Jiang Zhen and Zhao Jinge rowed their boat to the county town, then they went through the back door of the Zheng house. But this time, they were treated differently. There were a lot of servant girls and young servants passing by, making Zhao Jinge put up his guard. There were really many temptations in this county town, and it had been absolutely right for him to come here with Jiang Zhen!
There was a second-rank official in the Zheng family, and they were probably the richest family in the county town. Jiang Zhen thought the Zheng mansion would be very big, but after going in this time, he found that it wasn’t the case even though everything around looked exquisite.
As for why this mansion was not very big . . . It was probably because the county town was only so large, and there was no free land to expand the area of the house—those huge gardens could only be built in the countryside.
Of course, Jiang Zhen thought that the Zheng house was small because he had often seen fences enclosing large pieces of land in the countryside. As a matter of fact, the Zheng mansion was already very large in comparison to various modern houses.
The place where Zheng Yi met Jiang Zhen was a pavilion built above a pond. Today, it was sunny and breezy, so it was pleasant to meet there.
“Here you are.” Seeing Jiang Zhen, Zheng Yi yawned, stood up from the rattan recliner and sat on a stone bench beside the stone table.
Although Zheng Yi was a man, his skin was very fair, since he had been raised in prosperity from childhood. Even He Qiusheng, who had the best skin in Hexi, was probably just as fair as him. At the moment, because of his particularly pale skin, the black circles and the stubble on his face were very obvious.
“Master Zheng,” Jiang Zhen and Zhao Jinge greeted him casually.
“Sit down. Let’s talk about the cards.” Young Master Zheng put the cards Jiang Zhen had given him the day before on the table.
The cards were made of white paper, and they already looked a little worn just from playing yesterday afternoon. Now they all looked worn out.
Obviously, the reason why Zheng Yi’s face had dark circles was because he had played cards all night.
“I played with my mother and my wife for a while after I came back yesterday, and I’ve hardly slept.” Zheng Yi noticed that Jiang Zhen’s eyes fell on the cards and yawned again. “If they hadn’t fallen asleep by now, they wouldn’t have let me take the cards.”
Before Jiang Zhen could speak, Zheng Yi spoke again, “But really, the card painting is too ugly.”
“. . .” Jiang Zhen had no words. “I haven’t gone to school and can only draw randomly. It’s already very good to be able to draw like this.”
“You haven’t gone to school?” Zheng Yi looked at Jiang Zhen with surprise. He had sent someone to check Jiang Zhen, but the time had been too short, and the people under him hadn’t replied yet.
However, even though he did not know Jiang Zhen’s specific situation, after observing Jiang Zhen, he felt he should be a man of good birth and knowledge. He even suspected that Jiang Zhen was a general, which would explain why he could beat up Liu Heitou and why his handwriting was quite ugly.
Zheng Yi lifted the top card in the pile, and there was the ugly word “Tiger” on the card.
“I’m from an ordinary farmer’s family in Hexi Village. I haven’t gone to school, but my two younger brothers have. I occasionally listened to them, and I am barely able to read,” Jiang Zhen said.
Zheng Yi smiled and said, “Your talent was deeply buried in a peasant household.” When Jiang Zhen looked at him, he was neither humble not arrogant. He really didn’t look like a person from an ordinary household.
After a few pleasantries, the two of them got straight to the point and talked about the cards.
“The four patterns you drew on them are somewhat plain. Do you think it would be better to change them into plum, orchid, bamboo, and chrysanthemum?” As soon as they started, Zheng Yi came up with this suggestion.
“It’s not elegant to let the four gentlemen appear in the gambling house. It would be troublesome to do. In my opinion, it would be better to use some simple patterns for the most common cards. But in addition to ordinary cards, you can also make more delicate cards for ladies. They can be painted with plum, orchid, bamboo, and chrysanthemum. Those two tiger cards can be changed into sun and moon cards. One would be painted with gold and black and the other would be painted with Chang’e flying to the moon,” Jiang Zhen said. The myths and legends of this place were almost the same as those of the ancient era he knew of—Hou Yi shot to the sun and Chang’e to the moon.
Zheng Yi also thought that ordinary cards should be made rougher and not too delicate. He was reluctant to spoil those gamblers.
“One more thing is that these cards are very easy to learn. When I release them, it can really attract the attention of the dignitaries. I’m afraid it won’t be long before it’s all over the street, so it won’t be easy to make money,” Zheng Yi said.
