You Can’t Afford the Consequences (2)
“Uncle Fu and Mother Huan have ground a hundred catties of wheat. If you want to make fragrant spring wine, you must mix it with qiliang chuanqiong, half white aconite, three halves atractylodes, half qianguadi, and then divide the herbal powder into three portions, mix with white flour and add eight litres of well water to each portion.”
By the time she had spoken, Zhuo Lian had already sorted out the herbs. Because she had done this countless times in her other life, it was child’s play to her (the most appropriate to describe it in Chinese is with the idiom of four words “Light car and familiar road”).
Upon seeing this, Uncle Fu was even more surprised. He didn’t expect Zhuo Lian to be so capable. Did she really inherit the brewing talent of the Zhuo family?
Zhuo Lian and Mother Huan tipped the flour into the wooden basin and then added the herbs next
“Mother, do we have jing hua shui from the Huan family well here in the wine shop?”
Mother Huan looked a little embarrassed. She had never heard of it and couldn’t help but ask
“What is jing hua shui ?”
“Jing hua shui means the first drawing of well water in the morning, drawn in the early morning. The jing hua shui from the Huan family well is perfect for making fine koji.” Although Zhuo Lian had a mild temper, it was the best in winemaking. She was picky, and she couldn’t help but frown and her lips were drawn into a curl.
“I drew water from our house well at dawn, it should be the well water you said?”
Mother Huan had always been very hardworking and she came to the wine shop every day before the sun rose, while the stars and moon were still in the sky. Not only would the house have been cleaned but the water in the tank would be also have been changed to ensure it was fresh.
Zhuo Lian breathed a sigh of relief and nodded. She washed her hands, scooped out the jing hua shui well water and poured it into the basin of ingredients.
Uncle Fu stared at Zhuo Lian’s movements and observed that she accurately scooped the same amount of water each time. His eyes were much sharper than ordinary people. Even when Old Master Huan was alive, Uncle Fu could not be beaten by him in this respect.
Seeing her skillfulness shocked Uncle Fu and his cheeks flushed.
Zhuo Lian didn’t notice Uncle Fu’s strange behaviour. She squatted on the ground and stirred the medicinal powder evenly with a shovel. The mixture must be dry and wet properly, and held loosely. If there was more water, it would make a heart-shaped koji, and if there was less water, it would not be able to form. There was too much grated wheat in the wine shop this time. After the three of them thoroughly mixed the medicinal mixture and sifted it through a coarse sieve, it was almost noon.
Uncle Fu worked vigorously, pressing the koji firmly, covering it with white cloth and quilt to let it sit for three or four hours before it could be put into the mould. At this moment, there was no need to do anything else.
“You take a break first, I’ll cook.” Uncle Fu muttered.
Zhuo Lian wanted to help but she was held back by Mother Huan. She said, “Zhuo Lian leave him to it. It’s hard work. You have already prepared all the medicinal flour. Just rest.”
Seeing Mother Huan’s concerned eyes, she felt warmth in her heart and she couldn’t help but laugh, her beautiful face glowing, and she looked more beautiful than a rose.
Mother Huan was stunned for a moment, the longer she looked at her daughter-in-law, the more beautiful she appeared.
Uncle Fu made scallion flour pancakes. Though the ingredients were ordinary and the process was simple, it smelled delicious. Zhuo Lian was tired from all the morning’s hard work. She ate a little faster and waited until she was full before putting down her chopsticks. After all, she had to be busy in a few hours, and it would not be convenient to eat.
Faqubing’s house was built by Father Huan. It was paved with wooden boards, wheat and bamboo curtains to isolate the ground. After cleaning, it was perfect.
The three of them were busy until dark. Seeing that her daughter-in-law was so responsible, Mother Huan was tired but with a smile in her eyes, she said, “Let’s go back home and have dinner. Before I went out in the morning, I had put on the stove a stew with meat bones, we can drink the hot soup.”
Hearing the word “go back”, Zhuo Lian could not help stiffening, as she didn’t want to see Huan Shen at all. Squinting her eyes at the wine shop, she tentatively asked, “There is a lot of wine in our shop, why don’t I stay here for the night?”
“Cloudy wine is cheap and not worth much at all. No thieves will steal it. There’s no need to watch the shop at night.”
Zhuo Lian pursed her lips and walked silently home. As soon as she stepped through the gate of the house, she saw Huan Shen practicing archery in the yard. Her footsteps paused slightly, and her expression was wary.
Lowering her head, she went into the kitchen. She washed her hands, poured the thick and white meaty soup into a bowl, and cooked a courgette. Although the dishes were not rich, there was meat and a vegetable.
Huan Yun saw her sister-in-law, and with a shy smile on her face, took the initiative to help.
When the food was set on the table, Huan Shen walked over casually, as if he had never threatened her with a dagger. Zhuo Lian squeezed her chopsticks so tightly, her nails turned white, and she didn’t move for a long time.
Seeing this, Huan Mother couldn’t help asking, “Why don’t you eat, is the food not to your liking?”
Before Zhuo Lian could reply, Huan Shen laughed. He was born with extremely handsome facial features, and his voice was as mellow as wine.
“Uncle was joking, how can I be irritated by those trivial things?” replied Zhuo Lian; the corner of her mouth twitched, her tone perfunctory.
Knowing that Huan Shen apologized kindly, but his eyes were threatening. If she dared to complain to Mother Huan, she was not sure what this lunatic would do.
“Mother, I have thought about it and we need someone to watch the shop at night, shall I move there?” Looking up at Mother Huan, there was a hint of pleading in her words; although it was not obvious, she was caught by Huan Shen.