That night, Shen JunXi went out of the city overnight and walked for more than an hour at night before returning to ChaShan Village. When he got home, his mother and father had already had dinner. His father was resting in the room, and his mother was doing needlework under the dim light.
Suddenly seeing Shen JunXi coming back, Shen’s mother Yang Shi* quickly put down the needle and thread in her hand, wiped the tears from the corner of her eye, then stood up and asked, “Why did Xi ge* come back?” Normally, when Shen JunXi went to town to sell tea, he either came back early, or spent the night at a classmate’s house. He came back so late tonight and this was the first time.
*(T/N: 氏 - Shi, used after a married woman’s maiden surname, which is the same as née.
哥儿(gēr)- brothers, boys.
It’s the same word as ger (哥儿) in those ger novels but here it means ‘boy’ or ‘son’.
e.g. 熙哥儿 is either ‘Xi boy’, ‘son Xi’ or ‘Xi ge’ and I think translating it to ‘brother ~’ is better. But I personally find it weird for parents to call their son ‘brother~’ so I’ll just use pinyin and to distinguish from ger, I’ll use ‘ge’ in my translation. If you have any better suggestions, feel free to teach me!)
Shen JunXi put down the basket on his back and simply said in sign language: I was delayed on the road.
Yang Shi was soft-tempered, and whatever her son says, she would believe it. She asked a few words of concern and asked her son to wash up. She went to the kitchen to make noodles for her son.
Father Shen, Shen DongMing, had been picking tea in the tea fields all day, and was so exhausted that he went to bed early. Afraid of waking up his father, Shen JunXi was cautious when passing the door. He came to the open-air courtyard, filled a bucket of cold water in the dark night, took off his clothes, and slowly washed his body with a thin cloth.
When his fingers brushed his waist, he paused for a moment, and there was still the tactile sensation of being wrapped around by a pair of long legs. This thought caused him to shiver slightly, and then his abdomen tightened, causing him to blush completely.
Fortunately, Shen JunXi was used to being calm, even if there’s a reaction under the abdomen, he could still continue to wash calmly, as if nothing had happened.
“Xi ge, come and eat noodles.” Yang Shi brought out the noodles and placed them in front of Shen JunXi. She smiled lovingly and said, “Mother added eggs for you. Hurry up and eat.”
Shen JunXi gestured to Yang Shi. It made Yang Shi smile and also feel sorry for him more: “Eat quickly, go to bed after eating. You still have to pick tea tomorrow.” Watching her son eating noodles in a refined manner, Yang Shi wiped tears secretly. Before, her son Xi ge was not pitiful like this at all, it was all because of her broken body that the voice of Xi ge was ruined.
Five years ago, Shen JunXi was a scholar who was envied by everyone in ChaShan Village. He planned to take the exam, but was delayed because of his mother Yang Shi’s illness. Not only that, but also because he caught a cold in the heavy rain, and the heavy cold got worse and worse. In the end, the person was fine, but he was unable to speak anymore.
Originally, he was a talented scholar, but after hurting his throat, he couldn’t take the imperial examination, and couldn’t speak anymore. Yang Shi cried for two full years because of this incident. This year was the fifth year. Her family’s scholar had already fallen from the clouds and became a well-known dumb scholar in ChaShan Village.
After Shen JunXi finished eating the noodles, he saw his mother crying for him again. Feeling a little helpless, he got up and walked over, and he gently embraced his mother’s thin shoulders, patted and comforted her.
He is fine, really fine.
It did not matter if he couldn’t speak anymore. He had learned sign language, and his family could understand it, so they could communicate with him. It’s okay if he couldn’t take the imperial examination, he could still read and study, and he would focus more on farming, and manage the ten mu of tea plantations in his family well to support the family.
In the past, his family spent a lot of money to support his studies, but at the end of the day, he didn’t even have the emergency money for his mother’s medical treatment. Only then did he realize that his imperial examination path was a drag on his family. It didn’t matter if he was a dumb, he would put down his pen and ink, roll up his sleeves, and be a farmer.
“Okay, mother won’t cry, so you don’t have to worry.” Yang Shi brushed away her son’s hand and returned to her usual appearance. No, it was firmer than usual and she said, “Don’t worry, your father and I have already saved enough money for the bride price. I’ll save for a few more days and you will marry a wife, so that those wicked busybodies will know that our family is not incapable of marrying a daughter-in-law.”
Shen JunXi patted Yang Shi’s hand and said there’s no hurry. Yang Shi felt guilty and said: “Mother is not doing this for those rotten things. I am doing this for you. If it weren’t for my serious illness, your father and I would have already hugged a grandson.” She sighed and said: “Fortunately Xiao Lan doesn’t have that kind of snobbish attitude. It’s true that she has a marriage contract with you, but it’s not easy for the girl too, and she is still willing to wait for you for so many years.”
After the incident happened, those who flattered their family hid one by one, they just afraid that they would reach out to borrow money. Even the Xue family, the in-laws who were engaged in advance, stopped their daughter Xue Lan from coming to visit.
At that time, Shen JunXi was eighteen years old and Xue Lan was thirteen years old. The two families agreed to get them married in two years. Of course it didn’t go as planned later. The Xue family wanted Xue Lan to marry elsewhere, but Xue Lan herself didn’t want to. The Xue parents couldn’t control her, so they had no choice but to stop her from seeing Shen JunXi.
And five years had passed just like this. They seldom saw Xue Lan and Xue Lan’s family, they only knew that Xue Lan had not married yet.
Yang Shi’s heart was soft, she only thought that Xue Lan was still waiting for Shen JunXi, and every time she would say Xue Lan is good in front of her son, telling him to treat Xue Lan well in the future.
Shen JunXi had seen too much fickleness of human relationships, so he didn’t take Yang Shi’s words seriously. The matter between him and Xue Lan, there most probably wouldn’t have any result. Xue Lan’s family was one of the richest households in ChaShan Village, and they might have decided to engage with the Shen family at that time just because Shen JunXi was a scholar.
Now Shen JunXi was mute, and it was hopeless to take the imperial examination. He could only have the reputation of a scholar all his life, and he wouldn’t accomplish anything. The Xue family would definitely not allow Xue Lan to marry him, otherwise it would not be delayed until today.
Only his silly parents thought that Xue Lan hadn’t married yet because they hadn’t saved enough money, and when they saved enough money, she would definitely marry him.
Thinking about these things, Shen JunXi’s clear eyes were rarely dim. He was not sad because he couldn’t marry Xue Lan, but sad because of those silly parents. And he was working hard to live a better life now, trying not to let his parents be ridiculed and laughed at.
“Okay, you go in and rest. Mother still has to embroider the flower petals, so I won’t nag you anymore.” Yang Shi urged him to go to bed.
Shen Jun used sign language to persuade Yang Shi not to embroider too late, as it would hurt her eyes.
“I know, you go quickly.” Yang Shi nodded and said.
Shen JunXi also nodded, but stayed with Yang Shi for a while before getting up and going in to rest. Taking off his coat and sitting on the simple bed, looking at this dark and old hut, he felt ashamed of the thought that had flashed by in his mind.
Their family was poor, and he was not considerate, so he might as well think about how to live a good life when he had time, instead of thinking about those wild daydreams.
That joyful scene in the evening was just like.......... a touch of rosy clouds in this old house. He didn’t need to remember it too well, it’s enough to take it out and think about it once in a while.
He was really tired today. Shen JunXi fell asleep shortly after lying down, and slept until dawn.