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2. This is a fan work and the interpretation represents only the translator’s personal views without any input from the author.
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Liu Gao shi had also accompanied the group of them to town. She and He shi had both been in the treatment room, watching the doctor treat Liu Tao. It was only now that they emerged. The sky was already dark, so the family discussed their plans. It was decided that Liu Gao shi would head back with Liu Changgeng and He shi for the night, while Liu Changqi and Liu Shu would stay overnight with Liu Tao.
They got Liu Shu to stay just in case something happened. If Liu Changqi couldn’t leave, at least Liu Shu could run back and inform the family.
They had wanted to get Liu Changshi to stay in town with them, but Liu Changshi was worried about He Ruyu being alone at home, and insisted on returning back to the village. Liu Changgeng could only help him hang a storm lamp on this cart and remind him to drive back carefully.
Liu Xu’er told Shi Cheng to head home. A servant boy had already come by. He had looked for him all over before finally tracking him down to the medical hall.
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Gqvla Nkw Ubydtpbk zlqv, ps eke Fbk Ubldt. Mbl qyxkzu caswtbv Nkw Qys pbk bsxl clqsal byhkdt y bypvkzu xyel xlyz. Nkw Qys pbk vsze Nkw Ubydttldt yde Tl pbk, “Xaktkdyzzu, Wkapv’p qyxkzu qkdyzzu bye psxl tsse dlop. Dkyd’la’p xyaakytl byp y rsvldvkyz rasprlnv. Ebs jdlo vbkp oswze byrrld?!”
Tl pbk iwknjzu ypjle, “Ebyv rasprlnv? Typ psxlsdl nsxl vs rasrspl y xyvnb?”
Nkw Qys pbk dseele, clqsal pktbkdt. “Rv’p dsv kelyz. Dkclk Akzzytl byp y rleezla – vbl sdl obs nsxlp vs swa hkzzytl. Ebld bl blyae ycswv Dkyd’la, bl tsv y xyvnbxyjla vs nsxl yde rasrspl.”
Tl pbk bye cypknyzzu dsv clld cwukdt yduvbkdt qasx vbl rleezla vblpl rypv vos ulyap, ps pbl oypd’v nzlya ycswv obs bl oyp. Fbl ypjle, “Ebyv jkde sq rlapsd kp bl?”
Nkw Qys pbk alprsdele, “Tl’p ycswv 25, 26. Mblal’p ds sdl kd bkp qyxkzu – fwpv bkx. Tkp ydnlpvayz bsxl kp kd Dkclk Akzzytl, cwv bl wpwyzzu kpd’v vblal. Tl’p aldvle y assx sd vbl swvpjkavp sq Wldt Msod, vs xyjl kv lypkla qsa bkx vs cwu bkp tssep. Rv’p rascyczu clnywpl vblal’p ds sdl lzpl kd vbl qyxkzu vs oyvnb swv qsa bkx vbyv bkp sod xyaakytl oyp ps elzyule.”
Nkw Ubydttldt qasodle yde pyke, “Zsw alyzzu dlle vs cl hlau nyalqwz sq y rlapsd zkjl vbkp. Oprlnkyzzu pkdnl bl’p y rleezla, bl oswze cl xshkdt yaswde vs y zsv sq rzynlp…. Rv’p hlau lypu qsa psxlvbkdt wdlmrlnvle vs byrrld.”
Nkw Qys pbk yde Tl pbk csvb wdelapvsse obyv bl oyp vaukdt vs pyu. Nkw Qys pbk vsze bkx, “Mbyv’p obu R oyp saktkdyzzu vbkdjkdt sq ypjkdt usw vs qkde swv xsal. Zsw pvyu kd vsod, obkzl bl pvyup sd vbl swvpjkavp, yde qaliwldvzu nsxlp kdvs vsod. Rv oswze cl lypkla qsa usw vs ypj yaswde ycswv bkx.”
Nkw Ubydttldt oyp fwpv ycswv vs ytall obld Tl pbk iwknjzu kdvlaflnvle, “Xq nswapl ol okzz blzr vs ypj yaswde. Jwv yv xspv, ol oswze sdzu cl yczl vs blya saekdyau scplahyvksdp sq bkx. Tso bl alyzzu clbyhlp osd’v cl vbyv lypu vs qkde swv.”
