The busy spring farming didn’t last long. The lively and bustling period came and went quickly. The tasks in the hands of the rural folks became easier as well. They would go to the fields when they had free time, take care of the seedlings, and with the abundant spring rain, fresh and tender wild vegetables on the mountain were slowly growing.
After helping the Xie family with their farming, Lin Fangliang returned to town. He had been away for several days, leaving only Old Doctor Lin alone at home. Lin Fangliang was concerned about leaving his father alone, so even though he was busy with farm work, he often found excuses to talk and spend time with Brother Xie. This prevented him from having time to wander around the back mountains. Before leaving, Brother Xie gave Lin Fangliang a pair of grass shoes. In fact, Lin Fangliang had watched Brother Xie make them and specially requested a pair. Nonetheless, he was still very happy, carrying a sense of reluctance and longing as he returned home.
In the Xu family’s courtyard, occasional chirping sounds came from the little chicks, and the piglet in the pigsty occasionally echoed with a few sounds, adding a rural charm to the courtyard that was originally occupied by only two people.
Li Changfeng was making the wardrobe requested by Second Wei, while Xu Qing sat beside him, diligently making grass shoes. He had made three pairs in the past few days and had become addicted to it. His craftsmanship had also improved. Li Changfeng was currently wearing a pair of grass shoes made by Xu Qing that fit him well.
“Do you think it would be good if we have our own braised chicken in the future?” Xu Qing had already started considering using their slightly grown chickens for that purpose. It had been a while since they had eaten chicken, and seeing a group of small chicks running around in front of him every day made him crave it even more.
Li Changfeng pushed away a knot on the wooden board and replied, “Sure, we can braise all fifteen of them!”
“But I also want to eat eggs!” Xu Qing suddenly thought of the steamed golden egg custard with green onions on top. Oh, just thinking about it made his mouth water.
This request left Li Changfeng at a loss. The chicks were still so small; it would take a while for them to start laying eggs. It seemed like Xu Qing wanted to eat eggs, so he would have to see who in the village had some saved up.
“Knock, knock! Is anyone there?”
Xu Qing put down the half-finished grass shoe in his hand and dusted himself off. “Coming!” He wasn’t familiar with this voice.
“Hello, Little Brother Qing!” Xia Yu, with a bright smile on his face, stood at the courtyard gate with a basket, calling out to Xu Qing.
This title startled Xu Qing, reminding him inexplicably of the *Little Green Snake from the Bai Suzhen legend. “I’m sorry, who are you?” Xu Qing couldn’t recall who this young man was. It was rare for people to come looking for him, and even rarer for young gers to visit him.
*(T/N: The Bai Suzhen legend, also known as the Legend of the White Snake, is a famous Chinese folk tale that has been passed down through generations. It tells the story of a kind-hearted white snake spirit named Bai Suzhen and her love for a mortal man named Xu Xian. In the legend, Bai Suzhen has a companion, a small green snake, often referred to as the Little Green Snake.
Xu Qing’s name can be translated as “Clear/Transparent Jade” in English. The surname “Xu” means “clear” or “transparent,” while “Qing” means “jade.” Therefore, “Xu Qing” can be understood as a name that conveys the imagery of clear or transparent jade. Jade is green and calling Little Brother Qing reminded Xu Qing of the green snake.)
Xia Yu didn’t mind and introduced himself with a cheerful smile, “I’m from the Xia family, Xia Yu!”
The Xia family? Oh, the village head family! Xu Qing immediately realized. In this village, the village head family was the only one with that surname. “Come in quickly. Our house is a bit messy. I apologize for the inconvenience.”
Translated on ho lo lo novels dot com.
Xu Qing noticed Xia Yu looking around before even entering the courtyard gate. He thought maybe he had seen the things Xu Qing had discarded while making the grass shoes and felt a bit embarrassed. After all, it wasn’t good for guests to see his subpar work.
Xia Yu shook his head hurriedly, “No, no! Oh, by the way, this is a handkerchief I embroidered myself. It’s a gift for you!”
