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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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As an unmarried girl, Liu Hong wasn’t given to badmouthing others. She only said this because she felt it was really unfair. Hearing what He shi said, she could only sigh and nod her head.
He shi comforted her. “My family isn’t able to eat well now, but your brother and I have arms and legs. So long as we are willing to work, so long as we give more effort than others, I don’t believe that we will always be worse off than others. When you head back, don’t tell mum and dad exactly what you saw. Just tell them that we’re eating fine – don’t let the two older ones worry.”
Liu Hong nodded her head to agree before returning home.
On the other hand, He shi stood in the middle of the courtyard absentmindedly for a while.
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Pypys’p pvydekdt kd vbl qyxkzu oyp plnwal clnywpl bla casvblap olal nyryczl yde blzrle vs pwrrsav bla. Nssjkdt yv vbkdtp dso, pydekxlk’p qyxkzu oswze rascyczu cl vbl xspv olzz-sqq yxsdtpv vbl pkpvlap-kd-zyo, yde oswze pvyav vs pwrrsav bla. Usxryayvkhlzu, bla sod qyxkzu oyp yzps rssa yde bla casvblap zkhle byae zkhlp….
Mbkdjkdt sq vblpl, Tl pbk pktble ytykd.
Wasx vbl bswpl, Nkw Ubydttldt ypjle, “Ebu yald’v usw nsxkdt kd?”
Tl pbk iwknjzu alprsdele yde oldv cynj kd. Nkw Ubydttldt qswde kv pvaydtl, “R blyae Nkw Tsdt zlyhl y obkzl yts. Ebyv olal usw vbkdjkdt ycswv swvpkel?”
Tl pbk tzspple shla kv. “Xb, dsvbkdt. Tye fwpv dsvknle vbyv vblal pllxp vs cl yd yraknsv vall tasokdt dlyacu yde oyp zssjkdt yv kv.” Fvalvnbkdt bla byde swv vs vyjl y cwd, pbl nskdnkeldvyzzu cwxrle kdvs Nkw Nkd’p swvpvalvnble yax, cwv vblal oyp sdzu sdl zlqv sd vbl rzyvl.&dcpr;
“Ywx bypd’v lyvld!” Nkw Fbw pnszele.&dcpr;
Gp kq pnyzele, Nkw Nkd iwknjzu tyhl y “blblbl” yde okvbealo bkp byde. “ R oyp fwpv tskdt vs vyjl kv qsa xwx! R oypd’v tskdt vs lyv kv, R’x qwzz!” Fyukdt vbkp, bl ryvvle bkp vwxxu, bkp qynkyz lmralppksd yojoyae. Tl iwknjzu vsze Nkw Dw’la, “Dw’la, zlv’p ts yde byhl y zssj yv uswa aycckvp!”
Mbl kdpvydv vbl aycckvp olal xldvksdle, Nkw Dw’la rlajle wr. Fbl iwknjzu ytalle yde bsrrle sqq vbl jydt. Nkw Fld vss pvyavle vs nzyxsa vs ts okvb, ps Nkw Nkd nyaakle bkx yde oldv sqq okvb Nkw Dw’la.
Liu Shu saw that his mother was looking upset, so he quickly said, “I’m also full,” before quickly trotting out.
It was only now that Liu Changgeng noticed that He shi had lowered her head and her eyes were looking red. She hadn’t taken the last bun; it sat in the bowl all by itself. He sighed and passed it to He shi. “What’s wrong? Isn’t separating the family a happy matter? We eat what we earn, and from now on, we can make decisions for ourselves.”
Now that the children have left, He shi didn’t try to hide her tears. Chokingly, she told him what Liu Hong had just said. Wiping the tears from her eyes, she said, “I’m just upset, seeing the children suffer. Up till now, Xu’er is still wearing Liu Shu and Liu Lin’s hand me downs. She’s a girl, but hasn’t had a single pretty outfit…. Senzi is a year and a half, and since he was weaned off milk, hasn’t even had egg custard once….”
