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Chapter 307: I Didn’t Have a Choice Before, Now I Want to Be a Good Person!
At this moment, Lin Beifan, who was serving as the overseer, came out to inspect.
Seeing the surrendered Southern Jiang soldiers enjoying their breakfast, he approached and warmly inquired, “How’s breakfast? Are these steamed buns and porridge to your liking?”
The surrendered soldiers immediately stood up.
“Good morning, sir! These steamed buns and porridge are really delicious. I really like them!”
“Especially these white-flour steamed buns, they’re big and satisfying, yet soft and fluffy. One bite is so comfortable!”
“And the pickled vegetables, they’re perfectly seasoned, both salty and fragrant!”
“If only there was a bit more!”
“Yes, if we could have a bit more, that would be great. It’s not quite filling enough!”
Lin Beifan shook his head with a sigh, “I understand your feelings, but our army still needs to march and fight, so we have to prioritize their supplies. I apologize for any inconvenience.”
The surrendered soldiers shook their heads immediately, expressing their gratitude, “Sir, we don’t feel inconvenienced at all. We are genuinely grateful!”
“Grateful?” Lin Beifan was puzzled.
“Yes, we’re really grateful, grateful that we managed to sneak over here!” The surrendered soldiers exchanged glances, their smiles growing wider, “Otherwise, where would we get to enjoy such fragrant and big steamed buns, along with such sweet and fragrant rice porridge?”
“That’s the reason you’re grateful? Did you all have a tough time before?” Lin Beifan was even more puzzled.
This question seemed to touch a nerve, and an old soldier’s eyes welled up with tears as he said, “Sir, we had such a miserable life before. You have no idea what kind of days we used to live through!”
“I’d like to hear the details,” Lin Beifan’s expression grew solemn.
A table was brought over, and on it were some melon seeds and snacks, ready to listen to the old soldier’s tragic story.
Worried the atmosphere might not be enough, Lin Beifan also summoned a group of onlookers.
With the atmosphere sufficiently set, the story began.
“Sir, we used to live in extreme misery!”
The old soldier wiped his tears, sobbing as he continued, “In reality, commoners like us never wanted to be soldiers, and according to the imperial military law, only the single sons in families were drafted. But Southern Jiang Prince disregarded the laws of the court and forcefully conscripted us!”
“Being soldiers was something we could bear, but the Southern Jiang generals treated us as less than human. They either beat or scolded us, trampling on our dignity!”
“Furthermore, they frequently deducted our military pay, or even withheld it altogether and just fed us a single meal! Apart from that, there was nothing else!”
Lin Beifan asked, “Didn’t you resist?”
While wiping his tears, the old soldier replied, “How could we dare to resist? They didn’t see us as humans anymore. If we resisted, they would kill us directly! Many people were beaten to death by them!”
“Yes, they treated us like animals, not humans!”
“Taking human lives for granted was routine for them. When the troops were insufficient, they would just abduct more!”
“My good brother was beaten to death like this!”
Lin Beifan was furious, “Doesn’t Southern Jiang Prince do anything about this?”
The elderly Southern Jiang soldier was also angry, “Why would he do anything? He himself is cruel, heartless, and inherently greedy! The leaders set the example, how could those under them not be cruel and greedy?”
Lin Beifan was so angry he trembled, “Beast! Savage! Worthless scoundrel! Shameless…”
On the opposite side, Southern Jiang Prince was also shaking with anger, “Who are you cursing at?”
“But the most miserable time was after the flood.”
The eyes of the elderly Southern Jiang soldier were clouded with sorrow, “Before the flood, we could still manage to have a full meal now and then, enduring through the tough times. But after the flood, those were days no human should have to live through.”
“That catastrophic fire burned all our military provisions. From then on, we were practically starving, having one meal and then going hungry the next. We never had a proper meal again! On special occasions, we would gather some wild plants as an extra dish.”
“Later, to gather enough supplies, Southern Jiang Prince looted the grains of nobles and merchants. There were still some provisions in our camp, but the higher-ups took everything for themselves. What was left for us was only a little bit of leftover rice, not enough to satisfy our hunger, but enough to keep us alive. And we endured this state for so long!”
Lin Beifan was angry again, “This is beyond reason! Does Southern Jiang Prince not care at all?”
The elderly Southern Jiang soldier was also furious, “Does he care? He’s living a life of luxury in his mansion, feasting on meat and living off the fat of the land, sweating oil rather than sweat. How could he think of us?”
Lin Beifan was shaking with anger, “Beast! Savage! Worthless scoundrel! Shameless…”
Southern Jiang Prince on the opposite side was also trembling with anger, “You bastard, stop cursing me!”
“We thought that rising up to fight would lead to better days, but it’s even worse than before!”
Tears welled up in the eyes of the elderly Southern Jiang soldier. His dark face was streaked with smudged tears, “We ate old rice that had worms in it, yet it didn’t fill our stomachs. After a rainy day, we couldn’t even have rice and could only wait for death! Sir, what have we toiled for our whole lives? What were we striving for?”
Lin Beifan was furious once again, “They don’t even let you eat while fighting, and Southern Jiang Prince does nothing about it?”
