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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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Following the path of her thoughts, He shi was reminded about the lessons. She quickly told Xu’er, “Xu’er, from tomorrow onwards, go to Shi Cheng’s house and continue to learn how to make handicrafts from your Aunt Shi.
Liu Xu’er said, “Mum, I’ve thought about it, I should go the day after. Aren’t you putting up wallpaper tomorrow? There are three rooms, how can you finish it all by yourself mum? I’ll help you put it up first, and go over the day after.”
Hearing that, He shi was both sad and touched. She soundlessly let out a sigh. Just then, Liu Shu came in from outside. Seeing Liu Xu’er fanning the flames with the bellows, he quickly came over to help. “Xu’er, go and pour some water for dad. I’ll help mum with this.”
Liu Xu’er agreed. Standing, she went to ladle some water from the pot and carried it out.
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Nkw Ubydttldt oyp ps oyax vbyv bl bye alxshle bkp fynjlv yde ulv polyv jlrv rswakdt qasx bkp qynl. Rd vbl xkeezl sq vbl nswavuyae oyp y zsdt osseld cldnb okvb y zyatl csyae rzynle qzyv sd kv. Nkw Ubydttldt bye sdl qssv sd vbl csyae vs bsze kv kd rzynl yde ydsvbla sd vbl taswde vs pvyckzkgl bkxplzq. Tkp byde blze y zsdt pyo obknb bl oyp wpkdt vs nwv vbl csyae. Esse pbyhkdtp qzlo yaswde bkp cseu yp bl osajle.
Nkw Dw’la pvsse y tsse ekpvydnl yoyu yde nyzzle. “Pye! Tyhl psxl oyvla.”
Nkw Ubydttldt pvsrrle bkp pyokdt. Xdnl vbl osse pbyhkdtp bye yzz plvvzle, pbl caswtbv vbl nwr shla. Nkw Ubydttldt vssj kv yde twzrle kv esod, clqsal pxkzkdt yde alvwadkdt kv vs bla.&dcpr;
Tszekdt vbl lxrvu nwr, Nkw Dw’la oyp ycswv vs vwad cynj vs vbl bswpl obld pbl blyae psxlsdl nyzz qasx swvpkel. “Dw’la, Dw’la!”
Fbl vwadle vs zssj. Rv oyp Fbk Ubldt, bszekdt y zyatl cypjlv, zywtbkdt yp bl ldvlale vbl nswavuyae.
Gzvbswtb Fbk Ubldt oyp fwpv y nbkze, Nkw Ubydttldt pvkzz pvsrrle bkp osaj yde ypjle. “Fbk Ubldt, obu eke usw nsxl?”
Fbk Ubldt zywtble yde pyke, “Bdnzl Nkw! Yu xwx yde eye blyae usw’e xshle, ps vblu ypjle xl vs cakdt psxl qsse shla.”
“Mblal’p ds dlle, uswa ryaldvp yal vss jkde.” Nkw Ubydttldt oyp y zkvvzl vyjld ycynj obld bl blyae. Tl oyp ycswv vs rwv bkp vsszp esod vs ts vs vblx obld Tl pbk nyxl swv qasx vbl bswpl, byhkdt blyae vbl dskpl swvpkel. Fllkdt vbyv, bl zsolale bkp blye yde alpwxle bkp osaj.&dcpr;
When He shi saw Shi Cheng, she called a greeting. “You’ve come, Shi Cheng?”
Shi Cheng quickly passed the basket over to her. “My mum asked me to bring this for you.”
Villagers had the habit of giving each other food. If someone gave a gift, all that needed to be done was to remember to return the gift in future. There was no need to push and shove and try to decline. So He shi reached for it, saying courteously, “Your dad and mum are too kind, quickly come in! Aunt has nothing good for you to eat, but I made a pair of shoes for you a few days ago….”
Saying this, she pulled Shi Cheng into the house. Liu Xu’er followed slowly behind them.
He shi set the basket down before going to the kang and pulling out a pair of shoes from the pile. She gave it to Shi Cheng. “This is a pair of shoes that Aunt made for you. I hope you don’t mind this small gift.”
