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2. This is a fan work and the interpretation represents only the translator’s personal views without any input from the author.
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The matter of dividing up the grain was slightly more difficult. The buckwheat harvest this year was not too bad, but even so, with the number of people in the Liu family, there was still not enough. No matter how it was sliced, there would only be enough grain for, at maximum, slightly more than half a year. Also, whether it should be split according to the number of branches or based on the number of heads per branch was a matter that everyone was hesitant over.
For First and Second, they would definitely want it to be divided based on number of heads, otherwise, they would get less, and the grain would at maximum be enough for half a year. Then what would they do for the next half year?
But for Third and Fourth, because they had fewer mouths to feed, dividing the grain equally among the branches would be more favorable to them.
Liu Changgui wanted to try and swing it so that it would be split according to each branch. But, the village head and clan elders were all present, and as a man, he didn’t want to lose his dignity, so he couldn’t appear to be too calculating. Especially since all the villagers would definitely eventually find out exactly how the family assets were divided. As such, he temporarily held his peace.
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When He shi and Liu Changgeng went to tidy up their new house, Liu Xu’er insisted on tagging along so she could look for a suitable place to house her rabbits.
The new house was to the east of the old residence, close to the large slope. Shi Cheng’s house atop the slope was a big brick house, and Liu Xu’er’s new residence was much closer to his place.
When she followed her mum and dad to the new place, Liu Xu’er was happy to see that the little ditch also meandered in front of the new house.
While Liu Changgeng and He shi were tidying up the house, Liu Xu’er was wandering around the courtyard. This place used to house people, and it also had a courtyard. It was just that the surrounding wall was crooked and there were places where the mud brick had collapsed. The yard was also full of weeds. However, overall it wasn’t too bad – the courtyard had a well in it’s center.
Liu Changgeng was tidying up the well, clearing out its surroundings before pushing away the large stone covering it. He checked inside – good, the villagers hadn’t spoiled it. Although it hadn’t been used for a long time, it was still quite clean inside.
Liu Xu’er turned to look inside the house. Generally, people would live in the few rooms at the center. The further out from the center, the smaller the rooms. From a distance, it would appear to be an arc. The little rooms were mostly used to hold odds and ends or to raise livestock.
Liu Xu’er took a shine to the leftmost little room. It was very small – she could go in, but dad and mum would need to bend over to enter. It should’ve been used to store firewood or some such previously
She went to get a broom and started to clean up this little room. The broken pieces of wood were all cleared away, with the usable wood blocks picked out and kept to help make a fence. After sweeping for a while, the entire room was filled with dust, so much so that it was difficult to make out Liu Xu’er’s figure.
He shi who was cleaning, was worried about her. She came to have a look and was startled into laughter. “My my! Where are you Xu’er? Have you given up caring about your clothes?”
Liu Xu’er emerged, her face full of dust. She tilted her head and smiled at her. “Mum! Can this little room be given to my rabbits?”
He shi dusted her face off and laughed. “Sure, sure, sure! You should properly care for those two ances…. Rabbits!”
Xu’er beamed with joy, and continued to clean out the room. After separating the family, she too was filled with enthusiasm to work!
After spending the day cleaning up the house, they returned to the old residence. Liu Shu and Liu Lin had spent the day looking after Liu Sen and packing all the large items they owned, including those they were given during the recent split.
After a few days, everyone had basically cleaned up their new places, and packed up. They looked for a day with good weather before all moving out.
Since the rabbits had a little room, there was no need to make a wooden nest anymore. Liu Xu’er used a wooden board to separate the two rabbits. When they were larger, she would put them together.
When she was done settling her rabbits, He shi started to call from the main house. “Time for lunch, everyone come have lunch!”
Liu Xu’er came out of the little room, and saw her two older brothers come out from other rooms, their clothes all dusty. He shi took out a black cloth rag, and quickly dusted off everyone before letting them go in to wash their hands and eat.
Liu Changgeng had just returned from the ravine carrying four or five logs. He was preparing to make a few tables, benches etc. Whenever it was a farming lull season, he would always look for work in town, and had picked up a few carpentry skills from his odd jobs. It was no problem for him to make a few smaller items.
When they were separating the family, there weren’t enough tables. So now, they didn’t even have a table to eat off – they could only make do with putting a mat on the kang to eat. On the square wooden plates were six or seven wholewheat buns. This would be the family’s noon meal. Liu Xu’er took one, and sat at He shi’s side.
