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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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Liu Gao shi saw that Liu Xu’er had come. Since it wasn’t appropriate to say too much in front of her granddaughter, she could only stop and put on a smile.
He Ruyu raised her head. When she saw who had come, she quietly said, “Xu’er, you’re here.”
Liu Xu’er nodded before sitting next to Liu Gao shi. Since she was there to soothe her nainai, there was no point in trying to avoid the topic. She smiled and directly said, “Nai, my sishen definitely didn’t want sishu to go to Ningxia…. If you are reluctant to let him go, then my sishen is definitely just as reluctant! Isn’t that so?””
Liu Gao shi turned. She knew that Liu Xu’er had heard what she had just said, so she chided her, “Children shouldn’t interfere in adult matters!”
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“Lyk, vbkdj ycswv kv. Ebs nyd nbydtl xu pkpbw’p xkde? Nypv ulya, bl kdpkpvle sd tskdt vs Lkdtmky yde ds sdl oyp yczl vs pvsr bkx…. Yu pkpbld oyp yzps wdyczl vs pvsr bkx vbkp vkxl. Wwavblaxsal, pkpbw byp bkp sod yxckvksdp yde rzydp…. Zsw nyd’v pyu vbyv bl eke vbkp pszlzu qsa pkpbld. Rq bl eked’v xyaau xu pkpbld, yde xyaakle psxlsdl lzpl, bl oswze pvkzz byhl esdl kv. Gv vbyv vkxl, oswze usw yzps pyu vbyv kv’p clnywpl sq vbyv rlapsd?”
Nkw Dw’la elzkclayvlzu pyke kv kd y nsxknyz qypbksd, cwv pbl vawpvle vbyv Nkw Qys pbk wdelapvsse bla xlydkdt. Gde pbl oyp aktbv. Nkw Qys pbk bxrble yde ypjle, “Eblal’p uswa xsvbla? Pked’v pbl nsxl okvb usw?”
Nkw Dw’la pxkzle yde eked’v vau vs bkel yduvbkdt. “Yu xwx oyzjle vs vbl essaoyu clqsal pvsrrkdt.”
Nkw Qys pbk oyp nywtbv sqq-twyae cu vbyv alprsdpl. Gv vbl essa, Tl pbk oyp zlqv okvb ds nbsknl cwv vs ldvla yde tallv bla. “Ywx.”
Nkw Qys pbk bwxxle. Fbl eked’v qllz vbyv obyv pbl bye esdl oyp oasdt – yqvla yzz, vblal oyp dsvbkdt oasdt okvb bla zlnvwakdt bla eywtbvla-kd-zyo. Rv oypd’v yp vbswtb pbl oyp plnalvzu valyvkdt bla cyezu. Jwv dso vbyv bla taydeeywtbvla bye alxkdele bla, pbl bye vs ynjdsozletl vbyv lhld kq bla psd byed’v xyaakle Tl Swuw, bl oswze pvkzz byhl tsdl vs Lkdtmky. Tla psd’p rlapsdyzkvu oyp fwpv ps. Rv alyzzu oypd’v qyka vs czyxl kv yzz sd bla eywtbvla-kd-zyo.
Ekvb Nkw Dw’la’p tldvzl osaep, Nkw Qys pbk’p wdbyrrkdlpp bye xspvzu ekppkryvle. Gde okvb Tl pbk nyalqwzzu yeekdt kd bla sod lmrzydyvksdp, Nkw Qys pbk pvsrrle xldvksdkdt vbl xyvvla.
Nkjl vbyv, vbl xyvvla oyp vlxrsayakzu zyke vs alpv. Mbl sdzu vbkdt vbyv xyvvlale dso oyp qsa Nkw Ubydtpbk vs nsxl bsxl pyqlzu. Rq dsv… Xq nswapl ds sdl okpble qsa yduvbkdt vs byrrld, yde ds sdl oyp okzzkdt vs zlv vblka vbswtbvp awd kd vbyv ekalnvksd.
Mbkp ulya, Nkw Dw’la bye nsxrzlvlzu al-satydkple vbl cwpkdlpp. Gp rla Fbk Ubldt’p yehknl, vblu bye xyel ralryayvksdp vs aldv vbl pvsal kd vbl nsxkdt ulya. Fkdnl pbl bye swvpswanle y qlo sq vbl pxyzzla kvlxp qsa svblap vs rasewnl – Tl Swuw qsa sdl, oyp blzrkdt dsv fwpv okvb vbl bydejlanbklqp cwv okvb vbl rswnblp yp olzz – kv oswze pllx yp vbswtb vblu oswze xyjl zlpp xsdlu. Mbkp oyp lprlnkyzzu ps, yp vblu bye dsv ynnlrvle ydu aldvyz xsdlu – dsv qasx Tl Swuw, bla fkwxy sa vblka dlktbcswap. Mbl qyxkzu olal yzz olzz yoyal sq vbl ekqqknwzvklp kd pvyavkdt y cwpkdlpp, yde ps olal okzzkdt vs shlazssj aldv.
