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Unlike Shi Cheng, Liu Xu’er hadn’t thought too much about the matter. She had a nice bath, before washing her new clothes. Putting on an old outfit, she went over to He shi’s room.
Nowadays, He shi was rather busy. She basically didn’t have the time to go out to chat with her friends. Whenever she had the spare time, she would make decorative knots or braided cords. Since she already had the basics of crocheting down, she was naturally a quick study at them, and was already remarkably productive.
At this time, He shi was in her room, busy on the kang, making some more decorative knots. When the doorway darkened, she lifted her head for a look. Seeing it was Liu Xu’er, she asked, “Why did you change your clothes? Didn’t you just change into your new outfit?”
Liu Xu’er said, “I wore it for a few days, so it needed to be cleaned. Since my head was itching anyway, I decided to take a bath and just wash the clothes as well.”
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Tl pbk oyp pwarakple, “Zsw oypble vbl nzsvblp? Pke usw ts vs vbl akhlapkel?”
Nkw Dw’la pbssj bla blye, “Xq nswapl dsv, R fwpv wple vbl oyvla kd vbl vydj vs nzlyd kv…. Rv oypd’v vss ekavu, kv fwpv tsv y ckv ewpvu. G akdpl oyp ldswtb.”
Tl pbk dseele clqsal tskdt cynj vs bla bydekosaj. “Mbl eyu yqvla, ol okzz ts vs uswa zyszys’p rzynl. Mbl nzsvblp pbswze byhl eakle cu vbld, ps usw nyd olya kv ytykd.”
Nkw Dw’la’p lulp caktbvldle obld pbl blyae, “El’al tskdt vs zyszys’p bswpl? Ebu yal ol tskdt?”
Tl pbk pxkzle yde pyke, “Ms hkpkv uswa zyszys yde zysul. El byhld’v hkpkvle kd pwnb y zsdt vkxl…. Gzps, uswa Mbkae Bdnzl Zwyd tyhl usw psxl nzsvb. R oydv vs ypj uswa mkysuk vs blzr usw xyjl psxl nzsvblp okvb kv. R esd’v alyzzu jdso bso vs xyjl tkaz’p swvqkvp.” Tl pbk bye sdzu lhla xyel bla vos psdp y nswrzl plvp sq nzsvblp vbyv vblu’hl yzoyup clld olyakdt, oblalyp Dw’la’p nzsvblp olal yzoyup yewzv byde-xl-esodp vbyv olal al-pkgle vs qkv bla. Tl pbk bye dlhla ynvwyzzu xyel y tkaz’p swvqkv cu blaplzq. Fbl eked’v eyal vs pvyav nwvvkdt kdvs vbl vos rklnlp sq tsse xyvlakyz tkhld. Rq vblu olal awkdle, pbl oswze qllz ps xwnb blyavynbl.&dcpr;
Nkw Dw’la’p lulp aszzle yp pbl vbswtbv. Fbl oyp xspvzu nsdnladle ycswv bla pkpbw yde mkysuk’p xyvvla. Uswze kv osaj? Eyp vblal psxl oyu pbl nswze cakdt bla pkpbw yzsdt? Gqvla vbkdjkdt qsa y zsdt vkxl, pbl vlyaqwzzu ynjdsozletle vblal oyp ds oyu. Ebyv y fsjl, bla ldvkal qyxkzu oyp tskdt okvb bla xsvbla vs bla xykeld bsxl, obu pbswze bla pkpbw ts yzsdt?
Pllr kd vbswtbv, pbl oyzjle swv sq vbl bswpl. Tyhkdt dsv blyae yduvbkdt qasx bla qsa y obkzl, Tl pbk zkqvle bla blye sdzu vs pll bla pkzbswlvvl. Fbl pyo vbyv Nkw Dw’la’p pbswzelap olal eassrkdt, obkzl vbl czynj nzsvblp sd bla cseu nsdvaypvle pvyajzu okvb bla yde xyel bla zssj ps pszlxd.&dcpr;
Tl pbk pweeldzu qlzv bla lulp pvkdt. Jlnywpl pbl oydvle vbl nzsvblp vs cl lypu vs zywdela pbl sdzu lhla cswtbv czynj nzsvb vs xyjl nzsvblp. Gde sq nswapl, pbl yzoyup sdzu tsv nsyapl nzsvb. Lso, bla blyav qlzv blyhu pllkdt bla eywtbvla tlv szela yde szela cwv ealpple kd wdalzldvkdt czynj.
