Chapter 495 – The Famine Years
Shao Qingge and Ye Qi walked into the town side by side.
The town in front of them was completely different from the beautiful Qingfeng Town that they remembered. If Qingfeng Town 20 years later was a paradise with beautiful mountains and rivers then Qingfeng Town during the famine was a devastated purgatory on earth.
There weren’t many houses in the town and many of them were very shabby.
The roads were muddy and full of potholes. The population was less than 30% of Qingfeng Town 20 years later. Combined with the famine, many people were in poor health and poor families were starving to death on the roadside.
The two of them had just taken a few steps when they saw several corpses in the corner of an alley. The corpses were left unattended and piled up like garbage. The surface of the bodies was rotting and they emitted a strong stench.
Ye Qi had followed Xiao Lou through many secret rooms. He had long been accustomed to corpses but the smell was a bit unpleasant. He covered his mouth and nose and stepped forward, grabbing a branch to flip over and examine the corpses.
It was 20 years in the past, they mustn’t miss the unique opportunity to check any place that seemed like it contained a clue.
There were five corpses in total and they looked like a family. One of them was a woman holding a yellow-faced, thin child in her arms even in death. There were no obvious scars on all the corpses. Ye Qi said, “This family should’ve starved to death. Since they are all dressed in rags, the family must have been poor. They suffered in the famine and starved.”
Shao Qingge frowned as he looked at the flies around the corpses. Then he lowered his voice. “Let’s go. The bodies discarded on the side of the road shouldn’t mean much. We should find the mysterious organization as soon as possible.”
Ye Qi nodded. He turned and walked out of the alley with Shao Qingge.
Along the way, they found scattered corpses on the side of the road at almost every step. This scene was like the end of the world. There were no animals seen in the town. The pigs, cows, cattle and other livestock must’ve been eaten already. The people who were starving wouldn’t even spare the mice.
No food could be smelt in the entire town. The doors of every household were closed. At this time, those who secretly stored food definitely wouldn’t dare to go out.
The more Ye Qi and Shao Qingge walked, the more frightened they became.
20 years ago, Qingfeng Town was like an empty town. In broad daylight, no one could be seen and there were only the corpses, bloodstains and messy tree branches everywhere.
Where to start?
Ye Qi stood in the center of the town, expression full of confusion.
20 years later, there would be a lake in the middle of the town that was surrounded by weeping willows. The scenery was beautiful and there was the Drunken Moon Pavilion in the center of the lake for people to enjoy the shade. Yet at this time, the center of town was a wasteland and the inn where Xiao Lou and the others stayed hadn’t been built yet. There were many corpses scattered nearby.
Ye Qi looked around. “There are no clues at all. How should we investigate? We can’t always knock on doors.”
Shao Qingge thought about it for a moment before suddenly saying, “Do you remember the old man we met when we bought the rattle-drum?”
Ye Qi’s eyes lit up when he recalled the old man who made the rattle-drums. “That old man lived in this small town during the famine. He survived the famine so we will definitely find him in this world of 20 years ago. He should be… a young man in his 30s, right?”
Shao Qingge nodded. “According to his description, more than half the people in the town died and he survived by eating sweet potatoes stored in his cellar. I remember that he lives on the east side of the town. We should look around.”
The two people identified the direction according to the sunlight and quickly walked toward the east of the city.
On the way, they saw an old woman hurriedly passing by with a little girl.
The old woman’s face was full of wrinkles. She seemed to be over 50 years old and she was holding the girl’s left hand tightly. The girl was thin and small. Her skin was sallow and she looked malnourished, but her eyes were bright.
She glanced up at Ye Qi as she passed by.
Ye Qi’s eyes met hers. This little girl should be less than 10 years old. One hand was held by the old woman while she was biting on her other hand. After meeting Ye Qi and Shao Qingge, she didn’t ask them to give her food. Instead, she looked calm as she glanced at Ye Qi before turning her head away.
Two living people were finally found in the empty town. Ye Qi hurriedly asked, “Little girl, we are from out of town. Do you know where we can find food?”
He and Shao Qingge were disguised. Their clothes were torn, their faces covered with gray ash and some weeds were deliberately left in their hair. They looked like foreigners who had come here after traveling for a long time.
The little girl said, “I haven’t eaten anything in three days.”
Ye Qi wanted to keep asking questions but the old woman coughed and said in a low voice, “We should go back quickly. Looking at the weather, it is going to rain again.” The little girl nodded and quickly followed the old woman.
Ye Qi looked at their backs in a thoughtful manner.
He noticed that the old woman’s left foot was a bit lame and her walking posture wasn’t very neat. The little girl might be thin and small but her facial features were actually very attractive. The two of them didn’t look like rich people. How could they get enough food to survive this long?
Shao Qingge told him, “Let’s go. I remember that the alley in front of us is where we bought the rattle-drum.”
Ye Qi turned back and followed Shao Qingge into the alley.
They looked up and unexpectedly saw a familiar store.
