Build Up Guts Of A Bear For The Sake Of Parents
Idler’s Note: In celebration of Father’s Day, which is coming up, I’m releasing a bonus chapter for today! I hope you enjoy! Eh… I might end up paying for this later on in tears and blood when I have to hustle to keep up with the schedule I’ve set but I thought Xiaobao would disapprove if I didn’t do something special to acknowledge a holiday that celebrated fathers like a filial child should.
Disclaimer: This translation is by a fan for fans. Any opinions or commentary presented here are translated as is written by the original author. Any remarks by the translator will be in footnotes or in an editorial aside. The original work is the property of the author and any other associated copyright holders in their respective territories. Please do not reproduce, redistribute, or resell this translation anywhere else without permission! If you are reading this anywhere else but on WordPress, then it is being reposted without permission from the translator! If you are the copyright holder and/or have licensed this work for English publication and wish for this translation to be removed, please contact me to do so. Thank you!
Erniu was bewildered by the money earned by this thing called grilled fish strips—or more precisely, the items earned. He never thought that the fish he had never liked eating, after going through such processing, would be this tasty. These days, every time he came over from home, he would bring several fish strips to share together with Yingtao.
“Hey, do you think that there are some illicit feelings between Erniu and Yingtao?” Through observation, Wang Juan discovered this bit. During today’s walking exercise time, she asked why was it that Erniu gave only Yingtao fish strips but never gave any to her and Zhang Xiaobao.
“Juan-Juan, please change the type of greeting. Don’t call me hey. You can call me Xiaobao or even call me Baolang. After all, we are one family.” Zhang Xiaobao was in a good mood. The grilled fish strips returned quite a few things which could sustain future growth.
“Comrade Zhang Xiaobao, I am not that familiar with you. Juan-Juan is not what you can call me. Don’t assume that identity will let me suddenly treat you well. Please directly answer my question.” Wang Juan was also obviously in a good mood and she even had time to playfully bicker. For her, this was very rare.
Zhang Xiaobao had no retort. He was currently still holding Wang Juan’s little hand while circling the flower urns in the garden. That sufficed in expressing the issue. There was no need to admit to anything in speech. They were all not children. Reality would prove everything.
Wanting to pick a flower yet also discovering that his physical height was not yet high enough to climb up the flower urn, he sighed as he said: “I don’t care about the relationship between the two of them. Only when a person feels like they have no way of controlling their subordinates does a ban on this type of conduct or emotions in subordinates appear. It’s simply two people—I think I can manage that. About why he doesn’t give us grilled fish strips to eat, on this point, I would like to praise Comrade Erniu. At least, he’s not stupid and realizes that our teeth aren’t suited for eating stuff with this kind of difficulty.”
“Is your meaning that I’m stupid?” Wang Juan’s little hand used force, wanting to painfully squeeze Zhang Xiaobao. But in the end, she discovered that the physical attributes of the two of them were about equal so could only give up this action.
“Quit squeezing. It’s no use. Even if you’re stronger than me and crush the bones in my hand, do you think I would be frightened? I haven’t endured any less hardship than you. If I make one sound, then I wouldn’t be called Zhang Xiaobao. Erniu, come over—it’s all being seen into your eyes.”1
Upon being gripped with great force by Wang Juan, Zhang Xiaobao’s little hand suddenly relaxed, using a type of passivity to let Wang Juan understand that everybody had the same kind of tenacity. He then turned his head to call out to Erniu who was over there exchanging flirty looks with Yingtao.
“Little Mister, you [honorific] called?” Erniu was fawningly2 helping Yingtao rub the fish strips that were slightly tough3 when he heard Little Mister call for him. Running over agilely, he bowed his head as he smiled at Zhang Xiaobao while he spoke.
“After a bit, when me and Juan-Juan have had milk and my Mom is coming out of the room, you go and find my Mom to say that you want to partner up with my Mom in a business deal. Can you or can you not do that?” Zhang Xiaobao stared at Erniu as he asked.
