After listening to the soldier’s report, Wufeng felt somewhat curious. The individual in question couldn’t be more than thirty years old. Although his complexion clearly showed his fatigue, with a defining pair of eyebrows set upon high cheekbones, his deep black eyes shone with an unyielding glint. Throughout these time, he had continued to keep his silence.
“What’s your name”
“Tan Xiao, Tan from ‘Speech and Conduct’, Xiao from ‘Renowned Throughout Jianghu’.” (TL note: Speech and Conduct is Yan Tan Ju Zhi while Renowned Throughout Jianhu is Xiao Ao Jianghu)
“Good name! ‘For those who are here for the forum, who isn’t of great renown?’ I have heard that Mr. Tan’s name is famous throughout Beiyuan Commandery, but why would someone of Mr. Tan’s caliber go against the court and work for these rebels?”
Letting out a sigh, Tan Xiao felt somewhat regretful. His talent was originally hidden upon the barriers of society and wanted to join the farmers to display his knowledge. He had never though that defeat would come so fast, not only were he not able to get acknowledged, but his life might be forfeit as well.
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Throughout his journey, he tried to warn the leaders of the rebellion to look towards the future and plan more carefully. However, in the end, it was he who had overestimated the abilities of the peasants who only know how to have fun and was locked up instead. Even though the rebellion had highly accurate intel from unknown sources, they were unable to use it to their advantage and was defeated instead.
Thinking of this, Tan Xiao put away all his regrets, “The matter had already progressed to this point, I already have no more excuses, only seeking a quick death.”
“Haha, why is mister acting in such a way, I’ve never had the intent to execute mister.”
“Oh, then what does your excellency wishes of me?”
“I have always admired honored scholar’s great insights into governance. Since today we have the opportunity to meet, I hope mister can humor me.”
“Ah?” Tan Xiao was a bit surprised and could help but reevaluate Wufeng, who gazed back confidently with a slight smile.
This person seems to be less than twenty years old, but was already the commander of a battalion. His stratagem was also brilliant enough to completely overpower the rebel army, forcing them to surrender. Even now, despite his young age, he speaks with a confidence and dominance that displayed an unknown potential. Since the situation has already become like this, Tan Xiao decided to test him for a bit.
“Although I had been condemned by the rebels, I still had committed the act of treason. Your Excellency ask me about the matter of governance, do you not fear the possible repercussions from the higher ranks?”
“Haha, mister is thinking too much. Here, I am the highest ranked official, and whether you are a prisoner or an imprisoned citizen, the only people who know are God, the Devil, you, and me.” Wufeng replied.
“Oh, so it’s like this.” Tan Xiao isn’t all too surprised. When Wufeng had asked about the matter of governance, he had already a premonition that his destiny had been changed.
“Mister shouldn’t feel too concerned, I have long since heard honored scholar’s name and sincerely ask for advice.”
“Then I’m not too sure which topic I should talk about,” Tan Xiao directly asked.
“I wish to hear about the scholar’s view on the current situation that the Empire faces,” Wufeng did not dally either, going directly to the main topic.
Tan Xiao organized thoughts for a bit before replying, (TL Note: MONOLOGUE TIME)
“Currently the Empire faces both problems within as well as threats without. While it still possesses the presence of a mountain, it is plagued by swarms of pests, on the verge of death.
Let us first speak of the outside threat. To the north lies the three nations, and while their might is extremely weak when compared to the Empire, if they form an alliance, then they will pose a great threat to our security. Even more towards the northeast lies the unstable Kingdom of Dorton. Thus, it can be concluded that the northern situation isn’t looking too bright.
To the northwest lies the territory of the Lurpei and Mott tribes, whose aggression leads their incursions into Imperial territory year after year. If we cannot effectively defeat them once and for all, then the border will never be peaceful.
To the south lies the Khanate of Ma, who are the descendants of nomadic tribes. Although they have settled, their barbaric spirits have not diminished. This, in combination with the ambitious nature of their current leader, is the cause of major instability in the area.
The west and the southwest is relatively peaceful because of the geographic location.
On the eastern sea, roams the Yi people, who specialize in sailing. They would often pirate on the commercial shipping of other nations, becoming a real nuisance that could only be resolved if the Imperial naval presence is increased.
Of the other nations that borders the Empire, the Kingdom of Milan and the Jacklocke Dukedom are of particular note, who have thankfully maintain relatively peaceful and cooperative relationships with our Empire.
But currently, the Empire’s biggest concern does not come from the outside. There is a saying, ‘trouble breaks out within one’s house’. Emperor Stuart Lune is already nearing sixty years of age, and although he is still very healthy, he is nevertheless starting to show his age.
