He leaned back and casually asked, “Did you patronize this Mala soup store often in the past? You seemed really close with the store owner.”
Qiao Nian happily ate the noodles she had been craving and answered without looking up, “Not that often, but when I’m free I would come by. Aunt Chen used to work as a helper for the Qiao Family, but she stopped working for them and set up this stall.
“The vegetables and meat she serves are the freshest from the market. They’re also more hygienic than the restaurants nearby.”
It was the first time Ye Wangchuan heard her mention her foster family. His eyes deepened, and he was about to speak.
Suddenly, the girl sitting opposite him frowned, put down her chopsticks, and said with her jaw tightened, “You eat first, I’m heading there for a moment!”
She stood up and walked towards the tricycle.
Ye Wangchuan turned around and realized a few hooligans in ripped jeans were picking and messing up the vegetables placed neatly in the basket.
“Didn’t I give you 200 yuan just the day before? You ran out of money again?” From afar, Qiao Nian heard Aunt Chen’s heartbreaking and helpless voice.
Among the bunch of hooligans, a young man’s pre-pubescent voice said impatiently, “That bit of money wasn’t enough. Mum, I need more.”
“No way!” Aunt Chen slapped away his hand that was extending toward her wallet. Protecting her wallet, she said, “This money is for your dad’s hospitalization bills, you can’t take it!”
The young man drew his hand back, hesitating.
His companion next to him booed. “How old are you, Chen Yuan, to still be asking for money from your mum, and dare not to take when she doesn’t give it to you.”
The group of punks weren’t afraid of him and continued mocking him. “If it was me, I would just snatch it from the old woman. Who cares if she’s willing? It’s considered your own money, and the business here is so good, would this amount even make a difference? Your dad has been hospitalized for more than a year, just let him die. You save money, and he’s freed from the suffering… Hey! what are you doing!”
The young man with a pre-pubescent voice suddenly rushed forward and punched the face of the speaking man.
“I’m asking you to shut up! Shut up!”
The others, shocked to see that the little guy who always followed them around actually dared to be violent, spat and flexed their fists as they moved forward to surround them.
The middle-aged woman had never encountered such a scene in her life and couldn’t care less about her stall. She rushed forward as she watched her son about to get into a fight with the young punks.
“Stop fighting, all of you stop fighting.”
“Go away, old woman!”
Before she was able to do anything, one of the punks shook her hand off viciously and was about to hit her.
Aunt Chen was terrified. Watching as the fist as big as a bowl almost landed on her face, a slender hand stretched out and grabbed it while supporting her at the same time.
“Rubbish should stay in the rubbish chute, why are you out here causing a fuss?”
Stunned, she turned and saw Qiao Nian’s small and porcelain face. With trembling lips, she called out, “Nian… Nian Nian?”
“Shit! Where did this little girl come from! Stay out of this. Otherwise, I’ll beat you up as well!” shouted the man whose hand was grabbed by Qiao Nian.
Aunt Chen came back to her senses and looked at Qiao Nian anxiously. “Nian Nian, leave quickly. These are all local rascals, don’t mess with them,” she said hurriedly.