Aerial Rain
Translating Web Novel

TGCF Ch 8 – I Will Definitely Take Him Out of This Den of Wolves

Xia Mian looked at Aunt Liu peeking through the door, then back at the pitifully bruised Huang Xiaojuan and the sobbing Xuanxuan. Zhang Qiming indeed played a good hand, making her seem like the unreasonable one, but of course she wouldn’t let him have his way: “When did I ever bully Xuanxuan? When your Xuanxuan drinks milk, eats egg custard and enjoys meat while only allowing our Xiao Feng to watch, why don’t you say that’s bullying our Xiao Feng?” She mocked.

“They were born only half a year apart, and our Xiao Feng must endure being pricked in the mouth with a needle by his stepmother without crying, while Xuanxuan is allowed to cry over such a small matter. Your son is precious, but it’s natural for our Xiao Feng to be abused?”

“The kitchen and eggs are right there; how much effort does it take to make an egg custard?” Xia Mian sneered. “Expect me to cook delicious food for the son of the woman who killed my sister and mistreats my nephew? Sorry, I’m not that forgiving and generous! Xuanxuan has both parents, while Xiao Feng only has me, his aunt.”

Hearing this, Aunt Liu spoke up, “Xiao Zhang, I don’t mean to meddle, but Xia Mian is also still just a child. How can she not be angry knowing how Xiaojuan treats Xiao Feng? Why nag at her? You should manage your wife first.”

Realizing the issue truly wasn’t about the children, she added, “It’s just an egg custard. Come on, Xuanxuan, come eat with Grandma Liu. Oh, your Aunt Xia Mian has steamed such a big bowl! It smells delicious; you’re in for a treat. Stop crying now.”

Under normal circumstances, the couple would gladly comply, since many residents in this building held top positions in the factory. Aunt Liu’s son, despite his young age, had become the director of the procurement department, promising a bright future. Huang Xiaojuan had always taught his son to curry favor with the Liu family, and Xuanxuan was indeed well-behaved and adorable in front of their neighbors. But today was not good; after all that happened today and with Xia Mian still present, the couple dared not let Xuanxuan go.

Yet pretense was just that, and what Xuanxuan learned after growing up spoiled by Huang Xiaojuan became apparent at a crucial moment. Upon hearing Aunt Liu’s invitation, he immediately ran over, pushed Xia Mian harshly, and attempted to hit Xiao Feng, shouting, “Xuanxuan will go, but this idiot and bastard cannot!”

This time, Xia Mian didn’t dodge but simply blocked the hand aimed at Xiao Feng, then turned her gaze at Zhang Qiming, smiling mockingly, “So, your family usually thinks of me as an idiot.”

Before Aunt Liu could say anything, Zhang Qiming had taken a grip on Xuanxuan and slapped him hard on the bottom, scolding loudly, “Who taught you that?!”

This was clearly different from his previous pretense, startling both Xia Mian and Aunt Liu.

Xuanxuan, stunned by the slap, began to cry belatedly. Huang Xiaojuan was heartbroken. She rushed forward, pleading, “Stop hitting him, Qiming, stop! It’s my fault, I’ll discipline him properly from now on!”

Zhang Qiming, usually known for his good temper, yelled at Huang Xiaojuan, “You still have the face to speak? I didn’t realize you were such a vicious person. When I’m not home, you mistreat my son like this, I can’t trust you anymore. Get back to your parent’s home! We’re getting a divorce!”

The unamused Xia Mian simply scoffed silently at his performance, but Aunt Liu seemed convinced. Older generations generally put heavy importance on the sanctity of marriage, believing that divorce should never be an option no matter what the circumstances. Hearing Zhang Qiming’s threat, she immediately persuaded, “It doesn’t have to lead to divorce. Just manage Xiao Huang properly. Look, even her own child was made awry by her.”

Then, taking the opportunity to resolve the situation, she said, “Today, let’s not have Xuanxuan go. He can come over another day.”

As the security door closed, Xia Mian turned back and saw Zhang Qiming unable to hide his malevolence, his eyes filled with hostility, frightening Xuanxuan so much that he didn’t dare to cry anymore.

Aunt Liu indeed had chicken soup stewing, and as she lifted the lid of the clay pot, the delicious aroma filled the room. She first served a bowl to each of the two children, with Zhuangzhuang already eagerly sitting at the dining table, showing the potential of a gourmand-in-making.

Aunt Liu’s daughter-in-law, Li Xinmei, expressed her surprise upon seeing the minced meat egg custard on the table, “Oh, did you make this, Xia Mian? How was it made? It’s so tender, almost like tofu pudding.”

