TTBE 29

Chapter 29

Edited and Proofread by KitKat

An Chang Qing was feeling anxious but Xiao Zhige’s reassuring words calmed him. He thought and said, “In that case, I have to get to work as well. I have tallied up the money for all the shops with He Lan. We’ll withdraw them to buy more padded clothes, grains, and coal for the winter.”

In his last life, he had heard the servants talk about how the price of coal had risen sharply. The coal stored by wealthy families could normally last up to the end of January and they would not need to restock till next winter. But the winter this year was harsher and lasted longer than expected, causing many households to run out of coal quickly. As a consequence, coal prices went up and the coal business boomed.

Xiao Zhige said, “There are still funds in the general accounts; let Steward Wang to withdraw them for you, though, I’m afraid that there’s not much left to buy.”

“We’ll just buy as much as we can,” An Chang Qing said.

After they finished their discussion, the two had dinner together. The next day, An Chang Qing had Steward Wang summon all the store managers to talk about the procurement of goods. They were supposed to come on the twentieth but as things were urgent, An Chang Qing asked them to come 2 days in advance.

Lately, An Chang Qing had been occupied with one thing after another and did not have the time to figure out how he should deal with these managers. 

On the other hand, the managers who were left hanging had gotten more anxious with each passing day. After hearing that An Chang Qing had sent the manager from Tian Yi Fang to jail followed by Steward Wang’s intimidating warning, they would’ve preferred to come to the Wang Manor and beg for mercy instead. Other than the few who had been honest, the rest had gone down a few garment sizes due to the loss of sleep and appetite.

Being summoned to the Wang Manor was actually a relief for them, even if it was a death sentence, they were simply glad that they no longer had to live in fear.

Unexpectedly, Wangfei did not drag them into the torture chamber to interrogate them as they had imagined. He only smiled at them pleasantly and enquired about the situation of each store. After they had answered honestly, they heard him say, “I’ve asked you to come here today for an important matter. Wangye and I want to purchase a batch of winter clothes, grains, and coal but due to the lack of manpower, I’m wondering if you’ll be able to help.”

All the managers felt as though they had just escaped from hell when they heard his words. They understood that as long as they could accomplish this task, they would be able to redeem themselves.

Among the several guilty managers, one of them stepped up and spoke, “How many does Wangfei want?”

An Chang Qing thought it over and asked, “How many can you buy?”

The managers considered briefly before they could give a definite answer. They had a wide range of contacts and a variety of channels to make the purchases but how many they could acquire still had to be calculated.

Someone answered, “We’ll have to go back and confirm.”

An Chang Qing said, “Please do so and report to me by tomorrow.”

They did not know why An Chang Qing wanted to buy this large supply of goods but since they bore a guilty conscience, they dared not question him and could only comply. 

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After talking about the purchase, An Chang Qing saw that they still looked worried and said, “One more thing- You must already know that the manager of Tian Yi Fang has been locked up by the magistrate for the crime of colluding with outsiders and embezzling from the store.”

The managers turned pale.

An Chang Qing swept his gaze over the group and continued, “I’ve only recently taken over the shops. There are things I’m still not familiar with and would require your help. That said… Although I’m kind, I will not tolerate dishonesty and greed!”

The abrupt change in tone caused some of the timider managers to shiver. 

Seeing that he had achieved the desired result, An Chang Qing let up his expression and softened his voice, “But since you all are long-time employees and as the saying goes, a clear pond has no fish, I will let bygones be bygones. And to prevent something similar to Tian Yi Fang from happening again, I have drawn up a new constitution. Have a look. If you have any objection, we will discuss it over.”

Steward Wang then proceeded to hand out a scroll of the newly drafted regulations to the managers.

An Chang Qing and Zhou He Lan had brainstormed about this in detail. Each shop would have one manager, an assistant, and two clerks. In addition to reassigning them every three years, many other clauses had been added. They were not harsh rules but it would still prevent the managers from lining their pockets with the store’s money.

After reading through the list, the managers looked at each other thoughtfully and bowed, “We have no objection.”

In the past, they would have made a fuss at this new legislation but now that An Chang Qing had grasped their weaknesses, they had to press down any objections they harbored.

“Since no one objects, we will abide by these regulations in the future.” After passing out the ‘stick’, An Chang Qing went on to give out the ‘carrot’, “For your troubles today and since the year-end is approaching, I have had Steward Wang prepare gifts for each of you.”

Steward Wang brought in a tray of red pouches and handed out one to each of the managers.

After being dismissed, they opened the pouch to find several pieces of silver drafts. Their previous misgivings towards Wangfei disappeared instantly. Even with Wangfei’s dissatisfactions towards them, if they could receive such a generous bonus every year, they would not take the risk of trying to steal that petty cash.

