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Chapter 1: The Li Family’s Hehua

It was September, the golden autumn, a season of harvest. After years of being ignored, Li Hehua finally had a suitor come knocking at her door. She looked at Lu Junyu and couldn’t help but brighten up.

Lu Junyu was a rather handsome yet dignified man, with thick black eyebrows, captivating peach blossom eyes, a straight nose, and a fair complexion, resembling a nobleman in luxurious attire. Coupled with his scholarly demeanor and refined and upright posture, her eyes couldn’t help but be drawn to him. Yes, he was the ripe fruit she liked.

Lu Junyu didn’t raise his eyes but felt Li Hehua’s scrutinizing gaze. He found it somewhat amusing: his future bride was indeed different from other women. Not only did she lack any shyness, but she also seemed to be assessing his suitability. It seemed the rumors of her being brainless yet fierce were inaccurate. Even a slight misstep on his part could ruin this proposal. Well, how interesting.

Nevertheless, he listened with increasing respect as the matchmaker,Auntie Lian, and Li Hehua’s mother exchanged pleasantries.

Auntie Lian’s voice boomed: “Mrs. Wang, I’m not exaggerating. Hehua is the most beautiful woman within a hundred miles of our Li family village, while Junyu is the first scholar within a hundred miles. They’re not only well-matched in appearance but also destined for each other. Moreover, since you, Mrs. Wang, saved Junyu’s mother, Madam Lu has promised to treat Hehua like her own daughter in the future, ensuring she will never be neglected…”

Li Hehua looked out of the window, no longer listening to her mother’s excited yet humble words. Yes, it was because her mother had saved Madam Lu, Junyu’s mother, that she had the opportunity to consider marriage with this promising young man.

Just then, she heard a loud voice from outside the window: “Hurry up, kill him, and Widow Wang will be yours!”

“Ah, it’s not enough to just have Widow Wang; we also need to bring her daughter, Li Hehua, so they can serve us together, hahaha.”

Li Hehua’s face changed abruptly. She stood up abruptly and pulled out a kitchen knife from behind her back, rushing out, “You bastards, how dare you think I’ll serve you after not seeing you for a few days? I’ll cut off all of your descendants!”

The crowd saw Li Hehua’s crimson eyes and shiny knife, which appeared like a demon straight out of hell. Instantly, they scattered like frightened birds and beasts, disappearing in an instant.

One of the men, who had been speaking lewdly and was too slow to run, was kicked down by Li Hehua and trampled underfoot. He immediately begged for mercy: “Li Hehua, Miss Li, I was wrong, I won’t dare to speak again; please spare me this time.”

Li Hehua pressed down hard on his head, causing his mouth to hit the ground, instantly covered in dust. She sneered, “Li Mazi, there are more freckles on your face than there are stars in the sky, yet you dare to have delusions about a peerless beauty like me. Is this what they call a toad lusting after swan meat? Or do you want to end up like Li Hu, growing grass on your grave?”

Li Mazi whimpered twice, unable to speak due to his head being pressed down. In his heart, he couldn’t help but regret. He had thought that since Junyu was coming today to propose, Li Hehua wouldn’t come out of the house, nor would he provoke this ominous star. He had wanted to show off his authority and masculinity. Who knew Li Hehua wouldn’t care about her marriage arrangements at all? But now, it seemed he had miscalculated.

He whimpered, “Miss Li, I was wrong; I won’t dare again.”

Li Hehua gave a contemptuous laugh, released her foot, and Li Mazi slipped away quickly, not daring to look back, leaving behind malicious words from afar: “Li Hehua has gone crazy again, she’s completely crazy, whoever marries her will be unlucky!… Li Hehua, you may be a peerless beauty, but you think too highly of yourself? You’re just a girl after all.”