Their Zheng family could barely be regarded as a scholarly family, and they certainly couldn’t be compared with those old families, that had no family business. It was also because of this that their house stayed in Hecheng County, specializing in doing business and getting support from the capital.
In the same fashion, this would also conveniently open up a new door, so they could earn more. The advantage of making and presenting cards belonged mainly to the capital. Zheng Yi Was hoping to gain some benefits.
“What businesses does Master Zheng have under him?” Jiang Zhen asked. “Master Zheng, it would be better to design a logo for these businesses. In the future, both the shops and the caravans will use this logo, and the back of the cards should also be painted with this logo.”
At first, when Zheng Yi heard Jiang Zhen’s words, he was puzzled. But after some thought, he couldn’t help but applaud. This way, those who were the first to come in contact with the cards would recognize their cards by the logo, not to mention their business name would also become widely known.
This Jiang Zhen unexpectedly opened his mouth and was able to come up with such an idea! However, many of the shops under his name had different names, and it was not easy to unify them. He would need to carefully consider it.
“These cards can also be given away when we have enough reserves,” Jiang Zhen spoke again. In fact, he was not good at doing business, but this was common knowledge for modern people, and it was impossible for him not to know it.
“Then how can we keep the secret?” Zheng Yi asked again. He actually had a way to keep the secret, but he still wanted to ask for Jiang Zhen’s opinion.
“Each card can be made separately,” Jiang Zhen said. For the moment, the traffic was inconvenient. They just needed to find more printing workshops to make them. Who would make the connection between those cards? “It can also be said it would be used for business.”
Jiang Zhen and Zheng Yi talked happily with each other.
At first, Zheng Yi asked Jiang Zhen to be the manager of the gambling house because he was grateful to Jiang Zhen, and he didn’t expect him to do anything, but now . . .
“Is Brother Jiang interested in managing a gambling house?” Zheng Yi asked, thinking that it might give an unexpected surprise to let Jiang Zhen manage a gambling house.
“Is Mr. Zheng interested in opening another gambling house?” Jiang Zhen asked.
Zheng Yi immediately hesitated. The county town was only so big. If he opened another gambling house wouldn’t it be competing with his own business?
“This gambling house wouldn’t deal with the poor, but only with the rich. For example, the cards of plum orchid, bamboo, and chrysanthemum can be used,” Jiang Zhen said.
Jiang Zhen felt that it was meaningless to take hard-earned money from a group of ordinary people, so he might as well open a gambling shop only for the rich. Jiang Zhen had seen those big casinos before, so he thought about them and mentioned some of it.
Zheng Yi immediately clapped his hands. “Good idea!”
For the poor, several copper pennies were already very valuable, but for the rich, it was different. They were used to spending hundreds of thousands of silver just to buy an antique without even blinking.
There were many rich people to the south of Yangtze River . . . Although Hecheng County was small, there were also many rich people here, and traveling merchants didn’t lack money. As for why there were so many rich people but the county town was not very prosperous . . . Nowadays, people liked to raise their own people to do everything.
The cooks in the Zheng family’s mansion were much better than those working in the restaurant. There were also people in their mansion who specialized in sewing. When they wanted to buy cloth, they would not go to the shop personally but send someone to make a delivery to their house.
Not to mention that . . . some rich people even lived in the countryside.
Hundreds of years ago, an old man came here after ending his career in court. After returning home, he set up a big house in the nearby countryside to be his ancestral home. That house was magnificent. Compared to it, the Zheng family’s mansion was really small.
“I would build another gambling shop. No, it can’t be called a gambling shop. We have to come up with a better name. This time, you’ll be in charge of it, and you’ll get 30 percent of the profit,” Zheng Yi said.
What he said was extremely generous because it was nothing to him and because he had made up his mind to go to the capital and build a big gambling house similar to what they would build in Hecheng. This meant the gambling house in Hecheng County was just for Jiang Zhen.
After they talked about it, Jiang Zhen and Zhao Jinge stayed with Zheng Yi for dinner.
During their talk before, Zhao Jinge hadn’t spoken a word, so Zheng Yi didn’t notice him until then and asked, “Who is this?”
“He is my wife,” Jiang Zhen said.
Zheng Yi was somewhat surprised. Gers could also marry and have children, but many large families who had only a few people in their families would raise them as men. After that, they may not be able to marry a well-matched woman, but as long as they were willing to spend money and marry a woman whose situation was not as good as their own, there would be no problem.
Because of this, Zheng Yi had seen gers who could stand on their own feet, but those gers were married to women. He had never seen a married ger walk around. What kind of man would want his wife to appear in public? And . . . the appearance of this ger was really ordinary.
