Chapter 298 - Auction

There were also people who noticed that there was more than enough grain to be had and remembered that Royal Prince Yang had promised there would be a second and third shipment of reasonably priced grain...thus they only bought enough grain to last their family two months. 

The Yu Family still had a lot of grain back home, so Yu Hai and Liu Hu took out the horse and donkey carts to help their fellow villagers transport grain back to Dongshan Village.

Because Royal Prince Yang had a connection to Tanggu Town, the first fleet of grain ships stopped at Tanggu Town first. However, there were a total of three prefectures and nineteen villages that were affected by the locust plague. For the past two months, the commoners who lived in these prefectures and towns all had to tighten their waistbands. By now, most of their stores of grain had been almost exhausted. The villagers who lived closer to Tanggu Town all hurried over to the docks and town to line up to buy grain.

For the next few days, the twenty or so reasonably priced grain shops in Tanggu Town and the docks had massively long lines in front of them. Even when the grain shops closed for the night, the lines waiting for grain did not disperse. The people stayed overnight to sleep as they were all afraid that they would have to line up again the next day. They were also afraid that the reasonably priced grain would be sold out.

Every morning, County Magistrate Zhao of Tanggu Town would take his people from the yamen and punctually opened up the grain shops at six in the morning. The shops only closed their doors at around eight in the evening every night. The grain shops at the docks also had the same operating hours. The people at the shops were busy for five whole days until all of the reasonably priced grain had reached the other towns and prefectures. Only then did the pressure lighten a lot on the grain shops in Tanggu Town and the docks.

When the first batch of grain was almost sold out, the second fleet of ships had already arrived. Furthermore, when the first fleet of ships had finished unloading their stores of grain, they had gone back to the south to pick up more. When the commoners of the disaster stricken areas noticed that the supplies of grain were coming in on time, they also didn’t feel the need to frantically stock up on food anymore. Thus, the days of winding long lines in front of the grain stalls became history.

As for the other grain stores that had tried to profit from the disaster, there was only dust at their thresholds. The grain stores opened by the government all sold new grain harvested from the south, while these grain shops only had grain that was saved up from last season. In addition, since the reasonably priced grain stores had fair prices, only idiots would go buy the overpriced grain from the other stores. These shops had already made a fortune from the locust plague, so in order to not let their grain sit for too long, these places also cut down on their prices. Some of the shops were even selling their grain for less than what the government run shops were selling for.

Thus, the pressure on the reasonably priced grain stores had lessened again. Before long, the twenty or so reasonably priced grain shops were cut down to two in Tanggu Town, one on the west side and one on the east side. The docks also had two shops remaining. Everything slowly came back to normal in the disaster stricken areas.

Word finally came out among the wealthy families in Tanggu Town about the Yu Family’s vegetables. All of them expressed their desire to reserve these high-priced vegetables in advance. After the locust plague and drought disasters, these so-called rich families had not been able to eat fresh vegetables for a long time.

On this particular day, there were more than a dozen stewards who were crowded around the Yu Family’s gates. They were all heatedly arguing. Steward Yao had already been promoted to the head steward of the estate. He righteously proclaimed, “Our Yao Family was the first family from town to purchase vegetables from the Yu Family. And we had never stopped buying from them for the past two years. The patriarch had already said, no matter how expensive the vegetables, we need to get the contract to buy vegetables from them.”

The assistant steward from the Zhuang Family curled his lip, “Esteemed Brother Yu, please tell them that our Zhuang Family was the first to arrive here and the first to ask to buy vegetables from you, right? You absolutely cannot favor one and discriminate against the other ah!”

The Wang Family’s steward also aggressively interjected, “You cannot forget about us. Since we have already come, you can’t let us go home empty-handed, right?”

All of the other stewards and servants started talking at once to proclaim that they too wanted to buy vegetables from the Yu Family. Yu Hai didn’t know who to listen to anymore and felt his head hurt from all of the ruckus. 

“Please calm down, everyone please calm down!” Yu Hai hollered at the top of his lungs for a bit until everyone stopped arguing. Only then did he continue, “Everyone here knows that all of the vegetables in the courtyard have been reserved by Zhenxiu Restaurant! We only have a few vegetable fields open in the back courtyard by the pond. We can only harvest around two hundred catties of vegetables every day, so there are not enough vegetables to go around to everyone. Thus, we absolutely are unable to make everyone happy. Therefore, the most important thing right now is that everyone comes to an agreement about what we are to do now!”

