Forcibly Raise Money To Sell To You
Idler’s Note: Thanks for your patience in waiting! I will be resuming the regularly scheduled chapters with the goal of making up for the releases I missed for the last week. The time away has helped me get some emotional distance from the whole content thief situation but I’m sorry to have to say that some of my readers might be affected by the preventative measures that I will end up having to take. I have also changed the release schedule to reflect my ambitions of getting 3 chapters a week out for you guys so please keep an eye out for releases on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays! Hopefully, I will be better about managing my freelance workload so that I don’t need to take time off from translating to meet my budget.
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Disclaimer: This translation is by a fan for fans. Any opinions or commentary presented here are translated as is written by the original author. Any remarks by the translator will be in footnotes or in an editorial aside. The original work is the property of the author and any other associated copyright holders in their respective territories. Please do not reproduce, redistribute, or resell this translation anywhere else without permission! If you are reading this anywhere else but on WordPress, then it is being reposted without permission from the translator! If you are the copyright holder and/or have licensed this work for English publication and wish for this translation to be removed, please contact me to do so. Thank you!
“There really are chicks coming out.” Following that voice, six people stood in the doorway. One of them was a person with a protruding belly, with a perpetual smile on his face. The other one had a lowered head and bent waist.1 The remaining four were blocked off to the back and could only been seen slightly—they seemed to be guards or footmen and the like.
Song Jing-gong had already lost control and seeing that there were more people coming to see the chicks, his smile was no longer that natural as he stood in the way there and said: “It’s just for fun. It was actually done using a hen to brood it and then, brought over on top of the kang [bed-stove].”
“You are…?” Not waiting for that person with the protruding belly to speak, the person by their side who had just been ingratiatingly smiling stuck out his chest, narrowing his eyes while looking toward Song Jing-gong as he asked.
“I’m not worthy—a Juren surnamed Song, name of Jing-gong.” Song Jing-gong, knowing that he couldn’t show timidity at this time, raised his head as he spoke.
“Oh, just a Juren. I’d thought a Valedictorian arrived, ~ne! Boss, let us go inside to look more closely.” This person scoffed once before transforming back into that deferential appearance, causing anyone seeing this to sigh at the sight.
This boss strode inside and even casually grunted, not even sparing a look at Song Jing-gong. The four people behind him also entered one after another, squeezing into this room until there was no room.
When they had come near, it just so happened that another chick had smashed open the shell to struggle outward, ~ne. This boss’ eyes immediately lit up. He wasn’t a fool, either, and understood that this method was the most important—the chicks simply didn’t matter.
“Old Father, didn’t we reach an agreement just now? Leave this matter to me.” Song Jing-gong also turned around and when facing the old man, he waggled his eyebrows and blinked his eyes while using his hands to mime counting money.
The old man seemed to not have seen Song Jing-gong’s gesture and didn’t even respond to his words but faced the newly arrived people as he said: “This sir,2 you [honorific] see, this was all done by my daughter-in-law. As long as eggs are placed on top of this kang [bed-stove], after a few days, chicks will come out.”
“Oh? It’s not this easy, right?” This boss beamed while gazing at the old man as he asked, his words carrying a hint of a threatening intent.
“This little old boy3 doesn’t know. It was all handled by my daughter-in-law. Mister Song, what were you saying before?” The old man put on an appearance of not being afraid at all before turning his head to ask Song Jing-gong.
Song Jing-gong was this angry, ~ah. Once he saw the old man’s behavior, he understood. This old man was not a bit stupid. Perhaps, the one who had spread the news had been this family. The more people who set their eyes on this, then the more money that this family could make. Now, he no longer thought that this was a scam. Those chickens really had come out.
Seeing that the old man had pushed him forward, he wanted to refuse but he couldn’t bear giving up so could only be this villain. Wanting to make his own expression a bit more natural but discovering that it wasn’t feasible, he simply put on a stony face as he said:
“Old Father, I just now said that this matter would all be managed by me. By then, I’ll help you [honorific] sell the chicks. I wonder whether Old Father will agree or not?”
After Song Jing-gong finished speaking, he looked back to meet the gazes of those six people before turning his head around, not even wishing to see them.
“This house is the place that was said to be able to use whatever kang [bed-stove] to hatch chicks?” Just as the two groups of people were there working out their eyes, a voice rose from outside again.
“Mister, that is exactly so. This little one has asked around thoroughly. You [honorific], please go in.” This should be another servant as servants basically all spoke like this.
