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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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When it was time to leave, Shi Cheng reminded Liu Xu’er to finish the cup of papaya milk. He didn’t outrightly state why, but Liu Xu’er was extremely clear. He really went to a lot of trouble to find papaya 1 It’s a commonly circulated myth that papaya milk would increase a woman’s chest size ! But on this topic… cough, well, Liu Xu’er and him were of one mind….
There weren’t many people at Shi Cheng’s home these days. Most of the servants had been brought over to Hanzhong city. There were only three or four cleaning servants still left. Shi Cheng didn’t usually let them into the inner courtyard. Liu Xu’er would occasionally come over, accompanied by Shi Cheng. She would often conveniently take some items from him, or spend some time chatting with him.
Liu Xu’er was extremely mindful of all the social taboos. She understood that in this era, there were many areas she needed to be careful of. And Shi Cheng was usually quite careful himself – he had never done anything excessive.
Nowadays, whenever Liu Xu’er went out, she was always seated in a donkey cart. It wasn’t appropriate for girls of her age to show herself in public. This was more so now that her family was of a higher standing.
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Fbk Ubldt yde Nkw Dw’la tyhl bla y tsse zssj yde aswtbzu wdelapvsse bla rwarspl. Fbk Ubldt pxkzle yde dseele, “Mbyv’p aktbv, vbkp kp vbl rzynl. Yyu R ypj obs ywdv kp?”
Mbl osxyd pxkzle yde dseele, cwv eked’v alprsde. Rdpvlye, pbl ypjle, “Yyu R ypj kq vbl yewzvp yal yv bsxl?”
Nkw Dw’la bye yzalyeu vwadle vs nyzz qsa Nkw Ubydttldt, “Pye, psxlsdl’p zssjkdt qsa usw!”
Nkw Ubydttldt yde Tl pbk bye csvb alvwadle qsa zwdnb, yde byed’v ulv zlqv. Ju dso, Nkw Ubydttldt’p eyup olal ayvbla nsxqsavyczl. Gqvla vbl dssd xlyz, bl qaliwldvzu prldv psxl vkxl eakdjkdt psxl vly, clqsal blyekdt cynj vs vbl osajpbsr okvb bkp okql. Nkw Ubydttldt oyp kd vbl xkeezl sq eakdjkdt psxl vly obld bl blyae vbl nyzz. Tl kxxlekyvlzu bwaakle swv qsa y zssj. Mbl kdpvydv bl pyo bso vbl osxyd oyp ealpple, bl vss wdelapvsse. Tl pxkzle yde kdhkvle bla kd. Mbld bl nyzzle qsa Hbsw pbk vs rswa bla psxl vly.
Shi Cheng decided not to leave after all. He turned around, “Oh, hmmm, in a while… I think I can leave a little later.”
Liu Sen rolled his eyes, “Jiefu, what are you worried about? My jie is already engaged – everyone, for miles around, knows that! She’s definitely here to suggest a match for my dage.”
Liu Lin laughed, while Liu Shu looked exasperated and amused. Grabbing him by the ear, he asked, “The arithmetic sums I assigned you yesterday, are you done with them? You seem to be behaving like a little lord – all you lack is a fan to swan about with!”
“Dage, what are you saying….” Senzi was dragged along by his ear.
Liu Xu’er was also both amused and exasperated. Turning, she returned to her own courtyard. Shi Cheng wanted to tag along, but Liu Lin was about to head to the store. He smiled and said, “Shi Cheng, be careful my mother doesn’t catch you. She might come out and drag you away by your ear!”
Shi Cheng sheepishly said, “What’s the issue… I still have something to discuss with Xu’er….” His last sentence was rather weak. The instant he thought of his mother in-law’s eagle eyes on him, he felt rather diffident. It was probably better not to anger his mother-in-law?
Liu Xu’er turned to face him, “You should head off. What could possibly happen here? Go off and check on your family’s business.”
Shi Cheng could only agree and head off with Liu Lin.
Liu Xu’er returned to her own room, and took out her embroidery work. All of her wedding clothes and other dowry items had to be made by herself. Thankfully, there was a lot of time for her to slowly work through them.
