Moonlight Chapter 9 - Vagabond
My name, Li Chunhua. Eight years old, I am a peasant living in small village that is only beginning to form out of the small groups of travelers who perchance happened to pass this general area. This is the great Qing Dynasty, yet in this horrifying war of opium, it is a dangerous time, as bandits have chosen this time of disarray to attack the less developed villages and towns of the country. Every day was spent doing two things. One, quietly going by our business in developing our village, and two, preparing for a bandit raid which may happen at any second. This catastrophic situation is where my real life started.

*****

I awoke in a small cottage, a familiar sight by now. This dingy little cottage was my home. Though it was nothing I could really brag about, I loved it. As I was musing to myself about my home, the smell of cooked barley entered through my nose, revitalizing my just waking body. As rice was far to expensive to afford, many families, like ours, instead used barley. Though it is harder to digest, it is a good fill-in.
In the kitchen, my mother was standing there, preparing the barley and side dishes to eat for today.
"Good morning, mother. How are you doing today?"
I ask her meekly.
"Fine. Life's been good to me as usual. Hopefully, this fortune will continue in the future."
She said while smiling. I realized this morning that wrinkles were beginning to form around her mouth.
My mother must be under some sort of stress... Probably the low amount of business we've been having for the shop this year.
"That's good. I also hope the luck will continue."
I decided to pretend as if I didn't know about her troubles, so as to not worry her even more than she already was.
After this small conversation, we had a very silent breakfast, in which neither my mother, nor I spoke. Father was visiting Beijing in order to acquire goods for our shop, and such, he would not be here for another three months.
The meal passed, and mother got up and moved to the other side of our cottage, which also happened to be the shop. She would most likely be there for the rest of the day, hoping for the occasional customer. It was my duty to go out into the square and advertise our wares to passing travelers. I put on my sandals, and walked slowly towards the large gathering of passerby's at the square.
"Hello travelers! Please visit our family's shop! We have many things to choose from, so please take a small look if you happen to be looking for something!"
I yell from the top of my lungs to the groups of people loitering around here and there.
Many of them just took a glance at me, then resumed their business, but one large man came up to talk to me.
He had a gargatuous build. Despite this fact, he still had a genuinely kind look upon his wide face. Under his slightly block-like nose, he had two long whiskers which made him very much resemble a catfish. He was probably twice, no, twice and a half times larger than me. When he opened his mouth, a loud, booming voice literally announced his thoughts.
"That's great!", he said, "I was lookin' fer some supplies before I leave this town!"
"Oh. Um.... may I direct you to the store?"
I feebly ask the man.
"Yeah, that would be great if you ya could, missy! Ahahahaha!"
He laughed heartily, and for some reason, it seemed to match this man perfectly.
I wasn't used to this type of attention, and I began to blush furiously, and look down upon the ground.
This didn't seem to faze the man, as he began walking, looked back, and shouted.
"Oy! Are ya directing me or what?"
At these words, I snapped out of my daydreaming, and akwardly began to run towards to the man.
This sight seemed to amuse the hulking traveler, and his whiskers trembled as his mouth made a large cresent shape.

When we arrived at the store, the first thing I saw was my mother's face, looking shocked at the mound of muscle behind me. There was a long silence, which was followed by a short introduction from the man.
"Nice to meet you madam, I'm a traveler in need of supplies. I believe that you sell them here?"
Mother still looked shocked. She muttered something that I couldn't hear and looked up cheerfully.
"Yes, we carry many tools and items here. Please take a look at our merchandise."
She said this with a beaming smile.
As I walked beside the giant, he suddenly faced me, and unlike his usual demeanor, quietly introduced himself again, this time using his name.
"By the way, my name is Jiaoyu. Spelled with the characters for Shark."
With this, he gave me a hearty smile and followed mother into the shop.
Looking at the man's back as he ducked his head to enter through the door, I suddenly felt a slight happiness.
Though I had only met him this afternoon, Jiaoyu managed to bring about a feeling of comfort in me, much like my father did. Even so, I knew that I most likely would not see him again in my life. As I stood there, watching him discuss prices of merchandise with mother, I gave a slight chuckle and walked away.

When  Jiaoyu was finished with his shopping, we were practically sold out of everything.
How he had so much money, and what exactly he was doing in such a small trader's post was beyond us.
Even so, I finally saw the look of worry disappear from mother's face. Even I knew that with these profits, we could probably eat like kings for a month. Though we sold him merchandise at a less-than-average price, I felt that it was not enough, that we were still in great debt to the man.
Mother obviously thought so too, as she offered him a meal and a night at our home as thanks.
"Though I'd love to, I must leave before tomorrow. Even so, I'll take you up on your offer for the meal."
Disappointed, mother instead put all of her efforts and energy into cooking her best recipes. She asked Jiaoyu to make himself and home, and shortly after, entered the kitchen and began to cook with great fervor. Soon enough, our food was prepared. Unsurprisingly, mother, a housewife often praised for her great cooking, had crafted a masterpiece of a meal, even with our lack of rare or expensive ingredients. Instead of barley, mother got out the rice, which we only used for festive occasions. Meat, an uncommon occurence in the Li family, was extravagantly used for many of the dishes.
We had a lively dinner, and it was obvious that she was trying to impress this kind vagabond.
During the meal, we laughed and talked about the many things that Jiaoyu had encountered in his life. The many treasures of the country, buildings that touched the sky, and jewelery so radiant, one had to squint to glance at their brilliance.
After the dinner, as we all sat with full stomachs, he got ready to leave.
"The dinner was great, madam. I'm very sorry, but I'm afraid I'll have to leave right now if I want to catch my carriage."
As he said this, he got up, bowed to us, and headed for the door. In return, I bowed as deeply as I could, and so did Mother.
"Jiaoyu! Thank you very much again for the great business.", I said as he was walking off to the distance.
"Hey. No problem! If I ever come back, I'll make sure to buy more things from you guys again!"
With this, he laughed loudly, and disappeared into the night.
Though, there is always the law of equivalent exchange. If something is given, then something of equal value must be returned.... even luck is part of this cycle.




         

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