Book 1, Chapter 5 – Growth (part 2)

Time flew by quickly, and in the blink of an eye, the grandfather clock within the hall rang eleven times, signifying that it was now 11 in the morning.

“Is Hogg at home?” A clear voice rang out. The Baruch manor had no guards, so clearly, this person had already arrived within the manor grounds.

Hogg frowned, placing down the thick tome in front of him. “Linley, today we’ll come to a stop here.” Revealing a wisp of a smile, Hogg turned around and walked towards the guest hall.

“Ah, Hogg, my dear friend! Just the other day, I heard the clothspinner bird’s cry, and I just knew that something good was going to happen. Indeed, by noon, I received your missive, and as soon as I read it, I was overjoyed.”

“Dear Philip, I am very happy to see you as well. Hillman, quickly go and bring me the stone sculpture, ‘Fierce Lion’. Philip, come, let’s go to the main hall and wait. The sculpture will be here shortly.”

Hearing these words, Linley felt his heart twinge.

“We’re selling off more family belongings?” Linley knew that the ‘Fierce Lion’ sculpture was one which his father deeply liked. But the Baruch clan, which took very little taxes from Wushan township, really was in dire economic straits.

Fortunately, the Baruch clan was an ancient one, and by virtue of its age, had stored many rare and precious items.

Unfortunately, even the vastest of hoards could not withstand so many years of auctions and sales. By this point in time, the number of valuable items within the clan was very few. Linley couldn’t help but turn to stare at the grandfather clock. “I wonder how long it will be before even this clock has to be sold off.”

A middle aged man with long, golden hair and a nobleman’s aura strode into the hall by Hogg’s side. Linley immediately was able to guess that this middle-aged man must be ‘Philip’.

“Oh, this adorable child must be your son, right Hogg?” Philip smiled very warmly at Linley. “Linley Baruch, right? May I address you as Linley?”

“It would be my honor, sire.” Linley placed his right hand against his breast and respectfully bowed.

“What an adorable child.” Philip seemed very pleased.

By his side, Hogg laughed. “Philip, stop wasting time with the child. Look, the ‘Fierce Lion’ you have desired for so long has arrived.” As he spoke, Hillman easily carried in the large sculpture into the hall, and then easily set it down.

It was a nearly thousand-pound stone sculpture, but in Hillman’s hands, it seemed like naught but a toy, clearly showing Hillman’s strength.

“Mr. Hillman, your strength amazes me. My own manor doesn’t have anyone as fierce as you, guard captain, even though I control twelve towns.” Philip smiled as he spoke, but the implicit meaning in his words was quite clear; he wanted to invite Hillman to work for him.

Hillman said coldly, “Wushan town is my home, sire.”

“Forgive me.” Philip quickly apologized.

Philip turned to look at Hogg. “Hogg, I must say, although I like this stone sculpture very much, the artisanship of this ‘Fierce Lion’ sculpture cannot be considered to be top tier, much less the masterpieces of those grandmaster sculptors.”

“Philip, if you don’t wish to buy it, then forget about it.” Hogg was quite succinct.

Philip’s eyes couldn’t help but narrow, but then he laughed. “Haha…Hogg, don’t be angry. I’m not saying that I don’t wish to buy it. I’m just telling the truth. How about this. I’ll buy this sculpture for five hundred gold coins. What do you think?”

“Five hundred?” Hogg frowned.

This price was much lower than what Hogg had hoped for. He had been hoping for at least eight hundred.

In the Yulan continent, one gold coin equaled ten silver coins equaled a thousand copper coins. The average commoner would be able to earn twenty or thirty gold coins in a year. Even the average army soldier would only earn a hundred or so gold coins.

“The price is too low.” Hogg shook his head.

“Hogg, you must know that in all the ten thousand plus years of the Yulan continent, there have been countless sculptures made. The true value of a sculpture is in terms of its artisanship. As far as the artisanship of this one….well, heh, suffice to say, I just like it. Five hundred gold really is my highest offer. If you don’t accept, then let’s just forget about it.”

Philip laughed as he turned to look at the grandfather clock in the hall. His eyes gleaming, he said, “Hogg, if you were to sell this clock, however, I would be willing to pay a thousand gold.”

Hogg’s face grew cold.

“Ahem, two thousand gold would be acceptable as well. This would be my highest offer.” Philip hurriedly said.

Hogg sternly shook his head firmly. “The grandfather clock is not for sale! As for the sculpture, six hundred gold. Take it or leave it.”

Philip carefully studied Hogg for a moment, then chuckled. “Fine, Hogg. I’ll give you some face. Six hundred gold it is. Housekeeper, bring me six hundred gold.” The caretaker for his manor, who had been waiting outside the entire time, immediately ran over with the gold.

Six sacks of yellow gold.

“Six hundred gold, Hogg. You can count it, if you want.” Philip smiled.

Hogg hefted the sacks. Just based on weight alone, Hogg was certain that there really were six hundred gold coins in them, a hundred gold per sack. Hogg smiled and nodded. “Philip, how about staying and having dinner with us?”

“No need, I still have some business back home.” Philip laughed.

Philip’s housekeeper subsequently instructed two powerfully built warriors to lift and carry away the sculpture, which they did with difficulty.

After Philip and his entourage had departed, Hogg stared at the six sacks of gold, a dim look in his eyes. This time, he sold the stone sculpture. Next time? Although the manor still had many things remaining, sooner or later, they would have nothing left.

“Father, I want to learn to be a sculptor!” Linley suddenly said.

Linley knew very well that in the Yulan continent, those famous master sculptors could produce works valued at tens of thousands of gold pieces each. Some famous sculptures could even reach a hundred thousand gold pieces. And wealth aside, the societal ranking of these sculptors was also very high.

“If I can become a master sculptor, then…then father will no longer have to sell our family possessions.” This is what Linley was thinking.

“Sculpting?” Hogg glanced at Linley, his eyes cold.

“Linley, do you know that amongst the hundreds of millions of people in the Holy Union, there are at least several million who have studied sculpting. But in the entire Holy Union, the number of true masters can be counted on one hand. In addition, if you don’t have a good instructor, you simply cannot succeed on your own.”

“The inner circle of sculptors is not one which ordinary people are allowed into. You only see the sky-high valuation of the works of the masters, but do you know that the vast majority of sculptors only make a few dozen gold coins each year?”

Hogg’s voice was very fierce.

Linley was so frightened, he immediately knelt down. Just now, he only spoke because he thought that sculpting could improve his family’s situation. He didn’t expect his father to say so much and lecture him so sternly.

“Enough. The ancestral hall needs some cleaning. After lunch, go and clean it up.” Hogg said coldly.

“Yes, father.” Linley said respectfully.

Looking at Linley, Hogg sighed in his heart. “Sculpting? Oh, child. Do you know that in the past, I also practiced sculpting? I spent ten full years of my life trying to learn. But unfortunately, my sculptures weren’t worth a single coin.” Hogg, too, had once foolishly dreamed of becoming a master sculptor and thereby improving his clan’s situation.

But in his heart, he felt very helpless. Despite spending ten years training, his sculptures were still worthless. The field of sculpting could be described as a pyramid.

Those famous master sculptors were at the top of the pyramid. They enjoyed a high status, and each sculpture they made was worth hundreds of thousands of coins.

But the valuation of the work of the countless low level sculptors at the bottom of the pyramid was soul-crushingly low. Most of their works would just be bought by commoners for just a few silver coins to use as decorations in their homes.

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