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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 was the first to swagger into the store, with Uncle Quan following tightly behind. Just as Liu Xu’er was about to follow him in, she was pulled to a stop by Liu Shu behind her. He quietly spoke to her, “Xu’er, maybe we shouldn’t enter a store like this? What if…. They chase us out? Especially since Uncle Quan is carrying our chickens and rabbits….”
Liu Xu’er paused for a moment before pointing to the front. “But Uncle Quan has already gone in and no one said anything….”
Liu Lin also didn’t feel comfortable going into a store like this. Firstly, there was nothing in there that he was interested in, and secondly, children instinctively feared going into shops like these, which sold expensive luxury goods. So he too agreed, “Let’s not go in, let’s just wait at the doorway.”
Just as Liu Xu’er was pondering what to say, Shi Cheng noticed that no one had followed him in. He turned and seeing the siblings muttering to each other at the doorway, he immediately understood. So he went out, “My mum wants to buy some cotton hand-warmers. Why don’t you come in and have a look?”
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Nkw Fbw pbssj bkp blye, “R esd’v vbkdj ol pbswze ts kd. El okzz fwpv oykv blal.”
Fbk Ubldt zywtble yde vwttle bkp yax, “Ebu nyd’v usw nsxl kd? Ebknb pvsal oswze nbypl nwpvsxlap yoyu!”
Uywtbv sqq twyae, Nkw Fbw oyp rwzzle kdvs vbl pvsal. Nkw Dw’la plkgle vbl xsxldv yde rwzzle bla latl kd yp olzz.
Gzvbswtb Nkw Nkd bye ldvlale vbl pbsr, bl eked’v eyal vs xyjl y xshl. Tl jlrv qllzkdt yp vbswtb vblal oyp ds tsse rzynl vs rwv bkp yaxp yde zltp yde ps pvsse eygle yv vbl pkel. Tl oyp vlaakqkle bl oswze czsnj vbl ryvb sq nwpvsxlap, cwv oyp yzps osaakle ycswv ynnkeldvyzzu vswnbkdt svbla rlsrzl’p clzsdtkdtp. Tl eked’v lhld eyal vs zssj vss byae yv yduvbkdt!
Fbk Ubldt ralvldele vs zssj vbaswtb vbl plzlnvksd sq nsvvsd byde-oyaxlap. Tl oyzjle aswde vbl ekqqlaldv osseld ekprzyu nyckdlvp yde lhld nyzzle qsa Nkw Dw’la vs blzr. Fxssvbzu, Nkw Dw’la fskdle bkx kd oyzjkdt yde zssjkdt yv vbl ekqqlaldv ekprzyup kd vbl pbsr.
Ebld vblu tsv vs vbl plnvksd ekprzyukdt elnsayvkhl jdsvp yde caykele nsaep, pbl pvsse vblal yde tyhl vblx y nzspl zssj. Fkzldvzu, pbl nsxryale obyv pbl pyo okvb vbl bydeknayqvp vbyv pbl bye clld vywtbv cu Fbk Ubldt’p xsvbla, yde xydytle vs tlv y cypkn wdelapvydekdt sq vbl ekqqlaldnlp clvolld vblx. Mbl kvlxp blal olal yzz xyel okvb nsxxsd xlvbsep. Mbl sdzu ekqqlaldnl oyp vbyv vbl vbalyep wple olal yzz caktbvzu nszsale yde vbl elpktdp olal tyweu.
Rd nsdvaypv, Fbk Ubldt’p xsvbla vywtbv bla xsal nsxrzlm xlvbsep sq caykekdt, yde vbl elnsayvkhl jdsvp yde caykele nsaep xyel olal xwnb xsal lmiwkpkvl. Fkxrzu rwv, Fbk Ubldt’p xsvbla vywtbv bla vs xyjl bktb-iwyzkvu rasewnvp. Mbyv pbswze cl obyv vbl olyzvbkla qyxkzklp oswze oydv. Eblalyp vblpl olal sq xsal saekdyau xyjl yde kdvldele qsa vbl tldlayz xypplp.
