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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Liu Gao shi heard the activity outside. She came out of her room and managed to bump into her eldest at the doorway, so she asked, “Did you manage to find any work?”
Liu Changqi laughed. “Mum, yes, we managed to find work!”
On hearing that they had managed to find work, Liu Gao shi was relieved. She asked with a smile, “What work?”
“Landowner Xia’s family wants two of our family members to help with next year’s spring sowing and autumn harvest….”
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Wkapv eked’v xydytl vs qkdkpb bkp prllnb obld yd yzyaxle Nkw Qys pbk kdvlaawrvle bkx. “Ebyv?! Frakdt psokdt yde ywvwxd byahlpv? Mbld obyv ycswv swa sod zyde? Rpd’v vbkp vbl pyxl yp clkdt vldydv qyaxlap qsa vbl Dky qyxkzu?! Ls oyu, ds oyu! Gcpszwvlzu ds oyu!” Nkw Qys pbk’p qynl bye clnsxl ale qasx ytkvyvksd, bla yaxp tlpvwakdt y qkax alqwpyz.&dcpr;
Fllkdt vbyv bkp szela casvbla’p nzwxpu prllnb bye zle vs y xkpwdelapvydekdt, Nkw Ubydtpbk bwaakle vs lmrzykd.&dcpr;
“Ywx! Lsv vldydv qyaxlap, ol’al sdzu sqqlakdt swa zycsa vs vblx dlmv ulya. Mbl Dky qyxkzu byp fwpv cswtbv 300 xw1&dcpr;亩/ Yw – Gcswv ⅙ sq yd ynal sq qlavkzl zyde yv Dkzkwrs. Mblu olal osaakle vbyv vblal oswzed’v cl ldswtb bydep dlmv ulya qsa psokdt yde byahlpvkdt, yde vblal yald’v rzynlp vs qkde ydu vldydv qyaxlap dso. Ohld kq vblu xydytle vs qkde psxl, kv oswze vyjl vblx y obkzl vs qkde ldswtb. Fs vblu zssjle vs bkal xydrsola qasx vbl dlktbcsakdt 10 sa ps hkzzytlp. Mbyv oyu, vblu nyd yv zlypv tlv pvyavle sd qyaxkdt dlmv ulya yde lpvyczkpb vblxplzhlp obkzl byhkdt y ulya vs pzsozu zssj qsa rlsrzl.”
Tl pxkzle yp bl lmrzykdle kd qwavbla elvykz. “Bp casvblap ekpnwpple kv. El nyd’v yzz ts, yqvla yzz, ol byhl swa sod qyaxzyde vs osaj. Fs ol ytalle vs plde vos rlsrzl yp zycsalap, ps vbyv&dcpr; ol oswze pvkzz byhl vos rlsrzl qsa swa sod zyde. Rq ol nswdv eye kd, ol pbswze byhl ldswtb xydrsola vs xydytl.”
Ekvb vbkp, lhlauvbkdt oyp xyel nzlya. Nkw Ubydtik pvsse yv y pkel, dseekdt bkp blye. “Omynvzu. Rv osd’v yqqlnv swa sod qyaxkdt.”
“Ywx, alzym. Gv vbl vkxl, vbl nbkzeald yde vblka xsvblap nyd yzz ts vs vbl qklzep vs blzr, kdnzwekdt Nkw Fbw yde Nkw Nkd! Mblal pbswze cl ldswtb xydrsola, kv’p fwpv vbyv ol xyu byhl vs osaj qsa y qlo xsal eyup vs nsxrzlvl vbl vypjp nsxryale vs vbkp ulya. Gzps, kv’p dsv yp vbswtb ol dlle vs rashkel vbl zycsalap dso, ps ol yal pvkzz yczl vs ts swv vs qkde svbla osaj kd vblpl vos xsdvbp clqsal vbl dlo ulya. Msxsaaso, Wswavb yde R okzz blye swv ytykd vs pll kq vblal’p yduvbkdt ol nyd es!” Nkw Ubydttldt yeele.&dcpr;
Tlyakdt vbkp, Nkw Qys pbk dseele bla blye. “Fs kv’p zkjl vbyv. Mbyv osajp.”
Nkw Dw’la vkzvle bla blye yde ypjle. “Pke Nydesodla Dky sdzu tkhl y hlacyz yppwaydnl?”
Liu Changshi was just about to get to that, but on hearing Liu Xu’er’s question, he immediately burst out laughing and stretched out his hand to tap her nose. “You are so sharp!”
