Tongshan City was located on the southern bank of the Qing River. This section of the river was relatively calm, making it convenient for navigation. It had always been an important ferry crossing for people to cross the river. Over time, it developed into a significant port for north-south trade. The next major port was a hundred miles away.
Taking advantage of its convenient transportation location and the vast business opportunities brought by traveling merchants and external information, Tongshan City experienced rapid development and became a bustling and prosperous place, much larger than an ordinary county. The streets were filled with bustling crowds, countless shops lined the streets, and there was a constant flow of carriages and pedestrians.
The previous night, Yu Qingze had a conversation with Grandpa Chang, during which he learned about Tongshan City. He discovered that the city remained prosperous because it had been relatively unaffected by the turmoil of war, thanks to the efforts of a young county magistrate at the time, Cai Wendong, who now served as the Governor of Yunzhou.
During the war, which was primarily initiated in the northern regions but gradually spread southward, there was a tendency for the conflict to extend across the Qing River. At that time, Cai Wendong, the county magistrate of Tongshan, made a decisive move. He ordered the closure of the port and implemented strict controls on entry and exit from the city. As the war continued to spread to the northern bank of the Qing River, a large number of refugees fled, seeking ways to cross the river and escape to the south.
Cai Wendong did not allow the refugees into the city but established a refugee camp outside the city walls to temporarily accommodate and centrally manage them. This prevented them from roaming around and causing disturbances among the nearby residents. Additionally, he distributed food supplies from the government’s granaries to help them in their time of need. However, despite these efforts, some refugees still scattered to various places, although fortunately, it did not lead to major upheaval.
Fortunately, six months later, the war came to an end, and Dasheng Dynasty was established. The imperial court promptly issued decrees to settle and repatriate the refugees across the country, enabling them to successfully overcome the period of turmoil.
This is how Tongshan City maintains its current prosperity, just like in the past.
Accompanied by the brothers Chang Le and Chang Hao, Yu Qingze observed their surroundings as they walked. They entered the city through the West Gate, traversed two small alleys midway along West Street, and arrived at a designated market area.
This place was the official designated vegetable market where vegetables, fruits, poultry, meat, fish, and other goods were concentrated. There were also some other shops and street vendors. Another similar centralized market was located in the eastern area. Selling vegetables in any other location was not permitted, but other street vendors were allowed to move around.
Arriving at a shelter at the intersection, Chang Le paid two coins to the market’s steward, and the steward stamped his arm with today’s date to indicate that he had paid the fee. Then they entered the market.
Translated on ho lo lo novels dot com.
Yu Qingze was pleasantly surprised to find that the market was divided into different functional areas. Sellers of poultry were grouped together, while sellers of meat were in another section. Of course, there were also some mixed stalls, like Chang Le, who sold both vegetables and fish, and they were mostly located in the vegetable area.
By this time, many farmers were already selling their vegetables, and there were also small vendors bustling about, busy with the opening of the market. The air was filled with the lively atmosphere of the market.
They found an empty spot in the vegetable section that was close to the exit and stopped there. Chang Le took out a small stool and asked Yu Qingze and Chang Hao to sit down. He placed a bucket and then spread a small bamboo mat on the ground. He neatly arranged the various vegetables, with a small bundle of straw and some loose straw placed beside them, perfectly filling up the mat.
Just as they finished setting up their stall, a middle-aged man carrying a load of vegetables stopped in front of them. He looked around and then said to Chang Le, who was busy arranging the vegetables, “Hey, young man, can you move a bit? I need some space to put down my things.”
Upon hearing this, Chang Le raised his head, glanced at the man, and then looked at the narrow space between himself and the neighboring stalls, which was only about three to four inches wide. It was so narrow that it was barely enough to allow a person to pass. He shook his head and gestured with his hand, indicating that there was no room to move.
The man craned his neck and looked around, realizing that most of the prime spots in front were already occupied, and only a few vacant spots were left towards the back, where there would be much less foot traffic.
Refusing to give up, the middle-aged man said again, “Look, you have so much empty space on your side. If you move forward a bit, and the people on the other side move as well, I can put my things down.”
The available space was less than a foot when combined, not even enough to fit a dustpan. Chang Le looked at him helplessly, extended his hand, and gestured at the limited distance between the neighboring stalls, shaking his head.
Most people would have taken the hint and left in such a situation. But to their surprise, the middle-aged man not only stayed but also put down his load and directly squatted down, reaching out to grab Chang Le’s mat and started moving it.
“Hey, look, if you move forward a bit and the person over there moves back a bit, won’t it create some space?” he insisted.
