Liujiacun1Lujia Village is about five or six miles away from Changfeng Town, and if you walk fast, you can get there in two or three quarters of an hour. However, Liu Yu took a leisurely pace and was not in a hurry.
In her past life, she didn’t entertain clients, and Lady Hong only wanted to increase her value. She was only required to showcase her skills. Even when serving tea to clients, she carefully selected them, considering their wealth, manners, and social status. She wouldn’t entertain anyone who didn’t meet her standards. After entering the Liuxian Pavilion, Liu Yu had never stepped out of it. Calculating it roughly, it had been nearly two years since she had been able to walk freely.
The countryside scenery along the way now appeared vibrant in her eyes. The old world that had disappeared in her life like smoke and ashes had miraculously reappeared before her. It felt like opening her arms warmly, welcoming her back from hell to the human world.
Changfeng Town was one of the only two towns in Anyi County, surrounded by dozens of villages. It was located to the west of the official road, and a tributary of the Yushui River flowed to the north of the town. Traveling merchants frequently passed through. Although it cannot exactly be called prosperous, but it’s certainly more developed than the surrounding villages.
After crossing a stone bridge to the north of the town, you would enter the territory of Changfeng Town.
Different from Liujiacun2Lujia Village where thatched houses were interspersed with tiled ones, Changfeng Town mostly had tiled houses, and the roads were paved with bluestones, much cleaner than the countryside. There were numerous shops on several main streets in the town, including clinics, bookstores, embroidery shops, cake and grain stores, and miscellaneous goods shops. Because it was close to the official road, there were also several inns, eateries, and teahouses for travelers to rest and stay.
Liu Yu entered the town in the early afternoon, which was the busiest time of the day. The intersections and both sides of the main street were filled with people carrying baskets and goods. Except for the storefronts that couldn’t be blocked in front of various businesses, everywhere else was so crowded that it was impossible to squeeze through. The goods being sold were diverse, including produce from the fields, chickens, ducks, fish, eggs, various kinds of food, as well as bowls, chopsticks, clay pots, needles, threads, mats, wooden chairs, wicker baskets, brooms, and various ingenious utensils… The streets were filled with the constant sounds of vendors calling out their wares.
The streets were bustling with people, half of them were townsfolk, and the other half were villagers from surrounding areas who had come to buy goods. It suddenly dawned on Liu Yu that today was a market day, occurring every five days or ten days.
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Liu Yu, unaware that the female shopkeeper had spent so much time observing her, placed her bundle on the counter, untied it, revealing a bag full of neatly tied hair ornaments, and asked, “Shopkeeper, do you accept these hair ornaments here?”
Her voice was pleasant, soft, like honey soaked in the warmth of March, and finally, it drew the female shopkeeper’s attention away from her.
Lowering her head to look at the hair ornaments in Liu Yu’s bundle, the female shopkeeper’s eyes flickered slightly. She couldn’t help but sigh at the exquisite craftsmanship and replied with a beaming smile, “Of course, we do.”
Although Liu Yu was a newcomer, her skillful handiwork made the female shopkeeper reluctant to conduct a one-time transaction. Therefore, she offered a fair price, quoting different rates for the more intricate ones at five coins each and the simpler ones at three or two coins each. Since there were nearly two hundred hair ornaments in the bundle, the final tally came to five hundred and sixty-two coins.
Liu Yu didn’t have a money pouch, but she had an old purse that she carried with her. She carefully placed the five strings of coins she received and the sixty-two coins into her purse and closed it securely.
She had no intention of handing over this five hundred and sixty-two coins to Wang Shi. This large bundle of hair ornaments had taken her at least one or two months to accumulate, even though she hadn’t been able to work on them regularly due to her household chores, until this morning when Liu Kangsheng had instructed her not to do household chores anymore.
Since the age of ten, she had learned how to make hair ornaments from a girl in the same village. Later, she came up with many complex patterns on her own. She had earned money for six years but hadn’t spent a single coin of it herself; all the earnings had been taken by Wang Shi to support the family.
After experiencing a life-threatening situation, Liu Yu had changed. Furthermore, she needed money for something important today.
Seeing that she had accepted the money, the female shopkeeper asked if Liu Yu needed to buy some colorful strings for making hair ornaments.
Liu Yu had no interest in continuing to work hard to earn money for the Liu family. The most important thing now was to quickly arrange a good marriage for herself. So she shook her head and said, “I don’t need to buy colorful strings right now. I just have one thing to ask you.”
