Chapter 271: The Banquet Starts!
Minister of War!
The position that Zhangchou Jianqiong was aiming for was significant for anyone. No deployment in the Bureau of Military Personnel could circumvent the orders of the Minister of War.
Unlike the previous Minister of War, Zhangchou Jianqiong possessed both power and ambition. If he were to rise to that position, there was no way he would be content with being a puppet who would defer to anyone.
This was precisely the reason why the topic regarding Zhangchou Jianqiong's promotion had been delayed for so long. Even Big Uncle Wang Gen had to reaffirm this matter with Wang Chong twice before agreeing to make a stand.
Zhangchou Jianqiong was an outsider in the royal court. He was an uncontrollable variable whose appearance would mess up the distribution of power.
This was precisely what the veterans of the royal court feared about him.
The Southern Protector-General becoming the Minister of War all of a sudden was no joke.
As such thoughts emerged in Wang Chong's head, he quickly regained his calm as he took a stand beside Big Uncle Wang Gen.
"Brother Zhangchou, I've kept you waiting!"
At the same time, Big Uncle Wang Gen also stretched out a hand as a display of courtesy and walked forward. In the entire Wang Clan, the only person who was of equal standing to this Southern Protector-General was probably Wang Gen.
The only difference between them was that Zhangchou Jianqiong was a military officer, whereas Wang Gen was a government official.
Even though their fields of expertise didn't overlap, Wang Gen's credentials in the royal court weren't beneath that of Zhangchou Jianqiong. In fact, due to the Wang Clan's standing, he had participated in the decision-making process determining Zhangchou Jianqiong's promotion. In that sense, his influence did exceed Zhangchou Jianqiong.
It was to satiate his desire for such power that Zhangchou Jianqiong wanted to enter the royal court.
"Haha, this must be famous young genius of the Wang Clan, Wang Chong!"
After chatting with Wang Gen, Zhangchou Jianqiong didn't take a seat, but turned his gaze meaningfully to Wang Chong instead.
"Thank you, lord, for your undue compliments, I am indeed Wang Chong. I have yet to express my gratitude to you for the matter regarding the regional commanders incident!"
Since Zhangchou Jianqiong had turned his sight to him, there was no need for Wang Chong to hold back either. He stepped forward and bowed graciously to the latter.
"Haha, there's no need for thanks." Zhangchou Jianqiong waved his hands casually. "It was a matter involving the fate of the empire, I only helped you out of my own conscience. There's no need for you to think too much into it. Rather, despite Wang gongzi's young age, the fact that you possess such astute judgement, magnanimity, and a heart that worries for the nation is truly rare. You'll surely achieve great things in the future."
He had noticed Wang Chong as soon as the younger man started walking up the stairs. Perhaps Wang Chong thought that he wouldn't attract any attention just by maintaining a low profile, but this was impossible in itself.
There were two main people he wanted to meet by inviting the Wang Clan over to the Goguryeon's Ten Sun Tavern. First, would be the influential Wang Gen, who wielded the bulk of the authority in the clan, and the other would be the proud scion of the Wang Clan, who caused such a huge uproar with his actions.
Humble when required, outspoken when needed; magnanimous in speech, graceful in gestures; a position that neither demeans nor overstep his boundaries... As expected of a scion from a prestigious clan. Everyone claimed that with only Wang Gen propping up the clan, the Wang Clan would surely decline when Wang Jiu Ling passed away. From the looks of it now, that doesn't seem to be the case. The Wang Clan's prosperity will survive yet another generation!, Zhangchou Jianqiong thought as he instantaneously made a precise judgement of the Wang Clan.
Duke Jiu was old, and Wang Gen had already reached the peak of his career. As such, the Wang Clan's future lay on the shoulders of the third generation offspring.
Among all the children of the Wang Clan, the most outstanding one was clearly Wang Chong. Despite his young age, he had met the Sage Emperor and managed to walk out of the imperial prison alive. Not to mention, he was currently favored by the Sage Emperor, so his future was likely to be boundless.
Back in their time, regardless of whether it was Wang Gen or Zhangchou Jianqiong, neither had succeeded in receiving the favor of the emperor! As long as Wang Chong didn't err badly, he would surely become yet another influential figure on the royal court.
