Chapter 822: Court Debate, Selection of Protector-General! (I)
Translated by: Hypersheep325
Edited by: Michyrr
"Haha, please, Venerable Sirs are too polite. Come, sit."
Wang Chong gestured with a palm toward the seats.
The three seated themselves, and after engaging in some brief pleasantries, Arloja quickly got to the point. "Young Master, is there anything that you need, having called us over from Sindhu?" These two were ascetic monks, so they had always been forthright and straightforward, unlike the people of the Central Plains.
Wang Chong chuckled and took a sip of his tea. "Heh, I truly cannot hide anything from you. I wish to buy yet another batch of Hyderabad ore from Sindhu."
"But, Young Master, if I remember correctly, in just a little longer will be the time agreed to by the contract. Young Master will not even need to find us, much less call us over, for the second batch of Hyderabad ore to be sent over."
The monks were both confused.
"Heh, it truly is as Venerable Sirs say, but this time will be different. I would like to bring the time of the exchange forward, and besides that, I want to alter the amount of ore, increasing it from one thousand to six thousand jun of Hyderabad ore!" Wang Chong said to the two.
As the Wootz Steel swords forged by Wang Chong became famous throughout the world, the price of the Hyderabad ore had also begun to rise. When a single jun of Hyderabad ore used to cost several hundred taels of gold, it now cost one thousand. Six thousand jun of Hyderabad ore was thus six million taels of gold, an astronomical sum.
At least for the Sindhi, this was an exchange of unprecedented value.
"Young Master, is this true!"
The two monks trembled as if they had been struck by lightning, their eyes wide as they stared at Wang Chong. The two had journeyed over long distances and steep peaks, but never had they imagined that Wang Chong would propose such a massive transaction. Six million taels of gold was probably enough for sustain all of Sindhu for an entire year.
"Of course. In all our exchanges, have I ever lied to Venerable Sirs?"
Wang Chong nodded his head and smiled.
He had been operating in Wushang for several months now. After all his preparations and a massive consumption of manpower, resources, and capital, he now had almost everything prepared, except one last crucial thing. After the battle of the triangular gap, the five thousand Wushang Cavalry had grown even stronger, as well as more experienced, but they still had one massive flaw: equipment.
Wang Chong's five thousand Wushang Cavalry had neither Wootz Steel weapons nor Meteoric Metal armor. The one thousand Wootz Steel swords from the war of the southwest had already been given to the great clans as promised, and he couldn't ask for them back.
If he wanted to equip his Wushang Cavalry, he needed to get more Hyderabad ore.
"Young Master, this is not our first time working with each other, and we have always been at ease with Young Master. The High Priest also has a very deep impression of Young Master. We are all extremely grateful for your benevolence. However, Young Master also knows of the current state of Hyderabad ore production. Six thousand jun of Hyderabad ore… we will find it very difficult to fulfill such a large request."
Arloja and Ablonodan glanced at each other, their brows deeply creased.
The Hyderabad ore was extremely important to Sindhu, most likely its largest source of revenue. As the seller, it naturally hoped for more buyers. But the Hyderabad ore was different from other minerals. Its excessive density made it almost unimaginably difficult to mine.
These difficulties severely limited the amount of Hyderabad ore that could be produced, so even across all of Sindhu, the six thousand jun that Wang Chong requested was still an enormous number.
"Haha, of course I know, which is why I called over Venerable Sirs. I hope that Sindhu can favor the Great Tang in its selling of Hyderabad ore and temporarily sell all the ore being sold to the other factions to me instead. At present, you also know that only I understand the method to forge Wootz Steel weapons. This precious ore ending up in the hands of others is just a waste. Does Sindhu wish to see this ore wasted in the hands of ordinary craftsmen?"
Wang Chong put down his tea cup and gave a confident smile, his expression exuding a persuasive grace.
In truth, Wang Chong already possessed a massive advantage in the Hyderabad ore market. He was offering a price that most other factions couldn't match, and the method for forging Wootz Steel weapons was something that left everyone drooling with envy. Those gorgeous patterns and sharp edges left even great monks like Arloja and Ablonodan gasping in praise.
If they had a choice, the pair would have naturally agreed with Wang Chong. After all, only he could use the Hyderabad ore to its utmost.
But still, Wang Chong's words left the two monks reeling in shock, their eyes flying open. The selling of Sindhu's Hyderabad ore was very strictly regulated and not completely according to how much the buyer was willing to pay. There were many reasons for this, but the simplest one was that if Sindhu suddenly decided to stop selling the ore to the Abbasid Caliphate and Charax Spasinu, it would probably suffer an invasion from these two factions, a consequence Sindhu had to consider.
Although the humid, muddy, and disease-ridden circumstances of Sindhu made armies very unwilling to invade unless absolutely necessary, this was not a rule set in stone, so the Sindhi still had to think about it.
