1. This is an unofficial translation and no permission has been obtained from the author/ official publisher. It may be taken down if the author/official publisher requests.
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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After exiting the shop, Liu Xu’er silently tried to recall everything she needed to buy. When no one was looking, she took her list out for a look and saw that all that was left were some small items. As she continued to walk along the streets, she started to pick up the remaining items she needed.
Shi Cheng was not idle as he followed her. Whenever she bought something, he would ask detailed questions about what it was for. Liu Xu’er knew that he was trying to understand what she was planning and so explained everything carefully to him.
At first, Liu Shu wasn’t too interested in what they were saying. But when Liu Xu’er managed to confuse herself in her attempt to tally up the cost of everything and match that to the amount she had remaining, he stepped in. Who would’ve thought that Liu Shu would be able to recall the prices of everything flawlessly. They quickly managed to sort out their sums.
Shi Cheng smiled and said, “Liu Shu, you’re really good at keeping accounts…. Xu’er, when you return, you should get Liu Shu to write everything down. That way you would be very clear about how much money you make.”
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Mbyv oyp yd kxrsavydv alxkdela! Nkw Dw’la vwadle vs Nkw Fbw yde pyke, “Mbyv’p aktbv, eytl! El dlle vs jllr nzlya ynnswdvp!”
Nkw Fbw ytalle okvb vbl dlle, ps bl dseele, “Mbyv’p vawl, ol pbswze!”
“Mbld R okzz zlyhl vbl ynnswdvp vs usw!” Nkw Dw’la pxssvbzu nsdvkdwle. “Zsw pllx vs byhl y tkqv qsa kv. Fvyav raynvkpkdt dso cu alxlxclakdt yzz swa lmrldplp. R osd’v csvbla vs jllr vaynj sq vblx yduxsal, R dlle vs xyjl pwal ol’hl cswtbv lhlauvbkdt ol dlle!”
Nkw Fbw nswze sdzu ytall. “Fwal….”
Mbl vball sq vblx oyzjle sd yblye, bszekdt bydep yde nbyvvlakdt yv lynb svbla, obkzl Bdnzl Cwyd yde vbyv sze plahydv qszzsole clbkde vblx nyaaukdt vblka cytp. Mbyv sze plahydv osxyd pxkzle yde vsze Bdnzl Cwyd, “R vbswtbv vbyv vbl Zswdt Yypvla oswze awd lhlauoblal. R lhld osaakle vbyv vbl vos sq wp oswzed’v cl ldswtb vs jllr oyvnb sd yzz vball sq vblx. Jwv ynvwyzzu, vblu yal alyzzu olzz clbyhle.”
Bdnzl Cwyd pxkzle yde dseele, “Zlp. R’hl qszzsole vblx y qlo vkxlp yde yzz vbl Nkw nbkzeald yal alyzzu olzz clbyhle. Mblu’hl dlhla awd ycswv okzezu,”
Rd qasdv, Nkw Fbw oyp ypjkdt Fbk Ubldt, “Eblal kp vbl pvsal vbyv uswa alzyvkhl kp srldkdt? Ebu esd’v ol byhl y zssj yv kv?” Tyhkdt tsdl okvb Nkw Dw’la kdvs vblka flolzau pvsal plhlayz vkxlp, bl oyp ds zsdtla yqayke sq ldvlakdt ckt pvsalp. Gzps, bl oyp alyzzu nwakswp ycswv vbl pbsr.
Fbk Ubldt zywtble yde pnayvnble bkp blye, “Rv bypd’v srldle ulv! El okzz srld kv yqvla vbl Llo Zlya…. Tsolhla, ol yzalyeu jdso oblal vbl pvsal okzz cl. Xhla vbkp rlakse, psxl pbsrp byhl pbwv esod obknb oyp obyv tyhl wp pwnb y tsse srrsavwdkvu.”
When Liu Xu’er heard, she too became curious. She said, “Since I’ve gotten everything, why don’t we go and have a look?”
Liu Shu agreed, “Yeah, let’s have a look? I want to see the place too.”
Seeing that they were keen, Shi Cheng said, “Alright! Let’s go and have a look then!” Saying this, he led them round a corner. “But you can’t be disappointed, alright. The shop is not large, in fact it’s really small. Tiny even.” He said to Liu Xu’er.
