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Ch. 30: Haggling to Lease a Shop

TL’ed by snowflake_obsidian

Edited by Xia


[1] One foot is approximately 30 cm.

[2] The five elements here seems to be a reference to Chinese Medicine where the different elements in nature, and the qi which flows them, are supposed to be balanced. The five elements are wood, fire, earth, metal, and water. Salty taste is associated with the water element as is being erudite. The five elements are also used in, among other things, martial arts, feng shui, and philosophy. Anyhow, Su Tang while disguised as a man gives her name as Su Yan (苏盐). Yan here is 盐 which means salt. 盐 is also a surname and a brother Yan is mentioned in the chapter. A play on the word 盐 is used. A character from a prior chapter reappears and he acknowledges that Su Yan and brother Yan’s business savvy are leagues better than his. Since Su Yan and brother Yan are both “salt” that leads him to wonder whether his five elements needs more salt.


Ch30 – Haggling to Lease a Shop

Su Tang was surprised to see this pretty as a picture person who was wearing a light purple changshan. He showed the manners of a son of the rich, an extremely graceless willful bearing. The person was sitting on a backless bench, one foot up, his chin propped on top of the table, with a teacup that had one mouthful which had not yet been slurped down.

Su Tang saw his appearance and couldn’t help but feel it was ridiculous.

Zhan Yi was half-asleep and suddenly detected someone had come in. He lifted his head and soon afterwards saw Su Tang standing at the threshold, disguised as a man. Her face was completely astonished.

He hastily stood up and scrutinized her for a bit from top to bottom. With wrinkled eyebrows he stroked his chin and said, “Brother, in my humble opinion, looking at me in that way can give birth to doubt. I am honored by your presence. Brother, what can I do for you?”

Right! This person absolutely does not remember you! Su Tang considered his genteel erudite speech and distressed lower teeth which also did not expose deceitfulness. She merely smiled and asked, “This store is yours?”

“Most definitely.” Zhan Yi understood that this was a customer dropping in. He cheekily said with a full grin, “Brother wants to lease this shop. Come, come, come. Have a seat.”

Su Tang saw calligraphy and paintings hung on all around. She sat down and said, “May I be so bold as to ask what is the rent?”

Zhan Yi declined to answer and merely looked at Su Tang. He inwardly took a breath and asked, “Why do I feel that brother looks quite familiar? Is it possible that we’ve met before?”

Finishing speaking, he suddenly remembered and batted his head. “I remember now, we met that day there at lao Wang’s! However….”

Su Tang saw him draw close. He pressed nearer so she subconsciously stepped back leaving the distance of a foot [1] between. He very carefully stared at her face, looking all over. After that, his handsome eyes revealed confusion.

Su Tang got goosebumps being stared at and was suspicious that he saw through her disguise. As a necessary consequence she said, “Daren Zhan, this is….”

Zhan Yi draw himself back and stroked his chin, seemingly lost in thought. “Compared to the last time we met, I see that you are much whiter….what brand of face powder do you use?”

Su Tang almost tumbled off of the bench….her white face, that was due this time to hurrying out the door and forgetting to carefully apply powder!

“Ah, ah, I use Flying Wind Tree Peony cosmetics. You can try that.”

“Got it!” Zhan Yi nodded his head. Immediately afterwards he again drew back the corners of his mouth in a grin and said, “Then now let’s talk about proper business matters. You want to lease this store? Oh, right. Brother, how should I address you?”

“My humble surname is Su.” Thinking a bit, Su Tang also said, “My given name is Yan.”

Xi Que who was in the back, upon hearing this almost laughed out loud.

Su Tang, Su Yan, fortunately you were able to think of this miss!

Zhan Yi accepted the name as true. “Brother Su, very pleased to meet you.”

Su Tang blinked and blinked, why was this form of address so awkward?

Concerned about himself, Zhan Yi said, “Since we know each other, naturally the rental fee will be discounted. Hee, hee, it originally was 400 liang for one year, now only 380!”

Su Tang was not stirred by beauty and charm. She stood up and surveyed all around, frowned and then said, “Why is it this expensive? I was looking in Treasure Street a short while ago. The several shops over there were not this expensive. There were even two storefronts over there which had two small rooms in the rear which all were 500 liang. Also, they all were in bustling areas! This shop of yours only has two shopfronts….”

