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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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Old Man Liu headed for the kang on returning to his room, smoothly retrieving his pipe from his pocket. Tapping it against the head of the kang, he filled the pipe with tobacco from the dangling stash. Lighting it, he took a puff before looking at his sons who were standing in front of him. “Last year, the issue of separating the family was raised. At that time, Third and Fourth had not yet married, so I felt that it was not appropriate to separate. But looking at the situation now, it seems that there are people who cannot bear to continue living with us two old people.”
“Dad! What are you saying? That leaves me, the eldest son, with no face.” Liu Changqi immediately interjected, unhappily.
“You can’t even manage your own woman – all day, she beats your two oldest till they cry out from pain. I can’t interfere with that, but now, she’s trying to do the same to your brother’s children! How can I stay silent!” Old Man Liu asked sternly, looking at Liu Changqi.
Liu Changgeng stood in front of the kang, trembling with rage.
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“Zsw dlled’v osaau eye. Ebld R ts cynj, R okzz vlynb vbyv hknkswp osxyd y zlppsd! Rq vbyv eslpd’v osaj, R okzz nbsr sqq bla byde! Nlv’p pll bso pbl nyd clyv nbkzeald vbld!” Nkw Ubydtik aytle.&dcpr;
Nkw Ubydtpbk pyv yv vbl pkel. Tlyakdt obyv bkp casvbla pyke, bl dseele kd qlahldv yrrashyz.
Xze Yyd Nkw oyhle bkp byde. “Xq nswapl usw dlle vs ekpnkrzkdl uswa okql. G osxyd obs clyvp vblka nbkzeald ps hknkswpzu dllep vs cl qkaxzu ekpnkrzkdle! Jwv R’hl yzalyeu vbswtbv ycswv vbl xyvvla sq plryayvkdt vbl qyxkzu. Rdelle, kv’p dsv lypu qsa y obszl qyxkzu vs zkhl vstlvbla. Rq ol nsdvkdwl vbkp oyu, iwyaalzzkdt yzz eyu zsdt, kdpvlye sq clkdt tsse alzyvkhlp, ol oswze yzz clnsxl ldlxklp! Gzps, ol’e clnsxl vbl zywtbkdtpvsnj sq yzz vbl dlktbcsap. Jlvvla vs przkv vbl qyxkzu lyazu! Wswavb, ts dso yde zssj qsa uswa hkzzytl blye wdnzl. Gzps kdhkvl uswa laul1二爷/ Oaul – Nkvlayzzu xlydp plnsde taydeqyvbla. Rv kp wdnzlya kq vbkp kp y ekalnv alzyvksd cwv vbkp rlapsd oswze nlavykdzu cl y nzyd lzela. shla….”
“Pye!” Nkw Ubydtik nyzzle ytykd. Gzvbswtb vblal bye zsdt clld vyzj sq plryayvkdt vbl qyxkzu – yde bl bye ds scflnvksdp vs plryayvl – kq kv oyp clnywpl sq obyv byrrldle vseyu yde vbl przkv oyp nywple ldvkalzu cu bkp okql, vbld bl bye vs scflnv! Tl oyp, yqvla yzz, vbl lzelpv psd! Tl nswze dsv cl vbl alypsd vbl qyxkzu plryayvle. Tl nswze dsv yqqsae vs byhl vbyv alrwvyvksd.
Rq yqvla vseyu, vbl hkzzytlap olal vs pyu vbyv kv oyp clnywpl bkp okql bkv bla dklnl yde dlrblo, nywpkdt vblka qyxkzu vs przkv, bso nswze bl bsze bkp blye bktb kd vbl hkzzytl lhla yqvla!
Xze Yyd Nkw oyp hlau nzlya ycswv vbkp vss. Tl oyhle bkp byde, “Slzym, ol osd’v xldvksd obyv byrrldle vseyu!”
Wswavb blpkvyvle qsa y xsxldv. “Pye, pydtl yde pydpys byhl tsdl cynj vs bla xykeld bsxl. Fbswze ol oykv vkzz bl’p cynj clqsal ekpnwppkdt vbl przkv?
Xze Yyd Nkw pbssj bkp blye. “Kwpv es yp usw yal vsze! Qs yde kdhkvl vblx! Rv’p dsv yp kq ol nyd plryayvl vbl qyxkzu vseyu. El pvkzz dlle vs ekpnwpp vbl vlaxp sq vbl przkv – es usw vbkdj kv’p vbyv lypu vs plryayvl y bswplbsze?”
With that, Fourth understood. He hurriedly nodded and made his way out.
