Interlocking Chain Of Plots Within Plots
Idler’s Note: This release is to make up for the lack of a chapter on Wednesday (July 27th, 2016) during my week away. If you like my translations, please think of supporting me! You can also help keep me motivated by liking, subscribing, and sharing! As always, comments and suggestions are welcome! 🙂
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!
Song Jing-gong stood there, his head a bit dizzy. He felt that he hadn’t remembered correctly as he had written down 2,000 dan [stone] of goods and 250 taels in silver. When had it turned into 350 taels—could it be that this old man had misread II1 and III2 incorrectly?
He wanted to ask for the stuff he wrote down so he could see it but was also afraid that the old man would look it over carefully and call over that Owner Li, so he could only nod his head as he said: “Unh, this Mister, I3 desire this recipe. I wonder when it will be handed over?”
“Immediately—there’s already somebody who has gone to get the people from brokerage to come over here. Once they’ve arrived, that recipe will be written down for you.” The old man sighed in relief at this moment. He had been rather afraid of screwing up the matter that Little Mister had assigned him.
Shortly afterward, people from the brokerage arrived. Once both sides completed signing of the contract, Yingtao passed the recipe that had already been recorded over into Song Jing-gong’s hands. Song Jing-gong didn’t wait for long as he unfolded it to read it. On here was written how to build a kang [bed-stove]. It was very simple. With just a sweeping glance, Song Jing-gong understood how it was done.
As for the part after that on how to handle the chicken eggs, that was even simpler as what he saw written on there was: ‘Find several brooding hens. Wait until it has started brooding a nest, then stretch a hand underneath its abdomen to feel the temperature. Afterward, fire the kang [bed-stove] and place chicken eggs on top. Wait until there isn’t a big difference in the temperature from under the chicken abdomen and it will work. Note: when touching the chicken, be wary of being pecked.’
Reading these words, Song Jing-gong understood it with just a slight bit of thought into it. It was that simple. He regretted it. To exchange using that much money and items for such an easily understood recipe—how could he do that?
“This recipe is fake. You have to pay me back money.” Song Jing-gong held onto the recipe as he loudly yelled.
The people who had arrived from the brokerage also simultaneously fixed their eyes on the four people of the old man’s group. That meaning was if the recipe is fake, then you will have to pay reparations. If you can’t, then you’ll have to go to jail.
“If Mister Song thinks that the recipe is fake, then please hand the recipe over into the hands of the people from the brokerage and wait for them to return and put it into practice. If the chicks come out, Mister Song, what should you do then?” Over there, Yingtao said coldly.
How could Song Jing-gong risk giving the recipe to the people from the brokerage? If it really was handed over, then the people from the brokerage would not only know the recipe, he himself would also be nabbed. Seeing the people from the brokerage look over here, he awkwardly laughed and said: “A joke, just a joke. It’s a real recipe—how could it be fake?”
“If that’s so, then Mister Song, pay the money and goods.” The people from the brokerage didn’t show Song Jing-gong any good face. They frequently worked this industry so how could they not know what Song Jing-gong was thinking in his heart? Sweeping a scornful eye over Song Jing-gong, they spoke up.
“Right, right, let’s leave here to get the money and hand over the goods.” Song Jing-gong carefully stowed away the recipe. Together with Songri Nigan, the old man’s entire family of four along with the people he brought with him and the clinging ghostly shade4 of a person following him as well as the guarantor from the brokerage, they first withdrew the money and then hurried on the way to Luo River.
They came out in the morning, only arriving in the afternoon, being not that much slower than when he had arrived. After all, everyone was anxious and didn’t wish to delay.
When they’d arrived at the docks, Songri Nigan and Song Jing-gong were flummoxed to discover that there were countless carriages parked over here and even people who appeared to be dedicated to loading the carriages in particular. There were even people guarding burlap sack after burlap sack of stuff waiting over there.
“Mister Song, unload the cargo. I’ve already found people to come over and haul the cargo.” Yingtao spoke up.