Although he thought so in his heart, Zheng Yi never showed anything on his face. He liked making fun of people, but he also knew when to behave. In any case, he would never comment on other people’s gers.
Even though Zheng Yi was very calm, Zhao Jinge was still very uneasy. While eating, he didn’t dare to move his chopsticks and was very restrained. Zheng Yi pretended to not see it when Jiang Zhen picked up food for Zhao Jinge from time to time, which made Zhao Jinge calm down slowly.
The food in the Zheng mansion was very delicious. Jiang Zhen had never eaten such delicious food since he traveled to this ancient era, which had a lot to do with the fact that the cooks of the Zheng family were willing to use various raw materials when cooking.
Just this fish . . .
In Hexi, people ate mostly steamed or boiled fish, but this . . . There was a fish dish fried in oil. After cutting the fish with a knife, they also boiled it in sugar and vinegar. In the Zhao family, it was impossible for Zhao Liu to cook like this.
Zhao Jinge liked the sour and sweet fish very much, so Jiang Zhen gave him some more. Zhao Jinge was very happy, and when Jiang Zhen looked at him, Zhao Jinge smiled at him.
That smile was actually very restrained, but when Jiang Zhen saw it, he thought it was very good-looking.
After dinner, Young Master Zheng suggested taking Jiang Zhen to the gambling house to have a look. Jiang Zhen originally wanted to take advantage of Young Master Zheng’s power, so, of course, he would not refuse him.
The gambling shop of the Zheng family was called Hongxing Gambling Shop. It was very big and had two floors in total with a yard at the back. Most of the guests entered through the gate, but Zheng Yi took them through the side door and went directly in the courtyard behind the gambling shop. At this moment, there were seven or eight thugs lazing around.
Seeing Zheng Yi, these people immediately stood up and bowed down to him. “Master Zheng!”
Liu Heitou was standing in the middle of these thugs. When he saw Zheng Yi and Jiang Zhen next to each other, his whole face distorted. The cut made by Jiang Zhen on his face, coupled with his twisted expression, made his whole face look terrible and pitiful.
“From now on, the person in charge of you is Jiang Zhen,” Zheng Yi said lightly at this moment.
Not only Liu Heitou’s hair was black, but his face was black too.
Zheng Yi didn’t like to stay in the gambling house for a long time, so he soon left. As soon as he left, Jiang Zhen looked at the thugs with a smile.
“I heard that someone set up a private gambling house outside under the name of our Hongxing Gambling House. I’m going to have a look today. Do you want to come with me?”
When Jiang Zhen said this, he looked at Liu Heitou, which made Liu Heitou’s face turn even darker. It was clear to Liu Heitou that Jiang Zhen was talking about him.
He started his career as a thug in this gambling shop, but later, he privately gathered a group of people who did not belong to Hongxing Gambling House. Not only that, in order to support these people, he also secretly opened a gambling house in Qiaotou Village, which belonged to him.
The Zheng family wanted fame and were not short of money, so this Hongxing Gambling House didn’t deliberately induce others to owe debts. They also weren’t in the business of lending money for exorbitant interests. Anyway, even though they didn’t do such things, they already made a lot of money. But Liu Heitou’s gambling house was different. They would lend people usuriously; set people up; and even sometimes when they knew there was not much money in the family, they would force the children of that gambler’s family.
“Manager Jiang, what do you mean?” A man who was at odds with Liu Heitou came forward.
“I heard people say that someone was fooling around in Qiaotou Village under the name of our gambling house,” Jiang Zhen said.
“Jiang Zhen, don’t try deceiving people too much!” Liu Heitou couldn’t help saying.
“If you think I am deceiving people too much, you can leave right away. You will no longer be a person of Hongxing Gambling House. You won’t play under the signboard of Hongxing Casino. No matter what you do outside, no one would care about you.” Jiang Zhen looked at Liu Heitou with a smile.
Liu Heitou didn’t dare to leave. He didn’t have any background, but over the years, he had been bullying people and done a lot of evil things. If he were to leave now, the people around him would disperse. Wouldn’t it be easier for Jiang Zhen to get him into trouble then?
He didn’t dare to leave Hongxing Gambling House, so he could only watch as Jiang Zhen gathered all the thugs of the gambling house, including him, and went straight to his lair. This Jiang Zhen really wanted to make it. How was he going to live in Qiaotou Village in the future?
Edited by : Faro