Chapter 229: Zhangchou Jianqiong Comes to the Capital!
As an influential official of the royal court, Big Uncle Wang Gen was plagued with many responsibilities. Unless it was for something extremely important, he wouldn’t go to the trouble of contacting Wang Chong, much lest seek him out. The previous time that the man came to look for him seemed to be when he committed that ‘disastrous mistake’.
Besides, big uncle should be aware of the strict regulations surrounding the Three Great Training Camps. Unless it was for something of vital importance, it would be unwise to disturb Wang Chong with it.
While he asked himself, “Why?” Even so, he quickly sneaked out of the mountaintop camp.
He traveled down the slope of the main peak by following a small path and slipped away. Not far off from Kunwu Training Camp was a carriage covered with green cloth tucked in a valley between some mountains, and a few Wang Clan guards were standing around it, warily assessing the surroundings.
He walked right past the guards, who made no move to obstruct him, and climbed into the carriage compartment. There within he found Big Uncle Wang Gen.
Despite being dressed in casual attire, a green robe, rather than his usual robe of office, his every gesture seemed still to wield the authority befitting an influential minister of the royal court, naturally exuding an aura of magnanimity.
When Wang Chong came in, the latter’s brows were slightly pinched together in a frown, seemingly troubled over some matter.
Seeing Wang Chong entering, Wang Gen raised his head, and the furrow of his brows slowly eased. A sincere smile touched his eyes.
“Please, sit; sit!”
Wang Gen gestured to his side, at a seat almost right next to himself; this reflected his deep trust and fondness for his nephew.
Such a treatment would have been unimaginable in the past.
Wang Chong didn’t turn down the offer. After bowing respectfully, he took the indicated seat.
The attitude that big uncle assumed with him was vastly different from before. Wang Chong knew that his recent performance had truly won the other party’s trust and respect, and Big Uncle Wang Gen had already regarded him as a core member of the clan!
The affection seemed to spill over onto his mother and little sister as well. His big uncle also having seemed to treat them kindly in recent times, his former austerity disappearing entirely.
“How is the training camp?”
Wang Gen asked with a smile. Instead of diving straight into official matters, he started out asking after Wang Chong’s affairs in the training camp, showing the kindness of an elder.
“It’s been fine, other than the assault on the first day.”
Wang Chong gave his smiling response.
He had also adopted a very casual attitude before his big uncle, now regarding the latter as a trustworthy elder. Putting aside all of the minor issues, Wang Chong’s immediate family and Big Uncle Wang Gen’s family branch had never really had a grudge from the start.
Even the worst of the conflict seemed to be only the rivalry between Cousin Wang Li against big brother and second brother, centered on the struggle over inheriting grandfather’s influence.
However, Wang Chong had already decided not to fight against his cousins over anything. Instead, he would support them in progressing even further and attaining even greater achievements than before.
The Wang Clan should not fight over the little pond they were in—they should aim for the greater world instead.
“Hoh, I’ve also learned of this matter. The Goguryeons have suffered significant death tolls after several battles with the Southern Protectorate Manor, and the Turks with the Eastern Protectorate Manor. So, in a way, their operation could be considered a tragic failure. However, with this precedence, it’s hard to determine whether it would ever happen again. That’s why I’ve sent some of the clan experts to protect you and ensure your safety.”
Wang Gen said.
As an influential royal court official, his work kept him almost completely confined to the capital. There was no need for him to have so many experts guarding him day and night, and he could easily spare a few for Wang Chong.
“Thank you, big uncle.”
Delighted, Wang Chong nodded his head. What he was most lacking in at the moment were top-notch experts by his side.
Wang Gen also smiled in response. In his view, Wang Chong was the greatest hope for the continuing prosperity of the Wang Clan.
He, his Third Brother Wang Yan, and Fourth Brother Wang Mi were incapable of inheriting his father’s influence. The same applied for his eldest son, Wang Li, Wang Yan’s other sons, Wang Fu and Wang Bei, and all other offspring of the Wang Clan. Now, the only hope remaining lay with this youngest nephew of his.
He knew that if Wang Chong was able to successfully inherit his father, Duke Jiu’s, influence, his nephew would surely be able to bring the Wang Clan to greater heights in the future.
The fate of the Wang Clan depended on him!
It wouldn’t be a waste no matter how many resources he devoted to the latter.
“Right. Has Yang Zhao contacted you recently?”
Wang Gen suddenly queried.
“Yang Zhao? Why is big uncle asking about this?”
Wang Chong frowned in bafflement.
While he’d become sworn brothers with Yang Zhao thanks to the Consort Taizhen Incident, he had only met the latter once or twice, and their relationship didn’t seem to have grown that intimate yet. Besides, given that he was enlisted in the training camp already, it made it even more inconvenient for the both of them to meet.
Wang Gen straightened his back as a sliver of doubt flashed across his eyes.
“Even so, it should be around this time. Take note of this matter. He should come looking for you soon.”
Wang Chong’s bewilderment deepened. Why was Yang Zhao looking for him, and how could big uncle be so certain of it?
Ignoring Wang Chong’s doubtful gaze, Wang Gen fell silent for a moment before changing topics and revealing the true purpose of his visit.
“Zhangchou Jianqiong seems to be intending to come to the capital!”
Wang Chong became wide-eyed with shock at the news, like he’d watched a mountain split apart before his very eyes.
As the Protector-General of the Southern Protectorate Manor, Zhangchou Jianqiong wielded immense authority in Great Tang’s military circles. Given his influence, it was unlikely that he would only be coming by for a casual look.
