It was late winter but Lin Yuan still wore a cotton coat as the weather had yet to warm. He sneezed and rubbed his hands together. Si Niang was on the side burning the charcoal, it would take awhile before the room warmed.
The price of charcoal was not cheap so Lin Yuan did not buy much. Once the last few pieces were burned then the only choice left was burning firewood.
Poor families even had to save on the burning of firewood.
There’s no help for it, the people going up the mountains to cut wood had decreased because if one was not careful one could come down with a cold very easily.
A fever in the winter, death would not be far along.
People would obviously choose their life over being comfortable.
Before winter ended, Lin Yuan practically never left the house. Even with a cotton coat it was still not warm enough. Walking outside in this weather, before long one would not be able to take it. Er Liang was in a similar situation as Lin Yuan. The north might also be cold but the south was wet and cold. No matter how much one wore the cold wet air still seeped in.
Lin Yuan hugged a tangpozi in his hands as he asked Er Liang: “Where are Si Niang and the others?”
Er Liang rubbed his hands: “Si Niang is kneading dough, we will have noodles tonight.”
No fresh vegetables, only some pickled vegetables.
Although there were greenhouses, but Wu City had none, the entire winter was only pickled vegetables.
Er Liang looked out the window, sighing: “Wonder where brother Chen is.”
This topic was something Lin Yuan never spoke about with Er Liang. The two words brother Chen was like taboo words.
That loyal and upright young man, perhaps had already lost his life. Only, Lin Yuan and Er Liang hoped he had survived instead.
“Young master.” Er Liang said, “brother Chen knows we will come here. If next year he still doesn’t show up we should set up a cenotaph.”
Lin Yuan did not refuse, nodding: “Alright.”
Winter for people like Lin Yuan who had modest wealth could be considered comfortable. He didn’t have to go out and could stay indoors curled up in the warmth. Every three days he visited the oil plant, every week he checked the accounts but normally he hibernated. But for the common people, it was a bitter experience. During this winter a lot of beggars froze to death on the streets. Most of the beggars had long term ailments or illness, living day by day. Once winter came very few could make it pass.
During the past few years the circumstances had not been good, even the city’s wealthy families no longer provided charity by setting up free porridge. The streets were empty and vendors also no longer showed up.
Lin Yuan also did not dare to go out in the streets. He might not be a good person but he did have sympathy. He was afraid that once he went out he would not be able to resist in bringing those people who were close to freezing to death back to his home.
But he currently had no money left, all of it used to hire people.
Er Liang didn’t dare to go out either. Last time he went to buy meat he came back crying.
Only Si Niang and Gou zi went out. These two fled here from famine back home and had seen all kinds of tragedies. They had already become numb.
But they still had lingering fears because they knew, if not for Lin Yuan they would be no different from the people who froze to death.
Gou zi was still young so Lin Yuan did not give him any heavy work. There’s actually not any heavy work to be done so Gou zi did some random chores such as sweeping the yard and watching the house.
Er Liang did all the delicate work such as taking care of Lin Yuan’s needs. He never slacked in his work, a habit raised while living with the Lin family.
His parents were family servants and had taught him from young to be diligent.
Er Liang still remembered his dad’s words: “You must be capable! Otherwise, old Liu’s son will take your place. That you are able to serve young master, it is your good fortune accumulated over many lifetimes!”
After serving at young master’s side, Er Liang finally understood his dad’s meaning.
Serving young master meant he didn’t need to farm or do hard manual labor. He could even learn to read and write.
Young master was also a good person and never hit or scolded the servants. He had a very good temperament.
Even now that he had followed young master in his travel away from their hometown, Er Liang did not need to worry about anything. Young master was too capable, could take care of everything. He just needed to stay at young master’s side and look after his needs.
Er Liang chatted with Gou zi.
“Gou zi, when you were on your way here, did a lot of people die?” Er Liang asked.
Gou zi chewed on a fried breadstick with an expression of contentment and says: “A lot. From starvation, their stomach bloated high but their arms and legs were like sticks. They said it was from being too hungry, only drinking water, drinking themselves to death.”
