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Chapter Ten
作者:Liu Renqian      更新:2024-02-23 10:33      字數:4744
    After returning from the economic work meeting in Yuduo Town, Su Hua noticed that her husband was spending even more time in his office in the evenings.

    Regardless of how busy he was each day in Chu County, whether it was conducting investigations in rural areas or visiting government departments to gather information, Liu Chengyin always made sure to check his office for important documents or petitions. It was a habit he developed during his time as a county-level leader.

    At first, Su Hua didn’t pay much attention to her husband’s long hours in the office. In her eyes, he was a man with a strong sense of purpose, determined to achieve success in his career. It was perhaps this quality that had attracted the attention of Su Youliang, the deputy secretary of the Qingjiang Municipal Party Committee, and led him to arrange the marriage between his gentle and demure daughter Su Hua and Liu Chengyin.

    Su Youliang, a powerful figure in Qingjiang City, had served as the deputy secretary of the Municipal Party Committee for over a decade. Though he himself hadn’t made much political progress, he had mentored and promoted countless young cadres under his wing. Some of those who had progressed quickly in politics were already holding important positions at the prefectural and provincial levels. Thus, some in the political circles of Qingjiang referred Su as “the one behind the scenes.” The city’s secretary and mayor both had to give him some face, and any major decision-making or personnel adjustments had to be consulted with him beforehand as the deputy secretary.

    Years of political experience made Su Youliang quite inscrutable. Sometimes, the secretary and mayor couldn’t get a clear opinion from him, and they had to ponder over his words carefully to discern the clues.

    As a result, Su could maneuver smoothly in any situation, capable of both offense and defense. One should not underestimate the intricate and complex interrelationships among the political figures in a county-level city. Those who appeared inseparable with their wine cups in public might not necessarily share their hearts with you. Some were only interested in safeguarding their own interests, while others might even launch a counterattack. On the other hand, some people might seem ordinary and unremarkable in public, seldom lifting their wine cups in a year. But when confronted with a special situation, they could work together and act decisively to maximize their interests or protect the interests of their small groups.

    After over a decade, Su Youliang had an intimate understanding of the political landscape in Qingjiang. Therefore, he almost effortlessly nurtured his son-in-law, Liu Chengyin, from an ordinary university graduate into a deputy secretary of the Municipal Party Committee with considerable leadership skills. Liu had become a young talent with some degree of notability in the region.

    Living in such a privileged family, Su Hua appeared unusually simple and generous. Perhaps because of her profession as a teacher, she did not have the usual vices that the children of officials often possessed, such as arrogance, recklessness, and disregard for others. When Liu Chengyin met her for the first time through a go- between, he did not believe she was the daughter of the Secretary of the Municipal Committee. There was a quietness about her that deeply attracted the young man. Though initially repulsed by the arrogant and wilful attitude of officials’ children, Liu Chengyin had no intention of giving her up after this engagement. Truth be told, his broken heart also longed for someone to comfort.

    During the days spent with Su Hua, Liu Chengyin did not feel any pressure from coming from an official family. On the contrary, the two went on dates, watched movies, went shopping, and everything seemed very ordinary. Sometimes, Liu Chengyin couldn’t believe that Su Hua was really Su Youliang’s daughter. At times, he also felt a bit regretful that there were no sparks between them.

    However, having experienced passion and romance before, he soon convinced himself to give up on those thoughts. He was very clear that what he needed most after leaving the college was what Su Hua’s father could provide him. This was the most important thing that would pave the way for his future. Besides, Su Hua was indeed a nice girl, with good looks, personality, and career, and of course, most importantly, a good family background.

    Liu Chengyin could never scuttle out of her. So, like many men and women who got to know each other through shadchans, he and Su Hua worked towards a common goal——to enter the hall of marriage.

    Su Hua was not completely unaware of Liu Chengyin’s ex-girlfriend. During their relationship and even after they got married, she heard some gossip about Lu Xiaoying. Indeed, Su Hua didn’t care about these rumours at all. It was already the 1980s, normal for the young people to have multiple partners or relationships. What was there to fuss about?

    To take Liu Chengyin as an example, Su Hua didn’t care how much he loved Lu Xiaoying before or how good they were together. The fact that they couldn’t be together only indicated that their love was not meant to be. Now, Liu Chengyin was my boyfriend and would be my husband in the future, so we had to let it go. You couldn’t be with me while still having a close connection with Lu Xiaoying, that was absolutely unacceptable. Su Hua made these thoughts and attitudes clear to Liu Chengyin.

