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That night, Scarface did not return to the hotel and as there was no other entertainment equipment in the room, Chen Yuanming fell asleep early. Early the next morning, the proprietress of the hotel knocked, opened the door with a smile and invited Chen Yuanming to breakfast.

The proprietress and her family lived in a courtyard on the first floor of the hotel which consisted of two small separate rooms. In the living room was a large round table laden with a steaming bowl of fermented glutinous rice[1], three delicacies wrapped in tofu skin[2] and hot and dry noodles[3]. A somewhat wealthy-looking, yet unfamiliar man, who was sporting black-rimmed glasses was sitting at the table.

Ah Ming, this is my husband. His name is Wang Haitao. Just call him Brother Wang!” Su Xiao, who was the hotel owner’s wife made enthusiastic introductions. “Come on, why don’t you try some of our Wuhan specialties?  It’s most comforting to enjoy a bowl of hot and dry noodles early in the morning.”

A bowl of hot and dry noodles was pushed in front of Chen Yuanming and its pungent smell wafted out. Although his psychological age was not small, his body was really young so Chen Yuanming’s stomach immediately rumbled. The two other people at the table both smiled. Chen Yuanming, who was a little bit embarrassed, scratched his head, said hello to his host and started eating.

Looking at the somewhat carefree young man in front of him, Wang Haitao, who was sitting opposite him, did not appear care much. His face held a warm smile and a pleasant expression. He did not look like a business man but rather resembled a grass-roots work instructor who always showed care to the masses and was kind to others.

While eating and talking, their dinner table conversation was a bit erratic but after a few sentences Chen Yuanming clearly sensed the sophistication in Wang Haitao’s verbal exchanges. If Chen Yuanming had really been a 15-year-old child this old man would probably have cleaned him up already.

However, when talking to smart people one does not need to worry. You just need to show your confidence and pretend that you have not overlooked anything. After a few rounds of conversation, Chen Yuanming was able to confirm that the other party was really sincere and began to seriously consider the possibility of cooperation. At the end of the meal, Wang Haitao put down his chopsticks and smiled at Chen Yuanming.

“Yuanming, I heard from your big sister that you plan to ship some small items for sale soon?”

“Yes.” Chen Yuanming wiped his mouth and put down his chopsticks. ” First, I want to see if selling electronic watches will work. I took a turn around the city yesterday and I think it would be a bit profitable to transport these goods from Zhuhai.”

“Then have you already decided what kinds of watches you will be transporting?” Wang Haitao asked patiently, “such as the style and functions?”

“That …” Chen Yuanming showed an awkward expression. “I have to go back to Zhuhai to explore the path forward. For now it’s unclear …”

“That’s okay, I know a little about this.” As Wang Haitao spoke he took out three small bags from his pocket and each contained three different electronic watches. One was the most common black plastic watch, with few buttons and no decoration. The other was a brightly colored children’s watch in a cartoon shape. It was exquisite and cute. The last watch had a big dial and four buttons and looked very elegant. 

Wang Haitao handed the three watches over to Chen Yuanming. “Recently, these models are more popular in Wuhan and they are basically only sold in the big stores. The simple one sells for between 15-18 yuan, the cartoon one is about 25 yuan, and the biggest one, the minimum for its waterproof version is 45 yuan. “After introducing the prices of the three watches in detail, Wang Haitao pushed up his glasses with a smile. “If Yuanming is interested, you can consider these styles.”

He seemed to have prepared in detail last night … Chen Yuanming did not answer immediately but rather picked up the three watches in front of him, looked at them carefully and then put them back in place.

“I’m not very good with current trends but Zhuhai should sell these models, however for their prices… I’m really not sure.”

“Oh, that’s easy.” Wang Haitao immediately said. He seemed to have been waiting for this sentence. “This is only a small business and we are just trying to earn a gross profit. We can help you sell the goods if each model is at least 5 yuan less than its lowest market price. “

After hearing this, Chen Yuanming’s eyes brightened, and there was a hint of joy on his face, but his mouth was still not relaxed. “Is that so? But I don’t have much money and I don’t think I can get a lot of goods …”

“That’s not a problem!” Su Xiao interjected this time, “We are all small businesses. It’s safer to test the market first. Besides, I see that your brother also visits Wuhan at least twice a month. There will be more opportunities in the future! “

“Yes, you should take your time at the start.” Wang Haitao followed up kindly. He appeared to have completely handed over the initiative to the Chen Yuanming.

