Chapter 272: Strip!

Zu An was utterly floored by her statement. “You want to go to a brothel too?”

Chu Chuyan rolled her eyes impatiently. “Of course I’m not the one going. I just want you to arrange a place for one more person.”

“Who?” Zu An was a bit curious.

“Wang clan’s young master, Wang Yuanlong.” Chu Chuyan said seriously.

Zu An looked at her strangely. “There isn’t something going on between you and that Wang clan dude, is there? I’ve heard that our clans get along pretty well. Is he your childhood sweetheart or something? Damn it all, why is my fate so cruel…”

Man, if I’d known about this ahead of time, I wouldn’t have saved that Wang kid. I should’ve let Chen Xuan finish him off.

Chu Chuyan was furious and humiliated. She grabbed his ear tightly. “Stop howling like an idiot already! What could possibly be going on between us? Just what kind of nonsense goes through your head every day?”

You have successfully trolled Chu Chuyan for 123 Rage points!

Zu An’s high spirits returned. “Then why do you want to arrange a meeting with him, and in a place like the Immortal Abode?”

“I’m not the one who is going to meet with him. The two of you are,” Chu Chuyan corrected.

Zu An blinked his eyes rapidly. Clearly, he was completely lost.

Chu Chuyan explained matters to him. “Sang Hong summoned my father, as well as the heads of the Zheng, Yuan, Wang, and various other clans for a meeting. He mentioned that the royal court will be sending troops north against the foreign tribes. The country is in dire need of provisions, which is why they have asked all wealthy clans to lend a hand by making more contributions.”

Zu An nodded. Chu Chuyan had mentioned these contributions before.

“A huge sum had already been requested as a contribution last year. Even the biggest clans would struggle if they were asked to make contributions so often. That is why, this time, there is a reluctance among all of the great clans to contribute.” 

Chu Chuyan paused for a moment, then continued. “My father used the rampant illicit salt trade as an excuse to explain why he wouldn’t be able to make any contributions immediately.”

Zu An couldn’t suppress a smile. “Master usually seems so proper and honorable. Who knew he had a crafty side to him?”

“Is that how you praise someone?” Chu Chuyan shot him a glare. “Unfortunately, that old fox Sang Hong already predicted that we would use this as an excuse. As such, he made it known that he would assign Sang Qian to help, and that my father could use his unit as he saw fit to take out the illicit salt trade.”

Zu An sighed with amazement. “This is probably the exchange of interests you mentioned before. If the Chu clan made contributions, the Sang clan would offer their assistance in rooting out the illicit salt trade.”

Chu Chuyan nodded. “My father believes this illicit salt trade has greatly affected the Chu clan’s business. Sang Qian has command over the River Patrol Army. With his assistance, we would have a much easier time taking out those illicit salt gangs. If we can take this opportunity to completely destroy the illicit salt trade, it would make it worthwhile to pay these contributions. That is why we have agreed to donate a hundred thousand taels of silver first. Once the illicit salt trade has been completely eradicated and we begin to see revenue from the sale of legal salt, we’ll contribute the remainder.”

Zu An nodded. “That sounds like a good plan.” Chu Zhongtian wasn’t the head of the clan for show. Even though he normally seemed a little too square, he still had his fair share of shrewdness.

“Everything did sound good,” Chu Chuyan said with a sigh, “but the Wang clan suffered serious losses recently. Their trade station was plundered by the foreign tribes. They had to use a lot of their liquid funds to make up for this loss, and they are quite strapped for silver. Thus, they requested to be excluded from the contributions this time.”

Zu An recalled her mentioning that salt in the Great Zhou Dynasty could only be transported and sold with salt permits. However, these permits couldn’t just be bought with money alone. Instead, in such dire times of war, the right to purchase these salt permits was reserved only for those who transported provisions to the border.

Many salt traders didn’t have the means to send provisions to the borders. This was where the Wang clan came in.

The Wang clan made a business of sending provisions to the border. This granted them the right to the salt permits, which they would then sell off to other salt merchants.

However, continuously transporting provisions to the borders from the cities was unsustainable. The journey itself required a huge amount of resources, and the resulting costs were just too high. That was why merchants like these chose to clear out some of the wilderness close to the border, creating farmland instead. The produce from these farmlands would then be sent to the border.

This sort of settlement was called a trade station.

“Robbed by the foreign tribes?” Zu An sighed. “That’s rough.”

“Indeed. The Wang clan was really hurt badly this time. They couldn’t even fork out these important contributions.” Chu Chuyan sighed. “That Sang Hong didn’t say much, merely offering some words of consolation. However, he immediately allocated one of the Wang clan’s exchange permits to our Chu clan, one that was for a bordering commandery. He said that this was a reward for those who contributed to the nation.”

“Exchange permit?” Zu An was confused.

After listening to Chu Chuyan’s explanation, he managed to form a rough idea of what it was.

According to the laws of the Great Zhou Dynasty, the transport and sale of salt required salt permits. For the sale or purchase of salt, however, not only were salt permits required, a government-approved exchange permit was also necessary.

Exchange permits granted the possessor the right to sell something within a specified region. A clan could only sell salt in a certain region if they have the exchange permit for that region.

It would be illegal for an individual to sell salt in a region for which they didn’t possess an exchange permit. Not only would they be investigated as an illicit salt dealer, the clan that engaged in this practice would also be punished.

