Chapter Sixteen A Busy Autumn
Zhangsun Qianxue, who watched Ding Ning throwing the bowl casually into the water basin and was pouring the new wine into small jars, frowned. She said, displeased, “You are troubled by gang conflicts like this?”
Ding Ning knew, of course, that Zhangsun Qianxue with her senses would have heard the conversation between him and that person. He frowned as well and said, “This is not an ordinary gangster matter. Two Level Tower only possesses a small part of the rental business in the south of the city, but I heard they have many of the secret alleys, pleasure houses and casinos. They have been in business for a dozen years, and their foundation is strong. I have not paid any attention to Jinlintang before. On the surface, they only seem to do a few horse gang and transport businesses. They have suddenly come out to steal Two Level Tower’s business. I don’t know what has happened in secret.”
“So what?” Zhangsun Qianxue looked coldly at him and said, “Regardless of whether it is Two Level Tower or Jinlintang, they are all dogs of the important people from court. It is just some parties in the court who are re-dividing the profits.”
“That may be true in other places, but the capitals of dynasties are not so simple.” Ding Ning knew what she thought.
He shook his head gently and explained patiently, “The scale of the capitals of each dynasty is much larger than other major cities. Take Changling for example. Even back in the previous dynasty, it has a population of several hundred thousand. After destroying the Han, Zhao, and Wei, many children and women were forced into Changling as slaves. Migration is also unrestricted. Up to today, the population has most likely doubled, while not even including the travellers and merchant caravans from different countries. This is just in the span of a few decades. The forces of the rich and powerful families of the previous dynasties have collapsed yet. Even the marquessate establishments of present will chose to ally with those influential families, taking their daughters as wives and concubines in order to get more power. Changling is truly too complicated, the network is so interwoven no one can control it all, not even Minister Yan and Minister Li. Otherwise, based on their abilities and ways of thinking, Changling will not have so many sects left. At most, some sects will be left in order to work for them.
“It hasn’t been long enough, and the court has too many matters to take care off. They also had to care for their own reputations. Changling’s rivers and wells contain many serpents. If they want to fight with other dynasties, these serpents will make the effort. But if one really wants to make these serpents bow, they may end up cutting off their own arms and end up unable to keep their place in court.”
Pausing, Ding Ning then said, “The capitals of other dynasties are about the same. The dynasties have been established for a long time, the emperors have too many sons. They cannot take back the titled lands from the nobles. The influential families and the marquesses even have the power to sway the decisions inside the imperial palace. Which imperial son able to succeed the throne, which woman can become the empress, this all depends on which family has the upper hand at that time.”
Zhangsun Qianxue understood what Ding Ning meant. Also, these words made her think about her own matters. Her face slowly turned cold.
At this time, Ding Ning did not notice her expression. He thought of the hunchback old person with the black bamboo staff in Fish Market. He thought of the price that had been paid many years ago in order for the influential and noble families to make concessions so the Qin Dynasty would become different from every other dynasty. His mood became more solemn and he unconsciously lowered his head.
“Just like you say, if the city gangs are just dogs of certain people, there will be less fatalities. However, most of the sects in Changling are only giving benefits to the important people, they are using each other. I fear some important person having ambition and trying to manipulate things from the shadows in order to reorganize the state of some places. This would become bloody. I do not know how many will die.
“I am not afraid of killing, but of extra trouble. If it is too chaotic, I will need to spend great effort to understand. Right now, we cannot even expose our status as cultivators. I have not even reached realm three. If I am dragged in, I do not know what the consequences will be.” As Ding Ning said this with a lowered head, he was worrying whether the hunched-back old man with the black bamboo staff and the person behind him would be dragged into this storm.
Zhangsun Qianxue’s eyes were cold. She had no interest in what Ding Ning said, because to her, this was all Ding Ning’s business; whether his plan was disrupted, his cultivation too weak, or if he was unable to reach his aims.
She only had one matter to do in Changling: surpass all the cultivators ahead of her.
She only needed to consider her sword, and her cultivation. She could even not leave this wine shop at all. She was the simplest.
She had always been the simplest.
That yellow-robed advisor, Xu Nian, spoke correctly. While they were not interested in making wine, Zhangsun Qianxue and Ding Ning’s wine shop was the shop with the best business in Falling Parasol.
Near noon, the chairs and tables in the wine shop were almost completely filled. Most of the people came with food and dishes to match the wine.
Ding Ning dozed off against the counter as his ears perceptively caught every word in the air.
A light carriage drove into Falling Parasol Alley and stopped under the blue wine banner. The passenger in the carriage nimbly jumped off and walked into the doors of the wine shop.
This was a youth dressed in a purple satin coat. His clean and bright black hair was tied up in a bun at the top of his head using two blue ribbons.
Only foreigners to Changling would do this.
The Qin people in Changling would keep their hair loose or pull their hair together behind their heads. Even the nobility would just use a jade hoop to hold the loose hair or use jade hairpins to coil their hair up.
