The low roar of wild animals came from the woods, the evening wind blew past, shaking the tree leaves and causing the sound of “shasha” to be heard. The moonlight was not too bright, half covered by dark clouds, so Yang Zi’an could only lead the others to light a fire on a flat ground, resting for one night before continuing on the road.
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When he left the farmstead, he only took two people with him, but when he returned, he took nearly fifty with him.
It all started with finding Zhang Shicheng.
However, he wasn’t called Zhang Shicheng, but Zhang Jiusi. Because the name was wrong, Yang Zi’an only found him after looking for a long time.
Zhang Jiusi also had three younger brothers, Zhang Jiuwu, Zhang Jiuliu, Zhang Jiuqi, and some good brothers, who were all bringing their family along. In this way Yang Zi’an took a longer time than he expected.
They all relied on shipping salt for a living. Zhang Shicheng smuggled salt and sold it in order to subsidize his family. Some wealthy households didn’t want to pay, so they threatened to report him to the court for illegally selling official salt, and even beating and scolding him. In addition to this, there was also a salt supervisor named Qiu Yi in the salt mine. Not only did he deduct the salaries of the salt workers, but the salt workers must also pay tribute to him every month. Any omission was bound to result in being beaten and scolded.
Since ancient times, there were large discrepancies between different ranks of officials, not to mention Zhang Shicheng and the others were not even officials at all. The common people could only take the beating and scolding, swallowing down any anger or grievances, and continue to live their hard lives.
“Eat something, we had traveled the whole day.” Yang Zi’an had someone to take the dry food from the ox cart.
Lin Yuan had people prepare these dry foods for him. They were all dried cakes and dried meat. Find a pot, put some water add some salt and boil it all together. Nowadays, this was a warm and satisfying meal.
The people sitting on the ground took their bowls and waited, while some who couldn’t wait, began to eat the dry bread first.
Zhang Jiusi was a little ashamed. After all, these people were brought by him. He also wanted to hunt these few days. However, they would not stay in one place for too long so it was useless to arrange traps. There was simply no time to hunt. He sat next to Yang Zi’an, appearing a little hesitant and asked, “Your Boss, really said that we met before?”
But he didn’t remember someone named Lin Yuan at all.
Yang Zi’an: “My fourth brother said that he had met you briefly many years ago. He is a kind-hearted person and can’t bear to see anyone suffer. He might have only met with you a few times, or said a few words to you so it’s normal not to remember.”
Zhang Jiusi touched the back of his head, and he truly felt that Yang Zi’an had found the wrong person. After all, he was looking for Zhang Shicheng at the beginning. Zhang Jiusi had also heard of Yang Zi’an’s name back in Xinghua, known to be generous with money and was a foreigner. He came all the way to find someone who was just an ordinary salt man, saying that he hadn’t seen that person for many years. So Zhang Jiusi had discussed with his three younger brothers at home and decided to try his luck.
He didn’t know why but when Yang Zi’an heard that he had three younger brothers, and his family made a living by boating salt, he immediately insisted that he was the person he was looking for.
Zhang Jiusi originally just wanted to eat a full meal——after all, every time someone came, Yang Zi’an would at least let them eat a meal.
Many people pretended to be the one just for the meal, although they also knew that their pretending could not be successful.
But Zhang Jiusi succeeded. Not only did he succeed, Yang Zi’an wanted to take him away.
According to Yang Zi’an’s words, they will eat three meals a day, and this alone made Zhang Jiusi a little swayed.
He transported salt every day, but the wages he gets were pitiful. Together, the four brothers were just enough to feed themselves. But sometimes they also had to help out friends, so their situation was extremely poor, not to mention often being beaten and humiliated by the salt supervisors. They don’t even have money to buy medicine to treat the wounds left by the beatings. So, going to a place where they can eat three meals a day without being beaten or scolded, as well as providing accommodation, they could hardly even imagine it.
But when he thought about the brothers who he had good relationships were still suffering once he had left with his younger brothers, Zhang Jiusi tentatively asked Yang Zi’an’s decision.
Yang Zi’an was told by Lin Yuan before, and he nodded in agreement without asking more.
Although Zhang Jiusi still had some worries, Yang Zi’an’s promise was too good. Even if he wanted to refuse he wouldn’t know how to open his mouth.
