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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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He shi finally came out, rescuing Liu Changgeng from the woman’s endless questions. He shi saw the two people standing in the courtyard, smiled and greeted them. “Their aunt has come! Quickly, come in and have a seat! Xiaolian is also here!”
Mrs Yu finally left Liu Changgeng alone. She turned and smiled at He shi, “We came to town today to visit Xu’er and yourself.”
He shi smiled and nodded, “Sure, feel free to visit whenever you’ve time.” Then she turned and instructed Zhou shi, “Go and call Xu’er over. Tell her that Mrs Yu and Xiaolian are here.”
Zhou shi quickly agreed and went off. In a gaze filled with envy, Mrs Yu looked at her and softly asked, “Your family can now afford to have servants? My, my, my. You are really moving up in the world.”
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Tl pbk pxkzle. Yap Zw oyp y olzz jdsod tsppkr kd vsod. Fbl zshle ekttkdt kdvs svblap cwpkdlpp. Xaekdyakzu, Tl pbk oswze byhl dsvbkdt vs es okvb psxlsdl zkjl bla, cwv Yap Zw’p eywtbvla, Dkyszkyd oyp tkqvle okvb bla bydep yde xyel lmnlzzldv pkzj qzsolap. Fs obld pbl nyxl vs ypj, Dw’la ytalle vs plzz vblx kd vbl pvsal. Mbyv oyp bso vblu tsv yniwykdvle okvb lynb svbla.&dcpr;
Tl pbk pxkzle yde wpblale vblx kdvs vbl pkel okdt. Yap Zw oypd’v kd y bwaau vs pkv esod – pbl pzsozu oyzjle yaswde vbl assx, vpjkdt vbl ldvkal vkxl, nzsplzu lmyxkdkdt vbl qwadkpbkdtp. Tl pbk eked’v xkde bla – pbl rswale vblx lynb y nwr sq vly.&dcpr;
“Zswa qyxkzu alyzzu yal eskdt ps olzz! El hkzzytlap nyd’v bsrl vs nsxryal.” Yap Zw jlrv pyukdt.&dcpr;
Tl pbk rszkvlzu pxkzle yde pyke, “Ebyv’p vbkp? El yal yzz hkzzytlap – ol byhld’v xshle swv vss zsdt yts. El pvkzz byhl y bsxl kd vbl hkzzytl. El’al vbl pyxl yp lhlausdl lzpl.”
Yap Zw pxkzle yde pbssj bla blye, “Tso yal ol vbl pyxl? El’al nsxrzlvlzu ekqqlaldv.” Mbld pbl qkdyzzu pyv esod.&dcpr;
Dkyszkyd vss bye clld zssjkdt yaswde vbl assx obld pbl nyxl. Uwakswp, pbl oyp cwpu zssjkdt yv yzz vbl scflnvp, yde oyp pkzldv vbaswtbswv.&dcpr;
Tl pbk oypd’v vss pwal sq vbl rwarspl sq vblka hkpkv. Fbl pxkzle yde pvyavle vs elzknyvlzu rascl. “Eyp vblal y alypsd usw nyxl vs vsod? R pllx vs alnyzz vbyv Dkyszkyd byed’v tkhld ydu pkzj qzsolap kd vbl zypv xsdvb. Gal usw blal vs plde vbl pvsnj shla?” Fbl pyke yp pbl zssjle yv vbl xsvbla eywtbvla ryka. Mbld pbl tzydnle yv vbl essa – vblal eked’v pllx vs cl ydu cypjlvp.
Yap Zw pxkzle yde pyke, “Ls, ol eked’v cakdt kv blal… El’zz oykv qsa Dw’la vs nsxl. El oydv vs ekpnwpp psxlvbkdt okvb bla!”
He shi’s heart gave an uneasy thump. It seemed that Mrs Yu had a motive for coming to visit? Thankfully, Liu Xu’er came over quickly. When she saw Mrs Yu and Xiaolian, she smiled and greeted them.
Mrs Yu behaved just as she did when she first came in. She quickly smiled and stood up, and started to praise Xu’er. She then gave Liu Xu’er a careful once-over, taking note of her outfit, before tsking, and commenting that Liu Xu’er’s family’s situation had gotten so much better. She could even wear silk now!
