Xiao Hua had already stayed in this place for three days.
Upon arriving she had been separated from Cui Lan and Liu Ye and was placed inside this room.
The room was very large and very crude. A wide open enclosure filled with bunks that didn’t even have blankets, packed full with around ten to twenty people. They were all girls whose ages ranged between ten and eighteen.
The people here mostly had dull and lifeless expressions, and those who didn’t were crying into their arms. The air inside the house was depressing and stagnant to the point of suffocation.
Xiao Hua found herself a bunk against the wall and lay down. She wasn’t unfamiliar with this kind of environment. If she didn’t find her own spot early on, she would end up sleeping on the floor.
As expected, the room soon filled up with more and more people. Those that came in later had to curl up on the floor.
This room was normally locked, and would only open when trafficker Qian’s servants brought them food. “Bringing them food” meant a single piece of hard flat bread a day for everyone. If you were still hungry you can only endure. If you want more food, wait for tomorrow’s serving and you’ll have some food again.
There was a wooden barrel in one of the corners of the room. Whenever people needed to relieve themselves they would use it. With the number of people and the lack of windows, the contents of the barrel remained in the room. After two days, the nauseating smell had permeated the room.
But no matter how hard the living conditions were, they could only endure because there was no way to resist. They were merely slaves.
Living in such cramped conditions for so long, many of those who came in with dull expressions slowly ended up breaking down as well.
Crying, screaming, wanting food and water and freedom. The only thing that brought were a few tough old crones who handed out beatings to those caught making noise. Of course they couldn’t beat anyone to death or even injure them. If problems arose they would also get into trouble. They would only use long and thin willow branches as a whip, making you jump in pain without leaving any marks.
Of course if you continued to make a fuss, what awaited was an actual whip. At that point thoughts of holding back were thrown out the window. They weren’t “good saplings” and so weren’t expected to bring in large profits. As long as the face was fine, trafficker Qian’s lot didn’t care about your fate.
Afterwards, no one dared to make a fuss anymore. Everyone was frightened, Xiao Hua included.
She hadn’t made a fuss in the beginning due to her fear. Especially since it wasn’t her first stay with trafficker Qian. She was very clear how to minimize her own suffering.
Endure the hunger and the thirst. Luckily she had hidden two buns on her, secretly breaking off a few pieces to fill her stomach in the middle of the night so she wasn’t starved to the point of insanity.
When a person was repressed to such a degree, without any chance of resisting the oppressor, what was left to them would be to bully those who were weaker than them. Sometimes, human nature was just that twisted.
The number of bunks in the room was very little, and could fit around twenty people or so. The rest could only curl up on the floor and those on the floor were dissatisfied. They already felt hollow in their hearts, having been brought to this place, beaten and tortured, and still had to sleep on the floor at the end of the day. Those with rougher personalities could no longer endure.
“You, get down here for me.” Those that couldn’t endure undoubtedly targeted the bunks of smaller and weaker people.
Pushovers would be oppressed, so the above situation would occur repeatedly.
As expected, after seeing the first person who was unable to endure manage to bully her way up to a bunk, several others couldn’t sit still and started to do the same. Some pushovers were bullied into submission, but others resisted, perhaps unwilling to endure further humiliation. Or perhaps their hearts were originally fiery, which resulted in both parties fighting fiercely.
Fights between girls were ugly, and usually involved hair pulling and face clawing. In this case they didn’t dare go for the face since they had seen how trafficker Qian’s people handled things. They were afraid if they harmed someone’s face and the victim ended up snitching, the clear evidence and many witnesses would force them to face the consequences.
Xiao Hua had picked out the bunk in the far corner upon arrival, and so the commotion had yet to reach her.
She only watched quietly, watching in silence and not saying a word.
She suddenly felt the scene before her eyes to be familiar yet foreign at the same time. Foreign because it had been too long, and familiar because she had experienced it too many times when she was younger.
After reincarnating back into the Jinyang Estate where she died in her past life, she was surrounded by familiar people and familiar events. Many times it would daze her, giving her the feeling that it was all a dream. Sometimes she would realize it wasn’t a dream but still be afraid of meeting the same end as last time.
Only after being sold did Xiao Hua finally have a sense of reality, and was able to shed the weight in her heart.
She had finally escaped from her past life’s influence. No matter what, at least she had avoided the case of her being beaten to death in the Jinyang Marquis Estate.
Rebuilding can only occur after destruction. Perhaps this described the scene before her eyes. The tenacity within her that had been covered up by vanity after being sold into the Jinyang Marquis Esate had returned to her at some point.
The memories that had been blurred for a long time appeared in her mind one after the other –
She was eight years old, almost too long ago to clearly remember. She could only remember it was before her time at the Jinyang Marquis Estate. Having gone through many households, there were always those who would bully her due to her age. The old bullied the young, the hard bullied the soft. It seemed as though this was a way for those people to release their pent up feelings from their own oppressors—
“You really are a little flower that can’t be stomped to death. How are you still not dead after such treatment?”
Why would she be dead? Survival was her innate ability!
“Why don’t you cry? You don’t even cry when getting insulted, you really are a lowly seed!”
Why would she cry? If she cried wouldn’t they laugh even louder, wouldn’t they be even more satisfied?
She had experienced all kinds of insults and humiliation until she slowly grew older.
It was because she had suffered so that she tried her best to become someone of higher status in her past life. She didn’t want to suffer any more, but unfortunately she was too stupid and didn’t consider enough, resulting in such an ending.
But the experience from both lives combined has also taught Xiao Hua many things about survival. She knew when she could resist, and when she couldn’t. When she couldn’t, she would submit meekly. When she could, she would never allow herself to be humiliated.
