On this day, Ruan Siyi wrote two letters, earning ten copper coins in total.
Only when the sun started setting and the people on the street started packing up their stalls did he put his things away and carry the trunk home.
As he was packing his things, a person stood in a corner diagonally across from him. That person hurriedly turned and left, and at the same time, wiped away some tears.
Ruan Siyi arrived home. The small courtyard was already lit.
Qiao-Shi was putting food on the table. Ruan Siyi first went inside to put his trunk away.
“Husband, come eat.”
He didn’t dare look at her and she also didn’t dare look at him.
In the middle of the meal, he took a handful of copper coins out from his sleeves and pushed it over.
“Husband, where did you get this money?”
“It wasn’t stolen.”
Ruan Siyi’s tone wasn’t great and Qiao-Shi didn’t say anything. He seemed to realize his tone was off and said quietly: “I earned it.”
She replied with an ambiguous “en”. Ruan Siyi seemed to have heard her choking up, but also seemed to have not.
That night, two people slept on one bed.
He was on the outside and she was on the inside.
After moving here, there were only two rooms, and each room only had one bed. Ruan Siyi couldn’t avoid sleeping with Qiao-Shi on the same bed. Although there was some distance between them, they were still in the same bed.
In the past, Ruan Siyi had never slept in the same bed with her. He felt she wasn’t good looking, and despite being husband and wife for so many years, it was only in name.
As of today, those who wanted to leave had all left, but she still remained by his side…..
Ruan Siyi’s emotions were very complicated…..
The days passed by idly.
It was like that old man had said. It was possible to make a living, but merely enough to fill their stomachs.
Ruan Siyi had been setting up his booth for a while now and he started gradually getting some regular customers. For example, the woman he wrote his first letter for would only come to him. She had even brought several customers over for him. When business was good, he could earn a hundred or so coins. When it was bad, he could still earn around thirty.
After doing business for a while, Ruan Siyi realized he could draw a couple of calligraphy pieces and hang it on his trunk to sell as a supplement.
He liked to act sophisticated in the past, and could imitate famous calligraphy pieces. If he encountered someone knowledgeable, he could sell it for several silver taels. Of course, there were times when he wouldn’t sell anything for a couple months. After all, calligraphy was a luxury that naturally wouldn’t be bought at a little stand like this.
Over time, as Ruan Siyi handed the money over to Qiao-Shi, he naturally couldn’t hide what he was doing from her. Sometimes, when Qiao-Shi saw he didn’t come back for lunch, she would go deliver it to him.
One day, another small stand appeared next to Ruan Siyi’s.
That stand sold very basic things: buns and pastries.
Matron Chen knew how to make pastries and buns. This didn’t require much capital to make, and there was no need to worry about losing money. She made and steamed it fresh, and any extras could be eaten for dinner. This way, Ruan Siyi also had fresh food to eat for lunch.
As time passed, people on the street all knew the scholar’s stand and the pastry stand were run by the same family, and that it was a family of two.
People had actually been observing the scholar who always sat silently at his stand for a while.
This was because they felt he didn’t seem like someone who would do this type of work. Furthermore, he was very taciturn, and would always sit there with his head lowered. He could sit like that for an entire day.
At first he was like this. After time passed, that scholar would take out a book and silently read. It was a book bound in thread, and after reading it over and over, the edges started curling up.
In contrast, the woman selling buns was much more cordial. At first, her skin was a little thin and she wasn’t at ease. Afterwards, she was able to hold some conversations with her regular customers.
“Boss, give me two buns.”
“Alright, that’ll be two coins.”
Ruan Siyi’s gaze shifted over—-
She was wearing a green cloth dress with a handkerchief wrapped around her hair. It seemed that without the silk clothing and head full of gold and jade, she was a lot more relaxed. In the past he disliked her stocky physique, but due to the hard work, she had gotten quite a bit thinner. Her rosy face was filled with smiles as she received the copper into her dress pocket….
Qiao-Shi put the copper away and sensed someone looking at her. She raised her head and met his eyes.
He hurriedly looked away and she did the same.
“Husband, are you hungry?”
Ruan Siyi inexplicably grew a little angry. She would only ask him the same thing every time, making him seem like a pig.
This sort of anger wasn’t easy to explain, and he could only shake his head.
When lunchtime came, there were less people on the street.
Qiao-Shi took out a little stove and put some firewood in. She took a jar from her cart. After lighting the fire, the soup inside the jar started boiling before long.
She felt it with her hand and withdrew it due to the heat. She couldn’t help but rub her earlobes before using a towel around the edges to take the jar off the fire. She took out two crude porcelain bowls and poured the soup in. One bowl was filled with soup but the other was only half filled. The ingredients that were on the bottom of the jar were poured into the half-filled bowl.
Afterwards, she took out two hot buns from the steamer and put it on a plate. She carried it over along with the bowl of soup to Ruan Siyi.
“Husband, it’s time to eat.”
Ruan Siyi didn’t say anything and received it silently. Qiao-Shi went to her own little stand and sat down on the stool.
Right as she was about to eat, the bowl in front of her was taken away and replaced with the other bowl of soup.
“This, husband, I like just drinking the soup.”
Ruan Siyi didn’t respond and took a big sip of his new bowl. He turned and went to eat his own buns.
Qiao-Shi lowered her head and broke off pieces of her bun into her mouth. No one saw that her eyes were long since filled with tears.
That night, after Ruan Siyi packed away his own stand, he silently came to help Qiao-Shi with hers. Then he carried his trunk and helped Qiao-Shi push the cart with his free hands.
The cart seemed very small but was very heavy. Qiao-Shi had a hard time pushing it by herself.
