Because of harboring such thoughts, Liu Yu inquired with Cui Erniang about the approximate investment needed to open such an embroidery shop. Cui Erniang was dumbfounded, and her offhand remark seemed to weigh heavily on Liu Yu’s mind.
“Do you really want to open a shop?”
Liu Yu nodded. “I do have this idea, but I’m not very familiar with business management. I’m not sure how much investment is required to open an embroidery shop. Would you mind explaining it to me in detail?”
Cui Erniang naturally didn’t mind and said, “It depends on where you open it. Different locations have different costs. As for my shop, the major expenses are buying or leasing the storefront, purchasing fabrics, threads, and needles, and labor costs.”
“This shop originally belonged to my husband’s family, so we can save on the rent for the storefront. The major expenses are for fabrics, threads, and needles. Don’t underestimate these things; they can be quite costly. Just the inventory for my shop costs at least a hundred taels. These items may not seem significant, but they require a significant investment.”
“And, to avoid discouraging Liu Yu, she continued, “But when I opened the shop years ago, I didn’t have much money on hand. Fortunately, in our small town, ordinary people don’t use the best fabrics for making clothes. At first, I only used basic materials, so I spent about fifty taels on fabric, thread, and needles. As the business grew, I gradually introduced better fabrics. After a few years of operation, I reached the scale I have now. As for the wages of the embroiderers, they are paid per piece, so that expense only occurs when there is income. We can exclude it for now.”
Listening to this, Liu Yu realized that even if she opened the shop in Xifeng Town, her funds would not be sufficient. It seemed she needed to think of another solution.
It was getting late, and neither Wei Shi nor Liu Yu could stay any longer. After bidding farewell to Cui Erniang, the three of them hurriedly went to the Niangniang Temple again.
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Unable to hold back, he glanced at Liu Yanqing, who was driving the carriage, and asked, “Can I ask, sister, where you went after leaving Changfeng Town?”
Following his gaze, Liu Yu smiled and said, “Xifeng Town, back to my own home. It’s too far, with an entire Anyi County in between. It won’t be easy to take care of you in the future. That’s where my eldest brother lives.”
Ge An, upon hearing it was Liu Yu’s elder brother, remembered Liu Yanqing’s appearance and withdrew his scrutinizing gaze. He asked, “Isn’t your family in Changfeng Town?”
Liu Yu smiled and didn’t elaborate, simply saying, “It’s a long story. It’s late now, I should go. Take care of yourselves.”
After checking on Ge An and his sister again, the family of three hurriedly embarked on their journey back home.
Unbeknownst to Liu Yu, at this time in the Chen family, after Chen Sheng tortured himself with agony for nearly a month, he finally decided to discard all prejudices. He didn’t care whether Liu Yu had been hugged by Lu Chengxiao or seen by him in wet clothes. He was determined to marry her. He couldn’t forget Liu Yu. As long as she no longer saw Lu Chengxiao, Chen Sheng felt that he could accept it.
With this realization, he urgently wanted to see Liu Yu. Of course, before that, the most urgent thing was to discuss with his mother about proposing to the Liu family.
So, after ten days of depression and suffering, Chen Sheng finally regained his spirits and left the east wing where he lived to find his mother, Liu Shi, in the main house.
“You want to marry Liu Yu?”
Liu Shi had expected this a few days ago, but she had been waiting for her son to come to her today. She felt quite proud inside. It seemed that her son didn’t like Liu Yu that much after all.
She also felt glad that the Liu family had sold that enchanting woman. Now she didn’t need to do anything to deal with the wicked woman anymore. Now, wearing a slightly troubled and hesitant expression on her face, as if she had something to say but couldn’t bear to say it.
Chen Sheng’s heart skipped a beat, and his lips trembled. “Could it be that the Lu family proposed first?”
Liu Shi didn’t want her son to blame her at this moment, nor did she mention the Lu family’s proposal. She just shook her head and said, “No, it’s just that I heard a few days ago that Liu Yu was sold.”
Chen Sheng was stunned by this earth-shattering news. He sat down heavily on the chair behind him, unable to say a word for a long time.
