Chapter 375 Traveling together
The group headed to Stronghold 178 from the Central Plains did not consist of a lot of people. Although Ren Xiaosu was badly injured and immobilized in the backseat, he could roughly tell that there were about 20 of them. The six off-road vehicles formed a convoy, with one of them pulling along a supplies trailer.
The key figures of the convoy were probably the pair of siblings named Wang Shengzhi and Wang Shengyin. However, the two of them did not put on any airs. They seemed to be very easygoing, and the other people in the convoy did not feel any pressure in their presence.
As they traveled, Ren Xiaosu checked on his wound. The tear in his right side was horrific. Fortunately, these people had stitched it up for him. Otherwise, he would probably have died before he could even come around and apply the black medicine on himself. The sutures over the wound were straight and neat. He could tell the person who did it was meticulous.
Listening to what these people were saying, Ren Xiaosu realized he had been swept by the floodwaters to more than a 100 kilometers away. He did not even know how he survived.
When it was time to eat, Wang Shengzhi’s subordinates brought over some piping hot food for Ren Xiaosu. Ren Xiaosu ate silently in the vehicle. But as everyone in the convoy knew that he had just survived a disaster, they thought it was normal for him to be quiet.
After sunset, the convoy set up camp on schedule. Ren Xiaosu heard them discussing the entire Northwestern and Southwestern situation by the campfire. A man said, “Why did a war suddenly break out there? Hasn’t it been several decades since any conflicts happened in the region? We never used to pay attention to that area.”
However, Wang Shengzhi said with a smile, “In the past, it was because that place was quite inaccessible by traffic. Meanwhile, the clans in the Central Plains took no interest in the Southwest either. They could not even handle the matters back home, so how could they have time to care about whatever was happening over there? We don’t really have any dealings in that region anyway.”
The Southwest was destined to be an isolated region due to its geographical location. However, it seemed that because of the sudden war that happened recently, some people in the Central Plains started paying attention to it.
“It’s said that Qing Zhen is an extremely formidable figure.” Wang Shengyin thought for a moment before saying, “Although we don’t know the details of the war, after the Qing Consortium and the Yang Consortium were done dealing with the Li Consortium, it seems that the Yang Consortium also got played by Qing Zhen. We must definitely be careful of a belligerent like him.”
To the eyes of an outsider, the developments in this war looked like Qing Zhen had been controlling it entirely on his own. From the beginning to the end, the war fully emanated Qing Zhen’s ambitions and plans.
However, only those who were in the know understood that Qing Zhen had only been doing whatever it took to protect himself all this while.
Just as Qing Zhen had said, if he had been given more free rein previously, he might not have become the head of the Qing Consortium now.
In the current times, those who were satisfied with the status quo would eventually get destroyed and die. On a long and dark road, no one could turn around until they saw the light.
Someone suddenly turned around and asked Ren Xiaosu, “Aren’t you from the Northwest? Do you know how the war started?”
Ren Xiaosu shook his head. “I’m not sure. I’m only a refugee. Why would I know about those things?”
The person speaking scratched his head. “True, these matters are really far from you, hahaha. I guessed I asked for nothing then.”
When Wang Shengyin heard that, she asked Ren Xiaosu, who was half-propped up in the vehicle, “By the way, I haven’t asked you your name yet.”
Ren Xiaosu hesitated for a moment. “My name is Ren Xiaosu. My family was also swept away by the floodwaters. If you encounter anyone looking for me in the Central Plains, please tell them that I’m still alive.”
This was the most Ren Xiaosu had spoken in days.
Ren Xiaosu had wanted to hide his identity, but it was not like these people knew much about the Northwest and Southwest anyway. So Ren Xiaosu dismissed the thought and gave his real name. Moreover, he was hoping to find his lost family. His name should be considered quite unique since it didn’t contain any repetition. If Liuyuan, Wang Fugui, and the others heard his name mentioned, they would definitely come looking for him.