    In Su Hua’s opinion, compared to herself, there weren’t many girls who were truly “good.” How much better could they possibly be? In terms of appearance, personality, career, family background, and so on, Su Hua wasn’t inferior to anyone. It was unrealistic to say that Su Hua didn’t have any sense of superiority because she had been born into a family of cadres like Su Youliang. It was impossible for a girl who had been pampered by her parents since she was young to have no hint of arrogance. It was just that everyone expressed their arrogance differently, and, to varied degrees.

    In a way, Su Hua’s sense of superiority and arrogance was deeply hidden. She had great confidence that regardless of Liu Chengyin’s past, his heart would belong completely to her. Therefore, their marital journey could be said to be smooth. During his years working in Qingjiang, Liu Chengyin, who became the Deputy Secretary of the Municipal Party Committee, undoubtedly became an idol in the eyes of many women. However, whether in public or in private with friends, Liu Chengyin always had his dignified and calm wife by his side. Compared to her delicate charm as a young girl, Su Hua became more mature as a woman after marriage. In the eyes of many, they were a perfect match——a combination of handsome talent and beautiful appearance created by heaven and earth.

    It could be said that it was a sweet and wonderful time. Liu Chengyin was considerate and caring towards his wife, showing attention to every detail. As a result, they quickly reaped the rewards of their marriage, with the arrival of their son, Little Liu Yong, into the world.

    The arrival of this little life had brought infinite joy to the Su family. Su Hua, as a mother, was especially happy. Su Youliang, retired at home, and his wife was also busy around their grandson all day long, and they were happy beyond words. Su Hua had joked with her father more than once, saying that you had a grandson, why was your face laughing like a flower? At this time, Su Youliang’s wife would argue with her daughter: “His face is so wrinkled, and it is still a flower? Even if it is a flower, it is a blooming Chinese cabbage flower.”

    The Su family loved their little baby very much, and even though Liu Chengyin  wanted to pick a bone in an egg, he couldn’t. However, there was one thing that  made him slightly rotten, and that was how they always called the baby “grandson.” Liu Chengyin was a filial son, and in his heart, the true “grandpa and grandma” were  his father and mother who lived far away in Xianghe Township. When they called  the baby “grandson”, it made Liu Chengyin feel like he had married into this family.  

    When his son turned one month old, Liu Chengyin wanted his wife to move  back to their own place, which was a two-bedroom apartment allocated to him when  he was a section chief at the Bureau of Commerce and Trade. Compared with his  father-in-law’s three-story building, their home was like a pigeon nest. In fact, Liu  Chengyin had many opportunities to transfer to a better place, but he voluntarily  gave up all of them. He could have moved when he was promoted to deputy director  of the Bureau, then to director of the Bureau, and later to deputy mayor of the city  or even deputy secretary of the Municipal Party Committee, but he never did. At  that time, he only kept in mind the organization’s guidance and his father-in-law’s  teaching in his mind, that young cadres should have low living standards and high

    work standards. If these standards were met, he would have a bright future in his career.

    Of course, Liu Chengyin had his own plan. His father-in-law had only one  precious daughter and they lived in a three-story house, which was very spacious.  Besides, if Su Hua moved to a two-bedroom apartment, she would not adapt well  as she had been living in this place for decades. Moreover, it was more relaxing and  comfortable for him to live with his father-in-law. He went to work every day, first  by bike then by car, and everything was ready when he returned. It was just like what  people said, “Food comes, open your mouth; clothes come, stretch out your hands.” He put most of his energy into work, and the family enjoyed a harmonious life. With all this, why wouldn’t Liu Chengyin be happy?

    Because of a “grandson,” Liu Chengyin decided to move out. He explained the situation to his father-in-law and expressed his desire to live independently with Su Hua in a new house. As a deputy secretary of the Municipal Committee, he felt that staying in his in-laws’ home for too long would attract criticism and hinder his work. However, he also wanted to find a living space acceptable to his wife and parents- in-law. He didn’t want to go back to the “two-bedroom” apartment that they had previously lived in. While he was determined not to enjoy any special treatment as a deputy secretary, he also believed that he didn’t have to reject the benefits and allowances provided by the party and government. Therefore, the family of three moved out of the in-laws’ home and temporarily stayed at the Qingjiang Hotel, arranged by the Municipal Government’s Administrative Department. They would move into their new home after it was decorated and prepared.

