Regardless of how difficult Shu Shuang’s family is, he should fulfill the lease agreement in black and white.
Because the Zhong family doesn’t live in Beiweili and also because the Shu family gives a few stones a year, she hopes she can turn a blind eye to this, so she did not appear in the past when the Meng family came to collect the rent.
Now that Zhong Qi Yuan came to the door, the Shu family doesn;t take any reason. Even if Li Zheng is biased towards the Shu family, he can’t be too obvious about it. He can only persuade Zhong Qi Yuan, “Let the Shu family pay back the tax they owe. Reporting it to the officials is not necessary, right, little Taoist?”
“Soybeans don’t count. The grain is eighty stones for two years.”
“Didn’t you say it was reduced by half?!”
“Don’t you have to pay for the breach of contract?”
Shu Shuang’s face turned red, “This is too much. We don’t have so much grain, can we discount it?”
“Sure, two hundred yuan for a bucket of rice, one stone is two thousand yuan, eighty stones is 160,000.”
“The price for grain the year before was only 100 yuan!”
“These days, the price of food is so high. You owe two years of rent and tax. Shouldn’t you make up for the difference in the price of food for the past two years?”
“You’re asking too much!” The Shu family’s face was ugly.
but the other tenants who have been squeezed by the big landlords for a long time didn’t seem to think it was anything excessive.
In a disaster year, not only will the host family not reduce their rent, they will also find all kinds of excuses to squeeze them. Let alone the 50%, they might have to pay 60% of grain in the end!
“No? It’s okay. Because you breached the contract first, I decided to take back the 80 acres of land and not rent it to you.”
This is more serious than the fine. Without the fields, the Shu family will either have to rent another family’s fields and be exploited by the masteror have no land and dependence that can only become a floating household. The worst consequence is that they will starve to death!
A family of more than a dozen people looked ashen, or hugged each other while crying or pleading bitterly. However, Zhong Qi Yuan was cold-hearted and said that she would take back the land. Even Li Zheng could not help but tremble when he saw it.
This is only a thirteen year old girl who can drive a family of more than a dozen members to a dead end without changing her face. How ruthless can she be once she grows older?
He persuaded, “Little taoist, you can take back the land as well as have them pay the rent, but instead of looking for another tenant, why not use them? They still know the roots. . .”
Zhong Qi Yuan tilted her head and looked at him, “It’s precisely because I know the roots and their values that I don’t want to rent it to them. Besides, in this world, there are too many people floating around like weeds without land. I want to find someone to plant the land, is that difficult?”
Nowadays, there are eunuch dictatorships and party rivalry within the imperial court. Outside, there are clans who dominate towns and mutual conquests. Heavy taxes are implemented among the people, so the peasants who have lost their land can hardly survive. They were under the jurisdiction of the Xuanwu governor, so there were not many taxes and duties, but it was not easy to get enough to eat during disaster years.
The Zhong family’s field was only charged less than 20% of rent, what tenant wouldn’t want that good thing!
Someone immediately stood up, “I want to rent, I can pay 30% of the rent!”
The Shu family didn’t expect someone to be so cruel as to put their family to death, so they immediately stared at that person with hatred. But what they didn’t expect was that more people came forward first, wanting a piece of the pie.
Zhong Qi Yuan curled her lips, “Li Zheng, look.”
Li Zheng, “. . .”
He wiped the sweat from her forehead and also knew that the Zhong family’s rent tax was very low. Not to mention those tenants, he even wanted to rent the Zhong family’s field and sublet it to others after raising the tax.
He invited Zhong Qi Yuan aside and advised, “Little Taoist, there are many tenants here who have their own families. Your rent tax is so low. If you feed the appetite of these tenants and they go back to making trouble, their families will not let you off. Please don’t charge such a low tax again.”
The Zhong family set the rent so much lower than their counterparts. It is indeed easy to form ‘unfair competition’ in the later generations and be attacked by other landlords.
But was Zhong Qi Yuan someone who would easily change her mind because of what others say?
She is not. Her purpose is to get these fields back and plan on how to cultivate them herself, so she doesn’t care that much.
