“The Master has returned!” The housekeeper stepped forward and help took off Mi Zhu’s coat the moment Mi Zhu got home. A lot of firewood had been burned so the place was warm.
“I have always been troubling you, housekeeper.” Mi Zhu nodded in acknowledgement of the housekeeper’s efforts. The housekeeper looked pale, evidently waiting outside for Mi Zhu to return.
“It is no trouble at all. This is something that I should have been doing!” The housekeeper quickly replied.
“Master. Are you going to eat now?” The housekeeper asked. It was already noon. Although the common people of that era only had two meals a day, the prosperous still ate three meals a day.
“No. I am going to the study.” Mi Zhu initially wanted to eat first but decided not to after receiving that exciting news. He was going to become nobility. Once that happens, he would no longer be a lowly merchant. He was so excited he no longer felt like eating.
“Also, Second Master and the miss are not around!” The old housekeeper added, causing Mi Zhu’s mood to immediately plummet. The most important people in his life had disappeared.
The housekeeper immediately realized that he said the wrong thing the moment Mi Zhu’s expression changed. He quickly knelt down and begged for forgiveness.
“Get up. You are not the one at fault.” Mi Zhu shook his head. When Liu Bei attacked Yangzhou, none of them expected Liu Mang to attack Yuzhou. His little brother was guarding Yingshang city. When Yingshang city was captured, his brother had also disappeared along with his sister that had coincidentally went to pay a visit.
Mi Zhu did not know if the two of them were still alive. If they were dead, there should at least be corpses for Mi Zhu to bury. However, he could not find his siblings despite his efforts. He could only hope that his siblings were captured by Liu Mang. At least they would still be alive.
“Come, housekeeper. Let’s go and eat.” Mi Zhu finally said, not wanting to think about his siblings anymore. The more he thought about it, the more heart broken he became.
“No, no. Master. This cannot be done!” The housekeeper panicked after Mi Zhu invited him to eat. He was just a servant. If others find out about this, they would laugh at Mi Zhu.
“Why not? Do you want me to eat all these by myself?” Mi Zhu replied without taking offense. There were a dozen dishes on the table.
“No, that would not conform to common sense!1” The housekeeper shook his head. The servants all eat leftovers that their masters could not finish but they were not allowed to sit on the table.
“Who decided that?” Mi Zhu sneered. “Who decided that was common sense? It is the nobles! Who am I? I am just a lowly merchant! Why do I need to follow etiquette? Come and sit!” Mi Zhu said as he forcefully made the housekeeper sit.
“Master! I…!” The housekeeper wanted to object but finally gave up after a glare. He sat down, picked up his chopsticks and carefully took vegetables.
Mi Du didn’t care. All he cared about was that he no longer had to eat alone.
“Jingzhou needs a person in charge of commerce.” Liu Mang stated when he was still in Jingzhou. With Liu Qi’s help, supplies would flow from Jingzhou to Yangzhou. Fatty Liang and Wu De persuaded people to go to Yangzhou and start a business. However, all of this is too disorderly and would eventually cause trouble. That was why a person in charge of commerce was needed. People like Xu Shu, Liu Ye and Jia Xu did not know much about business.
As merchants were at the bottom of the social ladder, they don’t mix with the people from the upper class. As a result, the visitors that went to Wancheng split off into two groups.
“What?” Liu Bei was stunned when he heard the news. Liu Mang had dispatched an envoy to Yangzhou. It was not even just a problem of them being enemies. Liu Mang’s cavalry of three thousand was still around outside. Were they not afraid that the envoy would be killed?
“Why did Liu Mang send an envoy? Does he want to surrender?” Liu Bei mocked and then ordered “Bring that boy’s envoy in!”
“His Highness the King of Shu’s envoy, Yang Jie, greets the Left General.” Yang Jie was Yang Hong’s nephew. As Yang Hong was in charge of intelligence, this matter was given to a subordinate. Yang Jie volunteered.
Yang Jie showed perfect etiquette as an envoy by greeting Liu Bei respectfully with his title even though both sides were enemies. He could not greet Liu Bei as Imperial Uncle as this would imply that Liu Mang was Liu Bei’s nephew, putting Liu Bei is a higher position.
Liu Bei nodded and excused the envoy, acknowledging the way he was greeted. Yang Jie may be Liu Mang’s envoy but Liu Bei would not act too excessively.
