Chapter 370: The first riot in black market history
Since Wu Shu had the requested 30,000 dan of grain on hand, Han Yunxi had the guts to play out her scheme. After a short discussion, Wu Shu used the name of his store to put up a proclamation that very afternoon. The announcement only stressed the price of the flash sale-or so-called 'scramble sale'-but not its method. Under the current circumstances, 10,000 taels for 10,000 dan of grain was already a very cheap price both in and out of the black markets. The sole announcement of the pricing alone was enough to send the black market seething with excitement in under an hour. Suddenly, everyone was talking about the upcoming event.
10,000 dan of grain was no small sum in any way. Wu Shu thought it'd be enough to just sell off a portion, but Han Yunxi required that he bring out the entire 10,000 dan at once. Wu Shu was afraid that they wouldn't have enough time, and shot Long Feiye a glance to hint as much.
But Long Feiye only said, "Do as wangfei says."
Thus, Wu Shu sent a group of men to take out dan after dan of grain from the granaries. Strong and tall workers spent the entire afternoon moving in and out of the warehouse. One could easily imagine the scene there, with man after man carrying sacks of grain across their shoulders as they moved the pile to the platform. Before the scramble sale had even begun, a crowd had gathered around the store to check out all the commotion. The closer it got to nightfall, the greater the crowd grew, and the more lively the scene became. There were no restrictions or limits to this scramble sale. In other words, anyone could participate if they wished to. The crowd had turned into a sea of people by the time it was about to start. Nearly everyone in the black market had heard of the news.
In the back courtyard of his black market headquarters, Han Yunxi and Long Feiye were chatting while drinking tea. Their topic was, of course, tonight's scramble sale rally. Chu Xifeng rushed in from outside but halted his steps at the entrance to the courtyard. The scene of His Highness Duke of Qin drinking tea with esteemed wangfei almost looked like a hallucination, it was so unreal to him. For a moment, he wondered if he was still dreaming.
Tendrils of steam wafted up from their teacups beneath a hazy sky that glimmered like moonlight. His Highness Duke of Qin possessed the handsome bearing of a celestial being; esteemed wangfei resembled a charming, fragile flower. She spoke and laughed by turns while he listened to her intently. Sometimes, he'd even add in a few words of his own.
In all of his years of service, Chu Xifeng had never seen His Highness Duke of Qin chat so patiently with someone else, and for so long. After all, the two of them had been talking for the entire afternoon!
"Chu Xifeng, did something happen?" Long Feiye suddenly asked in a cold voice. He had been aware of his subordinate as soon as he entered the courtyard, but hadn't wanted to cut off Han Yunxi.
Chu Xifeng quickly recovered his senses and ran forward to report joyfully, "Your Highness, Yucheng's Lin Clan arrived! It's not Old Master Lin himself, but it is his personal attendant."
"Is it time yet?" Long Feiye asked next.
"There's still an hour left," Chu Xifeng had been keeping track. He had assumed that Yucheng's Lin Clan, Yuzhou's Wang Clan and Luocheng's Ouyang Clan would all show up, but only the Lin Clan had sent men so far. Moreover, it was an attendant rather than someone from the clan itself.
"Your Highness, esteemed wangfei, what if they..."
Those three clans had already made a prior appointment with the imperial uncle's estate for tonight. They were supposed to meet and discuss terms at the Lin Clan's grain store. According to what he had found, the heads of all three clans would go in person. Although the imperial uncle's declaration had only said he'd sell 50,000 dan of grain, those in the know knew that it was just a worded statement. Once all parties agreed to a price, the imperial uncle's estate would certainly have plenty of grain to sell. The imperial uncle needed so much money that selling off only 50,000 dan would hardly be enough.
Chu Xifeng was very worried that none of those three clans would be interested in news of the scramble sale. It wouldn't be good if they persisted in meeting with the imperial uncle's men tonight.
"They won't!" Of this, Han Yunxi was certain. She was no merchant, but she knew a merchant's tendency to haggle over every penny. If this was a regular market aboveground, there might be matters of etiquette and face to deal with, but the black market was all about profit. Since the heads of the three clans were already in the black market, that meant they were planning to buy quite a bit of grain. A few taels off for a single dan of grain was no big deal, but the difference would be amplified when it came to 10,000 or 20,000 dan of grain. There was a huge quantity of silver at stake!
Without a doubt, they'd weigh the market costs again and again in their heads before finally showing themselves! The fact that a young servant of Yucheng's Lin Clan had already shown up was proof that they all were paying attention to this rally.
Chu Xifeng knew nothing of business warfare. He was only familiar with palace politics, and he had no idea where a woman like esteemed wangfei had learned such obscure knowledge. However, since His Highness hadn't said a word, he knew she had to be right.
Soon enough, one of Wu Shu's attendants arrived. "Your Highness, esteemed wangfei, the head of the Ouyang Clan's shown up! He's drinking tea with Wu Shu right outside!"
Han Yunxi was thrilled and smiled teasingly, "Chu Xifeng, I really should've made a bet with you!"
"This subordinate wouldn't be able to afford that kind of bet..." Chu Xifeng said firmly. He thought back over the past year. Everyone who'd made a bet with esteemed wangfei had all come to an unfortunate end. It'd be better if he didn't bother.
A little while later, another of Wu Shu's attendants recognized the heads of the Lin Clan and Yuzhou's Wang Clan hiding in the crowds. Everything had gone as Han Yunxi expected. She saw that the time was just about up, so she rose to her feet.
"Your Highness, shall we go see all the excitement for ourselves?"
Without a word, Long Feiye stood up and scooped Han Yunxi into his arms.