Having read the pulse of the Wang Clan, Zhangchou Jianqiong understood what he had to do to reinforce his standing in the capital.
At this moment, a loud laughter suddenly sounded out, capturing everyone's attention. Wang Chong turned around and saw a figure walking out from one of the compartments on the third floor at this very coincidental moment.
This person was dressed in a white robe and a black coronet. He had a graceful disposition reminiscent of a scholar.
Recognizing that figure, Wang Chong fell into a short moment of thought. Yang Zhao had clearly arrived early, but he chose to remain out of sight in the compartment by the side. Only after Zhangchou Jianqiong had greeted both his big uncle and him did he choose to make a timely appearance.
This seemed to be the effect that Zhangchou Jianqiong and Yang Zhao were intentionally going for.
"... Lord Zhangchou, how is it? I'm right, aren't I?" Yang Zhao chuckled heartily.
"Indeed! Wang gongzi sure is an excellent youth, a dragon that soars above all men. How could a person who comes from the noble Wang Clan possibly be ordinary?" Zhangchou Jianqiong smiled in response.
The tone that Zhangchou Jianqiong and Yang Zhao took with one another was much more casual and intimate, as though they were true brothers. With just a glance, it was certain that they had a deep relationship.
"Hahaha, we're all one family. Come, Lord Wang, do take a seat!"
With an amiable chuckle, Yang Zhao walked over with a raised hand. Astonishingly, he actually overstepped his boundaries and invited Wang Gen to his seat in place of the host, Zhangchou Jianqiong.
Yet, Zhangchou Jianqiong continued smiling cordially, paying it no mind at all.
What is going on?
Taking this peculiar scene into sight, Wang Gen's eyebrows twitched slightly in astonishment. He knew of Yang Zhao and Zhangchou Jianqiong's relationship, but it seemed that the duo was much more intimate than he had expected.
On the other hand, having expected this, Wang Chong wasn't surprised at all.
After all, Zhangchou Jianqiong was Yang Zhao's backing.
When Consort Taizhen hadn't risen to her current position yet, Zhangchou Jianqiong had already expressed his support for Yang Zhao in Annan, and even gave him a huge sum so that he could make the journey to the capital.
One must know that Yang Zhao was nothing more than a lowly hoodlum then, not to mention a compulsive gambler. The only notable thing about him was that he was Consort Taizhen's cousin in name.
Under such uncertain circumstances, Zhangchou Jianqiong still chose to spend a huge sum to invest in Yang Zhao and treated the latter with respect. In that aspect, he was truly a decisive person.
However, what Zhangchou Jianqiong never could have expected was that Yang Zhao would actually gamble all of his money away as soon as he arrived at the capital, thus resulting in the matter between him and Wang Chong.
Fortunately, Zhangchou Jianqiong's investment did pay off eventually. Even though Consort Taizhen was in a position of power, Yang Zhao wouldn't forget the favor the other party showed him back then.
Knowing this relationship between the duo, Wang Chong wasn't too surprised. On the other hand, Yang Zhao kept blinking relentlessly to him as a friendly gesture, leaving Wang Chong chuckling inwardly.
"You're being too polite!" Deciding not to think too much into it, Wang Gen raised his right hand politely for Yang Zhao to go ahead, too. With both the host and the guests seated down, a lively atmosphere started up.
The design of the seat was extremely elaborate. For the sake of earning more money, the Goguryeons seemed to have invested a lot into the furniture as well.
As soon as Wang Chong sat down, he began to examine his surroundings.
The Wang Clan wasn't the only one invited to the banquet. There were a few others on the third floor, as well. With a quick glance, most of them were Zhangchou Jianqiong's subordinates, whereas the others were probably his allies in the capital.
Having served as the Southern Protector-General for so many years, it was impossible for a person as ambitious of Zhangchou Jianqiong to not have planted any men in the royal court.
I wonder which of these men are Xianyu Zhongtong and Zhang Wentuo, Wang Chong thought.
All of the men whom Zhangchou Jianqiong brought had broad shoulders and a powerful disposition, reeking heavily of slaughter. It was clear that they were important commanders in the military.
