Seeing Qing Wan give up on her idea of escaping, Xiao Hua was a little at a loss. She didn’t know whether she did the right thing.
Perhaps escaping was a good idea?
She didn’t know, and her heart told her that if she wanted to avoid disaster she should stay put.
Qing Wan’s mind also seemed to be settled, and she obediently stayed put without any further thoughts of escape. She ate as expected, drank as expected and remained sullen as expected. It seemed as if having spent the past few days in the hands of the traffickers, she started to realize how to act in order to have a more comfortable stay.
Yet the standard of living remained extremely poor. In order maintain the speed, the trafficker provided very little food. They received a single piece of flatbread a day and two sips of water, keeping them in a state where they barely wouldn’t die of thirst and starvation.
The people in the carriage gradually grew thinner, especially Xiao Hua. Her originally skinny body now showed signs of emaciation. Yet the weaker her body grew, the brighter her eyes became.
Lin Qing Wan felt that the skinny little girl before her eyes had a quality about her that astonished the heart.
The air in the carriage was unpleasant to breathe, a mixture of sweat and filth.
Qing Wan and Xiao Hua were huddled in the innermost corner of the carriage, both relaxing with their eyes closed as they conserved their energy. Sometimes, they would go the entire day without speaking more than a single sentence, mostly just communicating with their eyes. It wasn’t that they didn’t want to talk, but rather their mouths had grown drier the further along they went. The water provided was far too little, and everyone’s lips had crusted over, cracking as soon as they were opened.
Yu Zi Man curled up in a corner of the carriage and looked at the incredible scene before her, often unable to remain calm.
Although she had transmigrated, she ended up in such a place. What was even more awkward was the she had transmigrated into the body of a wealthy young mistress, but due to the resentment of her younger stepsister, she was sold outside the capital to traffickers. When she awoke, she was already on Trafficker Qian’s carriage heading from the capital towards the north, surrounded by dull and lifeless slaves.
She was a girl from the 21st century, but ended up in such a place.
After experiencing many hardships, Yu Zi Man, now called Qing Wan, had decided to give up on escape. What that Xiao Hua had said was right. Such a feudal society had nowhere for a single woman wanderer to escape to. She would end up begging on the streets or kidnapped and sold to a brothel.
She wasn’t able to return to her new body’s home either.
It had to be said that “her” younger sister’s scheme was rather vicious. As the young mistress of a wealthy family, even if it was a commoner family, going missing and turning up again would be an enormous stain on her reputation and dignity. She would end up “suddenly falling ill and passing away” if she returned home. Especially since the principal wife, her stepmother, had never liked her, and “she” had always been invisible to her father. If she really spent countless efforts to stupidly show up again, her stepmother would undoubtedly be happy to see such a situation.
But in such a foreign world, even with the memories of her original host, how was she to survive? The original host was also someone who never left her house. The one time she was tricked by her stepsister into leaving the house to offer incense, she was knocked unconscious and thrown to the traffickers.
The only thing worth rejoicing over was that the trafficker didn’t seem like she was selling her off to some filthy place but rather as a servant or, as she had heard while losing her consciousness, as a bride to some peasant.
Regardless, she could only grit her teeth and endure, acting based on the circumstances. She just hoped the heavens would be merciful and not force her into desperate straits for a life and death struggle.
Her stomach was hungered to the point where it couldn’t growl anymore, leaving only a hot burning sensation in her gut. A small pair of hands reached over from the side, and secretly stuffed something into her palms.
Lin Qing Wan turned her head towards Xiao Hua, who gave her a wink. Without saying anything, she silently put the small piece of flatbread into her mouth, chewing on it slowly. The moment she moved her mouth, her cracked lips started bleeding. She disregarded this, and swallowed the flatbread that had some blood on it as seasoning.
She still couldn’t compare to this tenacious little girl. They received so little food that normal people would devour everything they got in one go. Xiao Hua was the only exception, always storing some away like a small hamster, and waiting until the hunger was unbearable before eating a little to comfort her stomach.
Lin Qing Wan finished eating and pinched Xiao Hua’s hand, expressing her gratitude without words while also deciding to be more like Xiao Hua.
In cases of extreme hunger, it really was necessary to eat many smaller meals. This prevents the stomach from getting injured. She just wasn’t used to such a situation and hadn’t considered it before.
Trafficker Qian’s caravan wouldn’t always stop to set up camp every night. Many times they had to sleep out in the open.
Whenever this happened, the carriages with people inside would be arranged in a circle and heavily guarded. They even had hired guards take shifts throughout the night. Initially it seemed like this night would pass as any other, but unexpectedly someone tried to escape in the middle of the night. Xiao Hua and the others were also woken up and made to watch what happens to those who tried escaping.
The culprit was a girl from one of the carriages in front. According to Trafficker Qian, that carriage was full of “good saplings” who were normally raised well by Trafficker Qian and wouldn’t suffer too much rough treatment. All so that they can be sold for a higher price at the brothel.
It was unexpected that Trafficker Qian would be so harsh in dealing with a “good sapling”. Not only was she whipped ten times, trafficker Qian also announced that those on the same carriage would be punished as a group and not given any food for three days.