Li Hehua snorted coldly, then slowly put away the kitchen knife and turned back, only to see Auntie Lian, Lu Junyu, and her mother standing behind her. Her mother and Auntie Lian had pale faces, but Lu Junyu’s expression remained unchanged. His peach-blossom eyes even smiled at her, and he didn’t seem scared enough to wet his pants.

She couldn’t help but regard him with some admiration. After all, he was a scholar and would be part of the ruling class in the future. He shouldn’t be so useless. But having witnessed her fierceness today, would this fair-faced scholar and future husband be scared enough to call off the engagement directly? The answer would be revealed in three days.

She smiled gently and said, “Master Lu, let me escort you out of the village.” Pausing for a moment, she added, “As you know, our Li family village is next to the place of exile, inhabited by ruthless and evil people who wouldn’t hesitate to kill.”

Lu Junyu seemed not to have heard her fierce words just now, nor did he see the kitchen knife. He gracefully bowed and smiled.

“Thank you, Miss Li.”

After seeing Lu Junyu off, Auntie Lian didn’t hesitate to knock Li Hehua’s head lightly, advising earnestly, “Hehua, you’re already sixteen. You can’t afford to delay any longer. Didn’t I tell you to at least put on a show today? If the Lu family doesn’t come to propose in three days, are you really going to marry those ruffians in our village? You may not care, but I’m worried for you, and your mother would cry herself to death.”

Li Hehua hugged Auntie Lian, smiling brightly. “But I have Auntie Lian to worry about me, don’t I? Auntie Lian, rest assured, my mother saved Madam Lu, and it was the Lu family who proposed the marriage. They can’t back out now, can they? The Lu family ancestors were said to be officials and scholars, and they’re still waiting to restore their family’s glory. They won’t leave a stain of ingratitude. Even if the Lu family wants to call off the engagement, they won’t dare to dirty my name. Hmph.”

Auntie Lian shook her head helplessly, “You…you’re beautiful and literate, so don’t worry. You’ll have great fortune. My little girl at home even said she wants to learn from her sister Hehua.”

Li Hehua responded, “Alright, since there’s still some time before dinner, why don’t you call the Xiaoya over, Auntie Lian? I’ll teach her for a while.”

Auntie Lian who lived next door was Li Qiang’s wife and was known in Li’s village for being efficient and helpful; villagers always sought her out for any matter.

The outgoing village chief was about to retire, and the most likely successor was Li Qiang. So, it was beneficial to build a good relationship with the new village chief’s family, which only had advantages for her.

Auntie Lian cheerfully said, “Alright, I’ll go and tell the Xiaoya right away; she’ll be very happy. But you and your mother chat first. I’ll have Xiaoya finish dinner before she comes over, and you can teach her for half an hour before she goes back to sleep.”

“Yes, Auntie Lian, you truly are the most reasonable person in Li’s village.” Li Hehua raised her thumb.

Auntie Lian chuckled, pinched Hehua’s cheek, and said, “You always speak so well; Auntie likes you the most. Alright, I’ll be off now.”

Watching Auntie Lian leave, Li Hehua sighed and felt a headache coming on. Her mother would inevitably start a long lecture.

Sure enough, as soon as Mrs. Wang saw her, she immediately started scolding, saying, “Hehua, you’re really unreasonable. You completely ignore your mother’s words; I’m so unlucky. I worked so hard to raise you, only for you to grow up and not listen to me, just like your short-lived father, making me sad.”

With that, she burst into tears.

Li Hehua hurriedly went up to hug her mother, comforting her, “Mom, Mom, I’ll listen to you from now on, I promise to be a good daughter to you.”

Ah, if only she had pretended not to hear anything today, she could have found an opportunity to secretly knock out those vulgar men. But as soon as she heard those words, she remembered that dark and windy night six years ago when, with only her and her mother left in the Li family, those men had rushed in, intending to do harm. Her whole body tensed up, and she couldn’t help but rush out.

