Chapter 715: The City of Steel (II)
Translated by: Hypersheep325
Edited by: Michyrr
"Understood. Leave the city to me," Zhang Shouzhi deferentially said.
Wang Chong nodded and smiled. As he looked up to the sky, yet another set of blue-green birds unfurled their wings and flew into the air over the City of Steel.
With Wang Chong's appearance, more and more birds had begun to appear in the skies.
Wang Chong shook his head and put the matter aside. With a smile, he set off for his next destination.
However, not even Wang Chong noticed that as he turned his head and walked away, five or six li to the north of the City of Steel, a fully-armored horseman glanced in Wang Chong's direction and turned to the northwest.
"It's about time to report to Milord!"
The warhorse set off, and that horseman who had the clear traits of a Hu vanished into a cloud of dust. After following the official road to the Western Regions for several hundred li, the horseman left the path and entered a gorgeous and magnificent palace of a dark golden hue.
A black nameboard had been placed above the gate to the palace, two words clearly written upon it.
This was the famous protectorate guarding against Ü-Tsang to the west and the Western Turkic Khaganate to the east, the Great Tang's crucial fortification on the road to the Western Regions, the Qixi Protectorate.
Wang Chong's fief of Wushang and the city he was building were closest to the Qixi Protectorate.
"Hmph, clearly knowing that Qixi is my territory yet still daring to place his fief here, his boldness is truly even greater than the heavens. Only a year has passed. Does he really think I've forgotten the Regional Commanders incident so quickly?"
In the vast palace, a figure loomed like a lurking dragon, sitting upon a throne of metal fretwork. His body exuded a powerful aura as vast as the seas.
Fumeng Lingcha, the rearmost of the Great Tang's Protector-Generals in the northwest, yet also the most powerful of them all!
Qixi Protectorate was not the foremost of the protectorates, but whether it was Anxi Protectorate, Beiting Protectorate, or Longxi's Big Dipper Army, the moment they found themselves unable to handle the situation, the most reliable and most prompt reinforcements would be from the Qixi Protectorate.
And the existence of Fumeng Lingcha also meant that the areas around him did not need to fight a multi-front battle where they were being attacked from both the front and back.
Put simply, Fumeng Lingcha controlled the 'throat'.
This unique power meant that Gao Xianzhi, Geshu Han, and An Sishun dared not offend him.
In addition, Fumeng Lingcha was very old, and he had made his name far earlier than the younger three Great Generals. He had a prestigious reputation amongst the Hu, similar to that of Zhang Shougui or Wang Zhongsi amongst the Han.
It was precisely because Fumeng Lingcha gave the signal that so many Hu generals sent memorials during the Regional Commanders incident requesting Wang Chong's execution.
But Fumeng Lingcha had never expected that after only a year, not only had the 'archcriminal' not kept his distance, but had run straight into the spear, building a city right before his eyes. This was no longer simple daring or boldness. This was a challenge, a humiliation.
Not even Geshu Han or An Sishun dared to act so brashly, but this was what the youngest son of the Wang Clan was doing.
"Milord, the youngest son of the Wang Clan was just made a marquis and was also bestowed a courtesy name by the Son of Heaven. He is currently at the height of his influence, and the matter of his fief obtained the confirmation of both the Sage Emperor and the Imperial Court. With these two granting their permission, it will be very difficult for us to do anything against him!"
To Fumeng Lingcha's left was a strong and imposing general, clearly of Hu stock.
The city that Wang Chong was building in Wushang was only several hundred li from Qixi. If one had to point to the group most unhappy about this, it would not be the Protector-Generals like Fumeng Lingcha, but the Hu generals along the border.
Although the Sage Emperor had passed the proposal for the Regional Commanders, the time period over which the proposal would be carried out had been greatly prolonged, and compared to the original proposal, the status and authority of the Regional Commanders had been greatly downgraded.
This matter made all the Hu border generals clench their teeth and curse Wang Chong's name. Wang Chong had not only harmed the Hu Protector-Generals like Fumeng Lingcha, he had hampered the advancement opportunities of all the Hu.
After all, Imperial Great Generals like Fumeng Lingcha would eventually retire, and all the Hu generals had a chance of taking these spots.
Wang Chong's appearance in Qixi made all the Hu generals anxious to kill him. The only problem was that none of them could cross the threshold that was the Imperial Court.
"Hmph, I wasn't even afraid of the White-Robed Arab1 Mahad, so why would I be afraid of some immature brat? So what if he has a fief bestowed by the Imperial Court? So what if Wang Jiuling was a Prime Minister of the Great Tang? Qixi is my land! Do you think I can't deal with him?!"
Fumeng Lingcha sat imposingly upon his throne, his eyes exuding a chill so cold that it cut to the bone.
