Chapter 286: Wang Chong's Ambitions
Wang Chong met Arloja and Ablonodan in his residence.
It had been long since they had met, and the two monks had grown visibly darker—a result of being basked under the sun for long hours. When Wang Chong was in Kunwu Training Camp for the past few months, the duo had made a return trip to Sindhu.
The duo had to meet the High Priest to settle some affairs, and they were worried about the famine there as well.
Upon seeing Wang Chong, the duo immediately clapped their hands together and bowed deeply in respect.
What was rare was that even though the two monks only spoke Sanskrit previously, this time, they actually spoke using nonfluent Han language. This could be considered as a gesture of respect toward Wang Chong and Great Tang as a whole.
"Masters, there's no need to be so courteous." Wang Chong waved his hands casually.
Arloja and Ablonodan had stayed in the Wang Clan for a period of time previously, and they had even taught Wang Chong the Tortoise Breathing Art. Thus, the relationship between them was quite close.
"We must. Gongzi is a true living Bodhisattva for our Sindhu. You have saved our homeland from a huge disaster. Please accept our bow."
With reddened eyes, the duo placed their hands together and persistently bowed deeply to Wang Chong once more.
Those who had never been to Sindhu couldn't possibly imagine the tragedies that were occurring there on a daily basis. Even though poverty was rife there, and constantly were there those who died of starvation, the problem had never been so severe before.
All around one could see emaciated corpses and skeletons buzzing with pesky flies. If not for the aid that Wang Chong offered, who knew how many more lives would have been lost.
Thus, they were filled with gratitude toward their benefactor.
Seeing the two masters insisting on the matter, Wang Chong understood that the both of them were doing this on behalf of those who had been saved through his aid, and thus, he decided to accept their gesture of respect.
From the less tense faces of the duo, Wang Chong could see that the conditions at Sindhu should have been alleviated significantly.
"It's good that Sindhu is faring better now. But masters, the supply of food from Great Tang isn't a permanent solution. If Sindhu wants to rid itself of famine, it has to depend on itself!" Wang Chong said. The relationship between him and Ablonodan and Arloja was centered around mutual benefits. However, the sincerity in the gestures from the latter had left him moved, so he decided to point out something essential to the duo.
While the famine did worsen in recent years, Sindhu had never fared well in the aspect of food.
Thus, Wang Chong sent over many goats, chicken, ducks, and other poultry along with dry rations in his agreement with Arloja and Ablonodan. If Sindhu were to make full use of this resource, they could always plant a portion of it as crops and rear the livestock.
The goats could bear new calves every year whereas the chicken and ducks would ensure a continuous supply of eggs.
Perhaps, this might help to improve the rampant famine condition in Sindhu in the long-run.
However, Wang Chong knew that it was unlikely to happen.
The Sindhi High Priest was so focused on getting past this extreme famine at this moment that he was neglecting the future of the nation.
This situation reminded Wang Chong of a story he had heard many years ago.
There was once a boy who lived in a very poor family. His neighbor, taking pity on him after seeing him starve, decided to help improve his living condition and free him from poverty. Thus, the neighbor spent a huge sum to purchase a cow for him.
Receiving the cow, the boy was determined to use this cow to change his life and free himself from poverty.
But starvation struck. Recalling how cows were worth more than goats, the boy decided to sell the cow for a goat so that he could use the extra money from the exchange to fill his stomach. In any case, goats could produce milk and bear offsprings as well.
But he feared that his neighbor would blame for it, so he struggled with the decision. But eventually, unable to stop himself, he sold the cow, bought a goat in exchange, and had the meal of his life.
However, on the second day, he found that he had spent all of the money he earned from the exchange. Thus, the boy thought that since goats are worth more than a chicken, and chicken could lay eggs anyway, why doesn't he sell the goat and buy a chicken in exchange? This way, he could take the profit from the exchange to eat yet another sumptuous meal.
With a precedent before him, he felt no guilt whatsoever doing it once more.
But on the third day, the boy realized that the chicken he bought hasn't laid any eggs at all. Panicked, the boy slew the chicken and ate it.
And on the fourth day, when hunger struck him once more, he circled around his house and he realized that he had nothing left.
This was the current situation Sindhu was facing. No matter how many times aid was given to them, if they didn't make the effort to change their circumstances, their suffering would only continue in the future.
There was nothing Wang Chong could do to help them on this point.
Arloja and Ablonodan looked at one another awkwardly after hearing those words.
