The Human Emperor - Chapter 279: Bureau of Works, Zhang Shouzhi!
Chapter 279: Bureau of Works, Zhang Shouzhi!
After traversing numerous alleys, at a location more than a dozen streets away from the Ten Sun Tavern, Wang Gen’s carriage came to an abrupt halt.
Wang Chong leapt out from the carriage, and after bidding Wang Gen farewell, he sent the carriage away with his eyes.
“Gongzi, where do we go now?” asked Old Eagle, Solitary Wolf, and Steel Arms followed Wang Chong down the carriage and stood on the street.
“We’ll be looking for someone.” Smiling, Wang Chong glanced at the gold token from Zhangchou Jianqiong in his palm and tucked it away.
After meeting Xianyu Zhongtong, receiving Zhangchou Jianqiong’s token, and uncovering the fact that Zhang Wentuo was in the capital as well, it was time for him to look for that man.
Walking along a dark and damp alley, they soon left the prosperous region of the capital, and short, dilapidated houses slowly came into sight.
This was the poor district.
Where there is the wealthy, there is also the poor. The capital was no different.
As they proceeded further down the alley, the houses grew more and more run down.
“What does gongzi intend to do here?”
Old Eagle, Solitary Wolf, and Steel Arms were growing more and more curious by the moment. Even with their deep understanding of the capital, they had never been here before.
They couldn’t imagine what it was that would compel the offspring of Duke Jiu, the scion of a clan of ministers and generals, to come to such a dilapidated region.
“This should be it,” Wang Chong muttered, looking at the residence before him.
Going by the standards of the poor district, this residence could be considered as grand and majestic. However, the rotting old wooden doors, the algae-filled steps, and the vine crawling up the walls showed that this wasn’t the home of some prestigious clan.
Stepping forward, Wang Chong knocked on the door ring on the large doors. A moment later, the doors opened, and a head peeked out.
“Who are you looking for?”
The man had sleepy eyes. He seemed to be a servant of the residence.
“We’re here to look for Master Zhang,” Wang Chong asked politely with a smile.
The servant was immediately jolted awake. Seeing the resplendent clothes that Wang Chong and the others were wearing, he quickly opened the doors.
The room inside was gloomy and dark, illuminated only by a simple and dim oil lamp.
In the room, a decadent, wrinkled elder seemingly in his fifties was lying on a bamboo chair as he smoked on a pipe, exhaling bluish-purple smoke across the room.
“Most people won’t come here. Who are you all?” Even though the elder was speaking to them, his eyes were devoid of focus. He continued puffing on his pipe leisurely.
“Old mister, we’re here to request your help for a construction,” Wang Chong replied.
Hearing Wang Chong’s words, the elder was taken aback for a moment, and a grave demeanor finally appeared on his face. But soon, he sneered while knocking the ashes from the pipe and rejected coldly, “I don’t from whom you heard about me, but I advise you to give up the idea. Ever since leaving the Bureau of Works, I’ve never built a residence for anyone.”
This man was actually from the Bureau of Works!
The trio behind Wang Chong, Old Eagle, Steel Arms, and Solitary Wolf, were shocked. The stipends for the officials of the Bureau of Works were high. Even the most ordinary of officials in it would be able to live luxuriously.
No one would expect an official of the Bureau of Works to be living in such a dilapidated residence in the poor district.
It seems like gongzi is here for that matter, the trio thought.
They were present at the banquet as well, albeit not given a seat. They knew that Wang Chong intended to purchase the Lion Rock Hill to construct a base.
It seems like gongzi intends to engage his help to construct the base.
But how would gongzi know that there’s an official from the Bureau of Works here?
The trio was perplexed.
“Hehe. Elder Zhang, what I want to build is not a residence. What I want is a fortress,” Wang Chong gazed at the elder before him with a smile on his lips.
The reason why Wang Chong knew why this elder was living here was simple—he had met the latter on a watchtower while he was loitering around the town as a profligate scion.
The most basic skill for a qualified profligate scion was to possess keen eyes to determine the social standing and position of those standing before him.
While the elder was uninterested in the quartet before him, he couldn’t help but widen his eyes upon hearing Wang Chong’s words. But soon, his face darkened, and rage filled his features.
“Gongzi, are you taking me for a fool? I don’t care which clan you are from, but you better scram from my residence this very instant.” The elder pointed to the door with his smoke as he roared angrily.
In his lifetime, he had met many different people with all kinds of requests, but he had never met one so ridiculous as to claim that he wanted to build a fortress.
Did the other party think that they were playing house?
Was a fortress something that he, as an individual, could build?
Did the other party understand how much money, resources, and manpower had to be devoted to the operation?
Even the most prestigious of clans in the capital dared not make such a bold statement! Was this lad insane? To actually come all the way here just to pull a prank on him!
“Elder Zhang, I mean what I say. Why would I come all the way here just to pull a prank on you?” Wang Chong replied seriously.
This elder was an obstinate old man so convincing him was bound to be no easy task. However, he did require the capability of this architect from the Bureau of Works for his future plans.
In Wang Chong’s plans, Elder Zhang played a very crucial role, perhaps even on par with Zhang Munian.
Just that, the timing wasn’t ripe before.
Only after he had managed to strike up a connection with Zhangchou Jianqiong did he finally decide that it was the time to invite the other party over to his side.
