As Ruan Zhu’s body was still weak from earlier, she could only have liquid food. After eating a bowl of rice porridge and a few bites of the offered appetizers, she was full.
Yun Shi Yi hid his smile and grabbed a piece of carp with his chopsticks. Before it even reached her, she started heaving and almost vomited on the floor after turning her head away. Yun Shi Yi rushed to lightly pat her on the back: “If you don’t want to eat, don’t eat.”
After she finished coughing, Ruan Zhu leaned against him and took large breaths, weakly saying: “The fishy smell is very strong. I cannot eat it in the future.”
Yun Shi Yi wiped her mouth with his handkerchief, deep self-blame flashing across his face: “I was truly muddled. It turns out your pregnancy symptoms had already flared during our meal at Yu Ping Restaurant but I actually didn’t realize it.”
If he had discovered it, he wouldn’t have let her become hurt. He was guilty of this incident. Thinking of her bloody appearance last night, his heart twisted again.
“You don’t have to blame yourself. Didn’t I also not realize it?” Without personal experience, who would know about this sort of thing? She had never given birth before and he was also a young man.
“It’s not the same. You’re still a child.”
Ruan Zhu wanted to say she was already eighteen years old, already an adult, but she couldn’t.
“I was in such a rush yesterday that I forgot to ask the physician that treated you about what we should pay attention to regarding a pregnant woman’s diet. When I have time tomorrow, I’ll go find him.” Yun Shi Yi picked up Ruan Zhu and placed her on the bed. “Lay down and rest for a while. Later, when Nuan Chun has finished simmering the medicine, this husband will feed you.”
Ruan Zhu laid down and once again, felt somewhat exhausted. Her belly started to ache dully and her eyebrows faintly wrinkled, her face paler than just a moment ago.
“What is it?” Yun Shi Yi became nervous. “Do you feel unwell again?”
Ruan Zhu lifted her thick eyelashes and lightly smiled at him: “Don’t make a fuss about nothing. I was just a little tired and will be fine after I rest.”
He had a very complicated look on his face and after considering for a while: “I don’t believe you. I had better invite that physician over to feel your pulse!”
Ruan Zhu was frustrated: “I’m really all right. It was merely some heaving and my stomach hurting may be from bloating. How is that serious?”
“It hurts again?” Yun Shi Yi was terrified and his heart trembled: “Why didn’t you say so earlier?”
The words the elderly physician had said yesterday still rang in his head: This old man is telling you now, this time you were lucky and the child did not disappear. If there is another time where the injury is so severe that she bleeds, don’t even mention the child being gone, just saving her little life would be a hard enough feat.
“Shi Wei, Shi Wei, hurry and invite the physician over, Zhu Zhu’s in pain again......”
With large steps, Yun Shi Yi reached the door in a blink of an eye and went out.
Why was he like this? I’ve already said there’s nothing wrong. It was merely that the wife was pregnant. Were all the males of Tian Chu as on edge as him? When she was in high school, her seven-months-pregnant language teacher still insisted on working and squeezing into the public buses with her big belly.
After a few minutes, Yun Shi Yi returned with an extra bowl of medicine in his hands: “I’ve asked Shi Wei to invite the physician over. He runs fast so the physician will be here soon. You should drink this medicine first. I’ve put honey in it so it’s not bitter at all.”
Ruan Zhu was just about to sit up by supporting herself with the bed but who would have guessed Yun Shi Yi would abruptly yell: “Don’t move!”
She stopped moving, awkwardly supporting her half-raised upper body with an elbow. She looked at him in astonishment and wanted to ask–was this 9/11, did the space shuttle Challenger crash, or did the USA declare war on everyone?[a] Requesting this esteemed male to please not be so flustered–it’s really scary!
Yun Shi Yi walked over. Carrying the bowl of medicine in one hand, he used the other to bring her back into his arms: “Don’t randomly move if I am not by your side. Look out for the child in your belly. If by chance you injure yourself and start bleeding profusely, it is not a big matter if the child is gone as we can just have another one. But what will happen if something occurs to you? That physician said......”
“Said what?” She had been affected by his emotions and obediently stayed in his arms, not daring to move.
“Nothing. He said you have to properly raise the fetus.”
Yun Shi Yi had a smile on his face. Raising the bowl of medicine, he took a big mouthful and gestured with his eyes at his wife.
