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 Chapter 374: Hopeless, dragging Northern Li underwater

Only accepted ready cash!

Han Yunxi nearly burst out laughing at Master Lin's words. After all those acts at compliance, wasn't that their main goal? Finally, Master Lin had said it himself. If Han Yunxi had started their negotiations by saying she'd buy grain with pure cash, she'd definitely rouse suspicions from Master Lin's superiors, if not Master Lin himself. They'd be chased away before the news of their proposal even reached the imperial uncle's ears.

But since Master Lin had spoken those words, Han Yunxi was 80 percent certain that she had this deal in the bag. Mister Moneybags was standing right behind her at this instant, so Han Yunxi generously stated, "As long as there's grain, silver isn't a problem."

Master Lin could tell that Han Yunxi was a rich mistress, but never expected her to be so blase about it. "Heheh, it looks like Miss really is in urgent need to grain!" Master Lin wouldn't give up, and kept probing.

"Heheh...." Han Yunxi wore a mysterious grin that seemed somewhat smug. Master Lin carefully weighed her expression and knew that a deal was in the making.

He immediately resorted to flattery. "Miss has a remarkably outstanding aura about her. You must be a prominent character. As to Miss's origins...heheh, I'm afraid this old man can't begin to guess!"

Han Yunxi's lips curved into a proud smile. She wasn't a bit modest as she replied, "Master Lin possesses fine insight."

"It's Miss who exudes quality!" Master Lin laughed loudly. He much preferred women like this, who were proud and haughty. If they were capable and ambitious, then so much the better. Women like her were open to persuasion but not coercion, so Master Lin knew exactly what to do.

"Miss, I've yet to ask for your honorable surname," Master Lin purposely cupped his hands before his chest to show his respect.

"My surname is Helian,"1 Han Yunxi replied without the least hesitation.

Helian?

That was no simple surname. The royal family of Northern Li had this as their imperial name! Rare was the person with a Helian surname in Western Zhou or Tianning, but those bearing the name in Northern Li would definitely belong to the imperial clan. She was someone rich and arrogant, with a Helian surname to boot. Master Lin couldn't help but consider the implications. Naturally, he'd done his share of business with Northern Li during his years in the black market. Because of climate and soil factors, only a small portion south of the country was capable of producing wheat. They had no way to grow large yields of rice in their paddies. Northern Li people relied mainly on meat and dairy products. There was general no market for grain in the south.

However, Northern Li Country had always kept its eye on grain yields in Tianning. Whenever there were droughts or floods, Northern Li merchants would speculate in grain trade in Tianning as well. Even members of the imperial clan would participate. On the one hand, they could raise the price of grain. On the other, they could instigate rebellion and riots in the disaster areas. Master Lin carefully re-examined Han Yunxi and began to wonder whether she was from Northern Li herself. In his memories, most Northern Li women were found of a cold elegance aesthetic to their looks.

While Master Lin was stewing in his suspicions, Long Feiye had already started smiling unseen behind his mask. He finally realized why Han Yunxi had decided to put on such thick makeup today. It wasn't just to hide her identity, but so she could become a "Helian!" This woman was smart enough to use Northern Li to settle their deal. He couldn't help but admire her from the bottom of his heart. If Han Yunxi was a man, perhaps they'd be worthy rivals.

Meanwhile, Han Yunxi simply smiled in ridicule as Master Lin began to fawn on her. She allowed him to play the toady while being utterly indifferent. In the end, Master Lin even had men bring out fine wine and dishes so he could talk shop with Han Yunxi while sharing drinks. Of course, all the important details were reported promptly to his superiors, including this woman's surname, standing, and personality.

"Miss Helian, regarding the price... Heheh, I'll have to entreat Miss Helian to show some mercy," Master Lin bantered. He figured it'd be easy to negotiate prices after he'd praised this woman to high Heaven. However, Han Yunxi refused to talk prices outright. She only drank a few sips before feigning ignorance.

"Master Lin, we can certainly discuss prices...but you have to give this lady a number and let me how much grain you have! This lady's told you already...if you have a lot of grain, we can negotiate the price. If not...heheh..." As she spoke, she downed two more cups of wine with relish before adding, "There's no harm in telling you, but the price of that store... The price of that store is much to this lady's liking! But they don't have the stock! Not even a measly 200,000 dan, I say... If they don't even have 300,000 dan, why should this lady bother giving you ready cash?"

Her words were disorderly and confused, saying 200,000 dan one minute and 300,000 dan the next. Neither did she elaborate on the name of "that store." Without a doubt, Han Yunxi sounded like she was drunk. But tipsy words were the truth. Despite the hazy speech, Master Lin heard the crux of the matter in her words. He had been wondering why this woman hadn't gone to Wu Shu's grain store. As it turned out, she wanted too much grain for Wu Shu to sell. Even 100,000 dan of grain was a large quantity during times of shortage like this, especially fresh stock. If not for the imperial uncle's time constraints, Master Lin would definitely try to whet Han Yunxi's appetite and get a good price. That was because there was no other store in the black market who could take out 200,000 to 300,000 dan of grain at once.

A shame and more's the pity!

