Great Tang Idyll - Chapter 31
With Autumn's Arrival, The Tree Leaves Have Already Turned Red
The summer days gradually left as the mornings and the nights cooled with autumn's coming.
The digging of the pond on the manor had been completed and the river water had been channeled into it. Yingtao gathered quite a few duck eggs and goose eggs and they had all been placed on top of the kang [bed-stove] as they incubated, ~ne. A clutch of chicks were chasing each other to and fro in sport within the courtyard. After raising them for these past few days, there was now no need to feed them rice porridge as they themselves could eat something more solid.
Zhang Xiaobao and Wang Juan both looked enviously at the chicks. The two of them still couldn't eat stuff that was too hard. If they ate a bit of flat cake, they still had to nurse it in their mouth before they could gulp it down. Meat could only be simmered until it was in pieces although they could eat some fish meat.
’’Chicks grow faster than people do. Several days after hatching, they can eat sand. Have to step up the time table for grinding the stuff that Shiliu is overseeing I've thought of a good thing.’’
Zhang Xiaobao plucked a bug from the flowers by the side of the courtyard and placed it on the ground. A chick immediately came over to eat it. The bug was a bit bigger as it was a kind of caterpillar that was nearly in its pupal stage. It had quite a few eye-like objects on top and after eating for an entire summer, it had already been fattened up.
The chick pecked at it and vigorously shook its head. To the side, there were chicks that came over to fight over it as well. The chicks wiped out a single bug within an instant or two.
’’What idea?’’ Wang Juan didn't fear bugs like other girls so she simply didn't care. She was rather interested in Zhang Xiaobao's idea though.
’’Actually, it's nothing. I just wanted to make something for my Grandpa and Grandma as well as your Grandpa and Grandma to eat. Yesterday night, the people from your family all came over to my home and they even kissed me till my face was covered in saliva. I want to get some bone marrow and also get some bones ground into powder to use to stir-fry up some stir-fried noodles1 and add some walnuts2 or whatever.’’
Zhang Xiaobao had met Wang Juan's Grandpa and Grandma yesterday. Their two bodies weren't that healthy and when they had come over, they kept on rubbing their legs. It looked like they had a calcium deficiency.
’’What can it do? Can it be absorbed?’’ Wang Juan was a bit grateful to Zhang Xiaobao. After all, to have the senior generation in this lifetime was good. For the elders of both families to still be present, that was the greatest happiness.
’’It can. In order to supplement for calcium, it's actually nothing more than just an item containing calcium along with vitamins A and D. The pure form can't be refined but there are still edible foods containing them such as the oil extracted from fish liver or that layer that appears on top of cow or goat milk after it's been cooked. It'll be fine to add it inside.
All right, let's do this. Wait until our two families can all eat well, then we'll bring it out to sell. There are so many things inside, who would know what the formula is? It can even treat night blindness,3 ~ne. Let's first eat it ourselves and then wait till I can spare extra before we sell it outwardly en masse.’’
As Zhang Xiaobao schemed, he squatted down to touch the chicks. The chicks weren't afraid, either, as they even tilted their heads and used eyes filled with curiosity to gaze at Zhang Xiaobao.
’’Then, let's do it. We can drink it, too. The recipe will need to be adjusted. If the calcium supplements are too high, problems will come up. Temporarily remove the walnuts from what is being given to the adults. If it's too fatty, it could easily cause cardiovascular disease. Have them eat more vegetables as the norm. I've heard that stuff ginkgo4 is good. The good stuff should first be used by our own people.’’
Wang Juan ended up agreeing. Recently, she and Zhang Xiaobao had increased some of the amount when training as they continued their nutritional supplements, especially with things high in calories.
Xiaohong listened to the side. She didn't comprehend some of the matters that Little Mister and Little Miss would speak of every day. She only knew that as long as the both of them were seriously talking there and helping each other to correct it, then what was settled upon in the end was definitely something impressive.
