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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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Liu Gao shi immediately instructed Liu Hong, “Bring the roasted melon seeds from the kitchen.” Village families usually bought raw melon seeds. It was much cheaper than already-roasted seeds and it was simple enough to roast it themselves at home.
Liu Hong agreed. She had just left when they heard her say from the doorway, “Why are all of you here?”
Everyone in the room was stunned. Liu Gao shi was about to ask who had come when they heard Ma shi’s voice drift in. Her tone light and merry, she said, “Oh, xiaogu, why are you saying this? I am the eldest daughter-in-law, so of course I should visit mum and dad! Why are you so surprised?”
The instant they heard her voice, everyone stopped talking. Old Man Liu went to his tobacco stash, clearly wanting a smoke. Liu Gao shi’s brow was deeply furrowed and her face wrinkled heavily.
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Gzvbswtb Yy pbk’p osaep pswdele zkjl y alrasynb, bla vsdl oyp rzyuqwz yde kdvkxyvl. Ohld vbswtb pbl oypd’v kd pktbv, Nkw Dw’la fwpv jdlo vbyv pbl bye tsdl vs oyaxzu ryv mkystw sd bla pbswzela.&dcpr;
Nkw Dw’la osdelale yv bla oyax yvvkvwel clqsal ycawrvzu wdelapvydekdt. Rv oyp rascyczu clnywpl pbl jdlo mkystw bye tsvvld y tsse xyvnb, ps pbl caygldzu nyxl vs nsgu wr. Nkw Dw’la oyp olzz yoyal sq Yy pbk’p nbyaynvla. Fbl bye ds ekqqknwzvklp rknjkdt y bwtl qktbv okvb usw clqsal vwadkdt yaswde vs fsjl okvb usw. Fbl oyp y eswczl-qynle nbyaynvla obs qlzv pbl nswze valyv svblap bsolhla pbl oydvle. Gde lhlausdl lzpl bye vs vszlayvl kv yde tkhl kd vs bla.&dcpr;
Gqvla yzz, eked’v pbl valyv bla xsvbla, Tl pbk, vbkp oyu clqsal? Mseyu, kv pllxle vbyv pbl bye vwadle vbkp pjkzz sd bla dykdyk yde mkystw.
Fwal ldswtb, Nkw Tsdt eked’v csvbla alprsdekdt. Rdpvlye, vblu blyae qssvpvlrp blyekdt vsoyae vbl jkvnbld. Jwv Yy pbk oyp wdelvlaale. Fbl nsdvkdwle vs oyzj okvb bla, pxkzkdt. “Xb, mkystwgk kp tlvvkdt xyaakle pssd. Zsw pbswzed’v dlle vs nsdvkdwl nssjkdt. Zswa byka oswze ts zkxr yde pyzzso qasx yzz vbl pxsjl yde talypl! Dkyd’la, iwknjzu! Usxl yde blzr uswa mkystw.”
Fs kv vwadle swv vbyv Nkw Dkyd’la bye yzps nsxl. Fbl xyel y dskpl sq ytallxldv yde qszzsole Nkw Tsdt.&dcpr;
Nkw Qys pbk bye yzalyeu fwxrle sqq vbl jydt. Fbl eke dsv oydv Yy pbk vs nsxl kdvs vbl assx. Rq pbl nyxl kd yde pyo Nkw Dw’la yde Nkw Fbw, ydsvbla iwyaalz xktbv calyj swv. Rv oyp clpv vs yhske vbyv pkvwyvksd, yqvla yzz, pbl eke dsv oydv vs prlde vbl Llo Zlya ydtau.
Fbl oyp fwpv kd vkxl vs pvsr Yy pbk qasx ldvlakdt. Nkw Qys pbk pyo bla nsxl kd, bszekdt Nkw Zwd’la’p byde. Nkw Zwd’la pllxle vs byhl ealpple wr vseyu. Elyakdt y rkdj nsvvsd fynjlv, bla qynl oyp nzlyd. Jwv sd bla blye oyp y fyaakdt vbknj czynj byv, okvb y akdt sq obkvl nzsvb cydeytlp rlljkdt swv qasx wdela kv. Rv oyp yd schkswp yvvlxrv vs eayo yvvldvksd vs vbl kdfwau sd bla blye.&dcpr;
Ebld Yy pbk pyo bla, pbl pxkzle yde tallvle, “Ywx.”
