“It has been a few hours, and Liu Yu still hasn’t recovered from the palpitations of death. At this moment, she placed her hand on her chest, truly feeling her heartbeat, finally believing that she had come back to life.
Outside, Liu Yan was making a lot of noise, her voice raised high, without any intention of avoiding Liu Yu.
“She’s only a year older than me. Why should she rest while I have to work? We are both daughters. I am my father’s beloved daughter. Does that mean she can’t get tanned but I can? She wants to take care of her skin, and I don’t?”
Hearing these words, without even looking outside to see what was happening, Liu Yu could guess that because of the words “beloved daughter,” Wang Shi must be trembling with anger right now.
She was not the first wife, she married with a daughter, and she had not been able to give birth to a son. This was a lifelong sore spot for Wang Shi, it hurts when touched, especially when it was her own biological daughter who exposed the scar.
Sure enough, Wang Shi’s voice suddenly became louder outside, arguing with Liu Yan, her voice sharp, completely different from her usual timid and gentle demeanor.
Liu Yu was not born to Liu Kangsheng, but was the child of Wang Shi and her previous husband. She hadn’t even reached one month old when Wang Shi brought her to the Liu family. Wang Shi married Liu Kangsheng, who had just lost his wife and had three sons. As for the identity of the previous husband, she never mentioned it, nor did she want to hear anyone ask.
It seemed that she was determined to live her life with Liu Kangsheng, but in the more than ten years since their marriage, she only became pregnant after entering the Liu family and gave birth to Liu Yan. After that, she never got pregnant again.”
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But she couldn’t even ask this question. There was nowhere to ask. Because in this lifetime, nothing had happened yet, and therefore, Wang Shi could still sit by her side with teary eyes, playing up the affection and pouring out her grievances.
“Why do I have such a miserable life and gave birth to such an ignorant thing. I am her real mother, yet she speaks such hurtful words.”
“Why have I suffered so much in my life? For whom? My own daughter treats me like this. What is there left for me to look forward to in life?”
Wang Shi started to cry, just like every time before. While crying, she would recount all the hardships and injustices in her life, never forgetting to mention the kindness she had shown to her two daughters. In the end, it always turned into lamentations about Liu Yu, talking about how much she had sacrificed for her.
Liu Yu suddenly felt an intense nausea, a revulsion that was different from hatred. It was a disgust accompanied by a nearly consuming urge to scream and roar, to break free and tear apart the woman who was full of love, named “mother.”
But she was terrifyingly clear-headed, clear-headed enough to know that she couldn’t do it yet.
So, Liu Yu split herself in two, the one that was clear-headed feeling like it was detached from the world, devoid of emotions, as if even her blood was cold. She kept the one that wanted to scream and roar firmly locked away in some corner of her body, teaching it to stay calm and subdued.
And she, at last, raised her eyes to look at Wang Shi, who was shedding abundant tears and narrating her case in detail.
Wang Shi was immersed in her own self-pity and emotional outpouring, completely oblivious to the coldness in her daughter’s eyes.
Meanwhile, outside, Liu Yan continued her sharp-tongued remarks without any intention of relenting: “Crying again, as if I did something outrageous by speaking the truth. Remarriage is not something shameful, you were a remarriage yourself, and Liu Yu was never really Dad’s daughter. Why can’t I say it? By hiding and concealing, do you think others won’t know?!”
In the inner room, Wang Shi was so infuriated that she clutched her chest and couldn’t even cry anymore, as if she was about to suffocate.
The eldest daughter-in-law of the Liu family, Wu Shi, had finally had enough of the commotion. She said half-irritated and half-amused, “Younger sister, it’s about time for the elder sister to speak her mind this year. Let’s pay attention and be considerate. You’re only fourteen, there’s no need to rush things like this. Making our mother upset like this, just think about how this commotion will end. The neighbors will probably gossip when they hear about it.”