Before he was given a chance to change his mind, Yang Zi’an took them away from Xinghua.
Horses can’t be bought. No one in Xinghua sells it. Instead Yang Zi’an bought a few donkey carts. The old people and children sit on the carts, while the young people walk on their own legs. But no one complained.
Zhang Jiusi was now beginning to fear again, what if he was found out that he was not the person they were looking for?
Haven’t seen each other for so many years, maybe he can’t recognize it?
He was conflicted all the way. For a while, he felt that he shouldn’t be so greedy, but then he would also secretly think that maybe he would not be discovered as a fake.
Yang Zi’an was not afraid that they would rob him. The main reason was that except for the dry food and these donkey carts, the money on hin was basically all spent. These people were not desperate criminals who would commit something like robbing and killing.
When he arrived under the city wall of the farmstead, Yang Zi’an finally breathed a sigh of relief. It had been nearly half a year since he left the farmstead, and he didn’t know the current situation back at the farmstead.
The time he spent in Xinghua was too long, but the length of this time was not something he could do anything about.
Zhang Jiusi and the others had stunned looks. They didn’t expect that there would be such a place in the wilderness, practically like a paradise.
The people on the observation platform couldn’t see Yang Zi’an’s face. They only knew that these people weren’t from the farmstead. They were about to sound the horn, but Yang Zi’an shouted, “I’m your second brother Yang. I’ve brought people back. Go tell my fourth brother!”
The person was taken aback for a moment, and then called: “Then you wait first!”
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Lin Yuan was teasing a little baby at this time. He had always liked children. Now as long as he came to tease the children for awhile when he was in a bad mood or irritated, his whole person’s mood would become much better. Little babies have a pair of eyes with the black distinct from the white, and compared with adults who have more murky eyes, the eyes of children were very clear and bright.
At this time, Lin Yuan was being pulled at by the baby’s fingers, and the baby was laughing with her mouth open. The baby’s mother was sitting on the side, and another woman sitting next to her smiled and said, “This child knows to please the Boss at such a young age. When grown up she must be a sweet person too.”
The child’s mother also laughed: “Her eyes look like me.”
Lin Yuan looked at her carefully, and felt that the child looked more like the mother, but he couldn’t be sure when she was so small.
Some children looked like their mothers when they were young, but looked like their fathers when they grow up.
However, a child of this size, who didn’t even have eyebrows, the small face was plump and tender and looked adorable no matter what.
There was no milk powder now, and breastfeeding could only depend on the mother’s breast milk. When breast milk was not enough, then feed them with some rice soup, and it turned out they grow quite well on rice soup too.
It was just that their hair was a little bit yellow, which nothing could be done about.
Er Liang ran in from outside the house, and said to Lin Yuan, “Young master, brother Yang is back and brought a lot of people. Now they are all waiting outside.”
Lin Yuan stood up at once. Probably because the movement was a bit loud, and the baby girl noticed that the fingers she was holding were missing, so her mouth pouted and began to cry.
Lin Yuan could only say to the baby girl’s mother: “You coax her, I will go first.”
Her mother smiled and said, “Boss can go ahead, I will definitely look after her.”
Yang Zi’an and the others basked in the sun for a while, before they finally saw the door slowly open.
When Lin Yuan came out from the door, the first thing was to give a warm hug to Yang Zi’an. Yang Zi’an was taken aback, and patted Lin Yuan on the back, and smiled: “I brought you back the people, money is all used up.”
“You have been away for so long, and I was worried that there was not enough money.” Lin Yuan smiled, “Go in.”
Saying so, Lin Yuan walked inwards with his arm thrown around Yang Zi’an’s shoulders, and asked, “Who is Zhang Shicheng?”
Yang Zi’an: “Can’t you recognize him?”
Lin Yuan lied with his eyes wide open: “That was all years ago, I can’t remember much.”
Yang Zi’an: “I didn’t find Zhang Shicheng. I found Zhang Jiusi. He also has three younger brothers. I thought maybe you remembered wrong. Both their surnames were Zhang anyway.”
Lin Yuan thought, that’s right, Zhang Shicheng used to be an ordinary salt man, how could the people at the bottom class have a formal name.
He hurriedly followed Yang Zi’an’s words and said: “It should be my memory that was wrong.”
