Chapter 20: Envy
Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
“Some of them are studying in the backyard. The two younger ones are herding cows with their eldest brother.”
As long as farmers’ children could go out, they could help the family on the farm. While herding cows, they could also gather some ragweed.
Yan Qixun went out and asked her aunt to go back. “Please go back in. It’s too muddy outside. You’ll dirty your shoes.”
Aunt Guo smiled and said, “We’re not going out to visit our relatives. Why would we wear nice shoes at home? What’s there to be afraid of?”
She saw that Yan Qixun’s shoes had ripped open. She quickly said, “How can you wear these shoes? I don’t think you have any soles at home. I got two new pairs of soles, and I’ll get them for you. You could ask your mother to make a new shoe for you using these.”
Yan Qixun has a younger cousin about the same age, and she could use the sole that Aunt Guo had prepared for him.
Yan Qixun didn’t want to wear ripped open-toed shoes out the door, so she agreed. “Later, I’ll ask Yan Lingyu to embroider a pencil case for Brother Yan Lingzhou to use when he takes the Confucian Apprentice Examination next spring.”
Next spring, Yan Lingzhou was planning to take the test, and Yan Qixun’s father said that there was a high chance that he would pass the test. He will then have the title of Confucian Apprentice.
Her aunt was delighted when she heard this. “I’ll ask your brother to thank you for that.”
Yan Qixun waited for her aunt to take the soles for her shoes before heading back. However, when she reached the village entrance, she met her cousins, Little Nine and Little Ten, and Second Granduncle’s youngest grandson, Little Eight. The three of them were on their way returned to the village.
Little Eight and Little Nine led the cows and carried a basket on their backs while Little Ten sat on a cow. They looked very relaxed.
Seeing Yan Qixun, Little Nine called out to Yan Qixun, “Sister Xiao Xun, where did you come from?”
“I came from your house. Why haven’t you come to my house to play these past two days?”
Little Ten, who was on the cow’s back, said, “My grandfather told me to herd the cows. When I’m free, I’ll come and look for you.”
‘Oh, the little guy was quite busy.’ Yan Qixun thought to herself.
Yan Qixun looked at the other person sitting on the cow’s back. She couldn’t help but feel envious. Her horsemanship was not bad, but she had never ridden a cow before. She didn’t know what Little Ten felt while riding the cow, but it was a pity that she didn’t have a cow at home.
Seeing her look of envy, the Shepherd Boy, Little Ten, was very proud. “Sister Xiao Xun, do you want to try to ride the cow? Then you can come with me to herd cows tomorrow.”
As he spoke, he took out a few dried wild fruits from his cloth pocket and called out to Yan Qixun, “Sister Xiao Xun, these are the fruits we found at the foot of the mountain. They are for you to eat.” The little fellow was quite generous.
Yan Qixun smiled and said, “No, thank you. Come back to the house later. I’ll give you some fresh dates and persimmons. They’re lovely.”
The little guys did not ask why there were still fresh fruits in this season. They just cheered, “Then you keep them for us. When we pass by your house tomorrow, you can give them to us then.”
Yan Qixun agreed. After bidding farewell to the three little guys, Yan Qixun returned home and went to the well to wash the soybeans and green beans. She soaked seven katis of soybeans to make tofu, three katis of soybeans, and one kati of green beans to bean sprouts.
After soaking the beans, she went to the well to fetch water. She cleaned the small stones in the house and ground the beans using the rocks. After washing, she went to the Zuo family’s home and asked Grandfather Zuo to help her make four hemp ropes. She would be using the ropes to hang the bean paste in a gauze.
Grandfather Zuo smiled and said, “There’s no need to make the ropes. We have them at home.”
He then asked Grandmother Zuo to find the rope and told Yan Qixun to take it. After Yan Qixun sent the rope home, she went to the village carpenter’s house and asked someone to make a wooden basket template for her to press the tofu. If she had the tools, she could do it herself. She could make this thing with just a few boards, no hassle.
The Carpenter’s family surname was also Yan, and his full name was Yan Yonghui. Although he was a very distant relative, they were also from the same family, and their bloodline was close too. He was a generation older than Yan Qixun. At forty, Yan Qixun had to call him Elder Uncle.
He had gone out with his eldest son to work. His youngest son, Yan Lingfeng, was at home. Yan Lingfeng noticed that Yan Qixun wanted to make wooden baskets for pressing tofu by looking at Yan Qixun’s drawings on the spot using charcoal.
He then said, “I can do this, and it will be done in two hours. You can come back and get it later.”