Seeing the color drain from his face, Liu Shi didn’t dare to be too smug anymore. She wore a somewhat sorrowful expression on her face. “Some say she was abducted while walking in town, while others say she was sold by her father and brothers. No one knows for sure. It’s been seven or eight days since she was sold, and she hasn’t been found yet. I only found out about it a few days ago. I was afraid you would be upset, so I didn’t dare to let you know.”
Chen Sheng’s knees went weak, and he sat down on the chair behind him, unable to speak for a long time.
Liu Shi watched his expression and sighed. “I told you long ago that it’s not good for young ladies to wander around outside. They should stay at home and live a peaceful life. But it’s also possible that she was sold by her father and brothers. Families like that are really frightening.” She looked both regretful for Liu Yu and frightened. She patted Chen Sheng’s hand and said, “Sheng’er, forget about that girl. You two are not meant to be together.”
Chen Sheng didn’t hear anything. There was only one thought in his mind: Liu Yu was sold, she was sold.
He sat there dumbfounded for a long time, then suddenly got up and walked out.
Liu Shi panicked. “Where are you going?”
“I’m going to the Liu family village. I want to see for myself. I don’t believe Liu Yu was sold.”
With that, he staggered out of the main house and hurried away.
Liu Shi felt quite stable in her heart, and her face no longer showed the troubled look it had before. She raised her eyebrows and smiled, picked up the teacup, and took a sip after removing the lid.
Go ahead, if you don’t go and see, how can you give up?
Meanwhile, on the mule cart returning home with Liu Yu, half of the cart was filled with gifts prepared by the Lu family as return gifts. Not to mention the snacks and tea, they also sent six bolts of fine cloth, two of them dark-colored, and the rest bright-colored. It was obvious that they were prepared for Liu Yu to make summer clothes. There were also six pieces of cloth with various patterns as gifts returned by Cui Erniang.
Because there were too many things piled up in the cart, the two sat on one side. Wei Shi held Liu Yu’s hand and said, “Madam Lu is thoughtful, and that child Chengxiao is also good. Now, I can’t think of anything unsatisfactory about you. Just as you said to your sister from the Cui family, you’re a lucky one.”
Liu Yu smiled at her own aunt straightforwardly. Wei Shi thought of the pair of children reluctant to part with her when they left the Lu family, jokingly saying, “Such a good family, aren’t you anxious to get married now?”
But Liu Yu shook her head. “Auntie, I can’t bear to leave you. I still want to stay with you for a few more years. I’m only fifteen. I’m not in a hurry to get married.”
Wei Shi was amused by this, she had no daughters, and she cherished Liu Yu as if she were her own flesh and blood. Liu Yu said seriously, “But there’s another matter. I want to discuss it with you, Auntie.”
She talked to Wei Shi about her thoughts in Cui Erniang’s embroidery shop today. Wei Shi wondered, “You want to open an embroidery shop?”
Liu Yu nodded and shook her head, saying, “I won’t be the one opening it, our family will. You manage the shop business, and I’ll be responsible for checking the styles and quality of the clothes in the shop.”
She talked about the expenses mentioned by Cui Erniang today. “We can use the forty taels you gave me a few days ago as capital, but I’m afraid it’s still not enough. I’ll do some embroidery work to make up for it, or think of some ideas for clothing styles. Maybe we can start with fewer goods, and it might work. I’m just not sure if it’s expensive to rent a shop in Xifeng Town.”
Wei Shi shook her head repeatedly. “That won’t work. Not to mention that I don’t know how to do business, even the forty taels can’t be touched. That’s your dowry. For a family like the Lu’s, if your dowry is lacking, it’s unacceptable. This money cannot be touched
Liu Yu hugged Wei Shi’s arm and playfully leaned on her, just like Lu Shuang did. “Auntie, don’t tease me. My father didn’t even get married back then. Where would his money come from? It’s all public. You say it’s my dowry, but I see all three of my older brothers are older than me. They should be the ones in a hurry to get married. Big brother is twenty-two this year, second brother is twenty. It’s only proper to give them betrothal gifts.”
The one driving the mule cart, Liu Yanqing, unexpectedly heard this and almost veered the cart off course. How did the conversation turn to his marriage?
He hurriedly knocked on the wooden panel behind him and shouted, “Yu’er, I’m not in a rush to get married yet. Even if I do, I can earn my own betrothal gifts.”
