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1681-chapter-1

At the break of dawn, wisps of cooking smoke rose from the homes in Taohua Village. However, the Lin family’s residence was shrouded in gloom. 

Old Madame Lin’s face was clouded with worry as she saw that Hongdou remained unconscious. 

Zhang Qiaoqiao anxiously suggested, “Mother, Hongdou has been burning with fever for two days now. We should take her to the city!” She feared that delaying further might risk Hongdou’s life. 

Old Madame Lin shook her head and said, “Let’s wait a little longer. If she’s still not awake by noon, then we’ll take her to the county.” 

As voices could be heard, Qing Shu struggled to open her eyes. What surprised her was that instead of the expected sight of the Heibai Wuchang 1, she was greeted by her grandmother, Old Madame Lin. 

Seeing Qing Shu wake up, Zhang Shi2 breathed a sigh of relief. 

Old Madame Lin’s tense heart also eased, “Hongdou, you’ve finally woken up.” 

Qing Shu was stunned. What was happening? Wasn’t she dead? How could she be seeing her grandmother, and why did her grandmother look so young? 

Seeing Qing Shu’s bewildered expression, Zhang Shi’s heart skipped a beat. There had been a child from her mother’s side who had burned with fever for three days and nights and turned into a fool after waking up. “Hongdou, Hongdou…” May heaven protect her, she hoped Hongdou wouldn’t turn into a fool. 

“Hongdou” was her nickname. Before she went to the capital, everyone called her Hongdou. In the capital, everyone addressed her as Qing Shu, and even Old Madame Lin changed her address. 

Qing Shu looked at Zhang Shi with increasing confusion. She distinctly remembered that Zhang Shi had hanged herself when Qing Shu was eight years old. 

Seeing Hongdou’s lack of response, Old Madame Lin was also anxious, but due to her old age, she remained composed, “Hongdou might still be groggy from sleeping for too long. She’ll be fine after a while. Chengzhi’s wife, bring the hot red date porridge from the kitchen.” After not eating for two days, Hongdou must be hungry. 

After finishing a bowl of porridge, Qing Shu lay back down and pulled the blanket over herself. During this time, she hadn’t said a word. 

Thinking that Qing Shu had dozed off with her eyes closed, Zhang Shi and Old Madame Lin assumed she was asleep. 

Zhang Shi couldn’t help but worry, saying, “Mother, something doesn’t seem right with Hongdou’s condition. We should take her to the city to get checked.” 

Old Madame Lin responded, “She’s been burning with fever for two days; it’s normal for her to be slow in reacting.” 

Zhang Shi grew increasingly anxious. This wasn’t a matter of slow reaction; Hongdou wasn’t reacting at all! This condition was likely a result of brain damage. If they took her to the county now, there might still be a chance to treat her. But if they delayed, it might be too late. 

Her family’s village had a child who suffered brain damage from fever. Even at fourteen years old, that child remained unaware of their surroundings. Zhang Shi couldn’t bear the thought of Qing Shu ending up like that, “Mother, it’s better to take Hongdou to the county as soon as possible.” 

Old Madame Lin still didn’t agree, “Let’s wait a little longer.” She couldn’t be certain; Hongdou might wake up after a nap. 

With Old Madame Lin making the decisions in the house, Zhang Shi couldn’t do much if she disagreed about sending Hongdou to the county. 

When the room was empty, Qing Shu sat up and looked at her small white hands. She muttered to herself, “What on earth is happening?” As she spoke, she realized her voice had become young and innocent. 

Taking in her surroundings, Qing Shu noticed the room was decorated quite simply. Aside from the scarlet wardrobe adorned with carved plum blossoms and a round table, there was only a dressing table. 

Finally, her gaze fell upon a small bronze mirror on the dressing table. 

Staring at her slightly pale reflection in the mirror, Qing Shu’s eyes widened like bells. This was how she looked as a child. 

She had clearly died at the hands of Chu’s family, so how had she returned to her childhood? Could it be a dream? No, she was dead; how could a dead person dream? 

Someone please tell her what was happening now. 

As Old Madame Lin went to fetch a protective talisman she had acquired from a celestial, planning to place it under Qing Shu’s pillow, she was surprised to find Qing Shu in front of the mirror, touching her own face. Old Madame Lin’s heart skipped a beat, and she sternly asked, “Hongdou, what are you doing?” 

