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.
3. No permission has been granted to use, publish, upload and/or copy this translation to any other site except for Second Life Translations.
After spending 20 wen on wontons, He shi’s heart was so pained, it skipped a beat. It was just not worth it. That tiny little bit of wonton, that insignificant little bowl, cost 4 wen each! However, she had a little bit of experience now with spending large amounts of money. Although her heart hurt, she was still able to maintain a straight face.
After the children had finished – Senzi was the first to start and the last to finish – they paid the bill and went in search of a school. Liu Xu’er asked Shi Cheng if he would be staying in town from now on. Shi Cheng nodded, “More or less.” He winked and said in a whisper, “However, it won’t be as bad as most actual apprentices. Most of them aren’t allowed to go home at all. Whereas I should be able to go home once or twice a month.”
“Then what about your teacher?” Liu Shu asked. He knew that Aunt Shi had specially invited a teacher for him.
“Where are you staying?” Liu Xu’er asked at the same time.
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Fbk Ubldt alprsdele, “R yx pvyukdt yv vbl zydl yefynldv vs vbl pvsal. Bdnzl Dkysnbld aldvle y rzynl vblal vs pvyu. Tl okzz pvyu kd vbl swvla assxp, obkzl R pvyu kdpkel.”
Nkw Dw’la dseele bla blye kd wdelapvydekdt. Bdela Fbk Ubldt’p qyvbla’p kdpvawnvksd, Dkysnbld oyp cypknyzzu vblal vs zssj yqvla Fbk Ubldt.&dcpr;
Fbk Ubldt vbld vwadle vs lmrzykd vs Nkw Fbw, “Yu vlynbla yzps zkhlp kd vsod. Fs vbkp ynvwyzzu xyjlp vbkdtp xsal nsdhldkldv qsa wp. Ohlau xsadkdt, R okzz ts vs bkp bsxl vs pvweu qsa qswa bswap clqsal alvwadkdt vs vbl pvsal.”
Nkw Fbw dseele.&dcpr;
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Fbk Ubldt rskdvle yv vbl zyde yde pyke, “R’hl blyae svblap pyu vbyv vblal pllxp vs cl y mkwnyk1 秀才/Dkwnyk – G rlapsd obs byp rypple vbl nswdvu zlhlz kxrlakyz lmyx zkhkdt blal. Tl ynnlrvp pvweldvp yde eslpd’v pllx vs cl vss ryavknwzya ycswv yvvldeydnl. Wsa lmyxrzl, bl byp pvweldvp obs nyd yvvlde sdnl lhlau 10 eyup sa ps. R vbkdj bl lhld byp y pvweldv qasx swa hkzzytl.”
Ebld Nkw Ubydttldt blyae, bl iwknjzu rypple Nkw Fld vs Tl pbk yde oyzjle sd yblye. Mbkdjkdt shla kv qsa y ckv, Nkw Dw’la rwzzle Nkw Fbw yzsdt, obkzl Fbk Ubldt yde Nkw Nkd qszzsole clbkde vblx. Tl pbk yde Nkw Fld olal csvb aktbv yv vbl cynj.&dcpr;
Nkw Ubydttldt jdsnjle sd vbl qkapv essa vs kdiwkal ycswv vbl vlynbla. Nlyadkdt vbyv vbl mkwnyk pvyule kd vbl plnsde bswpl, bl oldv shla yde jdsnjle. Gqvla jdsnjkdt qsa y obkzl, yd lzelazu plahydv nyxl swv yde ypjle, “Ebs yal usw zssjkdt qsa?”
Liu Changgeng hastily offered a deep bow before saying, “May I ask, does the teacher here accept students? Village students who can’t come every day? I heard that there’s a teacher here who would accept such students?”
It was clear that this old servant was used to dealing with these types of requests. He nodded and replied, “That’s right, that’s my master.”
Liu Changgeng then quickly followed up, “How often must they come? And how long must they stay for each study session? Fees… How much are the school fees?”
The old servant responded in a well-rehearsed fashion. “How often they come, how long they stay is all up to the individual students. The school fees are a tael of silver a year. This will not change no matter how many sessions you attend in a year.”
