In a big city like Ru Ning, there were so many big affluent households there that even Gaoyou could hardly compare. The big households were inextricably linked, relying on marriage and cooperation with each other. They might fight amongst themselves in peacetime, but twist into one rope and stand united when Chen Baisong came.
Since Ru Ning was no longer under the control of the imperial court, they naturally wanted to grab some advantages and benefits from Chen Baisong’s hands.
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Was it better to kneel down or stand and ask for benefits first? Most of them chose the former. They didn’t think Chen Baisong would kill them all.
In their view, they were different from the common people. The common people were pigs and dogs, while they were the people in power who needed to be won over.
Zhang laoye thought the same before entering the military camp.
If the new people in power wanted to take over a big city naturally they would need the help of people like them. Was there anyone who knew Ru Ning better than them?
However, most of them were just tough on the surface, spitting out ruthless words, but in fact their gifts continued to flood into the barracks.
Chen Baisong looked at the box in front of him and asked his personal guard to open it.
There were more than 30 boxes sent in by families with different surnames. There were countless gold and silver treasures, exquisite brocades, and even a group of women standing behind the boxes. Most of these women were servants of those families. Their looks were not necessarily top-notch, but in the barracks where no women could be seen, even common flowers would be regarded as celestial fairies but the salivating soldiers.
“No matter how tough their words are, the money is still given rather quickly.” The personal guards did not understand, “They act so tough on the surface, so how come they still send gifts to our general? Isn’t this slapping one’s own face?”
Another personal guard joked next to him: “You don’t understand? Those big households must have come up with the idea together, so how can anyone dare not follow? Some are afraid of offending other big households, so they can only oppose our general but they also fear attracting our general’s hatred. Naturally, they will have to give gifts to our general in private. These people are like this, treating others as fools.”
Chen Baisong picked up a pearl garment. Pearls were a rare thing. There were not even enough offerings to the imperial capital every year, so there were less pearls among the common folks. These large families having such a piece in their possession was enough to be envied by people. In this age without artificial cultivation, the output of pearls was originally very small, and it was even more difficult to find pearls that were of the same size and shape. So just such a piece of pearl garment sometimes couldn’t even be bought with money.
“Ru Ning is wealthy.” Chen Baisong threw the pearl garment back into the box with no expression on his face. “Send someone to invite the patriarchs of these families and inform them that I want to hold a banquet and discuss the affairs.”
The personal guard froze for a moment: “General, why give them such face? Ru Ning has already been captured. From now on, it will be our South Bodhisattva’s territory. Who do they even think they are? Actually asking our general to meet them personally? They are not worthy!”
Chen Baisong: “What nonsense are you talking about, if I tell you to go then go, are you the general or am I the general?”
The personal guard quickly admitted his mistake: “This subordinate…..”
Chen Baisong: “Go quickly.”
The personal guard breathed a sigh of relief and hurriedly left with the other personal guards.
Another personal guard stood next to Chen Baisong. He had a smile on his face, meat on his cheeks, small eyes with a flat nose, and freckles. He did not appear all that old, but he did look shrewd. He said lowly, “General, why not tell them to bring their younger generation with them?”
Chen Baisong shook his head: “I can’t call them all, and the barracks can’t fit them all anyway.”
If the patriarchs of those big families dared to come, then it was the same as putting aside life and death. If they died, they would stand on the side of righteousness. Although nowadays, whoever had the big fist had the speaking power, the benevolent name of the South Bodhisattva had spread far and wide, and if they really caught this point to make a debate, causing the South Bodhisattva’s reputation to change from good to evil, the common people’s hearts would also change. The rebel factions in this world were not limited to the South Bodhisattva after all. So why lose the big goal because of a small temporary advantage?
It was better to keep them locked up instead.
“They don’t want to return home and want to stay in the barracks. Is it our fault?” Chen Baisong said with a smile, “but even though they are in the barracks, their families must still be filial. The barracks do not feed idlers. If they want to stay then naturally they will need to eat. Where does the food come from? Surely they are not asking me to feed them?”
The personal guard’s eyes widened——he had always thought that his general only knew how to fight wars, but he didn’t expect that the general also had such shrewdness.
