Chapter 812: Strategies Devised in the Tent!
Translated by: Hypersheep325
Edited by: Michyrr
"Yes, Your Highness!"
Lu Ting gave a solemn and subservient bow.
Lu Ting did not go back with the others to King Song's residence, instead stopping midway and returning to the official residence provided to him by the Imperial Court. After closing the door, he was left alone in the hall, with the only illumination being the dim light peeking in through the shuttered windows. After pausing for a moment, Lu Ting finally opened the letter in his bosom.
King Song's judgment had been correct. Wang Chong had not only written to a letter to him, but also to Lu Ting as well.
'To Academic and Teacher Lu, respectful greetings from Student Wang Chong…'
Upon opening the letter, he was immediately greeted by that familiar and twisted handwriting.
"This handwriting is just as awful as ever!"
Lu Ting felt all his tension wash away as he saw the words, and he could barely suppress his laughter.
"Already the Young Marquis, the Son of Heaven's disciple, a master of strategy, yet you can't spend a little time practicing your handwriting? Would anyone believe that this was a letter written by a marquis, and one who was a descendant of the revered and sagely minister Duke Jiu?"
Lu Ting's critical comments belied the warmth he felt in his heart. Of all the people that Lu Ting had interacted with, whether they made their name early or late, only Wang Chong had been able to maintain his original intentions, preserve his loyal heart. It was said that one could see what a person was like from how they wrote, and it was obvious from Wang Chong's handwriting that he was still the one that Lu Ting had first met with.
Lu Ting began to read the letter again.
The contents of the letter were very simple. Other than the matters related to King Song, Wang Chong had also included one other request. He hoped that Lu Ting could use his formidable forgery skills to make a copy of Fumeng Lingcha's oath of fealty to that prince, imitating the red seal of the Qixi Protectorate as well, and then deliver this copy to the prince.
Only this would prevent that prince from being alarmed and suspicious.
Wang Chong wanted everything to proceed along its original course. He wanted both Fumeng Lingcha and that prince to continue their secretive correspondence, but with that crucial original oath of fealty safe in King Song's hands.
"Haaa, Fumeng Lingcha, you should have just been satisfied with your Protector-General position. But now, you want to support that prince onto the throne, change the government, and then build up your own independent territory in the future. This is unprecedented, and His Highness King Song won't tolerate this, nor will the Great Tang allow this. More importantly, you shouldn't have provoked that man!"
Lu Ting shook his head and sighed as he unrolled a sheet of paper and placed it on the table. Taking up a brush, he took out Fumeng Lingcha's oath of fealty and placed it to the right side of the table. After thinking for a few moments, he began to write, his brush dancing across the paper.
A few moments later, an exact replica of the letter had appeared on the table. If it weren't for the fact that the ink on the left copy was still wet and there was no seal, it would be impossible to distinguish the forgery from the real.
After finishing the copy, Lu Ting immediately opened a secret compartment, in which lay a Protector-General seal that he had prepared in advance. Once the ink on the letter had dried a little, he stamped the letter with the seal.
"This should be enough."
Lu Ting gave a sigh of relief.
As an academic, and one with ties to King Song, Lu Ting was able to enter many places, and he had a deep understanding of the jade seals used by the Protector-Generals of the empire. These were special seals that were impossible to completely duplicate, but it was still possible to create a seal that was almost completely identical.
At the very least, while Lu Ting had seen several Protector-General seals, that person deep within the palace had never seen one before. Someone of Lu Ting's abilities could easily deceive that man.
At this moment, the door to the hall was pushed open, letting in a ray of light and casting a massive shadow onto the floor. The old butler, his hands enclosed within his sleeves, slowly walked over, a leisurely expression on his face. Even at this distance, Lu Ting couldn't hear his footsteps or sense his aura. He was truly like a nonexistent ghost.
"How is it? Is it ready?" the old butler asked in his low and hoarse voice.
Lu Ting nodded, apparently unsurprised by the old butler's appearance.
The old butler glanced at the letter on the table and nodded.
"His Highness is an Imperial Prince of the Great Tang, a member of the imperial household, so it's best not to inform him of this matter. I presume this is why that child Wang Chong wrote the letter to you. Leave the next part up to me. I will find an appropriate Hu to deliver the letter to that prince."
Lu Ting nodded, a grim expression on his face.