In this pre-internet era, there was little concept of knowledge sharing, so a simple recipe that anyone could make in Xia Mian’s previous life was considered quite a specialty here.

The Liu family’s son Zhuangzhuang was two years older than Xiao Feng and attended preschool. He always returned home starved, and now was eagerly glancing at the dish, noting, “There’s also meat!”

Seeing this, Xia Mian scooped two spoonfuls into his small bowl, “Try it, Zhuangzhuang, see if it’s good.”

Zhuangzhuang looked at Xia Mian, whispered “Thank you, sister,” and then started to eat.

Xia Mian chuckled, “You can call me ‘auntie’ just like Xiao Feng does, otherwise you’ll make Sister Xinmei feel old.”

Li Xinmei laughed, now genuinely finding Zhang Qiming’s former sister-in-law to be quite different from her reputation and rumors. What a sweet and sensible girl! Seeing her son eating happily, she added a chicken leg to Xiao Feng’s bowl and encouraged, “Eat up, Xiao Feng. Later, your big brother Zhuangzhuang can show you around to play.”

Nestled in his aunt’s arm, Xiao Feng glanced up timidly. Seeing Xia Mian nodded, he hesitated before softly saying to Li Xinmei, “Thank you, sister.”

Everyone was amused by his politeness, and Xia Mian spoon-fed him egg custard while correcting, “You should call her Auntie Mei.”

Realizing he had made a mistake, Xiao Feng shyly snuggled closer to Xia Mian.

Xia Mian handed Xiao Feng the spoon, then let him sit on her lap and told him to eat by himself. Initially reserved, the boy eventually ate earnestly, cherishing every bite and scraping the bowl clean.

Li Xinmei felt sad for a moment. She had briefly learned about the situation of the Zhang family from her mother-in-law and knew the hardship endured by this small child. Feeling touched, she spooned a large serving of egg custard into Xiao Feng’s bowl, “Eat more, Xiao Feng. There’s chicken soup coming up too.”

Zhuangzhuang peeked at the large bowl of egg custard, prompting Li Xinmei to scoop some for him too, “Auntie Xia Mian made this delicious egg custard.” She said to her son.

Zhuangzhuang nodded, “Delicious!” Now less wary of Xia Mian, he loudly thanked, “Thank you, Auntie!”

Li Xinmei turned to Xia Mian with a smile on her face, “I’ll find some of Zhuangzhuang’s old clothes for Xiao Feng. He should be able to wear them.”

Xia Mian quickly declined, “No, it’s okay, I have money here. I’ll take him shopping for some clothes tomorrow.”

Aunt Liu explained, “It’s not about the money. Children have delicate skin, especially Xiao Feng is still injured. Worn clothes are softer and more comfortable for him.”

Realizing the reasoning made sense, especially for Xiao Feng’s sake, Xia Mian no longer resisted, “Then, thank you, Aunt Liu and Sister Xinmei.”

The atmosphere at the Liu’s was warm, and Xiao Feng eventually relaxed, enjoying a fair amount of egg custard and half a chicken leg. Xia Mian felt his belly, “Alright, baby, you shouldn’t eat too much at once. How about Auntie makes you something nice tonight?”

Xiao Feng obediently put down his spoon, looking so well-behaved as Xia Mian patted his head.

After their meal at the Liu’s, Xia Mian didn’t stay much longer. Aunt Liu found several pieces of clothing for Xiao Feng, all made of soft, skin-friendly materials. Xia Mian thanked her before taking Xiao Feng back to the unit across the corridor.

Upon knocking, the door was immediately opened by Zhang Qiming, who greeted them with a gentle voice, “You’re back?” He reached out to pat Xiao Feng’s head with a look of affection.

Xia Mian, holding the child, dodged his hand. Zhang Qiming’s eyes flashed with a hint of darkness, but he spoke with a tone of helplessness, “I’ve spoken to Huang Xiaojuan in detail. Xia Mian, I’ve never doubted that Xiao Feng is my son. Don’t you know what kind of person I am?”

Xia Mian turned to him, “We trusted you and that’s why we left my sister’s child with you. But what’s the reality? The saying goes, with a stepmother comes a stepfather, and I’ve seen it firsthand.”

Seeing her unyielding stance, Zhang Qiming frowned, “So, what do you plan to do? Can you take care of Xiao Feng while attending school?”

Was this a threat? Were they planning to continue abusing Xiao Feng after she started school? Xia Mian was on alert.

Seeing her willing to listen, Zhang Qiming continued, “I’ve inquired about Huagang First High School from Teacher Mi downstairs. It’s the best high school in the city, even the factory manager’s son goes there, and he was admitted to National University last year.”