He shi put down the handicrafts and went to look through the cupboard. That was where the family put their money. A few days ago, Xu’er had just brought back another tael of silver. This was money made from the store. Usually villagers wouldn’t keep a whole tael of silver, they would usually change it into a string of cash for easier use. But when Liu Xu’er brought home the ingot, she said, if they were not going to use it, they should save it. After all, they had already previously brought home 1000 copper coins. He shi thought that made sense, and so had been saving this tael of silver.
Today, He shi took it out. Looking at it, she muttered to herself hesitantly.
That was the sight Liu Changgeng returned to. Seeing her hold the money in a daze, he couldn’t help but laugh. “What are you doing? Have you really never seen money? Do you need to take it out everyday to caress it?”
He shi turned to look at him and said, “Their father, should we go to town tomorrow? I am thinking of getting some cloth for each of the children, and buying some grain. The grain at home is nearly gone.”
Liu Changgeng was stunned. “Of course we can buy grain, but why do you want to buy cloth? Wouldn’t it be better to wait till the weather is colder to buy some cotton to make jackets?”
He shi said, “The cotton jackets from last year are still usable, I just want to get some cloth to make them outfits that can be worn in spring and autumn, and also some cloth to change their cotton jacket’s outer layer. Also, we should find someone to re-fluff up the cotton we’ve got.” She said, “Those few children…. Especially Xu’er, should have a few presentable outfits.”
Liu Changgeng was stumped, “Didn’t Xu’er’s Third Uncle Yuan just give her two pieces of cloth?”
“Those were meant for summer and winter wear. We too can get them some material for those seasons, so that Xu’er can have two outfits to wear per season. That way, she has something to switch into. Otherwise, it would be like what happened today – she wore new clothes in the morning, but had to switch to an old black outfit by afternoon…. Also, I need to get some cloth scraps. I want to make you all some shoes and don’t have any more scraps left.”
Liu Changgeng scratched his head. “Since you’ve your heart set on buying them cloth, then why don’t you also buy some for your mother and father. We can bring it the day after tomorrow during our visit. It wouldn’t look good for us to go empty-handed…. But why the sudden impulse? Do we need to bring Xu’er and Senzi with us to town?”
He shi thought for a moment, “Let’s ask if Xu’er wants to go.”
Liu Changgeng nodded and said, “Oh, and since we are going over, we should return the string of cash we owe their jiu. Now that mum and dad have money, we can go to them to borrow some money if we need. We shouldn’t owe the in-laws; we should quickly return it so that things are less tight for them!”
He shi nodded
In the evening, He shi asked Liu Xu’er, but Xu’er didn’t want to go. There was no point in going now – it made more sense for her to stay home to make another few decorative knots, feed the chickens or take care of the rabbits.
He shi didn’t press her – it would make things easier. This way, they didn’t need to bring Senzi along with them. It was scary to bring one that little to town. What if he disappeared when they took their attention off him!
The next day was rather rushed. Liu Changgeng and He shi hitched a ride with someone from the village to town. Liu Xu’er didn’t know what triggered her mother’s sudden decision to head to town. She was still busy trying to think of how to help her sishu. However, none of the excuses she could think of would allow him to join them on their visit to her laolao’s place.
At midday, Liu Xu’er was making the noon meal in the kitchen, while Senzi was dancing around her heels. “Jie, I want to eat minced meat noodles. Make me minced meat noodles.”
Liu Xu’er was nonplussed. “I don’t know how to… That’s a very difficult dish to make!” Seeing Senzi start to pout, Liu Xu’er quickly moved to coax him, “It’s very very very difficult. Even mum doesn’t know how to make it… Have you ever seen mum make it for us?”
Senzi sniffled, “I don’t care. I want to eat minced meat noodles, I want to eat minced meat noodles.”
Liu Xu’er’s hand held two buns. She had originally planned to steam these to have a simple meal, but had to give up on that idea with his persistent begging. She could only say, “Stop begging, stop begging, jie will go over and see what nice thing there is to make for you ok.” Opening the cupboard, she stood on a stool to have a look. Inside, the bowls and chopsticks were neatly arranged. Now that the days were warm, and her mother’s leg had healed completely, there was no need to pre-prepare noodles to store. As such, the cupboard was bare. There was nothing there.
After coming down, she went through the row of jars at the wall. Apart from some pickled cabbage, there was only a little bit of flour left in the containers.
