The weather wasn’t cold yet. This time all the freshly made charcoal were placed in Li Family’s storage shed. They plan to sell them after a while. While the weather is good, everyone used the time they had to make more.
One day, Lian Fang Zhou bumped into Zhang Li Zheng (-junior village official)’s wife, Mrs. Niu on the road. Lian Fang Zhou warmly greeted her. Mrs. Niu returned with a smile, and as passing, she mentioned about her and Li Family’s charcoal business. Her words were underlined with absolute envy and also carried a bit of hidden tartness.
This Mrs. Niu considered herself mighty, and what's more, she got a trait of loving small gain. Relying on her status as the village official's wife, she benefited a lot from others. At most, it's just some garlic and scallion or a trivial matter snatching to receive gains first. Because of Li Zheng's face, everyone just grumbled a bit behind her back. No one would hold a grudge against her.
In response to her words, Lian Fang Zhou's mind began turning. Somewhat sheepishly, she confessed. “To tell you the truth, Uncle Li and Aunt Zhang saw that we're pitiful, so they supported us out a bit. How much strength could we have? We can't call it a partnership! However, we did bring home a good bit of broken charcoal chunks that aren't worth much. If Aunt Niu doesn’t mind, I'll send some down to you later on. It's still good charcoal, and you can use it for the stove in the winter time.”
Mrs. Niu’s face blossomed into a giant grin straight away. Her eyes shone as her mouth joyously uttered, “Oh my, how could I possibly take it? Charcoal chunks are still charcoal. You can still use it as normal. ”
“There’s a lot! We can't use it all anyway. In any case, we still need to give it away, so giving it to anyone is still giving away.” Lian Fang Zhou decided. “Later in the afternoon, I’ll send some down to your home!”
“Hoho, look at you lass, you're becoming smooth-spoken! Since you said it like this, what else can I say!” Mrs. Niu eyes twinkled but then contemplated. “I’m afraid there's nobody home in the afternoon. How about this, send them over after dinner.”
Mrs. Niu grandson just turned six months, so how could there be no one home? The nogs in Lian Fang Zhou head turned. Then she understood Mrs. Niu's misgiving. Her family is parentless, so Mrs. Niu is afraid of others speaking poorly of her for taking their stuff. This is a roundabout way of hinting her to go over in the dark.
Currently, the weather isn't like summer, so people don't out much in the evening.
“Alright,” she outright agreed. "After dinner, I still need to wash some dish and tidy up the house. So I might be much later.”
“That’s fine! We head to bed pretty late! Our little grandson is very colicky.” Mrs. Niu became even more delighted hearing the words that match her desire.
Lian Fang Zhou followed up her words with praises for her grandson. This made Mrs. Niu so overjoyed that flowers bloomed around her.
Li Zheng is neither small or big position, but it is the one in control at the moment. So there’s no disadvantage in having a better relationship with them.
Just like Aunt Zhang said, Lian Li and Mrs. Qiao are elders after all. With that kind of personality, who knows what they would do in the future.
When the time comes, they might need to ask for justice from Li Zheng.
She doesn’t hope for him to be partial, but at least being reasonable is enough for her.
These matters, she must plan while she can.
When she returned home, she brought Lian Fang Qing and Lian Che with her to the attic. They pack some good charcoal chunks that were piled there into a sack, so it was ready to be taken over to Mrs. Niu's.
Even though it was called broken charcoal chunks, it wasn't broken pieces. Compare to the one-meter long charcoal; they were obviously bits and bobs. Some were two fingers long, some were around one finger long, and some were also split into halves. It's unavoidable to have broken chunks like these in each patch of charcoal. Those that can't be sold were brought home to use.
When Mrs. Niu saw that Lian Fang Zhou actually came, she felt completely satisfied on the inside and received it with a beaming grin. She also lamented how it wasn't easy for the siblings. And also mentioned if they ever need help, ask!
These were courtesy words. But with Mrs. Niu, it's most likely that she was afraid that she got request and decided to test the water. Without saying, Lian Fang Zhou just politely gave thanks and didn't make any demand. After some small talks, she left.
Zhang Li Zheng observed his wife glowing with joy as she carried a sack of something into the house and questioned. "Who was it just now? Why did they leave before even coming in? What is that? Did you ask for something from others again?"
"What are you saying!" Mrs. Niu glared at Zhang Li Zheng. Full of displeasure, she rebutted. "What with 'I ask for something from others again'? Oh, take a look! It's just some worthless charcoal pieces! I have to say; it's so sweet of that child, Fang Zhou. She knew that our family needs to dry our grandson's nappies every day, so she sent over some charcoal chunks. Anyway, this thing doesn't cost her anything, so why can't I accept them?"
With this, Zhang Li Zheng didn't say anything. He also dotes on their grandson.
Right now, it's the beginning of winter. Every day the sun rises as usual however despite it being brighter than summer, it doesn't have the warmth.
And Li Zheng's grandson needed to change at least around a dozen of nappies each day. They can only use charcoal fire to dry them.
Last winter, they had some charcoal left over. But they became damp since they had left it at a random corner. Now when they use it, it would make a horrid, choking smell and fill the house with that scent.
It's a stroke of good luck that Lian Fang Zhou sent some charcoal chunk now. This act makes one's heart feel moved.
"Oh fine then, since she seldom shows her consideration. But if it was other things, you can't just take! After all, " Zhang Li Zheng paused a moment. " they are different from other families!"
Their family consisted of orphans. Accepting their things is asking to be spoken poorly.
"I know! I still have a sense of moderation, no?" Mrs. Niu rolled her eyes. "They are working with Li Da Mu's family in making charcoal. I don't know how much profit they get, but they have access to an endless amount of these charcoal pieces! While ours here isn't that much!"
With an approving tone, she commented as she sighed. "Oh, I had never noticed before, that lass, Fang Zhou is so warm-hearted and so agreeable. She and her siblings are quite pitiful. In the future, if we can speak a few words for them, then let's help them! It can count as accumulating blessing for our grandson!"
Zhang Li Zheng gave her a withering glance and stated. "That goes without saying, do you even need to say it? I didn't become the Li Zheng for no reason!"
Early one day, Zhang Li Zheng's youngest daughter, Zhang Yan came over to Lian Fang Zhou's home. In a benevolent smile, she passed on a message. "Sister Fang Zhou, you must come back from work early today. Best to be back when the sun is starting to set. My father said that every household must have a decision-maker go to the big camphor tree for a discussion! There's an urgent matter to be announced!"
Lian Fang Zhou quickly acknowledged.
Zhang Yan also mentioned that she still need to notify other families and left.
Lian Ze shot a glance at Zhang Yan who was leaving. And remarked, " It's strange. Usually, when there's an announcement in the village, Li Zheng would only tell Uncle and not us. This year we had nearly missing tax payment. Thank god Aunt Zhang reminded us. Can't believe Zhang Yan would come knocking today!"
Lian Fang Zhou's mind turned and then realized it was most likely the perk of that big sack of charcoal. And cheerful spoke, "Isn't this a good thing? This means they aren't treating us as nothing!"
“Sister is right!” Lian Ze chuckled.
“Discussion? This is so sudden, what matter is there? oh”Third Aunt sighed at the side.