June 23, 2024

The Analects of Righteous Father’s Collapse [ Fast Wear] Chapter 207

Chapter 207: Tremble, Scumbag 16(END)

Author: 打字机


T/N: This arc took me 1 year to complete LOL. So busy like a bee???


“Aunt Jiang back for the ancestral tomb-sweeping?”

As customary, on the anniversary of Old Man Jiang’s passing, all members of the third branch of the Jiang family gathered to prepare a vegetarian meal in remembrance of their ancestors. Regardless of how busy their business was that day, Jiang Miao-shi would always bring her children back to the village to sweep the tomb and pay respects to their ancestors.

“Yes, we’re back.”

Jiang Miao-shi greeted each person.

“Third Aunt, didn’t you ask me to bring a piece of red cloth? The cloth workshop had a batch of defective material a few days ago. The price was half of what regular fabric costs. I checked it out. Though they call it defective, it’s just that the red dye didn’t evenly cover a few spots, all at the edges. When you cut the fabric, you can easily avoid those spots, which won’t affect your little girl’s wedding dress. Xiaocao, the flour your family sent to the shop recently was of good quality. If you maintain this quality, we’ll keep buying flour from your family…”

Hearing that Jiang Miao-shi had returned, everyone who had previously asked her for favours gathered at the Jiang family home, making it lively.

“Old Jiang’s third son is lucky to have married such a capable wife. Even you, Xiaocao, benefitted from it.”

Jiang Miao-shi was a popular figure in Jiang Village. Those who didn’t get a chance to crowd around her naturally turned to chat with Xu Xiaocao and Liu Cui instead.

Since Bai Lan’s business had grown larger, the villagers were somewhat wary of her. They felt that the dynamics had changed and were apprehensive around her. Consequently, Bai Lan enjoyed a relatively peaceful environment on each visit home.

Over the years, Xu Xiaocao had also become smarter. She no longer clashed openly with the third branch and avoided making sarcastic remarks. Instead, she followed the example of the second branch’s Jiang Hu and Liu Cui, attempting to establish better relations with the third branch.

After all, they were still family members by marriage, and there was no deep-seated animosity between the branches. Out of respect for Jiang Miao-shi, Bai Lan also accepted the goodwill gestures from the first branch.

In recent years, Bai Lan has used the earnings from her noodle restaurant to buy a considerable amount of land. She has leased part of it to villagers without their fields and rented some to Jiang Hai and Jiang Hu. With the reduced rent compared to regular farmland, the Jiang family’s first and second branches have been enjoying good lives these years.

Perhaps, having tasted the benefits, the first and second branches had become more sensible. They knew the third branch wasn’t willing to live under the same roof as them, so they voluntarily offered to sell the houses they had received during the family’s division to the third branch. They separately acquired land from the village head and built new houses. After Bai Lan bought additional houses from both branches, everyone was pleased, and the relationships between the branches improved somewhat.

“Third Brother is fortunate.”

No matter how envious Xu Xiaocao felt, she still put on a facade of happiness for the third branch. Over the years, she realised that the third branch was no longer an entity she could provoke.

“Yes, you see, Dahu is about the same age as our son, but he was sent to a school for enlightenment at six. Rumour has it that they even hired a bodyguard to teach him martial arts. He’s truly becoming a talented scholar and warrior.”

Xiao Wang’s wife had remained chatty as ever over the past ten years. Holding a handful of melon seeds, she joined the conversation with Xu Xiaocao and the others.

“And what about the little girl born in your family? She returned in a carriage yesterday, right? Such a young age, yet already attended to by maids and servants. She’s no different from a young lady from a wealthy family.”

“That’s right, I saw it with my own eyes yesterday. The six-year-old little girl was dressed so extravagantly. The little bells on her hairpins must have been made of gold. They jingled and tinkled as she moved. Here I am, at my age, and I haven’t even touched a gold ring.”