Before Chang Le could react, the man began dragging the entire mat with vegetables, sliding it onto the grass mat of the stall in front. The neatly arranged vegetables that Chang Le had set up became disheveled, with a few falling onto the ground and some scattered onto the mat of the neighboring stall.
Chang Le hurriedly tried to stop the man’s hand.
Just as Yu Qingze was about to step forward to help, a small figure beside him acted even faster, swiftly moving ahead.
“Hey, hey, hey, mister, why are you messing with other people’s things? If my vegetables get damaged, will you compensate me? Can’t you see how narrow it is here? Even if my stall is moved, there won’t be enough space for half of your dustpan! There are so many places at the back, why don’t you go there?” Chang Hao squeezed through the vegetable stall and approached the man, trying to pull his hand.
The stall owner on the other side was also unhappy and said, “Old man, with your stall set up like this, no one can sell their vegetables. Who would want to be this close? You should go to the back!”
Chang Hao nodded and firmly said, “Exactly! If you want a good spot, come earlier next time. I woke up early, and you still squeezed into my spot. What’s the matter? Are you bullying a little kid?”
With tears welling up in his eyes, Chang Hao looked up with a pitiful expression, blinking his big eyes.
Seeing this, the man who had been confronted didn’t blush and instead replied, “Oh, you kid, I didn’t take your spot. Just squeeze a bit, and there will be room. There aren’t many people at the back! Hey, don’t move too close, leave some space so that we can differentiate between stalls. It’s better this way, so I don’t have to move again later.”
When Chang Le tried to move the mat back to its original position, the man quickly stopped him. He went to talk to a few stall owners at the back. Two of them had slightly wider spots and moved a bit, and then the middle-aged man squeezed their stalls even closer. Finally, he managed to create a space on the right side of Chang Le, directly placing his load of dustpans there.
Now, not even a foot could fit in the space. If they wanted to leave, they would have to jump over the vegetables or exit through the neighboring stalls.
Chang Hao rolled his eyes in exasperation, and Chang Le lightly tapped his head, urging him to come inside. They had encountered such people many times before, and it was a waste of energy to argue with them. Others wouldn’t feel embarrassed at all.
Yu Qingze was left dumbfounded.
This person… had such thick skin. However, what surprised him was that Chang Hao, a young boy, was quite skilled in dealing with such situations. Most children his age wouldn’t be able to speak up like that or be so bold.
“Hey young man, your wife and son are quite impressive!” After arranging his own vegetables, the middle-aged man turned to Yu Qingze, who was standing behind.
Hearing this while still busy organizing the vegetables, Chang Le’s face turned red, and he quickly shook his hand, denying it.
Yu Qingze also paused for a moment. Did this middle-aged man mistake him and Chang Le for a married couple? And did he consider Chang Hao as their son?
However, the embarrassed look on Chang Le’s blushing face was quite amusing…
He couldn’t help but recall the slender arms around his waist yesterday and the fragile chest behind him. He could still feel their warmth now…
“This is my big brother, not… umm… that.” Chang Hao glared at the middle-aged man, muttered in dissatisfaction, “What kind of look is that?”
Thick-skinned was one thing, but having a bad eye was another matter.
“Oh, no, no! Hahaha, I just thought you two looked like a married couple.” Realizing his mistake, the middle-aged man finally felt a bit awkward. He quickly tried to justify himself and turned away without saying anything further.
A married couple?
After dreaming about being immersed in water all night, upon hearing the words “married couple,” Yu Qingze’s heart fluttered again, and his gaze unintentionally lingered on Chang Le’s face.
Due to the societal environment in his past life, same-sex marriage had not been legalized in his country, and there was limited tolerance for same-sex relationships. The atmosphere within his social circle wasn’t very accepting either. Furthermore, he had always focused on his own purity, remaining single and relying on the comfort of his own hand.
In truth, his requirements for a partner weren’t high. As long as they looked pleasing to the eye, were diligent and filial, and could lead a stable life with him, it would be enough. Unfortunately, he hadn’t come across someone as stable as that.
Now, in this place, thinking about it, Chang Le’s various qualities seemed to align with his criteria for a partner.
Yu Qingze squinted his eyes slightly as he looked at Chang Le, contemplating the events of these past few days. He realized that, unintentionally, the person before him had grown into the image of his ideal partner.
Yu Qingze became lost in his thoughts, staring at Chang Le for a long time without realizing it.
Chang Le felt even more embarrassed. How could someone as capable as Big Brother Yu be considered a married couple with him? He decided to pretend he hadn’t heard anything and lowered his head, focusing on his vegetables. However, his ears were red to the point of dripping.
