The next morning, Ren Baqian tried on the robe that had just been washed and sun-dried. It felt really good on him. Even though there was no mirror, he could tell that it fitted him just right.
The person who altered his robe was the wife of an odd-job worker. Her skills were rather good.
After giving it a try, he took it off. He did not want that bunch of heartless fellows to smear his robe with paw prints again.
He also did not know when would a spare official robe be sent to him.
While he was free, he went to chat with Teng Hulu and Tie Dao, listening to their stories about that military advisor.
Ever since Ren Baqian started kindergarten, he had stopped worshipping celebrities. He found it to be extremely childish. However, now he was worshipping that military advisor like a desperate fan. He took great interest in even short stories about him.
There were many smart individuals throughout the history of mankind. There were also many that had their names remembered for all eternity. However, there were extremely few like that military advisor.
It was a pity Teng Hulu and Tie Dao did not know his name. They only knew that his surname was Qi. It appeared that very few people had mentioned his name when he was still alive. Therefore, not many people knew his full name now.
Reportedly, there was a painting of the military advisor in the imperial palace. It was drawn by an artistic genius from the aboriginal tribes. Ren Baqian wanted to see the painting very much so that he knew how did the military advisor look like.
When Ren Baqian thought of those scrolls and books in Qingxin Palace Hall, he felt that the painting could be found there.
After eating his lunch, Ren Baqian put on his robe and entered the imperial palace. He was allowed to enter the palace after flashing his token at the entrance.
After entering the palace, Ren Baqian looked at the token in his hand. It seemed that the token was quite useful. He could enter and exit the palace at will now?
He couldn't believe they gave this thing to hima person of unknown origin.
However, when he thought about the empress's fighting capabilities, he felt that it was natural for her to disregard him completely. Even if he had a weapon, he would not be able to kill her.
When he arrived at Qingxin Palace Hall, he saw Lin Qiaole sitting on the stone steps with her chin propped up by her palm, appearing to be in a daze. Her eyes were squinted, resembling two fine lines. Ren Baqian could not tell whether or not was she sleeping.
"Librarian Lin," Ren Baqian greeted her from a close distance. When he saw that she did not have any reactions, he decided not to disturb her and let her be immersed in her own dreamland.
When he entered Qingxin Palace Hall, he saw there was another book on the table. This time around, the book was covered by an animal hide. It was quite old, looking as though it had been placed there for many years.
Ren Baqian picked it up and flipped through it. Every page contained tens of words. Every word looked like a drawing.
However, there were also a few words that resembled Chinese characters. For example, three, day, cloud, and king. He wondered whether or not they contained the same meanings.
In the middle of the book, there were also a few pictures. They depicted various human movements.
"A martial arts manual?" This thought popped up in Ren Baqian's mind. Instantly, he became excited.
Even if it couldn't make him into an expert like the empress, it might be able to strengthen his body. He did not want to keep making way for other people whenever he went to the city. Anyone in Dayao could kill him with one hand and that really hurt his ego badly.
It was a pity he did not understand the words in the book. Most of the words looked similar to each other. He could not even memorize a single one of them.
After a long while, Ren Baqian helplessly placed the book back onto the table. It was better for him to learn some words first before reading it again.
Very soon, it was evening. Ren Baqian was summoned to the same palace hall to tell story to the empress again.
Before he left, the empress's voice suddenly rang across his ears, "Are you going to disappear again tomorrow?"
Beads of cold sweat trickled down Ren Baqian's forehead.
He looked as though a freezing spell had been cast on his body. He turned his body around with difficulty and forced a smile. "Your Majesty's eyes are indeed all-seeing, your wisdom is unrivalled, and you're endowed with extraordinary intelligence. I'm indeed terrified by your greatness, and I truly respect you."
"Your fear is indeed real. As for your other emotions, I can't say for sure," the empress replied coldly, "Forget it then, I have said before that if you do your utmost for me, I will not ask about your things. You can go now."
Ren Baqian felt as though he had been punched. Subsequently, he ran out of the palace, looking as if he had been granted with an amnesty. After he left the imperial palace, he heaved a long sigh of relief and wiped the sweat off his forehead.
All that running made his back drenched in sweat again.
After going through the empress's words in his mind again, he realized the empress only wanted to emphasize the words "if you do your utmost for me".
It seemed he needed to bring up the matter of salt well as soon as possible.
With the merits from the salt well and the sweet potatoes, his head would be more secure.
As he walked, he tugged his head and pondered over it. Suddenly, he banged into a wall in the dark and took two steps back. He raised his head and realized that "wall" was Caretaker Shi.
"What happened? You seem to be preoccupied with something," Caretaker Shi asked. His voice frightened away the birds in their surroundings.
Ren Baqian took another two steps back. After gathering his thoughts, he replied, "Nothing, I'm just thinking about something. How is it going with the shaved ice shops?"
When Ren Baqian mentioned this matter, Caretaker Shi became excited and happy in an instant. He took two steps forward and patted Ren Baqian on his shoulder, causing him to stumble. Following which, he chuckled. "Brother Ren, you're indeed formidable. Haha. We followed what you told us to do, and we have our hands full for the past two days."
Ren Baqian rubbed his shoulder while grimacing in pain. He wanted to dodge Caretaker Shi's hand but failed. Caretaker Shi was much faster than him.
"It's good that the business is doing well, but you don't pat me again." When Ren Baqian saw Caretaker Shi raise his palm again, he quickly jumped out of his reach like a panicked rabbit.
Caretaker Shi chuckled again. It appeared that he was indeed very happy. He opened up his palm and said, "For past two days, we have sold approximately two hundred bowls of shaved ice, and that is only for one shop."
One bowl costed five coins. One hundred bowls would cost five taels of silver. Right now, they could earn approximately ten taels of silver in a day. Meanwhile, profits took up at least sixty percent of their earnings. If that was the case, they would make a profit of approximately six taels a day. In a month, they would make a rough profit of one hundred and eighty taels. However, after they deducted the rent and wages for the employees, they wouldn't have much money left. After deducting all the expenses, they would be left with at least eighty taels.
Two shaved ice shops would bring about a total of one hundred and sixty taels for them a month. Splitting the profits evenly, each of them would have eighty taels. For Caretaker Shi, whose monthly salary was only six taels, the amount of money he made from the shaved ice shops was roughly equivalent to his one year's salary. No wonder he was so happy.
However, Ren Baqian's attention was entirely placed on Caretaker Shi's palm. No matter how hard he racked his brain, he could not understand why Caretaker Shi showed five fingers when he was only talking about two days.
Are all Dayao people like him? Do they show all five fingers for whichever number they talk about?
After listening to Caretaker Shi's words, Ren Baqian nodded his head. Making profits was within his expectations. However, the profits made were slightly lower than what he expected. After all, Dayao was such a hot place and shaved ice would definitely be popular here.
Even those ice-cream sellers in China could make a lot of money in a month, let alone them selling shaved ice in such a hot place like this. Furthermore, their shaved ice business was an exclusive one. After the word about their shaved ice business had been spread, Ren Baqian reckoned that they could sell even more bowls of shaved ice per day.
Until someone discovered the secret of saltpeter.
"Hire two more people, I think this business can last for quite some time," Ren Baqian said.
"I shall listen to you then." Now that the shaved ice shop was making money, Caretaker Shi became more generous with his money. He would do anything that Ren Baqian asked him to without any worry.
"Remember, let our own people make ice with the saltpeter. We try our best not to leak out the secret any time soon."