The little girls in the village most envied Jiang Zhuhua. Although they were all just ordinary girls, Jiang Zhuhua was her parents’ treasure. Even though her father became mentally impaired, when she was still unable to walk, he acted as her legs. Every child in the village had seen her riding on her father’s shoulders. Moreover, her mother was good at earning money and adored her daughter, never being stingy when dressing her up. Every time you see Jiang Zhuhua, she is wearing new clothes.

But envy was useless. After all, she was lucky to be born into the third branch of the Jiang family.

When Meng Jiao-niang heard about Jiang Liu’s family returning to the village, she unconsciously headed toward the Jiang household. She dared not get close, only stealing a distant glance before hastily retreating. Yet, her presence didn’t escape the sharp eyes of the village women.

“Isn’t that Widow Meng? Tsk tsk, she once tried to frame Jiang San, but unfortunately, she failed.”

“Yes, if she had succeeded back then, Bai Lan might not have wanted to continue living with Jiang San. Jiang San’s life wouldn’t be as comfortable now. Everything comes down to fate.”

A few gossiping women chatted while watching the silhouette of Meng Jiao-niang.


In recent years, Meng Jiao-niang’s life hasn’t been easy. After giving birth, she initially made some money by selling her body. However, her fortune didn’t last long. She once provoked the wrong man, whose wife was a butcher’s daughter—robust in build and fierce in character. When the wife discovered the affair between Meng Jiao-niang and her husband, she brought her brothers to confront Meng Jiao-niang. During the altercation, Meng Jiao-niang‘s face was disfigured, putting an end to her flesh trade.

Those men had been attracted to Meng Jiao-niang because of her youth and beauty. Now that her face was ruined, who would be willing to pay to sleep with her? This incident brought an end to Meng Jiaoniang’s livelihood and reputation. If it weren’t for her child, who is also a descendant of the village head’s family, Meng Jiao-niang and her child would probably have been driven out of Jiang Village long ago.

Over the years, Meng Jiao-niang and her child survived with the support of the village head’s family and by foraging for wild plants and fruits from the mountains. To make ends meet, Meng Jiao-niang had to start working. She cleared a small piece of land at the foot of the mountain, where she planted millet and sweet potatoes. The hard labour took a toll on her once delicate skin, making it rough and dull. In just a few years, she transformed from the elegant woman she used to be into a rough and crude village woman.

As for the child Meng Jiao-niang gave birth to, her tarnished reputation cast a shadow over his life. Despite his remarkable intelligence and endearing behaviour, none of the village children wanted to play with him. Meng Jiao-niang, struggling with the hardships of life, often vented her frustrations on the child, subjecting him to beatings. Moreover, that child, Jiang Godan, was also forced to help his mother with various tasks at a young age, making him a truly pitiable soul.

“I think you’re all wrong. If Meng Jiao-niang had succeeded in framing Jiang San, she might have become a wealthy lady. After all, Bai Lan has always been soft-hearted; back then, she and Jiang San already had a son, Dahu. Would she divorce Jiang San?”

“That’s right, I heard someone see Jiang Godan yelling ‘father’ at Jiang San. Could it be that Jiang Godan is Jiang San’s son? Maybe Meng Jiao-niang wasn’t lying?”

“Stop making baseless claims. If the Jiang family’s third branch and Bai Lan hear this, they might refuse to buy your family’s food.”

A shrewd woman interrupted the gossiping women. Bai Lan’s restaurant was thriving, and its monthly grain demand was substantial. As the saying goes, “Don’t let your wealth flow into another’s field.” The restaurant’s ingredients were mostly purchased from the villagers in Jiang Village. Sometimes, the demand was so significant that even the in-laws of those who married into the Jiang Village benefited from it.

Therefore, in Jiang Village, the third branch of the Jiang family was an existence that couldn’t be offended.

“We’re just chatting. Look at my big mouth. I deserve to be scolded.”

Upon seeing the situation, a few gossiping women slapped their mouths. They had indeed let slip some words. If their words led to Jiang San’s family not buying their food, they would likely become outcasts in their own families.

The women changed the topic and continued chatting about other matters and people.

As for the central figures of the previous conversation, they once again encountered the very situation they had just discussed.

**********

“Dad!”

