Of the two who came down with a fever, only one survived. They were both bachelors without any families and they didn’t even have proper names. The one who died his surname was Li and was the second child in his family. Everyone just called him Li Er (TN: er = 2, or second). Now that he passed away, his headstone could only be carved with Li Er. Although they were used to death, but a person near them just died so everyone still felt sorrow.
Li Er was only 17 years old. When fleeing he separated from his family and met brother Dao, following brother Dao from then on. He was honest and did not like to talk much. One of his front teeth was knocked out when fighting for food with others so from then on even smiling he did it mouth closed. His life’s dream was to eat fully, marry a wife and have a couple kids.
Brother Dao cried the most fiercely and sat in front of Li Er’s grave. “Little Er, currently I can’t buy any money to burn to you in the underworld, gege will owe you for now. Don’t be too quick in leaving for reincarnation, wait until gege burns some for you and you can use it to bribe yourself a better second life, be reborn in a wealthy family and be a young master. Everyday there will be white rice and meat to eat.”
Yang Zi’an stood on the side without saying anything. His whole person became gloomy after the trip, he knelt by brother Dao’s side: “Big brother, it’s my fault for not taking care of them.”
Brother Dao wiped a tear and spat at the ground: “Not your fault! It’s the fault of the damn heavens! The damned imperial court! How would it become like this if they would give the people a way out! Treating us like dogs and pigs! Even dogs and pigs have a bite to eat, we have nothing!”
Back then when the food for disaster relief was given out, it could not be considered food but sand mixed in with husks. Originally the husks were edible but mixed in with sand and rocks, some who had not filtered them out became ill after eating a few times. Besides, it was such a small amount, even if they filtered it clean they would still starve to death.
“Fourth brother is right!” Brother Dao stood up, face still tear-streaked, “we should overthrow those dogf**kers!”
“Big brother!” Yang Zi’an urged quickly, “speak cautiously!”
Brother Dao wiped at his face. Finally some reason returned and he didn’t say anymore.
The ones who died outside were buried on the spot by Yang Zi’an. Only a wooden tablet as a gravemarker, carved with their names.
They did not even have one good day. From birth they had been struggling for survival at the very bottom of society. Perhaps the happiest moments were when the whole family was together and they could taste some meat during the New Year’s.
Brother Dao sniffed hard, waving his hand at Yang Zi’an. “I want to talk some more with little Er.”
Yang Zi’an could only nod: “Big brother, don’t be too upset.”
Brother Dao: “I know.”
People die, but life must still continue. The new people all had their heads shaved, a lot even had their privates shaved. Now that the weather had warmed, washing did not require boiling the water first and could be used immediately.
These people were all unsettled and frightened. They had all been basically sold to the human traffickers who brought them along on their travels, making sells on the way. Nowadays, buyers have decreased and most of them only get one bean curd cake a day. And that was only when the human trafficker made a sell and was in a good mood.
They were all unwilling to run away becuase then they would not even get the one measly bean curd cake a day. At least with the human trafficker they could expect to eat a bean curd cake.
They traveled a long distance on just a bean curd cake a day so they were barely skin and bones.
Lin Yuan observe6s them and discovered they had already been ‘trained’ by their previous masters. They did not know how to make their own choices or even think on it. They did whatever the master told them to do, listening to the master when they were still serving at the master’s home and listening to the human trafficker when they were sold to the human trafficker.
Now that they were sold to Lin Yuan, they would obviously listen to Lin Yuan.
So long as there was a master, they would feel relieved and be at ease.
Yang Zi’an originally bought 100 people but now only 56 stood in front of Lin Yuan.
All men, Yang Zi’an did not dare buy women.
“Women and children, I dare not bring them back.” Yang Zi’an explained, “the road is too dangerous, they would not be able to survive even if I bought them.”
Lin Yuan understood and sighed: “It’s fine.”
But Yang Zi’an said: “Fourth brother, don’t feel guilty, as long as the city wall is built, the people living inside will have a better chance at survival. If we don’t go out to buy people we can only expect for the bandits to make a raid on us.”
Having experienced two bandit attacks, Yang Zi’an said sincerely: “In every situation there must be a choice made.”
Lin Yuan wiped a hand across his face.
In his heart, one side was clear that if they didn’t buy more people and add to the manpower, then the farmstead would not be able to maintain a positive cycle.
But the other side felt that those people died because of his orders, and he could have avoided that.
Enormous guilt and self-doubt suffocated him.
In the modern times, the biggest decision he made was whether a project should still be continued and assess how much a project should be invested in. The only thing on line was his own monthly bonus.
Now, every decision he made concerned human life. If he made a mistake then there would be human life to pay the price.
Lin Yuan finally knew that during wartimes, not everyone could be a general.
You must be cool-headed enough and your heart must be hard like steel in order to make the right decision.
Yang Zi’an looked at Lin Yuan with determination: “This issue, you are not in the wrong.”