In the meantime, his concubines had bared him some twenty children, most of whom have already become of age, and married off to various houses at court. With the First Prince and the northern faction, the Third Prince and the southern faction, and the Seventh Prince of the eastern faction being the most prominent, all the princes are gathering support, readying for the fight for the throne. In addition, the Ninth Prince, whose faction although isn’t as powerful as the other three, is nevertheless still a very talented and charismatic individual, with great support within the court.
Even then, the Emperor still haven’t chosen a successor to this day, making the court ministers confused about which Prince they should support, fearing that they might make the wrong decision. Various regional powers have also begun intervening in this affair, all trying to gain power for their own ambitions.
Internally, there is one more threat in the form of ambitious govorners. Sine the Sanjiang Incident thirty years ago, the Sanjiang Commandery is virtually an independent kingdom under the control of the Lin Family. Other than the symbolic gesture of paying a portion of the taxes; the administration authority, the control of finances, and the official appointments of the region are all decided by the Lin Family. The government even find it difficult to order around the garrison of the commandery capital, Wufu.
The current Military Commander of the Commandery, who has governed the commandery for the past twenty years is Lin Guoxiong, the family head of the Lin family. Even when he was young, he was very clever, but now after years of experience, he is very reliable. In the past twenty years, the development of the Sanjiang commandery has been the highest in the empire, propelling it into the third or fourth most prosperous commandery of the empire. The military might of their National Guards is not any less than the regular army,
Another such threat is the Lang family of the Tiannan Commandery. As Your Excellency knows this family was set up by the central government thirty years prior to curb the influence of the Lin Family.
The currently Military Governor is Lang Yongquan, aged forty, and is currently in the prime of his life. Although his talent cannot be compared to that of Lin Guoxiong, he was nevertheless able to prevent the Lin family from extending their influence westward for over a decade.
However, I have also heard that this man is very ambitious, flexing his military muscles in recent years, and completely uncontrollable by the Imperial court. The other commanderies such as the Xibeing Commandery, due to the continuous incursion made by the barbarians, have become unruly as well. The Yin Prefecture, as an example, is completely outside the control of the Imperial Court, and a territory of the Empire in name only. Instead, they are much closer to the Cisro Empire instead. Another is the Guanxi Commandery who has fallen under the influence of the Lin family from Sanjiang.
As soon as the Emperor passes away, the seemingly calm surface will immediately deteriorate. At that time, with the addition of external threats, I’m afraid that the nation will face an upheaval that cannot be resolved.”
Finishing his evaluation, Tan Xiao took a sip of the tea that Wufeng had prepared, waiting his evaluation.
After hearing Tan Xiao’s analysis, Wufeng felt great admiration. These concise points clearly point out the heart of the matter, “Good, speaking with honored scholar is equivalent to ten years of learning.”
“Your excellency is praising me too much, this is but my lowly opinion.”
“Then if we wish for development of the nation, in honored scholar’s opinion, how should we go about it?”
Tan Xiao raised his head and met Wufeng’s gaze. It is as if the atmosphere had suddenly changed. At this moment, Wufeng’s domineering gaze seem to penetrate his very soul, with complete disregard for the other powers of authority. Tan Xiao took a moment to calm his nerves before replying, “Seek a good start; Set a good foundation; Seek a good opportunity.”
Clasping his two hands behind his back, Wufeng slowly looked up and asked, “In the scholar’s opinon, where is a good place to seek a start?”
“In my opinion, the Empire’s northwestern region is a suitable location for development.”
Tan Xian organized his thoughts and replied, “The Xibei Commandery of the Empire is the crossroad of different powers, to the south and west lies the rest of the continent; to the north and east are the territories of Cisro, Karman, and Jalocke; to the northwest are the nomadic tribes of the Luopei and Mott people; while to the east and south are lies the other regions of the Empire. This area is of great importance in for transportation, and a location of great military strategic importance. In addition, the material and land of the region is very productive, and have the potential to become very prosperous. Be it the fertile plains of Qingyang Prefecture, or the herbal and forestry resources of the Jingzhou Prefecture, or the pottery and china of the Bonan Prefecture, or the metal and coal of the Yinzhou Prefecture, and the wood supplies of the Taixuan Prefecture, they are all of great importance for the aspirations of a nation. In addition, the nomadic tribes of the northwest are currently in a large-scale conflict among themselves, proving great opportunity to amass wealth and authority. If one can set a foundation here, then they will be capable of greatness.
