A thing like vine armors, their manufacture took a long time. But the materials required to make it were easily available. Lin Yuan did not have 2-3 years to make vine armors——by that time the dishes would already be cold (TN: expression for it being too late). He could only explore and experiment on a method that would not only take less time but also have sturdy results.
Tung oil and wild vines were easy to find, they were in the south after all. Originally vine armor had been the invention of some ethnic groups in the southwestern region.
But their weakness was revealed in Romance of the Three Kingdoms written by Luo Guanzhong in which Zhu Geliang used a fire attack scheme to break through its defense.
Right now Luo Guanzhong should still be in Hangzhou and had yet to write his famous novel. So the method for dealing with vine armor soldiers not many should know——bandits were all made up of uneducated people so using vine armors against them should be enough.
Thinking of this, Lin Yuan wanted to meet Luo Guanzhong. Luo Guanzhong had been an advisor of Zhang Shicheng and it was his advice that had them win against Zhu Yuanzhang in a battle. It was a pity Zhang Shicheng was an idiot, causing all of his advisors and aids to leave in disappointment.
In truth, rather than discribe Luo Guanzhong as a literary scholar he was actually a military expert, only no one remembered since his accomplishment in literary was so big.
If possible, Lin Yuan truly did want to meet the man and have a chat so that it would do justice to the many times he read the Romance of Three Kingdoms and himself as an ardent fan.
Even the dramas and movies he had watched numerous times.
The vine armors were woven by the women. After being soaked in tung oil it was dried and then soaked again in tung oil, and then dried and soaked again. Finally it was dried with a low fire with someone constantly watching the fire.
Lin Yuan used a hoe to try its sturdiness. Although it had not reached the level of being completely immune to sharp objects, but it was indeed a layer of protection. With a hit from a hoe a few vines broke but no harm reached the bamboo mouse underneath——a few were smashed to death but their bodies show no wounds.
This was enough after all bandits used knives unlike hoes which were heavier.
The vine helmets were also usable and very light.
Yang Zi’an put on the armor and helmet and had Lin Yuan use a knife left behind by brother Dao to slash at him with.
Lin Yuan’s strength could not be considered small so while the knife was not too sharp it still left a few scratches on the vine armor.
Yang Zi’an examined it and smiled: “It’s enough.”
Lin Yuan put away the small knife: “In total 50 are made.”
Yang Zi’an: “Enough to spare.”
“I will bring 20 people with me.” Yang Zi’an said, “you must stay in the farmstead otherwise the hearts of the people will not be at ease.”
Lin Yuan: “But there aren’t many weapons left.”
Last time brother Dao and the others left they took almost half with them.
Yang Zi’an: “I am no fool, I won’t pick large numbers to attack, only the small groups. Nowadays even bandits can not eat fully, in a competition of strength and endurance they are not our opponents.”
Lin Yuan: “Then I will wait for second brother to return victorious.”
Yang Zi’an smiled at Lin Yuan: “I won’t have fourth brother disappointed.”
When Yang Zi’an left with the men, Lin Yuan became dejected. He discovered he had nothing to do, everyday it was just to supervise the farmstead people at work.
Just when Lin Yuan thought his life’s motive was just to eat well drink well and wait for brother Dao and Yang Zi’an to return, the heavens sent him a big present——a white bearded old man, Chen Half-Immortal.
Chen Half-Immortal arrived in rags but he still put up the mysterious front he used when swindling. Behind him followed his fellow co-workers. This group of daoists had escaped when Wu City fell and went to seek a living in other nearby cities. Everyday relying on fortune telling and lying to make a living. Later, refugees began to show up at the city they were at and seeing so they once again made a getaway.
But Chen Half-Immortal had a good memory and remembered that brother Dao said his brother had a farmstead not far from Wu City. The group of old daoists gathered together and decided, this one, let’s go.
They practically wandered through all of the surroundings near Wu City. If they saw a farmstead that was still running they would go inside and carry out their swindling. Sometimes they would recieve some food and other times they would be directly thrown out. In the end they actually found themselves to Lin Yuan’s farmstead.
At this time the wall was already nearly half finished and even had a watchtower. The person on duty saw several old men walk over and had at first thought himself to be seeing things and reported it to Lin Yuan.
