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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 nodded, “Why not? The rental for the shop is 5 taels of silver per month. If you rent it, you won’t have to hire any shop assistants – Liu Shu and Liu Lin would be enough. Apart from rent and taxes, there aren’t that many expenses you would have to bear. A month might maybe cost you between five to five and a half taels. We can round it up to six taels. In a year, that’s 72 taels. Last year, the store made about 230 strings of cash, not including your counter…. Calculate it for yourself – in a year, you should be able to make 100 taels.”
“Why do you get your goods from? If we rent the store, then my family would definitely not be able to manage to produce all the goods.” Liu Xu’er said.
Shi Cheng nodded and said seriously, “That’s true…. Our goods are sent along with the jewelry stores’. Every season, they would go to Suzhou, and bring back all the goods for us along with their own. The store’s profits are therefore not affected by the cost of transport. That is borne under the jewelry store’s budget….”
Liu Xu’er started to count on her fingers, “There’s the travelling money, the money to buy goods. You said you made over 200 taels – is that after you deducted cost from goods purchase?”
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“Xq nswapl dsv. Rq ol yal zssjkdt yv rwal rasqkv, ol xyjl shla 70 vylzp rla ulya.” Fbk Ubldt pvyavle vs nyznwzyvl, “Mbl xsdlu vs cwu tssep, aldvyz, vym – vblpl yal vbl pvsal’p vball xykd nspvp. Xdnl vblu byhl clld elewnvle, ol lyad ycswv 70 vylzp.”
Nkw Dw’la oyp yzps xldvyzzu nyznwzyvkdt. Fbl pyke, “R dsvknle vbyv usw esd’v xyjl ydu sq uswa tssep. Gzz sq vblx nsxl qasx Fwgbsw, yde ps uswa rasqkv xyatkd kp y zsv zsola vbyd xkdl. Mblpl rypv vos ulyap, ol eked’v byhl vs prlde xwnb xsdlu sd cwukdt tssep clnywpl ol xspvzu xyel vblx swaplzhlp.”
Fbk Ubldt wdelapvsse yde dseele, “Mbyv’p aktbv.”
“Zsw xyjl ycswv 70 vylzp sq rasqkv, yde vbkp kp okvbswv byhkdt vs ryu qsa vaydprsavkdt vbl tssep, cwv kq ol xyjl yzz sq vblx vbld ol pbswze cl yczl vs xyjl xsal. Gqvla yzz, ol oswze cl yczl vs kdnzwel vbl xsdlu xyel qasx swa sod nswdvla, yp olzz yp pyhl xsdlu cu xyjkdt vbl tssep swaplzhlp.” Nkw Dw’la zssjle yv Fbk Ubldt yde pyke, “Nypv ulya, xu pkdtzl nswdvla xyel 40 vylzp sq pkzhla. Gqvla elewnvkdt lmrldplp, ol xyel ycswv 30 pvakdtp sq nypb.”
Fbk Ubldt pnayvnble bkp blye obld bl blyae. “Rv vawzu nyd’v cl nsxryale…. Ebu esd’v usw fwpv xyjl lhlauvbkdt vbld? Qlv yzz uswa alzyvkhlp yde qakldep vs blzr. Rq usw xyjl lhlauvbkdt qsa vbl pvsal, vbld oswzed’v usw cl yczl vs yhske byhkdt vs cwu tssep lzploblal yde vaydprsav kv shla? Mbyv oyu, usw oswze xyjl lhld xsal.”
Nkw Dw’la aszzle bla lulp yv bkx, “Tso xwnb oswze ol byhl vs xyjl?! Rv oyp sdzu zypv ulya vbyv ol xydytle vs elyz okvb vbl pwrrzu kppwlp qsa swa sdl nswdvla. Mbl ulya clqsal, vblal olal iwkvl y qlo xsdvbp obld pvsnj pwrrzu bye vs pvsr.” Gp pbl oyp pyukdt vbkp, bla xkde oyp pvkzz aynkdt. Mbkp oyu…. Rv xktbv cl rsppkczl. Rq vblu esd’v byhl vs vaydprsav tssep yzz vbl oyu qasx Fwgbsw, cwv xyjl lhlauvbkdt vblxplzhlp, yde bydezl vbl pvsal vbl oyu vblu eke vblka nwaaldv nswdvla…..
