The sound of knocking at the door kept ringing, and Li Xiao’er reluctantly shuffled his steps to the front of the courtyard gate. Just as he was about to open the door, he hesitated and leaned his head against it, listening to the commotion outside. However, to his surprise, there was no sound at all, so he reluctantly opened the door.
“Why did it take you so long to open the door?”
Upon hearing Li Changfeng’s voice, Li Xiao’er instantly came alive. “Second brother! Second brother-in-law!” Xu Qing looked at Li Xiao’er’s excited appearance and resisted the urge to pat his head.
Li Xiao’er let the two of them in and immediately closed the courtyard gate. Li Changfeng noticed this but didn’t say anything, although his brow furrowed a little more. “Father and the others are busy in the fields, and the little ones have gone to play with others. I’m the only one at home, and you can’t imagine how boring it is.”
Li Xiao’er tugged at Xu Qing’s sleeve and complained. Xu Qing didn’t stop him and found it strange that he could stay so obediently at home. “You can go out for a walk too.” Li Xiao’er shook his head dejectedly. “My good friends are all preparing for marriage, and I can’t disturb them.”
Xu Qing remembered that Li Xiao’er seemed to have a good relationship with Chen Hong. “What about Chen Hong?”
At the mention of Chen Hong, Li Xiao’er’s face twisted into a frown. “He’s also preparing for marriage. You don’t know, he’s actually marrying into the poorest family in our village, the Zhou family!” Upon hearing Li Xiao’er’s words, Li Changfeng immediately shouted, “Watch your words!”
Li Xiao’er stuck out his tongue and immediately became docile. Xu Qing gently tugged at Li Changfeng, and his expression improved slightly. “Did he decide on his own, or was it arranged by his family?” Li Xiao’er pondered for a moment. “He decided on his own. He said the person from the Zhou family knows how to read and write, and treats him well. So he discussed it with his family, and his family agreed. That’s why Chen Hong has been busy with the wedding preparations these days.”
Since everything was already settled, Xu Qing didn’t want to ask too many questions. He had Li Changfeng give the gifts for the Li family to Li Xiao’er. “These are for everyone else, and this one is for you. We’ve just finished building our house, and we have things to attend to at home, so we won’t stay for long.”
Li Changfeng nodded. “Help us give a message to father and Ama, apologize on our behalf.” Upon hearing that Xu Qing and Li Changfeng were about to leave, Li Xiao’er felt a bit anxious. “You’re leaving just like that? I, I…”
Xu Qing and Li Changfeng sensed that there was something behind Li Xiao’er’s hesitant tone, and Li Changfeng sighed. “Speak up, what’s going on at home?” Li Xiao’er’s expression became even more downcast. “It’s all because of Third Brother.”
It turned out that Li Laosan, after being invited several times to tutor a promising student who was about to take the provincial examination, became filled with scholarly aspirations. It was evident, both openly and subtly, that he wanted to pursue further studies. But now, with Li Changfeng gone and more children in the family, and considering that Li Xiao’er was at a marriageable age, where could they find the extra money to support this “ambitious” Li Laosan?
Especially Eldest Li’s wife was unhappy. He already had his misgivings about Li Laosan’s family, and now Li Laosan was shamelessly trying to freeload off them! Of course, he could only express his dissatisfaction in his heart and didn’t dare to say it out loud.
Little did they know that a few days ago, Li Laosan’s son and Eldest Li’s younger son had a quarrel. Eldest Li’s son, being older, knew to give in to the other party. However, the more he yielded, the more vigorously Li Laosan’s son pushed. In the end, the child, not knowing the severity, grabbed a stone and threw it, accidentally scratching the corner of Eldest Li’s son’s eyebrow.
*(T/N: Both Li Laosan’s son and Eldest Li’s younger son are gers).
As if that wasn’t enough, if it had been a little higher, it would have hit his eye. Eldest Li’s wife immediately started making a fuss. “As a result, Third Brother and Eldest Brother had a quarrel,” Li Xiao’er paused. “Third Brother even said that Eldest Brother’s child is not smart from the beginning, no matter what happens, and…” The words that followed were too outrageous, and Li Xiao’er couldn’t bring himself to say them.
“This is… ” Xu Qing didn’t know what words to use to describe this Li Laosan. Regardless of anything, the child was still his nephew. How could he say such things, especially as someone who pursued knowledge?
Li Xiao’er saw that Li Changfeng still had an expressionless face, and he couldn’t figure out what he was thinking. Just as he was about to seek help from Xu Qing, Li Changfeng spoke, “Don’t worry about this matter. Father and Ama will have their own opinions. We should leave first.”
Li Xiao’er never expected that after Li Changfeng heard the whole story, he still intended to go straight home. He had thought that his second brother would stay after hearing about it, but Li Changfeng knew exactly what Li Xiao’er was thinking. “Even if I stay, what difference will it make? You have to understand that in this family, I don’t have the authority of the eldest brother or the third brother. I have my own family, a home that belongs entirely to me and your second brother-in-law.”
Xu Qing didn’t interject. It was enough for Li Changfeng to speak on this matter. Anything more he said would be meaningless.
Li Xiao’er opened his mouth but found that he had nothing to say. He could only watch as Xu Qing and Li Changfeng rode away in their donkey cart.
“What am I supposed to do? Huh?”
