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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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On their return to Taohua Village, Liu Shu along with his siblings thanked Shi Cheng’s dad, before taking a basket each and returning home.
Because the children were extremely efficient in their activities, not engaging in leisure activities like eating, they returned home fairly early, managing to arrive home just after noon.
Liu Xu’er was still concerned about the fact that her family at home may not have managed to have the noon meal, so rushed on ahead. She was the first to run into their courtyard, calling out, “Mum, dad! We’ve returned!”
The window was open, and He shi’s face immediately popped out. Seeing Liu Xu’er as well as Liu Shu and Liu Lin who were tailing behind her, she let out a sigh of relief. “You’re back!”
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Nkw Dw’la bye fwpv awd kd vbl essa obld pbl pyo vos rlsrzl nsxl swv qasx vbl bswpl. Mblu oyzjle kd qasdv sq bla, pxkzkdt, yde nyaakle bla wr. “Dw’la, byhl usw zlyadv bso vs ts vs xyajlv kd vsod?”
“Dkysfkwfkw!” Nkw Dw’la tallvle. Mbld pllkdt Tl Swuw clbkde bkx, bla lulp zkv wr, yde pbl lmnkvlezu lmvldele csvb yaxp vsoyae bla, “Dkysuk!”
Tl Swuw zywtble yde oldv vs nyaau bla.&dcpr;
Tl Elduw oyp pzktbvzu flyzswp sq vbl oyax alnlrvksd Tl Swuw alnlkhle. Fktbkdt, bl bydele bla shla, “Ebu kp vbkp tkaz ps byrru vs pll usw vseyu?”
Nkw Dw’la iwknjzu rkrle wr, “R’hl yzoyup clld byrru vs pll mkysuk!”
Mblpl vos pldvldnlp elzktbvle Tl Swuw. Tla zkrp pvalvnble kdvs y pxkzl yde pbl nyaakle bla kdvs vbl bswpl.&dcpr;
Fldgk oyp pvkzz ypzllr sd vbl jydt,nwazle wr yv Nkw Ubydttldt’p pkel. Nkw Ubydttldt’p bydep olal pvkzz cwpu xyjkdt zkvvzl csmlp. Ebld bl pyo bla nsxl kd, bl pxkzle, “Cwknjzu nsxl wr blal oblal kv’p oyax.”
Nkw Dw’la oyp rzynle yv vbl pkel sq vbl jydt. Fbl oyp fwpv ycswv vs nzkxc wr obld pbl blyae Tl pbk’p pvyavzle nau, “Ebyv yal kd vbspl cypjlvp?!”
Liu Xu’er froze. Then she quickly climbed up and hid behind Liu Changgeng, putting a good distance between her and He shi.
Liu Shu and Liu Lin had placed the two cages of animals into the same little room as before. They had just entered the room when they heard He shi’s questions, so Liu Shu stammered out, “It’s a pair of rabbits…. And 10 little chicks….”
Stunned, He shi swiveled her head to glare at Liu Xu’er. She moved forward to try and grab hold of Liu Xu’er, “This girl, why are you so disobedient?! Is it not enough that you bought one pair of rabbits, do you need to buy another! Do you think that money grows on trees?! You know that our family owes money to others….”
He Ruyu and He Wenyu almost simultaneously moved to stop her. Liu Changgeng had also stretched his arms out to protect his daughter. Smiling, he pulled at his wife, “Ai, since it’s been bought already, what’s the use in saying all this? What’s the point in telling the children all this?”
Liu Shu quickly ran to the side of the kang.Tilting his head upwards, he looked at He shi, “Mum! We used the money you gave us to buy food to buy them. We didn’t waste money!” Saying that, he took the remaining 60 wen and passed it back to her, “Here’s the remaining money….”
He shi angrily said, “Also! What is with buying chicks? All you know is how to waste money! Don’t you know that chicks usually don’t survive the winter?”
“Mum, the seller said, their family’s hens like to brood chicks during the winter, and these chicks are good layers!” Liu Lin quickly offered.
“That’s true, jie, people have said before that it is easy to raise chicks during the winter.” He Ruyu said.
