Su Tang went to the fabric store and asked about the price of cotton and coarse cloth. Because the harvest season for cotton was still a few months away, cotton was very expensive. However, Su Tang wasn’t too worried because it was not very cold outside right now so, after some deliberation, Su Tang spent forty copper coins to buy some coarse cloth and put it in her basket.
She also spent five copper coins to buy some needles and some thread. There were already some at home that were left behind by Su Laochuan’s family but Su Tang felt that there were not enough. She was planning to make clothes so, naturally, she needed to buy more.
Finally, Su Tang went to the small grocery store on her way out of town and bought a large bag of alkali noodles and some more vegetable oil. She didn’t buy them from Shopkeeper Yang’s shop because she was afraid that he might be able to guess that her soap was made from alkali noodles if she kept buying them from him. Fortunately, to create a saponification reaction she didn’t need too many alkali noodles so buy the materials didn’t cost too much.
The one bag she bought last time had been enough for the big batch of soap she sold today. This time she bought another two bags, which should be enough for at least a while. As for the vegetable oil, she was not afraid to let people know she was buying it because, after all, most people would just assume that she was using it for cooking, no one would suspect that she was using it to make soap.
After buying all of that, Su Tang and Su Nuo walked back to Sujia Village together. The two siblings had made a lot of money today so they walked back with big smiles of their faces.
After they got home, Su Tang planned to go to the Qing River and do some ‘fishing’. She knew that Su Nuo was still a little afraid of the river because of his memories of being thrown in, so Su Tang let her brother stay at home to play.
However, just as Su Tang was heading to the river while carrying her bamboo basket, Chen Xiuxiu was going to Su Yonggui’s household to talk to Madam Wu.
“Tut-tut, your Dani and Dalang are really capable. I just saw them coming back from town carrying a big bamboo basket and that basket looked very full. Those two seem completely different from how they used to be.”
When Madam Wu saw that Chen Xiuxiu had come over, she generously grabbed a handful of melon seeds and gave them to her guest with a smile.
But Madam Wu’s face changed when she heard Chen Xiuxiu’s words. “What nonsense are you saying? Dani and Dalang are still at home, why would they go to town?”
When Chen Xiuxiu saw Madam Wu acting like this, she just snorted, “What are you pretending for in front of me? You think I don’t know what you’re thinking? Guixiang, can you really bear to just watch those two brats running around out there so carefree?”
“You don’t know it but when they came back from town just now, many people saw it, and they all said that those children have a better life now that they’ve been adopted. Tut-tut, I listened in for a while on Yang Cuihua and them, and they were all talking about you behind your back.”
When Chen Xiuxiu saw that Madam Wu wanted to keep pretending, she directly mentioned how the sister and brother used to look while they were in Madam Wu’s care. With their hair dishevelled and their bodies covered with dirt every day. Back then, whenever Madam Wu went out and people would mention the children to her she would always use the excuse that she was just a step-mother so they refused to listen to her. She would always complain that it was not easy to control the children of the previous wife because she was only a step-mother.
She loved to pretend that the only reason the two children were always so dirty was because they didn’t like her and they would refuse to wash up. Meanwhile, all she could do was look on helplessly when they were so hard to control because, as a step-mother, she didn’t dare to say anything. Because of her constant excuses, although some people could clearly see what kind of person Madam Wu was, there were also many people in the village who believed her words.
After all, when a step-mother married into the family and the original children were still there, it was hard to say if the step-mother’s discipline was too light or heavy. Su Dani had never come out much anyway, she had always worked at home, talked very little, and never argued with anyone. Plus, no one wanted to play with her whenever Su Dalang would take her out, so no one really knew anything about her.
That’s why when Madam Wu would tell the other villagers that she tried to make the two children clean themselves up but they refused, many people really believed her and thought that they were dirty because Su Dani and Dalang didn’t like to bathe.
Of course, there were also a lot of people who had sharp eyes and they could clearly understand what was really going on. Because of that, there had been many arguments about Madam Wu and how she treated her children among the villagers but, in the end, Madam Wu was barely able to maintain a good reputation. However, even though she barely managed to protect her reputation in the past, ever since the days when the Su family seemed to seriously want to sacrifice the children to the River God Madam Wu’s reputation had been slowly getting worse.
