Aerial Rain
Translating Web Novel

TGCF Ch 2 – Reversing Right and Wrong

Xia Mian turned around and saw the child crouched fearfully in a corner of the sofa, his clear, large eyes filled with terror and unease. Xia Mian hurriedly went over and hugged him, saying, “Don’t be afraid, baby, Auntie is here.”

The child trembled in her arms. Xia Mian then remembered that he must be hurt from the beating and quickly let go to check him carefully. She saw a red mark on the child’s forearm and the broken cup on the floor, realizing that the child must have dropped the cup because the water was too hot.

She carefully picked him up, her heart aching as she felt the lightness. He was too light and small for his age!

As Xia Mian carried the child into the bathroom, she accidentally kicked something. The sharp pain shot up to her head, causing her to hiss in pain and stand still. After a moment, she looked down to see it was the aluminum basin the child had been using to wash clothes.

The child, obviously aware of what happened, stiffened in fear. His grip around her neck loosened, and he anxiously twisted his hands together, his voice trembling, “Auntie.”

Xia Mian was nearly brought to tears by his call and immediately hugged him tighter, soothingly rubbing his back again and again, “Don’t be afraid, it’s Auntie’s fault for not looking where she was going, not yours. You know how to wash clothes, awesome!”

The child still didn’t relax until Xia Mian cooled the scalded area with water and applied toothpaste to prevent blistering. All the time, she kept hugging him. Feeling the small body hesitantly lean against her, his cautious dependency, made Xia Mian’s heart ached. How miserable would this child be without her…

But then again, this dream felt too real. While it was satisfying to introduce her fists to that evil stepmother, this child really made her worried.

Xia Mian felt she was overlooking something but couldn’t quite remember. Well, whatever. She would let it go for now and take things one step at a time, focusing on taking care of the child first.

When she lifted the dirty vest that had long lost its original color, Xia Mian gasped and clenched her teeth: she had been too soft just now!

The child’s thin body was covered in bruises, a shocking sight.

Xia Mian’s eyes welled up with tears. As she held back her cry, she immediately took a clean, soft towel, wet it, and carefully cleaned the child’s arms and face. She wanted to do more, but didn’t dare to touch other areas; the child’s body was literally covered in injuries, leaving no healthy skin.

Suddenly standing up, Xia Mian’s thumb pressed down on the root of her index finger, making a cracking sound with her joints. She didn’t know how long before she would wake from this dream, but she at least hoped she could have enough time to give that wicked woman another thorough beating. As Xia Mian moved her legs, familiar pain struck her again. Looking down at the aluminum basin she just kicked for the second time, she realized what she had overlooked: could a dream inflict such real pain?

Just as this thought crossed her mind, her head suddenly throbbed, and memories that did not belong to her flooded in — those were the sixteen years of Zhang Yufeng’s aunt’s life, the memories of the novel ‘Xia Mian.’

What was happening? Before Xia Mian could figure out whether this was a dream or reality, she heard Huang Xiaojuan’s sobbing from the small window connected to the bathroom: “They say being a stepmother is hard. That child is always dirty and unkempt, but is that my fault? I treat him like my own, and just for disciplining him a bit, his aunt beat me like this…”

Feeling a tight grip on her leg, Xia Mian looked down to see the child clutching her pants, his lips pursed in unease, and his large eyes filled with worry and fear.

Xiao Feng knew how powerful his stepmother was; he was worried his aunt would be scolded, and even more afraid that after his aunt left, the stepmother would beat him even harder. Every time, he would be in so much pain that he could only curl on the floor, unable to get up.

A child who should have been carefree was forced to live in perpetual fear. Seeing those frightened eyes, Xia Mian momentarily set aside the chaos in her mind. She bent down to hold the child’s face, looking earnestly into his eyes, “Don’t be afraid, baby, your auntie won’t ignore you.” Since she couldn’t tell whether this was a dream or not, she decided to treat it as a reality for now; at least, she had to secure a safe way out for the child.

A faint glimmer appeared in the child’s eyes. He looked up at Xia Mian and softly said, “I’m not a baby, my name is Xiao Feng. It’s the name given by my mom.”

“Right, baby is a nickname, Xiao Feng is your formal name.” Xia Mian threw away the ragged vest and asked, “Shall we change your clothes? Where are your clothes?”

Xiao Feng pointed to the aluminum basin beside them, containing two garments, a vest and adult shorts, both too dirty to discern their color. These were the only change of clothes the child had.

Xia Mian suppressed a sigh, gently pressing her finger with a soft click, and quietly asked, “Do you have anything else to wear? Where do you keep your things?”

The child pointed towards a small room to the north. The layout of this old family-oriented building was simple: an eighty-plus square meter flat with three bedrooms and one living room, where the living room was the largest, followed by two bedrooms, and the northern room was extremely small. Even prepared mentally, upon opening that room’s door, tears instantly fell from Xia Mian’s eyes…

Xiao Feng was startled, “Auntie…”

“It’s okay. Auntie’s okay.” Xia Mian bent down to hug him, unable to stop her sobs, “Don’t be afraid, baby, your auntie will definitely protect you!”

Xia Mian wiped her eyes, stood up, picked up the phone on the chest of drawers, and decisively dialed 110.

After hanging up the phone, she returned to the guest room she occupied, took a soft T-shirt from her luggage, and came back to dress the child. Then she rummaged through the kitchen and found some biscuits to give to him.

