A Slap In The Face & A Sweet Jujube
Idler’s Note: I translated the chapter’s original title of “Yi Ge Ba Zhang Yi Tian Zao” (一個巴掌一甜棗) literally even though the meaning of it is essentially “A Carrot and A Stick” with the slap in the face standing in for the stick and the sweet jujube (Chinese red date or zao/棗) replacing the carrot in the Chinese version. Hopefully, readers will understand my translation choice.
By the way, I’m following nyleva’s suggestion who was kind enough to take the time to give me feedback so I’m going to make an update post in the Novel Translations subreddit for the first time. It’ll be cool since I can get to see the translator flair that they gave me next to my username there. XD I don’t know if it’s a good thing to do on a regular basis though since it would be adding another task on the list of things I need to do when I release a chapter… But we shall see how it goes. It might not be such a chore though it is not automatic like Novel Updates which seems to update on its own whenever I come out with a new chapter so I don’t really have to worry about it on my end. Unless it’s a kind reader who’s doing the update manually there? Anyway, the subreddit is another community devoted to following and discussing novel translations in general if any of you are interested.
Finally, I have chosen to add PayPal as a way to show your support for those of you who would like to help me out financially but don’t wish to use the other methods already available like Patreon and Crowdrise. If you can’t contribute financially, you can still like, comment, or subscribe! That is always a nice way of showing your appreciation. Thank you so much for bearing with me as I keep improving my translations! 🙂
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 basically didn’t heed Zhou Xihu but first respectfully said to Magistrate Cheng Lingxiang: “Milord, you [honorific] please sit.”
Waiting for Cheng Lingxiang to smile and nod as he sat, Song Jing-gong then looked at Zhou Xihu who was standing there with a face filled with arrogance: “Mister Zhou, please sit too. To have Milord Magistrate sit in accompaniment today, Zijin is much honored. Waiter, have your noble store’s signature dishes served up.”
At this time, Magistrate Cheng Lingxiang was inwardly enjoying this. Just now, Zhou Xihu’s attitude as if he hadn’t even actually seen him made him feel like his face had been overshadowed.1 He secretly thought that this Zhou Xihu really was too ignorant.2 What about your uncle [pater-junior]3 being 6th rank? If I really sentenced your case, would your uncle [pater-junior] still dare to overturn the verdict?
Song Jing-gong was not bad as he knew who the main focus was, being quick and easy when giving money. From now on, he’d definitely need to take more care of him.
Zhou Xihu also discovered that he himself had been a bit too impetuous just now and had forgotten to give greeting. Uncle [pater-junior] had said not only once before to be respectful in front of this county magistrate. It was all this oil-selling Song Jing-gong’s fault. If it weren’t for him, how could he forget to first speak with the county magistrate?
Thinking of this, he looked at Song Jing-gong with more and more anger. After putting on appearances by pouring tea for the county magistrate, he then didn’t even wait to ask Song Jing-gong again as he said: “Mister Song knows what I want, right?”
“Zhou Xihu, if you still speak thusly to me, I’ll let you be unable to gain anything whatsoever.” Song Jing-gong’s face had darkened at this time.
“You, you dare directly speak my name and dare to speak like this to me? Don’t forget—there’s still a patient who’s still down from eating your oil, ~ne.”
Zhou Xihu stood up in one bound. In this Sanshui County, he had never seen anyone who’d dare speak like this to him.
Song Jing-gong smiled slight, sedately and leisurely taking out a sheet of paper from his person before casually throwing it out in front of Zhou Xihu. With one look, Zhou Xihu was dumbfounded. The words written on the paper, he didn’t recognize any one of them. He hadn’t learned them since childhood as he hadn’t even memorized the Thousand Character Classic.
“Uncle Cheng, you [honorific] help me read it.” Zhou Xihu had no recourse and could only hand this sheet of paper over into the hands of Magistrate Cheng Lingxiang.
Cheng Lingxiang took the paper and slowly read out loud: “I am that person who is specifically responsible for selling the oil. Because that person who pretended to be poisoned from eating the oil had a grudge against me, they therefore came over feigning illness to frame me. I knew that the situation wasn’t good and afraid of being retaliated against, could only leave Sanshui County to seek a living elsewhere.”