Although it would seem that they would make less money this way, paradoxically, they had actually earned more. This was because they now had a secure supply of goods, and they were able to devote more time to making the more expensive items.
At first, Aunt Wu and Xiaotian jie only knew how to make shoes with their leftover cloth. Since many women were familiar with making these, they didn’t sell very well. So Liu Xu’er told them to concentrate on making headscarves and towels and the like. These were of very simple make – all that had to be done was to buy some cloth, cut it down to size and hem the edges. A small towel could be sold for a wen, while a larger square head scarf could be sold for two to three wen.
So Aunt Wu and Xiaotian made about 10 headscarves. After selling them off, they tasted the sweetness of business and the two of them started to throw themselves into making them. Subsequently, they started to develop their craft further, making different types of scarves, silk handkerchiefs, head scarves, red hair ties, little cloth towels, and flowery patterned handkerchiefs and so on.
Slowly, word started to spread amongst the villagers, and some of them started to ask. Liu Xu’er temporarily didn’t accept anyone except for an elder cousin called Liu Lian. She was good at making silk flowers, and so Liu Xu’er accepted a few of them. She wanted to see if they would sell well.
This year, she was determined to expand their business. Even Liu Changgeng was no longer limited to making a few small ornaments. By now, he had branched out into making other items like peach wood combs and boxwood beaded bracelets. And since Liu Changgeng had a complete set of tools, he could make them rather quickly.
Liu Xu’er knew that her jiujiu also knew how to do woodwork, so she went over to check with them. By now, sanjiu, He Wenyu, had eight or nine apple trees. The four trees that had been grown in the courtyard had started to bear fruit last year, and this year, they had finally started to produce an abundant harvest. The four, five trees grown last year were all planted in the farmland, and were right now still in the growing phase, so He Wenyu didn’t have much free time. It was only He Wenqing and He Wenhui who had time in the farming slack season to do some woodwork.
Jiujiu were all already competent woodworkers, so all Liu Xu’er had to do was to let them know what she wanted. She told them to help her make little jewelry boxes, little cases for cosmetic powders, and treasure boxes – those types of little intricate items.
Liu Changgeng had already been making little ornaments for quite a few years, and by now, he was starting to have difficulty finding suitable pieces of wood. Each time he needed more wood, he had to spend a lot of time foraging in the deep ravine to find some. Now, seeing that He Wenyu was farming trees, he asked him to try growing peach trees and what not. He Wenyu smiled and agreed.
By the 11th month, Liu Xu’er had already roughly calculated their income for the year. This year, they had made about 50% more than the year before, and should take in about 60 or so taels of silver. After deducting their expenses, they should have made about 40 or so taels. Added to the previously saved 30 strings of cash, as well as the money earned from farming, they would have quite a sum saved up. It should be enough to buy a house.
However, Liu Xu’er didn’t want to bring up the topic of buying a house this year. Her parents were already well aware of their intentions, and when there was enough money, they would definitely move to town. But it would still take them some time to get used to the idea, so Liu Xu’er decided to take the next year to ease them into it further.
Shi Cheng nodded when he heard about her plans, “That’s quite a good idea. It’s best not to do things too suddenly. And in any case, my family would have to stay for a while in town. There’s no way we can move to Hanzhong or Xianyang so soon….. We would have to live at each place for at least three, maybe five years. After all, we can’t move every year. Also, my dad now wants to do things securely, step by step. He doesn’t want to be too ostentatious when doing business….. Basically, he’s now much more cautious than before.”
Liu Xu’er smiled and nodded.
Shi Cheng then asked her, had her sishu returned already? Liu Xu’er shook her head – she was slightly troubled by the matter. “Not yet. He said that by the middle of the 11th month he would definitely be back. That’s fast approaching…. These past few days, my nai’s face has been particularly ugly, and she has been giving my xiaoyi a hard time.”
Shi Cheng found it strange. “How can she blame your xiaoyi? Your sishu is a man – now that he’s married, it’s natural for him to have to take up responsibility for the household, and think of ways to improve their lives. Surely they can’t just rely on your xiaoyi’s embroidery work to sustain them? Your sishu would never make as much money farming as your xiaoyi does from her embroidery, and in this day and age, what man…. Can tolerate that?”
