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Under Little Xiang Xiang’s care, Fang Xufan rinsed his mouth. After just eating breakfast, the doctor arrived.
The doctor’s complexion was flushed red, his face smug with egotism. He had heard that the Young Master was recovering well from his mental illness. Everyone in the mansion referred to him as the miracle doctor. Despite being outwardly humble, he was actually beaming with pride on the inside.
Like usual, he carried his medicine box which was slung over his back. He grinned at Fang Xufan and then bowed. “Hello, Fang Gongzi1. You look much better than before. Let me first check your pulse.”
Out of slight instinctive fear for the doctor, Fang Xufan pondered and then arrogantly glared at him. He crossed his legs and fumed, “I’ve already pretty much recovered. Pulse my ass, you old dog! Screw off to the side!”
“Ha…. Haha….” The doctor dryly laughed. As a doctor, to be called an old dog was quite insulting and crude. Even though he was a bit upset, the doctor nevertheless revealed his content smile and sighed, “Indeed. Gongzi’s illness has regressed to a large extent. I am very…. very….”
“Fuck off!!!” By this time, Fang Xufan had already grasped the essence of his path to survival. The more pompous he acted, the happier and relieved others felt. This was a…. total… out-of-this-world world.
“Yes yes yes.” Not the least bit angry, the doctor turned to Deng Jian and reminded him, “If Gongzi shows any signs of recurrence, you must report this right away. Gongzi…. I will take my leave. Farewell.”
Seeing the doctor walk away with alacrity, Fang Xufan finally breathed a sigh of relief.
Having just escaped misfortune, Fang Xufan soon felt despair whelming inside him. Could it be that he had to act like scum of the earth for the rest of his life?
Impossible!!! Living this way was meaningless. He needed to accomplish something great. But given the situation….
Fang Xufan stood up and called, “Little Deng Deng….”
Little Deng Deng was Deng Jian’s pet name; however, it was obvious that he didn’t like Fang Xufan calling him that. Sour-faced, he answered, “What can I do for you, Young Master?”
Fang Xufan chuckled. “Let’s go. Accompany me for a walk.”
“Yes.” Deng Jian quickly ran off to retrieve a Xiangfei2 fan and a girly-looking sachet3. He ardently suggested, “Young Master likes to carry these when going out….”
Fang Xufan’s mood sunk. How could the owner of this body have such tastes? He smiled and then, like usual, called for Little Xiang Xiang to secure the sachet to his waist. On his other hand, he played with the Xiangfei fan, opening and closing it. Written on the fan was a poem. Glancing at it, the poem went like this, “Cherish not the golden threads of cloth but the golden days of youth. Pluck the flower whilst you can but not when the blossoms have left the lonely twigs bare.”
This poem was a beautiful one, but Fang Xufan knew that the fan’s owner had misinterpreted its original meaning as something sick-minded4. He couldn’t help but inwardly curse at him. Ptooey! Disgusting bastard!!!
His heart was full of scorn, but life had to go on.
After cheering himself up, he followed Deng Jian out of his bedroom. At this time, he was finally able to see, for himself, what Count Nanhe’s mansion was all about. He was at a loss for words.
The perimeter of the mansion was huge, no less than fifty mu5. Rows and rows of roof titles like the teeth of a comb and scales of a fish6 were lined next to each other. The doors were large enough for three people to walk in and walk out. There was the main hall, the antehall, the backyard, and the wings. Even the storage rooms alone were a dozen. Fang Xufan was inwardly very pleased and subconsciously waved his fan7. The only complaint was that this mansion was a bit…. old. It had at least a hundred-year history, its beauty slightly marred.
He lamented, “This house needs renovation.”
“Re…. Renovation?!” Deng Jian abruptly shrieked.
Fang Xufan slapped the back of his head. “You dumb shit! The reason why I, the Young Master, fell ill was that this mansion is way too old. It needs to be renovated, got it?”
Deng Jian then flashed an expression of happiness at Fang Xufan and replied, “Young Master, well said! So what you’re saying is that air around here is too gloomy? Got it! Yes, I got it. However…. it’ll cost a lot to renovate this entire mansion.”
He raised an eyebrow. “This is the almighty Count Nanhe’s mansion. How can we possibly lack silver8?”
“We do!” Deng Jian’s prompt answer left Fang Xufan slightly stunned. “Young Master normally doesn’t administrate these things. Even though we have a couple thousand mu of good-quality farmland right on the outskirts of the capital city, all that is grown is just grain. Despite the Count receiving grace and rewards from His Highness, he doesn’t receive much silver. It’s mostly the Ming’s baochao.”
Ah, baochao…. Fang Xufan finally understood.
They were the Ming’s special paper currency. Unfortunately, the government printed too many of them. Therefore, they weren’t of much value.
He suddenly just remembered that this was one characteristic of this period’s economy. Despite land prices being high, most of the wealthy rented their lands to farmers. In return, they were given the harvested grain. As for what they did with the grain, they were all stored up. Although they could be exchanged for money, Count Nanhe’s cost of running his vast family-run business and household expenses were far too great. As such, it was useless to count how much physical silver was left.
Acting on like a lunatic idiot this way wasn’t a practical solution. He needed to become independent. As long as one could become self-sustaining, such as having money, there would then be no need for restrictions. No need to be held down every time and pricked with needles.
