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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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“Really! Xiaoyi…. Oops, I meant sishen! You should give it a think! Although the Gu family’s work is ok, I’ve calculated it for you – if you take over making all the pouches and the handkerchiefs, after deducting raw material expenses, you would make at least 20 taels of silver per year! But if you continue with the Gu family’s handkerchiefs, you would make two taels per season. In a year, that’s only eight taels, and the work done for the Gu family is much more elaborate, and takes so much more time. If you continue with their work, you wouldn’t be able to manage making the pouches, and the handkerchiefs would only earn you the same as last year, about two or three taels. If you think about it, which one is more worth it?!”
Liu Xu’er was right now in her sishu’s new home, pacing around with her hands behind her back as she laid forth her calculations.
He Ruyu, dressed in bright red, sat on the kang, with He shi seated next to her. Both of them held some embroidery work and were hiding their smiles.
“Jie, I’ve noticed that this year, Xu’er seems to have suddenly shot up. Have you noticed? She was previously only up to here, but now, she’s reaching your jaw.” He Ruyu smiled.
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Tl pbk nshlale bla xswvb yde pxkzle, “Rpd’v vbyv ps! Fbl’p tasod vyzzla, yde bla xswvb byp yzps clnsxl xwnb xktbvkla. Nssj, fwpv zkjl vbkp. Lsoyeyup, pbl’p yzoyup zkjl vbkp, oyzjkdt yaswde kd vbl bswpl, okvb bla yaxp clbkde bla cynj, csppkdt rlsrzl yaswde. Mbl alpv sq wp fwpv byhl vs zkpvld yde fwxr vs kv.”
Nkw Dw’la blyae vbl vos sq vblx vyzj yxsdtpv lynb svbla, ktdsakdt bla. Batldvzu, pbl pvyxrle bla qssv yde pyke, “Ywx! Ebu yald’v usw blzrkdt xl rlapwyel bla? Pked’v ol ytall clqsal zlyhkdt vbl bswpl?”
Mbyv xyel Tl Swuw cwapv swv zywtbkdt.&dcpr;
Tl pbk pxkzle. Fbl oyp ycswv vs pyu psxlvbkdt obld vbl essaoyu eyajldle yde Nkw Ubydtpbk nyxl kd. Fxkzkdt, bl pyke, “R qllz zkjl Dw’la pyke y zsv!”
“Xb, usw’al cynj?” Ls sdl kd vbl bswpl bye lmrlnvle bkx. Tl Swuw iwknjzu tsv wr yde oldv shla vs blzr bkx ewpv sqq bkp nzsvblp clqsal pweeldzu czwpbkdt yde clnsxkdt pvkzz. Fbl oyp, yqvla yzz, pvkzz y dlozuole yde oyp lxcyaaypple vbyv bla ynvksdp olal vss kdvkxyvl vs cl plld cu svblap.&dcpr;
Tl pbk pxkzle yde tsv wr, “Fkdnl usw’hl nsxl cynj, vbld uswa latl pbswze yzps cl cynj pssd. Dw’la, pbyzz ol blye sqq?”
Nkw Dw’la pvkzz byed’v xydytle vs rlapwyel bla mkysuk! Fbl oyp ycswv vs vlyaqwzzu ytall obld Nkw Ubydtpbk pxkzle yde pyke, “Ls bwaau, ds bwaau. R byhl psxlvbkdt R oydv vs pyu. Oapys, Dw’la obu esd’v usw byhl y plyv?”
Tl pbk tyhl Tl Swuw y rwggzle zssj. Tl Swuw yzps qswde kv pvaydtl, cwv Nkw Dw’la plkgle bla srrsavwdkvu qsa pwrrsav. “Fkpbw, es usw yzps vbkdj vbyv obyv R pyke xyjlp pldpl?”
Liu Changshi’s entire head was grey, and there were still some sorghum ears clinging to his front. His entire body was rather dirty. Today, he had gone into the sorghum fields to check out the soil condition, and see if there was any moisture in the fields. If it was too dry, it would affect next month’s harvest.
