Winning Over People’s Hearts Once Again
Idler’s Note: Ack! The nature of the internet makes it too easy for me to get sucked into wiki walks… Thus, increasing the amount of time that I spend translating and proofing these chapters… I don’t intend to procrastinate—I swear! But a cool thing I want to crow about is that I found a site that actually provides the full text in Traditional Chinese of a lot of the historical books that I keep citing in my footnotes! It makes research a lot easier for me since Baidu and modern Chinese dictionaries sometimes are still not up to par for figuring out the origin of idioms and such—at least to the amount of detail that I’d like. I’m especially psyched about the source text being in Traditional Chinese because that’s how it was originally written as Baidu’s Simplified Chinese quotes can get hard to verify or check for accuracy since conversion from Traditional to Simplified can lose the nuances present in the original Chinese characters used and when there’s a mistake, they usually don’t bother to correct or verify it, providing an echo chamber for the error to keep perpetuating itself.
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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 very successful in his talks with Waterview House. Not only did he sell the spicy sauce but he had also made another deal at the same time with Waterview House. And that was that for some of the new dishes that required the spicy sauce that would periodically appear in the manor, Waterview House would spend a sum of money for each one that came out and they would all be insured by the brokerage people.
When the restaurant owner invited them to a meal, they had decided upon the first dish right then and there: ‘carrots simmered in sauce.’ Not only did getting this dish made require spending money, even the carrots and spicy sauce had to be purchased from the manor as they weren’t sold elsewhere.
The price of the carrots was rather cheap, 1 catty for 5 wen [cash] while the price for the sauce was a little bit more expensive. After all, there was meat inside, ~ne. So it was 1 catty for 12 wen [cash].
After finishing the talks with Waterview House, both Erniu and Daniu went to the Hundred-Flavored Pavilion next door. This time though, they actually didn’t even get to see the restaurant owner as they were directly sent out by the lobby manager. The two of them weren’t worried though. This actually fit into Little Mister’s calculations. Wait until Waterview House’s food sold well, then the Hundred-Flavored Pavilion would come begging. At that point, the price would not be the same.
After the two of them finished selling the sauce, they found a little eatery within Sanshui County that was being managed poorly and bought it using silver straightaway. They didn’t send away the original owner either as they invited him to continue managing the store. After the store had been put to order, the several carts full of carrots that hadn’t been hauled away were sent over to the store. The previous menu didn’t change but eight dishes using carrots were newly added.
Finished dealing with these things, Daniu and Erniu were finally free so they moved into the room behind the store to stay for two days before going back. The several dozen catties of spicy sauce that had been shipped here this time were enough to sell to Waterview House for several days. Once they returned, there would be new jobs for them to take care of.
In Tuqiao Village, work on Zhang Manor’s construction site was bustling with frenzied activity1 as each and every person from the manor were vigorously digging after having just finished eating. This was only at Zhang Xiaobao’s request as this group of people had rested for not even a quarter-hour.
Zhang Xiaobao was afraid that they’d eat till they were too full and get sick. After rolling up the shredded meat in spicy sauce with the chopped scallions within the large flat cakes, then that really was just two bites each. Scoop out the cooked bones and coat them with garlic sauce—eating that was just aromatic. Sprinkle scallions and parsley on top of the greasy soup and with a gu-lu-lu, you could drink half a bowl in just one gulp.
Watching this, Zhang Xiaobao and Wang Juan started to crave2 it, too. Finally, they really couldn’t resist and the two of them asked for a big bowl of soup. They placed the flat cake, which had been torn into bits and pieces that were smaller than their fingernails, inside to soak along with the parsley and scallions. Waiting till it had cooled down a little, only then did they drink it one sip and one person at time there.
Since there was soup to drink, Zhang Xiaobao wasn’t as worried about the workers overstuffing themselves. If so, the soup could directly wash it down.
To the side, Xiaohong also ate while still being responsible for preparing the bone marrow for Little Mister, the two of them. Using chopsticks to dig out a strand of soft bone marrow before adding a bit of salt, it was suitable for Zhang Xiaobao and Wang Juan to eat. Bearing a bit of greasiness and a bit of bony aroma as well as being just a bit pungently meaty, eating it was satisfying beyond words. Most importantly, they needn’t fear for their teeth.
“Delicious—eating together with so many people, the food smells even better.3 These bones are also good. Xiaohong, remember not to throw away the leftover bones.”
Zhang Xiaobao ate two pieces of bone marrow before he stopped as he was afraid getting nauseous if he ate too much. Then he called over Xiaohong.
“Understood, Little Mister. Keep them once this meal is done—they can be cooked again for dinner. Digging out the pond can’t be completed within a day. For tomorrow’s lunchtime, we’ll just add some fresh bones and continue eating.” Xiaohong looked like she had experience.
After hearing this, the other people eating also nodded their heads. Not speaking of working for the manor, they were like this in their own homes. To be able to eat a meal together with Little Mister and Little Miss Juan-Juan, they were already satisfied.
