Chapter 262 Leading the troops out of a predicament
After Tang Wanyi and the others left, Ren Xiaosu turned around and said to everyone in the private troops, “I was fortunate to be promoted to commander of the Iron Second Battalion. I won’t use empty talk, but some of you probably already know about my capability. I’m the best at surviving in this wilderness. None of you will starve to death or end up getting killed by the plants for no reason if you follow me!”
Everyone looked at one another. How could he make such boastful claims the moment he got appointed as the new commander? Everyone knew that Ren Xiaosu was just a normal soldier. But now that he had gained such a huge promotion, everyone couldn’t accept it.
Naturally, no one dared protest either. The sight of Ren Xiaosu dragging people around in the snow awhile ago was still fresh in everyone’s mind. Their impression of Ren Xiaosu was that he was a relentless person.
But even though he was unrelenting, they did not believe the words he just said.
Everyone had already been starving for several days, and they also faced the threat of the Brambles outside. Some people felt that Ren Xiaosu becoming the battalion commander at this moment was no different from asking for trouble.
Someone from the reinforced company couldn’t help but ask coldly, “Since you say that, and we’ve been starving for several days already, how are you going to help everyone look for food? We’ll believe you if you can get us out of here alive and find food as well.”
As these people from the reinforced company were originally Liu Taiyu’s cronies, the sudden change in leadership was definitely going to be a little uncomfortable for them.
But anyone here could be the leader as long as they were capable enough.
Someone added, “Yeah, we don’t even dare to walk too far. What if we encounter that plant again?”
When Ren Xiaosu heard this, he gave an impassioned speech. “Since I’ve promised all y’all, I’ll definitely bring everyone out of this place. How about this? I’ll walk ahead, and y’all can follow behind me. As long as I remain unharmed, nothing will happen to you guys behind me, right?”
Everyone was at a loss for words. Some people were instantly moved when Ren Xiaosu said he would lead the way personally. They didn’t expect he would have such courage!
If there really were those terrifying plants along the way, Ren Xiaosu would surely suffer the misfortune first since he would be walking ahead. If Liu Taiyu had been conscious, he would probably have ordered other people to lead the way instead of himself. He would definitely not lead by example like Ren Xiaosu!
Although none of them believed someone this good still existed in these wastelands, wasn’t there a living example standing right in front of them?
Ren Xiaosu said righteously, “Everyone, pack up all of your belongings and tents quickly. We’ll set off in an hour. I’ll walk ahead while you follow me! I’ll help everyone search for something to eat!”
The private troops who were all made up of refugees were not cultured people. History had proven that the less cultured a person was, the less likely they would question people and matters around them. Once they got herd mentality, they ould be more prone to blindly following orders.
They could never have guessed the plant was actually planted there by Ren Xiaosu…
If it were other people leading the way, they might really end up getting into trouble with the plant. However, Ren Xiaosu would definitely be safe doing so.
After the troops set off, Ren Xiaosu led them northwards and avoided all of the Brambles. Some of the vines suddenly emerged from under the snow and started moving threateningly at Ren Xiaosu. However, Ren Xiaosu just stood clear of its attack range.
In the eyes of these private soldiers, it was as though Ren Xiaosu was imbued with the power of the gods!
Someone shouted from behind for him to be careful, but Ren Xiaosu just turned around and said compassionately to them, “In order to lead you to safety, my sacrifice is nothing in the big picture.”
Ren Xiaosu felt that he was a great person. He was actually leading these private troops out of the predicament he had created!
Tears were streaming from someone behind Ren Xiaosu. “Thank you, Battalion Commander!”
“Thank you, Battalion Commander!”
Ren Xiaosu continued advancing while counting the gratitude tokens he received. Good, he had gained yet a few more gratitude tokens. Although there were several dozen private soldiers thanking him, only a few people’s gratitudes were sincere.
Someone from the reinforced company whispered, “It looks like he really is competent. It might be a good idea if we follow a good leader like him in these current times.”
The company commander said calmly, “Let’s observe the situation for now. It isn’t such a big deal if he just gets us out of here. I’ll only be convinced if he can successfully lead us to some food as well.”
In reality, it did not matter to Ren Xiaosu whether he could convince them since he wasn’t planning on doing so in the first place. His priority was to bring them to the designated location he had discussed with Tang Zhou.
The people behind him were not even sincere when they thanked him. He had helped them find a way to sneak into the forward operating base to dine, but he was still immediately betrayed by them. Chen Wudi, who was kind-hearted enough to help someone in need, was described as a fool as well.
Ren Xiaosu neither sympathized with these people nor did he intend to become true comrades with them.
By this time, they had left the Brambles “plantation.” Ren Xiaosu turned around and said to everyone, “Those vines very likely only grew in that small patch there, so there’s no need to worry about them anymore.”
Everyone heaved sighs of relief in response. Someone said, “Then can we rest now?”
Some of them were about to sit right down in the snow. The private troops were lazy like that.
But Ren Xiaosu continued, “We still can’t rest. I promised that I’d search for food for y’all, so let’s overcome the difficulties ahead of us first! And I have already come up with a good plan!”
When they heard they might get something to eat, everyone became excited. Even the reinforced company’s soldiers had run out of food a day ago. Everyone was so hungry they were lightheaded.
Ren Xiaosu headed into the mountains. But before he could even take two steps, he saw a hollow high in a tall tree next to him. He climbed the tree and reached into the hollow.
Everyone was wondering what Ren Xiaosu was doing. But when Ren Xiaosu withdrew his hand from the inside, a squirrel escaped from within in a flurry while Ren Xiaosu held a fistful of pine nuts and dried fruits they had never seen before!
Ren Xiaosu said with a smile, “Everyone, go around and look for similar hollows in the trees like this one. There should be enough food for everyone to fill their stomachs a little. Tell me if anyone discovers a cave or a rock cleft. That’s where our dinner for tonight is going to be!”
“What’s going to be in the cave?” someone asked curiously.
Ren Xiaosu jumped down from the tree. As he stuffed a pine nut into his mouth, he said, “After snakes store enough fat in the bodies, they start hibernating(1) for the winter. When that happens, they become very vulnerable to humans. Also, they prefer to be in groups when they hibernate. If we can find a cave, we’ll basically have found a den of snakes, and we can eat roasted snake for our dinner tonight!”
A ton of venomous snakes, bugs, and ants could be found in the southwestern region. Whenever Ren Xiaosu ventured into the wilderness in the past, he would always be exceptionally alert to this.
But most snakes usually ended up as food during their hibernation process. This was further helped by the fact that snakes preferred hibernating in groups. They did this to coil together to keep warm and reduce water loss in their bodies.
30% of snakes that did not hibernate in groups did not survive the winter.
So some of the braver refugees would head into the mountains to search for snake dens during the winter. If they found one, it would be a great harvest for them, and they would be able to live more comfortably for the entire winter.
And Ren Xiaosu was the bravest person in this group of refugees.
 Snakes do not actually hibernate. The term for cold blooded animals that “hibernate” is brumate (brumation).