The fire in the barracks had not yet been extinguished and the soldiers sat chatting around the bonfire. They were wearing newly handed out cotton-padded clothes——all of the same color and the same size. They were tightly tightened with their belts so the thinner ones could also wear it with no problem. Holding a cup with hot water in it, many even took off their shoes to roast their feet by the fire.
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Soldiers couldn’t leave the barracks without order. Even the commanders above would face execution if they secretly ran out of the barracks. They were strictly managed, and those who executed the military law did not give face to anyone. And because of this, the common people living near the barracks didn’t have to be so scared or on edge.
The soldiers must stay in the barracks for a month before they could get two days off. For these two days, they also had to report their itinerary clearly.
But there were also a lot of entertainment activities in the barracks——for example, Lin Yuan had people create game sport equipment like basketballs and cuju (TN: ancient Chinese football). There were also some simple fitness equipment, similar to the equipment found in gyms. So after their required training for the day was over, soldiers could also find things to amuse themselves.
Zhao Laosi was holding a cup of water. He pulled out a sweet potato from the embers of the extinguished fire under his feet, peeled it and ate it in two bites.
The person next to him laughed at him: “You actually still hid one, what are you so anxious for? It’s not as if you won’t have anything to eat, in fact there will be meat broth tomorrow. Isn’t that better than just eating this alone?”
Zhao Laosi finished the sweet potato in two bites and didn’t feel all that full. He had fled over here as a refugee and his wife and children died on the road. He had nowhere to go and had no relatives in Gaoyou. He knew that being a soldier was dangerous and risky but he still gritted his teeth and joined the army.
“Such a good thing, there will actually be more tomorrow?” Zhao Laosi licked his teeth, wanting to lick any remaining sweet potatoes from his teeth.
His colleague laughed at him: “How is this considered a good thing? Nowadays, it is planted the most outside.”
“This thing grows faster, and its yield is quite a lot.” His colleague was also a farmer in the past, and when mentioning this topic he became particularly energetic. He moved closer and chatted with Zhao Laosi in detail, “Every day the growth is visible to the eye!”
“Just a little bit, and you can harvest so much.”
The skin of the colleague was dark, and when he smiled all of his teeth were exposed.
Zhao Laosi said: “I like to eat sweet potatoes the best.”
The people around him said: “I also like to eat sweet potatoes. Regular potatoes are not as sweet as sweet potatoes and not as fragrant.”
“Then sweet potatoes and potatoes, can it only be grown here?” Zhao Laosi asked in a low voice.
Colleague: “These two things aren’t picky on the land very much. You can grow it even on inferior land, and still their harvest is more than that of the others.”
Zhao Laosi’s eyes widened: “Then…..Then on my way over here, I didn’t see anyone planting it.”
With the rapid increase in the production of sweet potatoes on Lin Yuan’s land, the consistently high food prices had slowly begun to fall down. However, Lin Yuan had been keeping the prices of sweet potatoes and potatoes from decreasing too much so that people would know that planting these two crops could still make money. People were naturally profit-seeking, perhaps when still hungry, they would think it was a good thing to grow sweet potatoes and potatoes, but once the problem of filling the stomach was solved, of course they would want to earn more.
Now, other than a few big cities that could achieve a balance of income, self-producing and self-consuming, other small cities still had to rely on him for handing out food supplies.
As a result, the sweet potatoes and potatoes did not spread beyond his territory, after all, his own people still didn’t have enough food.
It was not that no one wanted the seeds. There were many inquiries from various forces.
Rations and fodder were the top priority no matter when. Soldiers would only be obedient and have the strength to be able to fight on the battlefield when fully fed.
But not even three years had passed since the last time Lin Yuan carried out executions and established his prestige. The merchants were tempted, but few really dared to make any moves. They were all staring at each other and wanted to see when someone else would make a move.
Sometimes violent deterrence could indeed bring relatively long-term stability.
“Some people will be drawn to visit the town in three days. How will they make the draw this time?”
The soldiers were still chatting. Zhao Laosi was a newcomer, and he didn’t understand what the others were talking about, looking at his colleagues blankly.
His colleague explained: “It is to bring food and clothing to those in the poor mountains and remote areas.”
Zhao Laosi was taken aback: “Why bother, isn’t that…..” A waste?
Colleague: “Do you know whose soldier you are?”
Zhao Laosi wondered: “The general’s soldier?”
The colleagues laughed loudly: “We are the soldiers of the South Bodhisattva! You don’t even know this? Our South Bodhisattva was born with a Buddha’s heart, and can’t bear to see anyone suffer. That’s why we are sent to save those who are suffering.”
Zhao Laosi was even more puzzled.
These soldiers actually sincerely love that South Bodhisattva?
Wasn’t the truth in the world that good people would be deceived, and good horses would be ridden by others?
Zhao Laosi had also seen good people, and most of them had no good ending. On the contrary, the selfish, the mean and the cruel people lived better.
“Without the South Bodhisattva, I would have died from starvation a long time ago.” His colleague pointed at his own nose, “I was thin and lame at the time. But after entering the army, it was all thanks to my colleagues for taking care of me and helping me recuperate. Back then, who would waste food on me?”