“This afternoon, I will go to my uncle’s to borrow some tools so that I can quickly make a table.” Liu Changgeng held onto a bun and seeing that there weren’t even salted vegetables, leaned back on the kang wall and started eating.
He shi nodded. “Also the door. The door in the room that Shu and Lin are staying in is crooked. It needs to be fixed quickly, otherwise it won’t keep the cold night air out.”
Liu Changgeng laughed. “There are advantages to moving here; there is plenty of room. Even Xu’er can have her own room….”
He shi didn’t wait for him to finish before interrupting. “No way! Xu’er is still too young, she needs to stay with us. When she’s older, we can discuss this again.”
Liu Xu’er quickly said. “Mum, I want to stay by myself next to the rabbit’s room. I’ve already looked at it. There’s a kang there too. The day before, we even heated up the kang. It’s ready for a person to stay in. Let me stay there please?”
He shi frowned. “No, you’re too little. We heated the kang because it’s been too long since people have stayed there. Otherwise, the room would have too much of a damp chill, and wouldn’t be suitable for people to go into. It wasn’t to prepare a room for you to stay in.”
“Mum….. But now, isn’t it ready for a person to sleep in? Let me stay there please.”
“Xu’er, do you dare to sleep by yourself? There are wolves howling at night!” Liu Lin jokingly scared her.
Liu Xu’er pouted. “I’m not scared.” She turned to continue to beg He shi. “Mum, let me stay there. I promise I won’t get scared. I want to look after the rabbits.”
Liu Changgeng laughed despite himself. “You really have started to treat those two rabbits like your treasures. You even want to stay next to them?”
Liu Xu’er emphatically nodded. “That’s right. If I stay too far away, what happens if there are issues in the night? I wouldn’t be able to hear it. What would happen then?”
“Even if something were to go wrong, what could you do? You would be able to hear them, sure, but can you get off the kang? It’s dark at night, wouldn’t you get scared?” He shi resolutely shook her head. “No means no. What if you kick off your blankets at night?”
Liu Xu’er pouted. “I won’t! I just want to stay nearby to look after the rabbits!” Saying this, she bit down forcefully into her bun.
He shi wanted to say something more, but was stopped by Liu Changgeng. “Forget it, after all, we’ve already heated up all the kangs. Just let her give it a go. After one night, she would come running back to mum and dad!”
Liu Shu immediately laughed loudly.
He shi was still a bit reluctant, but before she could say anything, they heard someone call from outside. “Erge? Ersao?” It was Liu Xu’er’s xiaogu Liu Hong’s voice.
He shi quickly went to welcome her in. When they came back, Liu Hong was carrying a basket. She looked at the meal atop the kang. She shook her head at the glance, and took out a small plate from the basket. “This is the salted vegetable dish that mum prepared. Please have it! Ersao, there are also some seasonings as well as some meat in there. Mum asked me to bring it for all of you.”
He shi went to have a look and offer her thanks. Liu Hong waved her off. “We’ve only separated the family, surely there’s no need to be so formal?” Saying this, she went out, pulling He shi along by the arm.
He shi understood and quickly put the things down before following her out. Standing outside, Liu Hong said softly. “Mum also told me to go to dage and sange’s place to send salted vegetables and seasonings. She asked me to see what each family was having for lunch. Dasao’s family has started to have pork belly and stir fried garlic sprouts! We’re all clear about the type of person she is, so that’s hardly surprising, but guess what sange’s family is having?”
He shi shook her head. “Don’t know.”
Liu Hong angrily shook her head. “Theirs is the best meal of all three of you, chicken stewed with mushrooms! It must be something that sansao brought back from her maiden home…. Their family doesn’t have any children…. These two adults – how are they so unashamed? Couldn’t they have taken it out those few days we stayed together, and let the children have something nice for a change?”
He shi shook her head. She knew that Liu Hong had a very good heart. Her own children rarely got a taste of meat in an entire year, so as their aunt, she hoped that the children would be given something nice to eat. But He shi said. “That’s alright. When they returned, there was already talk of separating the family. Saving it for themselves is not unreasonable. It’s ok.”
“I just feel…. Since her xiaoshu is someone who frequently travels along water routes, he would definitely bring things back. Would it kill them to share a little with the children?”
“Ai, forget it. Let’s not talk about these things anymore. We’re not envious of them. It’s only when we earn what we eat that food tastes good.”