Mu Shi patted his daughter’s head and said, “You can’t take advantage of others like this. I’ve been dealing with the Wafting Fragrance Eatery for more than 10 years, so I know them better than you do. They have so many suppliers, but how many have they replaced over the years? I’m the only exception. Not only because our family provides them with a stable supply, but also because I’m honest and offer a fair price.”
“But the Wafting Fragrance Eatery has deep pockets. Why would they care about that little tip?” Mu Yangling had always thought that the extra silver was a tip, and not something that was included in the payment. Modern people liked to tip, but the rich people in ancient times were even more fond of doing so. If they were in a good mood, they would tip people with silver leaves. If they were in an extremely good mood, they might even tip people with golden leaves. When Mu Yangling was walking on the streets, she saw rich masters and madams tipping people like this.
There were also young masters who tipped with their jade pendants or fan pendants. Those things were not expensive to them, but to Mu Yangling and the others, they were worth much more than the silver leaves.
This was because most of the silver leaves used to tip people were eight or six cents, but a jade pendant or fan pendant was worth several taels of silver.
“The Wafting Fragrance Eatery has indeed deep pockets, but there’s no reason to tip people like this. If it was the owner of the Wafting Fragrance Eatery who rewarded us this time, we would just thank him. However, the one who made the decision was Shopkeeper Zhang. He’s only an employee. He probably saw that our family had trouble making ends meet, so he simply cooked up an excuse to help us. Since that’s the case, we can’t make things difficult for him. Even if we don’t make up for the extra money given, we have to send some prey to the Wafting Fragrance Eatery for free so that others won’t gossip.” As he had been struggling alone after his parents passed away, Mu Shi was much smarter than his daughter in the ways of the world and could resist all kinds of temptations.
Mu Yangling lowered her head and pondered. Then, she said seriously, “Father, I was too eager for quick success. I can’t compare to you.”
Mu Shi laughed out loud and rubbed his daughter’s hair in amusement. “Little girl, how old are you? How old is your father? You want to catch up to me now? Wait till you gain more experiences in life.”
Mu Yangling pursed her lips and thought to herself, ‘Combining my age in my previous life and the nine years in this life, I’m older than you. It’s a pity that I’d been spending my time on campus. It wasn’t easy for me to graduate, but I joined the army right after graduating. Although there were times of conflict in the army, my life experience can be described as a piece of white paper compared to Father, who had plenty of experience dealing with villagers, relatives, bandits, and merchants.’
Mu Yangling was a little dejected.
Mu Shi found it extremely funny. His daughter was only nine years old. He usually thought that she was too steady and did not have the liveliness of a child, but now it seemed that this child had been imitating adults and covering up her childishness.
Thinking of this, Mu Shi was a little worried. He did not know why this child was not fond of playing with the children in the village. If she could play with the children in the village, she might be more lively.
Mu Shi was pondering ways to let his daughter interact more with the children in the village when Mu Yangling tugged at his sleeve.
Mu Shi looked down at her.
Mu Yangling pointed to the left and said, “Father, someone just called out to you.” That person had shouted ‘Shi
‘, so she should be calling out to her father. Mu Yangling had once heard her eldest uncle address her father like this.
Mu Shi turned around and saw a hunched old lady with a basket looking at him uncertainly. When she saw him looking over, she called out with uncertainty, “Shi Tou?”
Mu Shi opened his mouth slightly in shock and carefully identified her facial features. “Aunt?”
The old lady immediately smiled in relief. She held a basket and held a little girl’s hand as she walked over. She said with a beam, “It’s really you, Shi Tou. At first, I thought I had recognized the wrong person.”
Mu Shi was also a little excited. “Aunt, you’re here to market too? I haven’t seen you in three to four years.”
The old lady nodded with a smile. “Indeed, it’s been three to four years.” Seeing Mu Yangling standing beside Mu Shi, she asked, “Is this your eldest daughter, Ah Ling?”
“Yes.” Mu Shi pulled his daughter over. “This is your great-aunt. Come, greet her.”
After a moment of surprise, Mu Yangling realized that this was her great-aunt. She quickly straightened her body and flashed her a broad grin as she called out, “Great-aunt.”
“Aye, aye.” Great-aunt was obviously delighted. She stroked Mu Yangling before taking out five copper coins and stuffing them into her hands. “This is from Great-aunt. Take it, take it.”
Mu Yangling looked at Mu Shi hesitantly. Seeing Mu Shi nod, she put away the five copper coins and thanked her. “Thank you, Great-aunt.”
Great-aunt was in high spirits. “Ah Ling has grown up and is already so sensible. Your other kid is already five years old, right?”
“Yes, he’ll be five this winter solstice.”
Great-aunt said with a hint of melancholy, “Isn’t that so? When your cousin got into trouble back then, your wife was about to give birth. In the blink of an eye, five years have passed.”
Mu Shi also looked a little sad. Seeing that her clothes were neat but full of patches, he asked with concern, “Great-aunt, how have you been all these years?”
“It’s alright, I can still move. I can raise my two granddaughters by planting crops on a few acres of land.”
However, Mu Shi and Mu Yangling knew that their great-aunt was definitely not doing well. The clothes she was wearing were full of patches, and her hands were full of cracks and thick calluses. It was obvious that she had labored too hard, and her complexion wasn’t looking too good either. The girl standing beside her was also wearing tattered clothes. Thin and small, her hands were full of calluses from work, and there was black mud between her fingers. From the moment she saw them, her eyes had been glued to the meat on their cart. To be precise, she was staring at the meat and not moving.
When Great-aunt gave Mu Yangling that five copper coins, the girl looked up at her. There was a hint of envy, worry, and above all, reluctance on her face.
Seeing that they were obviously struggling to make ends meet themselves, Mu Yangling suddenly felt that the five copper coins in her palm were scorching.
While Mu Yangling was letting her imagination run wild, her great-aunt had already finished catching up with Mu Shi. She smiled and said, “Then hurry up and go set up a stall. It’s already noon. If you don’t go now, you won’t be able to find a good spot. Your niece and I have to go back too.” Her great-aunt had brought the eggs from home to sell here. Now that she had sold them all, she naturally had to go back. The West Mountain Village she resided in was a little far from town.
Mu Shi took a pheasant and a rabbit from the cart and stuffed them into her hands. “Aunt, these are for the two children to nourish their bodies. Take them back for a snack.”
“How can we do that?” Great-aunt declined. “You depend on this to put food on the table. You’re different from us. We have land and can grow our own food while you rely on these to exchange for food. We can’t accept them. Hurry up and put them away.”
Mu Yangling said, “Great-aunt, quickly accept it. My father is amazing. We’ll just go into the mountains tomorrow to hunt for more.”
“That’s right, Aunt. Please keep it. Little niece is already seven years old, right? She needs to eat more meat and fish. My family doesn’t have anything else, but we don’t lack such wild game.” Mu Shi forcefully stuffed it into his aunt’s basket.
Great-aunt’s face flushed red, clearly very embarrassed. However, after seeing the eager look on her little granddaughter’s face, she did not reject him again.
Great-aunt murmured, “Erm, in that case, thank you, Eldest Nephew.” Great-aunt pulled her granddaughter over and said, “Xiulan, quickly thank your uncle.”
“Thank you, Uncle.”
“Aye.” Mu Shi took out five copper coins from his pocket and stuffed them into Xiulan’s hand. He rubbed her head with his big hand and beamed. “You have to eat well and grow up well.”
Xiulan smiled shyly.
Great-aunt opened her mouth and her eyes turned slightly red. Yet, she didn’t say anything to reject him.
- ‘Shi Tou’ means ‘rock’