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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 next day, He Wenyu was in the backyard contemplating the frail apple sapling, when Liu Changshi arrived.
Liu Changshi had actually also been thinking about this apple tree. Because he had worked as a gardener for a landowner in another village, he knew that if the apple tree survived, it would be a regular source of income for the family. Now that they had such a tree, he definitely could not bear to watch it die.
The moment he entered the courtyard, he met a young maiden coming from within the house. He stood stunned for a moment before recognizing He Ruyu.
He Ruyu was also caught off guard. Her face flushed red, she called out, “Has their sishu come?”
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Nkw Ubydtpbk oyp y zkvvzl pbllrkpb. Tl pnayvnble bkp blye, “Zlyb, vblka mkysuk kp blal vss?”
Tl pbk blyae vbl tallvkdtp lmnbydtle kd vbl nswavuyae. Xrldkdt vbl okdeso, pbl nyzzle, “Mblka pkpbw kp blal? Cwknjzu, nsxl sd kd!”
Nkw Ubydtpbk pbssj bkp blye, “Mblal’p ds dlle. R’x fwpv blal vs nblnj sd Nkw Fbw’p hltlvyczl rzsv!” Fyukdt vbkp, bl oyhle bkp byde yde blyele qsa vbl cynjuyae.
Fkdnl vbl hltlvyczl rzsv oyp rzsole cu Nkw Fbw, kv dyvwayzzu clnyxl Nkw Fbw’p hltlvyczl rzsv. Nkw Ubydtpbk bye fwpv tsdl clbkde vbl bswpl obld bl pyo yd yewzv yde vos nbkzeald piwyvvkdt kd qasdv sq vbl yrrzl vall pyrzkdt. Gv y tzydnl, bl alnstdkple vbl yewzv vs cl Tl Elduw. Fxkzkdt, bl oldv shla yde tallvle bkx. “Zsw’hl nsxl vss? Rp vblal yduvbkdt oasdt yv bsxl?” Fyukdt vbkp, bl piwyvvle esod yzsdt okvb vblx.
Tl Elduw vokpvle bkp blye vs tkhl bkx y zssj. Fllkdt vbyv kv oyp Nkw Ubydtpbk, bl pxkzle yde dseele, “Mblal’p dsvbkdt oasdt yv bsxl – xu xsvbla ypjle xl vs ynnsxrydu xu zkvvzl pkpvla blal vs blzr xu eyfkl okvb psxl lxcaskelau osaj.”
Nkw Ubydtpbk dseele. Tl nyxl shla vs bkp pkel yde ypjle, “Ebyv es usw vbkdj? Ebld R rzydvle kv, R eked’v vbkdj kv oswze pwahkhl.”
Tl Elduw dseele, “Rv kpd’v zssjkdt vss tsse, cwv kd y zsv sq zyatl yrrzl sanbyaep, vblu oswze ayvbla vbaso vbl qaykzla yrrzl pyrzkdtp vbyd zlv vblx taso yde ekhlav dwvakldvp yoyu qasx vbl svbla vallp. Gnvwyzzu y zsv sq vbl vallp vblu vbaso yal wpwyzzu pyrzkdtp vbyv xyu fwpv byhl clld tasod kd y zlpp qyhsayczl prsv sa psxl pwnb, obknb kp obu vbl dwvakldvp nswzed’v jllr wr okvb vblka tasovb. Lso vbyv kv’p clkdt tasod yzz cu kvplzq, kv xyu ynvwyzzu pwahkhl, kq kv’p nyalqwzzu vldele.”
“Mbld obld es usw vbkdj ol pbswze yee qlavkzkgla vs kv? Fwalzu ol nyd’v wpl vbl pyxl qlavkzkgla yp ol es kd vbl qklzep?”
“No we can’t. We’re growing a few trees at home as well, so let me share a little….”
They stayed in the backyard discussing the little sapling, while Liu Shu and Liu Lin quietly listened in from the side. Farming knowledge was passed in this way to village children – by listening to the adults speak, they would slowly gain the knowledge they needed.
These few days, Liu Xu’er was extremely busy. In the morning, she would go to Shi Cheng’s place to learn handicrafts, in the afternoon, she would learn embroidery techniques from He Ruyu. At night, she would care for the rabbits, and look for cloth scraps to practise making gloves.
She persisted in wanting to make the gloves by herself. The main reason was to make preparations for the future. For now, xiaoyi was here – asking her to make a pair would be extremely easy, but if she didn’t make it personally, she still wouldn’t have learnt how to do it. She needed to plan for the long term and couldn’t always count on others to help her.