Madam Wu had known that if Su Dani and Dalang were sacrificed to the River God, her reputation among the villagers would certainly get worse. But she thought that as long as they both died it would only take a while before the other villagers forgot about it. As long as she made some appropriately remorseful gestures later on, people would soon forget all about the two dead children. And when that time came, she would be able to regain her reputation as a good wife.
Madam Wu had been a servant girl for a large family in the past so she was very proficient with these sorts of tactics. Unfortunately, even though she had calculated and re-calculated things over and over again she could never have expected that even though the sister and brother had been thrown into the river, they did not die.
Now that those two children were alive and walking around every day, everyone would remember clearly how her family had let them be adopted to Su Laochuan’s family, and they would also remember that it was all because she was a stepmother. Today, Chen Xiuxiu had come over and ruthlessly pointed that fact out.
On that day, she had been muddled with surprise because the two children didn’t die even after being sacrificed to the River God. She had panicked for a moment, or else why would she have let them be adopted away? If she had just kept them at home, there would always have been some way for her to deal with them, and easily at that. But now that they had left things were not so easy anymore.
When she thought to that point, Madam Wu gritted teeth and glared at Chen Xiuxiu. If on that day Chen Xiuxiu had not said those words about how the sister and brother pair had an adverse fate, she would not have panicked and told her mother-in-law to send them away.
“If you hadn’t mentioned their adverse fate to me that day, there would have been no adoption! Then, right now, they would still be in my hands! If they were still in my hands would I be having this kind of problem?”
“What nonsense are you saying now, Wu Guixiang? If I wasn’t your friend, why would I bother to come tell you about this? Besides, it was you who complained to me that you didn’t like those two. I just said a few words of advice.”
She continued: “I’ve helped you so much, and this is how you treat me? Moreover, will you dare to say that you were not afraid on that day? I watched you and your father-in-law throw those two into the river myself. Then you and I both saw them both sink into the river instantly.”
“Then later, I heard that because they had a good relationship with Fuhua’s family, his family spent almost an hour looking up and down the river but they didn’t find anyone. Then, suddenly, those two just appeared on the bank out of nowhere and that dead girl screamed and said that the River God refused to take them.”
“Are you going to tell me you weren’t afraid? Just because the matter regarding your brother-in-law’s illness is fake doesn’t mean that nothing in this world is true. Back when you gave birth to Wulang you really lost almost half your life.”
Chen Xiuxiu, who felt attacked by Madam Wu, was angry and retorted with all this.
Madam Wu had always been skillful when it came to pretending to be a good person so as soon as she saw Chen Xiuxiu was upset, she hastened to say some placating words, “Oh, my good sister, I said the wrong thing just now. Let me apologize to you!”
As she spoke, she slapped herself on the mouth. Then she quickly continued, “I know you have a good heart and that you were only thinking for my sake.”
In fact, Madam Wu thought that what Chen Xiuxiu said was right. She also suspected that Su Sanshou was just pretending to be ill. She knew the accident was real but she thought that it probably wasn’t so serious that he was almost dead. But then, on the other hand, she also knew that she herself had almost died giving birth to Wulang because she had a difficult labor.
Even worse, the doctor said that it would be difficult for her to have any more babies in the future, which had just made her even more determined to get rid that Liu woman’s two children. Only then could everything from the household belong to her children.
Moreover, Wulang had never been in good health because of his difficult birth. While on the other hand, Dalang, even though he had always been beaten and never had enough to eat, always seemed very strong. Every day when she saw that her own son was weak like a kitten while Dalang was healthy as a horse, it made her skin itch and burn with hatred. How could she ever find those brats pleasing to the eye?
She had never really believed in the ‘adverse fate’ those two siblings supposedly had but, this time, after the botched sacrifice, she had started to really believe it was true.
Su Sanshou’s accident was not that bad, but that was only because he was just the uncle of those two brats. However, she was their stepmother, and that meant she was closer to them, which must be why she had almost died in childbirth.
As for Madam Liu, the person who really gave birth to those two, wasn’t she already dead? It seemed those two cheap brats really had an adverse fate and it was their relatives who would suffer for it.
tl note: In case you forgot, Su Sanshou is Su Tang’s uncle who had some sort of accident before the story began. The Su family wanted to sacrifice Su Tang and her brother mostly in the name of somehow ‘healing’ him.
Also, a reminder, this ‘adverse fate’ that keeps coming up has a lot of meaning in it that is really hard to bring across with two words in English, and one of those meanings is that supposedly having an ‘adverse fate’ means bringing misfortune to your immediate family members.