Chapter 30: Entering the military camp
Filling out the conscription paperwork was quick. He Yan’s handwriting was good, and the big red-faced man asked, “You can read?”
“I’ve learned a little,” He Yan modestly replied.
Most of those joining the army were strong young men who didn’t know how to read. Seeing that He Yan could, the big man softened his expression and said, “Go to the tent behind, have your documents checked, and sign. Then you’ll be on the military roster.”
He Yan thanked him and went to the back tent.
This tent was closer to the horse training ground, and the tent was quite spacious. He Yan lifted the curtain and entered, finding two people inside. One man was standing, and another was sitting. A chubby, shirtless man sat on a stool, putting on his shoes. He grinned and asked the person standing, “How does it look? Is my body sturdy?”
He Yan pretended not to see him and walked straight in. The chubby man noticed her and was surprised, “Can such a weakling also come to join the army?”
The doctor in charge of examinations urged him, “Hurry up and put your shoes on and leave. I need to check the next person.”
The chubby man walked away, still turning his head to look at He Yan, seemingly puzzled.
“You come over,” the doctor said to He Yan, “take off all your clothes and stand there.”
He Yan: “…”
When joining the army, they had to undergo a physical examination to see if there were any disabilities or infectious diseases. In her previous life, she had almost exposed herself when joining the Fu Yue army. This life, she was well-prepared and took out a silver tael from her sleeve, grasping the doctor’s hand and slipping it into his palm.
The doctor was stunned and frowned, looking at her questioningly, “This…”
“Doctor, to be honest, I have a hidden ailment,” He Yan lowered her head, looking hesitant to speak. “Because of this, I am not well-received and often bullied by others. That’s why I left home and joined the army. Right now, I really don’t want my defect to be seen by others. I hope you can understand and make it convenient for me. Even if I die on the battlefield, I will remember your kindness, and in the next life, I will repay you even if I have to be a cow or a horse.”
The doctor had expected her to mention some disease, but he didn’t expect it to be a hidden ailment. It was the first time he encountered such a situation. After hesitating for a while and looking at He Yan again, he showed a bit of sympathy. Looking at her young age and delicate appearance, yet she was really a disabled person? What a pity! No wonder she came to join the army; it seemed that she couldn’t achieve much in other fields in this life.
Squeezing the silver tael in his hand, feeling its weight, and observing He Yan’s confident demeanor, he didn’t see any signs of illness. The doctor said, “Alright then, I won’t force you. You can go. Just be careful when living with others, don’t let anyone find out. If you are discovered, it won’t be my responsibility.”
“Thank you, doctor.” He Yan gratefully saluted him.
With this smooth passage, He Yan felt relieved. After leaving the tent, she noticed the chubby man sitting on a stone by the horse training ground, stuffing a pancake into his mouth. When he saw her, he waved at her as if greeting.
After thinking for a moment, He Yan walked over to him.
“Little brother, I just saw you inside,” the chubby man finished the pancake in two to three bites, sesame sticking to the corners of his mouth. He asked, “Are you here to join the army too?”
He Yan nodded and saw the pancake leftovers in his hand. She suddenly felt a bit hungry. Since this afternoon, she hadn’t eaten anything, and after the chase, she was quite famished.
“Are you hungry?” The chubby man saw her staring at his hand, so he reached out and said, “Here, take it! I just had five, I’m full!”
Feeling really hungry, He Yan didn’t decline and accepted it. She mumbled her thanks and devoured the pancake.
“Such a weakling is joining the army? Are your family members at ease with that?” The chubby man muttered, “My brother who isn’t even ten looks much stronger than you.”
He Yan took a bite of the pancake and replied in between munches, “Mm, I may look thin and weak, but I’m actually quite strong. I’m sixteen years old.”
“Why did you join the army?” The chubby man asked, “You don’t look like someone who does manual labor.”
“My family’s fortunes declined, and I had no other choice,” He Yan summed it up in a few words.
The chubby man looked understanding, and with a sympathetic tone, he said, “Things change in life, little brother. Don’t worry too much. Follow me from now on, be my little brother, and I’ll protect you.”
“Thank you, big brother,” He Yan replied gratefully and readily.
The word “big brother” pleased the chubby man, and he smiled, saying, “My surname is Hong, call me Hong Shan. In the future, you can call me Brother Shan. Little Brother What’s your surname?”
“I’m surnamed He, He Yan. He as in haystack.”
“He? That’s a rare surname. In the future, I’ll call you Ah He.”
“En!” He Yan nodded. During their conversation, she had already finished the pancake. She wiped her mouth and found an old horse stable, sitting against the railing. Seeing this, Hong Shan asked curiously, “Little brother, aren’t you going back home?”
“I’m not going back,” He Yan placed her hands behind her head. “I’ll stay here.”
Sympathy in Hong Shan’s eyes grew stronger. He sat down beside her and said, “I have nowhere to go either. Let’s make do for the night here and leave together tomorrow.”
“That works just fine.”
In the distance, torches flickered outside the camp, swaying in the drizzling rain as if they might extinguish at any moment. The two sat in silence in the darkness, each immersed in their own thoughts.
He Yan couldn’t help but wonder how He Yunsheng was doing and whether he had reached home safely. Lost in her thoughts, she fell asleep.
Every day in the capital, countless events occurred, and if it involved ordinary people, no one would pay much attention. However, when it came to influential families, everyone would know about it.
Last night, a murder occurred on the Chunlai River. The young master of the prominent Fang family in the capital was killed on a boat, and the killer escaped without a trace. There was also the daughter of the city military official on the boat, who was also murdered by the killer and drowned in the river. Her body was nowhere to be found.
The city was filled with fear due to this cruel murderer. However, some commoners rejoiced secretly because the young master of the Fang family had always taken advantage of his family’s power to deceive and exploit ordinary girls. These girls couldn’t complain even if they suffered injustice, and now, someone had taken justice into their own hands. Perhaps heaven was finally showing mercy.
The He family was in dire straits.
Overnight, He Sui seemed to age ten years. He sat in the hall dazedly, resembling a lifeless clay statue. Qingmei and Shuang Qing hid in the courtyard, their expressions bitter. Qingmei wiped her tears and said softly, “How could she suddenly be gone…”
In a crude horse stable, He Yunsheng sat beside Xiang Xiang.
The fodder was from yesterday, and he didn’t have the heart to add more. The horse seemed a little restless, but He Yunsheng remained indifferent.
No news is good news. At least until now, He Yan hadn’t been caught. He remembered that boat, where the rain concealed the smell of blood, and he felt perplexed and helpless. The girl in a long skirt with clear pupils touched his head and said, “I will be fine, you know that. Every time, I’ve been fine.”
This time, she would be fine too. Definitely.