“The rear additionally has a large room!” Zhan Yi hastily said.

Su Tang saw his nervous expression and inwardly rejoiced. She put on an act and said, “Although it has a large room, this section of town is also unsatisfactory! This vicinity appears to be a little deserted. The area here is wholly scholarly. I’m opening a bakery.”

If astute business people heard these words, they would rebut right away. You’re opening a bakery and complaining it’s desolate, then why did you look for me? You still voluntarily dropped in! But it was very obvious that Zhan Yi had the skills to stop a thief but could not successfully do trade.

“Then how about an added discount of 20 liang?” Zhan Yi said, sounding things out.

Su Tang thought to herself, act, and didn’t respond yet. She continued to knit her brow and nitpicked, saying, “Moreover, the people there also provided assistance, shelves for goods, tables, chairs, see this….” Speaking, she put on an appearance of being inconvenienced.

Su Tang was inconvenienced, Zhan Yi was even more inconvenienced. “Then how about another discount of 5 liang?”

Seeing that he didn’t stop lowering the price, Su Tang begin to be suspicious. “Wasn’t this place originally a calligraphy and painting business? Why do you want to change the tenancy (type)?” Could it be that this shop has a problem?

It seemed the jab hit something weighing on his mind. Zhan Yi sighed. He said with a heavy heart, “This store is part of my own estate. Originally it was leased to someone else who afterwards fell short on a loan and moved out. The store was empty. You also know that the expenses of menfolk are very high. Therefore, I saw other people all able to earn a little silver and merely thought that I also could do business. Who would have expected that I was open three months and in that time hadn’t even sold one calligraphy or painting. My shop closed down and a colleague took away a lot, made both my eyes really brim with tears….”

Su Tang was inwardly speechless. This daren Zhan Yi was totally cleaned down to the bottom of his pockets. It made her feel pity to the extent that she couldn’t bear to counter-offer. “That, doesn’t daren Zhan Yi work in the Imperial Court of Justice as a middle level official. How can you still have free-time to watch a shop?”

“This, simple, I’m been sanctioned to go catch thieves, so it works to take advantage of having a store!” Zhan Yi drew back the corners of his mouth in a smile.

Pfft! Yet you count on being able to earn money this way!

Su Tang restrained a smile. She again inquired about the situation of this store and was more or less satisfied. Soon afterwards, she decided to rent and haggled again. Finally a bargain was struck at 340 liang. Moreover, she required that a few paintings on the walls remain behind.

And there were still the established customs, so 30 silver liang was given as the deposit, after that an appointment made for the afternoon of the following day to go together to the government office to transact various formalities. And to guard against unforeseen events, in particular defaulting, triple earnest money served as compensation.

At the signing, Zhan Yi saw these words, “340 liang”. In an instant he was perplexed. At the very beginning it was 400 liang; how did it suddenly decrease by 60 liang? He recollected for a while and couldn’t help but be somewhat stupefied.

This youth in front of him wasn’t tall nor big yet the person had a special kind of cool-headed temper. When both finding fault and venting grievances, not a hint of performing to “seize every opportunity” was disclosed. In the end, Zhan Yi’s own layer of skin was forcibly striped off.

After Zhan Yi’s senses returned, he stared and was tongue-tied. After that, he cupped his hands and said, “Brother Su is exceedingly impressive! Zhan Yi admires you!”

Su Tang gave a winsome smile, “Daren Zhan understands and sympathizes with us, the common people.”

Zhan Yi had a burst of absent-mindedness upon seeing Su Tang’s smiling expression. After that he then said, “Ho, ho, someday Zhan Yi’s property will have a use. I invite Brother Su to speak bluntly!”

Su Tang finally couldn’t bear it anymore. “Or daren Zhan should rename yourself and become elder brother Yan! I will take my leave!”

Zhan Yi was bewildered. He (stood) in the same place watching Su Tang’s back get smaller in the distance. What’s the difference between brother Su and brother Yan? This name Su Yan is also odd enough. Could it be that his five elements are deficient in salt [2]?

