Chapter 313: Reshaping Li Heng!
"Your Highness, pardon my inquisitiveness, but what is Your Highness doing in such a remote location?" Wang Chong suddenly asked. "Furthermore, given Your Highness's standing, entering Shenwei and Longwei shouldn't be a problem at all, right?"
"This..." Hesitance arose on the Fifth Prince Li Heng's face. How could he talk about the feuds in the royal palace to Wang Chong?
"If Your Highness refuses to speak, I won't ask any further," Wang Chong added.
"Never mind... This is nothing much anyway," Li Heng said with a bitter smile.
"I was born after only seven months of pregnancy, and while I managed to survive, I was plagued with an innate blood deficiency. This made my body unsuited for cultivating any type of martial arts. Thus, it makes no difference to me whether I enroll in Longwei, Shenwei, or Kunwu. Of the three, Kunwu is peaceful and has the least number of people, so I chose here," Li Heng said with a sorrowful and desolate expression. He also wished to possess unparalleled martial arts to protect those who he cared for.
But heaven just had to give him a body unsuited for cultivating any martial arts.
The treasury of the royal palace was filled with all kinds of mystical treasures and artifacts, but despite trying many different pills and secret arts, nothing seemed to work for his condition.
Many imperial physicians and experts of the pugilistic world had tried to diagnose and treat him, only to lose their heads eventually.
Even his father, whose existence was like a deity to him, was helpless before his condition. He said that the fundamental problem lay with his feeble body, making it impossible for him to store energy.
As such, Li Heng had given up hope at a very young age.
The long years of consuming all kinds of medicine and folk remedies had made his body exceptionally weak. The most direct manifestation of that was his permanently pale face that was devoid of any tinge of red.
If this was not the case, he wouldn't have allowed Li Jingzhong to slap him so easily, and he wouldn't have fallen from the slap, either.
There were simply some things in life that one had to concede.
After everything had been tried and done, all there was left was to give up hope.
Thus, the only thing that Li Heng wished at this moment was to avoid the battle for authority, and find a quiet place so that he could spend his life peacefully.
After hearing Li Heng's reply, a slight smile appeared on Wang Chong's face. In truth, he had already known all this. The only reason why he raised the question was for some other purpose.
"Your Highness, if you truly wish to cultivate martial arts, I do have an idea in mind!"
"What!?" As soon as Wang Chong spoke those words, Li Heng and Li Jingzhong immediately jolted in shock. In that instant, Li Jingzhong even forgot his fear of Wang Chong, and he stared at the latter with a look of astonishment and delight.
"Wang gongzi, you need not try to give me hope. Even my father is helpless before this matter, so how can there be anyone who can treat my condition?" Li Heng's eyes sparkled for a moment before swiftly darkening once more.
"Your Highness, what are you saying?" Li Jingzhong immediately interjected. He was fearful of Wang Chong, but the ambition and desires he harbored in his heart far surpassed his fear. "If you don't give it a try, how can you know that it isn't feasible? Wang gongzi, I was at fault earlier, and I beg your pardon. I would like to ask in the stead of our Fifth Prince if your idea is really feasible? If Your Highness can really be treated, I'll be willing to do anything in return!"
Li Jingzhong stared intently at Wang Chong, not concealing his desire for power at all. He had accompanied the Fifth Prince for more than ten years, and he was well aware of the latter's situation.
Li Heng suffered from an innate deficiency, and this was the greatest factor restricting his growth. The lack of strength had made him cowardly, creating a tendency for him to step back and give in.
Strength is one of the strongest factors that drives ambition.
If someone were to be given immense strength, even if he was just an ordinary farmer, the greatest of ambitions would be stoked in him.
Li Jingzhong understood this fact, and he had been trying his best to cure the Fifth Prince's deficiency over the years, grasping at every opportunity that came his way.
At least this despicable man has his own uses!
Wang Chong knew the reason why Li Jingzhong's actions, and this only furthered his conjecture that this future corrupted minister had his own uses in the earlier stages of Li Heng's growth.
However, he also knew that he must try his best to suppress Li Jingzhong as far as possible so as to limit his future influence on Li Heng.
"Your Highness." Ignoring Li Jingzhong entirely, Wang Chong turned straight to the Fifth Prince Li Heng and said, "I'm not too sure whether it'll work out, but not too long ago, I met an extremely powerful expert. He gave me a pill, saying that it could cure most innate deficiencies. However, I have never tried it before, so I can't say for sure whether it is useful or not."
Wang Chong did not offer any guarantees. Li Heng was born with only seven months of development in the womb as compared to the usual ten. This three months deficiency could mean that some of his organs weren't fully developed.
Thus, the first thing Wang Chong thought of was the Stone of Destiny's ability, "Blood Reformation".
Blood was the origin of all energies in a human's body. The very first step in cultivation was to absorb the spiritual energy of the world into one's bloodstream. If Li Heng's blood could be swapped, it might be able to solve his problem.