“What is there to negotiate? Let money do the talking ah!” The person who spoke up was the rich and imposing steward from the Zhuang Family.

Steward Yao didn’t back down one bit, “Okay! Let money do then talking then! Everyone can yell out a price, whoever’s price is the highest will be able to buy the vegetables! We will give fifty copper coins a catty!”

The assistant steward of the Zhuang Family sneered in disdain and yelled, “Eighty copper coins a catty!”

Everyone in Tanggu Town knew that the Zhuang Family and Yao Family were the families other than the Zhou Family that had the deepest pockets. At first the other family’s stewards also bid, but as the price climbed higher, those other stewards and servants couldn’t keep up. They could only watch as the Zhuang Family and the Yao Family bid with gusto. Finally, the price of the vegetables had climbed up to one tael a catty.

Yu Hai felt as if his head was going to explode. They had only sold their vegetables to Zhenxiu Restaurant for thirty-some copper coins a catty, yet these two families had bid up to one tael a catty. He felt very uneasy about this!

Yu Xiaocao also felt antsy on the side as she watched the proceedings. She hurriedly spoke to the two family’s stewards, “You guys should stop bidding! You’ve already reached a sky-high price, so when you guys return, your masters will definitely peel the skin off of you!”

Steward Yao smiled, “Miss Yu has a kind heart! However, our patriarch had already said that no matter how expensive I need to buy these vegetables! Money is not a problem!”

The Zhuang Family had grain shops in all three prefectures, which consisted of more than a dozen villages and towns. Thus, at the start of this disaster year, they had also made a killing. Therefore, the assistant steward of the Zhuang Family proudly stood up tall and looked at Steward Yao with disdain in his eyes, “In terms of money, our Zhuang Family has never feared other people either!”

Yu Xiaocao forced out a smile, “I know both of your families have deep pockets, but you can’t just swing around our family ah! This money will burn our hands if we take it ah!”

Zhu Junyang had been watching the proceedings for some time at the side. When he heard Yu Xiaocao’s words, he curled his lips, “These people are shoving money at you. It’s not as if you’re stealing it or forcing them to give it to you, yet you feel like this money will burn your hands ah! Truly too small-minded!” 

The two stewards both knew Royal Prince Yang’s status. When they saw him talking, they immediately became quiet. However, Steward Yao still bravely gave his opinion, “Miss Yu, ever since our patriarch ate the vegetables from your family, he can’t stomach the taste of any other. In the past, the patriarch only liked to eat meat and very rarely touched the vegetables. He started to feel faint and dizzy, and the doctor advised him to eat more vegetables. Despite that, he refused to follow the doctor’s advice. Ever since your family’s vegetables came onto the market last spring, the patriarch can’t eat a meal without your vegetables, especially the tomatoes. Our patriarch eats your tomatoes like they’re fruits! After the locust plague, there hasn’t been any fresh vegetables in the past two months. Thus our patriarch’s appetite has plummeted. Only after we bought some dried vegetables from your family did he finally have some desire to eat, otherwise…”  

“Hey, hey! You can’t compete on price, so you’re trying to use the emotional card instead ah! Steward Yao, didn’t you already agree to selling to the highest bidder earlier ah? Then let’s continue ah!” The assistant steward of the Zhuang Family had also been promoted to his position recently and wanted to use this opportunity to show off his abilities in front of his master. In any case, the master had already said that it didn’t matter how much the vegetables cost as long as they could get some to allow the matriarch to eat.  

The Zhuang Family’s matriarch suffered from chronic constipation. Doctor Sun had told them she needed to eat more coarse grains and vegetables. Coarse grains? That was food fit for only poor peasants. If the other rich families in town found out that the Zhuang Family was giving their matriarch coarse grains to eat, wouldn’t they be mocked out of house and home? However, it was a disastrous year after the locust plague had passed. Where would they be able to get fresh vegetables?