Sure enough, several people appeared in the doorway again. One of them was around 20 years old, having just come of age,4 his body clad in fluttery white clothing that appeared endlessly romantic and dashing.5 Seeing that there was already no standing room within the room, his brow creased slightly. That person by his side then spoke up and said: “Anyone alive, come out. Don’t you see my family’s Mister has arrived?”
“Unh-humph! Xiaowu,6 how can you speak thusly, ~ne. Could you have forgotten what Mister, I have normally taught you?” This mister didn’t speak out while Xiaowu had been speaking, only waiting until Xiaowu had finished speaking to feign being a good guy with a smile as breezy and light as the wind and clouds on his face.
Other than Yingtao and the other person that had followed, everyone else in the room were all a bit nervous. This Mister was not common, ~ah. Even Song Jing-gong felt that no matter how he faked it, he himself couldn’t fake putting on such airs.
The face veil-wearing Yingtao and the other person basically didn’t feel anything. To see an elegant demeanor, just look at their own Little Mister to know—that was what pretty should be called—with a white and plump appearance, big eyes that were pure and clean, two round dimples with a smile, speaking words that couldn’t be disobeyed. Within the command tent devising strategies that decide the victory within 1,000 li [mile] outside;7 after growing up a bit, which Mister could compare?
This was just great now. Three groups of people were gathered together, each finding the other to be eyesores. For the sake of allowing the latecomer Mister to enter the room to observe, the old man even drove out the footmen of that boss who had been second to arrive. After all, this was his home.
Of the chicks on top of the kang [bed-stove] now, five had already come out. The down on the body of the very first to come out had already dried as it chirped and made noise continuously. Yingtao hurriedly took out the rice soup that had been cooked in advance to feed it.
Seeing this situation, the three groups of people started discussions with the old man. This one said that they were willing to give 10 silver taels; that one said that they could use 100 bolts of silk to exchange for it—in short, they all wanted to obtain this method of hatching chicks with the kang [bed-stove].
The old man glanced at this one, and then glanced at that one, not making a sound as he smiled and waited there. The three groups of people kept on raising the price. When it had been raised to 200 taels of silver ingots,8 only Song Jing-gong still dared to bid. The others didn’t make a sound as those two groups of people believed that it wasn’t worth so much money. How many chickens had to be raised before this money could be earned back?
Just as Song Jing-gong was smugly congratulating himself, people started continuously arriving from outside again until a total of 10 or so groups of people had come to this place. Having seen that you really could use kang [bed-stove] to hatch chicks, there was a deep-pocketed person who opened up with 500 taels of white silver—didn’t even know what they were thinking.
Hearing it, Song Jing-gong was also dazed. To have him bring out so much money, he really couldn’t. At the same time, he was a bit jealous of this old man’s entire family. With so much silver, till which lifetime would they need to spend it, ~ah? Others of this kind of people were all still using things to barter for some commonplace items; if the old man’s entire family had so much money, perhaps they’d be in danger.
Seeing that there was no one raising the price again, the old man spoke up: “Everyone, I say, everyone, you are all wealthy people. This old man, I am not. What would I do with this much money? Lest it attracts a calamitous massacre, how about this? Those willing to pay with money can continue to bid; those unwilling to pay with money can also use items in exchange.
Silk, wheat, rice, millet, whether it be soybeans, radishes, horses, oxen, sheep, this kind of stuff—this old man, I can take it all. Then, we can calculate it as silver. Whoever gives the most, this old man, I will have my daughter-in-law sell the recipe for how to hatch chicks to them. Is that all right?”
When everybody heard this, the large majority retreated a bit. After all, it was too much money. If these 500 taels still couldn’t get it, then how much did they still want?
However, Song Jing-gong rejoiced in his heart. He had goods valued at 400 silver taels there, ~ne. Added on top were the 200 taels that he had borrowed as well as the 200 taels on hand that he had saved up from before so he could take out 800 taels. Other people might feel like this stuff wasn’t worth it but he didn’t think this way.
He was already prepared. As long as he could hatch chicks, then he could continue swindling. Within a few days, he would be able to borrow a sum of money once again.
Just as everybody prepared to continuing bidding, a person abruptly said: “Wait. I wish to ask. What if I buy this recipe and old man, you sell it again to someone else—then, what do I do?”
“Everyone can rest assured. This little old boy, I have already thought it through. At that time, we’ll find the brokerage people to insure it. Of course, if this recipe was leaked by whichever one of you, then don’t blame me. I can only do this in my own home here and have no power or influence so I can’t get too much of a big result.” The old man said at this moment.
Now, everyone was finally at ease thinking that a lone old man wouldn’t dare trick people. Otherwise, just eating the paddles9 could beat him to death. Everyone prepared to bid once again when at this time, the old man spoke again.
