1 Chapter 1 Mother Has Run Away
Translator: 549690339
In early spring, the tender greenery adorned Rooster Mountain.

Qiao Xiaomai, clad in threadbare hemp garments, was just coming down the mountain path with a bundle of firewood on her back when she heard her neighbor, Aunt Guilan, hollering from the distance. “Xiaomai! Hurry home, your mother has run off with the peddler from Changlai Village!”

Zhuang Luhe had run away?

Qiao Xiaomai was stunned.

“What are you dawdling for? Go home now!” Aunt Guilan gestured to her.

Regaining her wits, Qiao Xiaomai hurriedly jogged towards her home.

On the run, Aunt Guilan explained, “Your mother and your sister-in-law Chunhua went to the town to sell sweet potatoes this morning. Next thing we knew, she was nowhere to be found. Someone later saw her following that peddler in the direction of County Town!”

Qiao Xiaomai bit her lip, clutching the firewood tighter on her back, and sped up.

The family home of Qiao Xiaomai was located at the extreme west of Anping Village. Their new house, made of blue bricks and roof tiles, was particularly eye-catching among the row of run-down earth-walled houses in the village.

When Qiao Xiaomai arrived home, a crowd had already gathered. Her father, Qiao Changshun, sat on a stone outside the house, sighing sorrowfully.

“Father!” Qiao Xiaomai rushed over and called out, after which she looked coldly at a long-faced woman among the onlookers. “Sister-in-law Chunhua, you went to town with my mother today. Did you see her run away with someone?”

Li Chunhua slapped her thigh and raised her voice, “We both went to town today. She went to sell her sweet potatoes, I went to sell my embroidery. We agreed to meet at the town gate at noon.”

“She disappeared at noon. I went to ask around, and some people said she followed a man towards County Town. That man is the peddler who often visits our village. Many people in town recognize him!”

Qiao Xiaomai nodded, “Thank you, Sister-in-law Chunhua, for bringing this news to my father and me.”

She said, pulling Changshun up from the stone and stepping into the courtyard, closing the gate with a “bang”, blocking out the gossip and curious gazes from outside.

She entered the kitchen, put down the firewood from her back, and then lifted the lid of the flour jar to look inside.

It was empty. The remaining three pounds of black flour and half a pound of white flour were gone.

She then ran to the hall, turned over the iron box under Chanshun’s bed to find it empty, with dozens of copper coins missing.

Staring at the empty iron box, she bit her lip and stood up to check the big wooden cabinet for clothes. As she had thought, Zhuang Luhe’s dress wasn’t there; all that was left were a few old clothes belonging to Qiao Changshun and Qiao Dami.

Her previous suspicions were now confirmed.

Luhe, the biological mother of her body, had indeed eloped with someone.

“Xiaomai…” Qiao Changshun stood at the door, his thin, dark face filled with worry. Rubbing his large, calloused hands, he looked helpless.

It was all his fault.

He had broken his leg six months ago while helping someone build a house. Since then, not only could he not do heavy work, he needed to take medicine regularly. The once modest family was now the poorest in the village because of him.

So much so, that Luhe had tired of the poverty and run off with someone else.

Qiao Xiaomai took a deep breath, closed the cabinet, and said, “Father, life must go on.”

Changshun looked at her calm face in bewilderment. If this had happened to anyone else, they would be in tears, yet Qiao Xiaomai merely furrowed her brows.

He started anxiously, “Xiaomai, is it…”

Before he could finish his sentence, there was a knock on the door. “Changshun, come out. I heard that your damn wife has run off with a strange man. Mother has come to see you!”

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