Translated by Shiny
54. Hopes and Dreams
Taking advantage of the holiday, Yang Sheng took his brothers to Shijia Village in Xiangfu County which was more than 10 miles to the southeast of Bianzhou.
Shijia Village was originally a small village sparsely inhabited by less than a hundred households. After several wars, there was a loss of more and more people and the fertile farmlands fell into disuse.
After Marquis Jin Yue implemented the military merit system, this piece of land was arranged to be used to reward the soldiers who had participated in the war and gained titles and military merits.
Hence, the village was renamed as Shijia1 Village.
In the village, five households made up one unit in the army, and a hundred households made up one neighborhood with all of the residences within close proximity.
There was a trunk road arranged for every 500 metres, along with a simple town, with a Household Manager to oversee the affairs of the town.
A pavilion at every 5 kilometres, a village at every 5 pavilions, and several villages making up a county.
The formalities required for Yang Sheng to settle down in the village had already been settled ahead of time.
However, this was still Yang Sheng’s first time coming to the village. The Village Chief checked Yang Sheng’s identity verification before welcoming him passionately. After beckoning Yang Sheng to settle down, he invited the Manager of Households to come over before letting him lead Yang Sheng to take a look at the homestead and fields that were allocated to him.
The Household Manager was a man in his thirties. Leading Yang Sheng and the others along the way, he faced Yang Sheng and cupped his fists before saying, “Our Xucuo Community is really blessed that Higher Officer Yang2 can settle down in our neighborhood. Most of the people who settle down in our Xucuo Community are common people and Officers of the first rank. It’s still a first for a Higher Officer of the second rank such as Higher Officer Yang to join us.”
According to the new policy, the positions of Village Chief and Manager of Households should also be held by lower ranked nobles.
However, when the new policy was first implemented, there were very few such nobles. Hence, they were forced to select people among the commoners and temporarily assign them to the posts, which was why they were quite enthusiastic towards Yang Sheng who was just a centurion with a title of the second rank.
Yang Sheng had always been a person who was very good at winning people over, and after some back and forth, he had already become familiar with the Household Manager.
Holding the Household Manager’s hand, he casually stuffed a small pouch of coins into his sleeve while laughing and speaking; “Brother, I am a lone person who has no parents, nor a wife, and I spend my time in the army every day. I will still need Brother’s help with the matters regarding this place.”
After laughing and evading for a while, he reluctantly accepted the purse and led them through the entrance.
Bianzhou was currently undergoing post-war reconstruction. Although it was planned for there to be a large number of villages and counties, it was actually sparsely populated with large tracts of uncultivated land and numerous unoccupied houses.
The Household Manager led Yang Sheng and the others towards a shabby earthen house.
The walls of the house were made of rammed earth and the purlins were covered with a thatch roof with the eaves and skylight even covered with earthen tiles.
Although the walls were cracked, the thatch on the roof was scraped away and the skylight were left open due to long-term inoccupancy, it was still considered a very good earthen house among the numerous abandoned houses in the Xucuo Community, even better than the earthen houses occupied by the sergeants from the city.
“Take a look Higher Officer Yang, this house was originally inhabited by a wealthy family, their entire family disappeared in the chaos of the war.3 Higher Officer Yang is usually busy with military affairs and must not have the spare time to build a new residence, so Brother privately decided to allocate this residence to Higher Officer for you to use as your lodgings. In the future, when Higher Officer has time to spare, it wouldn’t be too late to build a new house at your leisure.”
These words sounded very beautiful. What he meant was that ‘everyone else is only given an empty plot of land, however, considering the fact that you do not have any family members to help you, I’ll just give you this plot of land that has an old house on it. Although it’s old and worn out, you can still use it after cleaning up, so as to save you from having to find the time to build a new one.’
Yang Sheng thanked him repeatedly.
After the Household Manager left, Yang Lu Hou and the others cheered and pushed open the dilapidated wooden door that hung askew before swarming inside.
The small house was divided into two parts, enclosed within a rammed-earth yard. There were three large rooms at the front, with a pigsty, latrine and sundry room at the back.
The courtyard was equipped with a well and a set of stone tables and chairs with a tall jujube tree growing majestically against the wall of the yard.
There were cracks running through the earthen walls and there was a large cavity in the roof, not to mention the fact that the house had been ransacked several times, leaving it in a state of chaotic disorder.
Nevertheless, they were still unable to suppress the excitement and tumult of emotions in their hearts.
A month ago, they had still been huddled together in the slave barracks that was akin to a pigsty. They had followed Brother Sheng and gotten into countless brawls in order to grab a dry spot to sleep in.
Not daring so much as to dream that they could have a house and field of their own.
Now, it was only Brother Sheng who had obtained a house, but for them, it had become a dream that was both tangible and obtainable. They were willing to fight with their lives in order to realize this dream.
