Sandy's Read Receipts
Translations, Reviews and Other Written Worlds
On the way back to Wei Residence, I sat in the carriage, a little confused.
I had assumed that the relationship between Wei Tan and Empress Xu was simply an abstract and unfulfilled one. However, after seeing the two of them meet, I realized that it was indeed real.
I wasn't able to pinpoint if their meeting bothered me or not. Wei Tan was my Husband, but he had made it clear that our marriage was a matter of convenience, and that I was free to leave as I pleased.
We had never been a truly married couple and it had all been for the sake of Empress Xu.
As I closed my eyes, a voice in my heart consoled that I had known this before, and today’s events were merely a confirmation......
At that moment, the carriage suddenly halted, jolting me forward.
Loud shouts sounded outside, and I looked out the window and asked, “What happened?”
“Furen,” Ah Yuan called, “a liquor store owner is chasing a drunk man and blocking the road.
I saw a large crowd gathered in front of a liquor store. In the center of the jostling crowd, a visibly drunk man and a liquor store owner were making a great racket. The owner seemed to be yelling at the drunken man for drinking at his store without paying.
I was about to tell Ah Yuan to take a different road when I suddenly felt that the drunk man looked familiar. I stared at him intently and realized that the tall and thin figure was Gongyang Gui.
The crowd grew and a few people started to yell for authorities to arrest the drunkard.
Without knowing what to do, I palmed a few coins out of my sleeve and asked Ah Yuan to pay the liquor store owner.
After getting his money, the owner withdrew into his shop. Gongyang Gui lay on the road, mumbling and cursing insensibly as the crowd scattered.
“Furen, what should we do?” Ah Yuan asked.
Contemplating, I ordered, “Help him up. Ah Yuan, isn't your house nearby? For the time being, take him there.”
She nodded in astonishment and directed the servants to assist the unconscious Gongyang Gui.
I soon forgot the incident after handing the issue over to Ah Yuan.
After the Imperial army was finally mobilized, Wei Jue and his sons were ready to depart Yong Capital to conquer Tan Xi.
Madam Guo said that it was unlucky to cry and that the farewell should be joyful. However, the Wei women were still full of worries, and in private, both Zhou-shi and Zhu-shi sighed long and hard.
Wei Tan didn't return to the Wei Residence, and the final time I saw him was at the send-off ceremony. Coincidentally, I was standing at the same city tower where I had last welcomed him back to the city.
On the day of the troops’ departure, the Emperor himself bestowed them wine at the Imperial Palace. Wei Jue made a powerful oath for victory at the rebuilt Xi Liu Platform outside the city. While the drums and music resounded more loudly than last time, the Wei family members’ faces looked dead without any joy. The ever talkative Wei Rong became as silent as Wei An, while Zhou-shi and Zhu-shi wept nonstop. Even Madam Guo, who had a thick layer of powder on her face, looked pale.
I watched Wei Tan gallop through the city gates, dressed in iron armor. As the Wei Clan's black banner waved wildly behind him, he never looked in the direction of the city towers.
I realized that it might be the last time I saw Wei Tan if I really left as he had suggested that day. Despite ours being a marriage of convenience, he had treated me incredibly well and I wanted to thank him for that. But as a woman, I couldn't enter the camps. I decided to wait until he returned to the Mansion to express my thanks.
Unexpectedly, he never returned and left without another word.
After Wei Jue departed North, the Wei Residence quickly regained peace.
However, the quiet highlighted the family's tensions and worries. Madam Guo worshipped the gods every day and made offerings at temples and shrines every two or three days.
In contrast, Li Shang's business proceeded so smoothly that it made my heart sing. Before the Imperial Court could seize the meat for the troops' use, he managed to buy large quantities of it. He dried the meat into jerky and stocked it safely. After the soldiers left, the meat supply in the markets slumped and prices increased tenfold due to the demand. Li Shang's stocks became a rare commodity. Careful not to create a hubbub, he distributed the jerky to several butchers in the city, traded it for cash, and emptied his stock overnight.
Li Shang handled the matter excellently. The Imperial Court was keen on stabilizing the citizens' confidence during war times, and thus, they strictly controlled all businesses in Yong Capital. Many butchers were fined by the Court for hoarding supplies and raising prices. Besides escaping punishment, Li Shang made a net profit of 50,000 to 60,000 yuan with his timely actions.
To celebrate this fortune, I seized the first opportunity to go out of the Residence and visited Li Shang's house.
After reviewing the accounts, as agreed earlier, I split 30% of the profits with Li Shang. Everyone was full of joy, and Li Shang's face was rosy and energetic despite his recent hard work.
The Imperial Court had monopolized the Yong Capital markets to fund the armies, making it difficult to do big business recently. I smiled and praised Li Shang, “The Steward has toiled hard, so you should take care of yourself for a while.”
Li Shang smiled in return and said, “I'm used to working, so when I stop, I feel empty. And although the markets and the city are empty, it’s not like there’s nothing to do.”
“Oh?” I was stunned.
He explained, “Furen, do you remember the clothing material that we had discussed earlier? Last month, a mercer was moving out of the city and thus, he was reselling dozens of linen pieces at a low price. I had bought the linen because I felt that it was a good deal. While it's past mid-summer here, summer heat will last for a few more months in the South. There has always been a great demand for Yong Province’s linen in the South. So, I thought I could ship the material and sell it there.”
I frowned slightly at his words.