“Can… Or cannot?” Erniu originally thought that Little Mister sought him out to randomly order some things. He didn’t think that it was to actually let him go into talks with Mistress. Terrified, he didn’t know how to respond for the moment.
“You’re asking me? Your family made quite a bit these few days, right? I’ve decided to offer a tenth of the profits to your family—just have to see if you can keep up appearances.” Zhang Xiaobao wrinkled his brow, a little dissatisfied with Erniu’s timidity.
Erniu gulped. Thinking of the money made from the grilled fish strips, to say that he wasn’t tempted was false. A tenth was already not a small amount. But upon thinking that the one to be faced was Mistress, he also felt like his heart had no ground.4 How could he dare go talk to Mistress of partnership? It was like scheming with a tiger for their pelt.
“Speak, what’s the use of simply wiping your sweat? What needs to be confronted still has to be confronted. Didn’t see that you were so hot before when you were helping Yingtao to rub the fish strips.” Zhang Xiaobao discovered that his patience seemed to not be as good as in the past. At the same time, he was also disappointed with Erniu. With this kind of person, how could he use him to do anything in the future?
“Little Mister, I’d dare with anyone else. But Mistress, even if you [honorific] lend me the guts to do so, I don’t dare to go have talks about some partnership. I know I have caused you [honorific] to lose face. How about you [honorific] give me a beating?” Erniu thought for a bit but still couldn’t call up the resolve. Even when gambling with your life, the opponent had to be picked out.
Zhang Xiaobao shut his eyes, not really knowing what he should say. With such a plaything that couldn’t even stand up in public,5 he couldn’t even get angry. He turned his head to look at Wang Juan to consult: “Let’s see if we can get some money from your family. Two guan [strings] should be enough. I’m not willing to ask my Mom for money again.”
“Haven’t we already made money? What do you still want money for?” Wang Juan didn’t understand one bit. There were quite a few things received in exchange for the grilled fish strips—meat, eggs, food grains, oil. Why did Zhang Xiaobao still feel that it wasn’t enough? There were no issues with making the paste sauce anymore.
“If it really was this simple an arrangement, then it’s not me, Zhang Xiaobao. The way I do things has always been like a ring linked to a ring, as if a chain of interlocking rings. The grilled fish strips were only sold in the small surrounding areas and already had these kinds of results. Think about it. Those people with a few resources, are they fools? If I’m not wrong in my thinking, there are already people analyzing the recipe for grilled fish strips.
I want to use the money to do a promotion and sell the theory behind making grilled fish strips so we can earn an extra sum. I’m not going swindling but I should at least get the maximum profit, right?” Zhang Xiaobao felt a bit solitary at this moment. It was lonely at the top.6
“You want to sell the technology for the oven? That is feasible. Then, I’ll try getting some money.” Wang Juan, feeling that she understood, agreed with a nod.
But Zhang Xiaobao shook his head: “Don’t look at how simple making an oven is but I definitely won’t sell it. I want to bake cakes in the future, ~ne. What I’m selling is the recipe for the grilled fish strips. Whatever else, the oven can’t be taken out. Wait until after I’ve finished baking cakes and have been noticed by some people to discuss that.”
“What recipe do grilled fish strips have? Isn’t it just pickling and drying? Getting a grasp of these basics is enough.” Wang Juan asked in confusion after trying to synchronize with Zhang Xiaobao’s thinking pace yet found that she had no way of doing so.
“You don’t understand this then. Don’t look at how simple it was when I spoke of it. To really get a grasp of it requires so many years of experience. I’ll give you an example. I seem to remember that it was France that saw that Germany had telescopes so they wanted to make them. In the end, they discovered that the telescopes they made had air bubbles. They paid a huge price to finally exchange for the technique. This technique only had two words—grind & polish. The taste of being baked dry and grilled dry aren’t the same. Pickled and not pickled is also not the same. We here don’t have marine fish so the issue of saltiness is fundamental. I need money to open the markets. I want to mass produce fish strips to go to the large areas for a free promotion. The things we got in barter in the early phase, I want to directly convert to money to go buy more fish. The time is too long. I don’t want to wait. I don’t need to say what time is, right?” Zhang Xiaobao explained patiently.
