“Sigh, Lu Ting, you foiled my plans!”
When Su Zhengchen finally left, Wang Chong stomped his feet and sighed. It hadn’t been easy for him to guard this secret for the past few months.
Even Shen Hai and Meng Long didn’t know the true identity of Su Zhengchen despite having met him.
In the end, Lu Ting ruined everything as soon as he appeared.
“Plans? What plans? Wang Chong, tell me first. How did you meet Su gong Su Zhengchen? Furthermore, to be playing chess with him!”
Lu Ting stood up and grabbed Wang Chong in agitation.
Lu Ting grew up listening to the legends of the great war god Su Zhengchen, and there was even a painting of him in Lu Ting’s residence.
There were many rumors going around that Su gong had already passed away, and thus, Lu Ting never thought that he would meet Su Zhengchen here.
To think that the war god Su Zhengchen was still alive, and on top of that, for him to be as strong and healthy as before; this was something that had never crossed Lu Ting’s mind before.
This was a miracle!
Even though Su Zhengchen didn’t even look at Lu Ting in the eye throughout the entire encounter, Lu Ting didn’t harbor any resentment against him. Instead, he thought that it was completely natural.
After all, that was Su gong; the man who ruled the battlefield, the proud war god! If Su gong had spoken to him amiably instead, Lu Ting would doubt whether he was seeing a double or not.
Wang Chong sighed. It seemed like Lu Ting was a fan of Su Zhengchen. Even though his plan had been foiled by the other party, there was nothing he could protest about.
“You’ve already been coming here since a couple of months ago?”
After the duo calmed down, Wang Chong summarized the rough outline of the events to Lu Ting.
“Un. If it wasn’t for you, we might have been able to continue on like this for a few more months.”
Wang Chong said. Lu Ting’s presence here today was truly beyond his expectations.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t expect you to be meeting Su gong here.”
Lu Ting said apologetically.
It had been a few decades since Su Zhengchen had closed the doors of the Su Residence, turning down all guests and visitors. This was a known fact to all.
Back then, before the news of Su gong‘s demise started spreading, even the royal offsprings were denied entry to the Su Residence, lest to say, others of lower standing.
If others were to learn that Wang Chong had earned Su gong‘s favor and was able to play chess with him here every day, it would definitely scare most of them to death. Even a fool could tell that this was a huge opportunity.
However, it seemed like Lu Ting’s unintentional arrival had foiled Wang Chong’s opportunity.
For this, Lu Ting felt extremely apologetic.
“Forget it, let’s not talk about this. Rather, I’m more interested to know how you knew that I was here.”
Wang Chong said.
Lu Ting revealed the truth without hiding anything.
As King Song had just been reinstated to his prior positions, he had to deal with the various mess that King Qi had caused in the Bureau of Military Personnel and Bureau of Punishments so he hadn’t been able to meet Wang Chong at the palace gates.
On top of that, he thought that after a long imprisonment, Wang Chong would surely miss his family members a lot. Thus, he decided to grant Wang Chong some time to catch up with them before paying a visit.
Eventually, when he thought that it was about time, he went over to the Wang Family Residence. But to his surprise, Wang Chong wasn’t around, and not even his family members knew where he went.
Initially, King Song didn’t pay the matter any heed, thinking that Wang Chong should return by sunset. However, when the moon rose and the stars appeared, and Wang Chong still hadn’t returned yet, he decided to instruct Lu Ting to find him.
After listening to Lu Ting’s explanation, Wang Chong knew that he couldn’t really blame him for this matter. Having been locked up for three months, he was excited to meet Su Zhengchen again and so he ended up playing for a little longer than usual. He didn’t think that this sudden whim of his would bring Lu Ting here.
Perhaps, it was just as Su Zhengchen had put it. Their fates had simply come to an end. Their months of games were destined to end here today.
“Lu Ting, how did you know that I’m in the Ghost Tree District?”
Wang Chong frowned.
“Hehe, isn’t that easy? I just have to liaise with the gangsters in the capital. With almost a thousand person scouring through the capital for you, how could I not find you?”
Lu Ting smiled. However, he seemed to have realised something toward the end of his sentence, and his expression to change.
“It seems like you finally understand. The reason why Su gong has kept a low profile throughout these years is because he doesn’t want anyone to learn of his existence. Given the number of gangsters you’ve mobilised for this matter, perhaps by tomorrow, news of Su gong being alive would spread throughout the capital. Countless people will pay the Su Residence a visit.”
Wang Chong said calmly.
Looking at the numerous figures in the surroundings, Lu Ting’s face paled.
Su gong had always been a figure of respect for him, his father, as well as those of the previous generation. Back then, during Taizong’s era, the other party was a deity-like figure in the entire Central Plains. All those who had either lived through that era or heard of his exploits would definitely have a special place for him in their hearts.
Their heartfelt respect for him impelled them to want the best for him. Thus, none of them wished for his peace to be disturbed.
“Wait a moment!”
Amidst the night, Lu Ting suddenly turned around and walked toward the gangsters with a grim expression on his face. Wang Chong knew what he was going to do and he had no intentions of stopping him.
Even so, it was probably already too late.
As expected, a moment later, Lu Ting returned with a defeated look. He got into the carriage along with Wang Chong, and both of them tacitly chose not to mention Su Zhengchen.
“Hahaha, Wang Chong, welcome back!”
Wang Chong met King Song in the Wang Family Residence. He seemed to have been seated here for quite some time and upon seeing Wang Chong, he spread open his arms and gave him a big hug.
