Mutually Scheming Over A Contract Paper
Idler’s Note: If you re-read the previous chapters, I’ve edited them to try to make it easier to tell what the units of measurements are for and how to treat them. I have also been looking into ways to try to circumvent the leecher site from stealing my content without affecting actual readers too much. They don’t seem to have stolen the last few chapters but I don’t know if they’re just lying low because they’ve been getting too much heat from all of the other translators or re-working their scripts to counteract the anti-copy measures that the translators have been putting up. What’s frustrating is that most of the advice I see online on preventative measures that don’t affect actual readers suggest installing WordPress plugins, which I can’t do because that’s for self-hosted sites using WordPress.org installations and not for blogs hosted on WordPress.com like mine. 😦 So again, if you are able to and wish to, please think about supporting my translation work through Patreon! That way, I can save up money for web hosting to allow for customization of my site like with installing the aforementioned plugins as well as free up more time for doing more translating.
Unfortunately, because of all the extra formatting and editing I have had to do these past few days as well as recovering from that translation binge on top of the time and energy I have to put into working for a living, I can’t absolutely promise that I can release 3 chapters a week although keeping to a 2 chapters a week schedule is still feasible. I will keep trying to see if I can make the 3 chapters per week schedule a permanent reality and not a tentative goal though. So be on the lookout for Wednesday releases from now on. It is just that I can’t promise the chapter will always be there on Wednesdays though Mondays and Fridays should still have chapters coming out. Translating is a bit of a juggling act for me right now since I am currently trying to avoid burning out or overloading myself as I try to increase my release frequency while I work for a living.
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Catching sight of the things, Zhang Xiaobao was reassured. Otherwise, he’d have to make a little less money. 2,000 dan [stone] of carrots, even if there was a bit of extra water,1 that would still be 200,000 catties.
Zhang Xiaobao was a bit impressed by that Song Jing-gong. Where’d he go to get 200,000 catties of carrots, ~ne? For what purpose? Just what was he thinking when he was getting the carrots?
Could it be that he really wanted to do normal business? Not right, ~ya. If it really was like that, then he should’ve found people to have that store of his directly mortgaged. With a store worth 300 silver taels, mortgaging it for 200 taels would still be no problem.
Just when Zhang Xiaobao and Wang Juan were unsure, that person who came as a messenger gave the both of them the answer.
“Little Mister Zhang, Little Miss, can this stuff be eaten? It’s still not as big as our white radishes2 here. It’s being sold so expensively, too—people won’t die from eating it, right?”
With this mention of his, Zhang Xiaobao understood. After all, carrots had never been seen by the people here. The price that he, Song Jing-gong, imported it in at should be cheap with nothing more than a bit more in shipping costs. In the end, discovering that no one would buy it, he had prepared to get rid of the stuff or use it to swindle some money.
Usually, people didn’t have that much spare money on their hands as the large majority was still trying to use the bartering method to settle accounts. Who would be willing to spend 2 wen [cash] in money to buy 1 catty of small white radishes? 2 catties of large white radishes are so heavy that for 1 wen [cash] money, people would rush to buy it.
“He’s preparing to make a huge sum here, ~ah. His ambition really isn’t little at all.” Wang Juan had also thought of this point as she spoke up.
“He’s only thinking of swindling but can’t do management. Wait until we’ve taken in this 2,000 dan [stone] of carrots, I’ll sell it at 3 wen [cash] money for 1 catty for you to see—and no need to swindle, either.” Zhang Xiaobao smiled, revealing two dimples once again.
“Don’t need you to; I can sell it, too. With just those methods, by switching their use, at least one of them would succeed. Next step is to see if he’ll fall for it or not.” Wang Juan also had plans this time, happily raising her head.
“Stop for a bit. I’ll arrange the eggs and light the brazier. It’ll get cold in a while.”
On the road from Tuqiao Village to Xinping City, Yingtao instructed the person driving the carriage to first stop for a bit. After the carriage had stopped, she then adjusted the positions of those 200 chicken eggs in front of her a little and used the brazier to heat up the quilt to place on top.
Following her call, the carriage once again started leisurely moving forward. The coachman3 who had driven carriages for 30 years had brought out all of his expertise for these two days. Using the dim illumination of that lantern hanging in front of the carriage, the coachman could avoid any one of the small potholes.
Only until the horse could no longer walk did they stop, unhitching the horse to tether to a tree on the side to let the horse itself rest and graze for grass.
“Uncle4 Wang, the carriage driving you [honorific] have done here is really great. The chicken eggs weren’t rocked too much.” Yingtao reached out a hand under the quilt to feel the temperature. Releasing a breath, she took out water to drink a few sips and praised the coachman leaning against the tree.
