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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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Shi Cheng hadn’t been idle during this period either. He had gone back to Hanzhong city with his family.
The reason for the trip was that Shi Qian’s friend in the city had gotten wind that a restaurant was about to switch hands. Because he had gotten the news before it went public, he had quickly contacted Shi Qian about it. Shi Qian had in turn hurried over for a look.
The reason Shi Cheng’s mother had joined them during this trip was to familiarise herself with the place again. After all, it had been years since the family had stayed here. When Shi Qian had come by last year, she hadn’t been feeling too well and Shi Qing had been too young, so she hadn’t joined him.
The one who had given Shi Qian the news was the same family friend that had hosted Shi Cheng previously. The family was surnamed Hao; his friend was Hao Jiping. His eldest son was already 18, called Hao Kezheng. His youngest son was only 10, called Hao Keyong. His second daughter was 13, she was Hao Rongrong.
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Meng shi smiled, and thought that even the servant girls with Madam Hao had such sweet tongues. The servant lifted up the curtain at the door, and brought Shi Qing into the room. The hostess, Madam Hao, was already there. Smiling, she said, “I was just about to bring Rongrong over to meet you when you came by!”
Meng shi exchanged common pleasantries with her. Women had competitive streaks, so even as they were uttering their greetings to each other, they were sizing each other up. Meng shi started to feel a bit upset.
Madam Hao was dressed in a bright red coat with beautiful fine embossed patterns. For her inner layer, she had on a beautiful pink dress with delicate branches stitched over it. On her head was a beautiful silver hairpin in the shape of a camellia. It glinted in the light and stung Meng shi’s eyes.
Madam Hao’s skin was so white and soft, she looked to be 20. It made one wonder how much powder she had put on her face.
Meng shi felt that what she was wearing was not at all inferior to her, but after spending all those hard years in the village, no matter how she tried to protect her skin, it just wasn’t as soft and supple as before. She basically felt that she couldn’t compete with Madam Hao, even though she was quite a few years younger than her!
Similarly, Madam Hao could tell that Meng shi’s skin had gotten coarser. Covering her mouth, she smiled. In a very good mood, she called the girl behind her to stand up, “Rongrong, greet your Aunt Shi.”
Hao Rongrong immediately moved to greet Meng shi, and Meng shi got Shi Qing up to also greet his Aunt Hao. When the greetings were complete, they all sat down.
After they sat down, they started to mutually compliment each other’s children before talking about events that had happened in the past few years. As they reminisced, they would sigh over their memories. Hao Rongrong stayed with her mother, silent. She didn’t try to interrupt the conversation. When Shi Cheng’s mother asked her questions, she would politely answer. She behaved like a dignified little lady.
Shi Cheng’s mother had a good impression of her. She rather liked this dignified and composed little girl. Then she continued her conversation with Madam Hao. Unavoidably, there were subtle comparisons in their conversation, but everyone was doing their best to be on their most dignified behaviour, befitting their status. And so, the conversation went on relatively pleasantly.
Originally, they had assumed that Shi Cheng and his father would be returning rather late. They didn’t expect that after about two hours, they would all come back.
Because they were all familiar with each other, there wasn’t a need for the women to deliberately avoid the men. When they heard that the womenfolk were in the main house, Hao Jiping and the rest went over.
There was again another round of greetings before everyone finally sat back down. Shi Cheng’s mother asked Shi Qian, “That was rather quick? I thought you would be eating out tonight.”
Shi Qian smiled and answered, “We’ve already confirmed the restaurant, but the current owner was busy. We will have a meal tomorrow when we sign the papers for handover.”
Meng shi was subtly shocked, “So quick?”
Hao Jiping smiled and said, “Dimei doesn’t know but today’s Hanzhong city is very well connected both to the north and south. There are many people that converge here. The location of the restaurant is something that one can only hope for. Now that it’s there, you have to book it quickly, otherwise someone else would snatch it away.”
Shi Qian smiled and nodded. Meng shi quickly agreed. She was a married woman – when it came to business, she had always deferred to her husband.
While the adults were speaking, Shi Cheng took a seat. He had just poured himself a cup of tea to drink. He had been moving about the entire day, so busy he hadn’t had a chance to drink anything.
When Hao Rongrong saw him take a seat, she skirted the adults and joined him opposite. Tilting her head, she asked, “Who was the girl who came here with you last time?”