Song Jing-gong nodded and began to order people to unload the cargo. 2,000 dan [stone] of goods—it would need to be unloaded for a while to be finished. This side unloaded while that side loaded; once a carriage was full, a carriage would leave. There were even people specifically sorting over there, choosing those ones that they thought were about the same and then, taking out dirt from a burlap sack, they would wrap up the bottom of the sweet plants—or rather, carrots—to carefully line up inside the carriage so that they weren’t stacked into a huge pile.
Song Jing-gong was puzzled. How could an old man’s family of four get so many carriages? So he asked: “How did you hire the carriages? That many carriages sure isn’t easy to hire, ~ah.”
Yingtao removed the cloth covering her face, taking out a damp handkerchief to wipe her face as she said with a smile: “Mister Song has no need to worry too much. Based on the financial power of our two manors of Zhang and Wang, what does it matter to get some carriages here? Even more carriages can be had, too.”
“You, you’re that little kid’s maid servant from that Manor Zhang of Tuqiao Village?” Song Jing-gong felt like a giant chunk of ice had suddenly been crammed into his belly as his entire body was chilled from inside and out. He’d made thousands and tens of thousands calculations yet he hadn’t counted on failing to swindle someone while they had swindled him.
There must be something fishy5 about that recipe but he couldn’t think of where something had gone wrong. That’s right, ~ah. Doing it like that really could have chicks that hatched—then, why, ~ne?
But he couldn’t think of himself as not having been swindled. Otherwise, how could all of this have happened at the same time? Could it be that there was still somewhere that an error had occurred?
At this time, a person came running over from a distance, running as they yelled: “Mister Song, bad news! Big problem! Bad news!”
Song Jing-gong raised his head to look. It was unexpectedly Storekeeper Zhao from that antiques and collectible art store of his. How did he come here?
When Storekeeper Zhao had run to arrive in front of them, he vigorously gasped for two breaths before he said: “Mister Song, it’s a big problem and bad news. Noteworthy House is going to be finished!”
“Finished what? How is it finished? You have to explain it to me clearly.” Upon hearing these words, Song Jing-gong’s fluttered for a moment and he could only brace himself as he asked.
“My fault—it could be said to be my fault. I didn’t know you [honorific] had already mortgaged Noteworthy House. Otherwise, I would have discovered it earlier.” Storekeeper Zhao tearfully said.
“You, speak to me of the matter—exactly what is going on?” Song Jing-gong was inwardly growing more fretful.
“Yes, I’ll speak. These two days, I and Liu Wang had been staying in the restaurant and… And that red-light district.6 Originally, we wanted to return but the person in the back watching the building came over to say, say that Mister, you [honorific] and other people had matters to discuss within the store so I needn’t be in a hurry about returning within the next few days. Otherwise, if I offended the noble personage,7 my having several lives wouldn’t even be enough.
So I believed for real and stayed there with Liu Wang until today before returning to have a look. The result was that there are no longer any people inside the store and there were several people who said that they were from Manor Zhang standing guard there. And they even told me that the store had been mortgaged away.” Storekeeper Zhao finally blurted out the entire story.
After hearing this, Song Jing-gong wrinkled his brow as he felt like this Storekeeper Zhao that he had hired really couldn’t come out in public—someone said something and they just believed it? Didn’t he just want to continue relaxing in that kind of place so he found such an excuse?
“Fine, fine. It was me that mortgaged it. Wait over the next few days and it’ll return. You can still be storekeeper there and I won’t drive you away. Whatever should be done should be done. Don’t stay here where I am.”
Song Jing-gong still decided not to mind this matter. That store wasn’t important. Big deal as the money could just be returned. Now, there was a new moneymaking method. The stuff on the boats had been sold and it could be considered to have cheated Zhang Family once.
“No, Mister, it’s not that simple, ~ah! Just as you [honorific] had the manor mortgaged few days ago, there were people who came over to buy things. They bought that painting. I set a high price of 150 taels of silver. That person didn’t take it away directly but left behind 50 taels as a deposit.
After half a month, if they still didn’t come to get it, then for every late day, that Mister Li would pay an extra 100 wen [cash] in money. Once an entire month was reached without it being retrieved, the down payment would then be given to the store. If by then it wasn’t said painting, the store would need to pay tenfold the compensation in silver taels. But you [honorific] have mortgaged away the store so how can the painting be brought out?”