Yan Qixun wanted to ask how much a set of woodworking tools costs, so she asked, “Yan Lingfeng, I’ll help you to do it, but I don’t have any money with me. Can I give you the money tomorrow, and how much does it cost?”
The whole village knew that their house had been burned down in a big fire.
Yan Lingfeng smiled and said, “It doesn’t cost much. You can just use the scraps to make the boards. There’s no point in paying me. You could just take the scraps and use them. Besides, I haven’t finished my apprenticeship yet. I could not collect any money for my craft.”
Yan Lingfeng did not take it seriously. The scraps of wood were not worth much. It would only take a little effort, and he had nothing to do. Moreover, the clan initially said that each family would gather two katis of grain to give to Yan Qixun’s family, but her family did not accept it. He just took the payment as the grains they wished to provide earlier.
Naturally, the clansmen would look out for each other. If Yan Yongwu successfully passed the examination and became an Imperial Officer, many benefits would come along to the clansmen. If he could pass the next exam in spring, he would be an Advanced Scholar, and the Yan family will have a strong backup not only in town but also in the county.
If he were to take money from Yan Qixun for the few baskets, what kind of person would he be? Yan Qixun thought about it and did not insist. After making the tofu, she would send two tofu pieces to Yan Lingfeng.
Yan Lingfeng picked out the wood and started to work. Yan Qixun pulled the ink thread for him and asked him, “Yan Lingfeng, how much does a complete set of woodworking tools cost? Where can I buy them?”
“The better ones will cost maybe around seven or eight taels of silver? The sales in town are not very good, and the better ones will have to be bought in the county. Why are you asking this? You want to learn about woodsman craft?” Yan Lingfeng teased her.
“I’m just asking.” She couldn’t possibly say that she was very good at woodworking, right? In fact, she had a complete set of power tools in her pocket dimension.
She fell in love with handiwork for a while and made many models herself. Her craftsmanship was not to brag, but it was not inferior to old traditional artists. After she had saved up the money, she would go to the county town to buy a set. First, she would make a spinning wheel.
Yan Lingfeng completed the wooden basket very quickly. A total of two large baskets and a small prototype. All three baskets had a cross hanger used to hang soy milk. Yan Lingfeng saw that she could not take it home on her own, so he packed up the tools and carried it himself. “Let’s go. I’ll send it back for you.”
Gongyu Mingxi knew that Yan Qixun would look for someone to get the basket done for her when they got home. Knowing that Yan Qixun did not have any money on her, she quickly asked Yan Lingfeng, “Yan Lingfeng, how much do you need? I’ll get it for you right away.”
The family only had about twenty copper coins in total now. She did not know if it was enough to pay for the wood and wages.
Yan Lingfeng waved his hand. “It’s made from scrap, and it just took me a while to make it. I haven’t finished my apprenticeship yet, so I can’t accept any money. If I accept any money from you, my father will scold me if he finds out. Consider it as a gift for Yan Qixun. Auntie, I’ll go back home now. My mother went out, and no one’s home.”
Gongyu Mingxi could not let him go off empty-handed. She quickly took twenty eggs, put them in a small basket, and gave him “Gongyu Hao went to the mountains yesterday and got a basket full of eggs. We can’t finish these, so here you go.”
Yan Lingfeng was unwilling to accept them, but Gongyu Mingxi insisted he take it, and he could not decline anymore.
After sending Yan Lingfeng off, Yan Qixun went to wash the board and put it in the air vent to dry. Then, she went back to the house and asked Gongyu Mingxi, “Mother, can you make me a pair of shoes?”
Her shoes had ripped open. Not only were they ugly, but it was also inconvenient to walk.
Gongyu Mingxi smiled and said, “With the soles given by your aunt, I can make them for you and should be ready by noon tomorrow. Seeing that weather is getting colder, I’ll make cotton shoes for you. A pair of thin cotton and a pair of thick ones. Is that okay?” Yan Qixun happily agreed.
Yan Qixun then said to Yan Lingyu, “Aunt gave me the soles, and I promised that I would make a pencil bag for Yan Lingzhou. However, a pencil bag made of cloth would be more convenient to carry around. Lingyu, since you’re good at embroidery, can you help me stitch one when you’re free?”
It was just a pencil bag, so Yan Lingyu gladly promised Yan Qixun. They did have some scraps of cloth at home, but they didn’t have colored silk, but a promise is a promise.
Gongyu Mingxi said, “When you have the time, go to town and buy some silk. I’ll have Xiao Wu help you with it.”
Oh, they also needed silver to buy silk— silver, what a sad thing to talk about..