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Chapter 7: The Earth Dragon Turns
On the way home, Gu Ru Jiu observed carefully. She found that the mice and dogs were restless, and even the birds and beasts in the woods seemed exceptionally lively. On the way home, snakes and rabbits would suddenly jump out of the grass and made people feel even more nervous.
Gu Chang Ling, who was born in an aristocratic family, did not detect anything wrong. He only felt the situation was not right when he saw a fish jump out of the water in the field to the shore to kill itself.
He was a scholar. When something unusual happened, he would not assume that this was a punishment from the heavens like ignorant women and children would. He guessed that this was caused by the hot weather.
Today, it was exceptionally hot, as though people were in steamers. Otherwise, he would not have taken his children to the manor. Who knew that the manor was not cool either, and they even had to endure the ear-piercing barks of dogs.
Gu Zhi Yu, who was half a horse length behind Gu Chang Ling, frowned even deeper. Ever since he was born, he had never seen something this strange, and he couldn’t help but have suspicions.
“Father…” When he saw some more grey mice run out, he couldn’t help but speak up.
“We will return and talk.” Gu Chang Ling’s expression was grim. He tapped the horse under him with the horse crop. “We will speed up.”
Gu Ru Jiu sensed the acceleration of the carriage and felt faintly worried but also relieved. Fortunately, her father and brothers sensed something was wrong, and she would have an easier time speaking up when they returned home.
At the start, she suspected a mouse plague, but Jing had not had a water disaster or a drought disaster. Because this was the gathering place of the aristocratic families and the imperial family, each year, there would be preventative measures against illness. So if something like a plague happened, she would not be too worried.
What really made her worry wasn’t a plague but an earthquake.
While the “Records of Geography” did not have any records of earthquakes in Jing, the movement of tectonic plates and their collisions would sometimes take thousands and even tens of thousands of years. Who knew if the city of Jing was in a seismic zone?
But she could not talk about an “seismic zone” to her father. Even more importantly, if she guessed incorrectly and it wasn’t an earthquake? Who would dare to go out and speak about this kind of event that could easily cause mass panic?
Gu Chang Ling led his children hurriedly back to their home. Just as they entered the inner courtyard, he was called by his daughter.
“Daddy.” Gu Ru Jiu pulled Gu Chang Ling’s sleeve, her gaze puzzled. “I once read in the ‘Record of Fantasies’ that when birds do not fly back to their nests, when mice flee in terror, when fish boil in the water, dogs bark and birds fly, it is a forewarning of the earth dragon turning. Today, I saw on the road…”
“Record of Fantasies…” Gu Chang Ling looked at his adorable daughter, his mind shocked. The “Record of Fantasies” did have such a description. Wasn’t what he saw today exactly the same as the description?
The “Record of Fantasies” was one of the books that the Gu Family had collected. The contents described many strange matters. The turning of the earth dragon was one of them.
He hurriedly found the “Record of Fantasies” and searched for the content regarding the earth dragon turning. Gu Chang Ling, who was usually happy, had a grim expression. If he knew of this matter and didn’t report it, no one would know. But if the earth really moved, he feared he would not be at peace for the rest of his life. But if he reported, causing panic among the people of Jing, and the earth did not move, then the Gu Family would be in dire straits.
Advance or retreat, this was an impossible dilemma. Gu Chang Ling gripped the yellowed book and stood motionlessly.
He turned and saw his young daughter standing behind the door. Her head poked out, revealing her white face. “Daddy, are you all right?”
Gu Chang Ling walked next to his daughter, and crouched down halfway to look at her from an equal height. His warm hand brushed the top of her head. “If a thing succeeds, it may rescue the people of the city, but if it fails, our entire family may be dragged in. What do you think should be done?”
There was no perfect solution for this matter, only reporting or not reporting. If he reported, the entire city would be alarmed. If he did not… he would watch as the entire city was possibly enveloped in disaster.
After saying all this, he saw his daughter with a puzzled expression and laughed. She was still a child. While she was the first to guess that the earth may move, she did not know how terrifying it would be.
“If you want to, then do it.” Yang shi had walked to the doorway at some time before. She looked with a smile at this man who had weathered storms with her for twenty years. “Even if you fail, it is just you and the children not being able to enter court as officials. Back then, the ancestors of the Gu Family were able to bring the entire family to prosperity when they had nothing. Our descendants will naturally be able to do this as well.”
Gu Chang Ling looked at his wife. Behind her were his sons and daughters-in-law. Clearly, they already knew what had happened.
“Father.” Gu Zhi Yu and Gu Cun Jing walked in front of Gu Chang Ling and bowed together. “The men of the Gu Family will hold the people as the most important.”
“Good, good, good.” Gu Chang Ling repeated, his expression proud. “With such sons, I will not worry for the prosperity of the Gu Family.”
“Uh-huh.” Gu Ru Jiu nodded as well. “Using a small minority to trade for the great majority, we profit.” She pulled Gu Chang Ling’s sleeve and shook it. “I believe that Daddy will not be mistaken.”
