The Tyrant’s Cannon Fodder Male Empress Chapter 60

Chapter 60

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“Miss, no need for excessive courtesy.” Xue Yao saw that the Crown Prince was not in a position to refuse, so he took the initiative to step forward and help the woman. “This young musician seems to have injured his ankle. Let’s quickly find a medical clinic to check his condition.”

“I’m fine!” The young man approached, slightly embarrassed, and helped his sister. He spoke to his sister in a dialect that Xue Yao couldn’t quite understand, in a low voice.

The songstress nodded, then took out a purse from her sleeve, emptied some silver coins and a silver note, and looked at the Crown Prince. In southern accent, she said, “For the life-saving grace, I have nothing to repay. This silver note was a reward given to us by a merchant last month. I hope Young Master won’t disdain it.”

The Crown Prince had no intention of accepting the gratitude from these performing artists and jokingly said, “Do you know who my father is? Don’t bother taking out less than ten thousand taels of silver.”

Xue Yao: “……”

Please, don’t mention your father, Crown Prince!

The Sixth Prince took the silver note, folded it neatly, and handed it back to the young woman. “Be cautious in case those troublemakers return to provoke you. Find a different place to perform.”

The young woman, seeing these three young lords with extraordinary appearances, splendid attire, and the accent of the capital city, assumed they had a significant background and sufficient wealth. She was unsure how to express her gratitude as she believed they would not value the meager silver note.

“We simply couldn’t stand injustice, Miss, no need to worry,” Xue Yao said as the sky darkened. He stepped forward to bid farewell on behalf of Crown Prince, “Be vigilant against those troublemakers. We have other matters to attend to, so we must take our leave. If fate allows, we shall meet again.”

Hearing this, the songstress’ younger brother wanted to kneel and express his gratitude again, but the Sixth Prince supported him, offering a few comforting words and bidding them farewell.

The Crown Prince had taken just a few steps when he suddenly recalled the words spoken by the songstress. He halted in his tracks and turned to inquire, “Miss, was this silver note a reward from a merchant last month? Does it bear the seal of a specific pawnshop? May I have a look?”

The songstress hastily unfolded the silver note and respectfully handed it to the Crown Prince.

The Crown Prince accepted it, casting a brief glance before his striking phoenix-like eyes widened in seriousness. He stared intently at the songstress and asked, “Is that merchant by any chance someone with the same accent as that of the capital city?”

The seal on the silver note bore the insignia of the Yuhui Money Exchange in the capital city!

The songstress, captivated by the handsome nobleman’s intense scrutiny, found herself entranced, her heart racing beyond control.

It was her younger brother who eagerly responded, “Young Master is absolutely right. That merchant had the same accent as yours! The innkeeper invited us to perform in their private room, claiming he was a wealthy merchant from the capital, requesting our attentive service!”

As these words emerged, not only the Crown Prince but also Xue Yao and the Sixth Prince pieced together the situation. This songstress had encountered those responsible for inflating grain prices!

The Crown Prince returned the silver note to the songstress, paused for a moment, and then solemnly inquired, “Miss, do you happen to remember the appearance of that merchant?”

The songstress immediately began to recall the details, nodding hastily. “I remember, especially the leader of that gentleman. I remember quite vividly. He had a long face, slightly dark complexion, in his fifties, maybe even older. He had a sturdy build, half a head taller than me, a lengthy beard, and his hair was turning white…”

She gestured while describing him.

Both the Crown Prince and the Sixth Prince fixed their gaze on her, their eyes practically sparking with the desire to identify the scoundrel responsible for maliciously inflating grain prices.

However, no matter how detailed the description, it didn’t reveal the actual person. It was just an ordinary description of an elderly man, making it impossible to ascertain his specific identity.

The Crown Prince contemplated for a moment before speaking, “Miss, you’ve offended the county magistrate’s son. It might be difficult for you to make a living here in the future. How about joining me in the capital city? I can provide accommodation and basic necessities. I only ask that you help me identify some individuals there, to see if any of them match the description of the merchant you encountered.”

The songstress’ eyes widened at the prospect of accompanying the nobleman to the capital, complete with room and board. The implication left her blushing.

Her younger brother responded honestly, “Young Master, that scoundrel’s father isn’t the Hangzhou magistrate but rather the county magistrate of Shunde, which is quite a distance from Hangzhou. Their oppression won’t reach us. We can simply switch to another tavmmph!”

He was cut off mid-sentence by his sister’s elbow.