“A relative asked me to inquire about a matchmaker in town. Do you know which matchmaker in town is reliable?”
“A matchmaker? There are several in town, but for reliability, you should look for Lin Jiuniang to the west of town. In terms of seniority, you can call her Aunt Lin. Her house is easy to find; it’s the third one on the left side of the road as you enter from the western side of town, with a fenced courtyard.”
Liu Yu thanked the shopkeeper and left the embroidery shop with her empty bag.
Once she stepped out of the main street of Changfeng Town, the crowd noticeably thinned. She identified the direction and headed west through the town.
The female shopkeeper had given her detailed directions, and indeed, it was easy to find Lin Jiuniang’s place. When Liu Yu stood at the gate of Lin Jiuniang’s courtyard and looked inside, a woman in her forties, dressed neatly with her hair neatly arranged, was coming out of the house. At the sight of Liu Yu, her eyes lit up because of Liu Yu’s beauty. In her mind, she exclaimed “a goddess,” though she maintained her composure and asked, “Miss, are you looking for someone?”
Liu Yu nodded and said, “I wonder if this is Auntie Lin’s residence?”
The woman smiled and said, “I am Lin Jiuniang. Are you here to find me? Then, please come inside.”
With a smile, she welcomed Liu Yu into the courtyard, leading her to the main hall. She casually inquired about Liu Yu’s background while arranging tea, being polite and showing herself to be a skilled communicator. At first glance, it was clear she was adept at dealing with people.
Liu Yu politely declined to rush and did not divulge her own situation in detail.
Lin Jiuniang didn’t press for more information. She had dealt with many women who came to seek her services, but young ladies like Liu Yu were relatively rare. She understood that some visitors might be reluctant to share their personal stories. Instead, she continued to be cordial, saying, “Please don’t rush. How about some tea?”
After a short while, she had already brewed tea and brought the tea tray over. Two cups were placed on the table—one for Liu Yu and one for herself. With a warm smile, she looked at Liu Yu and asked about her intentions.
Liu Yu didn’t beat around the bush. She reached into her purse and took out the five strings of coins she had just received from the embroidery shop. The coins were still cool to the touch as she placed them on the table and pushed them toward Lin Jiuniang, saying, “I’ve come here to inquire, Auntie, and I’d like to buy some information.”
Lin Jiuniang’s eyes glinted when she saw those five strings of coins. She knew that currently, a bucket of rice cost no more than seventy coins, and a pound of pork was around thirty coins. Five hundred coins was a substantial amount. Lin Jiuniang was cautious, but she asked Liu Yu, “May I know what you’d like to inquire about?”
Her caution wasn’t purely motivated by greed, which actually made Liu Yu feel more at ease. Liu Yu replied, “It’s nothing that would trouble Auntie. I’m looking to inquire about any eligible bachelors in town, someone with good character and a well-off family.”
Lin Jiuniang hadn’t expected a girl of merely fifteen or sixteen years old to come to her, a matchmaker, seeking information about eligible men in town. She found it strange, but she didn’t show it on her face. She simply asked, “Could you please define what you mean by ‘well-off’?”
Liu Yu explained, “Someone who can afford a bride price of at least sixty taels of silver.”
Lin Jiuniang couldn’t help but gasp. Sure enough, there’s no money falling in vain from the sky. How many households in Changfeng Town could afford a bride price of sixty taels of silver? Even if there were such families, they would undoubtedly come from a comparable background and would be willing to provide a generous dowry in return. This was the recipe for a good marriage.
However, just by looking at Liu Yu’s appearance and attire, it was evident that her family couldn’t offer a substantial dowry. To make matters worse, if she encountered parents who valued money more than their daughter’s happiness, they might take most of the bride price and leave very little for Liu Yu to bring to her new family. Such a situation would lead to a difficult life for her in the future. In-law problems, a husband who didn’t respect her, and even a lower status among her sisters-in-law—all these could result from a poorly negotiated marriage.
These five strings of coins weren’t that easy to earn, and Lin Jiuniang understood that now.
In the end, Lin Jiuniang couldn’t believe that a seemingly impoverished girl like Liu Yu would be willing to spend such a sum just to get some information. She was in a dilemma, not sure how to persuade the girl to be more realistic and lower her expectations, so she could secure the money that was right in front of her.