Liu Xu’er also sensed that Mrs Yu didn’t come with good intentions. Furthermore, she didn’t see the large basket they would usually bring their goods in. They hadn’t sent any goods in a month – she started to think the matter over. Then she smiled and directly asked, “Is everything alright with making silk flowers, Xiaolian jie?”
Xiaolian’s face stiffened. She looked as though she was preparing to discuss a major topic, but then glanced at Mrs Yu. Sure enough, Mrs Yu’s smile had faded from her face. She sighed and said, “Oh, Xu’er. Our family has been having some difficulty these days. Xiaolian is starting to look for a match, and her gege should also be looking for wives. After the New Year, your Uncle Yu has been sick. The medicine he’s taken has drained all our savings! Our family is having some difficulty – there’s no money to buy silk cloth. What do you think we should do?”
Liu Xu’er went “Oh”. Then she said, “There isn’t even money to buy silk cloth? Do you want me to buy the cloth and give it to Xiaolian jie? That’s no problem.”
Mrs Yu looked at Xiaolian. Xiaolian also looked a bit frantic – there seemed to be something more going on.
Liu Xu’er then started to frown. That wasn’t enough? Then she thought a while longer – so long as their request was reasonable, for example, if Mrs Yu just wanted an advance payment on their next shipment of goods, she would agree. After all, they were all fellow villagers. They should help out where they could. These past few years, there had been others who had come to their door, crying and asking for help. Some wanted to take an advance payment, others a loan. So long as the demand wasn’t excessive, Liu Xu’er would usually agree to help.
After all, they were all from the same village. It wasn’t as though the people who came would dare to refuse to repay their loans. Furthermore, Liu Xu’er was very careful about who she could lend to, and who she couldn’t.
So she waited for Mrs Yu to open her mouth. But Mrs Yu’s speech stunned Liu Xu’er.
Mrs Yu gave a superficial smile and said, “It’s like this, our situation is that we aren’t just lacking some cloth. We’re really at the stage where we can’t manage, we can’t survive….”
He shi naturally could tell that something was up. With her impulsive nature, and with how Mrs Yu just continued to talk in circles, she finally interrupted, “Their aunt, just say what you want! We are all villagers. If we can help, we will of course help! Just tell us what you want!”
When Mrs Yu heard that, she smiled and said to Liu Xu’er. “Xu’er, this matter really is rather embarrassing…. It’s not that I’m greedy, it’s just that with our current situation, there’s really no other way….”
Liu Xu’er smiled and nodded. “Mrs Yu, just share your thoughts. I will consider it.”
Mrs Yu and Xiaolian looked at each other. The two of them looked to draw strength from each other, before finally blurting out, “Its…. Xiaolian and I were thinking, would it be possible to raise the price of the silk flowers? Last year, I saw that the flowers Xiaolian was making sold for five wen in your store, but you just give Xiaolian two wen per flower. We were thinking that it’s too little… Could you raise the price?”
He shi’s face started to turn ugly. Liu Xu’er smiled and said, “What are you hoping for?” She was already mentally calculating – if they wanted a half wen increase, it would still be doable. But three wen was not possible.
Xiaolian’s mouth started to move. She looked at Mrs Yu, and Mrs Yu began to stammer, “The cloth is bought by us, and the labor is provided by us. You just have to sell it in the store… So you don’t really contribute that much, you’re just making easy money….”
Liu Xu’er’s mental calculations swiftly halted. Stunned, she looked at Mrs Yu – what was she saying? Mrs Yu was clearly ill intentioned, so why should she consider her offer? She smiled and asked Mrs Yu, “Mrs Yu, what do you want? Just say it.”
Mrs Yu paused for a while before saying, “Xiaolian and I discussed it, since a flower is five wen, then we should take four wen. You don’t do anything – even the cloth is prepared by us. You just have to wait to earn money, so one wen should be enough….”
Stunned, He shi looked at her. Her gaze became filled with loathing. She gave Mrs Yu a once-over. But since Liu Xu’er had always handled these matters, she held her tongue.