“Look at you, you’re a mother. How is it that you cry so easily? How would the kids feel if they saw you? Alright, stop crying. Now that we’ve separated, so long as we work harder than others, the kids will be better off! Don’t we have two hens? We won’t sell the eggs they lay, we’ll just give it to Senzi to eat. He can have some egg custard everyday!” Liu Changgeng said with a smile.
He shi also felt a bit embarrassed. She wiped her eyes and rubbed her nose. Looking at him, she couldn’t resist huffing. “You make it sound so easy! How is the grain enough for us to eat till next summer? The two strings of cash we got when we separated out won’t be enough for us to buy sufficient grain. We still need to be careful with money, we need to save up the eggs to sell….”
But after saying this, He shi also said to herself encouragingly. “But it’s true! When we work, we’ll give more effort and we’ll work harder. Our days shouldn’t be too bad!”
Liu Changgeng nodded. “That’s right! Quickly eat the bun, so that you’ll have the energy to work, I’m going to borrow tools.” Saying this, he got off the kang.
He was just about to leave when he thought of something. Turning, he said to He shi, “Xu’er’s mum, from today onwards let’s make it a point to have three meals a day. There are so few of us in the family. We shouldn’t economize too much on food.”
He shi wanted to object, she had just started to say something when Liu Changgeng continued. “The kids are not growing well. All of them are so skinny. Now that we can make decisions for ourselves, then from today onwards, we shouldn’t let the kids go hungry.”
He shi sighed and agreed. “Ok, if it’s three meals a day, then it’s three meals a day. It’s not that I don’t want to give the kids more to eat, it’s that we don’t have enough grain to eat that way. It would all be gone by the second month of next year….”
Liu Changgeng laughed and said. “Why are you worried about that? After a few days, once the house has been sorted out, I will go and look for work. If we’re willing to work, how can there be no food to eat?”
He shi sighed again and agreed. Liu Changgeng then left the house. He shi quickly split the bun into two; she ate half and saved the other half for Liu Lin. He probably didn’t manage to fully satisfy himself at lunch, so if in a while he’s hungry again, he could have the other half.
He shi rolled up her sleeves and started to clean the kitchen.
Liu Xu’er was cleaning up the rabbit area with Liu Lin when Liu Shu came in and asked. “Shall we bring the two hens in here to feed? It’s cold at night and the chickens may get chilled.”
Liu Xu’er thought about it for a bit before nodding, “That’s fine, put them at the doorway. Just don’t let them peck the rabbits!”
Liu Shu ran out and brought the trussed up chickens in. Liu Xu’er told Liu Lin to find a bigger board to block them from coming in and disturbing the rabbits.
Liu Sen kept squatting in front of the rabbits, arms outstretched to stroke their fur.
Liu Xu’er and Liu Shu then went out again to gather more grass for the rabbits, enough for them for the night. They also went to mix some chicken feed. Liu Shu even found a block of wood. Using his sickle, he shaved it and made a simple manger into which he placed the chicken feed.
The few children busied themselves for the afternoon. Liu Changgeng also managed to borrow the carpentry tools and first went to fix the rooms’ windows and doors, before turning his attention to making a table.
Seeing that the rabbits and chickens had settled down, Liu Xu’er finally relaxed. She went to the kitchen to wash her hands, and saw that mum had already cleaned up the entire kitchen and was cooking, so she went to help her with the meal.
“Xu’er, do you really want to stay by yourself? At night, don’t you want to sleep with mum? Are you sure you won’t get scared?” He shi was still concerned about the matter, so she turned to ask.
Liu Xu’er nodded and said. “Yes, I want to sleep next to the rabbits…. Shi Cheng said it before, once grown, people should be able to stay by themselves. If I keep needing mum, other people will laugh at me.” She purposely pouted. “I don’t want to be laughed at….”
When she mentioned that she wanted to sleep by herself during the noon meal, Liu Xu’er didn’t realize that He shi would have such strong objections. So she thought of a reasonable excuse while she was working and naturally threw Shi Cheng out as a shield.
He shi sighed when she heard that. “Shi Cheng is a boy, and their family would have a lot of family customs that are not the same as our usual village folk….”
