Chapter 266: Three Followers!
Leaving the dining hall, Wang Chong headed straight for his study.
This was where he had been cultivating recently.
Unexpectedly, when he entered the study, he saw four figures standing within. Before he could even speak, putong! The four figures immediately kneeled down.
"Elder Ma and the others, what are you doing?"
Astonished, Wang Chong quickly rushed forward to pull them up. He dared not accept such grand formalities from them.
"Wang gongzi, we can't possibly express our gratitude toward you with words. Please accept our kowtow!"
The four in the room was none other than Ma Yinlong, Steel Arms, Old Eagle, and Solitary Wolf. Their eyes were red with agitation as they lowered their heads to kowtow.
"Elders, how can I accept this?" Wang Chong was astonished. If he recalled correctly, Ma Yinlong and the others should have been meeting the emperor in the royal palace a moment ago.
They should have been celebrating after that. Why would they suddenly come here?
"Gongzi, you might not be able to accept it, but this is something we must do! Fifteen years, it has been fifteen years! If not for gongzi, we would have never been able to cleanse ourselves of this humiliation!"
Ma Yinlong, along with the other three, kowtowed heavily on the ground several times before getting to their feet.
Wang Chong could sense their emotions, and he felt deeply moved.
Be it Ma Yinlong, Steel Arms, Old Eagle, or Solitary Wolf, they were true men. It had been fifteen years since that incident happened, but despite being stripped of their positions and living entirely different lives, they could never put down the matter.
A part of it was for themselves, a part of it was for Great Tang, and a part for their deceased comrades... They were indeed people who were worthy of respect.
"You're being too courteous. King Sosurim has been slain, and everything is over now. That reminds me, I have yet to congratulate you all for your return to the Bureau of Military Personnel and Bureau of Punishments!" Wang Chong congratulated the four of them earnestly.
He had already received news that the Bureau of Military Personnel and Bureau of Punishments had invited back to their ranks during the meeting with the Sage Emperor.
Hearing Wang Chong's words, Ma Yinlong, Old Eagle, Steel Arms, and Solitary Wolf glanced at one another and smiled.
"Speaking of which, that's the very reason why we're here now."
"We've turned down the invitations from the Bureau of Military Personnel and Bureau of Punishments!" Ma Yinlong said.
"AH?!" Wang Chong's body jolted as he exclaimed in shock. "Why?"
The four of them had originated from the Bureau of Military Personnel and Bureau of Punishments. It was only due to that unfortunate matter fifteen years ago that they were demoted and transferred away. According to what Wang Chong knew of them, the four of them must be intent on returning back to their places.
The fact that they would reject such a precious offer was beyond Wang Chong's expectations.
"When I was first demoted to the Bureau of Personnel, I did dream of returning to the Bureau of Punishments once I cleansed myself of the shame. However, fifteen years have already passed, and the tenacity I had back then has faded."
"Indeed, we were still hot-blooded youths in our twenties then. But now, we're all in our forties already."
"Everything has changed! Our comrades back then are no longer there, are we to compete with those bunch of youngsters in there now?"
"What Old Eagle said is precisely what we are all thinking. Honestly speaking, we're already satisfied with avenging our comrades and cleansing ourselves of shame. Besides, the places in the Bureau of Punishments and Bureau of Military Personnel are already full. If we were to enter now, they would have to create some special positions for us, and the youngsters in there would be affected by our entry too. There's really no point to it."
"After so many years out here, we are already used to this life. Returning now would only make us feel uncomfortable. So, we turned down the offer..."
The group of four spoke their minds.
Wang Chong could see that there were many complicated emotions brimming in their eyes, but the strongest of all was determination. Clearly, they had thought this matter through many times, and their will was resolute.
"Since this is elders' decision, I will respect it. May I ask what do you all intend to do from now onward?" Wang Chong asked. After hearing that they wouldn't be returning to the Bureau of Military Personnel and Bureau of Punishments, some thoughts sprouted in his mind. However, he wasn't confident that they would be willing.
"This is precisely the reason why we're here. If gongzi doesn't mind, we would like to follow behind gongzi!" The one who spoke these words was Old Eagle. Saying so, he stepped forward.
"Same as well. If not for gongzi, who knows whether I could have avenged my brothers. I ask of gongzi to accept me." Solitary Wolf stepped forward and spoke grimly.
"If gongzi doesn't despise the fact that I only have a single arm, I ask of gongzi to accept me as well." Steel Arms stepped forward with a slight smile.
"What are you all saying? How could I possibly mind it? I'm more than delighted to take you all in!" Wang Chong said with a brilliant smile.
He was still wondering whether he could have them follow him since they were unwilling to rejoin the Bureau of Military Personnel and Bureau of Punishments. However, he had no confidence in recruiting them, and he had no idea how he should bring it up either.
Who knew that they would offer themselves instead!
Wang Chong had witnessed their amazing strength for himself. Even the single-armed Steel Arms had incredible offensive power.
Not to mention, most of them were Profound Martial realm experts.
Wang Chong didn't have any sizeable fighting force other than the guards in his residence. However, these guards were lacking in strength, and even Miyasame Ayaka could defeat all of them alone, not to mention there were plenty of experts stronger than her out there.