The crowd was noisy and lively. Don’t know who started talking first, but the topic soon turned to talking of the time before, and the idle chatting quickly turned into a memorial meeting.
When the soldiers were called early the next morning, Zhao Laosi was also selected for the visit to the town.
The comrades in the same squad all expressed their envy to Zhao Laosi after the training.
“It’s a rare visit outside the barracks, so don’t frown. Although traveling on the road is a little rough, it’s also quite interesting.”
Zhao Laosi felt strange: “Interesting?”
His colleague hooked his shoulders and said: “It’s better than being bored in the barracks. You can also compete in hunting and all the prey you hunt is yours. If there is no prey, you can eat dry rations. Traveling during the day and camping at night. It’s tiring but it’s a rare, happy kind of tiring.”
However, Zhao Laosi said: “I don’t want to go out, I just want to stay in the barracks.”
He really liked the barracks. There were thick and warm clothes, at least two sets a year. He could eat his fill every day and even if there was no meat, he could eat as much sweet potatoes and potatoes he wanted. Each person had his own bed and although it was small, there was no problem fitting a grown man and even turning over was not difficult. No one had ever slept in a bed back in his old home.
He was afraid of going out this time, what if he was left behind halfway on the road? What if he got lost? He wasn’t familiar with the area, maybe he might starve to death on the road.
Zhao Laosi couldn’t sleep. He was afraid of being dragged away in the middle of the night, and he didn’t want to go anywhere.
When it was time to gather in line, the officer in charge who counted the number found that there was a missing person. The military discipline in the barracks was strict, and there was no such thing as being late or leaving early. Moreover, the system was squad based so it was not easy for people to have the courage to make mistakes as it would implicate the entire squad.
“Zhao Laosi? Which squad is this? Where is the squad leader?! Call the squad leader over!”
The squad leader was also very speechless: “I heard him say before going to bed yesterday that he didn’t want to go out, but I didn’t expect him to have the guts to be a deserter.”
It was impossible for such a big living person to disappear from under people’s eyes in an instant.
“I’ve said before that it’s best not to select new recruits.”
Recruits all had this problem. They would stay in the barracks happily at first, and would be unwilling to take a step out of the barracks even if beaten to death. Only when they got acquainted with the rest and knew the operations inside the barracks would they become at ease.
There were no deserters here——but soldiers who were unwilling to leave the barracks were no different from deserters to some extent.
Zhao Laosi was finally found under his bed. Don’t know how he squeezed in and now he could barely even get out, so they could only take apart the bed. Zhao Laosi didn’t dare to move and lay on the ground crying. While crying, he said: “I don’t eat a lot of food, I won’t go out, don’t drive me away…..”
A big grown man crying with tears and snot, it really gave people goosebumps.
The squad leader could only say to the officer in charge: “He probably won’t be able to go like this.”
The officer sighed: “If you ask me, newcomers shouldn’t be given this chance to go out.”
Zhao Laosi got his wish and did not follow the team out. He preferred the small dormitory and the same training every day.
Replacing Zhao Laosi was also a new recruit in the same batch. His name was Feng Gousheng. He was chosen because of his good performance, not too weak looking physique, and being more courageous than Zhao Laosi. Feng Gousheng was carrying a backpack, each soldier was carrying this thing on his back, which contained dry rations and some other necessities.
These backpacks were all sewn by women. They were made of the strongest coarse cloth and had a large capacity. There were two shoulder straps and a cloth strip underneath which could be tied around the waist, making it much easier when traveling or marching.
Feng Gousheng had traveled on the road before, but he never traveled like this. Back then, his stomach was always deflated and he was always thinking about whether he could find work after he reached the destination. Now his stomach was full and although tired, his body still had energy. He even had the energy to look around the farmland when the team rested.
“This has been barren for several years.” Feng Gousheng looked at the barren land, feeling distressed.
Others sighed: “One can’t eat enough while staying on this land.”
Farmers planted the land, but they abandoned the land and left their hometown because they couldn’t have enough to eat. This sounded like a joke but it was very true.
Feng Gousheng remembered that when he was in his hometown, his parents were busy farming all year round, like hard working oxen. They never had a rest day. When it came time for harvest, the field would be covered in golden wheat, rustling in the breeze. But in contrast, their granary would always only have a little bit of grain.
At that time, he didn’t understand why he still couldn’t get enough to eat despite there being so much food in the field.
Feng Gousheng bent down, pinched a handful of soil, and put it in his mouth. He said to the person next to him, “This land is good, it’s fertile land.”
“You also have the ability to distinguish soil?”
“Don’t only old verteran farmers know this?”
Feng Gousheng smiled shyly: “Not necessarily accurate, I just know a little bit.”
“By the way, since there are so many fields here, why don’t I see any villages?” Feng Gousheng stood up and looked into the distance strangely.
Someone replied: “The original people here either fled or died. Few people remember what the village was originally called.”
“But I estimate that it will get better in the future.”
Feng Gousheng asked: “What do you mean? Those people will come back?”
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“That’s probably not going to happen, but the South Bodhisattva will definitely have people come over.”
“Yes, the South Bodhisattva is here, so people will definitely come.”
“The South Bodhisattva is just too kind-hearted.”
“It’s all thanks to the South Bodhisattva…..”
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