How could they possibly not understand the circumstances? Even the High Priest understood this logic as well, but they were helpless before this matter. Holding back the rations could bring them a brighter future, but that would mean that they would have to give up on some and watch as they starved to death. It would take immense determination to do so.
"Let's not talk about this." Luckily, Wang Chong flung his sleeves and changed the topic at this moment.
"Masters, the reason why I called you over is because there's a matter which I would like to negotiate with your High Priest about." Wang Chong dove right into the topic. The reason why he called for this meeting with Ablonodan and Arloja wasn't to worry about the plight of the Sindhis.
"Gongzi, please do speak," the duo gestured.
"I would like to negotiate a deal with your High Priest regarding the Hyderabad ore. I would like to increase the distribution of Hyderabad ore to our Central Plains... Masters, there's no need to feel troubled over this matter yet. Allow me to finish my words before coming to a decision."
Seeing the troubled expression on the two monks, Wang Chong lifted a finger, and with a confident expression and a peculiarly persuasive force in his words, he said, "One thousand gold taels! This is the new price I am willing to offer for the Hyderabad ores. I believe that your High Priest will be satisfied with this price!"
Those words sounded loud and clear in the room.
"A thousand gold taels?"
Arloja and Ablonodan who were just about to turn down Wang Chong's proposal were immediately rendered speechless.
"Gongzi, are you jesting with us?" Arloja asked with lips quivering in shock. He dared not believe that Wang Chong was serious about this offer. The price that the latter had just offered was far higher than the current one.
"Hahaha, of course I won't joke with you two on such a matter!" Wang Chong laughed. Getting to his feet, he emanated an aura of maturity and composure that too many of his age lacked.
Before him, even Arloja and Ablonodan couldn't help but regard him seriously. Whenever he spoke, they would listen with all of their attention, fearful that they might miss a single detail he spoke of.
And all of this happened subconsciously.
It wasn't like that initially. At the start, they even rejected Wang Chong.
"... The main reason why I offered such a high price is because I hope that the High Priest could offer me the lion's share of the Hyderabad ore to me this year," Wang Chong explained.
The annual production of Hyderabad ore was extremely low, so the sales would have to be allocated across various buyers. In other words, if one faction was distributed more ores, another faction would be distributed less.
Indeed! Wang Chong was intending to snatch the share from the Abbasid Caliphate and Charax Spasinu!
In his previous life, the Abbasid Caliphate and Charax Spasinu managed to slaughter every last one of the Great Tang elites in the Western Regions with their Wootz steel scimitars.
“With money, one can move even the demons”. Wang Chong was intending to use his powerful financial power to steal the share of Hyderabad ore from the Abbasid Caliphate and Charax Spasinu, thus preventing them from building an army equipped with Wootz steel.
“The wise wins through schemes, not through soldiers!”
The best military strategies involved destroying one's enemies without moving one's soldiers. Wang Chong was not claiming the prepayment of 8,000,000 gold taels from Li Qingyou just so that he could swim in money.
Taking away the sum of 5,000,000 anticipated to be spent on Jiannan's Lion Rock Hill, the remaining 3,000,000 was allocated to vie for Hyderabad ores from the Abbasid Caliphate and Charax Spasinu.
A war didn't necessarily require the brandishing of swords and spears. If one could knock out the other party's claws and fangs, it would still mean a victory.
More importantly, Wang Chong had been waiting for the momentum of his “Hyderabad ore plan” to snowball, and it was finally time for him to showcase the full extent of his ambitions.
Wang Chong intended to make use of the massive sum earned from the Hyderabad ore to build a personal army of ten thousand men equipped with Wootz steel as well!
He would fulfill the unfulfilled wish of Great Tang in his previous life! Through the fearsome might of the weapons and his superior military wisdom, he would sweep through all of the countries who eyed Great Tang with wild ambitions!
Wang Chong knew that the Sindhis, as well as the High Priest, wouldn't be able to turn down his offer. The deal he was offering was simply too great!
"May I know how much ore gongzi intends to buy?" Arloja asked from the side with a grim expression.
A thousand gold taels was indeed a far higher price than what Wang Chong and the other buyers were offering at the moment. However, there was a limited supply of the Hyderabad ores, and the increase in sales to one faction would lead to the decrease and thus dissatisfaction of another.
The matter regarding the Wootz steel swords was too important for him to make the call alone. Only the High Priest had the authority to make such an important decision.
Wang Chong opened up his five fingers and said, "5000 jun!"