Xue TingRang woke up as soon as the sun came out.
He opened his eyes, and the room was still dark.
The kang was a mess. Some time in the middle of the night, the two quilts were twisted together, and they no longer looked as neat and tidy as they normally did in the morning. Xue TingRang thought for a while. It seemed that while asleep in the deep night, he felt too hot, so he shoved the blankets away.
It seems that both of them were the same.
She was very close to him, her sleeping face was ugly, and her right leg straddled his lap. She was lying slanted, her head resting on half of the pillow, the other half of the pillow hanging on the edge of the kang. She was still deeply in sleep.
Xue TingRang rarely saw Zhao'er look like this. Right now, while he looked at her, he found that the currently asleep Zhao’er was a little cute.
He couldn't help but shift a little towards her, leaning in close enough to feel the light breath from her nose. He could also see more clearly that her clothes were very thin and a bright red string hung from her thin white neck.
He continued to lean towards her, and just as he was about to reach her, he brought his head down and pressed his forehead against her cheek. After a long while, he slowly raised his head, and his lips drew a winding line on her face.
A rumble rolled in his throat a few times, but then he swallowed the sound down. He laid down next to her face, trying to restrain his breathing, not wanting to wake her.
When Xue TingRang woke up again, the sky was already bright.
There was no one next to him, and Zhao’er was not in the house. He sat up suddenly and got dressed, his heart panicking inexplicably.
Just as he got off the kang, the door was suddenly pushed open. Zhao'er walked in and said with a normal expression: "Already up? You slept so deeply, but I left breakfast for you."
He followed her out the door. The sunlight was very good today, a little dazzling. Da Hei was lying under the eaves, wagging his tail. Seeing Xue TingRang coming out, Da Hei leaned on his owner’s leg.
Xue TingRang slowly brushed his teeth with a willow branch dipped in salt, and then washed his face.
Zhao'er had already brought out the breakfast.
It was white steamed buns and porridge.
Xue TingRang took a sip of the porridge and took a bite of the steamed bun. He did not enter the room, just sat on a small stool under the eaves and ate.
"Then you eat, I'll go to the vegetable garden and take a look."
He didn't speak, still wondering what she was thinking when she woke up and saw that scene. How could he have fallen asleep?
Sun Shi stood in the room and looked out. Only when she saw Zhao’er leave did she step out of the room.
"Gou’er, you just got up?"
"Is studying in the academy tiring? Why do I think you’ve become thinner?" Sun said, looking for a topic to converse on.
"Did I?" Xue TingRang subconsciously stuffed the bun in his mouth and touched his face with his hands.
She sighed and said, " don't be too harsh on yourself. Just learn slowly."
Sun Shi seldom used this tone to talk to him, which made Xue TingRang uncomfortable. Just as he was wondering what she wanted, Sun Shi went straight to the subject.
"Gou’er, Fourth aunt wants to discuss something with you. Look at your uncle who walks the streets and alleys every day and wears out a few pairs of shoes every month, but he only makes a few wen. I heard from your Fourth Uncle that Zhao'er is doing well in business now, so I want Zhao'er to bring along your fourth uncle when doing business. Think about it. It is better to use our own family than use outsiders. After all, we are relatives..."
Sun Shi nervously licked her lips: "Of course, this will not only benefit my family, but will also be good for you and Zhao'er. After all, Zhao'er is a big girl now, and Jiang Wu is an unmarried young man. Always going in and out together is a bit bad for her reputation, but it's not the same with your uncle." 1
Xue TingRang's eyes flickered and asked, "Why didn’t Sun Shi go and ask Zhao'er? I don’t do business, so I can't be the decision maker."
"Why can't you be the decision maker?! You are the pillar of the Second family, the man in the family. Zhao’er will listen to your words. Fourth aunt admits that there are selfish reasons to this request, but it is also for you and Zhao'er. You two children do not understand how terrible gossip can be."
As Sun Shi was talking, Zhao'er suddenly walked out from the back of the house and asked, "What is terrible?"
Sun Shi did not expect that Zhao'er would overhear her conversation, and she laughed awkwardly. She was about to pass off the subject when Xue TingRang said: "Zhao'er, Fourth aunt wants you to take Fourth uncle to do business."
"Do business?" Zhao'er looked at Sun Shi, her mouth pursed.
Sun was very embarrassed and became a little flustered from Zhao’er stare.
Okay, she admitted that she was wrong to persuade her nephew behind Zhao’er’s back. But since she already put out this request, Sun Shi did not intend to give up halfway. She thought about it all night yesterday, but still didn't want to give up this opportunity. No one finds silver disagreeable, and farming cannot make much money. She still wants to send Maodan2 to study. Xue Juncai3 is the best example of how much money it costs to study.
She repeated what she had said before, and then stared at Zhao’er closely after she finished.
Zhao'er's expression was very serious. Sun Shi thought to herself that her request would probably be denied. But Zhao'er nodded and said: "Okay, when Uncle comes back from farming at noon, let him find me."
Obviously Zhao'er was a junior, and she was still an elder, but Sun Shi nodded rapidly. She didn't find anything wrong with Xue Qinghuai coming to Zhao’er.
Early in the morning, Zhao’er got up to chop the pig trotters that she bought yesterday.
The pork hock was to be braised. First blanch in water and rinse to remove the blood foam on it. Then, put the sugar in the oil pan and fry the sugar into syrup over a low fire. Stir fry the hock, add wine and soy sauce to color, and then add green onion, ginger and garlic. Stir fry a few times, then add water over the hock and stew it under low fire.
She also stewed the pork leg bones. Before stewing, break the bones apart, throw a few slices of ginger and green onions, and put two star anise and cinnamon.
Stew in a clay pot. Fragrant!
Both of these dishes are time-consuming, so Zhao’er turned the fire in the stove into a small fire and left the stewing pots unattended.
When it was almost noon, Zhao’er went to the kitchen to stir fry two vegetarian dishes.
She still gave some to the main room4 as she did yesterday.
Not much, just enough for the old couple to eat. Zhao'er is not a person who repays grievances with virtue, but now she is still eating at the same place and hasn't lived separately. When the younger generation uses the stove, it is impolite to not give some to the elders.
The food was set on the kang table5. Zhao'er had seen Xue Qinghuai come back long ago and didn't know what he said when he was locked in the house with Sun Shi. She greeted Sun Shi through the window, and before long, Xue Qinghuai cleaned up and came over.
As soon as he entered the house, he told Zhao’er to pretend Sun Shi never brought up the request. Just now, Xue Qinghuai had a few quarrels with Sun Shi in the room. If Zhao'er wasn’t still waiting here, their arguments probably wouldn’t have ended.
- in ancient china, it was unacceptable for an unmarried girl to hang out with men when unaccompanied by a maid or elder. ↑
- Sun Shi's child. In other words, Xue Ting Rang's cousin from the Fourth House. ↑
- another one of Xue Ting Rang's cousins ↑
- where the elders of an extended family or head of the household lives ↑
- a small table that can be put on the brick kang. The Kang is a brick "bed" without a modern mattress, so a table can be set on it. ↑