These few words immediately lit a fire within Wufeng’s heart, and his eyes shone with an ambitious glint. Great men really do think alike, Tan Xiao and Wufeng’s analysis were in the same direction. Quickly suppressing his initial emotional turmoil, Wufeng question, “it would seem that mister only talked about the advantages how about the disadvantages?”
“Nothing in this world can be said to be completely perfect, there are only situations that are the best out of all the alternatives. For Xibei Commandery, the most pressing disadvantage are the numbers of great powers that surround it. Thankfully however, Cisro and Mott are currently in conflict in addition to Yinzhou Prefecture acting as a barrier while the Taixuan Prefecture acts as the border with the Karman Empire. The only real issue are the Luopei people.”
After thinking for a short period, Wufeng made his decision, “If mister is agreement, I was wondering if mister can drop his standards a bit and follow me by my side?”
“I’m but a dead man walking, if Your Excellency is willing to overlook my crimes, then I’ll serve you to the end of my days. Only, I’m not very confident in the affairs of the military, and is afraid that I’ll mess up Your Excellency’s plans.”
“Haha, ‘gold will always shine’, I’m sure that there will be occasions where the scholar’s talent can be used.”
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As the two of them locked hands, a silent agreement had been reached.
Directly after, Wufeng let his men guide Tan Xiao to take a short rest before ordering some of his most trusted troops to dispose of the two guards by Tan Xiao’s side in order to get rid of any evidence. And so, one of the future four great scholars of the Empire came under Wufeng’s employment.
Following the battle, Wufeng ordered his men to gather the loot from the battlefield, the worth of which was valued at some 68,000 gold coin. A list of soldiers who performed exceptionally in battle with bravery were also cited for promotion and a report submitted to the higher ranks.
In this rebellion, Wufeng’s battalion only sufferent 33 wounded men with no death while killing some 189 men and capturing 3466 more. This result shocked the entire division and brought great joy for General Hockel who immediately set Wufeng’s battalion as an example for the other units and reported his success to the administration of the Army Corp.
It took less than a week more before the Third Division was able to surround the rest of the rebel remnants and completely annihilate their forces, putting an end to the rebellion. In total, the Third Division killed some 8,645 men, and captured 14,239 others while sustaining some 4,285 deaths and 6,157 wounded.
The Fourth Brigade which Wufeng’s battalion is a part of killed 1,602 rebels and captured 4,987 while sustaining 412 deaths and 1,435 wounded. The First Brigade had been too impulsive and suffered a severe counter-attacked that resulted in 1893 deaths. Thankfully, the Second Brigade was nearby to save them, but nevertheless, an enraged General Hockel had sacked and imprisoned the three major staff officers of the unit, the commander, vice commander, and quartermaster, to await court martial for their incompetence.
The commander, vice commander, and quartermaster of the Fourth Brigade who had shown exceptional results in the battle was then transferred to the First Brigade to guide them back to Imperial standards. Wufeng, for his accomplishments, was promoted to the leadership of the Fourth Brigade and his rank raised to Commander, awaiting final approval from central command.
While on his way back to the capital, Wufeng recieved word from the central command officially appointing hi as the Commander of the Fourth Brigade of the Third Division of the City Guard Army. He also received the Imperial Three Star Medal of Honor, 3,000 gold coins, and 50 slaves to be chosen from his war prisoners.
Using the results from the war as an opportunity, Wufeng also took Tan Xiao’s suggestion and reorganized officer structure of his unit. Liang Chongxin was promoted to the position of the battalion commander of the First Battalion, while the leadership of the Fifth Battalion was transferred to Cui Wenxiu, who was the commander of the Fifth Company prior for his accomplishment as one of the officers who had shot the rebel leaders during the battle. The blonde-haired Luhman was assigned as the assistant quartermaster while doing the work of the quartermaster. To uphold the spirit of the army, Wufeng was temporarily unable to promote Luhman any further as a result of his lack of military achievement.
With this personnel change, along with his own outstanding performance on the battlefield, Wufengs solidified himself as the sole authority within the Fourth Brigade, as well as laying down the foundation of the unit as the backbone of Wufeng’s army in the future.
Meanwhile in the Ningke Palace of Karman Empire’s capital, Budley, the chubby Prime Minister, Gomez, is currently reporting the situation about the Tanghe Empire’s peasant revolt to Emperor Delica II.
“Currently, the local rebellion have been more or less put down. That senile Stuart Lune mobilized two divisions of the City Guard Army of the Imperial Capital to assist two divisions of local guards. Although we had provided support and intelligence for the rebels, the difference in strength made it inevitable that they will fell. Fortunately for us, this rebellion’s impact is widespread. The three northern commanderies is an a state of chaos with their economy devastated. Although the government did open the granaries to support the people, the damage to the morale of the people had already been done. Although we weren’t able to find a good opportunity to attack, our original objectives had been completed.”
