“Come sit down, Fourth Uncle. Let's eat first and talk while eating."
"Fourth uncle is too embarrassed to eat your family's food. Don't listen to your fourth aunt. Once she has her eyes on money, she cannot see anything else."
"Sit down and eat first. Unless Gou’er and I cannot make uncle stay to eat a meal?"
Seeing this, Xue Qinghuai could only sit down on the kang.
In the whole Xue family, in terms of cooking skills, Zhao’er is the best. Everyone in the Xue family recognized that she cooks well, but Zhao’er rarely goes to the kitchen.
Zhao'er also prepared wine. Xue Qinghuai clamped a piece of the soft stewed pork hock with his chopsticks and sipped the wine, before saying: "Zhao'er's hock are authentic, crisp and not fatty."
Zhao'er smiled and then added food to Xue TingRang’s bowl, trying to make him eat more. These were originally made to nourish his body.
"I still stand my case. Fourth uncle doesn't want to mess with your business. Watching nephew and niece do some business and make money, and then wanting to use family affection to gain benefits...what's that supposed to be? Don't listen to your fourth aunt. Her hair is long and her vision short-sighted, and she likes to be nosy and interrupt randomly."
Zhao'er pursed her smiling lips and listened to Xue Qinghuai's words. When he stopped talking, she said: "Actually, fourth uncle, I promise that my decision is not based on family affection but is because I have some other ideas. However, with only me and Jiang Wu, the manpower is really inadequate. You also know the origin of my business. The money is very good, but it can’t last long. When I was running around outside these few days, I was wondering, since this business makes good money, can we buy the fabric ourselves and make ready-made clothes to sell around?"
"Do it ourselves?"
Zhao'er nodded: "After all, these clothes in the pawnshop are limited in quantity, but that will be different if we do it ourselves. I did a calculation. A normal dyed cotton cloth is converted to about 300 wen at the market price, and one cloth can make about five clothes. This means that a piece of clothing costs about 50 or 60 cents. But this is the market price. In fact, if we buy more fabrics, the price will be about 30% lower than the market price. The more you buy, the cheaper the price. The more the price difference, the more money we can make from it."
Xue Qinghuai could also calculate this kind of simple account. He estimated it in his mind and asked: "But if you buy the cloth and then process the garment, you have to calculate the wages. Who should we employ? What size? These are all things we must consider."
Upon hearing this, Zhao'er smiled and said, "I didn't go out for nothing these days. The clothes we wear are originally loose-fitting, and we can wear larger or smaller clothes as long as the size is not too different. Women's physique will not exceed a range. We can choose two suitable sizes in this range. As for men, we have to choose a few more sizes. Generally, if you buy clothes, even if it’s bigger, it’s not troublesome to alter it yourself."
"But your clothes are selling well because the fabrics are not ordinary goods. If they are replaced by ordinary goods, most people will not consider buying ready-made clothes, but buy fabrics and make clothes at home." This was the reason why poor people rarely bought clothes.
"So what we have to do is to find cheap sources of fabric and win with quantity, so that our ready-made garments are cheaper than those the customers make themselves. That way someone will buy from us. I think there are many places to use this idea. Profits are also great, that is, all aspects are calculated. As for labor, it is easier. Which woman in our village does not know how to make clothes? Some meager wages are paid, and most of them are willing to do it for us." These things Zhao’er already figured out when she sent fabric to an embroidery shop to make a purse.
Xue Qinghuai did not speak any more, taking small sips from his wine bowl, sinking into thought.
After a long time, he said, "Okay, how are you going to do this? I don’t have too much capital, but I still have a few liang1. In addition, your uncle has a lot of strength and can help."
This is exactly what Zhao’er wanted, but regarding Xue Qinghuai, she had other ideas.
Whenever she went to various villages to sell clothes, she would always trade for food and eggs. Then she said: "Fourth Uncle, you should know that I used to collect vegetables and sell them to the town. Actually, I had an idea at that time. There are many wealthy families in this town, let alone some restaurants, wine shops and all kinds of food shops. These places need all kinds of food, and where the food comes from is nothing more than the nearby villages. Of course, the rarer food must be transported from outside, but ordinary foods account for the majority.