This foreigner picked a table with an empty spot to sit, and shouted at Ding Ning whose chin was on the counter, “Busboy, wine.”
All the guests in the shop glanced at him and smiled maliciously.
Ding Ning raised his head and lazily shouted, “If you want wine, come get it yourself. Shop rules.”
So arrogant but business was so good. The wine of this little wine shop was this good?
This youth dressed in purple satin robes stilled. Then he realized why all the surrounding customers looked at him as though they were looking at a block of wood.
He stood up with slight anger and walked in front of Ding Ning.
“A pot for twenty copper coins. Salted peanuts for five copper coins for a plate.” Before he spoke, Ding Ning pointed at the wine pots and plates of peanuts on the counter and motioned for him to serve himself.
The youth’s brow furrowed slightly. He could not say anything. He threw down twenty copper coins and only took a pot of wine.
When he returned to his own table, this youth looked very spirited as he went to drink the wine. He did not sip slowly like the ordinary guests. He took off the lid, and poured directly into his mouth.
In the next moment, this youth’s expression became extremely ugly. His throat seemed to be gripped by someone. Phaugh. He threw up the wine which had reached his throat.
“So sour, like you just mixed water with rotting glutinous rice, can this be considered wine!”
He looked towards the cups of the surrounding guests and then into his own pot. He was so angered even his fingers started to tremble. He couldn’t help but shout, “You did not even filter away the spent grains, can this even be called wine! And so famous?”
Looking at his indignation, the surrounding guests looked at each other. They knew this person must truly love wine. In unison, disdainful looks appeared on their faces.
So you actually came to this wine shop to taste the wine?
Are you stupid?
As this foreigner shouted, Ding Ning’s expression remained calm. He nodded seriously and answered, “This shop’s wine is always this taste.”
The youth smashed the wine pot on the ground. He clearly was extremely angry and shouted again, “Can this be considered wine!”
“If not wine, then what?”
“The wine of the Qin is all like this. If you can drink it, drink, if you cannot, it is your problem.”
“You are Chu and you dare to rampage through Changling?”
The people of Changling had no good feelings towards foreigners, and this foreigner clearly had a Chu accent. He should not be a Qin person. Accompanied by the sound of heavy fits hitting the table, more than half of the people in the shop stood up.
“So what if I am Chu?”
This youth looked at the surrounding figures, a disdainful yet proud expression appearing at his face. “Hasn’t your Yang Mountain Commandery been given to my dynasty?”
As he said this, the shop quieted. The eyes of all the customers turned red.
This was not just a verbal fight.
In the third year of Yuanwu, the Qin Dynasty, which had destroyed the Zhao, Wei and Han dynasties had a great war against the Chu Dynasty. In that war, two hundred thousand of the Qin army had been killed. They lost countless chariots, and suffered great losses to the point they had to give up land for peace.
Up until now, they were still unable to recover the Yang Mountain Commandery.
The Chu Dynasty only sent an unfavored prince to be left at Changling as hostage, according to the agreement of the time.
A unfavored son with only six hundred square miles of land in exchange for six hundred square miles of fertile land and tens of thousands of Qin people. This matter was a humiliation for all of Qin.
As the drunkenness started to turn into murderousness, and blood would possibly start falling onto the floor, a cold voice suddenly burst into the wine ship. “Fighting and war is the matter of the soldiers and the cultivators. If you do not drink wine and want to discuss matters with people, then go out, and do not make a fuss in my place.”
The curtain towards the inner courtyard opened and Zhangsun Qianxue walked out, her expression hostile and icy.
All of the fire and murderousness in the eyes of the customers turned into heat.
The first people who stood up sat down with guilty smiles.
The youth also turned into stone.
He had never expected meeting such a beautiful person in a wine shop like this.
Looking at Zhangsun Qianxue’s enchanting features, his breathing turned irregular. He finally understood why so many customers would come to this wine shop to drink.
Wine had to warm people’s hearts.
Wine which could warm people’s heart was good wine.
While the wine of this wine shop was so sour and displeasing, when one looked at her, the heart was not the only thing warmed. These ordinary common men would feel heated all over for a long time.
“This is a beauty that rivals a commandery … …”
In this moment, this foreign youth was in a daze. Filled with heat, he wanted to ask the name of this woman.
“Hey, you have to pay for the broken pot.”
However, at this moment, Ding Ning raised his head and said lazily at him, “Also, before you leave, clean up the pieces on the ground so other people will not injure themselves.”
Historical note: The Qin had 34 commanderies in total. So giving up one commandery was akin to the a country giving up a state or province.
Translator Ramblings: Salted peanuts in this case are the boiled kind. Ding Ning’s explanation of Changling politics is long but the basics are 1) Changling has a lot of people and power, 2) Changling is new compared to other capitals with already entrenched factions, 3) the old powerful families and the new ennobled families all want to use this opportunity to get more power here and 4) gangs are a way of gaining control locally but some gangs do not want to work for others.