“See? Zhou Xihu, the employee I temporarily hired had a grudge with that person of yours who’s feigning illness and they’ve already been scared away now. You claim that your brother4 grew sick from eating the oil, then why did the family of that brother of yours not report it to the officials?” Song Jing-gong waited until the county magistrate was finished reading before he unhurriedly began to speak.
“Maybe it was that employee of yours with a grudge against my brother who intentionally poisoned it, ~ne.” Zhou Xihu didn’t think that Song Jing-gong would reverse the accusation back5 at him so he could only argue by picking and choosing the reasoning.
“Unh, that’s also possible. Then, have your brother report it to the officials and have the authorities issue an arrest warrant.6 That employee was hired by me at the last minute. I wasn’t clear on his background details, either. That vegetable oil of mine’s already been sold to half of the restaurants and inns in the entirety of Sanshui County as well as to the mansions7 of various noble personages.
Zhou Xihu, you can continue finding people to fake being sick. I’ll withdraw all of the oil tonight. If those hotels ask about it, I’ll definitely tell them the truth—that Sanshui County’s Zhou Xihu can’t be provoked so I’m selling the oil to other prefectures. I don’t know if that uncle [pater-junior] of yours who’s helping our prefecture’s governor can still control me then?”
Song Jing-gong didn’t even spare a glance at Zhou Xihu, gazing at the autumn scenery outside the window while making veiled threats.
Zhou Xihu was really afraid. Not only was he afraid, Magistrate Cheng Lingxiang was also afraid. When he thought of so many of Sanshui County’s hotels uniting to exert pressure added on top of those noble personages who’d grown accustomed to using vegetable oil, if they really did begin to question him, it would be quite troublesome.
Meanwhile, Zhou Xihu discovered that he himself couldn’t put forth any pressure. He couldn’t possibly complain to the officials to issue whatever arrest warrant. Even if it were issued, it’d be no use, ~ah. Song Jing-gong had gotten himself out of it since at most, he’d be guilty of being a bad judge of character. If he really did sell the oil elsewhere, how much less taxes would this county receive?
“How about it, Zhou Xihu, have you thought it through?” Song Jing-gong followed up with a question.
Magistrate Cheng Lingxiang felt that the person behind Song Jing-gong was indeed formidable. With such an action, Song Jing-gong now had no problems whatsoever. As for himself, he’d accepted that money so whatever else, he also had to help with the exoneration. Staring at the state of the ink marks on this paper, it had been written well in advance. They really had predicted the events beforehand.
But right now wasn’t the time to speak of this as he still had to be the peacemaker8 so he had to talk of something else.
“Xihu, ~ah, it’s not Uncle [pater-senior] criticizing you but you didn’t even clear up whether it really was poison here, ~ne, and came over to look for trouble with Zijin. This really isn’t good. If it were anyone else, they might have already filed suit against you at the Yamen [Govt. Offices]. By then, as an uncle [pater-senior] here, I wouldn’t be able to so easily say anything, either. Hurry up and talk it over with Zijin.”
Zhou Xihu was just now worrying about the consequences of this matter being found out by his uncle [pater-junior] there, ~ne, so seeing that the county magistrate was purposefully helping out, he didn’t dare make any more trouble. He feared those people who’d already retired9 to this county finding issue with him after not being able to use the vegetable oil. If it weren’t for the vegetable oil being so good, why would he come up with this sort of plan anyway?
At this time, the only thing that could be done was to not let Song Jing-gong sell the oil elsewhere so forcing a smile, he said: “[Older] Brother Zijin, I’m really sorry. It’s all Brother’s fault for being deceived by others at one point. I had thought, ~ah, with so many people simultaneously eating the oil, why was it that just one person got sick? With Zijin’s words, I only just now understood. So I ask for [Older] Brother Zijin’s forgiveness.”
“Well said, well said. From this matter, it can be understood that [Older] Brother Zhou10 is also a man who speaks of righteousness.11 The matters of the past will be overlooked from this point on. I’ve observed that [Older] Brother Zhou has an impressive demeanor and is certainly not of the common ilk. This Song has a recipe on hand that can cause edible sugar to change color. If [Older] Brother Zhou has a wish to, this Song is willing to [Older] Brother Zhou jointly go into business.”
Song Jing-gong, seeing that the other side had admitted defeat, according to Little Mister’s instructions, it should now be the time for promising rewards. So while he spoke, he took out an oil-paper parcel from within his sleeve and gently opened it to place on top of the table.
