“Er Ya! What are you doing?!” The woman ran out with a spatula, and when she saw her daughter running around in the yard, she got angry, “Come back quickly!”
Er Ya turned her head and said, “No! Mother! There are people in town today, I want to go see them!”
The woman was even more angry: “What for? How is that your business if people come to the town or not?”
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Er Ya: “I’m going to go to school in the town! I heard that it’s free to go to school in the town!”
The woman sneered: “You are a girl, go to what school? Your brother is going to school. If you go too, who will do the work at home?”
Er Ya said angrily, “If I can do it why can’t younger brother? He is already five years old. When I was five years old, I could already farm the fields, why can’t he?”
The woman rolled her eyes: “Can you compare with your younger brother?”
Er Ya made a face at her mother: “He just has a d*ick! What’s so precious?”
The woman ran out angrily: “Come here and see if I won’t teach you a lesson today!”
Er Ya rolled her eyes, she was small but she was fast and nimble, running like the wind. She yelled as she ran, “I’m going to school! I’ll find a job in the city in the future! When I earn money, I can also let you live comfortably!”
“Live comfortably, my ass!” The woman gasped for breath with hands on her hips, her face flushed with anger, and said, “Can’t you worry me less? It’s not easy for me and your father to raise the three of you. We’ll save some dowry for you, so when you marry later we will have done our best for you.”
“I don’t want a dowry!” Er Ya hid behind a wooden stake, “I just want to study and learn to read, I don’t want to stay in the village all my life.”
The woman was furious: “What’s wrong with the village? Are you lacking in food or warm clothes? Er Ya! You have no conscience!”
Er Ya shouted: “I have! The teacher in the town said that going to the city does not mean drawing a line from the village, but to go to the city to learn more things and contribute to the village in the future!”
The teacher in town…..
The woman said angrily: “He’s just a teacher! I’m still your mother!”
Er Ya: “The widow Zhao in the east of the village sent her daughter to school, why can’t I go?”
Woman: “Widow Zhao has only one daughter, I have your elder brother and younger brother, it’s not like our family doesn’t have a son, so why expect a girl to study?”
Er Ya bit her lip until it was bleeding: “I won’t, I’m going to study, they don’t charge for studying at the school, I know.”
“Mother, I beg you, please let me go to school. I will come back to work during off days, the teacher said that when the farming season is busy, he will also give me days off.”
Woman: “You’re not allowed to go! If I say no, then it’s a no! If you go to school, what will the people in the village think of us?”
“Noisy, noisy!” A man stepped into the yard and said to the woman, “You are just unable to control her!”
Woman: “Then you go ahead! She is just making a fuss about going to school!”
The man frowned and said, “Isn’t this nonsense? In all the villages in the area, only widow Zhao sent her girl to study. She has to rely on a girl when there is no man in her family, but that’s not the same in our family.”
Woman: “I said the same, she didn’t listen! What can I do!”
Man: “Isn’t Da Zhuang on vacation these few days? When he comes back, ask him to talk to his sister, he is a scholar, he will explain things better than we can.”
When the woman heard her husband mention her eldest son, she also had a smile on her face: “That’s right, our Da Zhuang is going to be the top scorer of the imperial palace examination! Of course he can convince a little girl.”
“Go, go, don’t squat there.” The woman shouted to Er Ya, “Go and pick up firewood.”
Er Ya: “You let me go to school and then I’ll go pick them up!”
The woman laughed angrily: “It’s fine if you don’t pick up firewood. Don’t eat then, and go hungry! When you stop yelling about going to school, then you will eat again.”
Er Ya: “Fine!”
However, that night, Er Ya was so hungry that she couldn’t sleep. She sneaked into the field to dig potatoes to eat, and made a fire on the field to roast them. After eating, she buried the burnt wood.
It was three days like this, in which Er Ya didn’t even taste a drop of oil, and didn’t even eat during the day. She only secretly went to the field at night to dig potatoes.
“Da Zhuang is back!” Before Er Ya entered the door, she heard her parents’ happy voices.
She pouted. Anyway, from childhood to adulthood, her brothers were always her parents’ treasures. What was she? Just a stone on the ground, something others’ won’t worry about if it was broken, nor something they would want to care about.
Er Ya didn’t expect her older brother to speak for her. Like her father and mother, her brother thought that she should just marry in the future. Sending her to study would just benefit the family she would marry into later.
“Where’s Er Ya?” She heard her older brother ask inside.
Her mother said: “Running wild somewhere again. She has been angry with your father and I these few days. Insisting on going to school as if she has the talent for it. Besides, what girl studies and learns to read?”
“It’s said outside that girls are sent to study, but that’s all in the south, and we in the north won’t put up with that.”
Er Ya pouted when she heard this.
Da Zhuang said, “Mother, I went to the city and saw that many women who come from the south are working, all of whom had studied and learned to read, and they all work as managers and supervisors in charge, earning at least two silver taels a month.”
The woman smacked her lips: “Goodness, that’s amazing, and at least two silver taels, two silver taels are enough for our family to eat for a long time.”
Different from the south, it was inconvenient to build roads in the north. Although the folk customs were simple, they did not have too much communication with the outside world. The people live a closed off life. Even though the new dynasty had been established for so long, and had been promoting the slogan that boys and girls were the same, it did not have much effect on them.