Thinking back now, she had been impulsive. After killing Li Hu, his family had relentlessly pursued them, demanding retribution. Fortunately, the county magistrate at the time was a just man. After careful investigation, he acquitted her and her mother. Since then, her mother had kept a close eye on her, hardly ever allowing her to act alone.

Mrs. Wang didn’t listen to her daughter’s words and continued crying, saying, “Your father promised to come back at the time, and I’ve been waiting for him in Li’s village ever since. But he died outside, and we couldn’t even find his body. Leaving us, mother and daughter, to suffer here alone. Even your grandmother and aunt didn’t care about us; they left secretly, afraid that we would follow them. Am I, Wang Lan, such a shameless person?”

The more she spoke, the more desolate she felt. Mrs. Wang directly lay down on the bed and cried bitterly.

Li Hehua, helpless, patted her mother’s back and repeated the words of comfort she had said for six years, saying, “Mom, don’t worry, you have me, I won’t leave you.”

Her aunt had secretly taken her grandmother away and cancelled her father’s household registration, so they had become mother-and-daughter households. Now that she was about to get married, her mother’s anxiety was understandable. Moreover, her mother had always cherished her like a treasure and refused to remarry for her sake, so she wouldn’t abandon her either.

After crying for a while, Mrs. Wang felt embarrassed and said, “Alright, I know you’re filial, but you’re almost an old spinster now; you must get married this year. Put down the kitchen knife.”

Li Hehua hugged Mrs. Wang, changing the subject, “Mom, don’t worry, Lu Junyu will marry me; you can look forward to being a mother-in-law. When I marry into the Lu family, you’ll come with me, and we won’t be separated.”

Mrs. Wang wiped away her tears and scolded, “Nonsense, who takes a widow with them when they get married? It’s not proper. Just come back to see me more when you and your husband have time in the future.”

Li Hehua furrowed her brows and said, “No, I won’t let Mother stay here alone; there are too many bad people here. Besides, I already spoke to Lu Junyu today, saying that I will bring my mother to the Lu family village when they come to propose marriage.”

The Lu family village was located next to the county town, much better positioned than the remote Li family village where exiles resided, and much safer too. Previously, her mother had been unwilling to leave, but now that she was married, she had loosened her grip, and Li Hehua wouldn’t miss this opportunity.

Looking at Li Hehua, Mrs. Wang realized her daughter had grown up, and it was time for her to let go. That dead ghost was probably really dead. She sighed.

“I’m sorry for holding you back.”

Initially, she had planned to look for that dead ghost underground after Li Hehua got married. But over the years, they had relied on each other, and Li Hehua was so filial. If she went, Li Hehua would be devastated. Besides, being labeled as orphans without parents wasn’t pleasant, and the groom’s family might be put off by it. Li Hehua would suffer in the end.

Moreover, Li Hehua had picked up a kitchen knife to defend her that night six years ago. It was her fierce reputation that had prevented any marriage proposals at sixteen. She had to take responsibility.

With her as her mother, Li Hehua would have a place to vent her grievances if her in-laws mistreated her in the future. So she could only apologize to that dead ghost and say sorry for not being able to accompany him for a few more years.

Hearing this, Li Hehua happily kissed Mrs. Wang and said, “Mother, you’re the best. Rest for a while; I’ll go out and wait for Xiaoya.”

Mrs. Wang nodded with a smile and said, “Go ahead. Teach Xiaoya well these days; we’ll be apart for a while.”

Li Hehua waved her hand to indicate she understood and cheerfully left the room. Mrs. Wang smiled silently. Her Hehua was the best girl in the world and deserved a good man.

The Lu family had a good reputation, and Lu Junyu had even passed the scholar exam on his first attempt. The village tutor, Mr. Lin, spoke highly of him and believed he would become a pillar of society in the future. Such a talented young man was perfect for her daughter.

When she accidentally saved Mrs. Lu before, she felt it was a sign from heaven. The Lu family, being a renowned family, immediately understood when she mentioned Li Hehua. So they asked her to meet Lu Junyu first.