The chicks had eaten their fill and with the blink of an eye, had run off to some unknown place. At this time, Erniu rushed over and upon entering the courtyard house, he excitedly said: ’’Little Mister, good news! Hundred Flavored Pavilion's owner went to find me and my [Older] Bro yesterday to say that they wanted to buy that spicy sauce. I followed your [honorific] instructions and sold it for an extra 2 wen [cash] to him those carrots, too. When he returned, he kicked out the manager from that day, claiming that they'd caused him to lose quite a lot of money.
Little Mister, Hundred Flavored Pavilion's owner wants to buy 500 dan[stone] from us here at the price of 7 wen [cash] per catty. Should it be sold? Here now, it's quite a bit of a change, ~ah. Compared to when it had first been exchanged for, it was more expensive by quite a lot.’’
’’500 dan [stone]? His appetite's rather large and he's also shrewd as a person. When you get back, tell him that there are already not that many carrots. At most, you can only sell him 20 dan [stone] or around 2,000catties of it, which should be enough for him to sell till winter. After a few days, the price will increase.’’
This time, Zhang Xiaobao didn't even need to speak as Wang Juan had already made the call. She could still understand such a simple matter. Wasn't that owner thinking to wait till the price had increased later on?
’’Unh, then just say that. If they want it, ship it over from those barbarians. With the delay in the time to get from there and then return, it'll be too late. Erniu, first give this business to Daniu to handle. The same with selling the sauce. Ready yourself over these next two days. After the fall harvest, go acquire a lot of food grains for me. Whatever food grains there are, I'll want them. I'll give you money here the more, the better.’’
After several days, they would need to harvest the food grains. There really were no people by Zhang Xiaobao's side. Moreover, they couldn't purchase them all in one place as that could easily draw the notice of the local authorities. He had a share here;his mother had a share there;Wang Juan's family also had a share;and Song Jing-gong he could be sent to a place a bit further away to gather them.
’’Meself5 knows. Little Mister, you [honorific] rest assured. Whatever you [honorific] want meself to do, meself will do whatever.’’ Erniu changed from that formerly clever appearance of his to take on a simple and honest demeanor as he spoke there, causing Zhang Xiaobao and Wang Juan to laugh. If Erniu was simple and honest, then how many clever people were there?
After another two days, Shiliu had all the things that she'd picked up and brought back as well as bought at a low price or traded for ground up into powder. It couldn't be fed at this time as that was a bit wasteful it still needed to wait till all of the food grains had been harvested and it could be mixed with the chaff6 and wheat bran.7
Yingtao herself made an area with kang [bed-stove] that was connected together. Placed on top of the entire surface of the kang [bed-stove] were chicken eggs, duck eggs, and goose eggs. The clutch of chicks that had already been hatched had been taken away by Songri Nigan. They'd even sold him some specially made feed to use on the road to feed the chickens with.
On the other side where they were raising the earthworms, Shiliu had also arranged for people and acquire rotten firewood and excrement or whatever else from each family to all be steeped in there. Underneath were the earthworms that the children had dug up. Next year, there would be a lot more.
Only Xiaohong had nothing to do. She obeyed Zhang Xiaobao's instructions and caught some cold-resistant fish, throwing them into the pond, and then ignoring them. The ducks and geese were still not in place so while she envied the others, she also knew that she still had to wait.
For Song Jing-gong, his job was easy. After all, what he had to manage in the past had been a lot, too. To buy some soybeans and find reliable people from the manor who could extract the soybean oil was very simple. The oil yield was a bit lower and not the 15% that Zhang Xiaobao had imagined it to be, barely reaching 10% instead though that was an issue of the production technology.
The soybean press cakes that were left behind after the oil extraction weren't wasted, either, as they were directly sent over to Erniu's family for them to keep for when making the spicy sauce. Everything all had to wait until next year to have an effect. Before their eyes, what could turn a profit were solely the spicy sauce and carrots. Comparatively, the two stores in Sanshui County didn't have that much of an income.
’’Fall has arrived.’’ When the first tree leaf fell down, Zhang Xiaobao was standing outside by the stream and looking at the yellow and withered scene before his eyes as he feelingly said a sentence.
