Chapter 471: The War Begins!
Translated by: Hypersheep325
Edited by: Michyrr
The incident in the southwest had entranced the entire empire. Even Wang Chong in his cell could feel the change in the atmosphere.
The people from the Court of Judicial Review and Chamberlain of Dependencies had originally come to visit him every day, but now they rarely appeared. The prison guards who occasionally came in to deliver food also seemed distracted.
A somber air pervaded the capital.
It seems like the decision is about to be made! Wang Chong silently said to himself. Although he was worried, the imprisoned Wang Chong could do nothing but quietly wait.
It was ten days later that he next met Wang Gen. His big uncle was dressed in his court robes, his face hard and grave.
Upon seeing his big uncle, Wang Chong felt his eyes begin to twitch while a terrible foreboding suddenly rose from his heart.
“The Imperial Court has already made a decision! Xianyu Zhongtong has been ordered to lead the 180,000 elites of the Annan Protectorate and immediately attack Mengshe Zhao to punish Geluofeng for his offense against the Great Tang!”
Wang Chong’s heart went cold at this news, sending a shiver running throughout his body. Suddenly thinking of something, he lunged to the bars and asked, “Big Uncle, how could this be? Didn’t you, King Song, and Consort Taizhen all oppose? Were you three not enough?”
King Song, the Wang Clan, and Yang Zhao’s backer Consort Taizhen were three mighty powers of the Great Tang Imperial Court, three figureheads. The united strength of those three should have wielded enough influence to alter the court’s decision.
Wang Gen sighed and began to give a detailed recount.
After meeting Wang Chong, Wang Gen almost immediately went to see King Song. Together with Wang Chong’s sworn brother Yang Zhao, the three were completely capable of changing the court’s decision.
But both Wang Gen and Wang Chong had underestimated someone.
Wang Chong’s eyes flashed with cold light as he suddenly asked, “The Yao Clan?”
“If it was just the Yao Clan and King Qi, it would have been fine!” Wang Gen said with a shake of his head. Only those present would understand the intensity of that court debate. When the perennial hawks Wang Gen and King Song suddenly opposed the war with Mengshe Zhao, the entire court was stunned.
The hall had been silent for a very long time, no one able to speak. But the Yao Clan and King Qi were even more surprising.
These two had seemingly been keeping a watch on the Wang Clan and King Song this entire time. However, when those two opposed the war, King Qi and the Yao Clan, who had always been in favor of disarmament, suddenly took the opposite stance and loudly criticized King Song and the Wang Clan.
They said that these two were colluding with Geluofeng, had been paid off by him, and they also strenuously pushed for war with Mengshe Zhao. But everything would have been fine if that was all.
After all, the Yao Clan and King Qi were still inferior to the combined might of the Wang Clan, King Song, and Consort Taizhen. But in the end, someone completely unexpected, a most eminent yet also most inconspicuous person suddenly stepped forward and completely altered the result of this court debate.
Wang Chong’s heart tightened.
Wang Gen gave a long sigh before giving the answer.
“The Prime Minister!”
Silence reigned. Wang Chong gaped, and his pupils constricted. He found himself unable to say a single word.
This name was like a bolt of lightning. As it seared through Wang Chong’s mind, it conjured countless memories.
In that moment, thousands of thoughts flew like lightning through his mind.
In the Great Tang Dynasty, there was no position higher than the Prime Minister. He was truly beneath only one and above the rest.
Both the Wang Clan and Yao Clan were closely related to this position. It was the primary reason for the Wang Clan’s reputation as a clan of ministers and generals.
However, both the Wang Clan’s Old Master, the revered Duke Jiu, and the Yao Clan’s Old Master, Yao Chong, had already retired from the position of Prime Minister.
Someone new now held the post of Prime Minister.
Li Genu really was that man’s courtesy name!
In the Great Tang Imperial Court, this person was abnormally low-key. Never before had the holder of such an illustrious position as Prime Minister stood out so little. Many people had even forgotten who he was.
However, Wang Chong had never dared to underestimate him.
“I didn’t think that it would actually be him…”
A sharp light glimmered in Wang Chong’s eyes.
In all of the Great Tang Dynasty, the one Wang Chong feared the most was not the Yao Clan or King Qi, but this Prime Minister who was often forgotten despite the prestige of his post.
In all of the Great Tang Empire, probably not even his big uncle knew just how terrifying this normally genial Prime Minister was.
Everyone was deeply underestimating the ‘Lord Prime Minister’.
Wang Chong had never expected the Prime Minister to break custom and support the war in the southwest.
The combined might of the Yao Clan, King Qi, and the Prime Minister was enough to balance the might of the Wang Clan, King Song, and Consort Taizhen.
“…And there was one other thing. At the crucial moment, Zhangchou Jianqiong stood with King Qi and the Yao Clan!”
Wang Chong was completely flabbergasted.
Zhangchou Jianqiong was part of Consort Taizhen’s faction and they had a very close relationship. In fact, it had been Zhangchou Jianqiong who had helped Yang Zhao travel to the capital.
Consort Taizhen and Yang Zhao opposed this war, yet Zhangchou Jianqiong, the Minister of War, had stood with King Qi. No one could have expected this.
One Prime Minister could still be dealt with, but with Minister of War Zhangchou Jianqiong… the court debate was decided.
