Chapter 278 “Bloody” (Part one)
Their motorcade moved slowly towards their destination. The return to the capital wasn’t an urgent matter, purely in attendance to the year-end feast. Calculating the travel time, it would take approximately twenty days to arrive. Du Wei’s in no rush to get there anyways, even if he does arrive early, it will only extend the number of endless feasts atop of the main one with the Regent.
Setting off for ten days, their journey pushes them through the Nuling province, and along the way, he made sure to give Governor Bohan a visit for this loyal official of the empire never received his invitation to the banquet by Prince Son. Prior to the former crown prince’s failed coup, Bohan would always return to the capital for the annual feast and to receive his usual commendation for his service. But since that incident, he hasn’t returned to the capital at all, an obvious sign he’s losing the trust and favor of those high above, also the consequence of his faction losing power.
However, Bohan seems to have accepted this reality with no impulses of frustration. On the contrary, Bohan became frank, asking Du Wei to help him visit his family members in the imperial capital and to help bring gifts for him. According to the customs of the empire, every governor of a province like Bohan, an important figure with military control, would always leave behind their families in the capital when taking office. The reasoning behind this was obvious enough so elaboration was not needed.
Another ten days – a total of twenty by now – of traveling in the carriage, their group has officially left the boundaries of the Nuling province and would technically place them in the central regions of the empire. If they continued like this, they would eventually reach a port connecting to the Lancang Grand Canal after heading east then south on the main road. By boarding a ship there, and then heading down river, they would be able to directly travel into the imperial city without any hurdles.
Although taking the land route would be a bit faster, a boat was far more comfortable. Besides, Du Wei already prepared a ship in the port to be awaiting his arrival.
Mingfan Port was one of the most upstream harbors on the Lancang Grand Canal, also the last stop for anyone wishing to head west. Any further, the original excavation work done on the Grand Canal would come to an end and the main river would fork into several smaller tributaries with dangerous winding rivers.
As the last stop on the main river before breaking into the smaller streams to the west, this harbor would always become one of the busiest stops at the end of the year. In many cases, the level of livelihood here would be comparable to the annual summer festival.
Countless caravan groups have to go in and out of this place yearly, the western caravans rushing to head home before the year end, while the eastern caravans have to take advantage of this time to transport their goods to the northwest before winter hits.
At this time of the year, the river would always become busy with ships actively moving about.
As an inland harbor, Mingfan Port can already be called very big in terms of scale; however, on this day the dock remains fully parked with merchant vessels, forcing many of the smaller merchants to stay at the local inn in await of their turn.
This was a matter of necessity; after all, the cost of river transportation was far cheaper than that of on land, usually upwards of four times as expensive. It can’t be helped, land requires wagons and a convoy, while a big ship can transport large amounts of goods in one go.
Du Wei and his people arrived at Mingfan Port around the evening this day. Thanks to this bustling port, the small town located on the side benefited greatly as a result and has become a lively market due to the exchange of goods from the traveling caravans. With the big influx of fanciful goods, there are a lot of shops opened here and even some high end porcelain stores for a population no more than twenty thousand, this occurrence was very rare indeed.
Prior to Du Wei’s arrival, he didn’t bother sending people out to inform the local mayor and security officer. As a result, they were directly stuck outside the town.
There are simply too many merchant groups here. From rumors of these few days, this little town had received over forty caravan groups, packing the local inns full to the brim. Forget about finding a room to stay, even the kitchens were booked, and the warehouses around the port, those had long been stuffed full of goods. For some of the caravans that often frequented the northwest, they were used to the outdoor lifestyle anyways. Instead of sending people into town to check for vacancies, these people would rather set up camp on either side of the main road to save themselves the trouble.
The streets were not too broad to begin with in this little town, adding in the many convoys and horses clogging up the space, Du Wei’s convoy ended up wasting two hours before they reached the port.
Finally, when the river official in the port saw the family emblem of Du Wei’s entourage, both the mayor and security officer of the town hurriedly ran over to welcome this Duke. It’s not that the river official was versed in the knowledge of emblemry, rather, the “Burning Tulip” insignia was too iconic here, there’s only one in the empire! Even an idiot would recognize it.
