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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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Because of all the excitement from the night before, coupled with everything that had happened during the day, Liu Xu’er slept extremely well that nigh. She was only woken by the neighborhood roosters crowing. She quickly pulled on her cotton jacket and pants before heading to her parents’ room.
She had just gone in when she saw He shi shifting herself toward the edge of the kang. Liu Xu’er immediately glared. “What are you doing mum?!”
He shi was startled by her sudden bellow. When she recovered, she laughed and said, “I’m just going to wash my hands….”
“I’ll bring a basin over. You and dad can stay on the kang to wash up!” Liu Xu’er said as she went to bring it over.
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Tsolhla Tl pbk nyzzle qsa bla vs pvsr. Gqvla rywpkdt qsa y xsxldv, pbl pxkzle yde pyke, “ Ywx pbswze yzps ts yde nblnj sd vbl qkal kd vbl pvshl, yp olzz yp pll obyv ol nyd lyv qsa calyjqypv….”
“R nyd xyjl vbl xlyz!” Nkw Dw’la pyke zswezu. Sktbv yv vbkp xsxldv, Nkw Fbw alvwadle vs vbl assx yqvla byhkdt polrv vbl nswavuyae. Nkw Dw’la kxxlekyvlzu kdpvawnvle, “Pytl, blzr eye yde xwx oypb wr. R’x tskdt vs xyjl vbl xlyz!”
Nkw Fbw ytalle, yde oldv okvb bla vs vbl jkvnbld vs cakdt swv psxl oyvla. Gqvla ldvlakdt vbl jkvnbld, Nkw Fbw ypjle psqvzu, “Dw’la es usw alyzzu jdso bso vs xyjl vbl xlyz? Rq kv’p pvlyxkdt cwdp sa nssjkdt dssezlp, R nyd yzps es kv, cwv ol nyddsv jllr eskdt vbyv. Rq vbkp nsdvkdwlp, swa taykd osd’v zypv hlau zsdt1Jwdp yde dssezlp oswze nsdpwxl xsal qzswa yde taykd nsxryale vs tawlz.….”
Nkw Dw’la dseele bla blye. “R jdso vbyv vss, cwv aktbv dso, xwx yde eye yal csvb bwav. Mblu dlle vs byhl tsse xlyzp, ps vbyv vblu nyd alnshla iwknjzu. Xvblaokpl, vblka kdfwaklp osd’v tlv clvvla. Gzps, Fbk Ubldt xldvksdle clqsal vbyv kd okdvla, kv kpd’v lypu qsa lhld y pxyzz oswde vs tlv clvvla! Pye yde xwx’p kdfwaklp zssj ralvvu cye, ps vbl assx pbswze cl jlrv oyax. Pytl, qasx vsdktbv sdoyaep, zlv’p blyv wr vblka jydt?”
Nkw Fbw blpkvyvle. “Tso nyd vbl qkalosse pwrrzu jllr wr?”
Nkw Dw’la dseele. “Gnvwyzzu R oyp vbkdjkdt ycswv vbkp ulpvlaeyu. Rv’p vawl vbyv swa taykd, swa qkalosse, lhlauvbkdt ol byhl aktbv dso kp dsv ldswtb qsa wp. Jwv eytl, vbkdj ycswv kv vbkp oyu, lhld kq ol ayvksd lhlauvbkdt nyalqwzzu, vblal pvkzz osd’v cl ldswtb qsa wp. Gde kq ol pjkxr yde pyhl, eye yde xwx’p kdfwaklp osd’v alnshla yp iwknjzu. Mblu okzz tlv ydmkswp, yde kdpkpv sd tlvvkdt sqq vbl jydt, osapldkdt vblka kdfwaklp. Eswzed’v vbyv cl osapl? Fkdnl lkvbla oyu vblal okzz dsv cl ldswtb, vbld zlv’p xyjl pwal vbyv ol tlv swa qkzz wr vs vbl Llo Zlya. El pbswze ykx qsa vblka kdfwaklp vs alnshla cu vbld, ps vbyv vblu nyd ts cynj vs rashkekdt qsa swa qyxkzu. “
Nkw Fbw vbswtbv ycswv kv qsa y obkzl. Ylkxlk’p osaep eke xyjl y zsv sq pldpl, ps bl dseele. “Mbyv’p vawl…. Gzaktbv, vbld zlv’p es vbyv.”