Today, Lu Junyu had come ostensibly to express gratitude for saving his mother’s life. She hadn’t hidden anything from Li Hehua; her daughter had always been independent. If she wasn’t satisfied, she wouldn’t force her. But seeing her daughter glance at Lu Junyu so many times today, she must be satisfied. Of course, Mrs. Wang was also very pleased. He was knowledgeable, polite, and clearly a remarkable man.

However, she hadn’t expected an accident to happen during their conversation, revealing Li Hehua’s true nature. Although she had suspicions of deception before, Li Hehua wouldn’t actively cause trouble as long as she wasn’t provoked. Besides, she was beautiful and kind-hearted; the Lu family wouldn’t suffer, right? It seemed that one shouldn’t do bad things; she got nervous, and something happened.

Thinking of this, she immediately got up and hurriedly went to the small shrine to offer incense, repent, and seek blessings.

Li Hehua looked at the few words Xiaoya had written and praised, “Xiaoya, you’re very smart; you learn to recognize characters quickly.”

Xiaoya exclaimed with joy, “Really? Sister Hehua, that’s great! If I learn to write, will I be able to write my name?”

Li Hehua patted her head and said, “Yes, I’ll teach you tomorrow.”

Xiaoya was Li Qiang’s youngest daughter, but since there were already three elder sisters, Xiaoya was left to her own devices. Not to mention recognizing characters, even the name, Li Dafeng, was casually given by Li Qiang a month ago.

However, very few people in Li’s village knew how to read, so the name was naturally arbitrary. Just like her name, Hehua, which her father gave her after passing by a lotus pond.

After finishing teaching Xiaoya the simplest characters for numbers, Li Hehua said, “Xiaoya, that’s it for today. Come back at this time tomorrow, and I’ll check your progress, okay?”

Xiaoya nodded eagerly like a little chick pecking at grains and said, “Okay, Sister Hehua, I’ll make sure to write well. Thank you for today, Sister Hehua. I’ll take my leave now.”

Li Hehua glanced outside and saw that it was already dark. She stretched lazily and began her own work. Because Mrs. Wang had been working at the private school, Mr. Lin, upon seeing how quickly Li Hehua learned, began tutoring her. This also prevented her from being exposed; after all, she had been a talented student majoring in Chinese in her previous life.

Yes, she had transmigrated. In her previous life, she followed an archaeological team into an ancient tomb thousands of years old, studying the inscriptions inside. Then, she woke up as Li Hehua, a five-year-old girl who died of a high fever.

To avoid her talents seeming too sudden, she deliberately cultivated a good relationship with Mr. Lin, who then began tutoring her. She slowly changed the original host’s impression in people’s minds. After ten years, no one suspected that she was a lonely ghost anymore.

After writing the big characters ten times on scraps of paper salvaged from the private school, she finally put down her brush and stretched, feeling truly comfortable!

At this moment, Mrs. Wang came in with a bowl of noodles. She looked at the characters Li Hehua had written and smiled with relief, saying, “Heflower, I may not recognize these characters, but they look just as beautiful as Mr. Lin’s.”

Li Hehua looked at the noodles and teased Mrs. Wang, “Of course, Mr. Lin said that your daughter, me, is smart. Mother, this bowl is too big for me; I can’t finish it all. Please help me eat some.”

Mrs. Wang scolded gently, “You’re growing, so eat more. I’ve already eaten.”

Seeing her mother’s resolute look, Li Hehua felt a bit uncomfortable. After thinking for a moment, she put down her bowl, walked to the bedside, took out a small bag from under the pillow, and handed it to Mrs. Wang, saying, “Mother, this is the money I saved before. Take it and use it.”

Mrs. Wang quickly waved her hand and said, “Hehua, I’ve said it before, I don’t want your money. You earned it yourself; keep it. I earn a salary every month, enough for us.”

Her daughter recognized characters and helped copy books and write letters for people, earning more money than her. Moreover, she was much more sensible and capable than her. So she just refused her money and let her keep it.