Master Lin was already feeling pained at the thought of all that lost possible silver before they even talked prices. After Han Yunxi looked drunk enough, Master Lin cast a glance at the masked bodyguard behind her and said politely, "Sir, your mistress is already drunk. How about this? Rest in my humble home for tonight and we'll continue the discussion tomorrow, alright?"

Master Lin was quite curious about this bodyguard. Though he couldn't see his face, the aura he gave off turned one inexplicably cautious. His presence gave credence to his suspicion that this "Helian" woman was from the Northern Li imperial clan. As a shrewd man himself, Long Feiye understood Master Lin's intentions as soon as he heard him speak.

"Fine," he said simply. Master Lin rejoiced and had his men prepare a room. He'd done his best to vye for time, so all he had to do now was wait for his superior's views on the matter. Long Feiye simply picked up Han Yunxi right there and then. Standing around 1.9meters (6'2"), his proud and haughty form could carry Han Yunxi with ease. The two of them, one dark and mysterious, one cold and regal, disappeared into the moonlight with him princess-carrying her like a dream. Everyone present was stunned by the sight. They couldn't help but feel that this master and servant duo were a Heaven-matched pair.

"Old Lin, that guard...there's something off about him!" someone immediately piped up once Long Feiye and Han Yunxi were gone. There was no helping it. Long Feiye had a strong presence ever since he was born. Even if he tried to hold back, it was impossible to hide his aura completely.

"Master, that woman's surnamed Helian. Perhaps that man is also..." someone else murmured in a low tone.

Another man spoke up instantly at those words, "Perhaps he's the true master of the pair! Judging by his height, he has to be from Northern Li!"

If Han Yunxi and Long Feiye knew of their wild guesses, would they praise them for their smarts or stupidity? By now, they had already arrived in their room. The first thing Long Feiye did was carefully sweep his eyes over every nook and cranny. Once he was sure it was safe, he carefully set Han Yunxi onto the bed.

"Your Highness, they put poison in the wine. It was a sleeping draught meant to keep me unconscious until noon tomorrow," Han Yunxi intoned quietly. These men really don't know what's good for them. They actually dared to drug me, and with such a low-level poison too. She'd sniffed the toxin as soon as the wine was brought to the table and could even tell the ratio of poison to alcohol without using the detox system. The poison would only act up after she fell asleep, so it wasn't too late to detoxify it a bit later. She'd rather sleep a little longer, since she wasn't the one pressed for time.

"Idiotic fools," Long Feiye muttered, but Han Yunxi was actually quite smug.

"No, they're pretty smart. It's just that we're smarter!"

This...how shamelessly proud and spoilt! But her words were right. They really were the smarter ones. Long Feiye liked it best when this woman's eyes were shining with self-confidence and pride. He was about to stand up when he added, "Sleep without worries."

His three words gave Han Yunxi enough peace to sleep 'til daylight even if chaos was brewing right outside her door. The servant that had led them here was still waiting outside, so Long Feiye couldn't dawdle for long. He helped tuck Han Yunxi beneath the covers before rising to leave. As soon as he exited the door, the servant said, "Sir, your room is right next door. Please come with me."

"No need." Long Feiye sat down on the flight of steps by the door, his cold eyes making the servant feel that temperatures had plummeted around them. The servant didn't say another peep, but ran off to report to Master Lin. Master Lin didn't dare to try anything malicious. Instead, he stayed up the whole night waiting for the secret missives from his superior. A single message needed to change hands four to five times before it finally reached the imperial uncle.

The imperial uncle had furrowed his eyebrows more and more upon receiving each message until he got to the final one with "Helian" written on the paper. His forehead relaxed then. Although the imperial uncle decided the rules, it was Master Lin who reported all the details. Even though Master Lin had objectively stated every move and action of Han Yunxi and Long Feiye, he couldn't help but be swayed by his views, which were reflected in his words. The missives went into details on Master Lin's personal speculations until they affected the imperial uncle's thoughts as well. If this was any other time, the imperial uncle would wait to find out more before doing anything else, but he couldn't afford that now.

The missive had finally reached him via messenger pigeon. A single message would still take half a day to send after exchanging multiple hands. It was almost daybreak now, so his message would probably reach Master Lin around noon, just when Miss Helian was waking up. By the time Master Lin agreed to a price with her and reported the results, it would already be evening.

There was no time to waste!

In truth, the imperial uncle was still doubtful, but he found solace in the "Helian" surname. He knew very well that Northern Li's imperial clan often poked their noses into Tianning's grain business on the sly. He was originally planning to send a missive and have Master Lin be the judge, but after some deliberation, he decided to send one of his representatives directly to the black market. Since their buyers wanted so much grain, this would be the perfect chance to sell off all they had. Long Feiye had already gone to the disaster areas to send them relief. The man would probably take the chance to investigate him too, so selling the grain now would remove all evidence from his hands!

When the imperial uncle opened the doors to his study, it was to see the skies turning faintly white in the east. He began to consider who he should send to the black market...

1. Helian () - a two-character surname. He means "conspicuous, grand," while Lian means "connect, link, implicate, continue." This is the same surname shared by Seventh Madame Helian Zuixiang, the mother to Han Yunyi, Han Yunxi's younger half-brother.

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