Storekeeper Zhao was already crying as he recounted the matter from beginning to end for Song Jing-gong to hear.
“Ah? Painting? What painting? Is that the painting with scorch marks on it?” When Song Jing-gong asked this, droplets of cold sweat dripped down one after the other.
“Yes, ~ah. Mister, how did you [honorific] know? I haven’t even spoken of it to you.” Storekeeper Zhao asked in response.
“Finished, it’s all finished. What a ruthless Manor Zhang. Why did I allow my heart to be tempted by a ghost8 in the first place and insist on crossing that bridge, ~ne? How much money do I still have? 50 taels—right, I still have 50 taels. It can’t be repaid. What to do? What to do?”
Song Jing-gong’s eyes widened as he continued muttering, greatly frightening Storekeeper Zhao. Not even thinking, he went up and gave a great slap to the mouth. With a “pa” sound, Song Jing-gong finally recovered—only his complexion was ghastly white; it didn’t need to be more frightening, it was already that frightening.
“Mister Song, have you thought on what to do? From the start, everyone said that you were a swindler yet my family’s Little Mister and Little Miss Juan-Juan said that you were a good person. I didn’t believe it, then. Today, it looks like it really is true. Mister Song, you [honorific] are a philanthropist, ~ah.”
Yingtao didn’t forget to jab at Song Jing-gong at this time. She felt that it really was too enjoyable. No wonder Little Miss Juan-Juan and Little Mister said that Song Jing-gong wasn’t a swindler. This really was the Dao being a chi [foot] high while the demonic was a zhang [yard] high.9 Monster, worthy of being a monster. Ai~, Mister Song was actually quite pitiable. How could he encounter Little Mister, this kind of person, ~ne? No wonder Little Mister said to give him a single chance back then.
After a long while, Song Jing-gong smoothed out his breathing. Looking over at Yingtao whose face had blossomed into a smile and thinking of the things that he had encountered this time, he nodded his head and said:
“Fine. Manor Zhang, you’re formidable. Isn’t there still time? I’ll go raise the money and return your manor’s money. I don’t believe that you can force me to death? Come on, you can make everyone not lend money to me? I have this recipe in hand, what do I fear? Ha-ha-ha-ha!”
Yingtao looked at Song Jing-gong with pity, shaking her head slightly as she said: “Mister Song, you really want to use that recipe to get money? My family’s Little Mister hopes you can go to him there and see him to talk face-to-face.”
“Meet? Go see that little kid of your family that hasn’t even been weaned off of milk? Are you kidding me? Does he want to eat sugar, ~ah? He-he-he-he, I acknowledge it; your Manor Zhang has won this time.” Song Jing-gong, hearing Yingtao’s words, curled his lips in ridicule as he sarcastically spoke.
Yingtao shook her head and said: “It’s not like that. My family’s Little Mister doesn’t like eating sugar. Little Mister wishes to save your life.”
Actually, Yingtao was even more furious within her heart. She would not allow other people to look down on Little Mister. What person was Little Mister, ~ah? But she still suppressed her temper as she spoke.
“Save my life? Keep dreaming! Wait, wait until I’ve turned things around, I’ll have you all paid back a thousand, a hundredfold.” Song Jing-gong was filled with rage till his entire body was trembling with it. A little kid actually even dared to speak of saving his life.
“Then, fine. Since Mister Song has already decided, then don’t blame my family’s Little Mister for not showing any mercy. In a while, there will be another new recipe being sold. It’ll be sold very cheaply. This could be said to be a recipe that I just thought up and is better than the recipe in Mister’s hands. This wouldn’t be considered selling a recipe multiple times, right?” Yingtao sighed once as she slowly spoke before turning around to leave.
Song Jing-gong was dumbfounded. When Yingtao had already walked 20 or so steps and had nearly boarded the horse carriage, only then did he suddenly move and shouting as he came running over in pursuit: “Wait, wait, I’ll go! I don’t wish to die.”