Liu Gao shi was tapping the side of the kang repeatedly with a duster. In a bad temper, she said, “Outsiders may think that we haven’t already separated, but look at how your children are dressed compared to Second’s family?! How is this different from having separate households?! What a great job you are doing as the eldest!”
First was gloomy; he was restless and couldn’t stay still in the room. Stung by his mother’s accusation, the more he thought about today’s matter, the more he felt that his wife had gone overboard, making dad and mum so angry!
Recalling his father’s recent revelation that he was aware his wife would beat their children and recalling his father’s angered countenance, he felt that if he did not express his displeasure, it would affect his dignity as the eldest son. So he turned, intending to go back to his room to discipline his wife.
He had just made a move when he was called to stay by Old Man Liu. “What are you going to do?! Go back and beat your woman till she howls? Your erye and uncle are coming to help with the separation of the family, would they still not know what’s happening if you were to go back? Just stay here quietly!”
Liu Changqi angrily went over to squat at the doorway.
He shi brought her children back to the room and went to find some medicated ointment to apply to Liu Shu’s neck. Liu Xu’er put the long-furred rabbits on the floor, before rushing to wash her hands. She then climbed back on the kang to help him rub the ointment in. Seeing the large, red palm print on her gege’s neck, Liu Xu’er was both distressed and sad. Even though she didn’t want to cry, the tears kept rolling down.
Liu Shu dipped his head. He felt a pair of little hands rubbing his neck. Raising his head, he saw Liu Xu’er dripping with tears. He quickly grinned. “It’s alright. It doesn’t hurt.”
“Don’t move.” He shi said. Her eyes were rimmed with red, her expression mild.
Liu Xu’er snuck a glance at her mum, feeling even more upset. Mum definitely knew that this would happen when they got back; that’s why she objected to her buying the rabbits. But it really wasn’t on a whim that she wanted them….
She had spent her entire family’s budget for clothes on the rabbits and she had also caused her big brother to get slapped, how could she not feel terribly upset….
Liu Sen lay across his dage’s back. Pouting, he stretched his chubby hands out to try and rub his brother’s neck. Having just cried up a storm, he was still letting out the occasional sniffle.
Liu Shu immediately turned to hug Liu Sen, “Are you still crying? Boys shouldn’t cry so easily. It’s embarrassing.”
Liu Sen pouted even harder.
He shi looked at her mournful looking daughter, her sniffling little son and her heart couldn’t bear it. She adjusted Liu Shu’s clothing, and told Liu Xu’er. “Alright, alright, everything’s fine. Hurry and go take care of your precious rabbits! Let me tell you, you are not allowed to ignore them after two or three days when they are no longer novel! You’d best rear those two ancestors carefully!”
Liu Xu’er’s face, still tear stained, broke into a laugh. Liu Sen immediately joined her in gurgling with laughter. “Two ancestors, hahahah, mum called them two ancestors….” His face still carried tears, but he was laughing and rolling on the kang.
Seeing her little son rolling about wildly, He shi finally smiled.
Liu Xu’er was still worried about those two rabbits, so she quickly got off the kang and went to the little room in the courtyard interior. This was her two brothers’ sleeping area. Seeing that those two rabbits had found a corner to nest, she went out of the room to go and pick some grass for them.
She had just made it to the entryway when she saw the village head, hands clasped behind his back, pipe hanging off his mouth, walk in. She quickly shouted a greeting. “Grandpa!”
The village head was also a Liu; he could also be considered a relative to this particular branch of Lius. He laughed and nodded, “What an obedient child.” He made his way to Old Man Liu’s room.
Dashenzi’s oldest daughter, Liu Xian’er, also came out. Seeing Liu Xu’er, she said nothing, moving toward the kitchen to bring out a basin of water.
Liu Xu’er spent a good long while hunting for suitable nesting materials near the house, but she couldn’t find anything suitable for the rabbits. In their northwestern region, the soil was all loess and there were few trees growing, let alone bamboo or willow branches suitable for weaving baskets.
Having failed to accomplish her mission, Liu Xu’er returned home. She pondered the issue – she could only ask her father to use wood to make a rabbit nest then. She went to the little ditch at the entrance to their courtyard to pick the alfalfa grass along its banks. This ditch meandered across several family’s entrances. It converged at the ravine along the hill. Luckily there was this little ditch; it provided some greenery to their family’s environment. Otherwise, all that could be seen in the vicinity would be soil.
She had only been picking for a short while when Liu Lin came to look for her. “Xu’er, mum asked you to head back. Don’t wander off.”
