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IHAS – 16

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Chapter 16: Arc 1: Rural Love 16 – Sweetheart

Within a short period of time, Huang Dan’s expressions fluctuated ceaselessly. He patted the grass scraps on his trousers as if nothing had happened. “Mom, why are you here?”

“I’ll be going to the upper river field to get some river snails.” As she was passing by, Chen Jin Hua carried a basket of vegetables and looked at the old Taoist Priest who had crossed the hillside. “Dong Tian, who is that?”

Huang Dan continued to pat the grass scraps. “He seems to be a fortune teller.”

Chen Jin Hua said, “Fortune teller? Is he the one who He Wei’s family found?”

Huang Dan said, “It’s possible.”

Chen Jin Hua sighed, “This is funny, how can life be counted?” 

She seemed to have thought of something, “Dong Tian, Mom saw you sitting with the old Taoist priest from afar. You didn’t tell your fortune, did you?”

Huang Dan shook his head. “I’m not superstitious.” It seemed that Chen Jinhua did not hear anything, which was also preferable.

“That’s good.”

Chen Jin Hua headed for the village. “Life is evil and can’t be counted casually. Some people had their fortunes predicted but on the contrary, they destroyed their good life and harmed themselves.”

Huang Dan asked curiously, “Really?”

Chen Jinhua said, “The older generation always said that fools had their own blessing and that knowing more is not necessarily a good thing.”

Huang Dan felt it made sense and said, “That’s right too.”

Chen Jin Hua turned her head. “Last time, Li Gen helped us cut the rice crops, this time, his family will be transplanting the rice crops, you go and help him, don’t let everyone think that we are heartless.”

Huang Dan’s mouth twitched. The rice crops at his side were sowed a little later. He had to wait a little longer before he could transplant his rice crops, hence, he had the time to stroll around. Li Gen’s side was fast and he was getting busy.

But he didn’t want to go to the fields very much. There were both locusts and ants. “I’ll go tomorrow. It’s almost dark.”

Chen Jin Hua agreed.

After getting home, Chen Jin Hua sat in the courtyard, took off the tails of the river snails one by one and soaked them in the pot. She dropped a few drops of perfumed oil into it and cleaned them afterwards.

At dinner, Huang Dan ate fried leek with river snails. This was the most satisfying dish he had eaten ever since he had come here.

He missed his housekeeper.

Chen Jin Hua’s body had the characteristics of a traditional mother. She ate and dressed herself with her child in mind. As usual, she only ate the vegetables without touching a single piece of the river snails’ meat on the plate.

Huang Dan passed some food to Chen Jin Hua several times, but she started nagging and saying that she didn’t like it, so he shouldn’t  give it to her.

After dinner, Chen Jin Hua cleared the table and wiped her oily hands on her short gown casually. “Dong Tian, you stay at home. Mama is going to your Aunt Wang’s house to chat for a while!”

Huang Dan’s voice echoed from the back door of the yard, “Okay.”

The lavatory in the village might have been built by a master. All of them were the same small and humble huts. A big pit was dug in the ground and a jar was buried in to hold the excrement. There were no doors or curtains.

At the moment, Huang Dan was squatting at the edge of the jar, the muscles in his legs were tense and his buttocks were pointing backwards. The most painful thing for him was to go to the toilet as he feared that the excrement would splash onto his buttocks.

This squatting method wasn’t very safe. It was no wonder that the original owner had fallen inside when he was a child.

Huang Dan shook the cattail fan, fanning the odor and the mosquitoes away. While exerting his strength, he assimilated all the clues that he currently knew and arranged them in chronological order.

Li Da Gui and Wu Cui Ling’s marriage was set up by the older generation. They had a child in the second year after their marriage. The child did not live up to one year and the cause of the child’s death was unknown. Two years ago, Li Da Gui was severely hit in the back of his head and died in the river. The lower half of Wang Yue Mei’s body was paralyzed and Li Gen quit his job and returned to the village to take care of her.

Now the biggest suspect was Wang Yue Mei. When she was young, she lived with dignity and enjoyed the favor of many belonging to the opposite sex within the vicinity. Even if she was paralyzed, she was arrogant. She pursued perfection and did not allow any defective products to appear. She liked her excellent and promising eldest son and hated her useless youngest son. This bias was very apparent. She practically did not hide her disgust and disappointment that she had towards her youngest son.

Or in other words, Wang Yue Mei was expressing that only excellent people deserved her attention and praise.

The fortune-teller said that the young wife surnamed Wang had two sons; it was probably about Wang Yue Mei.

Huang Dan frowned while thinking. When he came back to his senses, he realized that his buttocks were surrounded by mosquitoes.

On the other hand, Chen Jin Hua went to Li Family’s house.