“It’s nothing. Drove carriages for 30 something years so was already used to it. It’s not me just blindly telling you this but even without this lantern, I would still know where a pothole is in front.” The coachman opened a water bag as he spoke. Then, taking out from his person a small bag with some fried rice inside, he prepared to start eating.
Yingtao seeing this, hurriedly accepted the item handed over from the two people who had been following after the carriage and placed it in front of the coachman as she said: “Uncle Wang, eat this. It was already prepared when coming here.”
With that light from the lantern, the coachman saw that in front of him was some well-sliced pig’s head meat5 as well as two fried cakes.6 His mouth splitting into a grin, he wasn’t polite, either. After accepting it, he wrapped the meat inside the cake and enthusiastically took a big bite. Squinting his eyes, he slowly swallowed it and then, drank another sip of water. His face writ full of life experience wrinkled together as he said:
“Savory, real savory. That manor of yours is better, ~ah. The Wang Family’s manor has to give quite a few taxes every year so it’s not as wealthy as yours there.”
“Uncle Wang, the aged7 you [honorific] shouldn’t speak in this way. Little Miss Juan-Juan is there. Just wait. It won’t even need two years before the people of our two manors can eat meat for every meal. Other meat, I don’t dare speak of but chicken meat—that’s however much you wish to eat, however much there will be.”
Yingtao gazed at the carriage compartment as she thought of those chicks about to hatch inside, her mood lightening a lot.
“Good, I’ll heed you. This old man,8 I will wait two years and will definitely eat that chicken meat for every meal. Chicks can be hatched out of those eggs of yours in the carriage?” The coachman was also full of hope as he spoke, then pointing at those chicken eggs in the carriage, asking with some misgiving.
“Of course they can. I’ve seen the appearance of the chicks inside. Wait after a few days, the whole manor will be full of chicks running about.” Yingtao confidently said.
It was night, the dark clouds had still not dispersed, blanketing over the brilliance of the moon and stars.
Song Jing-gong lay down on the bed as he thought of his concerns. As he thought, he suddenly laughed and began to talk to himself as he said: “Watching me has what use? Could they assume that I will go get the stuff in these two days? Want to stake their claim midway through?9 I’m in no hurry. Just wait for a few days and get that money lent into my hands, I’ll let you all know the stuff on that boat.
Actually dare to raise the prices on me—a night’s sleep and eating a meal for one day asks for 50 wen [cash] of money out of me. Give it—I’ve given it all. By that time, let’s see who will cry. That stuff clearly can be eaten, why can’t it be sold?”
“Mister Song, Mister Song is awake, ~ne? The food and wine you [honorific] wanted has arrived.” Just as Song Jing-gong was plotting the course of the swindle this time, a door knocking sound and a voice raised in inquiry came from outside.
Song Jing-gong flipped over and lit the oil lamp. Opening the door, he saw that old man standing outside and some discomfort rose within his heart. For each meal, eating chicken eggs and stir-fried garlic chives, garlic chives and stir-fried chicken eggs—if it were not for the shredded white radishes, he would have been a bit fed up with it.
Here, he’d had them prepare some good wine and good food for him today. But the result was 6 qian [mace] of silver was taken away. Just this little place was enough to go to a little shop and order a table of food. Seeing the three small plates on that sieving pan10 the old man was carrying as well as a jug of wine, however it was calculated, it wasn’t worth 6 qian [mace] of silver.
“I’ve troubled Old Father. Bring it inside.” Song Jing-gong admonished himself not to be angry and that later on, he would get revenge before he could eke out a strained smile in greeting.
“No trouble, Mister Song. You [honorific] spent the money, this old man, I, went to buy it. Where’s the bother? Tonight, I can’t get to sleep, either.”
The old man entered the room while carrying the sieving pan and placed the three dishes and jug of wine on the small table. Then, giving Song Jing-gong a friendly smile, he turned around and left.
Song Jing-gong was also really hungry. Seeing that there were three dishes and not discovering whatever chicken eggs or whatever stir-fried things, he exhaled a long breath. He could actually eat meat.
Picking up the chopsticks, he found the largest chunk of the thing that should meat and picked it up to put in his mouth. Chewing twice, his face instantly changed in expression. It was meat. Alas, it wasn’t the lamb meat that he had imagined but fish meat. There were even bones, ~ne.
The meat chunks weren’t that small. That was to say then that the fish was a large fish. But fish meat was inexpensive and it actually required 6 qian [mace] of silver from him?
The furiously mad Song Jing-gong reached toward the other dish with his chopsticks. Here, the meat was a bit smaller. When he had eaten it into his mouth, Song Jing-gong wasn’t angered again but nodded his head as he murmured:
“Impressive. Before was the meat of a big fish; now, here is the meat of a small fish. Zhang Manor, I’ll remember this.”
