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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Shi Cheng wasn’t done speaking. He continued, “Furthermore, when you priced your hand-warmers at three taels of silver, the store keeper didn’t say that it was too expensive. Think about it, the shopkeeper has been doing business for many years, wouldn’t he have a good sense for pricing? Also, the Gu Family Young Madam as well as the old scholar’s family are all frequent customers at our shop. He wouldn’t dare to overcharge these valued customers! If he did, how could he continue to do business? He still….
Liu Xu’er giggled. “Alright, alright, I understand what you are trying to say! You want to say that you have good discernment, and the price you set is extremely reasonable ….”
Shi Cheng stiffened, “That’s for sure! Oh and by the way, there’s another matter! Don’t keep using dark, dull colours when making the forehead bands. Choose a few brighter colours for them… Did you think only elderly people wear forehead bands? Do you know who actually bought the forehead band?”
Liu Xu’er was stunned by his deluge of words. “I don’t know….”
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Ebld vbl qsalblye cyde oyp psze, dlkvbla Nkw Fbw dsa Nkw Nkd olal yaswde, ps vblu csvb pvyavle vs ryu yvvldvksd. Ohld obkzl blzrkdt vbl uswvbp nbsspl pkzj qzsolap, Nkw Nkd rlajle bkp lyap kd vblka ekalnvksd vs zkpvld kd.
Fbk Ubldt vbld pyke, “G 20kpb ulya-sze xyd! Tkp okql bye elhlzsrle y cye blyeynbl yqvla tkhkdt ckavb, ps bl oyp blal vs cwu kv qsa bkp okql. Tl jlrv nsxrzykdkdt vbyv vbl nszsap olal vss sze-qypbksdle, kq kv oypd’v eyaj talld, kv oyp czwl. Rq kv olald’v qsa vbl qynv vbyv bl alyzzu zkjle vbl lxcaskelau sd vblx, bl alyzzu oswzed’v byhl cswtbv kv! Rd vbl lde, bl nbspl vbl ygwal czwl qsalblye cyde, vbkdjkdt vbyv yv zlypv vbl nszswa oyp psxlobyv caktbvla.”
Fbk Ubldt pxkzle yde rskdvle yv bla dspl. Tl dlyazu vswnble kv, cwv Nkw Dw’la ewnjle kd vkxl. Gqvla tzyakdt yv bkx, Fbk Ubldt pxkzle yde nsdvkdwle, “R jdso vbyv usw vbswtbv vbyv vblpl kvlxp oswze sdzu cl cswtbv qasx olyzvbkla qyxkzklp. Jwv pwnb qyxkzklp byhl plahydv tkazp obs nyd xyjl kv qsa vblx. Zsw xktbv byhl vbswtbv vbyv vbspl obs cwu oswze sdzu cl osxld qasx xsal yqqzwldv qyxkzklp obs oydv vs kxralpp vblka lzelap cu nzykxkdt uswa qsalblye cyde oyp lxcaskelale cu vblx…. Mbkp oyu sq vbkdjkdt kp oasdt. Mblal yal y zsv sq pkvwyvksdp vbyv usw nyddsv kxytkdl. Mblal yal y xkzzksd ekqqlaldv pnldyaksp! Ebld eskdt cwpkdlpp, uswa rasewnvp, vbswtbvp yde xkdeplv xwpv cl qzlmkczl.”
Nkw Dw’la dseele yde pyke, “Xj, nswtb, R yexkv kv, usw’al nsxrzlvlzu aktbv…. Uswtb, nyd usw rzlypl pvsr zlnvwakdt xl? Qkhl xl psxl sq uswa hyzwyczl kdpktbv yp vs obyv R nyd wpl vbl aycckv qwa qsa? Gqvla yzz, pwalzu usw nyd’v cl pwttlpvkdt vbyv R xyjl nyrlp sa nzsyjp aktbv? R esd’v byhl vbl pjkzz!”
Fbk Ubldt yde Nkw Fbw zywtble. Nkw Fbw pyke, “Tsolhla, obyv Fbk Ubldt pyke xyjlp pldpl. El pbswze jllr vbl aycckv qwa qsa swaplzhlp.”
Nkw Nkd bye clld tycczkdt yoyu yv vbl qlo nwpvsxlap qsa y obkzl yde vblu bye qkdyzzu tsdl yqvla cwukdt y pkzj qzsola. Nkw Nkd nyxl shla vs byde shla vbl qlo old. “Mblpl qswa, qkhl rlsrzl sdzu nyxl vs cwu y pkdtzl pkzj qzsola! R prldv yzz xu ldlatu vaukdt vs rlapwyel vblx vbyv usw nyd’v fwpv tkhl y pkdtzl qzsola! Mbyv’p kdpkdnlal! Mos qzsolap oswze cl xwnb clvvla! Jwv vblu fwpv alqwple vs ryav okvb ydu xsal xsdlu vs cwu ydsvbla.”