Due to the shortage of rooms in the local inn, the mayor proposed to use his home as a resting place for Du Wei but was firmly refused. Instead, Du Wei’s decision was to board the ship immediately.
But when Du Wei asked for the time of his departure, the river official’s face turned terribly grey, cold sweat filled his forehead as he stammered his words: “Yo-your honor… I’m afr-afraid it will be difficult.
Then, under Du Wei’s doubtful gaze, the river official reluctantly explained the reasons.
Du Wei’s ship has been parked in the harbor for many days. It was because Du Wei’s casually slow travel pace along the way that has caused this to happen. The river official didn’t know when he would arrive. In order to vacate a spot, this guy ordered the ship to be moved into a smaller watercourse channel to free up some room. Du Wei’s ships are after all sea worthy, even the smallest was many times larger than inland vessels used for something like the Grand Canal. Out of consideration for this busy peak season, the river official thought it be a waste to let a unused ship occupy a berth that could park over two merchant boats. Returning the fifteen days’ worth of parking fee, the spot that was originally reserved for Du Wei was bumped for other traveling merchant ships.
This guy originally thought the Duke would be furious over his decision, but Du Wei just smiled and patted this pale faced river official on the shoulder: “Hmm, the blame is not on you, it’s my fault. You’re a very good official… Well then, I’ll just stay on the boat for tonight, but I like to know when I would be able to take my ship out onto the river.”
“Probably tomorrow…. Tomorrow morning.” The river official breathed a sigh of relief.
“Alright.” Du Wei shrugged his shoulders:” Well then gentlemen, don’t be too nervous, for me, it’s also a wonderful experience to have a close look at Mingfan port’s night scenery.”
Sending both men away, Du Wei even refused the security officer’s goodwill of deploying soldiers to his location. This was after all the busy season and the town only had two hundred security soldiers. If they sent anymore men over, the staffing problem would become even more intense,
“You’re not going to punish these officials? They occupied your berth despite your payment.”
When everyone left, Queen Medusa asked Du Wei: “This doesn’t seem to fit with what I know of your human nobility’s usual doing.” ”
“The nobles doing?” Du Wei smiled: “Who told you these doings?”
“Your fiancée.” Queen Medusa’s tone was very calm: “In the town outside the capital where she accompanied me during those days, I had her read a lot of your human books to me. According to what I know of your human nobilities, I’m afraid they would have immediately ordered the river official to be hoisted up and whipped.”
Du Wei shook his head: “He’s a good official. My ship may not have raised our flag while parked here, but there are sailors and a captain aboard, there’s no way he wouldn’t have known who it belonged to. Even so, he still did it, meaning he’s a very pragmatic officer. The fault lies not with him, but with me.”
The ship in question was a Sea Cloud class warship, but for the inland rivers, Du Wei’s ship could be called very big already. That night Du Wei boarded this seaworthy ship using a small boat, the only thing keeping him from departing now was the go ahead from the river official.
By early next day, his ship finally docks in the berth for loading.
The river official and security officer both came to see Du Wei off that morning. Knowing the Duke’s about to leave, they both breathed a sigh of relief knowing their worries are about to come to an end. Du Wei may have been friendly enough while in their presence, but his status was simply too big, no lowly town official can afford to risk offending such a bigshot.
While in the middle of a tea session inside his cabin, Du Wei’s leisure time was interrupted by a loud clamor of shouts and harsh words from the outside. The voices didn’t seem far away, thus catching his attention. Ordering his men to open the cabin window, he immediately saw a group of Northwest Natives dressed in fur making a ruckus under his boat, and some had even climbed atop of his ship, giving the sailors some bruises in the process. Fortunately Du Wei’s guard saw this and rushed up. With both sides drawing their weapons, a confrontation ensues.
These grassland natives appeared outrageously rude and hard to reason with. Seeing Du Wei’s guard, although armed with swords, these brutes not only didn’t back down, their voices grew even louder.