Blushing, the songstress replied, “If you require assistance in identification, I am more than willing to help, even if it means laying down my life, Young Master.”

So, the siblings, along with other musicians, separated from their group and were temporarily housed in a secluded courtyard by the Crown Prince.

Identifying the mastermind behind this scheme was something that couldn’t be accomplished in just half a month.

Considering the fact that the siblings had encountered those suspicious merchants, Xue Yao paid them a visit at their lodgings that very evening and invited them to collaborate on the play.

Although they didn’t fully comprehend the purpose behind Xue Yao’s request, the siblings readily agreed, solely because it was at the Crown Prince’s behest.

They patiently waited for two more days.

In the Hangzhou market, the price of medium-grade grain had surged to seven hundred and thirty copper coins per stone.

On this particular morning, the songstress and her brother arrived at the largest grain shop. Following Xue Yao’s instructions, the brother approached a shop assistant and said, “We’d like to purchase one stone of grain and have it delivered to our ship.”

The puzzled shop assistant dismissively waved his hand. “Why are you coming to our grain shop to buy just one stone of grain? You could get it at an outside grain shop. We sell a minimum of ten stones here.”

The songstress’ brother lifted his chin and replied, “Our master has an acquaintance who knows the manager here. We’ve deposited twenty thousand taels in your grain shop. We’d like you to provide us with one stone at a price of six hundred and forty copper coins and arrange for it to be delivered to our ship. We’re in a hurry to head to the capital, so please don’t delay us.”

The shop assistant was taken aback. Upon hearing the mention of “deposited twenty thousand taels” and the specific price of “six hundred and forty copper coins,” he assumed that representatives of the merchants from the capital had arrived. He quickly led them to the back courtyard to meet the shop manager.

“Are you two honorable guests here to collect grain on behalf of Master Zhao?” Noticing the siblings’ local accents, the manager asked with puzzlement, “Have all the capital’s grain ships assembled? Our goods are fully prepared and ready for transport to your masters at any time!”

“What grain ships?” The songstress’ brother raised his head proudly. “Our master instructed my sister and me to head to the capital as soon as possible to meet him. We’re buying some grain for the journey, and one stone will suffice!”

The manager was momentarily perplexed but politely smiled. “Are you two going to the capital to meet Master Zhao?”

“Indeed, last month we performed for Master Zhao, and he was incredibly pleased. He had initially promised to come to collect us by the end of this month. Unfortunately, his plans have fallen through, so Master Zhao sent us a letter instructing us to make our own way to the capital to find him.”

The manager’s heart skipped a beat. “Why couldn’t Master Zhao make it?”

“Well.” The songstress’s brother appeared somewhat nervous, quickly recalling the words taught by Xue Yao. He swallowed and then spoke loudly, “Don’t even mention it! Master Zhao had intended to take a large quantity of grain to Shanxi to make a fortune, but unexpectedly, the government suddenly announced that they needed to open their granaries for disaster relief, and now…”

Ahem…” As per Xue Yao’s instructions, the songstress coughed twice at the opportune moment, signaling with her eyes and intentionally leaving the manager hanging.

Observing his sister’s signal, the brother immediately lowered his head and fell silent.

Upon hearing that the government needed to provide grain for disaster relief, the manager was dumbfounded for a moment. Then, his eyes suddenly widened, his face turning pale!

Just a couple of days ago, he had learned that those group of merchants from the capital had seized grain for the sole purpose of lending it to the disaster-stricken people in Shanxi.

Now, with the government’s announcement of disaster relief, wasn’t the grain held by those capital merchants at risk of being confiscated?

But something didn’t add up…

The capital merchants had only paid a deposit, and if the government’s disaster relief efforts threatened their lending arrangement, the capital merchants would undoubtedly default. The grain in question was the very same as that held by these Zhejiang grain merchants!

Over the past two months, the grain shop had pursued substantial business deals to stockpile grain for the capital merchants. They had even combed through the grain shops in Jiangsu at exorbitant prices. Now, several grain storehouses in Zhejiang were brimming with grain, awaiting the capital merchants’ return for delivery. Yet, to their astonishment, the government had announced disaster relief.

What if the capital merchants had a change of heart…

Contemplating this, the manager felt a sudden dizziness, nearly stumbling to the ground. A shop assistant quickly caught him.

“Are you alright, Master?” the songstress pretended to ask with concern.