A skinny, dirt-covered little boy dashed up to Jiang Liu. This was the reborn Jiang Jinlin, now casually named Jiang Godan.

When Jiang Jinlin first discovered his rebirth, he was very excited. He thought he was a child of destiny, and this rebirth was an opportunity given to him by the heavens to make up for past mistakes. However, as he began to understand his situation, that excitement turned into anxiety and apprehension.

Everything had changed. He had become the older brother who was supposed to be miscarried originally. In this life, his previous father was no longer his father. He had become a tainted illegitimate child, and the Jiang family members who had worked like slaves for him and his mother in the previous life were now like strangers.

In these six years of rebirth, Jiang Jinlin experienced all the hardships he hadn’t experienced in his previous life. He increasingly wanted to change his current situation. However, perhaps due to a poor starting point, even with decades of memories of political scheming, Jiang Jinlin still couldn’t alter his present circumstances. Moreover, he was limited by his young age. As a child not yet ten years old, he was constrained in what he could do. He couldn’t even prevent the beatings from Meng Jiao-niang.

Jiang Jinlin longed for his previous life more and more. In his past life, he had been Jiang Liu’s son, receiving wholehearted care from Jiang Liu and living a carefree life. Maybe it was because his life was so difficult that he gradually felt he should still be Jiang Liu’s son. Everyone had misunderstood, thinking he was Jiang Dezhu’s son. He was determined to set things right and make Jiang Liu acknowledge his existence as a son.

Today, upon hearing that the third branch of the Jiang family had returned to the village to pay respects at the ancestral graves, Jiang Jinlin waited for an opportunity in a place Jiang Liu would pass by.

“You’re strange. Who just casually acknowledges someone as their father?”

Eleven-year-old Jiang Liu was a well-behaved and innocent good child. Although he didn’t understand why his mother always said that Dahu and Zhuhua were his children, since his mother said so, he would certainly take care of Dahu and Zhuhua just as his parents took care of him.

As for others who cried and demanded to acknowledge him as their fathers, sorry, he himself was still just a baby.

“Dad, I want to eat cīcī fruit.”

Six-year-old Jiang Zhuhua still liked being held by her father. The chubby little girl clung to her father’s clothes, issuing commands coquettishly.

“Alright, let’s pick some cīcī fruit (T/N: Soursop Fruit).”

Jiang Liu moved around Jiang Jinlin and carried his little daughter to the thorny bushes at the foot of the mountain to look for fruits.

From the corner of her eye, Jiang Zhuhua glanced at the dejected Jiang Jinlin. Since Jiang Jinlin first came to recognize his father, they realized that, like them, he had also been given a second chance at life. Initially, they thought Meng Jiao-niang‘s child was innocent and did not plan to extend their grudge to him. But now that they knew he was Jiang Jinlin, Bai Lan and her daughters no longer held back.

Seeing Jiang Jinlin in such a miserable state, Jiang Zhuhua felt incredibly pleased. She hugged her father’s neck tightly and decided to give him an extra liúshābāo (T/N: Salted egg custard bun) today as a reward for his firm rejection of Jiang Jinlin.

Jiang Liu didn’t visit the village often, so Jiang Jinlin wouldn’t give up after just one rejection. As he prepared to pester him further, Jiang Dahu stopped him.

Nine-year-old Jiang Dahu was well-nourished and robust from years of martial training. So he stood in front of Jiang Jinlin like a small mountain.

Without saying a word, Jiang Dahu swung his fist, and Jiang Jinlin dared not approach further.

Watching the Jiang family members walk away, Jiang Jinlin felt disoriented as he returned to that dilapidated thatched cottage.

“I miss studying.”

Jiang Jinlin thought to himself. Even in his past life, he had become a Jinshi (a successful candidate in the highest imperial examinations), and in this life, as long as he participated in the imperial examinations and regained his achievements, everything he had lost would be within his reach.

“Hehe.”

Meng Jiao-niang sneered coldly. She felt that her son had come to collect a debt from her, otherwise how could he make such outrageous demands?