Besides, was he really serious about being a prodigal son for life?
Hell no!!! In his previous life, Fang Xufan considered himself to be a scholar. He was a good youth9. He needed to become strong. He needed to become independent.
But what could he do when he was broke?
Fang Xufan narrowed his eyes and all of a sudden, he grew with excitement.
This was the Seventeenth of March, Year Eleven of Hongzhi.
Fang Xufan vaguely remembered the records of Tongzhou which detailed the city’s history. Half a month later, ten ships carrying ebony wood across northern Tongzhou would sink. Ebony was greatly prized by the nobles during Hongzhi’s period. For this reason, the price of ebony soared. Fang Xufan remembered that the price would inflate to an unprecedented height.
The wood was rare. Normally, they would be transported in one large shipment. With ten ships gone, this meant that there would be a severe shortage.
Fang Xufan’s eyes twinkled. A thought popped up in his mind: hoarding.
But…. What about the silver? Even if prior to the inflation, the price of ebony was still out of reach. He leveled his glare and asked, “How much silver do we have left in the treasury right now?”
Deng Jian shivered and looked at Fang Xufan with fright. “We shouldn’t have much left, at most a couple hundred pieces of silver. Young…. Young Master, what…. what are you thinking of….”
Upon hearing “a couple hundred pieces”, Fang Xufan grew livid but soon, he had another idea. No silver was fine. At least the Fang family still had land. If….
He then threw the idea out the window. No, no. It wasn’t right. Selling land…. He knew history. The mindset of the ancients was completely different than that of the moderns. In their eyes, selling land was what bankrupt families and prodigal sons would do. They would be greatly shamed by others.
Wait…. Prodigal son….
Wasn’t he the epitome of a prodigal son? Within Beijing, could anybody else possibly be more prodigal than Fang Xufan himself?
Everything before his eyes then sparkled. He loudly roared, “Get the butler and accountant over here now!!!”
Even now, Fang Gongzi’s domineering presence could still be strongly felt. In the blink of an eye, Butler Yang and Accountant Liu rushed over, both out of breath. Their glistening eyes were locked onto Fang Xufan.
Fang Xufan crossed one leg over. Even though he remained sitting, the two men before him didn’t dare to look down at him. They bowed their bodies, making Fang Xufan seem taller. The sensation of being above them made him feel very Young Master-like.
He casually asked, “How much land do we own?”
“The estate outside of the city has a total of two thousand three hundred and seventy-two mu. Besides this, we have a few mountains that cover a couple thousand mu.” Butler Yang eagerly responded. He heard that the Young Master had contracted a mental illness and that he had been in treatment for the past days. Deep down, he was concerned for his well-being. Supposedly, he had recovered so now he was staring fixedly at the Young Master, wanting to see if he really was better.
“How much can we get if we sold them?” Fang Xufan’s next question almost left Butler Yang asphyxiated from choking on his own saliva.
Butler Yang’s first reaction, surprisingly, wasn’t worry. Rather, his eyebrows slightly arched and then he shot a glance at Accountant Liu who stood next to him. Ay ya! Young Master’s illness…. What a turnaround! Fortune had descended upon the Fang family!
This was their logic. The Young Master wanted to sell the land for money. Within these capital walls, who else could say such a shameless thing other than their Fang family’s Young Master?! Their Young Master had returned at last!!!!
Looking at their joyous faces, Fang Xufan once again concluded that this world had definitely gone nuts. He tapped his fan on the table. “I’m asking you two how much we can sell them for. Calculate accurately for me and then spread the news out to yaheng10. We’re going to sell as much land as possible. Don’t want a single mu left.”
1 If you don’t know already, it’s an honorific for a young man (usually unmarried and usually of noble status).
2 Known as spotted bamboo, highly prized among artisans. Long story short, Xiang is named after the Xiang River and Fei means concubine. It’s commonly called Xiangfei bamboo because the spots on the bamboo resemble her tears (a legend).
3 A pouch that stores fragrant herbs and flowers. Worn as an ornament by the ancients (male and female), in addition to fans and hanging ornaments. Swords (they’re very long and for decoration only, not meant to be swung) are carried by aristocratic men.
4 I feel very blasé about this poem because it’s just too classic. Every Chinese person knows it, even a little kid. Normally on a fan, you’d write your own creative poem on it. Anyway, this classic poem basically refers to Carpe Diem, but the old FXF interpreted it as, “Be an asshole while you still can. Pluck the flowers (ladies) before they’re gone.”
5 1 mu = 640 square meters (according to Ming Dynasty, different periods differ)
6 It’s a simile used to compare something that’s closely lined up, like the teeth of a comb and fish scales.
7 A common gesture that aristocratic men and women normally do. You’d know if you’ve seen enough Chinese dramas.
8 Chinese people loved using silver, particularly during the Ming and Qing dynasties. It’s the second factor that led to the Opium Wars, besides tea. To learn more, read more .
9 The direct translation of the original is five characteristics of a good youth. They are: 1) Be a good sport, 2) Be the master of yourself, 3) Be a good helper, 4) Be a model citizen, and 5) Be an environmental protector.
10 Some sort of commerce association with origins dating back to the Western Zhou dynasty, most prominent during the Ming Dynasty.
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