At such turbulent times, they were actually lugging along wooden cases filled with their fortune telling instruments and other things and maintaining an air of masters of daoism despite their ragged and shabby appearance.
When Lin Yuan saw them he couldn’t help feeling a smidge of admiration.
Chen Half-Immortal sat in his chair and spouted endless flattery: “Young master Lin is just like when I first saw you with a broad forehead, just your appearance convey fortune and auspiciousness. I said it that time, young master Lin would definitely achieve big accomplishments.”
Lin Yuan: “……” You clearly did not say such things.
Chen Half-Immortal took a handful of fried beans put out on the table to chew on with a rather carefree and familiar attitude: “Looking at young master Lin’s fortune…..”
Lin Yuan quickly interrupted: “Stop, Half-Immortal let’s not talk about empty things. You can remain here but you must work.”
Chen Half-Immortal nodded his head and replied deadly earnest: “But of course, the group of us with just our fingers can calculate……”
Lin Yuan: “……I meant physical labor.”
Chen Half-Immortal pointed at his nose with a finger: “Farming?”
Lin Yuan was about to nod when Chen Half-Immortal said: “Young master Lin, you don’t know, anyone can farm the fields but not anyone can fourtune tell. Let’s talk about the Book of Changes (TN: an ancient Chinese divination text and among the oldest of the Chinese classics) for example, can just anyone read it? Can just anyone read and understand it?”
Lin Yuan: “No fortune telling. Do you have any other abilities?”
Chen Half-Immortal said quickly: “I can concoct pills. If you require I can even have a 70 year old man return to the height of his prime.”
So you mean aphrodisiacs?
Chen Half-Immortal: “Definitely no negative side effects.”
Lin Yuan could only feel admiration, it seemed talents could be found everywhere.
Wait a second!
Lin Yuan suddenly realized something. He stared fixatedly at Chen Half-Immortal causing the old man to blush. Clearing his throat, Chen Half-Immortal said: “Young master Lin, although I have a handsome appearance……”
Lin Yuan: “Half-Immortal, when you are concocting pills have you ever exploded your furnace?”
Chen Half-Immortal’s eyes flickered, touching his beard he says seriously: “I am the 81st generation successor of Daoism, how could I possibly commit such mistakes?”
Lin Yuan slapped the table: “Tell the truth!”
Chen Half-Immortal immediately replied: “I exploded!”
Lin Yuan smiled and grabbed Chen Half-Immortal’s hand with a warm and ardent expression: “Do you still remember the steps to blow up the furnace?”
Chen Half-Immortal: “…….” Does this young master have special interests?
Why so interested in explosions?
In actuality, there was already gunpowder, except the formulation was still not perfected. And the ones who had access to its formulation was only a small group of people.
The flintlock was invented during the Ming dynasty but unfortunately its power was not enough and depended on distance.
In Lin Yuan’s tentative plan, if they could create grenades——a simple version was also fine, with iron or metal balls added inside, once it exploded the powerful force would propel the the tiny metal balls in all directions like bullets. The armors of now could not hold up against such force.
Although the scope of damage would not be too wide but it was still a considerably destructive weapon.
“You can just focus on experimenting and finding the method for exploding the furnace.” Lin Yuan looked at Chen Half-Immortal and saw a treasure chest. This was an old man treasure chest, so he promised, “the duration before you find it I will still have food provided with a dish of meat every week. If you can find the method then not only can you eat your fill but also meat everyday.”
Scientific talents, he must put down huge money.
“Are you serious?” Chen Half-Immortal asked stupefied.
Lin Yuan guaranteed: “If I lie let me be struck with lightning by the heavens.”
Chen Half-Immortal looked at Lin Yuan and privately thought, could this be a fool?
But Lin Yuan also warned: “Keep it small scale so as not to hurt anyone.”
“Your safety is very important.”
Chen Half-Immortal: “The people I brought with me…….”
Lin Yuan: “Excellent, do they also know how to explode furnaces?”
Chen Half-Immorta: “…….”
How should he reply to this question?
If he said yes, it would be undermining their pill concocting abilities, but if he said no he was afraid Lin Yuan would not let them stay.
Chen Half-Immortal could only tighten his scalp and say: “They all do.”