“Everyone, refrain from worrying. This little old boy has a method that can allow everyone not to break the facade.”
Everybody stopped to hear him speak.
“Child, ~ah, bring over a brush, ink, paper, and ink stone. Everyone, this method of this little old boy is for everyone to write down the money or items they wish to bring out on paper. Don’t let the others see. Then, give it all to me together. Whichever price that I see is highest, I’ll give to whichever person. How about it?”
The old man called out and a person from the two people there came out to take out the four treasures of the study that had been prepared in advance to allow these people write on there.
In the beginning, everyone had felt that this method was good. But who knew that when considering how much money or things to offer, they discovered that with this method, they had no way to guess on the others. If that price given was low, there’d be no recipe; if too high, wouldn’t it be a monetary loss?
Every single one couldn’t help secretly cursing this old man then—he’d actually thought of such a damaging move. But even if they clearly knew this was disadvantageous to them, they still had to write.
When one finished writing to switch to the next one, this person even pulled out that sheet of paper that had been the lining below for fear that the others would see a trace of it. It was good that everyone all knew a few characters and could write a few characters so there was no need to seek another person as a scribe.10
After a quarter-hour, all of the people had finished writing and stopped, handing the papers over to the old man, and then had been persuaded to wait outside by the old man.
Here, that other man from the manor began to flip through the papers to look at them. Finding one that was willing to pay 700 silver taels, this was the one with the highest price. Next was to take out that sheet of paper of Song Jing-gong’s. One look and Song Jing-gong actually wanted to give a bit less in money and had counted that 2,000 dan [stone] of carrots as 400 taels and he had added another 250 taels.
This person nodded his head, handing the paper over to the old man. Then, he quietly instructed a few more sentences as the old man took note of each one.
Outside, Song Jing-gong was also speaking with Songri Nigan. After all, the cargo on the boats belonged to the both of them.
“Songri Nigan, wait until after I’ve gotten the recipe and hatched the chicks, I’ll use the chicks to pay the bill. How’s that?” Song Jing-gong asked.
“Why not also give me a copy of the recipe?” Songri Nigan wasn’t stupid, either, as he wanted the recipe.
“You don’t understand here. You can continue coming here to get the chicks from me; I’ll sell cheaply to you. But if you bring it back, can you hold onto this recipe? How many people will be seeing red, ~ne? You there doesn’t compare to my being protected by the local authorities11 here.” Song Jing-gong argued, giving an analysis of the pros and cons.
Songri Nigan thought on it and it really was like this. So he nodded his head, which could be considered agreement.
Not long after, the old man came out and holding two sheets of paper in his hand, he said: “Everyone, the results have come out. Xinping City’s Owner Li this time is 700 silver taels.”
His words once spoken, the others inhaled sharply while Song Jing-gong’s heart grew cold. If he had known it’d be like this, he would have added a bit more money—that cargo originally wasn’t worth much money.
At this time, the old man said: “Alas, Owner Li was somewhat lacking a bit as Mister Song, with 2,000 dan [stone] of goods equal to 400 silver taels added to 350 silver taels for a total of 750 silver taels, bought the recipe.”
After his voice stopped, that Owner Li said with an ugly expression: “I’ll give 800 taels.”
“Owner Li, you [honorific] have spoken these words too late. If what you [honorific] had written down was 800 taels, then it’d naturally be given to you [honorific]. But perhaps, you [honorific] thought to…” The old man didn’t speak out loud the last words but everyone heard it and understood. Yes, ~ya, if they wanted to get less money, then how could they go back and still give you the recipe? Owner Li also knew that it wasn’t the time for him to say these words so after saying a sentence to take his leave, he hurriedly left.