"We are all countryside villagers. We know that it is not easy for rural people to enter the town. Usually there is so much farm work, and it is not worthwhile to go to the town for this little thing. I thought about it before. If someday I have the capital and manpower, I would specialize in this kind of work of collecting things from the villages and selling them in town. Then, I will definitely make a lot of money."
Xue Qinghuai was still a layman when it comes to making clothes. He sounded a bit hesitant to agree because he didn't understand and was uncertain. However, when speaking of this topic, Xue Qinghuai was very knowledgeable.
His eyes lit up immediately and said, "Zhao'er, you say, what are you thinking in your head? You can always think of anything in a different way. When it’s making clothes, Fourth Uncle is still hesitant. But if you want to do this, then Fourth Uncle thinks this can be done!"
Zhao'er laughed: "Fourth uncle also thinks it can be done? We have too little capital in our hands now. The cost of making clothes is large, so I want to do this first. As for the ready-made clothes, I can take it slowly. First accumulate some capital, and then we can make a big deal."
Afterwards, the two of them talked about some details while eating. Because the most important part was still missing, they could only say that they would call Jiang Wu2 over at night to elaborate on their plan.
Xue TingRang didn't expect that although he just wanted to put a person between Zhao’er and Jiang Wu, things would develop this way.
Sure enough, some things can't escape their due track, just like him going to school and just like Zhao’er recruiting people to do business in that dream3.
His past self in the dream was stubborn, domineering, and sensitive, and he did not know how to give up and tolerate. He just blindly didn’t want Zhao'er to do business and didn't want Zhao’er to contact Jiang Wu. He felt that her business damaged his name and made him a laughingstock. However, presently, he has learned to detour and restrain, and because of his different mood, he sees more clearly than his past self in the dream.
Zhaoer may love money, but what she loves more is the joy of doing business.
He could see the light in her eyes when she talked about all this. That was the light that appeared the most in his dreams. It was like the stars, gorgeous and dazzling, stealing people's hearts and souls.
He remembered the most intense quarrel between the two in that dream.
In order to prevent Hong'er4 from having a businessman as a mother, she chose to retire, but she was depressed and unhappy5. He had put in his best effort but was still unable to make her happy, and he wondered if she was still thinking about Jiang Wu. At that time, he had to enter Beijing for the imperial exam, and subsequently the two separated.
Since then, heaven and man have been separated forever, and that appearance became the last image of her in his memory, and even a nightmare he can't get rid of every night.
Maybe, he shouldn't have killed her happiness for the sake of worldly vision, for his ridiculous self-esteem6.
- liang: tael (a monetary unit for measuring silver or gold). ↑
- Forgot to mention this previously, but just in case you do not know, Jiang Wu is an older boy from their village who is doing business with Zhao'er. He is a nice guy and comes from a decent family. He has feelings for Zhao'er but hasn't confessed. ↑
- In case you don't know what dream he is referring to, reread the first 2 chapters for details. Basically, he dreams a "past life" where he is a traitor of the country, "abandoned" his wife and son, and ended up dying alone after being mocked by his long lost son who hates his guts. ↑
- Hong'er is his child in the dream
- In some dynasties in ancient China, merchants were seen as lower than farmers. Women were supposed to be virtuous and stay home to care for the family and children. Women were not supposed to be ambitious and have occupations like men. This idea/belief is very similar to the norms in European/American history. In his past life, Xue TingRang was a scholar who became a very important government official. In some ways, he was a noble. It was a bruise to his reputation and ego to have a merchant as his wife ↑
- translator's comment: just my own thoughts but I really like how Xue TingRang reflects on his dream and begins to question his actions. I can actually sympathize with his past self. He was a little boy who suddenly had a child bride, and the child bride was older than him. When he was a teen, he did not have his parents to guide him in terms of his feelings. He took Zhao'er for granted. He did not like how she treated him like a kid, but did not know how to change her view of him, so he bullied her. Then when he went into society, he had low self esteem since he came from a small village. He did not appreciate Zhao'er's talent in business because he was confined in the norms that upperclass society had set. He was definitely not a good husband (and kinda a scumbag), but in this lifetime, he has figured out who is most important, and there is a lot of love and respect for Zhao'er that will be coming up. ↑