Translator : Casualtranslator
~ Enjoy ~
Thus, Zhang Xiaolong and Liu Qing’s wedding ceremony as conducted under these urgent circumstances.
The grandmother was sitting on a chair in the main room with a bright rosy smile on her face which only grew brighter when she received her grandchildren’s bow. When the officiator of the wedding finally announced, “And now the couple can consummate their marriage”, her rosy expression finally disappeared and she closed her eyes peacefully with the smile still remaining on her face.
Guo Sufei and Zhang Cai felt a shiver went up their hands, and Guo Sufei immediately cried out painfully, “Mother.” This was the second time she shouted the two words ‘mother’ in the main room where the wedding was conducted, and it was also the last time she would ever get to call someone like that.
This time, Liu Qing ignored all the proprieties and customs and she directly removed her veil to help Guo Sufei and Zhang Cai carry the grandmother’s body back into the room.
Everyone in the courtyard had blank expressions on their faces, not knowing if that day was a joyous occasion to celebrate or a solemn occasion to mourn. Only some people knew the situation wiped their tears secretly.
Zhang Xiaolong was supported by Zhang Xiaohu and Zhang Xiaohua into the same room where they saw the grandmother laying on the bed peacefully as though she was sleeping. This time, she was not affected by her illness and did not try to suppress her cough in fear of disturbing Zhang Xiaohua. Instead, she looked sound asleep with a smile of satisfaction on her face. Zhang Xiaohua has already etched this final expression of his grandmother into his heart and he no longer felt any sadness, only emptiness in his heart. His mother’s wretched sobbing echoed into his ears making him feel slightly guilty, why did he not feel sad when he obviously should? Or was his grandmother just resting?
No, definitely not. Zhang Xiaohua could no longer sense any of that unknown life energy left in his grandmother’s body, he was sure that his grandmother has truly departed, and has left him for good.
Zhang Xiaohua looked at his mother who was sobbing uncontrollably, and then at his father and elder brothers, but tears did not appear in his eyes; his eyes did not even turn red.
The sobbing continued to echo within the grandmother’s room for a long time, while the people in the courtyard had dispersed back to their own homes. When Zhang Cai composed his feelings and went back out to meet the fellow villagers still in the courtyard, he shook their hands apologetically and asked for their help to take down the celebratory decorations off the house and replace them with the white and black ones for mourning. Finally, the people from the procession who had ‘escaped with their lives’ came back and when they saw the new decorations in the Zhang household, they assumed that it was for Zhang Xiaolong and the rest. In sympathy, they changed out of their celebratory clothes into more suitable garbs, ate and drank some refreshment, and started to play the funeral song.
At that moment, the Zhang household had already changed into their funeral garbs, and because Zhang Xiaolong was seriously injured, he was bedridden again. The pitiable Liu Qing had to exchange her bridal down for the funeral garb and even wash and dress the grandmother’s body immediately after she entered the Zhang household.
Zhang Cai felt guilty when he saw his busy daughter-in-law. He was orphaned since young and never experienced any parental love before entering the Guo village where Guo Sufei’s parents treated him as though he was their own. Now that he has sent them away, his heart felt like they were pierced with a thousand needles, and as he recalled the scraps and details of his life in this courtyard, tears began to flow down from his eyes reflexively again. Zhang Xiaolong had the fortune of marrying Liu Qing, and he hoped not bring them too much trouble when it was his own time to leave.
The coffin and clothes were already prepared beforehand. Zhang Cai, Zhang Xiaohu and Guo Sufei placed the grandmother’s body into the coffin, and they sought for help to move the coffin into the main room. The main room was not big so there was not much space left after the coffin was placed there. Following the village customs, the coffin has to be displayed in the main room for seven days where relatives and friends could come to pay their final respects, and only after then could they cover the coffin and bury it into the ground.
A funeral’s proceedings were not as complicated as a wedding’s preparation. Zhang Cai and Guo Sufei went over to the village elder to request for help; the elder in the Guo village was also an old person so he could sympathize easily with them and thus readily sent over some men to help. Hence, the funeral proceeded smoothly.
During nightfall, the sounds of people gradually faded off, and the swaying oil lamp in the main room created a long moving shadow on the coffin. Zhang Xiaohua and the others were kneeling on the little space left in the main room, and Guo Sufei was crying continuously; most of her strength was already exhausted. Liu Qing was kneeling beside Guo Sufei as she supported her while wiping off her own tears. Even though the grandmother had not many interactions with her, she would always smile kindly towards her every time they met, which made Liu Qing feel the warmth of unconditional love. Even though she had mentally prepared herself for this day, her death occurred too suddenly and on her wedding day. When she thought of her own short wedding, Liu Qing could not bring herself to blame the kind old lady, and she wondered if it was fate that was playing a joke on her? Liu Qing could see the apologetic look on Zhang Cai’s face, and it reminded her of the Zhang household’s warm and familiar atmosphere. However, her first day as a member of the Zhang household had turned out like so which made her wonder if it as a premonition or warning for the future.