“Why business does your Lord have with my Lord?” Jian Yong inquired as there was no need for Liu Bei himself to personally talk to the envoy.
“My Lord dispatched me to return the Left General’s wife and brother-in-law!”
“Hm?” Liu Bei frowned.
“It is Lady Mi and General Mi Fang.” Yang Jie explained.
“They are still alive?” Liu Bei immediately uttered without thinking.
Yang Jie smiled at Liu Bei’s reaction. Liu Bei reacted just like how his uncle Yang Hong had told him. “My Lord attacked Yingshang but did not execute General Mi Fang. He and Lady Mi are now guests in Yangzhou.” Yang Jie replied as he cupped his fist.
“Speak. What does your Lord want?” Liu Bei asked. He may have come from a common background but even the ways the common people cheat each other were similar. He did not believe that Liu Mang would return Mi Fang and Lady Mi purely out of good intentions.
“The Left General is straightforward!” Yang Jie said with a smile. “My Lord may not be in Yangzhou in the past few days. However, our Military Advisor Xu Shu have been satisfying the needs of General Mi Fang and Lady Mi. Unfortunately, Yangzhou is barren after many years of war. It is with great hardship that we entertained General Mi Fang and Lady Mi. So, we want to send them back to Yuzhou. We only hope the Left General is willing to pay for the fare of sending them to your home.”
“How much do you need?”
“Not much, just a hundred thousand provisions.” Yang Jie immediately gave a figure.
Everyone else spat out a mouthful of blood. How is that ‘not much’? Even highway robbery is more honest! To begin with, everybody knew that Yangzhou was lacking in provisions. It was to the extent that Liu Mang took the risk of personally going to Jingzhou to obtain provisions. Liu Bei was also waiting for the citizens of Yangzhou to start a riot. Why would he give provisions?
More importantly, Liu Bei himself only had around that amount for maintaining and expanding his army. If he gave the provision away, there would be none left for himself.
“Truly a meager amount!” Liu Bei mocked sarcastically with a trace of anger on his face.
“Your Lord’s request is impossible!” Jian Yong saw that Liu Bei got angry and lost face in front of Yang Jie. However, he did not care. His job was to solve difficult problems for Liu Bei.
“Is that a lot?” Yang Jie pretended to be astounded. “Of course, my Lord also understands that the Left General is thrifty so he reduced the amount to fifty thousand provisions.”
“Yang Jie! Are you really so unafraid of death?” Yang Jie’s words were provocations. Calling Liu Bei thrifty was the same as saying that he sold straw sandals. Ever since Liu Bei had become Imperial Uncle, he looked upon his experience of selling straw sandals with disdain. It was a taboo topic for Liu Bei.
“Does the Left General want to kill this humble one?” Yang Jie laughed indifferently. “Li Jue and Guo Si knew enough not to kill envoys in war. I am sure the benevolent Left General would also not kill me.”
Yang Jie’s words immediately put a stop to that line of inquiry. Li Jue and Guo Si were traitors to the nation but even they don’t kill envoys. If Liu Bei were to kill Yang Jie, he would be a smaller man compared to Li Jue and Guo Si. Naturally, this was actually a dangerous gamble as he would not know whether Liu Bei would kill him out of anger.
“Hmph! Yang Jie, I will speak plainly. It is impossible! Jia Xu Jia Wenhe should be with you all. He would know about the fire in Nanyang!” Jian Yong harrumphed as he stepped forward to reply. Giving fifty thousand provisions would have been possible had Jia Xu not start the fire at Nanyang. Now, they had to take provisions from Yuzhou and Pang Tong had to go to Jingzhou for provisions.
As for Jia Xu, Liu Bei initially did not take note of him. He only paid attention to Jia Xu after the provisions were burned. He then realized that Jia Xu was a talented individual.
“Thirty thousand provisions, final offer!” Yang Jie quoted another figure.
“Thirty thousand provisions?” This was still a huge figure but it was not impossible to reach. Mi Fang was of little value but Lady Mi, as Liu Bei’s wife, was not.
“Alright. We will send the provisions to collect General Mi Fang and Lady Mi.” Jian Yong replied. He looked at Liu Bei and knew that the thirty thousand provisions was still in Liu Bei’s mind.
“No problem. We will return General Mi Fang and Lady Mi after we receive the sixty thousand provisions.” Yang Jie nodded in satisfaction.
“Sixty thousand provisions?” Jian Yong froze.
