Chapter – 3

Translator : Casualtranslator

~ Enjoy ~


Bracelet

 

By this time, the sun was hanging in the middle of the sky. However, because the well was already very deep, nothing was visible and the diggers had to use a small oil lamp to see inside the well. Under the swaying lamp light, Zhang Xiaohua’s uncertain face appeared to be deep in thought. Picking up his hoe again, he started digging on another area. “Dang, dang…” the sound was persistent even after switching locations a few times. Perhaps, they have truly reached a dead end.

The thought of giving up sprouted in Zhang Xiaohua’s mind, but he eventually decided to go up to clear his thoughts first. The circumference of the well could be expanded first before they truly decide to give up the project. Although it was midday, his mother has not arrived with the lunch yet, so there was no harm trying a little more. After some pondering, Zhang Xiaohua made up his mind to continue, and thus, he walked over towards an area that was waist deep from the ground to try his luck. After digging for a while, another “Bam” sound was produced. Xiaohuai was shocked, could it be another large rock? However, as he continued to strike the ground with his hoe, there was no longer that sound being produced by his successive digs. Zhang Xiaohua thought that perhaps he had hit a small stone and hence, he continued to dig while fearfully dreading the sound of striking hard earth. Unfortunately, there was no consolation after his hard efforts because on that spot, he finally reached the same piece of rock.

Just as Zhang Xiaohua stopped digging to rest for a while before picking out another location, Zhang Xiaolong’s voice echoed from above, “Xiaohua, hurry and come up for a break. Mother has brought lunch over.” Then, Zhang Xiaohua was pulled up by his eldest brother, who upon seeing the grimace on his face, wordlessly handed over his lunch. Seeing Xiaohua swallow his food in large bites, he comforted his youngest brother, “It is okay, Xiaohua. If this place is unsuitable to build a well, we can always change the location. These hills are so vast, surely there is a place from which we can construct a well from.”

After eating his fill, Zhang Xiaohua’s mood improved considerably, and his face was no longer as dark.  Seeing the other workers head downwards towards the well, he smiled towards Zhang Xiaolong, “I know, big brother. I will go up and look around, and will come back in a while.” Zhang Xiaolong patted Zhang Xiaohua’s back, and without saying anything else, he took the bamboo basket away.

Using his hoe as support, Zhang Xiaohua climbed up the slope back into the plot of field which he has been working on. It has finally began to form some resemblance to an actual farm field. Putting his hoe aside, and planting his butt on the ground, Zhang Xiaohua looked blankly at the plot of land, wondering if he had to transport water from the river to irrigate his crops in the future. As his eyes spread over to the hoe, he noticed that there was a clump of soil stuck onto its tip probably from previously when he was digging. Zhang Xiaohua used his feet to step on the clump but he was unable to sweep it off. He picked up the hoe and turned it around to look at the hoe head more closely, before realizing that there was something round which was stuck. Scratching his head, Zhang Xiaohua figured that it was probably the object that caused the “Bam” sound previously. No wonder the sound went away as soon as it appeared. Zhang Xiaohua picked up a tree branch to remove the round thing from the hoe tip, he tried knocking it onto a piece of rock, but it was still stuck firmly. If he were to smash the hoe onto a large piece of rock, while it might get the object off, the object might be broken as a result of the collision. Nevertheless, he could not carry such an object while digging the earth. Hence, Zhang Xiaohua made up his mind and smashed his hoe onto a rock with half his strength. Despite hearing a “Bam” sound, the object did not break, but neither did it dislodge itself from the hoe. Even when Zhang Xiaohua adjusted his strength to his fullest abilities, but the object still did not break. Fortunately, it finally fell off, and it could be seen that the object was very sturdy.

Zhang Xiaohua picked up the circular object, using his shirt to wipe off the mud for a closer inspection. He realized that it could be a bracelet; the object was around 2 cun wide, completely black in color, dull in appearance, and made from some unknown material. Just as Zhang Xiaohua picked up the object for a closer look, he heard Zhang Xialong’s shout from downslope, “Xiaohua, come over quickly. There is some hope now.” Upon hearing so, Zhang Xiaohua was elated and he sped down the slope, without sparing any attention on the bracelet that he had just picked up. Instead, he pocketed it somewhere convenient, picked up his hoe, and thus, he did not notice the gentle sensation spreading through his body after he held the object.

