Chapter 322: Planning a Journey to the North-West
This political struggle had started and ended in the main hall of the imperial palace, and nobody except those who’d been there to witness it knew what had happened in there, but from this day on, barely anybody dared have doubts about under whose dominion this country was. The faction led by the Right Prime Minister, who were in charge overtly, and those in the Ling Mansion, who were in power de facto, became two juggernauts in this city.
“The Jiang family still haven’t made any moves so far. Clearly they have given up on the Eighth Prince as well. Fang Quan and his followers lost the support of the garrison from Jiangzhou and the Jiang family, and are now imprisoned in the imperial palace. It’s the end of them.”
The Right Prime Minister and all the others gathered in the Ling Mansion, discussing the current situation.
“Now the only problem left is Cangzhou. Childe Ling, do you have access to up-to-date intelligence reports?” asked the Right Prime Minister.
Ling Zhang inclined his head. “Just wait for another two days. Everything will be clear in two days.”
In two days? The Right Prime Minister and the others exchanged glances, and then the former said with a nod, “I see. We’ll be waiting for your message, Childe Ling.”
After a brief consultation, the Right Prime Minister and the other courtiers took their leave. Seeing as how things stood in the capital city at this point, they still needed to keep their eyes peeled and must not let their guard down in case some adversaries were unreconciled to the situation and tried to fight against heavy odds.
“I knew I made the right choice, that you and the Marshal definitely had a contingency plan.”
Tao Yi and Ling Zhang were sitting in a courtyard house. After being informed that Fang Quan and his followers had been imprisoned, Tao Yi had excitedly come bearing wine and food, intending to celebrate.
The two of them talked for a while, and then Ling Zhang noticed the apprehension concealed in the depths of his eyes and said, “Are you worried about your teacher?”
“How… is he?” asked Tao Yi.
Ling Zhang replied, “Relax. The Right Prime Minister didn’t cause them any harm. He just placed them under temporary house arrest. Also, he made arrangements for some men to take care of them, ensuring their safety. After all, they’re all distinguished scholars. Things would get rather tricky if any of them dies.”
Tao Yi gave a mirthless smile. “Although these words of yours make a lot of sense, why do they strike me as so weird?”
Ling Zhang said, “There’s nothing weird about them. They’re the truth as well as what the two old lords can rely on to survive.”
Tao Yi sighed, “My teacher is probably quite upset about this, but there’s nothing I can do for them. Originally I wanted to plead with you not to kill them, but now, considering they’re still alive, you’ve shown them mercy already. Besides, my teacher and I have taken different stances now.”
Ling Zhang said, “Don’t overthink it. You still have a chance to see them. When that day comes, you’ll be able to meet them face to face and sort things out with them.”
Tao Yi bobbed his head, feeling that this was the only way.
Two days later, news came from Cangzhou, saying that Dai Cheng had died after an aggravation of his injury, and Wang Cai had also died during an assassination carried out by the rebels, that the General Zhongwu (AKA the General of Loyalty and Valor) had taken command of all government forces in Cangzhou.
On receiving this message, Ling Zhang in the capital city felt a sense of relief. Finally the situation in Cangzhou was now completely under control. Vastly outnumbered, those surviving rebels were no longer a threat. On top of that, before the General Zhongwu departed, Yuwen Tong had indicated to him that the policy of offering amnesty and enlistment to rebels should take precedence over suppression. Since Yuwen Tong had trusted the General Zhongwu to handle it, Ling Zhang also believed he was capable of settling the matter of Cangzhou.
The Right Prime Minister and the others were also relieved and rid of their previous misgivings, starting to focus on the north-west, sparing no effort to provide Yuwen Tong with all the supplies his army needed.
After they set their minds at ease, there was a blip in the south. Rumor had it that the South-western Army had left their encampment without authorization, but He Xiao, along with the garrisons stationed in a couple of southern cities, had overpowered them. It was not until the whole thing was over that a report of the incident was delivered to the capital city.
