Li Changfeng’s eyes lit up. “This is great! We won’t have to worry about the cold in winter for Xu Qing and the child anymore!”
“Alright, let’s do it!”
They wasted no time. In order to complete the construction before the autumn harvest, Li Changfeng explained the reason directly to Xie Ama and accompanied him to find some honest and capable men for the job. Xu Qing and Li Changfeng had agreed that the laborers would be paid twenty wen per day, including only lunch, which was considered a reasonable rate.
As for cooking, Xu Qing decided not to do it himself. They hired Xie Ama and Wei Ama to prepare lunch for fifteen wen per day each. They built a temporary yet sturdy shed next to the construction site to house the piglet and chickens. As for Xu Qing and Li Changfeng, Xie Ama insisted that they stay at his house for the sake of Xu Qing’s pregnancy and the need for a quiet environment. Xu Qing stayed in Xie Yu’s old room, while Li Changfeng occupied another vacant room.
Although Li Changfeng didn’t want to sleep separately from Xu Qing, there was no other option at the moment. He could only watch anxiously as Xu Qing entered the room alone every night.
On the second day of their construction preparations, Eldest Li arrived at Xu Qing’s house carrying a load on his back. “Ama asked me to bring this. Second brother, take good care of yourself now that you have a child on the way. We are all looking forward to it. If it weren’t for some family matters, I wouldn’t have come personally. Live a good life, little brother!” Li Changfeng nodded with a smile, expressed his gratitude, and then treated Eldest Li to a meal before letting him leave.
Looking at the load of food, Xu Qing sighed, “Ama and Father have done so much for us. It’s enough.” Li Changfeng approached and gently embraced Xu Qing.
News of the construction activity in the back mountains spread throughout the village. People had various opinions—some were envious, some admired, and some didn’t care at all. Zeng Ama was a typical example of envy. He believed that Li Changfeng and Xu Qing were able to construct the house so quickly because Li Changfeng took away his family’s woodworking business. Otherwise, he thought they wouldn’t have had the extra money to build a large tiled house for a few more years!
So, for the past few days, he would visit this family and that family, criticizing Xu Qing and Li Changfeng’s construction. At first, others joined in the gossip and even some of the remarks reached Xu Qing and Li Changfeng’s ears. However, they were too busy and didn’t pay much attention to it. Gradually, when the parties involved showed no reaction, the gossip subsided.
Translated on ho lo lo novels dot com.
During the summer, the biggest concern when constructing the house was the risk of heatstroke. So Xu Qing’s daily task was to boil mung bean soup in the morning with Xie Ama and let it cool on the side. When everyone took a break and was sweating profusely, Xu Qing would distribute cups of refreshing and sweet mung bean soup to the laborers. It became very popular, and within a few days, they ran out of purchased mung beans. Just as they were thinking of asking someone to buy more, Xie Ama suddenly suggested, “Why not buy a donkey cart for your household?”
Li Changfeng was taken aback, then slapped his forehead. Of course! Now that Xu Qing was pregnant again and busy with the new house, it was troublesome to rely on others for grocery shopping and errands. It would be better to buy a donkey cart, which could also be useful during the autumn harvest.
After discussing with Xu Qing, Li Changfeng set off early the next morning. By breakfast time, he returned driving a donkey cart. The donkey was a male, not long into adulthood, and looked strong and spirited. They spent five taels of silver to complete all the necessary procedures and purchase it.
Xu Qing asked Li Changfeng to wash up for breakfast and took a look at the donkey. It seemed to be in good spirits and had a somewhat dull expression. Xu Qing decided to name it “Daidai.” Since the sun was intense that day, Xu Qing took the opportunity while giving Daidai water to add some spiritual spring water to it.
(T/N: Daidai “呆呆” in Chinese is an adjective that can be used to describe someone or something as “dull” or “stupid” in a cute or endearing way. It can also convey a sense of being absent-minded or lost in thought. The repetition of the character adds emphasis to the meaning. However, the exact interpretation can depend on the context in which it is used.)
Daidai sniffed the water and excitedly twisted its body, but instead of immediately drinking, it gently rubbed its head against Xu Qing before lowering its head to drink. Xu Qing was surprised for a moment but then smiled and patted Daidai’s head.
Xie Ama saw this and chuckled, “I didn’t expect it to take a liking to you.” Xu Qing patted Daidai’s head. It wasn’t that Daidai liked him; it clearly enjoyed the scent and benefits brought by the spiritual spring water.
With many people involved, Xu Qing and the others provided meat for the midday meals. Even the leftovers were divided and given to those with heavier burdens at home to take back and eat. Everyone knew each other’s circumstances, and there was no discomfort among them. With food, occasional meat, and wine, everyone had enough energy for work. In just over a month, the house was completed.
There were four large tiled rooms in total. The central one was the main hall, with a bedroom on the left prepared for the children. On the right side were two connected rooms. The outer one was Xu Qing and Li Changfeng’s bedroom, while the inner one served as a storage room. Inside the storage room, there was a partition with one side for storing grains and a cellar dug beneath it for storing other items in the future. The other side of the partition would have a study desk for the children to use when they grew up. These were the four large tiled rooms facing the main entrance.
And next to the well, a kitchen was also built. Behind the kitchen, there was a small path that led to the pigsty, chicken coop, and donkey enclosure. Above the pathway, bamboo was used to connect the kitchen to the area where the animals lived, with tightly thatched roofs to ensure that even in the rain, the piglet would not be affected.
