A thing like soybeans, the actual bean could be cooked with rice and made into tofu. The soybean leaves could also be cooked as a vegetable dish. It was a necessary part of the the regular labor worker’s diet. But soybeans were cheap and didn’t taste that well. People who ate tofu numbered no small amount but as the saying went, life’s three bitter professions: boat rowing, metal forging, and tofu selling. There were only four tofu shops in the entire of Wu City.
Lin Yuan grabbed a handful of beans that weren’t particularly plump but at least they weren’t shriveled either.
“Young master.” Er Liang was not feeling confident, “I do hear of extracting oil from soybeans but if it was truly that profitable a business it would have long been occupied wouldn’t it?”
Lin Yuan gave Er Liang a slap on the back of the head, not heavy but light and almost playful. He threw a few beans into his mouth and then looked towards the vendor: “How much do you have? I’ll take it all.”
The vendor did not expect such a big customer, immediately saying: “We still have 300 stones more! It’s all this year’s harvest, fresh!”
300 stones was equal to 3000 pounds, Lin Yuan nodded: “Cart them to the farmstead outside the city’s north gate. Is three days enough?”
One oral agreement later and Lin Yuan had the materials for oil extraction.
One pound for five coins, 3000 pounds of soybeans worth 300 guan or 30 taels.
These days, farming was not easy.
Lin Yuan sighed. A passerby laughed at him: “30 taels is enough for the vendor and his family to eat his fill for several years. You buy that much, if you went to the tofu shop it would have cost half as much.”
Lin Yuan turned his head and saw a man dressed in rough clothes, his muscles filling them to the seams. In his hand was a live rabbit abd his shoes were made of fur. Most likely a hunter.
“A fool with too much money.” The hunter grinned.
Lin Yuan also smiled: “He needs to cart the beans which require renting a donkey cart, one tael is likely not enough. People must make a profit, making a living is not easy. 300 stones is likely gathered from an entire village’s supply.”
The hunter paused, obviously having not thought of that. He saw Lin Yuan’s young age and assumed him to be a naive fool when in actuality he had his own calculations. He smiled: “I am in the wrong, little fellow, you have a good heart.”
Lin Yuan flapped his hand. Looking at the live rabbit he couldn’t hep but feel hungry. He arrived in this time period for this long, but the only meat he had was pig meat. These days not a lot of people ate pig meat because of the strong smell. Not to mention, in order to raise a pig fully grown it took two to three years.
Wealthy people disliked its foul smell and were unwilling to eat it. Poor people could not afford to eat it and neither did they have the time and means to raise it either.
One bite of pig meat was enough to put you off.
But other than pig meat there was only mutton. Although the smell was different but equally overpowering.
Large scale cultivating of pigs actually started during the Ming dynasty.
The pigs of now were small in size with not much flesh, completely different from the fat white pigs of modern times, every one of them black as charcoal.
He reckoned Zhu Bajie (TN: character from Journey to the West) was also a black pig.
“Big brother, how much is this rabbit?” Not only was Lin Yuan craving meat Er Liang was as well. But Er Liang didn’t dare to speak, only staring at the rabbit and swallowing profusely.
Lin Yuan only just rented a farmstead for his oil extraction business at 500 coins a month, cheap because of its deserted location. He was quite aware of the need to save, master and servant only eating noodles to fill their bellies.
Today also happened to be the day they would be picking up the pair of mother and son back to their temporary dwelling. They could cook a plate of rabbit meat for dinner.
Lin Yuan’s drool was practically visible.
The hunter held the rabbit by the ears, its limbs still moving wanting to escape. He said: “I normally sell to neighbors, most is 30 coins for one. This one is quite fat, I’ll sell for 35 coins.”
Lin Yuan: “Deal!”
Saying so he made to pay.
With the exchange finished, Lin Yuan asked the hunter: “Big brother, nowadays is it good for business?”