“Fortunately it didn’t escalate. He Xiao is unbelievable. Why didn’t he send us a message earlier? Did he think he could shoulder the responsibility alone if by any chance anything happens?”
“Previously the rebel forces in Cangzhou cut off the main road to the capital city. If the General Zhongwu hadn’t taken some men there and unblocked it, we would still have been in the dark about it, so it wasn’t really Commander He’s fault.”
After hearing the complaints, Ling Zhang slowly observed, “Presently, all other cities are under our control, so we should concentrate all our efforts on supporting the troops fighting in the north-west.”
“Childe Ling is right. Right now the Marshal is in the border city Shengzhou. Judging from the battlefield reports we’ve received, although the Wan Kingdom and the Luohai Kingdom joined forces, they’re not getting the upper hand, which is something we could rejoice at, I believe,” said the Right Prime Minister.
“Only when the Wan Kingdom and the Luohai Kingdom withdraw could we rejoice. I’m afraid I’ll have to put you to the trouble of supervising the preparation of the supplies to be delivered to the north-west, Your Lordship,” said Ling Zhang.
The Right Prime Minister smiled, “I’ll handle it, Childe Ling.”
In the Ling Mansion.
On his return, Ling Zhang immediately went to Ji Yin. “Grandfather, I want to go to the borderlands.”
Ji Yin’s eyes widened with astonishment. “No. Why do you want to go to such a dangerous place?!”
Ji Yin was fully aware of why Ling Zhang intended to go to the north-west. He just disapproved of Ling Zhang going there.
Ling Zhang looked at Ji Yin, his mouth a thin line. “The situation in this city has already stabilized. Nothing would happen if I leave.”
“Even so, you’re still not going. Yuwen Tong can win this war. You’d do him more good staying in this city than going to the north-west to worry him,” said Ji Yin.
“I’ll have Wang Dashan and the others go with me,” said Ling Zhang.
“The answer is still no.” Ji Yin was not swayed.
“Grandfather!” Ling Zhang went anxious.
Ling Zhaowu winked at him, indicating to him that there was no need to be fretful. Then he said to Ji Yin, “Let me go with Zhang’er. We’ll have Ji Donglin accompany us. You may stay here making sure everything’s in order. Rest assured, I won’t let any harm come to Zhang’er.”
Ji Yin gaped at him. “You won’t let any harm come to him? Given your current physical conditions, you’ll be in even greater need of protection than him. Neither of you are going. End of discussion!”
Ling Zhaowu, “…”
He almost forgot what kind of state he was in.
“Father-in-law, how about you get some more men here and have them go with Zhang’er? That will do, right? The Clan Leader is cooperating with Yuwen Tong anyway. Ensuring Yuwen Tong’s and Zhang’er’s safety counts as part of the cooperation, doesn’t it?” said Ling Zhaowu.
Ji Yin slightly furrowed his eyebrows but couldn’t bring himself to refuse again.
Seeing the old man was swayed, Ling Zhaowu continued, “Zhang’er has lost a lot of weight lately, and you’ve actually been quite concerned about him, haven’t you? I think you might as well let Zhang’er go there. It’s a better choice than having him stay and worry in vain. Zhang’er is on the verge of reaching the third layer of the cultivation method. He just needs a little more experience. Maybe he’ll be able to find an opportunity to make a breakthrough during this journey. Besides, the kung fu skills he now has are more than enough for him to protect himself.”
Ji Yin cast a disgruntled look at him. “Is this how you parent your son? Instead of dissuading him, you’re actually encouraging him to go to the north-west. If anything happens to him, you’ll regret it for the rest of your life!”
“I would do anything to keep Zhang’er safe, including giving up my life,” said Ling Zhaowu solemnly.
Ji Yin lapsed into silence. Seeing this, Ling Zhang hastily said, “Grandfather, let me go. Please!”
“I’ll think about it and reply to you tomorrow. Even if I am to assign some men to go with you and protect you, I’ll have to consult with them first,” said Ji Yin eventually.
