Great Tang Idyll - Chapter 10
Erniu and Yingtao both had things to do. At the moment, there was no one to take care of Zhang Xiaobao and Wang Juan. So Mrs. Zhang-Wang sent over Shiliu, the one who had helped her hold up the umbrella from before.
It was afternoon. Under the great sun, in the middle of a courtyard with a ground manually layered with sand, Zhang Xiaobao and Wang Juan were currently striving with great effort to walk on top of it. Children sweated very little but even so, though their two foreheads were glistening and the thin clothing on their bodies had been changed once already, the both of them still did not intend to return to sleep.
’’Shiliu, water.’’ Zhang Xiaobao stopped, raising his arm to wipe the sweat off his brow as he called out to Shiliu who was worriedly watching next to him. Shiliu had been watching them. She couldn't imagine why these two children were doing this walking back and forth on this floor of sand for not speaking of normal children who were willing to do so themselves, even if adults forced them to, they would already be crying by now. Upon hearing the call, she hastily handed over the water that had been placed to the side.
As she watched the two children chug the water down over there, Shiliu could not figure it out why they didn't drink perfectly good tea or sugar water but insisted on drinking some salty water. She had tasted this water before. It wasn't nice to drink at all. Drinking it felt a bit of brackish salty but not salty, mild but not mild. Yet, Little Mister specified that he must have this type of water. Drinking salty water, wouldn't that make you thirstier the more you drank it?
Zhang Xiaobao and Wang Juan didn't know what Shiliu was thinking about as they filled their stomach half full with salty water before sighing in relief together and getting up again to walk towards the front.
’’Endure it. Today, there's still 200 meters. That's only 5 round trips. Grit your teeth and it'll be over. This is a rare chance.’’ As he was walking on top of the sand, Zhang Xiaobao's calves started to uncontrollably tremble. Today, the mission of the two of them was to walk 500 meters. For adults, 500 meters was like nothing. But for two children who had just reached 1 year of age, in the sand, it was an excessive load.
’’I know. Children aren't willing to train when they're wrong but when they wish to train after growing up, it's too late. Our type of childish bodies and adult determination is the best opportunity for training. I trust that with practice like this, you would have no problem jumping down from 20 meters in time. But I reckon that there will be no way to read at night. Probably won't have a bit of energy left at all.’’ Wang Juan was suffering equally, falling as she spoke before slowly climbing back up herself.
’’Still have to though. Making a contract or whatever later on, if we don't recognize the characters and understand the classical quotes,1 we could eat a great loss.2 The large majority of characters, I can still recognize and can even write a portion. After all, I did spend a period of time on the island.34 But literary quotes, I can't do. I thought about tricking people all day, how would I have time to think of all that?’’ Zhang Xiaobao grinned, watching Wang Juan climb back up without showing any intention of helping her up.
Wang Juan finally climbed back up, pulling on Zhang Xiaobao's hand once again as they moved forward together. A large area of her small face was tanned completely red but she was also not willing to give up and said: ’’Unh, learn it. Even if I have to lie there, I still want to learn it, too. I was a genius back then. Ma,5 ~ah! It's more tiring than when I was at the Special Ops Unit. There isn't even anyone to give us massages or scientific instructions.6 Quickly, get to the front. There are still 4 and a half laps. Let's be tired for 2 days and then, it'll be better later on.’’
’’Quit dreaming. Once we've adjusted to this intensity, then we'll have to draw up a new training program. Endure it. If one wishes to show excess in front of people, then one must suffer in back of people.7 Who made us be unlike others, ~ne?’’
Zhang Xiaobao also staggered on his feet and as his hand loosened, fell down. He opened his mouth to spit out sand before pulling on Wang Juan's hand to get up. The both of them were holding hands but not responsible for when the other fell it was only for being able to better control their balance. If a fall was due to physical ability, then they didn't heed the other. The strong didn't need the pity of others.
In a room from which the situation here could be seen, a man and woman stood by the window. The two people held back tears as they watched the babies fall and climb back up, fall and climb back up again over there.
’’Qiao-er, is this still my son? From hearing you talk, the matter of that Erniu's family should have been caused by Xiaobao. He's still that little. He can't be a monster,8 right?’’ The man asked doubtfully.
’’What monster? That's my son. When they're that small, other people's children naturally aren't able to but my son is. Even if he's more powerful than other children and you see scary areas, you still have to think: 'This is a divine sage,9 not a monster.' Whose family's children can compare to Xiaobao? Before, while carrying him, I knew that in the future, my son would definitely be different from the majority. You saw how well I could eat back then I could eat more than men could in a single meal.’’
Mrs. Zhang-Wang retorted, the words she spoke completely without reason. Anything about her own son, it was all good. A stumble was better looking than when other children stumbled. To be able to swallow a mouthful of sand and still not cry, which family's child could do that?
The man was Zhang Xiaobao's bookworm father. He had been hearing about too many strange matters lately that were all concerning his own son so he found some time to come over with his wife to watch. But he didn't think he would actually see this kind of sight. Don't speak of a small child even an adult would have already hidden away from being baked by such a fiery sun.
But the reality told him that these two babies' will were so resolute it caused people fright. He wanted to rush over several times to pick up his son and thoroughly question his son on just what he wanted to do. But he was held back by his wife once again. According to his wife's words, isn't it fine for the children to play? Other people let their child move more and the child wouldn't move. How obedient, how good looking was their own child as those calves stepped up and down? What's to fear with a stumble? With the sand, there wasn't a bit of trouble. This sand had been sieved and re-sieved by people. It was all fine and couldn't injure anyone.