But of them all, Wang Chong was only concerned with Xianyu Zhongtong and Zhang Wentuo.
The both of them had great significance to Wang Chong and Great Tang, just that he had never met either of them before.
There was a good chance that Zhangchou Jianqiong would bring his closest aides to the capital with him, but Wang Chong had no confidence that they would be here, too.
Typically speaking, Wang Chong should be able to deduce a thing or two from the seating positions. On Zhangchou Jianqiong's left was Yang Zhao, while on his right was an intelligent-looking man with a -shaped mustache. Rather than a soldier, he looked more like a strategist instead.
Thus, Wang Chong was unable to deduce who was Xianyu Zhongtong and who was Zhang Wentuo, or whether they were even here at the moment.
"Men, serve the dishes!"
At the very end of the table, Zhangchou Jianqiong raised his hand and beckoned for the waiters to serve the dishes. His gestures displayed the forthright nature of a military man.
On the other hand, there was a bizarre atmosphere shrouding the Goguryeons, but they also got to work. Before long, a few plates of exquisite dishes were servedSucculent Jade Fish, Braised Juicy Clams, Prosperity of the Dragon and the Phoenix, and Emerald Consort Chicken. These were extravagant dishes. At the very center of the table, a fragrant Roasted Suckling Pig with its perfect crispy skin and fragrant aroma was placed. In an instant, the atmosphere of the banquet grew lively.
Even though Wang Chong bore little goodwill to the Goguryeons, he had to admit that much effort was placed into making every single detail of this tavern exquisite.
Every single one of these dishes possessed distinguished appearance, fragrance, and taste. Just their very appearances would whet one's appetite. The likes of Vast Crane Pavilion could hardly compare with it.
"I heard that the Goguryeons worship the Three-legged Crow, which is a representation of the sun. As such, they named this place Ten Sun Tavern. It's not easy for us to come together like this, so allow me to treat you to this great feast here in this Ten Sun Tavern. All of you must make sure to enjoy yourself thoroughly today!" Zhangchou Jianqiong said.
"General, you're being too polite," the crowd hurriedly replied.
Of the entire tavern, the only one who was of equal standing to him and was worthy of such words was Wang Gen. How could the others possibly dare to accept such courtesy from him?
"Haha, there's no need to stand on ceremony today. Brother Jiexin, I have been in awe of you for a very long time, and I have always wanted to meet and chat with you. A pity it was that an opportunity never presented itself in the past. It's truly a pleasure to meet you today."
"Brother Zhangchou, you're being too polite. Once you enter the royal court, there will be many chances for us to catch up," Wang Gen replied with a rare pleasantry.
This was how politics worked.
Zhangchou Jianqiong might still be a military man at the moment, but once he became the Minister of War, the situation would be completely different. The both of them would surely require the help of one another in the future, so there was an imperative to maintain friendly ties.
"I'll be thanking Brother Jiexin for your auspicious words, then!" Hearing those words, Zhangchou Jianqiong's eyes lit up, and his mood immediately soared.
"Come! For Brother Jiexin's words, let's have a toast!"
Wine cups crossed one another, and even Wang Chong also raised his and sipped on it. After all, who would dare snub a friendly gesture from the Southern Protector-General?
TL Note: In ancient China, etiquette is extremely important. For example, the most important person in the room must be granted the main seat. Also, the higher your standing, the closer you are to the main seat. Similarly, a guest (Yang Zhao) isn't supposed to take the position of the host (Zhangchou Jianqiong) in hosting the other guests, especially in a matter such as inviting another to take a seat.
EDIT: To use a modern world example, it is similar to inviting an additional guest to a person's dinner party without informing them.
If you breach such etiquettes, it is considered to be extremely rude.
The gestures might be a little foreign. Basically, the host would walk over to the guest and raise a hand to gesture for the guest to go to the seat (this is considered as a very polite and respectful gesture). In reciprocation, the guest would also raise a hand to invite the host over as well. Usually, this would only happen if the duo is of equal standing (such as in the case of Zhangchou Jianqiong and Wang Gen). Otherwise, it would be one-sided.