As she worked on her embroidery, she thought about the business. After working for a while, Wang shi entered and said, “Miss, Shi Cheng guye2 姑爷/ guye – Husband of father’s sister/ Son-in-law) has returned with someone. Master and Madam have requested you to meet them.”
Liu Xu’er put down her work. Puzzled, she said, “Didn’t he just leave? Why is he back? And who did he bring over – why are they calling me over?”
“It’s a man.” Wang shi said.
Liu Xu’er was stumped for a while, before realisation dawned. She immediately left her room and hurried over.
Sure enough, Shi Cheng had brought over a middle aged man. They were currently sitting in the main room, sipping tea. Liu Changgeng was present as host. When Liu Xu’er entered, Shi Cheng just said, “This is your employer.”
The man immediately stood up and bowed. Liu Xu’er didn’t dare to accept it. She immediately returned the bow. She turned to look at Liu Changgeng, puzzled. How did they manage to send off the matchmaker so quickly?
Then she went over to sit at Liu Changgeng’s side. Shi Cheng introduced the man. This was the person Shi Cheng had found to be her store manager in Hanzhong city. He had actually been a manager for Shi Cheng’s family store, but a few years ago, he had some family issues and had to leave. So Shi Cheng’s family had promoted the assistant manager to his position. After he had managed to resolve his family issues, there was no position for him to return to.
After being idle for a period of time, Shi Cheng finally remembered him when he had to look for someone to recommend to Liu Xu’er. Shi Cheng had sent someone to him to check his interest, and sure enough, he was keen to take on the role.
This man was surnamed Cui, so Liu Xu’er just called him Storekeeper Cui. Storekeeper Cui was very experienced. Before he had come, he had found out from Shi Cheng that the Liu family’s young employer was a maiden. There wasn’t a hint of condescension in his gaze. In fact, he was suitably respectful in his manner toward her.
Liu Xu’er discussed his salary with him, as well as other benefits. Amongst other things, they agreed that every month, he would be able to go home for a visit.
When the discussion was over, Liu Xu’er invited everyone over to Shi Cheng’s family restaurant in Feng town for a meal. After they returned in the evening, Liu Lin, Liu Shu, Liu Changgeng and Shi Cheng all went for dinner together. By now, Liu Changgeng was more familiar with the business social circle, and knew how to handle himself in a social gathering like this.
Liu Shu wanted to go with Storekeeper Cui to help set up the store in Hanzhong city. That way, he could record down the items, and their prices. Shi Cheng of course insisted on going as well. If anything were to happen while there, he could immediately handle it with Liu Shu.
The next day, the three of them loaded the cart up with goods and left. Liu Xu’er had carefully considered what she wanted to sell in the store. She had also discussed her ideas with Shi Cheng. In the end, she decided not to sell only hand-warmers. After all, they were really only useful in cold weather and would therefore only be saleable for that period. That left the other half a year idle. It would be too much of a waste the rest of the time. In the end, she had decided to sell three items, hand-warmers, scent sachets and silk scarves.
Because she had been making them for several years, she had quite a number of hand-warmers stockpiled. This had always been a source of concern for Liu Xu’er. What if she couldn’t sell it – wouldn’t that mean that her years of effort would be wasted? Also, all that money would be locked away in these unsaleable goods.For this reason, she had spent a lot of time critically analyzing the situation in Hanzhong city.
However, the rabbit fur needed an outlet, and Liu Xu’er was just unable to think of anything else her family could use the fur for. Also, after extensive research, she had concluded that Hanzhong city did have a large market for hand-warmers.
As for the silk scarves, Liu Xu’er had discussed it with Shi Cheng and they decided that this new stock would solely be prepared for the Hanzhong city store.
They had an agreement with the largest cloth shop in Feng town. They would supply the workshop with lightweight silk, and the workers would customize it into a chi wide, three chi long head scarf.
This was meant for use in summer. In the northwestern region, sand was often blown about by the wind. Many women would wrap a headscarf around them before going out. That was the reason that head scarves sold so well here. But ordinary scarves were made of cotton – some of them were patterned while others were a simple, basic black.
