Xue-shi brought her two sons and rode the carriage all the way to the Fu Province.
When they entered its borders, they could see that this place was just as flourishing as the capital. By the time they arrived at the Fu Province City, the three of them had their horizons expanded.
The streets were wide enough for four carriages to drive along and the road was neat and clean. The various-sized buildings on either side had curved awnings, many of them being stores and restaurants of all kinds. There were many people going to and fro on the streets, their clothing bright. There were also quite a few weirdly dressed foreigners with eyes and hair that were different colors compared to the people of the Grand Xi.
Xue-shi felt she was in a daze. Yan Xiao and Yan Rui were the same way.
Because Yan Zhi didn’t know when they would arrive, there wasn’t anyone there to receive them. Luckily, for the sake of their safety, Shen Yi Yao had sent four guards to escort them on their trip. They also brought along some errand boys, maids and grannies. They found an inn to stay at before ordering someone to send Yan Zhi a letter informing him of their arrival.
When the guard delivered the letter, Yan Zhi hadn’t been home. Only when it was almost dark did he hurry over.
Xue-shi’s eyes turned red on the spot when she saw him.
This was because Yan Zhi had gotten thinner and tanner. He wasn’t as fair or portly as before, and looked like he aged quite a bit.
Xue-shi was both excited and saddened. She cried for a long while. Yan Zhi busied himself with comforting her, saying persistently that he hadn’t suffered hardship. The reason he lost weight and got tanned was merely due to the hot climate.
After a round of fussing, the group of people dragged their luggage over to Yan Zhi’s newly-bought residence.
Yan Zhi was a prudent person. Despite having enough to buy a larger place, he wasn’t that extravagant. Therefore, he bought an unobtrusive three-compound residence. It wasn’t big but it wasn’t small. It was enough for their family of four.
After they settled down and had dinner, the couple sat together and spoke about what they each encountered after separating.
When the old madam’s death was mentioned, Yan Zhi was a little silent. In theory, not going back home for the funeral wasn’t a filial act. However, he didn’t know if this opportunity would still be waiting for him if he had to leave for three years.
Xue-shi comforted him and said that she and their sons had observed the old madam’s wake and were in mourning according to convention. They had also made all the offerings and burned the incense as required. Xue-shi was even still wearing plain clothing, and apart from a single silver hairpin, she merely had a white pearl flower in her hair.
Yan Zhi wasn’t an inflexible person and no longer looked depressed. Afterwards, he took out a chest from under the bed and had Xue-shi open it with a rather meaningful expression.
Xue-shi opened the chest and was essentially stunned.
It wasn’t because there was some huge amount of money inside. It was because she knew Yan Zhi had just purchased this residence. With the Fu Province flourishing, house prices were definitely not low. Such a place definitely cost over a thousand taels, but with all the gold, silver and banknotes inside the chest, there was around eight thousand taels inside.
Xue-shi’s heart beat wildly. She first didn’t dare to believe it, and was then pleasantly surprised. Then, she became worried.
“Hurry and tell me. Did you take bribes or do something illegal?”
She repeatedly questioned him until Yan Zhi swore he didn’t do anything of the sort before she felt relieved. After the two got in bed, Yan Zhi told her the details involved.
Because of this, Xue-shi was even more grateful towards Shen Yi Yao and Yan Yan.
Yan Zhi naturally wasn’t satisfied with just this. His connections needed to be put to good use. Due to his relationship with the navy, Yan Zhi had quite a lot of face with the many merchants. The Fu Province’s navy was the best equipped and best funded out of the entire Grand Xi due to the prosperous trade. In theory, many of the commanding officers should have had bulging coin pouches. However, Shen Xuan ran things strictly and such actions were prohibited.
Of course, to compensate the troops, Shen Xuan helped open up a so-called shortcut, allowing them to also earn some adequate silver. That was to use their positions to escort merchants and receive renumeration, as well as using warships to bring a set amount of goods for overseas trade and bringing foreign goods back to sell. The obtained profits would be split amongst the entire navy, with the participants getting a larger share.
However, everyone was of military background and their main concern was the nation’s safety. Everything else was secondary. It was fine to have these troops go fight pirates, but making them act as merchants was a little difficult. Usually these trades were left for others to handle, or undertaken with other merchants who came along.
Those merchants were all cunning and crafty. On the surface they bent the waist and nodded at these military lords and acted like grandsons. In reality, they didn’t refrain from buying low and selling high.