    For the decision made by Liu Chengyin, Su Youliang’s wife couldn’t accept it psychologically. She knew that once her grandson left, it would not be easy to dote over him. No matter how good the hotel conditions were, they couldn’t compare with the convenience of her own home. Although Su Hua did not need to go to work at the school for the time being, taking care of a child alone was already enough for her to handle. Of course, she hoped that Su Youliang could show his father-in-law’s authority at this time and said, not to make a big fuss to move, or wait until the new house was renovated and moved directly into it. This way, it would be delayed for several months at least.

    Although his wife,  Su Hua, was not too keen on moving out of their comfortable home, she always prioritized obeying her husband’s decisions and rarely opposed them. This time was no exception. She thought to herself that, at most, she would have to work a little harder and maybe visit their home more often, bringing their grandson along for her parents to see.

    In this matter, Su Youliang’s wife did not get Su Youliang’s support. Su Youliang agreed with the decision and even thought that his son-in-law had considered it well and had a deep understanding of the issue. He straightforwardly expressed his agreement for the young couple to move.

    Because he had received reliable information from his own students at the Organization Department of the Provincial Party Committee, it was soon to be confirmed that Liu Chengyin would be transferred from Qingjiang. As for where he would eventually be assigned, it had not yet been decided. However, the transfer was certain, and he would be promoted. Su Youliang considered that since Liu Chengyin would eventually move out of his place anyway, now that he had the intention to move out and had a justifiable reason, it would be better to comply with the young man’s wishes and fulfill his desire.

    As the saying goes, plans couldn’t keep up with the changes. Liu Chengyin did not leave Qingjiang quickly or get promoted.

    In the investigation team of the Organization Department of the Provincial Party Committee, after coming to Qingjiang for a long time, an abnormal death was caused by the burden of farmers.  After the inspection team left, an investigation team came. The Provincial Party Committee’s Agriculture and Rural Affairs Department, Political and Legal Affairs Commission, and other departments, together with the relevant departments in the city, formed a joint investigation team to conduct on-site investigations about the cause and effect of the incident. As the deputy secretary in charge of agricultural and rural work, Liu Chengyin took the initiative to shoulder the leadership responsibility in this matter. At that time, there was no accountability, so the investigation team fully affirmed and praised Deputy Secretary Liu’s attitude. The relevant leaders of the departments in Qingjiang city who had direct responsibility for the incident, as well as the township leaders in the incident area, were given different degrees of administrative and disciplinary sanctions. Qingjiang City Committee and City Government were required to make written checks to the Provincial Party Committee and Provincial Government, and no sanctions were imposed on Liu Chengyin.

    Although the investigation team did put him on report, the inspection team of the Provincial Party Committee did not give any news after leaving Qingjiang. Liu Chengyin knew that the non-normal death incident had a negative impact on him. Although he was in Qingjiang when the incident occurred, the organization arranged for him to participate in a six-month full-time study at the Provincial Party School. Leaders who participated in full-time studies at the Provincial Party School knew that it was impossible to be truly “full-time.” Especially for the leaders like Liu Chengyin who held actual positions in the county-level cities, could only participate in the full-time studies while continuing to work. This meant that if any mistakes were made in work, they would be responsible for it.

    In cases of non-normal death incidents, since Liu Chengyin bore the leadership responsibility, it was impossible for him to be promoted and employed again, no matter how much the organization wanted to do so. Liu Chengyin was well aware of the Party’s organizational principles. He never expected that a sudden incident would affect his promotion and employment for several years.

    The development of Heigao Marsh provided more opportunities for Liu Chengyin and Lu Xiaoying to meet.

    Since the last economic work conference in Shagou District, Liu Chengyin had stayed overnight in Yuduo town, seemingly a developing attachment towards the place. That night, the local leaders kept toasting to him, and he accepted all their drinks, portraying himself as a young county party secretary who was approachable and unpretentious. Perhaps due to the effects of alcohol, Liu Chengyin announced to everyone at the dinner table that Lu Xiaoying was class mates. Later on, Lu Xiaoying could not escape from being with Secretary Liu to accept their toasts, or both classmates had to toast others together.

    Since they were classmates, Liu Chengyin couldn’t behave as the county party secretary, and he also needed to go to Lu Xiaoying’s dormitory to take a look. Since they were talking as classmates, and also a male and female classmate, other comrades naturally tactfully avoided. Even Jin Aiguo, who usually followed them closely, pretended to go to the town government guesthouse to rest with the driver Xiao Huang.

