Chapter 593: Three Strategies
Translator: Transn Editor: Transn
The King of Chen turned solemn. “I’ve heard that lobbyists convince others by exaggerating. Is Mr. Su like them?”
He did not speak like a King would, seemingly finding etiquette of little importance. His words implied that Mr. Su’s team consisted of talented people and should not lower themselves by using the tactics of lobbyists.
Meng Qi looked serious and respectful as he stared straight at the King without saying a single word.
They had rehearsed and deliberated many times about this meeting, so the rest of the team also remained serious. The atmosphere was solemn and the hall was so silent that one could hear a pin drop.
The King took a deep breath and continued, “Chu and Tang are like predators to us but we have already become a vassal state to Chu. It keeps them from attacking us and gives us a strong ally against Tang. What danger can we be in now?”
Despite kneeling, Meng Qi’s back was straight. Upon hearing the King’s words, he shook his head and answered, “If Chu and Tang control themselves and do not go to war, the peace can be maintained. However, there are many conflicts between the two states today, and their borders have been damaged and ruined by war. In this case, no benefits could be gained for them.
“There will be changes if both parties do not gain any benefit.”
The King, who had been reclining, sat upright. He seemed to be concentrating on Meng Qi’s words.
Meng Qi ignored the change in the King’s attitude and asked him directly, “If Tang attacks Chen instead of Chu, what will your majesty do?”
The King had a ready answer. He calmly replied. “Defend all our cities and wait for help from Chu. They will definitely come to our aid as we have formed an alliance.”
If Chu was to abandon its ally, all the other smaller states would then turn to Tang for help, making the situation worse for Chu. Therefore, the King of Chen was convinced that Chu would send help over.
Meng Qi did not refute this point but smiled instead. “But if Chu and Tang were to fight a war in the land of Chen, the people they kill will belong to neither of them. Furthermore, they can make use of the minerals and fertile lands, the exotic minerals and produce, and the many talented men and women here. Isn’t that beneficial to both Chu and Tang?
“Do your majesty think they will forfeit these benefits or chase after them?
“If this were to happen repeatedly, how many times can Chen defend her land?
“The downfall of your kingdom is looming. Will your majesty still turn a blind eye?”
He is voice rose with each sentence, sending powerful words to the King.
The King took a deep breath to suppress his anger. “Chu can attack Tang to save Chen; they need not fight here.”
“The same tactic used to save Zhao state from Wei…” Meng Qi thought before saying, “The two nations have been at war for too long. Tight defenses and ruined lands lie on Tang’s border, making it hard for Chu to reap any short-term benefit. However, Tang can push forward into Chen and occupy your land quickly, then return to defend before the warriors of Chu can get deep into Tang.”
“If this were to happen repeatedly, how many times can Chen state defend even if you use up all of Chen’s fortunes?”
The King raised his voice in agitation. “There are more than a dozen weaker and smaller nations between Chu and Tang. With the wisdom of Tang, will they not attack them instead of us?”
“Those small states can be destroyed in less than a month! You would not feel so fortunate in the coming years!” Meng Qi sat upright with his hand on his knees, equally agitated.
The King stared angrily at Meng Qi, placing his hand on the hilt of his sword this time. However, after a long while, he sighed and stood up, cupping a hand in the other before his chest.
“Sir, it is true that you have a clear view of the world today. The huge nations are like giant rocks—fragile eggs in between them, like us, would definitely get hurt during their collisions. Is there any way Chen can survive this?”
He had a sincere attitude. He was clearly aware of the precarious situation of his kingdom.
Meng Qi was unsurprised by this change in attitude because based on his decision to invite them to the palace, he knew the King was aware of the situation. He was only testing the group’s knowledge of the current situation!
Meng Qi picked up the bronze wine cup in front of him and took a sip of wine while he gathered his thoughts.
