“I’m so incompetent. I haven’t passed the examination for 2 consecutive years. However, I have made an appointment with several other scholars to study together in a study in the county seat to prepare for the exam in half a year. I will leave at the end of the month. Please don’t worry. I, Liu Ming, will be the number 1 scholar in the future and I will return home with fame and fortune so that you and Feng’er can live a good life.” The middle-aged man put the woman in his arms and whispered in her ear.
Hearing that he was leaving the village and entering the county seat, the woman could no longer hold back her emotion; 2 lines of tears quietly streamed down.
“Husband, you can go without worry. I will take care of the family affairs. Feng’er is no longer a small baby, and he is already sensible. You can study with peace of mind and pass the examination as soon as possible. But the husband should pay more attention to your body. Please don’t be too frugal that you mistreat yourself. If you don’t have a good body, what can you do even if you have fame and fortune?” The woman bit her lips lightly, resisting the reluctance in her heart, and said with a sobbing tone.
“Don’t worry, I have decided to not return home until I succeed!” The man gently patted the woman’s back and said with firm eyes.
When the woman heard the words, her face turned pale. She wanted to say something, but she was afraid of damaging her husband’s enthusiasm, so she hid her grief in her heart and smiled bitterly.
7 days later, beside the winding road outside the village, a man wearing a white shirt with a baggage on his back was reluctantly saying goodbye to his wife and child.
The man hugged his wife tightly in his arms, kissed her forehead lightly, then he bent over and touched his son’s head.
“Feng’er, take good care of your mother. Father will be back soon.” The man said with a smile, holding back his inner reluctance.
“Father, Feng’er will wait for you with mother at home.” The boy nodded with a firm gaze.
The man patted the boy on the head again. After a chuckle, he turned and walked toward the exit of the village without looking back.
Because he was afraid that when he turned around, he would lose the courage to leave.
His wife and children reluctantly looked at his distant back for a long time until his figure disappeared in the far distance.
Half a month later, in a small county hundreds of miles away from Village Liu.
At this moment, it was midday. A main road from west to east was crowded with crowds. The calls of the merchants were endless. The scene was bustling.
A middle-aged man dressed in a white shirt was gradually walking toward a study at the corner of the main road.
From then on, in the wing room of this study, there was always candlelight lit up all night every night. The shadow of a figure holding a scroll in his hand and shaking his head to study carefully could be seen.
Half a year later, before the honor board, the sounds of congratulation and lament came one after another.
“Brother Liu, don’t be discouraged. You can try again next year.” A scholar in a green robe, standing in front of the crowd, said to a man in a white shirt next to him.
“I have been failing for 3 years, I’m really ashamed of my family.” The man in a white shirt shook his head sadly, then he slowly got out of the crowd.
Half a month later, in Family Liu.
“Mother, there is a letter written by father to you!” A boy, holding a bamboo slip in his hand, excitedly ran into a paddy field with the height of a person.
Upon hearing the words, the plainly-dressed woman immediately stopped the work, wiped her hands on the skirt, then she took the bamboo slip from the boy with a smile.
But the smile on her face gradually faded, and it was replaced by a touch of sadness.
“Feng’er, your father may have to stay in the county for another year.” The woman slowly put away the bamboo slip and smiled reluctantly.
The boy seemed to understand something. He silently lowered his head without speaking.
In a blink of an eye, another year had passed.
This year, the mother and son depended on each other for their lives; they had had a lot of hardships.
Without the pillar of the family, they lost the main source of income. In addition to the drought in the fields this year, the farmer’s harvest was even worse. The woman could barely survive after selling the only old cow in her family.
However, the same scroll of bamboo slip mentioned that the man didn’t get nominated on the honor board, and they couldn’t see the man return with fame and fortune.
Another 3 years.
On the bed in the old wooden house, the woman was finally bedridden due to years of exhaustion. Now there were no grains of rice left in the house, and the things that could be sold had already been sold.
“Mother, there is a letter from father!” The boy ran into the house again excitedly, leaped on the woman’s bedside, and said happily.
At this time, the boy was already 12 years old, and his figure was obviously bigger than 3 years ago. He was 6 feet tall and had a strong build. He was no longer the boy at that time.
“Cough… cough…” The woman smiled after hearing that. She sat up with difficulty, and she coughed continuously.
“Mother, are you okay?” The boy rushed forward, helped her up, and asked with concern.
