“Let him go!”
Glancing at the group coldly, Wang Chong ordered.
For that instant, the entire area fell silent. All of the prison guards stared at Wang Chong fearfully.
“Stinky brat, this isn’t a matter for you to interfere in!”
The leader of the group cursed loudly, but nonetheless, he lowered his head to avoid Wang Chong’s gaze.
“Let’s go! Old fellow, we’ll spare you this time!”
He bellowed as he pushed the elder furiously, as if to vent his anger upon him.
Wang Chong might be young, everyone in this ‘imperial prison’ knew that he was a figure that couldn’t be offended. And so, none of the prison guards dared to disrespect him.
For such a trifling matter, it wasn’t worth offending him at all!
Disregarding the prison guards, Wang Chong turned to look at the grubby, bruised official curiously.
“You’re Zhang Munian?”
Wang Chong assessed the prisoner with a bizarre look.
“Indeed! Gongzi, thank you for your help!”
The prisoner seemed to be a refined person, and despite his bad state, he still bowed deeply in gratitude. He looked like he was just skin and bones, and his face was scruffy as well. But even so, there was still spirit in his eyes.
“Zhang from the characters of bow and long, Mu from adoration, and Nian from age?”
(Dissection of the characters in Zhang Munian’s name)
Wang Chong’s gaze grew more and more peculiar.
“You’re from Nanling, and you used to be an agriculture official?”
Zhang Munian was intrigued, but he still replied politely with his hand clasped. At the same time, he began to assess Wang Chong subconsciously.
A peculiar light slowly crept into Wang Chong’s eyes.
“You were arrested because you embezzled twenty thousand gold taels?”
Staring at Zhang Munian, Wang Chong suddenly asked.
“How did you know?”
Words immediately shot out from Zhang Munian’s mouth as his expression warped in shock.
Wang Chong’s heart jolted, and towering waves gushed through Wang Chong’s mind.
“It’s really him!”
Wang Chong widened his eyes in shock and disbelief. He could have never imagined that Zhang Munian whom he had requested King Song to save, would be in the very same prison, right next to him.
Zhang Munian’s matter should have been under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Military Personnel, so why would he appear in the imperial prison of the royal palace? Could it be that he wasn’t in the imperial prison but in the cells of the Bureau of Military Personnel instead?
But how could that be?
Intrigue slowly appeared in Wang Chong’s eyes. He couldn’t have imagined that the person he wanted to meet would be in here. This was too much of a coincidence.
“Gongzi, who are you?”
Zhang Munian asked gravely. No matter how slow he could be, it was very clear that Wang Chong knew a lot about his affairs.
“Do you wish to get out?”
Instead of replying, Wang Chong posed a question of his own in return.
“Sigh, how can it be that easy?”
Zhang Munian sighed.
“This is the imperial prison! The only way for one to get out is to be carried out; no one has ever been able to walk out of here on their own two feet. However, if gongzi really does have a way, then please do bring me out.”
“Hehe, don’t worry. I’ll definitely find a way to get you out.”
Noticing the curious gazes of the others converging on him, Wang Chong decided to stop there.
He turned his head back and continued cultivating his ‘Little Yinyang Art’. He could feel that he was about to clear another pathway between his acupoints.
The moon set and the sun rose. In the blink of an eye, it was already the third day since Wang Chong was locked in the ‘imperial prison’. Yet, the Sage Emperor hadn’t declared his stand on the matter.
Innumerable memorials flew like knives into the royal palace, and the Sage Emperor didn’t refuse any of them. Even so, he still chose to continue remaining silent on the matter, and his lack of response left all of the officials bewildered.
The voices clamoring for Wang Chong’s execution didn’t die down; on the contrary, they grew louder and louder. All of the Hu generals, as well as the Han officials who harbored goodwill toward them were unwilling to compromise on this matter.
Similarly, the Han generals protecting Wang Chong were determined as well. On top of expressing their support for Wang Chong, the Han generals had also started gathering together to discuss the issues regarding the Hu border forces that Wang Chong mentioned in his memorial.
Most of the soldiers by the borders were Han, and the Han generals chose to promote Hu as a show of meritocracy and equality. However, the Hu chose to only promote and protect other Hu. This caused an exponential rise in the number of Hu commanders by the border.
With the lack of opportunities to take on leadership roles, it was impossible for the new generation of Han soldiers to mature.
As such, the number of Han generals had been steadily on the decline.
This was no longer a foresight, but a truth. What Wang Chong had said was the current reality of Great Tang, and there were many examples of so. A group of Han soldiers might have pitted their lives on the battlefield to triumph over their enemies, but if their leader was a Hu, the greatest credit would be attributed to the Hu.
On the other hand, the Han soldiers were only bestowed with a few slices of meat and a few cups of wine. As this cycle repeated again and again, the soldiers would lose their motivation, causing their performance to plummet.
In other words, they were doomed to remain at the bottommost tier.
This was no longer a hypothetical situation anymore.
No one knew the current situation better than the Han generals of Great Tang.
As Great Tang’s Beiting and Western Protectorate Manor often fought in wars, a steady stream of fresh Han blood was constantly injected into those camps.
The entire Great Tang was giving in its blood and flesh to fight against the Hu. Yet, the leadership of those armies consisted nearly entirely of only Hu. This was something extremely unnatural and worrying.
Toward the dissatisfaction of the Han, the Hu also held their own ground.