Liu Yu, hearing this from behind, hugged Wei Shi’s arm and laughed. Wei Shi raised three sons, but she had never dealt with such a delicate niece before. Soft-hearted as she was, she gently pinched Liu Yu’s nose. “You hear that? Your big brother can earn his future bride’s dowry himself.”
Liu Yu pouted, “Then Auntie, help me save up more dowry. Look at the Lu family. Wouldn’t it be better to bring half a shop than just forty taels of silver? Forty taels won’t earn any more money. Once it’s spent, it’s gone. But a shop is like a golden goose laying eggs. What do you say, Auntie?”
This made Wei Shi ponder. “You make sense. When you were still at home, you should have established some assets. After marriage, it would be managing your own business. Just focus on the clothing styles without showing your face.”
The more she thought about it, the more attractive the idea became. A woman having her own dowry business was much more reliable than just bringing a box of silver as dowry. It was a continuous source of income. Starting it before marriage, and managing it afterward, was justifiable. If she waited until she married into the Lu family to set up her own business, it wouldn’t be possible. Eating from the same pot, how could she manage private property?
Even though she was satisfied with the Lu family, Wei Shi was also thinking for her niece. After pondering for a long time without saying a word, she furrowed her brows and shook her head. “Still, it’s not feasible. I’ve never done business. Business isn’t as simple as you think. What if it fails? Then you’d lose everything, even this forty taels of dowry. I wouldn’t have the face to see your grandmother and father.”
Seeing Wei Shi wavering, Liu Yu didn’t give her a chance to retreat. She shook her arm and said, “Even if I lose, I’ll lose. After all, what I’m purchasing is just fabric. If I lose, we’ll just consider it as the money spent on renting a shop. Auntie, you can also use the fabric I purchased as dowry if I lose. But if I win, think about it, Auntie. How much better my future days will be. Second brother and third brother won’t have to toil in the fields every day. Living will be like the Lu family’s, much better than now.”
Although Liu Yu had only recently returned to Yangshan Village, she was already familiar with the situation of the Liu family. Wei Shi felt that Liu Yu had suffered and had been spending money generously on her, buying her the best of everything. This time, the gifts for the Lu family and Cui Erniang had cost a lot. Liu Yu knew that all this spending came from the money saved up previously.
Liu Yu’s words reminded Wei Shi of the past. Before returning to Yangshan Village, there was actually an old servant with her mother-in-law. At that time, buying her, a little maid, was purely out of kindness, not expecting anything from her. At that time, the Liu family’s financial situation was still okay. It was only after settling in Yangshan Village that her mother-in-law let go of the old servant and sent her away. But during the first decade in Yangshan Village, she didn’t actually suffer much.
The real hardship for the Liu family began fifteen years ago when the head of the family fell ill, and her mother-in-law passed away, leaving her alone to raise three children. Their lives became increasingly difficult.
Seeing Wei Shi lost in thought, Liu Yu’s eyes fell on the bolts of fabric given by the Lu family, and her eyes lit up. “Auntie, you don’t have to decide now. Let’s slowly think about it. Since there’s fabric here, and I still need summer clothes, let me make a set of summer clothes first. Auntie, see if I have the skills to do this job. Then we’ll decide.” Whether it’s doable or not, we need to see the results firsthand.
Wei Shi saw her confident demeanor and felt her mood lift. She smiled and said, “Alright, Auntie will wait for you, Yu’er, to show your skills.”
Liu Yu teased and touched a bolt of fabric beside her. “Then I’ll definitely work hard. Whether my brothers’ future wives and I can have a chicken that lays golden eggs as dowry all depends on this.”
This remark elicited another round of laughter from Wei Shi. “What a shameless girl.”
Liu Yanqing, who was listening in front, also showed a relaxed smile on her face. After her sister returned, her mother smiled a lot more.
When they returned to Yangshan Village, it was already dusk. April in rural areas was the busiest time, and Liu Yanping and Liu Yanan were still busy in the fields. Liu Yanqing opened the courtyard gate, drove the mule cart inside, and moved the gifts from the Lu family and Cui Erniang into the house. Wei Shi directed them to move all the fabrics to the western wing where Liu Yu lived, jokingly saying, “Let her show off her skills and earn her dowry shop.”