Startled, Qing Shu’s hand trembled, causing the small bronze mirror to fall to the ground. 

Seeing Qing Shu’s pale face, Old Madame Lin’s heart sank. This was unmistakably a sign of madness. 

Holding the talisman tightly, Old Madame Lin approached Qing Shu and softly said, “Child, why are you walking barefoot? Aren’t you afraid of catching a cold?” 

Qing Shu looked at Old Madame Lin, finding it difficult to call her “Grandmother.”  

In the past, Lin Chengyu had intended to marry her off to his stepmother’s nephew, Cui Jianbo. However, Cui Jianbo had declared he would never marry anyone else to be with his beloved. Due to this, no respectable family would allow their daughter to marry him. Upon learning this, Qing Shu had pleaded with Old Madame Lin, but instead of interceding on her behalf, Old Madame Lin had scolded her for being disobedient.  

According to Old Madame Lin, marriage was a matter for parents to decide based on the advice of matchmakers. After being forced into the marriage, Qing Shu had given up and only wished to live peacefully with her daughter.  

Unexpectedly, Cui Jianbo, who had been living with his beloved from the Chu family, had tried to poison her. Qing Shu narrowly escaped the attempt and sought help from Old Madame Lin. But instead of assistance, Lin Chengyu had accused her of speaking nonsense, and Old Madame Lin didn’t even want to see her. 

If anyone in the Lin family had cared about her, she wouldn’t have been sent to Lioness Temple to be eaten by a lion. 

Helping Qing Shu onto the bed, Old Madame Lin touched her face gently and said in a soft voice, “Hongdou, would you like something to eat?” 

Shaking her head, Qing Shu pulled the blanket over herself and pretended to sleep. She still didn’t know how to face all of this. 

Old Madame Lin pinched the corner of the blanket and looked at Qing Shu with a hidden gaze before leaving. 

Once in her room, Old Madame Lin immediately called her youngest son, Lin Chengzhi, handing him a silver coin and saying, “Go fetch Sorceress He to come over.” 

Lin Chengzhi was surprised, asking, “Mother, why do you want Sorceress He?” 

Sorceress He was quite skilled; whenever children cried endlessly, people would seek her help, and she’d look after them briefly to calm them down. She had gained a reputation in Shitian Town for her abilities. 

Old Madame Lin didn’t want to explain too much and simply said, “Just go and bring her. There’s no need for so many questions.” 

Accepting the silver coin, Lin Chengzhi left the house. 

Bringing Sorceress He over might disturb the entity that was present, Old Madame Lin thought. So she called Zhang Shi, “Take your children and go to Cheng’an’s house. Have lunch with them there.” Lin Cheng’an was Old Madame Lin’s eldest brother’s eldest son, and their families had always maintained a good relationship. 

Zhang Shi was puzzled, asking, “Mother, what’s happening?” Even if Hongdou needed care due to her illness, there were still household chores that couldn’t be neglected. 

Although the Lin family owned good fields and mulberry fields, providing a decent income each year, the expenses of educating Lin Chengyu and his two younger brothers had taken a significant toll. Despite the decent income, the Lin family’s life wasn’t comfortable, especially as they had incurred debt over the years due to marrying off their daughters.
Thanks to Lin Chengyu’s success in the imperial examination last year, most of the debt had been cleared. However, the lack of servants meant that most household chores fell on the shoulders of Lin Chengyu’s wife, Wei Shi, and Zhang Shi.  

But Wei Shi’s mother had fallen ill a few days ago, and she hadn’t returned after visiting her, leaving the Lin family short-handed. If Wei Shi and her children stayed at Lin Cheng’an’s house, there would be no one to prepare lunch. 

Still, Old Madame Lin felt her decision to bring Sorceress He might stir up trouble, and she needed Zhang Shi to take her children away. So, she insisted, “Take the children to Cheng’an’s house and come back afterwards.” 

Old Madame Lin had lost her cool due to fear, and as she calmed down, she realized her initial decision was rash. “And make sure you bring the children back home after lunch.”

  1. Black and White Impermanences.
    are two Deities in Chinese folk religion in charge of escorting the spirits of the dead to the underworld.
  2. ]氏: shi means clan name. Women, upon marriage, are identified by their surname and it is very rare that their personal name is recorded. This is the case even for princesses. They would then be referred to as ––shi, to identify the family they came from.