Liu Xu’er knew that this store was specifically meant to train Shi Cheng, so it obviously couldn’t be too big. She nodded and assured him, “I won’t.”
After turning the corner, they headed down another street. Shi Cheng pointed to one of the shops and said, “There it is,”
Despite their earlier assurance, when Liu Xu’er and Liu Shu saw it, they were still slightly disappointed. Strictly speaking, the place couldn’t be considered to be a whole shopfront. It was more like a crack in the middle of two large shops. Of course, it wasn’t as narrow as all that.
Sure enough, Shi Cheng explained. “This was originally a lane. The two large shops at each side are shops with a back courtyard attached. This lane was intended for people to access the back courtyard. But then, the same person decided to rent both of these stores. He opened up a path to the courtyard from the shop. Since they didn’t need this lane, they decided to tidy it up and close off the back, creating this little shop. My dad…. My relative thought it was suitable. He doesn’t have much money, so he decided on this location.”
Liu Xu’er nodded, “It’s very good,” What she meant was that it was good Shi Cheng had such a place to build up experience.
Of course Shi Cheng understood what she meant. Smiling, he nodded. In his heart, he was thinking, this is not just for himself, Xu’er has placed all of her hopes on this little shop. He had to build up a thriving business here!
Liu Xu’er gauged the size of the shop. Actually, considering this era’s construction, the lane couldn’t be considered narrow. She could take about five steps to each side, and about 15 steps from front to back. It was doable; the space was sufficient. When the few of them left the street, Liu Shu asked, “Why isn’t there anyone on that street? There seemed to be quite a few shops.”
Shi Cheng explained, “Today is the last market day of the year. No one would wait till now to buy their New Year goods. By now, the prices would have doubled since a month ago. So all the people on the streets today are mostly here to browse and pick up a few odds and ends they may have missed out. Most of them would be on the main street, and fewer people would come here…. However, during ordinary market days, the street is pretty busy. It is considered one of the town’s main streets.”
After he finished explaining, he saw that Liu Shu was looking at him, stunned. He quickly explained, “That was something my dad told me.”
That made sense to Liu Shu and Liu Xu’er.
At the side of the road, a peddler was carrying his wares. Among his goods were sewing supplies. Liu Xu’er went over and bought two crotchet hooks and over a dozen embroidery needles. With that, her shopping was complete. Although she could have picked up these things up at the shop, it was much more expensive to buy them there. Since the quality of these items wouldn’t differ too much, she didn’t see the need to pay the shop’s premium for them.
As usual, they didn’t buy anything to eat. Instead the children went back to the carriage to sit and wait. Liu Xu’er took out a few buns from home and each of them took one. When the old servant woman saw the little girl from the Liu family giving her family’s young master a coarse bun, she started to pace about anxiously, but she didn’t dare tell Shi Cheng not to eat it. On the other hand, Uncle Quan was relaxed, sitting outside the carriage and smoking.
When Shi Cheng’s parents joined them, it was clear that it was as Shi Cheng had predicted. They had only come today to see if they needed to buy anything they’d previously missed. They really didn’t buy very much. Behind Shi Cheng’s mother, a little servant girl was only carrying a few bolts of cloth, and a little food basket with some melon seeds, walnuts and what not.
When they were all headed back, Shi Cheng’s mother gave Liu Xu’er’s purchases a once-over. She nodded her head at the buys and praised her for her good eye
When they got home, Uncle Quan helped them to deliver all of their buys before he took his leave of Liu Changgeng and He shi.
He shi felt dazed looking at the many things sprawled across the kang. “These…. Can we use all of these? What are they all for?”
Liu Changgeng was frowning at them. “If you don’t know, then how could I possibly be able to guess.”
Having eaten a bun, Liu Xu’er’s throat was dry the entire trip back. At this moment, she had run off to the kitchen to get herself a drink.
Liu Shu had also hurried back to his own room. After looking around, he couldn’t find what he needed and headed instead to the kitchen to pick up a burnt piece of wood. Then he headed back to his room and started to record their expenses on a discreet corner on his wall.
