Translated by Maggie Edited by Pete Proofread by Simple
Lian Fang Zhou looked gratefully at Aunt Zhang and thanked her. Then she turned toward Mrs Qiao and said: “Aunt, now that there’s nothing for you to do here, please leave! Ah, and also I thank you for being a witness. Really, thank you!”
Mrs Qiao felt anger and hatred in her heart. She wanted to rush up and take the money from Lian Fang Zhou’s pocket. But she knew that in these circumstances she couldn’t gain any benefits. She could only harrumph bitterly and part with a sarcastic “You better look after yourself now.”
Aunt Zhang also stood up and sighing to herself she asked: “Now that this marriage matter was broken off, what plans do you have for the future?”
Lian Fang Zhou smiled lightly while looking at her and said calmly: “Aunt Zhang, you said before to continue living, no matter what the days are like! I will definitely take good care of my siblings. One day we will be well off.”
Aunt Zhang nodded her head, feeling pleased. She smiled and said: “I see that you thought it through! That’s good, that’s right! Don’t think about what your aunt said. You are a good girl. In the future, you will definitely have a good marriage. I should return now. If you ever need help with something, no need to hesitate. Just come to our house and ask, alright?
“Thank you, Aunt Zhang! I’m afraid in the future, I will trouble you a lot!” Lian Fang Zhou said honestly.
“Next door neighbor, no trouble at all. Since you say this, I can not worry!” Aunt Zhang laughed heartily and left.
After sending off Aunt Zhang, Lian Fang Zhou let out a sigh of relief. She smiled towards Lian Ze and said: “At last, this matter is settled. Come, let’s return— What’s wrong? Why are you looking at me like that?”
Suddenly finding that Lian Ze was staring at her steadily, Lian Fang Zhou felt somewhat puzzled.
“No, nothing!” Lian Ze answered quickly. But although his mouth said one thing, his expression was definitely not like that.
Lian Fang Zhou sighed: “We are a family, if there’s something you want to say, then speak! What the point of hiding things from your sister?” Well, even if he didn’t speak, she could roughly guess what was on his mind.
Lian Ze felt that what she said was reasonable, so he looked at her and said: “It’s just that I feel sister changed, becoming—”
“Not the same as before?” Lian Fang Zhou helped him finish the sentence.
Lian Ze nodded.
Lian Fang Zhou’s face clouded and she laughed bitterly: “Ah Ze, there’s a phrase saying the present cannot be compared to the past, this saying fits us! Now, today and the past are not the same. We are orphans. Your sister thought it through. The only way for us is to become stronger and more powerful. Otherwise, everyone will bully us. Even not stepping on other’s toes will cause more gossip and ridicule; good people like Aunt Zhang are very few! Sister is not afraid of fighting and becoming a shrew. I also won’t let anyone bully us! Do you understand?”
“I’m sorry sister!” Lian Ze hearing her explanation felt guilty and also moved.
Lian Fang Zhou repeatedly pat his shoulder: “What are you sorry for, we are family. There’s no need for this. We must carry on living happily. This way dad and mom in heaven will be at peace, don’t you think?”
“Ok!” Lian Ze was convinced as well as ashamed! He thought to himself: Damn, what am I overthinking this for!
“Sister, from now on I will work hard to let our family live happily!” Lian Ze promised.
“Great, Sister believes in you!” Lian Fang Zhou smiled faintly. It is good that he has the determination and the will to fight.
For lunch, the four siblings had sweet potato, then, in the afternoon, Lian Fang Zhou and Lian Ze busied themselves working in the garden.
They already fertilized the pepper soil in the morning and did digging in some places. So, besides tidying up, just a little work was left to do.
Once the two reached the garden, they saw a group of fist-sized little chicks spreading out happily across the plots looking for food.
Lian Fang Zhou couldn’t help but frown, she was thankful they haven’t planted seeds yet. If there had been planted or sprouted seeds there, then all that work would be ruined now.
“These are aunt’s chicks” Lian Ze frowned as he spoke. His face showing a bit of annoyance.
Lian Fang Zhou looked around: “Actually our garden’s fence isn’t that good. Definitely not strong enough. In a few days let’s go up the mountain and get some bamboo and tree branches to fix it. For now, let’s leave the problem alone since we haven’t planted anything yet.”
Lian Ze nodded: “If we fixed the fence and these chicks still entered, then it is definitely aunt putting them in on purpose. Having a reason, we can go up to their door and ask! But sister didn’t you say these two days that you want to sow seeds? How about I bring Qing’Er and Che’Er up the mountain to gather the branches now?”
