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111 The Preparation

 In the end, the shop owner finally gave in and bought the bracelet at a higher price, giving Pao Hua enough money to last for a few months if he used the money sparingly.

Pao Hua bought baby clothes, regular clothes, some paper, ink and more supplies for Hli Ja. He gathered more medicine from the pharmacy he'd visited the other day, buying more water jars and food.

Pao Hua didn't mind, even if he had to travel into town every day to keep his sister healthy. He was willing to walk the earth if that was Hli Ja needed him to do.

After buying everything and then some, he stuffed everything into the bag until the bag was full. He  carried the rest by hand, making the long journey back into the forest. He also made sure no one was following him, taking the occasional detour.

It took Pao Hua several hours to come home. He saw Hli Ja still laying on her back in the carriage. After Pa Chee's kick, her baby felt like it had slipped lower than normal. She was also spotting, which made her nervous. So now, she lies on her back doing her best to avoid putting any strain on her body. She hadn't been on her feet since they had arrived here in this forest.

Pao Hua removed some branches to allow sunlight to peek through the carriage. When he felt that there was enough light he emptied the bag of groceries out of the way, into one of the corners in the carriage.

Pao Hua then cooked food for him and his sister. Once he was done, he scattered the bonfire ash in the cave. He brought the pot back to the carriage, filling some bowls with a small spoon. When he was finished he handed a bowl to his sister.

"Careful," he warned, "It's hot."

Hli Ja thanked him, taking the bowl. She needed to stay nourished, as she wanted her baby to grow big and strong. After she finished her food, Pao Hua handed her a jar full of medicinal tea. "This is yours.  I made it before I made dinner."

Pao Hua's kindness and thoughtfulness touched Hli Ja's heart. She looked at her brother with warm eyes. How could someone be so cruel to such a well behaved boy like him? Maybe the heavens knew that she would meet such an ill fate, and had their paths cross.

She smiled, saying, "We're very lucky that the heavens brought us together. I'm glad I met you, I want you to know that."

Pao Hua wasn't used to people being so nice and open to him that he blushed. "Mm... I'm very lucky that the heavens brought you to save me. I'm happy I met you too." He mumbled, before eating his food.

After the two finished eating, Hli Ja called out to Pao Hua. "Come here. Bring the paper and ink you bought today too."

"Ok," Pao Hua got up. He searched for the ink and bundles of paper that were somewhere in the bag and then went to Hli Ja to give them to her.

She took them graciously, "Pao Hua, I'm going to teach you how to read and write. Watch carefully! Every day, I will teach you something new. I want you to learn as much as you can before the baby comes. I may need you to do things that require you to know letters in order to help me deliver the baby, okay?"

Hli Ja had given a small child such a big responsibility, but to Pao Hua, this was the first time he felt thankful for being alive. If he had decided to join his father and mother in the afterlife back then, because of how badly he was abused by cruel people, he would have never been able to help his sister now.

For the first time, he felt valued. Being needed and appreciated was a wonderful feeling, a feeling that he never thought he'd get to experience.

Now, Pao Hua felt that there was a purpose in  his life, a purpose to keep living, to be of use to someone. He nodded his head intently. "Mm... I'll do my best."

Hli Ja proceeded to write letters by their phonic sounds, putting them into words and asked Pao Hua to do the same. Pao Hua copied Hli Ja step by step and was able to produce results.

For the next couple of weeks, Hli Ja spent many hours teaching Pao Hua.

Children learn faster than adults, so he caught on fast. He was very obedient, as he always watched things carefully, and listened intently to what Hli Ja taught him.

Pao Hua visited the town 2 to 3 times a week to buy food and supplies.

Every time, Hli Ja would give him a list of things she needed for the delivery.

A few weeks later, the carriage was getting full.

When Pao Hua wasn't away getting supplies, Hli Ja made sure to educate him about how a woman gives birth, and what is going to happen during delivery.

Pao Hua took thorough notes, writing detailed instructions during Hli Ja's explanations. He didn't want to miss anything that might be important later. His reading and writing skills grew during this time, as there wasn't much else to do but learn.

As the week progressed, Hli Ja's health began to improve. She was grateful for the help of her little brother. He diligently took great care of her, brewing medicinal teas daily.

With lots of rest, even though their living conditions weren't the best, she was able to move around a little. Sometimes going outside to stand around, breathing in the fresh forest air.

During those times, Pao Hua also slowly fetched water, leaving the jar to sit in the cave. He didn't want to run out of water over the next few days. He also gathered firewood, storing them in the cave too.

Early one morning, Hli Ja's began having contractions. She was not sure when exactly the baby would come, from what she saw, it varied from woman to woman.

Hli Ja allowed Pao Hua to sleep a little bit longer before deciding to wake him up. When she saw his eyelids flicker, she called, "Pao Hua, are you up?"