Chapter 1312: A Moment of Darkness (II)
Translated by: Hypersheep325
Edited by: Michyrr
Xu Keyi hesitated to speak.
“Speak the truth!”
Wang Chong’s face was twisted in wrath.
“Milord, the situation truly is bad. Master Zhu has had far more effect on us than we imagined. There are many people marching around criticizing us, and there are people intentionally riling up these tensions. Circumstances are incredibly unoptimistic,” Su Shixuan sternly said.
“Continue!” Wang Chong gloomily ordered.
The decree of the Imperial Court forbade him from leaving the residence for two months, so he could only rely on Su Shixuan, Xu Keyi, and his other subordinates for information. He had never imagined that they would dare to conceal something as big as this from him.
Everyone silently quailed in the face of Wang Chong’s rage. Even after following Wang Chong for so long, they had never seen Wang Chong unleash his rage on his subordinates. It was clear that this matter had truly infuriated him.
“Milord, the book merchants of the capital have already completely banned us, as no one dares to offend the Confucian school. Although we set up our own printing press, not a single book that we’ve printed has been sold.”
“Continue!” Wang Chong said, his face ashen.
“The voices in the capital are extremely against Milord. In this period of time, ten-some groups have marched near the residence, but all of them were discovered and dispersed beforehand. This time, perhaps because the City Guard was careless and left a gap, these people were able to reach the residence and disturb Milord!”
Su Shixuan raised his head to glance at Wang Chong before continuing.
“In addition, we just received word that the Ü-Tsang Empire and Western Turkic Khaganate, cooperating with the Confucian Sect, have announced that they are continuing to reduce their armies by an additional fifty thousand to express their sincerity in their desire for peace with the Great Tang. This news has caused a stir within the capital, and the Imperial Court has even received a private letter from the Tsenpo of Ü-Tsang and Dalon Trinling that Ü-Tsang has no intention of being an enemy of the Great Tang, that everything was because Milord was meddling with relationships and deliberately sowing chaos between the two countries!” Su Shixuan said.
“Besides this, someone has been spreading a rumor that Milord has always been set on stirring wars and that Milord is currently colluding with the Bureau of Military Personnel in order to use the incident with Arabia to set off another campaign. In addition, it is said that Milord is also planning to launch an offensive on Ü-Tsang, the Eastern and Western Turks, Goguryeo, and Mengshe Zhao!” Xu Keyi added.
Wang Chong’s eyes flew open. While he had been under house arrest to think over his errors, he had not made any attempt to communicate with Zhangchou Jianqiong. He had never imagined that such gossip would get out.
“Milord, you had already done your utmost on this matter, so we only thought to…”
Before Su Shixuan could finish speaking, Wang Chong sternly cut him off.
Wang Chong closed his eyes, standing silently for a long time. Wang Chong had never believed that the situation in the capital would deteriorate to such a level.
Wang Chong opened his eyes and ordered, “Open the gate!”
Everyone frantically tried to stop him.
They had already fended off ten-some groups of protestors from reaching the Wang Family Residence, so they were well aware of just how riled up the crowd was. Wang Chong could not be allowed to go out at this time.
“Open the gate!”
Wang Chong repeated himself, his expression as cold as ice. He left no room for negotiation.
Outside, one could hear the sounds of guards being pushed aside, as these guards alone were far from enough to stop the infuriated crowd. Moreover, Wang Chong wanted to see for himself how bad the situation had gotten. He had been ‘evasive’ for ten-some days now and could not continue to be evasive any longer.
With a boom, the gate to the Wang Family Residence opened from the inside. Dressed in civilian clothes, Wang Chong stepped over the threshold.
Although he had heard the roars from within his study, only after walking out of the gates did he finally understand what the situation was outside the Wang Family Residence. It was like he had walked into an entirely different world, waves of sound assailing him from all sides. He could see a vast crowd outside the gate, extending as far as he could see.
“Bring down the King of Foreign Lands!”
The cries of the people resounded into the horizon. There were men and women, old and young, all of them yelling until they were red in the face.
Twenty-some armored guards of the Wang Clan were at the gate, doing their best to stop the crowd. But these guards did not dare to treat this crowd of ordinary civilians with no ability to fight too roughly. Even though all these guards possessed formidable strength, they were all being passively beaten, rains of stones showering down on them. There were even a few people who had surrounded them and were kicking and punching.
Despite their strength, these guards allowed themselves to be beaten, only using their hands to protect their bodies as they unyieldingly stood, not making a sound.
“Stop!” Wang Chong couldn’t help but cry out.
“It’s the King of Foreign Lands!”