The silk head scarves Liu Xu’er were making could also function as a shawl. These items were suitable for youthful girls from wealthy households. The scarves weren’t so thick and opaque that the wearer’s view would be completely obscured by them, and they were rather pretty. At the ends of the scarf, decorative birds and flowers would be embroidered. It looked delicate and refined. The price for one of these would be the same as the hand-warmers.
As for the scent sachets, these were things they had made before. Similarly, it was priced as a luxury good. This way, in summer, the store in Hanzhong city had another source for sales. It wouldn’t be like the other hand-warmer stores in Hanzhong city which would have no business in summer. Business people had to be flexible.
After sending them off, Liu Xu’er’s last burden finally rolled away! As to how to market themselves, that would still take some thought. It would be best to hold some sort of promotion or activity at the store regularly.
After 10 or so days, Liu Shu and Shi Cheng returned. The store in Hanzhong city had opened. For its opening, they had even managed to plan some activities. Business was alright. The scarves and scent sachets sold rather decently. They had even managed to sell a few pairs of hand-warmers. It was probably because everyone felt that the store had just opened, and the price of hand-warmers would likely be cheaper now than during the winter time. The weather was getting hotter by the day, while hand-warmers were only useful in winter. Naturally, they didn’t expect them to sell that well right now.
As for the matchmaker who had coincidentally come on the same day as Storekeeper Cui – the family didn’t hear anything about her from Liu Changgeng or He shi. It was likely that they didn’t think it was a suitable match and had tactfully declined.
However, all of their neighbors were now very aware of their family’s situation. Since Liu Shu and Liu Lin had already reached marriageable age, and since it was now the farming lull season, matchmakers unceasingly knocked on their door. It felt as though they would break down the door.
After the summer harvest was the last lull period of the year. Dajiu, He Wenqing came by. He had brought his wife over in the morning. On the cart was Xiuxiu and his two sons. The oldest at eight-years-old was called He Zhongzhou. His younger son was six and was called He Zhonghao.
The workshop was operating rather smoothly by now, so the managers didn’t need to head over daily to check on the workers. Since He Wenqing had come by, Liu Changgeng and He shi decided not to head in. They prevented dajiuma from leaving and called Zhou shi to bring over some tea, snacks and fruits for the guests.
Liu Xu’er also came over to host. She called her young cousins over to her courtyard and prepared a large table of snacks for them.
Xiuxiu was 11 this year, and as her name suggested, she was a delicately built girl. Dressed in honey coloured outfit, she sat there for a while before smiling and asking Liu Xu’er, “Biaojie 3表姐/ Biaojie – Older maternal female cousin, Do you know why my parents are here?”
Liu Xu’er smiled and shook her head. “How would I know… Does it have anything to do with me?” Her heart started to pound – what was the matter?
Thankfully Xiuxiu just shook her head and smiled. “No, it has to do with dabiaoge 4 大表哥/ Dabiaoge. 表哥/biaoge refers specifically to older maternal male cousin. 大/ da specifically refers to the oldest. ”
Liu Xu’er immediately understood. She asked, “Is someone else asking about marriage? Whose family is it this time?”
“A girl from our village. She’s called Xiaoling. She often plays with me. I was wondering why she was always asking about dabioge. Turns out, she was thinking about this. Her parents came to talk to my dad, and said a lot of good things about Xiaoling. Xiaoling really isn’t all that good….”
Liu Xu’er laughed and said, “How old is she, this girl?”
“She’s two years older than me.” Xiuxiu saw that there were apples on the table. She took one and bit into it.
Sanjiu, He Wenyu’s apple orchard now had over 10 trees. There were at least six to seven trees that were already producing. None of his relatives lacked apples . But Liu Xu’er had discovered that Xiuxiu still really enjoyed them. Whenever she came for a visit, she would want to eat some.
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Aiyo…Aiyyo… these siblings are such in high demand for marriage right now. Let’s see who’s the lucky girl to get married to Xu’er’s brother to be the first sister-in-law. Thanks for the chapter!