Inside the city of Ru Ning, the Deng family’s mansion.
“Dad, you can’t go!” The Deng family’s eldest son hugged his father’s leg, his sobs earth-shattering, his eyes swollen into walnuts, his heart of filial piety could even touch the heavens. Snot flowed down to his mouth, but he couldn’t reach out to wipe it. He continued to sob loudly, “Dad, that surnamed Chen is a hungry wolf! If you go, he will not let you come back safely!”
Father Deng sighed, his hair was all white, he held a car in his hand, and even walking was a chore. He needed the help of his servants to support him as he walked. After his son’s repeated crying and begging, he said, “That side has sent someone over to invite us. If we don’t go, then it is us who has no reason.”
The eldest son: “What reason?! You are old, it is the time to care for oneself for one’s allotted life span! What reason can be more important than this? If the people outside want to say something about this, just let them say it!” (TN: care for oneself for one’s allotted life span=to retire)
Father Deng looked at his eldest son who was not so smart, but was filial and honest. He was assured and worried about handing over the family and the inheritance to such a child. What was assuring was that the child would do what he was told and taught. What was worrying was that after his death, if this child was deceived by someone with ulterior motives, with his temperament he would not be able to hold onto this huge family business.
Just like now, that side having sent an invitation over, even if they knew that the tiger’s den awaited them, they still had no other choice but to jump down.
Father Deng had his servants to help his eldest son up. Then he said earnestly: “Listen to Dad, that General Chen sent the invitation out of respect for talents. If we don’t go, the bad name will be on our side. At that time, when he enters the city and kills our family, even if he is criticized, it will not affect him all that much. If he has nothing restraining him anymore, he naturally will have no worries.”
“Do you think that he dares to oppose the people of the world? Do we dare to oppose the people of the world? Think about the Zhao family ten years ago.”
The eldest son fell into a daze, the Zhao family?
It was clearly only ten years ago, but he could hardly remember it anymore.
Ten years ago, the Zhao family was at the peak of power. Several streets in the city of Ru Ning belonged to the Zhao family. The Zhao family also had the most fertile lands on the edge of the city. But the wealth and business built by many generations of the Zhao family was overturned within just a dozen days.
When the large building collapsed no one would shed a tear for them. The people watched the excitement and rejoiced over the destruction of a family.
How did the Zhao family fall?
At first, it was just mixing sand with the porridge being given out as charity.
Many large households had done this before. The people at the bottom wanted to embezzle so they replaced the new grain with uneatable old grain. And the profits from this would be put into the pockets of these people.
And then? It seemed that the beggars and refugees began making trouble.
Someone hired beggars and refugees to guard the Zhao manor’s door day and night and throw dung as soon as someone came out.
The Zhao family wanted to catch these culprits, but these people ran quickly away after throwing the dung, and couldn’t be caught.
Aside from this, when the Zhao family went out, there were also people in the crowd who would throw dung at them as well.
After that, the Zhao family stopped going out.
There were also people constantly looking for faults in the businesses owned by the Zhao family. The Zhao family wanted to refute these faults, but the common people had already come to believe that this family was rotten down to the roots.
The officials above would not speak for the Zhao family because they had received benefits and gifts from other families.
In the end, the Zhao family sold their shops and land, went far away, and never came back.
But when people leave their hometowns, leave the land where their roots were, go to other places that already had an established social network, how much hope was there to return to the glory of the past?
The eldest son covered his face with his hands. It was not that he didn’t understand this reasoning. Sometimes people’s tongues could also be sharp weapons, turning into knives that could be used for murder.
Father Deng patted his son on the head: “Dad must go. Only if Dad goes will our family have reason on our side. If Dad dies there, our family can get more benefits. That South Bodhisattva has worked hard all this time to maintain his reputation and is not a stupid person, so he will naturally understand this. Therefore Dad will not die, and that General Chen will treat Dad as a guest.”
The eldest son was struck into a daze again. He didn’t understand, and didn’t dare to say that he didn’t understand, so he could only lower his head.