For example, at this moment –
Xiao Hua raised her head and looked at the person who wanted her to get down. Looks like her body was too frail, making her appear as a soft persimmon to others.
Xiao Hua knew how to deal with such people who appeared brave but were cowardly inside. She stared back without saying anything, and saw that person’s apprehension. She said: “Scram!”
That person immediately scrammed.
Xiao Hua buried her head once again.
That’s right, having experienced so much she still hadn’t died. In this life, she was determined to survive.
Having stayed another few days in this room filled with an oppressive atmosphere, Xiao Hua had her wrists tied along with a few others and was taken onto a carriage.
The carriage was very large, and was able to fit around ten people. Everyone found their own space to huddle up in.
Seeing that there was still room, Xiao Hua was a little suspicious. Trafficker Qian was someone who always used her resources to its fullest, and would never waste any space. If she could bring one more along, she would bring one more along. But soon her suspicions were cleared, because another person was brought into the carriage. It was an unconscious young lady.
The remaining space just happened to fit someone who was lying down.
After trafficker Qian had her placed onto the carriage, she swept her gaze around and finally settled on Xiao Hua.
“You, keep an eye on her until she wakes up.”
Xiao Hua didn’t make any noise, only nodding her head.
The carriage door was closed once again. Xiao Hua carefully placed the unconscious girl’s head onto her knees. Since her hands were bound, it was an extremely difficult maneuver. The only reason she did so was because she saw the white cloth wrapped around the girls’ clearly injured head. Giving her head some padding with her legs was better than letting her get injured further.
The carriage swayed as it began to move. Only then did Xiao Hua lower her head and examine the unconscious person on her legs.
The girl was around fifteen, sixteen years old. She was very fresh looking, her skin white and fair, and her countenance appeared to be extremely frail and delicate. She wore rough, commoner’s clothing that didn’t fit her body, as though it had been taken from someone else and hurriedly pulled on.
She looked at her fingers, which were as expected tender without any calluses.
Xiao Hua’s heart leapt, but then laughed in spite of herself. What did the girl have to do with her? No need to blindly worry about things.
The days spent on the carriage were very difficult. The space was too small and they couldn’t even stretch out their legs. Being hungry was one thing, but having to use the bathroom was a hassle. The carriage only stopped once a day for them to relieve themselves. If they wanted to go again, they had to hold it until trafficker Qian’s caravan fleet stopped for the night to rest.
The fleet this time was very long, with around ten or so horse carriages and a few caged cars. It wasn’t clear where this batch of people was going to be sold.
The unconscious girl awoke on the third day.
Xiao Hua saw her shock as she realized she had been sold off, and couldn’t resist offering a few words of comfort.
It was the most she could do for her, the rest would be up to her own thoughts. After all, a person’s survival depended not on the words of others, but on their own inner tenacity and toughness.
If that wasn’t present, she doubted that this girl, who was clearly pampered from a young age, could hold on.
Xiao Hua expected to see her start to cry desolately and fall apart, since after all her appearance looked as though the wind would blow her over, clearly having lived a privileged life. Yet unexpectedly, the girl’s character was completely different from her appearance, not only quickly recovering her calm but even having the guts to ask Trafficker Qian for food.
Even more surprising was that Trafficker Qian made an exception on this occasion, allowing Xiao Hua to confirm her thoughts.
The will to survive is bountiful. Even in desperate straits one could persevere with gritted teeth.
Days passed one after the other. Xiao Hua saw the girl’s eyes change from dull to bright, and finally fill with an indescribable brilliance.
She liked seeing this, because it was as if she saw a ray of hope inside this lifeless carriage. Although Xiao Hua could continue to endure without such things, she couldn’t help but be extremely moved at the sight.
That feeling was very unfamiliar. What could it be? Xiao Hua couldn’t figure it out.
That girl had told Xiao Hua her name. It was a beautiful name: Qing Wan.
Every time someone introduced themselves to Xiao Hua, she would always sigh about how nice sounding their names were and how tacky her own was in comparison. However, she had never considered switching her name.
In the past whenever she had been resold, even if the previous master had given her an elegant and refined name, she would always discard it and call herself Xiao Hua, a little flower that couldn’t be stomped to death.
Of course, the last line had never been said out loud for people to hear.
Qing Wan was a very special girl, one who didn’t match her frail and delicate appearance.
She was very astute and prudent. Xiao Hua bitterly smiled as she thought she had seen through her intentions.
She actually wanted to escape!?
After observing for a few more days, Xiao Hua confirmed her guess. She couldn’t help but consider whether she should give her some pointers.
After considering for two days, Xiao Hua finally couldn’t help but tell Qing Wan some of her own experiences as well as what the world was like outside.
She didn’t intend to persuade her, but just wanted to tell her about the truth of the world and let her decide by herself.
Escape? If it was really that easy to escape, she would have done it long ago. Was anyone willing to be sold repeatedly, let along be sold five times?
Even if you overlook Trafficker Qian’s tight security around her caravan, the wild and mountainous countryside as well as the harsh society of the outside world was not one where a weak female wanderer could survive. The best case would be to wander the streets as a beggar, the worst would be to get kidnapped and sold into those filthy places. Especially for girls who had decent appearances, the outside was full of difficulties.
It wasn’t that she had gotten used to servitude, but rather she was clear in her heart that even becoming a servant or slave was better than wandering homeless outside, where perhaps you would end up in situations far worse than servitude.
Furthermore, Qing Wan was clearly of noble birth. A delicate lady who hadn’t seen much of the world. Who knew which of the households in the capital’s young mistresses had managed to end up in such a place?
However, Qing Wan hadn’t said anything, and so Xiao Hua didn’t ask. Everyone had their own secrets, just like herself.
The carriage continued to proceed, bringing with it suffering and sadness. But no matter what, survival was the first priority.