Xu Qing looked as Xia Yu took out several handkerchiefs from the basket and handed them to him. Xu Qing didn’t know how to react at this moment. He and Xia Yu had almost no connection whatsoever. What kind of medicine was he selling?
“Come in. Why are you standing at the courtyard gate?” Li Changfeng, not seeing Xu Qing enter for a while, called out loudly.
“I’m coming! Brother Xia, come inside first. This isn’t the place to talk,” Xu Qing responded.
The weather was perfect today, warm and not scorching. The sunlight felt pleasant on the skin. Xia Yu and Xu Qing sat facing each other in the courtyard, feeling a bit awkward.
“Ahem, do you have something to discuss with me? Just say it. We’re fellow villagers, so what is it?” Xia Yu saw Xu Qing gesture toward the basket and immediately felt his face grow warm. Well, he had come to visit without any prior interaction.
“Well, you see, I heard from Wei Ama that you know how to make the spiny fish, so I wanted to come and learn from you.” At first, Xia Yu didn’t believe that spiny fish could be made into a delicious dish. However, many people in the village now knew how to make it from Xie Ama advertising Xu Qing’s dish, and he wanted to learn from Xu Qing. He didn’t trust anyone else since the method was passed down by Xu Qing.
Xu Qing didn’t expect that Xia Yu’s purpose for coming was to learn how to make fish. “That’s no problem. Come, I’ll explain it to you. If there’s anything you don’t understand after listening, you can ask me.”
Li Changfeng listened as Xu Qing carefully explained the process. The sound of his voice inexplicably fascinated him. He looked up and happened to catch Xu Qing’s smile, which stirred something in his heart. Indeed, his wife was the best!
“Do you understand? Do you have any other questions?” Xu Qing asked.
Xia Yu immediately nodded. “I understand. Little Brother Qing, you’re really amazing to come up with such a way to cook fish.”
Xu Qing would have been even happier if it weren’t for the three words ‘Little Brother Qing.’ “You can call me Xu Qing, or Brother Qing is also fine.”
Xia Yu didn’t realize it was because of the ‘Little Brother Qing’ title and thought he simply didn’t like it. He immediately changed his words. “Brother Qing! I understand!”
A child can be taught, indeed. Xu Qing was becoming more and more satisfied with his teaching abilities. “Brother Qing, do you know Young Doctor Lin?” Xia Yu asked Xu Qing in a low voice, being cautious.
As soon as Li Changfeng heard this, he knew what the matter was. That Lin Fangliang guy had broken the hearts of several unmarried young gers in the village. It was not easy to have a man from town come here, but why did he have to leave after only a few days? Several young gers in the village caught a cold, and they liked to go to Lin Fangliang’s shop to “seek treatment.”
“Well, my husband Changfeng and Young Doctor Lin are good brothers. Why?” It seemed that even the young gers came looking for him.
Xia Yu bit his lip. “No, it’s just that I heard someone say that Young Doctor Lin from the town came to our village. I was curious why he wanted to come to our place and even helped with the work.”
Xu Qing was caught off guard by this question. He couldn’t exactly say that Lin Fangliang had ulterior motives for coming. “As a doctor, his thoughts are different from ours. It’s a common occurrence.”
Xia Yu realized that he couldn’t get any more information out of Xu Qing, so he sat for a while and then said his goodbyes and left.
“Tsk tsk, my little Brother Xie has a love rival!” Xu Qing keenly noticed Xia Yu’s thoughts and started to worry about Brother Xie. Now it was Li Changfeng who couldn’t understand. “They haven’t even become a couple yet, why is there already a love rival?”
After closing the courtyard gate, Xu Qing resumed working on what he had in his hands. “I was just thinking…”
“Knock, knock! Is anyone home? It’s Chen Qi!”
Xu Qing hadn’t finished his sentence when the courtyard gate was knocked again.
“Chen Qi! His visit definitely has something to do with his younger brother!” Xu Qing asked Li Changfeng, who was resting, to open the door. He himself tidied up and prepared to make lunch. Chen Qi came all the way here; he couldn’t let him go back on an empty stomach.