As the eldest son, the usually serious Liu Yanqing couldn’t help but smile at this moment. He moved the items to the western wing but didn’t forget to tease Liu Yu. “Little sister, big brother is counting on you.”
Being teased by her own older brother, Liu Yu didn’t back down either. She nodded seriously, “I’ll also work hard to earn the betrothal gifts for my big brother’s marriage.”
After moving the fabrics, the boxes of pastries were placed on the table in the main hall. Liu Yu glanced at the rabbit named Hanbao by Liu Yanan, gave it some water, and then gave it a few clean and dried vegetable leaves before washing her hands and going to the kitchen to help Wei Shi prepare dinner.
When the smoke from the stove rose, Liu Yanping and Liu Yanan also returned. As the two brothers put down their hoes, one washed their hands and faces while the other asked how Liu Yanqing’s visit to the Lu family went.
Liu Yanqing briefly mentioned his impression of the Lu family, then pointed to the main hall and the western wing, telling them to take a look at the gifts themselves. The two brothers took a look around and could see that the Lu family valued their sister, but they were still unhappy that their beautiful sister was being snatched away just after returning home, so they felt a bit sulky.
Liu Yanqing wanted to tease his two brothers a bit, so he brought up Liu Yu’s plan to earn dowry for them. Liu Yanping chuckled, while Liu Yanan, who hadn’t even thought about getting married, laughed heartily. “My sister is really good.”
Liu Yanping gave Liu Yanan a smack on the back of his head. “You fool, didn’t you hear Yu’er say that half of it is dowry? Doesn’t that mean she’s satisfied with that guy surnamed Lu?”
Liu Yanping grinded his teeth and frowned, asking his brothers, “Is that guy surnamed Lu really worthy of our Yu’er?”
Among the three brothers, only he hadn’t met Lu Chengxiao.
Liu Yanan thought for a moment and said, “He’s pretty good. We exchanged a few moves that day, and we were evenly matched. Yu’er stopped us, so I don’t know who would’ve won if we had continued.”
The martial arts skills of the three Liu brothers were exceptional, and any one of them was formidable. Otherwise, Liu Yanqing wouldn’t have been able to easily become a constable. Among the three brothers, Liu Yanan was simpler in nature, but precisely because of his simplicity and dedication to learning, he had a talent for martial arts that surpassed Liu Yanping’s, and even surpassed Liu Yanqing, who taught them.
Hearing that Lu Chengxiao could fight evenly with Liu Yanan, Liu Yanping raised an eyebrow. Well, at least he wasn’t useless.
Then he looked at Liu Yanqing.
Liu Yanqing said, “He looks good, with clear eyes and upright demeanor. The Lu family seems decent too, not like those troublesome families. If little sister marries into that family, life should be fine.”
At the mention of marriage, Liu Yanping and Liu Yanan felt a pang of pain. Although they hadn’t paid much attention to Liu Yu’s plan to open a shop, they both started to think about saving dowry for their sister.
When Liu Yanping went out to fetch water, Liu Yanan also brought his basin of water and followed. When he saw that his eldest brother was far away, he asked Liu Yanping in a low voice, “Second brother, tell me the truth, did you secretly get that rabbit last time?”
Wei Shi didn’t know, and Liu Yanan was clear-headed. Liu Da Tian worked hard in the fields and didn’t have the ability to catch rabbits from the mountains.
But Liu Yanping, wanting to cheer up Liu Yu, probably wanted to catch a nest of rabbits, keep one, and sell the rest at a low price to Liu Da Tian. Liu Yanan believed in that.
No one in the family was more cunning than his second brother.
Liu Yanping glanced at him and said nothing. Liu Yanan leaned closer and whispered, “Let’s do it together next time, go deeper into the mountains a few times, and save some money for Yu’er.”
Liu Yanping tapped his forehead with his index finger. “What are you thinking? You dare to disobey Mom’s words?”
Liu Yanan rubbed his head, feeling aggrieved, and caught up. “You did it first.”
“What did I do first?” Liu Yanping looked innocent. He didn’t admit to anything.
Liu Yanan was speechless.
Sansukini: Sorry for the late posting. Hope you enjoy the chapter.
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