A faint music floated from upstairs, and echoed down in the hall. The musical composition wasn't a rare masterpiece, but no one could see the people who were playing it. Somehow, this added a touch of elegance to this mediocre musical composition.
On the floor was a unique green-blue carpet; it was abnormally thick. The people walking on it felt a sense of warmth and luxury even though its color wasn't glamorous in particular!
Every table had a postcard with a name on it. The first row was naturally reserved for the Royal Family; they were the cranes in this flock of chicken. Four of the tables were designated for their seating.
Everyone thought, [this Aristocratic Hall is truly great; even the Royal Family hasn't been given a private area… ]
Moreover, people inside this hall felt that they themselves had truly risen in the society. They started to believe that they were in the ranks of genuine nobles since they weren't too far removed from the Imperial Family. [Isn't this what aristocracy means?]
Everyone except for the members of the royal family felt very cheerful because of this.
The second row was for the major families. There was no division in accordance with their ranks. The third row was for the descendants of officials, as well as rich noblemen. And the fourth was reserved for the other rich and powerful of the Tian Xiang City.
Separating each row was a curtain of pearls hanging from above. This screen hazily covered a part of a person's head sitting ahead, which made it difficult for people to see the person sitting in the row in front of theirs…
Every nook and corner stationed a 'red-crowned crane incense burner'. It seemed like these cranes were blowing blue smoke. The smoke was rising spirally in the air, and this wafting smoke made the atmosphere seem more peaceful.
Some people had arrived early, and had been waiting for half-a-day. However, they didn't seem one bit impatient; in fact, they seemed to be brimming with vigor and excitement.
Dozens of young women wearing light-yellow clothes were serving tea in small cups. Their clothes and graceful disposition made them look like butterflies. They looked quite pretty as they moved around easy-mannered, yet with a sense of propriety.
There was a milky-white tapestry in front of the first row which looked like it had dropped from the sky. The tapestry completely covered what was behind it; it looked like an unusually thick wall.
The sound of music stopped.
Everyone's spirit rose, [finally the opening gong of this show has been rung.]
The tapestry in front of the first row was raised noiselessly, exposing the snow white platform. Then there was a sudden inflow of bright glittering lights. These lights were refracting from gems mounted in the different positions covering a small perimeter of the platform.
There was desk stationed in the middle.
On top of the desk, was a hammer; the hammer which would mark the final decision.
This arrangement was simply fantastic. In fact, it was such a stark contrast to the Magnificent Jewel Hall's set-up — which was wide known as the best auction house in the entire City — that it seemed as if a pheasant had run into a golden phoenix… or a beggar into a prince…
Suddenly, an echo of footsteps drew everyone's attention. The sound of these footsteps made everyone curious, [what kind of colossal person could be behind such footsteps?]
The lights turned off.
A mountainous fat pile of meat walked in, looking around proudly; every step he took looked dignified. The fair skin under his black gown made him appear similar to boiled pork in-between sprouted bread. This entity bounced-about in a lively and a rhythmic manner, taking one step at a time.
"Since everyone here has received the invitation from our hall, all of you are the real aristocrats of the Tian Xiang City. And thus, our honored guests! I, Tang Yuan, am the chief auctioneer of the Aristocratic Hall. On behalf of this hall, I shall represent the three families comprised of the Prince Equivalent, the Jun Family and the Tang Family. I am here to greet the aristocrats on behalf of these families, and extend a very warm welcome to all!" Tang Yuan loudly orated what he had memorized by heart. Then, surprisingly, he bowed after he finished speaking.
Fatty Tang was in-fact still repeating what he had been taught earlier. He was speaking off the speech written on a piece of paper by the Young Master Jun. This voluminous write-up was scripted to create a civilized yet materialistic environment.
There was a warm and enthusiastic round of applause from the audience — not for anything else, but just the line "Tian Xiang City's Aristocrats". It did not matter if this praise was genuine or not, because from now on these families could use this title against the people they previously weren't able to stand up to.
"The Aristocratic Hall, as the name applies, is the hall where only genuine aristocrats can come. Though, what is an aristocrat?" Fatty made great efforts to clasp his hands behind his back. It was a very strenuous task which he had undertaken to put on a formal appearance. As for Fatty getting rid of his weight, one could not say much. He wasn't exactly short in stature, and his limbs were in proportion to his height. Although he wasn't exactly tall and powerful, but his physical build was still a bit too much. However, he could not get rid of that fat right away. And try as he might, he was unable to wrap his arms and clasp them behind his back. Nevertheless, Fatty did his utmost to do it in accordance with Jun Mo Xie's instructions so as to seem graceful, calm, and 'hiding a few tricks up his sleeves'.
Tang Yuan's ego was given a boost since he was aware that this was his moment in the limelight. Though, to everyone else, he looked like a black bear which tried to clasp its hands behind its back in an attempt to walk gracefully. In fact, every step he took looked clumsy to them. However, every individual witnessing this scene was doing their utmost to stifle their laughter.
Fatty Tang sweepingly glanced at all sides with dignity, "The so-called aristocrat, is a man on top who has the best of qualities! For example, this — " Tang Yuan turned his hand; in the hollow of his palm was a round object, "I believe everyone here has tasted this crop and knows it as a potato. Everyone knows that this half-a-kg crop can be bought at the local market for three coins. Hence, this can be considered an ordinary vegetable. However! …"
Tang Yuan stopped at once, and gave a pause since the potato appealed to his appetite.
