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Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
Half an hour passed by very quickly while Yan Liqiang and Qian Su engaged in idle chat.
When time was up, Yan Liqiang and Qian Su returned to the weaponsmiths quarter’s dining hall again. By this time, the crowd there had quietened down. When a discussion broke out among everyone just now, all of them were convinced that Yan Liqiang wouldn’t joke about something like this. Therefore, everyone made their decision to either stay or leave within the past half hour.
“So, has everyone thought it through already?” Yan Liqiang stood on the stone steps and scanned the crowd.
“Yes!” Several hundred people responded while some merely nodded in silence.
“Great. Those who have decided to leave the weaponsmiths quarter, you may come forward now!” Yan Liqiang pointed to his left, at the bottom of the steps where he was standing. “Someone will distribute the silver to you. You may leave after you complete the paperwork!”
A few seconds after Yan Liqiang said that, someone started squeezing through the crowd and walked to the spot he mentioned.
One, two, three, four… eleven, twelve…
Only twelve people wished to leave. Some came forward with calm expressions on their faces while some dawdled. In the end, all of them went to the front under everyone’s gazes.
The twelve men who came out seemed rather embarrassed as they hung their heads in shame.
“Quartermaster, I-I… am getting old and I have been working in the weaponsmiths quarter for a few decades. While I can still walk, I wish to return to my hometown in Chen Province and settle down there with my craft. Thank you for taking care of me over the years. It is thanks to you that no one bullied an old man like me who came here to serve my penal servitude in Gan Province. Not only did I manage to save up some money, but I am also a hundred times stronger than anyone else. Allow me to kowtow to you here, Quartermaster!” An old weaponsmith with graying hair bowed to Qian Su tearfully.
Qian Su quickly pulled the old weaponsmith up. “Get up, Old Chen! No need for all these formalities! It is only human nature to yearn for their hometown in old age! The higher-up was in charge of your military records before, so I had no say in it. Now that the Protectorate General is allowing you to return to your hometown, I am happy for you too!”
“Thank you for your mercy, Protectorate General!” The old weaponsmith spoke through his quivering lips and was about to kneel before Yan Liqiang, but the latter quickly held him up and stopped him from kneeling.
A young man in his twenties scratched his head and spoke shyly, “The last time my mother came to see me… S-She… told me that they found a wife for me back at home so they wanted me to return, get married, and have children…”
Another soldier came forward and said, “My parents are getting old and my big brother broke his leg last year. If I don’t go back, no one will be able to support the family…”
Everyone had their own reason. Regardless of whether they were real or not, it was the reason they wanted to leave the weaponsmiths quarter.
Qian Su glanced at the people who came forward, then took a deep breath. “Since the Protectorate General has spoken and all of you have your own difficulties, we shall part on good terms. No hard feelings. If anyone encounters any difficulties in the future, you may come find me at the weaponsmiths quarter. I shall definitely help everyone to the best of my ability. The Protectorate General will be giving those who are leaving ten taels of silver as travel expenses, and I shall add on another ten taels of silver for everyone to settle down! I wish everyone a safe journey and the best to all of you, whether you are going home or pursuing other goals! Promise me to live honestly no matter where you end up and not taint the Huanglong Weaponsmith Quarter’s reputation!”
“Thank you, Quartermaster! Thank you, Protectorate General!” Everyone bowed to Qian Su and Yan Liqiang.
Qian Su beckoned forth his chief steward and instructed him, “Assist them in packing their belongings and proceed with the paperwork. Give them ten taels of silver from both the barracks and my personal accounts. Do not make things difficult for them, just let them leave.”
“Yes!” The head steward bowed to Qian Su, then called a few more soldiers to escort the twelve men away from the dining hall.
“We’ll wait for a while until Steward Zhu and the others to return. They need to hear the rest too!” Yan Liqiang told Qian Su.
Qian Su nodded, “Alright, whatever you say!”
Since those who left lived in the barracks and they didn’t have much personal belongings aside from a few clothes and some valuables, they managed to pack everything into just a simple backpack and luggage. After about ten minutes, the chief steward returned with the few soldiers to report that the twelve men had completed their paperwork and left the weaponsmiths quarter.
It was only then that Yan Liqiang, who had been waiting, broke into a smile and began to speak as he looked at those who had firmly decided to stay behind in the dining hall.
“First of all, I would like to congratulate everyone who has decided to stay behind. All of you have just made one of the most important and also the luckiest choice in your lives. I noticed that some of you were swayed when you heard that those who leave will receive twenty taels of silver, thinking that it was a large sum of money. Let me tell you that from now on, your annual wage in the weaponsmiths quarter will be more than twenty taels of silver at minimum, regardless of whether you are a soldier, weaponsmith, or even a meal lady working in this dining hall!
We, the members of Huanglong Weaponsmiths Quarter, shall become the subjects of envy to all the weaponsmiths quarters, not only in Gan Province, but also the Great Han Empire. That’s because you’ll be bidding farewell to poverty to become the nation’s richest bunch of people from the weaponsmiths quarter. In less than three years, many of you will be loaded and you will get a taste of being fawned upon on wherever you go.”