If these people could follow him, his strength of his fighting force would grow in an instant.
As such, he was excited to accept their offers.
Of the four, only Ma Yinlong hadn't expressed his decision yet.
"Gongzi, pardon me but I won't be able to follow you for the time being as... I have something important I must attend to. After I'm done, so long as gongzi doesn't mind, I'm willing to serve you for life."
After a moment of silence, Ma Yinlong spoke with a voice tinged with deep sorrow.
"Just that, I've no idea how long it would take for me to resolve the matter. It might be a year, ten years, or perhaps even longer than that."
"Hm?" Wang Chong was slightly surprised, but he soon smiled.
"Don't worry, elder, feel free to do whatever you need to. Should you need help, feel free to look for me."
Everyone had their own secrets. Even though Wang Chong didn't know what it was that would take Ma Yinlong such a long time, his instincts told him that it was something related to the matter back then.
"There's no need for it." Ma Yinlong waved his hands with a smile. "I'll be counting on gongzi to take care of my brothers. Gongzi is the offspring of Duke Jiu, and your eyes are on the entire world. Perhaps, my brothers would be able to achieve much more beside you than being in the Bureau of Military Personnel and Bureau Punishments. Also, Solitary Wolf is a money-grubber, and he has heard that gongzi is earning huge buckets of money every day. I'll have to ask gongzi to take care of that as well."
Hearing Ma Yinlong's teasing, Wang Chong burst into laughter.
"Elder, don't worry. I may not be confident in anything else, but my ability to earn money is still on the mark!"
The group of four immediately burst into laughter.
"Gongzi, you need not call us elders in the future. Just call us by our nicknames, Solitary Wolf, Old Eagle, and Steel Arms!"
Watching Ma Yinlong's back disappear into the distance, Wang Chong sighed.
Even though they hadn't worked together for too long, he had an extremely good impression of the Fang of the White Tiger.
"Elder, I wish you luck." Wang Chong mumbled.
After arranging some matters with Old Eagle, Steel Arms, and Solitary Wolf, Wang Chong grew busy once more. Even though the matter with the Goguryeons had come to an end, he still had a bunch of matters he had to attend to.
The attack on the Goguryeon bases had brought Wang Chong incredible gainsdozens of chests filled with Goguryeon ginsengs. Other than leaving a few for his own use, he sent to the rest to the spirit vein for the consumption of selected recruits.
They would become the Wang Clan's strength in the future, as well as Wang Chong's future subordinates. Thus, without second thought, he decided to give these precious ginseng to them.
Following which, Wang Chong called Tuoba Guiyuan and settled the matter regarding the Wootz steel weapons.
Only when all of these were done did Wang Chong finally find some time to spare.
Unknowingly, eights day flew by.
The mountain range beyond the capital was filled with lush trees. At the very peak of a certain mountain, white steam filled the entire area. In the middle of the steam, a man was meditating motionlessly.
Spiritual energy gushed in from the surroundings, seeping into that man's body.
After a long moment, Wang Chong exhaled deeply, and his eyes opened amidst the white steam. The golden rays of a morning sun shone from the horizon, traversing through the trees, dyeing the entire area yellow.
Gazing downward, one could see a flight of stairs linking the bottom of the mountain to the top.
There were many beautiful infrastructures to be seen along the both sides of the stairs, be it elegant pavilions or long corridors. The number of infrastructures only increased the further one proceeded.
At the very peak of the mountain stood a majestic cluster of halls divided into the residential area, training area, and resting area. There were also gardens, ponds, fake mountains... It seemed as though everything could be found here.
Not too far away from Wang Chong, a group of young men and ladies were busy cultivating and sparring. A sharp gust of wind could be heard with every punch and kick they made.
The group of ex-Imperial Army instructors whom Wang Chong recruited were standing around them. With austere gazes and stern bellows, they corrected the various faults of these young recruits.
"It truly wasn't easy to come this far!"
Wang Chong took a deep breath as he looked at the scene before him with deep pride and a strong sense of accomplishment.
After devoting a huge amount of manpower, resources, and money, Wang Chong's base centered around the spirit vein was finally completed after five months of work.
Even though it was still a humble base hidden in the depths of the mountain, everything was on track already.
Eventually, this would become his strength to change the future of the world!
"In the future, I'll have to expand the number of recruits. Also, I mustn't limit myself to this one base. Eventually, I'll have to establish a large number of such bases in every single province."
Wang Chong gazed at the rising sun as hopes for the future sprang within him.
This spirit vein might be his starting point, but it wasn't where he was going to end. In the future, he would expand this model throughout the Central Plains and recruit even more people. His base would be built on meritocracy; orphans and ordinary civilians would be given an equal chance as the scions from prestigious clans.
Wang Chong had maintained a narrow outlook in his previous life. He had never thought of using his own birthright as a strength to wield.
But when the catastrophe struck, the thin line between the wealthy and the poor faded entirely. Everyone went by just a single identitymen of the Central Plains. There was nothing shameful about wielding what the heavens had blessed him with at birth as his own strength to rally others.
Just as he was deep in contemplation, a familiar voice suddenly sounded by his ears.