Tong’an City, Northeast Plains, Daqi.
Daqi had twenty-three prefectures in total, divided into two hundred and eight districts. Tong’an City was known as the ‘money bag’ of the Northeast Plains.
To the east of Tong’an City was the Jing’an River, a major transport hub; to the west was the major settlement Cheng’an City; to the north was the North Yizhu tribe; to the south was the Su prefecture. Tong’an was situated on the western region of the An prefecture, one could say that it was well-connected in all directions and had great transportation routes on land and water. It was an important military point and transport hub.
Although this Northeastern region had harsh, cold weather, its unique geographical location made it financially prosperous. The six major trading families, including the Zhou family, controlled Tong’an and so the locals placed emphasis on peace and fortune, a stark contrast from Cheng’an City’s climate due to the importance of peace here. Years ago, when the founder brought his army to the city, he had not come within a hundred fifty kilometres when Tong’an City immediately surrendered. This was not the expected response of the area’s top trading hub.
On the map, Tong’an City had a long, slender territory that looked like a curling snake. That was why the northerners loved to call the characteristically soft locals ‘snakes’ because they had soft spines.
Li Chengfeng knew someone would try to kill them along the way so he first went to Cheng’an City to hire the Ocean Sand Gang. They were tasked to be the decoys while Chengfeng took a long, obscure route to Tong’an City.
Jing’an Transportation River was a busy place, many ships competing to get through all the time. There was an endless line of ships waiting to pass inspection before even entering the main river.
Chengfeng lounged on the deck lazily, admiring this scene unique to the north.
“They say Tong’an is the money bag of the north…” Chengfeng sighed. “Looks like they’re right!”
Taking off his Spiritual Mountain cultivator robes, Zhao Xiaobao put on a casual attire. He looked worried, his eyebrows knitted as he asked, “Young Master, aren’t you worried?”
He turned to look at Ouyang Nan, Su You and the rest playing a drinking game in the cabin, having great fun.
Chengfeng smiled. “Worried about what?”
Zhao Xiaobao replied with panic, “We’re so late, it’s been seven days!”
Chengfeng reached out to grab a twirling snowflake, then watched the crystal-clear snowflake melt in his palm and grinned, “Lateness does not affect a tasty meal! Plus, the only ones who should be panicking are the Zhou family members.”
Xiaobao asked in confusion, “What do you mean?”
Chengfeng chuckled. “They’re businessmen while… no matter how dumb we are, we’re still cultivators! Cultivators rank first, scholars second, warriors third… do you know where businessmen rank in this society?”
“But aren’t you afraid that the Ocean Sand Gang would use Hidden Sword Court robes to swindle and cheat people in the future?”
Chengfeng snickered, “They would not dare!”
Zhao Xiaobao said in a low voice, “But if we actually make it back… what will we do if Grand Senior Brother starts asking questions?”
“Why are you so worried? How many people are there in our court? While we don’t have much of anything else, all we have is a pile of cultivator robes! Do you think they’ll make a big deal out of a few missing robes?”
Xiaobao gradually relaxed and complained, “Why is the queue so long?”
Chengfeng patted the deck impatiently, “Yeah, it’s been four hours. What are they doing in front?”
A sailor on the boat next to them heard Chengfeng and could not help but laugh. “Brother, this must be your first time to Tong’an!”
Chengfeng paused, then turned to greet a sailor on a trading boat about four metres away. “Yeah, please tell me what is happening!”
“It was the Tong’an City Beauty Pageant yesterday, the Eldest Young Master of the Zhou family sent the champion thirty baskets of flowers. They’re celebrating her win today on the streets!”
Chengfeng laughed, “It’s not like she passed the scholar’s examination, must they take this to the streets?!”
The sailor grinned, “Isn’t that about the same?”
“What has this got to do with the long queue at the port?”
The sailor gave an exasperated smile. “His floats literally pass through the river, then the streets.”
Chengfeng smiled and gave a martial artist’s greeting. He turned to whisper to Zhao Xiaobao, “Looks like Zhou Qingyang’s previous lesson wasn’t effective! How long ago was that again? And he’s already out with his nonsense!”
Zhao Xiaobao looked at him frantically, “Young Master, let’s let Zhou Qingyang go this time.”
Chengfeng stared at him out the corner of his eye. “You’re smart!”
They made small talk and waited another hour when the line finally moved. Two hours later, in the afternoon, Li Chengfeng and his party finally entered the city.
The moment they set foot on land, they were greeted with a wave of fishy smells. Fishermen dragging nets filled with fish could be seen everywhere, as well as harbour labourers moving goods as orderly as ants.
Chengfeng gagged and covered his nose from the breeze that brought the pungent smell of fish and sweat.
Only foreigners would be so affected by the smells at the port so they instantly became targeted by thieves.
A thief approached Chengfeng, then borrowed the cover of the crowd to bump into Chengfeng. Unfortunately, he did not get anything. After a few steps away, he spat in Chengfeng direction, “Hmmph, I thought that was a fat goat but this one is just bones! Such an unlucky day…”
He was still cursing when he noticed something was off and felt for his coin pouch. What he found left him stunned. “Oh my goodness, my money is missing! I think I met the god of thieves!”
Chengfeng toyed with a somewhat empty money pouch in his hand, a half-smile on his face. “Hmmph, how dare you try to steal from me? I’ll rob you blind!”
Xiaobao laughed, “How stupid of them to steal from my Young Master! Don’t they know he’d already started stealing through the streets of Cheng’an at twelve?”
Chengfeng feigned anger, “Ptui, that’s not me! I was just stealing a little!”
“That is still stealing!”
They joked around while Su You and the rest eyed Tong’an City curiously.
The streets grew busier and more prosperous as they entered the city, stalls lining both sides of the street. The place was crowded with tourists and locals and far away, cheers and clapping as loud as thunder could be heard.
Chengfeng and the rest looked around curiously amidst the crowd. Seeing as everyone seemed to be squeezing in a certain direction, he patted on a shoulder in front. “Hi brother, may I ask what is happening in front? Why is everyone going there?”
The man turned to reply, “Ah, the Zhou family wanted to marry their daughter off to the Young Master of the Profound Life Sect but she refused to listen. In a rage, she announced that she would hold a martial arts competition to look for her next partner, so they’re fighting now!”
Chengfeng was ecstatic. This made his work much more convenient!
Tianjun behind him laughed, “Junior Brother Chengfeng, why don’t you marry this girl? The debt will settle itself once you become their son-in-law! And our work would be done here!”
Everyone laughed heartily, especially Ouyang Nan who clapped, “Yeah, Junior Chengfeng! You’ll return with a pretty lady while we return with the glory of completing the assignment! It’s the best-case scenario!
Chengfeng chuckled, “I think I’ll give this opportunity away to my seniors instead!’
As they spoke, they squeezed forward amidst the crowd and quickly reached the sparring stage. Coincidentally, a person flew off the stage and fell in front of Chengfeng’s feet, sputtering a mouthful of blood that stained Chengfeng’s shoes red.