“Cough… Feng’er, mother has taught you a lot of words over the years. This time, mother… cough… wants to test you. Open it and read it to mother.” The woman coughed a few times again, then she lay back on the bed again and said in a weak voice.
“Lian Xi, husband is useless. I haven’t passed the examination after 6 years. I really have no face to go back to the village to meet the villagers and elders, but I still miss you and Feng’er very much. Are you 2 fine? Looking forward to your reply. Mother, father didn’t…” The boy’s excitement gradually faded as he almost finished reading the letter.
“Feng’er… cough… hurry up, get a pen and paper and reply to your father.” The woman said anxiously when she heard the words.
Half a month later, in the wing of the study in a small town, the haggard-faced man in white shirt was holding a copy of the family letter in his hand, but he saw that the handwriting belonged to his son instead of his wife.
“Husband, everything is well. You can keep studying with peace of mine. We will be waiting for you to return home with fame. Feng’er not only can read and write, but his body is also getting stronger. He hopes to fight on the battlefield and serve the country.”
Another 3 years.
On this day, in front of an uninhabited grave, a strong young man picked up a letter in his hand, but his eyes flashed with anger and bitterness.
“Mother, why don’t you let me tell my father that you were so ill, and you want me to write back every time to tell him that everything is fine? Why? Father has been away from home for almost 9 years, but he never came back to see us once. Now that you are gone, he still doesn’t know.
He failed again this year. I really don’t know how long I have to wait. if he has to wait until that day. Is the imperial examination really so important to him? Even so important that he can’t go home for so many years to see his wife and children? When can he stop being obsessed by it!?”
After saying that, 2 lines of tears gushed out. The young man slammed his fist against the boulder beside the tombstone.
“Bang“, a thin crack appeared on the boulder, and the back of the boy’s hand was stained with blood.
At the same time, in the study in the county seat, Liu Ming, dressed in a white shirt, was still studying day and night.
For 9 years, he had forgotten the time. As long as he didn’t feel tired, he would read again and again every day.
Finally, in the tenth year.
“Brother Liu, you finally succeeded, and you even got the tanhua (top 3).”
“I got it; I finally got it!” Liu Ming was holding a piece of paper with trembling hands. The words ‘Tanhua’ and his name were written on it, and there was a red seal on the bottom.
He gently stroked the white hair on his temples and adjusted his appearance. 2 lines of turbid tears couldn’t help streaming out, then he burst into laughter.
On this day, Village Liu seemed particularly lively.
On the only road leading to the village, a group of people was walking slowly.
The leader was riding on horseback, wearing a red robe and a high crown. Needless to say, it was naturally Liu Ming.
And the group of people behind them were all wearing red robes, beating gongs and drums. The scene looked lively.
“Tanhua Liu, the Village Liu is in front.” The groom with the horse pointed at the signboard at the entrance of the village and said to Liu Ming.
After Liu Ming squinted his eyes, he jumped off his horseback.
“I want to walk back by myself. I didn’t expect 10 years has passed. I wonder how are Lian Xi and Feng’er now.” After Liu Ming said lightly, he suppressed the excitement in his heart and walked toward the village.
After another glance at the old sign at the entrance of the village, Liu Ming walked quickly to his house.
Compared with 10 years ago, the village seemed to be much more deserted. At the bustling road in the village, there were only a few elderly people sitting at their door, working on the grain harvested from the ground.
“You’re Family Liu’s third son! You are back!”
An old white-haired woman in her sixties glanced at Liu Ming and seemed to recognize Liu Ming’s identity. She said excitedly, then she looked away as if she remembered something.
“Fifth Aunt, your eyesight is still so good. I’m back. I got tanhua. What’s wrong? How is Lian Xi? Where is Feng’er?” Liu Ming looked at the old woman with an uneasy expression, and an ominous feeling surged into his mind. He asked anxiously.
The old woman didn’t say anything, but she shook her head and sighed slightly.
Seeing this, Liu Ming immediately sprinted toward his home.
Just like 10 years ago, over a small mountain in the village, there was a small wooden house in a low ground.
Liu Ming pushed open the empty door, but he found that the room was empty.
The dilapidated house was covered with dust as if no one lived in it for a long time.
On the table and on the ground, there are a few dried wooden basins in a mess. It was obvious that the wooden house leaked on rainy days, and the basins were used to collect rainwater.
“Feng’er, father is back.” Liu Ming called out loudly when he saw this.
Find out what happens next by getting early access to chapters with Patreon! Please do check out the community goal in our Patreon as well! Thanks for the support! Click here to access our Patreon page.