# 46. Buying Jewellery
After returning to the capital, they returned their horses for their deposits, and whilst walking out of the store, Xu Qi’an said, “Cijiu, you go home first. I still have something to do.”
Xu Xinnian nodded, not asking any further questions, and left for home alone.
Xu Qi’an walked through the streets, buying himself some osmanthus cakes to eat. He ate and walked, and not long later, reached a jewellery shop:
The owner of Baoqixuan was a xiucai scholar. In fact, scholars doing business was a very common sight, especially those of rich and lavish backgrounds could not support their family’s decadent lifestyle on rent from their lands alone.
The moneymaking businesses in the capital: the large stores, the brothels, et cetera, all had the shadows of nobility and influential figures behind them.
*Commerce within the Great Feng is clearly very developed, but the heaviest taxes still fall on the farmers… I have many reasons to suspect that it’s those rich and powerful nobles pulling the strings behind the scenes.*
*How much silver could a field grow? If you wanted wealth, then the easiest way would have to be in commerce.*
*If I want the common people to live better lives, if I want the country’s coffers to be fuller, then I must cause reform. But the court are full of hereditary officials in high places, how could I as a petty civil servant ever have a voice? Mm, let’s set a small goal, raise Cijiu into becoming the Prime Minister…*
Thinking about his proud little brother one day becoming the most powerful official in the country, the corner of Xu Qi’an’s mouth curled.
Xu Qi’an entered the store, and scanned the counter. Many pieces of jewellery and headwear, on red silk cushions, filled his view.
Hairclips, hairpins, inlays, pendants… he was dazzled by all that was on for offer.
The ones made of gold were the most expensive. Jade depended on the quality, particularly fine jade could beat gold, but the lower quality jades were comparable to silver.
Xu Qi’an’s hand brushed over the three cash of silver in his pocket, as he muttered internally *With this paltry sum I won’t be able to buy a remotely expensive piece.*
He was just sighing over how he lacked money, as his foot stepped on something hard. He very naturally leant down, and picked the thing up, and put it into his pocket without hesitation.
Perhaps it was too smooth, too natural, that nobody even noticed him.
*A cash of silver didn’t have any sodding use, at least a cash of gold would be something worthwhile.*
He had the feeling of window-shopping in his former life, no matter what he couldn’t afford anything anyway. The only thing different was the shopkeepers here were very restrained, and were not as annoying as the service workers in the past life, who if they could, would rather trap you there, and make you consume immediately.
“Boss, do you have any discounts here?” Xu Qi’an knocked on the counter.
The owner was an old man with a long goatee, dressed like a scholar. He was not shocked upon hearing this, rather pointing to the slips hung on the wall, replying with a smile “If this valued customer can solve a character riddle,[^1] then the shop’s trinkets will be half off for you.”
This rule was a specialty of Jinbaoxuan.
*Guessing a character riddle… interesting…* Xu Qi’an walked towards the bamboo slips, and looked at the riddle on it: *Cloud breaks, the moon comes out, and the flowers make shadow.*
Relying on his extensive stored knowledge and logical thinking, he very quickly solved the riddle.
*Some items, just by weight, are already several cash heavy, and you add human labour onto that…*
Xu Qi’an did some calculations, and found that even if he had half off, he still would not be able to buy a particularly good piece of headwear.
But, he very quickly hatched a plan.
Any woman that could come buy jewellery from Jinbaoxuan must have a well-off background, and have studied for a few years. At the very least, they were not illiterate.
However, these kind of women all had one problem: A full bucket of water is not noisy, but half a bucket sloshes!
They thought they were cultured people, and wanted to mingle with intellectuals, and thus, they were very absorbed by Jinbaoxuan’s character riddles.
For the same price of head ornament, they would rather come to Jinbaoxuan to buy them, if only for the chance to solve a riddle.
If they solved the riddle, then the owner would carve onto the slip the correct character, and then gift it to the buyer along with their headpiece.
If they didn’t, then that was not an issue either, but if they did manage to get one or two, then they would have every ability to show off in their circle of friends.