Ruan Zhu thought of last night and her face flushed. In addition to a soft shine in her slightly curved eyes, there was also sincere adoration. She spread open her arms and clasped them behind his neck, tilting her head up as she opened her red mouth and aimed upwards, their lips coming into contact. From his mouth, she received a liquid that she subsequently swallowed. Even with the addition of the honey, the medicine was still bitter, but she drank it all, one mouthful at a time. When all the medicine was gone, she felt that she wanted to continue, so licking his lips, she pressed her lips to his again......
Her body was still weak so in a short while, she was tired and panting for breath while her forehead was covered in tiny beads of sweat. Yun Shi Yi paused and placed her back on the bed, gently reprimanding: “Be good and relax, you must not make trouble.”
“I am not that delicate. Also, who has ever heard of a woman lying down all day for the sake of giving birth to a child? A person would break from all of that lying down. When my grandma gave birth to my mother, it was even in a wheat field, and then after that she......” Ruan Zhu muttered in a small voice and unconsciously let her mind wander again. It wasn’t until she saw Yun Shi Yi’s puzzled and suspicious eyes that she understood what she had just said and hurriedly tried to correct herself: “Ah, my grandma has a neighbor that gave birth to their child in a wheat field, and I heard that after they gave birth, they went back to cutting wheat.”
In the 1960s, everyone was poor. There were no contraceptive measures so it was not unusual for a family to have eight to ten children. Rural women suffered even more. Not only did they have to take care of their husband’s parents and do housework, they even had to undertake back-breaking agricultural work labor. She really didn’t know how they were able to withstand all of that.
Her most impactful memory was of a family that had come to her city from the south as they fled the family planning policy[b] and rented a house near hers. That family’s wife had five daughters in succession. After just giving birth to the fifth daughter, the wife had promptly tidied up and started preparing dinner for her husband that was about to get off work.
Now that she was thinking of this, it seemed inconceivable, but it was indeed true.
Disdain showed in Yun Shi Yi’s eyes and he spurnfully said: “The males of that family should be damned. Mistreating their wife is a big crime. They should be reported to the authorities and caned.”
Caned? Ruan Zhu shook her head. It wasn’t possible. The Chinese thinking of ‘man is regarded as superior to woman’ has several thousand years of history. One could prettily say that women currently have an equal part in society, but on the Internet, one could still see wives being mistreated or even beaten to death.
Ruan Zhu closed her eyes to rest. After a while, she heard noises pounding against the stair, a door opening, and an aged voice impatiently nagging: “It’s only been one night so what are you fussing me for? How can this weary old body be able to endure being jolted back and forth like this? Humph! If the silver isn’t doubled, this physician will quit!”
After a few more complaints, the inner door opened and Yun Shi Wei appeared with the same white-haired and white-whiskered old man from yesterday. Entering, he put the elderly man down, his movements extremely coarse, causing the old man to stagger: “Aiyo, you reckless fellow lacking in character, this old man’s waist......”
It was as if Yun Shi Wei had not heard him. Running towards the bed, his entire face was filled with nervousness: “Spouse, what’s wrong, is it critical?”
Ruan Zhu saw that his brow was beaded with sweat and thought that he must had ran through quite a few streets. Coupled with having to carry a living person, it must not have been easy: “I am all right, don’t worry. Go wash your face, hmm? Eldest Cousin’s clothes are in the trunk, change into a set when you’re done washing.” His current clothes had been soaked through with sweat–it must be very unpleasant.
“En, I’ll go now.” Yun Shi Wei promised with his mouth but he didn’t move from his spot. He fixed his eyes on her, his eyes filled with guilt and remorse. Ruan Zhu was just about to console him but heard the old physician’s prattling complaints:
“Hmph! ‘I am all right’? Is it awfully fun to drag this old man in such a rush if you are all right? You all are really idle to lose your head like this.”
Yun Shi Yi bowed in greeting towards the elderly physician: “Esteemed One, my wife truly feels pain in her abdomen. Trouble you to please feel her pulse and for Esteemed One to please forgive my younger sibling for his offense. Later, this one will surely doubly compensate Esteemed One’s losses.”
“This is not bad.” The elderly physician walked towards the bed and pulling Ruan Zhu’s arm over, felt her pulse for a while: “There’s nothing wrong; however, her body is tired and physically weak. Pay more attention to resting. After the evening meal, you cannot be too drained. Being tired will cause your qi and blood to congeal and can easily cause your qi to stray, causing stomach pain.”
