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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 Hong loved it! They were all girls – who wouldn’t like a pretty handkerchief? Although it wasn’t practical, she still really liked it. So hearing that, she said red-faced, “Then I will be thick-skinned and accept it.”
He Ruyu smiled and nodded. “Why would you call yourself thick-skinned? I’m glad that you like it! We still don’t know how to thank you for all of your help.”
As they were whispering and laughing with each other, Liu Xu’er was looking over and over at the handkerchief. She asked, “Xiaoyi, how many handkerchiefs are in each lot?”
“There are 10 per lot, so 10 lots are 100 handkerchiefs. I would make 50 of them.”
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“Dkysuk, usw nyd pkdtzl bydelezu xyjl 50 rla plypsd? Tso xydu es usw xyjl kd y eyu?”
“Valhkswpzu, kv vssj xl vos vs vball eyup vs xyjl sdl, R ralvvu xwnb bye vs pvyav vbl dlmv cyvnb kxxlekyvlzu yqvla bydekdt kd vbl qkapv. Gde R nswzed’v es yduvbkdt lzpl – R nswzed’v es ydu sq vbl nbsalp yv bsxl. Lso kv’p y ckv clvvla. R cswtbv y zyatl lxcaskelau qayxl, ps R nyd osaj sd qkhl rklnlp yv vbl pyxl vkxl, yde ds zsdtla dlle vs jllr pokvnbkdt swv xu vbalyep. Mbyv oyu, kv’p xwnb qypvla, yde R nyd qkdkpb qkhl bydejlanbklqp lhlau vos vs vball eyup.”
Nkw Tsdt pyke yexkakdtzu, “Eso, vbld usw’al dso y pjkzzle nayqvprlapsd?”
Tl Swuw zywtble yde pbssj bla blye. “Tso nyd R cl nsdpkelale sdl! Yu osaj kp pvkzz vss rssa. Rv’p sdzu rlsrzl zkjl xu qaklde obs nyd iwyzkqu.”
“50 bydejlanbklqp. Tso xwnb es usw xyjl qasx uswa bydeknayqv, mkysuk?” Nkw Dw’la ypjle ytykd.
Nkw Tsdt zywtble yde pyke, “Ebu yal usw ypjkdt yzz vbkp?!”
Tl Swuw pxkzle, “Rv’p yzaktbv, obyv’p vblal vs bkel qasx vbl vos sq usw? Ohlau plypsd, R tlv vos vylzp sq pkzhla qsa xu osaj.”
Nkw Tsdt oyp pvwddle, “Eso, vos vylzp sq pkzhla rla plypsd. Mbyv’p dsv y pxyzz pwx.”
Liu Xu’er again said, “But you still have to spend some money right? Like for the embroidery frame?”
Liu Hong was immediately enlightened. He Ruyu smiled and nodded. “That’s right, I still do have to spend some, but it’s a long-term commission, and it doesn’t require me to go around in public, so it’s ideal for me. “
“The embroidery frame must have cost quite a few taels of silver?” Liu Xu’er asked again.
At this, even He Ruyu was unable to resist. Both of them “puchi”-ed, and laughed. Liu Hong smiled and said, “Are you, this little girl, trying to calculate how much your xiaoyi makes?”
Liu Xu’er smiled.
He Ruyu smiled and said, “I’ve been doing this for over a year, and have made 10 or so taels of silver. However, the embroidery frame cost over three taels. The threads and other materials are not provided by me, but I need to prepare my own needles. So on reflection, I have probably spent over a tael of silver on those needles. All told, I think I only managed to help the family earn about five or six taels of silver.”
“Wow! That’s really incredible! Much better than me!” Liu Hong said enviously. “And you’re younger than me by a year!”
He Ruyu said, “At first, when I received this work, I wanted to teach my dajie and yourself, so that we could all earn money together. But in the end, the skill is not mine to teach….”
Of course Liu Hong understood! She didn’t wait for her to finish before nodding fervently. “Of course you can’t. That’s a skill taught to you by someone else, because your relationship with them is good. It is not appropriate for you to pass the skill onto someone else! Furthermore, splitting the work two ways is not the same as splitting the work four ways!”
