Jia Xu was sent out by Liu Mang to find this two merchants because he wanted to use every available opportunity to obtain provisions. These two were merchants in Jingzhou so if he were to obtain their agreement, Yangzhou would be able to develop. Although merchants only seek profits, they were also able to bring vitality to Yangzhou and make it more prosperous.
“Are you Lord Kuai Ran’s man?” Fatty Liang and Wu De brought Jia Xu to a room in a nearby inn when they realized Jia Xu had no malicious intentions.
Since the person offended was Cai He and the person that begged for leniency was Kuai Ran, they believed that Jia Xu had to be dispatched by one of these two nobles. As someone sent out by Cai He would no longer be so polite, they could only think that Jia Xu was sent by Kuai Ran. If that was the case, the two would be very honored and happy. After all, they would certainly want to make a connection with Kuai Ran.
“No.” Jia Xu shook his head.
The expressions of the two merchants fell the moment they heard Jia Xu’s reply. Jia Xu could see their disappointments. Merchants seek profit. That profit could come from either trade or connections.
“Then who are you?” The two asked politely despite their disappointment.
“Haha. Do you all only know about Lord Kuai Ran?”
“In that case, are you Lord Wang Shu’s man?” Fatty Liang asked. He may have been fat but he was still sharp. He could remember someone named Wang Shu who was also the first to speak up for them. The man’s words may have been reckless but he was still the first to act. It was also because of him that Kuai Ran then stepped forward to ask for leniency.
“Correct.” Jia Xu nodded and looked at the smarter one.
“Why is Lord Wang Shu looking for us?” Fatty Liang asked respectfully as he cupped his fist towards Jia Xu while wondering about Wang Shu’s identity. He had initially thought that Wang Shu was Kuai Ran’s attendant.
“Haha. Brother Liang. Brother Wu. Can I call the two of you like this?” Jia Xu asked. Only Jia Xu would do such a thing as a scholar’s attendant would find it disdainful to associate with merchants.
“It is too much!” Wu De and Fatty Liang cupped their fists in reply.
“My family’s Lord is not any lower than Lord Kuai Ran in status.” Jia Xu said to the two.
“What?” Wu De was the first to exclaim in shock. Kuai Ran was the son of Kuai Yue, the second most important person in JIngzhou. The Kuai Family was so influential that even if Liu Biao were to die the next day, the Kuai Family would still be around. Kuai Ran was the heir of such a family.
Now, someone told them that Wang Shu was higher in status compared to Kuai Ran. This is not a claim that even Liu Biao’s children could make. This was a huge joke as there were no Wang Family that is bigger than the Kuai Family in Jingzhou.
“The two of you don’t believe me?” Jia Xu said as he looked at their reactions. Although Wu De and Fatty Liang did not say anything, their expressions showed that they did not believe Jia Xu.
“Who is this person?” Fatty Liang thought to himself again. Perhaps Wang Shu was not this person’s real name. If Wang Shu was really someone without status, Kuai Ran would not have spoken up for them. Kuai Ran also said that this person was friends with Kuai Yue. If that is the case, it is likely that Wang Shu also had status as high as Kuai Ran’s. It is possible that he was also the son of another influential family.
“I can tell you his identity but you must remember this. If you leak his identity to others, you cannot blame me for being ruthless. My family’s Lord is able to make you disappear from Jingzhou as easily as Cai He!” Jia Xu spoke with a smile. It was a cold smile capable of making the two merchants tremble.
Jia Xu who knew the hearts of men knew that the soft would not be capable. Only the strong and forceful would be able to risk their lives.
“Then don’t say it.” Wu De shook his head. He shrank back the moment he saw Jia Xu’s expression. On the other hand, Fatty Liang could not decide. He wanted to know but he was afraid it would be a one way trip.
“Haha. If you do not want to know, it is fine. After all, you are just lowly merchants. Even if you have money, you are too afraid to spend it!” Jia Xu provoked.
“Are you making fun of us?” Fatty Liang stood up angrily. He still had the feeling of humiliation from earlier. It would be a different matter of one of those nobles were to humiliate him but now, even a housekeepr was looking down on him. “If we are lowly merchants then what are you?”
“Me? Even though I am just a housekeeper right now, I know that by working for him I won’t become very rich. But I can even become a small noble!”
