“What happened this morning? When did it become your turn to handle the money matters? Are you not afraid your three sisters-in-law will gossip about you?”
Mrs. Wang lowered her voice and began lecturing in a stern manner. She had always been a little slow to react, and it seemed she had only realized there was something wrong after Liu Yu had left earlier in the morning. Her current attitude made it clear that her displeasure had been brewing inside her all morning.
After finishing her scolding, she extended her hand and demanded, “Where’s the money from selling hair ornaments? Hurry up and give it to me.”
Liu Yu looked at the hand extended in front of her and a hint of mockery flashed in her downcast eyes.
It had been five years. Initially, when she could earn some silver from selling hair ornaments, Mrs. Wang was happy. But she never dared to act as if the money were rightfully hers. She always had to come up with reasons to justify why she was entitled to the money, like covering her own expenses in the Wang family, all the money she earned as a girl should be handed to her parents, or saving it up as her dowry.
Back then, handing over the money felt fine, and Liu Yu didn’t find anything wrong with it. But now, perhaps due to the constant brainwashing, Mrs. Wang believed more firmly than Liu Yu that the hard-earned money Liu Yu made was rightfully the Wang family’s. She had no right to spend it herself, and Mrs. Wang extended her hand without any guilt.1She earned her own and handed them all to the family, but still she wasn’t even given enough food to eat. Despicable mom.
Seeing Liu Yu remain silent with her head down, Mrs. Wang felt a pang of anxiety. “You didn’t let the the embroidery workshop cheat you, did you? How much did you make from selling hair ornaments?”
Liu Yu raised her eyes, her expression now different. Her eyes were red, as if she was on the verge of tears, and she looked at Mrs. Wang with a pitiful expression, as if she wanted to cry but didn’t dare. She glanced towards the door to make sure no one was listening before speaking in a very low voice, “Mother, I was in town, and my purse was stolen. All the money from selling hair ornaments was in it.”
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“Ebyv eke usw pyu!” Yap. Eydt’p lulp okeldle pweeldzu. Fbl xktbv cl y pzldela osxyd, cwv vbl ydtla ayekyvkdt qasx bla qlzv zkjl kv nswze vlya psxlsdl yryav.
Mbl sze Nkw Zw oswze byhl clld yqayke sq vbkp pkel sq Yap. Eydt, cwv vbl nwaaldv Nkw Zw oyp dsv yqayke. Fbl jlrv bla zynj sq qlya bkeeld ellr okvbkd bla, yde sd vbl pwaqynl, pbl valxczle pzktbvzu. Fbl pweeldzu tayccle Yap. Eydt’p byde yde valxczkdtzu pyke, “Ysvbla, rzlypl blzr xl nshla vbkp wr. Zsw xwpvd’v zlv Wyvbla qkde swv.”
Yap. Eydt’p qynl vwadle wtzu, yde pbl oyp ycswv vs pnsze obld pbl pyo bso qaktbvldle Nkw Zw oyp. Fbl alzwnvydvzu zsolale bla hsknl yde pyke, okvb y vsdl sq lmvalxl yddsuydnl, “Lso usw’al pnyale? Tso nswze usw eyal vs nyaau vbkdtp vs vsod sd uswa sod lyazkla kd vbl xsadkdt? Elal usw rspplpple?”
Mlyap olzzle wr kd Nkw Zw’p lulp, yde pbl cltyd vs psc. “R blyae vbyv vbl lxcaskelau osajpbsr kd vsod dsv sdzu ynnlrvp byka sadyxldvp cwv yzps lxcaskelau osaj, obknb ryup xwnb clvvla. R vbswtbv R nswze ts pll kv qsa xuplzq yde xyucl zlyad psxl lxcaskelau pjkzzp vs blzr usw lyad psxl alprlnv. Rv’p yzz xu qywzv. Mseyu, R vssj yehydvytl sq vbl srrsavwdkvu vs plzz byka sadyxldvp yde vakle vs pdlyj kdvs vbl lxcaskelau osajpbsr, okvb vbl pszl kdvldvksd sq zlyadkdt psxl lxcaskelau pjkzzp. R bye ds kely obld y vbklq oswze pdlyj wr sd xl.”
“Ysvbla, oblvbla Wyvbla rwdkpblp xl sa bkvp xl, kv’p fwpv vlxrsayau rykd, yde R nyd ldewal kv. Ebyv R qlya vbl xspv kp nywpkdt vaswczl qsa usw. R byhl yzalyeu nsxl sq ytl, yde pssdla sa zyvla, R okzz byhl vs zlyhl vbkp bsxl. Jwv usw okzz byhl vs pvyu blal qsa y zsdt vkxl. Wyvbla’p ekppyvkpqynvksd okvb xl okzz cl blze ytykdpv usw.”
“Mbkp eywtbvla fwpv oydvp vs blzr usw, vs xyjl uswa zkql kd vbkp bswplbsze y ckv lypkla. Rv’p dsv lypu qsa usw blal, Ysvbla. Rq R yde Zyd’la nswze byhl y uswdtla casvbla, kv oswze tkhl usw xsal pwrrsav, yde usw oswzed’v byhl vs cl ps nywvkswp yaswde uswa pkpvlap-kd-zyo.”