Ruan Zhu put her hand down and faintly said: “Many thanks to Esteemed One. I feel much better after having the medicine. Including how we have disturbed you twice, I have inconvenienced you.”
Yun Shi Wei was still not reassured: “Uncle, there’s really nothing wrong with my Spouse?”
The elderly physician glared at him and huffed: “Boy, you dare to not believe in this old man’s medical skills? Let me tell you, this old man has been in this profession for a lifetime. In this area with a radius of several hundred li, this one is the famous half-immortal Liu[c]. As long as the patient still has breath, I can keep him alive.”
“Half-immortal Liu. Why does that sound like fortune-telling?”
Ruan Zhu murmured this in a soft voice, under the impression that the elderly physician could not hear her. But unexpectedly, his ear was incredibly sharp.
The elderly physician laughingly said: “This little wife is actually quite intelligent. This old man was certainly a fortune teller during adolescence and later changed profession to a physician. Does the little wife want to have her fortune told? I see this little wife is humble and courteous and her words are also pleasant to hear. How about I introduce you to a good marriage predestined by fate! There is a nephew in my family that is not bad; his appearance is good and he also knows martial arts......”
Ai, didn’t he say he would divine her fortune? Why was he beginning to act as a matchmaker?
“Cough......Shi Wei, bring over the medical fee for the Esteemed One and send him back.” Yun Shi Yi felt that the words were not pleasant to his ears and let his brother send away the other man as an excuse.
The elderly physician received the medical fee but wasn’t willing to leave, muttering to himself about how he hadn’t talked enough and was finally pulled out by Yun Shi Wei.
Yun Shi Yi covered Ruan Zhu with the brocade quilt and instructed Nuan Chun and Nuan Qing to come in and clean the room.
The two men cleared away the empty dishes and chopsticks before properly tidying up for a while.
In the end, Yun Shi Yi had them both leave and securely closed the door, saying that if there was nothing important, no one was allowed to enter and cause trouble.
Turning his head and solemnly looking at his wife: “You also heard the elderly physician’s words. Your body is weak and you have to pay more attention to resting at all times. If in the future you feel uncomfortable anywhere, you must remember to clearly tell this husband.”
“I got it. Ai, how could I have not realized? My Husband Lord is so long-winded just like an old grandma. I had always thought he was a rather strong lady-killer.”
Yun Shi Yi only half understood her words and gave her an inexpressible look. He ultimately shook his head and took it as her hometown dialect.
Ruan Zhu thought a bit: “Eldest Cousin! Later, let’s let Second Cousin come over, hmm?”
She admits, she was softhearted. Seeing him so depressed, she felt as if she had committed some major crime.
This era’s ‘one woman, many husbands’ policy truly satisfied a woman’s vanity, but it was also extremely hard to be able to carry a bowl of water without causing any ripples. It is said that the great stallion Xiang Shao Long, after entering the Qin dynasty, had swindled over a dozen beautiful maidens into begging to sleep with him. Among those females he had tried to swindle included Meng Jiang Nu. Ai, Meng Jiang Nu, you had said, ‘what are you trying to exploit?’ You really are my idol, ah![d]
“What are you thinking of, hmm?”
“Meng Jiang Nu......” Ruan Zhu spoke without thinking. In her mind, she was wondering, when the great stallion confronted the dozen beautiful maidens, how did he do it?
[a] Most of my views come from the US, but for those from other countries (hello!), this is a reference to two very devastating US events. 9/11 is when a series of terrorist attacks hit the eastern US, making it the deadliest terrorist attack in history (Wikipedia). The Challenger was a space shuttle that broke apart seconds into its flight from an engineering failure, killing its entire crew (Wikipedia). One thing to note is that the author actually just wrote ‘911’ which I interpreted as 9/11, but it could also mean 9-1-1 (the emergency phone number in North America), which also fits.
[b] The family planning policy was China’s attempt at limiting their population. You may have heard of their one-/two-child restrictions, which falls under this policy.
[c] 刘半仙, saying that someone is without formal training but is still very knowledgeable about something
[d] As mentioned in Chapter 19, Xiang Shao Long is a womanizer from the drama A Step into the Past. Meng Jiang Nu is a famous character from a Chinese folk tale that had searched for her husband and her tears had broken down a stretch of the Great Wall of China, exposing his body. (Wikipedia) There should be no relation between the two besides both of them set during the Qin dynasty.
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