Lin Yu sang and laughed with her cousins as they ran along the riverside towards their house. For the last few days, these children snuck out of the farms to play at the foot of the mountains, having so much fun that they almost forgot about the time.
Days like these were unthinkable in the past.
The three children of the Lin family were different from other kids their age in Datong village. By the time they could reason, they had depended on one another as they grew. By the time they were mobile, their grandmother had ordered them to farm the lands. And before they were tall enough to reach the tables, they were made to climb on chairs to wipe down tables and do laundry for the entire family while the adults were out working…
Even the poorest leper lived better lives than them!
They say that mended clothes can last for another three years, but after getting mended over and over, the clothes on Lin Qing’s and Lin Yu’s backs were nothing more than a patchwork of torn fabrics…
When Lin Yu heard the tales of the White-Haired Girl*, she secretly drew comparisons of her family’s own plights with the main protagonist, who was also a poor child. While their grandmother, young aunt, and uncle were the evil Huang Shiren! They only knew to exploit them and behaved worse than the villain landlord himself! Huang Shiren was probably not evil enough to treat his own grandchildren the way they did. (*TL Note: White-Haired Girl is a Chinese opera that stars a poor woman whose family was exploited cruelly and driven to suicide by a villainous landlord, Huang Shiren. It is a propaganda piece of how the rich would get their just desserts for exploiting the poor.)
Lin Yu also felt a little resentful towards her parents, along with her second uncle and his wife. Even her grandmother knew to protect her young aunt and uncle from hard labor, so where were the adults to protect them?
At the time, no matter the season, her greatest wish was for a hero to appear that could soundly defeat her grandmother and give them a better life!
Every day she clung to that dream. With each passing day, she knew that those bad thoughts had gradually grown in her heart, and she dreamt of the day when she would be successful so she could, one day, give that young aunt and her grandmother a vicious scolding. That ambitious dream gave way to desperate thoughts of escape, and even then, she wondered if her parents would ever regret failing to protect her if she were to one day disappear from their lives.
On that fateful day, she was busy with housework when she heard her anxious granduncle arrive at their doorstep, telling her grandmother and mother that her father was no more. What did he mean by ‘no more’? She did not understand it, and by the time she did, she realized she would never see her father again.
Though she often felt that her parents failed to protect her brother and her, she knew in her heart that no matter how exhausted she was after laboring in the fields, her mother would always come back home to tidy up the house because she was worried that her children might be overworked; and no matter how difficult life was, her father would always make time to talk to her and her brother…
The evil aunt of hers said that grandmother would chase Mama away, that Mama was a jinx…
She was at a complete loss, and her brother could only cry! Despite being scared out of her wits, she still had to comfort her older brother.
She really did not get it. Ever since she was young, her parents insisted that she had to be filial and show respect for her granny, uncle, and aunt. To never lose her temper, be diligent, and work hard… But despite doing all that, why was she still in such a sorry state? Why did her awful aunt and granny still get to live a good life?
Of course, it was all different now.
There was a lot of smoke coming from the old house, and steam was piping out of the ceramic roof tiles. Most children at this age were sensitive to smell, so with a whiff, they could identify the undeniably delicious aroma of meat coming from those tiles.
Needless to say, there was definitely tasty meat inside!
As Lin Xiong deeply inhaled the smell of freshly cooked meat, his eyes were glued to the dining table. A blissful expression filled his small face, and a small flush spread across his excited cheeks.
Lin Qing helplessly knocked on Lin Xiong’s head before turning around to shut the doors properly. This was the first step to eating meat. If the smell gets out, it would be difficult to explain it.
Speaking of, without much of the original host’s memories, she never knew her eldest aunt was such a good cook!
However, in the past, most of the dishes were prepared by Sun Jinhua, and her methods were seriously unorthodox. With a single wipe of an oily cloth, she considered that enough oil for cooking, and then after “frying” the vegetables, she would use chopsticks to carefully pick out the vegetables and lay them on a plate, preserving every drop of the vegetable oil in the pot! Then she would use that little amount of vegetable oil to make a pot of clear soup. If she was in a good mood, she might even add an egg and consider it a feast!
Given how little everything was, according to Sun Jinhua, there was no need to be so particular about food. They were just farmers anyway!
And it was through this penny-pinching method that this household was able to accumulate quite a bit of wealth, despite having three sons with each of their separate families.
Of course, now the money no longer belonged to Sun Jinhua.
“I really don’t understand why these useless bums need to be fed with good food. We should have left it for our Jiandang for when he comes back home. These kids are insensible. I have chosen the wrong daughter-in-law back then…” Sun Jinhua walked into the house to find these three kids drooling at the edge of the table and felt extremely irritated, “What are you looking at, hurry up and get in! What if we have to give other people food if they see this spread?!”
Sun Jinhua hated the gluttonous looks on these three children. None of them looked like they would amount to anything. Her precious Xinghua and Jiandang are much better than them. That’s how gentle folk from the city are! Unlike this lot!
She silently spat those words, but not daring to cause an outrage. If that devil woman Dan Jingqiu were to hear it, she would definitely let her have it.
Thinking back on their last few fights, Dan Jingqiu had aggressively scolded her right here in this house and was not the least bit concerned that the villagers might call her a shrew behind her back. She just couldn’t understand; just where did this woman come from in this day and age?
