“Simple, in exchange for a portion of my Hyderabad ores, I’ll become a member of the Zhang Clan. The Zhang Clan will gain a steady supply of Hyderabad ores from me while I’ll become the other owner of the Zhang Clan!”
Wang Chong lifted up his forefinger as he spoke confidently.
The two elders from the Zhang Clan exclaimed simultaneously in shock.
“Don’t be in such a hurry to reject me, I don’t intend to take over your Zhang Clan. The Zhang Clan still belongs to the Zhang, and you all will continue to wield the power of management. However, I’ll get a say in the matters of the Zhang Clan as well. In other words, instead of having just a single clan head, there’ll be a big and a small clan head.”
Wang Chong said impassively.
“Even so, we can’t agree to this. This is already past our bottom line!”
Zhang Jian and Zhang Cong’s chests were rising and falling rapidly. None of them expected Wang Chong to be interested in the Zhang Clan’s business.
“Is that so?”
Wang Chong chuckled as he glanced at the duo.
“I believe you two should be well aware of the current situation with the Wootz steel. The profit involved in this trade is unimaginable. The price of a single Wootz steel weapon could easily reach the price of over a hundred of your top-notch swords. Assuming that you receive ten portions of the Hyderabad ores from me and forge them, that’ll be equivalent to a thousand of your top-notch swords.”
“There are 365 days in a year. Is your Zhang Clan capable of forging a top-notch sword once every three days?”
Zhang Cong and Zhang Jian was taken aback.
Indeed. The path that Wang Chong chose to walk on was the high-end path, and the profit his goods could fetch him was a sum unimaginable for the Zhang, Huang, Cheng, and Lu Clan.
The Zhang Clan’s entire year of profit couldn’t even match up to the price of a few weapons from him!
If they accepted Wang Chong’s offer, the Zhang Clan wouldn’t suffer losses as they expected.
In fact, it was highly likely that they would benefit greatly from it; it was a good deal for them.
However, it was still too difficult for them to accept trading the authority of the clan head for profit.
“… That still can’t do. Chong gongzi, we can’t accept the condition you proposed.”
Zhang Jian’s complexion was awful.
“Even though your mines are about to be dug out?”
Wang Chong lifted the teacup from the table and sipped on it before asking casually.
Wang Chong’s voice wasn’t too loud, but in the ears of the two, it was no different from a bolt of lightning, causing their faces to turn completely pale. A chill suddenly ran through their body, causing them to tremble uncontrollably.
The two of them stared at Wang Chong in shock, as though they were looking at a ghost.
It was as though the secret they had been concealing in the depths of their hearts was revealed by the person they least wanted to know.
“Chong gongzi, you…”
Zhang Cong stared at Wang Chong with eyes widened in shock, and words refused to come out from his quivering lips.
The problem regarding the Zhang Clan’s mine was noticed just awhile ago, and they worked immediately to seal the information. Yet, to think that Wang Chong would still know of it.
“Hehe, Zhang Cong and Zhang Jian, if I’m not wrong, your Zhang Clan has yet to find any suitable mines to develop, right? If you can’t find a steady supply of superior ore, your Zhang Clan’s market share in the weapon market will be stolen by the others soon. Of course, you all can purchase ores from the smaller clans to stall for time, but the moment you do so, the other clans will follow up swiftly.”
“By then, you all will be squeezed out even faster, and your decline will be swifter. On this aspect, am I right?”
Wang Chong put down the teacup on the table beside him as he analyzed the situation calmly.
“How did you know?”
With ashen faces, the duo could no longer maintain their composure. This was the weak spot of the Zhang Clan, and they knew much better than anyone else that the possibility of what Wang Chong had just said becoming reality was extremely high.
The moment they start purchasing ores from the market in bulk, it would be no different from telling the other clans that there was something wrong with their mine. This was what that troubled them the most.
Thus, even though their ore deposit was being depleted swiftly, the Zhang Clan didn’t dare to make any rash move at all.
Wang Chong simply smiled silently in response to the other party’s question.
Of course he knew of the Zhang Clan’s plight. After all, he had seen it for himself in his previous life. If he didn’t interfere, the decline of the Zhang Clan would be inevitable.
A swordsmithing clan without ores was no different from a tree losing its own roots. Wang Chong didn’t think that he was taking advantage of the other party. Instead, he was offering a lifeline to the Zhang Clan.
“… I hope that you all can give this matter some thoughts. The other swordsmithing clans are also interested in getting a slice of this pie. If the Zhang Clan can obtain the Wootz steel, its name will surely surpass that of the other clans and become the number one swordsmithing clan!”
“There’s no such thing as a free lunch in the world. Since I’m willing to let go of my monopoly of the Wootz steel, naturally, I hope to profit from it. Ask yourself, what does the Zhang Clan possess that could interest me? Money? Surely the Zhang Clan doesn’t have as much of an income as me?”
“I know that you two don’t have the authority to make this decision, so you two should return for now to discuss the matter with your clan head. You can look for me after you all come to a decision!”
Wang Chong said impassively.
This partnership would only work out if both sides were willing to work with one another. The strength of the Wang Clan would be bolstered if it gains a stake in the Zhang Clan, but it would all be for naught if the Zhang Clan refused to cooperate.
