"Let's get this straight then," Li Chenyang began. "First, we hire pirates who would steal the ships and the goods from the poorly guarded ships."
Li Xueyue nodded. "Correct. Then, we will contact the dissatisfied workers and pay them handsomely to soil the goods."
"How do we ensure they keep their silence? Hanging a big fish as an example?" Li Chenyang asked.
She shook her head. "No, we're more ethical than that. We'll offer to support their families by sending their children to school, so that these workers won't even think about snitching or else they'll risk their family living comfortably. On top of that, we can double the pay rate."
Li Chenyang slightly smiled. She had enough morals to not sacrifice the small fishes.
"Next is step three, correct?" He glanced at the parchment in his hand and read it out loud, "Once disgruntled traders stop giving the Bai Family their business, people will start gossiping. It will exacerbate the problems faced by the Bai family ports."
Li Xueyue curtly nodded. "Nothing travels faster than word of mouth."
"Good thinking." Li Cheyang raised a brow. "After their tarnished reputation rips their business to shreds, we'll get started on the false investor?"
Li Xueyue smiled in agreement. "Yep, once their customers are little to none, we'll send a delegate that will make them a deal and buy over all of their trading ships and business for a cheap price."
"Hmm, go on."
"Next comes the difficult part. We will need an official agreement drafted and stamped by the Emperor of Wuyi to seem legit. They'll trust the agreement more if it's approved by the Emperor, even though we're foreign investors," Li Xueyue explained.
Li Chenyang nodded. "I will speak with my father about this and see what we can do. So after signing the official agreement, we will then give them the false one that promises royalties till the end of time. That way, the Bai Family will think they're supported for generations to come without even lifting a finger."
Li Xueyue smirked. "Yes, they'll keep a copy of the false one. That one will be falsely stamped. They can never hold it against us even if they cry to the public because our identities will be kept hidden."
Li Chenyang chuckled. "Then, the second last part of the plan after acquiring all of the rights will be to improve the business?"
"Mmhm, we'll improve the business and make it profitable again. Once the net worth of the business increases, we could make a windfall by selling the business off at a much higher price than what we bought it for. Once we get to that point, we will ruin the Bai Family once and for all," Li Xueyue concluded, turning her head towards the window. Their discussion was so long that the sun was beginning to set.
Li Chenyang slowly clapped for her, an intrigued expression on his face. "So, this is what you spend your free time on."
Li Xueyue slowly nodded, anticipating his reaction. She had revealed to him her darkest plans and secrets. How would he view her now?
"And you're sure this will bring us benefits?"
She nodded again. "If you look at the parchment again, you will see the arrows predicting where things might go wrong and how to rectify them. Almost all of the problems I thought of have a solution."
Li Chenyang took another glance at the parchment and true to her words, there were potential conflicts and their solutions written on it. His lips curled into a satisfied smile, pride shining in his eyes.
"Your overthinking actually came in handy," he joked.
Li Chenyang handed the parchment back to her.
Li Xueyue folded the parchment until it was as small as two fingers, a thick and inconspicuous little thing. "It's a double-edged sword." She grinned up at him, her eyes sparkling.
She had expected him to reject her plans, but he seemed to be onboard.
"We can get started on the first step soon. I'll have some of my men scour the taverns that were frequently visited by sailors. Once the weekend comes along, I'll deal with them under a disguise." Li Chenyang placed a warm hand on top of her head, peering down at her with a proud smile.
He didn't think she had it in her to be this intelligent. He had underestimated her. She was meant for greatness.
"And in return," he said, his face became serious again. "You will not step foot in the dangerous parts of the Capital, is that clear? You leave the first step completely to me. No one else. Understood?"
Li Xueyue instantly nodded. "Of course."
"Good. These sailors do not treat women kindly." Li Chenyang patted her head, but she jutted out her bottom lip in response.
"Why do you and Wen-ge like to stroke the top of my head like this?"
"He finds it endearing. I find it amusing." His eyes twinkled, wanting to tease her but knew she would retaliate like an agitated cat.
Li Xueyue let out a small laugh, not believing his reasoning at all. She knew he liked to pat her head because it felt like patting a little puppy. It made him happy, she supposed.