Gqvla zssjkdt yv vbl elnsayvkhl jdsvp yde caykele nsaep, pbl oldv shla vs byhl y zssj yv vbl bydejlanbklqp psze. Gv vbkp xsxldv, y pbsr yppkpvydv nyxl wr. Uswtbkdt y zkvvzl, bl ypjle, “Ps usw vos nbkzeald…. Eydv vs cwu yduvbkdt?”
Shi Cheng looked up, did this shop assistant not recognise him?
He hadn’t responded when the shopkeeper, who had been leaning on a display cabinet, suddenly called him over. “Ah Wen! Come over here and help me clean this display cupboard!”
The shop assistant named Ah Wen was stunned. He could only go over, but that didn’t stop him from muttering under his breath, “Didn’t I just clean this this morning?”
Shi Cheng looked over – the shopkeeper gave him an obsequious laugh.
Liu Xu’er continued to look at the handkerchiefs. Similar to before, the flowers embroidered on the handkerchiefs could not compare to the one xiaoyi had given her xiaogu. Even if Liu Xu’er was not familiar with the different embroidery techniques, she still was able to discern the difference.
Honestly, these things held no interest to Shi Cheng. But because he had said that he was there to help his mum with a purchase, he had no choice but to continue to look around. He randomly picked up a cotton hand-warmer, turning it round and round, looking at it over and over. He was just about to place it back, when Liu Xu’er took it from him, and also started to give it a good once over.
“Do you like this one?” Shi Cheng asked.
Liu Xu’er shook her head and said nothing. Cotton hand-warmers were something that only people from wealthy families could afford to use. It was shaped like a tube and you needed to place both hands in the middle. This style of hand-warmers were truly only for those who don’t need to use their hands. Even if you wanted to let villagers use it, they had to do so much work with their hands. Who could afford to just stuff their hands into this thing and not take them out?
However, these were truly exquisitely made, with beautifully embroidered flowers. Even more interesting was that there were different sizes available, with the smallest size just right for Liu Xu’er’s tiny hands. It looked adorable.
As they were looking, a group of people walked down from upstairs. A few servant girls wearing deep green silk coats were escorting a lady, beautifully dressed in an apple red and jade green outfit, down.
Shi Cheng glanced up at them before speaking in a hushed tone, “That’s the Gu family’s Second Young Madam.”
Liu Xu’er discreetly nodded. She didn’t look up to prevent drawing their attention.
Who knew that the Second Young Madam headed directly toward them. Liu Xu’er tugged on Shi Cheng’s sleeve and the two of them drew closer to each other. They imitated Liu Shu and Liu Lin’s manner, affecting a village bumpkin. They huddled at the side, not speaking.
The Second Young Madam didn’t even notice them. She headed straight for the hand-warmer section and had a glance through, before separating out the small sizes for a closer look.
From the side, Liu Xu’er could see everything. At her back was a 20ish, plump wet nurse. She carried a chubby little boy who looked to be a similar age to Liu Sen.
After selecting one, the Second Young Madam smiled and passed it to the little boy, “Sanbao, why don’t you try this?”
That little boy wasn’t even paying any attention. His head kept turning to look around. His outstretched hands started to play with the pile of hand-warmers, strewing them across the counter.
The shop assistant attending them smiled, and stretched both hands to catch them. The important thing was that none of the items fell on the ground.
The wet nurse carrying the little boy spoke softly, “Little master, can you stretch your hands out to try?”
The Second Young Madam personally put the hand-warmer onto the little child and tilted her head to scrutinize it carefully. At that moment, the little boy let his hands fall, and the hand-warmer slipped off onto the floor.
The Second Young Madam stamped her foot. “Oh, oh! Can’t you just wear it properly so mama can have a look!”
A servant girl quickly picked it up and returned it to the counter. Of course, the Second Young Madam didn’t want that one anymore. She picked out an even smaller size for the little boy to try on. Right at that moment, the little lad felt his head itch. Raising his hand to scratch, the hand-warmer again slipped right off.
The Second Young Madam sighed, but still picked out the remaining two small hand-warmers. “I’ll take these two.”
The shop assistant smiled and agreed. He picked up the two selected hand-warmers and placed them in a delicate box provided by a servant girl.