At the side, Liu Xu’er said coolly. “My mum lived frugally to save enough cloth and thread for this. She can’t even bear to make my dad a pair – this is only for you.”
He shi scolded her. “Why are you saying all this?”
Shi Cheng grinned widely. “Thank you, thank you Aunt!”
He shi smiled. “This is nothing – your family has given so much help to ours. There’s nothing much I can give as thanks.” Saying this, she made to remove the items from the basket, so that she could return it to him.
The instant she started to take things out, she gasped. In it were at least 20 eggs, a piece of pork that looked to be at least 20-30 jins, as well as a very very small clay jar, about the size of a palm. It was sealed with oiled paper, and when He shi opened it to have a look, it was white with a milky scent.
He shi was shocked. “How can you give us such expensive things, we…. How can we accept these gifts?”
Shi Cheng insisted, “Aunt, please accept it! I’ve already accepted your shoes. My mum said, since you moved, we should help out, but my dad doesn’t know how to do anything, and my mum definitely can’t help, so we could only give you these few things to show our sincerity.”
From the side, Liu Xu’er rolled her eyes. How did this sound like anything Aunt Shi would say? This was obviously made up by Shi Cheng himself.
Delighted, He shi just kept repeating. “Too kind, I really don’t know what to say….”
Shi Cheng stayed at the house for a while, but seeing that He shi was at a loss of what to do, and Liu Xu’er kept repeatedly rolling her eyes at him, he quickly took the empty basket and said his goodbyes. He shi saw him off at the doorway. Shi Cheng had originally hoped to have a word with Liu Xu’er, but there was no opportunity. He could only wave goodbye at her.
When He shi returned to the courtyard, she kept saying over and over. “How is this ok? It’s such an expensive gift!” She started to discuss with Liu Changgeng a suitable return gift, before saying again. “Look at how many gifts they sent? It’s more expensive than the gifts people bring to a baby’s first month celebration.”
Liu Changgeng was also puzzled. He went blank for a while before saying. “Forget it, we cannot return the gifts that were brought. Next time, we will just have to give them good quality gifts.”
He shi could only sigh and nod her head, before returning to the house to prepare the meal.
Watching her parents fret over the gifts received, Liu Xu’er started to inwardly reproach Shi Cheng for causing her family members to be at such a loss of what to do. However, there was also a bit of secret delight; Shi Cheng definitely knew that the family couldn’t afford meat or eggs, so he boldly gifted some over….
She sighed again, before quickly going to check on her rabbits. They held all of her hopes; she had spent all the money for the New Year on them!
Since Shi Cheng had brought over some meat and eggs, He shi decided to make the children an egg custard. These few children seldom got a chance to taste meat and it showed in their stature and size. All of them looked so pitiable.
He shi couldn’t bear to cook the meat. Instead, together with the meat sent over from the old residence, it was placed in the food basket and suspended in the well, for the family to have over the New Year. Two of the eggs were cracked into a bowl, but feeling that it looked to be too little, another two were added. Then some water was added before beating everything together and steaming it in the pot.
From the flour jar, a bowl of flour was taken out. Some water was added till it was a runny consistency. Once the pot boiled, this runny solution was drizzled in. Again, the pot was opened and some salt and vinegar was added. Then the meal was done.
Dishing out a few bowls and placing them on the tray, she raised her voice and called. “Time to eat! Come and eat, all of you.” She placed the tray on the kang, before going out to tell Liu Changgeng. “Time to eat! There’s no hurry to finish everything. You can continue to work slowly later.”
Liu Changgeng agreed. He tidied up the wooden bench before calling He shi to help him dust off the wood shavings from his clothes. Liu Xu’er emerged from her rabbit nest, holding two eggs in her hands. She laughed and said, “Mum! The hens have laid eggs!”
He shi used a towel to beat off the dust from Liu Changgeng’s clothes. Dust and wood shavings went flying. Liu Xu’er quickly covered her mouth with her hands.
Liu Changgeng smiled. “This girl really loves cleanliness!”
Liu Shu and Liu Lin came over. Liu Shu went to check on the sleeping Liu Sen in the house. He had just woken, so Liu Shu carried him over.