Finished muttering, Song Jing-gong then turned his gaze towards that dish with the meat that was not too small and not too large. He didn’t need a taste and knew that this was a medium fish’s meat. These not even completely three whole fishes, added up altogether wasn’t even 10 wen [cash] in money. Calculating for labor, 20 wen [cash] was enough.
Appearing resigned, Song Jing-gong picked up that jar of wine and not even caring what taste it had, guzzled it down. Then, throwing away the chopsticks, he lay down on the bed, covered his head, and fell asleep.
It was like this for several days. Just as Song Jing-gong thought that he would still need to endure two more days, Steward Zhang came by personally.
“Mister Song, the money has already been prepared satisfactorily. I don’t know if Mister still needs it or not?” Steward Zhang seemed to have arrived with some urgency. Entering the room, he hadn’t even caught his breath, ~ne, and was already speaking up in inquiry.
“Really? That really is great. Steward Zhang, you [honorific] here are helping me a lot. You [honorific], rest assured. After the matter is done with, I, Song Jing-gong, will definitely not forget you [honorific].”
Upon hearing the matter of the silver was possible, that despondent mood of Song Jing-gong’s immediately dispersed and scattered like the clouds and fog. Not waiting for Steward Zhang to speak, he said: “If so, then I’ll hand over my store’s property deed to you [honorific]?”
“No hurry, there are still some things in Mister Song’s store. It behooves us to go over and carefully look it over. The silver, I’ve ordered people to bring along. I don’t know if we can go today?”
Steward Zhang assuredly knew that saying all the words that should be said was necessary. Otherwise, it would be too easy to raise a person’s suspicions.
Song Jing-gong smiled as he nodded. This type of matter, he had already considered. At once, he went with Steward Zhang and the person holding the silver to Sanshui County.
It had reached the monkey hour [3~5PM]11 in the afternoon before they had arrived outside the store. Looking inside and seeing that the person who normally kept watch out in back was actually standing at the counter there, Song Jing-gong’s expression instantly became overcast as he walked up front to ask: “Storekeeper Zhao and Liu Wang, ~ne?”
“In reply to [Store] Owner’s words, today at noon, there was someone who came into the store and took a fancy to a jar. They actually spent 30 silver taels to purchase it and even said it was inexpensive so insisted on inviting Storekeeper Zhao and Liu Wang to go have wine. So they went. How about I go and call them back? They just left.” This person replied.
“No need. If they’re eating, they’re eating. You can go back, there’s me to keep watch here. Steward Zhang, this business is busy, ~ah. Once I’ve gotten the borrowed money, I’ll close the store. You [honorific] sent a person to watch it and wait till I’ve finished the turnover before talking.
In a while, deduct the money for that jar, I can directly compensate for it. Don’t just look at how dearly it was sold for, that jar was actually only worth 160 wen [cash] and it was turned over like this?”
Song Jing-gong swept over the position where that jar was placed and discovering that it was less 100 something wen [cash] but did not heed it at all.
“Fine, then let’s invite the brokerage people to come over. I’ve prepared the silver already here.” Steward Zhang forthrightly assented. Behind him, the person carrying the silver put the money down and turned around to leave to go find the brokerage’s guarantor. Returning after not long, four people came this time. After all, there were a lot of items.
Checking the detailed records originally produced by the broker, all of the things were not wrong. Just as Song Jing-gong was about to sign the contract with Steward Zhang, Steward Zhang abruptly pointed at a painting and said:
“It’s better to record it with a bit more detail. That painting has a defect. If it’s wrong, it would be good to verify. Mister Song, let us first be petty men and later be gentlemen.12 If it’s off, that would require paying threefold the money as we originally so agreed.”
Finished speaking and not even waiting for Song Jing-gong to have any response, he ordered people to record the defect on that painting, especially getting that burned area written down and having the brokerage people insure it.
Song Jing-gong felt like it was nothing. It was just a painting. When it was time, he’d just leave it to them. Smiling, he stood to the side as he watched. After the people who had come here had carefully given certificates for all of the other worthless items, with one hand handing over the money and one hand receiving the store was this completed.
When Steward Zhang and company had left, Song Jing-gong curled his lips and turned around to walk toward that Luo River. He knew that there would definitely be someone following him.