Father Deng sighed again: “Listen to Dad, if Dad goes there and dies, you must wear a sackcloth and perform filial piety, let everyone know whose hand your Dad died at. This way our family will have reputation and with reputation, even if the family must lay dormant for a while there is no need to fear. One day our Deng family will get up again.”
“But if we don’t even have a reputation, when General Chen enters the city, our family will be finished.”
The eldest son nodded: “Dad, I understand, whatever you say, this son will do it!”
In Ru Ning City, it was not only the Deng family that was playing out scenes of parting as all the big families have received invitations. After careful thought, most of them went. Only four to five claimed to be ill and could not leave the city.
There was no need for Chen Baisong to even deal with these households as other families would join forces and chip away at them.
Most of the patriarchs came. They rode out of the city in carriages and then entered the barracks together.
Deng laoye thought he could see the rumored brutal and ruthless General Chen, but he waited in the tent with a group of old men for a long time. Don’t even mention General Chen, there wasn’t even any sign of the personal guards around him. There were only the little soldiers in the barracks there to keep a watch on them.
The little soldiers didn’t talk to them, they would deliver food to them when it was mealtimes, and they would take them to relieve themselves if they needed to.
But they dared not ask——everyone wanted to live longer.
If they died now they wouldn’t get any benefits.
They didn’t dare to act arrogantly at the soldiers and put on airs.
They still understood the reasoning that people must bow their heads when under the eaves.
Deng laoye sat on the wooden bed, covered with the quilt he had brought with him, holding a cup of hot water in his hand. Inside he was very anxious and panicked, but he didn’t dare to show it. He could only sit crouched into himself.
Several laoyes from other households were a little envious of his quilt. As they got on in years, weather that felt just right for young people felt cold to them instead.
There were no quilts prepared for them in this tent, so if they hadn’t brought quilts themselves, they could only suffer the cold.
“Deng laoye even brought a quilt, your thinking is more attentive than ours.”
“I wonder why Deng laoye thought to bring a quilt.”
“Could it be that you already had some interactions with General Chen?”
Deng laoye’s face turned green, and he quickly said: “It’s my son who is worried about me. I am old and my son prepared it for me. If you don’t mind, please come over and cover your legs with me.”
He knew that if he continued to let these people talk, he would become a traitor. At that time, don’t even mention this quilt being allowed to cover his legs, he wouldn’t even be able to hold onto it at all.
These people had always been like this. They gathered together to convict someone, and then have people publicize it. In this way, the convicted person would be completely ruined.
Either because they coveted other people’s shops or coveted other people’s land.
They used this method handily, and with so many repeated successful attempts, Deng laoye did not dare to confront them.
The family members of these old men in Ru Ning City were waiting for the news of their death.
If these old men died, then they would have more confidence when negotiating terms.
However, the news of death did not arrive, instead a messenger was sent to them by Chen Baisong.
“Your family’s elder insisted on staying in the military barracks. No matter how much we persuade them to go back to the city, they are still unwilling to return. And so it would not be reasonable to ask our general to feed them, yes?”
Every family heard these words.
So countless food carts were pulled from the city to the military barracks.
Chen Baisong looked at the grains. There were old grains and new grains, but the amount was sufficient. The grains brought by dozens of carts were enough to feed the entire military barracks for a month.
Just when the families in the city thought that they had been forced to bleed heavily and felt painfully distressed, Chen Baisong’s envoy came knocking at their doors again.
“Your family’s elder has a good appetite and eats a lot. The food you gave before is already gone.”
Everyone was dumbstruck.
This was simply asking them to hand over all their food.
“We can’t give it to them!”
“If we continue to give, they will continue to ask for more. Their appetite will never be satisfied! We can’t give it!”
“What can we do if we don’t give them the grains? That’s your father. Do you want to be an unfilial and immoral person?”
“Filial piety is the first priority, if even filial piety can be abandoned. At that time, you will be the one blamed for forcing your father to die!”
“What can we do then?”
“Give food? If we can only continue to give, there won’t even be enough wealth in the family to fritter away!”
Before the elders left, the younger generations all hoped that the elders could come back safely.
But at this time, all of them actually hoped their elders would die sooner than later.
“It’s too late! If we do not give food now, it will be us family members who will be blamed for their deaths at that time. The sending of food cannot be stopped, continue to deliver it!”