Father Zhang10 thought of what his wife had said on the matter of the money that Erniu's family had made. Watching the two stubborn children in front of him, he somehow felt that it wasn't right. Hearing Qiao-er speak like this once again, he sighed as he said: ’’You're not scared that these two children were possessed by something? Whose children can be like this? Yingtao was also sent out to collect new chicken eggs heard that the collection even had specifications in the choosing. Don't even know what they want to do. If it isn't fine, let's find a master11to check can't let harm come to our own child.’’
’’What monster? Can a monster call me Mom, call you Dad? Is your monster's heart that good? This is just talent. You didn't discover it before? Wasn't that belly of mine not the same as others?’’ Mrs. Zhang-Wang had managed the household for too long so her speech to her husband wasn't respectful like others were. She would say what was what. But it was all one meaning. Zhang Xiaobao was her own biological son. The son did things well and that was because the mother had given birth well.
’’What area is there that's not the same? I see it as all the same. Which family could essentially eat that much?’’ Father Zhang felt he himself had no way to communicate with his wife. If there was just one mention of his son here, then it was that everything was all good.
’’Husband, speak to this consort.12 Which family's pregnant-bellied wife did you [honorific] see was good? If they're a poor, unfortunate family's, let's spend money to bring them here and let Husband see enough.’’ Mrs. Zhang-Wang asked, holding onto her temper.
Father Zhang really was scared when his wife was like this. Other people all had several women. But he himself sure was swell this Wang Qiao-er and the Mistress from the Wang Manor over there had teamed up to protest as one. It was just as well that he himself was wholeheartedly seeking an honorary title13 so it was nothing. Now that he also had a son, then this single one would just be the one. If other women really entered the family, then he didn't even know what huge issues would come out.
Yet, the Wang Manor's brother had a daughter. If this next one was still a daughter, then could it be that he still couldn't take on another room14 in there? Turning his head to look at that frost-filled face of Wang Qiao-er's, he didn't say anything, only sighed heavily.
Now, this was serious. His single sigh had been heard by Mrs. Zhang-Wang whose eyes immediately reddened and she began to sniffle, sobbing while she said: ’’When I was wed to you back then, what did you say? You said you would be good to only me. Now, ~ne? The sight of another person's wife's belly, you've already seen it, too. Furthermore, you insist on saying the son I birthed is a monster. What sin did I do in my previous life, ~you?15 How did I open myself up to this sort of thing? I'm going to find Mom [in-law]. divorce16 me! I'll bring my own monster son along.’’
’’No, I didn't, I said nothing. I was just playing around, ~ne. Qiao-er, don't, don't cry. Your husband was wrong. It's son, our son, our divine sage son. Missus spoke correctly,17 our son is stronger than other people's let them all be envious. Missus, don't be mad. You [honorific] look at our son. How good. Even the sound he makes choking on water is better than other people's children. Shiliu, if you don't even keep watch and allow Xiaobao to choke, I'll pluck your skin!’’
Father Zhang had no resort, too. His Missus here said to divorce yet it wasn't to let him divorce but to go find some Mom [in-law]? That clearly was telling on him.18 He was already so big, if he was taught a lesson by Dad and Mom once again, then it wasn't worth it, ~ah. He was watching Xiaobao drinking water there at the time and wanted to praise two sentences to better distract from the matter that his Missus was fixated on but he didn't think that what he saw would be Xiaobao choking on water over there. Only once he finished praising did he react and all the heat he just took from his Missus, he took it all out on Shiliu.
Don't mention it but this one move was actually really useful. Upon hearing her man speak of the children, Mrs. Zhang-Wang's eyes instantly looked over. The tears were gone too. The sobbing sounds stopped as well. It wasn't until seeing that her son was fine that her heart was eased.
Zhang Xiaobao and Wang Juan heard the noise and simultaneously turned their heads, only to discover that there were people watching. It wasn't that the both of them had no vigilance. If it were before the practice, they would have already heard this little bit of disturbance. But right now, they were one after another tired till they wanted to die as their bodily functions had dropped incredibly low. To keep on standing and walking upright had already cost them all of their mental energy, how could they discover anything else?
’’From now on, want to preserve a portion of stamina while training? Working like this really was too dangerous. We actually didn't discover people were monitoring us.’’ Wang Juan dumped the water on top of her head to lower the heat as she worriedly asked.
’’There's no need. This isn't monitoring. This is loving concern. My Dad and Mom watching us still needs to be guarded against? In my own home's courtyard, who do I have to guard against? Not to mention, there wouldn't even be a bit of danger. Even if there suddenly were several people holding knives rushing over to kill us, would you have a way to avoid it? Train quickly. There are still 3 and half laps.’’ Zhang Xiaobao even took the leisure of waving a small hand toward his parents over there before turning around to move towards the front.
’’All right. Even if I have to crawl, I'll finish crawling this distance.’’ Wang Juan squinted her eyes slightly, relaxing all of the muscles everywhere save for her legs, swaying as she followed.
Father Zhang and Mrs. Zhang-Wang saw their son was even waving his hand at them. That dirty little face made people want to laugh and yet have no way of laughing out loud. Staring at that sandy ground of several zhang19 lengths, the two people both knew that this was the children challenging the extreme limits of their bodies.
’’Missus, you spoke rightly. Which family's children could be comparable to Xiaobao and Juan-Juan? They're this small and can treat themselves with such ruthlessness. Once they get bigger, they'll definitely be even more powerful.’’ Father Zhang said feelingly.