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The Chinese used here is “shui fen” (水分), which literally means “water amount.” Shui/水 tends to be used as an euphemism for excess in metaphor for overestimation or dilution like saying an author blathers too much in order to pad out the word count, the forum thread has too much water as in off-topic talk, or their numbers have too much water, etc. ↩
“Luo buo” (蘿蔔) means radish in Chinese. The full name is actually “bai luo buo” (白蘿蔔) or “white radishes” and is the winter version of the radish that would normally come to mind for most Westerners. The reason I have to footnote this to explain something that should be a straightforward translation is because white radishes are actually more better known in the West by the Japanese name, the daikon. Though daikon is likely the name that is most closely associated with this vegetable, it isn’t completely identical to the Chinese variant so I chose to simply translate it as “white radish.” ↩
“Ba shi” (把勢) translates to mean “expert, professional” in Chinese. So a “che ba shi” (車把勢) would be the equivalent of a professional driver of carriages or coaches. ↩
“Bo” (伯) is a paternal uncle who is the speaker’s father’s older brother in Chinese. The formal term is “bo fu” (伯父) while the more casual form that is usually used by children is “bo bo” (伯伯). Obviously, if the speaker is calling an unrelated person this, then it is because the person is of the speaker’s father’s generation and not of the speaker’s grandfather’s generation while being older than the speaker’s father. Bo/伯 is also the traditional name for the second son of a noble family before Chinese naming conventions loosened up. The character bo/伯 can come up as well when used in the context of Chinese peerage titles and has a noble rank roughly equivalent to that of a count. ↩
The Chinese used is “you bing” (油餅), which is a Beijing food that is made in the exact same way that “you tiao” (油條) are made—it is just that “you bing” (油餅) are made in the form of cakes while “you tiao” (油條) are in the form of sticks. They are both dough fried in oil and are popular breakfast foods to eat with soy milk in Chinese cuisine. I didn’t translate “you bing” (油餅) literally since “oil cake” can refer to the caked remains of what is left behind after oil is pressed from an oil-producing material. Thus, I translated “you bing” (油餅) as “fried cakes.” Just as a reference point that might be more familiar to readers, scallion pancakes are essentially a type of these but with scallions added into the dough. ↩
Lao/老 simply means “old, aged” in Chinese but it can pop up in honorific speech because of the Confucian ideal of etiquette that respecting your elders as well as due to the conventional thinking that the elderly should be venerated for their wisdom and experience. Thus, sometimes to convey even more respect to a listener, a speaker will say that they are old or elderly even when they’re not. It is not meant literally in these cases since at this point, it’s almost become a compliment by rote. Sometimes though, a person being called old or elderly who actually isn’t might jokingly reply that they’re not that old in a wordplay on the literal meaning. ↩
“Lao Han” (老漢) basically just means “old man” in Chinese. Han/漢 became the ethnic label for the Chinese majority after the Han dynasty (漢朝) so calling an old man an “old Han” is similar to calling an elderly white man an “old Caucasian.” ↩
“Heng cha yi gang zi” (横插一槓子) literally translates to “horizontally plug in a thick stick” and is used to describe someone interrupting or cutting into something in an attempt to claim ownership or participation in something that they didn’t initiate or join in on from the start and are now attempting to do so midway through. In this case, Song Jing-gong is labeling the Zhang Family as trying to shove their way into the middle of a business deal that he started with the barbarians. I chose to translate for the meaning though I retained the image used in the original Chinese of a stake being stuck in the middle. ↩
A “boji” (簸箕) can actually translate to dustpan. However these dustpans were also multi-purpose tools since they were baskets woven from reeds and depending on their design, could be used to sift or sieve stuff as well as to act as baskets or pans for temporary storage. Obviously, in this case, it is being used as a makeshift tray. This Baidu entry has pictures of boji/簸箕 for those who are curious. To try to avoid reader confusion, I opted to translate it alternatively as “sieving pan” in text. ↩
I’ve translated “shen shi” (申時) as the monkey hour since it is the Earthly Branch assigned to the Monkey from the Chinese zodiac. The ancient Chinese divided the day into 12 2-hour segments or Earthly Branches with each named after an animal of the Chinese zodiac as a mnemonic device. The monkey rules over the time span from 3:00~5:00 PM. ↩
Steward Zhang’s turn of phrase depends on understanding a key Confucian concept of Junzi (君子), which I have translated as “gentleman.” Like “gongzi” (公子), the term that I have opted to translate as “Mister,” junzi/君子 initially had a literal meaning of “lord’s son” before it became a generic term that applied to all noble scions and then was co-opted by Confucianism to be more applicable universally. Similar to its Western counterpart, junzi/君子 is a moral archetype that Chinese men of good birth, background, or education tried to aspire to and some of the qualities associated with a junzi/君 was being gracious, humble, compassionate, and loyal. A junzi/君子 would be careful with their words and would accordingly, keep their promises when given. The opposite of a junzi/君子 was thus a xiaoren/小人 or a “petty man” who was the complete opposite. Thus, Steward Zhang saying “xian xiaoren hou junzi” (先小人後君子), which I have translated literally, is essentially asking for some precautionary measures. The request is practical but might come off as an insult to the honor of the person if they have pride in being a junzi/君. So Steward Zhang is asking for forgiveness and leeway for his caution while promising Song Jing-gong treatment as a junzi/君 or gentleman later on.