“What’s wrong with you?” As soon as Li Changfeng opened the door, he saw Chen Qi’s tired face and a wry smile on his face. “Come in.”
Xu Qing placed the tea on the table in the main hall and was also surprised by Chen Qi’s spirited state. He remembered that this person, like Uncle Xie, always had a cheerful and straightforward personality. After Chen Qi called out to him, his face still had that same expression. Obviously, he was hiding something in his heart. “I’ll go prepare the meal. You guys talk.”
Li Changfeng pulled a chair and sat opposite Chen Qi. “Tell me, what’s going on? How did things turn out like this?”
Chen Qi rubbed his face with both hands. “After you guys told me about Ma Fugui’s situation, I went back and told my family the whole story. They were also surprised. At first, they didn’t believe it, but later they secretly inquired in town. Damn it, they really hid it from us! So that night, I went to the Ma family to break off the engagement. Who would have thought…”
But who knew that the Ma family would refuse to break off the engagement? They even called Ma Fugui’s cousin, who works in the yamen, in the middle of the night. They said that the Chen family couldn’t keep their word, and if this matter were brought to the yamen, someone would be punished!
“Don’t think that we farmers don’t understand yamen matters. In order to prevent Xiao Hong from marrying someone like that, I had to put in a lot of effort to persuade the Ma family to agree and cancel the engagement.”
Li Changfeng felt that this matter wasn’t so simple. If it had been canceled just like that, Chen Qi wouldn’t be in his current state. “Did they change their minds afterwards?”
Chen Qi wearily shook his head. “Even until now, I can’t believe it. Xiao Hong actually still wants to marry Ma Fugui. What kind of situation is this? We put in so much effort to persuade the Ma family, but Xiao Hong, he… sigh!”
Because Chen Hong insisted on marrying Ma Fugui, the Chen family found themselves in a deadlock. They had worked hard to convince the Ma family to break off the engagement, and now Chen Hong was causing trouble again by insisting on marrying him. However, the Chen family couldn’t trust sending Chen Hong over to the Ma family knowing what kind of person he was. Besides, they had already broken off the engagement. If they let him marry him now, wouldn’t it be like throwing themselves at a loss? But if they didn’t let him marry, Chen Hong would throw a tantrum at home, saying that if he couldn’t marry Ma Fugui, he wouldn’t marry anyone else!
“I’ve been going crazy these past few days. You tell me, what is Xiao Hong thinking? He wasn’t like this before!” Chen Qi couldn’t understand why Chen Hong would make such a decision. Moreover, since Ma Fugui was divorced and had no children, his wife had been feeling down these days as well.
“Did you go to the Ma family later and talk about it?” Li Changfeng frowned. He couldn’t imagine that things would turn out like this because of Chen Hong. In his memory, Chen Hong wasn’t the type of person to say that he wouldn’t marry anyone if it wasn’t Ma Fugui.
Chen Qi shook his head. “How could we go to their house to talk about this again? We insisted on breaking off the engagement. We canceled it and then went back to beg them. Isn’t that like slapping our own faces?!”
And even if the Ma family agrees, once Chen Hong marries into their family, won’t he be looked down upon? How will he live in the future?
Li Changfeng nodded. This matter was indeed difficult to handle, but it was a family matter for the Chen family, and he couldn’t directly help. “Why did you come here today?”
“Thank you for telling me about Ma Fugui’s situation. I was in a hurry last time and didn’t have a chance to thank you. Also, the atmosphere at home is too oppressive. I came out to breathe.”
Chen Qi’s wife hadn’t been talking much to him these past few days, and his communication with the Chen family had decreased as well. Chen Qi was busy with Chen Hong’s affairs and hadn’t paid much attention to his own wife’s reaction. After realizing this, he wanted to communicate with his wife, but unexpectedly, “My wife went back to his natal family this morning. I went to look for him, but my father-in-law said he should stay there for a few days. I had no choice but to leave.”
UPDATE 10 June 2023: Dear readers, I’m currently retranslating the entire novel from the beginning, so if you see some discrepancies, please bear with me 😀 I’m retranslating the chapters as fast as I can to catch up with your speed lol