Chapter 1670: A Meeting of Old Friends!
Several days later, another incident put a damper on Wang Chong’s thoughts.
While Zhangchou Jianqiong was indisposed and resting at home, the First Prince declared that the importance of the Bureau of Military Personnel meant that it could not be without a leader, so he was attempting to force through a proposal in the court to promote a temporary Minister of War to take Zhangchou Jianqiong’s place.
In the King of Foreign Lands Residence, Wang Chong couldn’t help but frown after receiving the news.
The First Prince was moving much faster than he had expected. Zhangchou Jianqiong had been attacked for the Commander Tally he possessed, and not long after he had started to ‘rest and recover’ at home, the First Prince had appointed his replacement. The post of Minister of War was extremely important and Zhangchou Jianqiong still occupied the post, so not even the First Prince could directly remove him. But it was completely possible to appoint a temporary Minister of War.
Moreover, through this method, the First Prince could reach his goal all the same.
But what Wang Chong cared more about was the name of the successor, ‘Kong Wu’.
To think that everything is returning to the original course!
A dark cloud of worry appeared on Wang Chong’s brow.
Wang Chong knew about this Kong Wu, a man who had spent almost his entire life in the Bureau of Military Personnel. His greatest goal in life was to become the Minister of War. Unfortunately, when he first entered the Bureau of Military Personnel, he had not had enough seniority, and it had not been his turn to be Minister of War. Later on, when the old Minister of War retired and Kong Wu had an extremely senior position, he thought that this would be his chance. But to his surprise, Zhangchou Jianqiong had entered the fray and invalidated his efforts.
Moreover, Kong Wu was more than fifty years old now, and based on the customs and laws, his chances were growing slimmer and slimmer. Thus, back in another life, the First Prince had exploited this point to recruit Kong Wu, and Kong Wu had played an extremely important role.
He had a deep understanding of the army and the Bureau of Military Personnel. Without Kong Wu, the First Prince would have never advanced with his rebellion so smoothly.
Without the Commander Tally, he can’t easily mobilize the soldiers, or at least not the number of soldiers he wants. So he thought of Kong Wu? Wang Chong wondered to himself, raising his head.
He still didn’t have Zhangchou Jianqiong’s Commander Tally, but if the Bureau of Military Personnel was being controlled through the decrees of the court, he could at least partially achieve the effect of the Commander Tally.
But Wang Chong was more worried that Kong Wu had a rather brutal and fierce personality. When he served in the army, he was said to punish his subordinates with hot branding irons. He had become more restrained after entering the Bureau of Military Personnel, but mountains and rivers were easier to change than the nature of men. This had been one of the reasons the court had rejected him.
Moreover, the many failures and the years he had spent waiting to become Minister of War had caused many evil tendencies to accumulate in Kong Wu’s heart. This had resulted in the rebellion’s being extremely bloody and many lives being lost.
If Kong Wu were allowed to smoothly assume the position of Minister of War, it would lead to rivers of blood in the future. Moreover, the First Prince had exploited the fact that Zhangchou Jianqiong had just begun his isolation at home for recovery. Even if Zhangchou Jianqiong came out again, the First Prince would insist that he go back and rest up.
It seems like there are some things I have to do!
With an idea in mind, Wang Chong put down the letter and stood up. One incident after another had been cropping up in the capital, and he had hardly had time to rest. He found it proper to go out for a bit to relax.
“Zhang Que, ready my carriage.”
“Yes, Your Highness!”
A voice came from outside the hall, and a few moments later, Wang Chong’s opulent carriage with its golden dragon insignia left the estate.
“Tanghulu! Get your tanghulu! Sweet and delicious tanghulu!”
“Customer, buy mine! My stools are exquisitely crafted and built of sturdy materials. You can’t go wrong if you buy my products!”
“Meat buns! Meat buns, fresh from the oven!”
The capital clamored with peddlers hawking their wares, and pedestrians packed the streets. Even though danger and rebellion were imminent, they remained completely unaware.
When he thought of this, Wang Chong couldn’t help but give a long sigh. The common folk of the Great Tang had been happy and safe since its founding, and such scenes had persisted for many years. The imperial armies had resolved all the dangers, protecting the innocent common folk of the Central Plains. This was precisely what Wang Chong and the generations of generals and officials who had come before them had given their lives to protect.
Once the Rebellion of the Three Princes took place and the capital was turned into a bloodbath, all of these scenes would become nothing. Wang Chong was filled with emotion upon thinking this, and his mind became even more determined.
I have to stop this disaster! Wang Chong said to himself.