By this remark, Chen Yuanming discerned that this Wang Haitao was far more savvy than his wife and was good at inviting people to kindly step into the vat[4]. However, for now he was quite satisfied with the situation. Currently he was really poor and even if he was willing to use all his money as a start-up fund, it was still better to start small since all involved parties were unwilling to take risks.

After the meal, the hosts and the guest were all happy and exchanged a few more words. Then, Chen Yuanming went back to his room to catch up on his sleep. Looking at the departing back of the teenager, Su Xiao poked her husband, “Did you have to say that it could be only 5 yuan cheaper. In case the goods are actually 5 yuan cheaper, how can we sell them? They can’t be sold at market price right?  One or two transactions will only earn about 100 yuan. In that case won’t it be better to rent more rooms instead? “

 “What do you know?” Wang Haitao raised the corner of his mouth. “That child is not as simple and as stupid as you think. Anyway, we are testing the market first,. Let’s test his personality. If he knows how to share profits and wants to engage in long-term business he wouldn’t just send us profit of 5 yuan. If he’s that greedy … a single transaction will be enough at that time. We would simply tell him that the goods aren’t easy for us to sell and that he should find someone better “

Su Xiao opened her mouth to speak again but finally just nodded obediently. Her man was really better in business than she was. It was better to listen.

At around 1 o’ clock in the afternoon, Scarface returned holding a bottle of alcohol and a truck full of wine and goods. There was no further delay this time and the two left the room that afternoon and set off on the return journey. This time it was a little more tense than their trip in. They only stopped for two nights and rushed back to Zhuhai in two and a half days. Even though he was so tired that his bones were about to fall apart, Chen Yuanming was keenly aware that they did not pass through the unloading point in Luzhou on the return journey, but he was not interested in studying the details.

When they arrived at home, because of the tight schedule, the difficulty of the task and the very gratifying completion, the big boss Ma Lei was very generous and gave Chen Yuanmimg an extra 100 yuan in pay for overtime work. Scarface also repeatedly reassured Chen Yuanming that they had been in a hurry on this trip and that the next trip would definitely be more relaxed.

Chen Yuanming smiled and didn’t respond. He kindly accepted the money as well as one month’s salary advance from the boss, and quietly left the courtyard. Over the past two days, the number of strangers in the courtyard seemed to have doubled and the expressions on the faces of Ma Lei and Scarface were tense. It was likely that there had been a change in the smuggling business. For this kind of high-risk trading, Chen Yuanming had no interest at all and it was better for him to start doing his own small business early.

It was almost May and the temperature in Zhuhai had once again gone up a few degrees. It was hot and sultry and felt like a big rainstorm was gathering. After walking along the famous electronics street for two or three days, Chen Yuanming finally selected a small shop at the end of the street.

This store was not the biggest watch shop on the street. The shop was a little cramped and the boss was a smart little man from Wenzhou. The shop had a full range of products, including electronic watches and quartz watches. There were also several genuine smuggled goods from Hong Kong on display. The asking prices were relatively reasonable. The most important thing was that after a few days of observation, it was not difficult to discern the behavioral habits of those customers who carried travel bags in and out.  

After entering the store, the owner recognized Chen Yuanming at a glance and greeted him with a smile, “You’ve come again. Have you decided to buy a watch?”

“Just these three.” Chen Yuanming randomly pointed to the three watches in the counter, “What are the wholesale prices?”

There was no change in the expression on the boss’s face, and the price was neatly quoted. “The reserve prices are 8, 16, 25 yuan, how many do you want?”

Chen Yuanming shook his head, “Those are not the wholesale prices. Let’s speak openly. Are we not both aware of how many OEM factories[5]  there are in Shenzhen and Zhuhai? Everyone knows the reserve price of a plastic electronic watch. I am also considering the other goods you have on your end and I want a long and stable relationship. If you can give me the real price, that’s good, If not, I can go to another shop.”

