The Mo family home was located at the outskirts of the village, so the pond wasn’t far from their home.
They just had to walk along a small path and cross a field to reach it.
Green grass grew by the pond, while two willow trees provided ample shade.
There were birds singing on the branches, giving the pond a fairly relaxed atmosphere.

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Mo Yan’s second grandma started digging up clay from the banks of the pond, while she sat down in the shade.
Then, Mo Yan saw a person standing on the other side of the pond.
He was a youth in his early teens, and she could tell from his stylish clothing that he wasn’t from Chenzhong village.

“Second grandma, who’s that?”

She looked at the person and said, “Oh! That’s Mr.
Lu’s grandson.
He’s come back here from the Upper Valley, and I’ve heard his dad is an accomplished general there.”

The youth kept standing there, not moving or sitting down.
There wasn’t a fishing rod in his hand, so he wasn’t fishing, so what was he doing?

“Second grandma, why is he just standing there? Do you think he wants to jump in?”

Mo Yan’s second grandma looked at her in mock anger, “Don’t say that! It’s not good to spread rumours about people.”

A small grasshopper jumped past Mo Yan, and she swiftly cupped her hand and trapped it.
As her second grandma came back from digging up clay, she saw Mo Yan’s hand on the ground, asked, and found out it was a grasshopper.
Then, she broke a cattail, told Mo Yan to slowly open her hand, and swiftly tied it up with the cattail.
She said it was to feed the chickens.

Yesterday, Mrs.
Liang said that the eggs in the basket were going to be sold for money.
If she caught more grasshoppers to feed chickens, the chickens would be able to lay more eggs due to being better-fed.
As it was still contributing to her family, Mo Yan started catching grasshoppers.

A gentle breeze disturbed the surface of the pond, and it rippled with a prismatic sheen under the sunlight.
The shadow of a fish flashed briefly before diving back into the water.

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“Second grandma, are there fish in this pond?”

Mo Yan’s second grandma was sitting in the shade of the willow tree, and answered while making the clay birds, “Yes, but they’re all small fish.
It’s not worth it to catch them.”

Aside from cats, ducks and geese also liked eating small fishes.
No one owned this pond, so if they put some duck and geese in the pond and let them eat the population of small fishes so they could lay eggs to be sold, wouldn’t it be very cost-effective? After all, it wouldn’t cost a lot to buy a few young ducklings.

The clay birds Mo Yan’s second grandma made were highly comical.
Mo Yan didn’t know if they’d make a noise after being dried, but she said she liked them anyway, and took them back home alongside the grasshoppers tied up by cattails.

After returning home, the first thing she did was put the grasshoppers down on the ground.
They were eaten by the chickens in a flash.
Then, she put the clay birds on the windowsill and hoped they could make a sound after being dried.

When Mo Ling returned from working the fields, she asked about buying the ducks, and she agreed to take Mo Yan to the market to have a look.
Liang didn’t object to this either, as they’d still make good money if it was successful, whether they sold the duck meat or the duck eggs.

The next day, Mo Ling brought her sister to the market in the nearby Qianshui City.
Of course, they weren’t just going there to buy ducks; their main objective was to get a plough.
They couldn’t use an animal-drawn plough, but a hand plough was better than nothing.

Maybe it was because she was getting on in years, but Mrs.
Liang felt exhausted from this harvest and decided to buy a hand plough.

When they asked for a price, they were told that a hand plough would cost a silver tael, or a hundred regular taels.
After finding a good plough, Mo Ling fished out something from the purse on her waist.
It was a pouch of those silver bells Mo Yan saw when searching the house.

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“Is this enough?”

The cashier at the plough shop grabbed a silver bell and examined it carefully, “It’s from the Feng bank, and it’s pretty high-quality.” Then, he measured the entire pouch with a scale and smiled as he said, “It’s a little insufficient, but you can have the hand plough.”

The transaction was so swift that Mo Yan was sure that wasn’t the case.
They should’ve bargained with him a little more so they had a silver bell left to buy some ducks!