The plaque of the store had been smashed in half but the words ‘Ding Dang Store’ written on it could still be distinguished.
20 years later, the Ding Dang Store was a very large store that specialized in selling children’s toys with 12 Zodiac patterns that hung all over.
The owner of this store was surnamed Ren and the people in the town called him Uncle Ren.
He was highly skilled and his handmade rattle-drums were very popular with children. Initially when Ye Qi and Shao Qingge asked to buy a rattle-drum, he had shown off that most people in the town had bought the rattle-drums he made.
Shao Qingge took Ye Qi to a corner with no one present and opened up Heart has a Tacit Exchange of Romantic Feelings.
The man’s familiar voice was heard in Ye Qi’s mind. The tone was very serious instead of his usual joking tone. “Uncle Ran can make rattle-drums and might know the murderer. Or perhaps the murderer bought the rattle-drums from him. Thus, we must be careful in our contact with him. It is more convenient to communicate with each other mentally.”
Ye Qi nodded in agreement while thinking in his mind, “Uncle Ren said he was already proficient in the craft of making rattle-drums when young. He used it to open a store in the small town to sell toys. However, 20 years ago, his store was very small and can’t compare to the one we have seen.”
Shao Qingge continued, “He is very business minded and also far-sighted. He targeted the market of children’s toys and made his own brand. Now his business has just started and the store is very small. He only dared to do small business and relies on word of mouth to expand the business. 20 years later, we hardly saw another toy store, indicating that he has successfully monopolized the market.”
“In other words, he is proficient in a craft and isn’t short of money so when the famine first started, he had the foresight to buy some food in advance and hid it in the cellar to survive the next crisis?”
Shao Qingge nodded. “Yes, he hid the food in the cellar. Even if someone comes to rob him, they won’t be able to find it. Judging from his store, he should’ve been robbed before. However, he will be able to make a comeback if he hides his food, survives and relies on his craftsmanship.”
“How should we approach him?”
Shao Qingge thought about it for a moment. “We will wear the invisibility cloaks and explore the area first.”
The two of them looked at each other and tacitly put on the invisibility cloaks. Then they crossed the wall next to the store.
There was a small courtyard attached to the back of the store.
20 years ago, the small yard was dilapidated and the pots and pans in the yard were smashed to the ground. It was as Shao Qingge said. The house had already been robbed and there were even cobwebs on the walls. It looked like this place had been abandoned for a long time.
Ye Qi couldn’t help wondering, “Didn’t he live here 20 years ago?”
Shao Qingge told him, “Search carefully.”
The two of them searched the yard but they didn’t find anything except the weeds on the ground.
Suddenly, there was a rustling sound behind him. Ye Qi turned his head and noticed a hole in the ground covered by messy branches and weeds in a corner of the yard.
A young man sneaked out of the hole.
He looked around like an alert mouse and was relieved to see that there was no one around.
Then he sped to the toilet in a corner of the yard and they could hear the sound of peeing.
Shao Qingge and Ye Qi, “……”
The two of them were wearing invisibility cloaks so the other person didn’t see them. Meanwhile, they could see the other person’s every move clearly. Ye Qi couldn’t help complaining, “This person is too cautious. He dug the cellar in the ground and used all types of branches and weeds to cover it up. Is he a rat that lives in a hole in the ground?”
Shao Qingge smiled. “He has to be cowardly to the extreme in order to survive.”
After solving the urgent problem, the man ran back and entered the whole again.
The entire process was smooth. It was obvious that he had done the same thing many times and his hands and feet were extremely agile.
It seemed that during the year of the famine, he lived like a mouse in a hole in the ground. Due to this, he was able to survive smoothly. 20 years later, he became the owner of a well-known toy store in the town, renovating and expanding the size by threefold.
Ye Qi wondered, “What should we do? Enter the hole to take a look?”
Shao Qingge nodded. “Why don’t we play a villain for once and directly rob his food? We have many cards and he won’t be able to beat us. He can only cooperate with us. We can let him be our guide while investigating the human sacrifices.”
They were really unfamiliar with life in Qingfeng Town 20 years ago. The investigation would be much easier if there was a local person to help. At the very least, they could know the name of every person.
The two people came to an agreement and took off their invisibility cloaks.
Ye Qi lifted the branches covering the hole in the ground and pretended to be pleasantly surprised. “Brother, I found a cellar here. Will there be food hidden?”
“Go in and take a look.”
The man hiding in the cave looked stunned. The moment he heard these words, he immediately grabbed his weapon vigilantly.
Before he could regain his senses, he felt a light wind blowing around him.
Two strangers abruptly appeared in front of him. The one who looked like a clever young man sealed the hole and looked at him curiously. The other tall young man walked behind him, restrained his throat with an arm and whispered, “Let us borrow some food. If you want to live, you should listen to us obediently.”
The man was stunned. “Borrow?”
Aren’t you guys robbing me?
Partially proofread: Paranoid Kitten