Chapter 272: Big Uncle's Wisdom!
With a cup of wine gulped down, the relationship between the two grew more cordial.
Even though the both of them hadn't met one another before, they belonged to the same generation. They had long heard of one another, and they were also very familiar with the other's affairs.
Zhangchou Jianqiong even knew that Wang Gen's private name was Jiexin, and Wang Gen also bypassed usual formalities to address the other party intimately as Brother Zhangchou.
Putting down the wine cup, Zhangchou Jianqiong spoke earnestly. "There's no need for me to hide anything before Brother Jiexin. After spending decades by the border, I hope to move on and enter the royal court. I truly desire to win the Minister of War selection this time round. Given that Brother Jiexin is an influential official and a veteran of the royal court, I hope that you can give me some advice. I'll be extremely grateful to you if you can do so."
Those words immediately left the entire floor silent. All gazes fell upon Wang Gen in an instant. Men of the military liked to dive straight into the topic at hand, and while Zhangchou Jianqiong harbored great ambitions, he was no exception to the rule.
While one of the aims of this banquet was to get acquainted with Wang Gen and forge connections with the Wang Clan, what Zhangchou Jianqiong was the most concerned about was his promotion to Minister of War.
"Brother Zhangchou, I understand." Wang Gen stroked his beard with a contemplative look. He wasn't surprised by Zhangchou Jianqiong's abrupt question. He had been anticipating this question from him ever since he received the invitation letter.
"Brother Zhangchou has contributed greatly to Great Tang by maintaining peace and stability in Jiannan. With that credential, it's more than enough for you to become the head of the Bureau of Military Personnel. Based on my estimates, there is at least a forty percent chance that Brother Zhangchou will emerge victorious in the selection."
Zhangchou Jianqiong couldn't conceal the disappointment he felt. After all he had done, he wasn't content with just a forty percent chance.
These weren't the words that Zhangchou Jianqiong wanted to hear. Nevertheless, given Wang Gen's experience, it was unlikely for him to be wrong on this matter. He also didn't think that Wang Gen would lie to him about it either.
This was also the reason why he was extremely respectful to Wang Gen.
"Only forty percent? I beseech Brother Jiexin to guide me as to what I should do. I'll surely return the favor in the future!" Zhangchou Jianqiong replied earnestly.
Zhangchou Jianqiong seems to be more anxious than I thought, Wang Chong observed, looking at the scene calmly from the side.
A person of Zhangchou Jianqiong's standing wouldn't stoop down to reneging on his own promise. Since he gave his word, he would surely fulfill it in the future. He could have mentioned this in private, but he chose to speak of it openly at this banquet instead. This reflected how anxious he was about this matter.
Perhaps he had been waiting too long, or maybe he thought that this was the final opportunity he would get, but Wang Chong could feel that Zhangchou Jianqiong was really putting everything at stake for the sake of taking the position of Minister of War.
To think that I thought I might still have a slim hope of retaining Zhangchou Jianqiong in Jiannan, seems like it's entirely impossible now, Wang Chong thought.
Zhangchou Jianqiong was like a stabilizing pillar for the southeast region of the empire. A part of the reason why the events in the future turned out as they did was due to him forcefully leaving his position as the Protector-General to enter the royal court.
His absence had left a hole in the defenses of Jiannan for powerful enemies such as Mengshe Zhao and Ü-Tsang to exploit.
But despite being aware of all of this, there was little that Wang Chong could do.
The river flows down and a human climbs up; this was the natural way of things. Zhangchou Jianqiong's determination wasn't something that Wang Chong could change, so he could only sigh regretfully.
"It is best for Brother Zhangchou to stay low during this period of time." Stroking his beard, Wang Gen spoke nonchalantly, but his eyes were gleaming with the wisdom he had accrued from decades in politics.
"Brother Zhangchou, do you know where the greatest impediment to your promotion comes from?"
"King Qi? The Yao Clan?" Zhangchou Jianqiong asked, testing. In truth, even if Wang Gen were to affirm those words, he would never believe it. He had already communicated with the both of them, and they had expressed their support for his promotion.
But this was exactly where the problem lay. No one was objecting to his promotion, but somehow, the matter seemed to have stalled entirely.
"Of course not, how could it be them?" Wang Gen chuckled as he raised his wine cup and sipped on it.
"It's Fumeng Lingcha, Go Seonji, Geshu Han, and the other generals in the military. This is especially so for Eastern Protector-General Zhang Shougui, as well!"
Upon hearing Wang Gen's answer, Zhangchou Jianqiong and his subordinates from Jiannan was taken aback. Even Wang Chong was slightly surprised by that answer.
Wang Chong had only heard bits and pieces of the matter from the royal court, and he had never tried to analyze it, either. However, even he could tell that the matter regarding Zhangchou Jianqiong's promotion was stalling for a little too long.
In his view, this was the doing of the various powers in the royal court in hopes of driving away the outsider' Zhangchou Jianqiong.
But Big Uncle Wang Gen had given a very different explanation for the matter.
Even though Wang Chong was taken aback by the words initially, he soon understood what his big uncle was driving at.
"Think about it. As fellow generals and Protecter-Generals, Fumeng Lingcha, Go Seonji, Geshu Han, and Zhang Shougui have made great contributions to Great Tang, as well. If Brother Zhangchou could enter the royal court, wouldn't they harbor the same thoughts, as well?"