That was He Ruyu’s point, so she nodded, “That was my thinking too, so….”
Liu Xu’er smiled and continued to question He Ruyu, “Xiaoyi, who is the family that commissioned your work?”
“It’s a family in town, surnamed Gu. The master is a businessman. I heard that they have businesses in the capital!”
Liu Hong was speechless.
Satisfied with the answers, Liu Xu’er sat quietly at the side, busying herself studying the handkerchief, while silently mulling over matters.
The He siblings didn’t return home that day. The brothers helped to chop the tree into firewood, before going to bring wheat stalks back. He Ruyu went with her sange down the ravine to gather some grasses for the chickens. When it came time, it could be mixed with wheat husks for chicken feed.
It was only after all the work had been done that the four siblings returned home.
For the next few days, Liu Xu’er didn’t even need to make the meals, because before leaving, He Ruyu had already steamed buns, and made some noodles. Basically everything was already pre-made. They only required heating before it was ready to eat.
After a few days, Liu Changgeng and He shi got used to resting on top of the kang. He shi took out the cotton cloth that they’d previously bought at the market and prepared to make some cotton pants for Liu Shu and Liu Lin. At least, this was work she could do abed – much better than being idle.
Liu Xu’er saw that her dad was restless, twitching about, wanting to do something. So she thought for a moment before asking Liu Changgeng to make her a few small boxes.
A very very little box – the type that could be held in her arms.
Liu Changgeng found it strange. “What do you want something like that for?”
Liu Xu’er smiled and said, “I haven’t thought of anything, but there’s bound to be a use.”
In any case, Liu Changgeng was bored. Having something to do beat doing nothing. So in good spirits, he helped make a few little boxes Liu Xu’er. It came to be that the two of them, each sitting at a corner of the kang, would be busy with their own projects.
Liu Xu’er resumed lessons with Shi Cheng’s mother.
The eleventh month had just started, but the days were very cold. Every family had started to warm their kangs. Liu Xu’er’s two rabbits had also grown quickly.
In a month, the two had become adult rabbits, and their fur had kept pace with their rapid growth.
The rabbits had a big appetite, so in short order, all of the grass in front of Liu Xu’er’s home was gone. In the winter, plant growth was limited, so it became a flat, empty piece of land.
“At least this river is long, and there is alfalfa grass growing all along its banks, along with dandelions, euphorbia, and other grasses that the rabbits can eat. It’s just that they are getting less and less. We need a plan.”
Liu Xu’er was at Shi Cheng’s house. She was discussing the matter with Shi Cheng while working on her handicraft. Shi Cheng’s mother wasn’t present in the room.
Shi Cheng furrowed his brow. “Xu’er, does your family plant carrots?”
Liu Xu’er paused. “Carrots?” Then it immediately came to her, whether it was carrot leaves or carrots themselves, they were all things that rabbits love to eat! She delightedly said, “That’s right! Why didn’t I think of that ….”
But after a while, her face fell again. “But I don’t know how to do that. My family only has that little bit of land and my dad definitely won’t let us use it to grow vegetables. It definitely needs to be used to plant grain. Furthermore, we need to start soon, as the food situation is getting tight for the rabbits. It can’t wait till next year.”
Shi Cheng shook his head. “You really don’t know anything about planting! You don’t need to plant it in your bit of farmland. Your courtyard right now is so large, and it’s all basically full of weeds. Just ask your brothers to clear a patch of it. Winter is the perfect time to start planting carrots. My family has the seeds. However, even if you plant it now, it will still take some time before harvest. So you can only start giving them the carrots next year.”
Liu Xu’er’s heart was moved. She had already started to smile. “That’s fine! There should still be enough grass to last them. Of course, it’s best to plan for the long term!”
Shi Cheng smiled and nodded his head. “Then, let’s do that. My family’s vegetable garden has been planting winter carrots. I will go and get some seeds. When you leave, remember to take them. Then get your brother to clear a space to plant it. Your dad will surely know what to do!”
When she left Shi Cheng’s home for the day, Liu Xu’er had some winter carrot seeds as well as an apple tree sapling. This was a sapling that Shi Cheng requested for when he went to the apple orchard with his father.
