Chapter 71: Tian Niu Does Not Want to Wed
On the 29th afternoon of the twelfth lunar month, Tian Dabao made his way to their house through the half melted snow.
“Shifu, Shi Niang, my mother said that today we will go to the temple to offer sacrifices to our ancestors and you are invited to eat lunch with us after. Don’t say otherwise, or else my head will suffer another hit.” After delivering his mother’s message, Tian Dabao rubbed Xiao Chun’s head and went off with him to play in the northern yard.
Su Shuilian smiled and shook her head. Though many said this child’s temper had matured a lot, she does not agree. Which thirteen year old child still acts as carefree and playful as him?
Looking down, she started to hum the only tune she knew. With a damp towel, Su Shuilian started to wipe down the porcelain flower pot before watering the plant in it with some tea that was left overnight. After that she made her way to the kitchen, meeting up with Lin Si Yao who had just picked some vegetables from the southern yard garden.
“A Yao, Aunt Tian wants us over for lunch today, they said it will be after they pay tribute to their ancestors.” As Su Shuilian relayed the message, she helped Lin Si Yao as she took the large tub of the assorted cabbages and placed it in the corner of the kitchen counter. This much cabbage was enough for them to eat for two whole days.
“You do not have to go if you don’t want to.” It did not matter to him. Lin Si Yao walked towards the washbasin and filled a ladle full of water to wash his hands and face with.
“How can we do that?” When she heard Lin Si Yao’s reaction, she looked over at him, “How about inviting them over for lunch today, after all it’s not good to always eat at their place.” However, looking at the table, it would only seat six people, and because of that, they had only commissioned six chairs to be made.
“How about waiting until spring. We can treat them to a meal at a restaurant.” He had already planned this out. During her birthday, they will celebrate in a private room in Wu Qin Restaurant. He will also invite the Lao and Tian family as well as other people she is familiar with to celebrate. That was to be done during the noon, as for the evening, it belonged to him only.
“Ok.” Su Shuilian nodded her head without any objections.
Ever since they had moved, and even when they had gotten married in Fan Hua Town, over half the villagers had came to give their help and blessings. Especially Lao and Tian House, they would always visit from time to time giving them helpful advice and pointers. If it weren’t for these helpful neighbors, their house wouldn’t have been so beautiful and prosperous.
So charitable and friendly… Su Shuilian could not help but smile.
Of course, there were people like Hua House, who only knew how to calculate and scheme; to never let any profit slide away from their fingers.
Fortunately, they were located in the most remote, southwest corner of town. Even their closest neighbor, Lao House and Wen House were 500 meters away. So for the poniang that were more difficult to deal with, which, even if they wanted to nit pick at them, it would take them roughly a half an hour to walk to their house to complain.
Su Shuilian secretly laughed. It was definitely a good idea to have bought this remotely located house. They were safe from the ‘powerful’ poniang that would otherwise make her feel uncomfortable.
“Aiyo, don’t make so much of a fuss anymore, just come with Dabao and eat a meal. No need to bring anything.” Aunt Tian awkwardly said as she received the dried prawns from Su Shuilian.
“I come and disturb you so often that I feel kinda sorry for it. I would be ashamed to arrive empty handed.” Su Shuilian smiled sweetly as she replied back.
“You silly girl, your A Yao has really taught you how to deal with others…. Fine. I concede. I, Aunt Tian, will accept it. Before you go back home, remember to take some of our homemade sorghum. This liquor is most suitable for drinking over the New Year.” Aunt Tian smiled wryly as she placed the bag of dried prawns into the kitchen cabinet before turning back and signaling them to sit down.
After Su Shuilian and Lin Si Yao politely greeted the second head of the Tian house, they sat together on the seats that Aunt Tian had insisted on leading them to.
“Come, come, come, don’t be so embarrassed! Since you’re Dabao’s shifu and shi niang, you aren’t considered strangers. I don’t really know what ya’ll like to eat, so feel free to try anything on the table.”
“Ok, don’t worry about us Aunt Tian, we can help ourselves. Oh yes, where is your daughter? I don’t see her around?” Su Shulian asked curiously as she looked around and failed to see Tian Niu.
“What are you still doing in the inner compartment of the house? Your Shuilian jie came over—” Aunt Tian yelled into the sleeping room of Tian Niu before turning back to face Su Shuilian and Lin Si Yao to explain: “That girl had been like this since yesterday. She suddenly came back home and shouted that she no longer wants to wed into her fiance’s family. We had already exchanged our greetings and sent our dowry to them, how could we just recklessly decide to back out of the marriage. If this leaks out, won’t our family be the laughing stock of this whole town?” Aunt Tian had been carrying this burden and worry on her chest for a while, so as soon as Su Shuilian asked, she spilt the whole situation out.
“Ah? This…” once Su Shuilian heard this, she stood speechless and shocked. Turning back to face Lin Si Yao, as she did not know how to respond back to Aunt Tian.
“Why can’t we back out? Why can’t we just back out?” Unexpectedly, the daughter of Tian suddenly jumped out of the her room, rubbing her bloodshot eyes as she said in a complaining like voice: “Xiao Fang said, that person had been seen playing around with a widow in our town! I don’t want to marry him! Never!” After she was done emptying out her belly full of anger, Tian Niu went back into her room and slammed the door. The sound of her slamming the door resonated in the room. Leaving everyone in shock as they looked at each other, speechless.
“If you don’t want to, then just don’t marry.” Tian Dabao said, breaking the silence around the dinner table.
“You rascal, how can you say that.” Angry, Aunt Tian raised her chopsticks and knocked onto Tian Dabao’s head. “Don’t talk nonsense. If your sister were to back out on this marriage, do you think you will be able to find a partner later? Ai!” Was she angry.
