52 Embroidery Shop

    The next day, Xue'er came down from the rooms to be greeted by another bowl of rice porridge, this time, it was flavored with pieces of a fragrant fish, and sprinkled with a dash of chives.

    It was marvelously delicious.

    After Xue'er finished the bowl of delights, she went out again.

    Owner Chao gave her a slight warning of the dangers, before going back into the kitchens.

    It was a complete mystery as to what he did when he had no guests in his inn.

    The streets of the border town were as busy as another workday, with many people coming out to open up shops or buy some necessities.

    Xue'er wandered around for a while before she chanced upon a small embroidery shop at the edge of the border town.

    Though it was slightly run down, she felt that the embroidery shown on the clothing was very lifelike, looking at the bird, it was as if a glistening golden sparrow had landed on the cotton shawl. Though the material was not the best, the skill behind it was one of the very best there were.

    The door was wide open as if welcoming the nonexistent customers. Xue'er entered and was welcomed by a small room, filled with particles of fabric that was torn up too much. The windows were boarded up by ricepaper, which did nothing for keeping the elements out.

    "Hello?" Xue'er's small voice echoed in the empty store. She doubted that there would be a person that would answer.

    There were footsteps heard towards the back, this was an old building, one could imagine the many years this place had been through. The years that had written the old walls with old flowery patterns that had faded into blobs of colors outlining a blossom.

    "Hello dear, are you here to answer our poster that called for a helper?" An old voice said.

    Xue'er looked to meet the gaze of a withered old woman with her gray hair tied neatly behind her head. Although she was at an age where one would be losing sight, those brown eyes seemed as sharp as ever.

    "I suppose so." Xue'er shrugged. There was a poster out front, asking for a helper, but she did not enter for that, it was the life-like embroideries that had caught her eye, but now she entered to get dragged into this helping.

    [Might as well, I have nothing to do anyway.]

    She followed behind the old woman, as her faded dress nearly swept the dust off the floors.

    "I wrote that poster years ago, there has not been a person to accept it since I wrote it, you are the first." The old woman mumbled a bit as she led the way.

    [I wonder why?] Xue'er inwardly thought as she followed along. [Most of the people in this town are illiterate, and you wrote very small, it would be a miracle if someone could actually notice such an inconspicuous thing.]

    "Is that so?" Xue'er answered from behind.

    "It's good, now that you are here, I needed an extra hand." The woman stepped into a bright room that was incomparable to the dim store out front, it was brightly lit by natural light.

    The room had a rack filled with spools of thread of each and every color imaginable, there were rolls upon rolls of fabric all piled up in a corner for long term use.

    Xue'er was amazed at the beautiful fabrics as they glistened in the flowing. It would be good to learn such a skill.

    "From now on, you will help me with cutting fabric and sewing clothes, and I will teach you embroidery on my free time, do we have a deal?" The old woman asked.

    "Yes." Xue'er answered.

    "Girl, what do I call you?"

    "You can call me Xue'er."

    "Xue'er, the people call me Huo momo, you can call me that too."

    "Yes, Huo momo." Xue'er replied, nodding her head.

    "Good child." Huo momo gently said, as she stroke Xue'er's ink black hair.

    Xue'er lowered her head and allowed the old woman to touch her hair. This woman was about the same age as her grandfather. There was a nice smell of mint menthol that came from her, it was a very soothing scent. She was sure this woman could subdue any child.

    "We should begin now." The old woman retracts her hand and goes to her work table to start cutting fabric.

    "Yes." Xue'er says hesitantly, as she follows the woman's example, helping her measure out the fabric, then cutting it in a precise fashion.

    "You're good at handling those scissors, perhaps in time, you can take over my job. I'm growing old." Huo momo said quietly.

    Xue'er kept silent, and her countenance was unchanging.

    [Everyone will grow old one day.] A bitter smile full of unwillingness formed in her heart, as she looked at this old woman, who was so close in age to her grandfather. She felt her heart grow heavier, as she thought of how she could not bear to hold hatred for him.

    But, why did he allow himself to age, when he very well had the solution, was there a day he would plan to leave her forever.

    She forced herself to hold back that train of thought as she silently worked on the fabric, watching Huo momo take up the needle and thread, stitching up the loose pieces was so beautiful. It was a work of art within itself.

    She was docile as she listened to Huo momo tell her about the different stitches, and techniques to hide the seams of the thread to the point everything looked like it was being held by nothing. This was truly a top quality clothing store, she believed that even the seamstresses employed within the imperial palace would not do better than Huo momo, even if they were given the most quality resources and trained from a youthful age.

    She was certain that a person like Huo momo who did her best no matter the situation or quality of thread or fabric would do better than those who had everything handed to them.
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