Xu Qing and Xie Ama arrived early, but the vegetable vendors on the street had also arrived almost at the same time. Rural people do not have the habit of sleeping in, and the families who pay attention to quality prefer to come early to buy fresh produce. The eggs from Xie Ama were recently collected, and anyone with a discerning eye could tell that they were fresh and of good size. They were quickly bought by a customer, twenty eggs for thirty coins. For eggs to fetch such a good price, they had to be fresh. The usual price was twenty-five coins. Xie Ama was in a good mood after making a good deal. “Let’s go, Qing Ge, what do you want to buy? Let’s go shopping!”
Xu Qing was also infected by Xie Ama’s happy atmosphere, and his voice unconsciously carried a hint of excitement. “I want to buy piglets, chicks, and…” “Alright, alright, take it easy. Follow me,” Xie Ama said with a kind look in his eyes as he observed Xu Qing, who appeared thin and weak but had eyes that gleamed involuntarily. He held Xu Qing’s hand and took him to the place where piglets were sold.
“It’s late winter now, and there are fewer piglets available. Let’s try our luck. We’ll buy the energetic ones, and if not, we can come back next time. Don’t rush, there’s still time. I’ll negotiate the price. You’re young and inexperienced, so observe and learn more. It’s not easy to avoid being taken advantage of in the future,” Xie Ama advised Xu Qing as they walked. Seeing Xu Qing nodding like a little chick pecking at grains, Xie Ama felt even more satisfied. This kid was a good boy.
Xie Ama thought he should began thinking about matchmaking; Xu Qing had really grown up. He should pay attention and see if there are any eligible bachelors who haven’t found a wife yet, and maybe he can match them with Xu Qing. Otherwise, when Xu Qing turns twenty-one, it won’t be good. Xie Ama felt somewhat worried because in this world, when a young ger reaches twenty-one and a man reaches twenty-four without a spouse, they have to listen to the government and go for an arranged marriage. Those arranged marriages are not a good fate. People waiting for arranged marriages are either lazy men or have disabilities!
Xie Ama looked at Xu Qing, who was beside him, eagerly surveying the market, and his heart softened. He’s already twenty but still acts like a child. I should talk to Qing Ge about this one day. I believe he must be thinking about the arranged marriage issue to make such a significant change and step out of the village.
Unaware of what Xie Ama was thinking, Xu Qing was captivated by the various ancient buildings at the market. He had no idea about the tradition of arranged marriages in this world. Otherwise, he would have been restless and unable to enjoy the sight of these quaint and picturesque houses.
Fortunately, luck was on their side as there were a few energetic piglets available. Although they were small in size, with proper care and nurturing, they would surely grow into large pigs. The seller happened to be from Xie Ama’s maternal village, so there was some familiarity between them. As a result, the original price of 650 coins for the piglets was discounted to 600 coins.
While Xu Qing was busy paying the seller, Xie Ama seized the opportunity to pull aside the seller’s wife, Liu Ama. “Hey, pay attention to something for me. Look for honest and reliable men in Jixiang Village who haven’t been married yet. I want to find a match for my nephew!” Following Xie Ama’s gaze, Liu Ama noticed Xu Qing, who was bowing his head to take out money. Despite his fair complexion, there were obvious red bumps on his face… “Is he from the Xu family?” Xie Ama scolded Liu Ama with a glare. “So what? Are you also as shallow-minded as those people with superficial judgments?”
“Hey, what are you saying! Leave it to me. Recently, many men who served in the military have returned to the village, and quite a few of them haven’t found a partner yet!” Liu Ama hastily reassured. “You just watch closely, and I’ll handle it!” “Ok then, I trust you!”
“Xie Ama, what were you talking about?” After Xu Qing finished paying and made an agreement with the owner (who happened to be Liu Ama’s husband) to come back for the piglets after buying other items, he noticed Xie Ama and Liu Ama huddled together, chatting incessantly.
“Oh, nothing much. It’s just been a long time since I visited my mother’s family, so I asked Liu Ama to pass along a message for me, right?” Liu Ama quickly chimed in, “Yes, yes, young man, you go ahead and shop first. I’ll tie up the piglets separately for you. Come and take them when you’re done!”
Xu Qing expressed his gratitude, even though he had already spoken to the owner. But with the boss’ wife bringing it up again himself, he felt even more reassured.
“Why are you staring at their backs? Although that ger looks a bit ugly, he’s still a good kid,” Butcher Liu looked at his wife staring at Xu Qing and the others as they left, puzzled. In return, he got scolded by his wife, “Pei, what ugly or not! Go away! You’re annoying!” Liu Ama scolded his husband away while thinking about which man in the village had a more reliable character.
Led by Xie Ama, Xu Qing quickly bought salt and a seasoning similar to chili. While shopping for clothes, Xie Ama grabbed Xu Qing’s arm and said, “Why buy clothes? We can make our own by cutting cloth. It’s much better than buying.” Xu Qing was taken aback. He didn’t know how to make clothes!
Seeing Xu Qing’s helpless expression, Xie Ama found it amusing and said, “Cut the cloth, and Ama will make it!”
Xu Qing hurriedly waved his hand, saying, “That won’t do, it’s too troublesome.”