The Hu were more courageous and ferocious in battle. Wasn’t it natural for the stronger side to take on leadership positions?
In the royal court, the Sage Emperor sat silently on the throne. The Sage Emperor listened silently to the arguments between both factions from the start to the end, but eventually, when the heat of the arguments reached the peak, the Sage Emperor silently stood up and left.
“His Majesty has decreed that he would announced his judgement on the matter regarding Wang Chong tomorrow!”
When the Sage Emperor left, a cloud-embroidery, yellow-robed head eunuch appeared on the royal court. With his sharp voice, he announced the decree of the Sage Emperor.
His voice seemed to have ignited the entire royal court, causing the tense atmosphere to rise to a new peak. Regardless of whether it was the Han or the Hu, they trembled in anticipation for the decision that would be announced tomorrow.
“Grandfather, you have to save big brother! Big brother isn’t a bad person!”
At the same time, beyond the royal palace, at an inconspicuous residence, a five-year-old child kneeled in front of the gates of the Su Residence and bawled loudly.
This was the third day little Jianjian had appeared here. As a child, his thoughts were innocent. All he knew was that Wang Chong wasn’t a bad person, and Su Zhengchen possessed the might to save Wang Chong. As such, he came every single day, kowtowing at the doorstep to the point that blood was streaming down his forehead.
“Sigh, don’t worry. Your big brother won’t die!”
After a long time, an old voice finally sounded from beyond the tightly-shut gates of the Su Residence.
Little Jianjian abruptly lifted his head in delight. This was the first time Su Zhengchen had responded to his plea.
“Your big brother is fine. You are truly a silly child. Come in.”
A crack finally appeared in the tightly-shut gates of the Su Residence. Su Zhengchen’s pale hands stretched out and pulled little Jianjian in.
“The old master is calling for you!”
“What?! I’ll go over now!”
Yao Guang Yi was taken aback.
Tomorrow was the day that the verdict regarding Wang Chong’s survival would be announced. He was just about to visit the old master to consult him on the matter when the old master abruptly summoned him.
“Send in a memorial at this instant and publicly announce your support for the Wang Clan and Wang Chong!”
Old Master Yao was sitting in a dimly lit room. Upon seeing Yao Guang Yi, he immediately dived straight to the point.
Yao Guang Yi was astounded.
“But the Wang Clan is our enemy! It’s one thing for us to not stand against them, but why should we support them?”
Yao Guang Yi was intrigued.
“Hmph! Let me ask you then. Was it under King Qi’s intention that you came the past few days to persuade me to announce my support for the Hu generals and Wang Chong’s execution?”
Instead of replying, Old Master Yao raised a question of his own.
“This… Yes! That’s indeed King Qi’s intention.”
Yao Guang Yi fell silent and lowered his head. After a moment, he eventually nodded. The old master was an perceptive person; there was no need to lie to him.
“However, if we were to do so, won’t we be standing against King Qi?”
A look of difficulty flashed across Yao Guang Yi’s face.
The most fervent supporter of the Hu, as well as the most intense opposition to Wang Chong this time around was King Qi.
“Did you relay my words to King Qi?”
Yao Guang Yi didn’t deny the matter.
Old Master Yao nodded with a look indicating that it was exactly as he deduced. After learning that Wang Chong was the one who foiled his plans, it was impossible for King Qi to let him get away scot-free.
“Guang Yi, you must know that this isn’t a matter of whether we want to stand against King Qi or not, but whether King Qi wants to stand against His Majesty or not.”
“Guang Yi, do you still not understand? The one we’re supporting isn’t the Wang Clan, but His Majesty. As long as His Majesty doesn’t wish for Wang Chong’s death, no one will be able to touch him.”
Old Master Yao sighed.
“However, wasn’t His Majesty still contemplating over the issue?”
Yao Guang Yi asked doubtfully.
“Hehe, His Majesty’s thoughts are getting difficult to deduce. He’s truly becoming more and more like a wise emperor. Seems like he’s no longer that crown prince back then.”
Old Master Yao suddenly sighed deeply.
“I wasn’t not too sure about His Majesty’s intentions either at the start, and that’s the reason why I refused to meet you. However, after the past three days, I’ve verified His Majesty’s intentions. Wang Chong will not die!”
“Father, please enlighten me!”
Yao Guang Yi stood up and bowed deeply, putting on an attitude of an earnest and humble student.
“Hehe, you still don’t get it? His Majesty is a decisive person. Once he decides on something, no one can refute his judgement, be it whether it’s on the Consort Taizhen incident or the regional commander policy. If His Majesty wishes to kill Wang Chong, is there a need for him to wait until now?”
Old Master Yao chuckled as he tapped his walking cane lightly on the ground in front of Yao Guang Yi.
Those words seemed to have parted the veil cloaking Yao Guang Yi’s eyes. In an instant, all of the confusion plaguing Yao Guang Yi’s mind vanished.
“Father, thank you for your advice. I understand now.”
Yao Guang Yi respectfully bowed. Sometimes, the words of another granted one a clear glimpse of a situation.
His father had been serving the Sage Emperor for more than four decades; Yao Guang Yi knew that it was impossible for his father to be mistaken on this issue.
“But father, if what you say is true, then how will the Sage Emperor placate the Hu generals by the border?”
“Hehe, that’ll depend on how His Majesty deals with it.”
Old Master Yao replied calmly.