The hunter shook his head, eyebrows drawn: “There’s not much prey in the mountains now. Yesterday I spent the whole day in the mountains and only captured this one rabbit.”
Lin Yuan: “Why not change to a different type of livelihood?”
The hunter sighed: “I only have physical strength, don’t recognize words, and a clumsy mouth. Find another livelihood, the most is be an unskilled labor worker.”
The city’s unskilled labor work was paid by day, a day’s worth of hard physical labor was worth 3 to 4 coins, just enough for a grown man to buy coarse grains to fill his stomach.
“Why, big brother, our meeting is fate. I have a job in need of workers.” Lin Yuan immediately advertised his oil plant, “Every month is paid 200 coins. If done well I can even give bonuses.”
The hunter looked bewildered: “What is a bonus?”
Lin Yuan: “It means if I make more than expected, I’ll share the profits with workers.”
The hunter understood: “We are barely more than strangers…..”
Lin Yuan: “If there is fate then even thousands of miles cannot stop our meeting!”
Just look at this muscular physique, this kind of fellow was best for physical work!
The hunter also noticed that the young person in front of him had been looking at his chest profusely. Looking down he discovered that his chest muscles were very obvious. Looking up once again at Lin Yuan, a strange expression couldn’t help but to cross over his face. He had heard that there were some rich young masters with peculiar interests such as finding strong able-bodied men like him to be bedmates.
But this was something he had heard from a fellow villager who told this to him as a joke.
The hunter’s facial expression became increasingly strange: “.….Fate? There’s no fate!”
Saying so, he left in a hurry as if a feral dog was chasing after him.
Lin Yuan looked after the other’s disappearing figure, looking confused: “He is that unwilling to do temporary work?”
It looked like this person was likely one who was used to freedom.
Er Liang carried the rabbit in one hand, his brain overtaken with the 18 ways to eat a rabbit, completely unaware of his young master’s bewilderment.
The mother and son beggars passed these three days in a rare state of normalcy. Though they were only sleeping in a broken down temple but at least there was a roof which was better than sleeping on the streets. With the 10 coins, everyday they were able to buy bean curd cakes to eat. The ragged cotten blanket also protected them somewhat from the cold——even during the best of days they had never once used a cotten blanket before, worn and dirty though it was.
Only the wealthy could afford it!
When Lin Yuan came to pick them up, he discovered that the woman and boy both cleaned up somewhat though their clothes were still dirty with the lack of proper conditions to wash and change.
“Quick, kowtow to the master.” The woman pulled the boy along, both kneeling down.
Lin Yuan: “Get up, don’t kneel anymore.”
The woman then anxiously pulled her son along as she stood up again.
On the way back, Lin Yuan asked her: “Your son is called Gou zi (TN: literally doggy), what is your name?”
The woman had no proper name, only a nickname. In her family she was the fourth child so before marriage everyone called her Si Ya (TN: literally translates to fourth girl). After marriage she was called wife of Tie Tou.
Lin Yuan: “I’ll call you Si Niang (TN: literally fourth mother).” Si Niang agreed immediately.
“Everything is ready and prepared so you settle down first and then roast this rabbit for dinner.” Lin Yuan instructed, “don’t be unwilling to put oil.”
The oil he bought was sesame oil, 30 coins per bottle, even more expensive than meat.
No wonder the common people couldn’t afford it.
“The both of you will be staying in the second bedroom.” They entered the house, “if you lack anything just speak with Er Liang.”
After entering the second bedroom, both Si Niang and Gou zi remained stunned in place. The room was furnished with a table, two chairs, a bed, and a dresser. The bed was already made, the mattress stuffed with dry hay but the blanket was cotten, secondhand but it was enough.
“Mama.” Gou zi didn’t dare to sit in the chairs, aware that his clothes were dirty so he squatted on the floor, looking around, “It’s like being in a dream.”
Si Niang was no better off. She touched the blanket, then the mattress, large tears falling down: “Gou zi, we stumbled upon a living Buddha.”