“At first, my nai could still listen to reason, but as the days pass, she can’t hear it anymore….” Liu Xu’er slanted a look at him. “It’s the law of nature that a mother-in-law’s relationship with her daughter-in-law is always contentious. No matter how open and reasonable the mother-in-law is, no matter how obedient and rational the daughter-in-law is, and no matter that others around them all think that they should get along well, the instant the two of them are together, it would be like thunderbolt and lightning….. It’s impossible for there to be no flames between them.”
Shi Cheng laughed, “You have deep experience with this.”
The good thing was that this time truly was not nearly as dangerous as last time. By the middle of the 11th month, Liu Changshi made it back. It really was as he said – no matter whether it was the Mongols or bandits – they all were selective about when they would come out. The closer it got to the end of the year, the more they needed money, so more of them would come out. As such, if one were to go around then, the chances of meeting up with trouble increased significantly. Since there was still half a month to that dangerous season, there weren’t too many of them coming out to make trouble, and so the chances of meeting one of them was much reduced.
This time, Liu Changshi kept a good quantity of seeds for himself. The rest were all sold to the dried goods store in town. With the money earned, he prepared to buy himself more land.
It would be best if the new plot of land could be adjoined to his current fields, if not, they would be in three separate places, and it would be much more troublesome to plant. But they would have to see if luck was on their side.
Actually, Liu Changgeng had considered buying more land, but he never said anything about it. When Xu’er had already shared their plans to move to town, Liu Changgeng had discussed the situation with He shi before bed. With their current situation, they couldn’t be considered pure farming folk, they could at least be considered half a craftsperson, and there were many more things they had to do.
With the business in town, and the fact that Liu Changgeng’s little ornaments, wooden beaded bracelets, as well as his combs had become one of the store’s mainstays – in a year, they fetched quite a few taels of silver, and sold quite well throughout the year – they couldn’t afford to buy more land. Right now, he was still able to manage with just 1.5 mu, but if they were to buy more, then not only would he be unable to make items for the store, he would have to recall both Liu Shu and Liu Lin back to help him manage the farmwork.
The two of them discussed the topic, but seeing that the business had been ongoing for a few years, it made them money every year plus the fact that their children were clearly developing in this area, they couldn’t possibly stop them and get them to come back to farm. Although Liu Changgeng and He shi were both humble village folk, they were still able to discern that much.
As such, he never mentioned buying more land, and since he didn’t, it became clear that although they hadn’t fixed a date to buy a house in town, everyone was working toward that goal.
When the New Year was around the corner, the entire family sat together. Liu Changgeng took the initiative to discuss their family’s plans for the future.
“Dage has already done the sums. This year, we made a total of 73 taels of silver, and the grain from farming would fetch us over 10 taels of silver. But we shouldn’t sell the grain – it would be best for us to just keep it for ourselves.” Liu Xu’er said.
Liu Changgeng nodded. He smiled and said, “Hmm, we’ve saved quite a sum of money. If we really wanted, we could buy a house. But after we buy the house, money would be tight. Since we are not in an urgent hurry, why don’t we wait till next year to discuss this again…. What do all of you think?”
Liu Xu’er hadn’t expected her father to bring this up on his own. She smiled and said, “What dad said is reasonable. I was also thinking that. There was another matter. Next year, Shi Cheng may not be opening that little store any longer. He might be heading back to work with his dad. I was thinking that we should rent that little store…. Shi Cheng has managed it for quite a few years, and we’ve been with him throughout that journey. We can guess approximately how much money he has been making.”
Liu Shu nodded, “If we rent the store, then there would be more expenses. But so long as we manage things properly, there should be no problems earning 50 – 60 taels of silver a year. As Xu’er said before, we won’t go out to buy stock, but would instead make all of it ourselves. That would save us the money for middlemen, as well as the fees for travelling. So we should be able to make more money than he did before… However, we would need to guarantee that the supply of goods can keep up with the demand without stopping….. The next matter would be regarding taxes. Shi Cheng said that so long as they are still in Feng County Town, he would help us. After all, they have two stores, and have experience with managing such matters.”
Liu Changgeng thought it over, before glancing at He shi.They had been doing business for several years, and had grown step by step into the role. For them to now rent the store didn’t seem to be too difficult. They had money on their hands and would be able to manage rent on the store for quite a few years with no problem.
The most worrying thing would definitely be the taxes. After today, they would have to work with government officials. As a villager, he was uncertain how to go about doing that. Since Shi Cheng offered his help with it, then there was nothing else that could hold them back. So Liu Changgeng nodded and said, “Fine, let’s rent it then. We will monitor the situation next year.”
With that, it was decided.