Yang Zian: “But he brought with him a lot of people.”
Lin Yuan looked back, and Zhang Jiusi and his party walked behind looking very nervous and feeling out of place, but they couldn’t help looking left and right.
“It’s not too much.” Lin Yuan briefly talked about the previous events, “We are actually short of people.”
Some time ago Jiang Guang came back bringing the three horses he had promised before. He also praised the jade that Lin Yuan gave him, and took a few new pieces of jade away with him again, indicating that he will bring back the people Lin Yuan need before winter came, only afraid that 500 would be too many for Lin Yuan to manage.
Lin Yuan told him to only take care of the delivery, and they can naturally take care of managing them all here.
Yang Zi’an said: “Is the dormitory not enough?”
Lin Yuan nodded, thinking that Yang Zi’an knew him too well: “Sure enough, second brother, you understand me. I think a new dormitory must be built. Fortunately, although the craftsmen who built the house last time left, there were many people who built it along with them. They have experience and know how to do it. This time, you don’t have to go outside to get people. The bricks will probably require you to find someone to make again.”
Yang Zian: “It’s not a troublesome thing. It’s better to build three floors and construct a few more.”
Lin Yuan nodded: “But we won’t live here long. At the end of next year, we have to move out.”
Yang Zian was taken aback: “Move to where?”
Lin Yuan just smiled: “You’ll know then.”
It was too early to speak now. When the Red Turban Army revolts next year, regarding the world’s affairs, it was normal to follow the lead then. At that time, it would be normal for them to attack Xinghua.
Yang Zi’an saw that he won’t be getting a straightforward answer, so he didn’t ask anymore.
Zhang Jiusi and the others were looking at the acres of fertile fields and the crops growing in it. They could barely come back to their senses. Li Liu said next to Zhang Jiusi: “You really have a name called Zhang Shicheng?”
Zhang Jiusi also whispered: “It may not be me.”
Li Liu was surprised: “Then isn’t this lying?”
Zhang Jiusi: “Can’t you speak quietly!”
Lin Yuan walked to Zhang Jiusi’s side at this time. He was different from the people around him. As long as one had eyes, they knew that this was the Boss. Lin Yuan now looked quite a bit like an elegant Gongzi, since he doesn’t go to work in the fields, with the wind blowing at him and the sun roasting down on him. And in addition to facial features that weren’t bad at all, he looked like a pale faced Gongzi.
But this was just in comparison with other people in the farmstead.
“Zhang Jiusi.” Lin Yuan called Zhang Jiusi’s name.
Zhang Jiusi walked out from the crowd, and Lin Yuan looked him up and down. He remembered that Zhang Shicheng was a man with “rare brawn and chivalry” in the historical records. He himself could not even eat fully and yet helped out others.
In fact, he had many similarities with the original owner, a pity he lost his way after success.
Zhang Jiusi looked at Lin Yuan.
Lin Yuan said: “Come with me.”
Zhang Jiusi looked back at his brothers again, and finally walked a little distance away with Lin Yuan.
Lin Yuan took Zhang Jiusi to a relatively secluded place. He knew that Zhang Jiusi was willing to come with Yang Zi’an because at this time Zhang Jiusi had already been forced into a dead end. He was at the point of whether to resist ot not. But Zhang Jiusi was not a person who didn’t fear imperial power, otherwise he would not have waited until the 13th year of Yuanshun’s reign.
That was why when Yang Zi’an released a rope that symbolizes life, he had grabbed onto it even when he knew that there were many doubts.
“You are not the person I am looking for.” Lin Yuan said.
Zhang Jiusi paused, he was a little flustered, after all, he didn’t often lie.
Lin Yuan said again: “But you have come here already, so just stay at ease. Although I haven’t found my friend, but you have all come already, naturally I won’t have you go back again.”
Zhang Jiusi looked at Lin Yuan, wondering what kind of living Buddha decided to come down to this earth?
“It’s just, your brothers.” Lin Yuan said, “They can’t make trouble for me.”
Zhang Jiusi patted his chest and assured: “That’s natural.”
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Zhang Jiusi and the others were assigned to the dormitory, but they could not live in a family room, they had to live separately, and they had to go to the cafeteria when eating.