Li Hehua stuffed the bag into Mrs. Wang’s pocket and said, “Mother, use it if you need to. Don’t worry about saving or being frugal. I have plenty here. Don’t worry; there will be more in the future.”

Apart from the hundreds of miles of mountains, Li’s village couldn’t grow crops on the rocky land, making it barren and impoverished. It’s no wonder it has been used as a place of exile for criminals since ancient times.

The villagers of Li’s village survived in such an environment by keeping an eye on those criminals for the government. Over the years, the people of Li’s village developed fierce personalities. The mountains were filled with ruthless exiles, and the villages below were home to the most fearless residents within a hundred miles, complementing each other.

After becoming Li Hehua, she couldn’t become a police auxiliary—ah, an unofficial constable. But relying on Mrs. Wang’s income of twenty copper coins per month, it would take ages to become rich and enjoy luxuries. So she thought of other ways.

In her previous life, she was a slightly famous internet author. After understanding the situation of this alternate Great Qi, she decided to return to her old profession, writing novels—ah, script stories—to make money.

After pestering Mrs. Wang and visiting several bookstores in Wangshan County a few times, she finally negotiated with the most rigorous-mouthed bookseller and began her journey as a writer. Of course, to Mrs. Wang, she claimed she was copying books and writing characters, cautioning her that boasting about a woman’s lack of talent was considered virtuous at this time and she shouldn’t reveal the source of her income. They had to be discreet, even more discreet.

Fortunately, Mrs. Wang wasn’t a very controlling mother. Instead, she listened to her daughter very well. Two years later, she had earned two taels of silver. At the current price of two or three copper coins for pork, they had enough food and clothing for herself and her mother. Now that she had accumulated popularity, she could earn even more with her next book.

Tears welled up in Mrs. Wang’s eyes as she said, “Alright, then I’ll use this money to prepare your dowry, ensuring you a splendid marriage.”

The weight of the money in the bag was not light.

After chatting for a while, the mother and daughter each went to rest.

Three days might not seem long, but they weren’t short either. During these three days, Xiaoya learned her own name; Mrs. Wang received a reward of two copper coins from Mr. Lin, and Hehua sharpened the kitchen knife again to make it sharper and brighter.

Before dawn on the third day, Li Hehua’s door was knocked on. Mrs. Wang got up to open it and saw a handsome young man with a red silk basket behind him. She immediately realized that it was the Lu family coming to propose marriage. So she shouted, “Hehua, Hehua, wake up quickly.”

After a flurry of activity, Li Hehua sat in the hall with a yawn, watching as Auntie Lian and her mother happily inspected the betrothal gifts. She looked straight at Lu Junyu and asked, “Has Master Lu agreed to my conditions?”

Lu Junyu smiled faintly and said, “Of course, Mrs. Wang is a great benefactor of my Lu family, and you are the only child of my future mother-in-law. Naturally, I am obligated to support her. Miss Li, I have bought a two-room tiled house next to my house for my future mother-in-law. Although it’s not big, it’s clean. What do you think?”

So thoughtful! Li Hehua didn’t know if the Lu family was only repaying the debt of saving a life or if they had other intentions? But she and her mother were both orphans and widows; there was nothing worth scheming against them, right?

When you thought about it, she seemed to be the one gaining more advantages. Well, if she couldn’t figure it out, she couldn’t be bothered to think about it. Anyway, it was currently advantageous for her.

She nodded and said, “Of course, it’s very good. Thank you, Mrs. and Mr. Lu, for your trouble.”

As the two were talking,Auntie Lian had already finished the formalities and discussed the details of the engagement ceremony with the elderly person from the Lu family who had come along. The morning passed like this, and Mrs. Wang invited the Lu family to stay for lunch before leaving the Li family.

At this time, a student from the private school sent her a letter. When she opened it, the smile on her face disappeared.






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