Chapter 0259 - Zhang He
As Zhang He struggled, the tax officer opened up his shirt and patted his tiny body, before finding the bag of prawns with a satisfied expression as he said, "Stinky brat! You want to pull a fast one over me, you're still lacking. Because you tried to evade tax, these prawns will be confiscated."
"Return them to me! Please just return them to me!! I caught those myself!!" Zhang He shouted out struggling, as his eyes turned red. Those prawns meant that his family could last for a few more days, without them, his family would go hungry.
"Damn it! You better know what's good for you!" The tax officer's face turned darker, as he waved his hands, which led the 7 burly brutes to start kicking and punching Zhang He.
Zhang He was after all just a kid, after that round of beating, he was quickly covered in bruises, before being thrown in a corner.
"Whoever dares to evade tax will face the same consequences!" The tax official glared coldly at all the other frail ladies present. He had to use the cold, harsh reality to shock these people, that way his job would go on smoothly.
The survivors who had come forward to pay tax, had seen such scenes countless of times, and were numb to it.
"How can you do this to a kid!!" Right at this time, a furious voice resounded out.
The tax officer turned his head towards the voice. He was just in time to see a few young men and women dressed neatly, and could tell with one look these survivors were not the common survivors.
The person who had verbally reprimanded the tax officer was Wen Peishan, who was dressed in red, making her look incredibly innocent yet sexy at the same time.
The tax officer glanced greedily at Wen Peishan. After all, most women had gone frail and lost their looks and health during the apocalypse, while someone young with such fair-skin and a healthy glow like Wen Peishan was rare.
The tax officer looked at Wen Peishan and responded neither hastily nor slowly: "I am doing my job according to the rules! Miss, if you have any grievances or complaints, please take it up with my superiors!"
While the tax officer had some sort of background, he wasn't willing to come to loggerheads with Wen Peishan, who anybody can tell is not from a simple background as well.
"You're an asshole!!" Wen Peishan scolded a little agitatedly. However she was brought up well, and was usually more reserved. She didn't know how to deal with bullies, and could only resort to scolding.
Yue Zhong looked on at the scene, and slightly frowned. While what the tax officer did was indeed overboard, they were in a chaotic time, if the tax officer did not show some form of harshness, he might not even be able to collect a single tax.
"Yue Zhong, help me teach this asshole a lesson!!" Wen Peishan could not think of anyway to discipline the tax officer and decided to turn to Yue Zhong for help.
Yue Zhong took big strides forward. He decided he could not stand the overboard actions of the tax officer as well.
The tax officer looked at Yue Zhong approaching with alarm: "What do you think you're doing? I'm just doing my job!!"
The 7 burly men also stepped forward to surround Yue Zhong, staring at him with vicious gazes.
Yue Zhong stared coldly at the tax officer and said: "Your takings are obviously over 50%. I don't believe the top brass had actually set such a ridiculous amount! Do you want to cough up the excess, or do you not want to see the sun ever again?"
The top brass of SY County would definitely not be so stupid to engage in a 50% tax. However, it was that as the line went further down, the requirements became more absurd. In truth, SY County only expressed that those who went out to forage for wild vegetables and fishing would only have to pay 20% tax, and as for these outrageous tax officials who took more than 50%, the remaining 30+% went to their own pockets.
The tax officer saw that his tricks were exposed, as he stared at Yue Zhong and said: "I am Zhang Xueming, My cousin is the Deputy Commissioner of the Inland Revenue, Wei Tong! Who are you?!"
The tax bureau, regardless of the apocalypse, was a department with a lot of power. Especially after the end of the world, those who were in power had huge influence, Wei Tong could become the Deputy Commissioner must have been due to his wide network of contacts. Zhang Xueming had hoped to use his cousin's name to cause Yue Zhong to back off, so that everyone can continue peacefully.
Yue Zhong directly pointed out Wen Peishan's identity: "Slap yourself! Otherwise you won't see the sun anymore. She is Mayor Wen's daughter Wen Peishan."