Dan Jingqiu, who was currently in the middle of her domestic chores, would have died laughing if she could hear those words.
After all, she saw herself standing more to gain in this situation. It would be no skin off her nose if someone else were to talk behind her back.
In fact, the more people proclaimed her as a mother-in-law-abusing-shrew, the more control she has over the household. On the other hand, upon gaining sympathy, would Sun Jinhua stop bullying the children and her second daughter-in-law, Wu Qiuyun, in front of other villagers?
Of course not.
Dan Jingqiu’s gaze slightly wavered on Xinghua’s figure as she walked past her.
Even from behind, a small patch of that gleaming dark skin tone could be seen from the back of Xinghua’s neck, causing Dan Jingqiu to feel slightly guilty. After all, when she first appeared in this world, Xinghua’s paleness rivaled those ladies in the city, and now…she’s darker than the village’s darkest farmer. When she smiled, other than her carefully maintained white teeth, there was nothing else that could be made out on Xinghua’s face…
After a short walk, she arrived at a house at the foot of Datong mountain. Since they lived separately from Lin Yaoxi’s family, there was a distance between the Lin residences and the village, but this also provided Dan Jingqiu the opportunity to hunt a few wild animals, such as rabbits and geese, on top of their daily work points. This abundance of food was how the Lin family was able to fill up better—— even if the rest of the world thought they looked skinnier than before.
Naturally, the villagers did not suspect a thing. Even the drama-loving Li Cuihua had seen Sun Jinhua broke into a tremor whenever Dan Jingqiu was nearby and made up her own assumptions ——
That’s right! This was the doings of that evil daughter-in-law!
As for explaining the weight gain of the family members, they also came up with a rationale that defended the Lin family. It must be because that evil daughter-in-law, Dan Jingqiu, had failed at balancing the household budget and only knew to spend frivolously! A daughter-in-law who cannot take care of a household is indeed abusive trash! She would regret it later.
The Lin family who knew the truth: ??
The wild chicken she caught last night after work has been cleaned and along with the rest of the ingredients she had prepared in a stew pot this morning, the bird was already fully cooked on the bamboo steamer. Paired with wild greens that she had picked up a few days ago, fried with chicken giblets, it made for a scrumptious meal.
The wild chicken was a copy of the steamed chicken that Dan Jingqiu ate in her previous life. All it required was a layer of ginger on the bottom of the stew pot, have the chicken treated with a thorough salt rub, and add scallions to the boiling water to create a soup broth while the meat was cooked.
Maybe it was because of the era they were living in, or maybe it was the uniqueness of a time period that lacked materialistic pursuits, but Dan Jingqiu felt that every food she prepared this year was exceptionally delicious.
After all, not everyone was capable of catching a chicken and cooking it whole without hassle.
The children stood on the side with adorably dumb expressions. Dan Jingqiu helplessly patted their little heads one after another, directing them to prepare the dining table as she made her way to the kitchen to fry those chicken giblets over a hearty fire.
A little after the side dishes were done, the other team of farmers that consisted of Lin Yaoxi and his second son’s family had also returned.
The house became lively, with chopsticks flying everywhere. There was a saying that ‘words fail before food and sleep,’ and though it was not a practice upheld firmly amongst farming laborers, the extremely tasty dishes have completely taken over everyone’s tongues.
With a belly round with food, even Sun Jinhua, who consistently nagged about waste and was the most fearful of Dan Jingqiu’s influence, was busy moving her chopsticks, completely overwhelmed by the tender flavors on her tongue.
As for her daughter, Xinghua, knowing that all the food was distributed evenly in everyone’s bowls, she was fine as long as there was enough for her. If she were to complain, no doubt Dan Jingqiu would only teach her a lesson. No way she was going to complain when there was nothing to gain!
Dan Jingqiu ate very slowly, but she still finished before the children. With a slight pause, she threw out a hot topic in the middle of the dining table.
“I was just thinking, perhaps we should allow Xinghua to stay at home, how about…”
Before she could finish her sentence, everyone could not help but do a double-take at Xinghua’s appearance. Their Xinghua has darkened to the point that even her own family members were afraid… And those young fellows that used to stop by their house for no good reason have all but disappeared without a trace.
Sun Jinhua was pleasantly taken aback. Has the evil daughter-in-law grown a conscience?
Xinghua was teary-eyed. S-she had undergone so many hardships!
Lin Qing, who had just filled herself with a bowl of rice, suddenly lost her appetite. These last few carefree days, would it all be ruined if this garbage aunt of hers makes a comeback?
Suddenly recalling something she overheard from Xiao Lizi, the farming brigade captain’s grandson, Lin Qing came up with an idea on the spot.
Shyly raising her head, she widened her eyes and put up an inquisitive expression: “Granny, Auntie, I heard from Lizi that his grandfather said there would be some city folk coming to our village to farm, something about youth education, what does that mean?”
She watched as her grandmother and her young aunt’s eyes flitted back and forth, and a fascinated expression appeared on her otherwise dark and blurry face.
Xinghua gently chirped: “Sister-in-law, I think it is a good thing to help out the family. I’ll continue to earn work points.”