"Haha, I know that Venerable Sirs cannot make this choice, but I would like you to convey this to the High Priest and have the High Priest choose. In addition, I am not asking that Venerable Sirs deprive the other empires of their quotas, but for the Great Tang to be supplied first. Once our transaction is concluded, Sindhu can continue its transactions with the other empires."
Wang Chong had apparently predicted the greatest worry of these monks.
"In addition, after such a long time, I don't believe that the High Priest has not taken any measures to increase the Hyderabad ore production."
"Young Master truly has an insightful gaze. Truly, nothing can be hidden from you."
The two gave bitter smiles.
"Ever since the first transaction with Young Master, the High Priest has issued a decree for more men to be recruited to increase the Hyderabad ore production. These measures are already beginning to yield results, but the amount Young Master requests is still rather large for us."
"I can pay in advance a part of the six million taels. I am sure that the High Priest will carefully consider my proposition. In addition, with this gold, the High Priest can recruit even more people to increase the production," Wang Chong said.
Arloja and Ablonodan glanced at each other before saying, "This… We should still go and ask the High Priest. Young Master, please give us a little time. We will try and get a reply back to you as quickly as possible."
Wang Chong nodded. Arloja and Ablonodan stayed in the City of Steel for a few days before Wang Chong personally sent them off.
While Wang Chong was taking care of various matters regarding the Western Regions, in the distant capital, the air was fraught with tension.
"The Sage Emperor has decreed that if his cherished subjects have concerns, they should quickly present a memorial, and if they have none, they should take their leave!"
A whip cracked in the court, and the presiding eunuch's voice echoed through the hall. The many officials were arrayed amidst the coiling dragon pillars, and the atmosphere was eerily still. Everyone was quiet, and a strangeness suffused the air.
"Your Majesty, this subject has a memorial!"
At this moment, Imperial Censor Meng Xuan suddenly stepped forward, his hands holding up a ceremonial tablet.
"Qixi Protector-General Fumeng Lingcha colluded with the Fourth Prince with the intention of rebelling. In addition, he lied on military reports and deceived the sovereign. These are truly crimes that cannot be forgiven. But the Qixi border cannot be without a general for a single day. This subject proposes that a new Qixi Protector-General should be decided on as quickly as possible so as to pacify morale, guard the borders, and prevent any disturbances."
As Meng Xuan spoke, all the officials raised their heads to look nervously at the upper reaches of the hall.
Although they appeared calm on the surface, an undercurrent was surging through the hall.
The moment Fumeng Lingcha was imprisoned and this position became vacant, all the factions began to desire it for themselves. Very few positions in the empire held an authority that exceeded that of Imperial Protector-General, and anyone with ambition would want it. But since no one had ever brought it up in the previous sessions, no one had said anything about it.
But now that someone had broached the subject, everything had changed.
Before anyone else could speak, the dragon-robed King Qi immediately stepped forward and spoke. "Your Majesty, this subject proposes Yao Guangyi for the post of Qixi Protector-General! Yao Guangyi comes from a prestigious house. As Prime Minister, his sire, the Venerable Duke Yao, was both talented and morally upright, receiving the respect of all the officials. Even Your Majesty was full of praise for him. Venerable Duke Yao was a great influence on Yao Guangyi, and it is said that a tiger father cannot have a dog son. Besides that, Yao Guangyi is both brave and wise, accomplished in both civil and martial matters. He is truly the best candidate for Qixi Protector-General!"
King Song immediately stepped forward, his figure like a looming mountain.
"The Qixi Protector-General must at least be at the level of an Imperial Great General. Yao Guangyi's talents are only at the upper-middle, still a great distance from Great General. He is simply not suitable for Qixi Protector-General!"
"Hmph, if Yao Guangyi is not suitable, then who do you think is suitable?" King Qi sneered.
King Song looked at King Qi and said, "If you insist on choosing Yao Guangyi, then I would rather recommend Wang Yan. At the very least, Wang Yan has greater aptitude, and in the war of the southwest, he rendered a great service, showing that his abilities are not ordinary. In every way, he is a better candidate for Qixi Protector-General than Yao Guangyi!"
"Nonsense! Since Yao Guangyi is suitable, Wang Yan is now suitable? You yourself said that the Qixi Protector-General needs to be on the Great General level. Do you think Wang Yan passes that muster?" King Qi harshly shot back.
"Your Majesty, this subject believes that both Yao Guangyi and Wang Yan are unsuitable!"
While King Song and King Qi were fiercely quarreling, a shrill voice interrupted them. Surprised, all the officials, including King Song and King Qi, turned in the direction of that voice.
Imperial Censor Hao!
The sight of that graying and shriveled figure, impartial and incorruptible, left everyone shocked. Imperial censors were charged with inspecting the world and impeaching the officials. They were famous for being blunt, and Imperial Censor Hao was one of the more outstanding ones. He was more than sixty years old and had an extremely long career. At his age, he still remained steadfast in his task, equally criticizing princes, ministers, and minor functionaries for their faults and errors.
Upon seeing him, even King Song and King Qi were speechless.