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PSLMD Chapter 4

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Chapter 4 – Buns harder than rocks

This temple had been decaying for a while. After living for many years, it had become even worse. The pillars sloped, the roof leaked, the windows were only half covered and the flooring was full of holes.

The temple was not particularly large, but their mother had separated it into three rooms. The one closest to the outside was the kitchen. The middle one that could keep warm was Xiaosi’s room. Next to it was a room for their mom, Yan Shuqin, Yan Shuxue and Yan Shuyun. The four of them shared the tiny space. The toilet was outside, surrounded by some wood planks.

Yan Xiaosi looked away as she cried inside.

Even refugees had better housing than this.

“Mom, the water’s here.”

Yan Shuxue carried over a basin of cold water.

Ms. Zhong had her put the basin next to Yan Xiaosi’s feet as Yan Shuqin gave a rag they used to wash their face to their mom.

The family of five shared this single rag. They had already used it for two years and there were a couple patches on it.

Ms. Zhong took it and submerged it in the water. After squeezing the excess water out, she patted Yan Xiaosi’s face with it.

The cold rag on Yan Xiaosi’s face relieved her of the burning pain.

Their mom patiently cared for her for a while. “It looks like the swelling has gone down a lot. I wonder when the bruises will fade. I hope they don’t leave scars.”

Ms. Zhong looked at Yan Xiaosi with worry.

Although she had brought Xiaosi up as a boy, she was actually a girl. Girls needed their faces for a brighter future. It would be a terrible loss if her face were ruined.

Yan Xiaosi didn’t care much about the bruises on her face.

As a doctor, she knew that they would disappear naturally after a few days.

“Mom, let’s eat. We can let the bruises stay for a few days. There may be uses for them.”

Ms. Zhong didn’t understand her words, but hearing that her daughter was hungry, she asked Yan Shuxue to remove the basin.

Fearing that their food would get cold, Ms. Zhong had put their buns and wild vegetables back in the pot to keep warm. After setting five pairs of utensils and bowls on the table, she turned back to the stove and opened the pot lid. She brought out a large bowl of vegetable soup and a few buns. 

The family of five gathered around the shabby table, sitting on wood stumps as chairs. The bowls and utensils on the table were also sculpted from wood. Yan Xiaosi held a wooden bowl, feeling its roughness.

There were only four buns, but their family had five people.

Yan Shuqin, Yan Shuxue, and Yan Shuyun quickly reached for the wild vegetable soup.

Ms. Zhong took one of the buns and put it in Yan Xiaosi’s bowl. “Eat. This bun was made with corn flour and is dense enough even when it’s warm. You don’t want it to get cold.”

“Qin’er, Xue’er, Yun’er, you all eat quickly too.”

Ms. Zhong gave the rest of the buns to Yan Shuqin, Yan Shuxue and Yan Shuyun.

Yan Xiaosi grabbed the bun from her bowl. It was harder than a rock.

She lightly tore at it, but it wouldn’t come apart. So she used a bit more force. Handing over half of it to Ms. Zhong, she said, “Mom, please take half of it. When I was at the weir earlier, I had caught an eel, grilled it, and eaten it.”

Cough, cough.

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