Chapter 1: Prologue
Translator: Henyee Translations Editor: Henyee Translations
The gloomy days finally cleared up. There was not much food left at home. Ah Wan carried her bamboo basket and went to dig for carrots. She was digging radishes, and some people called them carrots.
The radish wasnt big, not even as big as Ah Wans fist, but it had thin skin and had a lot of water. If one bit down on it, it would be sweet to the heart. If one cut it into thin slices and mixed it with the chili sauce, it would be refreshing and delicious.
It was the best season to eat radish. When the weather turned colder, the taste of the radishes would no longer be as tender and sweet. Instead, they would become a little bitter and spicy.
“Ah Wan! Why are you still here Your husband is here!” An auntie walked over with a dustpan.
Ah Wan, who was squatting in the ground, blushed. “Auntie, dont talk nonsense. Who, who is my husband”
The auntie jokes, “Youre about to get married. If hes not your husband, could he be my husband”
On the other side of the fields, the farmers who were picking vegetables laughed. Ah Wans face reddened. She might not admit it, but she knew she did have a fiancé. Her fiances surname was Zhao, and his name was Zhao Heng. He was the only scholar in their village.
Zhao Heng was not a local, he had fled to their village when the war started. After that, he stayed in the village. Zhao Hengs father had died in the chaos of war, leaving him with his widowed mother and a younger sister who was the same age as Ah Wan. All these years, it was thanks to Ah Wans familys help that the family of three lived in fear.
Ah Wans family didnt have a good life either, especially after Ah Wans father was captured to join the army. Without a pillar to support the family, their spending became increasingly tight. But no matter how tight they were, Ah Wan couldnt bear to see Zhao Heng suffer.
Ah Wan put the plucked radish into the small basket and ran home in a good mood. When she passed by a small fish pond, she squatted down and washed the mud off her hands. Her hands were frostbitten and her wounds were soaked. It was so painful that she gasped!
Then, she untied her hairband, wiped her hands with water, and combed her hair until it was shiny. She braided her hair into a beautiful four-strand braid beside her ears and carefully took out the red headband she was only willing to wear during the New Year. She tied it bit by bit.
After she was done, she used her freezing hands to wash her face with a handful of cold, fishy water.
“Its so cold!” Ah Wan cried out.
On the other hand, Zhao Heng had been loitering outside Ah Wans house for a long time but didnt see Ah Wan for a long time, and hed decided to come back another day. Unexpectedly, when he passed by the fish pond, he coincidentally saw Ah Wan who was squatting by the shore and washing her face.
Zhao Heng frowned.Could the water here be used to wash faces The fishy smell was so strong.
Ah Wan also saw Zhao Heng, and she scrambled to her feet. It had only been half a month since they last met, but Zhao Heng had grown taller again. Although he was three years older than Ah Wan, he was even smaller than Ah Wan when he first came to the village. Ah Wan was glad to see that he had recovered.
“Ah Heng!” Ah Wan walked over with a smile.
The young girl was wearing an extremely bloated cotton-padded jacket with patches on her knees and elbows. She looked so shabby that she was a little embarrassed. However, her face was extremely beautiful, and there was no other girl in the world who was more beautiful than her.
Once upon a time, Zhao Heng had also thought that Ah Wan was the most beautiful girl he had ever seen. But ever since he had seen those citys noble young ladies, when he looked at Ah Wan again, he felt that shes rustic and shabby.
Ah Wan saw Zhao Hengs hands. They were scholarly hands, long fingers, clean and delicate. Ah Wan secretly tucked her small swollen hands that had frostbite on them into her sleeves and asked him with a smile, “Why are you here Its the middle of the month today, and its not the time to pay the tuition fee yet… Have you spent all the money you have Ill go get it for you.” Actually, there wasnt much left. There were only a few silver ingots left. The New Year goods hadnt been bought yet, but Zhao Hengs studies were important. She thought that her mother wouldnt blame her.
“Ah Wan,” Zhao Heng called after her.
Ah Wan turned around, a sweet smile on her red face. “Hm”
“You dont have to give me any more silver,” said Zhao Heng.
“Why Dont you study anymore” Ah Wan asked, surprised.
Zhao Heng paused. “No…”
Ah Wan thought that he was worried about his future tuition fees, so she hurriedly patted her chest and said, “Dont worry, I have money! I… I can earn money! When spring comes, Ill go pick wild vegetables! I can also chop wood! I can farm…”
“Ah Wan, where did you get the silver” Zhao Heng interrupted her.
Ah Wan froze.
Zhao Heng said with a gloomy expression, “You dont have to hide it from me. I already know that your silver didnt come from proper methods… Two years ago, you actually didnt go to your cousin-in-laws house. You… you entered a brothel!”
A bolt from the blue struck Ah Wans head! Ah Wan swayed and the basket on her back fell to the floor. The red radishes rolled all over the floor.
Ah Wan looked at Zhao Heng with a pale face. “Who Who told you that”
Zhao Heng clenched his fists tightly and said, “You dont care who told me, just say yes or no! Did you enter a brothel”
Ah Wans eyes turned red. She grabbed Zhao Hengs arm. “Ah Heng…”
Zhao Heng was caught off guard when he saw this pair of swollen hands covered in frostbite. He was so frightened that he pulled his arm back!
Ah Wan felt his disdain and did not dare to touch him with her hand again. She only sobbed even more and said, “I… I didnt enter a brothel! Ah Heng, believe me, my money is clean! I exchanged it with a jade pendant!”
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Zhao Heng looked at her coldly. “Where did you get the jade pendant from”
“I picked it up!” Ah Wan said.
Zhao Heng ridiculed, “Can a random jade pendant be exchanged for so much silver” He had once naively thought that his expensive tuition fees were all earned by Ah-Wan from farming and chopping wood, but who would have thought… she actually traded her body for it! How shameless was she! She was already engaged to him, yet she still went to do unspeakable things with another man! Why was she so dirty!
“Ah Heng, believe me, I didnt enter a brothel, I can swear!” Ah Wan cried until her heart was about to break. She really didnt enter a brothel, really didnt…
The two of them grew up together as childhood sweethearts. For a very long time, Zhao Heng and his younger sister ate at Ah Wans house and lived at Ah Wans house. He still remembered the days when the entire village was in famine. It was Ah Wan who saved her food and fed it to him bit by bit. If not for Ah Wan, he might have starved to death. He still had some feelings for Ah Wan.
“Dont worry, on account that we know each other, I wont tell anyone about this. Its just that I cant marry you anymore,” he said kindly. Zhao Heng thought that he had already done his best. After all, to a woman, there was nothing more important than her reputation. Since he was willing to protect her reputation, she should be content.
Zhao Heng said righteously, “Im a scholar. Teacher said that with my talent, Ill definitely be able to become a government official in the future. I cant marry an indecent woman… Ill visit your house to cancel the marriage. Dont come looking for me anymore.” As soon as he finished speaking, Zhao Heng didnt dare look at Ah Wans heartbroken face and fled.
But he had only taken a few steps when a loud splash came from the fish pond behind him.