Er Liang was both surprised and scared: “Then how did you two survive?”
Gou zi swallowed the breadstick: “My mama had me eat the tree bark.”
Er Liang asked curiously: “Does tree bark taste good?”
Gou zi nodded: “It’s alright. I don’t know what kind of tree it was, it’s dry but still chewable. Taste better than dry tree bark.”
“There was also a kind of grass root.” Gou zi said excitedly, “I haven’t seen it before in my hometown, once you pull it up on the bottom of the roots there is a tumor (TN: that is the literal translation. I didn’t know there are tumors on grass roots??? Can someone explain???) which is also edible. Roasting it makes it soft but not much flavor.”
Er Liang listened seriously, but he knew that if he switched places with Gou zi he would have died long ago. He could not endure the hardship, so Er Liang pretended to be mature and patted Gou zi’s shoulder: “Gou zi, you don’t have it easy.”
Gou zi smiled: “It’s all in the past. Now I have food and drink, a bed to sleep and a cotton blanket! I have never used a cotton blanket before!”
Gou zi said quietly: “Young master also gave me eggs to eat. I haven’t eaten eggs this many times my whole life.”
Er Liang looked shocked: “You didn’t raise chickens in your old home?”
Gou zi: “We did but mama took them all to sell on market days. Then we can buy salt and other things home. How can we eat it ourselves.”
Gou zi said excitedly: “When I grow older and have children, it would be great if young master can give my son eggs to eat as well.”
Er Liang: “……” Young man, you might be getting a little ahead of yourself.
Gou zi rubbed his nose, chuckling: “My mama no longer have cold hands and feet. Mama says this is because we are eating well.”
Gou zi asked Er Liang: “Brother Er Liang, you have always served at young master’s side?”
Er Liang proudly puffed up his chest: “My parents are both Lin family servants, I followed young master when I was eight.”
Gou zi was a bit envious: “Then you must often eat eggs?”
Er Liang said: “Young master always had me eat with him, whatever young master eats I will also eat. Everyday there is meat to eat!”
Eat meat everyday, that was practically the life of gods and immortals. Gou zi was envious to the point he could only swallow profusely.
“Brother Er Liang, you have such a good life.” Gou zi said, “I must work harder, then young master will also give me meat to eat.”
Er Liang encouraged: “You can do it!”
Gou zi grinned at Er Liang.
Their chat was completely overheard by Lin Yuan who was sitting next to the window.
The ways of the world currently was worse than he had thought.
Then a few years later, when war broke out, what would the world turn into?
Right now he had only started establishing his property. Once the field was ready to harvest next year and the farmstead was built, he will have someone send a message to original owner’s family to have them come over. He had received original owner’s body, even if it was after original owner’s death, but he was still in debt to the original owner. Moreover, it was thanks to the original owner’s legal mother’s money that he was able to survive.
His consicence had yet to feed the dogs so he could not disregard original owner’s family.
Lin Yuan took a sip of tea, letting out a soundless sigh.
TN1: Not much happening in this chapter but it does foreshadow how the situation will worsen in Yuan dynasty China and Lin Yuan is forced to finally make a decision.
TN2: So I got my first review on NU! I was kind of surprised that they thought this is a dark and serious story. It is definitely serious with a lot of characters and world building and plot but I wouldn’t consider it dark. The MC is also pretty relatable even if he comes into his role of leader and eventually emperor. But isn’t it more satisfying this way where everything was bad before MC comes along and makes changes? Everyone must have had a hero dream before right? And this hero doesn’t need to self-sacrifice in order to save the world. It’s quite interesting reading about the backgrounds of side characters and how they have been victims of the times and how they face the ‘radical’ changes Lin Yuan brings.
But it’s true that this is not a fluffy brainless story. If not for its BL characteristics I think guys would enjoy reading it more than gals who are looking for some romantic fluff. There’s a lot of wars and empire building and world dominating going on here. Just curious, are there any guy readers of this story?
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