Wang Chong bore some expectations for this partnership. The Zhang Clan was facing a huge crisis, and they needed a solution urgently. On the other hand, Wang Chong had provided them with feasible solution that could tide them through their current crisis.
While it wouldn’t look good on the Zhang Clan if they gave up a portion of their authority and allow an outsider to interfere in their internal affairs, it wasn’t something entirely unacceptable for them. On top of that, the deal Wang Chong proposed was a mutually beneficial deal. They wouldn’t lose out in this exchange at all.
That very afternoon, the head of the Zhang Clan appeared before Wang Chong.
“Chong gongzi, regarding the matter of becoming a stakeholder in the Zhang Clan, may I know how much authority do you hope to obtain, and on which aspect of the Zhang Clan do you want to hold sway over? Also, how much Wootz steel are you willing to offer us?”
The head of the Zhang Clan dived straight into the main point.
This was the first time Wang Chong was meeting the head of the Zhang Clan. In his previous life, he had been a profligate scion, so he didn’t have the qualifications to meet the heads of distinguished clans.
Wang Chong carefully observed this important future collaborator. The head of the Zhang Clan was dressed in white, and he had a refined image. Even so, he wasn’t lacking in the disposition that the head of a powerful clan should possess. On top of that, his words and actions were decisive.
It was just in the morning that Wang Chong sent off Zhang Jian and Zhang Cong, and that very afternoon, the other party had already knocked on his doors.
Clans like the Zhang Clan had a long heritage before them, and giving up their authority to an outsider was something completely unacceptable. If it was any other clan, even if they were willing to accept it, it would be after a long period of contemplation and hesitation.
Even so, the head of the Zhang Clan was able to come to a decision swiftly.
This decisiveness and insight were not something that ordinary men could possess. Just on this itself, Wang Chong felt that he had made the correct decision.
The edges of Wang Chong’s lips curled up slightly, and slight glow appeared in his eyes. Before this distinguished clan head, Wang Chong revealed his young ambitions for once:
“I want half of the weapons that the Zhang Clan forges from this day onward to go to me. As for the other half, I’ll buy them off the Zhang Clan. On top of that, all weapons can only be sold to me. If we come to a deal, I request for the Zhang Clan to dedicate all of their resources to work for me for the next thirty years. After thirty years, the Zhang Clan is free to decide on their next course of action. In fact, I’m willing to withdraw from the Zhang Clan then and return all authority to you all.”
The head of the Zhang Clan was taken aback. He couldn’t understand why Wang Chong needed so many weapons. The Zhang Clan was incapable of forging weapons on the level of the Wootz steel, but other than that, their production quality and quantity were definitely among the top of the capital.
Given the Zhang Clan’s efficiency, thirty years of continuous production would stack up to an astonishing quantity of weapons.
The head of the Zhang Clan couldn’t comprehend the logic behind Wang Chong’s decision.
“I am willing to accept your conditions!”
Even though he was doubtful, the head of the Zhang Clan accepted the deal without any hesitation. Wang Chong’s request was much more relaxed than he had imagined. Furthermore, for some reason, he could sense that what this youngster was interested in wasn’t the authority over the Zhang Clan, but in the weapons that the Zhang Clan could forge.
In the end, becoming a ‘stakeholder’ was only to make it convenient for him to fulfill his purpose.
An inexplicable and indescribable emotion welled up within the head of the Zhang Clan.
“However, is that it? Is there no other conditions?”
The head of the Zhang Clan asked doubtfully. He didn’t think that Wang Chong’s motive was that simple. The scale was still clearly sided toward the Zhang Clan, and this incurred his suspicions.
“It’s indeed easy to communicate with you!”
Wang Chong chuckled.
“Shen Hai, bring it over.”
The head of the Zhang Clan stared doubtfully as Shen Hai carried a wooden box over. After the latter removed the cover, he realized that there were only a few pieces of paper in it.
The confusion of the head of the Zhang Clan deepened.
“You should take a closer look!”
Wang Chong gestured.
The head of the Zhang Clan nodded. He carefully picked up the first paper and took a look at it. With a glance, he could tell that it was the blueprint of a caltrop. However, it was significantly different from the traditional caltrop.
The caltrop that Wang Chong drew had long and sharp spikes around it, a clear upgrade of the traditional version. Just by looking at it, one could feel shivers down one’s spine.
As for the second blueprint, he wasn’t able to determine what it was. It looked like a gigantic steel wall, but the bizarre four corners indicated that there was more to it.
The third blueprint was similar to the second blueprint, but there seemed to be some additional rivets on the steel wall.
The fourth blueprint was still a steel wall, but there were many holes of different sizes on it.
And the fifth was slightly different from the fourth.
Browsing through the blueprints, the bewilderment of the head of the Zhang Clan intensified. As the head of a prestigious swordsmithing clan, he had seen all kinds of bizarre weapons and blueprints.
But other than the first caltrop blueprint, he wasn’t able to discern what the others were.
Those bizarre wall-like structures… The head of the Zhang Clan had a feeling that they were parts of a gigantic machinery.
Wang Chong had only divided them into smaller parts.
The head of the Zhang Clan had no idea what form the final product would take, but there was one thing that he was sure of. It was no ordinary weapon.
Recalling the caltrops on the first blueprint, a thought flashed across his mind and he suddenly understood something. Slowly, his face turned grave.