“That’s right. One person is thirty thousand provisions so both of them would add up to sixty thousand!” Yang Jie replied innocently. “What’s wrong? Are you that reluctant to part with thirty thousand provisions? At most it is only worth a thousand gold. Added together they would only be worth two thousand gold!”
Jian Yong felt an urge to tear Yang Jie apart. Two thousand gold could buy sixty thousand provisions. Many years ago that is. Now it is five times the price. If it was possible to buy provisions with gold, Liu Mang would not have gone to Jingzhou.
“Yang Chang Shi! Saying it like this means that you have no intention to negotiate! You have no intention of returning General Mi Fang and Lady Mi!” Jian Yong coldly replied.
“How could that be true?” Yang Jie spoke exaggeratingly. “My Lord is sincere. The dowry for Lady Mi was three thousand gold, countless carriages and thousands of jewelry! My Lord simply wants to match the price!”
Liu Bei wanted to vomit blood when he heard Yang Jie’s words. It was true that the dowry from the Mi Family was huge, possibly the largest dowry ever given in the world. Liu Bei could have changed his fortunes with that money and Xuzhou! Unfortunately, Lu Bu stopped that from happening.
In truth, Yang Jie’s mission was indeed to extort as much as possible without negotiating. There was no need to do this is Liu Mang intended to release Mi Fang and Lady Mi. Mi Fang was just a Second Grade general that was slightly better than Huang She. On the other hand, Lady Mi was attractive. This became a problem since Liu Mang already had two fierce wives at home.
Liu Mang wanted them gone. As Lu Su was only one thousand gold, how could these two be worth so much? The initial offer of a hundred thousand provision was just to annoy Liu Bei.
Liu Mang knew that Liu Bei would make a counteroffer up to thirty thousand provisions. Yang Jie gave the price of thirty thousand provisions for one person.
Liu Mang did not know whether Liu Bei would pay up. If Liu Bei agreed, Liu Mang would not go back on his word. Based on Liu Mang’s estimation, Liu Bei would not go hungry after paying sixty thousand provisions but would still find it extremely difficult to expand his army.
On the other hand, if Liu Bei does not agree to pay sixty thousand provisions, Liu Mang would also obtain what he wanted. He intended to use this to obtain a person he did not have. A proper merchant. The Mi Family were one of two merchant families that could help Yangzhou. The other was the Zhen Family that lived at Hebei. It was too far away for Liu Mang to request their help. On top of that, there was also the war going on there.
The Mi Family had great ambitions but were now broke. Even if they want to try again, they needed a capital first. What Liu Mang wanted was Mi Zhu, the head of the Mi Family and one of the best merchants in the Han Dynasty.
Unfortunately, Mi Zhu was working for Liu Bei. Liu Mang had to find a way to bring Mi Zhu over to his side. Threatening him with his siblings would not work. He was like Kuai Yue who placed importance in the family prestige. The only way to move him was to push him to the limits.
Liu Mang used Kuai Ran and Kuai Liang to change Kuai Yue’s allegiance. He now intended to do the same for Mi Zhu.
What would Mi Zhu do if Liu Bei refused to pay ransom? The man had worked whole heartedly and used up all of his savings for Liu Bei. He even married off his sister to Liu Bei. Would it be too much to ask Liu Bei to ransom his sister and little brother? The ransom amount was not even comparable to the vast wealth the Mi Family had used on Liu Bei. If the ransom money is not given, Mi Zhu would certainly become disillusioned.
“Impossible!” Liu Bei immediately answered.
“Yang Changshi. Why don’t you go and take a rest first. We will inform you once we have come to a decision.” Jian Yong quickly said, not allowing Liu Bei to immediately refuse.
“In that case, this Yang Jie will withdraw first. I hope the Left General would be quick in his decision! As the Left General himself knows, the provisions at Yangzhou is running out. It would not be good if General Mi Fang and Lady Mi were to go hungry!” Yang Jie said. It was a warning for Liu Bei to be more decisive as to whether he would pay the ransom or not. Yangzhou would not take any responsibility from any excess procrastination or intentional delays.
“Hmph!” Liu Bei resisted his anger while his face turned as red as a tomato. Yang Jie gave a smile and left.
Basically saying it would be unreasonable. The reason why the phrasing ended up weird is because “negative connotation” “reason”. The word for “reason” can be replaced with logic/common sense/etc. Same thing applies to the word etiquette later which is “reason” “ceremony”
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