Castle Of Black Iron - Volume 1 - Chapter 7
Business District and General Store
As a city built by the Coal Steel Federation that inclines heavily on commercial interests and also formed by many different business organizations. Black Flame City's Business District naturally is built on the best geographical location within the city an upwind location on the Upper Eastern Area away from the Production District, Black Flame City's Business District is a very bustling place. Those large commodity exchange centres, where any casual transaction that was made will cause any common folk to tremble, setup shop in this flourishing Business District. Black Flame City's abundant coal and steel production capabilities are supporting the thriving city, every day from morning to evening, literally twenty-four hours a day, rows and rows of trains transport these specialties of Black Flame City to the outside.
The small general store where Zhang Tie works at also sits in one corner of this bustling Business District, just that as compared to the location of the luxurious and fancifully shop fronts of those large business groups, free trade bodies, exchange centres etc., the location of the small store where Zhang Tie works at is comparatively remoted, more like a marketplace. Three hundred meters away from the small store, is Black Flame City's train station, the people that goes back and forth are of all trades. The small store itself is part of a flea market that is formed by some city residents and some frontier pioneers, everyday it is bustling with all sorts of people. Just that from their attires, those that visited this place are mostly small timers belonging to the mid-low tier of the population. The reason that supported the visits by these small timers, other than the basic body need to fill up the stomach, is the unverified marketplace fairy tale of unknown origin about a stall owner of the marketplace discovering an extraordinary item that made him rich and lifted his social standing since. Due to these type of fairy tales, it caused many people to come visit this stretch of the street day after day, year after year. It also provides batch after batch of high morale and ideals filled frontier pioneers from various faraway places a location to fully equip themselves before stepping onto the unknown lands west and north of Black Flame City. Of course, if you have enough luck and foresight, you can also obtain some good stuff here.
When Zhang Tie reached the general store, the fat fleshy body of the store owner, Tang De, is huddle up on a chair at the entrance of the store. Tang De is enjoying the afterglow of the setting sun while with half open eyes, lightly measuring the passing crowd on the street. Only when certain well-endowed or beautiful ladies passes the store front, will Tang De's fat fish brain slightly began to work, staring at the bodies of the women.
As usual, the first thing that Zhang Tie does when he reaches the store is to give it a round of cleaning. After it is done he proceeds to the cabinets and shelves to do an inventory check before ’’pa pa pa’’ doing calculations using an abacus*, counting the ledgers. Having been here for a year, Zhang Tie felt that his biggest gain is learning how to use this weird calculating tool called abacus. This is a very practical skill that wasn't taught in school and Zhang Tie estimated that this skill will assist his work greatly in the future his father has always been planning to get him an accounting job in one of Black Flame City's coal exchange centres. Of course, this at least must wait until he completed his mandatory military service before he can even consider. To most ordinary people, after completing their military service, being able to find a job in the city, regardless of what it is, if it can fill one's stomach, it is already considered quite good.
(Cuppa Trivia: For those who are curious please refer to the wiki link below about this tool 'abacus', it is basically a calculator with rows and columns of beads that is used since ancient China. 'Mental abacus' is also a popular technique taught in some modern Asian countries for children to strengthen mental math calculations.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abacus)
After finishing the accounts, a customer entered the store. Tang De's fat pig-like body is still laying on the chair with no intention to rise. Zhang Tie closed the books and started greeting.
’’May I ask, what would you like to purchase?’’ the new customer is in his forties and is wearing the docker uniform of Black Flame Train Station, his whole body carried the smell of coal ash. Base on the current time, this is when the shift changes, this person is likely passing thru after ending work.
’’I would like to look at white crystals!’’ the train docker said while looking behind the counter where the crystals placed in different boxes are at. Inside these boxes, crystals of different colors and shapes could be seen, however most of them are common Grade 1 crystals, accompanied by a few Grade 2 crystals. Of the crystals, most of them are white crystals with both natural and man-made types. When comparing crystals of the same size and clarity, dual-head ones are more expensive than single-head ones*, natural ones are more expensive than man-made ones by a large factor. Although man-made crystals have better clarity but in terms of effectiveness it will never be as good as natural ones. It was said that before the Cataclysm, the biggest use of crystals is as accessories and decorations, its abilities and secrets to assist in a person's cultivation is not widely known, but now, this knowledge is something that even an old granny housewife will know. The crystals of this era, is a standard strategic resource and is also a source of confidence that humans of this era use for their survival.
(Cuppa Trivia: Regarding the crystal heads, I am guessing the author is referring to the pointy end of the crystals. Single-head ones is with one pointy end looking like a stick, dual heads will be two pointy ends that will look like a V-Shape etc. will keep you guys updated as we find more hints in the story.)
’’Is this all you have?’’ the man in forties displayed a small look of disappointment, it seems that the common goods displayed behind the counter did not meet his expectations. The expression the man shown surprised Zhang Tie a little, one must know that the price of these normal Grade 1 crystals is not considered cheap for ordinary folk.
’’We do have better goods in our store, however the price is a bit expensive, do you wish to have a look?’’
