Wine Shop Incident, part 8

     “Think about it. Our wagons have to pass through ten different provinces. If we had to fight every time we went on a job, how many men would we have lost? Even if we won every single time, it would be like in the old saying: ‘To kill a thousand enemies, sacrifice eight hundred of your own.’ If any of our escorts were injured or killed on the job, the money we earned wouldn’t even be enough to cover the compensation to their families. Soon, we would run out of our own savings as well. That’s why we escorts have to know all the right people and spare no expense to cultivate relationships. Connections are even more powerful than the fist.” 

Lin Zhennan told history of his escort business to Lin Pingzhi
Lin Zhennan told history of his escort business to Lin Pingzhi

      “Yes, Father.” Lin Pingzhi answered. 

Under normal circumstances, he would have become quite excited and asked many questions upon hearing about the business end of running the Escort House, yet today all he could think of were the words “Western Sichuan” and “Master Yu.” His heart pounded wildly. 

   “Your father’s Kung Fu is surely not as good as either your grandfather’s, or your great grandfather’s.” Lin Zhennan exhaled another cloud of smoke. “But my management skills are definitely better than either of theirs. Your great grandfather founded the business in four provinces: from Fujian to Guangdong in the south, and north to Zhejiang and Jiangsu. I expanded the business to six more provinces: Shandong, Hebei, Hunan, Hubei, Jiangxi and Guangxi. What’s the secret here? Let me tell you: make many friends and few enemies. Our Escort House is called ‘Fortune Prestige.’ Remember, fortune comes before prestige; this means fortune is more important than prestige. Fortune will only come if you keep ‘making many friends and few enemies.’ If we change it to ‘Prestige and Fortune,’ wouldn’t that mean we would ride roughshod over others for glory? Ha-ha!” 

Lin Pingzhi forced a hollow laugh, which was devoid of amusement. 

Lin Zhennan didn’t notice his son’s uneasiness and went on. “The old saying goes, ‘Covet Sichuan after capturing Gansu.’ But for us, it’s ‘Covet Sichuan after capturing Hubei.’ Our escort route starts from Fujian, goes west through Jiangxi and Hunan, and stops at Hubei. Why shouldn’t we continue all the way west, up the river into the province of Sichuan? Sichuan is called the Heavenly Kingdom. There are lots of wealthy people there. If we made it through to Sichuan, we could go either north to Shanxi or south into Yunnan and Guizhou; our business would increase by at least another thirty percent. But Sichuan is a place of crouching tigers and hidden dragons. To do business there, we would have to have connections with the two schools, Qingcheng and Emei. For the past three years, I have been sending valuable gifts to the Pine-Wind Temple of the Qingcheng Sword School and the Golden-Peak Temple of the Emei School every spring and autumn, but neither school would accept our overtures. Priest Radiance, the Head Master of the Emei School, would at least greet the gift bearers, thank them and invite them in for a vegetarian meal, then return the gifts without even breaking the seal. Master Yu of the Pine-Wind Temple is even trickier. His apprentices would stop the gift bearers halfway up the mountain, claiming that Master Yu was in Exclusive Meditation13 at the moment, and unable to see any guest. They would also claim that they already had everything they needed in the temple, so that there was no need for any gifts. Our escorts couldn’t even tell which direction the gate of the Pine-Wind Temple faced, let alone meet Master Yu. When they came back, they were infuriated. If it weren’t because of the specific orders I gave them before the trip to behave with restraint and respect, regardless of how ill-treated they were, they would probably have called them all manner of names and picked several fights.”

      After these words, Lin Zhennan stood up, a proud smile blossoming on his face. “And guess what? At long last, Master Yu has accepted our gifts, and has even sent four of his apprentices to return the courtesy and thank us in person….” 

     “Four apprentices? Not two?” Lin Pingzhi asked breathlessly.

    “Yes, four apprentices!” Lin Zhennan answered. “Master Yu is really handling this matter quite solemnly. This will make our Escort House look especially good!! I’ve just sent messengers to our branches in Jiangxi, Hunan and Hubei, informing them of the news and told them to treat these four as our noble guests.”

    “Father, when people from Sichuan speak, do they usually call others ‘son of a turtle’?” Lin Pingzhi suddenly blurted out a question.

     “Only bumpkins from Sichuan speak that way. There are rustics everywhere, and of course they are not taught proper manners. Listen to our own henchmen talk when they gamble. They’re no better. Why do you ask?” Lin Zhennan chuckled.

      “Never mind,” Lin Pingzhi replied quickly.

     “When the four Qingcheng apprentices come, you should spend some good amount of time with them; watch and learn how students of prestigious schools act. Making friends with them will surely benefit you later on in life.” (To be continued)

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