“Hahaha, lad. It’s not that I want to underestimate you, but do you know how much the construction of a fortress would cost?” Zhang Shouzhi spoke disdainfully. He still couldn’t believe that this lad was seriously asking him to build a fortress for him.
“A million taels?”
“Copper coin, you mean?” Zhang Shouzhi sneered.
“Gold, of course!” Wang Chong replied seriously.
As soon as he uttered those words, the dim room suddenly fell silent. Zhang Shouzhi’s smoking pipe suddenly froze in midair.
Old Eagle, Steel Arms, and Solitary Wolf also had their mouths open wide in astonishment.
A million taels?
Does gongzi have that much money?!
Not to mention, it’s gold! Constructing a fortress takes up that much money?
The trio was even more shocked than Zhang Shouzhi. They had been with Wang Chong for a period of time already, and they had heard bits and pieces of the various legends surrounding him. Naturally, some of them were regarding his talent in business.
But the trio never could have imagined that Wang Chong’s financial ability would have actually reached such an astonishing level!
This was especially true of Solitary Wolf. After toiling so hard, accepting so many dangerous missions to earn money, he had a very vivid image of how much a million gold taels was worth.
Despite working for so many years, the money he earned was lacking several zeros from a million.
A million gold taels was a huge sum that was beyond their wildest imaginations!
This is comparable to the entire wealth of a powerful clan already! Gongzi’s ability in earning money is truly astonishing!, Solitary Wolf thought, shocked.
“Lad, are you joking with me?”
Zhang Shouzhi’s face froze, but the disbelief that was lingering on it was clear. His original thought was a hundred thousand to two hundred thousand taels, but Wang Chong reported a million gold taels straight. This was far beyond his expectations as well.
Instead of saying anything, Wang Chong tugged at his waist, whipping out two gold tokens before throwing them over. One of them was the gold token from Zhangchou Jianqiong, whereas the other was his Wang Clan token.
Grabbing the two tokens, Zhang Shouzhi was still leisurely glancing at them initially, when he suddenly recognized the insignia and words on them and trembled in shock.
At this very instant, he suddenly realized that the background of this young man was far beyond his imagination.
“Old mister, our gongzi is a trustworthy person. He won’t say anything that he doesn’t mean, so old mister can rest assured,” Old Eagle added in by the side.
But a short moment later, Zhang Shouzhi harrumphed coldly, and with a jerk of his wrist, he threw the two tokens back.
“Even though I don’t know how gongzi managed to find this place, I advise gongzi not to waste your own strength. Back then, when I was forced out of the Bureau of Works, I made a vow not to construct anything for anyone anymore. I suggest you give up on this idea.”
Zhang Shouzhi placed another bag of tobacco onto the oil lamp and lit it before placing it within the smoking pipe and began puffing off it once more. It seemed as though he wasn’t interested in conversing with Wang Chong any further.
When he left the Bureau of Works back then, many prestigious clans had sought him, and they had offered generous terms as well. But in the end, he turned down all of them.
His heart had already turned cold.
Having worked as a supervisor in the Bureau of Works his entire life, he had constructed many beautiful and elegant palaces. Yet, this was all he got in the end.
He couldn’t bear this kind of humiliation.
Thus, from that day onward, Zhang Shouzhi swore that he would never get involved with anything related to construction anymore.
“Elder Zhang, there’s no need to be in such a rush to reject me,” Wang Chong chuckled. He had long heard of Zhang Shouzhi’s temper—in fact, which of the outstanding architects in the Bureau of Works didn’t have such a bad temper?
But if Wang Chong wasn’t confident, he wouldn’t be standing before him this very instant.
“200,000 gold taels. As long as Elder Zhang promises to help me, I’m willing to sponsor you 200,000 gold taels so that you can continue on with the research of your secret formula. On top of that, I promise you to supply you with ample resources as well,” Wang Chong raised two fingers as he smiled mysteriously.
Upon hearing the words “secret formula”, ba-dum!, Zhang Shouzhi’s heart skipped a beat, and he nearly swallowed the tobacco bag whole. How could this young lad possibly know of that matter?
Zhang Shouzhi’s face turned as pale as if he had seen a ghost.
“Lad, don’t utter rubbish. Do you really know what kind of research I am doing?”
In truth, Zhang Shouzhi was a little moved by Wang Chong’s offer. If Wang Chong really meant what he said, then he could consider lending the other party a hand.
“Of course,” Wang Chong smiled.
“Due to that secret research back then, Elder Zhang misappropriated the funds from the royal palace and due to that, you were even nearly got executed by the Bureau of Punishments.”
Hearing those words, Zhang Shouzhi’s face couldn’t help but redden. Even a person as thick-skinned as him couldn’t stand having his dark history revealed right before him.
“200,000 gold taels might not be sufficient for there to be any results in my research. Lad, you should reconsider this matter, the funding for that research is like an abyss. While I know that you come from a prestigious clan, there might not necessarily be any results even if you were to pump the wealth of your entire clan into it. If it was that simple, I would have already long succeeded back in the Bureau of Works already. How could I have possibly ended up in this state then?” Zhang Shouzhi replied grimly.
This was the first person who had expressed support for his research in the past decade. This won Wang Chong some goodwill from Zhang Shouzhi.
But whether Zhang Shouzhi would accept his request was still questionable at the moment.
“I understand. Not only will I support you with an endless stream of funds, I can even give you the formula for cement,” Wang Chong said.
Zhang Shouzhi stared at Wang Chong in bewilderment, completely baffled by Wang Chong’s words.