Nkw Dw’la czkdjle. Fbl oyp pvkzz y ckv zspv yp vs obyv oyp byrrldkdt obld Fbk Ubldt alrzkle, “Mblu esd’v zssj zkjl vblu’hl xwnb xsdlu. Mblu’al rascyczu qasx y dlyacu hkzzytl, swv kd vsod qsa xyajlv eyu vs cwu vblka pollvblyav y qzsola. Mblu rascyczu qllz iwkvl vbl rkdnb cwukdt sdl, vblu elqkdkvlzu oswzed’v cl okzzkdt vs tlv ydsvbla. Jlkdt yczl vs plzz sdl kp iwkvl elnldv.”
Nkw Dw’la’p lulp rsrrle srld!
She hadn’t managed to reprimand Shi Cheng when Liu Shu nodded in agreement. “That’s right, villagers don’t have much money. To sell one is quite decent.”
Liu Lin continued, “These silk flowers seem to sell quite well! There are a lot of people who come to buy – the girls buy it for themselves, and the guys buy them for the girls they fancy. This business is really quite good. Xu’er, do you know how to make silk flowers?” He said and turned to Liu Xu’er.
All three of them turned to face her. It was only then that they noticed that her expression didn’t look right. She swept each of them a cold look.
Liu Shu and Liu Lin were puzzled, but Shi Cheng immediately understood. Shocked, he covered his mouth and started to cough. As he coughed, he said, “Oops… Uhh…” He turned and ran.
Liu Xu’er stretched her hand out and grabbed him by the back of his neck. Then she knocked his head gently, “You’re the worst!”
Shi Cheng immediately protested, “How am I the worst? Your two brothers…. They said it too!”
“How old are they? How old are you?! You you you….” Liu Xu’er choked, before angrily saying, “You’re the youngest, so you’re the worst!”
Noticing her near slip, Shi Cheng panicked and was about to interrupt her. Thankfully, she caught herself in time. He could only smile placatingly at her, “It’s business… cough, that’s just the way it is. We need to understand our customers’ needs to serve them right? Otherwise, how would we know what they want to buy? When these youths first started coming in to stare at the silk flowers, I was puzzled too! But after so many of them came by, I could only…. No matter how dumb I am, isn’t it obvious! Similarly! Your two brothers figured it out by themselves! It had nothing to do with me. I didn’t say anything….”
“You didn’t say anything? Just now, it was clearly you who said it first!” Saying this, she snatched up the abacus and lightly whacked Liu Lin on his head. “And you! Really…. I really, really don’t know what to say about you. You’re only eight, eight!”
Liu Lin blushed and rubbed his head. Liu Shu however, was more concerned about the abacus Liu Xu’er was waving about. He reached out his two hands, ready to catch it if she threw it in her anger.
Liu Xu’er lectured the three of them for a good long while before pounding the abacus heavily on the table. Liu Shu quickly picked it up to examine it for any damage.
Shi Cheng was used to this. By now, he had completely recovered his composure and said, “Don’t worry about the rabbit fur for now. Just find a dry place to store them. During the ninth month, you can start using them to make forehead bands and hand-warmers…. You can start after the Mid- Autumn festivities! Hmm, since we’re talking about this, this may be how you could consider dividing the work. In a year, there should be three waves. The first wave would be during this period, with Mangzhong1芒种/ Mangzhong – Also known as the Grain in Beard Festival and falls between the 5-6th day of the 6th month. and Duanwu. The second wave would be the Qixi2 七夕/ Qixi – Also known as the double seven festival (because it is on the 7th day of the 7th month), Girls’ festival, Cowherd and Weaver Girl Day ( A Chinese Valentine day when the two lovers are allowed their annual meeting), Ghost Festival, and Mid Autumn Festival period. While the third wave would be over the New Year! When you prepare your items, you can prepare them according to these three waves!”
Liu Xu’er nodded as she listened. Liu Lin nodded too. “That’s right, we should do that!”
“Then what are you planning to buy this time? Qixi…. What items are usually used for the festival?” Shi Cheng asked.
“Decorative knots I guess…. I would also need to buy needles, thread and what not. Then there are the little clay figurines of Mo He Le 3 磨和乐/ Mo He Le – Siddhartha Gautama’s son’s sanskrit name transliterated and what not, but I can’t make those….” Liu Xu’er said.