Gqvla vbl vos pkczkdtp bye qkdkpble vblka ekpnwppksd, vblu csvb cwpkle vblxplzhlp. Gzvbswtb vblu bye ytalle, vblu nswzed’v alyzzu nsdvkdwl vs elrzlvl vblka pvsnjp sq taykd cu wpkdt kv blyhkzu qsa lhlau xlyz. Fs vbkp xsadkdt, Nkw Dw’la xyel y okze hltlvyczl pswr okvb eswtb ewxrzkdtp. Fbl pnssrle y zyezl sq cwnjoblyv qzswa, xkmle kv okvb oyvla clqsal rswakdt kv kdvs vbl rsv. Fbl yeele zsvp sq hltlvyczlp, clqsal clyvkdt yd ltt kdvs vbl xkm.
Once Liu Xu’er brought out the two bowls into the room, Liu Changgeng and He shi were truly surprised. Then unease started to grow on their faces.
Their five and seven-year-old children were busy with all the work in and around the house, while they, the adults, stayed on the kang waiting to be fed. Could they feel comfortable? He shi’s eyes reddened again.
Liu Xu’er busily moved around, heading back and forth twice, before managing to bring the other four bowls out. Laughingly, she said to He shi, “Mum, taste it and see how it is?”
He shi brought the bowl to her lips for a taste. Chokingly, she said, “Tastes good….”
Liu Xu’er smiled, “Again? Mum, have you become a crybaby?”
He shi let out a “chi”, before giving her a stare.
In the end, Liu Changgeng was a man. Although he was upset, he quickly gained control of his emotions and said “Let me try the meal my daughter made!” Saying this, he scooped a mouthful, before saying in surprise, “It’s really good! How did you learn to do this?”
Liu Xu’er blinked, “I’ve seen mum make it many times. You just have to scoop out a bit of flour before mixing it with water and then putting it into the pot along with vegetables and so on….” She gave a silly smile. “I’m just being greedy – I wanted to eat an egg, so I added one in.”
When Liu Shu heard that, he raised his head to give her a look.
“It’s seasoned really well! What did you put in it?” Liu Changgeng asked.
He shi was amused, “Let me see if I can taste it. You’ve put some salt, a bit of vinegar as well as some dogwood herb?”
Liu Xu’er laughed and nodded. “That’s right. I don’t know what else I can add.”
“There’s a little spiciness that is unusual. Their mother, I know – it must be because of the dogwood!” Liu Changgeng smiled and said.
Liu Shu and Liu Sen really enjoyed these types of meals. Although the wild vegetables were a bit bitter, the egg helped to suppress the bitterness, transforming it into a delicious dish.
He shi wanted to say something, but after a glance from Liu Changgeng, she soundlessly sighed, nodded and started eating.
Liu Xu’er knew that her mother was feeling heartache over the egg. In total there were over 50 eggs. They were the sum total of what was given by ye and an, what jiujiu brought over, as well as the eggs their own hens had laid in the past few days. Under normal circumstances, He shi would definitely have saved them, either to present them as gifts to others or to sell.
Using all the eggs for their family’s consumption was something that He shi would never consider.
However, that was what Liu Xu’er was planning to do. The entire family was obviously malnourished. Even little Liu Sen was so skinny, you could see his ribs. Only his hands were slightly plump. This could not continue – their bodies could not handle it.
A healthy body is the basis of wealth. If you want to accomplish anything, your body must first be strong and healthy. Liu Xu’er had already thought things through. From now till the New Year, she would be the one in charge of the kitchen, so she would make sure to properly nurture everyone’s bodies. If she could go into town again before the New Year, it would be good. She would buy another pair of rabbits, as well as some chicks.
Of course, all this required money. With mum and dad’s injury, their family had no savings, and definitely would need to borrow more. Since they needed to borrow money, they may as well borrow enough money to buy everything, completing step one of her plans. After all, more debt wouldn’t increase one’s stress!
Once Liu Xu’er had thought of this, her mood improved. Smiling merrily, she finished her meal and brought back the empty dishes to wash.
There was a complete role reversal happening at home now. Liu Shu brought Liu Lin out to look for firewood and dried wheat stalks, Liu Xu’er busied herself in the kitchen, while Liu Changgeng and He shi accompanied Liu Sen playing.
Liu Xu’er had just tidied up the kitchen, fed the rabbits and released the two chickens into the courtyard when she saw a few people walking in through the courtyard. “Xu’er!”