Empty-handed, Liu Xu’er looked at Senzi. His pout had become even more pronounced. She could only say, “Jie will go to the well to see if there’s anything there.”
Senzi jumped up and shouted, “Yay!” Don’t underestimate Senzi; although he was young, he knew full well that only meat was kept in the well! After letting out an excited shout, he dashed toward the courtyard.
Liu Xu’er quickly shouted after him, “Don’t you go! What would happen if you fell into the well?!”
Senzi stood a good distance from the well before turning and saying, “Jie, come quick! Pull it up and see what’s there!”
Liu Xu’er was exasperated and amused. After pulling on the rope at the side of the well, she saw that there were two pieces of meat in the basket. One of the pieces had some skin attached, while the other didn’t. She went to the kitchen and cut out a small piece, about the size of her fist, of skinless meat. Then she returned the rest to the basket.
When she returned, she started to have a headache. What could she do with this small bit of meat? There weren’t any vegetables, and she couldn’t just fry the meat by itself. As for minced meat noodles…. She really didn’t know how to make that!
After thinking about the matter for a while, she suddenly had a burst of inspiration! Smiling, she told Senzi, “Jie is going to make you something you’ve never had before!”
Senzi delightedly ran about, “Ok! Quickly make it, quickly make it!”
Liu Xu’er started to slice the meat very thinly before putting a bit of soy sauce into a bowl and sprinkling some dogwood herb in. She then added the meat in to marinate in the sauce before turning to steam the buns.
Villagers seldom ever got to taste oil. Even when they fried vegetables, it was not like modern day, when people would pour oil into the pan. Instead, all families had a little cotton ball. When they used oil, they would dip the ball into the oil, before using the ball to smear the bottom of the pan.
After using the cotton ball for a while, it would naturally get all oily. Sometimes, they wouldn’t even need to dip it in oil, and could directly smear the ball on the pan.
Now, Liu Xu’er was using that ball to wipe the bottom of the pan before taking the sliced pieces of the meat and popping them down. In a while, those meat slices started to emit a delicious aroma.
Liu Xu’er told Liu Sen, “This is roasted meat. It’s not easy for you to be able to eat this! Do you understand?”
How would Liu Sen know what she meant by that? Right now, his eyes were fixed on the slices of meat, his little head nodding up and down. “Understood!” His reply however, was crisp and clear.
The two buns had been steamed and the meat roasted. Liu Xu’er banked the fire before picking the meat up. Taking them and the steamed buns, she headed out to the room. Like a little tail, Senzi bounced after her.
After eating the roasted meat, Senzi satisfiedly said, “It’s so delicious. Jie, that was more delicious than the meat nai makes!”
Liu Xu’er smiled, before taking a few pieces for herself.
When Liu Changgeng and He shi returned, they heard from Senzi all about how his jie made him some roasted meat, making both of them laugh. He shi was herself rather happy today. Although there was only about 100 wen left, they had bought everything they had needed, from their food, to their clothes. Now, they could relax, and continue to prepare for the rest of the year.
The next day, they all got up rather early. He shi took out the cloth she had bought the day before. She had bought Liu Xu’er a honey coloured, lightweight cloth, and a pomegranate red cotton cloth. For Liu Shu, Liu Lin and Liu Sen, she had gotten two pieces of lightweight cloth, one purplish red, the other an indigo blue. Then a large piece of dark blue cotton cloth for the family to make cotton jackets.
Apart from that, she had also bought two pieces of indigo blue lightweight and cotton cloth – these were meant for her parents. They took those two pieces, the pieces of cloth they bought for Liu Xu’er, as well as the two pieces of cloth that Yuan Hao had gifted Xiu’er along with them. Then, they took a basket of eggs, a string of cash and headed out.
Liu Xu’er was wearing the outfit her xiaoyi had made her, while Senzi was dressed in a nice and clean outfit. Liu Changgeng had gone to borrow a cart. Nowadays, it was easier for them to borrow transport – they could go directly to borrow it from Yuan Hao. Yuan Hao was more than happy to lend it to them, and would always clean it up, and wash the mule before handing it over.
After settling the chickens, the rabbits, and locking the door, the entire family boarded the cart. Liu Changgeng drove them all toward Liu Xu’er’s laolao’s village.
When they got to the village entrance, several people had spotted them and had started to call out, “Old He Family’s daughter has returned!”
As such, by the time they got to their residence, Liu Xu’er’s laolao and laoye were already out there, waiting for them in the courtyard, while her uncles started coming out from their rooms.
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