As soon as Yan Liqiang finished speaking, everyone in the dining hall cheered in excitement. Most of the people here were either weaponsmiths or soldiers who lived a simple life. There was no way they would remain unaffected by Yan Liqiang’s speech. Of course, Yan Liqiang wasn’t here to do some multi-level marketing either; he really had a proper plan. Hence, the confidence in his speech was even more motivating.
“Protectorate General, tell us what we have to do! Anyway, everyone will be at your command from now on! Right, everyone…?!” Qian Su shot a meaningful glance at one of the chief weaponsmiths who immediately cheered in the crowd at the right time. As soon as he did, the entire crowd started cheering in response.
Countless people roared. “From now on, we shall follow the Protectorate General and prosper…!”
“Well said! We shall prosper!” Yan Liqiang continued his speech on the stone steps. “Has anyone ever wondered how wealth works? Why do the people dressed in silk have good food and endless money to spend without doing anything? And why are there also people who never have enough food and clothing despite working hard all day long? Where does wealth come from? Does it fall from the sky or grow from the soil?
“The answer is neither. There are two sources of wealth: creation and circulation. We rely on our hands to create wealth through labor and wisdom. We change the appearance of things on or beneath the ground. We turn iron ore into steel, steel into blades, and white ashwood into spears. We turn logs and stones into materials that can be used to build houses. We turn barren lands into fertile fields and the things in them into food. We turn the mineral deposits into gold and silver and use them to measure wealth.
“This is wealth. Only through labor can we create wealth. Without labor, stones remain stones, logs remain logs, and the things buried underground remain there. We change their appearances through labor and make them marketable, putting the symbols of wealth of them. Weaponsmiths like us are the most hardworking people in the world. This is the place where the most capable and skilled weaponsmiths gather. If we can create the most wealth, then for what reason do we have to suffer in poverty?!”
When the struggling weaponsmiths heard Yan Liqiang’s words, their eyes shone as their souls were touched. Before this, many weaponsmiths had never thought of or comprehended what Yan Liqiang had just said in their entire lives. Yan Liqiang’s words enlightened them and lit a fire in their hearts as they got worked up.
Apart from those ordinary weaponsmiths that were gathered here, even Qian Su was greatly touched and in deep thought after hearing Yan Liqiang’s speech.
Throughout the ages in the Great Han Empire, no one had ever gotten a clear enough idea to come up with such a theory. Yet, Yan Liqiang was able to deliver it with an impeccably meaningful and profound speech. His words were blunt, but the more people thought about them, the more sense they made.
Of course Yan Liqiang’s speech made sense. In his previous life, the person who came up with this theory was Karl Marx.
While Yan Liqiang spoke, he was like a saint to the struggling soldiers in the weaponsmiths quarter.
However, it wasn’t Yan Liqiang’s intention to instigate a revolt by saying those words. He simply wanted everyone in the weaponsmiths quarter to understand and firmly believe that they had made the right choice to follow the Protectorate General, and that everything the Protectorate General did was to bring out the maximum value of everyone’s laborious efforts. Only by understanding these things could Yan Liqiang gain everyone’s approval and loyal support when he rolled out a series of reforms in the weaponsmiths quarter.
“The source of wealth all comes from labor. It is labor that creates wealth. All wealth is usable and can be circulated through business. The usable things we create will be sold to satisfy the needs of those who can afford them, making them into gold and silver that can be held in people’s hands. So, what are the best things to sell? Well, they have two characteristics. First, you can provide them at a lower price for the same quality compared to the other sellers. Second, it is unique. These items have the highest demands so they are the best to sell!”
Yan Liqiang’s eyes shone as he looked around the silent dining hall. “In the past, the goods we produced here were all to be supplied to the Military Governor’s Office. Therefore, we could not conduct a business out of them. Now that everyone is my subordinate, you will obey my command — the goods from our weaponsmiths quarter will no longer be supplied to the Military Governor’s Office from now on. I shall lead everyone in our business. We shall produce and sell. Let’s turn the things we create with our hands into real gold and silver so that everyone can live a good life, something you all wouldn’t have even dared to imagine before!”
“Speaking of that, perhaps many of you are thinking: ‘This weaponsmiths quarter is already yours so the profit will be up to you to divide. We can’t do anything if you don’t give us any, just like shop owners and their workers. There are many wealthy shop owners in the world, but only a handful of wealthy workers. Why would we believe you?’
“Very simple: I am a man of my words. I am definitely not making empty promises when I said I wanted everyone to become rich with me so we can all enjoy a good life together. You will be given assurance. What kind? Well, I will make this entire weaponsmiths quarter everyone’s! All of you who stayed behind today will become a shareholder of this weaponsmiths quarter! You will be given your own share so that when this place makes a profit in the future, it will be divided according to your share! I will establish the by-laws of this weaponsmiths quarter…”
Even Qian Su was shocked to hear that Yan Liqiang was going to let everyone have a share in the weaponsmiths quarter, let alone those struggling weaponsmiths. They all looked at Yan Liqiang in disbelief…
No one had ever done something like this before. From a certain perspective, this could be considered an epoch…
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