Chapter 72: Rid of Old, Welcome the New
After they had their meal at Tian House the couple left with a goodbye. In one hand, Lin Si Yao carried a jar of sorghum as they were walking down the village road, side by side, basking in the sun.
The thin ice sheet had melted away on the road. With a quick look at the surroundings, the roof of every house in the vicinity and its patio was blanketed in a thick layer of snow. Under the warm rays from the sun, the snow shined and sparkled with a luster. It was a charming sight.
With such a quiet winter afternoon, it really felt like everything was truly at peace.
“This day was full of happiness right?” Su Shuilian asked in an assuring tone.
“Mhm.” Lin Si Yao smiled and nodded as he gazed at her beautiful face complimented by the beautiful scenery.
Su Shuilian smiled back.
She really wanted to thank her second mother and her half sister Shuiyan. To allow her to come here and meet the seemingly cold and unpredictable, and silent, but passionate, gentle, and considerate man in front of her now. As well as to allow her to leave her past life in a family that seemed so calm on the outside, but always so suppressing in the inside.
During the thirtieth before New Year’s Eve, the loud fireworks finally sounded in Fan Hua Town.
After Lin Si Yao and Su Shuilian drank hot corn porridge and ate whole grain mantou for breakfast, Su Shuilian was chased out of the kitchen. She did not know whether she should be laughing or crying as she returned back to the house to change the bedsheets and fold their clothes.
As for Lin Si Yao, once he finished cleaning up the kitchen, he filled a basin with water and took a clean, dry cloth before exiting the kitchen.
First, he cleaned all the window frames. After that, he cleaned the eastern and western entrances. Next, he cleaned the northern and southern doors of the house that led to the main room and kitchen respectively. Lastly, he cleaned the main entrance into the household before looping back to clean every window thoroughly once more. This took the entirety of yesterday’s afternoon. In the meantime, Su Shuilian took her time to stick up the couplets and the large “福*” on all the windows and doors of the house.
(福 – good fortune or happiness)
Apart from the couplets describing the wonderful beginning of spring on the northern, southern, and main entrances in the house, Su Shuilian pasted many auspicious sayings like “in with the new and out with the old” onto the various entrances. While on the remaining doors and windows, were the words “福” written on red diamond shaped auspicious paper. The word flipped upside down to symbolise “prosperity entering the house*”.
(So in chinese, the word upside down[颠倒了] also has another meaning, which is ‘to arrive’[倒了])
Xiao Chun circled a few rounds at the feet of Lin Si Yao, who was concentrating on setting up the decorations, before finally biting onto one of the “福” paper decorations. He then returned to his and Xiao Xue‘s home with pride. At the doghouse entrance was Xiao Xue lazing under the warmth of the sun with her eyes closed. Xiao Chun walked up to Xiao Xue, called out “woowoo”, as if saying: ‘this looks quite fun. How about we give it a try as well…’
Of course, the reply was an uninterested humph.
Seeing this happen, Su Shuilian laughed and took the “福” paper from the mouth of Xiao Chun and poured some white paste made from glutinous rice (primitive glue) and pasted the paper with it above the door of the doghouse. Afterwards, she patted the head of Xiao Chun as if communicating with it: “How does it look? Just like our house right?”
“Woowoowoo” Xiao Chun nodded his head and replied in his own way. Afterwards, he crawled back to Xiao Xue’s side and closed his eyes, enjoying the warmth of the sun.
They really do know how to enjoy themselves! Su Shuilian couldn’t help but curl her eyes in amusement as she saw this happen in front of her. She silently praised in her heart: Xiao Chun and Xiao Xue are growing more and more sensible, to be able to understand human speech.
She can feel it, and at times they even reply back. However, the only issue is that she herself was not able to understand their wolf language. Hence it wouldn’t be wrong to say these wolves are actually smarter than humans.
Su Shuilian smiled as she shook her head. She took a moment to admire the two wolves basking in the sun before she filled a bowl full of water, then went back into the main room.
At the end of noon, the sun has risen up to reach the middle of the sky, Su Shuilian determined to take advantage of the good weather, put out the inner and outer blanket to dry. With this, not only was she able to keep the blankets sanitary, but is also able to retain the warmth of the sun, allowing for it to be more comfortable to sleep in at night.
Meanwhile, Lin Si Yao finished putting up the various “福” words. He walked into the kitchen feeling satisfied as he started to prepare for lunch.
As they needed to eventually welcome the kitchen god as the end of year feast cannot be started before welcoming the kitchen god and paying respects to their ancestors. Lin Si Yao decided that it would be better to cook a simpler lunch, lest the well prepared and scrumptious dishes for dinner would be wasted.
“Shuilian, is noodles fine for lunch with you?” After some thought, Lin Si Yao went to the banks of the southern yard to suggest this to Su Shuilian.
“Okay. I want to eat riverside noodles (片儿川).” Su Shuilian smiled sweetly as she requested. The riverside noodles made by Lin Si Yao were better than the one made by the specially appointed chef in the Su family. The noodles were so delicious that she could not stop eating.
Lin Si Yao smiled as he nodded his head. However, he thought to himself that these noodles were nothing more than just noodles and that no matter how good it is, you’re unable to taste the authentic flavor of the forest and the sea. Yet her face of bliss also made Lin Si Yao deeply question the quality of his riverside noodles— has his culinary skills risen to a new peak?
He had learnt how to make these riverside noodles back when he working at a tea shop. During that time, his goal of life was simple: to earn enough to feed himself. That was until the previous master took him in and sent him into the mountains where he slowly reached the pinnacle as one of the most infamous assassins of the Feng Yao Court. During that time, he barely had enough time to sleep, so along with that, he also lost the time to cook for himself.
