Book 1: Chapter 17: Trouble Stems from Inequality Rather than Scarcity
A loud sound rang out as many Song City citizens burst the doors of another shop belonging to Gu Hai on Song City’s streets.
“Hahaha! According to the emperor’s decree, everyone can participate in destroying all of Old Demon Gu’s businesses in the Song Nation!”
“Don’t come over. This is robbery!”
“You are the ones who are doing the robbing! Dogs of Old Demon Gu, scram!”
“Mine! The incense burner is mine!”
“This exquisite flower vase is mine! Don’t snatch with me!”
“Ah! Don’t trample me!”
“Scram! It’s all mine!”
Countless ordinary citizens poured into Gu Hai’s shop, frantically snatching up items.
The matter of the Gu Song Silversmith showed that the citizens who robbed it were innocent. The royal court even encouraged everyone.
Innocent despite robbing?
This information seemed to grow wings, instantly spreading throughout Song City.
Anyone with any brains in Song City immediately thought of the wealth in the Gu Song Silversmith. That was a horrifying amount of money. Perhaps it was just a pinch to the royal court. However, it was an astronomical sum for ordinary citizens.
They did not need to work or labor hard. They just needed to take it. If they could take it, it would be theirs. Furthermore, it would be more than what they could possibly earn over a few lifetimes.
The swift will obtain something, and the slow will receive nothing. Should I go or not?
Even the emperor encouraged us to go. Are we just going to watch from our houses like idiots? If we keep watching, there will be nothing left.
The emperor encouraging us means that this is bestowed on us by the emperor. How can we push away something the emperor bestowed on us?
This is a mountain of gold. If I can take it, it is rightfully mine. Why would I not want it?
There was no need for any organizing or leaders. Anyone with any brains would immediately rush to a shop belonging to Gu Hai. When the people who held back because of morals saw their friends following the decree and robbing, they could no longer sit still, either.
Everyone in the city went crazy. As long as it was Gu Hai’s shop, countless people instantly filled it. It seemed like all the citizens of the city rushed over.
Practically all of Gu Hai’s shops locked their doors at the same time. However, that could not stop the enthusiasm of the citizens.
So what if the doors were locked?
“Make way! Make way! We brought tools to ram the door open!” someone shouted.
When looking over, everyone saw Song City’s city guards carrying some siege tools over.
“Ah? The city guards? Shouldn’t you all be patrolling Song City? Why are you here to join the excitement?” someone called out.
“Why should we be patrolling? With such an opportunity, how can we let it go? Move aside. This is a battering ram for attacking cities. We snuck it out from the storehouse. Quickly, move aside!”
“No! Humph. To think that so many of you city guards came. We came first, so we should have the priority. If we give way to you, would we have anything left?”
“That’s right. We cannot give way to you. We do not need you to ram the door open. We will do it ourselves!”
“You bastards! How dare you? You are just wicked citizens. If you still do not give way, we will arrest all of you,” the city guards shouted furiously.
“How dare you?! I work for the current imperial tutor. Do you dare to arrest me?”
“I work for the deputy minister of rites. Try and arrest me, then. First come, first served. If you want to join the snatching, then just try your luck!”
“I work for the deputy minister of war! Humph, by all means, try and arrest me!”
There were all sorts of people. Gu Hai’s shops were like mountains of gold dotting the city. No one remained unaffected by them.
The ordinary citizens wanted to become wealthy overnight. The countless servants of the wealthy did not want to give up on this opportunity, either. Many of the officials even had firsthand information. The city guards ignored their duties and came to join in snatching.
The entire Song City turned chaotic.
The sounds of loud commotions, robbery, cries, laughter, furious roars, and all sorts of emotions instantly erupted.
Gu Hai and Gu Han stood at the top of a tall building in the city, watching the commotion around. Everyone in the entire city was frenzied. Some places even had fires burning as the people plundered the shop amid thick smoke.
Frantic cries rang out endlessly. Even from far away, the two could hear screams from all directions.
“Adoptive Father, this time, my Gu Residence suffered a huge loss in material goods!” Gu Han said with a bitter smile.
“Huge losses in material goods? Haha! Do you think that I will suffer a loss?” Gu Hai asked with a smile.
“It was just an offhand comment. So what if we lose all the shops? Even if they all turn into rubble, given Adoptive Father’s reputation, I dare guarantee that all the banks in the Song Nation would be willing to lend you however much you want immediately. You will be able to rebuild my Gu Clan’s shops even stronger within a day!” Gu Han said confidently and proudly.
Gu Hai did not refute that. Instead, he smiled faintly and said, “What does the wealth of the mundane world count for? What do the businesses in the Song Nation count for? Anything that money can buy is not worth anything.”