“Won’t let me go? They can try.” Zhong Qi Yuan was calm and collected. “All in all, 160,000 yuan, or 80 stones of grain. Half money and half grain is fine. I’ll give you ten days. if you can’t get it all together, I’ll bring officials to your door next time.
After putting aside these words, Zhong Qi Yuan went to find Zhong Chu Yuan.
The little turnip head had just finished eating the chicken wings and kept sucking the remaining bones, trying to taste the little bit of meat remaining in the bones.
Zhong Qi Yuan lightly patted the little turnip’s head, “Yuanyuan, let’s go.”
“Okay.” The little turnip head took out a cold roasted chicken wing from the oil wrapper and handed it to her sister, “Elder sister, this is from sister Yun. It’s delicious!”
Zhong Qi Yuan looked around. Yun Cong Wan had long left and was nowhere to be seen. She took the barbecue wing and took a big bite under the salvating gaze of the little turnip head, “It tastes good.”
“Sister, take small bites to eat it longer!” The little turnip head stared at the barbecue wings while teaching her how to eat it properly.
“Your stomach is just big. You can eat it slowly and in small bites, but it’s still the same in the end. The better the food, the more people will covet it. If you eat slowly for a long time, then someone will grab it from you at any time. Only what you eat down is your own, understand?”
The little turnip head nodded despite not seeming to understand.
Zhong Qi Yuan aldo didn’t explain. She finished the wings in three more bites and drove home.
When they returned home, Zhong Chu Yuan gave Meng the remaining roasted wings. The latter took a small bite and then said that she was not hungry and let her daughters share it with each other.
Zhong Qi Yuan chopped firewood without raising her head, “I have already eaten.”
Although the little turnip head is craving, she still replied obediently, “Yuanyuan had also eaten. Mother, eat.”
Meng’s heart steeled and said, “Mother doesn’t like to eat, it’s not good to waste food.”
Zhong Qi Yuan said, “Mother’s illness requires more meat, otherwise no amount of medicine will be very effective.”
Meng was a little confused, “Is there such a saying?”
“Yes, in addition to meat. You should also eat fish, eggs, milk, etc.”
Meng felt embarrassed, “How can these things be eaten frequently? Are you going to eat at someone else’s family?!”
“Far from it. Right now, there’s meat, right? Besides, your life is at risk at any time, if something bad were to happen. . .”
Meng thought of her ruthless husband and if she suddenly passed away, it was her two daughters who would suffer. In order to survive, she did not hesitate to eat. Of course, in the end, she still left a chicken wing tip for Zhong Chu Yuan to let her nibble slowly.
Meng looked at her little daughter’s gluttonous appearance and thought of the contrast between the situation of the Zhong family and the Yun family. Her heart was suddenly sad and incomprehensible.
Zhong Zao is the chief secretary and Shi Hong gave him a very generous salary. Coupled with being exempted from harsh taxes, even if it wasn’t everyday, he occasionally still had some meat dishes. But he spent all his money on himself and the concubines in the back garden, not even a single penny brought home to her.
As for the Yun family,Yung Cong Wan’s father is Shi Hong’s general. His salary isn’t as high as Zhong Zao, but the Yun family’s clothing, food, housing, and transportation are better than the Zhong’s? This is only because old man Yun’s back garden is simple, only one son and one daughter and his salary is given to his wife to take care of the family. Not to mention that he has not touched his wife’s dowry. . .
“Mother, for the sake of curing your illness, don’t think too much.” Zhong Qi Yuan reminded.
Meng returned to her senses and asked, “How do you know what Mother is thinking?”
“It’s written all over yourself.”
Meng hid her face and thought that she would have to hide it in the future so that her two daughters wouldn’t worry.
She remembered the business Zhong Qi Yuan had to take care of and asked, “What was the result of your visit to collect the rent?”
Zhong Chu Yuan took the initiative to repeat to Meng Zhong Qi Yuan’s last words. She looked at Zhong Qi Yuan for confirmation and the latter nodded in agreement.
Meng, “In case. . .”
“First, we’ll be courteous, then we’ll fight, and if they still won’t listen to reason, then we can only speak with our fists.”
Meng couldn’t think of a better solution than this and could only see how things would develop afterwards first.