However now, he’s able to leisurely knead dough and chop them into fine noodles. After that, he would wash and cut the pickled cabbage, pork, wild bamboo shoots, and carrots……Anything that could be used as an ingredient in this dish, was chopped up finely by him.
He was an unfeeling assassin in the past, but the him now, he’s now able to wash and cut ingredients, as well as be able to cook a bowl of riverside noodles for his beloved in such a relaxed manner.
If his old companions caught wind of this, they would probably laugh their teeth off. And yet, this is the life that he himself has willing and wished to continue to live.
After lunch, Lin Si Yao took a break sitting on the kang while drinking Black Tartary Buckwheat Tea. Only at the end of the afternoon, did he get up to prepare for the New Year’s Eve bath.
Lin Si Yao went to the kitchen to boil water and prepared some grapefruit leaves. Whereas Su Shuilian went to their bedroom to prepare 2 sets of clean clothes.
Currently the warmest part of the house was the main hall, as the kang was left on the entire day.
As such, Lin Si Yao lowered the bolt on the southern door, preventing Xiao Chun and Xiao Xue from entering and causing any problems. With this, Su Shuilian would be able to wash herself in peace in the main hall.
As for himself, Lin Si Yao took watch at the northern entrance, listening intently for any sounds coming from inside in case anything happened. Only until Su Shuilian finished bathing did he go into the main hall to clean it. He himself did not mind taking a cold bath in the kitchen.
Once both of them are done bathing, they changed into their new clothes, feeling refreshed.
Su Shuilian wore two piece tunic skirt which was embroidered with a gold and silver thread with a winter plum. It contrasted perfectly with the cherry red robes that she was wearing.
Whereas Lin Si Yao wore a muted green long robe with a high waistband, the waistband had bamboo leaves embroidered on it, complementing the bamboo embroidered on the bottom ends of his robe.
Paired with his long hair tied into a tall bun, all these features helped to emphasize his noble characteristics. And as for the black embroidered long overcoat robe, it could be either that he could not bare to wear it, or he could just tolerate most of the cold weather; most of the time, Lin Si Yao wouldn’t use it. In fact, no matter how bone-chilling the wind was or how hard the northern wind blew, he would still go out like this without his overcoat. It was only after the constant nagging of Su Shuilian, did he wear this warm and fitting winter robe.
Only after the 2 of them have finished changing into new clothes, did they start preparing the sacrificial items.
First is to welcome the kitchen god back into the realm of men.
The sacrificial items to welcome and send back the kitchen god are really similar: there were always a set of candles, 3 pieces of joss sticks, a cup of tea, a cup on wine, a cup of sugar, a cup of water, 2 plates of fruits, 4 bowls of dessert, 6 servings of non-vegetarian dishes, 9 servings of vegetables, a big basin of rice… in short, one must take all the good food in the house and prepare it in a few dishes for the kitchen god to eat.
On the small holiday (23rd of the 12th month of lunar calendar), people would send off the god of kitchen back to heaven. Having all these delicious dishes on display was for nothing more than to seal the lips of the everso hungry and glutinous kitchen god. Hopefully the same soft spot for man’s food will cause the kitchen god to report only good things to the jade emperor when he returns back to the heavens. At the very least he wouldn’t say any bad things as every man hopes for good weather and harvests next year.
The god of kitchen will return on first day of lunar new year, after reporting to the jade emperor. As such, many similar scrumptious dishes would be prepared for the sake of expressing gratitude. If the kitchen god said something good, the entire family should shower him with all sorts of rewards and praises. If he didn’t say anything good, then the lavish sacrifice would persuade him to not repeat his behaviour next year.
After welcoming the kitchen god, they were to pay respects to their ancestors.
Su Shuilian and Lin Si Yao respectfully kneeled before their ancestors, praying in their hearts: ‘ancestors and beings above, please protects us and keep us healthy and without harm’.
However, in reality, both of them did not know why they were kneeling for, as they were praying to their illusionary ancestors. At the same time, because the other party looked so solemn, it made it hard for both of them to speak up.
After welcoming the kitchen god and paying respects to the ancestors, the six meat dishes and nine vegetables dishes were now used as the family dinner. Of course, the cold food were warmed up and a big batch of dumplings were also included in this large festive dinner. With all the rituals said and done, the four, two sitting by the table and the other two beneath the table were able to enjoy the New Years Dinner as a whole family.
Loud firecracker explosions sounded outside the house as the cold wind blew. Inside the house, instead was sounds of happy laughter and warmth that was similar to that of spring.
It was a reunion dinner. From the time the started eating to the time it ended, finally came the time where the alcohol intolerant Su Shuilian could no longer drink anymore. She closed both of her eyes and leaned against Lin Si Yao, falling into his chest and sleeping peacefully.
This happened until the sudden onset of firecracker explosions outside which jolted her awake. Only then, did she realize that she had slept past the midnight mark, which was the very first moment of the new year.
Whereas Lin Si Yao was trying hard to hold back his laughter whilst admiring the charmingly confused expression on Su Shuilian’s face. “Have you woken up? It’s already time. Let’s go back home and sleep.” His eyes flashed a familiar and caring gaze. Afterwards, he carried her up and pushed open the door into the bedroom.
“ Ah Yao, don’t we… need to light up our firecrackers?” Su Shuilian suddenly remembered.
“ They have already been lighted.” All the fireworks that symbolize safety had already been lighted as she slept. Or else, how would she have awoken? He chuckled softly next to her ear, before placing her onto the large bed and pinning her fragrant and delicate body down….
The light from the candle flickered as the cold night grew weary. At the same time, it was also thrilling and short. The new year has come… Is spring really that far behind?
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