- - - - -
Everyone was gathered around the dinner table, having their routine family meal as usual. The table was brimming with conversations, mainly led by the energetic Li Wenmin who was babbling about his day.
"And because the soldiers trained diligently today, I treated them to some delicious snacks!" Li Wenmin exclaimed between large bites of food. Despite his gluttonous ways, he was still mindful of his manners and always chewed with his mouth close, even though he would open it wide to shove food in.
Li Chenyang always found it a miracle that his brother rarely choked on his food. "Are you sure you treated them? It might be you treating yourself for doing the bare minimum."
"W-well, everyone got to eat! So, yes, I was treating them and—"
"Who ate the most then?" Li Chenyang gave him a pointed look when Li Wenmin shot him a glare.
"It was me, of course! I've been the reigning food champion for years now. No one can take my position!"
"I don't think anyone would want to take that title." Li Chenyang snickered. "It's a wonder that you're not as round as the moon."
"Funny thing is, I still have a better physique than you." Li Wenmin snickered. "Even after all of the food I've pigged down."
"I'm glad to see you admit you eat like a pig," Duke Li Shenyang chimed in, smiling a bit when Li Wenmin pouted.
"Dad, you're supposed to be on my side!" Li Wenmin whined. He shoved another large bite of food into his mouth.
"I will when you eat properly. You're going to choke." Duke Li Shenyang shook his head, motioning for the maidservant to serve more tea to the gluttonous young master.
Duchess Wang Qixing wept, wiping away an imaginary tear. "No one will wed my son and his large appetite that serves as his alter ego!"
"As if anyone would even want to wed him in the first place." Li Chenyang snickered, turning to Li Xueyue who choked on her food whilst suppressing her laughter.
"I saw that, Xiao Yue! Don't laugh at me!" Li Wenmin whined, his chopsticks crossing hers on the same plate.
Li Xueyue's eyes narrowed. They were going to fight over the last braised egg again. She tried to take it but he used his chopsticks skillfully like a sword and pierced through the egg white, securing his egg.
"I wouldn't have laughed at you if it wasn't so true!" Li Xueyue exclaimed, jamming his chopstick down with hers when he tried to pick up the egg. As a result of her interference, it slid out of his chopsticks.
Her eyes lit up and she tried to steal the braised egg, only for him to block her with his chopsticks.
"Not even all of the palace chefs will be able to cook enough food for you to be full!" Li Xueyue groaned when he refused to give up the battle for the last egg.
"Noo, give it to me, Xiao Yue! It's my favorite," Li Wenmin whined, continuing to use his chopstick as a weapon.
Duchess Wang Qixing shook her head, laughing at their childish antics. "Children, you can always split the egg."
Li Wenmin rapidly shook his head. "It won't be even!"
Duke Li Shenyang raised a brow. "Eating too many eggs isn't good for either of you."
Li Chenyang smirked. "Yeah, it makes you stupid , which is no surprise for Li Wenmin who always hogs the eggs."
And just like that, both of them stopped fighting for the egg, but not before they let out a simultaneous, "Hmph!"
Duchess Wang Qixing wanted to laugh again, her eyes shimmering with joy. "That reminds me, you were always fond of finely chopped eggs as a kid, Chenyang. You had eggs with all of your meals."
Li Chenyang went stiff, averting gaze from his siblings.
"Ahah! Who's the idiot now!" Li Wenmin shouted, pushing the plate to Li Chenyang.
"Whatever." Li Chenyang rolled his eyes, picking up the egg and placing it in Li Xueyue's bowl.
Li Xueyue grinned victoriously, showing Li Wenmin the egg in her rice bowl.
"Careful, it's going to make you stupid." Li Wenmin snorted, pretending to not be fazed by the enticing dish.
"Oh well, I'll be a well-fed idiot then." Li Xueyue's smile widened as she picked up the egg and took a bite in his face.
Li Wenmin sat there the entire time with a wronged expression whilst continuing to stuff his mouth with food. 'Just you wait, Xiao Yue, tomorrow I will hog all of the braised eggs!'
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