This guy's getting more and more domineering!
"Your Highness..." Han Yunxi was about to speak when Long Feiye flew them up to the rooftop.
"If you want to see all the excitement, it's best to pick a high vantage point." He sat down while still hugging her above the crowd teeming with people. His words had a certain logic, because they certainly could see everything from the rooftop here. They could also pinpoint the centers of activity without being caught up in the hustle and bustle themselves.
The scramble sale had already formally begun with Wu Shu heading up the rally. Atop a high platform lay a tall pile of grain sacks, turning the entire area into a sea of grain. As soon as Wu Shu raised his hand, the hubbub stilled. The crowd was composed of three separate rings, each filled with all sorts of people. Some of the more well-known merchants stood at the head of the crowds, such as the Ouyang Clan head. Others preferred to be more low key and hide themselves in the midst of the crowd. They'd also brought many pageboys with them. Though no one knew the exact details of the scramble sale, the fact that they'd have to 'scramble' was enough to make everyone feel nervous.
Getting 10,000 dan of grain like this was a huge deal!
The silence of the crowd belied the anxiety in their hearts. Everyone was curious and expectant for the terms of the sale. Most of them had discussing it the entire day as soon as the news went public. These 10,000 dan of grain were part of a one-time offer, so how would we scramble for it? Finally, someone spoke up before Wu Shu could explain.
"Shopkeeper, how are we scrambling for this grain? Hurry and tell us the details!"
Immediately, the crowd grew noisy at his words.
"Ladies and gentlemen, ladies and gentlemen! Don't be impatient! Hear my terms!" Wu Shu quickly took control of the situation. He wasn't in a rush to explain the terms, but wanted to announce something else equally important. "Ladies and gentlemen, today is a cause of celebration. Our little store has been in business for five years, so as a token of thanks for the kindness of our patrons, we'll be selling a total of 30,000 dan of grain. They'll be divided into husked rice, wheat, and millet and sold over the course of three successive days. Each 10,000 dan will be up for grabs only once. Delivery will be made on the same day at no extra cost to the buyer!"
Once again, the crowd fell into an uproar at his words-because there was more than one chance! They could buy the grain over the next two days as well! Moreover, they were all different types of grain. This grain store had always been a low-key establishment, so why were they so passionate now?
Amidst the discussions, Wu Shu shouted, "Ladies and gentlemen, set your worries at ease. This store will keep to its word. My establishment might be small, but I have grain aplenty. If any buyers or sellers wish to do business after these three days, I'll be happy to discuss prices with them!"
Most of the people who'd come for the show didn't pay attention to Wu Shu's words, but the merchants who did big business immediately picked up on his message. This shop not only had grain stores, but also favorable haggling conditions! The Ouyang Clan Head told his pageboy right then and there, "Go to the Lin Clan's grain store and tell them that I'll be busy tomorrow. We can discuss terms after a few more days."
The Ouyang Clan Head had originally planned to just take a peek here before going to discuss grain prices at the Lin Clan's shop after midnight. As things stood, it'd be better if he waited to see the grain prices here instead. Yucheng's Lin Clan and Yuzhou's Wang Clan did the same thing, but with slightly varying excuses. One claimed that he didn't have enough funds at the moment and needed a few days to get the cash, while the other said he was suddenly feeling unwell, so he'll talk business when he recovered in a few days.
Han Yunxi and Long Feiye watched the trio's actions from their perch on the roof. Han Yunxi smiled and said, "Your Highness, it looks like everything's going smoothly so far."
Long Feiye nodded.
Han Yunxi broke into a mischievous giggle. "Your Highness, if we settle things here, will you reward chenqie?"
Long Feiye was very generous. "I will."
"What will you reward me with?" Han Yunxi asked hastily, forgetting decorum in her rush.
Long Feiye glanced at her before he replied, "We can discuss it once everything's finished."
Currently, Wu Shu was about to announce the guidelines for the sale. Everyone was waiting with bated breath, afraid to miss a single word. Even Chu Xifeng and Wu Shu's own men were curious and expectant. They had all worked the entire afternoon without knowing a single detail. But Wu Shu simply took out a single ball made out of colored silk and raised it high in the air.
A silk ball? What's...the meaning of this?
"Are we scrambling for the silk ball?" someone shouted. There was no laughter at his words, only silence.
"Exactly! Ladies and gentlemen, whoever retains possession of this silk ball after an hour will get the chance to buy today's grain! There are only two rules: 1) you cannot use martial arts and 2) you cannot harm human lives!" Wu Shu said loudly.
Everyone was dumbfounded. Chu Xifeng couldn't help but glance in Han Yunxi's direction. What kind of brain does this woman have? Scrambling for a silk ball? There's at least 500 people here. If they fight over the ball for an hour, it's not a scramble, but an all-out riot!
Actually, Han Yunxi was pretty dumbfounded, too.
She'd thought up the scramble sale, but she hadn't come up with a way to make them scramble. So really, the silk ball was all His Highness Duke of Qin's idea. He had said that he wanted a reason to meet the administrators of the Sky Domain Black Market, so he wanted to take this chance and cause a riot. Meanwhile, Wu Shu had already tossed away the silk ball. Immediately, the crowd flocked towards the target from all sides, each of them scrambling, snatching, kicking, pulling, tearing, punching and stepping on each other!
Naturally, the big merchants all backed away from the chaos, but their attendants and page boys they had brought along weren't idle at all. All of them took the first chance they found to rush over and fight for the ball. Soon enough, the chaos spilled onto the streets as the entire situation fell hopelessly out of control.
At last, Han Yunxi understood why Long Feiye said they needed a high vantage point to see all the excitement...