The Second Young Madam left without a word. Behind her, the shopkeeper, a slightly older gentleman, was settling the accounts. His abacus flew, while the shop assistant quickly picked up the fallen hand-warmers, dusted them off and straightened out the display.
When the shopkeeper had settled the accounts and safely kept away the silver, he looked up and saw that Shi Cheng was looking intently at the shop assistant who was busy tidying the counter. He hurried over, and started to personally help neaten up, while muttering as if to himself, “Those who do business meet all kinds of people, from the well mannered, scholarly types, to those who are crude and vulgar. As business people, no matter the type of customer, we need to greet them with a smile.”
Liu Xu’er pursed her lips.
Shi Cheng suddenly asked. “Shopkeeper, was that person just now from the Gu family? Why do the womenfolk come out personally to shop?”
The shopkeeper turned to look at him. Smiling, he said, “They are indeed from the Gu family. As to the womenfolk – our town is so small. Honestly, there isn’t a family here that can be considered to truly be a great family with strict rules and etiquette. Womenfolk here can be divided into two types – those who like to go out, and those who don’t. For those who don’t like to leave their homes, whenever new designs come out, we will bring our wares over for them to have a look. Anything they select would remain with them. For those who enjoy going out, they can have their fun browsing at our jewelry shop. Won’t we still smile and attend to them?”
Shi Cheng smiled, “Then for her – how long between her visits to your store?”
“Whenever there are new designs, she would come… Before the New Year, she would come more often. Next month, there is a new batch of designs coming! That Madam wanted to buy the young master a cotton hand-warmer. The design this time was a genuine Jiangnan Su-style embroidered hand-warmer. It will surely sell very well!” Although the shopkeeper wasn’t overtly fawning over Shi Cheng, his tone was still very respectful.
Seeing his manner, both Liu Shu and Liu Lin were baffled, to say nothing of the few shop assistants who were periodically stealing glances at their shopkeeper. Puzzled, they wondered at their shopkeeper’s attitude; why would he be treating a little brat with so much courtesy? Answering all his questions patiently?
Uncle Quan, of course, knew why. He sat on a stool, with an air of nonchalance, a basket of chicks to one side, and a basket of rabbits to the other. A shop assistant had given him a few sideways glances and had intended to chase him away, but on seeing the shopkeeper being so polite to the children who came with him, he dismissed the notion. After all, being discerning was a fundamental skill for a shop assistant.
Having just witnessed the entire situation with the young boy, Liu Xu’er started to make her own plans. As such, she went over to speak softly to her brothers, “Gege, shall we leave?”
The two were naturally only too eager. They quickly left the store, with Shi Cheng rushing out after them. Scratching his head, he said, “Xu’er, have you seen everything you wanted to?”
Liu Xu’er nodded, “Yes, I’ve seen everything I needed to.”
Shi Cheng understood. He jumped over the stairs and cried, “Let’s go! We should have some food!”
Liu Lin looked at him strangely, “Shi Cheng, didn’t you say you needed to buy your mother some cotton hand-warmers?”
Shi Cheng froze, before giving a silly smile, “But I don’t have any money? All of the money is with my dad! He should be able to remember to buy my mother some hand-warmers.” Saying this, he again pointed at a food stall opposite. “Let’s go! Let’s have some of that!”
Liu Shu then asked, “But didn’t you just say you had no money?”
Shi Cheng was again caught. With another silly grin, he said, “Naturally, my dad will pay.”
Liu Shu immediately shook his head, Liu Xu’er agreed. “There’s no need, we’ve already troubled your family by coming along during this trip. How can we let you treat us further?”
Liu Lin quickly nodded. He still remembered that a pastry cost 10 wen!
Shi Cheng paused. “Then what should we do now?”
“Let’s wait.” Liu Shu answered.
As such, the children made their way back to where the carriage had parked. Climbing into the warmth of the carriage, they waited for Shi Cheng’s father to return.
When Shi Cheng’s father came back, he was surprised to see all the children patiently waiting for him in the carriage. He smiled and said to Shi Cheng, “I thought you would take them all out to eat something.”
Shi Cheng replied, “I wanted to, but they refused!”