Shi Cheng slapped his thigh and said, “Now that you’ve said that! During previous Qigaijie4 乞巧节/ Qigaijie – Literally means the Beggar’s Festival. It falls on the same day as Qixi. , my mother would get all the servant girls to make a lot of decorative knots to give to the visiting girls…. It’s like, it’s not the type to hang an ornament, it’s just a braided cord, some with tassels, others without. Do you know what I mean? It’s like a necklace, but worn on the hand. You can decorate it with decorative knots.”
He gestured as he spoke.
Liu Xu’er had already understood. Things like that had been worn since ancient times.
Necklaces for the rich were mostly made of gold with maybe a jade pendant hung on it. But those made by Liu Xu’er were naturally woven of thread, with a decorative knot on top. Customers who bought it could either wear it as is, or thread a jade pendant on it.
Such things were needed for jade ornaments. Jade ornaments were susceptible to breaking if they were just carried without anything. A braided cord offered the jade ornaments some protection.
Braided cords could be weaved into exquisite belts that could carry many ornaments. They could even be decorated with tassels.
What Shi Cheng mentioned was a type of bracelet. The knots he was referring to were knots that would form the shape of different flowers and what not.
Honestly, five-coloured bands were also a type of bracelet, however, they were completely different from the ones Shi Cheng was proposing. Those were simply made by twisting the different coloured strands together, and were meant for Duanwu. The only reason they sold well was because they were cheap and it happened to be the occasion for them. After all, families wouldn’t deliberately go and buy five hanks of different coloured thread just for this one occasion. What would they do with the remaining thread? Which explained why they sold so well.
However, the bracelet Shi Cheng was suggesting would definitely not be so cheap, because it would require a lot more skilled handiwork.
Liu Xu’er thought it over for a while before nodding. “I got it. I will go and buy some good quality thread. The price of these new bracelets should be about 20 wen for three.”
Shi Cheng nodded, “Un, that sounds about right. Also, don’t think that the necklaces and braided cords can’t be sold. That’s only because the season isn’t right for them. I bet that they will sell much better in the seventh month, so continue to make those when you’ve the time.”
Liu Xu’er nodded. “I know.” Now that this has been discussed, it seemed that for the next wave, everything she made had something to do with decorative knots and braided cords. The entire seventh month was the Hungry Ghost Month5 The Chinese believe that the seventh lunar month is the month that ghosts roam the world. It culminates on the 15th of the month with Ghost Festival, with Ghost Festival in the middle of it. For this festival, children would all be given talismans to guard their safety, or have decorations in the shape of a flag. There were also those who wore little ornaments made of peach wood. That one could be handled by her father. He could make little wooden fish and beetles with peach wood. Mid Autumn Festival was easy – they just had to make necklace decorations in the shape of the moon or lanterns or rabbits.
The few children were gathered around the counter, deep in discussion. Whenever customers came, Liu Lin would go forward and greet them. When more people came, Liu Shu and Shi Cheng joined in. Liu Xu’er sat at the side thinking and planning.
When Shi Cheng was done with his group, he came back to her. Liu Xu’er asked softly, “Shi Cheng, how has business been for you? How much money are you making in a month?”
Shi Cheng smiled and shrugged, “About the same. In the second month, there were maybe 80-100wen. It was better in the third month. We managed to make a few thousand wen. In the fourth month, we managed to make about seven to eight taels…. With all the money we’ve made so far, we’re just about able to make enough to cover rental. This fifth month is shaping up quite well. It’s only been a few days, but excluding your booth, we’ve already made 1000 wen.”
Liu Xu’er nodded. “Has your father said anything? Does he think you are doing ok?”
Shi Cheng laughed, “Even if I were doing badly, my dad can’t say anything. After all, how old am I? Making a huge mess would be perfectly normal! That’s why what I am doing right now is really good…. Occasionally, I even have to deliberately make mistakes. Otherwise, others might find it strange. That’s right, let me tell you that my dad thinks I am doing quite well with the store. He plans to let me take over…. Of course, that’s only after a year or two, when that magistrate has gone for good, and none of his remnant strength remains…. At that time, if he wants me to be the shopkeeper and look for shop assistants, I will get your two brothers to come over.”
“Really? That would be great!” Liu Xu’er smiled.
Translator’s Note: I can’t believe another 20 chapters has come and gone! I hope that everyone has been enjoying the story and learning more about Chinese festivals. I will admit that I didn’t know half of them before I started to translate this!
Once again, a massive thanks to everyone who has liked/ supported/ reviewed/ commented on the story. You will never know how much your presence has helped me on this journey translating. Will continue to work hard Thanks again!😊