Wang Juan looked into those pitch-black eyes of Zhang Xiaobao, almost imagining momentarily that she had been sucked inside. Nodding, she said: “I was previously dubbed a genius by others. Now, I finally understand. Any coincidence is an inevitability. For you to be able to become an International Criminal Swindler was not mere trickery. To tell the truth, I am a bit envious of the education within the prisons. It’s like what some people have said before—the gathering point of geniuses, besides the research universities, is in the prisons.”7
The conversation between the both of them used lip speech. They didn’t think much of it but the pressure on Erniu was very great. He thought that Little Mister was preparing to give up on him. Thinking of his family’s future living, thinking of his parents, at this moment, he finally gritted his teeth as he resolved his mind: “Little Mister, I will do as you [honorific] say. I’ll talk. I’ll go talk with Mistress. Big deal—it’s only a single life.”
Erniu’s words caused Zhang Xiaobao to feel surprise. He originally did plan to give up on Erniu. It wasn’t not permitting him to follow but a decision to not let him come in contact with any important matters in the future. Now, upon hearing Erniu’s words, the original idea of abandonment eased. He asked: “Why?”
“For my Dad and Mom. I trust Little Mister that you [honorific] will definitely let me make lots of money. I’ve always wanted to let my Dad and Mom have meat to eat for every meal and good clothing to wear. I’ll put my all into it.” Erniu honestly replied.
“Good child. That’s right. You’re not bad. Follow me from now on.” Zhang Xiaobao praised him. He forgot that he himself was the genuine child right now.
Mrs. Zhang-Wang was the same as before, coming over at the time that the children needed to have milk. She fully fed the two children, one at each side, watching the two kids fall asleep. She was just about to go out the door to busy herself with her own matters but discovered that Erniu who usually hid far away was actually blocking the door today.
“Erniu, is there anything you need to tell me? Is it about Baolang and Juan-Juan?” Mrs. Zhang-Wang glanced over Erniu as she lightly asked.
Erniu had already drank a bit of wine and was currently brewing up the nerve. He had thought he could directly face Mistress to speak but then upon hearing Mistress ask him, that little bit of courage built up by the wine was suddenly gone. He bowed his head to stare at his feet, timidly saying: “No, nothing, Mistress. You [honorific] walk well.”
“Unh, take good care of Xiaobao and Juan-Juan and you won’t be ill-treated later on.” Mrs. Zhang-Wang made a sound in confirmation, then moved to walk away into the distance.
Erniu froze there. Thinking, he used his hand to forcefully pinch his own thigh before he finally mustered up the courage again and loudly said: “Mistress, please wait. I, I have words to speak.”
“Unh? Speak of what?” Mrs. Zhang-Wang stopped, slowly turning around to ask while staring at Erniu.
Erniu at this time knew he no longer had any path of retreat. Letting the sweat freely flow down his forehead, he gulped and stammered as he said: “Miss, Mistress, I, I want to, with you [honorific], talk, talk about, deal, business. Unh, right, it’s talk, talk business.”
“Oh? You said you wanted to talk business with me? Good, Erniu has promise. Speak. What business do you want to talk about? Buying yourself back?” Mrs. Zhang-Wang was puzzled. She didn’t know what illness had struck this Erniu today to even want to discuss business with her. What a joke! What qualifications did he have? The sale-bond item8 was still in her hands.
“No, not me. It’s, it’s my family. My family wasn’t sold. My parents as well as my [Older] Bro Daniu and my younger sister are still all peasants. My family’s business, grilled fish strips, the ones sold in the surrounding area in these past few days, our manor still doesn’t have these grilled fish strips. Talk, talking about this.” Erniu tried his best to not let himself be so afraid, trembling as he spoke.
“Grilled fish strips? You said fish strips? Could it be that it is your family that made them? What gall! Your family are peasants from our manor. The things that you made, why have you not first spoken of it for me to hear?” Mrs. Zhang-Wang scolded angrily.