Liu Gao shi frowned and continued to walk toward the empty side room. Turning, she saw that Ma shi and Liu Yun’er had followed her. After they entered, she coldly asked, “Why are you here? Weren’t you angry that us two elders were biased? Didn’t you say that we shortchanged you when we separated the family, and gave you less money? What, do you want to make us all angry over the New Year by pestering us for money?”
Ma shi was incredibly thick-skinned. She didn’t even blink at the accusations. She only smiled and said, “Mum, what are you saying! These past few days, we were busy because of Yun’er’s injuries and had to bring her to town to see a doctor. So we didn’t manage to come by and visit. Now that the New Year is coming, I wanted to find out if you are missing anything. If you need anything more, let me know. I’m the eldest daughter-in-law. I will definitely help you with it!”
Liu Gao shi hmphed. She sat at the side of the kang and took out the shoe insole she was just working on. Ignoring Ma shi, she lowered her head and continued her work.
Ma shi sat down next to her. In a tone filled with amazement, she asked, “Mum, I heard that xiaoguzi’s marriage has been settled? How quick….”
In the main house.
Liu Shu saw that nainai had diverted dashenzi to the side room. He turned and said to Old Man Liu, “Ye, Xu’er and I will be off then.”
Old Man Liu nodded before asking, “Has everything been prepared for the New Year?”
Liu Shu nodded. “Everything’s been prepared. Ye, you and nai don’t need to worry… Oh, that’s right. Dad said that by tradition, we should come over on the 30th to come and have dinner together with everyone. But he and mum…”
Old Man Liu nodded in understanding, “I know, I know. They can’t even leave the kang, so how would they come over? Have dinner at your place instead. Your xiaogu is getting married within our village, so it doesn’t look too good for her to leave the house, and your nai has been quite busy these few days. So if your family needs anything, come over and let us know. Shu’er1 A diminutive of his name , you’re the eldest, so you will need to help out more.”
Liu Shu nodded, “Got it, ye. Don’t worry.”
“Also, on the first of the month, we need to pay our respects to our ancestors. I will get your sishu to carry your dad over. As for your mother, it’s alright if she misses it this year.”
“Ok, I will let them know when I get back.”
Old Man Liu nodded. He too was worried that Ma shi would pick a fight if she were to spot the two siblings, so he didn’t try to keep them. Liu Shu and Liu Xu’er got off the kang and said their goodbyes.
When they left the room, Liu Hong came out of the kitchen carrying a basket. She didn’t say anything in the courtyard – she just took Liu Xu’er’s hand and walked out. Liu Shu and Liu Xu’er followed her silently.
Liu Changqi, who was just in the courtyard chopping wood, was nowhere to be found.
When they had gone about 10 paces out the courtyard, Liu Hong stopped. Passing the basket to Liu Shu, she said, “There are a few melon seeds and sweets inside there. You can give it to any visitors you have over the New Year. There is also a half a pig’s head and a little bit of sesame oil for your family over the New Year.”
Liu Shu quickly tried to push it away, “There’s no need xiaogu. We have enough prepared.”
Liu Xu’er chimed in, “Yes, there’s no need to give us more. We have enough. Leave it for ye and nai.”
Liu Hong shook her head and pressed the basket insistently into his hands. “Just take it! Oh and the two chickens that your dabo gave you previously? Just stew and keep them for yourselves. There’s no need to send a portion to your ye and nai. There’s plenty here…. This year, someone has sent gifts over for the New Year, so there’s more than enough for us. There’s no need to send any over. Shu’er, remember what I said. Please don’t bring that big pot back and forth ok? What would happen if you fell?”
Liu Shu nodded.
Liu Hong then patted Liu Xu’er on the head, “There’s nothing else. Hurry home.”
Liu Shu and Liu Xu’er were about to say their goodbyes when they heard someone call them from a distance, “Liu Hong? Shu?”
The few of them looked over and spotted three people heading their way. Liu Changshi was running ahead, with Liu Changqi following behind him. Liu Changqi was hefting a large load of firewood. At Liu Changshi’s side was a young man.
Liu Xu’er recognised him to be Yuan Hao, her future xiaogufu2 小姑夫/ Xiaogufu – 姑夫/ Gufu one’s father’s/husband’s sister’s husband. 小/Xiao would refer specifically to the youngest sister. Therefore, this would be one’s father’s/husband’s youngest sister’s husband. He carried many packages, including some fish and chickens. When she saw this, Liu Xu’er understood why her xiaogu was so insistent earlier.