Fbk Ubldt pyo y xuakye sq lmralppksdp xshl ynaspp bla qynl yde jdlo vbyv pbl bye vbswtbv sq y rzyd. Tl pxkzle yde pyke, “Psd’v osaau ycswv kv ulv. Zsw pvkzz byhl y ulya vs vbkdj lhlauvbkdt vbaswtb… R’hl yzalyeu elnkele – R okzz elzyu qsa y ulya yde nsdvkdwl yv vbl pvsal. Mbyv oswze tkhl usw psxl vkxl vs xyjl xsal xsdlu. Wwavblaxsal, kq R elzyu vbkp, vbld xu xsvbla oswze elqkdkvlzu dsv pvyav vs vbkdj sq oyup vs xshl vs lkvbla Tydgbsdt sa Dkyduydt nkvu ps iwknjzu. Rq xu eye ypjp xl vs osaj sd vbl qyxkzu cwpkdlpp, R okzz vlzz bkx R okzz pvyav dlmv ulya. Gqvla yzz, bl kp pvkzz cwkzekdt wr vbl cwpkdlpp dso.”
Nkw Dw’la vbswtbv qsa y xsxldv clqsal dseekdt. Fkdnl Fbk Ubldt’p vbswtbv rasnlpp oyp xyvwal, Fbk Ubldt’p qyvbla’p rzyd vs vaykd bkx oyp ayvbla wddlnlppyau. Rv oswze cl clvvla qsa bkx vs elhlzsr yde pll vbaswtb bkp sod cwpkdlpp rzydp. Fs pbl ytalle.
Shi Cheng bit into an apple as he left. Liu Xu’er then went to the main house and saw that Aunt Wu and her daughter, Xiaotian, from next door were visiting with her mother. She smiled and called out, “Aunt Wu.” She was about to leave when Aunt Wu got up off the kang and looked over at her. “Xu’er has really grown a lot in the past two years. You have gotten really tall and pretty! She is so smart and capable – Liu Second’s Wife, you are really lucky!”
He shi sat on the kang and smiled while looking at Liu Xu’er, “She’s just not very obedient.”
“Oh my, how can you say that? If she’s not obedient, then there are no obedient children anywhere!” Aunt Wu smiled and sat back down. “Your few children are all so obedient and good. You’ve really taught them well!”
Liu Xu’er noted that something seemed off about her mother’s tone. When guests visited, her mum would usually be the first to praise her. And since Aunt Wu was a frequent visitor, both families were well aware of the other’s situation. Could it be…. She looked again at He shi. Her expression didn’t seem right.
Liu Xu’er started to get an idea of what was going on. Covering her mouth, she smiled. It wasn’t too good for her to leave immediately, so she went over to sit at Xiaotian’s side and ask in a soft voice, “Xiaotian jie, what are you holding onto?”
In Xiaotian’s hands were some shoes. Face red, she was fidgeting with it. When she heard her question, she passed it to her, “Some shoes I embroidered.”
Liu Xu’er had just asked the question casually, but Aunt Wu suddenly got up from the kang and came over. Smiling, she enthusiastically said, “Xu’er, you do this for a living. Look at it – how do you find your Xiaotian jie’s handicraft? Is it…. Comparable with what you make?”
Xiaotian’s face flushed a furious red. She lifted her head and gave her mother an angry look. She probably felt that that was too obvious a question. She softly grumbled, “How can I compare with Xu’er. Look at the scent sachet she’s made…. 10 of me would be unable to make that….”
Aunt Wu’s face showed her embarrassment. Liu Xu’er had already taken the shoe. Smiling, she gave it a good look. Mentally, she had a good understanding of what this was about. “It’s really good. In my opinion, embroidering shoes are harder than embroidering handkerchiefs – after all, shoes are so thick.” She said.
Aunt Wu’s face lit up, “You think it’s good?”
She didn’t wait for Liu Xu’er to finish, when Xiaotian, face red, took the shoes back and said, “Mum! Xu’er is just being polite. Why are you taking it so seriously…..” It was clear that she was getting upset. She got up and said, “Xu’er, Second Aunt Liu, I will head home first.”
He shi smiled awkwardly and nodded. Xiaotian then left.
Aunt Wu stayed for a while, talking about this and that. It was clear her heart was not in it, and after a few sentences, she took her leave, face red.
Liu Xu’er accompanied He shi to send them off. When they returned to the room, she asked He shi, “Mum, did Aunt Wu want to put Xiaotian jie’s shoes at our counter to sell?”