Chen Baisong looked at the newly delivered grain carts and had someone open it for inspection. There was less grain, but there was more gold and silver to make up for the grain.
But the importance of gold and silver was obviously not as much as food at this time.
He said to the soldiers: “Since they think gold and silver are edible, you shall go over and have them try eating it themselves.”
The soldiers took the order and the gold and silver to find the big households in the city to “buy food.”
Could they say they didn’t want to sell?
Although the elders of various families could not act at will in the military barracks, they were given food and drink. They could not enjoy any luxuries, but life was guaranteed. Even if they became sick, Chen Baisong would call over a military doctor to treat them.
Deng laoye’s quilt was eventually still snatched away. Fortunately, the clothes he brought were thick enough. He went to bed in the clothes every day, and felt that it was still tolerable. But when people got on in the years, there would always be all kinds of problems. For example, if someone urinated or defecated, then the smell would last all day in the tent. And that was not even mentioning other issues.
Deng laoye couldn’t stand it after living for a few days. He would rather sleep in the wild than squeeze in a tent with these old fellows.
It was a pity that his words were useless here. No matter how he begged the soldiers outside, and said all the good things, no one was willing to grant his request.
They also didn’t know that their families had sent food over. They only thought that General Chen did all of this as a show of power. Shutting them up here to temper their expectations. Every one of them gritted their teeth and vowed to overcome this difficulty. No matter what, they could not bring shame on the family.
Chen Baisong looked at the continuous delivery of food, and finally let go. He had someone send quilts to that group of elders. The food was also better than before. At any rate, there was meat. Before, they didn’t even have vegetables and every day was sweet potatoes and potatoes. These two things were delicious to eat occasionally, but they could not be eaten every day.
“We can’t send anymore!”
A group of people gathered together to discuss.
They looked indignant: “What is he? He is a bandit! He is worse than a bandit!”
The Deng family’s eldest son said in a low voice, “I remember that General Chen used to be a bandit…..”
When everyone looked at him, Deng eldest was taken aback. He shrank his neck and pretended to be a quail. He didn’t dare to speak anymore, but he couldn’t help thinking, “What’s the use of pretending to be tough in front of me? When they asked for food earlier, none of you dared to speak up. And now you want to push a fool to be the first to stop with the food delivery, who is so foolish?”
The room became quiet again. At this time, someone said: “We don’t give food together, I don’t believe that he’ll really dare to hurt the elders! What do you all say? “
“Since An gongzi has said this, we will naturally follow An gongzi.”
“Yes, they bully people too much, they simply bully people too much, we can’t be led by the nose by them all the time.”
“Exactly, they are just relying on the fact that we will not ignore the elders. Even if we stop giving food, l I don’t think they will dare to do anything.”
“Good! Then we won’t give food!”
Deng eldest returned home at night. His wife brought over an alcohol sobering soup, and asked in a soft voice: “Husband went to discuss matters today. What results have been discussed?”
Deng eldest took a sip of the sobering soup and shook his head: “They all want to treat others as fools. How can there be so many fools in this world?”
His wife asked in puzzlement: “What do you mean?”
Deng eldest shook his head and said, “They said that we should all stop sending food, but you just wait and see, see which family really won’t send food.”
When the day came to deliver food, Deng eldest didn’t want to make enemies with everyone, so he had his servant send the food out of the city late at night. Now the guards of the city gates were all Chen Baisong’s people, so he was not afraid that other families would find out.
As a result, when the servant who delivered the food came back to report, he said that when he went out of the city, he encountered a lot of other families’ food delivery carts. Although he didn’t know which families they belonged to, the amount of food delivery carts were not less than before, but actually more.
Deng eldest laughed loudly at home: “I just knew it would be a strange thing if these people actually had the courage to not send the food! All of them are just waiting for others to come forward, so what was the point of discussing anything?”
But his wife said with a troubled expression: “There are no more grains at home, even the old grains from previous years. If this continues, we can only buy more.”
It was not so easy to buy grain. The grains were all in the hands of the big households. If even the big households were out of grain, was it possible to find any people to buy grains?