It must be known that it isn’t easy to get apple saplings. Even though Shi Cheng’s family had an apple orchard, all the saplings were accounted for. If they were sold outside, each sapling would each be worth between 800 wen to one string of cash.
Even if Shi Cheng was the master’s son, he still could not just go and pull up a sapling. It was only because this sapling was doing so poorly the gardener was planning to throw it out, that Shi Cheng was able to get it. He told Liu Xu’er to try and care for it at home.
Seeing all the things that Liu Xu’er brought home, Liu Changgeng was shocked. “Where did all these things come from? How did you get the money to buy them?”
Liu Xu’er told him that they were gifts from Shi Cheng. “The apple sapling is not a good one. Their gardener had thrown it away, so Shi Cheng picked it up and brought it home. He had wanted to grow it himself, but got lazy, so he decided to give it to dage, and let him plant it.”
Liu Shu went over to give the sapling and seeds a good look, before saying, “Dad, like Xu’er, I think it’s doable to plant these behind the house! I remember that you’ve planted winter carrots before.”
Liu Changgeng thought for a moment before nodding his head. “Yes, I have planted them before, and it is indeed the correct time to plant them, but,” he looked at his son, “Tilling the land is extremely tiring!”
Liu Shu quickly said, “I’m not afraid of hard work! I can do it.”
Liu Lin also quickly joined in. “I can do it too, I will do it with ge!”
Seeing her two children, He shi’s eyes became filled with tears. With her laid up, she couldn’t do anything. Instead of being her usual self, she had started to become more melancholic. But Liu Xu’er knew this was entirely because her mother couldn’t move about. Once she was able to resume her usual activity, she would definitely return to her usual energetic self. So Liu Xu’er wasn’t worried.
At the corner, Liu Changgeng, Liu Shu and Liu Lin were discussing how to till the land as well as other general planting matters. Liu Shu and Liu Lin then went behind to start the process
Their current place was very large, and behind the house was a large empty plot of land. Liu Shu marked out an area, and the two started to work.
Liu Xu’er went to check on their progress, and realized that she had underestimated the difficulty of the task.
The soil in the northwestern region was both dry and sticky. It was difficult enough to till it during spring, let alone on a wintry day. The ground was effectively as hard as a rock. After a while, there were blisters forming on Liu Shu and Liu Lin’s fingers. Yet not much had been completed, and even what was dug up was too shallow. The furrows needed to be deeper.
Liu Xu’er felt both heartache and anxiety. After thinking for a bit, she decided to go and ask for help from sishu. Because of all the matters that had happened recently, sishu had not yet gone out to look for odd jobs.
In the whole family, Liu Xu’er remembered clearly who treated her poorly but she also remembered who treated her well. When she had the ability, she would repay each of them in kind.
With this thought in mind, she came up with an excuse – she would ask sishu about how to plant the apple sapling – and checked in with her parents. Liu Changgeng did not know anything about apple trees, but Liu Changshi had gone to work at an apple orchard last year at this time, so he should have some knowledge.
With an excuse like that, of course Liu Changgeng and He shi agreed, only asking her to be careful on the road, and not to stay for too long. Liu Xu’er headed toward the old house.
The door at the old house was open, but there was no one in the courtyard. Probably because the two pigs were full, they were lying in their pen, grunting to themselves.
Liu Xu’er had walked to her ye and nai’s room entrance and was just about to call out when a voice was heard from inside. “Why can’t I say this! Why can’t I say this?! We’ve already separated the family, but dad and mum helped supplement that side with seven to eight taels of silver! Why can’t I say that? Is it that I must swallow this loss, and tolerate this insult?!” It was Ma shi’s voice!
Surprised, Liu Xu’er stood still.
From the room came Liu Changqi’s furious response. “Shut up! Or do you think you need more of a beating?!”
Liu Gao shi’s voice did not shrink back. “You yourself said that our families have separated! If I want to give someone money, I can! Why should you be given a say in the matter? In this world, do such things happen? A daughter-in-law deciding that she can reprimand her parents-in-law on their conduct?!”
Liu Changshi loudly said, “Dasao, don’t be unreasonable! That day, even unrelated strangers went to help out, but as a direct aunt, you didn’t even show up! How can you be so unashamed of yourself?!”