Being treated with both rigidity and graciousness, the managers were very prompt with their work. By the next day, they submitted the quantity they could acquire. An Chang Qing and Zhou He Lan spent the night crunching numbers and finalized the procurement of 30,000 pieces of winter clothes, 300,000 buckets of rice, 100,000 buckets of low-grade coal and 50,000 buckets of silver coal. Due to massive purchases, the prices had been greatly reduced. But even so, a total of 1.3million taels were spent, emptying every penny they had left in the manor’s accounts.

Having spent a large sum of money all at once, An Chang Qing was a little distressed. After tossing and turning in bed for a long time, he sat up and grabbed Xiao Zhige, “We’ve spent so much, what to do if we can’t earn it back?”

An Chang Qing had come up with a plan for when the disaster struck. The prices of the items that he hoarded were sure to skyrocket. The winter clothes and food were necessities for the commoners. After being enlightened by Xiao Zhige’s words, he did not intend to make any profit from them. The coal was that which would help him earn back the money.

As coal was a rather expensive commodity, the commoners used it sparingly. But this was not true for the nobles. When the prices began to rise, he would sell them and double the profit.

That was the plan and the preparations had been made. Steward Wang’s face was wrinkled like a dried orange peel when he made the payment. But Xiao Zhige had trusted An Chang Qing and did not even blink twice. He lightly stated that all was up to Wangfei’s decision and dismissed any and all objections.

An Chang Qing had been gratified with his trust but as things progressed to this point, worries began to sweep over him. What if this life was different from the last? What if the news he had heard in his last life wasn’t true? What if… all these items became excess stock, what would he do then?

Xiao Zhige wanted to ease his concerns and after thinking it through, he comforted, “There is still silver in the general’s manor in Yanzhou. Even if those items can’t be sold, you can still transport them to Yanzhou as rations and clothes for the soldiers.”

An Chang Qing was still frowning. Seeing how composed Xiao Zhige was, he couldn’t help but ask, “That was a lot of silver, how could you be so calm?”

Xiao Zhige hesitated before whispering a few words into his ears. After which, An Chang Qing’s eyes widened, “That much…”

“Shh.” Xiao Zhige pressed his finger on his lips and shook his head.

An Chang Qing pursed his lips and placed his hand over his chest. Seeing that the amount he had just spent was a drop in the bucket compared to what Xiao Zhige just whispered to him, he was finally able to stop worrying that he might have squandered all of the Northern Warlord’s gold.

When Xiao Zhige saw that he was finally appeased, he pulled up the blanket and wrapped him in his arms, “Think in the morning, it’s time to sleep.”

An Chang Qing curled his body and rested his head on Xiao Zhige’s warm chest, gradually falling asleep.

With such a large shipment of goods, An Chang Qing would prefer it if the matter was not publicized. He ordered for the goods to be divided and transported to the warehouses over a span of several days. 

However, walls were bound to have ears. Those who got wind of the news all laughed contemptuously, saying that the Warlord’s Wangfei was indeed an unfavored son without a vision, insisting on using porcelain when you can’t get diamonds1. Stocking up all those useless inventories was bound to incur a great loss.

The words had also reached the crown prince in the East Palace. With a curious expression, he spoke to his attendant, “Could second brother be truly in love? All those goods are sure to empty out the entire manor’s gold, and yet he just let the unfavored son do as he pleases?”

“That is correct,” the attendant observed his mood carefully before responding, “I was told that Wangye had given Wangfei complete control over the Wang Manor, even his trusted caretaker had to step aside.”

“Like the timeless saying, even heroes are conquered by beauty…” The crown prince smiled, “It seems that second brother has really fallen, the only question is, will he be able to get back up?”

The attendant flattered, “A Wangye who married a man. Without an offspring, how could he possibly rise up? It’s a pit he would never be able to get out of.”

The crown prince stood up and took two steps with a smiling face, “Even so, we shouldn’t be negligent.”

…..

When the last shipment arrived at Tian Yi Fang’s warehouse, New Year’s Eve was only three days away. After having spent the past few days running about to ensure that the shipments were flawless, they could finally spend the New Year in peace.

As always, the carriage passed through Yong Le Street on the way to Tian Yi Fang. By now, the buildings on both sides had been decorated with red silk and lanterns while the people on the street were filled with joy. An Chang Qing was looking out the window when he saw a man rushing over to stop the carriage. 

“Wangfei, Xian Yu and I are deeply in love. We have been engaged for a long time. Although my family is in decline, I will do my best to care for her. I only ask that Wangfei not come in between our marriage!”

The man spoke sincerely as he kneeled on the ground. Raising his head, An Chang Qing saw that it was Wu Juan Shu.

He was dressed in plain cotton, a big difference from the noble image in the past but his face still carried an air of gentleness. At a quick glance, it would seem as though An Chang Qing was a villain who had come between a pair of lovebirds.


1↪  没有金刚钻,不要揽瓷器活 directly translates to if you don’t have diamonds, do not substitute it with porcelain; meaning if you don’t have the talent for something, do not do it.

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