As he put down the cup, he slowly answered. “The whole country believes that relying on one of the bigger nations is a foolproof strategy. That is true for aristocrats but not for the King himself. The aristocrats can still retain their land upon surrendering, but can your majesty still keep Chen State?”
The King nodded in approval, waiting for Meng Qi’s plan.
“Chen has three weaknesses. The first is that she is weak in power. This is the world of predators and there is no justice, weakness is a crime in itself. The second is that it does things beyond its ability, such as attacking smaller countries that rely on Tang, making Tang wary of it. The last is that it only supports one nation, damaging relations with Tang while relying too much on Chu.” Meng Qi explained the result of the discussions that his team of five had conducted for the past month.
The King was shocked. “Damaging relations with Tang? Are we supposed to be inconsistent and support both sides?”
“No.” Meng Qi smiled without explaining. Then he said, “When we are weak ourselves, we need to adhere to the will of the heavens and respect the order of the gods. The country must unite together under your rule as one common entity!
“And in order to unite as one kingdom, one must love with impartiality. One must open up public schools and gather scholars and talents from across the land, and not discriminate based on one’s family background or status.
“This is a long-term plan, the effect of which will only be seen after several years. However, after such a policy comes to fruition, all talents from across the world will flock to your kingdom.
“This will cost a lot in the beginning, which will require your majesty to be frugal and to disapprove extravagant burial rituals.”
The King agreed with Meng Qi but frowned upon hearing the last sentence. “In the beginning?” He asked.
He knew very well that the expenditure of opening public schools and employing local talents could not be covered by frugality and abolishing extravagant burial practices alone. However, Mr. Su seemed to be implying that such policies were only initial expedient measures.
Meng Qi smiled once more but he still did not explain why. Instead, he continued speaking. “To do things beyond one’s ability is not to love with impartiality but is instead an act of selfishness. Your majesty will need to tell the world that you will no longer go to war. Your majesty need to swear that if you were to go back on your word, you will be abandoned by the heavens and by your people and that your ancestors would be shamed. This will remove the fears and worries of other states.”
To be abandoned by his gods and his people and to shame his ancestors were serious vows. Even though such vows had no substantial binding force, they would still be somewhat credible in other people’s eyes. Furthermore, this made sense as he now followed the School of Mo which had the philosophy of non-aggression.
The King became solemn once more. If he could not benefit from attacking other nations, what’s the use of increasing the power of his nation?
If not for the fact that it was a matter of life and death for his country, he would definitely not adhere to the idea of “non-aggression”.
Meng Qi seemed not to have caught the change in expression as the King returned to his state of shock. He continued with his explanation. “We are not being inconsistent. Being beneficial to Tang means being useful to Tang.”
“What do you mean?” The King did not understand.
Meng Qi smiled and expounded. “Chu and Tang have a deep rivalry and have been fighting for long. Have their commercial transactions been severed?”
“Yes.” The King of Chen was a grandmaster and had sufficient intellect to understand what was going on now.
“Although Chu and Tang can trade with other states, there are a few exotic minerals, produce, and medicines that are only produced by their rival. The medicines of Yunze of Chu and the treasures of the Guan Mountain of Tang are such examples. These are goods necessary for the cultivation of martial artists. Even though the merchants can trade in secret, the numbers that they can obtain will never be enough for cultivation.” Meng Qi explained with confidence.
As they had still not gotten to the point, the King became slightly frustrated. “Are we going to help Tang purchase the medicines of Yunze? Chu would definitely attack us if we are discovered!”
Such trade could not be done in the open. Perhaps Chu and Tang could turn a blind eye under normal circumstances, but Chu would not spare Chen during such a sensitive state of war.
Meng Qi shook his head. “Why bother bearing the blame ourselves?”
Having said that, he stood up and cupped one hand in the other before his chest. “Great King, please abolish all Transit Dues!”
The nations had permanent checkpoints at the borders and near large cities for inspection and collection of taxes.