And as expected, Big Uncle Wang Gen continued.
“Zhangchou Jianqiong has been protecting Jiannan for more than two decades now. Erhai and Ü-Tsang have been relatively calm in recent years, resulting in Zhangchou Jianqiong not earning much military merit. That’s why he’s requested for a different position in the capital instead.”
Wang Gen replied impassively, without revealing the slightest hint of emotion on his face.
Wang Chong’s face was grim.
Zhangchou Jianqiong was an existence whose influence equaled great generals such as Go Seonji and Fumeng Lingcha. How could a man of his caliber be content with just some minor official position? His ambitions was way greater than that!
“Seems like a big player is about to barge into these troubled waters!”
Wang Chong surmised.
Most of the positions in the royal court were fixed. The current status quo was actually a result of countless internal struggles and vicious infighting. If Zhangchou Jianqiong were to suddenly enter at this point, it would mess up the power distribution of the royal court.
The entry of a new power could wreck the stability that was achieved with much difficulty. All existing powers, including the Wang Clan, would be affected by this abrupt twist. After all, there was only so much meat to go around. If the number of competitors vying for it was to increase, clearly everyone would be impacted.
More importantly though, Zhangchou Jianqiong was still factionless at the moment!
Wang Chong suddenly understood big uncle’s aim in appearing at Kunwu Training Camp to look for him. In truth, the one standing at the center of this affair wasn’t anyone else of the Wang Clan, including big uncle.
It was himself.
In the Regional Commanders Incident, amongst the powerhouses that supported him stood one Zhangchou Jianqiong. That meant the Wang Clan owed Zhangchou Jianqiong a huge favor, or to be more precise, Wang Chong owed Zhangchou Jianqiong a huge favor.
“What seat is he aiming for?”
Wang Chong inquired.
“Minister of War!”
Was the reply.
Wang Chong’s eyelids twitched as he gasped.
“That seat… His appetite sure isn’t small!”
The Minister of War governs all military mobilizations and directs all border armies of Great Tang. It was, in the truest sense, a position of great influence in the royal court
In terms of standing, the Minister of War stood above even the Protector-Generals.
To be aiming for the seat of the Minister of War the moment he was initiated into the royal court, the other party’s appetite could only be called immense.
This matter had happened too suddenly. Even Wang Chong was totally caught off-guard, lest to say, big uncle and the rest.
This was a reshuffling of the cards among the upper echelons of the royal court. Big uncle, King Song, King Qi, the Yao Clan, the prime minister… everyone, be it willingly or unwillingly, would be embroiled in the matter.
Sudden understanding came. Seemed like King Song’s intentions must also be playing a role in Wang Gen’s sudden visit.
“Did Yang Zhao come looking for you?”
Wang Chong asked.
“Not yet. But even if he had such intentions, it won’t be him doing the visiting, at least not by himself.”
Wang Gen replied calmly. Wang Chong understood the meaning behind his words. Big Uncle Wang Gen was an influential official who determined the future of the empire, whereas Yang Zhao was still a nobody without the slightest power in his hands—there was simply too huge a disparity in their positions.
While Wang Chong knew that Yang Zhao would eventually become a major power in Great Tang, there was still some time before then.
“While he hasn’t done so yet, his intentions couldn’t be any clearer. Yang Zhao is an insignificant figure that we can simply disregard, but his backing, Consort Taizhen, isn’t someone that we can simply shake off. Currently, we are still unable to determine whether this is the will of Consort Taizhen, the Sage Emperor, or just Zhangchou Jianqiong.”
“Regardless, since the matter is already out, we can’t just turn a blind eye to it. There has never been an instance where a Protector-General was promoted to the Minister of War before. In the previous era, the Western Protector-General once made such a bid but failed eventually. The same thing happened in Gaozong and Taizong’s era as well.”
Wang Gen pondered his thoughts aloud, falling into his role as an imperial court minister. He continued.
“There’s a high chance that Zhangchou Jianqiong will fail in his attempt to be appointed as the Minister of War. Even so, we need to be prepared on the off-chance that he succeeds as well. But, if we were to express explicit support for him, given the reshuffling that will occur with Zhangchou Jianqiong’s involvement in central politics, the Wang Clan would surely be viewed with hostility by all powers.”
“By then, our enemies wouldn’t just be King Qi and the Yao Clan. The prime minister, the dukes, the nobles, the Protector-Generals, and the great generals would turn against us as well. After all, the number of people Zhangchou Jianqiong has offended over his career in the military doesn’t just number a handful.”
“On the other hand, if we were to come out against it, and by some chance does Zhangchou Jianqiong succeeds in his endeavor, on top of the Yao Clan and King Qi, our Wang Clan would be facing a hostile Minister of War as well.”
“Do you understand our current plight?”
Big Uncle Wang Gen said grimly.
The Wang Clan wasn’t greedy for power or merit, but this matter could pose a serious threat to them. Open support for Zhangchou Jianqiong would mean making an enemy of all other powers; a lack of support would mean making an enemy out of a potential Minister of War.
Most of the Wang Clan’s influence lay in the military—Wang Yan, Wang Fu, Wang Li, and Wang Mi—and the Minister of War wielded the authority to mobilize any and all military personnel. Should the Minister of War assign the members of the Wang Clan the most dangerous of missions, it could spell a crisis.
For any military personnel, offending the Minister of War was no joke at all!