“What’s going on?” Du Wei turned his head back to the river official and security officer behind him, causing the two to break out in sweat on their foreheads. Not waiting for Du Wei to order him, the security officer apologizes and rushes out to gather the soldiers standing vigilantly not far away from their location. Even so, the natives showed no sign of backing down. After another hail of shouts from some of the more daring individuals, another group of these unruly brutes ran over and surrounded the pier on all sides, easily outnumbering the defending soldiers. These grassland natives may be traders in name, but they’re culturally inclined towards violence whenever they deemed it necessary, thus the reason for them being armed with scimitars. Not wanting to be caught up in the dangerous conflict, the onlookers all stepped back out of fear of being dragged into the mess.
Although the security officer personally intervened, the natives didn’t give a care and began cursing at the poor guy in all sorts of manner.
“What the hell is going on?” Du Wei turned his head again and cast a stare at the river official: “Are these prairie merchants always so outrageous here? Even in the face of the imperial security officer, they are so defiant.”
Against the bitter expression and hesitant attitude of this river official, Du Wei turns cold: “And here I was looking well on you from yesterday’s encounter. Why are you cowering in front of these grassland foreigners, did you take bribes from them?”
“Absolutely not!” The river official bolted at the accusation and poured everything out.
So in Mingfan Harbor here, this place acts as one of the main stopping hub for those wishing to take to the river, and among many of them are merchant groups hailing from the grassland. As prairie natives, their personalities are culturally unruly with the tendency to fight. To these foreigners, the one with the hardest fist is the boss.
In particular are times like this where the harbor’s packed full of vessels, no caravan trade group would be willing to abide by the rules and await for proper accommodation from the port officials. However, dishonest merchants would only at most quietly try to bribe their way in.
Coming up to here, Du Wei smirked at him: “Oh, you must have earned a lot recently then?”
“No, of course not!” The river official hurries to explain himself, his face depressingly glum: “Your Dukeship, I may hold a small bit of authority in my hands, but I would never accept bribes! My men too, I would often warn them severely of the consequences for taking bribes and randomly arranging the ships! You can send someone to inquire. The people in town all know of my reputation and my whips for breaking the rule!”
Du Wei nodded: “Hmm, alright, since you got the courage to delay even my ship, then I can tell your ethics are trustworthy enough based on your actions. Well then, let’s talk about those prairie people instead.”
The river official a made a hateful face: “Your lordship….. If it were caravan groups from the empire, the most they would do is make some petty gestures like bribery and such, but these prairie natives don’t do that. If they are ever in need of a cabin or warehouse for their goods, they would often simply pull out their knives to take by force!”
“Continue.” Du Wei went dark, his expression unreadable.
“The prairie natives had always done business using these barbaric methods, but because of the huge profits involved, many businessmen would take the risk regardless of the danger involved by dealing with these people. Among the merchant groups coming to Mingfan Harbor, around ten to twenty percent are from the prairie grassland. And…. And the differences, they are often very united. If one group enters into a dispute with anyone else, the other trade groups would come running with one blow of the whistle, armed and ready to fight. It’s been quite the headache managing them. Even in the face of the local security soldiers, these natives wouldn’t hesitate in the least to draw their blades. Mingfan Harbor only has two hundred security soldiers, it’s fine if we only need to deal with a single trade group from the grassland, but if more than one gathers up together, it won’t just be a dozen or so people anymore, the numbers might go up to a hundred.”
“During busy times like these, there’s bound to be tensions on the harbor. If the goods stay in storage for a day, then that’s an extra day of profits lost. In order to rob a warehouse or spot from others, these natives would often employ a common trick by coming up to the port to see which berth space was open. Or if a ship was in the middle of loading their cargo, these barbarians would gather enough of their men and swarm the victim’s ship and stay there, refusing to leave under any circumstances, some would even throw other peoples cargo into the river if they are ill tempered. Then if other caravan groups come reason with these natives, the only reply they would get was the draw of the knife. Even if the security soldiers arrive to handle the situation, they would just sit their asses on the deck, refusing comply. Because of all these past experiences, the merchant groups here will usually consider it their misfortune and move out of the way if they encounter them. Merchants are out to make a profit, not to put their lives on the line. While these native traders on the other hand, they are different. Regardless of the conflict, they would fight like their lives depended on it. They are rogues without any semblance of order.”
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