“That’s not the meaning here.” Wang Juan also stopped her movements and said: “Xiaobao was saying to keep the bones. Then, use a millstone to grind them into powder that can be used to do a lot of things like feeding the chickens, fertilizing the land, or raising earthworms, etc. My manor can afford a meal for people—dinner has to be newly made.”
Once these words were spoken, all of the expressions of the manor peasants varied. They couldn’t believe that this Little Miss and Little Mister were compassionate to this degree. The peasants were all honest people and didn’t know how to say any fine words so they could only take note of the words these two little kids had said until they could repay them by working hard in the days ahead.
Xiaohong naturally wouldn’t protest anymore. The food expenses were all paid for from Little Mister’s own storehouse. If Little Mister didn’t fear spending too much and could let the peasants eat well, she was more than willing, too.
Those children who had been catching the river snails also ate together with them. The children had small stomachs so even if they ate a lot, they still couldn’t compare to the adults. Each and every one of them ate till their little bellies were round and full. They still wished to continue eating yet were unable to so they could only look on anxiously.
“If you can’t eat anymore, then don’t eat. You’ll overstuff yourselves.” Xiaohong handed the children oil-paper4 to pack the food with according to their serving sizes plus a bit more with the thinking that the children wouldn’t be able to eat more after returning and were bringing it back for their family members.
One of the little kids called Erzi helplessly nodded: “Don’t we all want to eat a bit more? It’d be best to eat our fill for lunch tomorrow. Tonight, I won’t eat and bring it back for my younger sister to eat.”
“It’ll get better. Life will get better from now on.” Zhang Xiaobao said lightly as he smacked his lips twice. Only Wang Juan knew how much resolve he needed to have when he said these words.
The peasants continued working while Zhang Xiaobao and Wang Juan returned home to start training. A child’s bones were soft as they hadn’t completely finished growing so any running or jumping movements that were too intense couldn’t be done. They could only adjust to it a bit at a time. The only benefit was that a child’s body recovered quickly. That day, they’d be so tired that they couldn’t speak; the next day, they would be just as energetically hyperactive5 as before.
The item that Zhang Xiaobao and Wang Juan were drilling today was rolls. They had Xiaohong take out a blanket to spread out on the floor. The two of them would then vigorously roll back and forth on it. This could actually exercise a lot of areas as it was still too wet outside and there was no way to go walking in the sand.
“Xiaobao, let’s rest for a while and talk— all dizzy from rolling.” Wang Juan flipped over and leaned against Zhang Xiaobao’s body as she swung to a stop.
“What’d you say?” Zhang Xiaobao was also sweaty all over.
“I saw that the exterior road for the manor isn’t easy to walk. Should a bit of money be used to repair the roads with? Change should always start from the up close. Allowing the people of the manor sense this will encourage their cohesiveness.” Wang Juan reached out to accept the water that Xiaohong handed over, sipping it once before she spoke.
“No money. This little bit of money that I’ve made, I’m keeping it so I can buy some rice and flour, ~ne. There’s still another month or so before the wheat will need to be harvested. I need to buy more. Whether or not the family’s land and that grant of 100 heads can be saved will rely on this single chance.”
Zhang Xiaobao didn’t even think before rejecting it. The roads could be repaired at any time but it wouldn’t do to not buy food grains. He had a grand plan—a plan to trade for their family’s status. When collecting the food grains, the cooperation between the two families of Zhang and Wang would still be needed.
“Then, never mind. Have Yingtao collect some duck eggs and goose eggs tomorrow. Since we want to raise them, then we’ll have to get some here.” Wang Juan bypassed this matter and began planning.
Zhang Xiaobao also nodded: “Right, most certainly have to raise them—especially ducks. By the beginning of spring next year, it’d be best if we could have several thousand ducks. I want to see who’d dare take back our family’s land then. Let’s go shower and sleep.”
This was considered a temporary conclusion to the conversation. Over there, Xiaohong had already prepared the hot water in advance and placed the two children inside to wash off the sweat on their bodies. Carrying them over to the couch and using the blanket to cover their navels, she could then sit by the doorway to read books and learn her characters.
Once it was evening, Song Jing-gong finally returned with quite a few soybeans. Upon entering the manor’s domain, he saw that there were people hauling carrots outside in one carriage after the other. Not knowing where they were being transported to and curious about it, he stopped a person to ask: “Where’s it being taken?”
“Xinping City, they’re being stored over there. After a few days, there’s going to be people over there coming over here to buy them. If they’re sold directly, it won’t hold things up.” One of the coachmen recognized Song Jing-gong as the Juren that was willing to work for the manor after being swindled by Little Mister.
“Oh, how much money is it going to be sold for?” Song Jing-gong didn’t find this strange but wanted to know the price.