On the sixth day of their ten-day agreement, someone from Beiwei quietly came and told Zhong Qi Yuan, “The Shu Family is gone!”
Meng didn’t expect that the Shu family’s choice would be to run away so she asked, “Yuan’er, what are we going to do?”
Zhong Qi Yuan looked as usual as if he had expected it.”They swallowed too much food in the past two years. How could they just hand it over? Even if they scrape together 160,000 yuan, they’re still not used in paying tax if we still consider letting them rent the fields. How can they live a life of paying 50% of the rent? They’re going to be floating households either way, so why not take all the belongings and flee before we can react?”
“Then. . .”
Zong Qi Yuan asked, “How long ago did they run?”
“The day after the young Taoist master left, old man Shu sold the grain to Li Zheng, saying that he would exchange it for money and return it to you. Then on the same day, the Shu family’s mother-in-law took the child away under the name of visiting relatives. At first, no one suspected until two days later, the Shu family’s children also said that they’ll look for a way to get enough rent tax and left Beiwei one after another. Yesterday, old man Shu went to work in the fields but he didn’t come back in the morning. We pried open the door of his house to take a look, but the inside was empty.”
Zhong Qi Yuan touched her chin, “This move of cutting the tail to survive is not bad and bold enough.”
Seeing that she was still in a good mood to evaluate the Shu family’s resourcefulness, the man was a little dumbfounded, “Little Taoist, you’re not worried?”
“What’s the use of being worried?” Zhong Qi Yuan replied, “In this chaotic world, they only have two ways to go, they can either blend in with the exiles and go south, or they can disappear into the forest so that the officials can’t find them. Maybe they’ll go separately. Either way, it won’t be easy to find them for a while.”
“Why go south?” Meng asked
“There’s a military disaster in the north while the south is more stable. They don’t want to die so they’ll naturally go south.” Zhong Qi Yuan said to Meng, “Mother, when you go to the police, let them search in this direction!”
The informer thought that Zhong Qi Yuan would give up, but he didn’t expect her to not only report to the police, but also give the direction of the pursuit.
By running away, the Shu family was gambling on whether Zhong Qi Yuan would pursue the matter and whether the officials would be able to catch them.
When Meng came back from reporting to the officials, she asked Zhong Qi Yuan worriedly, “They have escaped, what about the rent and tax?”
Zhong Qi Yuan said, “I didn’t expect to live on their rent.”
“Then. . .”
Zhong Qi Yuan took out a small box. When Meng opened it, she saw that there were several silver medals and silver ingots. The big one was worth fifty taels while the small one was worth seven taels. Everything added up to more than 300 taels.
There is no need for Meng to ask about the origin of the silver ingots because the number of the Taoist temple Zhong Qi Yuan practiced in was engraved in the box, indicating that these silver ingots came from the Taoist temple.
“I’ve saved them over the years.” Zhong Qi Yuan knew what Meng wanted to ask about so she explained first.
The money was indeed saved by Zhong Qi Yuan. The Taoist temple had more than ten hectares of land under its name so it did not have to pay taxes but it also had income from rents and taxes, as well as the usual income from the rituals so the Taoist priests lived a very comfortable life.
Zhong Qi Yuan became a monk and also became a member of a monk’s household. She naturally has a share in the Taoist temple’s income. She usually spends everything on food and the things needed in the temple and is addicted to alchemy so she usually doesn’t spend much, allowing her to save money.
“No wonder so many people become monks to avoid taxes!” Meng sighed, thinking of her daughter, she added, “Mother is not talking about you.”
Zhong Qi Yuan expressed her indifference as she said, “In addition to that, I also took some jobs.”
“What kind of work?”
“What other work can a Taoist priest do?”
Meng was speechless.
Zhong Chu Yuan took the initiative and said, “Elder sister, Yuanyuan also wants to help sister!”
“You can, but don’t you cry when the time comes. You will also earn a little bit by then.”
The two sisters just agreed. Meng also wanted to help but was mercilessly refused.
She was probably also aware of her poor health. In order to not let the burden of supporting the family fall on the shoulders of her two daughters, she strengthened her physical training on weekdays and within a month, her physique and complexion had visibly improved.