I asked, “The South? With the world in turmoil, the roads from Yong Province are unpredictable and dangerous. I am afraid it’s inappropriate to do this."
He replied, “Furen, don't worry. This linen didn’t cost much, so even if we lose it while shipping, it won't be a huge loss.” He added, “I need to do another important thing on this Southern trip,” and pulled out a bundle from his pocket. He unwrapped it layer by layer and revealed a deep brown and bright item.
“Ling Zhi?” I asked, recognizing it.
“Exactly,” he answered. “This is from Wu Di, where years of war have affected the precious herbs market. Currently, the land there is rich in precious herbs. Medicine merchants are anxious to dig up the soil and take control of the resources.”
I began to understand.
Chang An used to be the leading capital in the whole world and a symbol of extravagance. Besides consuming precious herbs, wealthy noblemen would even eat gold pills and Five Minerals Powder for long life. Although my Father never allowed our family to consume the pills introduced by folklorists, he was very much in favor of drinking nourishing soups to maintain our health. Even if no one in the family was sick, tonic soups made with precious herbs were a staple in our diet.
As far as I could remember, many people in Chang An made a fortune from herbs. Most of these expensive herbs came from the South. However, since the wars, the roads from various regions have been blocked. The drug markets naturally plummeted with the difficulties in transporting merchandise from the South. In the past, the Ling Zhi that Li Shang found would only be regarded as a medium-quality product. However, it was considered rare now.
“Furen, I have analyzed the drug market’s pros and cons. Nowadays, for all illnesses and medicinal tonics in Yong Province, herbs are taken from the surrounding mountains. The piecemeal and tedious approach is not profitable for merchants. I once heard a doctor complain that 5 out of 10 herbs that are used in prescriptions are produced only in the South. They have no choice but to substitute them with other inferior herbs. Further, many rich families in Yong Province are demanding precious herb tonics, despite not being seriously ill. But, their demand is only met by some common things in the traditional drug markets. Furen, I believe it would be a good investment to reopen the Southern trade routes.“
I was tempted, but still shook my head, “This business sounds good, but there are many checkpoints and countless bandits on the Southern roads. How will the Steward deal with them? Money can be made at a slow and steady pace, and we don't need to take unnecessary risks.”
Li Shang smiled, “I too worried that it might be risky. But since Furen sent a nobleman, I think this trade has become more feasible.”
“Nobleman?” I was puzzled.
“Furen, do you remember Gongyang Gui?” Ah Huan spoke up from the side, “Young Master Gongyang is that nobleman.”
Gongyang Gui was acquainted with Li Shang from our former days in Chang An. After he had sobered up at Li Shang's house last time, he had stayed for a few days. When he had heard that Li Shang wanted to go to Wu Di, he had immediately volunteered to escort him. He assured Li Shang that all he needed was a boat to sail on the Yangtze River, they could travel to Yang Province without any obstacles.
I listened to Li Shang's words but wasn't fully convinced. First, I didn’t know whether Gongyang Gui was reliable; and second, I was unwilling to take such a big risk when Li Shang had barely recovered from his serious illness.
We discussed this matter for several days with no end. But Li Shang's determination was stronger than I had expected, and he seemed to be very confident about returning to his old job.
I subtly asked Ruo Chan about Gongyang Gui’s experience. She told me that he had traveled alone from Yong Province to Wu Di years ago. And that he had been heroic, courageous and had become acquainted with many powerful tycoons along the way.
“Why do you ask? Is Ah Jin interested in him?” Ruo Chan asked me with a glance as she applied rogue on her eyes.
Embarrassed, I hurriedly deflected, “No, I was just asking casually......”.
However, Ruo Chan laughed, “He bragged to me yesterday that he was going to go to Wu Di with Steward Li.”
I was speechless. I looked at her sly and beautiful eyes, realized that she knew everything, and was simply playing a trick on me.
“Young Master Gongyang admired knights-errant and loved to meet heroes,” Ruo Chan spoke as she traced her eyebrows. She continued, “In the past, everyone used to think that it was just the rebellious acts of a young and untamed man. But in this chaotic world, it has become a remarkable trait.”
I nodded as I watched her paint her lips in bright colors. After a while, I asked, “How are you and he now?
“Well?” Ruo Chan looked at me in the mirror and drawled, “What how? He doesn't want to return home. He came back to me from Steward Li's house a few days ago, and is full of thoughts of leaving.” She forced a smile and sighed, “Men are like that. When they want to find you, they are hot and bothered. But when you want to keep them around, they don't know what to do anymore.”
After much rumination, I agreed to Li Shang's trip to Wu Di.
In the first weeks of July, I informed Madam Guo and departed on my trip to visit my ancestral land in Huainan. However, the main purpose of the trip was to see Li Shang off. With the Wei Clan's soldiers’ escort, I didn't have to worry about safety until I left Yong Province.
As for Wei Tan's words that night, I didn't think of them anymore.
The word “leave” was still far in the future. Regardless of where I went, it would be like cutting off a part of my flesh if I were to just leave my thriving businesses behind in Yong Capital.
Wei Tan was too simple-minded.
SANDY'S READ RECEIPTS
Beginning as an avid reader, I am translating novels with the help of machine translation and online dictionaries.
SUPPORT ME ON KO-FI
If you are enjoying my work and translations, consider donating to help run the website! Thank you for your support!
SUBSCRIBE FOR NEW CHAPTERS