“Abolish all the Transit Dues? Are we not going to open up public schools and choose local talents, Mr. Su?” The King did not understand why the topic was suddenly changed. He was astonished and could not help but panic a little, causing a gust of wind to blow in the hall.
It would already be difficult to support the talents by being frugal and by eliminating extravagant burial methods. How could this even be achieved if one was also to abolish the Transit Dues?
Meng Qi stood as straight as a pine tree, with his robe swaying gently with the wind. “Transit Dues are all set by aristocrats and all the money goes to them instead of the King. If we abolish it, all merchants from Tang and Chu will gather here!”
“At that time, Shangying will definitely become a place where merchants gather, and trade taxes will increase by more than double! Merchants will need food, clothing, accommodation, horses and all types of entertainment, increasing the business of inns and restaurants. The only worry then would be that our level of development cannot keep up with the influx of travellers!”
“As a result, people will be able to afford more goods, our shops will flourish, and Shangying will be full of treasures. The King need not worry about insufficient tax and an empty treasury.”
The king stood up suddenly with his hand shaking in excitement. It was indeed a new opportunity!
“Will this work?”
“It sounds like it will really work!”
Meng Qi’s voice became louder as he continued. “With such a gathering of merchants, those from the two nations will definitely come over to trade Yunze’s medicines and Guan Mountain’s treasures. They will act on their own and will have nothing to do with their respective Kings! The most the countries can blame us for is our lackluster investigation!”
“This would be mutually beneficial to both Chu and Tang!”
The King nodded profusely as he understood the theory.
At that moment, Meng Qi firmly said,
“As a result, Chen state would not be weak. To attack her would be damaging to the nations attacking as well.
“As a result, Chen state will be known for its righteousness. It will participate in no wars and will do no harm to other nations.
“As a result, Chen state will be useful to all other states!
“As a strong and righteous state that is beneficial to other states, Chen will be safe from others!
“Even if the outcome of the war between Chu and Tang is unpredictable, Chen need not worry. And if the outcome becomes clear, your majesty will definitely know what to do.”
The speech was firm and forceful, making the King’s eyes light up in delight and his breathing heavy with excitement. He stepped out of his throne to hold Meng Qi.
“Sir, you are truly a talented man. Chen state is lucky to have your teachings. Will you stay as the Minister over the Masses?”
Meng Qi’s and his team exchanged glances. With less than a month left, this breakthrough was critical to their success.
“It’s what I wanted but dared not ask for!” Meng Qi cupped one hand in the other before his chest in salute.
A bronze wine cup was thrown to the ground, making a pit and producing the loud sound of clanking metal.
Minister of Justice Tian Heng was livid. Looking at his eldest son, Tian Guang, standing in front of him, he shouted. “Ridiculous! How could the King institute a reform by appointing Su Mo from the School of Mo as the Minister over the Masses?
“Abolishing the Transit Dues and implementing meritocracy will hurt our family’s interests!”
Tian Guang had a solemn look on his face as he nodded in agreement. “I feel the same way too.
“I heard that Wu state of the southeast appointed a peasant, Wu Hao, and is currently undergoing reform by taking away the aristocrats’ lands to build farmlands and cities. Wu state has fallen into civil war as a result. I’m afraid that Su Mo will follow suit!”
“Taking away the aristocrats’ lands to build farmlands and cities?” Tian Heng was dizzy for a moment as such ideas were incomprehensible to him.
“Is the sky falling?”
Tian Guang’s expression was calm and determined. “We need to get rid of this threat.”
“But with the support of the King…” Tian Heng frowned as he knew that the King, being a grandmaster, was the strongest man in the nation. No one would be able to eliminate a man in front of him unless they employed help from the aristocrats of Chu state.
Tian Guang said, “If I risk my life, I will have a chance!”
“You?” Tian Heng blurted out in surprise.
Tian Guang bit his lips while retaining an expression of calmness and determination. “Its either my death or his. If we get rid of him, the world will be in order and we will be safe.
“Even Su Mo himself said that millions of people will die doing the right thing!”