’’Unh, they'll be reaping tomorrow. It's good that it didn't rain. When the golden yellow fills the eyes,8 you'll discover that not only have the skies and flowing clouds grown distant but so have some of the memories that you feared recalling yet were unwilling to forget.’’
Wang Juan's eyes were fixed on the flowing water as she looked at the clouds curl and unfold in that sky, a bit homesick. As she thought of that past family, she felt Zhang Xiaobao's presence at this time and knew then that she had someone accompanying her so she wasn't so lonely and was grateful or rather, as each supported the other.
’’It should snow for winter. Then, we can build a snowman. Build a big, big one. Even if it'll melt in spring, we can still make it every year.’’ Zhang Xiaobao didn't know how to comfort Wang Juan. He didn't have any regrets since in that world, he wouldn't have been able to be alive right now.
’’Unh, let go back build the swings and train our adaptability to heights a bit. Why couldn't you have studied science and technology,9 ~ne? Are there these kinds of experts in the prisons? I want electric lights, ~ne. It's too dark at night.’’
Wang Juan pulled on her clothing before turning around to go back. There were some things that should be adapted to that must be adapted to.
’’No fear. There's money this year so we'll prepare more candles. We'll light them then.’’ Zhang Xiaobao knew that Wang Juan wasn't afraid of the dark but was afraid of dreaming.
’’Why don't you know how to comfort me a bit more? I'm a little child right now.’’ Wang Juan deliberately used words that would lighten up the atmosphere.
Zhang Xiaobao smiled: ’’I've been doing that. Just like that song I overheard by the window of an elementary school I came back last year, you wore new cotton robes;I came to see you today, you grew fat and tall;do you all remember the lotus flowers in the pond turning into lotus pods?10 No worries about having no color with few flowers, I will dye the tree leaves red.’’
’’What song is that? It's so nice how come I don't remember it?’’ Wang Juan asked with surprise.
’’The Words of the West Wind.11 It's part of the elementary school appreciation course. You might not have appreciated it there as there were always music teachers who were cutting corners and skipping material.12 When I heard it back then, I thought that it was nice. Later on when I grew up, I knew that embedded within it was philosophy and hope.’’
Zhang Xiaobao kicked a pebble in the air with one leg, scaring the chicks that had grown up quite a bit into squawking fright as they ran away.
’’What kind of skill is there in bullying chicks?’’ Wang Juan's mood had improved quite a bit.
’’I would rather bully the old yellow dog but I'm afraid of him biting me.’’ Zhang Xiaobao said, playing along.
Before, Xiaohong had been standing by next to Little Mister, the two of them. When she had been listening to them both speak, she somehow felt like Little Mister and Little Miss Juan-Juan were so, so distant from herself. It was only until this moment that she discovered that the two of them had returned once again. That kind of sensation had really been too horrible to feel.
The swings had already been prepared it was just that they had not been hung up yet. When Zhang Xiaobao and Wang Juan returned to the courtyard house, they immediately arranged for people to set up the swings. At this time, the sky was clear and the clouds were light so going on the swings would feel the best.
For the sake of not letting themselves accidentally fall off, Zhang Xiaobao and Wang Juan even specially designed something in the middle that could act as a brake for the front, back, right, and left just like that octopus that could move up and down that they'd played with in the past.13
To start required only a little force and the two of them could swing up really high by themselves, bursting out with child-like laughter in the air and frightening Xiaohong who could only worry at the sidelines.
Having waited with difficulty for the swing to finally stop, Xiaohong hurried to let Little Mister, the both of them, think of other matters and asked: ’’Little Mister, what will be eaten at night?’’
’’Eating what? Among those chicks that Yingtao hatched, they can't possibly all be hens. She's raising the roosters in another place. Here are two. You go request one more. Tonight, we'll be eating spring chickens.’’14Zhang Xiaobao jumped off the swing, pulling Wang Juan to go inside in preparation for reading books as he casually gave the instructions.