    Lu Xiaoying’s dormitory was a common type of office with accommodation for  rural township officials. She lived in the top room of a row of flat houses, with the  entire building shaped like an “A” with a wide outdoor corridor. Upon entering the  room, there was Lu Xiaoyingg’s desk with a wicker chair for her to work on. Behind  the desk was a row of wooden filing cabinets with glass doors, each labeled with  different files such as “superior documents”, “county committee and government  documents”, “departmental documents”, and “regional and township documents.” There were also some compilations of materials and political readings. Opposite  to the filing cabinet were a bed and a small desk. Due to the limited space, a red  suitcase was placed inside the bed, with neatly folded clothes on top, which seemed  to be Lu Xiaoying’s everyday wear.

    On the small desk were daily toiletries, including a mirror, a comb, and skincare creams. Next to the desk was a tall washstand holding a basin, towels, and soap. Between the bedroom and the office area, there was a file cabinet separating them, and also a cloth curtain hung on an iron wire. When the curtain was pulled, the bedroom and office were completely separated, providing a tight division. After gathering the curtain, only the space left by the file cabinet remained, serving as a frameless door to display the functional boundary.

    Although Lu Xiaoying felt a hundred unwillingnesses in her heart, she couldn’t refuse County Party Secretary Liu’s visit to her residence in front of the leaders of the town. Moreover, at the dinner table, she and Liu Chengyin had already had a few drinks together as classmates.

    As soon as she entered, Lu Xiaoying dragged the wicker chair behind her desk and gestured for Liu Chengyin to sit. She herself sat on the edge of the bed without saying a word. The lively atmosphere at the dining table suddenly turned cold in the dormitory. Although the incident had long passed, Liu Chengyin had gotten married and became a father for four or five years, Lu Xiaoying’s emotional burden remained unresolved. Facing the man who had betrayed her feelings, she felt an indescribable sense of regret, bitterness, and pain.

    “Secretary Liu, you have been in meetings all day. You should go back to the hotel and rest early,” said Lu Xiaoying politely but coldly, despite she had a few drinks and felt her head throbbing. She didn’t even offer to pour tea for Liu Chengyin.

    “Come on, as your elder brother, can’t I even have a cup of tea here?” Liu Chengyin knew that Lu Xiaoying stroke was not in with any opinion, not just even a little, but a sweet opinion. However, fate was unpredictable; what could you and I do about it?

    “I can’t bear to have a brother like you in a high-ranking position. Secretary Liu, please don’t recognize me as your sister. I really can’t bear it.” Although she was still sitting on her bed, it was clear from her tone that her emotions were changing.

    “Yingzi, don’t think that it’s only you who’s suffering, only you who’s feeling sorry and sad when we’re apart. I haven’t forgotten about you all these years. When I first arrived at Qingjiang to work, your shadow was constantly in my mind and I couldn’t focus on anything. I was in pain, restless, and wanted to hit someone. Who could I confide in? Aunt Xiaoqin made it clear to me that you were the fruit of my father and her in love, so we could only be siblings and not spouses. This sudden change was too much for you, but do you think I could handle it easily? You know how much I love you. But your mother, Xiaoqin, pleaded with me to leave you and not reveal the truth to you. She said you wouldn’t be able to accept it even if you knew. Besides, even if you knew, it wouldn’t change anything since it involved two families and could cause trouble. It would also humiliate Xiaoqin. Faced with this situation, what else could I do if I didn’t listen to your mother? Yingzi, why don’t you speak up and tell me?” Under the influence of alcohol, Liu Chengyin stood up from his chair and took one step toward Lu Xiaoying.

    “I don’t accept you as my brother; no matter what, I don’t accept it.” Tears flowed from Lu Xiaoying’s eyes, and the grievances she had been holding in her heart were never able to be expressed to the man she had always yearned for. At this moment, she could no longer behave intimately like before. This was because everything that Xi Zi (Liu Chengyin’s nickname) had said, she had already received confirmation from her mother a few days ago.

    A few days ago, she went back to Xianghe Village. Her mother asked her to return the few hundred yuan that Liu Chengyin had left behind. Because of this, Lu Xiaoyingg had a quarrel with her mother. That late night, she finally learned from her mother Wang Xiaoqin that the reason why her mother had desperately prevented her from being together with Liu Chengyin was because she had always been worried that they were half-siblings with different mothers.

