In the evening, Zhao’er cooked a table of delicious dishes to entertain Jiang Wu and Xue Qinghuai.
Because they were discussing business matters, Sun Shi and Mao Dan did not come, and they ate in the main room.
At the dinner table, the Zhao Shi took a look at the Sun Shi and asked, "why has Fourth Brother been cooped up in the second house since noon, not even coming out to eat dinner?"
Sun smiled and half-truthfully said: "Isn’t it because Zhao'er said that she would like to thank Jiang Wu and wanted to invite him to dinner. But the Second Family had no one to accompany him to drink, so they asked their Fourth uncle to come and accompany them."
"An elder drinking with the younger generation?" Yang Shi interjected. Sun Shi can fool others but can't fool her. There must be some secret.
"Oh, look at what my eldest sister-in-law said. Our family is not a family with lots of rules. It is just a meal to deal with the formality of gratitude. Why should it matter that the elders are drinking with the younger ones? How much help did Jiang Wu provide the Second family when Gou’er has gone back and forth from the town to the village, not to mention the other times. It is only right to invite him to a meal."
Yang Shi was not reconciled and said: "Even if they invited him, they should have invited him to the main room. They did not even acknowledge our father, our mother, and our family?!"
Sun Shi was very annoyed by Yang Shi's constant questioning. If she said that she was a little afraid of Yang Shi before, now that the family has divided, she is not so afraid.
She curled her lips and sneered: "It’s not like our family has never invited Jiang Wu over for dinner before. He promised several times. As to why the Jiang family did not stay with our family for dinner, does Eldest brother and sister-in-law really have no idea? Besides, is Eldest sister-in-law willing to pay for the meat and wine? If you are willing, I will call Jiang Wu and Huai Ge back!"
Since Jiang Hai and Xue Qingshan had a big quarrel once, the two families have been on bad terms. The Jiang family used to come only because of the friendship with the previous Second family head, Xue Qingsong. Since then, the Jiang family has scarcely come to the Xue family; at most Jiang Wu comes occasionally. Every time Father Xue invites him to a meal, he never accepts.
Everyone knows what's going on, but never directly says anything. Not to mention that Sun Shi used Yang Shi's words to ask her to pay for meat and wine. If Yang Shi dared to agree, it would have been very strange.
Previously when eating at noon, Xue Juncai told his family that the gentleman1 of the academy was about to have his birthday, and that students should go there to celebrate the birthday according to the rules. He asked his classmates and heard that the gentleman does not accept gifts but only accepts money. One liang2 is the minimum and how much more depends on the family’s intention.
Saying it all depends on the heart and that one liang is the minimum really means that each family should send at least one or two liang silver.
The Da Fang3 couple hadn't heard of this kind of saying. Even Xue Qingshan used to give gifts at best. Now the gentlemen in this academy has learned to use birthdays to make money. But they didn't dare to say that they wouldn’t give it. If they did not satisfy the gentleman, what if he treated Xue Juncai poorly? So much money has already been paid, so this small amount of money should not be saved. Since it’s a birthday, then they will send money this time; it's not like he can celebrate multiple birthdays, right?
The Da Fang couple has no money in their hands, so they can only find the old couple4. After Zhao Shi heard about it, she cursed the gentleman for wanting money. Originally, the Dafang couple wanted to keep this matter from the rest of the family, but now the whole family knows.
Not to mention that Yang Shi has no money, and even if she has money, she would not dare to take it out to buy meat and wine. She just wants to use the old couple for money. She saves her money and does not spend it.
Yang Shi's face was blushing from the cynical statements and couldn't speak. She didn't dare to leave but didn't want to stay either. Fortunately, Zhao Shi helped her out.
"Why are you guys so noisy? I can't eat anymore!"
Immediately, everyone stopped talking, just immersed themselves in eating.
At the same time, the food and wine in the second house were intoxicating.
Yuqing Village is cold, and it is inevitable to rely on wine to heat the body during the winter. So men, women, and children drink some, the amount depending on how much they can drink.
Jiang Wu persuaded her with a few words, and then Zhao’er poured herself some wine in a bowl, but only filled the bowl half way.
The three talked while eating food and drinking. In fact, only Xue Qinghuai and Jiang Wu drank a lot. Zhao’er at most took a sip or two. When Xue TingRang finished eating, he left the table and said that he was going to read a book on the kang, but in fact his focus was on the three people.
After a meal, they were almost finished with their discussion.
The preliminary discussion was that the three people would each contribute some money to form a partnership, and the business would be done together. The money from the partnership would be used to buy a mule cart.
Buying a mule cart was suggested by Xue TingRang. Originally, he had needed to buy one anyways. For businesses like theirs, a mule cart is a must-have item. With a mule cart running around, there would be no need to find another partner.
The most expensive thing in a mule cart is the livestock. An adult mule costs almost 20 liang, and the carriage also costs money. So the initial estimate made by the three people was 30 liang.
