Chapter 231 Captain Ren Xiaosu
Even though they despised it, everyone still felt obligated to put up the couplets since they had begged Grandpa Hu Shuo to write them, and this was especially so after he had already written them down.
Actually, couplets were only a representation of hopes for the New Year. It didn’t matter what they were as long as everyone was happy.
A basic wooden house had already been built. To keep the inside of the house warm, everyone skinned the wild animals the wolves had sent over and washed them clean. They then line the outside wall of the house with the skins after drying them so the wind wouldn’t get in.
After the house was completed, the duo of Ren Xiaosu and Li Qingzheng wanted to drive back to town. They were going there to bring Wang Fugui, Yan Liuyuan, Jiang Wu, and the rest over to the outpost.
But Hu Shuo stopped them this time. “It’s no longer the same outside of town. If you two go back there to bring your friends back, something could go wrong. Wait another two days before going.”
Ren Xiaosu was startled. “Did something bad happen?”
“The Li Consortium lost an entire combat brigade,” Hu Shuo replied.
This time, everyone else at the outpost was startled. “There should be several thousand people in a combat brigade, right? How could they be lost just like that?”
Hu Shuo was amused. “But they really were lost just like that. Therefore, full martial law has been enforced outside of Stronghold 108, and even trenches have been dug too. If you two go back at this time, you might not be able to get out of the town even if you got in.”
Ren Xiaosu frowned. “Then what can we do?”
“Wait a day.” Hu Shuo laughed. “I’ll handle things for you.”
When Ren Xiaosu heard that, he did not say anything else. He was curious to see how Hu Shuo would resolve this matter.
As it got closer to the New Year during these two days, Hu Shuo started speaking less.
Everyone would often see Hu Shuo sitting on the cliff next to the outpost all day without doing anything other than looking out into the distance.
Ren Xiaosu walked up to Hu Shuo and asked, “Are you thinking of your family?”
Hu Shuo ignored him, but Ren Xiaosu asked again, “Other than that grandson of yours, don’t you have any other family?”.
Hu Shuo gave him a look. “No, why?”
“I’ve seen you in a strange mood of melancholy these past few days.” Ren Xiaosu said in worry, “If you don’t mind, we can become blood brothers. Since I have another younger brother, we can recreate something along the lines of the Oath of the Peach Garden.”
“Get lost!” Hu Shuo snapped at him. “Are you trying to take advantage of me? My grandson is older than you!”
Ren Xiaosu said rather sadly, “It’s almost the New Year, but he isn’t reuniting with you?”
“He has something more important to handle,” Hu Shuo said.
All of a sudden, Ren Xiaosu felt that Hu Shuo could be planning something big. That grandson he was talking about was probably a key figure in this entire plan. “Wait, is your grandson a Li?”
Hu Shuo looked at him with a half-smile. “Lots of people share the surname Li. Which one are you talking about?”
Ren Xiaosu froze. He should have thought of this long ago. If that grandson was the person he was guessing it to be, much of Hu Shuo’s behavior would be explainable.
The next morning, an off-road vehicle drove up to the outpost. Ren Xiaosu guessed it was probably here to look for Hu Shuo.
But when two officers got out of the vehicle, they were holding two additional sets of military uniforms in their hands. Hu Shuo, who was sitting in the front yard, pointed them to Ren Xiaosu and Li Qingzheng and said, “Give them to the two of them.”
Ren Xiaosu asked, “What is it?”
“If you wish to go through town, you’ll have to don this uniform,” Hu Shuo said.
“But this is the Li Consortium’s military uniform!” Ren Xiaosu said in shock. “Won’t they require IDs when passing through town? If we get caught, won’t we get into big trouble?”
However, those two officers said, “We’ve prepared for that as well.” They then handed Ren Xiaosu a blue booklet.
Ren Xiaosu opened it up immediately and saw an officer’s ID of the Li Consortium. There was a serial number, a stamp, and even Ren Xiaosu’s photo in it. He did not even know when his picture had been taken without his knowledge!
Hu Shuo laughed and said, “The negatives have already been destroyed, so don’t worry The serial number is real, the rank of captain is also real, all of it is real. You’re now my subordinates, so whoever checks on you won’t be able to find any trouble with you at all. But I doubt that anyone would dare to stop our staff for checks anyway. After all, normal soldiers are all pretty afraid of the Office of Special Investigations.”
Ren Xiaosu fell silent. This old man’s influence within the Li Consortium seemed huge. Reaching the status of regular Li Consortium soldier was such a sought after dream by many people. But in this person’s hands, it was nothing more than a small gift he could present to anyone he wanted.
Besides, this man probably had some other motives by granting him this status, right? Why would a sly old fox like Hu Shuo do so much for him? If he had to go through all this trouble to make him a Li Consortium officer, he might as well just send some of his own people to bring Xiaoyu and the others over.
Curious, Ren Xiaosu asked, “Aren’t you afraid that I’ll use this position to do other stuff?”
Hu Shuo was amused. “You? What could you possibly do?”
After lunch that day, Ren Xiaosu and Li Qingzheng drove back to town in their Li Consortium military uniforms. Li Qingzheng looked very excited. “So I’ve become a regular officer of the Li Consortium just like that? I can get into the stronghold now?”
“Are you that desperate to get into the stronghold?” Ren Xiaosu asked curiously.
Li Qingzheng laughed and said without any hesitation, “Who doesn’t? I heard you don’t even need to close the doors at night in the stronghold. There aren’t even any burglars around.”
“Then I’m afraid that I’ll have to disappoint you,” Ren Xiaosu said while looking out of the window. “I don’t find it that great in the stronghold. In fact, I think it’s much nicer living in town.”
Li Qingzheng responded, “I don’t believe you. You must be lying. In any case, the fortune teller told me I would get into the stronghold when I met my benefactor, and I’ll only believe that.”
Ren Xiaosu just smiled but did not say anything. If you chose to believe in fortune telling, you might as well depend on yourself.
When they reached the town’s checkpoint, the two of them produced their IDs. When the sentry guard saw the words “Military: Office of Special Investigations,” he looked astounded, and he hurriedly let Ren Xiaosu and Li Qingzheng through.
Meanwhile, Wang Fugui and the others had already packed their belongings and were waiting for Ren Xiaosu to arrive.
When Ren Xiaosu said he was going to take them to the outpost to spend the New Year, no one doubted if Ren Xiaosu could do it. Now that Ren Xiaosu had really come to pick them up, they were all carrying big and small bags like they were going on an outing. It was in complete contrast with the tense atmosphere in town.
When the woman from the grocery store next door saw Ren Xiaosu dressed in a military uniform, she froze. ‘Since when did he become a soldier of the Li Consortium? Wasn’t he still just a private army soldier the last time?’
At that time, she treated Ren Xiaosu with derision due to his status as a private army soldier. As a matter of fact, her lover was a true blue soldier of the Li Consortium.
She knew how difficult it was to enter into regular service as a soldier of the Li Consortium’s army. During this time, her business at the grocery store had plunged due to Wang Fugui’s grocery store opening next to hers. In the past, people would beg her to sell things to them. But now, Wang Fugui would kindly do business with anyone, so of course everyone was more willing to buy from his shop instead. So she became angrier and angrier by the day seeing how busy it had become over at Wang Fugui’s shop.
While Ren Xiaosu, Yan Liuyuan, and the others were packing their things, this woman secretly ran towards the military base stationed just outside of town.
 A fictional event, Liu Bei, Guan Yu, and Zhang Fei took an oath of fraternity in a ceremony in the Peach Garden (believed to be in present-day Zhuozhou, Hebei) in the novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms and became blood brothers. |