Book 10 Chapter 22 - First Snow, Auspicious Virtue’s First Prestige

After the deep autumn passed, when winter had just arrived, Yunqin’s Central Continent City experienced some light snowfall. It became colder by the day.

After Leng Family replaced Huang Family, Government Sector’s Sector Head Wen Xuanshu taking over the position of Yunqin’s grand secretary, in this overly chilly autumn, the yearly assessment of Yunqin’s officials began ahead of schedule. Many officials were removed from their posts and many officials were promoted. Once again, a great purge was carried out in Yunqin’s royal court.

Most of Yunqin’s low level officials merely followed the crowd blindly, extremely uneasy as they faced this storm. They didn’t know what kind of confrontation the emperor had with the individuals behind the layers of curtains, but after those Imperial Censors who knelt outside the golden imperial palace were forcefully seized, everyone knew that the war against the south was already set in stone.

That old Grand Secretary Wenren also began to call in sick, not making an appearance. The Justice Sector’s righteous faction also entrusted their final hopes onto the imperial princess.

However, after nervously waiting an entire autumn, these people discovered that the imperial princess who similarly had important influence on Yunqin’s political situation seemed to have maintained absolute silence before the emperor’s powerful will as well.

Inside Flourishing Heights’ Cheng Family’s courtyard, there were beast coals ignited in copper basins, every room as warm as spring.

Cheng Manying changed into a new yellow wolf fur coat, giving off a bit of a Mountain Yin Province rich and powerful feeling.

Before Yunqin Empire was established, most of the merchant companies in Mountain Yin Province mainly did escorting and bodyguard services. Later on, even though most of these merchant companies already threw aside their original lifestyles, this type of straightforward nature still didn’t change. Many of these companies’ courtyards still consecrated the blades their predecessors used.

He was currently reading. With a creak noise, the door was pushed open. An eight or nine year old boy with a jade-like complexion, dressed in a cotton-padded jacket pushed open the door and entered. However, when he crossed the doorstep, he accidentally stumbled, falling onto the ground. Even so, this boy didn’t seem to mind it at all, immediately climbing back up. He rubbed his knees and then excitedly cried out, “Father, uncles have already come, mother told me to call your respected self over!”

“So noisy!”

Cheng Manying scolded, but there wasn’t the slightest bit of fierceness on his face. He lowered the book in his hands, adjusted his collar, and then followed the cheerfully running boy out with large steps.

One could see that in this great courtyard that gave off an extraordinary imposing aura, there were decorated lanterns and colored banners everywhere, giving off a grand aura. In the central hall, there were already more than ten shopkeepers from Flourishing Heights that had gathered, all of them bringing their wives and children. There was a huge round redwood table that could seat all of them. On the eastern end leaning against the wall was a burner table, placed above it was a large iron cooking pot. White steam surged, cooking  inside of it was an entire fat sheep.

Previously, there was only some salt and wild scallions scattered in, no wine or ginger used to get rid of the fishiness. In that instant, the entire hall was filled with steam, the strong sheep smell and wild scallion fragrance mixing together, full of a wilderness smell.

When they saw Cheng Manying walk out, the ten or so shopkeepers, including great shopkeeper Mu Zongli and his wife and children were extremely respectful. Cheng Manying continuously waved his hands to receive their greetings. After the liveliness, a servant brought a copper tray and a meat chopping blade up to Cheng Manying’s face. Cheng Manying received it and walked up with large steps. He hacked down on the sheep’s head and fished it out. After cutting off a chunk of scalding hot sheep meat, he placed it into his mouth to chew on it.

He then placed the tray that had the sheep’s head in Mu Zongli’s hands. In that instant, cheers shook the entire hall. More than ten shopkeepers all began to cut meat, plates of steaming vegetables also starting to be brought out.

Mountain Yin Province’s trading companies had the longest history in Yunqin, so all of them had some unique gatherings and ceremonies.

Whenever the first snow fell in Flourishing Heights, there would be this type of sheep head fest. This originated from when Flourishing Heights was first established, there was a year when they were in difficult situations, a group of brothers even unable to eat meat for a long time. Later on, right when it began to snow, Cheng Family’s ancestor found a way to use all of his wealth to purchase a sheep. He pretended it was a wild sheep, making it run in when he had the brothers over… They thought that even the heavens were helping them, they saw that they couldn’t even eat meat, so a sheep was sent over when it rained. At that time, those brothers who had low morale immediately became full of spirit, Flourishing Heights thus making it through.

