C16 – Seek Money(part one)
Just as Zuo Shaoqing was lost in thought, his room’s door swung open, and Luo Xiaoliu exclaimed in astonishment.
“Master, why are you up?” Luo Xiaoliu gazed at San Ye, who stood on the bed, his mind thrown into chaos. Wasn’t San Ye severely injured, incapable of getting out of bed?
It was only then that Zuo Shaoqing snapped out of his reverie. He slowly settled onto the bed and instructed Luo Xiaoliu, “Close the door.”
As everyone reentered the room, Zuo Shaoqing, while fiddling with a wooden board, fixed his gaze on them and declared, “Don’t observe what you shouldn’t, inquire about what you shouldn’t, or speak about what you shouldn’t. Remember?”
Although his tone remained composed, Luo Xiaoliu was drenched in cold sweat. He couldn’t fathom when San Ye had cultivated such an air of composure and authority. It was truly awe-inspiring.
Having already experienced Zuo Shaoqing’s authority, Luo Xiaoliu was apprehensive that Zuo Shaoqing might silence him by force. Nervously, he knelt on the floor and vowed, “Master, your servant didn’t witness anything!”
“Very well,” Zuo Shaoqing acknowledged. No longer feigning injury, he let his legs hang off the side of the bed and instructed Luo Xiaoliu to carry out a task.
“First, summon Second Uncle. Inform him that your nephew has a matter to discuss. Afterward, go to Nanny Liu with five taels of silver and procure some items for me.”
“Master, are you seeking out Second Master?” Luo Xiaoliu, who had been repeatedly shocked over the past few days, couldn’t hide his surprise. Since San Ye’s recovery, he had undergone a dramatic transformation.
“Don’t ask about things you shouldn’t,” Zuo Shaoqing curtly replied, detailing what he required from Luo Xiaoliu and urging him to hasten.
“Yes, your servant shall depart immediately!” Luo Xiaoliu didn’t dare to linger in his room, so he swiftly headed out to carry out the task.
Several years after the Zuo family’s return, they went their separate ways. Second Master Zuo Yunyang relocated to the eastern side of the city, in Thorny Tree Alley, with his limited land and a few shops.
Second Master was a born entrepreneur. With his remarkable skills and a touch of good fortune, he managed to amass considerable wealth within a mere decade, to the point where even the grandest mansions might envy him.
Yet, while the main branch was for scholars, and the second branch for merchants, their social standing was evident at a glance, not to mention that Second Master was born of a concubine.
Zuo Yunyang upheld his principles. Aware that his family had descended to a humble merchant status after leaving the mansion, they lived modestly all these years. When outsiders learned of this, they would commend him, saying, “Brother Yunyang, you’re a model of modesty; you never forget your roots!”
Despite the main branch looking down on the second branch’s status, they still extended courtesy, given the numerous favors received. Thus, the two branches maintained an amicable facade, at least on the surface.
Zuo Shaoqing currently faced financial difficulties, so the first person he thought of was his second uncle, known for his knack for generating wealth.
He needed funds to procure quality medicine and nourishment for the ailing man’s recovery, and money was a significant obstacle.
He wasn’t certain if Second Master would provide the funds, but he felt compelled to make the attempt. If possible, he hoped to establish a mutually beneficial, long-term arrangement.
He had never ventured into commerce, let alone managed a family business. His only advantage was having a few more years of “experience” than most others.
Zuo Second Master entered the yard at a leisurely pace. A frown creased his brow as he crossed the threshold, but he proceeded into Zuo Shaoqing’s residence as if nothing were amiss.
“I heard our nephew was injured earlier. Is he recovering well?” Zuo Yunyang maintained a face resembling a Maitreya Buddha – devoid of a smile yet radiating a kind demeanor. He seated himself on a stool beside the bed, studying his nephew whom he hadn’t seen often.
He was aware of the difficulties facing the concubine, but he had no intention of extending a helping hand. The two had strained politeness between them, and he had no wish to complicate matters further.
Zuo Shaoqing rested wearily against the headboard. Despite his initial pallor from the injury, his striking eyes gleamed with unusual brightness.
“Second Uncle, your nephew wishes to propose a business proposition. Would you be interested?” Zuo Shaoqing cut to the chase, with no time for games.
Zuo Yunyang’s eyes briefly registered surprise before he chuckled and inquired, “Well then, how does our nephew intend to go into business with his second uncle?”
Ignoring the faint condescension in his tone, Zuo Shaoqing gazed at him confidently. “I believe what Second Uncle truly desires is for Second Cousin to secure a good marriage, for Fourth Cousin to make a name for himself, and for the Second Branch of the family to thrive. Am I mistaken?”
The eldest daughter was only a year younger than Zuo Shuhui, while the youngest son trailed Zuo Shaoqing by three years. Both were legitimate offspring, and Zuo Yunyang had never taken a concubine, not even a secondary wife.
This was precisely why Zuo Shaoqing was willing to stake his bet on him. He believed that a man who cherished his wife and had built his life from the ground up wouldn’t be like Zuo Yunwen, who had been a playboy.
“Nephew’s words ring true. After all, which family’s parents lack such desires?”
Zuo Shaoqing found logic in his thoughts. Even Mrs. Xue, whom he disliked, had been scheming for the futures of her two sons and one daughter.
Zuo Shaoqing pondered for a moment, organized his ideas, and then calmly expressed, “Second Uncle, you must admit, as a merchant, you may live comfortably, but earning respect from others is an entirely different matter. Given the current circumstances of our Zuo Family, even if our Fourth Cousin Brother possesses literary talent, he won’t be able to participate in the Conference Test. At best, he might take the test to bring people back home for leisure, without achieving any significant accomplishments. I assume you wouldn’t want him to enter the world of commerce.”
Zuo Shaoqing’s words carried weight, and Zuo Yunyang regarded him with a hint of mockery. “Nephew, have you forgotten? You’re merely a little illegitimate child!”
“Second Uncle, there’s no need for anger. I only aim to elucidate our situation. What if I were to propose that I possess a means to alter the current state of the Zuo Family?”
Naturally, Zuo Yunyang harbored skepticism and regarded the third son’s aspirations as mere fantasies.
“Back in the day, our family chose the wrong side in the political arena, and it’s by the grace of His Majesty that our entire clan wasn’t executed,” he mused, presuming that Zuo Shaoqing was naively entertaining thoughts of reversing their fortunes. Weren’t the household members yearning for a return to the temple?
Despite his apparent contempt and doubt, a chord deep within Zuo Yunyang’s heart was subtly struck.
“I understand that Second Uncle has no reason to trust someone as inconsequential as myself. But as they say, there are no absolutes in this world. How can you be certain that I won’t deliver on my word?” Zuo Shaoqing’s lips curved up slowly, lending credence to his words, particularly when paired with his bright, profound eyes.
Zuo Yunyang couldn’t help but steal a glance at his nephew. In his memory, this child had always been timid, reserved, and had a gentle disposition.
When did this unassuming child metamorphose into this? Confidence! Resoluteness! Moreover, a sense of grandeur!
Was this still the concubine he knew?