Chapter 432 Forced by circumstance
The old man looked at the Razor Sharp Company not knowing how to react. Instead, it was the little girl who started laughing when she saw Zhang Xiaoman and Jiao Xiaochen bickering with each other.
A child’s world was a simple one. They still did not understand how terrifying this world was.
Ren Xiaosu asked the old man, “What’s the stronghold closest to here?”
“That would be Stronghold 144,” the old man replied truthfully. “It’s about 60 kilometers to the west.”
Ren Xiaosu looked at Zhang Xiaoman. “So can you confirm our location now?”
“Yes.” Zhang Xiaoman nodded. “Stronghold 144 is the Zong Consortium’s granary, as 70% of the farming settlements are located near it. You could say it’s a stronghold that was specially built for handling food stores, just like what Stronghold 114 is to the Qing Consortium.”
“Oh, I see.” Ren Xiaosu nodded and said, “Then let’s start by attacking the areas around Stronghold 144 first.”
Jiao Xiaochen suddenly asked, “What should we do with this old man and the little girl? Are we just gonna let them go? What if they report us to the Zong Consortium?”
The old man immediately turned anxious. “Sir, don’t you worry. We definitely won’t report y’all to the Zong Consortium. Y’all’re from Fortress 178, right? To be honest, we were all hoping that you would come here as well.”
The Zong Consortium had oppressed the refugees too much. As a result, they had lost the support of the refugees.
Ren Xiaosu said, “If all the young and able adults weren’t already conscripted by the Zong Consortium, we might’ve been able to organize the refugees into an armed force behind enemy lines and encircle the stronghold. When I attended Mr. Zhang’s lessons, he once mentioned that such a division won…”
These words startled Zhang Xiaoman and the others quite a bit. However, they did not have the conditions to recreate something like that right now.
From the company, someone asked, “Grandpa, is there any food here?”
They were asking this because their rations were running out. Although there was the food that Ren Xiaosu had brought, Xiaoyu only prepared enough for him alone.
Based on Xiaoyu’s plan, the provisions would be enough to last Ren Xiaosu three months in the wilderness without needing him to constantly look for something to eat.
Although there was plenty of food, it was not sufficient for the entire Razor Sharp Company. Three months’ worth of food for a single person would only last two days for 184 people. Therefore, it was extremely urgent that they find food first.
Although Ren Xiaosu could plant some of the Potato Shooters, he would only use a method that would consume his gratitude tokens as a last resort.
The old man said, “How could we still have food? It’s all been seized by the Zong Consortium. They even found and took the food that we stashed away.”
Ren Xiaosu glanced at the basket the old man was carrying and saw it was filled with wild vegetables. It seemed like he had taken the little girl out earlier to dig for them. The old man was not lying.
“Then what should we do?” Jiao Xiaochen asked.
Zhang Xiaoman gave a wave of his hand. “Don’t worry, we can go and blow up the factories. There’s so many workers in the factories, so how can they not have food there?”
When everyone heard this, they immediately headed west. They were going to seek uniforms and food at the same time.
It went better than they expected. It didn’t take them long before they came across a factory that had a continuous trail of white smoke gushing out of its chimney.
The Razor Sharp Company had meticulously planned to attack it from two different directions. However, they did not even encounter any presence of a decent garrison around it, with only two private troops guarding the place. When they saw Ren Xiaosu and company, they instantly knelt on the ground and begged for mercy without any resistance.
Furthermore, all of the refugees in the factory also came outside promptly and lined up.
Zhang Xiaoman wondered, “You only have two people guarding the entire factory?”.
The private troops who were kneeling on the ground said, “The rest have been transferred to the Zong Consortium’s combat troops.”
“Alright then!” Zhang Xiaoman seized their weapons and said, “Bring out the food y’all eat here. We want to take some of it with us.”
The two private soldiers hesitated a little but still ended up doing as they were told.
However, Zhang Xiaoman and the others were shocked when they saw the moldy cornbread that was brought out. He said in surprise, “Is this all you have in this factory? Can any refugees step forward and answer me?”
One of the refugees said, “Sir, this is what we usually eat.”
Zhang Xiaoman’s face darkened. It was no wonder the Zong Consortium was unpopular with the people and that the old man had said they were all hoping for Fortress 178 to invade. It turned out the refugees were leading miserable lives.
Ren Xiaosu sighed. Although the Qing Consortium was also an organization that exploited its refugees, the refugees in their factories at least had enough to eat. It wasn’t about how good the Qing Consortium was, but how the other organizations made them look better.
Jiao Xiaochen broke a moldy top of cornbread in half and saw that there were even grain chaff mixed into it. “Is this thing really edible? Wouldn’t you die after eating it?”
“Sir, it’s enough as long as it keeps us alive,” the refugee replied.
As this was a bronze smelter, the Razor Sharp Company could not find any clothes nor the Zong Consortium’s military uniforms. This upset Zhang Xiaoman a little. He looked at Ren Xiaosu and said, “We can’t eat this. We’ve also eaten horrible food before, but we really can’t eat something that’s already moldy. It’ll affect our combat effectiveness.”
“I think it’ll be the same at the other nearby factories,” Ren Xiaosu lamented. “So if we want something to eat, we’ll have to find it at the Zong Consortium’s stronghold.”
“Since Stronghold 144 is known as the Zong Consortium’s granary, we’ll definitely find food there. Besides, if we can destroy that ‘granary,’ it’ll trouble the Zong Consortium quite a bit. If their troops don’t have any food to eat during the war, they might just stage a mutiny.”
“Dream on!” Zhang Xiaoman joked. “There should be at least a regiment garrisoned inside Stronghold 144, so how’re we supposed to attack it?”
Ren Xiaosu piped up, “We can attack their baggage train first!”
Initially, the Razor Sharp Company did not wish to come into contact with any of the Zong Consortium’s regulars since they were behind enemy lines. But now, they had no choice but to fight. If they did not fight, they would starve to death. Their hand was forced by circumstance.
No one could have expected that the bloodshed about to take place within the Zong Consortium’s territory would actually be sparked by a search for food.
Two days later, the Zong Consortium’s headquarters suddenly received news that a convoy moving provisions had been attacked by a small group of enemy troops outside Stronghold 144. As the enemy was only a single company from Fortress 178, they did not manage to completely wipe out the supply column.
Currently, Stronghold 144’s garrison infantry regiment was pursuing this company with all its might.
A general at the headquarters on the front line frowned when he received this news. As Stronghold 144’s geography was unique, Fortress 178 would have to cross a river to be able to attack that place. But since Fortress 178 did not have any ships, the Zong Consortium did not worry too much about this place when they were previously considering their strategic plans.
But to their surprise, something just had to happen at Stronghold 144.
The headquarters issued an official document to Stronghold 144 to order the infantry regiment’s commander to eliminate this company that came from Fortress 178. He was to ensure the safety of the rear supply lines!
But just a few hours after the document was sent, Stronghold 144 relayed the news that the regiment had lost sight of the enemy.
The general at the headquarters who was in charge of logistics was enraged. “How could you even lose sight of the enemy inside your own territory?! Find them! Locate this company no matter what! Otherwise, you won’t have to be the regimental commander anymore!”