When Zhang Xiaohua reached downslope, he saw Zhang Xialong and Zhang Xiaohu’s delighted faces, as well as Zhang Cai’s slightly bitter expression. Hearing Zhang Xiaolong’s explanation, he learnt that the hard surface was not a layer of bedrock, but rather a piece of hard rock that was not too large to be excavated. As long as they enlarged the circumference of the well, it would be possible to carry the stone up. However, more manpower was also required to enlarge the well, and the time taken to complete the project will also be extended, so the project will be more expensive. At least, they would not have to restart their efforts on another location, nor must Zhang Xiaohua carry water from the village river to irrigate the land. Seeing the bright expressions on the faces of his three sons, only Zhang Cai felt some worry in his heart, as he hoped that such an obstacle to be a one-off event. If not, this well project will have to be abandoned.

The workload in the afternoon was naturally much lighter. The people digging the well re-measured the required diameter for the mouth in order to excavate the rock successfully. After finding a solution, everyone continued on their work methodologically.

After returning home at night and finishing his dinner, before he climbed onto the sleeping platform, the bracelet in his pockets never crossed Zhang Xiaohua’s mind. Only after stripping off his clothes and seeing it fall off was he reminded of the earlier events. However, Xiaohua was too tired after a laborious day of work so he simply slipped it under his pillow and went into a deep slumber.

There was nothing was unordinary on that particular night, the flame in the oil lamp has perished long ago, the wind blew and shook the fence gate, and the dried grass on the yellow mud walls were blown and shaken. The only light came from the moon in the sky, and it shone through the open window into the rooms, onto the quilts, revealing a household whose members are all in deep slumber. Throughout the quiet night, the wind blowing sounds were the only thing that broke the silence.

The only thing that set this night apart from the usual ones was Zhang Xiaohua, or more precisely, his dream! His dream was no longer about five-spiced meat, but rather, it was full of eye-dazzling light! The lights were just blinking and swirling around as though it was breathing.

Early in the morning, just as the first rays of the sun shone onto Zhang Xiaohua’s face, Zhang Xiaohua opened his eyes. He looked at his surroundings with uncertainty, but did not spot any shiny object around, and then realized that all the brilliant lights he thought he saw were part of his dream. Shaking his head self-deprecatingly, he tried to go back to sleep. However, he soon realized that all he could concentrate upon was the breathing sounds of his brothers, and instead of feeling sleepy, his mind was wide awake. Left with no other choice, he got out the bed and changed out of his clothes.

As Zhang Xiaohua walked onto the courtyard, he noticed his mother in the middle preparing some breakfast on the stove, so he went to the well at the side of the fence to draw water to wash up. Seeing Zhang Xiaohua walked out, Guo Sufei asked, “What is the matter, Xiaohua? After the hard day of work yesterday, you should sleep a bit more, before continuing the work later today.”

As he drew the water, Zhang Xiaohua replied, “I am not sleepy anymore, mother. I am not tired, and as you can see, I have fully regained my energy, and my body is at top condition now. With one strike of the hoe, I will be able to shatter that large rock into pieces.” After saying so, he put the pail down and did some movements of hoeing in the air.

Guo Sufei laughed, “Alright, Xiaohui is a good boy, Xiaohua has grown into a big man like his father and will soon be able to support the family.”

Zhang Xiaohua reddened and replied, “Mom, I am already big enough. Stop praising me like that, it is embarrassing.”

At that moment, Zhang Cai returned from outside carrying vegetables in his hands, and asked, “Who has already grown up? Xiaohua, why are you awake so early? Go and sleep a little longer.” Then, he passed the vegetables to Zhang Xiaohua’s mother and said, “The vegetable garden has some weeds growing, you have to start weeding the garden if you have the time. Even though we are all busy with the well construction, we should not neglect the vegetable garden.”

As Guo Sufei took the vegetables, she replied, “We are talking about your youngest son. For being able to wake so early today, he is sure to be an energetic helper later.” Then, she continued to make breakfast for the family, and Zhang Cai went back into the house. After washing up, Zhang Xiaohua no longer had any reason to stay in the courtyard, so he went out for a walk.

Even though it was still early, winter was approaching soon. All the farmers were restless during this period, so there were already many people walking about in the village. Some of the people were chasing the ducks and geese towards the river, some were harvesting grass to feed the chickens and pigs, and others had already picked up their hoes and were preparing to toil in the fields again. Zhang Xiaohua walked along the small road in the village, feeling something different today that sets it apart from the rest, yet he was unable to put a finger onto it. He just felt energetic, as though he had limitless energy, and his whole body is bursting with vitality. However, he would not wonder too much, and simply attributed it to a good night sleep. As he walked into the house, everyone was already having their breakfast. Thus, he hurriedly ate, and then followed his father and elder brothers towards the well.