With everyone there coaxing her, He shi had to give in. Pointing at Liu Xu’er she said, “All you know is how to waste money!” and gave her a hard look.
Liu Xu’er stuck her tongue out, while Liu Lin and Liu Shu clambered atop the kang to get warm.
It was only at this point that He shi closed the windows. Because she was worried about her children, she had kept the windows open so she could keep a watch outside, dissipating the little warmth that was in the room earlier. Now, she quickly closed it and stroked the still sleeping Liu Sen.
He Ruyu and He Wenyu took their seats again on the kang, continuing their previous conversation.
“This year is a much better year. At first, mum didn’t think too much of Ruyu’s embroidery work, and dad even told her to stop. He felt that it was better to raise some chickens or pigs – how much money could this work even bring? Who knew.”
He shi asked, “I also didn’t expect it. I remember that last year they only gave a few 100 wen? During the third month or so, when I asked, you still hadn’t received any money?”
He Ruyu smiled and explained, “Last year, I didn’t get a lot, so I didn’t feel it was necessary to explain it in detail. Who knew that they would give us this much. Last year, it was the Gu family’s First Young Madam who made the commission – one lot of handkerchiefs at 500 wen. The Old Madam felt that that was too much, and quarreled over the matter with the First Young Madam over the New Year. Therefore, they gave us both a total of a string of cash. But this year, the Second Young Madam took over management of the household. Who knows what happened, but now, they want more handkerchiefs, and they are willing to give us more money. They said, so long as we do a good job embroidering, they would even increase the amount! About 10 days after you asked me earlier this year, they paid us. In a lump sum, they gave us over seven taels of silver.”
All the talk about Old Madam, First Young Madam and so on had sailed completely over He shi’s head. But she clearly understood that last part – over seven taels of silver! Shocked, her eyes widened. She went to take the handkerchief from He Ruyu’s hands. Turning it over and over, she looked at it, “Just this little bit of nothing can fetch you over seven taels…. Is that for real?” After examining it over and over, she still couldn’t understand, so she passed it over to Liu Changgeng.
Her intention was clear – she was too shocked by this, and wanted Liu Changgeng to examine the “bit of nothing” to see if he could understand how it was worth so much money. But how could Liu Changgeng possibly know! He didn’t even bother taking it from her, instead allowing Liu Xu’er to smilingly take it to examine.
She had had a look at this type of handkerchief once before, but this particular one was completely different from the one that was given to her xiaogu. For one, this was not made of silk, but made from something thicker than silk. It was probably intended for use in the winter. “Xiaoyi, what is this made of? Cotton?”
He Ruyu shook her head. “This is made of brocade. It is soft and comfortable to the touch, like cotton, but you can see that it is weaved to have these veined patterns embossed into the cloth.” She pointed it out for Liu Xu’er to see.
Sitting at the side, He shi laughed, “What does she know!”
Liu Xu’er dipped her head to take a closer look.
He Wenyu then said, “Mum desperately wanted to come over, but was worried that your parents-in-law would read too much into it. She thought for a few days before coming up with this idea. She asked Ruyu to come over, and teach you how to do a few flower embroidery patterns or something, which you could….”
“It’s not about embroidery patterns, it’s the embroidery techniques.” He Ruyu clarified.
He Wenyu nodded, “That’s right, that’s what she meant. You can’t move off the kang, but if you learnt these embroidery techniques, you could maybe make a few pieces to sell and make a little money.”
He shi nodded repeatedly, “That’s good! That’s a good idea!” Saying this, she looked at Liu Changgeng.
Liu Changgeng too was in full agreement. “Mother-in-law is just too considerate! That is indeed a good idea. “ He scratched his head.
Liu Xu’er was probably the happiest to hear this. “That’s such a great idea! How wonderful.”
He shi “puchi-ed”, “What are you so happy about, what does this have to do with you?”
“I can also learn from xiaoyi!” Liu Xu’er said, before turning to ask He Ruyu, “Xiaoyi, didn’t you say last time that you can’t teach anyone else your friend’s family skills?”
