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Chapter 1664: Surging Undercurrent!
Translated by: Hypersheep325
Edited by: Michyrr
When Zhangchou Jianqiong had first moved from the southwest to the capital, the half of the Commander Tally which represented supreme authority was something he had dreamed about. But now, it was the hottest potato in the empire, the most fatal tally that could end his life.
Without realizing it, Zhangchou Jianqiong had walked into the center of the storm.
The Commander Tally was kept protected on the person of the Minister of War, and it could not be handed to any other person. Even if Zhangchou Jianqiong wanted to back away now or give the Commander Tally to someone else, it was impossible.
w.a.n.g Chong said nothing, but he could understand what Zhangchou Jianqiong was feeling. But there was no backing down for anyone now.
“Whether or not I survive is a trifling matter. My worry is that this is only the beginning, that the heavens above the Great Tang are about to change!”
Zhangchou Jianqiong had a look of grave concern.
The hall became so quiet that one could hear a pin drop. w.a.n.g Chong’s brow creased as if he was in deep thought.
Meanwhile, as w.a.n.g Chong was paying a visit to Zhangchou Jianqiong, the members of the Eastern Palace had convened a meeting.
In the middle of their discussion, there was a flapping of wings, and then a fierce gyrfalcon with a beak like an iron hook flew through the window.
The moment the gyrfalcon flew in, a rough and wrinkled finger reached out to receive it.
“Your Highness, we’ve just received word that the King of Foreign Lands is heading toward Zhangchou Jianqiong’s residence!”
Kim U-Seok stepped forward and bowed.
With the First Prince’s support, he now had many intelligence members under his command, some of them even recruited from the former royal house of Goguryeo. Purely when it came to scouts, he had six to seven hundred, and even the bending of a blade of gra.s.s in the Imperial City would not be able to escape his gaze.
“Hmph, he went, as expected. Truly unsurprising!”
The First Prince put down his teacup and coldly smiled.
Zhangchou Jianqiong and w.a.n.g Chong had worked together in the Public Order Squad incident, and by now, everyone in the court knew of their relationship.
“Your Highness, we’ve already received three memorials from Zhangchou Jianqiong, all of them saying that he is unwell and will be recovering in his residence. The rules of the Imperial Court will make it very difficult for us to prevent this,” Zhu Tong’en commented at this time.
“I didn’t think that even their men would fail. This is a problem,” another voice said, its owner taking a few steps forward. This was Asura, who had been rescued from the Imperial Clan Court some time ago.
He had been the one who had carried out the preliminary surveillance of Zhangchou Jianqiong’s route, discovering that small alley that he liked to frequent.
Kim U-Seok’s scouts were of too low a level, and they would have been easily discovered by Zhangchou Jianqiong.
But Asura had never imagined that those powerful a.s.sa.s.sins would also fail. Zhangchou Jianqiong was now on his guard and had even holed up in his house while claiming that he was unwell. This would make any further operations much more difficult.
“Without Zhangchou Jianqiong’s Commander Tally, we can’t proceed with our plan,” Asura added.
The hall instantly fell silent.
“Ghost King, what is your view on this matter?” the First Prince suddenly asked, his gaze turning to his right, where the Ghost King was seated motionlessly under a coiling dragon pillar.
During the discussion, the Ghost King had not partic.i.p.ated, his eyes closed in thought as if this entire matter had nothing to do with him.
In the First Prince’s faction, the Ghost King possessed supreme status, with even the First Prince showing him respect.
The a.s.sa.s.sination of Zhangchou Jianqiong was actually a plan the Ghost King had proposed from the very start. On that model of the capital, one of the flags the Ghost King had put down had been thrust into Zhangchou Jianqiong’s residence.
The Bureau of Military Personnel was the pivot around which the armies of the realm turned, and it controlled the immense military might of the Great Tang. If the First Prince wanted to ascend to the Throne of the Nine and Five, he could not ignore this critical piece.
“Seizing Zhangchou Jianqiong’s Commander Tally is the superior plan, but it is not the only one.”
The Ghost King opened his eyes, and his first words immediately caused everyone else to feel relieved.
As expected of the wisest strategist of the Eastern Palace, the Ghost King always had a back-up plan. As long as the Ghost King had a plan, it meant that their side would not have to be too pa.s.sive.
The Ghost King’s ident.i.ty had always been unfathomable and imposing. At the start, all of them had still been somewhat unconvinced, but now, as they began to finally realize who he was, they began to follow him with sincere devotion, and all their complaints disappeared.
“Only with the Commander Tally can we order around the six Protector-Generals and the various armies, but even if we don’t have it, that doesn’t mean that we can’t execute our plan. The Confucian Sect controls the Imperial Court, and they’ve already disbanded the prefectural armies and have significantly reduced the armies of the six protectorates. Even if they’re dissatisfied, their influence would be greatly reduced if they tried to make an enemy of the First Prince. Is this not why the First Prince agreed with the Confucian Sect to disband the prefectural armies in the first place?”