The following days were peaceful, as the well was widened and the large stone was finally extracted from the bottom of it. The well was also becoming deeper. The large stone which was extracted had an even surface and was cool to the touch, so Zhang Xiaohua asked his brothers to shift it into under the shade of a tree beside his field, so he could use it as a resting area in the summer. As for the bracelet, it was long forgotten under the pillow, except that Zhang Xiaohua’s dreams of five-spiced meat were now replaced with the shining bright lights, not that he paid any attention to it.

Another few days passed, but the well still did not produce any water, which lead Zhang Cai to feel slightly irritated. Seeing that winter was closing in, and the ground was about to freeze, even though the ground water would not freeze, there would still be increased difficulty in digging up the well. On that night, after the family had their dinner and gathered around to do the other mundane tasks, Zhang Cai wrinkled his brows and discussed with Guo Sufei that if the water still did not appear in the well, then they would have to stop all work and wait for spring to arrive.

At this moment, Guo Sufei said, “Hubby, did you know that Mr. Wu from the neighboring village was also planning a farm field in the hills at the south?”

Zhang Cai replied, “No I do not, but I did hear that there was another well construction project going on in that area.”

Guo Sufei continued, “That project was indeed initiated by Mr. Wu, who like us, planned to use it to irrigate his field. When I went to the riverside to pluck grass for the chickens, I met Guo Quan from the household at the village entrance. Her little aunt was married to Mr. Wu’s brother, and guess what she told me?”

“What did she say? Could it be that their well already had water?” Zhang Cai inquired. “Didn’t they begin later than us? How could they have succeeded so soon?”

“Is water the only thing on your mind, this is something much more important,” Guo Sufei said exasperatedly.

“Ai, what happened then?” Not only was Zhang Cai hooked, the three Zhang brothers also grew curious.

“As they dug up the well, they discovered an old container!” Guo Sufei continued, “When the container was excavated out, and the lock broken with a hoe to reveal its contents, even though the interior were covered in mud, but it was evident that the contents were precious. We sure are unfortunate, don’t you think? Even though we began earlier than them, all we had so far was a useless piece of rock.”

Just as the family was enraptured with story of Mr. Wu striking rich, Zhang Xiaohua then remembered that he had also dug something out. Excitedly, he said, “Dad, Mom, I also dug out a treasure from our well.”  Under the curious and excited eyes of his family, he took out the long forgotten bracelet from under his pillow.

Zhang Cai received the bracelet from Zhang Xiaohua and placed it under the oil lamp for a closer inspection, but all he saw was a black, dull thing made from some unknown material; it was closer to a scrap metal hook than a bracelet. Not knowing what it actually was, he handed it over to Guo Sufei, who took it over and observed it with her hands. Using her fingers to scratch on it for a while, she said, “It feels too light to be made of jade, and there are no patterns, so rather than a decorative item, it seems to be a child’s toy. Here Xiaohua, you can take it back to play.” Xiaohua dejectedly took back the bracelet before passed it to his two elder brothers, as though not being able to dig up any treasure was his fault.

The two brothers twirled the bracelet around their hands before returning it to Xiaohua. Seeing that nobody was interested in this artifact, Xiaohua had no choice but to put it back into his pocket.

Guo Sufei then continued, “Sigh, if this was a truly precious item, then we could consider storing it to use as your eldest brother’s betrothal gift.” After saying it out, the whole family’s interest was sparked again. When summer arrives, Zhang Xiaolong would have reached a full twenty years, and it would be the time for him to find a young lady. One by one, the family started to describe an ideal bride for Zhang Xiaolong. When the oil lamp finally extinguished, everyone was still in the middle of conversation, but remembering that there was well-construction and farm work the next day, they went back to their platforms to sleep.

Before sleeping, just as Zhang Xiaohua was about to put the bracelet back to under his pillow, a moment of hesitation turned his mind around. “Mr. Wu has his treasure which he dug from the ground, and I too have my own.  I should also cherish this treasure of mine.” Having thought so, he noticed that the bracelet fit snugly on his hand. He tried waving his hand about but it still stayed on. Zhang Xiaohua felt joy in his heart; this bracelet seemed to be tailored to his size. Even after falling asleep, he did not realize that if the bracelet fitted so well on his hands, then how could he have slipped it on in the beginning? Needless to mention, his five-spiced meat dreams were now a thing of the past, only the bright lights appeared in his dreams.

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