Those who concoct pills, who hadn’t exploded a furnace or two?
There were even casualties, so the practice of concocting pills was not common among the people. But the daoists in the imperial palace had impressive pill concocting skills.
Chen Half-Immortal even thought, if not for his lack of a influential sect, with his skills he could even concoct pills for the emperor.
Lin Yuan: “Then we are agreed!”
Afterwards, Chen Half-Immortal rested for the night and when he woke up he found everything had changed. New clothes were left at the side of the bed and someone even came to lead him to the dining hall. Although it was just rice porridge mixed in with husks, but it was already extremely good in these times. There were also two mixed grain buns and pickled vegetables. After eating and drinking fully Chen Half-Immortal was lead to a room already furnished with a furnace.
The person who lead him there had a very good attitude: “Half-Immortal, Boss said, there is enough charcoal and even some saltpeter (potassium nitrate). Anything else you need you must come up with a solution yourself.”
Chen Half-Immortal was shocked by Lin Yuan’s extensive preparations but he still held up his air of mystery, with his fingers he calculated and said: “I have calculated, today is a good day to use the furnace.”
The man smiled: “What Half-Immortal says is right.”
When the man left, Chen Half-Immortal sat and looked at his old mates as they lug their cases in with content expressions on their faces.
“Ai, old Chen, you have the big capability after all. Taking only a day to become an honored guest.”
“Even getting a furnance, say, what are we concocting today? I have all the zhuang yang recipes with me (TN: pill recipes for boosting the male sex drive lol).”
Chen Half-Immortal sighed.
Everyone: “What’s wrong? Is there a problem? Should we……make our escape?”
Chen Half-Immortal waved his hand: “It’s not trouble.”
Everyone let out a relieved sigh.
Chen Half-Immortal said with a pained expression: “Boss said, he wants us to find a recipe that will explode the furnace.”
“……Boss, does he want to let out fireworks?”
Chen Half-Immortal rubbed his chin: “I feel that we got ourselves into serious business. Looking at Boss, I am afraid it will not be for fireworks.”
Everyone exchanged looks.
Chen Half-Immortal: “Sometimes furnaces exploding can cause death.”
Everyone finally understood.
Chen Half-Immortal: “Shall we…..do it?”
“Will it harm the natural order of things?”
“Yes, we are all people with conscience.”
“We cannot offend the heavens and reason.”
Chen Half-Immortal sighed again: “I also said the same thing, but Boss said, if we succeed then we can eat our fill everyday, everyday there will be meat.”
Everyone: “Let’s do it!”
So, these half-immortals began their vigorous journey on inventing gunpowder. Luckily, the cases they lugged along with them already had materials for pill concocting, so for now Lin Yuan did not need to worry about the lack of materials.
“Ai, this thing of exploding furnaces, normally when you don’t want it to explode it explodes faster than anything. But now that we want it to explode, it just refuses to do so.”
“That’s right. I already concocted several batches, but none exploded.”
They were sighing on this side and on the other side Chen Half-Immortal listened with his eye twitching. If a fellow co-worker (TN: another daoist who is not part of their group) heard this who knew what kind of expression they would show.
Lin Yuan also knew not to rush so he didn’t go and hurry them along. The new arrivals were still adapting to their surroundings. Unlike the people from earlier, their alertness was much stronger. He heard that these people didn’t talk much, they wrre diligent enough but they still had anxious looks on their faces.
Er Liang carried in a bowl of dough drop soup with pieces of meat and vegetables. It smelled quite savory.
Er Liang saw Lin Yuan sitting there with a troubled look and asked: “What’s wrong, young master? Do you have troubles?”
Lin Yuan did not have an appetite and pushed the bowl away: “Er Liang, you eat it.”
Er Liang thought it strange and asked: “Young master you only had two buns today.”
Lin Yuan sighed, and asked Er Liang: “How are the people in the farmstead today?”
Er Liang felt even stranger: “Like always. The weather is becoming colder, all are staying inside the dormitories right after work is finished.”
In order to keep warm, almost everyone in the dorms were sleeping in pairs.
Yun Niu and her young lady lay in the same bed. The single sized bed was rather cramped but the blankets were clean and Yun Niu buried her head in it and took a deep whiff. She said to her young lady: “Young lady, it is cotton!”