From listening to two young women talking, this is what Xu Qi’an realised about this shop’s trick.
He was worthy of being a xiucai, this owner! He knew how to attract the wealthy.
“Sister Yu, I can’t solve any of these riddles, it’s so hard!”
“You’re so right, my boyfriend also said as much. If I could solve the riddle and take the slip, it would definitely make his jaws drop with disbelief.”
“Aiya, you’re so annoying…”
The two well-raised young women painfully tried to work out the riddle for ages, chittering and chattering amongst themselves.
Their clothes were all rather elegant, and it could be seen that their families lived very comfortable lives. They also had had some education, otherwise they would not have been able to read the riddle.
Suddenly, a male voice came from beside them.
The two graceful young women cautiously turned their head, and after seeing a rather handsome, well-built Xu Qi’an, their caution loosened slightly, yet they did not speak.
Society in the Great Feng was rather liberal, but to talk with an unknown man on the street was still something that was unbefitting to do.
Xu Qi’an did not mind, as he immediately launched into the topic at hand: “I can solve the character riddle for the two Misses, but you have to give me half of the silver you would’ve saved. If you saved five cash, then you should give me two and a half. If four, then two.”
Hearing Xu Qi’an’s suggestion, the owner raised his head in disbelief, and started carefully scrutinising him. After a while, he let out a derisive laugh, and did not pay him any more mind.
Even if that person wore a scholar’s robe, but if one were to look closely at his skill, he would know that this was a person with more brawn than brain.
After all, have you seen any intellectual be as strong as an ox, with skin like wheat?
That Confucianist robe didn’t even fit him properly.
As for the two young women, their eyes flashed, and they were somewhat tempted.
The slightly older one was more reserved, and more cautious and standoffish, said lightly, “As the good Sir pleases. If you really solve the riddle, then I will be glad to pay what you deserve.”
The distance in her voice was strong.
“Please, pick a slip.” Xu Qi’an laughed.
The slightly older one hesitated, whilst the younger one, jumping to try, and seeing that her sister did not object, pointed to one of the wooden slips: “*Cloud breaks, the moon comes out, and the flowers make shadow.*”
Her voice was smooth and soft.
Xu Qi’an immediately said, “‘Neng’, The ‘able’ in able-bodied.”[^2]
The two young women instinctively turned to look at the store owner, and his speechless and shocked expression said it all.
Immediately, the younger one bought a golden hairclip, and lovingly held it in her hand. The eyes that looked at Xu Qi’an were radiant with joy.
After taking the wooden slip, her eyes turned, and her voice became more relaxed and familiar, “Can my good Sir keep solving riddles for me?”
“Lian’er…” Sister Yu dragged at her sleeve.
“Sister Yu, we came here together, I have one, you don’t have one yet, how could we have that?” Afterwards, the one called Lian’er looked at Xu Qi’an expectantly.
*Exactly what I wanted…* Xu Qi’an displayed a warm and kindly smile, “Not a problem, if you wish to pick another.”
“*The peacock flies east and west.*” She pointed to another slip.
“…” the shopkeeper was dumbstruck.
“A thousand thanks…”
The two young women picked their ornaments, and happily left the store. Xu Qi’an had good hearing, and heard the one called Lian’er say “That man really has talent, and is also tall and handsome, much stronger than my boyfriend.”
“Don’t speak nonsense,” the older one scolded.
She seemed to be afraid Xu Qi’an would hear, and would approach them, and so pulling on Lian’er’s sleeve, they quickly walked away.
[^1]: “Character riddles” are like a game of catchphrase, but instead of an image, you have a poem or small riddle, and from that riddle you have to guess a character, which is usually pictographically related.
[^2]: 能：Cloud breaks 云 → 厶, Moon comes out 月, flowers make shadow 花 → 匕 (twice)
[^3]: 孙：The peacock 孔雀 flies east (乚 disappears from 孔 making 子) and west (隹 disappears from 雀 making 小)