“This is… sugar?” Zhou Xihu looked at the white stuff in the middle of the paper and exchanged an uncertain look with the county magistrate as he asked. Then, reaching out a finger to dab a bit to place inside his mouth, he rapidly blinked: “It’s sweet! It really is sugar. How was it made to look like this?”
“[Older] Brother Zhou speaks correctly. This is sugar. This type of sugar and that type we originally ate each have their strengths.12 If considering flavor, it is this sugar that’s a bit better. If it’s for medicine, then that original kind will be required. Wonder if [Older] Brother Zhou is willing to do this business?”
Song Jing-gong asked, his face covered with a smile.
“Willing, of course I’m willing—this business is good, ~ah! That recipe, I’d previously had done some… After that matter or whatever—[Older] Brother Zijin is still willing to do business with me?”
Of course, Zhou Xihu understood how much profit could be had from selling this stuff. He was just about to consent when he’d recalled how he’d previously wanted to extort them. At this time, would they still do business with them? So in his heart, there was such regret, ~ah.
“For [Older] Brother Zhou to speak like so is wrong. That matter [Older] Brother Zhou didn’t know of either and we were all deceived. I saw that [Older] Brother Zhou had such a sense of justice and would certainly be able to do great things from now on. It’d be too late if I wanted to curry favor by then so why reject [Older] Brother Zhou’s heartfelt intentions?” Song Jing-gong spoke according to Little Mister’s instructions.
Zhou Xihu was in the midst of his excitement while Magistrate Cheng Lingxiang looked and listened on to the side as the sweat dripped downward. This was that person’s hand, ~ah. In the beginning, that pressure was only a portion of it as there was hitting and pulling13 so that they could directly gain the notice of a 6th ranked official. Even he, this 7th ranked county magistrate, had been utilized. Such fine calculation.
The most terrifying wasn’t this though but that person had already known that it would be like this. Could it be that when selling the vegetable oil, they’d already thought of this step? Otherwise, why not open a store? Song Jing-gong was managing two stores over here, ~ne. They gave 100 silver taels just like that so did they lack those several dozen taels of money to buy a store with? The smaller a booth was, the more easily it’d be bullied by people.
What Cheng Lingxiang most wished for was to meet that person behind Song Jing-gong. He finally witnessed with his own eyes what devising strategies inside the command tent to decide victory from 1,000 li [mile] outside was. Moreover, so many things had all been come up with by that person. That must certainly be a reclusive14 elder who would sit under a tree when idle to sip at the tea in their hand as their eyes gazed far into the distance; still like a mountain, moving like a thunderclap.
Song Jing-gong was also thinking of the words Little Mister had spoken. When the final object was revealed, that one surnamed Zhou would have a foolish appearance while the county magistrate would be disturbed in mind—it had actually all been predicted by Little Mister.
Zhou Xihu indeed had no heart or spleen15 and basically didn’t over-think it that much. With thoughts of using this sugar to make a fortune for himself in the future and getting his parents’ praise, especially in getting the acknowledgement of his uncle [pater-junior], he felt like his body was filled with vigor as he grabbed a bit of sugar to stuff into his mouth.
“Zijin, you talk—how should the money made be split?”
“However [Older] Brother Zhou wishes to allocate it, it should be allocated. Even if [Older] Brother Zhou wishes to monopolize it all, I will still hand the recipe over to [Older] Brother Zhou.” Zhou Xihu asked in haste so Song Jing-gong also replied with nimbleness.
Zhou Xihu deeply inhaled two breaths and was about to speak when Magistrate Cheng Lingxiang suddenly interrupted: “Xihu, why don’t you thank Zijin? The money gained from this sugar in the future will definitely be a lot—why not divide it 50-50? If you can’t decide, then go ask your uncle [pater-junior].”
Cheng Lingxiang knew Zhou Xihu, this child. He really dared to take their recipe for free and get all of the money for himself. But if he really did that, then the results could be imagined. The person behind Song Jing-gong would be disappointed and would then discard this route. Besides, there was also him as the county magistrate here so they might even discard him as well.
Yes, discard. Don’t look at him being a county magistrate—he still feared being discarded by this kind of person. With that person present, he could go begging if he had an issue. But if you were discarded, who would you go begging to?