After Delica II heard the report, he yawned before replying, “We have heard your report, and delegate the tasks dealing with the aftermath to Your Grace.”
Duke Gomez frowned, but with any further instructions, he could only retreat.
When Wufeng arrived back at the encampment, he began his plans of improving the discipline of the troops and announced a three month winter exercise to increase their combat ability. At the staff meeting, he cautioned the officers to not let this victory make them overconfident. The recent war was simply against peasant rabbles and cannot be considered to be a real war. To prepare for the possibilities of fighting a professional army, they but continue to train themselves diligently, and continue to increase their prowess.
Following, Wufeng awarded the individuals units for their accomplishments. The soldiers of the Fifth battalion received 30 gold goins on average while the rest received around 12 gold coins.
With the support of Djabou, Wufeng also gained approval from General Hockel for the establishment of three companies directly under the Brigade command. These units consists of a reconnaissance company, a light cavalry company, and a heavy cavalry company. Of course, Wufeng didn’t forget to “thank” Djabou either.
After these changed, Wufeng then assigned Luhman to the task of befriending the officers of the Division’s logistic unit so that Wufeng’s troops will be able to quickly replenish their supplies, return to their exercise, and increase their combat capabilities. Under Luhman’s preparations, Wufeng and his officers was able to invited the logistic staff to dinner at the Eastern District’s Yuet Tower. After which, supplies of the best quality soon arrived at Wufeng’s unit.
As the snow begin to fall in earnest, Wufeng went out off his tent along. The New Year is approaching, and the entire capital is filled with the atmosphere of celebration. The Barack by contrast seems a bit quiet with all the soldiers and their officers conduct their exercise by the training ground. It had been three years since he enlisted and during these three years much has changed yet much remain the same. His appearance might be the only thing that really changed as his inner spirit continue to burn with a fiery blaze. Rather it should be said that his hunger for authority have had only increased. Perhaps, this is a sign that he is become more and more mature.
“Commander, your clothes are all wet,” two individuals footsteps behind interrupted Wufeng’s thoughts.
“It’s Chongxin and Wenxiu right?” Wufeng asked without turning around
“It is indeed this servant and Captain Liang.”
“You two came at just the right moment, I just had a question for you guys. It is said that, ‘as men is born into this world, they have their purpose to fulfill’ but in the end, what exactly are their purpose?”
Liang Chongxin and Cui Wenxiu was stumped by the sudden question and was unable to answer.
“Chongxin, you go first”
“Your subordinate is a soldier, and as a soldier, I must ride into the battlefield for the sake of the nation, perhaps this is my purpose.”
“Wenxiu, what do you think?”
“This servant is thinking along the same lines as Captain Liang. As long as I can protect the security of the Empire and mark my name into the annals of history, I would have made this life worthwhile.”
“Oh so both of are thinking like so.”
“We are sure what does Commander think?” The two of them asked at the same time
Wufeng slowly turned around, clearly enunciated each and every word as he replied, “I feel that a men should bravely struggle and fight for his own ideals. If he wants to do something, then do it; If he wish to love, then love. As long as he give it his all, then he would have lived a meaningful life.”
(TL Note: I have no idea why the next section is in here in the first place -_-)
These words would later become known to historians as “Oath in front of the Encampment’s Gates”
Thirty years later, the a Field Marshal of the Empire, Cui Wenxiu, would recall, “At that moment, as the Emperor looked towards the sky, both Marshal Liang Chongxin felt an overwhelming presence. Perhaps it was at that moment that I made the determination to follow His Majesty for eternity.”
Field Marshal Liang Chongxin, however, felt very differently as he wrote in his memoire years later, ‘At that moment, the Emperor was drenched in snow, his face pale without any color, and he was unable to stop shivering. There wasn’t any sort of imposing presence.’
It was said that after he finished the memories, Liang Chongxin sent the piece to His Majesty for review. However, after His Majesty finished reading it, he immediately forbade its publication by all published within the empire for unknown reason. Marshal Liang Chongxin was also put on probation for a year.
Because this book was banned and its only copy confiscated by the emperor, the value of its manuscript skyrocketed on the black market with each copy sold being sold at 12,000 gold coins, and yet the limited stocks were still unable to fill consumer demands.
Another rumor states that within the Palace, the Emperor’s wives had secretly read the copy that was confiscated and treated it as a treasure. They would often use it as reference to tease the Emperor’s childish teenage ‘pursuit of temperament with disregard for temperature’. These jokes made his unable to lift his head for quite a period in the presence of his wives and children.