Lin Yuan raised his head and looked at the sky. A tough grown guy like him could not break out into sobs. When he once again lowered his head from gazing at the sky, his eyes became cool and penetrating. He said to Yang Zi’an: “We must finish building a wall by next spring. Aside from farming everyone else will take part.”
Lin Yuan said: “I will have people forge the iron weapons.”
“I will think of a solution for coal.” Lin Yuan said, “I will think of a solution.”
Yang Zi’an patted Lin Yuan’s shoulder, finally revealing a slight smile: “Fourth brother, that’s right, anyone can fall now, only you cannot.”
Now in everyone’s heart Lin Yuan was their ‘boss’, not only representing the decision maker but even more so representing a stable life. Once ‘boss’ fell, they would be fearful, would panic. When there was panic and unsettlement disaster would follow.
Lin Yuan: “I know.”
In the following days, Yang Zi’an lead people in digging kilns and finding the proper clay to make bricks all over the mountain, even camping out in the wild.
Lin Yuan lead people into the mountains to differentiate the different types of trees, experimenting with which ones were the best to burn into charcoal at the right temperature——without a thermometer Lin Yuan could only use the back of his hand to test the temperature, leaving behind burn marks.
If only they could find a coal mine, but they didn’t have the manpower to dig all over the mountain in search of a coal mine.
Compared to Yang Zi’an and Lin Yuan, the hunting team had a better result. They recently caught several bamboo mice. Because they could gnaw on wood and make holes they could only be placed in cages.
They were mostly quiet and ate everything, like pigs.
By autumn, most of the bamboo mice were carrying young. Once the second generation grew bigger then the farmstead could have meat more often.
They also caught a few rabbits, in total 5, but were all pitifully skinny. They just ate it the day of the catch.
Now, the meat they could taste everyday was from fish soup. A lot of people soaked their mixed grain buns in the soup and ate it like that and was considered rather delicious.
Guo’er, Lin Yuan’s only sister now ran around with Er Liang and Gou zi everyday. Because she was quite young so when the pain of losing her two older sisters passed she returned back to the usual liveliness of young children.
Old father Lin complained a bit but it was all rebutted by Yang shi.
Yang shi said: “I don’t expect her to be a wealthy and educated proper lady in the future. I only hope for her to grow up safely. The world as it is, that she can run and jump will be her source of survival.”
Old father Lin could not win against his wife in a debate and any complaints were useless so he didn’t say anymore.
Guo’er was a yellow haired girl. While still in the womb she had not been nourished well, her hair yellowed, arms and legs thin. Er Liang and Gou zi dared not bring her to catch fish in the pond so they brought her along to the woods to gather berries alongside the hunting team. They were not stupid and knew to follow the grownups and knew not to go to a place where the grownups could not see them.
When there were more people the wild beasts also dared not show up.
Guo’er carried a small braided basket filled with deep red berries. Each one the size of a small pearl but very sweet. In the farmstead there was no sugar so this bit of sweetness was enough to satisfy her.
“Er Liang, Gou zi, eat.” Guo’er lifted the basket closer to them. She was freckled, her skin tone yellow but she had a rather infectious smile, “it’s very sweet, you guys eat some.”
Although Er Liang had always been serving at Lin Yuan’s side but he had interacted with Guo er before back in the old Lin family home. The three young ladies were just like young master, all kind hearted people. Finding out the second young lady and the third young lady passed prematurely, Er Liang had sobbed terribly.
“I thank fourth young lady’s reward.” Er Liang knelt deferentially.
Guo’er said: “Get up quickly, don’t kneel to me, I won’t allow you to kneel.”
Er Liang stood and took some berries to eat, smiling at Guo’er: “Sweet, the ones picked by fourth lady are all sweet.”
Saying so he shoved at Gou zi.
Gou zi had originally wanted to kneel but had been stopped by Guo’er, she said: “You don’t kneel either, or else I’ll tell big brother.”
Gou zi looked towards Er Liang at a loss.
Er Liang: “Gou zi, listen to the fourth young lady.”
Gou zi stood up and Guo’er gave him a handful of berries.
Guo’er said: “It’s truly sweet.”
“I must bring some more for gege!”
She was extremely excited, staying in the woods the whole day. If not for the hunting team leaving she would continue to stay.
When Lin Yuan saw the berries he was also happy. It was indeed sweet with a lot of sugar. The only downside was that it was too small. He asked Guo’er: “Are there still more of these berries?”
Guo’er nodded: “A lot! It’s all over the mountain, only there are thorns on the vines, you must be careful when picking.”
Lin Yuan planned to first use the berries brought back by Guo’er and see if he could make sugar from them.
If possible, he would have the women join the hunting team to pick berries as they didn’t need to sew at this time.
Sweet things, at times could comfort one’s heart.
TN: You can see Li Yuan showing signs of change in this chapter as he realizes what it means to be a leader when he had just been a regular guy. His character development over the story is gradual and really satisfying to read. Kudos to the author.
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