As such, he only stood at the doorway and smiled. “Xu’er does make sense. Ruyu, I think we should no longer continue working with the Gu family. Just say that after you’ve married, you need to take care of your parents-in-law, and have no time to work on it.”
He Ruyu paused for a moment before saying, “That…. Should work.” Her personality was completely different from He shi. She was a gentle, obedient woman. When she was growing up, she listened to her father and mother, and now that she was married, she would obey her husband. She generally didn’t have too many strong opinions.
He shi’s mouth moved soundlessly, before she finally smiled and said, “Fourth, you’d best ask her in private first…. Why don’t we two leave, so that you can discuss it with each other. Don’t just agree to it like that.”
Liu Changshi smiled and said, “There’s no need. I’ve actually already discussed the matter with Ruyu before. Even if Xu’er hadn’t said anything, I didn’t want her to continue to work for the Gu family. The business that the Gu family is engaged in is not an honorable one. It’s best for us not to get mixed in.”
Liu Xu’er nodded heavily at that. “That’s right! Wasn’t it said that they were illegally trading salt? If they were to be investigated, that’s a serious crime! It should have been kept strictly secret, but their family is just unable to hide it. Who in the nearby neighbourhoods doesn’t know their business? If a jealous rival or an enemy were to report them, all of them would be finished! At that time, it would be best if they don’t implicate us!”
He shi quickly said, “Oh! Don’t say something so unlucky….. How scary!” The average citizen trembled at the mere thought of a criminal investigation! She thought it over before saying, “That’s true, now that Xu’er has mentioned it…..” Then she said to Liu Changshi, “When you head into town during the 10th month, let the Gu family know.”
He Ruyu quickly said, “There’s no need for us to go to the Gu residence. The work I was doing was originally given to me by my friend. I just need to let her know early that I will be stopping. It would be up to her if she wants to continue doing it by herself or whether she wants to find someone else to help her…. As for this season’s money, I will just give her half of it to make it up to her, as well as to thank her.”
Liu Changshi nodded, “That’s fine! Let’s just do that then!” Then he turned and looked at them and said, “I still have another matter. Ersao, I’ve discussed it with Ruyu already, but in another few days, I will be making another trip to Ningxia….”
“What?!” He shi shouted in surprise.
Liu Xu’er was also caught completely off guard. She asked blankly, “Sishu, why are you going there again? That place is so dangerous. Surely you’re not thinking of making it your permanent business to buy goji berries from there? That’s not good business. Stories abound about people going there. Some meet a bad end from Mongols, others meet bandits….. Whoever goes would definitely have to be prepared for danger. Otherwise why would the stores always run out of goji berries from Ningxia? Since everyone knows that you can earn a lot of money from Ningxia goji berries, why would so few people go? It’s because they all value their lives over money!”
Furthermore, you’ve only been married three months! But Liu Xu’er didn’t say this last sentence.
Liu Changshi was just about to say something when He shi also nodded her head anxiously. “That’s right, our Xu’er said it well! You’ve only been married for three months. How could you leave Ruyu to go to that kind of dangerous place? Now you’ve already got three and a half mu of land. It’s enough for the two of you!”
Liu Changshi smiled as he waited for them to finish. Then he quickly said, “I’m not planning to keep doing this. I want to cultivate goji berries!”
“What?!” He shi was stunned. Even Liu Xu’er was a little dazed.
“Ningxia is not the only place suitable to grow goji berries, we can do it here too. Since no one has yet thought to do it, I figured that maybe I could grow goji berries on my own land to try it out….. Since Ruyu has her embroidery work, even if I don’t succeed in this next year or two, there would still be enough for us to survive. But if I don’t do this, and do as everyone else does, farming buckwheat or sorghum, then our situation would forever be the same. We won’t starve, but we won’t prosper.”
“But…. Can’t you just buy the seeds from the stores in town? Even if there aren’t any in Feng Town, surely there would be some in Hanzhong city? There’s no need to go all the way to Ningxia to buy them.” Liu Xu’er said.