It is said that His Majesty had asked Cui Wenxiu to be his witness, but Marshal Cui was convinced by Marshal Liang that going against the women of the harem isn’t a very good idea. It was only after the Emperor’s continuous begging that Marchal Cui relented but asked for 50,000 gold coins as insurance which His Majesty refused in indignation. After a tenuous session of negotiations, they finally settled with a 30,000 gold coin as the price for his testimony. However, as the marshal went to testify in front of the harem, they said that his words aren’t reliable as they could have been influence by outside forces, so his words could not be believed. Seeing this failure, the Emperor tried to get Marshal Cui to return the money, but was refused.
As the Emperor’s wives had control of the purse, he could only turn towards the minister of court for loans, which even to this day were still not returned. A century later, the paper that the loan was signed on was sold at an auction to a collector by the descendant of that Minister for a total of 3350000 gold coins.
As soon as the new years passed, Wufeng planned to lead his brigade into the military exercises. However, as soon as the supplies had arrived, and the three companies reorganized, a piece of paper arrived and derailed that entire plan. With the recommendation from the division, Wufeng, along with one of his battalion vice-commander and a company commander was enrolled into the Imperial Military Academy for a year.
With the major staff positions within the brigade leadership empty, the divisional command had wanted to assign someone to the brigade until Wufeng returns from his course. Wufeng wanted either Chongxin or Wenxiu to take over this task but due to the lack of the social position, this was nye impossible. At the same time however, he did not trust whoever replaced him to have the ability to continue his plans. In the end, it was only after hours of negotiating with Djabou that the divisional leadership allowed Wufeng to delegate his task to Chongxin and Wuxiu provided that he had to visit the unit on a weakly basis.
The Imperial Military Academy is located in the southern portion of famous Glorious Avenue in the southern district of the capital. The other Imperial academies are also located on this street. Out of the three most prestigious academies in the Empire, the Military Academy is the smallest and not open to public. Its only purpose was to train officer candidates within the Imperial Army, so it has less than 1,000 students at a time.
On March 8, 690, Wufeng, vice-commander Malick, and captain Shalang arrived in front of the academy with their belongings. In accordance with the academy rules, all students are treated the same within the academy regardless of their prior rank.
As the three arrived at the gates, the academy seems especially quiet. Comparatively, the Imperial Arts Institute across the street is crowded with people. It even had a large plaque embroidered in gold with the words “Welcoming New Students”. In front of its gates also parked carriages with various ornaments displaying their familial ties, one even had the symbol of the Imperial Family.
While Shalang and Wufeng were both from the capital, Shalang was born into a wealthy family and was far more knowledgeable about the affairs of the capital than his superiors. Seeing the confusion of their faces, he explained, “two commanders, the school across the street is the renowned Imperial Arts Institute which is also beginning their school term today. It also have great reputation across the continent, attracting a great number of students every year.”
As Wufeng continued his observations, he found a weird situation and asked, “Shalang, it seems that there’s an overwhelming number of females compared to males, why is that?”
Shalang immediately replied, “The Imperial Arts Institute is mainly focused on painting, calligraphy, chess, music, and etiquette. Right now, the empire’s high society is really focused on the social etiquette, so all of the wealthy family who wishes to married into families with higher social status sends their daughters to this school.”
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“Oh, so that’s why there’s so many females. I’m curious as to why you know so much though,” Wufeng felt that his knowledge was somewhat extraordinary.
Shalang’s original sunny demeanor immediate turn dark, “I use to have a crush who turned me down before enrolling in that school.” (TL: cough gold digger cough, we’re here for you)
Wufeng was a bit regretful of pour salt on his wounds, “the girl must be leading an alright life right now.” (TL: Wufeng! you thoughtless idiot!)
“I heard that she’s now the serving as some duke’s mistress,” Shalang replied with a bitter smile.
“These types of women are not worth your time,” the originally quiet Malick cursed in a deep voice.
Malick came from a very poor household in the Xibei Commandery’s Yinzhou Prefecture. Orphaned at a young age, he was fortunate that an uncle was kind enough to take him in. Throughout his childhood, he had traveled along with his uncle and studied in various places before joining the army. With then years of hard work, he was able to climb the ranks to his current position. However, with his low birth, any higher was originally simply a dream. Thankfully, his talent was discovered by Wufeng who is now preparing him for the possibility of replacing Liang Chongxin in the future.
Wufeng patted Shalang’s shoulders in sympathy, “a true man have no need to fear of being forever alone. There is sure a day when you will prove your worth and these women can only regret not choosing you.”
Years later, as Shalang became the governor of the East Libya Province, he felt that these words were the motivation that propelled him to success.