Uproars broke out everywhere in Song City. The servants of the various nobles even started fighting each other over the loot. Smoke rose from all over the place; miserable cries endlessly rang out. A scene of hell in the mortal world appeared in Song City.
At this time, some smart people quickly bought horses and rushed to the other cities of the Song Nation.
When the citizens of the other cities learned of the decree to rob Gu Hai’s stores, they would go crazy as well. These smart people needed to be quick, before the citizens of the other cities reacted. That way, they could snatch more wealth.
“Adoptive Father, this sudden chaos is like a large flame spreading to the other cities of the Song Nation. Furthermore, it seems like this flame will only intensify. The people will become even more unbridled in their looting. The citizens will grow crazier!” Gu Han sighed as he looked at Gu Hai after listening to the information his subordinates brought.
“A spark can start a prairie fire. Once an opening appears, ambition can overwhelm all thoughts, allowing the citizens to break the law and go crazy. However, this is still insufficient. After the first wave of robberies spreads throughout the nation, we still need to destroy their final line of defense to make them turn utterly chaotic!” Gu Hai said seriously.
“The first wave? Ha! The robberies will happen however fast a horse can gallop. It will be ferocious and intense. Adoptive Father, no one can stop this wave.”
Indeed, as the horses from Song City rushed to the surrounding cities, the wave of robberies spread like wildfire to the various cities. There was no need for any further action. Just a spark set entire cities ablaze like they were oil.
Three…ten…twenty… There was no fastest, only faster. The decree to rob Gu Hai’s shops resulted in a horror even worse than a locust plague.
In merely a few short days, the entire Song Nation plunged into chaos.
On the fourth day, the cities at the very edge of the Song Nation, the border cities, also turned chaotic.
Flames rose in the border cities, and countless people plundered Gu Hai’s shops. Miserable cries, shrieks, frantic shouts rang out endlessly.
The city lord’s official residence in one of the border cities:
[TL Note: Chinese officials have official residences where they both work and live. Think the White House but one for every official.]
At this moment, Gao Xianzhi glared at a middle-aged man dressed in magnificent clothes.
“City Lord Wang, chaos has already erupted in the city. How could you let your servants go and rob the shops?!” Gao Xianzhi demanded angrily.
“No, no, no! Hahaha! Commander Gao, you are overthinking. This is a royal decree. We cannot disobey the royal decree. Everyone can destroy Gu Hai’s shops. I am just obeying the royal decree. If I don’t send people to rob the shops, others will. Why is Commander Gao so anxious?” City Lord Wang retorted with a smile as he picked up a teacup.
“No, this is not right. I don’t know what happened in the imperial capital. Only half a month has passed; how could His Majesty allow the citizens to commit crimes like that? This is a sign of a nation erupting in chaos!” Gao Xianzhi said angrily and anxiously.
“General Gao, you really are overthinking. We are robbing Gu Hai’s shops in accordance with the popular sentiment. The citizens have risen in anger and are currently destroying Gu Hai’s businesses. This will unite the Song Nation citizens, making it easier for us to guard against Gu Hai’s schemes. Commander, I heard that you already rallied fifty thousand soldiers. Furthermore, it seems that some of your soldiers also went to rob Gu Hai’s shops. Instead of disciplining your troops, why are you here to interfere with my men?” City Lord Wang countered indifferently.
“The deserters of my army will all be dealt with by military law. Lord Wang, do you see the fires in the city? The citizens have gone crazy. They have fallen for Gu Hai’s evil schemes!” Gao Xianzhi said anxiously.
“That’s enough. Commander Gao, this is a royal decree. You do not have the authority to interfere. We gave you eight hundred thousand soldiers, but you wasted them all with no results. The emperor has already shown great mercy by not punishing you. Yet, instead of reflecting on yourself, you are trying to oppose the royal decree. Are you saying that all the civil and military officials of the royal court cannot compare to you, a lone military man? Humph! This is not your frontlines. This is a border city where I hold the authority!” City Lord Wang said while glaring.
“You!” Gao Xianzhi glared back.
“My office is very busy, so I will not entertain Commander Gao any longer. Men! Send off the guest!” City Lord Wang shouted.
“Humph!” Gao Xianzhi snorted coldly and turned to leave.
When Gao Xianzhi reached the door of the hall, a steward rushed into the hall.
“Master, it’s not good. We were somewhat too late, only managing to rob a shop and obtain a few thousand silver taels!” the steward said bitterly.
“Damn it! We should have acted earlier. I was too indecisive at that time. I should have decided sooner!” City Lord Wang said with hate and regret.
Gao Xianzhi showed an unsightly expression as he slowly left the city lord’s official residence.