The family made their way to wash their hands. Liu Lin sniffed and asked, “Mum, do I smell egg custard? Did a neighbor make it?”
He shi laughed, “What a sensitive nose!”
Saying this, she took the steaming egg custard out. Liu Lin let out a sound of joy, which prompted Liu Sen to also squeal in delight. “Oh, oh oh, egg custard!” Little Liu Sen was almost drooling.
Liu Xu’er smiled. She felt herself craving it so badly, her saliva was about to spill from her mouth. The entire family washed their hands and sat around the wooden tray. The children’s eyes all fixed on the bowl of egg custard, but nobody dared to take the first scoop, all wanting to let others start.
He shi paused and said. “Liu Shu and Liu Lin, it’s not for the two of you. You’re both older, so let your didi and meimei have it instead.”
Liu Shu quickly agreed, but had to swallow hard on a mouthful of saliva, while Liu Lin’s originally delighted expression turned listless and resentful.
Liu Xu’er quickly said, “Mum, let dage and erge have some. Liu Sen can have half, while me and dage, erge, will have the other half! Both gege have to have some meat and eggs too, otherwise they would have no strength!”
Liu Changgeng nodded. “That’s right, let all the children eat. Our children are sensible, and won’t go around snatching food.”
After He shi had said that, her heart was breaking. At this, she almost couldn’t hold back her tears. To help push her tears away, she scolded Liu Changgeng. “You only know how to be the good guy! I’m always the bad one.” Speaking to the children again, she pretended that nothing was wrong and said. “Ok, if you want to eat, just eat!”
When He shi said that, Liu Lin perked up. All the kids again stared at the bowl of egg custard, but for whatever reason, nobody dared to make the first move for a long while.
Before He shi could feel awful again, Liu Xu’er quickly stretched out her spoon. Scooping a spoonful out, she brought it to Liu Sen’s mouth saying, “Senzi, have the first bite! Careful, it’s hot.” Saying this, she blew on it.
Liu Sen quickly sat straight, mouth opened wide.
Once it had cooled, Liu Xu’er fed it to him. On first taste, Liu Sen’s face broke out into a wide smile. “How delicious!”
Liu Xu’er took another spoon. Blowing it, she brought it to Liu Shu’s mouth. “Dage, eat!”
Liu Shu’s face turned a bit red. Hesitating, he looked toward He shi.
Liu Changgeng said, “Told you to eat. Just eat!”
Only then did Liu Shu take the bite. He shi’s eyes had turned red.
Liu Xu’er scooped some for the impatient Liu Lin before taking a bite for herself, smiling as she said, “How delicious.”
Liu Sen who had finished that first bite, was patiently waiting with his mouth open.
He shi finally could not resist it anymore. She said “I’m just going to dish more soup….” Before quickly getting off the kang.
Watching her back, Liu Changgeng let out a soundless sigh, before laughing and continuing to watch his children eat the egg custard. Liu Shu took two mouthfuls before refusing the rest, so Liu Xu’er also refused to take anymore. Liu Lin actually wanted more, but seeing his meimei not eating, he felt bad about taking extra. Liu Xu’er had to insist before he took another two bites, but after that he flatly refused.
So the remainder of the egg custard was given to Liu Sen, who was slowly fed spoonful by spoonful.
He shi took out the warming milk from the pot. This time, not only did Liu Shu resolutely refuse to drink, even Liu Lin refused, wanting to let didi and meimei have it.
Liu Xu’er took a mouthful before giving the rest to Liu Sen.
Being able to drink milk and have egg custard, Liu Xu’er felt that her sleep was sweeter than usual. On the other hand, He shi kept worrying about her and so slept poorly. In the middle of the night, she went to look in on her and saw that Liu Xu’er was sound asleep. She adjusted her blankets before returning.
When He shi left the bed, she woke Liu Changgeng. Seeing her leave, he knew that she had gone to check on Liu Xu’er. So when she returned, he asked, “How is she? Is she asleep?”
He shi found it exasperating, but also funny. “Sleeping sweetly! Pity me for being worried!”
Liu Changgeng then said, “Now can you relax? Told you there was no need to worry, our Xu’er is very sensible….” Saying this, he flipped over and went back to sleep.