Chapter 614: The Decisive Battle! Xu Qiqin's Predicament!
Translated by: Hypersheep325
Edited by: Michyrr
With just a laugh from Wang Chong, Old Eagle understood.
In this southern campaign, Wang Chong had deliberated and researched every one of his plans multiple times. If he were not sure that the sheep plague would be effective, he would never have used it.
Turning around, Wang Chong slowly disappeared from the edge of the summit.
Although Li Siye's cavalry had proved effective, the Mengshe–Ü-Tsang army had still not retreated. While the problem of water remained unaddressed, Wang Chong could not relax for a single day. No one could help him in this matter—not the Imperial Court, not Xu Qiqin, or anyone else.
He had to rely on himself to think of a way.
"Let me tell you, everything I say is an order! When I say that you are no longer allowed to approach the people of the Wang Clan, you are forbidden from getting near them! If you insist on not listening to my advice, I might start getting tough!"
The palm of a middle-aged man slammed against the table. Wang Chong could have never imagined that while he was suffering his own plight in the southwest, in the distant capital, Xu Qiqin, the person that Wang Chong had predicted to be the future King of Logistics, was facing her own predicament.
"I might as well tell you that I've already ordered for the people the Wang Clan sent over to be driven away. You are forbidden from leaving for the next three months!"
The middle-aged man had a stern expression and the veins on his forehead were bulging. He was clearly enraged.
Xu Qiqin looked up at the middle-aged man, her expression equally harsh and icy.
"My relationship with the Wang Clan is my personal affair. It has nothing to do with the Xu Clan and nothing to do with you. Don't interfere with my business!"
"Bastard thing! At a time like this, you still have the nerve to say such things!"
Xu Henian was fuming, and he raised his hand and slapped it down.
Xu Qiqin remained calm and fearless. It was not the place of her big uncle to deal with her. Regardless of the situation, he had acted far too out of line today.
"Xu Zhongnian, look at the fine daughter you raised. King Qi has already sent people over twice. Han-er and Rong-er were even demoted because of this fine daughter of yours. Xu Zhongnian, is this daughter of yours planning to destroy our Xu Clan?"
Xu Henian suddenly turned his head, his voice harsh as he rushed up to an ashamed-looking middle-aged man behind and began to berate him.
This person was naturally Xu Qiqin's father, Xu Zhongnian, Second Master of the Xu Clan and Xu Henian's second brother.
Although both of them were stewards of the Xu Clan, Xu Zhongnian's personality was the exact opposite of his older brother Xu Henian's. Xu Zhongnian had been unable to learn a single thing about the family trade, so he was of no help in handling clan business. On the contrary, in his younger days, he had been the source of no small number of mistakes and mishaps.
If it weren't for his daughter Xu Qiqin, he wouldn't have even been able to keep his seat as steward.
"Qin-er, listen to your big uncle. The Wang Clan is no relative or friend to us. We can't offend His Highness King Qi for their sake!"
Xu Zhongnian looked at his daughter and softly spoke, almost begging.
"Big Uncle, you dare to bring up King Qi?"
Xu Qiqin paid no attention to her father, instead twisting her head to look at her big uncle.
"Hmph, you don't even know that many members of the Xu Clan have been inexplicably removed from their positions because of you, out of the Bureau of Revenue, the Bureau of Personnel, the Bureau of Works… All of our Xu Clan's power is in those places. Do you know what this means?
"Not only that, of the clan's eighteen main revenue streams, ten have been severed, and of our sixty-eight side revenue streams, twenty-three have been severed. Have you looked at the clan's accounts? In this month alone, our revenues have shriveled, and they're continuing to drop. We don't even reach forty percent of our original levels.
"The Xu Clan has so many servants, and they all need to be paid every day, and do you think maintaining those businesses is free? A clan of this size can't stop for a single day. You've actually reduced our revenues by sixty percent. Take a look at the accounts yourself!"
As he spoke, Xu Henian took out a large stack of account books and almost slammed it down in front of Xu Qiqin.
"Our Xu lineage rose up during the era of the Sui. We outlasted the fires of war and all sorts of political storms. It was no easy task to last until today. We've truly experienced all sorts of tribulations. Do you not know what sort of person King Qi is? So right now, do you really want to force our Xu Clan into a dead end for the sake of an outsider?"
Xu Henian's eyes were spitting fire, his emotions completely exposed.
At any other time, every level of the Xu Clan would do their utmost to support their proud and talented daughter. After all, she was even cherished by the patriarch.
But this time was too much.
Han-er and Rong-er were his two most beloved, the ones he had the most hope for. He had paid a massive price to get them into the Bureau of Revenue and Bureau of Personnel.
