As I said, Sisi had completely figured out my plan. The two of us didn’t need any explanation or debates. We could quickly catch onto what the other was planning once the other played their card. Sisi trusted me. Therefore, she wouldn’t question me in any shape or form. Despite the risk of plunging the entire imperial capital into chaos or even turning it on its head, Sisi was still willing to go along with my plan. I thought I might never need a cane again because Sisi would support me on my left arm. We had never walked together before today, but my pace was in perfect harmony with hers.
We made our way to the place of the largest food merchant in the city. It was the biggest food business in the entire empire and the leader of the industry. Sisi had to buy food from him when heading out on expeditions. He bought up lots of land used in producing food, and would take the food directly from the autumn harvest. His operation method was quite modernised compared to everyone else.
The size of the place honestly exceeded my expectations. My image of a food store was a small shop with a warehouse inside and just an accountant outside. Surprisingly, the particular store we visited was the size of a large office. Actually, make that a bank. It strongly resembled the Temple of Athena Nike. The thick pillars had brilliant symbols of a god. Whether that was the god of agriculture or business, I had no idea. Either way, the grand scale of it was akin to the god of Rhodes Island looking down on all living creatures.
In my opinion, the imperial palace wasn’t even able to compare to the grandeur the store was. Sisi wasn’t bothered, though, surprisingly. Horse carriages packed full of thick bags were waiting to enter. There were also lots of horse carriages that had just departed after being loaded with bags of food. Compared to the bank and imperial palace, the food store should’ve been considered the lifeline of the empire. Without it, who knows how many people would starve to death.
Everything at the front of the store was the same as the main hall of the bank. There were countless windows, which were split into three. One was for exporting food and then exchanging money. One was a place for large volumes and personal purchases. Once purchases were made, they’d go to the back to receive a ticket. The last one was for businessmen to discuss business.
I ambled over to the window for businessmen. There weren’t many people there. There probably weren’t many businessmen willing to dabble in the food business. Food wasn’t worth given the circumstances. The person inside slipped me a sheet of paper and instructed, “Fill in the form. Choose a time for an appointment as well as the service you are after. We will have someone contact you thereafter.’
I pressed the form onto the table and demanded, “I want to see your boss right now.”
Perhaps he was quickly shuffling through his memory to try and recall if I was some important figure. He unlikely recognised me. I did go on a rampage during my last visit to the imperial capital, but it didn’t affect the food business. Consequently, he shook his head: “Sorry, everything must be done according to procedure. You cannot jump the line.”
“Then, how about me?” Sisi chuckled as she gently removed her hat a little.
“I, uh, I, umm…”
Sisi chuckled as she made a hush hand gesture. She quietly threatened, “You know what to do now, right? You choose a place. You should all be aware that I’m not a patient individual.”
“Y-Yes, Your Majesty. Please wait a moment.”
Despite no longer being the Queen, people still instinctively panicked when people in the imperial capital saw her. That was the imposing impression that she left on everyone.
We waited around in the lobby. I helped Sisi fix her hat up: “You shouldn’t take the initiative to show yourself. What if he goes to the military instead of his boss?”
“It doesn’t matter. I’m sure you would still be able to get me out even if the military came.”
“I think that you are putting me on a pedestal that’s too high.”
“Hehe, weren’t you the one who wanted me to have faith in you?”
I sighed. The businessmen and military were at loggerheads, so I didn’t think we’d be sold out.
Not long after, the individual came up to us and cautiously informed, “He is waiting for you upstairs. Please head on up.”
The two of us went up a flight of stairs to the second floor. Normally, nobody was allowed to enter without permission as it was a place reserved for discussions between businessmen. Upstairs, a middle-aged man, who sported an unforgettable bald path in the centre of his head and seemed to have some sort of ailment, silently stood up and gave us a deep bow. Respectfully, he expressed, “Your Majesty, Mister, welcome. We did not know you would be coming, so we have not prepared anything. I hope you do not mind.”
Upon sitting down opposite him, I queried, “Since you still call Sisi ‘Her Majesty’, can I safely assume that you’re still loyal to Sisi?”
“Yes.” He didn’t seem to mind my way of addressing her. He elaborated, “Food would fetch a better price if I sold it to Her Majesty than the military. Subsequently, we are still loyal to Her Majesty. Your Majesty, you must have instructions for me. I am all ears.”
Sisi and I exchanged eye contact. I then looked back at him and took over, explaining, “We hope you can give us a hand. We need you to transport a portion of your food out of the city. You do not need to do anything. You just need to move the portion out of the city. At the same time, I would like to ask you to write a notice that you will be raising the cost of food. However, from all accounts, you have the right to not raise your prices. You just need to spread the news.”
“Understood.” Whilst stroking his chin, he queried, “You want to incite panic in the city, correct? You want to incite panic through us to convince the people that the internal structure of the city is facing a problem, thereby convincing everyone to leave the city, correct?”
Unsurprisingly, the food merchant was sensitive about the price of food. He understood what we were after. It made things easier. If he was loyal to Queen Sisi and understood our plan, it was a done deal.’
“I understand, but sorry. Your Majesty, Mister, I cannot help you.”
“Yes, I can understand, and it is a fantastic strategy for you. Nevertheless, you might be unaware that I am the food merchant of this city. My credibility is more important than anything. If my news causes uproar, only for them to find out that it was a lie, who would buy from me again? I am loyal to Her Majesty, but my own life and business is also important. This is my bottom line. Our credibility as businessmen must be protected.”
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