His carriage aimlessly wandered around the capital as Wang Chong’s mind churned. He seemed to be pondering countless thoughts, but on closer inspection, there was nothing really there. Time slowly passed in this dazed stupor, and by the time he had come back to his senses, the carriage had already driven out of the city gates.
Tap! Tap! Tap!
There was a firm knocking on the carriage door.
Wang Chong returned to his senses and called out, “Enter!”
The carriage door opened, and a familiar and travel-worn figure entered with a light breeze and sat across from Wang Chong. This man had a handsome face and a stately bearing, and while he was dressed in casual clothes, he had an erect posture, and his every move exuded a domineering air and an energetic majesty.
This man could compare to even the high officials of the court. Anyone else present would certainly have called out in alarm, because this was none other than the man who had been called from the northwest by the First Prince to assume the post of Left Great General of the Imperial Army, former Anxi Protector-General Gao Xianzhi.
Much time had passed since the order had first been issued, and Gao Xianzhi should have arrived long ago. But for some reason, it was only now that he had finally appeared.
Gao Xianzhi looked across at Wang Chong and said, “I presume you’ve been waiting a long time.”
It had been a very long time since their last meeting, and this youth seemed to have greatly matured. Moreover, there seemed to be a tinge of solemnity on his face, as if he was deeply worried and concerned.
Though he had been in the Western Regions, Gao Xianzhi also knew of the heavy pressure placed on Wang Chong. All the pressure from the court down to the border was on him alone, and it had only increased after the attack on King Song. At times, if one weren’t paying close attention, one would forget that Wang Chong was only eighteen.
“I only just arrived!”
Wang Chong smiled at his sudden visitor, his expression not at all surprised. In truth, he had received a letter from Gao Xianzhi and come here to wait for him.
“Where are the others?” Wang Chong said.
“There are a lot of gossipers in the capital, so I had them take another route back to the capital. I was a little faster than they were, so it probably won’t be long after this meeting that they arrive,” Gao Xianzhi said.
One was a King of the Imperial Court and one was a Duke, and they were both highly influential Great Generals of the army. A private meeting between them could easily serve as evidence that could be used to impeach them in the court. And the times and situation had changed, their statuses becoming much more sensitive. They could no longer casually meet as they had done in the Battle of Talas.
“Where is Lord Feng?”
Wang Chong was naturally talking about Feng Changqing, Gao Xianzhi’s friend to the end. Everyone knew that the Twin Walls of the Empire were inseparable, but Gao Xianzhi didn’t seem to have Feng Changqing at his side.
Gao Xianzhi was silent for a few moments before answering.
“I left him in the Western Regions. Once everything there is settled, he will return to the capital.”
Wang Chong was surprised to hear this, but he quickly realized what was going on. The situation had changed in the Western Regions too much. First, Wang Chong had been removed from his position of Qixi Protector-General, and then shortly after, Gao Xianzhi had failed to avoid the same fate.
West from Qixi, all the way to the Cong Mountains, even past them to the Arabian Empire’s Khorasan, Wang Chong and Gao Xianzhi had fought together. After losing countless soldiers and expending great effort, they had annexed a large tract of land, but their efforts had been for naught. The land had either been returned to the Arabian Empire or fallen into chaos.
Given how long Gao Xianzhi had been Anxi’s Protector-General, he felt deeply sentimental about the area. Even though he had been called back, he couldn’t put his worries aside, so he had left Feng Changqing behind to preside over the situation. He was no longer the highest officer of the Western Regions, but with the influence he had built up over many years in the Western Regions and in the army, if he wanted Feng Changqing to remain in the rear and stabilize the Western Regions, it probably wouldn’t be a major problem. After all, this area was Feng Changqing’s expertise.
“Right, how is King Song doing?” Gao Xianzhi quickly asked.
“His condition has been stabilized, but it’s still not good. Even now, the poison has not been completely expelled, and he still can’t move around. Besides that, he’s easily exhausted, so we usually don’t mention what’s happening in court to him,” Wang Chong said.
“King Song… there’s a rumor going around that the First Prince paid a visit to him before the incident, but it seems that they didn’t part on good terms. Do you know of this matter?” Gao Xianzhi asked.
The mood instantly froze, the carriage going still.
Wang Chong immediately fell silent. Although the two were talking about King Song, Wang Chong knew what he really wanted to ask.
Before Wang Chong could answer, Gao Xianzhi gave a long sigh and raised his head as he spoke with sorrow.
“It seems like we both have the same idea in mind.”
Wang Chong had said nothing, but for Gao Xianzhi, his hesitation was enough.