Everyone was confused because this man was talking about nobility… so why had he just pulled out a potato? This thing had never been served as food to the rich and powerful!
"This half-a-kg 'thing' which is worth three coins is not only cheap, but it also makes convenient meals. All you need to do after getting back home is boil it in water. And then you can eat it. Or perhaps you can cut it into thin slices. In fact, you can continue slicing it as much as you like."
Tang Yuan felt as cultured as a great scholar as he uttered these words. He couldn't help but feel proud of himself. And hence, he smiled in cultured manner. However, in the eyes of the 'noblemen' sitting in the audience, it seemed as if the half-a-kg weighing potato had somehow been pulled out by an elderly female pig. They were left twitching, for it was an unbearable sight!
"However, in a small tavern, it doesn't matter how a vegetable is cut as long as one can finish making a dish out of it. Then, even a cheap potato can be used to earn hundred times the profit!" Tang Yuan spoke in an incessant torrent. "A man eating this 'half a silver coins worth' potato dish at a small tavern is obviously an aristocrat when compared to one consuming the same at home. What aristocrats consume is price! However, even that is of a low level.
"If a restaurant of a higher class serves the same kind of preparation, but at the cost of two to three silver coins, then that would naturally be considered of a higher quality. And again, one will still find it justified if one embraces an escort in a brothel at the Spirit Fog Lake who is skilled in her art, even when she draws out a sliced potato and asks for twenty silver coins. In fact, one cannot stop the price from rising if many individuals decide not to sell their bodies afterwards, and only offer the similarly prepared potato. Even fifty silver coins won't be too much. In any case, the aristocrats visiting the Spirit Fog Lake will not worry about a few silver coins… "
Tang Yuan spoke excitedly since this felt similar to being in a brothel and lecturing a group of its patrons. He continuously winked and smiled in a manner like a man who could understand these things very tacitly.
The hall burst laughing with tacit understanding. As was expected, this made several ladies inside the hall frown. But none more than the one who had accompanied the Second Prince inside the Hall… her beautiful face turned green out of anger…
Princess Ling Meng suddenly heard a burst of laughter from her side; on turning her head, she saw her father, The Emperor, narrowing his eyes while stroking his beard. His eyes flashed with brilliance as if he had just met an old and intimate friend. It seemed as if he was feeling the same immeasurable cheerfulness inside. He couldn't help but cough; and then did it again more vigorously. He spoke in a low and angry voice, "Ahem! Men are not good creatures!"
His Majesty the Emperor coughed embarrassingly at first. He then lowered his head, and held it with both hands, before raising it again after recalling some old memories. He then sat up straight on his seat; almost like a deadpan. He then thought, [Damn! This fatty almost swayed me! However, such a thing happened to me long back… ]
" …Naturally if you go to Tian Xiang City's most luxurious restaurant for sliced potato… you will even be in favor of paying a hundred silver coins; even if their potatoes aren't that special!" Tang Yuan extended his finger, and lightly moved it to-and-fro like a pendulum.
This movement was also in imitation of Jun Mo Xie. The Young Master Jun was tall, and his fingers were slender. Therefore, he looked graceful when he made such a gesture himself. Moreover, one could also sense an air of arrogance in addition to grace when Jun Mo Xie made such movements. Tang Yuan had admired this in secret for a long time. His face lit-up after having pulled it off so coquettishly in front of so many people.
It should be mentioned that Fatty's expression greatly divulged from the reality…
Since looking at him from the audience's point of view… Tang Yuan looked like a motionless fat pig with a carrot jutting-out from its hoof, which he was swinging enthusiastically like a pendulum. Many of the audience became stiff, and then shuddered because of this sight. In addition, that unwarranted expression of pride on his face made the hair of every "aristocrat" stand up with disgust. Even those who possessed extraordinary strength were no exception to this. [This fellow is extremely disgusting!]
"A hundred silver coins would be enough to buy potatoes to feed a family of four for five years! However, a person can eat only one sliced potato in a high level restaurant for that price. Moreover, this staple meal will be the cheapest dish no matter where you eat it!"
Tang Yuan's arms vibrated as he laughed loudly, and said, "Could it be that such noble people just eat a potato? No! What you eat… is elegance; it is grace! What you eat, is status! What you eat, is your taste! What you eat, is also the price! What you eat, is the loneliness of sitting at the top! And only true aristocrats can enjoy this feeling!
"And at this point we can say, ladies and gentlemen, that sitting here in our Aristocratic Hall is the same as sitting at the best restaurant in Tian Xiang City!"
Tang Yuan shouted himself hoarse. Each-and-every muscle in his body shivered as he jumped about emotionally with a fierce look on his face, "This is the genuine aristocratic paradise! Even the water you drink here will be considered a genuine aristocratic commodity! As mentioned before, what we drink is not just water, but the loneliness of being at the top! To be alone — as to experience solitude — is the true mark of a genuine aristocrat!"
A thunderous applause erupted since fatty's words were well-received by the audience. In fact, the applause continued to resonate for a while.
In another room upstairs, Jun Mo Xie laughed, "Fatty just said that genuine aristocrats consume sliced potatoes and plain water in solitude!"