Chapter 19: Punishment
The cafeteria lady was a woman in her early fifties. She was a tall and strong woman with a loud voice. When she saw the two sleeping children in the dining area, she screamed with a deafening sound, “Why are you two here?!”
At this time, the sky was just beginning to light up and all the orphans were still fast asleep. When her roar rang through the air, the children woke up from surprise. They soon gathered at the entrance of the dining hall to see what the commotion was all about.
Zhao Qiang was still half asleep when the cafeteria lady yelled in surprise, while Lin Xin was completely awake. She looked at the sizable crowd and the angry aunty, then slid her chair away from the table and stood up. “Good morning.”
The Aunt didn’t expect the child to be so calm. For a moment, she stood speechless and forgot the scolding words she was about to say. Finally, she fiercely demanded, “When did you two come in?”
At this time, the Dean came over after hearing the noise. He saw the two guilty children standing in the dining room; the bigger child was infamous for causing trouble whereas the small girl was inconspicuous. Was there such a person in the orphanage? He adjusted his black-rimmed glasses and asked gently, “Did you two sneak into the kitchen last night?”
Lin Xin no longer showed a calm expression. Instead, she lowered her head in a cowardly manner and nodded, then nudged the half-awake Zhao Qiang with her hand.
When Zhao Qiang finally snapped into attention, he squinted around until his eyes landed on the Dean’s gentle face. After seeing eye to eye, the boy suddenly jumped up and stammered, “D-dean, you are here.”
The Dean smiled and asked, “How did you get in?”
Zhao Qiang answered truthfully, “I opened the lock using a wire.”
“When I came in last night, I didn’t spot you two. Where did you hide?” When he said this, his eyes swept towards Lin Xin with a faint chill.
Lin Xin looked directly at the Dean and replied innocently, “We hid–”
“We hid in the cabinet.” Zhao Qiang interrupted her words and pointed to the cabinet close to the stove. “That one.”
“Is that so? Why didn’t I see you there last night?” the Dean asked as if he didn’t know.
Zhao Qiang continued, “Yesterday, Lin Xinyu blocked your sight, so you didn’t find us.” His eyes fluttered to the entrance where Lin Xinyu stood. Lin Xinyu stared pitifully at him, feeling wronged, but Zhao Qiang continued to ruthless glare at him, clearly wanting to transfer the blame.
Lin Xinyu walked up to the Dean’s side. He raised his head and looked up at Lin Xin, then bowed his head as if it was all his fault.
Lin Xin felt distressed for the boy. She transferred her sight to the gentle looking Dean whose heart was clearly that of a beast’s. But she had to grit her teeth and hold back the rage that was building up within. At this time, he was the adult while she was underaged. As the head of the orphanage, the Dean has control over everyone’s fate within this building. So for now, she had no other way to deal with him.
Lin Xin’s expression was filled with grievances as she complained, “Dean, you brought Lin Xinyu to the kitchen last night to find something to eat. Why can’t we?”
The Dean pushed his glasses up and asked, “Have you eaten until you were full last night?”
Lin Xin nodded her head and simply replied, “Yes, yes.”
The Dean continued on to say, “I was going to have your Aunt Qian give you some extra servings for the dinner tonight. However…” He paused and made a sinister smile, “You won’t be having any meals today; I’ll have you clean up the backyard.”
Lin Xin breathed a sigh of relief, but at the same time, she thought that the Dean’s punishment was too much. How could he let growing children suffer through hunger? And then punish them by doing heavy farm work? Does he have any humanity?
The Dean ordered the crowd to disperse, then handed two shovels over to Lin Xin and Zhao Qiang. The two young children went to the back of the mountain carrying their heavy tools.
The surrounding mountains have long since been dug into fertile fields that were planted with seasonal vegetable and flower seedlings. When they arrived at their workplace, Lin Xin thought that Zhao Qiang would idle about, without having a clue where to start. To her surprise, he picked up the iron shovel and began to till the ground; the boy was skilled and proficient, as if he had done it thousands of times.