The corner of He Sanlang's mouth twitched and he immediately turned his head. He really didn't want to talk to a glutton like Xiao Yuhong right now.
While Chu Lian had been resting and recovering in that little town close to the border, Tang Yan and the rest of the party had caught up.
Although they had been robbed by the barbarians previously, He Changdi had come over with the rescue party just in time, so all of Chu Lian's things were safe.
The moment Tang Yan arrived, he heard about how Chu Lian had been attacked by the elite Tuhun soldiers and was astounded. After reassuring Chu Lian a little, he decided not to separate from Chu Lian for the rest of the journey.
Even though not everyone in the party had recovered from their wounds, just in case, they only stayed in the small town to rest for four days. After four days, they set off on their journey again. They still had the winter supplies meant for the northern border troops,
The closer they got to Liangzhou City, the more desolate their surroundings became. When they finally reached the outskirts of the city, Chu Lian stared at the completely devastated Liangzhou City with disbelief in her eyes.
How could be called a city? Any town within the lands of the Great Wu would probably be richer than this 'city' by a few times. The city walls were made of mud- when the wind blew, some clods of earth would even get blown off. There were broken walls all over the city and hardly any citizens could be seen. One or two would scurry by occasionally, their bodies thin and sallow.
There weren't many brick houses within the city itself. Most of the houses were made of mud and covered with thatch roofs. Even though it was dusk and about time to cook dinner, the number of houses that had smoke drifting up from their kitchens could probably be counted on one hand.
There probably weren't as many citizens living here as there were soldiers in the army stationed outside.
Chu Lian had finally seen for herself why the nobles in the capital considered Liangzhou City a barren land.
This area was probably part of the great grasslands of the future. Although there were plenty of mountains and vast tracts of land, the terrible weather conditions and the long winter here just weren't suited for farming. If they headed just a little closer to the inner lands of the Great Wu, the farm fields at the boundaries of Liangzhou might even be fertile enough to allow for a harvest once a year. However, once they went further north into Liangzhou, the quality of the earth wasn't enough even to support life.
When it came to winter, the surface of the ground would be covered in a thick layer of now. When it came to spring, after the snows melted away, the ground would then turn into a swamp...
Chu Lian looked up at the city wall made of yellow mud bricks. There were two soldiers standing up there, their bodies curled up into balls. She couldn't even tell what they were wearing, but she could see that they were shivering up there on the city walls.
Chu Lian sighed. Could this fragile wall really stand up to the attacks of the ferocious Tuhuns?
Tang Yan was riding on a horse beside her carriage. When he saw that Chu Lian had lifted the curtain of her carriage and that she was looking at the walls, he urged his horse over to her.
"Honoured Lady, are you looking at the yellow mud walls?"
Chu Lian cast a sideways glance at him and nodded.
The corner of Tang Yan's lips tugged upwards and he spoke with a helpless tone, "Liangzhou City is located in the north of our Great Wu's territory. You've also seen it on the way here, Honoured Lady. This area is lacking in resources. The court sends a huge sum each year here to reinforce Liangzhou City's walls, but unfortunately, there hasn't been much effect."
Chu Lian was shocked. "A huge sum? Then how could that wall possibly be in this state? It looks like it will crumble in one hit!"
Chu Lian accidentally blurted out her true thoughts.
Tang Yan didn't mind and simply continued, "Before we talk about where the money the court sends has ended up, there are other more important reasons behind this. Once you enter the city, you'll be able to see why without any hints from me."
Chu Lian hadn't expected him to have held back information at the last moment. Was Tang Yan trying to test her?
Chu Lian didn't really mind. She nodded and ordered Manager Qin to lead the carriages into the city. With the Empress Dowager's decree, it was easy enough to enter the city.
Trash littered the streets of Liangzhou. When a breeze blew by, a strange odour drifted up from the ground, giving them the urge to puke. It was clear that no one had come by to clean this place for quite some time.
Chu Lian lifted the curtains of her carriage slightly and peeked outside. When she caught sight of the situation outside, her brows furrowed together. Luckily it was winter. If this had been the middle of a hot summer, this would be the perfect breeding ground for diseases and the like.
Tang Yan had already sent someone ahead of them to arrange for some place to rest, so they were headed straight there.
When they reached their destination, Chu Lian looked up at the simple plaque hung above the courtyard entrance: He Estate. She was then informed that this was the residence of the prefect of Liangzhou City.
The residence looked to be about 3500 square metres in area. In any other city of the Great Wu, it would only be some rich country man's humble farm abode, but in Liangzhou City, it was considered one of the best residences around.
Although the houses in the estate were also made of mud, at least the outer layer was made of processed earth and the roofs were made of crude tiles instead of thatch.
When they came to this street, it was clear that the conditions here were slightly better than that of the other areas of this city.
Chu Lian was carried off the carriage by Wenlan. She couldn't put weight on her leg still and she had another four to five days to go before it was fully healed. Right as she got off the carriage, Chu Lian spotted a half-grown child dressed in furs squatting in the midst of some rubble not too far away. There was a pile of small skins in front of him which seemed like sheepskin.
He was currently curled up in the corner of the ruined wall, sneakily glancing their way with his wide eyes, as if trying to guess at the purchasing power of their party.
Chu Lian looked right back at him with her lips pressed together.