Liu Yu seemed to understand Lin Jiuniang’s thoughts perfectly. She said, “Auntie, please don’t be so concerned. I genuinely just want to buy information, with two conditions: First, provide as much detail as possible, and second, what you say today stays with you and enters my ears, never to be spoken of to anyone else.”
Lin Jiuniang was still hesitant. “Is this for real?”
Liu Yu smiled and assured her, “Of course it’s real.”
It was like heaven had dropped this golden opportunity into her lap. Lin Jiuniang’s eyes brightened, and she said, “Rest assured, in all of Changfeng Town, no one understands the circumstances of the young men and women in the town better than I do. This is what I do for a living. As for keeping it confidential, I’m not a gossip, and I won’t let a word slip from my mouth. Revealing such matters would damage my reputation. You can trust me completely.”
With a smile, she pocketed the five strings of coins.
“As for eligible bachelors in Changfeng Town who can afford a bride price of sixty taels, there are a few,” Lin Jiuniang began. She went on to provide details about several potential candidates.
“Let me just say that, as for the rest, the girl can make her own judgment. The first choice is the Chen family…”
“…And the third one, Lu Sanlang3Sanlang – the third son. Have you ever met him?”
Liu Yu shook her head.
Lin Jiuniang raised an eyebrow, as if it were a surprise that Liu Yu didn’t recognize Lu Sanlang. “You don’t know him? When it comes to Lu Sanlang from the Lu family, many girls in Changfeng Town dream of marrying him. However…”
“Lu Sanlang’s family runs a fabric shop. They expanded to the county two years ago. Based on this alone, he shouldn’t be ranked third. Furthermore, last year, Lu Erlang4Erlang – second son got married, and the bride’s family offered a bride price of ninety-nine taels, symbolizing a long and prosperous marriage. In terms of extravagance, they are the top choice in Changfeng Town. However, regarding Lu Sanlang, I must be honest. I don’t think there’s much possibility. The Lu family has risen in status, and Lu Erlang married a merchant’s daughter from the county. Judging by Mrs. Lu’s intentions, there’s no plan for her son to find a wife in Changfeng Town. At least, I haven’t heard any rumors to the contrary. Most importantly, Lu Sanlang has been studying in Yuanzhou City for the past few years, and he rarely returns to Changfeng Town except during holidays. It’s unlikely to cross paths with him.”
In her final sentence, Lin Jiuniang had already seen through Liu Yu’s intentions. In summary, it was hopeless. Although in Lin Jiuniang’s eyes, no one was more compatible with Lü Sanlang in terms of looks than the girl before her, marriage wasn’t solely about appearances.
Lin Jiuniang expressed some regret between her words, but then she continued, “As for the fourth one…”
She went on to discuss in detail the five potential candidates in Changfeng Town who were of the right age to marry and could afford the bride price of sixty taels. Since she didn’t need to act as a matchmaker, she would earn the five hundred coins regardless of whether any of these matches were successful. She didn’t use any persuasive tactics; she simply described the pros and cons honestly.
Liu Yu summarized the information. The most promising candidate was the son of the Chen family, who ran a bookstore in town. The second was a widower of a suitable age, and with Liu Yu’s appearance, marrying him to become his second wife wouldn’t be difficult. The most suitable candidate in various aspects was Lu Sanlang, but he had almost no chance, appearing more like a candidate Lin Jiuniang had pulled out just to make up the numbers. The fourth and fifth candidates, while their families could barely afford the bride price, were a man nearing fifty and another with questionable character, making them less ideal matches.
As they walked out of Lin Jiuniang’s living room, it was close to noon. Lin Jiuniang personally escorted Liu Yu out of the courtyard. Just before leaving the courtyard gate, they heard the sound of approaching hooves from a distance. Both of them raised their heads to look.
On the official road outside the town, a young man in a fine robe was riding a horse, looking quite dashing.
When Lin Jiuniang saw the appearance of the man approaching on horseback, her eyes widened, and she grabbed Liu Yu’s arm with a joyful expression. “Miss, have you recognized him? It’s heaven-sent fortune!”
Although Liu Yu had some guesses about the identity of the man riding towards them, she wasn’t entirely certain. It was Lin Jiuniang’s further remarks that confirmed her suspicions.
“This is Lu Sanlang. He’s returned during a non-festive season!”
Liu Yu understood. He was the third target.
Lin Jiuniang was ecstatic, claiming that Changfeng Town had numerous girls wishing to marry him, and it was rare for him to return during non-festive times. It was nearly impossible to cross paths with him casually.
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