In his last life, Jiang Xiao went to work in Liujiang about three years from now.
He started out as an assembly line worker in a factory for more than half a year.
He was too young to shut his mouth and didn’t have any patience, so after six months he’d worked in two or three factories.
Whenever he had time he’d go out for a stroll, so he was familiar with all the places around the industrial park.
He met all kinds of people and saw small businesses in detail.
Later on, Jiang Xiao had a good life overall.
He met several impressive people, some of whom gave him a helping hand.
When he grew up and entered his twenties, he began to do business on his own.

It wasn’t only Liujiang City.
Jiang Xiao had visited all kinds of industrial parks.
He’d met a lot of factory owners just like himself, people who crawled up from the bottom, had a lot of experience, and knew a lot of different things.

Ye Bing gave him a doubtful look and asked, “Your mother doesn’t know about this, does she?”

“I’ll tell her after I earn money,” Jiang Xiao said.
“Uncle Ye, I know you’ve been good to our family, but you can’t help us all the time.
I’m the only person my mother can rely on.
Just let me try, okay?”

At first Ye Bing didn’t agree.
He even lost his temper, but Jiang Xiao repeatedly ground down his objections, and the older man finally gave in.

“You’re good at talking, anyway.
I really think you might be good at this business,” he said.

If Uncle Ye was willing to help, things would go much easier.

When Jiang Xiao explained things to Xia WanWan, he told her he was going to the countryside with Ye YingYing to have fun.
In recent months he was well-behaved, so Xia WanWan didn’t worry as much about him.
Ye YingYing also confirmed Jiang Xiao’s story, so she felt at ease.
She just said to be careful and mind his safety and handed Jiang Xiao some money.

The truck departed at three in the morning.
Ye Bing looked at Jiang Xiao, who had a duffel bag and a school bag on his back.
He didn’t know when, but this fifteen-year-old boy had suddenly grown up.
Now he looked determined and resolute.
His eyes were firm and steady and seemed to glow.

Such a small child, but at this age he was already forced to stand on his own two feet.

Ye Bing glanced at his schoolbag and asked, “Did you bring your books along to read them? A few days ago your mother told me you’ve been studying a lot this month.”

“No,” Jiang Xiao said honestly, “I just brought my school bag to carry things.”

He didn’t have a lot of luggage.
The school bag and the duffel bag were durable and light.
Jiang Xiao brought clothes and simple toiletries, and he didn’t bring anything else.

Making money was making money, and studying was studying.
Jiang Xiao divided them very clearly in his mind.
He wasn’t going to be away for very long.
He would only stay three or four days of the seven-day holiday.
Uncle Ye could pick him up on his second run to Liujiang.
There was other time during the holiday when Jiang Xiao could do exercises and read books.

You have to concentrate whenever you do anything, and Jiang Xiao wasn’t good at doing more than one thing at a time.
He’d always been self-aware and knew he wasn’t a genius.
And the passenger side of the truck wasn’t a comfortable place to sit.
At times the ride was bumpy, and it wasn’t quiet enough to read.
It was better to get some rest with his eyes closed.
After the day began he wouldn’t have any time to rest.
If he tried to make money and read books at the same time, he’d end up doing neither well.

After listening to this explanation, Ye Bing started the truck and smiled.
“Well, it depends on you.
How much did you take with you?”

If he included the money Xia WanWan just gave him, he had eight hundred yuan.

Jiang Xiao reported the number honestly, and Ye Bing laughed after hearing it.

“What can you do with eight hundred yuan?” He took out a thick red envelope from his pocket and tossed it into Jiang Xiao’s hands.
“Take it.”

Jiang Xiao opened it and saw a stack of money.
A rough estimate said there were about two thousand yuan.
At this time, for a junior high school student it was really a lot of money.

“It’s a loan,” said Ye Bing.
His face was creased with tiredness, and he didn’t look at Jiang Xiao.
As he stared straight ahead, he said in a dignified voice, “Xiao Xiao, if you’re serious about studying, I’ll give you your New Year’s money in advance.
But if you’re doing business, it’s a loan.
It isn’t easy to do business.
You should be prepared.”

Jiang Xiao smiled.
He didn’t refuse, but he put the money away and said, “I know.
Thank you uncle, I’ll pay you back.”

“Don’t push yourself too hard.
You can repay me later,” said Ye Bing.
After bluffing a bit, his tone softened again, “If you can’t do it this time, focus on school.”

The truck gradually accelerated and merged onto the road in the dark of night.

