Chapter 5: Poverty
He Yunsheng felt like this dream was a bit too long.
This morning, his sister followed him up the mountain to chop wood. In the end, she took out some snacks from her bundle and gave him one. He Yunsheng had intended to decline, but the sweet scent filled his nose, and before he knew it, he took it from her.
He took a bite, and the sweet taste was unfamiliar. He Yan was spoiled to the extreme, and all the delicious things were given to her by He Sui. Yet, He Yan was not someone who liked to share.
Seeing him eating slowly, He Yan stuffed the remaining snacks into his hands and said, “You can have the rest. I’m full.”
He Yunsheng didn’t know what to do.
There were only the two of them in the He family. In the past, He Sui was just a carter who transported goods to the capital. On the way, he happened to encounter bandits, saving the young lady of a scholar’s family from the city. He married her, and their marriage turned out to be blissful. The scholar’s family had only one daughter, and He Sui had no parents, so he willingly married in as a son-in-law.
Although he was a son-in-law, their two children still took their father’s surname.
Later, the scholar and his wife passed away, and Madam He became melancholic. When He Yunsheng was three years old, Madam He passed away as well, leaving the three of them to rely on each other.
He Sui and his wife were deeply in love, and He Yan looked a lot like her late mother. Perhaps because of this, He Sui doted on He Yan even more. Although the He family was not wealthy, He Sui always did his best to satisfy He Yan’s needs. Over time, He Yan developed an annoying personality, and He Yunsheng couldn’t bring himself to love his sister.
However, since she fell ill, her behavior had become inexplicable, and He Yunsheng didn’t know how to deal with her.
“Do you chop wood on the mountain every day?” He Yan asked, “What do you do in the afternoon? Don’t you go to school?”
He Yunsheng was only one year younger than He Yan, fifteen years old this year. At this age, children should still be attending school.
“After going back, I make da nai cake and sell it in the stall in the afternoon. As for school, it’s fine” He Yunsheng casually replied, “We don’t have money at home, and I’m not cut out for studying. I’m satisfied with knowing a few characters.”
Although he tried to hide it, He Yan still saw a trace of regret and longing in the boy’s eyes.
After a pause, she asked, “What do you want to do in the future?”
“Why are you asking about that?” He Yunsheng was skeptical, but after a moment, he still answered He Yan’s question, “Now, I go to the training ground every day. In the future, as long as I pass the assessment, I can join the City Garrison and gradually become a military official, earning a decent income.”
“Is that it? You want to be a military officer?” He Yan smiled, “I thought you would want to do something else.”
“What else can I do?” He Yunsheng self-deprecatingly said, “Could I become the Flying Phoenix General? Even though we share the same surname, he’s much more formidable than us.”
Suddenly, He Yan heard her name from He Yunsheng’s mouth and was taken aback. She remained silent for a while before asking, “You know the Flying Phoenix General?”
“Of course! Who in Da Wei doesn’t know him? The Flying Phoenix General pacified the Western Qiang, and General Fengyun took care of the Southern Barbarians. With He in the North and Xiao in the South, Da Wei flourished in peace and prosperity! They were young heroes, full of spirit! If I could become someone like them, even if it meant dying, it would be worth it!” He Yunsheng exclaimed passionately.
He Yan burst into laughter.
He Yunsheng was furious, “What are you laughing at?”
“Just chopping wood and selling da nai cake won’t make you become like them. the Flying Phoenix General and General Feng Yun didn’t achieve their success by casually practicing at the training ground.”
“I know that,” He Yunsheng blushed, “but I…”
Which young boy didn’t aspire to make great achievements? He Yunsheng was at the age of passionate youth, and circumstances like these were really holding him back.
He Yan said, “Starting tomorrow, I’ll accompany you to chop wood on the mountain and sell da nai cake every day.”
“What?” He Yunsheng jumped up from the stone, “He Yan, have you gone crazy?”
Today’s incident might have been a momentary whim, but now she wanted to come every day… He Yan might have caught some kind of disease, and her brain was malfunctioning!
Before He Yunsheng could say anything else, He Yan had already stood up and dusted herself off, saying, “Let’s continue working after eating. Spring won’t wait for anyone.”
He Yunsheng: “…”
After the spring rain, the following days were clear and sunny for more than ten days.
Qingmei had been feeling preoccupied in her heart lately. She used to be in charge of guiding and serving the young lady, but now, the young lady no longer needed her.
During the day, He Yan went out with He Yunsheng, and in the evening, when Qingmei wanted to help He Yan wash and get ready for bed, He Yan dismissed her as well. The only time Qingmei was still useful was in the morning when she helped He Yan comb her hair.
Qingmei was full of worries. If things continued like this, would she end up being dismissed like the other servants sent away by He Sui? After all, the young lady no longer needed her!
He Yunsheng was also burdened with heavy thoughts.
For over half a month, He Yan accompanied He Yunsheng every morning to chop wood on Longhuan Peak. She even woke up earlier than him, carrying sandbags on her hands and feet. He Yunsheng secretly weighed them; they were quite heavy. Nonetheless, He Yan carried those ghostly things with her every day as they went up the mountain to chop wood together.
She never complained, as if she didn’t know what fatigue was. But He Yunsheng noticed the calloused skin on her palms, indicating how many times they had been rubbed raw. He Yan eventually wrapped her hands with cloth.
In just half a month, she started walking faster than him and chopped more wood. He Yunsheng thought to himself if those sandbags were truly that miraculous, perhaps he should secretly tie a couple as well?
Having two people chop wood together was faster than one, which meant they had extra time to sell more da nai cake. After all, He Yan was a woman, and engaging in such a laborious livelihood might not be suitable for her. He Yunsheng had reminded her about it, but He Yan seemed indifferent. He Yunsheng was quite worried. If He Sui knew that He Yan had spent these days either chopping wood on the mountain or selling da nai cake, he would definitely whip him.
Luckily, He Sui was still in the dark about it.
Not only was He Sui unaware, but he was also happy every day. The previously quarrelsome siblings were now getting along well. They even sat together at the same table for meals and occasionally chatted. He Sui was satisfied; he treated the new recruits at the training ground more kindly as well. A harmonious family ensured success in all endeavors, right?
At this moment, He Yan was sitting in front of her dressing table.
Qingmei looked at her nervously.
Since recovering from her illness, He Yan had lost interest in looking at herself in the mirror or playing with her cosmetics. But now, she was back to fiddling with them, making Qingmei somewhat anxious. The household budget was tight lately, and this was not a good time for He Yan to buy new lipstick, they didn’t have enough money for that.
He Yan rummaged through the various cosmetics on the table, feeling a headache coming on. These items had already been used and were unsellable. After searching for a while, she found a few hairpins and pieces of jewelry.
They were all silver, of average quality, not as good as the ones she had used at the Xu family, but she couldn’t afford to be so picky now.
She took out all the jewelry and handed them to Qingmei.
“Take these to the pawnshop and sell them. Take a loss, but get as much money as possible,” He Yan said.
Wide-eyed, Qingmei stuttered, “B-but…”
“We are very poor now,” He Yan explained solemnly, “These won’t feed us.”
She had to pawn the jewelry and get some money, hopefully enough to cover He Yunsheng’s school expenses.
Since she had taken over He Sui’s daughter’s body, she should at least do something for the He family. After settling this matter, she could focus on her own issues.
For example, settling an old score.
He Yan: So poor it’s driving me crazy…