She had pushed this small cart by herself for a month. Matron Chen would occasionally help her. But in the next couple of months, another person started helping her push.
That day after dinner, Qiao-Shi quietly put something on the table after clearing it.
Ruan Siyi froze as he looked at it.
It wasn’t anything precious. It was a volume of the Analects of Confucius.
To the Ruan Siyi of the past, he would have felt it was worthless. As of today, he had thought about it for a long time but couldn’t bear spending the money on it. Or rather, he didn’t have the money to spare. The money he earned every day was barely enough to fill their stomachs. Such a book required several taels of silver.
After Qiao-Shi placed it down she went to the kitchen. Ruan Siyi was frozen for a long time before slowly reaching out to grab the book.
After he took it, he caressed it for a long time.
In the silent bedroom, in a small space that was drawn out by a satin canopy.
“Actually, you can go back to your maternal family. There’s no need, no need to spend such days with me…..”
Qiao-Shi opened her eyes wide and started at the emptiness overhead. She choked down a sob, “A woman follows her husband. I’m not going anywhere….”
She had thought they were finally warming up to each other. Was she mistaken?
Qiao Xin Lan, how long can you continue enduring?
He seemed to be just next to her, yet didn’t seem to be there. He was clearly very close by, but it felt very distant.
Qiao-Shi carefully turned over and buried her face in the blankets. She held her breath for a long time before her tears finally started flowing.
She wasn’t able to stop once she started, and cried her heart out.
She had never cried like this in the past. In the past, she would cry loudly whenever she wanted to cry. Afterwards, she slowly realized that no matter how loudly she cried, no matter how fiercely she fussed, he wouldn’t spare her a glance. Thus she changed…..
She also wanted dignity…..
She was able to endure hardship, and live a bitter life she never dared imagine in the past. She had thought it would be hard to endure, but it actually wasn’t that bad.
She thought herself very strong and able to face any predicament. Only now did she realize that she couldn’t endure just those few words of his…..
In the dark, a voice sounded out. A hand was placed on her shoulder, seemingly to comfort yet not knowing how.
Qiao-Shi turned around and buried her head into Ruan Siyi’s chest, crying bitterly.
She cried for a long time, and mumbled while crying, “I definitely won’t leave you. Definitely won’t”…..
She had muttered these words many times before, seemingly to convince him and also to convince herself.
It was said that men didn’t shed tears lightly. No matter how sullen he had been, Ruan Siyi had never cried starting from his family’s situation to this moment. But now, he couldn’t help his voice from shaking and his hands from trembling.
He truly had no way of stopping her, and could only use the most primitive method, using his mouth block hers……
The tears were salty, but for some reason, it also had a hint of sweetness…..
The next day, Qiao-Shi quietly got up before dawn
Matron Chen got up earlier than she did, and had already started kneading dough for the buns and pastries.
The dough had been left to rise the day before, and they just had to put in the filling the next day before steaming. Then, when Qiao-Shi took it to the market, she merely had to heat it up with some fire.
“Matron, why are you up so early?”
“Can’t sleep in my old age, so I get up early to work.”
“Matron, you’ve suffered by following me….”
“What are you saying, young mistress. This matron isn’t suffering.”
The two finished up the work together and the sky had turned bright. There were two openings on the stove, so by the time the buns were steamed, the porridge had finished cooking on the side as well. After putting the buns away in a steamer basket, Matron Chen stir-fried a plate of vegetables while Qiao-Shi took out some pickled vegetables. Breakfast was ready.
When Qiao-Shi brought breakfast out, Ruan Siyi was standing by the main residence’s doors and looking over. His gaze happened to meet Qiao-Shi’s, and they both blushed.
After eating, the two of them went to set up their stands.
Once things were set up, the two of them sat down and took a break. A warm thing was suddenly stuffed into Ruan Siyi’s hands. He raised his head and saw it was a cooked egg.
“Er, you must be tired from last night. For you…..”
“Boss, give me two buns.”
Looking at the egg, Ruan Siyi really wanted to say: he wasn’t tired.
That…was so good. My glass heart couldn’t take it…😭
No wonder author got emotional…Seeing a man cry really is one of my weakness 🥺
Their side story made me cry. It reminds me of other novel “Our Second Master”.
oh yes!!!! the return of prodigal son!! that novel also bitterly sweet, seeing this pampered fourth son working so hard and enduring hardship together with his wife really touched my heart. what a good side story, im glad i didnt skip this one
On the earlier chapters, it’s said that Ruan Siyi was an ambitious person. He has better talent than his brother. He worked hard to learn scholarly knowledge because he want a great career as official. He’s been a wastrel only after the family forbid him to surpass his brother (the heir of marquisates). That’s why I didn’t expect he’ll wait until he’s fallen this far to build up himself.
At one point of the story, I expected him to be joyful that their household lost the marquisates. Ofc he’ll be sad for his parents. But now, the family has no reason to forbid him to chase after his dream. He can even help his family to regain their face. Then, I remember the helpless feeling when you faced failure numerous times in succession for years, especially when you feel no one would ever give you forgiveness nor chance to turn over.
His family has offended the emperor. He’s even the one who’s rumored together with the emperor’s beloved woman. Regardless of the truth, it’ll be very hard to build up his official career from the scratch in such situations. After all, none of those officials would want to offend the emperor by helping his family (it’s the normal course of event) in regaining their standing. Even their relatives (their family’s in-laws) and friends has been avoiding them in fear of being implicated. In addition, he’s too deep in the habit of indulging himself. It’s a series of vicious chains.
After all that long comment, I will be really happy if he can pick himself up again and being grateful for Qiao-shi’s companionship, her resilience, trust, and support for him.