“Ah… I’m fine… I’m fine. It’s just that today’s business… has been exceptionally busy. I feel a bit lightheaded.” The manager managed to maintain a strained smile as he inquired of the siblings, “Is it true that the government is planning to provide grain for disaster relief? The people of Shanxi are indeed fortunate…”

“Fortunate? This is a disaster for our master’s opportunity to amass wealth!” the songstress’ brother protested. “Ah, forget it, Master, please hurry and fetch our grain for shipment!”

After completing their task, the siblings returned to their courtyard and recounted the situation to Xue Yao, nearly recreating the entire scene.

After reviewing it all, Xue Yao felt about seventy percent certain.

Later that afternoon, as planned, Xue Yao had a eunuch use money to bribe some of the local officials in the Hangzhou prefectural office. They were enticed to go to a tavern, deliberately spreading false information about the “government’s preparations for grain distribution for disaster relief.”

The guards dispatched by the Crown Prince reported daily on the inside information from the major grain shops.

Even though the managers and the proprietors displayed no apparent signs, the continuously rising grain prices suddenly dropped by ten copper coins two days later!

Merchants were among the most astute individuals, and they always acted faster than accurate information could spread.

The various grain shops maintained an outward appearance of indifference but gradually began to adjust their prices.

Two days later, many out-of-town merchants were able to procure medium-grade grain at the rate of six hundred and sixty copper coins per stone and joyfully returned to their hometowns.

The moment had arrived.

Xue Yao immediately sought an audience with the Crown Prince and disclosed the entirety of his remaining plan.

The Crown Prince praised his intricate scheme.

Initially, Xue Yao deliberately spread rumors of “grain merchants lending to disaster-stricken citizens.” This was not intended to drive up grain prices but to make the Zhejiang grain merchants believe that lending to the disaster victims was the legitimate reason for the frenzy of grain hoarding by the capital merchants.

Armed with this plausible explanation, Xue Yao proceeded with the second phase of the intricate plan — using the mouths of local officials to disseminate the rumor of “the government’s preparations for disaster relief.”

The group of Zhejiang grain merchants waiting for the final delivery were thunderstruck!

They believed that this batch of grain would all go to waste in their hands.

In reality, their grain had indeed gone to waste.

However, the Crown Prince couldn’t confront those capital merchants face-to-face, making it impossible to convince the Zhejiang merchants that they were dealing with swindlers.

Xue Yao took a cunning approach, fighting fire with fire, to make these Zhejiang merchants aware of their own deception.

Although the process was built on lies, the outcome of those false capital merchants not returning to collect the grain was real.

As a result, the Zhejiang merchants still had time to sell off their hoarded grain at reduced prices.

The Crown Prince could then purchase a sufficient quantity of grain at a reasonable price.

In the end, the only ones who incurred losses were the hidden manipulators behind the scenes who had tricked the merchants with a hefty deposit of one hundred thousand taels.

“I can’t believe you came up with such a plan!” The Crown Prince looked at the young and fair-faced reader-in-waiting in disbelief, showering him with praise.

“Your Highness, it’s time for us to turn the tables,” Xue Yao respectfully said, clasping his hands. “I would kindly request that you personally negotiate with the third major grain shop and demand the purchase of two hundred thousand stones of grain at a price of six hundred and twenty copper coins per stone, payable in silver. Then, spread the news, encouraging other grain shops to compete in lowering their prices. We’ll patiently wait for five days to reap the benefits.”

At first, the Crown Prince was taken aback, but soon his eyes brightened as he grasped Xue Yao’s intentions—

Although the plan aimed to acquire one and a half million stones of grain, if they were to openly state such a large quantity, the eight major grain shops in Zhejiang would likely unload their entire inventories to him with no competitive pressure.

However, if they claimed to only need two hundred thousand stones of grain, it would be a different story.

The eight major grain shops, all stocked to the brim with grain, would surely be eager to sell their hoarded stocks. This internal competition would drive down prices.

By letting these grain shops vie with one another, all the Crown Prince had to do was wait until they reached the lowest possible price. Then, he could privately purchase two hundred thousand stones of grain from each of the eight major grain shops, securing the greatest advantage!

The Crown Prince fixed his phoenix-like eyes on Xue Yao, then after a while, he softly spoke, “All these years by Seventh Brother’s side, your talents have been overlooked. Would you be willing to follow me from now on and achieve great things?”

Startled by the proposition, Xue Yao almost didn’t need to think. He immediately knelt down, lifting the edge of his robe, and said, “Your Highness! The Seventh Prince is still so young…”

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