Wang Yue Mei just had her dinner. She let Wu Cui Ling fetch water for her. She wiped her hands carefully. Her hands were different from other women in the village. Her fingers were beautiful and long, neither short nor rough.

When Wang Yue Mei finished wiping her hands, Wu Cui Ling went out with the basin and closed the door.

Wang Yue Mei sat on her bed and asked, “Jin Hua, haven’t you already sewn two pairs of shoes for Dong Tian? Why are you still making more?”

Chen Jin Hua pushed the thread into the big needle and swiftly threaded on the sole of the shoe one by one. “Dong Tian, his pair of legs uses a lot of shoes, I’ll make more pairs of shoes for him.”

Wang Yue Mei said, “You’re really so bored that you purposely make yourself busy.”

Chen Jin Hua said, “I’d like to do something else, but Dong Tian doesn’t allow me to go to the fields.”

Wang Yue Mei said, “Dong Tian is filial, he is a good child, he will have good future prospects.”

Chen Jin Hua said, “What future prospects? He can’t read a word or mingle outside. He can’t be compared with your family’s Li Gen. He is the one with bright future prospects. He is really promising and responsible. In order to take care of you, he didn’t even stay in the big city but came back to support this house.”

“Everyone says that Li Gen is a big filial son. You, Wang Yue Mei have given birth to a good son.”

Wang Yue Mei’s face softened. She was both proud and somewhat regretful. “If it weren’t for my body, that child would have been living very well outside. He was dragged down by me.”

Chen Jin Hua consoled, “Don’t think this way. Nobody wants to have a disease or suffer disasters on their own accords. It’s all fate, and we can only bear it.”

“Besides, Li Gen is sensible and has had his own set of ideas since young. He knows what he is doing.”

Wang Yue Mei said, “It will be Old Zhang’s anniversary in a few days.”

The wind blew and the flame in the kerosene lamp in the room swayed. The illumination wasn’t good, so Chen Jin Hua didn’t poke the needles through the soles instead she pricked her hand. She wiped the beads of blood on her pants and said, “Yeah, how time flies. In a flash, Old Zhang would be dead for more than ten years.”

Wang Yue Mei asked, “Did you buy the yellow paper and everything else?”

Chen Jin Hua explained they had been bought. “Dong Tian bought them at the time he had gone to the city.”

“Looking at the days, there shouldn’t be rain for the time being, it’s a good time to go to the grave.” Wang Yue Mei’s throat was dry and she coughed. “Jin Hua, if it weren’t for me, it would’ve been you who would’ve married the village chief.”

Chen Jin Hua seemed unbothered. She laughed and said, “Yue Mei, we are both at the age of having one leg in the coffin. Why are you still talking about this?”

Wang Yue Mei’s expression looked somewhat uncomfortable and it disappeared in a fleeting moment, “Didn’t the conversation lead here? I’m just mentioning it.”

She looked at her and said, “Jin Hua, you’ve worn this gown for such a long time. It’s so dirty. Why don’t you change it?”

“Everyday, I’ll have to go in and out of the house because of different matters. Whatever I wear will surely get dirty. Just let it be.” Chen Jin Hua bent the sole of the shoe a few times and continued to press the needle inside and pulled it out again. “I am not so fortunate like you to have a diligent and capable daughter-in-law, there are much fewer things to worry about.”

Wang Yue Mei’s willow leafed eyebrows scrunched. “Forget it.”

“At this point, she still doesn’t know how to serve a bowl for me. Usually, I would have to tell her to do things. If I don’t say anything, she won’t do anything. Her appearance is also ugly, the only thing is that she has studied more.” There was clear criticism and discontentment in her words.

Chen Jin Hua, who had an old and rough face equipped with even more general facial features, did not say anything.

Wu Cui Ling was at Huang Dan’s place. “Dong Tian, does you Ge have someone he likes?”

Huang Dan was eating a yellow pear in the courtyard. When he heard her words, he expressed that he didn’t know anything.

Wu Cui Ling said, “I saw him making a snake bone chain in the house. It should be a gift for someone.”

Huang Dan took a bite of the pear. “I am not sure.”

Wu Cui Ling asked two questions but got zero answers, so she didn’t ask any more questions. She had realized her infelicities and said “Go to bed early.”

After Wu Cui Ling left, Huang Dan stopped gnawing on the pear momentarily before continuing again. He quickly finished, went to the old locust tree in front of Li Gen’s house, picked up the small soil bumps on the ground and threw them inside the house.

Not long afterward, Li Gen and Huang Dan met in the bushes on the west side of the village. There were many mosquitoes buzzing. One could catch a bunch of them if they stretched out their hands and made a grabbing motion in the air.

Huang Dan said, “I have something to ask you.”

Li Gen hugged his waist, biting his lip with his teeth. “Let’s kiss first, we will talk after we’ve kissed enough.”

Chapter 15 | Chapter 17

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