"What do people like us matter? What's important is the welfare of the Great Tang. As long as it is of benefit to the country and to the people, what would it matter if our bodies were pulverized? But, with regards to Young Master Chong… if possible, I had hoped that he was not involved in this matter. After all, he's still young, with limitless potential."
Forging the seal of a Protector-General was not a laughing matter. Once exposed, the penalty would be death and extermination of the entire clan. Thus, Lu Ting had concealed this matter from King Song. In Lu Ting's view, the fewer people that knew, the better, with the ideal case being that Wang Chong also knew nothing of the matter.
"In truth, there are times when even I don't know what that child is doing."
Upon hearing Wang Chong's name, the old butler turned pensive.
"But, no matter what he does, I can be certain of this: he understands the consequences of everything he's doing and that everything he does is of benefit to the country. This is why we and King Song are willing to pay any price to assist him. As for what you speak of… although I don't know why he seems so mature despite still being a teenager, I sense that he's already predicted every possible scenario, already cast aside his own life and death… otherwise, he would have never gone off to the southwest alone."
With these last words, the pair in the hall fell silent.
In the aftermath, Wang Chong's excursion to the south seemed more frightening than dangerous, but only those involved knew just how fraught with danger and death it had been. At the time, many people had already treated Wang Chong as dead.
No one understood why Wang Chong had put aside his peaceful life in the capital as a scion of a great clan and chosen to heedlessly rush down the path of certain death to the southwest.
Even now, this fact still left people shocked.
That youthful body concealed an enormous and frightening energy that would make one's soul tremble, not out of fear, but out of solemn respect. One felt a deep desire to protect such a youth, to pay any price to assist him in his efforts.
"I only hope that I can live a little longer so that I can do as much as I can to help that youth!" Lu Ting said.
"I share the same view."
The old butler took the letter from the table and left.
Around an hour later, a Hu with a black tattoo of the 玉 character on his right wrist took this letter and entered the palace.
Several days later, a black messenger bird flew into Wushang's City of Steel.
"Lord Marquis, Lu Ting has sent a letter saying that everything Young Master spoke of has been taken care of."
Wang Chong took a sip of his tea and then put down the cup with a thoughtful look in his eyes.
"Write a reply to him saying that I thank him for his troubles, and that there's no need for him to do anything else."
Wang Chong stood up from the table as he spoke. The developments in the capital were progressing faster than he had expected. If all went as planned, that prince would be so invigorated and arrogant because of the letter that he would lose himself in joy and begin his operations. And not long after that, the Xueyang Palace Incident would occur.
In the Great Tang, this incident was second only to the Consort Taizhen Incident.
"Is it a matter regarding Fumeng Lingcha?" A melodious voice came from next to him. Xu Qiqin was sitting at the table, her white clothes and light smile making her as beautiful as a fairy.
Wang Chong gave a smile and a nod. Xu Qiqin was currently aware of many of Wang Chong's plans. Without her logistical support, Wang Chong would have died in the war of the southwest, so he no longer hid very many things from her.
"Fumeng Lingcha took your credit and has tried many times to get you killed. In the Regional Commanders Incident, it was him who had you locked up in the imperial prison, so you really shouldn't be affected by him. Is your unease because of that prince, then?"
Xu Qiqin's eyes shone with watery light as she spoke.
"It seems like I can't hide anything from you," Wang Chong admitted as he smiled back at Xu Qiqin. Xu Qiqin had been bestowed with both grace and intelligence, and so even his smallest actions, his putting down the cup and walking a few steps from the table, had been enough for her to detect his unease. In his last life, he had never spoken with that prince, nor had he ever intervened in the War of the Princes.
But even though he was doing this for the Great Tang, Wang Chong still felt rather uneasy over his actions.
Xu Qiqin put down her tea cup and attempted to allay Wang Chong's worries. "In truth, this is how you should really be thinking: even without you, this incident would still take place. You didn't really change anything, just pushed it forward. Every person's fate is in their own hands. If that prince had an upright personality, just like your grandfather Duke Jiu or Emperor Taizong's Bright Minister of the Left, Imperial Censor Wei1, then no matter what others did, they would never be able to harm him. In the end, this was all his choice."
1. The 'Imperial Censor Wei' being referred to is most likely Wei Zheng, an official who was viewed with high regard by Emperor Taizong and was often very frank with his criticism.↩