Chapter 35: Poor aptitude
One hundred soldiers formed a squad, and they set off one after another.
The magnificent procession of troops running around the base of the mountain was truly a spectacular sight. Although everyone complained and shouted, they didn’t delay the task. The instructor in charge of He Yan’s squad was surnamed Liang, named Liang Ping, similar to Shen Han, he was fierce and ruthless. He shouted, “Quickly line up and start!”
At the command, everyone began the long run with the heavy sandbags on their backs.
He Yan felt like she was carrying a large stone on her back, pressing her body down, making her feel unsteady. Since she became Miss He, she had accompanied He Yunsheng up the mountain to chop firewood every day, but it only made her previously weak body healthier, or slightly sturdier compared to girls her age. However, Xiao Jue’s iron-blooded training method was too much for her to bear.
The old He Yan might have been able to handle it, but the current He Yan struggled.
There were constantly people overtaking He Yan. Most of those who enlisted were robust and tall men, and even those who were not as tall had grown up doing heavy labor in poor families. Although running with a sandbag was tiring, it was still manageable. He Yan was exceptionally weak in comparison. The few others with similar physique had already died on their way to Liangzhou, making He Yan the weakest in terms of physical aptitude at the Liangzhou Garrison.
Shitou and Xiao Mai, the two brothers, ran quickly. They often chased after prey in the mountains and would tie the caught animals around their bodies, running around with them, so it wasn’t too difficult for them. Hong Shan, who was slightly older, became somewhat out of breath after running one lap and wiped the sweat from his forehead, saying, “Hey, this is really inhumane behavior.”
He didn’t hear He Yan’s response and turned back to see that she had fallen behind by more than ten steps. He slowed down a bit and waited for He Yan to catch up before asking, “Ah He, can you keep going? You seem to be struggling.”
He Yan’s face was pale, and beads of sweat the size of beans rolled down her forehead and chin, disappearing into her clothes. Carrying the sandbag, she looked like one of those children sold to gang bosses at the docks in the capital, making people feel sorry for her.
“I’m fine. Brother Shan, you don’t need to worry about me. You go ahead and run. I can’t run fast, so I’ll run slowly at the back,” He Yan smiled and said, “You can finish early and rest in the shed. Don’t wait for me.”
“If you tell the instructor,” Hong Shan hesitated and leaned closer, speaking in a low voice, “you can secretly run fewer laps. No one will notice.”
“I know what I’m doing,” He Yan smiled wryly, “Brother Shan, you go ahead. We’ll meet up later.”
Only after confirming that He Yan didn’t need help did Hong Shan carry the sandbag and run ahead. He Yan scratched her head, revealing a helpless smile.
Tell the instructor she couldn’t handle it? That was impossible. Once she entered the military camp, she had to make it work, even if she couldn’t. Run fewer laps secretly? Also impossible. Although it seemed that no one around noticed, the instructors were very meticulous, and there were hidden monitors along the road. If she ran fewer laps secretly, she would be violating military discipline and would be punished. She knew all too well about these things since she used to be a general. As a soldier, she couldn’t sneak around.
But… she wiped away the sweat rolling into her eyes and looked up at the golden sun hanging overhead.
It was so hot!
Inside the garrison, someone walked out.
Cheng Lisu used a folding fan to fan himself and looked at the distant mountains covered by clouds and mist with joy, “The scenery here is so beautiful, a thousand times better than the capital! Uncle really has good taste!”
Xiao Jue followed behind him, dressed in a black and gold embroidered robe, with a long sword hanging obliquely from his waist. His eyes were like stars, and his lips were as red as vermilion. With his elegant temperament and beautiful appearance, he added a touch of brilliance to this desolate place.
“They’re running, tsk tsk tsk,” Cheng Lisu shook his head, “If I had to do this, I wouldn’t last a minute.”
“Then you can go back,” he replied with a cold, mocking tone.
“Ah, what did you say? The wind is too strong, I can’t hear… Uncle, look who’s coming?” Cheng Lisu changed the subject awkwardly.
The person who arrived was Shen Han, the instructor. He stopped in front of the two, bowed to Xiao Jue, and said, “Commander.”
“How are the new recruits?” Xiao Jue asked.
“Looks alright. There are a few who are struggling, but they might improve with practice,” Shen Han replied.
“What’s going on with that person?” Cheng Lisu pointed to the distance. “It seems like he’s about to collapse while running.”
They saw a small and weak-looking young man running on the track, or more accurately, running very slowly. He had already fallen far behind the rest of the group, and in fact, the sandbag on his back seemed to weigh more than he did.
“That’s one of Liang Ping’s soldiers, and he’s only on his fourth lap.”
“Fourth lap?” Xiao Jue raised an eyebrow.
While everyone else had already started their seventh lap, this person had just begun his fourth lap, falling so far behind. Shen Han commented indifferently, “His aptitude is too poor.”
Cheng Lisu and Shen Han glanced at each other, not saying anything. When Xiao Jue stamped “poor aptitude,” it meant the person was truly unsuitable, incapable of going to the battlefield.
“Poor aptitude is not a big deal,” Cheng Lisu thought of something and smiled, “Being a support soldier is not bad either. Maybe he’s skilled at a trade.”
The person whom they were hoping had good trade skills, He Yan, didn’t know what to say at this moment. The sandbag on her back was really heavy, yet she had to continue. She knew very well that the current physical training was just the beginning. In the future, there would be additional skill training, such as archery, knives, and arrows.
However, if she couldn’t endure the physical training, she wouldn’t qualify for skill training. She would be relegated to become a support soldier.
But she didn’t want to be a support soldier.
Near the resting area, Hong Shan finished his last lap and finally found Xiao Mai and Shitou resting in the shed. He sat down next to them.
Xiao Mai looked around and asked, “Where’s Ah He? Hasn’t he come out yet?”
“I don’t know. I haven’t seen him,” Hong Shan also felt worried, “Could this kid be unable to continue running?”
“Didn’t you tell Ah He to secretly run fewer laps?” Xiao Mai whispered, “No one will notice.”
“I already told him! He’s a stubborn mule. He won’t listen to me. What can I do?” Hong Shan shrugged helplessly.
As they were talking, Shitou suddenly spoke up, “He’s coming.”
The three followed his gaze and saw a young man slowly running at the end of the long path in the woods. The sandbag on his back was disproportionately large compared to his small frame. His hair was already wet, and beads of sweat rolled down from his forehead to his chin, disappearing into the mud beneath his feet. He ran past the vicinity of the shed without looking in their direction and continued on, starting a new lap.
“He’s still running…” Xiao Mai murmured.
He Yan didn’t stop.