Zhang Xueming instantly turned pale, Mayor Wen was one of the 2 major powers in SY County, with just a flick of his hand, he could call for the deaths of measly people like Wei Tong and Zhang Xueming. This was a world where human lives were almost worthless, he himself was just a small fish, even if he disappeared tomorrow, no one would care, instead there would be many people who would celebrate his departure.
"It's my fault!! I was despicable! It's all my fault!! Miss Wen, I won't dare do this again!! I'm sorry!! I'm sorry!! Please let me off just this once, I was also doing things according to orders!!" Zhang Xueming had kneeled in front of Wen Peishan, and was smacking himself profusely, while crying out pitifully.
Zhang Xueming had forcefully slapped his own mouth, to the point where blood started to flow from the corners of his mouth.
Wen Peishan's heart softened and said: "Forget it! I'll let you off this time. Give the confiscated items back to the kid!"
"Yes!" Zhang Xueming then stood up, before walking personally to Zhang He and returned his items: "Little brat, this are all items gifted by Miss Wen, hurry go and thank her!"
Zhang He held on to his prawns tightly like a wounded wolf, as he looked at the well-dressed good-looking Wen Peishan. Looking down he mumbled extremely reluctantly: "Thank you!"
After that, he immediately turned around and limped towards the distance.
Zhang Xueming looked at Zhang He who had looked extremely defiant as he frowned and asked Wen Peishan: "Damn it! That little brat doesn't know his manners! Miss Wen, shall I go catch him back and teach him a lesson?"
"No need!" Although Wen Peishan was ticked off by Zhang He's unruly behaviour, she was after all extremely kind-hearted, and did not want to make things difficult for Zhang He.
Yue Zhong looked at the few frail female survivors plucking the wild vegetation, before looking at those survivors staring into the horizon blankly, as he frowned, and seemed to ponder, before walking towards Zhang He.
"Wait!! Yue Zhong wait for me!!" Wen Peishan saw that Yue Zhong was moving, as she hastily chased after him.
Zhang He had just moved a distance, and saw Yue Zhong chasing after him from behind, as he gripped his plastic bag of prawns even tighter and asked warily: "What are you following me for?"
Yue Zhong immediately took out a huge bag of bread and held it out to Zhang He asking: "Do you want to eat your fill?"
Zhang He looked at the plastic bag in Yue Zhong's hands, as he swallowed his drool, while a look of greed shone in his eyes. He clenched his fists tightly and shouted out: "I won't hand my sister over to you people!! Even if you give us more food, I will not sell my younger sister away!!!"
Yue Zhong frowned as he knew Zhang He had misunderstood: "Younger sister?"
Yue Zhong immediately offered his conditions: "I want you to work for me! Help me do things! In exchange I will let you eat your fill everyday, and give you half a jin of cornmeal. If you do your tasks well, I will even give you cans of meat and dried pork!"
This Zhang He in front of him was only 12, just a kid
Yet he had courage and principles that was lacking in some adults. While the river was bountiful, and many survivors gathered, few dared to venture in, to actually fish. Since Yue Zhong wanted to gain a foothold in SY County, he naturally required someone who knew the workings on the ground.
He had already made friends with the upper echelon of society like Wen Peishan, Lu Chenguang and Tai Yiyan these people, he also needed someone on the ground.
Zhang He had courage, and his own resolve. Yue Zhong admired that and did not mind helping him out.
Zhang He's eyes grew bright, with an expression of hope and asked: "You can really let me eat my fill?"
Truthfully, with regards to a large number of the survivors in SY County, as long as there was food, they would be willing to do things. Zhang He had wanted to even join gangs, but those gangs did not want scrawny brats without attacking strength or combat power.
Tong Xiaoyun walked to Yue Zhong's side and eyed the little beggar-like boy and spoke on Yue Zhong's behalf: "How would Brother Yue lie to you? Our rations are really beyond comparison."
Zhang He looked at the pretty Tong Xiaoyun and the group of special soldiers behind Yue Zhong, and immediately kneeled in front of Yue Zhong and swore: "Benefactor, I don't ask for much, just for my younger brother and sister to eat their fill. I'm willing to give my life for you!! Whatever you ask of me, I would do it!"