Yingtao stopped in her tracks, not turning around but the corner of her mouth had already revealed a trace of a smile as she said to herself: “Little Mister’s calculations overlook nothing, that’s sure enough.”
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貳 is the accounting character used to render the number 2 when recording finances, which is otherwise written as 二. Since the characters normally used for numbers are some of the simplest to write in the Chinese language, forgery was easily done by simply adding a few extra strokes. Thus, an alternate form of writing the Chinese numbers specifically for the sake of preventing such forgery was created. These characters are deliberately complicated, making it hard to alter them. To try to recreate this effect of using an alternate writing system to record numbers in English, I used Roman numerals in the translation. ↩
叁 is the accounting character for the number 3, which is normally written as 三 in Chinese. These accounting characters are referred to as “da xie shu zi” (大寫數字), which means “great writing numeral characters.” To try to recreate this effect of using an alternate writing system to record numbers in English, I translated using Roman numerals. Ironically, it’s a lot easier to confuse some Roman numerals for another than it is to confuse the Chinese accounting characters for another. ↩
“Ben gongzi” (本公子) is an illeism that is not humble in tone at all. Though wo/我 or “I” isn’t used in the original Chinese, his choice of words emphasizes that his status is high enough to warrant being a self-proclaimed gongzi/公子 or “Mister.” Because of this, I have combined the literal translation of “this Mister” with “I” to avoid reader confusion over the pronoun usage as well as to convey the pride evident in his tone. ↩
“Yin hun bu shan” (陰魂不散), which literally translates to “dark (yin) soul not dispersing,” is a Chinese idiom describing a ghost or shade that is stubbornly clinging to the mortal world and refuses to pass on to the next life. Here, it is being used as a metaphor for how doggedly Xiaoqi is tailing Song Jing-gong. ↩
I translated it as fishy but in Chinese, “you gui” (有鬼) literally means “has ghost” and the presence of a ghost is a way to say suspicious or questionable in nature. ↩
I’ve translated “yan hua zhi di” (煙花之地) as red-light district, which is “hong deng qu” (紅燈區) in Chinese, since the literal meaning of “place of fireworks” wouldn’t make sense as fireworks weren’t invented yet—at least, not until gunpowder was invented and started being produced in enough quantities to allow for the invention of fireworks during the Tang dynasty. Most likely, this Chinese euphemism for a brothel means “place of smoky flowers,” which would refer to the smokiness of the environment as well as the ephemeral nature of the “flowers” found there. There are other flower-related euphemisms for brothels and red-light districts in Chinese that I won’t list here that would support this conclusion of mine though. ↩
“Gui ren” (貴人) or a noble person were usually patrons that were courted for the advantage or backing they could give and not easily approached. They didn’t necessarily have to be literally nobility though as long as they had a status or position that necessitated their special treatment. In short, this is the ancient Chinese way of saying VIP or VVIP. I opted not to use VIP in the translation since I thought the acronym would be rather distracting as it gives off a rather modern vibe in my opinion. Coincidentally, Guiren/貴人 can also be the official rank or title of an Imperial concubine as well. ↩
The Chinese used here is “gui mi le xin qiao” (鬼迷了心竅), which is similar to saying “succumb to temptation.” This is an idiom that relies on the belief that ghosts or spirits could possess or mesmerize people and make them act contrary to their reason or logic. It’s similar in thinking to the excuse of “the devil made me do it” in English. ↩
I translated the Chinese saying of “dao gao yi chi, mo gao yi zhang” (道高一尺，魔高一丈) literally. It’s a phrase that describes the difficulty or continuous trial that Daoists face when attempting to refine their qi (氣) while seeking enlightenment through the Dao (道) or “path” with the distraction of the outside world acting like demons that impede their way. So this saying is meant to summarize two themes in life—one, success is quickly followed by an even harder trial to surmount in order to continue succeeding; two, newer and better things constantly come out and surpass the old so that there is a constant one-upmanship. However, this expression can also be used to describe situations where it is a one-sided battle and a significant margin between the two opposing sides is visible. In these cases, depending on the moral alignment of the stronger side, this idiom could be modified or reversed with the presumption that the Dao-aligned side is considered to be good or righteous.