Chapter 179 The desolation in aftermath of a disaster was everywhere
Under the sunlight, after the ferocious and horrendously stormy night in Jingtian City, the desolation in the aftermath of a disaster was everywhere.
Shu Huan stood on a high ground outside the city. When she saw this scene, she couldn’t help but close her eyes and took a deep breath.
She could smell the muddy odor after the rain, the fresh scent from the broken vegetation and the smell of smoke and fire.
When she opened her eyes again, what she saw was still the dilapidated ruins.
The city was destroyed too thoroughly by the earthquake and fire. There were almost no intact houses. Everywhere were broken tiles, walls, bridges and pillars. There were some tiny people searching in the ruins. From time to time, some people crouched on the ruins and began to mourn and wail. Those heartbroken wails floated along with the wind for a while, as if there was a fine string pulling people’s heart back and forth and forcibly showing the invisible scars.
“Miss, look at that,” Meijing pointed behind her (SH).
Shu Huan turned to look and saw some temporary accommodation made with bricks and planks, scattered in the distance behind her. There was no door, only a broken curtain was hung at the entrance. Some women were crouching outside the curtain to make fire. Since the leaves and firewood were too wet, when they made the fire, smoke came out first and caused the women to cough very hard. Children didn’t understand how to be worried. They only ran and laughed through the thick smoke.
“Let’s go check it out,” Shu Huan walked there first.
The coachman followed her with the carriage pulled by a donkey.
As they came closer, they could see more clearly. These temporary accommodations couldn’t withstand the wind and rain at all. It might even collapse with a small aftershock but, in the end, it is a place where one could sleep. It made people have more or less a sense of security in their hearts.
When the women saw them approaching, they stopped doing their work and looked back with surprise. The children also stopped running. With their fingers in their mouths, their eyes were fixed on the carriage pulled by a donkey.
“Excuse me, madam,” Zhang Zirong went forward first with the donkey and inquired about Zhang family’s whereabouts.
Shu Huan who was at the side, saw those women gathering around him, but after hearing his description, they just shook their head constantly. Someone even said, “Everywhere, there are people affected by the disaster. Everyone looks the same. Even if one sees them, one might not even remember.”
Zhang Zirong showed a disappointed look. Meijing didn’t give up and came forward to inquire about news of Gu Xiran and Ji Danqing, but the answer was exactly the same. No one knew.
They also didn’t expect to find them as soon as they got to Jingtian City.
Shu Huan sighed slightly. She took out a small packet of candy from her sleeves and gave it to the children around her. Then, she notified the women that they would set up a temporary accommodation here too. They could search and wait slowly.
When they (women) heard that they (SH and others) were going to stay here, the women were rather warmhearted. They (women) instructed them (SH) that they (SH) could go to the city to pick up some scraps to build the lodging. Someone even said, “Call us if you need something. We can all help.”
When the coachmen heard that they were going to stay, he looked hesitant and said, “I…I have children waiting for me at home….”
Shu Huan knew he didn’t want to stay here, so she smiled and said, “Mister, after unloading the things from the carriage, you can go back any minute. Just do us a favor. Can you pull two carriages of bricks back?”
As she said that, she stuffed a handful of copper into the coachman’s hand.
Everything was negotiable with money. That coachman immediately breathed a sigh of relief and repeatedly agreed. He even hurried down from the carriage to unload the things, causing the children to follow behind him and laugh.
In fact, building such temporary accommodation was the same as children playing with building blocks. It didn’t need much skill and then some people helped them to strengthen it too. When it was completely dark, Shu Huan kind of had a place to stay outside of Jingtian City. It was only small enough to lie down to sleep. Even if one wanted to stand up to walk two steps, one had to bend over.
Zhang Zirong was like a haunting ghost following them (SH and others). He also built a temporary accommodation to live near them. Shu Huan didn’t want to chase him away at this moment. Even if she didn’t like him, at least, he was an acquaintance who she knew well. If there was something, he would be there to help.
After finishing everything, she lifted the curtain, bent over to come out, and saw Shang Xin sitting on a broken brick busily making a fire. However, she (SX) couldn’t light the wet firewood and her whole forehead was full of sweat
She (SH) couldn’t help but laugh, “The weather is bad. Don’t make a fire anymore. Eat two baked sesame seed-coated cake to deal with the dinner.”
Shang Xin shook her head and said, “Even so, we have to boil some hot water to drink. It can also warm our hands and feet while we’re at it.”
Next to them, there was a woman who was chatting with Meijing, heard them and quickly gestured at them. She said, “Bring the firewood to the edge of my fire and roast it for a moment. It will be easier to burn after it’s dried.”
Shu Huan took the opportunity to sit closer to them and looked into the woman’s pot that was cooking on the fire. She saw a pot of boiling water, with some green wild vegetables and dozens of rice grains boiling in it. That woman’s child held a broken bowl and looked impatiently at the pot. It was heartbroken to see.
She said nothing. She turned silently and grabbed a few baked sesame-coated cake. While she gave it to Liangchen and Meijing, she also handed two to the child and the woman. The child was so happy that as soon as he took the baked sesame-coated cake, he bit into it. On the other hand, the woman seemed like she had come from a respectable family. She was embarrassed to take Shu Huan’s things and repeatedly thanked her (SH), but couldn’t bear to eat the cake in her hand. While she (woman) secretly put it away, she shouted at the child to eat slowly and to not choke. On the other hand, she also scooped a bowl of wild vegetable porridge from the pot for him.
Shu Huan hesitated for a moment and then asked, “Where is the father of the child?”
Before the woman could answer, Meijing hurriedly said, “Auntie said that the prefectural magistrate posted a notice outside the city today, asking the strong people to go to the city to work and save people. Uncle went very early, and hasn’t come back yet.”
“Right! It’s already dark and he still hasn’t come back yet!” As the woman said it anxiously, she looked in the direction of the city, but there was a bit of joy in her voice. “I didn’t expect the magistrate to be such a good person. He said that everyone who goes to help and save people in the city would get a bowl of rice every day. This rice is life-saving food and it was also doing good and virtuous deeds. If it isn’t because my child is too young and needs someone to watch over him, I would have gone too.”
After chatting for a short while and inquired about some information about the city, Shu Huan went back to her lodging. Not long after, the woman’s husband came back. Shu Huan saw that he first handed a small cloth bag to the woman, and then he picked up the child and kissed him for a while. His stubble pierced on the child’s delicate face, caused the child to scream and laugh. The laughter spread far and wide in the silent night.
She looked at it quietly for a while, until Shang Xin handed her a bowl of hot water. When she turned her eyes, she saw Zhang Zirong sat on a broken trunk from not far away as he looked at the family silently and thoughtfully.
Shu Huan sighed to herself. Whether one originally came from a rich or poor family, everyone was equal in the face of disaster. At this moment, one only wished that the family could be safe and sound together. Even if one needed to survive on wild vegetables, one could also taste happiness from it.