“He did something, but it’s worse than if he hadn’t!” the elderly Southern Jiang soldier raged, “He’s just a cold-blooded, selfish person! Now that it’s raining, marching and fighting are unfavorable. The best thing to do would be to temporarily withdraw the troops. But he won’t do that! He wants us to freeze to death, he wants us to starve to death, he’s dragging us along with him to die!”
Lin Beifan was trembling with anger, “Beast! Savage! Worthless scoundrel! Shameless…”
Southern Jiang Prince on the opposite side shouted in anger, “Lin Beifan, that’s enough!”
“That’s why I’ve had enough!”
The elderly Southern Jiang soldier slammed the table and stood up, shouting, “Whenever I had a chance, I came over without hesitation! Because I deeply understand that there’s absolutely no future following Southern Jiang Prince! There was none in the past, none now, and there won’t be in the future! So, I want to abandon the darkness and turn to the light! I want to correct my wrongs! I want to abandon evil and do good…”
Lin Beifan repeatedly reassured, “Comrade, I understand your struggles! Please sit down, don’t be so agitated…”
“Sir, please let me finish speaking!”
“Alright, go ahead!”
“Sir, I know I’ve done many things that have wronged the court in the past. Now I deeply regret it and feel remorse! In the past, I had no choice, but now I want to be a good person!”
The elderly Southern Jiang soldier’s eyes were filled with tears as he pleaded, “Sir, can you give me a chance to change and start anew?”
Lin Beifan was deeply moved, “It’s said that recognizing one’s mistakes and correcting them is the greatest goodness! Your deep awareness of your mistakes and your sincere reflection show that you’re still a good comrade of the people, a good soldier of our country. After this battle is over, I will definitely report to the court and allow you to rejoin the ranks smoothly! We will fight side by side to protect our homeland!”
The elderly Southern Jiang soldier was overjoyed, “Thank you so much for giving me this opportunity, sir!”
Other Southern Jiang soldiers saw this and started speaking up.
“Sir, I also realize my mistakes. I want to return to the court and serve it.”
“Great Wu can survive without me, but I can’t survive without Great Wu!”
“Please give me a chance. I want to be a good person, a soldier who defends our homeland!”
Lin Beifan was even more moved, excitedly saying, “Great comrades! You are all outstanding comrades of the people! Because of you, our people have strength, our country has belief, and our nation has hope!”
“Yes!” Everyone nodded vigorously, their gazes filled with determination.
Lin Beifan continued with excitement, “Work hard! Even though you are surrendered soldiers, I already see you as like-minded comrades, as comrades who fight side by side! Bring the wine!”
Someone brought a bottle of fine wine, and Lin Beifan filled each surrendered soldier’s cup.
Raising his wine cup high, Lin Beifan exclaimed, “No need for unnecessary words, let’s do it!”
“Let’s do it!” The surrendered soldiers all shouted in unison.
Then, they all downed their drinks, feeling a surge of courage!
“How’s the wine?” Lin Beifan asked.
“Great wine! Haha!”
The Southern Jiang soldiers on the other side were once again swayed.
The fragrant white porridge, the soft and delicious steamed buns, and the attention and care from the court officials… all of it was attracting them!
Southern Jiang Prince secretly cursed in his heart, hurriedly shouting, “Don’t believe them! It’s all an act! It’s completely meant to undermine our military morale. Don’t fall for it! Don’t believe…”
The Southern Jiang soldiers on the other side sneered in their hearts.
Whether it was an act or not, they could feel the attention and care from the court across the river, as well as the respect for their dignity. At least, it was much better than Southern Jiang Prince! They could at least put on an act, while you don’t even bother!
Seeing that no one was moved, Southern Jiang Prince angrily declared, “Stop looking! All of you, go back to me! Go back this instant! Don’t you listen to me anymore? If you don’t go back now, you’ll face military discipline!”
Under Southern Jiang Prince’s strong demand, everyone had to turn around and leave.
However, a seed quickly took root and sprouted in their hearts.
In the blink of an eye, it was nighttime again.
“Cough, cough! I need to go take care of business!”
“How coincidental, me too!”
“I need to relieve myself too. Let’s go together!”
The next morning, during another headcount, Southern Jiang Prince realized that over a hundred people were missing. They had all crossed over to the other side.
Eating their white steamed buns and drinking their white porridge contentedly, they glanced smugly at the opposite bank.
Other Southern Jiang soldiers were envious.
“Why are they all so quick?”
“The food smells so good!”
“I want to join them!”
Southern Jiang Prince was furious, “From now on, watch them closely! No one is allowed to go freely! Every time, there must be an officer or warrior supervising them! In addition, guard Songjiang well! If anyone escapes again, they’ll face military discipline!”
“Yes, Your Highness!”
Night fell again, but this time security was tight.
“Cough, cough! I want to go outside to take care of business!”
“My stomach isn’t feeling great either. I want to go too!”
“I’ll go with you!”
Groups of people went out again, but this time a warrior followed them, keeping them under surveillance.
“What should we do now?”
“He’s following us. We can’t escape at all!”
“We might as well be bold!”
Just then, the warrior following them spoke up, “Don’t go any further. If you keep going, you’ll be far from Songjiang. How can you swim to the other side then?”
“You, you, you… What do you mean?”
“We don’t understand?”
“What I mean is…” The warrior approached, revealing a slight smile. “Why don’t we just escape together? I also want to flee to the other side!”
The soldiers were stunned.