Chapter 67: Contract
On the 22nd of the twelfth lunar month, Su Shuilian brought the newly-finished “Drunken Beauty” to the Yueyun Embroidery Floor with Lin Si Yao. The Floor’s first shopkeeper, Jiang Yangrui, greeted them. The second shopkeeper, Jiang Yangyun had left for Jin City before the 20th to purchase goods, and she hadn’t returned since.
Jiang Yangrui smiled as she sized up the two of them, and thought to herself: What a fashionable and dashing couple! The lady was soft and elegant, and the gentleman was chiseled and handsome. Even though she knew they were from the countryside Fanhua Town, she still admitted that they seemed like the gods and fairies from the legends itself.
It was no wonder that Sister Yangyun shut herself in her room after coming back from Fanhua Town.
She must have received quite a shock seeing the two of them together. Jiang Yangrui shook her head, chuckling.
If her parents were still alive, she and her sister would’ve long since found spouses and married. Who thought that their awkward situation would be like today, where she was in no place to make decisions.
She was getting close to thirty years old this year, and had already given up on any idea of marriage.
But Yangyun was different.
Though she was turning twenty-one and had passed the common wedding age, it really wouldn’t be that much of a hassle if she did marry.
However, after much gossiping and searching, there still wasn’t a man who was suitable for her age.
Ah! Jiang Yangrui lowered her head, and sighed. She tidied up her emotions, tilted the edges of her mouth upward, and spoke to the couple sitting across: “Madame Lin, may I call you Sister?”
“First shopkeeper, it’s fine. You can just call me Shuilian.” Su Shuilian smiled gently. She held a great sense of respect for the independent, compelling woman across from her.
“Sure, that’ll be great. Shuilian, for the ‘Drunken Beauty’ piece, I already have a craftsman verifying it. It won’t be long before he comes back. Are you two going to stay for a while?” Jiang Yangrui smiled as she talked to Su Shuilian.
Jiang Yangrui had no choice but to learn how to be independent by the age of thirteen, and try to act both the roles of father and mother to care for her little sister, Jiang Yangyun. Her personality had long since lost the traditional ladies’ tenderness and docility.
To Su Shuilian, a gentle girl who seemed to be made of water, she didn’t try to get close to her out of respect. At the same time, she didn’t let Su Shuilian escape her gaze, either.
Of course, with Su Shuilian’s embroidery touching her heart with every glance, she felt a mighty sense of favoritism towards her never felt before.
“The first shopkeeper can take her time; we didn’t come to do anything else than deliver the embroidery.” Su Shuilian set down her teacup, and nodded towards Jiang Yangrui.
Judging from the sun, it wasn’t even noon yet. Before leaving, she had already talked with Lin Si Yao about feeding Xiao Chun and Xiao Xue, who stayed at home to guard the cottage. They already anticipated that they might not come home for lunch, and would have to find a restaurant in the city. Afterwards, they can even buy some goods in the nearby market.
As the twentieth had already passed, small booths and shops were popping up left and right around the streets. It was getting harder to differentiate between the large and small bazaars.
“Then that’s perfect.” Jiang Yangrui nodded back, and spoke: “So what does Shuilian think of our proposal for becoming our chief seamstress?” She had been thinking about this for a while, and started to pay special attention to Shuilian ever since receiving her “Paired Phoenixes”.
Although Xi Cui had reported that Su Shuilian only sewed one pair of phoenixes, she could clearly see her delicate and careful dedication to the work.
Of course, when she heard from Xi Cui that Su Shuilian hadn’t shown any sign of taking up projects this year, she didn’t bother her. If the city lord himself hadn’t ordered for the exact seamstress of “Paired Phoenixes” to make “Drunken Beauty”, she would have never thought of signing Su Shuilian into a contract.
After all, contracts are dead, and people are alive.
There was no lack of contract seamstresses in the Yueyun Embroidery Floor, but the talented ones were often reluctant to sign themselves to a specific guild, since it often hindered their flexibility. They would hop from floor to floor, always flocking to the one who provided the most benefits. The ones who did sign contracts normally weren’t skilled enough to take upon works by themselves, partnering up with others to work on a tapestry or gallery, and splitting the salary.
But Jiang Yangrui went out of her way to make a contract with Su Shuilian as soon as possible. Even before the exceptional “Paired Phoenixes” and “Drunken Beauty”, Jiang Yangrui greatly admired the blossoms embroidered on the couple’s robes. As so, she kept the proposal even closer to heart.