He Ruyu smiled, “I’m only teaching you ordinary methods. These are some techniques that I came up with on my own after experimenting. It is not the same as her Su style embroidery…. Us village folk are not too particular – so long as it looks delicate and pretty, it’s good enough.”
With that, Liu Xu’er understood. She quickly called, “I want to learn it too!” In her heart, she thought, this is perfect! She had intended to look for xiaoyi regarding this matter, but now, the matter had been resolved without her having to do anything.
She picked up the piece of brocade, and compared the cloth to the still sleeping Liu Sen’s hands. She wanted to see if the cloth was big enough to cut out four pieces of around that size.
That’s right, when she saw the Gu family Second Young Madam and her son in Shi Cheng’s family’s shop, she had gotten an idea. She wanted to make a pair of gloves similar to what was worn in modern times, with the rabbit fur she had.
Of course, the type of gloves that a child would wear would be more like a mitten, and not a proper set of gloves with all five fingers separated.
Since Shi Cheng had mentioned that the Gu family was a family of nouveau riche, and having heard what her xiaoyi had just mentioned – That the Second Young Madam had taken over management of the household and was spending more extravagantly than before – Then, if the stars aligned, perhaps, her rabbit-lined mittens may catch her eye.
Of course, the actual odds of this happening was pretty low, but Liu Xu’er would not just wait for the opportunity to drop in her lap, she would definitely make a plan to increase the chances of this happening.
At this crucial juncture, her xiaoyi came, and her plan could start being put into action.
That night, Liu Xu’er took some unused cloth. Measuring it out against Liu Sen’s little hand, she drew an outline, cut out two pieces before simply stitching them together. Turning it inside out, she put it on Liu Sen’s hand.
He shi and He Ruyu felt that this was a good idea, so Liu Xu’er took the opportunity to discuss the matter with He Ruyu, sharing that she wanted to make a pair similar to this, with rabbit fur to line them.
“Xiaoyi, we could use the brocade you brought as the outer layer, and stuff the center layer with rabbit fur. Then we could embroider some flowers on top. Would that be ok? If a townsperson saw it, would they want a pair too?”
He Ruyu smiled as she listened, nodding her head, “That should work….” But she immediately thought of a problem, “But how would you seal the opening at the wrist? Wouldn’t it be the same, where once you move your hands, it would slip off?”
Liu Xu’er quickly smiled and said, “I’ve already thought of that. Aunt Shi taught me how to make pouches, and isn’t the mouth of the pouch sealed by pulling on the drawstrings? We can make these mittens the same way.”
He Ruyu thought for a moment before clapping her hands and smiling, “Oh! That would actually work.”
He shi laughed. “What are you blindly thinking about all day? What’s the use of making something like that?”
Liu Xu’er tilted her head, “It would definitely be useful!” Saying this, she went to pester He Ruyu into teaching her how to embroider the flowers, and how to make the drawstring work.
He Ruyu had originally intended to teach them all this, so she naturally was very serious about teaching them. He shi too, sat at the side, absorbing all of this.
In this era, all married women knew how to do handicrafts. It was just that village women’s handicrafts tended to be very crude. They usually only made things that were more functional, like shoes, or sewing shoe insoles. When they had the time, they might make their children a few outfits, but mostly all that really required was a finer stitch around the hems. So long as it looked presentable, it was fine. Very few would go to the trouble of learning how to embroider beautiful patterns, to say nothing of the elite schools of embroidery like the Shu style or Su style.
Therefore, even though He shi was experienced at making clothes, she was just as much a beginner at this as Liu Xu’er.
The mother-daughter pair spent the entire day learning. It was only at night, when Liu Sen started making a fuss and couldn’t be calmed that He Ruyu and Liu Xu’er went to bed.
He Wenyu was there mostly to accompany his sister. Although this was their jiejie’s house, it was still in a different village, and as a young unmarried woman, it wasn’t too convenient for her to be by herself. It was best that her brother came along.
He Ruyu spent her time teaching the mother-daughter pair her embroidery skills, while He Wenyu helped them with chores around the house. He chopped wood, and repaired tools – basically, he did all the work that the men usually did during winter.