But whether it would be effective or not, Wang Chong had never tried it before and couldn't say for sure.
"Wang gongzi, there's no..." Li Heng habitually tried to refuse Wang Chong's offer, but when he met with Li Jingzhong's intent gaze, he could only smile bitterly and nod instead. "Wang gongzi, I'll be depending on you then. What do I have to do?"
After a moment of contemplation, Wang Chong replied, "I need you to follow me back to the Deflecting Blade Manor!"
It was right before nightfall that Li Heng and Li Jingzhong were brought into the Deflecting Blade Manor under Wang Chong's lead. In a quiet room on the second floor, Wang Chong instructed Li Heng to sit on the floor, and while apologizing solemnly in his heart, he passed a recovery pill over.
"Your Highness, please swallow this pill."
"Un." Li Heng nodded and took the recovery pill from Wang Chong's hands.
"Is this the pill to treat one's innate deficiency? But why does it seem to resemble the recovery pill from the royal palace?" Li Heng had been swallowing this kind of medicine from birth, so he was familiar with it.
Gedeng! Wang Chong's heart skipped a beat, but he still maintained an impassive look. "Your Highness, it is nothing more than a coincidence.
"Pills are concocted through medicinal herbs, and as long as its constituents are similar, the fragrance is likely to be similar as well. Besides, how can I possibly lay my hands on the pills in the royal palace?"
"You're right, I am overthinking this," Li Heng smiled in response. There was a strict control over the distribution of pills in the royal palace, making it extremely difficult for anyone outside of the royal family to lay their hands on them.
Grabbing the pill between his two fingers, he nonchalantly tossed it into his mouth and swallowed it.
Over the years, he had swallowed innumerable pills and failed innumerable times. Slowly, he had learned not to harbor any expectations anymore.
"Wang gongzi, what do I do next?" Li Heng turned to Wang Chong and asked with a smile.
"It'll suffice as long as you remain seated there."
Wang Chong took in a deep breath and sat down behind Li Heng.
He was unsure whether the Stone of Destiny's Blood Reformation would work or not, but he knew that this had to be done.
Wang Chong had always possessed goodwill toward the Fifth Prince Li Heng, and this wasn't just due to personal reasons. Li Heng possessed several traits that none of the other princes had: sympathy, compassion, and the will to push Great Tang to greater heights.
A few years later, when the Star of Calamity raised a rebellion in the Eastern Protectorate Manor and dispatched his troops from Youzhou, Pinglu, and Fanyang to sweep the entire world and bring disaster upon the Central Plains, Li Heng was the only one who chose to brave through the danger with the population, calming them with his presence.
And when eight years of war brought grievous suffering upon the civilians, when rations and resources were severely lacking, Li Heng was the first one to rally a custom of frugality within the royal palace and dispatch rations to the starving.
Under Li Heng, Great Tang had a hope of rising to greatness once more!
However, his personality was his greatest flaw. He might not be weak and incapable, but he lacked the charismatic decisiveness that a sovereign had to possess.
It might not be clear when it came to major affairs of the country, but it sure did when it came to matters involving those around him.
If not for that, Li Jingzhong, or rather Li Fuguo, wouldn't have been able to amass great power and become the most corrupt prime minister of the Central Plains!
Eventually, Li Fuguo gained sufficient power to dominate the entire royal court, turning Li Heng into nothing more than a figurehead. As a result, the strategies that Li Heng had put in place to resuscitate the dying empire fell apart.
But of course, now that Wang Chong had met Li Heng, he wouldn't allow history to repeat itself. However, this matter wasn't as easy as simply killing off Li Fuguo.
The crux of this problem was Li Heng's personality. After Li Fuguo's death, another one of those eunuchs who had been accompanying him since birth took his place, and the cycle simply repeated itself...
That was when the final flicker of hope of Great Tang was extinguished.
Wang Chong had once thought over this matter, and the root of this problem that he had determined was that everything had happened due to this future emperor's inability to practice martial arts.
Strength empowers one!
If Li Heng was a supreme expert of the Sage Emperor's level, no one, be it Li Jingzhong or anyone else, would have been able to play such mind games with him.
It was due to possessing insufficient strength that Li Heng was unable to control those eunuchs around him. In fact, he eventually lost his life to those poisonous medicines originating from unknown sources that they served him.
What Wang Chong intended to do was to change all of this. If Li Heng could practice martial arts, he could gain immense strength.
If Li Heng gained sufficient strength, he would become another great ruler of Great Tang. While it was questionable whether he could compare up to the current Sage Emperor, his accomplishments surely wouldn't be too far from the latter.
With the support of a wise ruler, Wang Chong would be able to further his goals and fulfill his mission.
These thoughts flashed across Wang Chong's mind swiftly, and he quickly recovered.
"Your Highness, please focus your attention on your abdomen."
Wang Chong said as he pressed his hand against Li Heng's back. At the same time, his thoughts sought out the Stone of Destiny in his mind...