Song City, after the initial judgment of the Gu Song Silversmith’s matter:
Once the judgment on the first robbery spread, the entire city erupted in endless commotions. Countless ordinary citizens went about looting Gu Hai’s shops, fighting each other in the process. Flames rose everywhere, showing scenes of chaos.
Brawls happened endlessly on the first day. The many officials felt nervous during the royal assembly of the next day.
[TL Note: The royal assembly took place almost every day up until the Ming Dynasty, when they decided it wasted time. Even if there was nothing to do, they would just gather and get dismissed.]
No one expected this to happen so quickly. The citizens purged all of Gu Hai’s businesses in the imperial capital. It was too fast, so fast that the various officials could not react.
All the officials in the royal assembly wondered if they had erred in judgment yesterday. However, no one mentioned this matter during the royal assembly.
Another two days passed, and Song City slowly calmed down. All the civil and military officials heaved sighs of relief.
“Imperial Father, nothing happened. The citizens robbed only Gu Hai’s shops. The citizens are united at heart, working together against Gu Hai’s schemes!” Crown Prince Song took the initiative to step forward, speaking with a smile.
“Indeed. Your Majesty, Gu Hai has no way to implement his schemes now. We can use the popular sentiment. With just one royal assembly and one day, we destroyed everything belonging to him!”
“Your Majesty, that Gu Hai is only good at scheming. When my Song Nation is united, he cannot do anything!”
All the civil and military officials in the royal assembly sang praises of the judgment. The Song Emperor nodded and let out a long breath.
At a tavern in Song City, Gu Hai and Gu Han sat at a corner.
“Adoptive Father, these past two days have been very peaceful. Those people who robbed my Gu Residence’s shops have quieted down. Everyone has calmed down as if nothing happened,” Gu Han said with a smile.
“Quieted down? They only just stopped robbing. However, the thoughts of everyone in the Song Nation have already turned frenzied. We now have control over their thoughts,” Gu Hai said with a cold smile.
“Listen to what they are saying.” Gu Hai smiled as he drank a mouthful of wine.
Right now, many people came to the tavern to drink, discussing recent events.
“That damned bastard Sun Er. He actually managed to snatch a gold Buddha statue and acted all cocky before me!”
“Haha! Don’t blame him. You were just too slow!”
“Slow my ass! I only overslept a little. By the time I went there, I only obtained a silver ingot!”
“Be satisfied. I failed to get anything. Don’t Gu Hai’s businesses have a lot of money and treasures? How come there was so little?”
“The fast profit and the slow return with nothing. I heard that some people managed to snatch tens of thousands of silver taels.”
“Tens of thousands of silver taels? Damn!”
“If I had another chance, I would not have slept. I would just wait at the entrance of the shops and be the first to rob it!”
“Who does not want to do that? You have no idea. That wife of mine has been nagging me over the past two days, saying that I was too slow. That damn Sun Er next door managed to get a gold Buddha statue. Previously, his family was destitute, unable to compare with even my family. With just that item, he immediately surpassed my family.”
“It is all that Gu Hai’s fault for having too few shops. If only he had more, that would be great!”
“Indeed. I’m really angry with the people who managed to snatch more than I did! This is really frustrating!”
“Brothers, don’t be sad or angry. Drink! Drink! Let’s drink!”
Similar discussions filled the tavern.
Gu Hai and Gu Han listened quietly.
“Adoptive Father, the people who failed to snatch anything are all feeling resentful and hateful!” Gu Han said with a smile.
“That is the danger with the ordinary citizens; trouble stems from inequality rather than scarcity. If the wealth were equally distributed, no one would say anything. With the wealth unequally distributed, it creates a sore spot. Robbing the shops that are overtly mine is only the primer. The foundation of this plan lies in robbing the shops that are covertly mine. They are now addicted to this, wanting to rob more. In that case, let’s satisfy them. Let all the shops in the Song Nation become their targets for robbery. Everyone will become criminals, plunging their hearts into chaos. The citizens’ hearts will turn crooked, and the Song Nation will be utterly crippled!” Gu Hai said with a cold smile.
“Adoptive Father, I’ll go and get it done now!” Gu Han said excitedly.
“There’s no need. Wait another two days. Let this sentiment in the citizens’ hearts strengthen first. Let their feelings of disappointment deepen. That way, they will be even more frantic, even more chaotic!” Gu Hai said while shaking his head.
“Yes!” Gu Han answered.
After the entire Song Nation turned frenzied, it quickly calmed down. However, everyone’s heart was restless. Everyone showed an envious gaze, their heart roiling with an uncontrollable frenzy. It felt like grass grew in everyone’s heart, causing an unbearable itch. As the people walked among the countless shops on the streets, their gazes no longer held appreciation as they picked out goods to buy. Instead, their eyes now gleamed with greed.