Jiang Xiao had nearly three thousand yuan, and the money felt warm in his hands.
He squinted and looked ahead.
The truck headlights illuminated the road, and he could see dust floating in the wide cones of light.
Jiang Xiao closed his eyes as the truck rumbled along.

It was good to be young.
Unlike his previous, shallow-sleeping self, he was young enough to fall asleep.
He closed his eyes and quickly dozed off.
It was already afternoon when they got to their destination after ten hours on the road.

When they arrived, Ye Bing couldn’t watch over him.
He repeatedly urged Jiang Xiao to remember his cell phone number as Jiang Xiao climbed out of the truck.
If he needed something, he could find a phone booth to call him.

“It’s okay,” Jiang Xiao reassured him.
“If something happens I’ll call 110.
It’s very safe here.”

Ye Bing: “… That’s fine.”

Liujiang City really did have good public security.

Jiang Xiao got out of the truck with his two bags.
The air in the industrial park was thick with smog.
He walked toward the crowd and soon blended in.

Ye Bing took care of him in other ways.
He found him a good place to stay nearby.
As a big truck driver who’d traveled this route many times he was familiar with the hotels here, and the bill was charged directly to his account.
Jiang Xiao saved on both transportation and lodging.

But when it came to buying goods or doing business, Ye Bing couldn’t help at all.

Although there were a lot of factories in the industrial park, they didn’t sell to retail buyers, especially one like Jiang Xiao, who only had three thousand yuan in his hand.
How would anyone be willing to sign a contract with a minor for such a small amount of money? No matter how small the factory was, they wouldn’t be willing to meet him.
Jiang Xiao’s goal was the wholesale market next to the industrial park.

The wholesale market was close to the place of production, but it was more than just a place that sold goods cheaply.
Many people were dazzled when they entered the wholesale market for the first time.
There were all kinds of shops, there were goods piled up to the sky, and the shop owners doing business were all different.
It wasn’t unusual for two people to buy the same thing, but the price could more than double, and the quality varied even more.

Jiang Xiao was an old hand.
He ate a bowl of beef noodles at a street stall and casually messed up his hair.
He was wearing a black top, gray trousers, and a pair of slip-on shoes, so he didn’t look too much like a student.


Three thousand yuan.
He needed to make the most of it.
Jiang Xiao had a lot of things to buy.
He’d made a list before he set out, and he had a plan in mind.

After finishing the noodles he went into the market.
Jiang Xiao had come here in his last life, and he quickly found the store he wanted.
The wholesale market wasn’t like the shops outside.
They warmly welcomed customers.
A boss sat inside the shop watching TV.
When Jiang Xiao walked in, the boss glanced at him.
It wasn’t a regular customer.
He was young, so the boss didn’t turn his head.
He said a few words casually and ate some rice from his bowl.

Jiang Xiao had lived in Liujiang City for a long time, and he could speak very authentic Liujiang dialect.
He compared this store to the previous ones he’d seen.
The goods were more complete and the quality was acceptable, so he asked the price in a local accent.

Hearing it was a local, the boss glanced at him and told him the price.

Jiang Xiao didn’t look up.
He scrutinized the goods on the shelves and said, “Expensive.”

Jiang Xiao wasn’t buying much, but the price was double the usual price in the wholesale market.
He guessed that since he was young, the boss decided to gouge him.

“Don’t try to fool me.
My family makes these.
You think I don’t know the price?” Jiang Xiao threw the goods back and leaned against the shelf, showing a bit of gangster spirit.
He quoted a price himself, then asked, “Do you want to make a sale or not? If not, I’ll go next door.”

The boss shook his head while saying of course that wasn’t the price.
His tone changed, trying to find out how many pieces Jiang Xiao wanted?

“Ten thousand yuan, maybe?” Jiang Xiao picked through the items on the shelf, a little disgusted.
“Your goods are old.
Those little girls want new ones now.
It’ll be too hard to sell these.
Forget it, I’ll look at other stores.”

He hacked the price, then he insulted the merchandise.
Jiang Xiao had a specific look and tone of voice, and when quoting a price he was dead on.
The boss knew this wasn’t a novice, so he quickly pulled him back.

“Their merchandise isn’t as good as ours! Come on, pretty boy, take another look.
I have newer products in the back.
The sales outside are very good,” the boss said.
“We can negotiate the price.
I’ll give you a discount.”

Slowly they decided on the price.
Jiang Xiao had all the time in the world right now to bargain.

The art of haggling was about being hard and soft by turns, and Jiang Xiao had grown up with it.
After he found the boss’s bottom line, it went much easier.

