ARRIVING IN LIANG ZHOU
The two-month journey from the capital to Liang Zhou was quite challenging. By the time they could reach Liang Zhou, everyone would be exhausted and much thinner. He Yan looked at her reflection in the water while she was sitting by the lake and scooping water. The real He Yan had fair skin, but after two months of exposure, she didn’t even need to wipe the dust on her face. Her skin tanned to wheat shade.
If the real He Yan came back at that time, she would strangle herself. Such a weird idea tickled He Yan, making her laugh.
“Ah~ Brother He, why are you laughing so happily?” Asked Mak.
Hong Shan glanced at He Yan by the lake and said clearly, “If we walk for another half a day, we will be in Liang Zhou before dark. Can we not be happy that the hard days are finally ending?”
“Yes.” Mak thought intensely and addressed Shi, “Big brother, are you happy?”
The quiet Shi nodded his head.
The journey of these two months was not an affair indulged in by ordinary humans. Even though most of the people who came to join the army came from a humble background, it was much more challenging than they had thought. Some people who were not in good health had lost their lives during the journey before they could even reach Liang Zhou. And now they could never go back to the capital again.
It was a road, from which there was no turning back.
In the evening, the army finally arrived in Liang Zhou. Liang Zhou was in the northwest of the country. They thought it would be desolate and barren. However, when they arrived, they found it to be prosperous. Although it could not be compared with the capital city, it was also lively and lush. He Yan walked along with everyone, thinking that Xiao Jue knew how to pick a place. Liang Zhou was much better than the desert county where she had first joined the army. When she first went to the Mo Xian prefecture, it was barren, and the people couldn’t even afford to eat, and the lives of their soldiers were tough.
After arriving at Liang Zhou, He Yan first had to go to Liang Zhou Guard, who was stationed at the foot of Bai Yue Mountain, where there was a large open area that was big enough to be used as an arsenal. It was the place where the soldiers practised on weekdays. They were staying in tents at night, but now they would be all staying in the Liang Zhou Guard’s guardhouse.
There were so many people, but the guardhouse didn’t have so many rooms, so only a dozen or so people could squeeze into a small hut and sleep in large communal beds. Naturally, He Yan was still with Hong Shan and the two brothers Mak and Shin. The few of them didn’t have any luggage, so they relaxed after finding a place to sleep in a shared bunk.
“I see there is a river near here,” Mak said excitedly. “Many people are bathing in the river. Let’s go too.”
“Yes, I’m already sweating from the heat!” Hong Shan removed his coat in a couple of moves and was about to run outside.
Mak looked at He Yan and said, “Brother He is not going?”
“He won’t go, he’s afraid of the water, we three will do!” Hong Shan shoved Mak and Shi out.
He Yan had explained, the first time Hong Shan invited her to take a bath in the river, saying that she had drowned when she was a child, and from then on she would feel dizzy and shortness of breath as long as she went into the water. Hong Shan was not suspicious of her, and honestly, He Yan was not lying, she was terrified of the water now.
Meanwhile, as soon as He Yan lied down on the big bunk bed, it made a “creak”sound. She could not help but frown. For a moment, she didn’t know whether it was because she was too thin or because the bed was so hard that it was excruciating. After a moment, she sighed in her heart, thinking, ‘It is easy to move from thrift to extravagance, but it is difficult to move from extravagance to frugality.’ After living in the barracks for three years and being a Miss for only one year, she became accustomed to the soft bedding and found the bed very irritating.
The conditions must be suitable for Xiao Jue. His bed must be soft. She thought it was unfair.
After two months of eating dry food and water on the road, it was on the first day after reaching Liang Zhou, when they had a proper hot meal. Even simple steamed buns with plain porridge were steaming hot, and the recruits were sitting on the ground eating, not knowing the names of the delicacies they were gobbling down.
“This bun’s meat filling is so not much .” Hong Shan complained as he licked his fingers, “This is not enough.”
“It’s good enough to have a hot meal.” He Yan spoke up, “It’s better than dry food.”
“It doesn’t matter. I just inquired that there are many wild animals and rabbits on the Bai Yue mountain,” Mak said with a smile. “My brother and I can go hunting. We can hunt rabbits and boars. After that, we can clean them, string them on the branches, or wrap them in a leaf with some salt and roast them. It tastes very delicious.”
Mak was a foodie. After listening to Mak, Hong Shan was getting hungrier and hungrier. He swiftly drank the porridge in front of him and laid it heavily on the table. “Damn, I can’t wait to go up the mountain now.”
“The military order has the rule that you are not allowed to go up the mountain privately.” He Yan splashed the cold water on their beautiful imaginations.
“There must be a time to go up to the mountain.” Hong Shan was unconvinced.
After eating and drinking their fill, everyone cleaned up, and the practice commander in charge of the military training told them in advance that they would gather at the arena at dawn tomorrow morning and would rest early that day.
He Yan returned to the guardroom with Hong Shan. The room was already full of people, some of whom had already slept, some were still gossiping, unable to stop their excitement.
He Yan was sleeping in the innermost part of the bunk bed, sandwiched between Mak and the wall. Hong Shan spoke happily at the other end, “Compared to the past few days, today is simply the best.”
There was food, drink, bath and bed to sleep. We didn’t have to go out in the sun and rain and didn’t even have to be bothered by mosquitoes to sleep at night. It was so much better than before.
Mak whispered, “I think it’s easier to train here than to hunt in the mountains. And there are so many people to play with.”
He Yan, “…”
Silly boy, how could anyone conclude that the military training is easier than hunting in the capital? These people were all joining the army for the first time, and in the future, it would not be as easy as it was now. Having this meal was like a prisoner having a meal on the road before the execution, it would be a good meal, but also the last one too.
Tonight would be the most relaxing night they’d ever spent in Liang Zhou, and the real torture would commence the next day.
He Yan closed her eyes and let these silly children indulge in their sweet dreams for a while.
Sure enough, the next morning, before dawn, the sound of horns came from the open space outside the guardhouse.
“Well, it’s so early, can’t we sleep a little longer?” Mak rolled over and rubbed his eyes. He found that He Yan was already dressed and standing in front of the bed.
“Brother He, why are you up so early?” He asked in a daze.
“There will be a roll call at this hour if we don’t reach in time, it’d be considered a breach of military laws which will result in getting spanked by batons.” She said with a smile, her expression very fresh, looking like she wasn’t sleepy at all.
“If you don’t want to get punished, get up quickly.”