Wang Chong fell quiet.
“There was nothing to be done about that. His position as Minister of War still isn’t stable, and he is also from the Annan Protectorate. There was a problem in his own territory, so it’s easy to imagine how much pressure Zhangchou Jianqiong was under! Almost all the generals in the Bureau of Military Personnel under his command were in support of the war with Mengshe Zhao. If Zhangchou Jianqiong flinched here, he would face a great deal of opposition as Minister of War in the future,” Wang Gen said helplessly.
Zhangchou Jianqiong had lusted too badly for power. After holding the border for decades, he desired authority and status more than anyone else.
Wang Gen had originally thought that he could delay this court debate for twenty days, but with the Minister of War in the fray, the situation was no longer in his control.
And there was nothing Wang Gen could do about it.
The dark prison was quiet. Both Wang Chong and Wang Gen were silent. The only sound was the guttering of the torches on the wall.
“Chong-er, what do you plan to do next?” Wang Gen asked his nephew.
Wang Chong had been behind all the plans, and Wang Gen had told him what had happened in the court. What would happen next would be for Wang Chong to decide.
“I didn’t think that it would still be impossible to avoid…”
Wang Chong gave a long and bitter sigh.
Geluofeng had attacked the Great Tang, and the Imperial Court had decided to have Xianyu Zhongtong lead the 180,000 elites of the Great Tang in attacking the southwest… If it were Zhangchou Jianqiong leading the troops, if Zhangchou Jianqiong were still in the southwest, perhaps the final result would have been better.
But Zhangchou Jianqiong had already been tempted by power, and the position of Minister of War had now become the fetters around his neck. Leaving the southwest had been easy, but going back was not so!
The Minister of War could not leave the capital and lead the 180,000 elites of a border protectorate. There was no precedent for such a thing in the history of the Great Tang!
The plans of man were no match for the plans of heaven. Wang Chong had done all he could to avoid this war, but he had ultimately failed.
At this time, the last sliver of hope in Wang Chong’s heart was extinguished.
Since it was impossible to avoid, he had to confront it head-on.
“Big Uncle, when did Xianyu Zhongtong set out?”
Wang Chong raised his head and closed his eyes.
“Four days ago. The news was sent by the fastest golden eagle of the palace. It should have only needed two more days to arrive. And with Xianyu Zhongtong’s reaction speed, it should be another two days for him to mobilize his army and attack Mengshe Zhao,” Wang Gen said.
“…It’s already too late!”
Wang Chong gave a long sigh. Even the fastest bird would need six days to cover the vast distance between the capital and the Annan Protectorate.
By that time, the dust would have already settled. It would be too late to say anything.
“Big Uncle, take me out of this place…” Wang Chong suddenly asked.
Over countless mountains and rivers, in the distant lands of the southwest, dark clouds had gathered and the beating of drums thundered into the sky. This beating of drums alarmed the earth and startled the entirety of the southwest.
The southwest had not heard the beating of drums for many years. And the last time it had resounded with this thunderous tempo had been ten-some years ago.
“By the orders of the Imperial Court, we are to punish Mengshe Zhao and spread the heavenly might of my Great Tang!”
In front of the main hall of the massive Annan Protectorate headquarters, a harsh, solemn, and also extremely majestic voice resounded through the sky.
The fully-armored figure of the newly appointed Annan Protector-General, Xianyu Zhongtong, stood on an imposing platform, his entire body exuding a chilling aura of power.
Atop the platform, banners fluttered in the wind, all of them soaring into the sky like pillars supporting the heavens.
And below the platform stood the 180,000 elites of the Annan Protectorate, all of them armed and armored. In their serried ranks, they were gathered before the Annan Protectorate headquarters like dark clouds.
“Fight! Fight! Fight!”
The Great Tang elites waved their halberds and roared. A vital energy exploded out of their bodies and surged into the dark clouds like rainbows.
The thundering of the drums shook the earth, and the mountains shuddered as a somber air filled the world.
Without any further words, Xianyu Zhongtong gave the order. Warhorses neighed as the 180,000 Great Tang elites set forth like a storm of black clouds, howling and rushing toward Mengshe Zhao.
For the first time in ten-some years, the 180,000 elites of the Annan Protectorate were leaving their garrison, engaging in a war against a foreign country!
And only a teenager in the distant capital understood what exactly this war truly meant.
Not even the participants of this war understood!
Right when Xianyu Zhongtong was issuing his order for the army to move out, carrier pigeons were taking flight from the city walls.
None of these carrier pigeons were destined for the Great Tang’s capital. Instead, they were crossing the borders of the Great Tang, to the northeast, northwest, the north, the southwest, and the west.
Goguryeo, the Turkic Khaganates, Ü-Tsang, the Abbasid Caliphate, Charax Spasinu… many powers were paying close attention to this war between the Great Tang and Mengshe Zhao!
The southwest had always been peaceful.
This was the Great Tang’s first large-scale mobilization, one that far exceeded any mobilization carried out in Longxi, the northeast, or the northwest!
And though various countries had fought with the Great Tang before, this was Mengshe Zhao’s first time!
1. Li Genu, more commonly known as Li Linfu, one of Emperor Xuanzong’s Prime Ministers, was historically known for his political acumen and his skill in removing any potential challengers. He was also in favor of promotion for non-Han generals.↩