After eating, Sun Shi1 helped Zhou Shi clear the table while Yang Shi went to wash the dishes.
Seeing that there was nothing else to do, Sun Shi told the two that she would be returning to her room, and then she pulled Xue Qinghuai back to their living quarters.
The family of three showered and then laid down on the kang2 Sun Shi hastily pulled her husband and asked: "Huai Ge,3 you say, does Zhao'er’s business really make that much money?"
When he came back, Xue Qinghuai told this matter to Sun Shi, but Sun Shi didn't take it to heart. This changed when she saw that Zhao'er bought so many things today and brought a bowl of meat to the main house.
Sun Shi knew how much those things were worth. That bowl of meat is at least a catty,4 and a catty of meat is more than a dozen wen5 . And it was really served to them. Anyway, Sun Shi would have been reluctant to do this, so when Father Xue6 beat her son and daughter-in-law, she didn’t dare to speak.
But this also shows that Zhao'er is really making money.
Likewise, Xue Qinghuai also does business, but he carries his goods every day to walk around the streets and alleys to sell. It would seem that they had the most profitable business of the Xue family, but in fact it was the most exhausting. They sell small items, things that are cheap, and they make little money. On a good day, they can earn a few dozen wen, but on a bad day, they earn more or less ten wen.
Since Zhao'er can bring Jiang Wu to do business, why can't she bring their family as well. And the two families are so close that Gou'er7 and Zhao'er still call them fourth uncle and fourth aunt.
Sun Shi talked about the matter with Xue Qinghuai, and Xue Qinghuai said: "We have been doing alright in our business, so why did you get this idea?"
“Is there any silver that is untouchable? Zhao’er will bring anyone to do business. Is it not better to work with us?"
"There is Jiang Wu. Besides, Jiang Wu has a carriage, but our family does not have one. They are doing a good job in business now, and you want to meddle in. What is that called? Let me tell you right now, you cannot speak of this matter to Zhao’er. It will make people think we just want to coercively snatch a share of the pie using our identities.”
Sun Shi did not expect this to happen. Seeing the man's resolute attitude, she didn't say anything more. She just laid there and couldn't help thinking about this matter. In the middle of the night, she finally fell asleep.
After Zhao'er washed the dishes, she went back to her room. The kang was already cleaned up.
The kang table was wiped clean and the feet of the kang were removed. The bedding was already laid out, and a large mattress was placed underneath. As usual, there were two quilts on the top that were neatly laid out, one on the left and one on the right.
Zhao'er felt a little comforted. It could be seen that the little man had changed a lot since his illness. He knows to help her with work and also knows to be considerate of her.
She thought of the hairpin and earrings he bought for her. It has only been ten days since he entered school, and he still had to study. He must have used his leisure time to copy books, and the silver earned from copying books was used to buy jewelry for her. Immediately, her heart softened.
She can't give him attitude just because she has a knot in her heart. Thinking about this, she put a smile on her face, and her voice became tender and clear: "Later when you stop reading, you’ll go to sleep?"
"I’ll stop reading."
"Yes, you should be tired from reading everyday. When you come home, don't read anymore. Let your eyes rest. I will boil water, and later after we wash, we can rest."
"I'll go boil water."
In the past, it was always Zhao’er who brought him boiled water to wash his feet. This time, he wanted to boil water for her.
"You can start the fire?" she teased without being contemptuous, a smile bending the corners of her lips.
"Of course I can!" As he said this, he moodily headed out the door. Zhao’er couldn’t even hold him back.
The two went to the kitchen, and Zhao'er was still saying: "Look at you, why are you so obstinate? Isn’t it just boiling water? And you still want to fight over this."
The fire stove was still hot, and there were still sparks in it. Xue TingRang crouched in front of the stove and filled it with firewood.
He stuffed his head in and filled the stove with firewood. It was too late when Zhao’er tried to stop him. A black smoke came out from the stove.
The fire had not started, but there was quite a lot of smoke.
He himself choked from the smoke and coughed twice. Zhao’er pinched her nose and fanned the air.
"It's not possible to start the fire your way. I’m telling you, in this case, use a fire tong to stir up a fire. Put in less fine wood to keep the fire burning and then put in coarse wood.”
Zhao'er said this as she picked up the fireplace tongs and took out all the firewood in the stove. Then she threw some fine firewood in and pounded it with the tongs a few times. A small flame sprang up inside and soon turned into a big fire. She then put in the coarse wood that she had just picked out of the stove.
Xue TingRang was a little embarrassed. It turned out that when Zhao’er said he couldn’t burn a fire, it was true. He really doesn't know how to burn a fire. Just starting a fire, he can choke people like this.
He cleared his throat and said, "I will know how to do it next time."
Zhao'er’s eyes curved as she nodded: "You're smart. You can learn everything very quickly."
He couldn't help turning his head to look at her. The fire in the stove turned her face red and flushed, like she had applied rouge on her face. She looked dainty and delicious.
But Zhao'er is actually one who dislikes applying cream the most. In that dream, even when he had money, she never used cosmetics. After she died, there seemed to be no woman he had ever seen who didn't put on powder. The white powder was mixed with red and gorgeous rouge, making the wearer seem to be wearing a mask, her face a blur.
He couldn't help but inch forward, and then shift forward some more. He didn't want to do anything, just subconsciously moved there.
She turned her head abruptly and almost hit his nose. First, she was taken aback, and then she broke into laughter.
- shi: maiden name (ex. Sun shi means Sun is her maiden name. Shi is there just as a reminder) ↑
- kang: a large heated brick platform that is used for entertaining, sleeping, and general living. ↑
- Ge: older brother; also an affectionate/intimate way of calling an older husband/love interest ↑
- catty: traditional chinese unit of mass ↑
- wen: traditional chinese “penny”, also known as a copper coin. This "penny" should not be taken in context of the current US penny's monetary value ↑
- just in case you might be confused, “Father Xue” refers to her husband ↑
- Gou'er: male protagonist’s childhood nickname. His nickname means dog. ↑