There was a little girl who had her hair tied in a neat bun with two white flowers in it. She was standing in the shade of some trees by the side of the street. Although her clothes were shabby and crudely patched, her little face was clean and bright.
When the young man happened to look over, he saw the little girl smiling sweetly at a man who seemed undecided about buying her apples. “Uncle, if you take one home and give it to your children, they will certainly like it. My apples are sweeter than sugar.”
When the man heard her words, he smiled and laughed. Then he took two apples and gave her the money, meanwhile, the girl’s eyes seemed to shine brighter and brighter.
Huh, what a little money grubber!
The young man snorted disdainfully. He was about to move on when he suddenly heard an old man’s voice from inside the carriage, “Hold on, Pengmo, go and buy me some apples.”
The young man looked surprised, as if he did not expect that the old man would speak. He saw the old man in the carriage pull the window curtain to one side and then peer out in the direction of the two siblings, “Qinghe Town really is full of outstanding people, there is even such a clever little girl.”
The young man was a little surprised at the importance that the old man attached to the little girl and his lips flattened into a line. That girl was so ‘clever’ that her eyes were wide like two little lamps whenever she saw money.
How could she compare with any of the noble women they knew? It seemed his master was old, his eyes were not as good as they used to be.
The old man only took a brief look outside before looking over at the young man, “I came to the countryside to recuperate. You go back to Beijing in a few days.”
When the boy heard the old man say this, his face became gloomy. “I will stay and study with you, teacher.”
The old man saw the young man’s stubborn face and sighed. He wanted to say a few more words but before he could he saw that Pengmo had come back with a few apples. “Master, it’s rare to find such fresh fruit at this time of year. This small one thought they looked good, so he bought all the rest of them back.”
Su Tang had taken a total of thirty-five apples and five radishes with her this time, mainly because she and Su Nuo were two small children and people would have been skeptical if she had brought out too much. But her apples looked fresh and juicy, and because they were slightly out of season they all sold quickly.
When Pengmo came over, there were only six apples left in Su Tang’s little bamboo basket. Since Pengmo thought the apples looked good he bought them all.
When the old man heard what his servant said, he nodded but then reminded, “Don’t call me ‘master’.”
“Yes, I’m sorry, I forgot for a moment, my lord*, shall we continue on home now?” After being reprimanded Pengmo immediately changed his way of addressing the other man. Then when he saw the old man’s nod, he rushed up to the coaches seat and began guiding the carriage home.
The young man saw that the old man did not say anything more so he also did not speak. But as they were leaving, he took one last glance back at the siblings on the side of the road and saw them exchanging wide smiles.
Su Tang suddenly had a vague sense that someone was looking at her. But when she turned around she didn’t see anyone there except a distant figure riding on a horse next to a carriage that was leaving. Su Tang frowned. Was her feeling wrong?
“Sister!” Su Nuo didn’t know what his sister was thinking about, he was just looking down at the empty bamboo basket with a face full of excitement.
He knew that he and his sister would have to live on their own in the future and he was old enough to know that they couldn’t live without money so now, seeing that they really could make money, Su Nuo felt full of hope. The River God was really a kind deity that helped them a lot. He was determined to always show his thankfulness to the River God in the future.
Su Tang could see that her brother’s eyes were bright and full of hope so she nodded along with him happily, “Mhm!”
Although they did not say it out loud, the sister and brother could feel each other’s happiness. Though it was only forty copper coins, for Su Tang it was a clear representation that she could live on in this era. As long as there was a starting point, everything else would be alright.
Not far away, the orange cat was lazily lying down on its side. When it saw the matching smiles on the brother and sister pair, a dialogue bubble appeared: ‘Hmph, no sense at all!’ But it’s twitching ears betrayed its feelings of pride and happiness.
Su Tang saw that and thought it was funny. If the timing weren’t so bad she would have really liked to go over and pat it.
By the time they finished selling everything it was already noon. Su Tang took out two more apples from her space, gave one to Su Nuo and kept the other for herself. She could take things directly from the space warehouse even when she was outside, it wasn’t necessary to go in first.
Although Su Tang had made some money she had no plans to spend it on food. Her apples were quite big and it took a while to eat one, so they would just eat them for lunch today.
Su Tang picked up her bamboo basket and took her brother to a grocery store nearby. When the shopkeeper saw the brother and sister come in he immediately came over, “Little girl, little boy, what do you want to buy?”
Su Tang looked around, “Do you have any seeds for sale here?”
Su Tang wanted to know what plants were on sale in town because if she had seeds she could grow them on her space’s farm. Then, with time, she would be able to take those plants out the same way she could take her radishes or apples out.
Since she happened to be out today she decided to ask a bit, since she didn’t know much except that the country she was living in was called Qihuang Country, which was obviously not a real place from her previous life.
The boss did not expect that the little girl who came in wanted to buy seeds. But he had nothing to do right now anyway, so he patiently explained to Su Tang, “Seeds for crops have always only been sold by certain farmers with special approval. Where can they be found outside? But if it’s seeds for flowers or herbs, I do have some here.”
Agriculture had always been the biggest foundation of any country, that was true even in modern times, not to mention in ancient times. It seemed that the crop seeds in Qihuang Country were only sold by specific farmers that were managed by the state. Of course, that was only for grains and other staple crops, if you wanted other things, such as herbs, flowers, or some fruits, people could buy and sell them as much as they liked.
But most farmers gathered their own seeds during the autumn harvest every year, so not many of them needed to buy seeds from outside. After his explanation, the boss showed some of the kinds of seeds that he had for sale to Su Tang.
It turned out that although Qinghe Town was a little remote it actually had some variety of stock. That was because it was close to the Qinghe River which, after passing through Qinghe Town, passed through two other towns before feeding into the sea. Because of its location, there were occasionally new things from overseas that passed through it’s port.
It was just that Qinghe Town was very poor so any really good things were too expensive for even the richest residents of Qinghe Town to afford. But coincidently, the owner of this grocery store happened to know someone who could buy things from the passing ships, so he would occasionally have something inexpensive but novel in his grocery store as a means to attract customers.
Basically, they were all fresh flowers or herbs, and some well-off families from the town would buy them back and keep them at home to try to raise. Su Tang looked at the seeds brought out by the boss and recognized several of them as seeds that she wanted. “How much are these kinds of seeds?”
“These are all flower seeds. When planted they don’t produce any grain. Little girl, are you sure you want to buy them? This small packet costs ten copper coins.”
There were no other customers right now so the boss chatted freely with Su Tang while he had nothing to do. He could see at a glance that this pair of siblings were not well-off at all and, from his experience, the children from poor families who wanted to buy seeds would only ever buy grain seeds. These kinds of poor families would never waste money buying seeds for flowers or herbs.
What’s more, after buying these seeds, there was no telling whether they could actually be planted and grown or not. Coupled with the fact that they were not cheap, they were pretty much only a novelty for rich families who would buy them and try to plant them as a hobby.
Sure enough, the seeds were very expensive. Su Tang nodded when she heard the price because she had expected it, but by her side Su Nuo was in disbelief, “You could buy a lot of candies with that many copper coins.”
*he changes from calling the old man ‘大人’ (daren) to ‘老爷’ (laoye). Not sure the best way to represent the difference tbh