Wang Shi quickly returned to Liu Yu’s room. Seeing that there was no one in the hall, she closed the door from the inside, and then took out a handful of copper coins from her sleeve to give to Liu Yu. She lowered her voice and said, “This is my private stash. Give it to me during dinner tonight when your father is present. Mention your embroidery skills casually at that time, understood?”
After recieving the heavy copper coins, Liu Yu glanced at them, totaling five strings with a few tens of wen. Her tears had not yet dried, but she had already turned her worries into joy. She leaned affectionately on Wang Shi’s shoulder and softly said, “Mother, you’re really kind. From now on, Yu’er will definitely be a good daughter and show filial piety to you. When I learn embroidery well, I will definitely earn face for you in front of Dad.”
Her voice was soft, and Wang Shi couldn’t help but smile. Her face lit up with a wide smile as she patted Liu Yu and said, “You’re a good girl. Learning embroidery is not just about earning face for your mother. You’re at a marriageable age now, and with this skill, you can make a better impression. That girl, Yan’er has no conscience. Mother will rely on you for filial piety in the future.”
Liu Yu’s eyes twinkled slightly, confirming that Wang Shi at this moment still had no idea about Liu Kangsheng’s plan.
Wang Shi, who had been treating Liu Yu warmly at this moment, unexpectedly asked a rare question, “Are you hungry? I steamed mantou today, and it should be ready to come out of the pot.”
Liu Yu lowered her head, fiddled with her fingertips, and gently shook her head, “I’m not hungry. Dinner will be in another two hours. I don’t want to eat now, to avoid my sisters-in-law seeing me and then gossiping about it with my brothers, making it difficult for Mom.”
Wang Shi had originally called Liu Yu to go out and get mantou to eat, but it was just a momentary slip of the tongue due to her happiness. There wasn’t much sincerity behind it. However, upon hearing Liu Yu’s words, Wang Shi couldn’t help but feel a sense of injustice rising in her mind. What her daughter said earlier was correct. As a mother-in-law, she had to consider her daughter-in-law’s feelings when making decisions.
At that moment, she pulled Liu Yu aside and said, “You’ve just earned five strings of coins today after working on the embroidery for two months and walking over ten miles back and forth. How can you not eat a bun? Let me see who dares to criticize.”
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Tla hsknl pweeldzu aspl, qwlzle cu yd kdlmrzknyczl elvlaxkdyvksd. Tla rspvwal pvayktbvldle, yde pbl lhld eyale vs kxkvyvl bla xsvbla-kd-zyo’p elxlydsa. Uzlyazu, vbl aykple hsknl yde bla osaep olal xlydv qsa vbl vball eywtbvlap-kd-zyo swvpkel vs blya.
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Fllkdt Eydt Fbk zssjkdt bla oyu, pbl qwaasole bla casop yde hktsaswpzu pbssj bla blye.
Eydt Fbk, okvdlppkdt bla lzelpv eywtbvla’p elvlaxkdyvksd vs ldewal bwdtla ayvbla vbyd nywpl bla xsvbla ydu vaswczl, qlzv y ellr pyedlpp. Fbl alyzkgle kv oypd’v fwpv qsa vseyu; kv bye clld zkjl vbkp pkdnl Nkw Zw oyp y nbkze, eyu yqvla eyu qsa vbl rypv plhld sa lktbv ulyap. Tla blyav ynble, yde pbl qlzv pbl bye zlv bla eywtbvla esod vss xydu vkxlp.
Fbl rwzzle Nkw Zw swv, bla xsse pswa, yde pyke, “Usxl okvb xl. Zsw’al pvkzz y ryav sq vbl Nkw qyxkzu, yde usw lyad uswa sod xsdlu. Tso nyd usw dsv lyv y xydvys? Oyv kv, dsv fwpv vseyu, cwv kd vbl qwvwal obld ol xyjl pdynjp yv bsxl. Rq Zyd’la nyd lyv kv, ps nyd usw.”
Ekvb vblpl osaep, Eydt Fbk nsxrzlvlzu qsatsv vbl qynv vbyv Nkw Zw bye zspv qkhl pvakdtp sq nskdp vseyu yde yzps qsatsv vbyv pbl bye clld vbl sdl obs plv bla eywtbvla yryav qasx vbl Nkw qyxkzu.
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The second daughter-in-law, Lin Shi, was busy tending to her infant daughter and didn’t say anything.
Wu Shi smiled and put four mantaos in a clean cloth bag, saying, “Mother, I’ll pack a few for Bao Ge1the eldest grandson.”