But in the space of a single day, they had been inexplicably stripped of their rank and kicked out of their respective bureaus.
One could easily imagine Xu Henian's rage.
Xu Qiqin said nothing, only solemnly flipped through the clan accounts. She had been a very intelligent child and begun very early on to help her father inspect the clan accounts, so she was no stranger to such things.
Time slowly passed with the ashen-faced Xu Henian and the nervous Xu Zhongnian standing on the side.
Xu Qiqin slowly flipped through the accounts. Slowly, her expression turned grave.
"How could it be like this? This is too despicable."
Xu Qiqin's face was pale, her entire body trembling. Her big uncle had spoken about how the clan's revenue streams were being cut, its revenue reduced by sixty percent, but with Xu Qiqin's grasp of the accounts, she realized that the situation was even worse than Xu Henian had described.
At least eleven massive business contracts were involved, all of them recorded in the Court of Judicial Review. The moment these contracts were broken, the Xu Clan would have to pay a massive penalty.
This was several million taels of gold.
Besides that, the clan accounts clearly showed signs of tampering. This sort of thing could be hidden from others, could be hidden from her big uncle, but it could not be hidden from Xu Qiqin.
Xu Qiqin could smell the thick scent of a scheme.
There was no question that someone was plotting against the Xu Clan, and the only person Xu Qiqin could think of was King Qi.
"Well? Nothing to say now, right! Let me tell you, if you dare to step out of the main gate any time within these next three months and interact with the Wang Clan, don't blame me if I stop being nice. When the time comes, the clan will be so enraged that not even the Old Master will be able to save you."
Xu Henian noticed Xu Qiqin pale, and knew that his words had been effective. After throwing down this threat, he flicked his sleeve and left.
Xu Zhongnian glanced at his daughter and gave a long sigh before leaving the room.
Xu Qiqin was left alone to stand in front of her window, speechlessly and blankly looking out.
Soon after Xu Zhongnian and Xu Henian left, the flapping of wings came from outside the window. Xu Qiqin's eyes regained a bit of clarity, and she raised her head. A gray pigeon had at some point stopped in front of the open window lattice.
The golden leg wrapping around the pigeon's leg was extremely familiar. But unlike before, a thin red string had been tied around the golden wrapping.
This thin red string caused Xu Qiqin's expression to flicker. This was an arranged signal, only to be used when an emergency had occurred. Untying the leg wrapping, she quickly opened up the message inside. A single row of letters greeted her eyes.
'Most urgent: all supplies were detained and intercepted three hundred li from the capital!'
This simple line of words caused Xu Qiqin's heart to sink like a stone.
Big Uncle! King Qi!…
Plagued by problems internal and external, Xu Qiqin felt a great pressure surge over her. Xu Qiqin had never encountered such a situation in all her life. On one side was the clan that had raised her and on the other side was Wang Chong who had entrusted his life to her.
Xu Qiqin had to choose one.
Xu Qiqin's heart was in great suffering. She knew that King Qi would not leave her very much time.
At Xu Qiqin's side, her serving maid, Yan-er, worriedly asked, "Young Lady, what's wrong? Do we really have to offend King Qi and push the clan to the brink for Wang Chong?" She knew of her lady's feelings for Wang Chong, but things were different this time.
King Qi was an Imperial Prince of the Great Tang, and the powers he wielded inside and outside the court were complicated and intertwined. It was not anything the Xu Clan could deal with. As a clan of logisticians, the Xu Clan understood that the basic path of self-preservation relied on maintaining good relations with the imperial household, not making enemies of them.
They had far too many examples from the past.
"Yan-er, leave for a moment. I need to think alone."
Xu Qiqin returned to her chair and took on an unmoving posture, with a hand resting on her forehead. For the first time, that gorgeous face of hers seemed just a tiny bit haggard.
A massive amount of ice-cold spring water was wastefully dumped out of a water bag. The Tibetan soldiers heartily laughed as they used this drinking water to wash their horses and clean their armor.
This clear water was flowing onto the ground, gathering into tiny rivulets.
"Hahaha, how comfortable!"
The Mengshe Zhao horsemen raised buckets of water and dumped them over their heads.
Scenes like this played out every day, from early to late. But when dusk came, the rivulets of water on the ground would be either buried or sprinkled with poison, leaving nothing for the Annan Protectorate army.
An anxious and fretful air had seized the mountain.
"Young Master, Dalun Ruozan is too despicable. He knows we're lacking water, so he's sending people every day to the base of the mountain to use water to unsettle our troops. If this continues, our army might fall apart without a battle."
On the summit, the generals of the Annan Protectorate army had convened. Luo Ji, Lin Wushou, Sun Liuyue, Chen Shusun… all of them reflected a deep unease in their eyes.