Zhou Shuming's brows furrowed. It had been said that the most precious things in the world were the gold in a turbulent time and the antiques in a peaceful one. In 1927, when the Revolution of 1911 had been over for just 16 years, and the bodies of the scholars that had taken pride in selling works to royal families had hardly been cold yet, since both guns and rice were more useful than books, book collection was not as popular as before, and the prices of the rare editions and best editions which had been invaluable were much lower. Dilapidated private libraries were everywhere. There even were unworthy descendants who treated and sold the precious books as waste paper.
These twelve books in the caskets had cost Zhou Shuming only 4,000 silver dollars. He had bought them from the private library of the Zhou Family. Back to forty years ago, even his master who had been a Juren1 would have been willing to trade one thousand dans of rice for them. Thinking this, Zhou Shuming sipped a mouthful of tea, raised his head and said to Huang Xuan, "If Mr. Huang is dissatisfied, I can go find others. Please keep the grains for a few more days for me."
"Only one day." Huang held out one finger arrogantly. "I am in a huge rush and can't wait." Pointing to the last casket, he added, "You can also take these two books of the Confucian Canon during the Spring and Autumn Period of the Song Dynasty back. Thus, in addition to the book written by what-d'you-call-him Emperor, there are six books. You can pick up 900 dans of grains from the warehouse for all of them or 1,500 silver dollars for each. What do you think?"
Huang Xuan had calculated at the price of 12 yuan per dan, but on the market, the price of brown rice had risen to over 18 yuan per dan. Of course, Zhou Shuming would rather choose grains. He opened his mouth a little and shut it. He understood that nowadays the one who had grains had the say. He folded his hands in front and said, "Then, an old fellow like me will start transporting these grains. Mr. Huang, please wait for my good news."
Hearing him call himself an old fellow, Huang Xuan scorned. After putting the books in the caskets together, he left before Zhou Shuming did.
The news that a stupid son of rich parents was purchasing rare editions at a price ten times higher than the market price was traveling as fast as the speed of plane travel. Very soon the whole city had heard of it. At that turbulent time, this kind of news would be exaggerated by countless people.
"Have you heard? The prices of books will go up! The ones who have ancient books will become rich!"
"It is said that the national government is going to build a library, like the foreigners. The money has been spent on the books is enough to buy tens of thousands of guns."
"I've heard that the foreigners want to buy antiques from China. One of my townmates said he had seen several ships loaded with antiques."
Since that afternoon, people had asked for an interview with Huang Xuan one after another. Only Jiang Yisheng was with him, which wasn't enough to handle the situation. Huang Xuan had to ask shopkeeper Zhu for help. On the other hand, most of the people had come to take their chance. Some even tried to wangle a sum of money by a dishonest approach. Shopkeeper Zhu was worried and tried to invite Huang Xuan to the town, but Huang Xuan declined. He had kept meeting people for nearly seven hours before finally all the grains and most of the silver dollars were gone.
At last, the bosses of several shops were financially strong and kept many rare editions. Huang Xuan had spent so much time picking books that he didn't know which to pick anymore. He listened to Rolin's evaluations mechanically and eventually managed to pick five more, after which, only hundred-odd silver dollars were available in his hands.
A sound of sweeping was heard from inside the wide-opened warehouse. Huang Xuan looked at Jiang Yisheng again, the reserved middle-aged man still wearing the worn-out blue cloth jacket with patches carefully sewn on the cuffs.
The books in hands, Huang Xuan was ready to go home. At the point of leaving, he started to regret not having had a good look at this magic era, which he didn't know whether he would have a second chance to do in the future and which he thought would be the least possibility since the teleportation function of Rolin's was so backward.
Having put the left silver dollars away and wrapped the books in yellow silk and satin, Huang Xuan fixed his appearance and said to Jiang Yisheng, "Brother Jiang, I apologize for the inconvenience I have put you to in the past two days."
At a loss what to do, Jiang Yisheng rubbed his hands and said in a low voice, "Mr. Huang, you are being too courteous."
"I told you not to call me Mr. Huang." In the past two days, as the important merchants in town had all met with Huang Xuan, Jiang Yisheng had also become awed by him and started calling him Mr. Huang as others did. Huang Xuan had kept silent at first. Now that he was leaving, he shook his head and said, "Brother Jiang, I am leaving tonight. Here are some silver dollars left. Please take them as the pay for your help in these two days."
Jiang Yisheng was in such a flurry that he couldn't find a right place to put his hands and stuttered, "I can't, I can't."
"It is settled. Please thank the old man for me," saying this, Huang Xuan stepped out of the room and disappeared with a flash of white light before Jiang Yisheng could catch up.
Huang Xuan was back to the backyard pavilion, completely naked. Covered with the yellow satin in his hands, he looked around reminiscently and complained: "Rolin, is it really necessary to be so economical that you even refused to teleport my clothes back?"
"A lot of energy has been consumed to make sure you could leave plane P112 within 24 hours, so the base won't function normally unless energy consumption is controlled."
Rolin's typical flat tone made Huang Xuan feel very warm. He would have thanked him if there had been a towel on him. According to the color of the sky, Huang Xuan assumed it was dawn. Looking at the 11 books in his hands, he made a decision.
For the protection of human culture heritage, he would rather go outside naked and wrap the books with the satin.
In fact, the pavilion was not very far from the bedroom, he comforted himself.
"Remember to recharge," Rolin disappeared as soon as he finished the sentence in coldness. Huang Xuan was left alone. He turned on his computer and cell phone as quickly as he could to check the plane he was in, in case he had been teleported into a wrong plane by some unscrupulous machine, which had been said to be possible; that was right, it was Rolin himself. What an honest "boy"!
The yard was quiet. Only the light in the kitchen of the affiliated building was on, which was probably the cook making breakfast. It was not the time for his parents to go to work yet. He closed the door quietly, found a complimentary box coming with the book he bought last time, and put the ancient books worth tens of millions in the box one by one. The yellow satin was put between every two. At last, he picked up the book on the top, The documents of dispatches of the North Song Dynasty(960-1127), and wrapped it with a pillowcase and put it in a separate box.
After everything had been done, the day hadn't broken yet. Huang Xuan yawned and went to bed. In the past two days, he had slept in the porter's room of the warehouse. Not to mention the bed which had been as hard as stone, the smell alone could have kept one awake all night.
Juren: successful candidate in the imperial examinations at the provincial level in the Ming and Qing Dynasties