Chang Hao accidentally caught sight of his brother’s red ears and blinked his eyes. Why was his brother feeling embarrassed? He turned his head and glanced at Yu Qingze. Oh, Big Brother Yu had been looking at his brother all this time.
A mischievous thought popped into the young boy’s mind, and he chuckled to himself.
If Big Brother Yu could become his brother’s husband, hehehe…
Just then, a customer came to buy vegetables. “How much for the green beans?”
With that one sentence, everyone’s thoughts snapped back to reality.
Yu Qingze shook his head. It was too early to be thinking about such things. Making money was the most important thing right now.
Chang Le, upon hearing the question, quickly raised his head and extended his hand to make a “five” gesture.
“Five copper coins per kilogram, is that okay?”
Chang Hao, sitting next to Chang Le, saw that business was coming their way. He immediately perked up, revealing a smile on his face, and skillfully took over the conversation. “Yes, sir. Five copper coins per kilogram. Would you like a kilogram? They were just picked this morning, very fresh.”
The customer hesitated a bit, thinking it might be a bit expensive. He glanced at the beans in the dustpan next to them.
Seeing this, the middle-aged man quickly chimed in, “Hey, customer, are you buying green beans? They’re four copper coins per kilogram, and they’re really good beans.”
Upon hearing that it was four copper coins per kilogram, the customer took another step closer to inspect the beans in the dustpan.
The middle-aged man’s entire load in the dustpan was filled with green beans. Perhaps due to the busy farming season, he hadn’t had the opportunity to sell them, and many of them had become slightly old and not as fresh as the ones at Chang Le’s stall.
Upon seeing the customer trying to snatch their business by offering a lower price, Chang Hao glared fiercely at the middle-aged man.
“Shameless! Opportunist! Trying to steal our business!”
Then he noticed the customer comparing the beans between the two stalls. Assuming the customer was comparing the quality, Chang Hao opened his mouth and started his persuasive pitch.
“Sir, beans are best when they’re tender. You know, if the beans are old, it’s troublesome to pick them, and when you eat them, you might end up with strings in your mouth. Isn’t that a hassle? Look at the beans from our stall, they’re tender and juicy, and the strings haven’t even had a chance to grow…”
The middle-aged man quickly interjected, “These beans aren’t old at all, they’re plump! Sir, look at how tightly packed these beans are, and they’re only four copper coins…”
The customer, evidently not keen on eating beans with strings, was swayed by Chang Hao’s persuasive talk and didn’t pay attention to the middle-aged man. He walked back and picked up a handful, handing it to Chang Le. “Give me this.”
Chang Le deftly weighed the beans and gave the customer the total.
Chang Hao immediately translated with a cheerful smile, “Sir, that will be eight copper coins in total.”
Since the customer didn’t have a basket, Chang Le quickly tied a handle to the beans using straw.
The customer was very satisfied, paid the money, and walked away with the beans.
Chang Hao couldn’t help but give the middle-aged man a disdainful look as the customer left.
Hmph, what’s the use of a low price? Our beans are tender!
The middle-aged man was nearly infuriated by Chang Hao’s words. This little brat had a sharp tongue!
Chang Le, seeing the situation, chuckled and patted his younger brother’s shoulder, signaling him to stop. He didn’t want to provoke anyone further. It wouldn’t end well.
Chang Hao turned his head and gave a subtle “See, I’m amazing, right?” look to Yu Qingze.
Yu Qingze silently gave him a thumbs up. This kid had the gift of the gab when it came to business!
Satisfied with the praise, Chang Hao happily continued selling vegetables.
After observing for about ten minutes, Yu Qingze saw that the two brothers were adept at handling the business. He felt relieved and decided to go about his own business.
He informed the brothers that he wanted to explore the town, but Chang Le and Chang Hao were somewhat concerned.
“Brother Yu, do you want me to accompany you? I’ve been to most places in the county town and can show you around.”
“No need. You help your brother sell vegetables here. I might not be able to return until evening. You don’t need to wait for me after you finish selling. Just go back.”
“Ah? Until evening? Are you sure you can find your way back?”
Yu Qingze smiled. “I can find my way back. Don’t worry.”
Leaving behind the worried gazes of the two brothers, Yu Qingze departed.
He first strolled around the market, asking questions and familiarizing himself with the layout and food prices. Once he had a good understanding, he came across a snack vendor and tried their offerings. Finding the taste satisfactory, he bought some for the two brothers as a snack.
After exploring the market, he ventured out of the market area, walking along the streets, asking questions, and taking mental notes.
For the next few days, Yu Qingze would leave early and return late, walking through every corner of the county town. Finally, he made a decision about the business he wanted to pursue.