The Ghost King slightly raised his head to look up at the First Prince.
The First Prince was first in line to the throne of the Great Tang, the presumptive Crown Prince, and the ideal candidate for the next Sage Emperor. From the First Prince’s perspective, the Confucian Sect using its control of the Imperial Court to disband many soldiers was not of too great a benefit, but the First Prince had still agreed. It was only now that the reason was being revealed.
The First Prince’s eyes twitched, but he didn’t deny anything. The Ghost King was right. This truly had been one of the reasons driving his decision.
“Without the Commander Tally, we can still mobilize soldiers. It will just be a little more problematic,” the Ghost King indifferently said.
“How do we do it?” the First Prince almost immediately blurted out, his heart growing somewhat impatient.
This question was on the mind of everyone else in the hall, and they all awaited the Ghost King’s answer.
“Heh, Lord Zhu, you said that Zhangchou Jianqiong is unwell at home and has sent several memorials to the Imperial Court.”
The Ghost King smiled as he turned to Zhu Tong’en. This question took everyone by surprise, and Zhu Tong’en momentarily froze in shock.
“Yes, the Imperial Court has already agreed. I have heard that Zhangchou Jianqiong is refusing all guests and won’t even leave the gates of his estate. He’s even started to plant crops in his home so that he can provide everything that he eats himself,” Zhu Tong’en reported.
The high n.o.bles and officials of the capital, particularly those as important as Zhangchou Jianqiong, were richly compensated by the Imperial Court, so the majority of them bought their food from the marketplace. But Zhangchou Jianqiong had chosen to start growing food in his estate to supply himself, making him stand out from the rest.
And everyone knew that Zhangchou Jianqiong hadn’t started doing this just today. He had started from the day King Song was attacked.
“Since that’s the case, Your Highness should let him do as he pleases. Let him stay safe and sound within his home,” the Ghost King indifferently said.
The First Prince’s face froze in surprise, puzzled as to the Ghost King’s meaning. Zhangchou Jianqiong being unwell was just an excuse and a way to protect himself. If he stayed inside his residence, the First Prince would never be able to get the Commander Tally, never be able to mobilize the soldiers… no. At this moment, the First Prince trembled in shock as he realized something.
“Senior, you mean that we should use this chance while Zhangchou Jianqiong isn’t there to take complete control over the Bureau of Military Personnel…”
Before the First Prince could finish, the Ghost King slightly nodded, and all the other advisors understood what was going on. It had always been the case that King Song and Zhangchou Jianqiong wielded the majority of the power in the Bureau of Military Personnel. Even though King Qi also had a share of the power, his influence was extremely limited. But now that King Song was heavily injured and Zhangchou Jianqiong had shut himself up in his home, they now had the perfect chance to seize the Bureau of Military Personnel.
Although this couldn’t compare to the Commander Tally, it was the second-best option.
This thought immediately energized all of them.
“But we can’t let Zhangchou Jianqiong get too idle. I was under the impression that those men were stronger than this.”
The Ghost King turned to the First Prince, a heavy implication in his voice.
The First Prince merely smiled, saying no more.
The gate to Zhangchou Jianqiong’s residence was tightly shut. Ever since the attack, the place had become a solitary island, with no one able to get within several dozen feet of it. People rarely left the estate and outsiders rarely went in.
Time flew by, and it was now evening, the skies dark and the common folk of the capital rushing to get home. Creeak! The rear gate of Zhangchou Jianqiong’s residence cracked open, and a black-clothed manservant emerged with a basket.
The manservant moved agilely. When no one was around, he shot across the street. If one had not been informed ahead of time, they would have never known that this man belonged to the Bureau of Military Personnel.
The manservant navigated the streets in this matter, drawing no attention, and he soon turned the corner and entered a small store.
“Shopkeeper, give me two jin of rice tofu!”
The manservant smiled as he skillfully removed a few copper coins from the basket, placing them on the counter and pushing them over.
Rice tofu was a special snack that Zhangchou Jianqiong had greatly enjoyed back in the Annan Protectorate.
In the capital, he happened to come across this store that sold rice tofu, and its owner also happened to be from the area around the Annan Protectorate. The two parties had gradually become acquainted with each other, and ever since then, Zhangchou Jianqiong’s residence had all its rice tofu supplied by this store.
The manservant had been to this store many times and was very familiar with its owner.
As the manservant spoke, a large box of rice tofu was pushed forward.
“Heh, Shopkeeper, something seems to be wrong today! Why does it seem like the rice tofu isn’t as clear as normal?” the black-clothed manservant said.
“I was busy today and in a rush, so it’s not as clear!”
Behind the counter, the shopkeeper’s head was bowed, his voice somewhat scratchy.