Su Tang’s party of three hadn’t walked far when Xue Que began to yell. “Miss, just a moment ago you smiled at that man, a charming smile! This, you’re seducing somebody! Please remember your identity!”

Su Tang was at a complete lose as to why she was being yelled at, “seducing somebody?”

Xi Que said in a great rage, “Groan! Isn’t daren Zhan Yi that interesting amusing man you mentioned last time?”

“Right, right, don’t you think he’s very interesting?” Su Tang said, blinking.

Xi Que said with a upright countenance, “Although he’s both very interesting and good-looking, miss, you must keep distance between the two of you! You are married now!”

Su Tang ruthlessly knocked Xi Que on the head, “You’re so nasty acting like a noble person. Your family’s young miss is very principled and candid. I smile at everyone like that! You are getting more and more awful. I must find an opportunity to hastily marry you off!”

Hearing these words, Xiao Mo’s eyes shone.

But Xi Que was even angrier. “Miss, if you speak nonsense again then I’ll be infuriated again!”

“Ok, ok, ok. I won’t speak nonsense.” Su Tang begged for forgiveness. In a flash she changed and said with a mischievous smile, “How can you marry as you please. Do you want to be a concubine for cold noodles? Hee hee.”

Xi Que’s face revived when she heard the front part, her plump face turned red when she heard the latter part. She straight forwardly stomped her feet, so angry as to being unable to speak, writhed, and ran away.

Su Tang was fundamentally teasing Xi Que, but Xiao Mo was listening and took it seriously. Because his family background fundamentally was that of a beggar, he had an ample sense of inferiority. But now again hearing these words….

He took a deep breathe and the dispirited thoughts in his heart evaporated. Xiao Mo faced Su Tang and spoke. “Miss, why did you select this shop? At the outset, I also looked at it. It was Ok, and the price was also inexpensive though this sector diverges too much from the norm.

Su Tang licked her lips, autumn had arrived and her mouth easily became dry. “Although that spot is not as good as the lively area at the forked-road on the hill, it also can’t be counted as too divergent from expectations. Look, people are continuously strolling on 4 Seasons Road. When they become tired, they simply look for a place for a brief rest. And as well, these two roads do not have (even) one place to stop and rest their feet. There also are schools on Scholars road so it’s lively when class is let off. Furthermore, the rich have a lot of sons. Upon smelling the fragrance, they’ll come over and buy a little to take home, give others a bite, and perhaps draw people to come in. The hill with the forked-road is bustling with many people there. Here (we can) tap into leisureliness. The scenery in front is very worthwhile seeing. And what’s more, doesn’t an old adage say that quality goods need no advertising! Depend on your young miss’s insight and talents. Xiao Mo, uhm, you need to have confidence in your young miss!”

Xiao Mo listened to these words and felt they were very logical. Soon afterwards he continuously nodded his head.

Su Tang continued to speak, “Tomorrow take your proof of identity to handle the formalities. It’s not very good to expose my identity now. Therefore, tomorrow you must remember to take care of everything!”

Su Tang spoke very softly. Xiao Mo heard though was very shocked….this was so much faith in him!

Su Tang saw what he was feeling in his heart. She flicked his head, smiled and said, “However afterwards, you are the shop manager. Be sure to properly do everything!”

In an instant, Xiao Mo’s eyes moistened. He was extremely moved.

“But miss, there’s still one issue. This shop merely has two shopfronts and one rear court. There’s no space, what-so-ever, to make pastries!”

Su Tang muttered to herself. “It doesn’t matter, the business area will be fine. The place to make pastries can be separate. We can deliver things back and forth for the time being, but afterwards we’ll lease a nearby shop! And also, I cannot come out at my convenience. Master worker, partner, I have to trouble you. We need to work strenously for a half month and then open for business!”

“Eh!” Xiao Mo watched Su Tang bright eyes and earnestly nodded his head.

The young miss entrusted me with this heavy responsibility. I’ll certainly go all out!

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10 thoughts on “Ch. 30: Haggling to Lease a Shop

  1. So glad I came across this novel yesterday and got caught up today. Thank you for your translation for our enjoyment. I hope Su Tang will succeed in her new venture.

    Liked by 1 person

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