The Records Of The Human Emperor Chapter 1277
Chapter 1277: Outplayed
Translated by: Hypersheep325
Edited by: Michyrr
"The other countries are reducing their armies? How could that be!"
"Did I mishear? Ü-Tsang is reducing its army by one hundred and fifty thousand, the Western Turks, by two hundred thousand, Goguryeo by two hundred and eighty thousand… How could such a thing be possible!?"
"These countries have always hungered for the Central Plains and had great ambitions. Even when we tried to be friendly and sign ceasefires with them, they never agreed. How could they possibly agree to reduce their armies!"
Li Linfu's words set off a shockwave in everyone's minds. If all the countries had agreed to reduce their armies, this was the best piece of news in history. The threat posed by the foreigners on the borders would be greatly weakened, particularly when one considered that many of these countries favored cavalry armies, which had a large advantage over the Great Tang.
As the officials chattered to each other, Li Linfu spoke once more. "…In addition, as an expression of a desire to carry out friendly relations with the Great Tang and never declare war against it again, all the empires have agreed to pull their armies back three hundred li."
Bzzz! The officials were already shocked by Li Linfu's announcements, and these words now pushed their emotions to the maximum.
"Lord Prime Minister, is what you say true?"
The officials stared at Li Linfu, some of them even inching a little closer. If not for the fact that he was the Prime Minister, someone probably would have pulled him over and asked him this question directly.
"This matter is completely verified. The Secretariat has the documents from the other countries as evidence, each one with the seal of the country's ruler," Li Linfu sternly said, at the same time turning his head to glance at the First Prince.
Upon his dragon throne, the First Prince gave a slight nod. It was evident that this matter was true.
At that moment, all the generals felt like their minds were reeling.
They had never even imagined having the surrounding countries reduce their armies by two hundred thousand, even three hundred thousand. Truly, the enemy had yielded without a battle. To have the surrounding countries reduce their armies by a total of nearly one million soldiers with the snap of one's fingers was truly an enormous achievement, almost equal to Wang Chong's western campaign. Just this alone, regardless of Li Junxian's background, was enough to get him into the Imperial Court to discuss the affairs of state.
On the other side, Wang Chong was even more shocked than the generals. Even he had been caught off guard by the news that the surrounding countries had agreed to reduce their armies by nearly one million soldiers.
"How could this be?!" Wang Chong muttered to himself, great waves raging in his mind. Subconsciously, Wang Chong turned to King Song and Zhangchou Jianqiong and saw a similar shock in their eyes. It was obvious that they had known nothing about this beforehand.
This was a true bombshell!
But after his initial shock, Wang Chong slowly began to calm down. The Director of the Chamberlain of Dependencies, the Grand Preceptor, Li Linfu, and all the most dazzling figures of the court began to step forward and praise Li Junxian. It was clear that Li Junxian and the Confucian Sect were intent on taking He Qingrong's vacant post.
Wang Chong wanted to speak, but a moment later, he heard a soft and familiar whisper at his ear, stopping him.
"Wang Chong, forget it! The Grand Preceptor, Li Linfu, King Qi, and perhaps even the First Prince… from the irrigation project to now, they've calculated everything. If what they said was true, the fact that they were able to get the surrounding countries to reduce their armies is an enormous achievement by Li Junxian and the Confucian Sect. Although I don't like to see the Confucian Sect get into the government, even I have to admit that this campaign of theirs was of benefit to the realm and the people. This achievement alone is enough for him to join the center of government. This is not something we can stop!"
It was King Song's voice, tinged with complicated emotions. Public was public and private was private. Although he was still extremely wary of the Confucian Sect, when discussing matters on their own merits, Li Junxian and the Confucian Sect truly had done a good deed by having the surrounding countries reduce their armies.
Though not even King Song knew how they had managed it.
"Impossible! Given the nature of these countries, how could they be willing to reduce their armies!?" Wang Chong sent back.
"But the documents from the other countries have been sent to the Imperial Court. There's no faking that. At the very least, Li Junxian and that Confucian Sect of his truly did their utmost to work for the good of the people. No one can deny this! Merit will be rewarded while mistakes will be punished. This is a rule of the Imperial Court and also a policy for employing people. With this achievement and the recommendations of the Grand Preceptor, King Qi, and the Prime Minister… he has more than enough right to enter the court. There's nothing we can do about this!"
King Song helplessly sighed.
From the moment he had agreed to the Jiangnan irrigation project, today's defeat had been set in stone. Any further attempt to correct his error had come too late. Defeat in battle was not the fault of the soldier, and today's failure had nothing to do with Wang Chong.
Wang Chong heard the helplessness in King Song's tone and immediately fell silent.
"Li Junxian! Come forward!"
At this moment, the First Prince's voice came from above, his body like an immovable mountain.
"This lowly subject obeys the decree!"
At the entrance to the hall, Li Junxian gently smiled, his robes fluttering as he stepped forward.
