Chapter 1247: The Youzhou Incident!
Translated by: Hypersheep325
Edited by: Michyrr
Wang Chong roughly understood why Zhang Shougui had done what he did with regards to Niu Xiantong. The position of Prime Minister was a source of eternal heartache for Zhang Shougui, and his obsession for the post far exceeded anything else. He had failed to seat himself in the post of Prime Minister ten-some years ago, and his desire for it had only intensified.
If it were to get out that the Youzhou Army had suffered a major defeat by the Huang River, even if Zhang Shougui had not personally been in command, Zhang Shougui would lose any hope of entering the capital and becoming Prime Minister.
Zhang Shougui could never accept this, which was why he had taken such risks to bribe the Sage Emperor’s emissary.
To be honest, Zhang Shougui was not a good person. He was conceited and irascible, and the way he commanded his subordinates was very lacking compared to the famous generals of the past. Let alone being kind and benevolent, he occasionally used corporal punishments on his subordinates. In their last meeting in the capital, Wang Chong had definitely not gained a very high opinion of him. But regardless of his shortcomings or his intense desire for authority, Zhang Shougui was truly a loyal and good subject of the Great Tang. He was undoubtedly fully devoted to the Great Tang.
And as the number two individual in the Great Tang army, Zhang Shougui was an outstanding general whose influence was second only to Crown Prince’s Junior Guardian Wang Zhongsi.
Not all gold was sufficiently pure, and no man was perfect. No matter what flaws Zhang Shougui had in his personality, his ability to command armies was what the empire needed. Moreover, for the Battle of Talas, Zhang Shougui had sent four thousand of his Roaring Tiger Army and several thousand soldiers from his Youzhou Army. Now was the time to return the favor, but not even Wang Chong was sure just how much he could help him.
“The Youzhou report—when did you send it in?” Wang Chong asked.
He had already placed a great deal of attention on Zhang Shougui’s matter, but alas, by the time he had intervened, Niu Xiantong had been back at the capital for several days. Given the time that had passed, he had probably already submitted Zhang Shougui’s fabricated report to the Sage Emperor.
Ever since ancient times, deceiving the sovereign had always been a capital crime! Even Wang Chong was breaking out in a cold sweat for Zhang Shougui. However, Niu Xiantong’s answer was a great surprise to Wang Chong.
“Your Highness, the report has still not been submitted!” Niu Xiantong said, pressing his head against the ground.
Wang Chong’s body trembled as he sat upright on his chair.
Niu Xiantong immediately gave a full account of what had happened. “It was the Sage Emperor who dispatched me to Youzhou, and in accordance with the custom of the court, upon my return, I immediately went to report the matter to His Majesty. But a few days ago, when I went to see His Majesty, I was for some reason barred from entering by Eunuch Gao Lishi. Eunuch Gao said that His Majesty was slightly ill and told me to come back with my report on Youzhou after a few days.”
Wang Chong was caught off guard by this explanation, but he quickly recalled something. The Sage Emperor had failed to reach the Divine Martial realm, and his condition was getting worse and worse. Over the last two court sessions, Wang Chong had been able to sense a hint of discord in the Sage Emperor’s energy. It was clear that this was the reason Gao Lishi had refused Niu Xiantong at the door.
“Wonderful! …If this is the case, there’s still a chance to salvage the situation!”
Wang Chong muttered to himself, his finger beginning to lightly tap against the table.
“How many more people know that you helped Zhang Shougui falsify military reports?” Wang Chong asked.
At this stage, Niu Xiantong didn’t dare to hide anything and began to talk.
“Not many people in the palace know. Only a few other Palace Stewards and the First Prince have seen the report I wrote for Lord Zhang Shougui. No one else knows at this time.”
Wang Chong’s heart trembled in shock upon hearing the First Prince’s name.
In the past, Wang Chong wouldn’t have cared that much, but he now knew that the First Prince, Li Linfu, King Qi, and the Grand Preceptor were all working together.
“How did the First Prince come to know of this matter?” Wang Chong said.
“The First Prince has been handling a part of the court’s affairs for some time as part of His Majesty’s plans to groom the First Prince. With His Majesty resting and unavailable for an audience, according to the rules, I passed the draft report to the First Prince for him to review. When going to see the Sage Emperor, I will draft another copy, which will be the official version.”
Niu Xiantong’s kneeling body trembled in fear.
“I was forced into this, with no other choice. Your Highness, you must help me!”
After saying this, Niu Xiantong tightly hugged Wang Chong’s leg as if he was grasping a life-saving straw.