The young and vigorous men quickly went into action.
Cutting down reeds and borrowing tools.
They repaired the roof and walls and cleaned the house, getting to work in full swing.
Yang Lu Hou fetched two vats of water and placed them inside the house. He couldn’t help rolling around on top of the rammed earth before laying with his limbs splayed wide open as he reclined motionlessly with his head raised up.
“It’s really great, Brother Sheng.” He said, “With such a yard, you could marry a young girl and settle down and give birth to a couple of fat boys. After fighting at the front lines, earn land and money, and then send it back home.”
Yang Sheng snorted softly. He didn’t respond as he gazed into the distance, his thoughts a mystery.
“Tomorrow, I will carry the log by myself.”
Yang Sheng bowed and glanced at him before throwing down a reed rod into a crevice.
“Oh, that’s right, Brother Sheng.” Yang Lu Hou sat up and said, “When I went to borrow the tools just now, I found that the entire area is very desolate with only a few households. You’ve got so much farmland, but how can you take care of it all? You’ll still have to find someone to rent it out to”
At this moment, at the foot of the western mountain, an old farmer and his family were working busily in the fields.
A young noble dressed in luxurious clothes squatted at the edge of the fields and greeted him with a smile.
“Old Sir, how are the crops growing this year? Will there be a prosperous harvest this year?”
This noble childe had an elegant appearance and a gentle demeanor, and there was a vigilant attendant dressed in black standing behind him. A carriage was parked not far in the distance alongside a grandiose retinue, the pomp was quite astonishing.
Presumably, it was a noble master from the city who had come out for spring outing.
The old man didn’t pull back in fright.
“Two hundred stones? So little?” Cheng Qianye was stunned and blurted out.
In modern times, although she had lived in the city since she was a child and didn’t have much knowledge regarding agriculture, in her cognition, one mu of land could produce one or two thousand catties of grain.
Production in this era was actually so little?
“Gongzi,6 you are a noble and do not understand this field of work.” The old farmer didn’t take it seriously. He stopped moving his hoe and spoke to Cheng Qianye, “Even if the weather is favourable for the crops, Laohan7 is able to produce so much only by taking care of each mu of land like a treasure.”
“Laohan also has 100 mu of land at the other end of the western mountain, close to the Bian River. The land there is fertile with ample moisture, and it is more than likely that it can produce 300 stones of grain.”
“Old Sir, your family has so much land?”
“We are refugees who came here from Zhengzhou, how could we have so much land? Thanks to the benevolence of our Lord, we were able to become nationals of the State of Jin and received 30 mu of farmland. But my family is quite large, so we rent land every year in order to provide enough for the family.” The old man lifted up the towel on his shoulders and wiped his sweat.
“Fortunately, there are many military households here with villages specially set up for the soldiers. Many of these soldiers have been conferred with noble ranks and received land after having won military merit recently. These small households haven’t moved here yet, and there are no people attending to these large plots of land, Laohan rented 200 mu of land in one breath.”
“Are you able to handle such a busy workload?” Cheng Qianye inquired.
.”Ay, what is it to have one’s hands full,8 it’s better to farm than to go hungry. The entire family is here. Look, even my little grandsons have been called here to help.” The old man pointed to several bare-bottomed children who were bustling about in the field.
“This year being the first year, our Lord said that we would not be charged with taxes. As long as we manage to hold on and survive this year and save up enough money to buy cattle, we will have a better life next year.”
Cheng Qianye rose to her feet and clapped her hands together before cupping her fists together, “Many thanks to Old Sir for clearing up my confusion.”
“Ay, Noble Sir is too polite, what’s the value in this?
Cheng Qianye glanced at Mo Qiao Sheng before turning around and walking back towards the cavalcade.
Mo Qiao Sheng fished out a purse filled with coins and placed it on top of the ridge.
“Buy some clothes for the children.”
The cavalcade arrived at the hotsprings of the west mountain.
The Moon Spirit Spring was surrounded by wisps of white mist.
On his own accord, Mo Qiao Sheng bound his eyes with a strip of black cloth before holding onto the railing and stepping into the spring.
He heard the sound of someone entering the water beside him.
A wet palm took his hand and led him to lean against the wall of the pool and sit on the steps submerged in the water.
“It’s soaking in the hot springs that’s still the most relaxing.” A voice sounded beside him, “I really wish I could come here with you every day.”
“Qiao Sheng.” He spoke softly, “Would you like to take off the blindfold?”
Mo Qiao Sheng was startled and instinctively rushed to stand up.
However, his feet accidentally slipped and his entire body sank into the water.
Cheng Qianye reached out to support the panicked man and pulled him out of the water.
“Why did you get so scared like this?” She said with a smile.