This entire court debate had been under his control this entire time. Perhaps Wang Chong and the generals had still believed that there was a chance to stop him, but for Li Junxian, the moment he had taken up his place outside the hall, everything had been decided.
Tap! Tap! Tap!
Li Junxian's unhurried pace and serene aura left a deep impression on the ministers of the court, causing them to feel deep admiration. When he was still a few steps from Wang Chong, Li Junxian stopped.
"King of Foreign Lands, it seems like your prejudices against me are too deep!"
Li Junxian glanced at Wang Chong and smirked. Before Wang Chong could reply, Li Junxian strode past.
Wang Chong stared at Li Junxian's back, his eyes like beads of ice.
In this round, he had lost, at least on the surface. But Wang Chong understood that things were definitely not as simple as they seemed.
The foreign countries on the Great Tang's border had reduced their armies!
If Ü-Tsang, the Western Turks, and the other countries had sincerely wanted to reduce their armies and make peace with the Great Tang and had not played any tricks when making their treaties, Wang Chong would really have been happy. But wolves would be wolves and tigers would be tigers. Even if they drew back their claws, they could not change their desire for blood and flesh. Wang Chong keenly understood this principle. If peace treaties had any use, the Great Tang wouldn't have been fighting Ü-Tsang for so long.
If the Western Turks and the other countries had sincerely wanted peace, Emperor Taizong and all the other wise sovereigns who had ruled the Central Plains would have resolved these problems long ago. The Great Tang would have had no need to rapidly expand its armies and prepare for war.
Li Junxian had no idea what he was doing. He was underestimating these countries and underestimating the minds of the people.
"Li Junxian hears the decree!"
"The beloved subject has gone abroad to the various countries and rendered great service to the Great Tang and its people. Thus, he is granted the title of Secretariat Advisor, to enter the Secretariat, participate in the court, and assist the Grand Preceptor. The Bureau of Personnel is to draft a document announcing the granting of this title and the beloved subject's achievements so that the entire world may know of his achievements," the First Prince loudly proclaimed.
"I have already passed this matter to Imperial Father for review and have received his approval for the granting of this title. I trust that the assembled subjects have no objection."
The First Prince scanned the hall, subtly shooting Wang Chong a profound glance.
Wang Chong's heart sank. The First Prince was clearly targeting him with these words. After all, no one more fiercely objected to Li Junxian in the Imperial Court than him. However, Wang Chong managed to restrain himself. To make one mistake after another would lead to a cascade of mistakes. The news of the various countries reducing their armies had made anything Wang Chong could say irrelevant. In the upper reaches of the hall, the First Prince quickly drew back his gaze.
"Li Junxian, the Grand Preceptor has greatly praised you. Do not disappoint this prince!"
"Many thanks, Your Highness! Li Junxian will do his utmost to serve the empire!"
Li Junxian stepped forward and bowed, neither too humble nor too proud.
"Grand Preceptor, Li Junxian is your last disciple. In his achievement of having the countries reduce their armies, you have also played no small part. However, the Grand Preceptor is already a rank-one official, and no additional titles can be granted. Thus, this prince has decided to grant the Grand Preceptor an imperial belt, ten thousand taels of gold, and a token of the Imperial Household for this achievement."
"Many thanks, Your Highness!"
The Grand Preceptor turned and bowed.
A few moments later, the court session was over, and people surged out of the hall.
"Your Highness! In this matter, Qingrong has done Your Highness great harm!"
As Wang Chong and King Song walked out of Taihe Palace together, Bright Minister He Qingrong rushed over, his face fraught with shame. For a moment, all was silent.
"Brother He, in truth, whether you went or stayed, this king never intended to blame you. But just what happened? I remember that when I met Brother He a few days ago, Brother He said that you would request two months of leave to see your mother and then come back, and that you would never let King Qi succeed, but…"
King Song stopped and sighed.
Victory and defeat were both commonplace for a soldier. So it was on the battlefield, and so it was in the Imperial Court. King Song did not care very much that he had lost to King Qi in this round. What truly had him worried was He Qingrong's stance. When the Grand Preceptor had asked He Qingrong that question, He Qingrong's answer had caught everyone off guard. If He Qingrong had made his choice long ago, everyone wouldn't have been so panicked and could have made other plans.
All was quiet. Wang Chong said nothing and only gazed at He Qingrong. From a certain perspective, He Qingrong's stance was a 'betrayal'. Compared to an enemy attack, one would take to heart the attack from a traitor far more.
"Lord He, speak. Just what happened?" Wang Chong finally said.
A person's status couldn't shift so much so quickly. Wang Chong would never believe that the Grand Preceptor and the others had not played any tricks.
He Qingrong raised his head and sighed, a look of recollection in his eyes.
"I will not hide anything. Right before today's morning court, I suddenly received a letter."
Wang Chong and King Song both felt their hearts tremble in shock.