“Who do you think you are? You are just an illegitimate child unrecognized by your father’s family. Don’t think I can’t afford to send you to school; even if I had the money, do you think any scholar would accept you as a disciple? Do you think anyone would be willing to vouch for you? Stop dreaming.”

Meng Jiao-niang’s scarred face looked particularly sinister and terrifying at that moment.

“You are nothing but a wretch, the lowest and most useless thing.”

Meng Jiao-niang‘s rough hand stroked her son’s cheek, then tightly grabbed his hair. Ignoring Jiang Jinlin’s struggles, she dragged him to the small piece of wasteland she had cleared to work.

Jiang Dezhu, controlled by his fierce wife, dared not help them. However, the village head, mindful that Jiang Godan was still of Jiang’s family blood, occasionally provided some grain. But now, the village head was getting old, and his other sons had long been displeased with him using communal resources to support the misdeeds of the second household. For the sake of survival, Meng Jiao-niang had to reconsider her options.

She realized that neither she nor her son could rise above their circumstances. Given her son’s illegitimate status, his prospects were equally bleak. Instead of hoping for the impossible, she focused on securing their next meal.

Since then, Jiang Jinlin no longer appeared before the Jiang family members. Instead, Bai Lan and others would hear the story of Meng Jiao-niang and her son from others whenever they returned to the village.

It was said that Meng Jiao-niang eventually got involved with a widower in his forties. The widower was poor and couldn’t afford to marry a second wife, and the previous wife had not given him any children. For the sake of passing on his bloodline, the widower didn’t mind Meng Jiao-niang‘s reputation or her ruined appearance. He only wanted her to bear him children.

It was said that the widower had a bad temper. He didn’t want to raise children for other men and often beat and scolded Jiang Goudan. However, Meng Jiao-niang, his birth mother, turned a blind eye to it, single-mindedly wanting to have a child for the widower to secure her place in his house.

It was said that Jiang Goudan had sneaked into the village school to eavesdrop. When a scholar discovered him, he demonstrated his ability to proficiently recite the Three-Character Classic and the Hundred Family Surnames. Despite being amazed by his intelligence, the scholar regretfully rejected him due to his low status. Someone spread this news to Jiang Dezhu’s wife, who worried that Meng Jiao-niang might use her son’s talent to change their situation. That fierce woman hired a few ruffians to break Jiang Goudan’s arm. Although he eventually recovered, he never regained full mobility. She compensated the widower and Meng Jiao-niang with twenty taels of silver, and the two parties agreed to drop the matter as if nothing had happened.

It was said that Meng Jiao-niang became pregnant, and the widower was overjoyed. He went to town several times to buy alcohol and once fell into the river while drunk, drowning to death. As a result, Meng Jiao-niang became a widow, and rumours circulated in the village about her being a husband-killer.

It was said that Meng Jiao-niang miscarried when she was four months pregnant, and she became insane as a result.

It was said that behind the drowning of the widower and Meng Jiao-niang‘s miscarriage, there was Jiang Goudan’s influence, as he held resentment for their inaction when his arm was maimed.

It was also said that both Meng Jiao-niang and Jiang Goudan had died. After tormenting each other for over a decade, Meng Jiao-niang set fire to the old thatched cottage of the Meng family and burned herself and Jiang Goudan to death.

************

These were events that unfolded over several decades.

Bai Lan and her two children didn’t participate in these events; they worked hard to improve their lives and silently watched as Meng Jiao-niang and her son brought about their downfall.

In this lifetime, the three of them never stained their hands with blood, yet they managed to satisfy their thirst for revenge.

“I think that old Taoist was right. That Jiang San did have a life of wealth and prosperity.”

More than forty years had passed. The once young people in the village had all turned into elderly folks with greying hair, leaning on canes and chatting under the shade of trees.

Xiao Wang’s wife finally couldn’t crack open any more melon seeds. She held a handful of candy-coated fruit and occasionally popped one into her mouth, letting the candy coating soften before swallowing.

Back then, the villagers had treated the old Taoist’s words as a joke, but now, who wouldn’t admit that the old Taoist’s divination was accurate?