Xiaogu had a cautious nature. She was probably afraid that with them so young, they might accidentally spill food and burn themselves if they tried to carry some over. That would be terrible. So she assured them that the family had enough to eat – that someone had given them plenty of gifts. And it was true – now that she was engaged, the family’s future son-in-law would come bearing gifts for the New Year.
Didn’t they just witness it?
The instant that Liu Hong saw them come over, she quickly retreated back home.
Liu Changshi quickly loped over to where they were. Laughing, he bent and picked Liu Xu’er up. Asking Liu Shu, “Shu, did you come by to visit your ye and nai? How are your parents? Why don’t you stay for a while? Have a meal with us before heading home!”
Liu Xu’er looked toward Liu Changqi. It seemed that he had gone to help sishu carry back the firewood and didn’t yet know that Ma shi had come.
Liu Shu answered, “Sishu, we won’t stay. We need to head back to eat.” Then he turned to Liu Changqi and Yuan Hao, “Dabo, Third Uncle Yuan.”
Yuan Hao was slightly embarrassed. His face flushed slightly red, he nodded and smiled sheepishly.
Liu Xu’er also called out to them,”Dabo, xiaogufu3Liu Xu’er’s form of address indicates that he is already married to her xiaogu and therefore part of the family. Liu Shu’s form of address was more appropriate..”
Liu Changshi burst into laughter. Liu Changqi put down his load of firewood and laughed along, mussing up Liu Xu’er’s hair. Poor Xu’er – her hair was now in a huge mess from everyone’s attention. Liu Xu’er giggled and looked at Yuan Hao. His face had gone cherry red from her address. He transferred all his packages to one hand, and started to rummage his person, as if trying to find an appropriate meeting gift.
Liu Changshi laughed, “This little imp is really sharp!”
Liu Changqi also smiled and explained, “This little girl likes to spout nonsense. She’s just teasing you! You don’t need to give her a gift.”
Yuan Hao rubbed his red face before muttering, “Xu’er and Shu’er are so well behaved. I don’t have anything for you now, but I will make it up to you in future.”
Liu Shu quickly said, “Don’t worry Third Uncle Yuan. She’s just teasing you!” Saying this, he pulled on Liu Changshi’s arm. “Sishu, put Xu’er down. We need to go back.”
It was only then that Liu Changshi put Liu Xu’er back down, “Be careful on the way back!” He called.
The two of them agreed. Holding hands, they headed back. After a while, Liu Shu turned back and saw that Liu Changqi had taken up the firewood again and the three had entered the courtyard. It was only then that he turned to Liu Xu’er and asked, “Xu’er, are you angry with dabo?”
Liu Xu’er shook her head. “Why should I be? It was definitely dashenzi’s constant muttering in front of Liu Yun’er that sparked the quarrel. She must have been complaining that it was because of our family that they could not move to town, which made Liu Yun’er angry at us. But that little shrew didn’t dare to confront you or erge, she only dared to target our littlest one!”
Liu Shu nodded, “That’s right. I am not upset with dabo either…. Don’t worry. From now on, I will take good care of Senzi and you. No one will ever bully you again.”
Liu Xu’er nodded, “Our whole family needs to protect Senzi!”
The two continued to talk as they made their way home. Liu Xu’er put away all the gifts in the kitchen, while Liu Shu went to the main room to explain what had happened. Liu Changgeng and He shi nodded their understanding. They said nothing when they heard how Ma shi went to suck up to Old Man Liu and Liu Gao shi.
The next few days were quite quiet, mostly because everyone was busy with their own tasks. Liu Shu carried Liu Sen to the backyard to look at the carrots, before carrying him off to look at the rabbits and little chickens. They checked to see if the female rabbit was about to deliver.
Finally, it was the 30th of the month.
In the morning, Liu Xu’er was roused by the sound of the chickens. The chickens she had bought the month before had grown quite a lot, but they still weren’t able to crow. And after the previous incident, the old hen had likely suffered a fright. For a period of time, she didn’t lay any eggs and looked rather sickly.
However, this morning, she heard the little chickens chirping non-stop, while the old hen occasionally let out a few clucks, sounding rather annoyed.
Liu Xu’er quickly dressed and went over to have a look.