In fact, he would also have liked to go look for Yan Liuyuan and the others. But finding people in this vast world was simply too difficult. He still had more important things he needed to handle.
During this period, Ren Xiaosu would have to pay back the suffering and despair the Zong Consortium had inflicted on him. However, his strength alone was limited, so Ren Xiaosu was thinking about how he could get support for his cause. Now that this group of people in front of him were thinking of opening up the Northwestern trade routes, perhaps this would be his chance.
Thinking of this, Ren Xiaosu suddenly felt that he could understand Li Shentan much better. Back then, he thought Li Shentan was like a demon. But now, Ren Xiaosu finally understood that when you were not living in a state of pain and hatred yourself, you shouldn’t be trying to persuade others to be kinder.
Of course, understanding was one thing, but being friends was another.
Ren Xiaosu suddenly asked, “Are there any wars in the Central Plains?”
Wang Shengzhi glanced at him and said, “That’s a place that any military would be willing to fight for.”
Ren Xiaosu was stunned. Wang Shengzhi meant that there were also wars happening in the Central Plains. He asked, “Don’t they all say that the Central Plains are a prosperous and wealthy place?”
Wang Shengzhi smiled. “It’s precisely because it’s prosperous and rich that wars happen. There’s no contradiction between the two.”
Ren Xiaosu did not probe further. That wouldn’t match his current status as a normal refugee. But Wang Shengyin’s interest did get piqued, and she got in the mood to chat. “What do you refugees in the Northwest usually do?”
Ren Xiaosu calmly answered, “Farming, brick making, and digging ditches to irrigate the crops.”
“How long does it take to fire a kiln of bricks?” Wang Shengyin asked.
Ren Xiaosu answered, “The black bricks take about 13 days to make, but that also depends on how long we take to cool the kiln down with water. We haven’t fired any red bricks before, so I don’t know how long those take to make.”
Wang Shengyin nodded and did not ask anything else. The questions might have seemed casual, but there was actually intent behind them.
But at this moment, several military transport trucks suddenly drove over from the northwestern direction. Everyone stopped talking and looked over. When Ren Xiaosu saw the mark of a long saber on the vehicles, his heart sank. That was the symbol of the Zong Consortium.
They were still at least a 100 kilometers away from the Zong Consortium, so why would their people suddenly appear here?
Ren Xiaosu shifted himself further into the vehicle and kept his face hidden in the shadows within.
Meanwhile, Wang Shengzhi and the others remained seated by the campfire like they were not worried at all.
Those vehicles stopped next to the campsite, and three combat platoons from the Zong Consortium disembarked. The leader was a tall and broad-shouldered man. He looked like an officer of the Zong Consortium. He frowned and asked, “Who are you people?”
Wang Shengzhi turned his wheelchair around to the officer and said with a smile, “We’re from the Central Plains and are headed to Stronghold 178. Who are you?”
The officer did not answer Wang Shengzhi’s question. Instead, he continued asking, “What are you going to Stronghold 178 for?”
“We’re going there to do business,” Wang Shengzhi replied briefly.
“This route is controlled by our Zong Consortium. Why don’t you all come back with me to the Zong Consortium first and we’ll let everyone leave after we get a clear understanding of the situation?” the officer said. It sounded like this officer was still being polite as he was unsure of who he was speaking to.
However, Wang Shengyin said, “Then wouldn’t we have to take a detour? We’ll just stick to our planned route and mind our business without troubling the Zong Consortium.”
At that, the Zong Consortium officer dropped his polite tone and said to the soldiers beside him, “Take them back.”
Then they heard the Zong Consortium officer say to Wang Shengzhi, “I’m sorry, everyone. You’re not allowed to enter this area.”
Ren Xiaosu suddenly wondered if the Zong Consortium was trying to isolate Stronghold 178 in the Northwest and prevent any contact between them and the Central Plains.