Liu Changqi also laughed and took out a faded pouch. “They also gave us 1000 wen as a deposit. They have already agreed – next year’s wages will be 4000 wen. Each person gets 2000 wen. Saying this, he passed the pouch to Liu Gao shi.
As they were talking, Ma shi had made her way out of the house, and was standing at the side listening. On seeing First hand the pouch over to Liu Gao shi, she was so anxious, her eyes were popping out of their sockets. But she didn’t dare to confront him directly, and could only stare daggers at Liu Changqi.
Liu Gao shi absolutely did not expect to get 1000 wen as a deposit. Shocked, she quickly took the pouch. Weighing it in her hand, she found it to be hefty. Her face immediately broke out into a wide smile, her wrinkles disappearing. Happily she nodded and said. “Good! 4000 wen is really not a trivial amount! Four taels of silver…. Huh, giving two taels of silver per laborer, wouldn’t the Xia family be losing money?”
Liu Xu’er blinked, and she started to do some quick mental calculations.
Liu Changshi laughed and said. “How would they be losing money! They are hiring us for a year, at the times when villagers are at their busiest! After all, during the farming peak season, it’s hard to find people. Whose family would be willing to go out to help them and ignore their own land?”
Liu Changgeng also nodded and added. “Indeed. At first when hearing that they were looking for laborers, a lot of people went to have a listen. But on hearing that they needed the help during the busy farming season, more than half walked out. The Xia family’s steward became anxious, and slowly started to increase the wages from 1500 wen to 2000 when he saw that the number of willing people were so few.”
Liu Changshi nodded and continued. “That’s right. So us brothers discussed it and agreed that sending out two workers would be just right. We can manage both our farmland and their work.”
Liu Gao shi nodded. Pleased, she took the money bag and went into the house. All the anger incited by her third daughter-in-law had mostly dissipated from this sudden windfall.
Seeing her mother-in-law enter the house, with lightning speed Ma shi pulled Liu Changqi into the kitchen. She hadn’t even entered when her soft scolding could be heard. “How could you just pass the whole bag to mum?! In it were 2 wen that I had given to you!”
Liu Changqi was dragged in.
Liu Changgeng shook his head. Carrying Liu Sen, he was followed by Liu Changshi carrying Liu Xu’er into his room. “Liu Lin, where are your sanshu and sanshen? Why is their door locked? Is your sanshen very ill?”
He had noticed that his third brother’s room was locked, and naturally assumed that it was because Third’s wife’s illness had suddenly worsened. Perhaps they had gone to town to see a doctor!
Liu Lin immediately narrated what had happened today, even mimicking the argument that sanshen and nainai had.
When Liu Changgeng and Liu Changshi heard, both their faces turned black. Liu Changshi angrily said, “Why wasn’t I at home! If I were there, I would….”
He couldn’t finish that sentence. After all, he was still the younger brother.
Face dark, Liu Changgeng didn’t utter a word. But seeing how he was, if he were at home, he would definitely have helped his younger brother educate his unfilial wife!
Liu Lin looked up at his father. “Dad, they said that sanshen’s xiaoshushu brought back a whole chest of silver. Is there really that much silver in the world?”
Liu Changshi spat toward the doorway.
Liu Changgeng shook his head. “Dad also doesn’t know. But what isn’t ours, isn’t ours. We cannot covet another’s possessions!”
Liu Lin solemnly nodded his head. “That’s right. I wasn’t jealous. I was just wondering.” He quickly explained himself.
Liu Xu’er stuck out her lip. “Erge, dad, sishu, we really don’t need to be jealous of them. After a few years, our life would definitely be much better than theirs, and we will definitely have lots more money then they!”
Liu Changshi was delighted. “Oh! Xu’er is so small, but her claims aren’t small at all!”
Liu Xu’er tilted her head up and said. “We all know how to work hard in our daily lives. Don’t tell me that we can’t be better off than those who are too lazy even to move?”
Liu Changgeng was tickled into laughter. “You don’t say. What my daughter said makes sense!” He kissed Liu Xu’er on her face.
“Isn’t that right!”
The brothers chatted for a while in the room before heading to wash up. In the kitchen, the scolding had finally ceased and a head scratching Liu Changqi came out. Liu Changqi’s oldest daughter, Liu Xian’er had gone in to help Ma shi with the meal.
After a while, xiaogugu Liu Hong also came back from her trip selling eggs and shoe insoles in town. She gave the money to Liu Gao shi – an unexpected 200 wen. With this, Liu Gao shi could relax, and she did some mental calculations of what they needed.
