Chapter 180 The ban
Early in the morning, two big pots were set up outside the gate of Jingtian City. Inside of them a thin porridge was cooked. Everyone who was going into the city to work could get a large bowl of porridge here.
Shu Huan and Shang Xin wore men’s clothes and mingled into the crowd.
They naturally didn’t come in a hurry to get porridge, but, from earlier on, they had wanted to enter the city, go to Danqing’s place and Gu residence to see if they could find the people they were looking for. However, they were stopped by the guards outside the city, saying that the prefectural magistrate had imposed a ban. Unless they went for work, no one could go into the city at will. So, they had no choice but to go back and find the husband of that woman from yesterday and begged him to bring them into the city with him.
That mister was rather easy to persuade. His face didn’t show anything different when he saw them change into men’s clothes. He just smiled and said, “You all look so weak, can you really do the job?”
“We can do it!” Shang Xin knew that Shu Huan had to enter the city to check it out to feel reassured. She hurriedly replied, “I don’t dare to boast about doing heavy work, but it won’t be a problem to help by the side.
Shu Huan also said, “To tell you the truth, we want to go into the city to find someone, but I didn’t expect the prefectural magistrate to impose a ban. If we want to enter the city, we can only go to work.”
The mister looked at them, nodded and said, “I heard that someone was stealing things in the city yesterday. The ban came down in the evening afterwards, saying that it would be lifted after the city has been cleaned up.”
Shu Huan thought for a moment and said, “This is the right thing to do.”
It would also be difficult for the victims of the disaster to flee to another city when they couldn’t steal food or money anymore. They might as well stay in Jingtian City and work in exchange for food every day and still be able to survive safely. This also reduced the disaster of having refugees. Otherwise, if everyone just only cared about stealing and ran away afterwards and no one in the city cared to clean up the bodies and ruins, a plague might break out any time, and at that time, more people would die.
While they (SH and others) gathered together to talk, bodies were carried out the city from time to time. Because it often rained these days and there was water, the survival rate of the victims would be higher. So, occasionally there were wounded people rescued. When that happens, some people would rush forward to help the wounded with their injuries.
Everywhere was bloody.
That strange smell mixed in the dense heat from the porridge pot made people very uncomfortable.
Shu Huan felt her stomach churning, turned her head and tried to not look in the direction of the gate. She thought, she might never want to eat porridge again in her life.
Shang Xin asked timidly at the side, “Uncle Lin, what do those people do over there?”
That mister looked at the place she pointed at and saw many people around a big bucket. Some people were carefully pouring water into the bucket. He smiled and said, “That is mixing lime. The prefectural magistrate said that every time after one finishes cleaning up a place, one should carefully sprinkle the place with this lime slurry water.”
After Shu Huan heard them saying so, she also looked over. It was obvious those people were mixing slaked lime, which was a good way to disinfect. It seemed that this prefectural magistrate was different from the county magistrate who she knew slightly. He (prefectural magistrate) still had some ideas and strategies.
It was their turn to receive porridge, Shu Huan got a bowl of porridge. Naturally, she couldn’t eat it. When she saw no one was looking, she handed it to the mister and whispered, “Uncle Lin, I got up early and had already eaten. You can eat this bowl of porridge too.”
The mister was about to decline, but he saw a few people in bailiff’s uniform come over. The bailiff immediately urged, “Everyone eat quickly. After finishing, go to work. There are a lot of things to do today!”
With this shouting, the sound of eating porridge became louder and louder. After a while, twenty to thirty people stood up.
Those bailiffs looked at them, said nothing, and led them into the city with a beckon of the hand.
Shu Huan and Shang Xin mingled in the crowd. Although they changed in men’s clothes and still looked weak, in order to not stand out, they deliberately dirtied their hands and face with mud. Therefore, if one didn’t pay attention, they looked no different from the victims.
After they entered the city and walked a long way, they still hadn’t reached the place.
Shang Xin was a little perturbed, pulled Shu Huan’s sleeve and quietly asked her, “Will we be called to carry the bodies?”
Shu Huan was also worried about this problem!
It was no problem to let her save lives, but let her carry out bodies, it was more or less too much for her psychological state. Moreover, she might not have that strength. However, since she had come, it wasn’t good to retreat. If it really come to that moment, perhaps she would get through it by clenching her teeth. So, she shook her head and only asked Shang Xin, “Did you prepare the masks for the mouth I ask for this morning?”
“I did,” Shang Xin pulled a mask out of her sleeve and handed it over.
It was soaked in vinegar and was half dry. Regardless of the effect of disinfection, at least the pungent sour smell could ward off other odors.
Shu Huan took the mask and stuffed it into her sleeve.
They needed to walk very carefully along the way, because there were broken bricks and broken wood under their feet. One could twist one’s feet if one wasn’t careful. After they finally arrived at the place, the place looked emptier than elsewhere.
The bailiffs stopped and pointed to all kinds of tools scattered on the ground. “Go pick up a tool and start working. If you dug up food supplies, don’t keep it secretly it. Load it all into the barrows and transport it to the outside of the city!”
It turned out that this place was a collapsed barn.
Shu Huan looked around and saw that there were five to six wooden wheelbarrows parked nearby. There were some sacks on the barrows. Everything was well-prepared, so she didn’t say anything and went forward to pick up a tool to start working.
“You…,” Suddenly someone shouted at her.
She looked back and saw that a bailiff was still pointing to other people. “And you, you, all of you will be responsible to push the barrow. Be diligent, don’t be lazy.”
She and Shang Xin were chosen. They looked at the other people that were also chosen by the other bailiffs. They all looked a little thin and weak. She became aware that the bailiffs were compassionate to let them do some light work. And after assigning the jobs, those bailiffs didn’t leave or stood on the side as a supervisor but also picked up tools to work. Such, setting an example to others and strict discipline made Shu Huan look at the prefectural magistrate with quite different eyes.
Although, pushing the barrows was considered light work, but when doing it, it was also very hard. At least for Shu Huan and Shang Xin who hadn’t pushed this kind of wheelbarrow, it took a little effort to master the balance and skill. After they transported the food back and forth twice, both of them were already sweaty and a bit out of breath. The most bitter thing was that a bailiff was also pushing the barrows with them. They couldn’t go somewhere else to take a look. They could only hope to find a chance to slip away for a while when they had a break.
The third time they transported the grains, when they were outside of the city and the two of them were about to push the barrow to the pile of grains, they didn’t expect that the other three victims who were behind them all the time, suddenly pushed the barrow past them and rushed in a different direction. Shu Huan didn’t realize what was going on yet when she heard the bailiff who worked with them shout, “Stealing the food! Someone is stealing the food! Quickly stop them!”
The surroundings suddenly became chaotic. The bailiffs who guarded the city gate rushed to catch the people.
As soon as Shu Huan tried to leave the barrow and wait for the chaos to subside, she felt that her wrist was buckled, and then a rope was tightly tied around it.