There was a saying about village families – nothing stayed secret for long. No matter how tight a lid the family kept on their affairs, with enough time, everyone would find out about it. Liu Xu’er’s family business had slowly become known throughout the village during this past year, and people had started to approach them to find out if they could also work for them.
However, He shi hadn’t agreed to a single one of them. She had no way to agree! The counter was rented, not given to them. But how could they ask for rent from their fellow villagers? And yet if they didn’t, what would that make them? They weren’t here to be everyone’s saviors? Besides which, how many villagers were there?! How could they support all of them?
Furthermore, even if the matter of collecting rent was ignored, the more people got involved, the messier the situation became. It wasn’t as though they were family members they could speak frankly with.
As such, He shi hadn’t agreed to a single request before this. She simply explained that the counter was too small, and couldn’t accept their goods. Liu Xu’er was already aware of this, but she hadn’t thought that their neighbour, Aunt Wu, would also come asking.
He shi sighed and said, “That’s right. Xiaotian is already 14, and they should be starting to look for a match with her. But your Aunt Wu’s family situation is just so. Everyone who’s approached so far has been from a poor family, and your Aunt Wu doesn’t favour them…. Anyway, they’ve been here since morning. She said a whole lot, so I could tell what they were looking for. I didn’t agree, just pretended not to understand.” He shi then sighed, “But, I don’t feel very good about this. When we just moved over, Aunt Wu really helped our family a lot. Xu’er, do you still remember when your father and I fell and injured our legs? Your Aunt Wu came by everyday for quite a while to help out, and send us food to eat. We need to repay their kindness!”
Liu Xu’er replied, “How could I forget? I clearly remember everything that happened that night! Aunt Wu and Xiaotian jie came by to accompany us. Aunt Wu even told Uncle Wu to quickly go and look for people to help….. That night, so many villagers came to help, not just Aunt Wu.”
He shi nodded and sighed. Then she noticed that there was something strange about what her daughter said. She looked at her and asked, “What are you trying to say?”
Liu Xu’er smiled and asked, “Mum, you haven’t finished have you? Aunt Wu wants to put some of Xiaotian jie’s work in the store? She wasn’t thinking of shoes was she?”
He shi nodded, “Yes, shoes! She said she had made quite a few pairs, and they were just sitting at home. She wanted to know if it was possible to put it on the counter to sell.” She paused before resuming, “She even said that if they needed to pay some money to place their goods on the counter, they could give some. And when they make more money, they can use part of their profits to pay rent.”
Liu Xu’er smiled. Actually, she understood what Aunt Wu was thinking. Because if this had happened three years ago, where someone in her vicinity was doing business in town, she would probably have done the same. Of course, whether or not she would have succeeded was another matter.
She fell silent for a while before saying, “Mum, when Aunt Wu comes again, call me. I will discuss it with her… It would be best if Xiaotian jie was also there.”
He shi was shocked, “What? Do you really want to help them? You cannot set a precedent like that carelessly. The instant that happens, and the rest of the villagers find out, everyone will be dropping by to ask!”
Liu Xu’er smiled and said. “Of course I know that. At the start, we will just tell Aunt Wu and Xiaotian jie to keep it quiet…. I know that this matter won’t stay hidden for long, but so long as it doesn’t get out this year, we can look at the situation again in the second half. Anyway, Aunt Wu would also not want the news to spread. If they make money, they might accidentally let something slip, but if they don’t, they definitely won’t want to be embarrassed and would make sure to keep very quiet about it.”
He shi felt that there was something more she wasn’t saying. She paused for a while before asking, “Do you have some more plans?”
Liu Xu’er grinned. She lowered her volume and said, “Mum, let me tell you first. You can slowly think the matter over, nothing’s been fixed… Nothing has been confirmed! It’s just something I was thinking of.”
“Oh, just say it.”
Liu Xu’er then said, “I mentioned before that I want to move to town….. Wait, don’t interrupt.” She smiled and stopped He shi from saying anything. Then she quickly continued, “Staying in town is not for us to show off to others, or to compare with others. Don’t say that as villagers, we should stay in the village. If our family were still only farming, then of course we should stay in the village. But right now, our family business is growing. For us to stay in the village while doing business is not convenient. It’s not convenient to go to the shop or to buy raw materials. Also, it’s risky to keep bringing money home from town. Although nothing has gone wrong, think about it! Gege frequently bring large sums of money from town back home. It’s fine if no one is aware, but if anyone finds out, and they get targeted, we might be in big trouble!”
Sure enough, after she said that, He shi’s original objection was silenced. She started to think the matter through more carefully.