As Li Changfeng and Xu Qing drove back, Li Changfeng felt that Xu Qing had been glancing at him the whole time. Xu Qing didn’t feel embarrassed when caught and directly asked, “You don’t like to meddle in that side.”
Li Changfeng naturally knew which “side” Xu Qing was referring to. “I’m married into your family, so their affairs can be considered my “in-law’s” affairs. I can meddle if I want, but I really don’t want to.”
Xu Qing raised an eyebrow and tapped the back of Li Changfeng’s head. “Well, as the married son-in-law, this sun is scorching. Can you drive a bit faster?”
Li Changfeng glanced at the sun steadily rising higher. “You’re pregnant, it would be too bumpy if I driver faster. It’s still early before noon. Are you afraid of getting tanned? Here, take my clothes to cover up for a while.” He said as he tried to drive the cart with one hand and pull his clothes with the other. But Xu Qing quickly stopped him. “Alright, alright! I can handle it at this time. Don’t do such things!” After all, he was a man, he was not afraid getting tanned but getting a heatstroke.
In the following days, Xu Qing and the others had mixed feelings. They were happy because now almost every day someone would come to their door to request on-site woodcarving of “wooden dolls,” and most of them asked for nanmu wood. This meant a daily income! They didn’t have to work in the fields but could still eat meat every day. The villagers were green with envy.
Translated on ho lo lo novels dot com.
This is good news for Xu Qing and Li Changfeng, but it’s a cause for concern, not just for their family but for the whole village, town, or the common people. They are all worried because it hasn’t rained for five or six consecutive days.
The children in the village have gone to the river to play with water to escape the heat, but the adults and the elderly have worried expressions on their faces. This is the time when the crops are growing well, and prolonged exposure to the scorching sun can lead to drought. If a drought occurs, the lives of the farmers will become difficult.
Xu Qing was hiding indoors to keep cool. It was too hot that even a short walk would make him sweat. Li Changfeng had been working in the fields three or four times a day, either carrying water from the river to the fields or to the vegetable garden.
“Knock, knock, knock. Is Brother Qing at home? It’s Xie Yu.”
As soon as Xu Qing heard the knocking, before he even got up, Xiaobao energetically rushed towards the courtyard gate. It had been restless these days, even with the increased number of people coming to request sculptures. Xiaobao wouldn’t relax because of that. Xu Qing shooed away Xiaobao and, braving the scorching sun on his head, opened the sun-baked courtyard gate. Outside stood Xie Yu and Lin Fangliang, dressed in cool attire.
“Come in quickly, it’s so hot today.”
Xu Qing pulled Xie Yu and invited Lin Fangliang inside. Just as he was about to close the courtyard gate, Li Changfeng arrived. “Second Li.” Lin Fangliang and the others greeted Li Changfeng, and everyone entered the main hall. Li Changfeng poured cold tea for the guests while Xu Qing got them warm boiled water.
After drinking a few sips of cold tea to quench his thirst, Lin Fangliang’s expression became slightly solemn. “The price of grain in the town has risen.” As soon as these words were spoken, everyone’s hearts sank. After a while, Li Changfeng sighed, “Let’s hope for rain to come soon.” Otherwise, the price of grain will continue to rise, the farmers’ crops will fail, they won’t have enough grain to pay their taxes, and they won’t have money to buy grain. It’s a dire situation…
“Don’t always think of the worst-case scenario. The weather can change quickly. Who knows, maybe it will rain tonight,” Lin Fangliang tried to lighten the heavy atmosphere and immediately chuckled, attempting to ease everyone’s troubled hearts.
Xie Yu shook his head. “I think we should make some plans. We came back this time to discuss with Auntie and the others whether we should buy some grain in town. Even if the harvest is not good, it’s always a good idea to save some while the prices at the granary haven’t risen too high yet.”
Xu Qing nodded. His mood became increasingly heavy with the relentless scorching sun. Although there was rice and meat in the storage space, it wasn’t something they could just take out casually. He looked at Li Changfeng, who was also looking at him. “Let’s buy it. We’ll use our donkey cart to bring back several loads. We need to buy not only the tax grain but also the grain we’ll need to eat in the days when we can harvest crops next year!”
“Good. Let’s inform Ama and father when we go back. We’ll meet at the village’s outskirts road junction in an hour!” Lin Fangliang and Xie Yu thought Li Changfeng’s idea was more far-sighted, so they immediately decided to go back and discuss it before meeting up later.
After Lin Fangliang and the others left, Xu Qing and Li Changfeng returned to the house. Seizing the opportunity while searching in the cabinet, Xu Qing secretly took out the box where they kept money from the storage space and placed it on the bed. Xu Qing opened it and looked at Li Changfeng. “We had 137 taels before. With the additional earnings of 88 taels from the customers who came for the carved dolls these days, we now have a total of 225 taels.”
Li Changfeng took out 50 taels, closed the box, and handed it to Xu Qing. “Fifty taels will be enough.” It’s worth noting that even without grain, substituting silver for the grain payment would only require five taels of silver. Of course, it’s not something every household can easily afford. Li Changfeng would rather buy more grain than let Xu Qing and the child go hungry in a possible crop failure.
Thingyan: My roommate got Covid, and I think I have it too. Feeling so weak and feverish. If the updates are slow these days, please know that I’m recuperating (｡•́︿•̀｡)