Zhao'er could take out 15 liang, Jiang Wu gave 10 liang, and Xue Qinghuai took out the remaining 5 liang. After all, this business is led by Zhao’er, so it only made sense for her to contribute more.
As for the profit distribution, they have also negotiated. Selling ready-made clothes from the pawnshop was Zhao’ers idea. The way to do business is also her idea. Therefore, she will take 50% of profits and the remaining 50% will be split with Jiang Wu taking 30% and Xue Qinghuai taking 20%.
Originally, Xue Qinghuai didn't plan to ask for 20%. After all, the way of buying and selling was all other people's ideas. They were already doing business when he joined them, and he paid the least amount of money. Later, Zhao’er said that he ran around ten miles and eight townships and knew a wide range of people and was familiar with the situation in each village. Jiang Wu inevitably had other things to do, and she had to take care of Xue TingRang. It was him who would work the most in the future, so it was only right for him to earn some more profit. Xue Qinghuai only agreed after hearing this.
Xue Qinghuai returned to the house and Zhao’er sent Jiang Wu out the door.
Jiang Wu blushed from drinking some wine and his eyes were bright. It wasn’t clear whether it was because of the drinking or because the moon was too bright.
"Brother Jiang Wu, you walk slowly on the road. If you think it's not safe, I can let Heizi send you back?" Jiang Wu has a good drinker, and hunters drink well, because if you enter the mountain in the twelfth lunar month in the winter, while waiting for the prey to fall into the trap, the hunter must drink wine so as not to freeze in the cold.
Jiang Wu didn't drink much tonight, and Zhao'er knew his drink volume, so she didn't plan to accompany him home.
"No, I can go back by myself." He paused, then turned his head to look at her: Zhao’er, I see you have a new hairpin on your head. When did you buy it? Why haven't I seen it before?"
Zhao'er didn't expect that Jiang Wu would ask this. After a while, she smiled and said, "Ting'er bought it. He recently made some money by copying books, and he, being immature, wasted his money buying a hairpin."5
Jiang Wu originally thought that Zhao’er bought it herself. Although she is usually carefree and tomboyish, she is still a girl. Who would have thought that Xue TingRang bought it.
He is still so young, yet he already knows to spend money to buy hairpins for women?
The smile on Jiang Wu's face froze immediately, and he couldn't help reaching into his bosom, touching the hairpin that he had hidden for a long time without plucking up the courage to give it to her.
The hairpin is made of silver, and it cost Jiang Wu a lot of money. He knew every pattern on the hairpin, and he rubbed it many times in the palm of his hand, but he was always hesitant to send it out, afraid that she would understand his intentions and resist, afraid...
But he didn't expect someone else to do this first.
"Ting Rang already knows to buy you hairpins to wear."
"Yes, he is a lot more sensible now."
Jiang Wu looked at the smile on her face, feeling a little uncomfortable, and said: "He only earns a few dollars. It's really a child's ignorance. Isn’t it better to save that money and use it to buy books?"
Zhao'er’s lips flattened, and the smile on her face faded. She couldn't help but defensively say: "The family doesn't expect him to make money. He just needs to study hard. It's only a sign of his goodwill."
Then why did you just say that he was ignorant and wasted money?
In fact, the mentality of Zhao'er is easy to understand. It is like you can criticize your own family, but outsiders are not allowed to.
Jiang Wu knew that Zhao’er was protecting Xue TingRang, so he didn't dare to say any more and shut up.
"Then I will be going home and coming back tomorrow morning"
"ok, thank you Jiang Wu Ge6."
Because of the slight dispute, Zhaoer didn't mention sending him home again. She stood in front of the door for a while, then turned back to the yard. Xue TingRang, who was standing in the shadow of the courtyard, had already returned to the house when she was not paying attention.
There were no sounds or words for a night.
Early the next morning, Jiang Wu drove the cart over.
After breakfast, he, Zhao'er and Xue Qinghuai sent Xue TingRang to the academy together.
Afterwards, they turned around to buy a mule cart.
- direct translation of xiansheng (先生) is gentleman, but in this context, it means the academy teacher.↑
- I am still using liang instead of tael and "liang" is mentioned throughout the story (since Zhao'er is a businesswoman), but if you prefer I change liang to tael in my future translations, please leave a comment below. ↑
- Da Fang refers to Xue TingRang's eldest uncle's family.
- the old couple is referring to Xue TingRang's grandfather and grandmother from his father's side. ↑
- this is the best way I could have translated this sentence while keeping the author's original intent.
I know it sounds snobbish/annoying but it is actually supposed to reflect Zhao'er's affection for Xue TingRang and how she still sees him as a child ↑
- Ge: brother (can be blood related or a way to call a close male friend) or a more affectionate, intimate way of calling an older man. Similar to the Korean "Oppa" ↑