    When her mother was still called “Qin Yatou” by the villagers, she had already fallen deeply in love with Liu Chunyu, the father of Liu Chengyin. This was a “public secret” that everyone in the village knew. Both parents agreed to celebrate the wedding on the third day of the lunar new year. However, in the winter at the Cheluhe construction site, Lu Genshui, who had been secretly in love with Qin Yatou, or Lu Xiaoying’s father, raped her. This allowed Lu Genshui to marry Qin Yatou, whom he had been yearning for. When Qin Yatou was pregnant with Xiao Yingzi, she hoped that the child was Chunyu’s, whom she loved. She believed that she had already had sex with Chunyu several times, so it was normal for her to have his child. As for Lu Genshui who raped her once and engaged in non-consensual behaviour, how could he have fathered her child? Qin Yatou never considered the possibility that her child belonged to Lu Genshui. As a result, many years later, when Liu Chengyin and Lu Xiaoying proposed to get married, Wang Xiaoqin, as a mother, had no choice but to object.

    Lu Xiaoying never thought that the appearance of Liu Chengyin many years later would once again disrupt her original life. In her heart, she could not accept her mother’s idea that she and Liu Chengyin were half-siblings. It turned out to be a barrier in her mother’s heart, a barrier that prevented her from forming a marital bond with Liu Chengyin.

    In order to untangle the knot buried in her heart for years, Lu Xiaoying secretly visited the villagers familiar with the “rape incident” at the Cheluhel construction site years ago, behind her mother’s back, and obtained the exact time when the incident occurred. From this time point onwards, it roughly coincided with the time when she came into this world. And during this time period, Liu Chunyu was not at the Cheluhel construction site, which meant that during this time, her mother could not have had sex with Liu Chunyu. Obviously, Lu Genshui was Xiaoying’s natural father, not the person her mother had in mind or the one her father speculated when he was alive: Liu Chunyu.

    What a rattleheaded mother you were! Not only did you make your daughter suffer from her father’s cold eyes at home, making her think that she was not a member of this family, but you also destroyed your daughter’s originally sweet and happy marriage.

    When Lu Xiaoying hurried back to the Xianghe home and truthfully told her mother what she had learned, Wang Xiaoqin collapsed on the ground. “Xiaoying, it’s Mom’s fault – it’s my fault –” Wang Xiaoqin knelt on the ground, tears streaming down her face, and her hands constantly tapping on the floor of the living room, making a “spatting” sound.

    Lu Xiaoying thought that after the truth about the knot entangled in her heart for many years was revealed, her inner heart would be a little easier. But at the moment, facing her mother’s crazy self-blame, Lu Xiaoying did not feel a bit of ease. On the contrary, she felt too selfish, and once again hurt a woman already covered by scars.

    “Mom, Mom, it’s my fault, it’s my fault, I am not sensible. I shouldn’t have sprinkled salt on your wound again——” Lu Xiaoying suddenly rushed to her mother, knelt down,and hugged her tightly, crying out loud.

    “Yingzi, pleasedon’t say that. It was me who cruelly broke up your marriage with Xizi. I owe you my whole life,” Wang Xiaoqin cried, tears streaming down her face as she relived years of bitterness and regret.

    “Mom, if you keep blaming yourself like this, I don’t want to live anymore. If the only way to seek forgiveness for my selfishness and lack of filial piety is by death, then I’m ready to go,” Lu Xiaoying said, as she released her mother’s embrace and prepared to leave.

    “My poor daughter, why talk nonsense? If anyone is to die, it should be me. This sin was committed by me. Oh God, please open your eyes and strike me with a lightning bolt,” Wang Xiaoqin held onto her daughter and bowed to her.

    As the mother and daughter cried in despair and talked about ending their lives, a sudden thunderbolt struck from the sky. With a loud “crack”, a lightning bolt shaped like a dragon descended from the sky and side rated a branch of the old elm tree in its rim of a bowl at the west end of Xianghe village.

    Lu Xiaoying was so frightened that she clung to her mother and cried out for help. But at this point, Wang Xiaoqin ignored her daughter’s actions and suddenly started laughing foolishly. “God struck me, haha, God struck me.”

    “Mom, what’s wrong with you? Mom, don’t scare me, I know I was wrong. Mom……” Lu Xiaoying shook her mother’s body, which had gone numb, with both hands.

    Soon, Lu Xiaoying realized that her mother no longer recognized her as her daughter. Wang Xiaoqin had become mentally ill, and gone crazy.