“What?” The two merchants were shocked. There are many that struggled to be acknowledged as a small noble but even after wasting their entire life away, they were not able to achieve that goal. Only a small amount of really talented people were able to do this. One example was the Mi Family that spent a huge amount of money to curry favor with Liu Bei. He did all this for a noble status but ended up gaining nothing. It is not as bad in the present times but in the past, even a small status is enough to scare a lot of people.
“If you want to remain as a lowly merchant in Jingzhou, you may do as you wish. If you want a chance to become a small noble, you should stay and listen.” Jia Xu said as he pointed at the door of the room.
“We… we should leave.” Wu De was still scared. This matter had exceeded his comprehension.
Fatty Liang thought to himself for a while and then said, “Wait!” He studied Jia Xu’s expression to find any clues but unfortunately, Jia Xu was good at hiding his expression. Jia Xu simply drank his tea calmly and quietly.
“Does your Lord really have the ability to do this?” Fatty Liang asked. Jia Xu smiled when he heard this as he knew that Fatty Liang had already taken the bait.
“Fatty Liang! Are you mad?” Wu De spoke anxiously. While he and Fatty Liang were competitors, they were also friends. Wu De was worried that Fatty Liang gets himself into a trouble he could not walk away from. A noble’s business is not something a merchant could participate in as the nobles could easily end them.
“I do not want to be a merchant forever!” Fatty Liang roared angrily. This anger did not just come from that day’s encounter with Cai He and Jia Xu. It was a frustration that had built up from many years of being oppressed. When he was younger, he had thought that earning a lot of money would bring his family happiness and dignity. Even in the brothel, he had enough money to enter one of the boxes. However, his status had not been enough.
“Fatty Liang!” Wu De finally realized that his friend had changed. He was no longer the same Fatty Liang from over ten years ago.
Jia Xu simply watched the two merchants while drinking tea. He knew that the two merchants would not be able to escape.
“Wu De Wu Shouzi! Do you want to be restrained for your whole life?” Fatty Liang asked his friend with bloodshot eyes. For some reason, Wu De also felt the same way when he saw Fatty Liang’s current appearance. “I… I also do not want to be restrained for my whole life!”
“Our Lord is not an insignificant noble. It is not impossible for you all to become nobles in the future.” Becoming a noble would allow them to truly take root in the world.
“Speak. Who is your Lord? What does he need from us?” Fatty Liang asked calmly. He knew that there is no such thing as free lunch. Even people who could make them nobles would not do so for free. There was definitely something that they want.
“Haha. It is easy to talk to smart people!” Jia Xu lowered his cup. These two people were already caught.
“Our Lord is the person who has higher standing than the Lord of Jingzhou!” Jia Xu still wanted to let them guess so that they would fully recognize Liu Mang’s status.
“Higher standing than the Lord of Jingzhou?” Fatty Liang and Wu De went into deep thought.
“That’s impossible! There is nobody in Jingzhou that has a higher standing than the Lord of Jingzhou!” Wu De shook his head. Jia Xu must be lying to them.
“Could it be?” Unlike Wu De, Fatty Liang paid more attention to news. That was why he could understand Jia Xu’s words.
“Correct. That is our Lord.” Jia Xu replied.
“Fatty Liang. Who is he talking about?” Wu De asked as he looked at both Fatty Liang and Jia Xu with doubt.
“Haha. Brother Wu! Who is the one that first helped us just now?” Fatty Liang laughed bitterly.
“It is Lord Wang Shu.”
“Try reading his name backwards!”
“Read it backwards?” Wu De was stunned for a while but eventually did as instructed. “Wang Shu! Shu Wang! The King of Shu! His Highness, the King of Shu!”
“Are you really talking about His Highness the King of Shu?” Liu Mang was very famous as he also had his reputation as a Sage King. At first, merchants had nothing to do with Liu Mang. However, Wu De found out about him through the recruitment order. When Liu Mang only charged thirty percent tax, the people would be able to buy as much provisions with as little money as they want. As a result, the value of provisions would drop.
If this was really about Liu Mang, they would definitely have the chance of becoming nobles. After all, as royalty, Liu Mang had the ability to establish his own kingdom. Promoting a person to nobility would not be a problem.
However, Fatty Liang smiled, realizing that he had already boarded a ship that would never turn back. Although Liu Mang had high status, one wrong move and Fatty Liang could easily end up dead. On top of that, Liu Mang was in Jingzhou like a hostage. If Liu Mang could not seem to help himself, how was he going to help others?