“That… Aunt Tian…” Su Shuilian lightly patted on Aunt Tian’s hand as she persuading: “Sorry if I seem too nosy, however, I feel Tian Niu’s words may not be completely unreasonable. Why not we investigate this? What if it’s really as she claims it to be? Then when she marries, wouldn’t that cause Tian Niu’s future life to be full of grievance?
When she heard this, Aunt Tain realised that may be the case. When Tian Niu came home that day screaming that she refused to marry, she was too angry to think about this possibility. She had only thought about the fifteen gold that the groom’s family had given to them. If they were to back out on the marriage, not only will she have to return the fifteen gold, their house will suffer in reputation and the future of finding a marriage partner for Tian Dabao may suffer with it. But if he really was with a widow, then once her daughter were to marry into the family, then sooner or later, a fight may break out. And if her daughter weren’t to say a thing, then, her reputation will still suffer.
“Shui girl may be right. Tomorrow I will go to Qingtian town and ask around. I’ll let you know when I get back.” While Aunt Tian was still in a daze thinking, Tian Dafu spoke out. Since it was him who had arranged this marriage, if something were really wrong, he might as well walk to retract the marriage with his head held high.
The second head of Tian House nodded in agreement. This was his niece, although she is headstrong at times, she is still hard working. However, because he was well aware of her temper, he chose not to speak, or else, she may direct her anger at him.
“But tomorrow…. Ai, ok then be careful, best not to let any familiar person catch wind of this problem.” Aunt Tian had wanted him to go check this problem out after new years, however, if Tian Niu’s claims were really true, then its best not to drag the problem out for any longer. Only after she had repeatedly warned him did Aunt Tian walked back towards the kitchen table where Lin Si Yao and Su Shuilian were sitting.
“Sorry that you two had to see something so embarrassing. Tian Niu never complains about anything, but now I’m so worried that I’ve even lost my appetite.” Aunt Tian picked up a piece of roasted chicken thigh and placed it on the plate in front of Su Shuilian and then a piece of pig trotters on the plate of Lin Si Yao. “Quickly eat it, once it’s cold, it will not taste as good. Today still counts as a small holiday, so come and enjoy yourselves.Let us two families look forward to the coming years ahead!”
“Aunt Tian, let me go and try to persuade your daughter to come out and eat.” After thinking for a bit, Su Shuilian proposed her idea to Aunt Tian, since this was still a small holiday, it is supposed to be enjoyed by the whole family. Plus, Tian Niu must be feeling quite unwell at the moment.
“Then…. You can go and try…. Just be careful, with her explosive temper, you may get hurt.” Aunt Tian was naturally thinking of her daughter, however with her last outburst, she did not have the courage to face her. So when Su Shuilian spoke up, she was naturally happy.
“It won’t.” Su Shuilian shook her head before she got up and walked towards Tian Niu’s sleeping quarter.
“Shuilian jie, you don’t understand, once I heard what Xiao Fang told me, I was really hurt inside.” Tian Niu laid on the blanket as she explained in a muffled voice towards Shuilian.
“I can understand.” Su Shuilian nodded her head as she sat at the edge of the bed. She lightly patted her shoulders, “But every women share the single-mindedness of wanting the best for themselves.”
“Yes, but how can he, who looks like a capable man, be associated with that widow?” Tian Niu picked her head up and sniffled before glancing at Su Shuilian. Seeing that Shuilian did not display any look of ridicule, Tian Niu opened up more as she began to talk more about her husband to be in Qingtian Town.
To be clear, she had only met him twice. Of course, these events only happened after the proposal was made. The first time was on the first month of the year, during the Lantern Festival*. On that day, Qing Tian Town invited a theatrical troupe so she took Dabao to watch. He had picked them up that day. The second time was on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month. On that day, the two of them and some other girls from all three villages went to the city to watch the Fairy’s Night Parade*. Although, during both of those times they did not interact much, but she still felt the sweetness in her heart growing.
*(上元节 – Celebrated on the 15th day of the first Chinese lunar month, the Lantern Festival traditionally marks the end of the Chinese New Year Spring Festival period. People will go out to look at the moon, send up flying lanterns, fly bright drones, have a meal, and enjoy time together with family and friends.)
*(Chapter 11 in case anyone forgot.)
But yesterday, at a distant relative’s house, she had encounter with her childhood friend, Liu Xiao Fang. When she had heard about the gossip, she was left motionless. Restraining her anger from embarrassment, she had walked her way home before mustering the courage to confront her mother, telling her of her decision to cancel the proposal.
“Since the whole situation is yet to be sorted, no one is willing to make any final decisions yet. Your father has said that he would go to Qing Tian Town tomorrow and ask around. If what you heard is the truth, I think your wish will also be granted by them.” Su Shuilian said as she continued to persuade Tian Niu. While at the same time, she dragged her towards the dining table.
“Sit down and enjoy the meal. You probably didn’t have a good dinner last night or a good breakfast this morning right?” Su Shuilian smiled, giving a glance at Tian Niu. “Silly girl, if you have anything to say, properly discuss it with your mom and dad. You are all a family, is it worth throwing a fit?”
“Shuilian jie…” Tian Niu embarrassingly lowered her head. Su Shuilian was only but a year older than her, but she was not as rash as she was. At the same time, after her outburst, she had been feeling much better. With her head lowered, she allowed Su Shuilian to drag her out of her room and into the kitchen where she sat between her mother and Su Shuilian.
“Alright let’s eat. Look, the food’s already gotten cold.” Aunt Tian did not say anything else as she picked up the steamed squid that Tian Niu loved and placed it on her bowl.
The meal finally and peacefully came to an end.
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