Song Jing-gong laughed. He felt like the greatest strategic decision he’d made in this lifetime was to cross that bridge, even if he’d regretted crossing that bridge before. He really didn’t know what words to use to label Little Mister. Little Mister had said before that even if the one surnamed Zhou didn’t know the limits,16 the county magistrate would also speak up to help out. To follow this type of calculating person, what else could he ask for in this life?
“Why is Zijin laughing?” Cheng Lingxiang was puzzled.
“My house’s Little… That person said that Milord would definitely handle it like so.” At this moment, Song Jing-gong seemed to have entirely changed in a transformation from the inside and out; with a reserved attitude and erect posture, that kind of loftiness had already penetrated from the exterior appearance into the bones within.
Zhou Xihu simply had no room to ponder what the two of them were talking about as all he could think of was his future outlook after getting rich. So to Magistrate Cheng Lingxiang, he said: “Uncle [pater-senior] speaks rightly. I’ll return here and write a letter to Uncle [pater-junior].”
After speaking, he then turned his head: “[Older] Brother Zijin, I’ll go back first today. Tomorrow, I’ll invite [Older] Brother Zijin to the Hundred-Flavored Pavilion next door to drink wine.”
After Zhou Xihu had left and the food had also been served, Song Jing-gong picked up the chopsticks: “Milord, since the food has arrived, then let’s eat. If it can’t be eaten, I’ll box it up to take away. That person at the manor hates those who order a bunch of food without eating it the most.”
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“Lian shang wu guang” (臉上無光) literally means “on face, no light.” This makes more sense if you consider that brightness of the face is a euphemism for a brightening of the facial expression in a positive way such as when pride is felt, which goes hand in hand with how the concept of “face” or lian/臉 and mian/面 is a metaphor for pride, honor, dignity, and status in Asian culture. This principle of face motivated a lot of behavior in Chinese culture where appearances had to be maintained, sometimes to the detriment of practicality or reality. ↩
I’ve translated “bu tong shi li” (不通事理), which roughly translates to “unknowing (of) common sense” as “ignorant.” Basically, Cheng Lingxiang is critical of Zhou Xihu for not knowing how to avoid giving offense while enjoying the benefits of the protection of his uncle’s status. ↩
I’ve footnoted shu/叔 before but I am doing so again because it is being used as a way to address a blood relation this time. So I will be noting that it is the father’s younger brother in text as a bracketed aside [pater-junior]. Bo/伯 will be noted as the father’s older brother as [pater-senior]. If used with non-blood relatives, then the person being so addressed is of the same generation as the speaker’s father but a bit younger or older. ↩
I’d previously footnoted this but since there’s so many familial addresses in this chapter, I will do so again here. Xiongdi/兄弟 basically means “fraternal siblings” or “brothers” in a general sense. So you will only see it used for non-blood relations like close male friends. It can also be used casually like “man” or “dude” or “buddy” can sometimes be in English. So think of my translation word choice of brothers like in a fraternity or a brotherly friendship. Since there is no age seniority implied in this term, it’s also generally used between male peers as well. You will be able to tell that this is a generic term of brotherhood because there won’t be any extra notes on it being older or younger. ↩
I had to replace the Chinese idiom with a roughly equivalent English expression as a literal translation would be rather confusing. “Dao da yi ba” (倒打一耙) literally means to “reverse hit a rake” and has its origins in the Ming dynasty classic novel, Journey to the West 《西遊記》 by Wu Chengen (吳承恩). The ba/耙 mentioned in this idiom is short for the “nine-toothed rake” or “jiu chi dingba” (九齒釘耙) that was the personal weapon of Zhu Bajie (猪八戒) or “Pig Eight Abstains.” This expression refers to an incident in the novel where Zhu Bajie won a fight by reverse striking with his rake. However, the idiom itself tends to be used in cases for when someone is in the wrong but turns the accusation around at the other party rather than admit loss or examine their own sins. For a picture of the type of rake (or harrow as it is sometimes translated as) in general, you can visit the Baidu page here or here. ↩
I’ve translated “hai bu wen shu” (海捕文書) as “arrest warrant” even though its literal translation is “ocean capture document.” It is basically the equivalent of an ubiquitous wanted poster or an ancient Chinese incarnation of an APB or all-points bulletin that the authorities could issue for suspects wanted for questioning in a case. ↩