Liu Hong washed her hands and went to help Ma shi with the meal.
When Old Man Liu returned, the sun had already started to set. Seeing that his wife and son had not yet returned, Liu Changgeng went to look for them. Liu Xu’er was also a bit worried. Holding Liu Sen’s hand, she paced around the courtyard, occasionally glancing at the road outside the house.
When Old Man Liu entered the house, he was corralled into the room by Liu Gao shi. She proceeded to share what happened verbatim. Liu Xu’er, who was pacing around the courtyard, could occasionally catch a few phrases of what was said.
“Third’s wife is just trying to force us to separate the family! You don’t know but yesterday Third came and spoke to me. He said his wife was sick, and so they wanted to build a stove, and make meals only for themselves!”
“What?!” Old Man Liu’s voice rang out. “Why didn’t you tell me this yesterday?!”
“Wasn’t it because I was worried you’d get angry…. Anyway, looking at the current situation, we really can’t continue this way….” Liu Gao shi’s voice fell.
Honestly, Liu Xu’er really looked down on lazy people like her sanshu and sanshen. Even if they had some money now, it wouldn’t be enough to guarantee that they would always have someone picking up their tab. This type of person could forget about ever becoming wealthy. Moreover, for this type of lazy person, what goals would they have to strive for in life? To be able to lie in bed all day till the day they died? Surely not.
Anyway, Liu Xu’er, whether it’s in this life, or her previous life, had always been a hardworking person. She had spent the past two years thinking of how to help her family build wealth. Unfortunately, she was just too small to implement anything, but she had had quite a few ideas, and once she gathered her strength, she hoped to be able to start something in the coming year.
Liu Changgeng brought the basin of clean clothes back. Tailing behind him were He shi and Liu Shu. After arriving back home, Ma shi’s meal was finally done. On seeing that He shi had just returned, Ma shi unhappily hmphed.
He shi stared back at her, incredulous that she managed to drag out the cooking process till now!
Liu Hong followed from behind, busily setting the table. Farming families need to eat quickly before it turns dark in order to save on lamp oil. With the current cold weather, the meal was served in Liu Gao shi and Old Man Liu’s room, with Old Man Liu, Liu Gao shi and their sons seated at the table atop the kang, while the wives, Liu Hong and children had their meals below.
In general, the evening meal was simple, a dozen or so whole wheat steamed buns and a plate of preserved vegetables. Maybe it was because nainai had been agitated by her third daughter-in-law Jia shi, but there was an additional plate of stir fried vegetables, with some shredded pieces of meat.
When everything was ready at both tables, Ma shi looked intently at the table atop the kang. Farming families had a rule – if the elders hadn’t started to eat, the juniors cannot make a move.
Old Man Liu had just stretched to pick up a whole wheat bun when Ma shi struck lightning quick toward the plate of stir fried vegetables. Scooping it up, she put it into her young son, Liu Tao’s, bowl. Ma shi’s two older children were both girls; it was only her youngest child that was a boy. He was older than Liu Xu’er by about 3 months. Ma shi truly spoiled this young son of hers.
He shi and Liu Hong said nothing. They were used to Ma shi’s behavior. Liu Shu and Liu Xu’er also didn’t bother fighting with her, only Liu Lin, who was a bit greedier, would occasionally try and snatch some food.
Liu Xu’er’s meal was somewhat different. She had been given some buckwheat noodles which was something that Liu Gao shi had instructed Liu Hong to make for the little ones. Liu Xu’er knew that she had short arms, and didn’t plan to try and grab the stir fried vegetables. Instead it was Liu Shu and He shi who would pass her some, which she would eat with her noodles.
He shi’s hand held a whole wheat bun. She broke it apart and put some salted vegetables in between before carrying little Liu Sen over and feeding him noodles with one hand while quickly eating her bun with the other.
“Tomorrow, Fourth and I will continue to look for work, Dage will stay at home to help mum clear up the backyard. We should till that little plot of land.” Liu Changgeng was saying to Old Man Liu. “What do you think, dad?”
Old Man Liu thought for a moment before shaking his head. “Let’s not job hunt tomorrow. Tomorrow is market day in town. We should first go into town to get all the things we need for the new year. In a while, your mum will give you some money. The earlier we make the preparations, the earlier we can rest assured about it. Otherwise, if we do it too close to the celebrations, things would be even more expensive.”
Since the head of the household had spoken, the brothers could only agree.