Liu Yan huffed and angrily retorted, “I want to be like my sister, spending my days chatting and eating sunflower seeds. I can be a good person too!”
Wu Shi’s amused smile dimmed in her eyes as she glanced at Liu Yan, who had adopted the same stern demeanor as the Liu family members. She thought, “This little sister really doesn’t have a clue. With that dark skin of hers, she won’t ever resemble Liu Yu, no matter how many months or years she tries to mimic. But she won’t say that aloud and simply wore a faintly enigmatic smile on her face.”
“I kindly advised you, but if you won’t listen, then do as you wish. As for not doing household chores, that’s what Dad instructed. Bao Ge’er is working hard at his studies, and I’m tasked with taking care of him. If you have any objections to that, you can talk to Dad when he comes home in the evening.”
With those words, she turned around and continued munching on her sunflower seeds.
Liu Yan, however, was left speechless and frustrated, unable to retort with a single word.
There was no choice; the four grandchildren in the Liu family had their own dynamics.
However, among the male grandchildren, there was only Bao Ge’er, who came from Wu Shi’s womb, taking both the position of being the eldest and having a unique status. Because of this, Wu Shi held the highest dignity in the household, and Liu Yan, despite being the elder daughter, had to take a back seat among the family members.
That’s right, she had to take a back seat. In the eyes of the head of the Liu family, Liu Kangsheng, the eldest son held the highest position, followed by the eldest daughter-in-law. After them came his other two sons and their respective daughters-in-law, and only after all of them did the rest of the people in the family rank.
Among these other people were Wang Shi, Liu Yan, and the various granddaughters, including Liu Yu.
Liu Yu was at the bottom of the hierarchy, and Liu Yan’s status in the family was only slightly better than Liu Yu’s.
Frustrated, she stormed out.
The second wife, Lin Shi, remained in her room the whole time and didn’t come out. On the other hand, the third wife, Wen Shi, was very good at handling situations. She entered and handed Wang Shi a handkerchief, gently consoling her with warmth: “Second sister may have spoken in haste, but it definitely wasn’t what Mother had in mind. Sometimes words slip out unintentionally. There’s no need for you and your daughter to be upset with each other over such trivial matters. Quickly wipe away your tears, don’t let others watch the fun.”
Her final words hit the mark precisely. Wang Shi was quite concerned about her reputation, and now that someone had offered a way out, she truly stopped crying. She wiped her tears with a handkerchief, her eyes still red. She then felt sympathy for Wen Shi, “Mother is confused. You’re nearly full-term, and I’ve caused such a scene, making you restless. I’m fine. Come, go back to your room and rest.”
Despite her words, Wang Shi couldn’t help but cry. She got up and supported Wen Shi, escorting her back to her room.
Liu Yu coldly watched the two of them, seemingly as close as mother and daughter, leave her room. She then heard Wu Shi outside expressing tender concern for Wang Shi, telling her to quickly apply a towel to her swollen eyes…
A hint of irony flashed in her eyes. These three sisters-in-law were not to be underestimated, and as for Wang Shi, her situation was complex.
In this household, it was not just Liu Kangsheng who favored his three daughters-in-law over his daughter. Despite Wang Shi’s constant reminders to Liu Yu that she would have to rely on her in the future, deep down, Wang Shi shared the same mindset as Liu Kangsheng—a daughter was like water that would eventually be poured out. Her future reliance would be on Liu Kangsheng and the three stepsons, even if none of them were born from her womb. It was still preferable to her own biological daughter by a thousand times and more.
So, if it was for the sake of these three stepsons who would eventually provide for her in her old age, what was so surprising about selling her own biological daughter?
She only blamed herself for not guarding against the Liu family and Wang Shi in her previous life.
Memories from her past life continued to resurface.
Stepfather Liu Kangsheng took on a job from the county, bringing the three stepsons with him. Wu Shi accompanied them to take care of meals. When they returned, she casually mentioned that girls in the county were rarely allowed to do any chores after the age of fifteen. They had to be well-groomed to secure a good marriage.