The face covered with the black cloth was burning, and even the tips of his ears were red.
“If you don’t want to, then forget about it.” Cheng Qianye stroked the flustered head, “You will be going into battle soon, I’ll just tell you in the future.”
He is so adorable.
Cheng Qianye bit her lip as she stroked his head.
The man didn’t show any reaction on the surface, yet he had such an intense emotion in his heart.
Like flowers blossoming before my eyes, one after another, like a silent confession.
How can I resist?
Cheng Qianye furrowed her eyebrows.
Her hand slowly followed along Mo Qiao Sheng’s black hair, touching the ridge of his brow bone and sliding across the well-defined face before gently rubbing his soft, thin lips with her thumb.
In the misty spring water, the man lay on top of the white marble at the edge of the pool. His lips were slightly parted as he lay motionlessly with his eyes concealed behind a strip of black cloth, his face glowing crimson.
How can I resist bullying him?
Cheng Qianye bowed her head and kissed his forehead. She carefully kissed from his eyebrows, eyes and the bridge of his nose, to the tips of his red ears.
Mo Qiao Sheng shrank back.
Cheng Qianye held his chin to prevent his struggle.
She nuzzled against his ear and passionately expressed her tender affections before sticking out the tip of her tongue and slowly bullying the flustered man.
Her thumb gently swept back and forth across those lips until they chilled from excessive excitement.
Cheng Qianye suddenly halted her movements and whispered into this ear with that seductive voice, “Do you want… me to kiss you?”
After a long moment, she saw him nod lightly.
And so, she confidently covered the man’s lips with her own. She parted his thin lips with the tip of her tongue before diving straight inside, attacking and conquering his territory in an unscrupulous manner.
Mo Qiao Sheng reached out and tried to push back.
Cheng Qianye held his wrist under the water and pushed it back against the wall of the pool, continuing to kiss him deeply.
Mo Qiao Sheng suddenly shuddered. He pushed Cheng Qianye away and jumped out of the pool before running into the distance. He was so flustered as he ran off with his eyes still covered and blocking his sight, that he even collided with a tree trunk.
He ripped off the black cloth obstructing his vision and disappeared into the woods without turning back.
Oh dear. Did I do something wrong?
Cheng Qianye looked at the suspicious surface of the water as she stroked her chin.
Back in Bianzhou;
Yao Tianxiang slipped into Cheng Qianye’s bedroom with her face glowing with excitement.
“How was it? Did you do it?
“Uhh…” Cheng Qianye was somewhat embarrassed.
“What?!” Yao Tianxiang exclaimed exaggeratedly, “You just kissed him and he disarmed?”
“Is he only impressive in looks but actually useless?” Yao Tianxiang said.
The two women squeezed together in front of the table and stared at the candlelight as they fell into strange thoughts.
“No. Last time, it was on our wedding night.” Yao Tianxiang pushed Cheng Qianye. “How many times did you bully him? Be honest.”
“This,” Cheng Qianye blushed. “Two… Three times.”
“Then it’s all right, he must have been too happy. He was overly excited.”
Cheng Qianye held her cheek as she gazed at the candlelight. “Ay, actually, I just wanted to kiss him, but he always shows that tearful appearance, making people want to love him but unable to help bullying him. I was careless and went too far.”
“That sounds quite interesting.” Yao Tianxiang seemed as though she had discovered a new world. “I’ll try it out another day. Let Sima Tu cry for me once.”
Author’s Note: The architectural models in this story refer to the “Book of Ancient Chinese Architecture History” (中国古代建筑历史图书) published by China Construction Industry Press.
1. (士甲 – Shi Jia) – Shi means soldier and Jia means first which I think is in reference to the first rank title for which they’re rewarded with a house.↩
2. (上造 – shàng zào) Title of the second rank from the twenty ranks established after the military merit system.↩
3. Not entirely sure which, but it could mean either that the family just disappeared or that they all died in the chaos of war. I think it’s the latter.↩
4. (亩 – mu) chinese unit of measurement, 100 mu = 717594.03 square feet = 6.67 hectares. ↩
5. (石 – shi) chinese unit of capacity, 1 stone = 10 buckets. Okay, I tried to do the math, I really did, but it seems that how much a stone was equal to changed depending on which dynasty it was, so it’s complicated and I suck at math. Like so much. Math hates me. In conclusion, one or two thousand catties of grain are way more than 200 stones.↩
6. (公子 – gōng zǐ) son of nobility; your son [honorific], Childe.↩
7. (老汉 – lǎo hàn) old man; I, me [self appellation by an old man].↩
8. (忙不过来 – máng bù guò lái) – Idiom meaning to be too busy; having more work than one can handle.↩
TL Note: Poor Sima Tu shot while lying down. RIP.