Translator: CKtalon Editor: CKtalon
Lame Ma kept one brow pricked up as he put down his cup and asked, “You want your son to become a teacher?”
“Ah, Second Brother Ma, you are now the leading carving master in One Finger Village. Wouldn’t it be a natural matter for you to arrange for your nephew to work there?” Meng Changming said.
Lame Ma narrowed his eyes and took a deep breath to suppress the anger in him. “Becoming a teacher, that is nice as well.”
“Really? I really have to thank you then, Second Brother! Didn’t I say so? Any problem can be resolved if we come to Second Brother!” Meng Changming was delighted as he immediately poured Lame Ma some alcohol, but Lame Ma stopped him.
Lame Ma continued. “Being a teacher is nice, sure. But everything will depend on your son’s talent. He will start off as an apprentice. If he can’t even pass my standards, he might as well stay an apprentice for the rest of his life.”
“Ah?” Upon hearing that, Meng Changming’s smile froze. He knew what his son amounted to. He couldn’t take any hardship or grievance. Although his claim was they wanted him to learn engraving, he knew very well that his son wouldn’t be able to master anything. He’d sent Meng Dezi over, not to really learn any skills, but for the school! If they acted in accordance with Lame Ma’s words, his son would probably really end up being an apprentice for the rest of his life.
Ma Jiangping couldn’t accept it that moment she heard it. “Second Brother, you… Are you treating us as strangers? Who’s Dezi? He’s your nephew. You can’t just not do a thing, right?”
Lame Ma shot a glance at Ma Jiangping and said, “It’s precisely because he’s my nephew that I have to be strict. Furthermore, if he weren’t, he wouldn’t even have a chance of becoming an apprentice!”
Ma Jiangping and Meng Changming were instantly rooted to the ground. How were they to continue the conversation?
Ma Jiangping took a deep breath and forced a smile. “Second Brother, at least do it for my sake. We have been relatives for years. Now that my child is so old, he can’t just be without a proper job, right? Why don’t you help him by arranging a school position for him? That would be all, wouldn’t it?”
Lame Ma tsked and said eccentrically, “Do you know what the school will be teaching?”
“Engraving, right? What else?” Ma Jiangping replied.
Lame Ma slammed the table and stood up! This gave Meng Dezi a shock as he dropped his chopsticks onto the table.
When Lame Ma saw this, he thought even worse of Meng Dezi. He crossed his brows and said angrily, “So you do know that it teaches engraving, but are you unaware of your son? He’s illiterate and can’t even hold his chopsticks firmly. Yet you want him to become a teacher straight from the bat? If he’s made a teacher, it’s fine that he’ll end up shaming me, but it will also be a disgrace to One Finger Village. How am I to answer my fellow villagers if I allow that to happen? As I said, he can stay behind to be an apprentice. Go up the mountain daily and chop a hundred stems. He’s not to eat unless he finishes the task! If he doesn’t wish to do so, he can leave!”
Upon hearing that, Meng Dezi subconsciously exclaimed. “Is that even something fit for a human to do?”
Lame Ma nearly threw the rice pot over his head! However, he ultimately held back and sat back down to eat silently.
The meal was eaten in an extremely gloomy atmosphere.
After the meal, Ma Jiangping went to do the dishes, leaving the room’s atmosphere even heavier.
Later in the afternoon, it was unknown what Ma Jiangping said to Meng Changming and the rest, but they seemed to put on a totally different attitude as they came over with beaming smiles. They began chatting with Lame Ma over trivial matters, talking about their childhood or parents. There was no mention of Meng Dezi becoming a teacher.
Lame Ma believed that Ma Jiangping had realized his bottom line and heaved a sigh of relief.
They were relatives and childhood playmates after all. As they chatted, his mood was uplifted.
At night, Ma Jiangping also drank some alcohol as she wept at the dining table… As she cried, she said, “Second Brother, why is my life so tragic?”
Lame Ma was also left a little at a loss. All he could do was console her.
Ma Jiangping seemed to pour out everything bad about her life; things like how useless her husband was or how stupid her son was. How her family had led a difficult life, and how they were on their last legs, etc. She also mentioned how ill she was and that she had no idea how long she would be able to live. And now, she didn’t have the money to seek medical help either. Sending her son to learn a skill was a helpless choice, and so on.
Lame Ma was left dazzled by Ma Jiangping’s words. Thinking back to how tough his life had previously been, he could empathize with her.
On the second day, Ma Jiangping left Lame Ma’s house with twenty thousand yuan. As they walked, Meng Changming grumbled. “Jiangping, your second brother isn’t much either. I heard how people extolled him and how impressive he is in One Finger Village, to the point of calling him an engraving master. Yet he can’t even arrange a job for our son. What a bullsh*t master.”
His daughter-in-law, Peng Xueyu, added. “If I had to say something, I’d say he just doesn’t want to help even though he can. What kind of relative is that?”
Ma Jiangping said, “Sigh. This person has forgotten his roots now that he has a little success. When I return, I’ll tell others that he really isn’t a person worth having ties with.”
“Mom, then when do you plan on returning this money?” Meng Dezi asked Ma Jiangping.
Ma Jiangping glared at him and said, “Return? Why should we? He’s now skilled and rich. Can’t he take care of his relatives? The country’s leadership even said to let some people get rich first to help the rest. Is he supposed to be an exception? Besides, we are relatives!”
Meng Changming nodded as well. “That’s right. Now that he’s capable and One Finger Village is a wealthy village in the area, do you think he’s short of money with his skills? He isn’t short of this bit of money.”
“But can relationships be measured with money?” Peng Xueyu added.
As they chatted, they left One Finger Village.
As for Lame Ma, he sat at home, thinking over the matter. He felt troubled for he had a nagging feeling that the matter wasn’t that simple. After a careful recall, he realized that although Ma Jiangping had looked drunk, everything she said circled around a main topic—that she was short of money, and that without money, her days would be tough. She had then left him to decide for himself.
When Lame Ma thought of this, he exclaimed. “Man! I got duped!”
At that moment, Lame Ma finally realized that Ma Jiangping’s family had come to reap the benefits of his wealth! Things like learning a skill or being a school teacher were just perks they tried to get in passing! If those failed, they wanted to borrow money. Otherwise, why would relatives he had not interacted with for years suddenly appear?
With this in mind, Lame Ma’s heart chilled. However, he looked into the mirror and consoled himself. “Forget it. We are family. Perhaps, they are really in trouble? Perhaps, they aren’t as bad as I imagine them to be?”
With this in mind, Lame Ma’s mind eased quite significantly.
However, the moment Lame Ma thought of his savings, his heart pained. Although life in One Finger Village was improving and Lame Ma had taken in quite a number of disciples, it was only the beginning of One Finger Village’s rise. Lame Ma also taught his disciples for free and he would only get some free alcohol for it at best. Therefore, Lame Ma had little savings. The twenty thousand yuan he gave was most of his wealth!