Actually, looking at the painful appearance of Guo Sufei and thinking back to the grandmother, she thought that the latter has lived a long and fulfilled surrounded by her grandchildren and in a harmonious family. Liu Qing wondered if she could have such fulfilling life and be surrounded by such happiness in her old age.
While Liu Qing’s thoughts were wandering about, Zhang Xiaohua’s thoughts was continuously cycling around in motion. Zhang Xiaohua kneeled in the shadow at a corner and his gaze was fixed upon the coffin as he thought to himself, “Is this the conclusion of grandmother’s life?” After the people in the house recounted the events which led to his grandmother’s collapse, Zhang Xiaohua was constantly imagining what would have happened if he knew martial arts and could bring his eldest brother and the others away when the bandits struck. Perhaps his eldest brother and his sister-in-law could reach home safely, and the grandmother would not have passed away so soon, and she would be enjoying the scene of his eldest brother’s wedding, and may even get to witness the birth of her first great grandchild.
Zhang Xiaohua thoughts became wild as he thought what if this, what if that, and all the scenarios assumed that he knew martial arts and had some ability to protect his loved ones. However, did he have such power?
Hence, Zhang Xiaohua made the first decision for himself in his life, which was to learn martial arts.
However, where could he begin from?
His head was still a mass of fog, but at least the final goal was in sight.
If it comes to learning martial arts, the first thing that Zhang Xiaohua thought of was “Piaomiao”. From Wen Wenhai, Xue Qing to Lu Yueming, every one of them had left a deep impression on him. That ability to be in full control of the situation, the power to punish the evil; all these were like stars in Zhang Xiaohua’s eyes, and when put together with the plaque which would even make someone freeze and hand out two hundred silvers immediately without complaints, all these were an irresistible dream to a boy who lived in the villages like Zhang Xiaohua. Perhaps this was how a man should live, and not always rely on a plaque to cell for external aid when a disaster befell on him and his loved ones. When he thought that the lives of his entire family rested on that little plaque, Zhang Xiaohua felt a multitude of emotions and as he continue to think, his eyes slowly shut and he unwittingly entered the dream of seemingly breathing bright lights.
Coincidentally, it was midnight then.
After he finished settling the matters that had to be settles and sent all the helpers off, Zhang Cai dragged his exhausted body back into the main room where his wife was still crying until her voice turned hoarse. Just when he entered the room to comfort his wife, he noticed Zhang Xiaohua sleeping at a corner in the dark and his heart softened. While he was busy handling the funeral matters, he had forgotten about his youngest son.
Zhang Xiaolong was injured and he had fallen asleep earlier on the bed. However, this other son of his was also injured, the lash mark on his shoulder was extremely severe, not to mention his young age. Because the wound was hidden under a fresh change of clothes, it slipped off Zhang Cai’s notice which made him feel guilty, so he tried to carry Zhang Xiaohua carefully onto the bed. However, he could not lift the boy up no matter how hard he tried, and that was when he realized that his son has grown up and he has grown old. Hence, he signaled to Zhang Xiaohu who was kneeling on the other side of the room, and with the latter’s help, they lifted Zhang xiaohua back onto his bed. Just as they were about to leave the main room, Guo Sufei wiped her tears away and said, “Bring Xiaohua into Xiaolong’s room. If not, he will think of his grandmother when he wakes up in the middle of the night.”
A mother’s love is just this meticulous; even though Guo Sufei was still affected by her recently deceased mother, she would still think about her own children. Zhang Xiaohu replied, “Mother, it is fine. Xiaohua will not wake up even if we pour water on him.”
Guo Sufei replied, “That is still not fine. He is still young and will be afraid if he wakes up. Do as I say.”
Zhang Cai and Zhang Xiaohu put Zhang Xiaohua down onto the side of the bed where Zhang Xiaolong was sleeping, while Guo Sufei washed her face took the oil lamp into the room before removing Zhang Xiaohua’s clothes to look at the wound. The lash wound was on Xiaohua’s shoulders, and when Guo Sufei looked at Xiaohua’s face which still carried a hint of adolescences, she broke down into tears again. Her son had suffered such a serious injury yet he did not complain and immediately went to change his clothes to pay his respect to his grandmother, and went to sleep without having any dinner. As a mother, she had forgotten all about his experience in the day and left him at the back of her mind, yet her son did not say anything and quietly accompanied her in the main room. Now, all she could is let him rest well.
Guo Sufei walked out of the room and instructed Zhang Xiaohu and Liu Qing return to their respective rooms while Zhang Cai and she stayed in the main room to accompany the grandmother. Zhang Xiaohu and Liu Qing initially refused, but Guo Sufei insisted on her own stand and they went back to their respective rooms. Zhang Xiaohu went into the room where Zhang Xiaolong and Zhang Xiaohua were sleeping so he could look after his two injured brothers.
Liu Qing fell into a deep sleep the moment she laid on the bed, the events of the day was too strenuous for her.