Hearing the exchange, Liu Xu’er immediately understood. This teacher was just too irresponsible! He was just after the school fees. Others have more of a sense of responsibility, but this teacher had none! Would he even care if someone came just once a year?
Liu Changgeng seemed to realize the same thing. He smiled and asked, “Then would it be possible to meet with the teacher?”
The old servant just slanted a look at him and said, “If you decide to send your child here, your child would naturally meet the teacher during their lessons. You can’t meet him now…. The teacher doesn’t have so much free time that he can meet with visitors all day.”
Liu Changgeng could only smile and offer an apologetic bow,”I understand. That’s fine then. We will discuss the matter when we return home. Thank you so much, sir.”
Without saying another word, the old servant returned and closed the door behind him.
He shi was at the back and couldn’t hear the conversation too closely. So, as the group of them left, she asked, “What happened? How much are the school fees?”
“A tael of silver a year.” Liu Changgeng sighed. He looked at Liu Shu, “I just somehow feel that this teacher isn’t too reliable? As if…. He doesn’t care about his students…. Why don’t we forget about him and continue to look for someone else.”
Liu Xu’er nodded her agreement. “That’s right. What does he mean by saying that it’s all up to the individual to decide how often and how long each study session should be! He just doesn’t care. He’s just in it for the money!” She too looked at Liu Shu, “Dage, you and erge shouldn’t study here. Maybe even after giving school fees, you still won’t be able to learn anything!”
However, Liu Shu didn’t agree. He kept silent and lowered his head.
He rarely ever behaved this way. Everyone here was a close family member, so they could clearly tell that he disagreed with them. Startled, Liu Xu’er said, “What? Dage, do you really want to study under this type of teacher?”
Liu Changgeng could also see his desire. Since his eldest thought this, he asked, “Shu, just tell us what you think! Do you really want to study here?”
It was only then that Liu Shu raised his head. “Dad, mum, I…. I really want to study. Most teachers would require at least 2 or 3 taels of silver a year as school fees. This teacher asks for less, so naturally he is more lax about his students. But I am the one who wants to learn. So long as I can come here, I will definitely study hard and learn as much as I can. I won’t be lazy and waste this opportunity….”
Saying this, he then lowered his head again, “But even so, a tael of silver is quite a lot of money…. I will leave it up to mum and dad to decide.”
Uncharacteristically, He shi said nothing about money. Her eldest had always been so mature. Now that he had clearly expressed his desire to study, she couldn’t find it in her to say anything.
Liu Changgeng sighed. “Let’s go back and discuss this again…”
Shi Cheng let out a silent sigh and glanced at Liu Xu’er.
The family left that little street. Despite protestations that he was extremely familiar with the roads, Liu Changgeng insisted on escorting Shi Cheng back to the store. It was only after they saw him back into the store under the care of Xiaochen that they could relax and return home.
They spoke the entire trip home. Originally, Liu Xu’er’s kneejerk rejection was out of anger toward the teacher’s lackadaisical attitude. But she too was someone who had gone to school. She knew that whether or not someone learnt was entirely up to the student. Those who really wanted to learn, would learn even from the worst teacher. Those who didn’t want to learn, wouldn’t learn even from the most esteemed professors.
So actually what dage said had some truth to it. Since he wanted to learn so badly, Liu Xu’er naturally pivoted and stood in support of him.
Now that Liu Xu’er was clearly on Liu Shu’s side, Liu Changgeng and He shi had a headache. There wasn’t that much money. Although they stayed at home this New Year, and didn’t have to spend much money, the only money they had was the money earned by Liu Xu’er before the end of last year – close to two strings of cash. Adding that to the couple of hundred wen that the family had from before, the family only had slightly over two strings of cash total. Should they use all of their money to send the children to school?
But they just couldn’t ask for one to go and the other not to. Liu Changgeng and He shi had often done just that and if the children were unruly, snatching at their siblings food or belongings, perhaps they as parents could justly say something to them about just allowing one of them to go. But all of them were so sensible and mature. They just couldn’t bring themselves to tell Liu Shu to go, but Liu Lin to stay.