It was impossible to buy every kind of bracelet and photo card with the money he had on hand.
Many small manufacturers were making these bracelets, and a variety of styles extended from them.
Jiang Xiao knew his customers’ consumption level, so he didn’t choose anything that was too expensive.
He picked out a few types at various price points.
The wholesale price for the cheapest was only a few fen1, while the expensive ones were over a dozen yuan.

The small plastic photo cards were even cheaper.
In Houlin, they cost two or three yuan a pack.
Here, the price was just a few fen.
He spent a total of five hundred yuan on cards.
That was because Ye Bing suddenly gave him money, which allowed Jiang Xiao to increase the quantity.

《The World of Mortals》 was a mainland TV drama, and it was being broadcast nationwide, so right now it was popular throughout the entire country.

But at this point in time, most of the hot idol dramas were still from Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea.
If those dramas wanted to be broadcast on TV, they usually had to wait, and most of them didn’t make it to broadcast.
Therefore, a lot of people waited for series to come out on disc.
They watched videos on VCDs or DVDs, and listened to music on tape recorders, which was the most popular format at this time.

Some dramas became popular in coastal cities first, because those were the first to receive information.
Small factories had a keen nose for profit, and merchandise based on dramas would sell for a limited amount of time.
However, it would take a while before the popularity waned in Houlin.
That was the time lag Jiang Xiao relied on.

Jiang Xiao spent five hundred yuan in a small video store to buy a bunch of new TV series discs and idol singer cassettes.
He haggled down the price and managed to get some freebies.

In Houlin, these were the hottest things.
He planned to sell them to the video rental shop not far from the school gate.
On the one hand, he could make money directly from selling the discs.
On the other hand, once they set off a trend, Jiang Xiao could use it to make more money.

Hair bands, pencil bags, pendants, key chains, necklaces, bracelets, posters, stickers, photo cards… Jiang Xiao had seen all sorts of things that appealed to girl students these days.
He was very careful about selecting goods, and he was even more careful about keeping prices low.

After all, his money was limited and this was his first time doing business.
He needed to use this time to identify what students really liked.

Jiang Xiao packed up his purchases before Ye Bing returned.
He organized the merchandise and wrapped everything with care so nothing would be damaged.

He also called Ye Bing from the hotel’s landline to finalize the time and place to meet.
Ye Bing had to change the location because he wasn’t picking up a load on this side of the industrial park anymore.
Jiang Xiao had to take a bus to get there.
He was on the road for about an hour before they met up at a different industrial park.

As the bus passed through Liujiang City, he could see some of the high-rise buildings that were already constructed.
Jiang Xiao sat in the window seat and looked out.

When he was stopped at one of the bus stations, there was a tastefully decorated coffee shop next door.
Several teens about his age were sitting by the window, laughing and taking pictures of the street with their newly purchased cameras.

Jiang Xiao saw a flash and thought he might be in the background of a photo, but the bus soon drove away, and he didn’t really care.
It was just a picture, and he wasn’t ashamed of being seen.

He couldn’t help but have mixed feelings.
Right now such cameras were really expensive, but those junior high students were playing with them like toys.
They probably came from well-off families.

In contrast, Jiang Xiao was worn out from his efforts these past few days.
In order to look more mature he kept his hair a mess and made sure his clothes were dirty.
Everything he’d brought was old and from the bottom of his wardrobe, and with his big and small bags beside him, he looked like a scruffy little migrant worker.

But that was nothing.
He didn’t envy anyone else’s background.
Jiang Xiao cherished his present life, and he was going to rely on his own efforts to improve his family’s situation.


TL Notes:
“Little Jiang Xiao” in the chapter title is from 姜小宵 – “Jiāng Xiǎo Xiāo”.
Normally I translate 小宵 as “Xiao Xiao” but it would have been confusing here.
determined and resolute – 百折不挠 – never yield despite reverses, undaunted by setbacks
stand on his own two feet – 顶天立地 – able to stand up and fight like a man, a stand-up guy, a fine man, an indomitable man, of indomitable spirit, stand upright on one’s two legs between heaven and earth, able to hold up the heavens and support the earth, fear nothing on earth
hard and soft by turns – 软硬兼施 – act tough and talk soft, adopt every possible means, bring both force and reason to bear, combine harsh and mild measures, couple threats with promises, carrot and stick

Transliterated names, titles, and places—new in this chapter:
Ye Bing – 叶兵 – aka Uncle Ye
Xiao Xiao – 小宵 – Another nickname for MC.
This one isn’t “XiaoXiao” (his given name twice), this one means “Little Xiao”


fen – A fen is 1/100 of a yuan

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