Shi Cheng momentarily paused. He didn’t want to answer, but she was only asking for a name. There was no need to be petty, so he smiled and responded. “She’s called Liu Xu’er.”
“How do you know her?” Hao Rongrong continued to ask.
Shi Cheng mentally frowned, but continued to entertain her. “We’re from the same village.” To prevent her from asking any more questions about Liu Xu’er, Shi Cheng struck first with a question, “What do you want to know? Are you still confused about the rouge from last time? It was bought at some store.”
Hao Rongrong pouted, “I’m not asking about that. I saw that she seemed to be quite mature, so wanted to ask how you knew her, and why she didn’t come with this time.”
Shi Cheng made a face of understanding, but he had no interest in chatting with this little girl, and had even less interest in knowing what motivated her questions. So he didn’t say anything anymore,and quickly drank the tea in his cup.
“You’re not drinking tea, you’re just gulping it down.” Hao Rongrong tsked and shook her head, “What a waste of such fine tea.”
Shi Cheng waved a servant girl over and pointed at his cup, “Give me another cup.”
The servant quickly agreed. When she was about to turn to prepare the tea, Hao Rongrong called out, “Bring last year’s Jinjunmei tea leaves and steep some for him. This Queshe tea is wasted on him.”
The servant girl smiled and agreed, then glanced over at Shi Cheng before hurrying off.
Shi Cheng didn’t bother to respond. Why should he get upset with a silly little girl?!
But Madam Hao, who was seated with her back to them, heard their conversation. She carefully turned around and when no one was paying attention, glared at Hao Rongrong.
Seated opposite her, Meng shi hadn’t heard anything. She only saw that Hao Rongrong and Shi Cheng seemed to be warmly chatting together. And when Madam Hao turned to look at them, Meng shi covered her mouth and smiled to herself.
The girl brought some tea back and Shi Cheng took another two cups before finally feeling that his thirst was quenched. Hao Rongrong watched him gulp his tea down and kept shaking her head, but didn’t dare to say anything, or to tsk at him. She was worried her mother would overhear and scold her.
Shi Qian and Hao Jiping were still talking animatedly with each other. The two of them were rather excited, especially Shi Qian. He had dreamed of returning to Hanzhong to do business for so long, but hadn’t had a good opportunity to do so. Firstly, he was rather prudent, and secondly, because they needed to take this first step. Now that they finally managed to stretch their reach back to Hanzhong city, Shi Qian felt as though his grand dreams were finally coming to fruition.
They warmly spoke for some time, while the two Madams smiled reservedly at their side, exchanging polite conversation. Madam Hao was worried that her daughter would again slip and speak rudely. If others were to notice that, they might get the impression that discipline was lacking in their household, so she would occasionally glance over at Hao Rongrong and Shi Cheng. Her actions were observed by Shi Cheng’s mother and she interpreted the action as Madam Hao rather liking Shi Cheng.
Then a servant girl came into the room and walked to Madam Hao. In a gentle voice, she asked when they would like to start the meal? Madam Hao asked Hao Jiping, and they naturally started immediately.
They went to the dining hall where there was a lavish meal laid out. There was a table full of dishes and wine prepared. That evening, Shi Qian and Hao Jiping naturally drank quite a lot. Even Hao Kezheng and Shi Cheng had to join them with a few glasses.
For the meal, because the women were seated at the same table, Meng shi kept observing Hao Rongrong. She found that Hao Rongrong seemed to be concerned about Shi Cheng. She kept looking up at the main table, and would occasionally ask about Shi Cheng. Madam Hao assumed that her daughter was just asking casually, but Shi Cheng’s mother felt that it was an indication that Hao Rongrong liked her son!
No matter what the individual Madams thought, that was how the day passed. The next day, Shi Cheng accompanied his father in helping to complete the deal. Shi Qian had been doing business for many years and was naturally very cautious not to let himself get cheated. Added to that, Hao Jiping was there, helping them, the process went smoothly and quickly.
Then Shi Qian needed to hurry back to bring his people over. They needed to renovate and buy equipment for the restaurant. He needed to hire chefs etc. Because they had been waiting for a suitable location, everyone had been on standby mode for a while. Now that everything had been confirmed, he needed to move quickly to establish his new restaurant.
So the entire family bade farewell to the Hao family and came back. What Shi Cheng didn’t know was that his mother had already started to make her own plans.
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