Actually, even before this, she had already started the process of learning how to embroider, giving her a good foundation. So, like He shi, all she needed to learn was He Ruyu’s stitching and embroidery techniques.
Today, she managed to make a pair of gloves that were reasonably good. He shi was delighted when she saw them, and took out some of the cotton cloth she had previously purchased. Giving her a piece, she laughed and said, “Since the practice piece looks so good, why don’t you take a proper piece of cloth to make a pair for your didi to wear! It would be perfect – he keeps taking his hands out from under the blanket when he sleeps at night. By morning, his fingers are ice cold.”
Liu Xu’er smiled and nodded, “Ok!”
In the backyard, He Wenyu and Liu Changshi had finished their discussion about the apple sapling and started work expanding the vegetable plot. Liu Changshi had brought some scallion sprouts from home and they planted them there.
They worked for an entire morning. By the time the two emerged from the backyard, He Ruyu and Liu Xu’er had already started preparing the noon meal.
Liu Changgeng and He shi tried to persuade Liu Changshi to stay for the meal, but he refused, insisting on returning home.
“Dad and mum must be feeling the pinch. They gave all the money they had to us – I really don’t know what they have been eating these past few days.“ Liu Changgeng said.
He shi was originally lying on the kang, comparing the embroidery work on two handkerchiefs. Hearing him say this, she sat straight. She knew that her husband was thinking of his parents. Although Liu Gao shi had just visited a few days ago, they hadn’t themselves visited the old residence in over a month – who knew what the situation was like over there.
“Why don’t we ask Ruyu to cook a meat dish. Then we give half to dad and mum? After all, if we give them raw meat, they definitely would not bear to cook it. Furthermore, this was the meat they gave us last time, so it wouldn’t be good to re-gift it to them.” He shi suggested.
Liu Changgeng thought about it before agreeing. His wife’s siblings were all here to help out – they should prepare a nice meal for them too. So he said, “You’re right! We should do that.”
With that, He shi asked He Ruyu over and asked her to help prepare some vermicelli with vegetables and meat for a meal.
When He Ruyu knew that they wanted to send some over to the old residence, she quickly agreed. Heading to the kitchen she nimbly stewed the meat dish, before ladling out half. Packing it securely into a basket, she requested for Liu Xu’er to send it over.
As Liu Xu’er was leaving, He shi called out after her, “See if your ye and nai are alright!”
“Ok!” Liu Xu’er agreed. She had been so busy this half a month, that she really wasn’t sure herself about the situation at the old place.
Dabo and sanshu’s families had wanted to move to town – had they managed to move yet? Surely it couldn’t have happened so soon? What are they going to do about the farmland?
Liu Xu’er was mulling over these thoughts the entire way there. When she entered, she saw that her xiaogu had also just emerged from the house. She called out, “Xiaogu!”
Liu Hong smiled and went up to help, “Why are you here? And why are you carrying something so heavy…. What is this?!”
“Mum asked me to bring it over. It’s vermicelli stewed with vegetables and meat. Quickly put it into a bowl, otherwise, the vermicelli will all go soggy. “ Liu Xu’er said.
Liu Gao shi had by now also come out from the house. She smiled and greeted, “Xu’er.”
“Nai!” Liu Xu’er handed the basket over to Liu Hong and hurriedly ran over. Entering the house with Liu Gao shi, she saw that they were just having their meal. Ye was sitting at the head of the kang, while sishu was holding a steamed bun, standing while eating.
“Why did you follow me here?” Liu Changshi laughed when he saw her.
Liu Xu’er giggled and said, “Dad and mum asked me to bring some food over. Sishu, you should have just eaten at our place, why did you insist on coming back?”
Liu Changshi smiled and said nothing, just scratched his head.
Liu Gao shi then asked, “Your xiaoyi and xiaojiu are both here? When did they come?
“Yesterday. They decided to have my xiaoyi to teach mum how to make finer embroidery. After all, mum can’t move easily now, so they thought maybe she could do some embroidery to help supplement our income.”
Liu Gao shi nodded, “They are really thoughtful.”
Old Man Liu told Liu Xu’er to stay, so she remained with them for the noon meal. Seeing that everything seemed to be fine, she returned home.
When she got back, He shi reproached her, “I told you to send them the food. Why did you stay there and eat with them! The meat I sent – was it all eaten by you?!”
Liu Xu’er frantically shook her head, “I didn’t….”
