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Other than the absentees from the Wolves of the Gra.s.slands and the Southern Border Tribe, all the countries in the continent, including the four empires, saw their fair share of partic.i.p.ants.
Of course, with so many people in attendance, each general had his own requests and demands.
"Can this general reserve another hundred pots of wedding wine? This general asks that General Tie honor this request. For the brothers of this nation who are unable to attend the banquet, of course. Whether they are dead or alive, I'm sure they would love to drink a goblet of this wine that belongs to all militants!"
"Can I reserve a thousand catties of Marshal Tie’s wedding wine? This nation’s military men who cannot come are all dying to try them!"
Tie Zheng was sorely tempted to let loose a string of expletives as he thought about the situation.
I can’t even afford wine for our empire’s men and you want me to reserve wine for all of you? Wishful thinking, certainly.
Of course, there would be wine.
As long as there were silver taels in abundance, you could have tens of millions of catties of wine!
There were more than ten millions breweries in the Empire of Yutang alone; how could there be a shortage of wine?
As for Marshal Tie Zheng’s wedding wine, no brewery would be able to turn down the order.
However, the only problem lay in the fact that Tie Zheng did not have the wealth to pay for them.
Tie Zheng’s wedding had caused much excitement among the militants in all the countries across the entire continent; the wine served at the wedding would never be of poor quality, as it would be a shame to host guests with an inferior wine. After all, this banquet involved the pride of Yutang!
What would happen if a good wine was not served?
If an inferior wine, those that cost only one silver tael for ten catties, was used, would they want the generals of the enemy countries to drink to their deaths?
A catastrophe could occur if such wine was imbibed.
The cheapest of the good wine that could be served at a wedding would need at least ten taels for a catty!
Tie Zheng would need at least two million catties and above of said wine.
That would bring the cost up to a total of twenty million silver taels!
Where was Tie Zheng supposed to find so many silver taels?
Even if he crushed his bones and sold the powder… he would not be able to gather together this astronomical amount.
Marshal Tie was becoming increasingly distressed over this issue, p.r.o.ne to heavy sighing in recent days.
His Majesty had just organized a donation drive and emptied everyone’s pockets. At this juncture, he could not even find someone who could lend him the money.
He did not regret this decision he had made, he was simply worried about how he was going to pull this off.
Silver taels, oh silver taels!
Sometimes, when Tie Zheng lay awake at night to worry, he would think – why not send twenty thousand men in ten different directions to pilfer the required sum?
It was undoubtedly a way to solve his problems and a tempting idea at that.
"Marshal!" The leader of his janissaries called out. "Someone from the Ma Family has asked to meet you."
"Who is it?" Tie Zheng asked impatiently. "Which Ma Family?"
"That Ma Family that is said to be Powerhouse Ma, the top-tier brewery in Empire of Yutang." The leader said excitedly, "It is their young master Ma Chenglu who has come."
"Send him in."
Tie Zheng was puzzled. The Ma Family’s wine had always been on the higher end side; the most inferior of their wines would still cost some seven or eight silver taels a catty. This was not in tune with the wine he was using for his wedding, why was he looking him?
Upon his arrival, Young Master Ma’s words had delighted Tie Zheng, to his pleasant surprise. "I have long heard of Marshal Tie’s wedding. Coincidentally, we have a batch of wine that has been stored for some time… We’re willing to sell them to the marshal at a low price. We would be deeply pleased if the marshal were to honor our request."
"How much wine is there?" Tie Zheng asked with genuine interest.
"Four million catties!" Ma Chenglu said. "Twenty catties per pot so that would be a total of two hundred thousand pots!"
"So many?" Tie Zheng was shocked, but after his initial surprise, he immediately realized that the wine would definitely be sufficient for the wedding.
The only question that remained was that of the price.
Even as he thought about it, Tie Zheng asked aloud with some lethargy, "How much for a catty?"
In his mind, he thought about the types of wine that came from Powerhouse Ma, the Ma Family. It had to be exquisitely premium wine since it had been stored for so long without being sold; even if they were let off at a low price, they would still cost between fifteen to twenty taels. If it was, say, twenty taels, that would total up to eight million silver taels. If this fellow had the temerity to mention a similar number, your father will kick him out right away!
Look at me, do I look like I would have eight million taels lying around? Are you here to fool your father? Forget eight million, I would be dancing with joy if I had even two million taels?
"This lowly shop’s four million catties of wine will be priced at six million silver taels. How about that?" As Young Master Ma Chenglu spoke, a flurry of emotions coursed through his heart.
My great Young Master Yun, why did you do such a thing?
That was a total of thirty million silver taels! You just tossed it out without even blinking an eye and you don’t even want others to know about it.
After the emperor’s trick, Tiantang City’s monetary situation was in a state of trepidation; there were few who dared to make transactions of large sums. Tie Zheng had wished to sell his manors and past rewards in exchange for silver taels but it remained only a wish. No one wanted to buy them even when he had offered them at a low price. If it were not for this, Yun Yang did not have to put in such a big effort!
"I can’t afford them… sorry, what did you say?" Tie Zheng had just uttered the first three words absently, but as he muttered them, his eyes grew wide with disbelief. "How much did you say it was?"