Listening to Chen Yuanming’s experienced tone, the boss looked hesitantly at the young man in front of him. These days, the heyday of profits for electronic watches had passed. If one really understood the market you could guess the reserve price. It’s just that this kid was a bit too young. No matter how confident he was, he will inevitably appear suspicious to people. Was this kid trying to swindle him in an attempt to cut prices, or did he really understand? After a few seconds, the boss’s small eyes narrowed, “What quantity of goods do you want?”

“Let’s start with 1,000 yuan this time.” His fingers bouncing on the glass cabinet, Chen Yuanming responded. “I also want to test the market first, but eventually I will continue to increase the volume of purchases in the future and will probably buy goods from you twice a month.”

A single thousand yuan wholesale transaction was really mosquito-meat grade, but twice a month, the long-term increase will be a different concept. Convinced by the firm attitude of the other party, the owner thought it over and weighed the three numbers he had quoted.

“The ordinary watch would be 5 yuan, cartoon 8 yuan and the waterproof watch would be 18. These are all genuine factory products and not those imitations from small workshops. It can’t be cheaper.”

Indeed, it was not expensive and after a quick mental calculation, Chen Yuanming made up his mind. “Give me a total of 120 waterproof watches, 40 ordinary, 60 normal cartoon watches and 20 waterproof.”

After negotiating price and quantity, the rest was easy to handle. The two quickly selected a sufficient amount of goods. Money was paid in one hand and goods were received in the other. Before leaving, the owner gave Chen Yuanming a fake Nike travel bag as a bonus.

After securing this first batch of goods, there was not a penny left on Chen Yuanming. However, Chen Yuanming was not impatient and waited tolerantly for two days. The torrential rain did not really come down until the beginning of May and eventually, the warehouse in the small courtyard was again filled with smuggled goods, and he and Scarface set off on another journey to Wuhan.

The author has something to say: Note: After checking the Baidu map, at normal speeds it is only 1500 kilometers from Zhuhai to Wuhan. Even if the speed is only 50km/hr, and the road conditions are not poor, it is estimated that you will arrive in no more than 30 hours, so this was tiring but not to exhausting.

[1] Sweet Fermented Glutinous rice Pudding (jiǔniàng)

Sweet Fermented Rice (Jiu Niang)
Sweet Glutinous rice pudding

[2] Also known as san xian dou pi ( three delicacies (san xian) refers to the three common staples eaten in the Wuhan region of china i.e. sautéed potato, eggplants and green peppers) wrapped in bean curd skins (tofu). This is a common Chinese street food

San Xian Dou Pi
San Xian Dou Pi

[3] Hot and Dry Noodles

Hot and Dry Noodles
Hot and Dry Noodles

[4] 请君入瓮 [qǐng jūn rù wèng], This basically means to make a person suffer from his own scheme. You can read an explanation of the providence of the idiom here:

[5] The OEM manufacturing companies in China are factories that  specialize in producing one particular product or part of a product, which allows that company to produce the item at a low cost and at a competitive price.

You spoke, I listened I am picking up the translations from Chapter 15. I added some photos for some extra pizazz. I tried to keep the names the same so that the translations remain consistent. fingers crossed that translators-nim’s website remains forever.

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10 Comments on INVESTMENT LIFE – CHAPTER 15Tagged , , , ,
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3 years ago

Thank you so much for the chapter!

Asphalt Falls
Asphalt Falls
3 years ago

Thank you for the chapter! I really have no idea where he’s going with this. Is he just saving up capital or will he build something big from this venture…

3 years ago

Yooo previous translator here (4-14), I’m so happy someone picked this novel up!!! Your translations are great, definitely better than mine lol, thank you for translating and doing such a good job \(^o^)/

Bibikadisha Zhanibek
Bibikadisha Zhanibek
3 years ago

Thank you for taking over this novel! I really wanted to read the translation of this one as I like the idea of the novel.

3 years ago

Thank you so much! Finally caught up. Thank you for the extra step of adding the images with the footnotes, they looks so tasty.

3 years ago

Thank you for the chapter! I really love this novel and already finished reading the MTL version but there are some things that I didn’t understand. So I’m really happy that you decided to translate this story! ❤️❤️

2 years ago

Ohh, we’re starting to put the plans in motion

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