Liu Gao shi sighed. She knew what He shi was worried about, so she said, “Actually, that’s what I’m not too satisfied about either. He’s a peddler who goes to so many different villages. Who knows what may have happened…. But our Xian’er cannot afford to be picky any more. If she is, she would become an old maid. At 20, who would want her? If she delays any longer, she would only be able to marry a widower!”
He shi and Liu Changgeng both sighed.
That evening, they filled most of the rooms in the main courtyard. Liu Changgeng and He shi had vacated the main courtyard’s main room for Liu Gao shi to stay, while they went to sleep in the side wings.
The next morning, all the adults were up very early to go over to the medical hall, while Liu Lin and Liu Sen went to the store. Liu Xu’er could only stay at home and prepare the meal, all while waiting for news.
After a while, a knock came from the door. Liu Xu’er had just walked to the centre of the courtyard when Shi Cheng started to shout from outside, “Xu’er, it’s me.”
Liu Xu’er opened the gate, and Shi Cheng came in. He was all by himself. “I went to the store to look for you, and Liu Lin told me you were at home, so I came over.” After he finished, he asked, “What’s happened? Has there been any news?”
Liu Xu’er shook her head, “No…. But I hope everything is alright.”
Shi Cheng shook his head, “Your dabo’s family sure is unlucky.”
“These past two years have actually been better for them. When he just divorced Ma shi, the situation was truly terrible. These past two years dabo has been bringing Liu Tao out to help and they’ve both been working really hard…. How strange, their brother has been bitten by a snake, but Liu Xian’er and Liu Yun’er haven’t been to visit? Why are they still staying at home?” Liu Xu’er asked, dissatisfied.
Shi Cheng pursed his lips and shook his head. Following her into the kitchen, he saw her take out a whole lot of food. There was a basin of bakchoy, a large head of cabbage, a basin of buckwheat flour and even a piece of pork belly. He couldn’t help sticking his tongue out and saying, “Are you going to be preparing all this?”
Liu Xu’er shook her head, “No.”
Shi Cheng was stumped, “Then why did you take out so much….”
Liu Xu’er looked at him, “Aren’t you here? Help me with the vegetables. As for the flour, I will pour the water while you knead. Otherwise, you might pour too much water.”
Shi Cheng laughed, before helplessly shaking his head. He could only wash his hands and go over to help her. It really was him who prepared the vegetables, before heading to the well to draw up some water for washing. Then after that, he helped her to knead the dough according to Liu Xu’er’s instructions. He kneaded all together, before leaving it on the board, covering it with another basin, and leaving it to rise.
“If your dad found out that you aren’t at the store and instead came out here to learn how to cook, he would definitely beat you!”
Shi Cheng laughed, “My dad can’t bear to beat me. Look at how obedient and sensible I am! Just like you, can your father bear to beat you?” Then he thought of something and quickly said, “That’s right, I’ve already discussed the matter with my dad. After a few days, we will be heading to Hanzhong city to research their restaurant scene…. Of course, that’s only if we can confirm that Liu Tao will be alright.”
Liu Xu’er sighed before asking, “That’s right, Shi Cheng. Does your family’s restaurant buy any seafood? Dried that is…. I don’t think there would be any fresh here. How is the dried seafood business like here?”
Shi Cheng shook his head, “It’s very ordinary. Apart from dried sea cucumber and shrimp, which are used more often, the rest aren’t really what customers enjoy. The people here don’t really like such flavours.” He found this strange, so he asked, “Why are you asking about this?”
Liu Xu’er explained what had happened with Liu Changgui. Shi Cheng was also rather bewildered when he heard. “Is it true? Why haven’t I heard of anyone bringing dried seafood over from Shandong? And it earns a lot?”
Liu Xu’er replied, “That’s right, the way they were dressed, it seems they’ve a lot of money…. Who knows, maybe they are lying. In any case, my sanshu is beyond redemption. It would be best if he doesn’t bother us. Even my grandparents don’t talk about him much.”
Shi Cheng shook his head. Liu Xu’er felt that the dough should be just about ready, so she instructed Shi Cheng to use a rolling pin to roll it out. This wasn’t because she was lazy, but because it really wasn’t easy to make noodles. It took a lot of strength. After all, the dough was quite dense, and it took a lot of strength to roll it out. If Liu Xu’er were to try doing this by herself, her arms would ache for quite a few days. Usually, He shi wouldn’t let her try to do it herself.
It also took Shi Cheng a great deal of effort. Panting, he squeezed out, “Xu’er, your family really should buy some servants! Why don’t I help introduce a few? At least, get someone who can do the cooking and the laundry. Otherwise, it would be too tiring!”