Zhang He was young, but mature. Those who could pull out such a troop was definitely not a small power in SY County, and he would only benefit from relying on him. His conditions were not outrageous as well, as long as his younger siblings could eat, he would be willing to slave for Yue Zhong.
In times like this where human lives weren't worth much, for the price of a meal, countless survivors were willing to sell themselves. It was just that in this cruel world, even if you are willing, you may not find a buyer.
Yue Zhong curiously asked: "Get up! I want to know, near this river, why won't those people go and fish?"
The river that surrounded SY County's borders, was a huge treasure in Yue Zhong's eyes, and the water was extremely beneficial in the growth of the plants and even aquatic life. If the river was made use of well, providing a constant source of food for a few ten thousands of people would not be an issue.
Since the upper brass of SY County were not idiots, there must be a problem for them to not make use of the river.
Zhang He hesitated: "How do I address you, benefactor?"
"I am Yue Zhong!" Yue Zhong replied in a deep voice.
Zhang He swiftly continued: "Boss Yue, the fact that this river has many aquatic life is not false, but similarly, there are all sorts of fearsome beasts in there. There are snakes that grow over tens of metres, there's a big black fish that can swallow a person whole, and there are some huge crabs that can cut a person in two with just a claw! At first, there were many people fishing, but very quickly, they were all preyed on by these wild beasts! After the death count hit over hundreds, very few people are willing to fish anymore!"
A few hundred people had died in the river, the rest of them had been frightened off. Naturally no one was willing to fish anymore in those waters. Therefore, even though there was a river surrounding the county, the people of SY County were still lacking.
Yue Zhong continued: "Didn't the government or army make any moves to deal with those Mutant Beasts?"
The Mutant Beasts might be extremely terrifying, but they were not invincible. Since SY County had so many survivors, there would definitely be experts within the government and military, dealing with those Mutant Beasts should not be an issue.
Zhang He thought for a while, before replying: "There were indeed some experts who stepped forward to deal with those Mutant Beasts, and they did manage to kill a few, but after that, the Mutant Beasts got even fiercer. Even those experts were eaten, now there are few experts willing to come and hunt these monsters."
Experts were after all a rare resource, with every death meant one less expert. There were simply too many Mutant Beasts hiding within the river, and after the government and military lost over 20 powerful Enhancers, they halted all assaults on the river Mutant Beasts. The price was too heavy to bear.
As Zhang He and Yue Zhong continued talking, more details of the life of the lower members of society began to emerge. The people in the worst situations were the lower members of society in SY County. Although the upper brass had given the order for some emergency rations to be handed out to preserve these survivors' lives, as there was greed, countless rations were siphoned by greedy officials, and many of these survivors did not obtain their rightful ration. There were countless women selling their bodies for just a bun. There were even people willing to sell their children at various survivor camps.
Under Zhang He's guidance, Yue Zhong's party came to an alley near a sewer, where the buildings were dilapidated, and stinking human waste everywhere.
On the street, there were various survivors sitting down numbly by the road, their bodies giving off an odor, while a large number of mosquitoes and flies were currently circling them.
There was a woman with tattered clothes, dark eyebags, sunken face, and emitting a sour smell from her body grabbing a little girl's hands kneeling on the floor in front of Yue Zhong pleading profusely: "This master!! Please, buy my daughter!! Just a box of instant noodles, as long as you pay a box of instant noodles, I'll sell her to you!! She knows how to do everything, bring her with you, and she can help you do anything!!"
The little girl of roughly 11-12 years, whose hair was in a ponytail, and had starved to the point where she looked like a little beansprout, was also kneeling and begging: "Master, please buy me. I'm willing to do anything!"
Tong Xiaoyun saw this and she could not help but ask, "Auntie! Isn't she your own daughter? How can you bear to sell her away??"
Wen Peishan saw the scene in front of her and could not believe her eyes. It was her first time coming to this sort of place, and in her thinking, selling one's son or daughter was something that happened only in books or the societies of old. The SY County that her father was governing over definitely would not have something like that.