The next day, Liu Kangsheng instructed Liu Yan to take over some of the lighter tasks from Liu Yu. Liu Yu would only need to handle simple and easy chores, which had sparked the argument that had taken place today.
Just over a month later, Liu Yu was brought a bowl of sweet soup laced with medicine by her mother, Wang Shi. She handed it over to the toothless old woman who trafficked people. The old woman had drugged her along the way, and Liu Yu had lost track of time during the hazy journey. When she woke up, she was already beyond the boundaries of Yuanzhou.
Yes, only one month left.
Though Liu Yu didn’t understand why she had been given a second chance at life and returned to the age of fifteen, she couldn’t afford to repeat the mistakes of her previous life.
She slowly got up, looked out the window, and contemplated her options.
Setting aside the issues of directions and identification papers, even if she could solve those problems, she wasn’t safe traveling alone. Women who roamed the world were often either exiled by the authorities or, like her, sold by their families. A large portion ended up as kidnapped women from respectable families. If she were caught, she might be sold into a brothel, a situation that could be worse than her previous life.
Liu Yu couldn’t risk it and quickly dismissed the idea.
So, her only choice was to persuade her stepfather, Liu Kangsheng, not to sell her.
If he did sell her, it would be for the sake of money. After spending over a year in Liuxian Pavilion, Liu Yu was not entirely ignorant. When Lady Hong bought her from the toothless old woman, she had paid five hundred taels. The old woman had traveled from Yuanzhou to Yangzhou to sell her, deducting expenses along the way and her own profit. Liu Yu could roughly estimate the amount her family received, which was likely around eighty to a hundred taels.
If she could arrange a marriage with a reputable family that was willing to offer a substantial dowry, Liu Kangsheng would get the money he desired without tarnishing his reputation by selling his own daughter. Given her stepfather’s skill in calculations, he would also consider the benefits he could gain after her marriage to her prospective husband.
The final decision on these benefits was uncertain. As long as he was greedy, there was still a chance for Liu Yu to secure her future once she left the Liu family. Once she was out of their house, her fate would no longer be under the control of Liu Kangsheng and his son.
However, in rural areas, dowries were typically modest, ranging from ten to eight taels at most, and even securing eighty taels would be challenging in Changfeng Town, let alone further away in the county. That was beyond Liu Yu’s imagination.
She pondered for a moment, her gaze falling on a pile of well-made baskets on the table. Turning around, she fetched a piece of cloth and wrapped up all the baskets, then carried it as she headed out.
Just as she left the courtyard, she was spotted by Wang Shi, who had just come out of Wen Shi’s room. Wang Shi asked from a distance, “Where are you going?”
Liu Yu didn’t want to provoke a confrontation at home, so she replied, “I’m going to the town to sell the baskets.”
Selling baskets would naturally involve money changing hands, and it had always been Wang Shi who handled such matters. Feeling anxious, she said, “You don’t need to go.”
Liu Yu paid no attention to her and continued walking away.
Wang Shi felt something was amiss. She knew that Liu Yu had been under her strict supervision since she was young, resulting in a very obedient and honest personality. Liu Yu had always been engrossed in household chores and had rarely ventured into town. So, what had happened today?
Wen Shi, who was peeking through a window in her room, also had some doubts. She couldn’t quite put her finger on it, but Liu Yu’s behavior today struck her as unusual.
Liu Yan, who was sitting in the neighboring yard, saw this and exclaimed, “Making a mountain out of a molehill!”
Sansukini: So in a nutshell, Liu Yu is a stepdaughter, an oil bottle of her mom when she married the Liu family. She’s never been treated her well, but now they’re exempting her from doing all the chores she used to do. Something’s fishy, right. Oh yeah, there’s only about a month left before the family sells her off.