Liu Xu’er said, “We should take it slow. Actually when we moved over, my parents were still discussing. We want to bring ye and nai over to stay with us… Before, although our families were separated, we were all still staying in the same village. It was still quite convenient to pop over to help them wash their clothes or prepare their meals. But now, we won’t be able to help them out anymore. My dad is feeling a bit sad about that. He is staying in such a large house, with so many empty rooms, but his parents are still stuck in the village….. When my ye and nai move over, we will definitely buy some servants.”
Shi Cheng nodded, “You should do that. Bring them over…. Before, when there wasn’t much money, it’s natural to want to divide the financial burden up equally, but now that you are making more, there’s no need to be so clear.”
“Of course!” Liu Xu’er said. “My mother is not unfilial; she’s already agreed with the plan. It’s just that just when we wanted to say something about this, Liu Tao’s situation occurred.” Saying this, she thought about him again and sighed. “I really hope Liu Tao will be alright.”
“Don’t worry! He will be fine!” Shi Cheng said.
The two of them expended all of their effort before finally managing to cook the noodles. After they were cooked, they dredged them out. Because it was going to be a boxed lunch, they couldn’t make this noodle soup, otherwise, the noodles would be too soggy by the time they got there. Instead, they made toppings with chilled cabbage. They put fried bakchoy with meat in another container.
After the two of them were done with that, they filled a large basket with the food and left for the medicine hall. Shi Cheng carried the basket, while Liu Xu’er locked up.
The medical hall was the same one Liu Changgeng and He shi had gone to, all those years ago when they injured their legs. The doctor recognised them, and instructed the apprentices at the medical hall to carefully take care of Liu Tao.
In the morning, Liu Tao had still not yet awoken. He was still burning with fever and talking incomprehensibly. Liu Gao shi had cried quite a few times, while Liu Changqi looked so frail, it was hard to recognise him. His eyes were rimmed with red.
They couldn’t eat the meals brought. Liu Changgeng and He shi spent a long time coaxing Liu Gao shi, while Liu Changqi was unable to take even a bite. Liu Changgeng and He shi could only leave the room to eat.
“Where’s dage?” Liu Xu’er asked about Liu Shu.
“He’s gone to the store. During the day, there are a lot of people here, so he doesn’t have to stay. Tonight, your erge and I will be here.” Liu Changgeng said. “Xu’er you don’t need to bring them their meals. I’ve told your brothers to just buy something to eat.”
Liu Xu’er nodded. She looked at He shi eating at the side and went over to ask her quietly, “Mum, Liu Xian’er and Liu Yun’er both haven’t come?”
He shi shook her head. She too felt that the two girls…. She shook her head and said, “For Xian’er, it may be because she’s a lot older, and doesn’t dare to come out in public….”
Liu Xu’er hmphed, “What kind of logic is that! Her brother is so ill, but she’s still so mindful of her reputation!”
He shi shook her head, and didn’t say anything to that. She too was not happy that Liu Xian’er hadn’t come. If Liu Yun’er didn’t dare to come out by herself, that would still make some sense, but Xian’er was already 19. Was it so difficult to just come with someone she trusts? Can’t she come to take care of her brother and comfort her father?
“Ignore both of them!” He shi said.
After the meal, Liu Xu’er brought back the empty bowls and plates home. Like a bodyguard, Shi Cheng escorted her home. In the afternoon, the two of them stayed in the house and spoke for a while, discussing future business plans, before it was time to make the evening meal again.
Liu Xu’er told Shi Cheng to head back. “You’ve been here all day…. When my family moved over, you kept visiting. You haven’t been to school or to the store. What are you doing? If your dad were to find out, he might get upset with my family.”
Shi Cheng said, “Why should that happen!”
“Why can’t it happen? From an adult’s point of view, you are just wasting your time. Of course he would start to get upset with me.”
Shi Cheng said, “I’ve already explained everything clearly to school. After all, it’s important for me to have breaks. I can’t possibly go every single day. I’ve already gotten the agreement that I can rest for two days after 10 days of school. As for the store….” He sighed. Actually, he knew that what Liu Xu’er said was the truth. He could only say, “Alright, alright! Tomorrow, I won’t come by. I will stay at the store for a few days. We will discuss going to Hanzhong city again soon.”
Liu Xu’er nodded, “That’s more like it.”
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