Chapter 11: Brother and sister

When Bai Qingqing returned to the old lady’s house, Big Yellow glanced at her a few times and disappeared into the dirt road.
After dinner, Bai Qingqing laid on the bed and thought about the weird feeling she had about this place.
She felt it had something to do with Abao and decided to go back to see him tomorrow and ask him about it.

The next morning, she ate a bowl of porridge under the warm greeting of the old lady.
She then followed the road she had walked yesterday and headed to Abao’s house.
She didn’t know where his parents had gone and the courtyard was very quiet.
Big Yellow was lying on the ground; the dog smelled the intrusion and raised its head before looking around vigilantly.
When Big Yellow finally noticed Bai Qingqing, it wagged its tail and came to her.
Bai Qingqing took a dog bone from her space and threw it to the dog to chew.
She then walked to the door and knocked gently.
She called the boy two or three times before she heard some movement from the window.
Abao was laying there, looking at her with wide eyes.
“Why did you come back?” He whispered.
Bai Qingqing leaned over with a smile: “Don’t you want to see me?”
She was slightly alarmed when she saw the red mark on the child’s face and asked: “Did your mother hit you?”
Abao pouted and looked down.
“I didn’t listen to my mom.
Big sister, you should leave, mom will scold me again if she knows I am talking to you.”
Bai Qingqing took a bag of dried plum and said: “Abao, let’s make a deal in secret, ok?”
“No.” Abao covered his mouth, “I don’t want your things.”
Bai Qingqing kept taking things from her space: dried fruits and vegetables, cinnamon-flavored soda, … each and every snack full of temptation for children.
“I won’t say anything.
If you don’t tell your mother, no one will know.”

Bai Qingqing showed a pitiful expression and added: “Big sister just wants to ask you a few questions…”
Abao blinked: “What questions?”
Bai Qingqing noticed the kid’s attitude had somewhat softened and stuffed all the snacks to him as she asked: “Where did all the children of the village go?”
“I don’t know.” Abao hugged the snacks, fear in his eyes.
“Mom says that they were all taken away by the monsters.
I have to stay hidden at home or they will take me too.”
His expression was sad and he sniffed.
“Da Pang was also taken away.
I haven’t seen him in a long time.” 
Bai Qingqing frowned and continued to ask: “Do you know where they were taken?”
“I don’t know.” Abao’s mouth was thin and tears were in his eyes.
“Sister, mom says it’s dangerous outside.
Can you help me protect Xiao Hua?”
Bai Qingqing realized he was talking about the dog and nodded: “Of course I can.”
She then thought about the conversation she had with the old lady and added: “Do you know if someone is called Awang in the village?”
Abao tilted his head and answered after a while: “My brother is called Awang.
Big sister, I haven’t seen my brother in a long time, I don’t know where he went.”
He cried: “I miss him.”
Yesterday, Abao’s mother had not said her husband’s name was Awang; perhaps Abao’s brother was the mission’s target.
“Abao.” As she was about to leave, Bai Qingqing said one last thing.
“Big sister will help you find your brother Awang.
Go back and hide, don’t come out unless your mom or father calls you.”
“Okay.” Abao nodded.

Bai Qingqing left the courtyard and as she walked down the road, she ran into the man who had shown them the village the first time.
As soon as he saw her, Huzi came over and said: “Here you are.
Come with me, hurry up.”

Bai Qingqing did not agree right away: “To where?”
“The Elder is looking for you.”
Bai Qingqing followed the man to the ancestral hall.
Everybody but Bai Tiantian was gathered.
The Thunder Squad’s members, who had been somewhat in high spirits yesterday, looked as if they had been drained of energy, Fu Chen included.
When they saw Bai Qingqing arrive, Shen Mingxuan’s eyes flared but his face was as cold as usual.

Bai Qingqing looked at her surroundings.
This time, there were a lot more people than when they had first entered the village; there were men with weapons and a few older women, and they all were sizing her up.
Their status in the village should not have been low; in two days, she had realized that Zhou village had retained many feudal customs. 
The white-haired man who was sitting on the highest chair touched his long beard and said: “I called you today because there is something I need to ask.”
“You have been in the village for a few days now, do you want to leave or stay?”
Bai Qingqing did not answer but looked at Fu Chen.
It had not been three days, Fu Chen would not want them to leave just yet and she still had a task to complete.
Fu Chen finally spoke: “Elder, there are so many zombies outside now.
We like your Zhou village very much, we hope you will let us stay here.” To prove his words, he added in an urgent tone: “As long as you let us stay, we can do anything.”
Zhou village was a place with no exit.
When outsiders entered the village, their goods were stolen and they would be left to work in the village until they disappeared in odd circumstances.
The Thunder Squad had tried to find all of their bizarre secrets; they had been careful and even checked the food they ate, yet were still caught in a trap in the end.
In any case, Bai Tiantian had not been found yet, it was impossible to leave just like that.