Later on, even though those Flourishing Heights elders all knew what happened, when the first snow descended, eating a pot of sheep meat like back then became Flourishing Heights’ tradition. It served as a reminder to never forget about their past difficulties, as well as to remind themselves that even in that type of dangerous situation, as long as they didn’t give up, they could still make it through, that the hard times were over, the good times were just beginning.

Even though the outside world didn’t know about Flourishing Heights’s tradition, for Flourishing Heights, it was comparable to new year’s, full of festivities and liveliness. Even the shopkeepers who usually lived extremely far from this province would hurry over.

Towards food, Flourishing Heights, this type of first rate merchant company naturally didn’t have too many requests. After gathering together, apart from enjoying the atmosphere of a year of success, the happiest thing was naturally to chat about some daily family matters, see if there are any new additions to the family, as well as chat about their various experiences in the different provinces.

After a few cups of wine, several shopkeepers began to bring up Auspicious Virtue by chance. One of the shopkeepers named Wu Qiutian who was in charge of keeping an eye over Auspicious Virtue in Sunrise Perch and Vast Abundance Province continuously spoke, saying with a voice of admiration, “Auspicious Virtue really is a merchant company no one can see through in recent years. A few days ago, they even seized a larger half of Unicorn Jade Rice Company. I originally thought that Auspicious Virtue purchasing those rice shops was suicide, but who would have thought that in just two or so months of time, Auspicious Virtue already reached this state. I reckon that not long afterwards, all of Sunrise Roost’s rice business will belong to Auspicious Virtue.”

Of the ten or so shopkeepers, some of them knew about Auspicious Virtue’s matters, while some didn’t pay it that much attention. Meanwhile, Cheng Manying was the leader of all of Flourishing Heights. When he deemed the prosperous and high prospects Auspicious Virtue to have stabbed themselves in the foot, he didn’t invest too much energy in getting more information about them. When he heard Wu Qiutian say this at this time, Cheng Manying was immediately shocked. “Unicorn Jade Rice Company has worked in the industry for a long time, their highest quality pearl fragrance rice is well-known throughout the world… I originally thought that Auspicious Virtue would definitely suffer a great defeat, but who would have expected that they would actually get this far? Hurry and tell me just what kind of methods Auspicious Virtue used!”

When they heard that their boss didn’t even mince words, paying close attention to Auspicious Virtue, this shopkeeper who was already pouring out what was on his mind immediately downed the wine cup in his hands, saying in praise and admiration, “For businesses like Unicorn Jade Rice Company, even though their pearl fragrance rice is well-known throughout the world, those who have the privilege of eating this type of rice are extremely few, it is only used to give them a bit of reputation, ninety-nine percent of their business is obviously still from ordinary rice. When Auspicious Virtue’s rice shops sold rice and flour, they actually completely washed it clean and removed all of the sand and stones from the rice before putting it on sale. Their quality is far better than other rice shops, so they were naturally well-received.”

Cheng Manying fiercely furrowed his brows. He exchanged a look with Mu Zongli, unable to hold back his shock as he said, “Rice and flour are normally grinded up by water carts, sand and stones are completely unavoidable things. By doing things like this, not only does Auspicious Virtue have to exhaust quite a bit of manpower, the amount will be much less. Those who purchase the rice and flour do obtain benefits, but their profits will become considerably less.”

“This isn’t all.”

Wu Qiutian also said with admiration, “Auspicious Virtue even delivers rice and flour to your doors. When families’ strong men leave for work, no one able to carry the heavy bags, they would directly deliver it. Right now, in Sunset Roost’s larger cities, it is already common practice that when they purchase rice and flour, they don’t need to head to rice shops, they only need to wait for Auspicious Virtue’s men to deliver them.”

Cheng Manying said with shock. “Their profit margins were extremely small to begin with, now that they are going from house to house, they’ll exhaust another considerable amount of manpower. If the other rice companies lower their prices a bit, what kind of profit does Auspicious Virtue have left?”