However, she didn’t criticise her sister, and Mo Ling let her sit on the hand plough as she happily carted her to the area of the market where animals were sold.
Most of the animals sold there were livestock such as pigs and sheep.
Mo Yan heard other people negotiating prices, and found out a donkey cost a dozen silver taels, so it’d be equivalent to the price of a dozen hand ploughs!

“Ducklings! Sis, I found ducklings, come look!”

Mo Ling stopped, and Mo Yan hurriedly got off the hand plough, running towards the sound of small ducks quacking.
Inside a crate was a bunch of small, newly-hatched ducklings.
In another crate were many small, fluffy and adorable chicks.

“How much for a duckling?” Mo Yan asked.

“It’s 5 dollars per.” The man selling the ducklings had a hand stretched out, with all five of his fingers splayed outwards.

Mo Yan looked back to see her sister, not knowing if she had any money to spare to buy the ducklings.
Only to see Mo Ling smile as she grabbed a silver bell from her purse, sitting squarely on her palm.

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Sis really kept one of the silver bells! Mo Yan was so happy she was about to jump up in joy.

“Sis, how many ducklings can this buy?”

Mo Ling’s eyes whirled, “Well, the eleven silver bells we used to buy the hand plough earlier were worth roughly a silver tael…”

She was trying to test her younger sister.

A silver tael was a thousand dollars, so this silver bell was worth just under a hundred dollars.

Mo Yan raised the silver bell up to the person selling ducks and asked, “I’ll trade this for twenty ducklings.
What do you say?”

The duck seller was on the fence about making the deal, as he wasn’t sure whether the silver bell was authentic or not.
Mo Yan knew he wasn’t confident, but she remembered what the cashier at the plough shop said.

She gave the silver bell a gentle shake in front of the seller’s face as she said, “This was made by the Feng bank, and it was even part of my mum’s dowry! We’ve even used them at the plough shop, you can go check if you have to.”

The Feng bank was very prominent in the local area, and it was where people would go to buy accessories for a wedding.

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The duck seller took the silver bell with a smile, “It seems high-quality, and there’s a horse engraved on it too.
It happens that my son belongs under the horse zodiac sign, so I can sew this onto his hat.”

Sewing bells onto children’s hats would produce a jingling sound when they moved, which was said to be able to chase away spirits.

The man grabbed a few ratty straw cages and started putting the ducklings in them as Mo Yan kept reminding him to put females into the basket.
He counted twenty ducklings in the baskets, and gave the cages to them.
Mo Ling grabbed both the duck cages and Mo Yan and put them on the hand plough, then pushed them back home.

The ducks were tiny, so they couldn’t be placed into water.
They had to be cared for at home for a few days first.
So Mo Yan’s daily mission from then on was to take care of the ducklings; she forewent going to the school to do this.

The two acres of farmland the Mo family hand had been tilled, and the seeds had been sown.
However, there hadn’t been good rain recently, so they didn’t know if the harvest would turn out well or not.

There were some families in the village who hadn’t finished reaping their first harvest yet, such as Cao Zhang’s family.
Cao Zhang’s father was a doctor, and he had a clinic in Qianshui City, so he rarely worked in the fields.
While Cao Zhang’s mother had been pampered her whole life and wasn’t used to working in the fields.

The Cao family had a whopping thirty acres of good farmland, and was considered rich by the village’s standards.
Every harvest, they were always in need of more hands to work their fields, and this year was no different.

Post-edit note: Ok, so if the monetary system got a little confusing here’s a quick summary.
1000 dollars is equal to a silver tael, while 10 taels is equal to a silver tael.
Mo Zhenian (Mo Yan’s dad) sends home 2000 taels every year, which is equivalent to 20 silver taels, just enough to buy a single ox.
Also, a kilogram of silver is equal to 20 silver taels, in case anyone was confused about that.
So Mrs.
Liang’s dowry was roughly 5 silver taels, with the silver bells being worth just over a silver tael.

[1] I knew Cao Zhang would be relevant in the future!

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