The Elder was very satisfied when he heard Fu Chen’s answer.
He touched his white beard again and with a smile, he said: “Young man, you are kind, I also want to let you stay here.”
“I want you to stay, but…” He pretended to be embarrassed, “There isn’t much food in our village.
If you want to stay, you must work, can you endure it?”
Xiao Yang grinned, revealing white teeth, and replied: “Is there anything strong men like us can’t bear? Elder, you can arrange work for us at any time, we definitely will not stay here for free.”
The old man laughed: “Good boy.
If you say so, I am relieved.” He had clearly been waiting for these exact words.

A chubby woman looked at Bai Qingqing: “There is a rule in our village that unmarried men and women cannot meet each other.”
Before she was done talking, Bai Qingqing had already looked at Fu Chen and taken his arm.
She said with anxiety: “I can’t see my brother?”

In the original novel, Bai Tiantian had been separated for this same reason and the team had not been able to find her whereabouts.
The woman, who had just been interrupted, showed a fierce and ugly expression: “Men and women are different! You are so old already and still clinging up to your brother.
What decency!”
She calmed a little: “Little sister, don’t worry.
Aunt will definitely find a good husband for you.”
Bai Qingqing looked scared.
She held Fu Chen’s hand as she shook slightly and lowered her head against him.
Fu Chen tightened his grip and said: “Aunt, my sister is very timid.
Can’t she stay with me?”
“No!” Several voices sounded at the same time.
“The village’s rules cannot be broken.
Men and women are different, unless married, they cannot meet.
Not even if you are siblings.”
“A woman should be married at 18, why are you still pestering your brother like that?”
Bai Qingqing wasn’t sure whether the villagers were pedantic, ignorant, or just saying anything to achieve their goals.
But when Bai Tiantian had been forced to be separated from the rest of the team, they had also said men and women could not meet in private and she had disappeared as soon as she had been taken away.
Unexpectedly, even brothers and sisters were not allowed to see each other.
Liang Zhiyu’s cunning eyes narrowed and he said: “Elder, our captain, and his sister have never been separated.
Can you compromise and let them meet once every half a month?”
There were still sounds of opposition in the ancestral hall and the men holding the weapons looking fierce, as if they would suppress them if they kept resisting.
Fu Chen looked down at Bai Qingqing and finally said: “Aunt, please take care of my sister.”
“Don’t worry” the woman harrumphed, “ I will definitely not treat your sister badly.”
Cheng Rui’s fists clenched tightly and Xiao Yang’s face was worried.
Only Shen Mingxuan was smiling and looking at the scene with cold eyes.
Bai Qingqing looked panicked, but her heart was very calm.
She was very curious to see what the villagers were going to do.
It was impossible for the protagonists to die just like that, the Thunder Squad had managed to get away from Zhou village in the novel, they would be able to get out this time too.
Awang was currently a mystery.
Perhaps after being taken away, she would be able to meet A-mei, the other mission’s target.
After all, the rules said men and women were not allowed to meet if unmarried, Awang and A-mei weren’t together for this reason.

After the meeting in the ancestral hall, the group separated.
Bai Qingqing followed the woman back to the south mountain and listened to her as they walked.

“Since you have decided to stay here, you will move to where I live tonight.”
“Yes, Aunt.
Thank you.” Bai Qingqing smiled.
The woman looked serious and added: “There are many rules in our village and if you want to live there, you must abide by them.
Small mistakes will be punished according to our laws and big ones will get you expelled from the village.”
“Expelled?” Bai Qingqing covered her mouth with both hands.
Seeing she was scared, the woman continued: “If you don’t want to be driven out, you will have to follow me to learn the rules tomorrow.”
“I understand.” Bai Qingqing quickly agreed.

The woman led her to a building, opened the door, and walked in.
Bai Qingqing found out she was going to sleep on a plank bed, large enough to accommodate at least five or six people.
When they saw the Aunt enter, another woman wrapped into a quilt climbed out of the bed and respectfully greeted: “Sister Hong.”
There was one table, two stools, and a large wardrobe in the room.
It was simple and clean, somewhat similar to a prison cell.
Bai Qingqing recognized three of the women, the ones who had been traveling with Zhang Qiang’s group.
“Why are you standing still?” The woman pushed Bai Qingqing, “Come on, say hello to everyone.”
Bai Qingqing gave them a sweet smile: “Hello, my name is Bai Qingqing.
I am very happy to join you, please take care of me in the future.”
Listening to her introduction, the Aunt smiled and said: “You will sleep here tonight.
You have to get up early tomorrow.”
Once Sister Hong left, the women in the room climbed onto the bed and fell asleep, all very disciplined, lying flat on their back with their hands placed on their belly.

After a peaceful night, Bai Qingqing followed the woman to a large wooden house the next day.
The room they entered was equipped with tables and stools, and all women sat neatly.
Bai Qingqing also took her place in the corner, the odd feeling of joining a classroom spreading in her heart. 
As she thought about this, Sister Hong led another person in.
It was Bai Tiantian, whom she had not seen in a few days.
She was dressed in a purple ethnic costume with a silver crown on her head, looking both beautiful and colorful.

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