Chapter 9 – Negotiations
The restaurant’s courtyard was quite spacious, with several evergreen trees adding a touch of tranquility to the surroundings.
The master of this building must be an elegant person.
The waiter, Xiao Er**, told the ladies to wait in the courtyard while headed towards the side building to notify his master. After knocking on a door, a middle-aged man wearing a long green robe walked out of the room. He had a small moustache and an air of authority about him. Overall, he had a calm bearing.
Seeing Xiao Er standing before his door, he asked “What brings you here to the inner court?”
“Manager Li, these two ladies have come to find you saying they had some important business. This little servant dared not to get in their way.” The young boy bowed before the shopkeeper.
“Oh? Why do you ladies seek for this old man?” Manager Li looked looked carefully at Mo Qian Xue and Fang Fangzi. Although he did not openly show his contempt, there was a slight arrogance to his tone.
Mo Qian Xue bowed in courtesy and spoke her purpose. “Manager Li, this maiden has indeed taken this opportunity to meet Manager Li. There is an important business we would like to discuss.”
“Important business? What could it be?” Manager Li’s face revealed a trace of doubt.
A country woman has never sought a meeting with him. What matters could they possibly discuss?
“This Lady has several recipes that I would like to sell to the shopkeeper.” Mo Qian Xue went straight to the point. She was calm and composed.
Since she was discussing about business and mutual benefits, there was no need for her to be humble or shy.
“You’re selling recipes? I don’t think I understand. What dishes can a country woman possibly know? Can your home recipes compare to the skill of a master chef? It looks like you ladies aren’t familiar with things around here. This old man will not dare to haggle prices with you two. Xiao Er, please see these guests out.”
Xiao Er noticed his manager’s impatience. Fearing punishment, he immediately gestured to the visitors to lead them out.
Mo Qian Xue did not pay attention to Sister Fang’s pulling. Instead she turned to the shopkeeper and raised her voice, “Manager Li’s words are improper. As the saying goes, Women hold up half the sky.** Manager, how can you look down on women!”
So he dares to look down on her?
Hmph! He’s never even dreamed of the food she’s able to make.
Mo Qian Xue sneered at the manager. “You have a competitor right across the street similar to your restaurant, and yet this Bai Yunju is not as frequented. Has Manager Li decided to give up and let others take the profit?”
Manager Li stopped in his tracks. He was left speechless by Mo Qian Xue’s words.
Of course he didn’t want to be outcompeted. Both Bai Yunju Restaurant and Ying Ke Xuan Restaurant had similar recipes and were well-matched. Even their buildings’ architecture ranked among the best in the city.
However, somehow their rival, Ying Ke Xuan, was able to invite the famous Qing Guan of Hong Cui Fang to play several musical pieces in their restaurant every day.
Many customers were drawn to such an amusement, and because their rival was located right across the street, the customers soon flocked to the other direction. At this point, Bai Yunju’s business began to plummet.
If the trend continues with this pattern, Manager Li has no choice but to close down his restaurant.
In an attempt to reel back customers, he even asked permission from his employer, the Su family, to hire a prostitute to entertain at his hall. As a result, Manager Li was reprimanded by his bosses. They ordered him to quickly cover up the matter.
But he didn’t blame them for turning him down. In fact, the Su family** was one of the three great Families in the Tian Qi dynasty. With their high standing, how can they allow their reputation to be sullied by hiring a prostitute?
As Manager Li considered his dreary situation, he frowned with deeper displeasure. “You are merely a village woman who knows nothing of business. I advise you to leave quickly, otherwise–”
Mo Qian Xue interrupted Manager Li’s words. “I may not understand how a business runs, but I do know one truth: if a company sticks to the rules without seeking creative ideas, that business is sure to perish. Ying Ke Xuan was creative by hiring a musician to play in their hall. Likewise, Bai Yunju can set up a platform for storytellers to recite. Whose idea is more popular is up to the customers to decide.”
Basically, the current dynasty’s history in this time and space was not very long–storytelling was not yet used as a business in this era. And so Mo Qian Xue was the first to suggest it.
Before Manager Li could respond, a clear voice rang in the hallway. “What a novel idea! I’ve never heard of having a storyteller perform on a platform. What kind of pieces would they present?”
A young man had emerged from a door right behind Manager Li. He held a small white fan and a jade belt tied around his waist. His blue silk robes were brocaded with dark flowers along its borders while his robes had a cross collar with wide sleeves. The jade pendant on his waist seemed to reflect some of the sunlight, making his figure appear more impressive.