On the opposite side of the dining table in the kitchen, a door was opened, leading to a partitioned area. The front part was used for storing miscellaneous items or rice for consumption, while the back part served as a bathing room. The kitchen and bathing room were connected to the children’s rooms. As for the large room adjacent to the storage room, it was connected to a woodshed. It was spacious enough to store firewood and materials for making wooden dolls.
In the backyard, a small plot of land was reserved for growing vegetables, and the Sichuan pepper tree was moved to the side. Behind the woodshed, a pear tree and a jujube tree were planted, and a stone table was placed in the corner against the wall. The walkways from the main gate to the main hall and kitchen were paved with small stones pressed into the ground, providing both slip resistance and aesthetic appeal. After waiting for a few days for the dampness inside the rooms to be dried out, Xu Qing and Li Changfeng burned some wild grass in each room to eliminate odors before moving Li Changfeng’s newly made furniture into the house.
Xu Qing looked at the newly renovated home and gently touched his slightly changed belly, feeling very satisfied. When it came to making the kang, Xu Qing didn’t let anyone else participate. Only Li Changfeng and Uncle Xie took care of it. In addition to the kang, Xu Qing also installed a fireplace in the main hall.
After hearing Xu Qing talk about the benefits of the kang and fireplace, Uncle Xie wasted no time and immediately took Li Changfeng to make a kang at his own house. As for the fireplace, they decided not to build one.
In the evening, Xu Qing personally cooked a dish of stir-fried pork kidneys, twice-cooked pork, egg custard, and bone broth. This was the first meal for the two of them in their new home. According to local customs, if no banquet was held for the first meal in a new home, a firecracker would be set off at the main gate to symbolize a joyous and peaceful move. If a banquet was to be held, no firecracker would be set off, and on the third day, people would come to the house to share the feast.
After discussing between themselves, Xu Qing and Li Changfeng decided not to hold a banquet. It would draw unnecessary attention to them if they were to both build a house and hold a banquet. Besides, hosting a banquet wasn’t all fun and games. With so many mischievous kids around, the yard would surely be left in a mess, and it would take a long time to clean up afterwards.
So when the villagers heard the firecrackers coming from the mountainside, Zeng Ama dressed up and hurriedly went out. “How about that? I told you this person would spend all his money in no time. He can’t even afford a banquet!” Zeng Ama was extremely proud. Back in their day, they were the ones who built houses and held banquets, earning great respect in the eyes of the villagers.
A thin and small-sized Ama pursed his lips. “In my opinion, after building such a beautiful house, they should have saved some money. Otherwise, they won’t have enough for future expenses!” This couple from the back mountains didn’t have any older generation to advise them in their family, and they insisted on building such a big house. It’s no wonder they had no more money!
Zeng Ama didn’t care how others looked at it. As far as he was concerned, he felt extremely content now. Even if he saw Xu Qing and Li Changfeng, he wouldn’t feel suppressed anymore.
After finishing their meal, Xu Qing and Li Changfeng began to settle the accounts.
“We spent a total of fifteen taels of silver on the house construction, including the workers’ wages. We spent three taels on groceries and other items. For the new cotton quilt, beddings, pillows, and the clothes we made, we spent a total of five taels of silver. The purchase of the donkey cart cost us five taels of silver. So, in total, we spent twenty-eight taels of silver,” Xu Qing calculated the expenses for the month. “We initially had one hundred and sixty-five taels of silver, and after spending twenty-eight taels, we have a remaining total of one hundred and thirty-seven taels of silver.”
Looking at it this way, they were still quite well-off! Xu Qing was very satisfied. “Now we are people with both a cart and a house.” Li Changfeng didn’t quite understand. “What does it mean to have a cart and a house?” Xu Qing playfully reached out and touched Li Changfeng’s chin. “It means we have a house to live in and a cart for transportation!”
Li Changfeng allowed Xu Qing to playfully touch his face and nodded as if being enlightened. “You forgot one thing.”
“What?” Xu Qing couldn’t think of what he might have forgotten.
Li Changfeng gently looked at Xu Qing’s belly and said, “You forgot, we still have a child.” Xu Qing touched his nose, realizing that he had indeed forgotten. Over the past month, his body had completely recovered, and he now found all food delicious without any discomfort.
“Let’s go back to the old Li family courtyard tomorrow,” Xu Qing suggested. During the house construction, the Li family had sent them several gifts, but they hadn’t visited to express their gratitude. Now that they were done with their busy tasks, it was time to pay a visit. Otherwise, they would feel uneasy.
Li Changfeng tidied up the dishes and utensils. “I’ll follow your lead.” No matter what Xu Qing decided, he would go along with it. This time, it was indeed appropriate to go back to the old family. However, Li Changfeng couldn’t help but furrow his brows as he remembered what Eldest Li had said to him in private. The peaceful days in the old courtyard were coming to an end.
The next day, after Xu Qing and Li Changfeng had breakfast, they prepared some gifts and rode their donkey cart towards Ji Xiang Village. They happened to meet Butcher Liu on the way and exchanged greetings. After a brief chat, they continued their journey to the old Li family courtyard.
Li Xiao’er was absent-mindedly selecting vegetables when he heard a knock on the courtyard gate. He frowned, fearing that it might be another matchmaker coming to their door. During these days, the most frequent visitors to their home were those dreadful matchmakers!