Xiao Feng touched the clean clothes on his body, looking somewhat happy. Seeing Xia Mian with the biscuits, he startled, timidly saying, “These are for my brother.”

Xia Mian stuffed the biscuits into his hands, “From today onwards, you don’t have a brother. Whatever you want, it’s yours!” She sat him on the sofa, “Eat up, wait here for auntie to come back.”

Xia Mian stood up, cracking her knuckles one by one. Today, if she didn’t teach Huang Xiaojuan a lesson she wouldn’t forget for life, her surname was not Xia!

The family compound of Huagang National Steel Factory’s 19th Bureau was quite large, encompassing over a dozen buildings with thirty to forty units each, housing thousands of people. It was particularly bustling around noon when people were returning from work. Huang Xiaojuan usually presented herself well and was quite popular in the compound. Now, she was sitting on a stone bench, crying her eyes out, “You all know the child, always causing trouble and looking unkempt and dirty. Who among the children in the compound would want to play with him? Was I wrong to want better for him and discipline him?”

“She even said he’s her sister’s child, and I have no right to discipline him.” Huang Xiaojuan, looking like she had been completely heartbroken, cried even harder, “And she even physically attacked me.” She showed the red marks on her arm, swollen from Xia Mian’s not-so-light hits.

“You know Old Zhang, he is affectionate. Thinking that his sister-in-law has just lost her mother and is now an orphan, he pities her. He thought it was quite pitiful for a girl to be on her own, so he wanted to help. The city could give her better opportunities to attend a good school so she could eventually get into the university, just like her sister. But I never expect…” By this point, she sobbed again, a portrait figure of a pitiful woman betrayed by an ingrate she had tried to help.

Someone else finished her sentence, “What an ungrateful wretch. That girl must be a white-eyed wolf. Doesn’t she know that only a bad stepmother would be indifferent? Who would enjoy the trouble of disciplining a child?”

An elderly man from the neighboring unit shook his head and sighed, “It seems the problem runs in the family, no wonder you find the child hard to discipline.”

A neighbor across the door, an old lady, angrily tapped her cane, agreeing, “Exactly. Look at that girl, looking like a gangster. Ever since she arrived, I dare not let my grandson out to play.”

A close friend of Huang Xiaojuan also sighed, “Being a stepmother is indeed not easy, but you’re too kind-hearted. That child is Old Zhang’s former sister-in-law by marriage, technically not even related by blood. Her own relatives didn’t want her, so why go through the trouble of taking her in?!”

Just as Huang Xiaojuan was about to showcase her kind-hearted persona, a crisp female voice, thick with nasal tones and unfriendly in tone, interrupted, “Me, trouble? Didn’t you bring it upon yourselves? Who was it who lured me here because they were aiming for the savings and property my mother left for me?”

Startled, the crowd turned and saw the ‘gangster girl’ they had just been badmouthing, striding over with an explosive head of red hair and eyes red with what seemed to be a greater grievance than Huang Xiaojuan’s. Before they could digest her words, she marched up to Huang Xiaojuan and coldly asked, “What did you just say? My nephew is naughty, unkempt, and disobedient?”

Initially, Huang Xiaojuan had a guilty conscience at the mention of the savings, but seeing Xia Mian focused solely on the child, she instantly regained confidence, “Isn’t it true?” Hoping to demonstrate Xia Mian’s arrogance and defiance, she provocatively said, “Always dirty and unkempt, never listen, even his own father doesn’t care, and I… Ah!”

Before Huang Xiaojuan could finish, Xia Mian kicked her in the stomach, angrily retorting, “Why is he dirty? Have you ever washed his clothes for him? Expecting a child under five to wash his own clothes, how can he be clean?” The thought of the small child washing his own clothes brought tears to Xia Mian’s eyes again, and she bent down, grabbed Huang Xiaojuan by the collar, and punched her in the stomach, “The children in the compound don’t want to play with him? Have you ever let him out? His only two pieces of clothing are his dad’s vests!”

She turned to ask the surrounding neighbors, “Who among you has ever seen him wear normal children’s clothes? Even if a child is naughty, can’t an adult wash his face clean? This is the city, not the countryside. If he never goes out, how do you think he can be so unkempt?!”

The neighbors looked at each other, a realization dawned on them. Right, whenever they saw the child, he always looked so dirty and timid, which made him annoying to look at, so no one bothered with him.

Remembering the pigsty-like dark room, Xia Mian couldn’t contain her fury and, while sobbing, continued to hit Huang Xiaojuan, “You dare say he’s naughty and discipline him. You come home and have the child pour hot water for you, he burns his hand and accidentally breaks a cup, and you almost beat him to death!” The more Xia Mian spoke, the more upset she got, and with tears in her eyes, she finally yelled, “Your own son is fat as a ball, and my nephew is all skin and bones! You dare say you discipline him!”

Huang Xiaojuan, silenced by the relentless kick to her stomach, only began to scream now, dodging while clutching her head, “You, you lunatic! Help, help!”

The crowd finally snapped out of it and rushed over to break up the fight. Being neighbors with Huang Xiaojuan, they naturally sided with her over Xia Mian, an outsider whose appearance screamed “I am a bully and punk!” from top to bottom.

“What’s the matter? Does it hurt now?” Xia Mian, though smaller and less strong, skilfully dodged the hands of several neighboring aunties trying to intervene. She fiercely kicked Huang Xiaojuan a few more times. “You were even harsher when you hit my nephew, hitting him so hard he didn’t even dare to cry, and yet you dare to cry? You are not as good as a child!”

 

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