Liu Xu’er deliberately tilted her head and asked. “Then is what Shi Cheng said correct or wrong?”
The question stumped He shi. Shi Cheng’s family had moved back from town. Rumor had it that they were very wealthy previously. They not only had over 100 mu of fertile land, they even had servants. Even Shi Cheng’s mother was literate. The family still had some servants. This was very unusual by village standards. What the children taught by such a family say, by He shi’s naive and simple viewpoint, should carry some weight.
After pausing for a while, He shi sighed and said, “If you’re willing to sleep alone, then sleep alone. At night, you’re not to come crying for me!”
Liu Xu’er gave a little giggle. “I definitely won’t! I’m all grown up!” She redoubled her efforts on the bellows, extremely happy.
He shi looked down at her daughter’s smiling face. Her heart was somewhat regretful. This girl really tugged at people’s heartstrings. Although dressed shabbily, she was neat and she really knew how to speak to others. But what made others really want to dote on her was that she was very sensible. At this young age, she knew how to help out with the chores at home. Even if she didn’t get to eat nice things often, she never behaved like Liu Yun’er or Liu Tao, greedily pressing to ask others for their food.
Regarding Shi Cheng’s family, they had just moved back from town three years ago. It seemed that they had lost money on their business, and could only return to this, their ancestral home. Shi Cheng’s mother had lived the life of a lady, and was used to being served by others. She didn’t think much of the village children.
But that type of person actually liked Xu’er. She really really liked Xu’er!
Whenever He shi recalled the scene between Xu’er and Shi Cheng, she wanted to laugh. When Shi Cheng’s family had just moved back, the clan elders all gathered everyone at the village head’s house, to welcome Shi Cheng’s family and introduce them to everyone.
Most of the villagers attended. It was an extremely boisterous event. Who knew what had happened, but when two-year-old Shi Cheng and Liu Xu’er were placed together, the two suddenly bawled. Not only did they cry, these two actually hugged each other and wailed.
Shi Cheng’s mum originally thought that the two had fought to tears, and went to carry Shi Cheng away, but the two hugged each other even tighter and refused to let go. They looked as though they were crying on each other’s shoulders and amused all the surrounding adults.
Just like that, their family started to interact with Shi Cheng’s family. Shi Cheng’s mum was good at handicrafts. The embroidery that she did was far superior to any of the village women, and she was even better at making things like decorative knots. The braided cord1 丝绦/ 绦子, sitao/ taozi – Braided cord is a traditional handicraft of braiding thread into either a flat or round cord. It can be used as a decorative cord to hang jewelry or ornaments, or used as decorative trim around clothes. worn by Shi Cheng, as well as the pouches she made were so exquisite, they were better than the things worn by townspeople!
Example of a braided cord. This one is being used to hang an ornament. Source
The girls in the village were all envious, and there were those who boldly decided to ask if they could learn her technique. But Shi Cheng’s mum courteously declined everyone, saying that this was a family technique, and could not be taught to outsiders.
Hearing that, who else would go and ask to learn? Surely you cannot ask others to teach their family’s techniques to you? He shi initially wanted to learn this so that she could supplement the family’s income by making these handicrafts. But hearing what was said, she gave up on the idea.
But who knew that after that, a wonderful thing happened. During Shi Cheng’s Grandpa’s 60th birthday celebration, everyone went to celebrate. Liu Changgeng had also brought his wife and children along, and Liu Xu’er was invited to go to Shi Cheng’s mum’s rooms. The two of them chatted all day. When Liu Changgeng and He shi were about to leave, Shi Cheng’s mum held Liu Xu’er’s hand and actively told He shi that she wanted to teach Xu’er her skill with handicrafts.
At the time, He shi was so excited, she kept thanking her, and the next day, she told Xu’er to go and learn. After learning for half a month, the autumn harvest started. Because harvesting was definitely the biggest priority of the family – even if Xu’er was young, she could still help with tasks like boiling the water and sending food to the workers – they temporarily stopped the lessons.
A few days earlier, when they met Shi Cheng’s mum, He shi’s courteous greeting was because she wanted to send Xu’er to resume lessons once everything had been settled in the next few days.
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