Liu Changgeng smiled and interjected, “Look at your temper, why are you always scolding the children? I think you just can’t stand to stay still any longer. If you have to sit still for another two days, your explosive temper will make a comeback!”
He shi doubtfully asked, “Has my temper been really bad these few days?”
Liu Changgeng nodded, “Yes, very.”
He shi stopped talking and started to reflect on herself.
Liu Xu’er smiled and went to groom her rabbits, managing to gather another boxful of fur. By now, the two older rabbits had been placed together to rear. She wasn’t sure when they would produce their first litter, but they had surely been eating more and more. Liu Shu and Liu Lin had to spend a significant amount of time daily foraging for their feed.
He Ruyu and He Wenyu stayed with them for about 10 days. They stayed till the third of the month. They only left when Laba1 腊八节/ Laba festival – The festival falls on the 8th day of the 12 month, according to the Chinese calendar. It is a day when families would cook a porridge with different grains/ beans. festival was approaching.
Liu Xu’er had already made a pair of gloves for Liu Sen before He Ruyu left. She had used ordinary cotton cloth for them, but inside, she placed a generous amount of rabbit fur, and on its outer cover, she had sewn a little white rabbit. It was adorable – even He shi praised it, feeling that the embroidery done was superior to her own.
He Ruyu left Liu Xu’er the piece of brocade. Liu Xu’er followed the method she had used when making Liu Sen’s little gloves and prepared to make a pair of high-quality gloves.
On the morning of Laba festival, after she awoke, Liu Xu’er first went to the kitchen to wash and soak the millet, goji berries, as well as the shelled peanuts that Liu Hong had brought yesterday.
It was only after that that she went to check on her rabbits and chicks.
The female rabbit was looking quite round, especially around the stomach. When it was pressed, it felt soft. Liu Xu’er had once carried it over for Liu Changgeng to have a look, and he had confirmed that the rabbit was pregnant, delighting He shi. She had never thought that Liu Xu’er would actually manage to make anything of this.
The two little rabbits were still being raised separately. By now, Liu Xu’er was very experienced at caring for them and the little rabbits were well kept and neat. Because they were always kept in the room, their fur didn’t have any dirt. There was no need to clean the fur, saving them from the labor of those additional steps.
The 10 chicks were also kept in the room. The days were extremely cold, so it was only on days that the sun was out that they were let out into the courtyard to roam.
First thing in the morning, Liu Shu had gone with Liu Lin to gather feed for the rabbits and chicks. Liu Xu’er released the two hens out for some air. It was not good to keep the hens constantly caged up – they wouldn’t lay eggs if they were so confined.
The wound on He shi’s ankle had started to heal, but the sprain was fairly severe, so she still couldn’t put weight on it. However, given He shi’s impatient nature, she had started to try to move around. Hopping around on one leg, she could just about manage to move around in the room with the kang supporting her. Liu Changgeng was extremely envious of her mobility.
Liu Xu’er had just gone into the kitchen, when she heard a loud shout from outside the courtyard. “What are you doing!” It sounded like Liu Shu’s voice, so Liu Xu’er hurriedly ran out to see what was going on.
The instant she ran out, she was given a huge fright! At the courtyard entry, a chicken was lying there in a pool of blood. Its wings were feebly flapping, while a cord was seen around its legs. It had been tied to the stone pillar at the doorway. The other chicken was terrified, clucking non-stop, wings flapping frantically.
A basket in his hand, Liu Lin stood and shouted toward the not too distant slope. “Just you wait! I will go and kill all of your family’s chickens!”
Liu Xu’er ran over, face pale with rage, asking, “Who did this?!” This was not an act of childish mischief. By tying the chicken up like this, it was clearly a deliberate attempt to kill it!
Liu Lin’s face was similarly pale. So angry, he was shaking, it took a some time for him to be able to squeeze out the words, “I didn’t see clearly. Dage called out from quite a distance away, so the two started running. But…. One of them looked like Liu Yun’er.”
“What?!” Liu Xu’er was shocked and enraged! She let out a scream!
From a distance, Liu Shu came running back. Liu Xu’er and Liu Lin simultaneously asked him, “Who was it?!”
Liu Shu’s face was also pale. Both of his hands were clenched into fists. It took a while before he shook his head, “I couldn’t see….”
Liu Lin angrily shouted, “What do you mean you couldn’t see! I managed to see! One of them was Liu Yun’er! It was definitely her! The boy, I couldn’t see clearly, but it was definitely the Wang boy who always plays with her!”
Liu Xu’er said furiously, “Is she crazy? Why would she purposely try and kill our hen?!”