Even if the common people still had grains in stock, it was unlikely they saved much. At most, it was enough for a family’s rations for a few months. If they really sold these rations, wouldn’t they starve to death?
Deng eldest lowered his head: “Continue to send.”
His wife raised a hand to wipe her tears, her eyes red: “Husband, even if not for the sake of the family, you should also think about the children. If father-in-law knows, he would also be unwilling that such a big family…..”
So long as they were willing to pay then food could eventually be bought. But after their family had no more food there was money left. If there was no money, what was left?
In the end, ruin would be waiting for them.
Deng eldest looked at his wife: “It’s no longer a matter of sending or not. If I didn’t deliver food today, tomorrow that group of soldiers will rush into the manor and charge me with unfilial piety. At that time, don’t even mention the money and food at home, we won’t even be able to keep the shops and the lands! In fact, even our lives will be lost!”
His wife looked at him in a daze: “It is actually like this…..”
Deng eldest smiled bitterly: “I originally thought that General Chen was just a boor of a man, but now it seems that it is we who are too stupid. Even if we had to report illness, we shouldn’t have let Dad go out.”
Wife: “…..But everyone has gone…..”
“The ones that had not gone…..now…..”
Deng eldest looked at the night sky outside the window, and his heart was desolate. If he wanted to save his father, then the Deng family would be ruined, and he might not even be able to save him in the first place.
If he didn’t plan to save his father, the Deng family would equally not be able to escape ruin. It was a dead end no matter if he advanced or retreated. He could only choose which way to die that would appear more decent.
Deng eldest learned the next day that there was really a family that did not deliver food. This family was not all that respectable in Ru Ning City. There were too many large households and this family could only be regarded as a small fish. There was no one among the family and relatives who had ever been an official. They only had some money, and the family business also could not be compared with that of other families. Don’t know how they considered the situation, they really didn’t send any food at all.
Although they didn’t send food, they were also not given any trouble.
The big households in Ru Ning City seemed to have received some kind of message, and they really began to not deliver food one after another.
Chen Baisong did not send soldiers to find trouble with them.
“I just knew it, maybe he really doesn’t dare to do anything? If he really killed our elders, the spit of the people of the world could drown him!”
“That’s right! Now that we don’t deliver food, isn’t there no problem at all?”
Deng eldest didn’t dare to stop sending food. He had lived in his father’s palm all his life. He didn’t dare to think about what would happen if his father really died. He could only have the servants continue to send the food secretly, make detours after the city curfew.
Fortunately, the military barracks still accepted it.
Deng eldest’s wife did not understand him, and neither did his brothers and sons.
Weren’t the others who didn’t send food still fine? Why did their family continue to send food? There was no benefit after sending it, and there was no harm after stopping.
But after all, it involved their elder, and they were connected by blood, so they dared not really open their mouths to stop Deng eldest from delivering food.
One month later, Chen Baisong finally made a move. The army entered the city and seized all the households that did not send food.
Once the charges of unfilial piety were announced, the soldiers arrested the people as well as seized all their shops and lands.
“Laoye!” The servants scurried aimlessly about in the courtyard.
Deng eldest was already a little unsteady on his feet. He heard the news, and felt indescribably fearful. Although he sent food, he was afraid that General Chen would also take this opportunity to seize and confiscate the Deng family as well. At that time, would someone plead and find justice for the Deng family?
Just when Deng eldest was in a panic and didn’t know what to do, the soldiers had already walked in.
The soldier with flesh on both cheeks smiled and said to him: “Our general said, eldest young master Deng is very filial and a model son. Our general has told us to send Deng laoye back.”
“Those who are unfilial are detained now, so I have to trouble eldest young master Deng to visit them from time to time. As a model son, teach them more about filial piety. What do you think?”
What else could Deng eldest say?
What could he say?
He could only stand there stupidly nodding, and stupidly say: “I will naturally share the worries for the general.”
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The soldier encouraged him: “There are not many large affluent households in Ru Ning now. If eldest young master Deng is interested, please help our general deal with those troublesome matters and win a good name in the meanwhile. Is this not a fine thing? “
Deng eldest swallowed: “I shall follow the general’s orders.”
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