Because of Su Shuilian’s exquisite embroidery skill, it wouldn’t matter which floor she goes to; she’ll be treated kindly by every single embroidery floor shopkeeper in the area. Soon, there will be countless customers who come for Su Shuilian’s name, especially the wealthy who bring gifts and never haggle prices… “We greatly respect the Floor Shopkeeper, but the two ounces of silver per month is…”
“Is it too less? Then I can bring it up to four…” Jiang Yangrui spoke quickly. As long as she accepts, what difference does four ounces make? The city lord had offered eighty-eight for the “Drunken Beauty” piece alone. Besides Su Shuilian’s salary, the rest was profit for the Yueyun Floor. At this rate, if she would take on three or five pieces per year, Su Shuilian’s profits to the Floor would be at the top even if the other seamstresses’ were combined.
“… Apologies, that’s not what I meant….” Su Shuilian didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. “I was thinking if the salary is a little too much? After all, there won’t be a lot of people who custom-select seamstresses like the ‘Drunken Beauty’.”
“You’re far too humble…” Jiang Yangrui almost cracked up at Su Shuilian’s inquiry.
“Shuilian, you don’t even know yourself how valuable your work is. ‘Paired Phoenixes’ was only displayed for so long before a customer came to ask specifically for you. If the floor starts to advertise your skills, why should you worry about large-scale projects? Don’t worry! In the future, there probably won’t even be a day where you can rest from all the work you’ll be doing.” Jiang Yangrui laughed as she comforted Su Shuilian. To Jiang Yangrui, she was a vital source of income, and Su Shuilian definitely wasn’t someone who would betray the Floor and her contract.
Su Shuilian never dreamed of such a thing. The ways of business went over her head, and she worried. What if nobody wanted to give her a job? Then wouldn’t she be losing the Floor money? With profit as the first priority, would the distance between her and the Yueyun Embroidery Floor start to grow?
Su Shuilian wasn’t someone who liked to improvise. She would consider the worst possibility at the first step.
Of course, after hearing Jiang Yangrui’s words, a large part of her anxiety disappeared. Oh well, if she put it off any longer, it would just be hindering herself.
Su Shuilian nodded, “Since the Floor Shopkeeper trusts Shuilian so much, then we won’t leave anytime soon. First, I want to thank the shopkeeper beforehand. However, Shuilian has a request; I won’t be able to take up any works that have a close deadline….” She couldn’t just sign the contract before giving a notice about her limits.
“Well, you can take a look at the contract. If you don’t want to take up a request, you may decline. If a customer orders for you specifically, the Floor would naturally pick a date that both parties would be satisfied with. It wouldn’t be like this time….” Jiang Yangrui nodded in agreement. She didn’t trust in rushed works either. They ruined the quality.
If the city lord himself hadn’t ordered “Drunken Beauty”, she wouldn’t have accepted it so fast. Thankfully, Su Shuilian had delivered it on time. Or else, the entire Embroidery Floor would have to endure the city lord’s anger.
However, she had already contacted the city lord. From now on, he will have to make reservations before ordering, so the timeframe wouldn’t be so short. Normal customers all followed the rules obediently, and even the higher-ups very rarely used their status to impose power. And now, even the city lord agreed to follow guidelines; how would the others dare not to?
“Then, that’s perfect.” Su Shuilian nodded. As long as there was enough time given, she didn’t really care whether she could take up any projects or not. Lin Si Yao had already taken up all the housework anyways; she worried more of boredom than having embroidery to do.
So, Su Shuilian signed in a contract with the Yueyun Embroidery Floor. The contents hadn’t changed since the last time she’d seen it. Even though Jiang Yangrui wanted to increase her salary by two ounces, Su Shuilian had denied the promotion.
What a joke, with two ounces every month, that’s twenty-four per year. If she didn’t have much work to do, then what right would she have to take the silver?
Say that she’s stubborn if you will, but Su Shuilian was more at ease if she earned less.
The contract expired in a year, and both parties can extend it if they wished.
After signing, both sides each took a copy, and the contract became valid.
Jiang Yangrui’s hanging heart finally steadied, she was worried that Su Shuilian would refuse her offer. After all, there were other Embroidery Floors that pushed out higher-quality pieces. With a more complex design, the floor would naturally draft a seamstress with higher skill. Just so, she had the chance to meet Su Shuilian through Xi Cui. Isn’t this fate?
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