“Daughter, you trust your daddy this much?” Gu Chang Ling relaxed greatly after making the decision. He showed a big smile to Gu Ru Jiu. “Then wait at home for Daddy to return.”
After Gu Chang Ling went into the palace with the book, Yang shi became busy. She had the servants move the valuable items out of the storehouses, and then led the servants to the manor.
The people of Jing were puzzled to see such a great movement in the Gu Family. Were they moving their entire family to the suburbs?
The Chen, Hu, Yang, and Zhang families who had marital relations with the Gu Family received messages from the Gu Family. While they were doubtful, when they saw the Gu Family acting so solemnly, they had the attitude that it was better to be wrong than do nothing. They sent their important juniors with luggage to the Gu Family’s troop going out of the city.
The sky gradually darkened. The Gu Family and the juniors of their relatives sat in temporarily constructed huts and dazed out without any urge to sleep as they looked at the bright moon and stars.
Even more strangely, while the chickens and dogs had made noise during the day, there was no noise now. Not even the insects made noise. The silence was frightening.
Yang shi led the women to stay in one of the huts without any panic in her eyes.
“Mother, the emperor has already sent speedy messengers all over Jing about the possibility of the earth moving. The villages in the suburbs have started to prepare.” Gu Zhi Yu came out of the city covered in dust and his expression was worn out. “However, some aristocratic families have not moved. Rumours have spread in Jing about Father using frightening words to scare people.” Then he handed over a notice that the Bureau of Astronomy produced.
“Ignore the rumours.” Yang shi took a sip of tea. The tea was already cold, but in an environment like this, she could not care about this. “The Gu Family only wants a clear conscience.”
Gu Ru Jiu sat next to Yang shi and had no interest in chatting with the young misses of the relatives’ families. When she found no noise in the surroundings at all, she became more nervous. She prayed inside, hoping that the movement would not be so severe, the fault zone would not be too large, and the fatalities would be kept to a minimum.
When the other people were not paying attention, she looked over the notice her big brother handed over and felt that this notice was like a legend.
The notice’s general meaning was, the emperor dreamed of ancestors yesterday. The ancestors said, I see you are a good heir, so I came to your dream to tell you that something major will happen in Jing soon. You should prepare for it. When the emperor woke up, he felt very anxious. Coincidentally, the Bureau of Astronomy had been observing the night sky recently and found that Jing showed warning signs of the earth moving. At this time, the Count of Ningping also found that the restlessness of the chickens and dogs and the fish jumping out of water were early warning signs of the earth moving. So he notified everyone to be careful of the earth dragon turning soon, and to take preventative measures.
This notice had two main points. Firstly, even if the earth moved, it had nothing to do with the emperor. Otherwise, why would the ancestors enter the dream of the emperor and give an early warning? It could be seen the ancestors were protecting the emperor and the Feng Dynasty.
Secondly, those that feared death should not stay in buildings. The movement of earth was terrifying.
As for the Bureau of Astronomy and her daddy, they were just more weight to make the people believe that the earth would move.
After another four hours, there was still no movement. The Zhang Family’s juniors were all extremely sleepy. However, they could not sleep in such crude huts. So regardless of the slight discontent they felt, they did not dare to show any of their feelings.
Their family could only be considered the bottom of third-tier aristocratic families. Being able to have the eldest daughter of Count Gu marry in was already a step up for them. Who did not admire their family for teaching their son well to be able to marry a daughter of the Gu Family?
So in front of the Gu family members, they were extremely courteous, and tried to be polite and humble to avoid embarrassing the Zhang Family.
In the palace, Empress Dowager Zhou, Jin Yang, Gu Chang Ling and other important officials of court were sitting or standing on the empty plaza around the Bureau of Astronomy. In front of them was a copper seismograph. However, this seismograph did not move at all from start to finish.
Jin Yang insisted on believing Gu Chang Ling’s words, even under great pressure. He knew that this action was very risky and he may even offend some aristocratic families. But if the earth really moved and he did not act at all, then the situation would become even worse.
He did not want to become an emperor “punished by the heavens.”
Half of the night had passed and the seismograph had not moved. The important officials looked at Gu Chang Ling with worsening looks. Even Zhang Zhong Han spoke up. “Brother Shou Zhi, I think that this is a misunderstanding this time. It is almost five o’clock, and the emperor has just recovered from his illness. I fear that his health will be harmed by staying outside overnight. How about…” Before he finished speaking, he felt the earth under him move slightly.
“Clang, clang, clang.” On the seismograph, the copper beads held in the mouths of golden dragons and phoenixes fell into the copper basins.
Jin Yang suddenly stood up from his chair. At this time, the earth vibrated violently. If not for Bai Xian and Teacher Gu supporting him from behind, he would have almost fallen to the ground.
The entire world roared as though they had entered hell.
Translator Ramblings: I really like “earth dragon” as a term for an earthquake. Sounds so much more mystical.