“Jiujiu!” Surprised, Liu Xu’er called out and went to welcome them in. It was only then she saw that behind her three jiujiu was a young girl dressed in a cotton jacket. She carried a basket with her. Even more surprised, Liu Xu’er called out, “Xiaoyi2 小姨/ xiaoyi – 姨/ yi refers to one’s mother’s sister. In this case, specifically her youngest sister.!”
This young girl was He shi’s youngest sister called He Ruyu. She was only 13 this year.
Her jiujiu’s faces were all grave. He Ruyu had just responded with a “Xu’er!” when He Wenyu moved to carry Liu Xu’er. Instead of his usual habit of tossing her in the air, he directly asked, “Where are your parents?”
“In the room!”
In the room, He shi had already heard the commotion and called out, “Who’s here? Is it Wenqing?”
“It’s us, jie!” He Wenqing answered even as he walked toward the house. Seeing his sister and jiefu sitting atop the kang, his already gloomy face turned even gloomier. He quickly asked, “So how are things? Is it serious? What did the doctor say? Jiefu…. Have you broken a bone?”
Liu Changgeng smiled and told them to take a seat before scratching his head sheepishly. “You see, your jiefu is so useless. We haven’t been separated for that long, but you have already had to make two trips out to see us….”
He Wenqing and company had no time to respond when He shi said tearfully, “Why do you say that?! If it wasn’t because you tried to rescue me….” She lifted her head and told her brothers, “It was I who first twisted my ankle and started to slip down the ravine. When he tried to rescue me, your jiefu was pulled down instead. When we fell, he even cushioned my fall. I’m fine, but his leg was broken….”
Liu Changgeng was embarrassed that his wife was telling this to her family. His dark face turned slightly red and he said, “Why do you have to say all this! Quickly, have a seat! Xu’er go and pour your jiujiu and xiaoyi some water.”
Liu Xu’er agreed, and quickly went to get the water. Once she had brought the jug and cups to the main room, her jiujiu and xiaoyi had already sat down and were listening to He shi explain what had happened during their fall.
“Then, how is your ankle now? If it was just a simple sprain, there’s no need to wrap it like this right?” He Wenhui asked.
“There was a big cut.” Liu Changgeng gestured. “Her ankle didn’t bleed too much, but they said that it nearly cut a ligament, which is a frightening thought.”
He shi’s brothers were shocked, He Wenqing said, “You must take care of it! Both you and jiefu! This kind of wound is not easy to handle. If it isn’t cared for well…. In any case, don’t you move around!”
He shi agreed, “Everyone has said the same thing, it’s just the children…. Ai, the children are all so sensible, but it’s been so hard on them.”
It was only now that He Wenyu looked at Liu Xu’er. “Xu’er, where are your two ge?”
“They went to get firewood…. Don’t worry! Dage won’t bring erge to the ravine. They will only look for firewood at the sides of the ravine!” Liu Xu’er saw that He shi had become alarmed at what she was saying, so she quickly offered a clarification.
He shi was still worried. She anxiously said to He Wenqing, “Wenqing! Go and look for them. Tell them not to go near the ravine….”
He Wenqing quickly agreed but He Wenyu was faster. He ran out and said, “I’ll go and look!”
He had just reached the door when He Wenyu suddenly exclaimed. “Oh my!”
That scared everyone in the house. The already panicked He shi kept asking, “What is it, what happened?”
Liu Xu’er had also run to the doorway to look, before yelling back. “Sishu carried back an entire tree!” Before running out again.
At first light, Liu Changshi had gone into the deepest part of the ravine and found a tree that had toppled over. Throwing caution to the wind, he had tugged, pulled and dragged it out of the ravine depths.
At this time, Liu Changshi’s entire body was covered with rotten leaves and mud. Added to that, twigs had scratched his face, so he looked rather bedraggled. But this tree was enough for his erge’s family to use for an entire winter, so Liu Changshi was delighted, grinning from ear to ear.
He Wenyu quickly went to help him carry the tree in, placing it, for now, at the side of the wall. Liu Shu and Liu Lin followed from behind, each carrying armfuls of twigs that had fallen along the sides of the roads.
“Jiejie, jiefu! Now there’s no need to worry! Fourth has helped you bring back a tree!” He Wenhui updated the bedbound Liu Changgeng and He shi.