This was a typical example of killing the chicken to scare the monkey, while turning everyone in the carriages into potential snitches against each other.
Each carriage had around ten people, each with their own thoughts. Even if you wanted to escape, you had to first be able to hide it from the people sitting next to you. After all, no one wanted to suffer the collective punishment of going without food for three days. That would really be asking for their lives. Everyone became speechless and some were even scared to tears. Some, such as Lin Qing Wan, who had given up on thoughts of escaping but were still unsatisfied in their hearts were now completely convinced. And Xiao Hua merely watched fixedly. A trafficker whipping their slaves had never been a rare occasion. Once you saw it a few times, you didn’t have the spare energy to feel sympathy anymore.
After around ten days, the caravan finally arrived at Yang City, the capital of the Yun Province. Xiao Hua and the rest were taken to a large courtyard and locked into a small house. Inside was the same enclosure with bunks, and the ropes that bound everyone’s wrists were finally released.
Xiao Hua guessed that this should be Trafficker Qian’s final destination this time around.
As expected, starting from the second day, the people in the room started getting led outside. Some didn’t return while others were placed back into the room.
Upon asking the people who were brought back, everyone realized that those who were gone had been selected and taken away.
There were many types of brokers in the Grand Xi Dynasty. Land and real estate, exchange of goods etc. The middlemen in such transactions were all classified as brokers. Trafficker Qian was someone who could be counted as the peak of the broker profession. Of course, the goods she dealt in was the least reputable of their profession, which was in common term human trafficking.
Human trafficking was basically brokering the trade of people.
Yet regardless of reputation, Trafficker Qian ran a large business operation. To those large wealthy households in the capital, it could be said she was reputable. She not only delivered servants for those households, but also helped them deal with disobedient servants or shameful secrets. After several years of cooperation, both sides had developed a good rapport. Therefore, if the conditions were the same, many households preferred to sell people to Trafficker Qian. Human nature tended towards familiarity when doing business after all.
After Trafficker Qian developed her business operation, she no longer limited herself to the country’s capital. Since some of her business required her to sell the people as far as possible, she had no choice but to expand. Trafficker Qian was very shrewd, and would never do anything in vain. As of today, she had already developed several traffickers downstream who all worked in unison for their benefits.
For example, the traffickers in the Yun Province would give some of the “good saplings” to Trafficker Qian to sell in the capital, and Trafficker Qian would give some of her good saplings on hand to these people in exchange. The maids from wealthy households were seen as extremely good saplings in a remote place like the Yun Province.
Of course, these people understood Trafficker Qian’s bottom line. They could only sell these people to the places she specified. As traffickers, all they cared about was money. No one wanted to offend the nobles behind Trafficker Qian. Since Trafficker Qian had spoken, it meant the nobles behind her had left specific instructions.
Therefore, those who worked with Trafficker Qian were extremely clear. No matter how good of a “sapling” they saw, if they were labeled to become servants then they could only be sold as servants.
The large courtyard where Xiao Hua and the rest were staying in was actually a sort of transfer station. Trafficker Qian would bring the people here, and those that often did business with her would come and pick from the goods.
Those who were traffickers handled many types of people. There were men who were used for hard labor and those were casually purchased for their strength. There were girls who were wanted by rich households as maids, and those just needed to be the right age without needing additional grooming. Then there were girls who were to be sold to officials as maids. The quality of these girls needed to be a level higher, and they had to understand basic etiquette. The housekeeper responsible for the purchase had to worry about being punished if he came back with a complete novice.
For some people, they just wanted to save themselves some hassle. On the other hand, some large households cared more about reputation, and even their maids had to have decent appearances. As such, those maids with decent appearances and manners were always hot commodities and can be sold off without much effort.
As a maid from a large capital household, Xiao Hua had also been brought out and presented several times. It wasn’t known if it was her skinny appearance or her filthy appearance that resulted in her not getting picked every time.
In the meantime, Qing Wan had been taken by Trafficker Qian and didn’t return.
However, Xiao Hua wasn’t worried. Qing Wan had revealed to her that she was most likely going to be sold as a bride to some peasant. Regarding the reason for such a strange arrangement, Qing Wan didn’t say and Xiao Hua didn’t ask. She thought there definitely had to be something fishy about it.
The number of people in the room steadily decreased. Most had already been selected, leaving behind a small portion who were all not outstanding. Finally one day, Trafficker Qian gathered them all up and gave them to another trafficker. Xiao Hua was also herded onto the carriage and taken elsewhere.
This was the last chapter of the first arc. For those of you who were a little confused about Qing Wan (as I was), the author’s note clarifies things a little. Qing Wan is a character from the author’s first novel: “The prestigious family’s young lady and the farmer”. From what I understand, this part where she encounters Xiao Hua is also present in that novel, and so it was a cameo for her previous readers.
I have a feeling when this chapter gets released, there will be people who want to violently beat me up. But this author is innocent. The readers who followed Wan Wan over definitely know that Wan Wan and Xiao Hua met under the hands of trafficker Qian, but then went their separate paths. The new readers don’t know, but the plot still has to proceed. Looking forwards…new arc starts after this chapter.