Zhang Jiusi and his three brothers plus one Li Liu were assigned to a dormitory where three people were already living in. When they entered, the three people who had lived there first greeted them enthusiastically and learned that they were from Xinghua. They became even more enthusiastic.
“How is the outside world now?”
“You have salt, you must be rich.”
Zhang Jiusi and the others looked at the bed that had been made, and their hearts eased fractionally, but still hung in midair. They looked at the bed with a top and lower bunk, eyes full of surprises, having never seen a bed like this in their life.
“This is the method our Boss came up with.” One of the farmstead person laughed. “The Boss said there are too many people and there is no place to fit all of us. This bunk bed can be used to sleep many people and without being crowded together. Everyone gets their own bed, comfortable.”
Zhang Jiusi asked him: “What kind of person is your Boss?”
The man said: “Speaking of our Boss, come, sit down, listen to me and I’ll tell you in detail.”
The other two laughed and said: “Brother Zhao talks a lot, he won’t let you go if he doesn’t talk to his satisfsction.”
The person known as brother Zhao said: “I was a refugee. Like me, the two of them can’t stay in their hometown anymore, and walked here with others. It was snowing at that time! The lords in the city do not care about us, I don’t know how many people died of freezing and starvation. It just so happened that Boss wanted to recruit people to build a house, the house that we are currently living in. I helped build it myself.”
“Originally, the house was built and the craftsmen had also left. We had nowhere to go, so we asked Boss to let us stay.”
Brother Zhao slapped his thigh: “Boss didn’t even blink, he told us we could all stay.”
Zhang Jiusi quickly asked: “Then what do you do daily?”
Brother Zhao: “That depends on what group you are in. I am in Manager Jiang’s group. I have to train in the morning and do farm work in the afternoon. For other groups, there will be training in the morning and hunting in the afternoon. Everyone does their own thing, it is all divided with clear distinction.”
This is similar to their salt mines, each has a division of labor, but they don’t need training.
“What do you train?” Zhang Jiusi asked.
Brother Zhao also said: “There are too many, like push-ups and leapfrogs, there are so many kinds, Boss said, this is to exercise our physical strength, and sometimes Boss will train with us.”
Zhang Jiusi asked again: “Why do you need training?”
Brother Zhao: “Do you think it’s very peaceful here? What if there were bandits coming? Isn’t it up to us to fight back?”
Zhang Jiusi swallowed.
Brother Zhao smiled and said: “It’s no big deal, I’ve never been afraid of it, men, we shouldn’t be afraid at all!”
The roommate relentlessly undermined him: “Last time bandits came, you almost peeed your pants in fright. If we didn’t hold you up, you might be a deserter.”
Brother Zhao: “Bah! Was I peeing my pants?! Back then it was just a little bit of sweat!”
Zhang Jiusi glanced at his three younger brothers.
Zhang Jiuwu said: “Brother, we’re here anyway. What’s the point of thinking so much, so long as we won’t be hungry.”
“Yes, what do you eat in the cafeteria?” Zhang Jiuqi, the youngest, looked at brother Zhao intently and asked.
Brother Zhao: “We usually eat multi-grain steamed buns and stir-fried vegetables. The oil and water are plenty. We can manufacture the oil by ourselves, and we can eat meat once every seven days. If someone outside comes to attack us, or if we attack a bandit villa we can eat all the fine grains and meat we want.”
Zhang Jiuqi’s saliva was about to leak out, but when he thought that in order to eat meat, he had to fight with his life, he was a little scared along with being excited.
He asked: “So when do you eat today?”
Brother Zhao said: “It will be two more hours before dinner, and then I will tell you the rules of eating.”
Zhang Jiuqi was taken aback: “There are rules for eating?”
Brother Zhao nodded: “That’s natural. There are even rules for shitting here.”
This time, the four brothers and Li Liu were all taken aback. This place was that strange? There were rules for eating and shitting?
Brother Zhao took them to the corridor and told them to look at the house next to the dormitory: “That’s the public toilet, and you have to go there if you want to poop and pee, and you have to wash your hands at the door when you come out.”
“As Boss said, it is becuase we don’t wash our hands that it is so easy to get sick, dirty sickness!” Brother Zhao held his head high, with a proud expression that he knew better, “What Boss says makes sense! Boss has read books!”