A general widened his eyes and hurriedly asked, "Then Milord means…"
Fumeng Lingcha glared at the general and said, "Hmph, building a city is exhausting and time-consuming. Even two or three years might not be enough for such a task. No matter how fast he is at building his city of steel, it would require at least seven months. The wind is currently blowing in his direction, so I'll give him two months to build his city in peace and quiet. After two months, even the greatest of winds will have died away. That will be the time for me to strike!
"In addition, send letters to notify Geshu Han and An Sishun. Presumably, those two are also interested in that brat."
Fumeng Lingcha's gaze suddenly turned extremely profound.
A messenger bird flew down from the skies and through the open window, landing in a refined study within Big Dipper City. The study was full of bookshelves brimming with classics, histories, anthologies, and a few ancient texts.
A crane-shaped incense burner stood in a corner, the thick and fragrant smoke of sandalwood emerging from its mouth and filling the room. The study had an ancient air, quiet and refined.
Without personally witnessing it, one would never believe that a place on the empire's front lines beleaguered by war would have a study like this.
A voice, gentle and yet not lacking for dignity, came from the room. An arm extended, its fingers slender and fair yet full of immeasurable strength. With a light stretch, it removed the letter from the leg of the messenger bird.
On the letter were a few simple words: 'Wang Chong has arrived at Wushang.'
Geshu Han seemed to have already predicted this, and with a light jolt from his fingers, he pulverized the letter, sprinkling the crumbs over his desk.
"Lord Protector-General, what should we do next?"
A vigorous voice came from behind Geshu Han. Three steps away stood a general of the Big Dipper Army who had apparently been waiting for some time.
"Wang Chong is currently the Young Marquis of the Imperial Court, and the entire world knows that the Son of Heaven granted him a courtesy name. Do we really want to move against him? And during the southwestern war, from a certain perspective, the boy even broke the siege for us. Do we really plan to go against him?
"What do you think?" Geshu Han asked without turning his head, his voice emotionless.
The bearded Big Dipper Army general froze for a moment. It was clear that he had not expected Geshu Han to reply with a question.
"The Wang Clan currently enjoys the favor of the common people, and it also has its relationship with King Song. Dealing with them right now truly isn't wise," the bearded general said. "But during the Regional Commanders incident, that boy was far too rude to Lord Protector-General, and even now, our brothers still quietly criticize him. In addition, he could choose any place for his fief, but he insisted on choosing Wushang, right under our eyes. This is far too little regard for Milord. If we do not give him a little lesson, let alone Milord, our brothers might not be able to take it.
"In addition… Qixi's Protector-General Fumeng Lingcha has sent a letter to Milord hoping to work with us to apply a little pressure on Wang Chong. If we do nothing while so close, Fumeng Lingcha will probably begin to privately criticize us."
"Haha, it seems that you’ve already understood."
Geshu Han put down the 'Spring and Autumn Annals2' in his left hand and stood up from his desk. As his back straightened, an energy as mighty as the mountains began to rise from his body.
Geshu Han at this moment was like a lofty mountain, and even the general behind him slightly lowered his head in respect.
"Wushang occupies a unique geographic position. And if he wants to build a city and take advantage of us, how could it be so easy? Besides, the southwestern war was for the sake of the country, but Wushang City is for private concerns. They are separate things, so there is no need to concern ourselves with that.
"Moreover, if he does not have the skill to stand steady in Wushang, it might actually help him for us to apply a little pressure, allowing him to understand the difficulties and withdraw. How could that not be a good thing? He would understand that not everything in the world comes so easily," Geshu Han lightly said.
"Milord speaks reason."
The bearded general nodded subserviently, but his eyes quickly widened as he remembered something.
"But, Milord… Wushang City is currently not his concern alone. He has involved more than eighty percent of the great clans of the capital in the project. If we move at a time like this, we might offend every last one of them."
The general's brow was immediately fraught with a deep worry.
The confident and relaxed Geshu Han also couldn't help but frown. As he fell silent, the study became deathly still.
Wang Chong's City of Steel had been under construction for quite some time, but no faction had moved against it. It wasn't because they feared the Wang Clan's status and influence, but because of all those clans that Wang Chong had tied to his chariot.
As they slowly grew through the years, these great clans were no longer ordinary clans. Their power was deeply rooted in the court, the military, and the various provinces and prefectures.
They represented the highest-level powers of the entire empire.
Not even Geshu Han could guarantee that he did not have any descendant or subordinate of these great clans under him.
1. The White-Robed Arabs refer to the Umayyad Caliphate. In contrast, the Abbasid Caliphate, which overthrew the Umayyads, was referred to as the Black-Robed Arabs.↩
2. The Spring and Autumn Annals is the official chronicle of the State of Lu, one of the states that existed in the period of the Zhou Dynasty in which the central authority of the Kings of Zhou began to wane, known as the Spring and Autumn Period, which takes its name from this chronicle. It was purportedly written by Confucius and is one of the core Chinese classics. Its terse language has meant that many commentaries have been written concerning it, the most well-known being the Zuozhuan.↩