Wu Qiutian said with a bitter smile, “I originally had the same thinking, but after some careful inquiries, I found out that Auspicious Virtue made careful records from household to household. They kept track of how many members each household had, how much rice they ate every day, roughly what time they needed rice delivered… This way, they don’t have to waste much manpower at all, they only need a few people to escort carriages and make deliveries along the way, bringing rice to the families that were close to running out, so they don’t have to constantly make inquiries about how much rice these families have left. This way, they only need a few men to bring some carriages around the city each day, not that much more manpower, but made everyone in the city already get used to this habit. They no longer have to leave the city to purchase rice, they just have to wait for Auspicious Virtue to deliver. Even if they had rice vendors they originally liked to go to and didn’t use Auspicious Virtue’s rice, after seeing how great their neighbors’ rice was, the convenience, they also all began to convert. What goes even a step further is that if they see the family has elders, women and children, Auspicious Virtue’s people, aside from helping out with a bit of odd jobs, they would often leave behind some Golden Pomelo Honey Tea. This Golden Pomelo Honey Tea is something Auspicious Virtue makes to begin with. It is extremely expensive outside, normal families cannot taste it at all, but for Auspicious Virtue, the production costs aren't that high. After those people who originally couldn’t have a taste enjoyed Auspicious Virtue’s kindness, they immediately became greatly moved. Not only would they often speak some good things about Auspicious Virtue, they would even help Auspicious Virtue do some things. Like this, not only were the other rice shops unable to seize any more business when they lowered their prices, even if they tried to imitate what Auspicious Virtue does, they were already behind, unable to win over Auspicious Virtue at all.”

Chen Manying’s expression changed slightly, saying respectfully. “What businessmen fear the most is when something becomes common practice. It is just like how hemp garments and cotton-padded clothes are both good, if everyone follows a trend, feeling like hemp garments were better than cotton-padded clothes, then no matter how much softer cotton-padded clothes are, they still wouldn’t sell. Auspicious Virtue has already achieved this level, there is no way for other companies to interfere.”

Wu Qiutian said with a bitter smile, “That is why I feel like Sunrise Roost Province’s rice business will completely be Auspicious Virtue’s soon. Auspicious Virtue really invested their silvers heavily in this affair, as if they were gambling crazily, yet they gambled so well, their execution so perfect, it truly leaves others in admiration.”

Almost all of Flourishing Heights’ shopkeepers on the woven mats nodded in praise. Mu Zongli released another sigh of amazement, saying, “Only, like this, the merchant companies of other provinces will definitely quickly imitate this, so Auspicious Virtue can only occupy the three provinces surrounding Sunset Roost at most. If they try to expand, I fear that they won’t have time to squeeze out others.”

Wu Qiutian nodded. “What great shopkeeper says is indeed reality. There are already quite a few rice companies in Vast Abundance Province who are already trying to imitate this.”

Mu Zongli shook his head, saying quietly, “That is why in the end, I still could not figure out why Auspicious Virtue just had to do this rice business with such thin profits.”

While Wu Qiutian was talking with Mu Zongli and the others, Cheng Manying was always quiet. When he heard Mu Zongli speak like this, he instead suddenly spoke out, saying seriously, “Zongli, it seems like we were still mistaken from the very start.”

Mu Zongli and the others immediately quieted down, their eyes all gathering towards Flourishing Heights’ master.

“Even though the rice business’ profit margins are low, it is tied to livelihood, a business that most easily accumulates public praise. As long as one has enough wealth, enjoying market dominance over a single product isn’t difficult, but what is difficult is monopolizing the will of the people.” Cheng Manying looked at all of these shopkeepers, slowly saying, “We previously thought that Auspicious Virtue made a blunder, but Auspicious Virtue did this for us to see… moreover, what they used was operations that didn’t play any tricks. This type of person who could prepare this type of operations, why would they go crazy and try to get into other industries? There is definitely someone who is absolutely stunning in Auspicious Virtue, someone who is even more formidable than we thought before. That is why even though other companies have already begun to imitate them, I feel like Auspicious Virtue definitely has following plans, eventually seizing all of the businesses from other provinces as well.”

Everyone here was a businessman whose names were famous in their area. They all had intelligence and knowledge normal merchants didn’t have. When they heard Cheng Manying speak like this, they immediately became silent, all of them starting to become inwardly shocked. If it really was as their master said, then with Auspicious Virtue’s eruption speed… when next year arrived, what would Auspicious Virtue be like then?

“This type of person would definitely never work for another. All we can do is try to collaborate.”

Cheng Manying poured out a whole cup of wine, raising it towards Wu Qiutian and Mu Zongli. “After this, I fear that I will have to trouble you two to pay Auspicious Virtue a visit.”

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