Zhang Jiusi looked at the public toilet that looked like a house, and his expression was somewhat dazed.
Brother Zhao: “If you go to the public toilet at night, remember to light the torch outside so that you don’t fall in the dark. Last time there was a hapless guy who fell into the latrine pit. Who told him to be so thin, it took him a long time to climb up.”
That hapless guy was really too unlucky.
They can all imagine how he looked when he crawled out of the pit.
Brother Zhao: “That’s almost all, what else do you want to ask?”
Brother Zhao added: “By the way, if you work hard, there are rewards. The two people in each group who do the best every day can eat bonus meals. A bowl of stew, if you save some, you can eat it for two meals. Inside is all big chunks of meat and you also get a bowl of white rice.”
These fifty-odd people were arranged into their rooms. After all, they have just arrived in the new environment, and most of them were still a little uneasy. Fortunately, the people in the dormitories were very enthusiastic, and they were not as nervous as they were at the beginning.
They couldn’t not be enthusiastic and welcoming. During this period of time, Lin Yuan had been making repeated orders to them. In the future the farmstead will add many more people. If they were looking for trouble, they will be kicked out to do whatever they want outside. If they find someone oppressing a newcomer, as long as someone reported it, and after verification, the reporter can also get a slice of meat and a bag of rice, as well as a bamboo rat and a fat chicken.
Therefore, even if you were not very enthusiastic about newcomers, you will not find fault. No one in this world wanted to be driven out.
If they were driven out it was basically death.
Even if you didn’t die, you can’t live a good life like in the farmstead. Although every day was hard work, you did’t have to worry about food, clothing and housing.
Everyone also had two new sets of clothes every season. Although they were almost the same size and color, poor people cannot wear a few new clothes for a lifetime. Where else could anyone find such a good thing?
At dinner that night, Zhang Jiusi and his brothers were assigned to a fishing group. There were also a few fellow villagers with them. They were newcomers and met the group leader during dinner.
The leader of the fishing team was surnamed Zheng, originally named Zheng Liu’er. Later, he went to ask Lin Yuan who gave him a new name, Zheng Zhizhong. After he had a name, he would not allow others to call him Zheng Liu’er during working hours, only answering to his formal name.
“Boss said before that the number of daily catch is set, and the surplus is our own.” Zheng Liu’er and Zhang Jiusi said, “If we catch more, we will divide the fish by ourselves. Those who don’t have any cooking appliances can borrow the kitchen, which is convenient.”
Zhang Jiusi asked: “What if the catch is not enough?”
Zheng Liu’er smiled and said: “Why would there be not enough, there are too many fish in that river, even in the winter, and the amount set by Boss can be finished in one or two hours.”
Some of the fish caught were taken directly to the kitchen, and some were dried as salted fish and hung up to be eaten in winter.
Early the next morning, Zhang Jiusi and the others heard a loud noise outside, and they almost jumped up in fright, only to regain their calm when their heads knocked against the ceiling and bed board.
Brother Zhao and the others slowly got up from under their quilt, rubbed their eyes and said, “This is calling for us to get up.”
Zhang Jiusi and the others breathed a sigh of relief.
“We are too lazy to fetch water, so we can wash by the stream. Are you with us?” Brother Zhao asked.
Zhang Jiusi smiled: “Naturally go with brother Zhao.”
Brother Zhao led them to wash their faces and ate breakfast together before they went to the open area for training together.
In the first hour they practiced obedience. They charged to wherever Lin Yuan pointed. Lin Yuan gave an order, and they went over to chop the wood stakes with their knives.
After an hour, daily training began, such as running, push-ups, leapfrogging, throwing stones, etc.
When the bell rang during the lunch break, they yelled excitedly and rushed to the cafeteria.
Zhang Jiusi discovered that no one was lazy and no one was supervising the work. Instead during the training, each team of ten people supervised each other.
He was quite bewildered.
Brother Zhao said, “If you are lazy you get reported by someone in the team, then you can only eat one meal tomorrow, while he can eat meat!”
Zhang Jiusi finally understood.
You c an fi nd t he la te st cha pte rs at ( th e ir on tr ee bl oo ms. c o m )
This farmstead had hidden depths and was even more capable than he thought.
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