It was just like how tobacco was regulated in his previous world. Inter-regional selling wasn’t allowed.

Having understood all of this, Zu An flew into a rage. “Sang Hong really is ruthless! The Wang clan is allied to the Chu clan. This move not only deals the Wang clan a heavy blow, but it also serves to drive a wedge between the two clans.”

He felt some grudging respect for Sang Hong. He hadn’t had to give up anything of his to achieve this. Instead, he used the Wang clan’s own property to destabilize this alliance.

The most important part was that all of this was done in accordance with the laws of the Great Zhou Dynasty. Since the Wang clan wasn’t able to offer the necessary contributions, the royal court took back an exchange permit from them and gave it to another clan who did. Even if this matter was reported to the capital, no one would be able to criticize this decision.

The Wang clan had no choice but to suffer this blow. All the pent up resentment they couldn’t show the royal court would instead be directed at the Chu clan, since they were the ones who had ultimately gained from the affair.

“All of us are fully aware that he is trying to drive a wedge between us,” Chu Chuyan said, her eyes full of worry. “However, just knowing about it is one thing—actually doing something about it is another. It is hard for people to remain absolutely rational. Quite a few members of the Wang clan have already spoken out against our Chu clan over this. They believe the Chu clan deliberately plotted against the Wang clan in order to secure their exchange permit.”

“There will always be idiots in a clan,” commented Zu An, “and I reckon Sang Hong definitely had some people fan the flames. So the reason you want me to meet with Wang Yuanlong is to explain this misunderstanding?”

“That’s not all,” Chu Chuyan replied. “Clans like our Chu clan, the Wang clan, and the Zheng clan are all large, government-approved merchant leaders. When individual sellers come from different places to purchase salt in bulk, they often need to pay a deposit a year in advance. Meanwhile, once the merchant leaders receive this deposit, the money would be swiftly moved around. After all, this money would be theirs in the coming year anyway, so it wasn’t a big deal if they used it ahead of time.

“However, now that the Wang clan’s exchange permit has been given to us, the Wang clan would have to return the deposits to these individual sellers.” Chu Chuyan’s eyes flickered with deep worry. “In regular times, such a thing wouldn’t be too big of a deal. However, the Wang clan is already finding it hard to make ends meet after the plundering of their trade station. If they were forced to return these deposits as well, their flow of funds might truly be cut off. If that happens, the massive Wang clan might collapse altogether.”

Zu An was alarmed. “This Sang Hong really is merciless! His actions might cost lives!”

“Indeed. However, our Chu clan won’t watch idly while this happens,” said Chu Chuyan. “That is why I wanted you to entertain Wang Yuanlong. You can take the opportunity to privately pass the sum needed to pay back the deposits to him, which they can then  return to those individual sellers. We can use this chance to ease their sore spot.”

Zu An’s eyes brightened. “Nice! Not only would this get rid of the Wang clan’s emergency, it also ingeniously deals with the wedge Sang Hong wanted to drive between us. I wonder which brilliant person came up with this idea!”

“It can’t be considered that brilliant. It’s just a trick I picked up after spending all these years in the business.” Even though Chu Chuyan spoke calmly, her face blossomed with pride. Clearly, she was that brilliant person.

A smile immediately appeared on Zu An’s face. She was normally so cold on the outside. Who knew she had such a youthful side to her?

“But why do you guys have to make such a detour through me? And even in a place like Immortal Abode?”

“The main reason is to fool the rest of the players,” Chu Chuyan explained. “After all, we’ve already declared to the government that our finances are weak. How would it look if we immediately helped the Wang clan by giving them this sum of money? This doesn’t make the royal court or our Chu clan look great, and might even give our political enemies a chance to attack.

“The second reason is that the Wang clan is still a great clan in Brightmoon City. If others learned that they couldn’t fork out this sum of money, it could easily tarnish their prestige and lower their dignity. If we aren’t careful, we might not only fail to achieve our objective, but we could even end up with a feud on our hands.”

Zu An couldn’t help but sigh in praise. “Honey, you really are meticulous! You’ve even thought about all of this stuff.”

Despite his admiration, he couldn’t help but grumble inside. No wonder you could even pick up the slightest hint of female fragrance on me. It seems like I have to be really, really careful in the future.

A faint smile spread across Chu Chuyan’s face upon receiving his compliment. “I also know that you helped Wang Yuanlong out in the Immortal Abode last time. Since that’s the case, he has to show you proper respect, and I’m sure he won’t create any unnecessary misunderstandings.

“Most importantly, though, no one will expect us to pass on such an important task to you.”

Zu An immediately grew upset. “Are you praising me or mocking me?”

Chu Chuyan’s mood gradually lifted, and she revealed a beautiful smile. “Do you really have no concept of how others view your standing within the clan?”

Zu An had no reply to that.

This woman’s mouth seems to have gotten sharper now that she’s hung around me for a while.

“Are you done with all this serious talk yet? If you are, let’s begin today’s treatment already,” said Zu An gloomily.

Chu Chuyan’s face reddened slightly. It took her a while before she quietly voiced her consent.

The evil expression of a tyrannical CEO bloomed on Zu An’s face. He looked at her coldly and said, “Strip!”

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