At this time, Lian Fang Zhou came up with a new idea in her head. She laughed lightly and answered: “No need to rush with the sowing. It can wait.”
Lian Ze froze. He didn’t know what was she planning inside her head.
Seeing that things were nearly done, Lian Fang Zhou left to return home first.
Although the inside of their home was barely more than the four walls, but it still needs some good cleaning. What was done this morning, was only a rough tidying up.
Both Lian Fang Qing and Lian Che were watching the house; they didn’t go out to play. Seeing their sister come home to clean, they also, like shadows, followed behind to help out.
Lian Fang Zhou was both moved and sad. She couldn’t brush off their good will, so she smiled and let them be. Occasionally, she allowed them to help and pass certain things to her; the two siblings agreed loud and clearly. They were extremely happy.
After she cleaned up properly, Lian Fang Zhou boiled another pot of water. While she was sitting by the stove watching the fire, she was also silently calculating how to use the ten silver liang.
The roof and the windows definitely needed some fixing or else, once winter arrived, when wind and rain leaked through the cracks, what could they do? This household couldn’t afford a person to get sick.
And there were also winter clothes, quilt and some other things that needed to be purchased. For the same reason— to prevent illness!
If there was anything left over after that, she had to think how to maximize the purchase of food to fill the belly— Ah, I nearly forgot!
She still had to ask about the matter of seeds.
Last night she asked a lot of questions to Lian Fang Qing and now she could approximately understand the family situation.
The three acres of paddy field need rice seeds, but she didn’t know how much money would that require. There was also the farming equipment; she also wanted to buy some feed for the ducks and chickens.
Lian Fang Zhou sighed. Ten liang doesn’t seem to be little but it is also not much!
If she knew earlier then she would demand twenty liang. But, she wasn’t sure if they would give it! Ugh, what is the point of thinking about this now!
She couldn’t help breaking into a self-deprecating laugh.
When she was preparing to make dinner, she nearly saw the bottom of the rice jar and looking at the pile in the corner of their attic, only four pitiful packets of rice could be seen. Lian Fang Zhou couldn’t help feeling her mood worsen a bit.
With only this little food, even if they made sweet potato porridge, she was afraid that there wasn’t enough for one family of four to eat until the new year. Not to mention the next year’s harvest time.
Lian Fang Zhou smiled bitterly.
After dinner, Lian Fang Zhou told Lian Ze to boil water for the twins to bathe. She herself prepared to visit Aunt Zhang ‘s home.
Even though the family was poor, they still had to be clean and neat. For every one of them to become like a striped cat, with the whole body covered in odor sweat… She wouldn’t allow it!
But even if the water didn’t need money, was there none required for the firewood too?
Once Lian Fang Qing heard that her sister wanted to go out, she jumped up and held her hand, clamoring to go together
Lian Fang Zhou thought that with one more person courage improves, so she nodded to agree and smiled as she held Lian Fang Qing’s hand.
The person who opened the door for them had her hair in a roll up flat bun.1
It was a young, short, tanned woman wearing a brown lattice-patterned clothes.
Lian Fang Zhou mind went blank for a moment, but while she was still thinking how to greet, Lian Fang Qing already smiling, called in a spoiled and clear voice: “Sister Zhao!”
Lian Fang Zhou only then understood that this was Aunt Zhang’s daughter in law! She smiled and called out “Sister Zhao!”
[ TL Note : This is a way to address a married woman in the same age group that is in good relations with you, but not blood-related. ] Mrs Zhao seeing Lian Fang Qing’s blinding smile cried out and reached to her head. But towards Lian Fang Zhou, she just showed withdrawn politeness. With a reserved nod and smile that didn’t reach her eyes, she asked: “Did Fang Zhou came to look for our Ah Juan?”
Lian Fang Zhou couldn’t help but wonder in her heart; when did she offend Mrs Zhao. But this wasn’t the time to be thinking about that. So she smiled politely: “No, I came to find Aunt Zhang, but don’t know if Aunt Zhang is here—”
“Is it Lian Fang Zhou? Quickly, come in!” Aunt Zhang hearing the voices outside was already smiling as she came out to greet the guest.
Lian Fang Qing then let go of her sister’s hand, happily called Aunt Zhang and ran towards her. Aunt Zhang laughed heartily as she replied and held her in her arms.
Lian Fang Zhou also was busily replying and heading in that direction, but she heard Mrs Zhao behind her whisper in a level tone: “I don’t know what they came for again… The nerve to trouble other people…”