Jiang San had been simple-minded for most of his life. In his youth, his mother protected him, and after he became simple-minded, his wife took care of him. Now that he was old, although his mind wasn’t clear, his two children were devoted to him. Truly, a life of wealth and prosperity.

“I heard that Bai Lan’s health isn’t too good. Well, she did go through a lot of hardship when she was young. Her health isn’t as robust as Jiang San’s.”

“Yeah, who knows how she’s doing.”

Everyone sighed a few times. Time flew by so quickly; in the blink of an eye, they were all on the brink of entering their graves.

***********

The ailing Bai Lan was now on her deathbed, with Jiang Liu and her two children by her side.

“After I’m gone, you siblings must care for each other.”

Jiang Da Hu and Jiang Zhu Hua married and had children. Their filial piety reassured Bai Lan.

The one she couldn’t let go of was her little fool. He had already grown to “fifteen years old,” but on the day after his “fifteenth birthday,” he regressed to “four years old.” Over the years, Bai Lan had consulted many doctors, but the human brain was too complex, and no physician could explain his condition.

Later, Bai Lan simply gave up trying to understand. She had treated this husband like a son, then later like a grandson. Over time, their bond grew stronger.

Another cycle had passed. Jiang Liu was “six years old” this year. If it weren’t for Bai Lan tirelessly teaching him, he would probably start calling Jiang Da Hu and Jiang Zhu Hua “grandpa” and “grandma.”

“Mother, don’t worry. We’ll take care of him.”

Jiang Da Hu restrained his inner grief as he looked at his father, who was crying like a child, his tears and snot covering his face. He made a promise to his mother.

Just as his mother had treated his father like a son and then a grandson, Jiang Da Hu found it hard to treat this completely unimposing father as an elder. Especially since his father’s intellectual memory only spanned from age four to fifteen. Hence, Jiang Da Hu simply treated him like a child.

As for seeking revenge, that idea had long been abandoned by them.

“Okay.”

Satisfied with the promise, Bai Lan smiled and nodded. Finally, she glanced at her two children and the silly crying figure of Jiang Liu, who resembled a child. Slowly, she closed her eyes.

Perhaps Jiang Liu’s mental regression was the best ending after all. After all, she was an ordinary woman who adhered to the principles of being a wife. If she were to truly take revenge on her husband, the father of her child, Bai Lan would feel regret and self-disgust even amidst the satisfaction. And her two children, restricted by ethical norms, would find it unacceptable to seek revenge against their biological father for any reason. Such actions were not tolerated by society.

With Jiang Liu being simple-minded, they no longer had to suffer the torment of hatred. They no longer needed to struggle with the choice between revenge and forbearance.

Bai Lan felt fortunate that Jiang Liu had become simple-minded and that she hadn’t let hatred blind her. She hadn’t become a stranger to herself in pursuit of revenge. She and her children remained true to their hearts. Before all the misfortunes began, they embarked on a different path to happiness.

Thanks to this second chance at life, she had no regrets.

Jiang Da Hu and Jiang Zhu Hua tearfully bid farewell to their mother. On the seventh day of Bai Lan’s passing, they also said goodbye to their father. Fortunately, the siblings still had each other and their own families. The departed had gone, but the living had to continue their respective lives.

However, Jiang Da Hu and Jiang Zhu Hua did not bury their deceased parents in the same place. Although Bai Lan’s and Jiang Liu’s graves were within the ancestral tomb of the Jiang family, they were separated by a short distance.

Jiang Da Hu and Jiang Zhu Hua made this decision together. They didn’t resent their simple-minded father, but they resented their biological father, who had ultimately disappointed them and their mother. Because of their father’s existence, they could let go of their hatred, but that didn’t mean they would forget it. They believed that their mother wouldn’t want to be buried together with their biological father.

Some of the clan’s older members disagreed with the siblings’ decision, but Jiang Da Hu and Jiang Zhu Hua didn’t let those idle words bother them. In their view, this was already the best ending.


Author’s Note: This is a combined chapter about catching up on yesterday’s debt. It’s already this late, but I’m still so energetic. I feel like I need to take some sleeping pills.


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