“Don’t call me young lady anymore.” The woman rubbed Yun Niu’s head, “call me Qiu Niang.”
Yun Niu said sincerely: “The young lady is the young lady!”
Qiu Niang smiled at her and did not say anymore.
It had been a long time since Qiu Niang slept in a bed. After fleeing they lived like vagrants and after being…..by men with evil intentions, it was Yun Niu that encouraged her to live on. Everyday Yun Niu carried her on her back. All the time her body had pieces of grass and dirt, bugs and lice.
Her lower abdomen constantly hurt and the lochia had yet to finish.
“Team leader said, there will be buns tomorrow.” Yun Niu lickex her lips, “I can eat three.”
A dormmate laughed: “There are buns everyday, not just tomorrow.”
“You came from the outside, what’s it like right now? I came here early, I don’t even know what’s going on outside.” They were all brought along by their families when Lin Yuan bought them. After arriving they worked from sun up to sun down, their lives very simple. Their ages were also not very old, the oldest being only 16, the youngest 8. In their eyes, there were no longer cities but just the ‘inside’ of the farmstead and the ‘outside’ of the farmstead.
Yun Niu was rather talkative, saying from her nest on the bed: “The outside is very bad! When we fled our hometown, we saw so many others also fleeing. At first we went to the nearby city, it was crowded with people. Sometimes kind wealthy people came and provided porridge but later they stopped.”
“The imperial court does not care for us either.” Yun Niu thought of that time and could not restrain a shudder, “last winter a lot of people died.”
“If someone died then another person would take off their clothes and wear it themselves.”
The girls asked: “Then how did you survive?”
Yun Niu thought a bit and said carefully: “I found a man, he has a couple of brothers, he gave me some food and I survived.”
The girls sighed: “What happened to the man?”
Yun Niu said: “In early spring he was beaten to death when fighting for food.”
Not dying when it was the most barren in winter but dying when there was food to eat in the spring.
Yun Niu: “What about you all? What was it like when you came here?”
The girls chattered their stories.
“My family are farmers, when the landowner fled we had no place to go so with my parents we fled too. Seeing that we could barely live on, my dad decided to sell the entire family to Boss.”
“Boss is a good person, he only takes 50% of the harvest!”
“Our old landowner took 80%!”
Lin Yuan made time to see Qiu Niang. One reason he took her in was because he could not bear seeing someone dying in front of him and another was because she was a ‘young lady’. Normally, to be referred as such they must come from slightly wealthy families. And these families would educate their daughters, particularly in balancing accounts and number calculations.
Nowadays, people were concerned with marrying only within their social status. When a woman married she must manage the family’s accounts, social connections and relations. Especially in the landowning class, a female head must manage quite a lot.
They might not have read the Four Books and the Five Classics and did not read the works of sages but their ability to do the accounts was quite good. Some were even better than the bookkeepers.
Nowadays, not many knew how to calculate using the abacus let alone accounting.
It was time for Lin Yuan to find some people who could manage things.
He himself didn’t know how to bookkeep, it was all done by Yang shi. But Yang shi was also not too experienced——in the old Lin family home she did not bother with the family’s accounts, it was all done by the head steward. Unfortunately, he was separated from them on the way here.
It would be great if this young lady knew how to bookkeep, not a big deal if she didn’t. She could hold a literacy class if she was literate.
In any case, cultured people in this era was of the very few, every one of them was important.
Qiu Niang did not have much expression when she heard that Boss wanted to see her.
She didn’t know why Boss would take in a cripple. Although everyone here said Boss was a good person but Qiu Niang was still not completely at ease.
She couldn’t do anything, if she just ate she would be a burden.
“Boss.” Qiu Niang was carried to the chair. Her physique skinny and malnourished, skin yellowed and with freckles, completely not looking like a girl in her best years.
She tucked in her neck and dared not look at Lin Yuan directly, only lowering her head and looking at the table.
Lin Yuan in truth did not know how to interact with the women of this era, especially educated women. He sat in front of Qiu Niang and asked softly: “This young lady…..”
Qiu Niang said in a small voice: “Boss, you can just call me Qiu Niang.”
Lin Yuan: “Hai, Qiu Niang, are you literate?”