Da Zhuang said again: “If Er Ya wants to study, just let her study, putting aside taking the imperial examination in the future, it will be good to find a manager job.”
Woman: “Even if she becomes a manager, won’t she still have to get married in the future? Become a part of another family? Then she has nothing to do with our family. If we let her go to school, there will be one less person in the family who can do work.”
Er Ya felt uncomfortable as she listened to these words.
She still remembered Widow Zhao’s daughter, Yue Niang, who used to spend her days like her. Later, Widow Zhao ignored the obstruction of her relatives and sent Yue Niang to a school in the city. Yue Niang learned to read, and she also learned to use the abacus. Because her ability on the abacus was really good, some shop owners in the city even asked her if she would like to work as an accountant in their shop after graduation.
Yue Niang also told her that if you go to such a big shop to be an accountant, you would at least earn one tael a month.
Among them, the highest bidder was willing to give her two and a half taels a month.
“If you don’t study, how can you earn so much money?” Yue Niang smiled happily at that time, and said to Er Ya, “You have to go to study earlier, I went late, but if you go now, you can study several more years. After studying for a few more years, maybe you will even be able to participate in the imperial examination and become a high official!”
“I heard that there are female lords in the capital!”
Er Ya didn’t hope to take part in the imperial examination and become a high official.
She just didn’t want to do farm work at home all the time and then in the future, marry a man like her father and have a few babies.
That kind of life, she felt terrible even thinking about it.
Da Zhuang sighed: “Mother, Er Ya is also born from your stomach, she is still your daughter even after she married, besides, there is a law now, if something happens to younger brother and I, Er Ya will be supporting you in the future.”
“She can earn more money after studying. When she enters her husband’s house, she will be able to establish a firm foothold and pay filial piety to you.”
The woman waved her hand: “I don’t lack her filial piety, I have two sons!”
For them, it was a big sin for a woman to not have a son. Whoever had more sons could raise their heads higher when they went out.
The more sons, the better. As for daughters, they would always get married, and now they were not allowed to exchange marriages. (TN: old folk custom in which a daughter is married into another family in exchange for her husband’s family to marry their daughter to her brother)
If it hadn’t been for the fact that life had gotten better, these girls would have been drowned long ago.
That was how the folk customs were like here.
Da Zhuang sighed: “Mother, you should go out with Father and take a look around outside.”
Woman: “Look at what?”
Da Zhuang: “I’ll take Er Ya away this time, and let her go to school with me. It just so happens that the first grade is about to recruit new students. We can go and register first, and the school will start in September in the second half of the year.”
The woman rolled her eyes at her son, “They say that you don’t need money for studying, but what about the money for clothes, meals, and accommodation.”
Da Zhuang had nothing to say.
Sense would not be talked into his mother, and his father even more so.
Er Ya wiped her tears outside.
Her parents love her older brother the most. Her older brother even spoke for her for once, but her parents still wouldn’t let go.
Er Ya squatted in the corner, crying with her head down.
By the time she got home, the whole family had already eaten dinner. Da Zhuang was still growing and had to eat a lot. So when she went to the kitchen to search, she only found half a bun, and hurriedly devoured it.
“What are you doing?”
Er Ya turned her head and saw Da Zhuang standing at the door of the kitchen. She sniffed and said in a fierce tone that was really just a front, “What’s it to you?!”
Da Zhuang: “I heard Mother say that you want to study.”
Er Ya sullenly said: “What’s the use of what I want? I won’t be able to no matter how much I want it. In any case, it’s like this. After I get married, I won’t come back. When I give birth to a child, no matter male or female, I will send them to study. “
Da Zhuang squatted down: “I have a way, if you listen to me you can go to school.”
Er Ya didn’t believe it: “Really?”
Da Zhuang looked confident: “Why would I lie to you? I will get no benefit.”
Er Ya still didn’t believe it: “Why are you helping me?”
When he was a child, Da Zhuang bullied her a lot, and even called her names with his companions, just because she secretly ate a piece of meat that only he could eat.
Could it be that after going to school, Da Zhuang changed? Could studying have made Da Zhuang better?
Da Zhuang: “The day I went to the city, you just wait by the side of the road. I’ll have the ox cart stop and take you with me.”
Er Ya’s eyes widened: “But, but after going to the city to sign up, I still have to go back to the village. They won’t let me go in September, and I still won’t be able to go to school.”
Da Zhuang smiled and said, “How’s that a problem? You just won’t leave after you arrive in the city, and just wait for the school to start in the city. It’s called cooked rice, what’s done is done, and they won’t be able to change anything then.”
Er Ya hesitated: “Then…..I will have to live in the city for a long time, where will I get the money?”
Da Zhuang: “I started a poetry club with a few classmates in the city. We write poems for those merchants and I can earn some money for it and have a place to live. So long as we are frugal, you won’t die of starvation.”
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Er Ya nodded desperately: “I will be frugal, I will definitely be frugal! I can just eat one potato a day, just the size of my fist is enough! I don’t eat much!”
Da Zhuang rubbed Er Ya’s head: “Then it’s decided.”
Er Ya grabbed the hem of Da Zhuang’s shirt, raised her head, and called out sincerely, “Big brother.”
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