent their anger. Only when they saw the Jing Prince and Vice Commander Lin approach did they pull the villagers away.
“Who here can explain what happened? Who here knows why this group of people came over and started killing people in this village?”
The survivors all blankly shook their heads. They also didn’t know what the reason was. They weren’t even aware when the killing first started, and only when they heard the sounds did they realize something was wrong, running outside to take a look.
Some of those who ran out were directly cut down. Seeing people getting killed, everyone panicked and ran all over. But there were too many evildoers and the villagers all lacked the strength to even truss up a chicken. They had no weapons and no way to defend themselves.
The group of people went from house to house killing people. They killed one as they saw one, not even sparing the elderly and the young. The elderly woman who was crying had watched her grandson, who was still swaddled in his cradle, get smashed to death by these people. It was truly extremely tragic.
The villagers spoke here and there, piecing together what they knew. Although they seemed to have said a lot, most of it was useless words. The Jing Prince made a gesture and Vice Commander Lin had his subordinates split up the perpetrators for interrogation.
“If you guys know anything, such as if there were any unusual circumstances in the village before this happened, please speak up. This would help us figure out who the real culprit was.” A guard told the villagers.
One of the survivors was a fourteen or fifteen year old teenager who cried and said: “It doesn’t even matter, none of those officials have any humanity in them; they’re all beasts! You guys can’t help much either, no one can help.”
The guards in the area all looked at the teen with extremely weird expressions, as though they wanted to laugh but couldn’t. But seeing that the village was indeed in a tragic state, they didn’t dare reveal any other expressions.
Vice Commander Lin opened his mouth and said: “Young man, if you know something you can speak up. This is his highness the Jing Prince. You are in the Jing Prince’s vassal state. Do you think there is something he can’t help you with?”
The teenager looked at the person being addressed as the Jing Prince in bewilderment, “You are his highness the Jing Prince?”
The Jing Prince had left wearing his informal clothes this time, but the guards were all wearing the Jing Prince Estate’s honor guard outfit. It was just that the teenager didn’t have much experience and naturally couldn’t recognize it. If it were any official under the Jing Province’s jurisdiction, they would be able to tell by the guards that even if it weren’t the Jing Prince in person, the people would be out on his orders.
The Jing Prince looked into the teenager’s eyes and nodded his head.
That teenager muttered: “My dad said his highness the Jing Prince is a good person. How can you prove that you are his highness?”
A guard on the side scolded: “This brat really has eyes but fails to recognize Mt. Tai2. Does his highness need to deceive a hairless brat like yourself? Can you recognize the uniform on my body? This is something only the prince’s honor guard can wear.”
The teen looked around at the large group of guards and recalled their incredible display of skill earlier. They had taken care of those murderers without breaking a sweat. Seeing again the Jing Prince’s apathetic yet imposing expression, he felt it almost certainly true.
But his expression was still hesitant. “This is very important. I’m also unsure if this was the reason a calamity descended upon our village. At the time my dad had hesitated for several days before finally leaving, but he never returned.”
The Jing Prince gave Vice Commander Lin a glance and walked back into the house. Vice Commander Lin took the teen and followed behind him.
The teen recounted what he knew about the situation.
It turned out that the father of this teen was the village’s mayor. The village was called Sangshan3 Village, and it was a small village with only several dozen families.
The village was located against Mt. Dahei4. It was very remote and used to be extremely impoverished. Only when the Jing Prince took over and spread high yielding crops such as potatoes and yams were they able to fill their stomachs.
Within the village, the men plowed the fields while the women sewed. They spent the days doing hard but honest labor, yet it was much better than before. Having a kind vassal prince who would reduce taxes every time there was a snow in, everyone’s days gradually improved.
Everything was peaceful until one day a villager was picking rocks from the mountain for his pigsty.
As mentioned earlier, the village was next to Mt. Dahei, which had very few trees but a lot of rocks. Many villagers would use these rocks for their houses or enclosures for pigs and sheep. The appropriate rocks were all directly taken from the mountain.
For pigsties, if the rocks were too big it would be hard to carry, and if they were too small it would be hard to use. Therefore, the villager had spent a lot of thought and picked out a bucketful of rocks back.
After getting back he realized one of the rocks had a different color. It was hard to describe, silver yet not silver all the way. Rather it was filled with silver on the inside.
The reason Mt. Dahei was called Mt. Dahei was because all the rocks on it were black in color. The sudden appearance of a silver colored rock was very surprising.
Many of the villagers had come over to join the excitement. The teen’s father the mayor had also come to take a look.
He felt things weren’t quite right and took the rock back for closer examination.
After returning home, he had polished the rock, wondering why the black rock would contain silver colors that shone under the candlelight. Polishing it was insufficient, so he used the most basic method and smashed the rock apart.
Unexpectedly, after the rock was smashed it turned out that it wasn’t silver in color. Instead, the black rock contained many silver particles.
As the mayor, he naturally had a certain amount of knowledge. This mayor hesitated for a very long time, but still took the rock over to the Heishan County office that oversaw Shangsan Village….
Having spoken up to this point, things had basically become clear. Clearly an honest village mayor had discovered something unusual and reported it to the county office.
The county magistrate had listened to the administrator’s explanations and saw the shattered piece of rock. He had then secretly sent people into the mountain to investigate. The place they went to was where the rock was found. The magistrate was a knowledgeable person, and naturally brought along those who understood the subject. The investigation unearthed a major revelation. When the magistrate heard about it, he knew it wouldn’t be easy to sweep under the rug. However, humans were greedy in nature, and thus the thought of massacring the village to silence everyone was born.
Wealth moves hearts. Wealth destroys lives.
The teen summarized the situation on this side and the guards on the other side finished their interrogations as well. The situation was pretty much as the Jing Prince surmised. Those culprits weren’t nobodies, but rather the county office magistrate’s own steward and men from his household.
But what the teen knew was only one side of the story, and the interrogated prisoners also didn’t know much. Although they had a solid theory in their minds, the Jing Prince didn’t treat this case casually and took his guards to the Heishan County.
Many things occur as a result of fate and coincidence. Due to fate and coincidence, that villager brought back the piece of rock. Because of the piece of rock, the following situation occurred.
Even more coincidentally was that the snow-in report received by the prince actually came from the mastermind behind the massacre, the Heishan County’s magistrate.
The magistrate was probably planning on using the heavy snow to his benefit. The Jing Province often saw snow-ins, and in order to explain away the large amount of deaths that suddenly occurred under his administration, he was planning to blame it on the snow. He first reported the snow-in to the higher ups, and then sent people to massacre the village. If the Jing Prince hadn’t made a trip this time, after the snow had stopped, the evidence may have very well been covered up and he would have gotten away with it. Who knew that the prince would actually come?
As one might imagine, the magistrate suffered a tragic ending.
After a number of years passed, the Jing Prince would think back to this situation. The only beneficiary had actually turned out to be himself. Of course, this was all in the future.
- The words used here is like flood but with snow. Is there an English equivalent? There’s drought, and flood, but not one for snow? Snowstorm?
- Saying that often shows up in Chinese novels. Means failing to recognize someone important, talented etc.
- Uphill, up the mountain.
- I’m translating it as the name of the mountain, though not sure if author is just saying it’s a “big black mountain”.