33 A Stranger
After Lian Ze hearing what Lian Xiao Man said, he couldn't help agree. And said to Lian Fang Zhou: "Sister, how about letting Third Aunt come with us? It's better to have her with us."
The way Lian Ze think is simple. Since he and Sister are still young and it's the first time heading to town, what could be done when they get tricked? Third Aunt is an adult and when the other party sees an adult is present, they might reconsider, right?
The more important thing is, he suddenly finds out that Third Aunt isn't as loathsome as before. However, he still doesn't like her.
"That's right! What Ah Ze said is right! With me, you won't be on the losing end!" Lian Xiao Man was delighted. She slapped her thigh and not allowing any more room for discussion, said: "It's decided like this. Now let's sleep earlier, so we can go earlier tomorrow."
Without any choice, Lian Fang Zhou nodded: "Alright then. However, Third Aunt, I must say this beforehand. In front of others, you cannot interrupt me when I'm talking. Wait until I finish, then you can speak. Also not allowed to undermine me and the family head is still me!"
"I know, I know! Why would I undermine you? We're all one family..." Third Aunt chattered as she returns to her room.
The next day, early in the morning, the three of them left. Lian Fang Qing and Lian Che also woke up to send them off. Despite being half awake, Lian Fang Qing didn't forget to remind Sister and Brother to bring back yummy snacks.
Yesterday, Uncle Wang gave them some simple pointers on driving the donkey cart. The donkey was also docile. So Lian Fang Zhou sat at the front driving the cart and Lian Ze and Third Aunt sat at the back.
Third Aunt talked non-stop during the whole journey. She excitedly jibbered jabber, while Lian Ze answered occasionally. Lian Fang Zhou also found her to be too noisy, so might as well concentrate on driving and pretend to not hear anything--- isn't it just going to town? Look how excited she is!
Everything went very smoothly. With just the two big and perfect Reishi Mushroom, they earned ten silver liang. But Third Aunt and Lian Ze don't know about this matter. Lian Fang Zhou had hidden it in a cloth when carrying it and then found some excuse to go to the medicinal shop to sell it.
She needed to leave some money for emergencies. It's fine with Lian Ze, but definitely can't let Third Aunt know.
Three full bags and a half of mushrooms were sold to a restaurant for nearly four liang. Third Aunt was ecstatic as if that money were hers. Her face was smiling like a blooming flower. While her hands were rubbing non-stop and she laughed happily: "Can't believe this! Really can't believe this!"
Although Lian Ze's reaction wasn't as exaggerated as Third Aunt, he was also extremely overjoyed. Eyes lighting up as he smiled at Lian Fang Zhou.
"Fang Zhou, it's better to let me hold the money, in case you lose it!" Third Aunt's heart was itching as she couldn't suppress saying.
It'll be strange if Lian Fang Zhou agree. So with an indifference smile, she said: "No need to trouble Third Aunt. It'll be more convenient for me to hold it, as there are lots of things I need to buy in a while."
Third Aunt still had something to say, but Lian Ze spoke out first: "Third Aunt, Sister, we should quickly go buy things, that way we return earlier! The winter sun sets earlier and it'll be cold on the way back if we're late."
"Indeed, we better hurry then!" Lian Fang Zhou grinned.
Without any choice, Third Aunt could only let it go.
The three of them soon bought everything like bolts of cloth, needles, threads, rugs, blankets, quilts, seasonings, flour as well as other small bits and pieces.
Lian Fang Zhou also went to few blacksmiths to look around the cost of making farming tools. It's about time to change the farm tools at home. She also checked out the prices of the Four Treasures of Study . Afterwards, she enquired about the prices of the vegetables, fruits, and meats in the market-- things that she didn't know but needed to know.
When passing by the makeup and hair accessories stall, she bought 2 hair scarves and 3 silky velvet flower pins. The hair scarves are for herself, while one of the flower pins are for Lian Fang Qing and other two are for Mrs. Zhao and Li Juan.
But Third Aunt thought it was for her and the Lian sisters, so her heart was bursting with delight. Even put out her hand and said: "I keep my own one, so it doesn't get ruined."
Lian Fang Zhou stared blankly: Aren't widows not allowed to wear red and green? And also bright flower hair accessories?
And also, when did I ever say there's her share? And already so old...
Seeing Lian Fang Zhou staring at her blankly, Third Aunt look at the flower and started laughing. And said: "Look at you. I'm already at this age and you bought such bright color. How could I wear it! I'll change it to something simple!"
After saying that, she started to look at the stall and selected a willow green one. She placed it on her hair bun to size it up. Then asked the stall owner does it look good?
Of course, he would grin and say it look good.
Third Aunt then turned toward Lian Fang Zhou: "I'll take this one then! So return that one!"
Lian Fang Zhou smiled but did return the one in her hand. And also didn't say another word to Third Aunt. Just pay for another one and left.
However Third Aunt was immersed in her inner happiness, so she didn't notice.
"Let's eat something now. In a while, we're going back!" Lian Fang Zhou said after seeing a kinda of clean noodle shop by the roadside.
"Alright, alright! I'm already starving!" said Third Aunt. She entered the shop first.
"Sister, actually we could just buy few mantou nearby. We each get a bowl of soup is enough..." Lian Ze spoke out.
Such understanding words made people heartache. Lian Fang Zhou gave a slight smile. As she pulled Lian Ze in, she said: "Having one bowl of noodle doesn't cost much, Sister know what to do!"
The siblings just sat down, when Third Aunt said: "I just ordered a braised pork noodle. What do you guys want?"
Lian Ze wanted to get a vegetarian noodle but Lian Fang Zhou stopped him and ordered two bowls of braised pork noodle as well.
Today was Market day, so the streets were crowded and very chaotic. This little shop was also packed with people, which comes with problems. It was really lively.
A horse carriage just passed by the entrance. But because there were so many people, the horse carriage moved really slow. The driver would keep yelling out "Make way! Please make way!" His tone was very polite, not one bit irritated or overbearing. So Lian Fang Zhou couldn't help but watch some more.
Right about then, the waiter brought over the noodles. He saw the situation and grinned: "That's Grand Tutor Ding Family carriage. Have to say that Grand Tutor Ding is really a good person. He was the king's teacher but doesn't put on air. Also the manor's servants are very polite, never domineering.
"Grand Tutor Ding?" Lian Fang Zhou grinned: "Our County Yu actually produced such a big official!"
"That's right!" the waiter nodded and continued: " Sadly, he's retired!"
Then he hurried back to work.
Third Aunt stretched her head toward the horse carriage to catch a look. But immediately took back her gaze with disinterest, mouth twitching: "Afraid there's not much to that tutor's home. Their horse looks so old. It's worst than our villager Li Yuan's maternal family one! What are you looking at brat? Hurry out eat or else it'll be cold!"
Seeing Lian Ze's eyes fixed on the outside, Third Aunt grinned as she patted his shoulder.
"I wasn't looking..." Lian Ze took back his gaze and continued eating.
Lian Fang Zhou followed his line of gaze and paused. Lian Ze certainly wasn't looking at Grand Tutor Ding's family carriage, but instead a man sitting at an angle on the opposite street.
 writing brush, an ink stick, an ink stone and paper.