Chapter Five: Prospects
Ling Qingyu breathed in deeply and out slowly.
She had seen the painting "Along the River During the Qingming Festival" and dreamed about the reality it depicted. But, she was still shocked by the scene in front of her.
Along the edge of the Qiantang River, there was a busy wharf. Ships sailed into the wharf one after another. On the dock, footmen unloaded goods continuously. There were also street vendors selling food and groceries. From the wharf, there was a neighborhood with rows of houses like fish scales. There were tea houses, wine shops, motels, and butcher shops. Also shops full of silk, jewelry, spices, fireworks and paper horses. There were also specialty stores such as clinics, cart repairs, fortune-telling, and cosmetics. Everything was there. The streets were full of pedestrians shoulder-to-shoulder in endless streams.
Ling Qingyu had already figured out this place and time. This should be a parallel world to her own. Its history deviated from her world at the end of the Tang Dynasty. Zhao Kuangyin did not become the emperor, but a duke. Instead, the founding emperor of the dynasty is Chai Rong. Wars were fought continuously for two generations, lasting around thirty years before the the south was united and a peace treaty signed with the Liao empire. With sixty years of peace and prosperity, the seas were opened for trade and restrictions on industries lifted. The Zhou Dynasty's economy boomed.
Ling Qingyu compared this history to what she knew of her own world. This place is basically the North Song Dynasty with some differences. In her world's North Song, the emperor, Zhao Kuangyin, had emphasized literature over martial arts. The following emperors were less reliable. In this Zhou Dynasty, generals are still highly respected, but the emperors have been less reliable. The North Song emperor loved literature, yet these Zhou emperors love luxury goods, especially the current Xiwen Emperor. He loves jewelry and spices. The palace is renovated every year; requiring the best woods and countless numbers of gold, silver, and jade decorations. His lavish spending depleted the treasury. To remediate his loses, he expanded maritime trade. Before this, one required a license from the government before being able to sail and trade across the sea. But now, all one needs is a set amount of cash to obtain a license. The only requirement is that no matter what type of ship, when it returns from trading overseas, it must submit a certain amount of treasures. With this, seafaring was popularized and the ports became extremely prosperous.
However, Ling Qingyu couldn't have imagined it was this prosperous.
Thinking about what she heard on the road, the north had been suffering from a drought and the south from flooding. These years have been so full of natural disasters that there were refugees everywhere. Yet, this port was still so lively.
"Miss, miss," called Zheng Xi. Ling Qingyu woke from her daze and smiled at herself. This Zhou Dynasty already has countless problems and they did not arise in a short period. The most important thing for her now is to gather strength so she can obtain her revenge.
Zheng Xi arrived in front of Ling Qingyu and wiped his sweat. "I asked around and found that there is a ship sailing to Quan Province today. Originally, a wealthy family had reserved the entire ship, but after hearing that you are a girl, the madam made a kind gesture and allowed us to travel with them."
Ling Qingyu nodded. Zheng Xi is Zheng-mama's son. After leaving, she learned that Zheng-mama was her mother's dowry maid. Mother had long since paid out the family's contact. The elder son, Zheng Dong, managed her mother's shop. The younger son followed her father as a courier in the shipping business. A year ago, her father tasked Zheng Xi with carrying a letter to Wu County. Luckily, this allowed him to escape the disaster.
After Ling Qingyu buried her parents, she bid Zheng-mama and Lu Xiu to stay in Wu County. One reason is to continue managing the two shops she left with Zheng Dong. Another is to monitor the Lin and Wu families. She only brought Zheng Xi on her trip to the Quan Province in order to retrieve her father's ship, the Aeolus.
Ling Qingyu patted her chest. When she opened her mother's dressing box, she had found bills worth tens of thousands of silver. Ling Qingyu carried this cash in a small pouch in front of her chest. Leaving the Wu County, she brought nothing else but these bills and the handkerchief her mother held when she died.
The passenger ship heading to the Quan Province was a medium sized vessel. After stepping aboard, Zheng Xi left with the sailors for the sailor's quarters. Meanwhile, a female servant wearing a yellow-colored outfit lead Ling Qingyu to a small room in the back of the ship. "I will have to trouble miss to share with us."
"Thank you older sister." Ling Qingyu smiled and bowed deeply. She wore a cyan-blue dress. Instead of trendy hair decorations, she wore her long hair in a ponytail with a white flower at the base. She looked tall. Although plump, she presented an image of health and cleanliness. Even her smile carried an feeling of honesty that made her likeable."
The servant girl had a favorable impression and said a few more words, "Our lady is very kind. She heard from Wang Chengjia that your servant was looking for a ship and that you are an orphan girl who established her own household. She took compassion on you. Otherwise, a normal person would never be allowed on our Fan family's ship."
Ling Qingyu did not know about this Fan family's influence, so she smiled and said, "It is only thanks to the lady's kindness. Older sister, please convey my gratitude to the lady. If possible, this girl would like to kowtow to the lady as thanks."
"There is no need for that. Not everyone who wants to meet my lady can do so."
"I see. Then I will have to trouble older sister to convey this girl's mind." Ling Qingyu pulled the servant girl's hand over and deposited a silver ingot.
The servant girl weighed it and estimated that it was around one to two liang. She laughed with happiness and responded, "Please rest here in comfort. Our ship is fast, so we should arrive in Quan Province in only a few days."
Ling Qingyu bowed again and escorted the servant girl out of the room before relaxing. Immediately after, she began planning her actions in Quan Province.
(To be continued in part 2…)