Fu/府 can mean “official residence” when attached to public buildings but for private estates, it essentially translates to “mansion.” This is different in image from the “manor” I use to translate for zhuangzi/莊子 which basically refers to the Chinese version of a country estate since fu/府 has an extra connotation of luxury and prestige in Chinese so not just anyone could have a fu/府 in ancient China. ↩
“He shi lao” (和事老) literally means “peace issue elder” so it’s a Chinese idiom for a peacemaker. ↩
“Zhi shi” (致仕) basically means to “resign or retire.” However, this term has an implication of a government official retiring after a full career or with honor, which would be different from being dismissed or forced out. Naturally, such retirees would be a lot more powerful and influential than most people of their age. ↩
Song Jing-gong is calling Zhou Xihu “Zhou xiong” (周兄) or “Older Brother Zhou” not because of age seniority as it’s debatable whether Zhou Xihu is actually older in age than Song Jing-gong but because this is a way of complimenting Zhou Xihu since calling him older is verbally granting him respect and acknowledging him as higher in the social hierarchy so it is a subtle way of sucking up. However, since Song Jing-gong isn’t using humble speech and freely uses “I” or wo/我 with him, it’s a matter of trying to simultaneously build intimacy with some relatively meaningless verbal praises while forcing Zhou Xihu to respect him by showing in action and speech that they are equals. ↩
I’ve translated “yi qi” (義氣) as “righteousness” but I wished to footnote this because the concept is also entwined with the idea of fraternity or a code of loyalty in Chinese culture, which makes sense when you consider that yi/義 appears in the Chinese phrase meaning “sworn brothers” or “jie yi xiong di” (結義兄弟) with the most famous example of which being the three sworn brothers of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms (三國演義) who went on to found the state of Shu Han (蜀漢): Liu Bei (劉備), Guan Yu (關羽), and Zhang Fei (張飛). ↩
“Ge you qian qiu” (各有千秋) translates to “each have 1,000 autumns.” Since the literal translation would be confusing, I chose to translate for the meaning. The story behind this idiom is related to the background of Peng Zu (彭祖) or “Ancestor Peng,” a legendary figure who supposedly lived for 800 years during the Shang dynasty (商朝) and is known as a Taoist saint. Legend goes that Peng Zu was one of the second generation grandsons of the mythical Emperor Zhuanxu (顓頊). Peng Zu’s father was Lu Zhong (陸終), considered to be one of the 3 possible progenitors of Lu/陸 as a surname in China, who had married a woman of the Guifang clan (鬼方氏) named Nugui (女嬇) who subsequently fell pregnant for 3 years and then gave birth to 6 sons with Peng Zu being one of them. Since 3 years could be referred to as 1,000 autumns back then, this saying was to illustrate how these sons who had born after a three year long pregnancy each had their strengths or good points. [Baidu] ↩
I translated “you da you la” (有打有拉) literally because this is an euphemism to the usage of the “carrot and stick” strategy or “slap in the face and sweet jujube” as the Chinese put it. So the hitting part would be referring to the stick or the veiled threat that Song Jing-gong delivered while the pulling would be the lure as represented by the carrot or jujube such as with Song Jing-gong using the future profit of the sugar deal. ↩
I’ve translated “yin shi” (隱世) as “reclusive,” which is what it means but I wished to add that it literally means “hide from the world” and has connotations in Chinese of someone who has willingly secluded themselves from the outside world to seek enlightenment or finding it meaningless because they’ve already seen through the illusions of the mundane world, etc. So this is more in line with becoming a hermit for the sake or religion or philosophy rather than just eccentricity. ↩
I translated “mei xin mei pi” (沒心沒脾) literally. It isn’t a common Chinese expression or idiom but rather an amalgamation of beliefs. Heart or xin/心 tends to be how Chinese expresses inward thoughts or refer to the mind so someone with no heart could either be heartless or brainless. In this case, it is the meaning of brainlessness that is intended. Pi/脾 can mean spleen or pancreas in Chinese but “temper” basically breaks down to “spleen’s qi” or “pi qi” (脾氣), which can also have connotations of having a character or disposition so not having a spleen would mean not having character—basically, someone who has no principles. So pretty much, Zhou Xihu is being described as someone who’s brainless and spineless if you are looking for a similar analogy in English. ↩
“Shen qian” (深淺) actually breaks down to mean “deep, shallow” or “depth.” It can tend to be used as an euphemism for limits so someone who doesn’t know depth is someone who doesn’t know moderation or the severity and implications of their behavior and actions.