↑ TOP ↑
A bit nonsensical even in the original Chinese but Xiaobao is mockingly referring to the mooning looks that Erniu is apparently giving Yingtao. ↩
You know the opposite of the English expression, “hard to get?” Erniu is described as doing the complete opposite. “Fan jian” (犯賤) literally translates to “commit cheap” and describes when people debase themselves by fawning or sucking up to people whose attention they want to receive, essentially throwing themselves away for cheap without any sign of self-respect in their behavior. This expression is similar to “fan cuo” (犯錯), which means to commit a wrong or to err, and “fan fa” (犯法) meaning to break the law, so there’s the implied connotation of a crime against oneself in this phrase. ↩
The fish strips are likely similar to beef jerky so Erniu is rubbing the tougher ones to soften them up for Yingtao. ↩
I couldn’t find or think of an English expression that was a satisfying substitute for “xin zhong mei di” (心中沒底) so I translated it literally here. It basically means Erniu felt uneasy and his emotions were not grounded and thus there was uncertainty. ↩
The phrase “shang bu liao tai” (上不了臺) is an expression that literally means “can’t go up the dais/platform” and is used to describe people or objects that are considered to be items that can’t be shown in public as they would be an embarrassment and a loss of face to those associated with them. It’s usually a derogatory description applied to people that are viewed as upstarts for daring to try to get above themselves in areas that they weren’t trained/educated for. Xiaobao is using this label here because Erniu doesn’t even dare to dream of being anything else besides a lowly servant, which is worse in his eyes. ↩
I substituted “gao chu bu sheng han” (高處不勝寒) for the roughly equivalent English saying. The literal meaning of this phrase is “the heights cannot win over cold” and is customarily used as a metaphor for the emotional chill and loneliness that power can bring that not even its benefits can overcome. This saying is a quote taken from “Shuidiao Getou” (水調歌頭), a poem by the Song dynasty poet Su Shi (蘇軾). ↩
Note that how the penal system in China is set up would likely be different from in the West. It is probably due to the political nature of some jail sentences and what is considered to be punishable offenses that the demographic makeup of the prisoners would be a great deal more eclectic than the Western stereotype of the convict or jailbird. That’s not to say that the inmate population in Western prisons aren’t themselves skilled, too. ↩
Mrs. Zhang-Wang is referring to an indentured servitude bond or contract. Ancient China was similar to ancient Rome in that there was a permanent subclass of slaves and servants whose numbers were constantly in flux since people could be forcibly enslaved due to various reasons like with penal sentences, under the prisoner of war system, from property seizures, or due to human trafficking but the source of the slaves could also be from those who willingly sold themselves into slavery as indentured servants in order to use the money of the sale to benefit their families or pay off debts, essentially mortgaging themselves to gain a monetary amount. This meant mechanisms to buy their freedom back also existed and the racism associated with slavery as practiced in the Americas was not as prevalent though classism was still a huge problem with this institution. Arguably, everyone was a slave to the emperor who could arbitrarily order their deaths so there was not as much taboo about slavery as an institution that violated human rights by treating people like property and what that entailed. It is likely why Chinese culture tended to view it as just another type of servitude. It was standard practice in ancient China to ensure that trusted and loyal servants legally sold themselves to the household or were born into families that had been under such an arrangement for generations as it was viewed as a form of vassalage rather than slavery. The slave or subservient status was a form of guarantee that protected the master in this case as an ancient form of a NDA since the confidentiality of the servants was literally ensured by the master having the legal power of life and death over them. The Chinese counterpart to the Western stereotype of the English butler that has served the lord of the manor in a position that had been passed down from father to son would be bound to the household in an indentured servitude arrangement that was usually for life and considered an honor or privilege. Sometimes, such loyal servants were granted the right to bear the household’s surname as a display of how trusted and valued they were. This will be why in my translations, I will rarely use slave for the servants even if they technically were not free citizens and could be treated like property or abused by their masters because of the Chinese view that it was more servitude unless it is unequivocally a slavery situation where freedom was virtually impossible to gain like with war slaves, etc.