He didn’t know how to write all the words, so sometimes, he substituted in other characters. After all, the important thing was that he knew what everything meant. Just like that, he recorded down a few lines of words. But after a while, sweat started to pour off his forehead. He thought to himself, he really needed to learn more words from Shi Cheng, otherwise… If his sister saw how bad his writing was, she would surely laugh at him.
He glanced again at the accounts he had written on the wall. It was only after that that he made his way to the main room.
Liu Xu’er was trying to explain the expenses to their parents. Seeing him return, she dragged him over, “Dage! Why don’t you explain the accounts to them? I need to rest.” She then climbed atop the kang and wrapped her feet under the blankets to warm.
Liu Shu picked up where she left off and started to explain the cost of the remaining items. It helped that all the items were scattered across the kang. It made the explanation much clearer. Liu Sen was actually quite curious about all the items. He wanted to pick them up to examine, but He shi quickly put a stop to that. She worried that he would mess it up, so she carried him to the back where Liu Sen spotted Liu Xu’er. He quickly hurled himself at her to play.
After Liu Shu had gone through each of the items, Liu Lin quickly asked, “Dage, how much did you spend on all of this?”
Liu Shu had already spent the entire journey back tallying up the total. He swiftly responded, “We spent a total of three taels and seven wen. We have 933 wen remaining.”
Liu Changgeng was surprised, “We still have close to a string of cash remaining!”
He shi was both exasperated and amused. She gave him a look before turning to ask Liu Xu’er, “What do you plan to do with all these things?”
Liu Xu’er settled Liu Sen down. She gently told him to be good, in a while, jie would make him something nice to eat. With that promise, Liu Sen sat and waited patiently. Liu Xu’er moved forward slightly and passed the coarse thread to He shi. “Mum, these are for you, You can use these to make the five-coloured bands worn during Qingming1清明/ QIngming – Also known as the Tomb Sweeping day. It falls sometime in the 4th month of the Chinese calendar. and Duanwujie. You can also use them to make a few tassels, like the ones on the tobacco pouch….”
From the big pile of stuff, she found a crochet hook and passed it to her. “Red, yellow, green, pink, blue. These five colours are for the five-coloured bands. Don’t mix them up. The remaining five liang of maroon thread along with this black thread…. Mum, do you recall that when we were really small, you brought me once to laolao’s2姥姥/ Laolao – Maternal grandmother home? You took a crochet hook and quickly crocheted some tiny horses and cows…. The figures were empty in the middle and really really tiny. It took only a few stitches to make them….”
He shi recalled. She quickly nodded and said, “Oh yes! I know how to make those!” She started to think about it, “For Lichun and the Spring Equinox, we usually draw little cows. Are you thinking of making things like that to hang as ornaments?”
Liu Xu’er nodded, “That’s right. Crochet a little cow and attach it to a tassel. It would make a very nice ornament that fits the festival.”
Liu Changgeng watched as his daughter explained everything seriously. Her face earnest, she spoke as if everything would work out…. Truth be told, he wasn’t too certain of whether things would pan out. He still felt that farming was the more secure choice. However, seeing how his own children and his wife’s little sister had all managed to make money from this – his wife’s sister had managed to pay off their family’s debt from embroidered handkerchiefs and his daughter managed to make nine taels of silver from some hand-warmers! – even if he didn’t think it was as secure, reality seemed to indicate differently.
Furthermore, the most important thing was that he and his wife were still unable to leave the kang. Being unable to move and do things was quite unbearable. It would certainly be better to help the children with this matter. And who knows, it might even pay off!
Having thought about this, he returned his attention to the conversation at hand, right in time for Liu Xu’er to address him, “Dad….”
L:iu Changgeng quickly nodded, “I got it! After you left, I asked Liu Lin to find me a few suitable blocks of wood. Look here, I’ve already started.” Saying this, he took out a block from the side of the kang along with a little metal file.
Although he didn’t feel this was reliable, he couldn’t help but follow Liu Xu’er’s plan.
Liu Xu’er was delighted. Nodding her head, she exclaimed, “That’s great!”
He shi looked at the remaining pile and said, “Xu’er, are the rest of the materials for you? You have to…. You must take care of your eyes. Why don’t you tell mum what you want to do? Maybe mum can do some of it too? The hand-warmers – mum can make those too.”