Qiu Niang nodded: “I am slightly learned in the four arts (TN: zither, Go, calligraphy, painting).”
This was actually an all around talent.
Lin Yuan was even more satisfied: “Do you know how to bookkeep?”
Qiu Niang lifted her head in curiosity and saw a young man with a pair of upward tilting red phoenix eyes, lips naturally curved in a smile, hair black like ink and dressed in cotton clothes. It was the appearance of a wealthy gongzi but his expression was gentle and eyes even more so and this had her lowering her guards.
“I am slightly knowledgeable.” From a young age Qiu Niang had learned female work and managing a family. The four arts were just additional talents. When she said a little bit she was not being humble, only the part on bookkeeping had she been too humble.
Everyone said an unlearned women was virtuous so women were only educated to the point they could recognize and write words.
The ones truly educated like men were daughters in affluent and noble families or scholarly families.
And their education was all received from their mothers. Female teachers were very rare.
“Qiu Niang.” Lin Yuan said,”take care and recuperate your health, when you are better come and bookkeep for me.”
Qiu Niang surprised: “Bookkeep?”
From then to now, what women did bookkeeping? It was the work of men.
Lin Yuan said perceptually: “Who says women are inferior to men?”
Qiu Niang paused, not knowing what to say. Her expression when looking at Lin Yuan was that of one looking at an alien.
Lin Yuan rubbed his nose and realized this was not the right time to make perceptual remarks and said in a different way: “Currently, no one knows how to bookkeep in the farmstead, so I can only have you fill the position for now.”
Only then Qiu Niang replied with ease: “Boss has asked of me, I will of course be willing.”
That night when Er Liang served Lin Yuan in washing up he discovered Lin Yuan was humming a song.
Er Liang carried a basin of water over and asked curiously: “Young master, what are you singing?”
Lin Yuan smiled: “A song.”
Er Liang: “Young master, you also know this as well?”
Lin Yuan: “Come, I’ll sing for you.”
“Big brother Liu says, the reason is too prejudiced, who says women only enjoy leisure and idle…..” (TN: from a Henan opera on Hua Mulan)
Er Liang: “…….”
Lin Yuan finished his tune and smiled pleased with hinself: “What do you think, not bad?”
He only knew this song, the only song he remembered all the lyrics for and learned it when he was young and saw it on TV.
Er Liang: “The lyrics……”
Lin Yuan: “Is about Hua Mulan.”
Er Liang let out an ‘oh’ in sudden realization: “So it’s about General Hua.”
The story of Hua Mulan had long been well known and could be considered a popular tale spread among the people.
Er Liang said against his conscience: “Young master sings very good.”
Lin Yuan: “I’m just so-so.”
Er Liang: “……..” Young master seemed to have taken his words seriously, it was just a perfunctory praise.
Er Liang copied Lin Yuan and sang a few phrases.
Lin Yuan looked at Er Liang with bulging eyes, scaring Er Liang.
Er Liang asked carefully: “Young master, is something wrong?”
Lin Yuan patted his shoulder and sighed: “The country has talents all over, Er Liang, I didn’t expect you to have such a good voice!”
Er Liang was praised and was quite happy: “Really? Young master, teach me another line.”
So Er Liang learned the whole song and sang to Gou zi the whole night causing Gou zi’s dreams to be filled with the song, his whole person feeling not right after waking.
Very soon, Lin Yuan discovered that the women in the farmstead had all learned the song and would hum it unconsciously, even singing it together during work. After hearing it so many days Lin Yuan was already feeling rather numb.
So he taught Er Liang another song, ‘The Exoneration of Su San’ (TN: from a peking opera also known as Su San left Hongtong County from one of the lines in the song).
The result was that now he repeatedly heard: “Su San left Hongtong county…..”
Fine, with two songs taking turns it was better than just having one repeated over and over.
Yang Zi’an came back much earlier than brother Dao and Zhu Yuangzhang’s party. When he left it was just some men and a few hoes but when he returned it was with a crudely made wooden cart that was almost falling apart by the time they arrived at the farmstead.
Not only that, Yang Zi’an took 20 men with him but he returned with 40, the other 20 were all tied up.
But Lin Yuan saw them and knew that even if they weren’t tied they wouldn’t run far either way with them so skinny and weak.