Wang Gen stroked his beard. Due to the many implications of every single action, the matters of the royal court couldn't be understood that easily. Zhangchou Jianqiong might be a formidable force in the military, but he was lacking in experience in the royal court.
The opposition to Zhangchou Jianqiong didn't just come from the various clans and nobility in the capital, but the generals and commanders in the military as well.
"They dare!" Zhangchou Jianqiong's face immediately turned livid. In truth, he was just asking the question to test out Wang Gen, he didn't expect to receive a concrete answer.
However, after hearing the answer that Wang Gen gave, his face immediately darkened entirely.
If it was just opposition from the factions in the capital, he could just pay them a visit through utilizing his identity as the Southern Protector-General. No matter what, the others would still have to sell him this favor.
Zhangchou Jianqiong was confident that even if he couldn't convince them to support him, he could at least convince them to retract their opposition.
This was the advantage he possessed as the newcomer. As he hadn't come into much contact with any factions, he didn't have any grudges or hostility with anyone.
But if the opposition came from the military instead, from the Western Protector-General, Western Regions Protector-General, Big Dipper General Geshu Han, and other generals of that tier, this matter would become troublesome.
In terms of merit, they didn't pale to him at all.
He could still pull out and preach about his contributions before Wang Gen, Yao Guang Yi, and the others; but before Fumeng Lingcha and the others, there was very little that he could say.
Furthermore, due to the lack of major battles in Jiannan, Zhangchou Jianqiong might even yield to them on certain aspects.
"Lord Wang, is there solution to this matter?" Yang Zhao spoke anxiously. Even he couldn't hold back his anxiety after hearing all of this. Even though these were just deductions on Wang Gen's part at the moment, Yang Zhao could tell that there was a high chance that this would be the case.
After acquainting himself with quite a few influential officials in the time that he had been in the capital, he thought that he had gained a good grasp over the affairs of the royal court, and he felt smug about it, too.
But at this moment, he realized that he had been too shallow. In the end, he was still an ignorant amateur.
"Fumeng Lingcha and Go Seonji are established generals in Great Tang, and they have their connections in the royal court. But if it's just them, Brother Zhangchou need not worry too much. After all, they have a fatal flaw that prevents them from competing with you—in the centuries of history of Great Tang, there has never been a Hu Minister of War. Even if we were to go further back into the previous dynasties, there has never been such a precedent.
"Thus, the person whom Brother Zhangchou has to be guarded against is Eastern Protector-General Zhang Shougui!" Wang Gen said.
Before the others could react, astonishment appeared on the faces of Zhangchou Jianqiong and the middle-aged man strategist beside him.
"Just like Brother Zhangchou, Zhang Shougui is a Han and a Protector-General of the empire. With his army, he suppresses the Goguryeon empire, Khitan, Kumo Xi, and the Eastern Turkic Khaganate. His means are similar to Brother Zhangchou, perhaps even slightly more domineering. If Brother Zhangchou hopes to get into the royal court, he's the person that you must be careful of!" Wang Gen spoke slowly.
On the other hand, Wang Chong fell into deep thought by the side. This was the first time he was coming into contact with a matter like this.
It could be said that the matter behind Zhangchou Jianqiong's promotion had displayed the intricacies of the royal court clearly.
Politics had always been Wang Chong's weakness, so he chose to remain silent, watch the situation, and learn from it.
"But this shouldn't be where Brother Shougui's ambitions lie?" Zhangchou Jianqiong said with a grim expression.
The name of Eastern Protector-General Zhang Shougui weighed down on him heavily, like the shadow of a towering mountain. The both of them were heavyweights in the military, but one was stationed in the east while the other was stationed in the south, so there wasn't much interaction between them.
But Zhangchou Jianqiong knew that Zhang Shougui's credentials were far deeper than his.
Zhangchou Jianqiong's achievements were centered in the Annan region, whereas Zhang Shougui's accomplishments were spread across Ü-Tsang to the Eastern and Western Turkic Khaganate, and from Goguryeo all the way to Kumo Xi. From his youth, he had shown astounding talent and incredible achievements.
And unlike him, Zhang Shougui once had a chance to enter the royal court to become the Prime Minister.
Even old generals like Fumeng Lingcha and Go Seonji were filled with fear of him.
If Zhang Shougui were to vie for the position of the Minister of War, the other party would surely prove to be an unprecedentedly powerful opponent. The only consolation he had was that Zhang Shougui's eye was on the seat of the Prime Minister, an end goal far higher than his.
"There's no mistake that Zhang Shougui's eye is on the seat of the Prime Minister, but has Brother Zhangchou considered the consequences if you were to become the Minister of War?"
In an instant, the entire tavern fell silent.
The brows of the strategist by Zhangchou Jianqiong's side was slowly furrowing. He already understood what Wang Gen was driving at.
Zhangchou Jianqiong's promotion didn't just affect the royal court, it affected the entire military, as well.
If he were to become the Minister of War, it would mean that Zhang Shougui, Go Seonji, Fumeng Lingcha, Geshu Han, and the other generals would fall under his jurisdiction, and he could potentially curb them with his authority.
Thus, even if their ambition didn't lie on becoming the Minister of War, they wouldn't allow Zhangchou Jianqiong to ascend to the position.
On this aspect, all of them shared the same interest.
Hearing those words, Zhangchou Jianqiong's forehead unknowingly creased into a horizontal 川-shape.