“Ah!” Wu De was already scared. He was one of the excessively cautious types. “Is it possible for me to back out now?”
“Haha. Brother Wu. What do you think?” Jia Xu smiled at Wu De. “If you are not on our side then we can only ask you to keep this a secret.”
“A secret? Yes. I will definitely keep this a secret!” Wu De nodded.
“Death is the best way to keep secrets.” Fatty Liang was much better than Wu De. He knew that escape was no longer possible now that they have found out about Wang Shu’s identity.
It would not be possible to leave as the housekeeper did not come alone. He had two guards with him. Both guards looked as though they had killed before. One wrong move and they would die there. Reporting about Liu Mang to Liu Biao would also be a terrible decision. As Liu Biao needed Liu Mang alive to keep Lu Bu in check, Liu Biao would end up executing them instead to placate Liu Mang.
“Sir. Since we already know about His Highness, you should also tell us your name.” Fatty Liang asked. He needed to know whether this person had the ability to speak for Liu Mang and if his words had any weight.
“Haha. I am Jia Xu Jia Wenhe, the Governor of Hefei!” Jia Xu cupped his fist in reply. His position as governor is only to be seen on the surface. His real job is to be Liu Mang’s advisor.
“You are Jia Wenhe?” Fatty Liang pointed at Jia Xu astounded.
“Hm? Does Brother Liang know me?”
“Military Advisor Jia, you may have forgotten but we had transaction while you were still serving under General Zhang!” Fatty Liang replied. Naturally, this General Zhang was Zhang Xiu. Zhang Xiu had an alliance with Jingzhou and was like their guard. During that time, Liu Biao was able to sleep peacefully. He did not need to worry about the Yellow Turbans or Cao Cao. At that time, he and Zhang Xiu were at their honeymoon period and he satisfied Zhang Xiu’s demands. As Zhang Xiu wanted provisions instead of gold, he was able to stock pile a lot. Unfortunately, all that had already been burned down by Jia Xu.
“Oh is that so? Since Brother Liang and I have past association, it would be easier for us to cooperate together in the future.” Jia Xu replied with goodwill.
“So, what does His Highness the King of Shu want from us?” Fatty Liang and Wu De asked.
“Are you still addressing him as His Highness the King of Shu?” Jia Xu asked back with a smile.
“I mean, Milord.” Fatty Liang and Wu De were smart and quickly corrected themselves.
“Yangzhou needs provisions. I am sure the two of you know about this.” Jia Xu replied.
The two merchants nodded their heads. Pretty much half the world already knew that Yangzhou desperately needed provisions. Because of a ploy from Jiangdong, the barren Yangzhou was suddenly heavily populated, placing a heavy burden on Lu Bu’s Army. Even Yuan Shao only had to support five hundred thousand men but Liu Mang had to support more than a million people. If it was not because there was a lack of provisions, Liu Mang would not come to Jingzhou. Liu Mang came to buy provisions for Yangzhou.
“Does Milord want us to transport provisions over?” Fatty Liang and Wu De showed a troubled expression. “We won’t hide it from you. We also wanted to sell provisions to Yangzhou but we cannot transport provisions out of Jingzhou.”
As merchants, they also wanted to sell provisions to Yangzhou for profit but they were unfortunately unable to transport provisions to Yangzhou. To get to Yangzhou, they had to go along the Yangtze River or through Jiangxia. However, Jiangxia was now occupied by the Jiangdong Army. While the Jiangdong Army would not kill the merchants if they wanted to protect their own livelihood, they would definitely not allow the provisions to reach Yangzhou.
There were two other possible routes. One was for them to pass through Nanyang. Unfortunately, Nanyang was controlled by Liu Bei and thus, it was not possible for them to transport provisions to Yangzhou. All that was left was Xinye. However, Xinye was a strategic town controlled by Jingzhou. They would definitely send the provisions back once it arrives at Xinye.
“Xinye?” Jia Xu smiled when he heard the name of the place. “If you can send the provisions to Xinye, we would be able to handle the rest.”
“Hm? Military Advisor Jia. What do you mean?” Fatty Liang looked at Jia Xu with suspicion. Did Jia Xu have a conspirator at Xinye? Knowing a few people may not be enough to pull this off. It is unlike the Governor of Xinye, Liu Qi, would sned his father’s provisions away.