Wang Shi’s protective stance, as hinted by Liu Yu’s words, momentarily subsided when faced with the three daughters-in-law2she suddenly became a coward. This reaction had developed over the years due to Liu Kangsheng’s influence, shaping the dynamics between Wang Shi and her three daughters-in-law. With the experiences of adjusting to married life, raising daughters, and remarrying without having sons, the deeply ingrained vulnerability in her nature emerged at just the right moment. Her assertiveness waned, and her once straightened posture slumped.
She couldn’t afford to show displeasure to any of the three daughters-in-law, especially Wu Shi, who had given birth to Bao Ge, the beloved grandson of the elderly head of the family and a prominent figure in the Liu family.
Wang Shi forced a smile and instructed Wu Shi, “Pack a couple more. You haven’t eaten yet, and it’ll be a snack for the road.”
Wu Shi smiled slightly and replied, “I’m not a child anymore, and I shouldn’t be greedy. But you’re right; I should take a few more. I’ll give them to Tong’s wife from the master’s family. It will make Mr. Tong pay more attention to our Bao Ge.”
Concerning the only male grandchild in the Liu family, Wang Shi couldn’t refuse. She agreed repeatedly, saying, “Alright, that makes sense.”
As Wang Shi agreed, she watched as Wu Shi uncovered the pot and took out the buns. As she observed, her smile began to fade.
Wu Shi remarked, “It’s not nice to be too stingy when giving things to others. I’ll take four more, and Bao Ge can eat two later. The other six can be given to Tong’s wife.”
“Four more? Oh, alright.”
While Wang Shi verbally agreed, she watched as Wu Shi walked away with the buns, feeling somewhat dumbfounded.
In a rural household, every bit of food was accounted for, and people lived frugally. Wang Shi had made a specific amount of steamed buns, which could be stretched to accommodate a few extra, but with Wu Shi taking these additional four, there wouldn’t be any surplus.
She had just offered Liu Yu some buns to eat. Now, what would they eat?
These buns were not just a snack for today; they were also meant to be part of the Liu family’s men’s provisions for tomorrow. For this four men, Wang Shi didn’t dare to withhold any food, no matter how courageous she felt.
Who could she deduct from? She didn’t dare to do it to her three daughters-in-law, and with her granddaughters protected by their daughters-in-law, that only left her with Liu Yan. Liu Yan and Erya from the third family were both clever and quick-witted. Seeing the situation was unfavorable, each of them had already grabbed a bun and made their escape.
Lin Shi, with a beaming smile, handed one to her eldest daughter and her youngest daughter, saying, “Alright, don’t crowd here. Take your food and go play outside. Daya, take care of Sanya3Daya-eldest sister; Erya-second sister; Sanya-third sister.”
With the children sent away, Lin Shi smiled and said, “You all enjoy your meal. I’ll go weave some fabric.”
She departed gracefully as well.
Wang Shi looked at the remaining buns in the pot, trembling with anger, but because Wen Shi was still there, she couldn’t show her frustration on her face. She had to maintain her composure, which was quite embarrassing.
Suppressing her frustration, she turned to Liu Yu and said, “Yu’er, go get one and eat it. After that, you can return to your room to work.”
Liu Yu, despite witnessing the commotion, pretended as if she hadn’t understood. She wiped her hands clean and took one bun from the pot. Then, she nodded at Wen Shi and walked towards the door. It was only when she reached the doorway that she seemed to realize something, and she paused, “Elder sister-in-law took buns to give to others, and now I’m taking one more. This way, we can leave some for Dad and my older brothers for lunch tomorrow. Mother, do you have any left?”
Wang Shi’s expression stiffened for a moment. Despite her rare moment of determination, she now found herself in an embarrassing situation. She couldn’t bear for Liu Yu to know. She forced a smile and replied, “Yes, you can have it.”
Liu Yu glanced at Wang Shi, and with determination in her eyes, she went back and split the bun in her hand in half. She handed the extra half to Wang Shi, saying, “I have a small appetite, Mother, please have half of it for me.”
Wang Shi’s heart felt a pang, and her nose tingled as tears almost welled up in her eyes. In the end, it was this daughter she had brought from her previous family who genuinely cared for her.
Touched beyond words, Wang Shi had a face filled with emotion, but Liu Yu pretended not to notice. She smiled and said, “Mother and third sister-in-law are busy. I’ll go back to my room.”
“Sure, go ahead.” Wang Shi’s lips trembled slightly, and she managed to hold back her tears.
As Liu Yu turned and walked away, out of sight of others, the warmth and affection on her face disappeared completely, leaving only a hint of self-mockery on her lips.
As they say, a courtesan’s mouth are deceitful, and the devil can trick people. Liu Yu hadn’t expected that the skills she had learned at Liu Xian Pavilion would be used first on Wang Shi.
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