“How much? 5 wen [cash] 1 catty? That’s to say, I originally sold them too cheaply?” Song Jing-gong was a bit dumbfounded. He’d initially assumed that only through swindling could they be sold so expensively. Who’d have thought that after cycling through Little Mister’s hands that the price would actually increase so much and be sold for five times the price?
It really was too fantastical. How could it be sold just like that, ~ne? He hadn’t even thought it through, ~ne, before that coachman resumed talking.
“Little Mister has said that these aren’t easy to preserve so keep the ones that are slightly better, get a root cellar to store them in, and wait until winter to sell them for 10 wen [cash] per catty. Winter has few vegetables so everybody would want to eat something fresh.”
Song Jing-gong didn’t know how he walked back to the courtyard house. His heart had already been filled by pile after pile of copper coins; if it couldn’t hold anymore, then switch them out for silk and shining white silver—in any case, the money was plentiful.
Before he could go inside, he caught sight of Little Mister, the two of them, eating and drinking with a group of peasants over there. Because the peasants were doing a lot of work, Zhang Xiaobao was afraid that they’d suddenly get exhausted and feel uncomfortable all over tomorrow, especially from standing on top of the muddy ground as some people had their feet submerged by the pooling water.
They could easily get sick after going home so he had Xiaohong specially prepare some wine. When everyone was eating, one person could drink two bowls. Warmed wine with ginger strips added was good as it got rid of the chills and could even help increase blood circulation.
This treatment was seriously too good as there was meat and wine, causing the peasants to eat till their hearts were warm. If it weren’t for Zhang Xiaobao and Wang Juan not permitting them to continue their labors at night, they even thought of firing up the torches to continue digging. How much money was this one meal? Each and every one of them didn’t want any wages.
“Little Mister, those carrots that you [honorific] spoke of—how were they sold? Initially, I felt that 1 wen [cash] for 1 catty was swindling people. Could it be that you [honorific] found a gullible person?” Song Jing-gong didn’t care whether other people were drinking wine or not as he ran over to get clarification.
“Why is swindling needed, ~ne? With carrots, this stuff is originally pretty good. When selling them to other people, just teach how to make them. Once everybody knows how to eat them, they will naturally become expensive. Moreover, eating carrots is beneficial to the body and it tastes good.”
Zhang Xiaobao wanted to change that kind of thinking of Song Jing-gong’s where he always first thought of swindling whenever he ran across something. Seeing that Song Jing-gong had returned dusty and worn from travel and definitely had not eaten dinner, he spoke in invitation.
“Zijin must have been exhausted over these two days, right? Quickly, eat while it’s still hot. With so many people, eating becomes lively. Xiaohong, get some meat for Zijin over here. Eat it with garlic sauce—it’s perfect as a wine appetizer.”
As he spoke, he and Wang Juan moved to the side to make room for Song Jing-gong to sit in. As for whether Song Jing-gong was willing or not, there was no need for consideration. Xiaobao himself was eating together with the peasants so what else could he do?
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The Chinese idiom used here is “re huo chao tian” (熱火朝天) which literally means “hot fire reaching sky.” This makes sense if you realize the hot fire is a metaphor for hubbub or commotion since liveliness is literally “hot noise” or “re nao” (熱鬧) in Chinese. So for the heat of the chaos to reach the skies is to be really lively, indeed. ↩
The specific character used here of chan/饞 is actually one that translates to “ravenous or gluttonous” and is used to describe a specific greed for food. You can tell this because it has the radical for food or shi/食 in the character itself. So it is a way of describing when someone has a food craving in Chinese. ↩
Technically, Xiaobao uses the character meaning “fragrant” or xiang/香 here. This is another Chinese habit where declaring a food that is tasty or delicious to be fragrant is synonymous with complimenting its flavor and the experience of eating it. This is likely because xiang/香 also has a connotation of comfort or enjoyment (it makes sense if you realize fragrances or perfumes are a sign of luxury and wealth so it calls up an image of lounging at ease). ↩
I wasn’t able to find an exactly equivalent paper made in the West but “you zhi” (油紙) is exactly what it says it is. It’s paper that’s been coated by or dipped in oil—tung oil (桐油) to be exact, which is oil that has been extracted from the tung tree (桐油樹), Latin name of which is Vernicia fordii. This paper is water resistant so it is perfect for packaging food in as well as to use in making umbrellas with. Chinese umbrellas, which are made from this type of paper, are called oil-paper umbrellas (油紙傘) for this reason. For the sake of reference, the types of paper made in the West that oil-paper probably resembles the most in form or function was either greaseproof paper or wax paper (also known as paraffin paper). ↩
The idiom used here is “huo beng luan tiao” (活蹦亂跳), which when broken down, means “living bounce, randomly jump.” It calls up the image of a hyperactive bunny so a roughly equivalent English expression might be “alive and kicking.” However, I opted not to use that phrase as the translation since “alive and kicking” usually tends to be associated with situations where a death is rumored or the person is in their dotage but still going strong (or claims to be anyway), which is the opposite of the case here.