“You don’t have to worry about this. The mountain people has a plan.” Jia Xu smiled back. Liu Mang had already obtained Liu Qi’s cooperation.
At first, Jia Xu was skeptical about becoming allies with Liu Qi as they would offend the Cai and Kuai Family. But it seems like there was an advantage to this. They were now able to go through Xinye as the governor, Liu Qi, was now cooperating with them. There was nothing left to fear.
“If that is the case, then that would be the best. We will set off tomorrow. I would be able to provide ten thousand provisions!” Fatty Liang said to Jia Xu.
“I don’t have as much as Fatty Liang but I still have about eight thousand provisions!” Wu De spoke as well.
Jia Xu frowned. While eighteen thousand provisions were a lot, it was hardly enough to support Yangzhou.
“Why? Is it too little? In that case, I will spare no effort and add in another five thousand provisions more!” Fatty Liang said as he became determined to use up his own family’s finance. Even the provisions from earlier was something he had bought with the intention to sell.
“I also can dig out about three thousand more.” Wu De also said, hoping not to fall behind Fatty Liang.
JIa Xu shook his head. Even another eight thousand provisions still wouldn’t be enough.
“Military Advisor Jia. This is already the best we can do. If we give anymore, we would not be able to provide for our family!” Fatty Liang said awkwardly. While they were rich, this was their limit. They would go bankrupt if they went any further.
“I am not asking you to throw away your family’s fortune. I am only saying it is not enough. However, it is better than nothing!” Jia Xu’s words calmed down the two merchants. “Brother Liang, Brother Wu. The two of you should transport what provisions you can spare to Xinye. Someone else there will get in touch with you.”
“We understand.” Fatty Liang and Wu De replied. Although they felt regret for losing so much profits, they endured it for the sake of obtaining status.
Jia Xu could tell what they were thinking based on their expressions. Merchants seek profit. This was an inevitable fact. Jia Xu laughed and shook his head. “Of course, you can tell me the price of these provisions. When you reach Xinye, someone will pay you for it.”
“We don’t dare!” Fatty Liang and Wu De quickly lowered their heads.
“Why not? Not all of this money is meant for you. It is also so that you can buy more provisions to send to Xinye!” Jia Xu replied. The two merchant’s appearance of wanting yet not daring to was hilarious. “If the two of you only give all your provisions away without accepting money, how are you going to work for Milord in the future?”
“In that case, this one will definitely provide Milord with tens of thousands of provisions.” Fatty Liang said to Jia Xu.
“Me too! Me too!” Wu De also quickly replied.
“Try your best but do not overdo it.” Jia Xu warned. People would definitely notice the provisions being purchased. That was why the merchants should not overdo it.
“This is only just one matter!” Jia Xu said. Buying provisions was only one matter. While the two merchants could provide with a lot of provisions, it was not enough for Yangzhou. The only thing that could solve the crisis plaguing Yangzhou was Jingzhou’s provisions. It was the main reason Liu Mang came here. The two merchants were only assistance obtained from desperation. To Jia Xu, what happens next was the more important thing.
“Military Advisor. Please explain clearly.”
“This second matter is more important. Milord wants you to make merchants bring their business to Yangzhou. Make friends with them and tell them that we at Yangzhou welcomes them. These are what we want and what we are willing to pay them.” Jia Xu took out a paper as he spoke. There are many things written on it by Liu Mang. Most of it were ‘necessities’ like iron to ensure he can outfit his army.
“Hm?” Fatty Liang was the one that took the paper but Wu De immediately snatched it out of his hands.
“What are you even pretending for? You can’t even read!” Wu De looked at his friend in disdain. The fact that Fatty Liang was illiterate was already known to many.
“Hey!” Fatty Liang laughed awkwardly. Jia Xu also laughed while looking at Fatty Liang. During that era, it is not surprising to be illiterate. There were also many illiterate people in Liu Mang’s Army. Liu Mang was still in the process of forcing them to learn how to read.
Although Fatty Liang was illiterate, Wu De could read. That was why Wu De took the paper away.
Written on it were many things, even coal. It was a ridiculously large purchase with an equally astronomical budget of fifteen thousand gold. The two merchants were stupefied at this figure.
However, what truly astounded the two merchants was the contract written by Liu Mang. The contract was made to be favorable towards the merchants.