“Living Buddha” Lin Yuan was currently worrying over how to find workers. Should he just go advertise on the street?
When hiring, if the person’s moral quality was lacking and brought trouble, what should he do?
Thus, with a headache Lin Yuan had Er Liang go invite Jiang Gui over just before dinner. He also had Gou zi go buy two taels worth of rice wine.
As for Si Niang she was busy at the stove. In her old home she had to farm, take care of children, cook, and do chores. Cooking was an essential skill so it posed no difficulty for her. Only on the matter of putting oil had her feeling distressed.
Such good quality oil. Back in her old home, two small bottles of oil lasted an entire year for her family of five. When harvest was bad, oil was not even used to cook their meals.
Jiang Gui did not come empty handed, since hearing from Er Liang that they would be having rabbit meat he even specially brought over a pot of squash soup.
“There’s no need for brother Jiang to be this courteous.” Lin Yuan welcomed him with a wide smile.
Jiang Gui could already smell the delicious scents, his craving increased but he pretended to be nonchalant: “Give and take, this priniciple I do understand.”
Lin Yuan and Jiang Gui ate in the main room while Er Liang and the rest ate in the second bedroom. Though only two chairs, at least the table was short enough for one to squat on the floor and still be able to reach it.
Lin Yuan introduced his idea for oil extraction to Jiang Gui: “This is what I am thinking, I am unfamiliar with this area and need brother Jiang to look out for me. I can give you a ten percent of the earnings.”
No need to do anything? Money for free?
Jiang Gui put down the chopsticks: “Little brother Lin, you are looking down on Gege (TN: a close way of saying brother). I am not someone who likes to take advantage of others. If you need my help I won’t be courteous with you on payment but if you don’t then I won’t take a cent.”
“Gege sees matters clearly.” Lin Yuan filled the other’s cup with wine, “the matter of hiring, I must trouble Gege with.”
Now Jiang Gui understood, Lin Yuan was after all from another region and unfamiliar with the people of Wu City. The gains would not make up the losses of hiring a troublemaker.
“This I can do.” Jiang Gui said, “how many people do you want?”
Lin Yuan: “20 for now, strong and healthy would be preferred since it is all physical work.”
Jiang Gui chuckled: “How about the gang leader I mentioned before. His subordinates are all strong and muscular. And with their leader there to manage them there won’t be a problem.”
Lin Yuan: “..…I thought they were debt collectors?”
Jiang Gui waved his hand: “Ai~, it’s not like there’s debt to collect everyday. It alone is not enough to feed all of them and their families.”
It looked like the underworld of ancient times need to take side jobs. Life was truly not easy.
“Then that’s fine. Brother, we can set a time to have a chat with the gang leader.” Lin Yuan said, “To prevent him from thinking this is a joke we can discuss the payment in person as well.”
“That’s true, that gang leader is also called brother Dao (TN: literally brother knife). He has a bad temper but also a very straightforward character. Then let’s meet up tomorrow evening at a restaurant booth.”
Both Lin Yuan and Jiang Gui, this pair of fake brothers, finished eating and drinking, both in a merry mood.
Lin Yuan’s thoughts were on having finally found workers.
Jiang Gui’s thoughts were on not only having done favors for both sides but also receiving a portion of the earnings. Nothing could be better.
As for soybean oil being successful or not, he didn’t care too much.
In any case he had no losses to worry about.
When leaving, Jiang Gui was still thinking, why couldn’t he meet more people like little brother Lin, a fool with too much money and a soft heart?
AN: Hunter: “This person’s eyes have a wicked glint! He must be coveting my body!
Lin Yuan: “Excuse me?” (Original is also in English xD)
Jiang Gui: “A wealthy fool with a soft heart. A treasure of Wu City.”
Lin Yuan: “My rule is to not dig a hole for people I’ve only just met.”
On the verge of stepping into a hole Jiang Gui: “…”
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