Dou was a type of unit of measurement. One dou was equivalent to six catties. Half a dou was equivalent to three catties, which was around three taels of silver.
One tael of silver for one catty of salt was indeed expensive. It was equivalent to many commoners' one month's salary.
He remembered a nutritionist on Earth once said that a person should have a daily intake of 5 grams of salt. That would be equivalent to 3 taels of salt every month. A family of three would need around one catty of salt every month. This was very affordable for Earthlings but extremely expensive for Dayao people.
Even the cook at the beast park used salt sparingly while cooking. That was because meat was the main source of food in Dayao. Firstly, the price of salt was very high. Secondly, they could not eat too much salt.
From the meals that Ren Baqian ate in the beast part, he roughly gauged the salt content in Dayao's food to be at most half of Earthlings'. This showed how sparingly Dayao people used the resource of salt.
An ordinary Dayao family of three could barely afford half a catty of salt. Nevertheless, the salt monopoly by the foreign merchants still played an extremely huge role in causing their misery.
This wasn't the first time that the situation now taking place in the shop happened, and it wouldn't be the last time either.
Humans had to consume salt. However, since Dayao did not produce salt, Dayao people were helpless against those salt merchants.
Similarly, Dayao people did not know how to tan furs and hides. If they could not sell them off in time, they would rot very soon.
The combination of these factors created some sort of tacit understanding among the foreign merchants. The prices they had set for hides, furs, and salt were unanimous. This way, they could maximize the profits that they earned.
Standing outside the shop, Ren Baqian looked at the commotion inside and shook his head. This was one of the consequences of a country lacking in resources and technologies.
"Let's go," Ren Baqian ordered.
Together with Teng Hulu and Tie Dao, he visited his rented shop. Upon seeing that its interior was still incomplete, they left and went to Chen Medicinal Shop.
For the past few days, Chen Zisheng had been waiting anxiously for Ren Baqian. He did not understand a single word in the any of the three books. This made him utterly anxious.
When he saw Ren Baqian, his eyes lit up and he said, "Mr. Ren, you have finally come. I have been waiting for you every day."
"I have already promised you, so I will definitely come and translate the books for you," Ren Baqian said as he chuckled.
After attending to the patient on hand, he let his disciple take his place and pulled Ren Baqian into his room. Then, he carefully took out the three books from a box.
Ren Baqian picked up Typhoid and Diseases and asked Chen Zisheng to prepare a writing brush and a piece of paper.
As Ren Baqian began to speak, Chen Zisheng's hand scribbled rapidly on the paper like a chicken foot. One could even see afterimages appearing on the paper.
Ren Baqian could not help but respect Chen Zisheng after witnessing his writing speed. When he saw Chen Zisheng's words, he respected him even more.
He reckoned that even a cryptographer would be unable to decode what he was writing.
After reading for roughly two hours, Ren Baqian felt hungry. It wasn't easy for him to make a trip here as he wasn't always free. When he saw that Chen Zisheng did not have any intention of taking a break, he kept on drinking water. Drinking more water now could at least ease his hunger.
After another hour, when Ren Baqian saw Chen Zisheng's dazed eyes and his body drenched in sweat, he had no choice but to stop.
If transcribing these books really tired Chen Zisheng out, Rem Baqian felt that he had committed a huge sin.
After Ren Baqian stopped, Chen Zisheng threw his writing brush away. His hand was trembling like a chicken foot.
"I'm goddamn tired," Chen Zisheng yelled as he picked up a cup of water and gulped it.
Raising his head, Chen Zisheng finished drinking the cup of water. His right hand was still twitching, looking as though it was spasming. However, he still did not forget to ask, "How many pages are left?"
"I think we'll still need to repeat this process for another eight times," Ren Baqian answered after looking at the thickness of the book.
Flicking his wrist, Chen Zisheng clenched his teeth and said, "I will ask my disciple to come in and transcribe for me."
"Forget it, I still have something to do, I will come again another day," Ren Baqian interrupted.
When Chen Zisheng heard these words, he looked as though a huge burden had been lifted off of him. He heaved a sigh of relief and replied, "That's fine, that's fine."
It seemed like the last one hour of transcription had worn him out thoroughly.
Ren Baqian felt if he was the one that was doing the transcription for three hours, his hand would tremble much more than Chen Zisheng's.
He awakened Teng Hulu and Tie Dao, who had fallen asleep, led them out of Chen Medicinal Shop, and proceeded to the blacksmith shop. After walking a few steps away from the medicinal shop, they heard someone speaking in an indignant tone, "The half of dou of salt that we exchanged for those animal hides is enough to last the stronghold only for a few days. Why don't we just rob their stores at night?"
When Ren Baqian heard this voice, he was overjoyed. He could not believe they met again. They were indeed brought together by fate.
When he turned around, he saw Na Gu and the big man standing to one side. Na Gu had a furious look on her face. Her lips were pouting so much that a soy sauce bottle could be hung on them.
"Don't talk nonsense. Go back and see if we can hunt more preys these few days," the big man that was holding a bag chided Na Gu. The bag should contain the salt that both of them had exchanged for with their animal hides.
"It's a pity the salt water in the mountain is undrinkable, otherwise why would we still need to buy salt from these people?"
"How is that salt water? That is poisonous water, even animals don't dare to drink from it. In the past, there were people that drank from it before. Even though it tastes salty, it will also cause one to develop sores, puke, faint, and even die. If you want me to drink from that, I'd rather go and rob these people's stores at night."
Initially, Ren Baqian wanted to walk past the two persons, but when he heard these words, he immediately stopped in his tracks.
"Hello!" Ren Baqian turned around and cupped his hands.
"Who're you?" The huge man stared at him fiercely.
"Ahh… You are that guy…" Na Gu finally recognized Ren Baqian.
"I heard both of you talking about salt water just now, I wonder what is it about?" Ren Baqian asked.
When the huge man heard his words, he snorted and ignored him. Just now, he had already been utterly angered by those few merchants. At this point in time, he did not have the patience to entertain anyone.
"I am not from the Yun Nation, the Chen Nation or Great Xia. Right now, I am working at the beast park. What happened between you both and the merchants has nothing to do with me. Logically speaking, I am now considered a citizen of Dayao," Ren Baqian smiled and said when he saw their attitudes. He was not interested in knowing the whole story.
"He is one of the caretakers of the beast park," Tie Dao interjected from behind.
The beast park was a subsidiary of the imperial palace. When the pair heard Ren Baqian was working in the beast park, their facial expressions changed for the better. After sizing up Ren Baqian, the huge man said, "Why do you ask about the salt water? Someone has already tried to do something with it, but it still remains undrinkable. Even the wild animals in the mountain don't dare to drink it."
"If it's poisonous, then it's indeed undrinkable. But if we purify it and remove the toxin from it, neither of you will need to worry about the availability of salt anymore," Ren Baqian explained.
"It's impossible," the big man interjected.
"Don't waste your time, someone has tried doing that before," Na Gu added. Her attitude towards Ren Baqian, however, was better than the huge man's. It might be because she had met Ren Baqian before, as such, she wasn't unfamiliar with him.
"Can you tell me the situation with the salt water first so that I can know what's going on?" Ren Baqian asked.
"The water comes from pool in the mountain. The water is salty, bitter, and smelly. We call it the Black Pool," Na Gu said.
"The water is black in color? Does it smell of rotten eggs?" Ren Baqian quickly asked.
Na Gu nodded her head and replied, "It's black and murky, and nothing grows in its surroundings. Yes, it indeed smells of rotten eggs."