An enraged roar awakened the incensed crowd toward the newcomer, and their eyes immediately focused on Wang Chong. In a flash, all noise vanished, none of the vast crowd standing in front of the gate making a single sound.
“All of you, withdraw!” Wang Chong said to those Wang Clan guards who had taken the beating in his place. This incident had nothing to do with them, and if not for him, these guards would have never been subjected to such a beating.
The leading guard wanted to say something, but he was interrupted by a wave of Wang Chong’s hand.
“Go! Leave this place to me,” Wang Chong sternly said.
The twenty-some Wang Clan guards hesitated for a moment before finally taking their wounded bodies back into the Wang Family Residence.
“King of Foreign Lands, you’re finally willing to come out!”
“This bastard and his wolfish ambition! I can’t believe that we used to believe you!”
“Not appearing for so long, do you finally have some guilty conscience? We all truly misjudged you!”
Another furious voice erupted from the crowd as a pair of eyes hatefully stared at Wang Chong. If looks could kill, Wang Chong would have been killed countless times.
Wang Chong felt a deep stab in his heart as he took on these hateful gazes. Ever since his reincarnation, Wang Chong had breathlessly rushed around to save the Central Plains, to save these ordinary men, women, old, and young before him. He could disregard high titles and rank, could disregard the Imperial Court stripping him of authority, could disregard the rebukes and criticisms from all the Confucians of the world, but he could not disregard these ordinary people before him.
“Everyone, please listen to me!”
Wang Chong’s voice loudly resounded over the residence. The crowd’s roaring died down once more.
“…King of Foreign Lands, is it true that you’re secretly colluding with the Bureau of Military Personnel to launch wars against the surrounding countries?”
“Is it true that you raised a private army and defied imperial decree so that you could start wars and satisfy your personal desires?!”
“What ‘might makes right’? The foreign countries have already reduced their armies. Don’t you see? To think that we believed you? It turns out that you were just trying to make a name for yourself and satisfy your personal desires!”
“King of Foreign Lands, what else could you possibly have to say!?”
Loud rebukes were shouted out from the crowd.
“Everyone, listen to me! I have never discussed recruiting soldiers and launching wars against the surrounding foreign countries with the Bureau of Military Personnel. These are purely rumors and gossip. It is true that I recruited a private army and defied imperial decree to open the armory, but all this was to protect Anxi, Qixi, Longxi, and the capital. When a general is abroad, there are certain orders that they cannot accept. The situation on the battlefield is constantly changing, and if everything had to wait for the Imperial Court’s judgment, it would take so much time that not only would the Anxi Protectorate army have ended up being buried in a foreign land, even Anxi, Qixi, and the imperial armory in Qixi would have fallen into enemy hands. I only did what I should have done. Rather than let those weapons fall into enemy hands for the Arabs to use, it was better to open the armory and use those weapons to protect the Central Plains.”
Wang Chong’s eyes were red, the hair on his temples shaking as his body trembled.
The Qixi Armory matter had been a military affair, and Wang Chong had never explained why he made certain decisions in battle. He hadn’t even explained to Xue Qianjun and the others about his reasoning for opening the Qixi Armory. But now, before these ordinary people who had no understanding whatsoever of the art of war, Wang Chong explained himself.
He gazed at all these strange faces and sternly said, “Wang Chong can swear an oath to the heavens that everything I have done was not done for personal gain. If I have lied, let the heavens strike me down!”
The vast crowd in front of the gate instantly fell silent.
“Wang Chong, you’ve always said that the surrounding foreign countries are ambitious, but Ü-Tsang disbanded one hundred and fifty thousand soldiers the first time and is now reducing its army by another fifty thousand. Meanwhile, the Western Turkic Khaganate reduced its army by two hundred thousand the first time and is now reducing it by fifty thousand. How do you explain that? All of society is saying that you generals wrote that ‘Might Makes Right’ to deceive the people and start wars to gain merit. Is that true?” a man hollered in fury, his face red and furious from being deceived.
Wang Chong felt like someone had stabbed a sword into his heart. His efforts over several months had been interpreted like this. In the end, the minds of the people had still been fooled. As he gazed at the earnest faces of these people, Wang Chong felt aggrieved in both body and mind.
“Everyone, a monkey can play dead to have the crow take the bait, but it eventually eats the crow. An anteater can play dead to lure in ants, but it will ultimately eat the ants. When a rabbit can jump no longer, it will fall to the ground to lure in the eagle, but in the end, it will jump up and bite the eagle to death! A temporary retreat is only made for the eventual victory. Ü-Tsang, the Eastern and Western Turks, and Goguryeo are all major problems for the Great Tang. In the last nearly one thousand years, the surrounding foreigners have been in constant conflict with the Great Tang.”