The man's face displayed a small smile before casually patting his waist bag, Zhang Tie did not enquire anymore. After wearing a pair of white gloves, he turned and took out a few slightly more exquisite looking boxes from the drawer behind him and carefully placed them on top of the counter before opening them in front of the man. Inside the boxes are four similar looking pieces of white crystals, two pieces of dual-head crystals, two pieces of single-head crystals, with near transparent clarity possessing only a small amount of impurities. However, the most noticeable factor is within each of the four crystals is a very fine layer that forms a hazy shadow in the shape of a pyramid. The pyramid inside one dual-head crystal that has the best clarity and is also the largest piece, upon closer inspection, has a rainbow shine that could be seen on each side of its pyramid this is the uncanny workmanship between heaven and earth, it is the natural convergence of the universe's energy. White pyramid crystal's greatest effect is not just the ability to quickly assist its user to enter the state of meditation, calming one's spirit and mind but to allow its user to borrow the power of the pyramid within the crystal during cultivation, to faster absorb the energy of the universe, stimulating the body's potential and vitality.
Indeed, when the man in his forties saw the pyramids within these crystals his eyes was unable to leave them, it is also the same expression that Zhang Tie had when he first saw these crystals. These pieces of Grade 3 white crystals are the highest calibre goods that this small little store can offer, the price of each piece is at least more than two gold. Within Black Flame City, one gold coin can allow a family of three to buy enough food to eat their fill for two months.
Within the box of each crystal is a label reflecting its price, even though the man saw the displayed prices he still hesitantly pointed at a piece of single-head crystal while asking Zhang Tie ’’this... can it be cheaper?’’
’’218 silvers, this price is already very low, the prices in our store are all labelled fairly and openly*, if you don't mind me asking, are you buying this as a gift?’’
(Cuppa Trivia: For those that may not know, stores that don't label prices can be viewed as shady as the store personnel can raise their prices base on situation normally by judging how much money they can squeeze out of the customer, so keep in mind if you happen to travel to countries or areas where their products do not have proper pricing labels.)
’’That's right, my son is turning 16 tomorrow. I would like to give him a surprise, my son is a genius!’’ as he finished speaking, the man in his forties gave a faint smile. His soot covered face is instantly filled with much warmth and pride, the smile on the man's face caused Zhang Tie to be reminded of his own father.
’’If that's the case, then... 215 silvers, I can also throw in a gift box and 100 grams* of crystal sand. This is the lowest price and offer we can give...’’ Zhang Tie earnestly said, this is indeed the lowest offer that the store can give. Maybe the docker inquired about the reputation and situation of the store before coming, or maybe was referred here by a friend. In addition, the price quoted when compared within Black Flame City, is also very fair combined with the fact that the store is giving a gift box and some crystal sands with the purchase, he accepted the deal immediately.
(Cuppa Trivia: The raws uses '二两 or two liang' where each Chinese measurement 'liang' is equivalent to 50 grams. As the author tends to mix the use of different measuring systems, for consistency I will convert and use the metric system as the standard.)
The man carefully took out the coin bag from within his clothes, after paying two gold coins and fifteen silver coins, he left holding on to the items and crystal packaged by Zhang Tie. A sales more than two gold coins is considered a big transaction in this store, perhaps resulting in the store's luck today thus becoming empty. After more than an hour since the man left, except for two window shoppers coming in, the general store has no other transactions that day.
Zhang Tie is seated behind the counter, with his chin supported by both of his hands. Blankly looking at the street outside while thinking of the events that unfolded today...
With the sun finally set, the sky outside also turned dark, the dead fish laying on the chair finally moved. With some twisting of his body, he stood up with extreme reluctance and carried the chair into the store.
’’What happen, got beaten up?’’
The store owner gloated at the bruises on Zhang Tie's face.
’’No, I just had a fall!’’ Zhang Tie stubbornly replied.
’’It's okay kid, don't need to hide, there is nothing shameful about it. When I was your age, I had all kinds of fights daily, it is either I beat up someone or I am beaten up by someone, that's very normal. If you lost a fight, you just have to win it back the next time!’’ the general store owner carelessly said.
At this moment, Zhang Tie's mind is just thinking about the scene today where Teacher Dinah saw him in an embarrassing state. Hearing Tang De's words, he can only helplessly ask ’’What if I can never win it back?’’
’’Kid, that's why I say you are too green. There is no fight that cannot be won, only idiots and imbeciles that do not dare to win. If the opponent is stronger than you, then you just got to use ten times the effort to overtake him and punch his face till all his teeth are on the floor. If you still lose, then go underhand, cover his head when he is unaware and rain him with rod strikes. You can even be more ruthless and use bricks, as long as he doesn't know who attacked him anything is fine!’’ the store owner craftily lectured while using various hand gestures. Zhang Tie on the other hand went into a daze, seeing that blank look on Zhang Tie, the store owner seemed very displeased and gave a strong pat on Zhang Tie's shoulder, ’’Kid, seeing that you have a good character, that's why I am sharing with you my years of experience. When the fist is not enough, then you just use this to supplement...’’ the store owner pointed at Zhang Tie's brain and proudly lifted his chin, ’’Today I will teach you this phrase A soft tongue, can break hard bones. A brain with wisdom, can be victorious against all sorts of godly weapons!’’
Tang De's last sentence shook Zhang Tie's heart slightly, the youth felt that what was said seems to be logical, ’’This phrase origin from?’’
’’Tsk, I don't believe!’’
’’If you don't believe then don't. Right, as usual today I will not be inviting you to dinner!’’ the stingy miser added.