This was as good as a yes. Ling Zhang hastened to say, “Thank you, Grandfather.”
“You’re really going to the north-west?” Tao Yi looked incredulously at Ling Zhang. “That’d be so risky.”
“I’m going, no matter how risky it is,” affirmed Ling Zhang.
With a serious face, Tao Yi stared at him for a while. “Whatever. I could tell that I won’t be able to talk you out of this just by looking at you. I only hope you’ll come back in one piece. Otherwise there might be unimaginable consequences. This stable situation in the capital city hasn’t come easy. If anything happens to you, there will definitely… the future of this whole country would be hanging in the balance, not to mention that of this city.”
“What are you talking about? Nothing’s going to happen to me,” said Ling Zhang.
That very evening, Ji Yin replied to them. He had made contact with a hidden branch of the Millennium Pavilion and they’d agreed to sent some men to protect Ling Zhang.
“But it’ll take another two days for them to get here,” said Ji Yin.
A two-day wait didn’t sound that bad, for at least he had got the permission to go.
“Now that you’re going to the north-west, what do you plan to do with the half of the commander’s seal you have?” Ling Zhaowu asked Ling Zhang.
Ling Zhang answered, “I’ll leave it here.”
“Your grandfather will be here, so it can’t be lost. Still, you need to inform the Right Prime Minister and the others of it lest there be any unnecessary misunderstandings,” commented Ling Zhaowu.
Ling Zhang gave a nod. “I understand.”
The next day, Ling Zhang told the Right Prime Minister and the others that he was going to the north-west.
“That’s madness, Childe Ling. Preventing you from getting hurt in the north-west was the very reason why the Marshal had you stay in this city. It’s too dangerous! Furthermore, this city needs you here, and you have the other half of the commander’s seal, which is by no means something to be taken lightly,” observed the Right Prime Minister.
“The situation in this city has already stabilized. With you being here in charge, I have nothing to worry about. As for the other half of the commander’s seal, it’s the very matter I came here to talk to you about…”
After Ling Zhang left, the Right Prime Minister and the other courtiers looked at each other in disbelief.
“Does Childe Ling really trust us so much?”
“Isn’t he being too… too reckless?”
The Right Prime Minister thought for a moment and then shook his head. “The way I see it, he’s not being reckless but fearless, because he has something secure to rely on.”
“Something secure to rely on?” The others were baffled.
Zhao Zheng asked thoughtfully, “Your Lordship, are you referring to that kung fu expert Ling Zhang has at his back who’s capable of deploying superb formations?”
The Right Prime Minister gave a bob of the head. “No matter whether he’s a kung fu expert or not, given that Ling Zhang dared entrust him with the whole capital city, he must be very much in Ling Zhang’s confidence.”
“You’ve been to the Ling Mansion, Your Lordship. Did you see anybody out of the ordinary there?” someone inquired.
The Right Prime Minister shook his head. “Not that I can remember.”
“No matter what, since Childe Ling insists on leaving this city, the one staying behind will surely have dealings with us one way or another, and we’ll find out the truth when he does.”
“You’re right, Your Lordship.”
After having a talk with the Right Prime Minister and some other courtiers, Ling Zhang paid a visit to Yuwen Feng the Assistant Minister of Rites.
Yuwen Zhi and Fang Quan, along with all their allies, were locked up in the imperial palace. Yuwen Qi was also imprisoned. Yuwen Feng had been set free, but he looked rather dispirited, his face ghastly white.
“How do you feel? You don’t look well,” said Ling Zhang.
Yuwen Feng gave a smile. “It’s nothing serious. I just need a rest cure. By the way, thank you for getting me out of there.”
“Your father is in the imperial palace…”
“I know. What my father did was inexcusable, and I don’t dare intercede for him. I just hope you’ll let him live.”
“That’s not my decision to make. You’ll have to wait until Yuwen Tong comes back and talk to him about it.”
This at least indicated that Yuwen Zhi was safe for the moment, so the apprehension on Yuwen Feng’s face dissolved considerably. “Thank you,” he said.