He slowly approached and stood quietly under an evergreen tree.
“Qi Gongzi, there was no need for you to come. The village woman has no important business…” Manager Li came forth and saluted before the young man, but Qi Gongzi immediately held forth his fan and intercepted his action.
When Manager Li felt the fan press against his throat, he quickly stepped back and bowed his head.
Mo Qian Xue smiled. A man who could make reasonable judgements finally makes an appearance! She saluted towards the young man who had joined them.
Meanwhile, Fang Fangzi had never met such a neat and rich person who wore this expensive clothing. She couldn’t help but stare, forgetting to salute.
When the server saw her gawking rudely at Qi Gongzi, he reprimanded her loudly, “Aren’t you going to show respect to the Young Master?”
Sister Fang snapped out of her stupor and blushed. She quickly bowed in ritual, mumbled a few words in apology, then looked down timidly at her feet, not daring to meet anyone’s eye.
Mo Qian Xue shook her head in disapproval. Although Sister Fang was good at heart, she had not experienced enough of the world.
The young man’s clothing was truly luxurious, but his actual temperament and physical appearance were three points less than Ning Shaoqing’s
Although Ning Shaoqing’s hair was put up simply and he wore gray cotton clothes, the man still could not cover up his elegance. When he read quietly, his faint smile gave onlookers the impression of a bright moon rising in the midst of a northern spring breeze.
Her husband truly had a kind of indescribable grace that was inherent of his nature–it was just that mere villagers could easily fail to notice his special bearing.
Mo Qian Xue turned to the newcomer and politely acknowledged his presence. “This maiden has seen Qi Gongzi.”
After greeting in ceremony, she answered his earlier question. “A storyteller naturally shares stories, some of which are amusing and captivating, some are fantasies, while others comment on practical daily matters. Sharing amusing stories can bring laughter to its listeners, just the same way that playing music and beating drums can help entertain and bring smiles to its audience. If a customer wants to go on a meal with friends, why not use this opportunity to make them smile?”
Qi Gongzi was impressed. “The young maiden has spoken well. Why don’t we use this opportunity to bring smiles to their faces?” Such a simple truth had to be pointed out by a mere village woman, which made him laugh. A trace of anticipation began to rise in his heart.
He held back his humor and soon put on a serious expression, saying, “I’m actually quite curious to hear your amusing stories. If you can make me laugh at a story, this Gongzi will give you the opportunity to present your dishes.”
When Mo Qian Xue saw the young man quickly to cover up his cheerful nature and pretend to be mature, she couldn’t help but laugh.
“Well then, it’s a deal!” she chuckled.
Entertaining him at the dinner table would be a piece of cake. She was confident that her stories would definitely stir him.
Noticing her bright smile, Qi Gongzi couldn’t help but stare.
This woman’s eyes were full of liveliness and purity. She smiled confidently and freely, unlike the ladies in the capital whose grins were filled with hypocrisy. Qi Gongzi gazed at this village woman with interest.
Being moved by this strange woman, he smiled unexpectedly and said, “Good, I won’t take back my words!”
The young server gawked at his master in disbelief. Qi Gongzi actually smiled at a mere villager and gave her a chance.
Was his master possessed by the devil?
Usually even young noble ladies had trouble saying more than three sentences to Qi Gongzi due to his cold and aloof expressions. And yet here he was chatting openly with a village woman.
“If you succeed, you will get a chance to present your dishes. Whether we buy your recipes or not will depend on its taste.”
“Of course” Mo Qian Xue replied. She coughed lightly and cleared her throat as she began to share two of her stories.
“A snail rides on top of a turtle’s back. Halfway through their journey, they meet an ant and invite it to climb on the turtle shell. Just when the ant sat down, the snail says to the ant: “Hold on tight, this turtle crawls so fast you might fall off miserably!”
Mo Qian Xue heard giggles around the table after sharing the first story. Instead of pausing, she quickly moved on to the next fable.
“An ant was sunbathing when he notices a tall horse approaching slowly. The ant straightens out its foreleg. Seeing this the rabbit beside the ant asked: “what are you doing?”
The ant said: “Shh… quiet. Watch me trip that guy.”
Noticing the loud laughter around the table, Mo Qian Xue’s smile widened.
If she had shared all the tales that she had heard at the wine table, her present audience would surely die of laughter without being able to stand.