Only one waas rather sturdy but only in comparison with the others. Just in terms of physique he could not even compare to Lin Yuan who didn’t exercise often.
Yang Zi’an had a smile on his face as he jumped down from the back of a donkey: “I went through the surrounding areas and only found this group of people.”
Lin Yuan: “They set up camp nearby?”
The sturdiest looking man said: “We just got lost!”
“Who would come to this desolate place to set up camp!”
“Taking advantage of us sleeping to steal our things!”
On the side one of the farmstead men said: “We call that rob…..no! That is called strategy!”
The tied up men said indignantly: “Strategy my butt! You just took advantage of us sleeping and knocked us out!”
Yang Zi’an coughed and said to Lin Yuan: “They have knives, long blades.”
Lin Yuan looked at them and asked calmly: “How did you come by these things?”
The sturdiest man let out a huff: “You ask and I’ll tell you? What do you take me for?”
Lin Yuan took out a large blade from the cart.
The sturdy man immediately changed his tone: “We stole it!”
Lin Yuan: “Where did you steal it from?”
The man: “When escaping we robbed the several blacksmith shops in the city.”
Lin Yuan: “…….” How should he assess such actions?
The man saw that Lin Yuan was not coming to cut him up so he looked around him. Just now he had not the attention to truly examine but now he realized that there were actually farm fields here, and strange box like buildings.
“This is my first time seeing such a large coffin!” The man was shocked into a daze by the dormitories.
His underlings also had their attention taken: “How big must the person be to fit this kind of coffin?”
Lin Yuan: “Let’s not talk it out for now, first take them and lock them up for a few days without food.”
They must find out what things they had done before.
In these times, bandits who had not killed were too little.
The result however, had Lin Yuan’s eyeballs falling out.
Originally, these men had been porters who went to cities to make money which they then sent back to their wives and children.
The leader was called Zhao Wuliu. Seeing the situation not right he gathered the porters he had good relations with to go rob a blacksmith shop and took a bunch of blades and knives along their escape from the city and returned to their hometown.
What they found however, was a hometown in complete disorder with no sight of their families. They could only wander like vagrants.
Although they had weapons they didn’t have it in them to kill and rob. They could only wander around and see if there were any advantages they could take.
The result however, was that they got lost on their wanderings and were knocked out by Yang Zi’an and the others and finally brought to the farmstead.
Zhao Wuliu complained inside the shack they were locked up in: “They lock us up with not even a bite of food. Dragging us here over such a long distance and yet not even feeding a single bean curd cake! They even stole our things!”
“Boss, we should fight back!”
Zhao Wuliu glared at him: “Whad’ya sayin’! Be quieter! Didn’t ya see their farm fields, there’s food here!”
The underlings didn’t understand: “Boss, whad’ya mean? How come I don’t get it?”
Zhao Wuliu: “Ai, lemme tell ya, I see that it’s not bad here. If we can stay then we’ll not be hungry anymore.”
The underlings all let out oh’s in sudden realization: “Boss, good thing you’re the smart one.”
Zhao Wuliu was also pleased with himself: “True that.”
So when Lin Yuan went to see them, he discovered every one of them as obedient and submissive as could be. As expected, different people had different wisdom. These former porters, their wisdom was to find a good employer, so long as they ate fully it was enough.
If they were indeed murderous bandits, they would likely be currently thinking of how to have Lin Yuan killed and then take over the farmstead.
“Boss!” Zhao Wuliu was extremely enthusiastic, “we have all thought it over, if you let us eat our fill then we’ll work for you.”
“We don’t want those blades anymore either.” Zhao Wuliu said lowly, “besides we haven’t used them anyway.”
The blades had only been used to cut up firewood or scare away wild animals.
Lin Yuan ws still not completely convinced: “Stay for a few more days.”
Zhao Wuliu immediately threw himself forward and hugged Lin Yuan’s leg: “Boss! Show some kindness! At least give us some food! We have not eaten for several days!”
Lin Yuan suddenly realized, he had said to starve them a few days but he didn’t specify how many. It had already been 3 days and this group of people had just relied on water to make it through. That they still had the strength to hug his leg was already not easy.
So Lin Yuan said to someone outside: “Make some porridge and bring some over.”
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