Liu Lin also really wanted to study. His mouth moved – he wanted to give way and tell them to let Liu Shu go. He could attend next year.
But he just couldn’t bring himself to do it. He desperately wanted to go too.
Seeing everyone so troubled, Liu Shu wanted to say to let Liu Lin go, but Liu Xu’er tugged his arm and shook her head. Wouldn’t such words just make Liu Lin feel worse?
Liu Shu understood. He lowered his head.
The north wind blew strongly, and a few snowflakes started to drift down. Everyone was shivering in the cold, huddled together while Liu Changgeng did his best to rush the cart home, hoping to get back before the snow hit.
After returning home and having a late meal, everyone went back to rest. Only heaven knew how many of them slept poorly that evening.
The next morning during breakfast, Liu Changshi smiled and said to Liu Shu and Liu Lin, “Go to school. Both of you should go! Since the teacher didn’t set any specific time, then whenever you have free time, go! You should be able to learn something over this one year period!”
Liu Shu and Liu Lin were both shocked and delighted! Liu Xu’er quickly asked, “Dad, what did you and mum decide?”
Liu Changgeng smiled and said, “Nothing much. If it comes to that, we will go to your ye and nai to borrow money… After all, we still haven’t returned all the money we owe. Having more debt won’t add more stress. Furthermore, this is for you to go and study. That’s only right and proper, and we can’t delay it any longer! A delay would set you back a year.”
If it was before, dad definitely would never approach ye and nai to borrow money. The time he broke his leg couldn’t be counted – that wasn’t by choice. However, dad likely thought that since xiaogu had a good marriage partner, their grandparents’ finances shouldn’t be too tight….
Liu Xu’er nodded. Liu Shu and Liu Lin were over the moon. Liu Lin then said, “Dad, mum, you can rest easy. Xu’er, Senzi, both of you as well! Ge and I will definitely study hard. No matter what, we will definitely study at least enough to make up a taels worth of silver each!
Liu Xu’er giggled. Senzi was thrilled to be included in the discussion like a grown-up. Seeing his parents nod, he too quickly imitated them and nodded “Um!”
That made everyone around him laugh.
The teacher’s residence was not too far from Shi Cheng’s store, So Liu Changgeng told them that whenever they had the time, to head over to check on the store and learn about how to manage business from Shi Cheng. No one would ever feel that they had too many skills and there were definite benefits to learning about business management.
The two brothers nodded.
Snow had kept falling all of last night, so the entire area was covered in white.
Now that the two brothers’ school matters were settled, Liu Xu’er found her mind wandering over the next few days. She kept wondering if they had managed to sell anything? Or maybe…. They had even managed to sell another hand-warmer or forehead band? That would be great – all their problems would be solved….
In the second month, they prepared for spring sowing. Liu Changgeng’s leg had completely healed. At first, there was a limp, but after a while, it became less and less obvious till it finally disappeared. This month, he busied himself with repairing his farming equipment and with tidying up Liu Shu’s little vegetable patch.
The chickens had all already grown. There were four roosters, while the rest were hens. The old mother hen still laid eggs, and under her direction, the young hens started to lay eggs one after the other, until slowly all of them started laying.
Liu Changgeng also completely redid the room where the little rabbits were staying. Rabbit nests needed to be clean. At first, their tidiness was managed by the children who could only manage the area where the mother and baby rabbits were.
Liu Changgeng waited for a day with good weather before letting all the rabbits out to roam in the sun. He made a large wooden cage for the rabbit nest and divided it into several sections. That way the big and little rabbits would be separated out. There were two levels to the cage with gaps on the level the rabbits were on. These gaps would allow rabbit droppings to fall into the second level where they would be collected. This would ensure cleanliness and make it easy to gather their waste material for fertilizer.
The apple sapling in the backyard had finally seemed to perk up. The scallions had all already been eaten and the carrots had already grown. Seeing that the rabbits had again increased in number, and anticipating further growth to their population, Liu Changgeng decided to give the entire backyard to carrots. So he tilled another large patch and devoted pretty much the entire space to planting carrots.
Then, at the area where his land met with the slope, he scattered some alfalfa seeds, letting them grow as they would.