The master had no idea what to do until the one time he attended a banquet at Zhenxiu Restaurant. There was extremely expensive lettuce seasoned with oyster sauce and vegetables sauteed with shitake mushrooms on the table. Everyone praised these two dishes without end. Furthermore, the lettuce and other green vegetables were very fresh and could not have been left over from the previous year. The master of the Zhuang Family had asked several times, but the people working at Zhenxiu Restaurant had their mouths tightly closed. Later on, he sent some people to stealthily follow the purchasing carts of Zhenxiu Restaurant and only then did he find out that the Yu Family of Dongshan Village was able to grow vegetables. Only then did he send the assistant steward out to buy some.  

However, someone had leaked the information and almost the entire Tanggu Town knew that the Yu Family had fresh vegetables available. After eating two months worth of dried vegetables, salted vegetables, and meat, all of the rich families in town wanted to eat some fresh green vegetables to clean the palate. Thus, the scene in front of the Yu Family occurred today.

Yu Xiaocao saw that the two people were starting to argue again and hurriedly interjected, “Both of you, please calm down a bit! Look, you both know that we only have two hundred catties of vegetables available every day. How about you guys split it fifty-fifty? This year, vegetables can only act as a side dish and can’t be eaten as the main meal. Don’t you think that makes sense?”

The two stewards looked at each other and finally managed to reach an agreement. Every day, each family would get a hundred catties each. Miss Yu was right. Their two families probably had around a dozen family members each, so a hundred catties a day was more than enough for them. Perhaps they would even have some vegetables left over that would be rewarded to the higher-ranking servants.

As for the price, the locusts hadn’t been eradicated yet, so they stuck with the price that was hollered out earlier, one tael per catty. The young royal prince was right. This money was being shoved towards them, so refusing it would only be silly. It wasn’t like they were forcing these people to give them money. Thus, the Yu Family was now going to make an additional two hundred taels a day from their vegetables sales.

Yu Xiaocao then addressed the other disappointed stewards, “We don’t have a lot of people here, so we’re unable to take care of too many vegetable fields. However, I do have a pesticide that can drive away locusts. You guys can buy some to take back home to plant some vegetables and grains that are easy to raise. Every day you need to spray some pesticide on the fields in the morning and night. By doing that, you can avoid the locusts eating all of the vegetables!”

When the rest of the people heard this proposal, they thought about the amount of time it took for green vegetables and lettuce to grow. At most it would take a month until they were ready to be eaten. If they went back and planted them now, they would be able to eat some fresh vegetables before the start of autumn. Furthermore, if they planted autumn season vegetables now, it wouldn’t be too late for them to harvest later. Thus, all of the stewards asked Xiaocao about the price of this pesticide.

The pesticide was bottled up in wine liquor bottles that came out to a catty each. The ingredients to make one catty of pesticide cost around one tael. Furthermore, this pesticide required an extremely valuable ingredient: mystic-stone water. Naturally, the price could not be too cheap. Yu Xiaocao set the price at five taels a bottle. One bottle of pesticide was enough to spray one mu for a whole month, so when compared to reserving vegetables, it was a bit more worth it. The only difference was that they had to wait a bit to eat fresh vegetables. The other dozen or so families who weren’t able to compete for the vegetables mostly ended up buying some pesticide to bring back. After calculating the sales, Yu Xiaocao had earned eighty-five taels from selling the pesticide alone.

Liu Hu privately spoke to his wife in admiration, “Wife, your younger brother’s ability to make money is truly very good. First it was watermelons, now it’s vegetables. Money is just pouring into his pockets ah!” 

Yu Caifeng smiled, “In actuality, it’s not Yu Hai who is good at making money. Haven’t you figured it out after half a year? Every method of making money has something to do with Xiaocao. Xiaohai also told me that the idea for growing watermelons came from Xiaocao. In fact, the methods used for planting and selling the melons all came from Xiaocao while he implemented them. As for these vegetables, if Xiaocao didn’t come up with a method to create pesticide, how could they possibly make that much money?”

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Myst's Thoughts

Sanguine’s Thoughts: Anyone else hear the sound of money rushing into Xiaocao’s pockets? I also think it’s funny that they consider coarse grains as food fit for only peasants to eat. Nowadays, coarse grains like brown rice are all the rage due to their health benefits. They’re usually more expensive to substitute at a restaurant too.

Translator: Sanguine