“However, Huagang First values academic performance, and even if I pull some strings to give you a chance, coming from a county school, your foundation might be too weak. So, I’m thinking of hiring a tutor for you during the summer break to catch up.”

“I am your brother-in-law, and I won’t treat you poorly. As long as your grades aren’t too poor, I can find someone to help, pay some money, and you should be able to get in.”

It was a blatant bribe. If she were still the naive original ‘Xia Mian’ who knew nothing about the world, she might have believed it. Unfortunately for Zhang Qiming, her core had changed.

Xia Mian still intended to attend school. Having experienced modern-day education, she knew its importance firsthand. However, she did not plan to rely on Zhang Qiming. High school was not compulsory education, and prior to the introduction of the school zoning policy, she could choose where to study as long as her grades were sufficient.

Weighing her options silently, Xia Mian said nothing and went directly to the bathroom with Xiao Feng in her arms. From their brief interaction, she had already sensed that Zhang Qiming was not easy to deal with, so she decided to be a bit more reserved and wait for developments.

After preparing warm water in an aluminum basin, Xia Mian undressed Xiao Feng and gently washed him. She had given him a light cleanup at noon, but not a thorough washing. She couldn’t scrub using a bath towel because of the injuries, so she carefully rubbed him clean with her hands. After applying soap and rinsing him off, Xiao Feng looked visibly cleaner, though his bruises were also more apparent.

Xiao Feng snuggled into Xia Mian’s arms obediently and whispered, “Xiao Feng is a good boy and won’t disturb Auntie’s study.”

It turned out he was still thinking about Zhang Qiming’s implication, knowing that she couldn’t take care of him while attending school.

Xia Mian sighed inwardly, saddened that such a young child had to be so cautious.

Wrapping him in a clean, large towel, Xia Mian kissed the boy’s cheek, “Auntie knows. Even if Auntie has to go to school, she won’t leave Xiao Feng here alone.”

Xiao Feng let out a long sigh of relief, and while Xia Mian initially chuckled, she quickly felt a pang of sadness. She had spent the day dealing with scumbag and still hadn’t fully grasped her own situation. Now, she was almost certain this was not a dream. If she left and the soul of the original ‘Xia Mian’ returned, the child might end up facing the tragic fate described in the book, perhaps even more dire because of her interference. She couldn’t just stand by and do nothing…

After standing up with the child in her arms, Xia Mian’s gaze accidentally caught a flash of red. Turning her head, she was nearly blinded by the sight. A girl with fiery red, explosively voluminous hair stood before her, her thick bangs nearly covering half of her face. No wonder she couldn’t manage her hair today; where did this ugly punk come from!

The girl in the mirror looked utterly stunned, with a clean and well-behaved child nestled beside her head…

Xia Mian blinked hard. When she reopened her eyes again, she was forced to accept the harsh reality: the outrageous figure in the mirror was herself! A memory flashed through her mind, and she remembered the original ‘Xia Mian’ had gone to the best salon in the county to get the ‘coolest,’ ‘trendiest’ hairstyle before coming to the city.

Xia Mian: …

To think that she had wandered around all day with this red explosion of hair!!! Recalling the subtle looks she received from people, Xia Mian’s toes curled in embarrassment.

She is supposed to be a little angel! Why does she have to endure this agony… woohooo…!!!!

“Auntie?” Xiao Feng looked at her, puzzled.

Xia Mian returned to her senses. Filled with hope, she asked Xiao Feng, “Does Auntie look scary?”

Without a moment’s hesitation, Xiao Feng declared, “Auntie is the prettiest! Like an angel from the heavens.”

No, wake up! You would grow up to be a genius painter; your aesthetic sense can’t be this off!

After returning to the guest room with Xiao Feng, Xia Mian tried to comb her hair. After some struggle, she managed to pull up a small tuft, but then realized that no amount of styling could save this disaster…

Never mind, she’d dye her hair back to normal tomorrow.

After applying medicine to Xiao Feng, he yawned but stubbornly kept his eyes open. Xia Mian’s eyelids grew heavy too and decided to turn in early. She had dragged her frail new body around and been on edge all day, so she was now extremely tired.

A pair of thin arms wrapped around her neck, and the boy’s soft, sweet voice marveled, “Auntie, I’m so happy today.”

Touched, Xia Mian patted his hand, warmth spreading from the bottom of her heart. Such a small child felt so happy by simply having enough to eat, warm clothes, a normal sleep, and no beatings…

“We’re just getting started,” Xia Mian touched his soft head, “You’ll be even happier in the future!”

Xiao Feng’s lips curled into a hopeful smile, melting Xia Mian’s heart. She resolved to protect this child at all costs, determined to take him away from this den of wolves.

Zhang Qiming, Huang Xiaojuan, just wait!

 

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