He almost could not believe his ears.
Six million silver taels for four million catties? One and a half silver tael for a catty? So cheap?
"They’re not… inferior wine, are they?" Tie Zheng looked at Ma Chenglu doubtfully.
This had to be the only explanation. How could it be so cheap otherwise? They must be subpar wine; otherwise, how could they be kept for so long and not been sold?
"I’ve specifically brought a hundred pots here today to quell Marshal’s doubt." Ma Chenglu said, "They are sitting outside. Marshal can taste them for himself."
The pots of wine were being carried in.
The moment he laid his eyes on the pots’ exterior, Tie Zheng had immediately taken a liking to them.
The green colored wine pots were not oblong like the usual pots but they were a little rectangular with distinct corners; a large piece of red cloth sealed the opening, the red as crimson as blood!
Four large black words were written on the red cloth – "Blood of the Hero".
Just the pot, the red cloth, and the four words were enough to rim Tie Zheng’s eyes red.
Even if these wine were not of the highest tier, I would want them too!
Behind the pot was the same red cloth that had two rows of tiny words on it – "Fealty hearts of vibrant blood that guard the nation and family, patriotic lionhearted souls that built the fortress."
Tie Zheng felt as if a thunderbolt had struck him as he stood petrified for a moment, his tears streaming down his face.
When the wine was poured, its color was red like blood while its aroma wafted up pleasantly to greet the nose.
Tie Zheng raised his bowl with trembling hands and emptied the contents, feeling a burning sensation gush through his throat. Immediately after, a burning fire coursed through his stomach!
"Good wine! Great wine!" Tie Zheng’s words were accompanied by his tears. "My brothers… must be satisfied!"
He asked in a quavering voice, "Are all the wine of this quality?"
"Yes!" Ma Chenglu answered confidently. "If there is any pot that is of a lower standard, this lowly shop will not charge anything at all for all the wine!"
Tie Zheng sucked in a deep breath and took Ma Chenglu’s hand into his grasp, disregarding his status; he was overwhelmed with grat.i.tude. "Thank you!"
Which man in the military would not like a good wine?
Tie Zheng was the same, of course. The wine was certainly not of secondary quality, and it was certainly of the highest possible perfection!
Selling them for one and a half silver taels was the same as giving them away.
Young Master Ma’s home must have suffered a huge loss at that price.
Ma Chenglu hesitated and said, "Marshal need not be overly concerned. The Ma Family will not suffer too much of a loss from this deal. This favor had been requested by someone… we are not the ones you have to thank, Marshal."
In the end, it was impossible for him to keep it to himself.
Tie Zheng was surprised. "Who is it?"
"Forgive me for being unable to tell you." Ma Chenglu said, "That person has reminded time and again to keep the secret for him… I ask that Marshal does not put me in a tough spot."
"I wish Marshal a happy marriage." Ma Chenglu took two steps back and bowed to bid his farewell. "I also hope that the brothers in the military can have a hearty drink. I shall take my leave now."
"Hold up." Tie Zheng called out, "I will bring the banknotes out, please take them with you."
Tie Zheng extracted his banknotes and insisted on paying an additional two million taels but Ma Chenglu obstinately refused to take them. In the end, he went home with six million taels worth of banknotes.
On the afternoon of the same day, the military had a.s.signed some men beholden to the Ma Family’s wine house to send carts of wine into Tie Zheng’s residence.
The two large warehouses that had long been emptied were filled within just a cup of tea’s time.
The courtyard was filled with neat rows of wine pots by the army men as well.
The whole courtyard had been occupied but only less than a third of the wine filled the s.p.a.ce.
The men then cleared a piece of land outside the courtyard to erect a military tent and store the wine inside.
When everything was done, a thousand men were all sweating from the work.
"Open a few pots. Brothers, you have all worked hard. Let us have a good drink first and feel good, shall we?" Tie Zheng spoke and moved to carry some wine over.
His two janissaries then charged over and hugged him tightly. "Marshal… there’s no need, no need at all!"
Tie Zheng turned his head to look at his sweating warriors in shock and asked, "Aren’t you fellows tired? What’s wrong if this general offers you some of the wedding wine first? Are you not giving me the honor to do so?"
"No, no…" One of his janissaries smiled good-naturedly. "There’s no such need… Not only is this Marshal’s wedding wine, it’s also all our brothers’ wedding wine – those dead and those alive. If it had been any other time and any other wine, we would just drink them. But this wine… we would feel guilty should we drink it before the big day."
"We understand Marshal’s sentiment right now but it’s enough that we regard it in our heart." The janissary leader said seriously, "After Marshal’s wedding, we will drink more if there is wine left. If that day were to lack a few pots of wine just because we consumed them today, we would be shamed, even if we brothers die right away. We would be too humiliated to go meet our fallen brothers in the underworld."
Looking at their sincere faces, Tie Zheng could only felt his throat clog up.
Tie Zheng stumbled into his room and suddenly laughed, hollering into the sky, "Brothers! See these wine? Have all of you seen them! This is… my wedding wine! Our wine! Your wine!"
When he reached the last few words, his voice was already raspy with tears.