Chapter 5 Wind Crane: Disappointment
Of course, Feng Luodi had an ulterior motive when she chose this shop; she set the duo to the task of resin selection, while she enquired about the Guqin she was looking for.
The shopkeeper got up and smiled at Feng Luodi, “You must be talking about these.”
Feng Luodi shook her head. “I’m not talking about these; I’m looking for any of the 10 famous Guqin of the Xuan Dynasty.”
“Oh! You’re talking about the Guqin like Sonorous, Resonance, Green Ivy or Burnt Ends?” The shopkeeper seemed to know his trade well.
Feng Luodi was delighted to hear his familiarity with the Guqin and nodded excitedly. Now that sounds promising!
To her disappointment, the shopkeeper shook his head. “I don’t house any of those famous Guqin in my shop. All of them have long been lost and are more than priceless. If I had any of them in my shop, my business would definitely skyrocket!”
“I see…” Feng Luodi’s heart dipped for a second, but quickly continued, “If that’s the case, could you help me keep an eye out for any news of the 10 Guqin? If you get wind of any of them, please send word to the Feng household on Zhengnan Street. You’ll be rewarded for your help in this matter.” Feng Luodi was as earnest as she could be. She was new to this world, and did not know anyone who could help her on this matter. If she wanted to find the 10 Guqin, she could only rely on these Qin traders for information.
“The Feng household on Zhengnan Street?” The shopkeeper was surprised, “You must be the young daughter of Chamberlain Feng! Apologies for my lack of manners; leave this matter to me. I will see to it personally.”
Feng Luodi didn’t think much of his reaction, merely attributing it to the shopkeeper’s knowledge of the streets of Chang’an, being able to remember the households of the wealthy and powerful.
Slightly disappointed with her lack of findings in this shop, Feng Luodi turned to buy the resins already selected, and promptly left in search of other zither shops.
The rest of the day was no different: Scarlet and Jet went in to pick suitable resins, while Feng Luodi inquired about the 10 Guqin from the shopkeepers, leaving a request for them to be on the lookout for news on the Guqin on her behalf. Instead of asking them to pass a message to the Feng household, Feng Luodi promised to return in a few days to check for any news of the Guqin. Before she left, she would always be sure to purchase a few boxes of resin from the shopkeeper, as a form of payment for their help.
By noon, the trio had already visited all of the zither shops Chang’an had to offer, to no avail. But as a result of the various “purchases” of resins made in the shops, the hefty purse that Feng Luodi left the household with had now slimmed down considerably. They were really hungry, for they spent the whole morning walking about the city without any breakfast.
“I smell something really good!” Scarlet exclaimed as she sniffed the air, running ahead of the other two as she led them towards the source of the fragrance. The trio found themselves standing in front of a bustling restaurant in the middle of the street. A red silken sash was put up on the front of the building read in bold letters, “The Best Restaurant in Chang’an ‘Manchun Tang’ Culinary Showdown”.
On a side note, the majority of the words in the Xuan Dynasty are written using the Clerical Script or the Cursive Script, and not the modern Simplified Script she was used to in her world. If she had no knowledge of the Traditional Script, of which the Clerical and Cursive scripts are based off, she would have been completely illiterate in this parallel world. As it is, she could read most of the words on scriptures and books, but writing on the bamboo slats proved to be a huge problem for her. In the Xuan Dynasty, paper was mostly made of hemp. It tore easily, and was not the choice for many. Just the thought of the stacks of bamboo slates in her father’s study gave her a tremendous headache.
Feng Luodi did not expect these things to appear in the Xuan Dynasty. In her modern world, ‘showdowns’ were common as crowds are drawn by the fanfare, but she wasn’t aware that such a concept had already existed for ages. The trio squeezed through the crowd and got a better look at what was happening in front. Two sets of kitchenware and utensils were laid out separately in the space in front of the restaurant, and two chefs were busy at work. The one on the left was a middle-aged man sporting a beard and a huge belly, an image befitting of a chef. But the person on the right was, surprisingly, a girl.
To be exact, it was a girl disguised as a man. Her features were delicate, her frame small, and anyone with a decent eye could see past her disguise. Her actions were fluid and pleasing to look at, as if she wasn’t cooking a dish, but finishing the filigree on a work of art.
Laid out on two rows of tables in front of the chefs were the few dishes already prepared by them, which was where the source of the aroma came from in the first place.The dishes not only smelled good, but looked enticing. Beside the tables stood a few people with begonias in their hands, presumably the judges of the culinary showdown.
“This is the last round, right? Chef’s Xiao’s reputation would be ruined if the girl wins!”
“What can be done about that? The prize of the competition is too good to be missed! If Chef Xiao wins, his monthly salary would be doubled, and he gets to choose the daily signature dish of Manchun Tang. If the girl wins, she get to dine for free at Manchun Tang for the rest of her life. Even the cost of her dining room would be waived! However, all of that dwarfed in comparison to the ultimate prize: the inclusion of your personal dishes in the Manchun Tang menu! Just think about that! It’s Manchun Tang, whose name was decreed by the First Emperor himself – he even wrote the signboard personally!”