Xie Ama insisted, “What’s so troublesome? It’s settled.” Xie Ama pulled Xu Qing along in the shop, selecting fabric that suited for gers.
Xu Qing hesitated and tugged at Xie Ama’s sleeve, saying, “If you make clothes for me, I have to pay you for your work. I won’t let you do it for free.” After Xu Qing insisted repeatedly, Xie Ama reluctantly agreed. However, he planned to refuse Xu Qing’s payment when the clothes were done. While Xie Ama was selecting fabric, Xu Qing asked the fabric shop owner about the price of making clothes, so he had an idea in mind. He said, “Come, Brother Qing, take a look at these pieces of fabric.”
Xu Qing walked over and looked at the three pieces Xie Ama had chosen: deep blue, light purple, and pale green. He touched them and said, “Well, although it’s rough cloth, it feels nice.” He didn’t want to buy any silk fabric. It would attract too much attention and wouldn’t be convenient for work. He had experienced all kinds of hardships in the post-apocalyptic world and knew how to make economical choices. The three pieces of fabric cost a total of sixty coins, while buying a ready-made garment would cost fifty coins. It wasn’t cost-effective. He said, “You understand, right? This money can’t be spent recklessly. We have to be thrifty.”
Xie Ama looked at Xu Qing with a pleased expression and joked, “Yes, I never thought there would be such a big difference between finished products and fabric. By the way, Xie Ama, I want to buy some chicks and pork.” After Xu Qing finished paying, he immediately remembered that he hadn’t finished shopping.
Xie Ama replied, “The sun is already high, it’s almost noon, and there won’t be any chicks for sale. How about this? My family will have chicks soon, so you can come to my place to get them.”
Upon hearing that, Xu Qing smiled and looked at Xie Ama playfully. He said, “Then I’ll buy them from you at the market price when the time comes; otherwise, I won’t buy.” Xie Ama replied, “Alright, alright, let’s do that.”
Xu Qing immediately made his request, saying, “I want fifteen little chicks!” This surprised Xie Ama, who asked, “That many? Can one person handle it?”
Xu Qing patted his slender chest and confidently said, “Of course I can. When they’re fully grown, I’ll give you one to taste!” Xu Qing’s demeanor amused Xie Ama, and he chuckled, “Then I’ll be looking forward to it!” After saying that, Xu Qing’s face immediately lit up with a satisfied expression, and he continued to laugh joyfully.
Translated on ho lo lo novels dot com.
Passersby were somewhat puzzled, saying, “This young ger may be ugly, but his smile is quite sweet.”
After Xu Qing and Xie Ama bought a jin of pork belly and led the piglet, they hurried to the place mentioned by Uncle Li. “Over here!” From a distance, they saw Uncle Li looking at Xu Qing with the piglet and driving the donkey cart towards them. “Uncle Li, why are you the only one here?” Xu Qing was confused. When he arrived this morning, there were many donkey carts parked here.
“Oh, brother Qing, don’t you know? Today is the day when the conscripts return to their hometown!” Xie Ama thought Xu Qing had forgotten, so he explained the reason to him, not realizing that the other person had no knowledge of it at all.
“That’s right. The donkey carts have been running several times because of that. I also made several trips before I saw you here.” Uncle Li was in a good mood. He made some extra money from the trips today, so he could buy some delicious food for his wife and children to make them happy.
After putting the piglet on the donkey cart and settling down, Xu Qing felt a bit guilty and asked Xie Ama, “Xie Ama, you know I don’t usually go out. Who is the ruler of this dynasty?” Xu Qing pointed his finger towards the sky. Xie Ama didn’t suspect anything and thought Xu Qing had become more open-minded and lively. “We are in the Great Qin Dynasty. The Emperor is in his prime, and the taxes on us common people…”
Xu Qing realized that this “Qin Dynasty” wasn’t the same as the ancient Chinese Qin Dynasty. “Then why is there conscription? Is the world not peaceful?” Xu Qing worried. He didn’t want to be transported to a turbulent era.
“No, it’s not like that. It’s a tradition that has been passed down through several dynasties. I don’t know why either.” Xie Ama didn’t know the reason, but it didn’t concern them as ordinary people. So he explained some knowledge about conscription to Xu Qing.
In this dynasty, there was conscription every five years, and every household had to send one male member. Families that had already sent someone to serve in the military were exempt from conscription for fifteen years. If a household had two husbands, only the one who had given birth to sons was exempt. The head of the household who had already served in the military could pay taxes instead. When Xu Qing was born, his father had just finished his military service and returned when Xu Qing was five years old. Until Xu Qing turned fifteen and his parents passed away, their family paid taxes every five years instead of serving in the military. Now Xu Qing was already twenty, turning twenty-one in two months. The conscripted men had also returned this year, so Xu Qing finally felt relieved. He was alone, and moreover, he was a ger. It seemed that he had to find a way to make money for future taxes.
Uncle Li escorted them to the fork in the road they had taken in the morning. He helped Xu Qing unload the piglet and their belongings. Then he mounted the donkey cart and returned home. After Xie Ama put down their things, he helped Xu Qing drive the piglet into his pigsty. Then he went back. Today, families in the village who had their children gone for five years due to conscription were full of joy as their sons returned home. By noon, smoke rose from the village as people began cooking. Xu Qing watched for a while, closed the courtyard gate, and prepared lunch.