C35 – The Village Chief

“Stop! Let’s see who’s brave enough to make a move,” Zhang Xiaoloong stepped forward, pointing at the few young men poised for an attack. “Liu Changsheng is claiming ownership now. Any takers? If you’re not afraid of a jail sentence, go ahead. Let’s see if Liu Changsheng can save you then.”

The individuals hesitated; they were the hotel’s security personnel, and it wouldn’t bode well for them to refuse Liu Changsheng’s requests.

In the past, they had been called upon to create disturbances on occasion, depending on the number of people involved. Typically, their adversaries relented swiftly. Moreover, Liu Changsheng had connections to the hotel’s owner, who was a formidable figure, ensuring that Liu Changsheng was treated with respect.

However, these previous instances had been relatively minor altercations. If they were to embark on a mission to rob another person’s property, that would constitute a crime. They pondered the situation.

“Don’t pay any heed to this kid’s nonsense. This corn is grown on my family’s land. It’s rightfully mine,” Liu Changsheng handed the money to Zhang Xiaoloong. “Didn’t you say you were compensating me for the land? Well, now everyone’s watching. I’m returning the money you gave for the land. Five years’ worth, not a penny less. I don’t care about the produce from before the corn. But this corn belongs to me. We’ll settle this.”

“Changsheng, are you determined to go through with this?” Liu Mei’s anger left her visibly pale. “Fine, you don’t want us to compensate for your land. Fair enough. Give us the money for the past three years instead. We can’t afford your land. Whoever you choose to plant it can have it. But you want a refund on the money. You’re even taking our harvest. Xiaoloong and my father aren’t foolish or insane. They won’t grant you a year’s labor for free.”

“Pay them no mind. Get on with it. This corn is from my land. Why should we be afraid? It’s not a crime, at most it’s a financial dispute. If anything happens, I’ll shoulder the consequences,” he declared, specifically addressing the security guards.

Upon hearing this, the security personnel shuffled about briefly before advancing toward the corn piles in the yard.

“Stop, don’t take any action…” Just as Zhang Xiaoloong was about to respond, a hurried voice sounded from outside. It was the village chief, Wang Tiezhu, who cleared a path through the crowd and entered. “Changsheng, you’re back at last. What’s the plan this time? An invasion of the village?”

“Hey there, it’s Uncle Zhu Zi. Haven’t seen you in a while. Take one of these,” Liu Changsheng spotted the newcomer and swiftly pulled out a cigarette, offering it to him.

Wang Tiezhu appeared slender, his skin weathered from prolonged exposure to the sun. In reality, he was just 40 years old, only a few years senior to Liu Changsheng.

However, in the rural setting, seniority carried great significance. There was a saying: “A radish may be small, but it depends on seniority.” Moreover, the village chief, not being particularly youthful, held substantial influence in the community.

“Alright, let me inquire first. What’s your purpose here? Bringing outsiders to pilfer the villagers’ food. Are you here to humiliate me?” Wang Tiezhu questioned, his eyes wide.

Liu Changsheng promptly offered a conciliatory smile, saying, “Absolutely not. Uncle Zhu Zi, I would never act against your wishes while you’re in Qinghe Village.”

“So you’re secretly hoping I’ll depart sooner, allowing you to stir up trouble as the ‘Sun Monkey,’ am I right? Do you consider Qinghe Village to be the Heavenly Palace or perhaps Mount Huaguo?” Wang Tiezhu pushed the cigarette aside and took a few puffs from his pipe.

“Oh dear, Uncle Zhu Zi, I must clarify something with you,” Liu Changsheng insisted, firmly offering him the cigarette, which he then lit himself. “The land on my property is indeed a valuable asset, despite the prior agreement. Technically, it remains my land, right? I intend to reimburse them and reclaim the land. Isn’t that reasonable?”

Yang Jingjing, who stood nearby, chimed in with a disinterested tone, “But wasn’t it you who argued to repay the debt and take away their annual yield?”

Wang Tiezhu chuckled upon hearing that. “Changsheng, you’ve got quite the strategy. Lease the land out, then reclaim it within a year. This year’s harvest goes to you, and you’ve essentially received a year’s worth of labor for free from Big Ox and his wife. What’s your rationale here? Are you their patriarch or their offspring? Why should they work for you without compensation?”

“So, does that mean I should offer them a salary?” Liu Changsheng probed.

“Get out of here. Even if you had the money, they might not accept it,” Wang Tiezhu scowled and continued, “If you had discussed this arrangement with them beforehand, there’d be no issue. However, now that the harvest is reaped, the crops belong to the Daniu family. If you bring people to take the crops, it’s akin to taking the livelihoods of the farmers.”

“Tsk tsk tsk, Uncle Zhu Zhu, you’ve said it again. I want the crops back, but I didn’t mention snatching them back. Can’t I buy them with money?” Liu Changsheng put on a stern expression and gestured towards Yang Jingjing and the two other girls. “These two girls are also here to purchase corn. Since they intend to sell it, it doesn’t matter to whom they sell it. Nevertheless, this plot of land is mine. I have a deep connection with the produce from this land. If you intend to sell it, you should sell it to me first, shouldn’t you?”

Wang Tiezhu hesitated when he heard this. Sentiments aside, he decided to give Liu Changsheng some face. “How much are you willing to pay for it?”

“Based on the market rate, 85 cents. No, let’s make it 90 cents, alright? Nobody can accuse me of not showing sincerity with this offer, can they?” Liu Changsheng proposed.

Wang Tiezhu nodded this time. The price was indeed higher than the current market value. He glanced at Zhang Daniu and remarked, “Daniu, if you’re truly set on selling it, consider selling it in Longevity City. This price seems quite reasonable.”

“Not selling,” Zhang Xiaoloong declared firmly. “Grandpa Zhu, it’s not that I don’t want to show respect, but even if the corn is going bad at home, I won’t sell it to Liu Changsheng.”

“Master Grandpa Zhu, Grandma Zhu wants you to return home urgently. Something has come up…” A young child suddenly rushed over, conveying the message to Wang Tiezhu.

“It’s resolved…” The village chief promptly discarded his cigarette and left with his pipe in hand. He turned to address Zhang Daniu, “Daniu, let’s discuss this matter properly. If you wish to sell it, go ahead. Don’t get upset. There’s an urgent situation at home. I’ll go check on it. Let’s have a thorough discussion…”

The voice gradually faded away, and the crowd couldn’t help but chuckle. The village chief excelled at everything except for managing his wife. Whenever she called, he moved faster than the summoned beasts in a video game.

“Hehe, how about it? Uncle Zhu has spoken. There shouldn’t be any issues this time, right?” Liu Changsheng smiled and offered Zhang Daniu a cigarette. “Furthermore, I’m offering 90 cents. You won’t be at a loss. If you doubt me, ask anyone else. Who else will pay 90 cents?”

Zhang Daniu opened the cigarette but declined it, instead looking at his son.

“Xiaoloong, nephew, if you’re unwilling to sell for 90 cents, then… you’ll have to carry it,” Liu Changsheng sneered. “In the end, no matter how much of a scholar you become, you won’t become a scholar of wealth. You’ll only end up spending more on medical bills. Resolving economic disputes won’t be easy.”

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