Liu Changshi smiled and said, “I plan to go so that I can also learn their methods…. Although I can get the seeds here, if I don’t know how to cultivate them, it still won’t work. I need to go there to learn. And since I am going there, I may as well buy some more goji berries to sell back here. That way I can earn a bit more money and buy more land.”
He shi and Liu Xu’er couldn’t say anything to that, after all, it wasn’t their decision to make. Since He Ruyu said nothing, it was clear that Liu Changshi had already discussed the matter with her before, and had clearly already persuaded her. Since that was the case, He shi couldn’t say much more.
Liu Changshi smiled and assured them. “Don’t worry – this time, I am not going after the autumn harvest. If you go there just before the New Year, it is indeed dangerous. But I will be going in a few days. That way I will get there at the beginning of the 10th month. I will buy my goji berries and stay there to learn for a while. By the middle of the 11th month latest, I would definitely be back…. So long as you don’t try to rush back just before the New Year, the route is not that dangerous. Bandits after all, mostly would come out during the New Year period.”
He shi looked at He Ruyu, “Ruyu… Have you agreed?”
He Ruyu looked at Liu Changshi. Her expression showed her hesitation and helplessness. After a brief pause, she quietly said, “He promised me that everything would be alright, and that he would definitely be back….”
He shi shook her head.
Liu Changshi said, “I’ve already found Yuan Hao and asked him to get his people to help me harvest. When I get back, I will pay them. I’m letting you know, so that you can come by and check on Ruyu whenever you can while I’m gone. She’s new to our village and isn’t too familiar with others….”
“Do you even need to ask? I am her sister after all!” He shi said before looking at He Ruyu and sighing.
Liu Changshi looked at Liu Xu’er and smiled, “Xu’er, you too. You need to come by often to accompany your sishen.”
“Ok, I will come by often to play. But sishu, have you really thought it through? If you really need to go, you need to be careful on the road. Don’t keep stopping along the road.”
Liu Changshi laughed. He reached out to try and tousle her head before noticing how tidy her hair was. She was already growing up; no longer a little girl. He stopped his hand and said, “I got it! Sishu will be careful.”
This time, no one really objected to Liu Changshi making another trip to Ningxia. Others felt that he had gotten married, and since he was planning for their little family, it wasn’t good to interfere. Only Liu Gao shi was unhappy and kept murmuring her apprehension.
The day after Liu Changshi left, He shi and Liu Xu’er went over to soothe matters over with Liu Gao shi.
He Ruyu was also there. She sat on the kang, head lowered and silent, while Liu Gao shi kept going on and on.
“Say something! Why didn’t you try to persuade him against it? You’ve just gotten married, and it’s not as though your lives were in such distress…. No! Your lives are already pretty good by village standards! Why must he go to such a dangerous place?!”
He shi stood at the doorway. Before entering, her footsteps had already slowed and her face showed her embarrassment. It was clear that Liu Gao shi felt that the reason Liu Changshi had made this trip was entirely for He Ruyu. He wanted to let He Ruyu have an even better life, which was why he was willing to risk his life.
And there was reason for Liu Gao shi to feel this way. Liu Changshi had indeed done this so that their lives would improve. But it should be equally clear that He Ruyu did not want Liu Changshi to go! She had just gotten married, and their days together had been sweet. He Ruyu was too embarrassed to say anything, but that much was obvious to anyone looking. Why would He Ruyu hope for Liu Changshi to risk himself? She had definitely tried to stop him, but she just wasn’t able to dissuade Liu Changshi.
Liu Gao shi was her mother-in-law, so she would obviously push the blame to her daughter-in-law. If her son hadn’t married her, why would he have risked his life these few times to go to Ningxia?
And the best person to speak to her, He shi, was He Ruyu’s own sister. So, it was difficult for her to say anything.
Looking at this, Liu Xu’er moved to fill the gap. She entered the house and called out smiling, “Nai! Sishen!”
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