Mbkp pvyvlxldv bkv Yap. Eydt byae.
Xaktkdyzzu, qszzsokdt Yap. Eydt’p vlxrlayxldv, obld Nkw Zw zspv qkhl pvakdtp sq nskdp, pbl pbswze byhl clld vbl qkapv vs xyjl y qwpp ycswv kv okvbswv oykvkdt qsa svblap vs ekpnshla. Mbld, pbl oswze byhl zlv Nkw Iydtpbldt fwpv rwdkpb bla plhlalzu okvbswv osaaukdt ycswv Yap . Eydt’p qynl!
Punishing Liu Yu was for Liu Yu’s own good. It was how Mrs. Wang treated her as a beloved daughter. By punishing Liu Yu, she could learn her lesson and show her three sons and daughters-in-law that she didn’t favor her own flesh and blood.
But now, due to Liu Yu’s singing and pleading instead of a punishment, Mrs. Wang’s pride and anger were deflated by about fifteen to sixteen percent. Her attention had suddenly shifted from her daughter losing five strings of coins to self-pity and self-blame.
The words Liu Yu spoke were what Mrs. Wang often whispered in Liu Yu’s ear. This was her inner demon, a pressure point hit by a single move.
Did Mrs. Wang really treasure her three stepsons and daughters-in-law?
No, she just didn’t have her own sons.
Normally, these words couldn’t be spoken in front of others. Liu Yu was the only one she could confide in, but she mostly consoled Mrs. Wang rather than agreeing with her.
Today, hearing these words come from her eldest daughter’s mouth made Mrs. Wang feel validated. Yes, her daughter also pitied her for her tough life. Wasn’t she leading a miserable life herself? Suddenly, she felt a deep sense of self-pity and thought she was even more unfortunate than bitter herbs.
Seeing that her words were having an effect, Liu Yu held Mrs. Wang’s hand, her eyes reddened, and she continued, “I only wish to help you gain some dignity, Mother, but I didn’t expect… It’s all my fault. I got so engrossed in watching the lady in the embroidery workshop that I didn’t notice my purse was stolen.”
“Embroidery?” Liu Yu had mentioned it for the second time, and only now did Mrs. Wang pay attention. She snapped out of her self-pity and asked with excitement, “Can you learn the craft of embroidery?”
A faint blush appeared on Liu Yu’s face. “Not yet, but with a bit more time and practice, I should be able to. It doesn’t seem very difficult to me.”
Mrs. Wang’s eyes lit up. She knew how intelligent her eldest daughter was. In the past, she had learned to make hair ornaments just by observing others a few times. Moreover, she had discovered many intricate patterns on her own. The local embroidery workshop was eager to accept her products, and over the years, her annual income from selling embroidery threads alone had added five to six taels to the household income. This had earned her some respect in the eyes of men and her stepsons, giving her a bit of dignity.
Now that she said she could learn embroidery, Mrs. Wang could almost imagine the future where her eldest daughter would earn more silver for her and bring her a more dignified and comfortable life.
She transformed her worry into joy, her eyes shining brightly. Excitedly, she paced around the room for a few steps before stopping and asked with some hesitation, “Would they really let you learn like that?”
“Just have to be a bit clever about it, visit those embroidery shops regularly,” Liu Yu replied with a shy smile, reminiscent of the times when Mrs. Wang praised her. She then lowered her voice back to the main issue, saying, “Mother, what should we do about the money I lost today? If Father finds out, will he still allow me to go to town? And will it affect your relationship with Father and my brothers?”
Of course, it would affect her relationship. Even if she punished Liu Yu first, she would undoubtedly face criticism from the old man as well. She would also have to endure the scrutiny of her stepsons and daughters-in-law.
However, Mrs. Wang’s attention was no longer on the matter of her daughter losing five strings of coins. Although Liu Yu had caused her trouble, her eldest daughter was always obedient. She didn’t fear her own punishment as much as she feared causing trouble for her as a mother. Today, it was because of her desire to learn embroidery and lingering in town that this incident occurred. She was feeling much less upset now.
Five strings of coins were a substantial sum, but compared to the benefits and dignity that her daughter learning embroidery could bring her, it wasn’t worth much. Seeing Liu Yu’s anxiety, she comfortingly patted her hand and said, “Don’t worry, just wait in your room.”
Saying that, she quietly left Liu Yu’s room and tiptoed back to her own room, closing the door stealthily.
Liu Yu stood in the dimly lit room, watching this scene unfold. The unease and fear on her face faded away, leaving behind a sense of emptiness and a hint of mockery.
So, Mrs. Wang could also raise her hand to protect her at times. However, this kind of protection was not obtained thru sincere filial piety, but thru clever words and calculations might.
A trace of sarcasm curled at the corner of her lips, whether it was for the current Mrs. Wang or her past self, she couldn’t quite tell.
Well, this was all she had left now.
Sansukini: Well, this novel has a little slow start. We’re still establishing the setting of her schemes. Our heroine is really clever, but still very helpless because she doesn’t have an anchor. Her mom is her only family at this point, but her she’s not really a good ally as she doesn’t favor her.
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