Translation and edits: Dot.
He Yan had filled in the conscription paperwork quickly and with neat handwriting. The red-faced man glanced at it and asked, “You can read?”
“Only a little,” He Yan answered modestly.
The majority of the men enlisting in the army were young and hard-working, but few were literate. The red-faced man’s expression seemed to soften a little as he said, “Head over to the tent in the back. They’ll administer you a simple examination. Upon passing, sign the document, and you’ll be officially registered.”
He Yan expressed her gratitude and left.
The tent was located near the racecourse, standing out amongst the others for its sheer size and grandeur. He Yan lifted the curtain, only to see a shirtless man sitting atop a horse and a physician standing nearby. The shirtless man grinned and asked the other, “Come on, aren’t I so buff?”
He Yan pretended to not see him. However, the self-proclaimed buff man had caught sight of her. With a surprised expression on his face, he scoffed, “Are people this frail and weak even allowed to enlist in the army?”
The physician then urged him to leave, saying “Throw on your clothing and get out. I don’t have all day.”
The stout man cursed under his breath as he left, occasionally stopping to glance back at He Yan with a puzzled expression.
“Stand here…” The physician interrupted, “And undress yourself.”
He Yan didn’t reply.
He Yan knew beforehand that enlisting in the army meant undergoing a physical examination to confirm she wasn’t crippled or bore an infectious disease. If she hadn’t known that, her secret might’ve been revealed. However, she was prepared, after undergoing a similar experience when joining the Yue army in his past life.
He Yan took the physician’s hand in her own, and deposited a single silver coin.
He looked down at the coin and then back up at her, frowning. “This…”
“Physician, I had no intention of hiding this from you, but I contracted a disease when I was younger.” He Yan looked down, ashamed. “Because of the defects that remain, I was never welcome and was bullied my entire life. I couldn’t stand it, so I decided to enlist in the army. I’m begging you, please help me. If I die on the battlefield, I’ll surely remember your kindness and repay you in my next life.”
The physician had expected him to blabber on about some contagious disease, but didn’t expect it to be some type of defect. He stared at He Yan with pity and sympathy. It was the first time he had encountered such a situation, and with such a handsome young man.
After weighing the silver coin in his hand and squeezing it several times, he looked back up at He Yan. He Yan looked perfectly healthy, with no sign of a disease. “In that case, you can leave. Pay attention to your surroundings, and don’t let it be seen by others. If you’re found out, don’t blame it on me.”
“Thank you!” He Yan replied whilst shedding a few tears out of graciosity for the physician.
He Yan let out a sigh of relief, after seeing how smoothly the examination went. She stepped outside onto the grass, and was met with the same stout man from before, stuffing his mouth with biscuits. When he saw He Yan standing there, staring at the food, he beckoned her over as if to say hello.
He Yan thought about it for a moment, but ultimately decided to walk over to him.
“Little brother, I saw you in there just now.” The stout man paused and attempted to wipe off the sesame seeds that were around his mouth, but failed. “Are you here to enlist in the army?”
He Yan nodded while staring at the remaining biscuits in his hand, feeling the hunger start to set in. She hadn’t eaten anything this entire afternoon, and she could hear her stomach begin to rumble.
“Are you hungry?” The stout man asked, seeing her stare at the food in his hand. “Here, take this! I’ve already eaten five, so I’m full.”
He Yan was famished, so she decided to accept the offer. She stepped closer to the stout man, took the biscuit from his hand, and began to eat.
“You look so thin and frail, and yet you’re still enlisting in the army? How could your family be at ease?” The man muttered under his breath, “Even my 10-year old brother looks stronger than you.”
He Yan gulped down the biscuits and replied, “Appearances can be deceiving. I may look weak, but in actuality, I’m strong. I’ll be sixteen this year.”
“How did you come to join the army?” The stout man asked curiously, “You look like you have an education.”
He Yan replied straightforwardly, “My family’s been in decline, and there’s no way out.”
The stout man understood He Yan. With sympathy, he remarked, “Little brother, things will change for the better, so you need not pay attention to it. If you follow me, I will be sure to protect you.”
“Thank you, big brother.”
After hearing the words, “big brother,” he was pleased. “My surname is Hong, my full name being Hong Shan. Just call me Brother Shan. What’s your name, little brother?”
“My surname is He, He Yan. The He as in firewood.”
“He? That’s one rare surname. I’ll call you Ah He from now on.”
“Okay!” He Yan nodded. She had finished eating the biscuits, and after wiping her mouth, she ventured out to look for a stable. Upon finding one, she plopped down against the railing, content.
Hong Shan watched her, perplexed, and asked, “Ah He, are you not heading home?”
“I’m not heading back.” He Yan replied, whilst propping her head up with her hands. “I’m staying here.”
The sympathy in Hong Shan’s eyes became even more evident. He sat down next to He Yan and said, “I’m staying here as well. Let’s make do tonight, and set off tomorrow.”
“It couldn’t get better than this.”
In the distance, a torch was ignited outside the camp. It flickered violently underneath the rain, as if it was going to be extinguished the next moment. They sat quietly in the darkness together, with a lot on their mind.
He Yan didn’t know how He Yun Sheng was doing, if he got home safely, or if he was stranded. He Yan worried about it, until she unconsciously fell asleep.
Countless unpleasant things happen in Jing Cheng everyday, and yet nobody pays any attention to the affairs of the poor. However, if something happened to a high-ranking family, it would be known to all.
Last night, there was a homicide case on the river. The young master of the Fan family was brutally murdered in a boat. The assailant escaped, leaving no trace or evidence. At the same time, the daughter of a drill officer was also aboard the ship. She was murdered as well, being thrown in the river without a corpse remaining.
The murderer hadn’t been caught, leaving the citizens living in the city in chaos and panic for quite a while. However, many citizens applauded the deed, as the young master of the Fan family was known for ruining and abusing girls from common families. He abused his family’s power, causing the girls to shy away from making a public statement. Perhaps, the heavens have finally enforced justice upon the guilty.
The He family was miserable.
He Sui seemed to age 10 years overnight, sitting still in the hall everyday like a clay sculpture. Qing Mei hid in the yard, and Shuang Qing wore a bitter expression every day. Qing Mei had wiped her tears and lamented, “How could she suddenly disappear…”
He Yun Sheng had spent all his time sitting in the stables next to Xiang Xiang.
The hay bales had started to spoil, but He Yun Sheng paid no attention to it. The horse was also fidgety, but He Yun Sheng was not affected by it at all.
The lack of news on He Yan was better than unfortunate news. He Yan hadn’t been caught. He thought of the ship, where the night rain and sweet smelling-fragrance covered up the scent of blood.
He had been afraid and helpless. Every time, the girl in the beautiful, long dress with the dreamy eyes would pat him on the head and say, “It’ll be alright. Like always, I’ll be fine.”
“This time, I hope – no, I’m sure she’s alright.”
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