In light of this, Yan Zhi had purposefully accepted this role for the sake of getting in the navy’s good books. He became the one responsible for finding the merchants who would handle the goods. Because Yan Zhi was an official of the shipping office, he was very familiar with the market’s situation. The merchants also didn’t dare try any tricks with him. Therefore, the navy received quite a lot of profit.
Along with Yan Zhi’s skills in flattering others, everyone in the navy had a rather good impression of him. He didn’t have to use his identity as Yan Yan’s eldest uncle to ask Shen Xuan for help. He took care of any issues that cropped up by himself.
Yan Zhi constantly improved himself. Not only did he handle this matter with the navy, he also used his connections to send his aides along with the ships. Firstly it was to familiarize himself with the circumstances outside and secondly to help the troops who weren’t adept at these matters to sell their goods.
With such back and forth, his relationship with the navy became firmer and he also got quite a lot of new connections. Using his connections with the merchants and the navy’s warships, he started selling his own goods. He bought a small merchant vessel with the money he saved, and by the time Luo Huai Yuan arrived at the Fu Province, he was like the local head who was eating on both sides. He was definitely flourishing.
Luo Huai Yuan was very pleasantly surprised at the extent of Yan Zhi’s development.
He needed someone like this, who could mix in with the officials while also thriving in places where snakes mixed with dragons. The things Luo Huai Yuan needed to do in the future wasn’t appropriate for people like Shen Xuan and Xie Mao to handle. It was best if he could have a local mixed in.
After Xie Mao discussed things with Luo Huai Yuan, he quickly sent a letter back to the Zhenguo Duke Estate in the capital.
Unexpectedly, the Zhenguo Duke Estate wasn’t going to participate this time.
The Zhenguo Duke didn’t explain his reasoning in his reply but Xie Mao understood. The princes were all mature now. Empress Xiao and the crown prince represented the orthodox faction while Senior Concubine Xu and the Jin and Qi Princes represented the favored faction. The two were struggling more and more, and the court was also swept into it. Although the Yun Prince and the Jing Prince remained silent, the Yun Prince could still be considered a contender. If he did so many things in private, people would inevitably wonder if he had the same thoughts as Senior Concubine Xu’s faction.
The Zhenguo Duke Estate had always been neutral. They couldn’t pretend not to know of the Yun Prince’s actions and get in cahoots with him.
They were distancing themselves and declaring themselves as spectators.
Luo Huai Yuan wasn’t surprised. Prior to marrying Yan Yan, he had transferred all the businesses the Zhenguo Duke Estate was involved in to Yan Yan. His actions were different from the Zhenguo Duke Estate’s actions, but they were implying pretty much the same thing.
This was a sort of mutual understanding, and also giving each other a final path of retreat.
When Xie Mao received the news, he was extremely hesitant. He was firmly part of the Zhenguo Duke’s faction. Now that the Zhenguo Duke Estate distanced themselves, should he do the same?
Luo Huai Yuan didn’t push Xie Mao for his answer. He spent his days idling around the Fu Province City like he had nothing to do. Every now and then he would chat and drink with Shen Qi or meet up with Yan Zhi, seeming especially leisurely.
This was also why he put Yan Zhi in place as a backup plan. Even if Xie Mao wasn’t willing to proceed, he could choose to start on a small-scale by himself.
Xie Mao didn’t disappoint Luo Huai Yuan. Perhaps he was a speculator at heart or perhaps he couldn’t resist the allure. Before long, he gave Luo Huai Yuan his answer and also sent a letter back to the capital.
After receiving the latter, the Zhenguo Duke read it and gave it to Shen Ding.
Shen Ding seemed a little worried, “Father, this Xie Mao….”
The Zhenguo Duke waved his hand unconcernedly, “We’ve distanced ourselves but that doesn’t mean Xie Mao has to do the same.”
“What about Xuan’er and Qi’er?”
The Zhenguo Duke smiled profoundly, “The interactions between juniors has nothing to do with us.”
Shen Ding nodded his head in understanding.
“Don’t tell Yao’er about this matter. That fellow is also a smart one and understands our meaning.”
These words meant that Shen Ding would tell Second Madam Shen not to let Shen Yi Yao know about the things happening in the Fu Province. Let her assume her daughter and son-in-law were living well in the Yun Province.
It’s about time for the little fatty to go back and steam buns 1 He will head back tomorrow. The Fu Province’s matter won’t be written about in detail. It’s just the little fatty getting some money while paving the road for the future. This fellow never forgets that if he cannot win against the Jin Prince, he plans to escape with his whole family.