The first reason he had dared to help Zhang Shougui falsify military reports was that very few people knew about it, but the second reason was Zhang Shougui’s authority. In Youzhou, Zhang Shougui was powerful enough to suppress almost any incident. This power together with his threats had forced Niu Xiantong into his current position.
But now that the matter was exposed, deceiving the sovereign was no minor crime. Niu Xiantong no longer dared to imagine just how he would eventually end up.
“Lord Niu, it’s good that you’re self-aware enough to show repentance. Otherwise, all that would be awaiting you would be execution by dismemberment!” Wang Chong said as he remained seated on his chair.
Niu Xiantong shivered. Although he had never heard of this ‘execution by dismemberment’ in any previous dynasty, there was no question that it was a bad thing.
“Lord Niu, good medicine is bitter and loyal advice grates on the ear. My advice to you is to immediately report the matter of Youzhou in its entirety. In addition, immediately write a letter to Andong Protector-General Zhang Shougui telling him that the matter has been exposed and that he should confess on his own accord to the Imperial Court. If all this is done, there is still time. Otherwise, no one has dared to deceive the Sage Emperor in the last few decades, so you know what will happen to you!”
“Understood, understood! This old slave knows what needs to be done,” Niu Xiantong fearfully said.
Without another word, Wang Chong rose from his seat. No matter what, the matter of Niu Xiantong would not be easy to take care of. Purely because of the fact that he had deceived the Sage Emperor, no one would be able to save him, but at the very least, he would not have to die.
Wang Chong quickly left the room, leaving the fallen and feeble figure of Niu Xiantong behind him, his clothes utterly drenched in sweat.
“Let’s go! In addition, let him eat for free. It won’t be long before he won’t be able to eat for the next few days,” Wang Chong said.
When he emerged from Taibai Pavilion, a figure was standing on the side of the street, waiting for him.
Seeing Wang Chong come out, Xu Keyi immediately went up to welcome him.
“How is it?” Wang Chong asked.
“Milord, the letter to the Andong Protector-General has already been prepared. It can be sent to Youzhou at any time!”
While Wang Chong had been conversing with Niu Xiantong in Taibai Pavilion, Xu Keyi had been in the adjacent room. By the time Wang Chong had come out, Xu Keyi had already finished writing the letter.
“Very good! Send it on our fastest bird!” Wang Chong said.
After leaving Taibai Pavilion, Wang Chong went straight back to his home.
As night fell, the Wang Family Residence fell silent. Many maids and servants had already gone to bed, but Wang Chong’s study was still lit by a single lantern. Wang Chong was seated inside, in no mood to sleep at all. He was seemingly waiting for something.
Taptap! After some time, a light knocking came at his door.
“Enter!” Wang Chong said.
The door opened a sliver, allowing Old Eagle, dressed in black, to slip in like a ghost.
“Old Eagle pays respects to Milord!”
Old Eagle stopped five paces from Wang Chong and got down on one knee.
“How is the investigation going?”
Wang Chong opened his eyes.
“Milord, just as you predicted, after the accusation of Zhang Chaoshu, these people truly did start to move. Our people were keeping a close watch on where the files and reports were stored. After waiting for around two hours, our men entered to seek out the reports regarding others and discovered this.”
Old Eagle raised his head, took out two thick reports, and offered them both up. Wang Chong took the first report, utterly unperturbed, but when he looked at the second report, his brow rose and his face slightly paled.
Old Eagle raised his head and sternly said, “Milord, we checked these reports during the daytime. The files and reports from ten-some years ago regarding those young officials who had appeared in court were all written on extremely new paper, an extremely obvious flaw. But by nighttime, everything had changed. From the toughness and flexibility of the paper, it should all be extremely new paper, but they used some sort of method to make them seem like they had been stored away for ten-some years!”
Wang Chong had shaken the mountain to frighten the tiger, lured the snake out of its hole. He had used the matter of Zhang Chaoshu to make the schemers behind the scenes become impatient and reveal themselves.
However, this had also made them take countermeasures. What had happened to Zhang Chaoshu had made them feel an immense threat, so they had fully mobilized to fix this error in the space of a single day.
“Milord, I truly don’t know how they did it. Paper from ten-some years ago would definitely have begun to crack and rot, not remain so well-preserved as these reports. I’ve never encountered such capable people!” Old Eagle sternly said.
“They just used a few special dyes and some heating. It’s not anything that impressive,” Wang Chong calmly said.
Old Eagle was confused, but Wang Chong did not explain. In another world, such methods of faking antiques were not that impressive. It was just that in this world, not many people knew of these methods. However, their efficiency truly was astounding.