King Song’s admiration and fondness for Wang Chong came from the depths of his heart. Wang Chong’s spirits lifted significantly as he accepted King Song’s passionate welcome.
“Your Highness, congratulations on your reinstatement to the royal court!”
Clasping his fist, Wang Chong chuckled.
At King Song’s position, there was no further room for promotion. The position of a king was already the highest one could reach, any further promotion would necessitate a coup d’état
Thus, being reinstated was a joyous occasion in itself, equivalent of an ordinary civilian rising to the position of a noble or minister.
“Hahaha, if not for you, how could I have possibly returned to the royal court, lest be said, be reinstated in both the Bureau of Military Personnel and the Bureau of Punishments?”
King Song didn’t bother hiding the fondness and admiration in his gaze. If not for Wang Chong’s timely warning allowing him to notice the peculiarity in Consort Taizhen’s matter, he, along with many officials of the royal court, would have most likely been demoted and exiled.
Wang Chong might only be fifteen, but he was the true meritorious subject behind King Song as to his escape from this crisis and his reinstatement.
And toward meritorious subjects, King Song would never be stingy in his bestowments.
“Wang Chong, you’ve done me a great favor this time. Tell me, what kind of rewards do you want? No matter your request, I’ll accede to it.’
In a happy mood, King Song spoke magnanimously.
“Your Highness, thank you for your generosity. However, I’ve nothing that I desire at the moment.”
Wang Chong shook his head. It was not in his character to demand rewards for his contribution.
“Hahaha. Even though you don’t want it, I insist on the matter. Men, bring me the ‘White-hoofed Shadow’!”
King Song suddenly shouted.
Before Wang Chong could register what was said, he heard the faint neighing of a horse from the stable near the courtyard. It sounded a little immature, and there was a slight metallic edge to it. Just through its call, Wang Chong could already tell that it was different from ordinary horses.
Wang Chong was both surprised and delighted. He immediately understood what King Song wanted to gift him. It was probably a colt, and it seemed to be a breed of war steed at that.
The importance of a good steed on the battlefield wouldn’t pale to that of a Wootz steel sword.
A huge cloud of dust rose in the courtyard. Amidst the dust, a dashing colt with lush indigo fur galloped over.
As it galloped over, the first thing that instantaneously caught Wang Chong’s eye was its white hoofs. They made it look as though the colt was galloping in the air, granting it an air of nobility.
Wang Chong immediately fell in love with this colt.
The young colt stopped inside the courtyard. It was led by a stableman whose body was completely concealed from head to toe in a manner such that only his eyes were visible.
“This is an imperial steed raised in the palace. It’s a crossbreed between the Snow Steed of the great snowy mountains and the White-hoofed Shadow of the Central Plains. There is a very limited number of them, and the experts of the royal palace have been grooming them carefully. It takes a lot of effort for even a single colt to be successfully groomed.”
“This kind of imperial steed is different from regular horses in the sense that it possesses intelligence. It’ll acknowledge anyone who feeds it for an entire month as its owner, and it would, in turn, serve him loyally for life. Thus, when the stablemen in the palace fed them, their bodies and faces had to be carefully concealed to prevent the colts from seeing their appearances.”
King Song explained.
“Once the White-hoofed Shadow grows up, it’ll gain incomparable strength along with having lightning quick movements. However, this steed isn’t just an ordinary White-hoofed Shadow. Men!”
King Song beckoned to the men outside.
Soon, two guards of the King Song Residence carried a massive metal bowl over. The metal plate was filled with a chi deep of water.
Clearly, they had prepared this tool beforehand.
The stableman led the colt to the massive bowl of water, and in the very next instant, right before Wang Chong’s shocked gaze, the colt stepped forward and stood on the surface of the water.
Tiny, round ripples formed around its hooves, adding a stroke of gallantry to it.
“How is this possible?”
Wang Chong was dumbstruck.
The onlooking Wang family members were also equally shocked. This colt was definitely of high quality, but no one expected it to be able to stand on water as though it was solid land.
This was completely inconceivable.
“This is the White-hoofed Steed that the royal palace raised. It’s capable of treading water to cross rivers. It only gained this ability after several generations of cross-breeding by the experts within the royal palace. Perhaps, you might discover even more incredible feats it is capable of in the future. How about it, do you like my present?”
King Song flung his sleeves gleefully.
“I like it, I really do!”
Wang Chong hurriedly nodded his head. You must be jesting! He would be a fool if he rejected such a top-quality steed! Such a good steed definitely numbered in only a handful throughout the entire world.
Back then, when Wang Chong became the Grand Marshal of the Central Plains, all of these gallant steeds had already died out.
Thus, despite his noble position, Wang Chong remained unfated with this kind of top-quality steeds.
As such, Wang Chong was truly overjoyed by his gift.
A colt is a young horse.
The White-hoofed Shadow is actually a real horse in history. (Taken from Baidu, though I don’t think it can float on water)
There are Six Great Horses in China’s history, and it’s one of them.
The White-hoofed Shadow was ridden on by Li Shimin (Taizong) and Xue Rengao.
Generally, many people think that it’s called White-hoofed Shadow because of its white hoofs and black body. (I’m not too sure why the story described this steed as having purple fur, but it did state that it was a cross-breed.)
Actually, there’s another interpretation to its name.
In hanyupinyin, it’s is Baiti Wu.
A scholar once analyzed the matter and felt that Baiti might be an adaptation of the word ‘bota’ from the Turk.
Bota has the meaning of a young Khan in reference to the greatness of the steed.
Thus, it could also be called Bota Shadow.