“En, I am just picking some grass for the rabbits to eat, I will go back soon.” Liu Xu’er said without raising her head.
Liu Lin joined in to help her.
The sound of water splashing at the doorway carried over to them. Both of them turned to look and saw that Liu Xian’er had just poured the basin of water at the doorway. She gave the two of them a hard look before heading back in.
Liu Xu’er continued to pick the grass, thinking in her heart that she just couldn’t get along with this dajie who didn’t like to speak. Who knew what she spent all day thinking about; she was always directing strange looks at others.
Dashenzi had two daughters, Liu Xian’er and Liu Yun’er. She also had a little son, Liu Tao, who was the same age as Xu’er.
Liu Xian’er actually wasn’t 12 yet. In farming villages, they tended to count using their traditional age2虚岁/ Xusui – Refers to a chinese traditional way of reckoning one’s age. In this system, the child is aged 1 at birth, and for every New Year that passes, a year is added to their age, instead of on their actual birthdays.. So in actual fact, Liu Xian’er was only 10. She was still a half grown girl – there was absolutely no hurry to arrange her marriage. Dashenzi just liked to use her as an excuse to pick a fight, hoping to separate the family.
Dashenzi’s brothers had gone out to do business a few years ago, and had made a little money. They had given some to dashenzi to help her, and dashenzi had always squirrelled this money away, refusing to give it to nainai. She was just waiting for the family to separate.
Old Man Liu and Liu Gao shi were well aware of this fact, however, the money was given by her maiden family. They didn’t have the face to insist that she hand it in. So they just let it pass.
But these past two years, Ma shi was watching as Liu Xian’er got older. In a few years, it would be time to arrange her marriage. Ma shi was worried that at the time, if they had not yet separated the family, even if she wanted to give more for her daughter’s dowry, it would not look good to give too much more compared to the dowry of her gugu who was ahead of her.
Therefore, in these past two years, the one most fiercely campaigning to split the family was Ma shi. First obviously was aware of the circumstances of his family, so his thinking was aligned with Ma shi in that they both hoped for the family to separate. But as the eldest, the matter of separating the family could not come from him. In addition, Liu Changqi did have a sense of responsibility as the eldest, so he was angry at how Ma shi had been stirring up discontent in the family these past two years to try and encourage the separation. He had in fact disciplined her over it.
The rest of the siblings, after getting married, also all hoped for the family to separate. After all, once the family has separated, everyone goes their own way and lives life the way they want. It certainly was more convenient than living together in one big group, it was also less restrictive. As head of one’s own family, they could make their own decisions.
Also, after marrying and having children, everyone had their own thoughts as to how to improve their lives. Everyone had their own plans, but if everyone was still living together communally, even if you earned more money, it would be difficult to decide amicably how to divide the spoils. Somebody would get more, somebody less, and everyone would be unhappy and quarrel. It’s too troublesome.
Old Man Liu knew this, so in these two years, he had thought of separating the family. Now that Third had gotten married in this past year, although there was still Fourth and his youngest daughter staying with him, separating the family now should not have too much impact. So seeing that First’s wife really could not tolerate living with them any longer, he decided that it was better to separate the family.
Added to that, after hearing what Liu Gao shi had shared about the Third daughter-in-law’s behavior yesterday , Old Man Liu resolutely decided that he did not want to support this kind of person – she would only infuriate the two of them! It would be best to separate now, and have everyone live their own lives!
By the time Liu Xu’er and Liu Lin had gathered the alfalfa grass and returned to the courtyard, the village head, the clan elder and yeye had already discussed how to move forward with the separation of the family.
Seeing his dage, Liu Shu, holding a rake and clearing out the pigpen, Liu Lin passed the grass to Liu Xu’er and went over to help.
Liu Xu’er headed toward her room. From dashenzi’s room came a seven or eight-year-old girl. Her hair combed into two little pigtails, she was dressed in a pink outfit and on her feet were a pair of flower embroidered shoes. The clothes she wore, compared to Liu Xu’er’s black cotton jacket, black cotton shoes, were so much brighter. It was as though one was a little fairy and the other, a little mud monkey.
The little girl, seeing Liu Xu’er, immediately shouted. “Stop! Where are the rabbits? Give me one!”
This was Ma shi’s second daughter, Liu Yun’er.
Liu Xu’er ignored her and continued on her way. Liu Yun’er ran over, stretched out her arms to block her path and said, “I was speaking, didn’t you hear?! Give me one of the rabbits! You wastrel!”