Liu Xu’er smiled and said, “Mrs Yu, when I accepted your flowers, I should have clearly said to both you and Xiaolian jie that we buy the flowers outright from you at a fixed price. How much we sell them for has nothing to do with you. You should not regret selling it to me, when you see how much I sell it for…. I made this very clear right?”
Mrs Yu thought for a moment and nodded, “Yes, but…. What was that?” She forgot what she wanted to say next and turned to look at Xiaolian.
Xiaolian quickly said, “There’s a time and season for everything to change….”
Mrs Yu nodded frantically, “That’s right! A time and season for change! The flowers we sell are a hot item in your store! You should raise the prices for us.”
Liu Xu’er patiently said, “It’s alright to raise prices – after all, we are all fellow villagers. Since you’ve asked, I won’t deny you. But that’s not the way to raise prices. I’ve told you before that my store has to pay rental, taxes and numerous other expenses. Although I sell the flowers for five wen, two wen might go into some of those expenses…. You don’t have to worry about that, so naturally, you feel that I am selling high and buying at a low price from you. But if you were to open a store, you would understand that there are a lot of big expenses that need to be accounted for.”
Mrs Yu blinked her eyes. Then she turned and looked at Xiaolian. Xiaolian too was blinking.
Liu Xu’er didn’t ask Xiaolian about her opinion. From her attitude, it was clear that she supported her mother’s decision – the two of them were of the same mind.
Mrs Yu then smiled and said, “Xu’er, I’m afraid I don’t understand what you are saying… It’s not something a villager can comprehend. I’m sure what you say is true… Whatever the case, Xiaolian and I have already agreed that we want four wen per piece. We won’t accept anything less!”
By now, He shi couldn’t stay quiet. Frowning, she said, “Their aunt, what are you saying? Do you think that my Xu’er is cheating you? What do you mean by you’re sure what we say is true? There are many businesses in town, you just have to ask around if what Xu’er said was true or not!”
Liu Xu’er nodded, “That’s right, Mrs Yu. Why don’t you go back and discuss the situation further? It’s possible to raise the price by half a wen – that way both of our families split the intake. What do you think?”
Mrs Yu was resolute, “No. Don’t bother raising it by just a half wen. What does this half wen matter to your family? Xiaolian and I have already discussed it – we want four wen per piece, and won’t accept any less!”
He shi exploded! Liu Xu’er started to frown and said, “Four wen is impossible.”
“Then the deal is off!” Mrs Yu raised her voice, “Do you think you’re the only family doing business?! Without your family, we won’t be able to survive?! Xu’er, I gave you face because of your parents. You shouldn’t be so blackhearted when doing business!”
Liu Xu’er smiled coldly and said, “I really am going to be blackhearted. I won’t accept any of your family’s flowers. You have many alternatives, so go ahead and look for them!”
Mrs Yu jumped up and pulled Xiaolian out with her. Angrily she said, “Alright! We’ll see who ends up crying!” In a huff, she walked to the door and spat on the floor. Then she pulled Xiaolian with her and left.
Liu Changgeng had heard the sounds of quarreling. He quickly came in and asked, “What happened?”
He shi angrily relayed the conversation to him. Liu Changgeng said, “How could this happen? Xu’er, don’t get angry – it’s right to just refuse to accept their goods. They’re unreasonable! We won’t associate with them any longer.”
Liu Xu’er nodded her head, “I’m not angry.” But there was something fishy about the matter. Mrs Yu and Xiaolian had come to her to make the request – ordinarily, nothing should have changed about their situation. It should still be a convenient way for villagers to come to her to make some money.
She had never thought of begging anyone to stay, she just felt that the situation hadn’t changed, so why was Mrs Yu being so stubborn today? Raising her price so aggressively, with no room for discussion? Why was she so confident? Did someone else go to her with an offer? And was willing to give four wen per flower?
He shi was just saying, “It’s really strange! She opened her mouth and immediately asked for four wen – now that we’ve fallen out, how would she benefit? I really don’t know what she’s thinking!”
Liu Changgeng murmured, “That’s true.”
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Oh no…. Something big is brewing…
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