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“Di tou wan yao” (低頭彎腰) is an idiom in Chinese that physically describes the general posture of a sycophant bowing and fawning for favor. So to describe someone like this is to label them a toady or lackey. ↩
I previously translated “lao ye” (老爺) as “Master” since it is the title that the Zhang servants address Xiaobao’s father as. Etymologically, it breaks down to “old lord/grandfather” with the old being used as a honorific rather than for its literal meaning. So other than “Master,” it can be used as a generic “lord” or “sir” in ordinary conversation. ↩
The old man uses “xiao lao-er” (小老兒) to refer to himself. It literally translates to “little old son,” thus explaining my translation choice. ↩
“Ji guan” (及冠) is one of the terms for one who has undergone the Confucian coming of age ceremony for young men of status in ancient China, which is called a “guan li” (冠禮) or “crown/cap ceremony.” The age of a young man reaching adulthood was set to be 20 years old. The term literally means “succeed to crown/cap” as guan/冠 is a type of formal hat, cap, or headgear that can look like coronal headdresses depending on the style or design. Other names that this ceremony could be called are “jia guan” (加冠) or “add crown/cap” and “ruo guan” (弱冠) or “weak crown/cap,” the latter term of which was arrived at because at 20 years old, men were usually not as fully developed in body and tending to fill out physically later in life. This ceremony usually involved the young man formally binding his hair and then a respected elder or guest placing the guan/冠 on him like a crowning or capping. This was also the time when the young man received a zi/字 or biao/表, which is usually translated as style or courtesy name in English (this custom also explains why historical Chinese figures can be referred to by so many different names and aliases). Having undergone this rite, a young man was then considered to be fully adult and not a child anymore so this is also typically when marriage occurred. Note that this would not be applicable for peasants or commoners who would likely marry much earlier and not have the education or luxury of receiving a style name. Because this ceremony is linked so intrinsically with a young man reaching his 20th year, most mention of this ceremony is to state his age, which is similar to describing a Catholic boy as having undergone confirmation or a Jewish youth as having had a bar mitzvah. Due to the influence of Chinese culture, this ceremony has historically been a rite of passage for Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese young men as well.
Above are some examples of these types of guan/冠. ↩
The 4-character couplet used here is “feng liu xiao sa” (風流瀟灑). The reason I am footnoting this is because “feng liu” (風流) has multiple connotations though it literally means “wind flow,” which can make it confusing to people unaware of the possible context. Though I chose to translate “feng liu” (風流) as romantic this time because its meaning was modified by its combination with “xiao sa” (瀟灑) meaning “free and unrestrained,” it can tend to come up by itself such as when describing playboys or lechers. So you will likely see “feng liu” (風流) being used for its connotation of “loose” or “debauched” in the latter circumstances. In this case, though it is possible this young master could also be a playboy, he is being so described to show that he projects an uncommon aura. ↩
“Xiaowu” (小五) means “little five.” ↩
This is a quote that has its origins in Han Shu (漢書) or the Book of Han, which was a historiographic work by Ban Gu (班固) and Ban Zhao (班昭) that covered the entirety of the Western Han dynasty. Specifically, the quote is from Part II of the Annals of Emperor Gaozu or “Gaodi Ji Xia” (高帝紀下). In the text, Gaozu is praising a general by the name of Zhang Liang (張良), who he refers to by the style name of Zifang (子房), as one who is better skilled than he is: “籌帷幄之中，決胜千里之外，吾不如子房。” The same turn of phrase was later reused in one of the Four Great Classic Novels of Chinese literature, Journey to the West or “Xi You Ji” 《西遊記》by Ming dynasty novelist Wu Cheng’en (吳承恩) as: “後果然運籌帷幄之中，決胜千里之外。” Thus, two 4-character couplets could be taken from this one source that act as a shorthand for this entire quote. The first one is “yun chou wei wo” (運籌帷幄), which means to strategize within the command tent while the second one is “jue sheng qian li” (決勝千里), which means to decide victory from a thousand li away. Both of them are compliments of a great command or leadership ability. Gaozu was praising Zhang Liang as a general who could decide victory from a distance by just devising a plan within his command tent so Yingtao is equating Xiaobao with Zhang Liang in skill here. ↩
“Wen yin” (紋銀) translates to fine silver or silver ingots where the silver was cast into molds. A “yuan bao” (元寶), which is known as a sycee in English since the word was imported through Cantonese (細絲), is an example of such silver ingot currency used in ancient China. ↩
Banzi/板子 refers to an instrument used in a form of “chi xing” (笞刑) or beating punishment, one of the Five Punishments that was used in ancient Chinese courts. This was a form of corporal punishment by the state where the person was beaten on the buttocks with bamboo canes or wooden boards/paddles. With the great breadth of power a local magistrate had within their own courtroom, a beating could be arbitrarily handed out to anyone for any trumped up reason, much less a situation where a defendant was found guilty. ↩
I translated the Chinese used here as “scribe” even though “dai bi” (代筆), which literally means “substitute pen,” can mean “ghostwrite.” But in this case, it is actually describing when a scribe or clerk helps an illiterate person transcribe the message that they wish written down though that is a form of ghostwriting, too. ↩
The local authorities here are referred to as “guan fu” (官府), which is the local court system that included, not just the magistrate and officials, but the staff associated with the “yamen” (衙門) such as the “ya yi” (衙役), which is usually translated as runners but were the ancient Chinese version of a prototypical local police or sheriff and deputies who stood in as a basic form of military power for the magistrate to keep the local populace in check with in addition to assisting with enforcing the law judicially.