Published at 9th of June 2019 10:42:11 AM

Chapter 101

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A Safe Way of Promotion for Military Officers (1)

In October, the first year of Chong De, the fifth branch of Jienu tribe in the North of Xinjiang rioted and rebelled. They gathered the remnants of defeated Tartar troops and aimed at attacking the capital city and its environs. The commander of Jiayuguan sent an urgent memorial to the emperor. Commandery of Five Armies dispatched two troops to support the front. In November of the same year, Prince Jing, the fifth son of Emperor Renzong, plotted a rebellion in his fief, Anhui Province. He personally led 100,000 people, including his private army and the rebellious garrisons, northward to invade the capital city in the name of clarifying confusion and bringing things back to order.

“10,000 people?!” Li shiwas greatly frightened.

Minglan turned to her and soothed, “Aunt, don’t panic. It must include cooks, craftsmen and their various relatives. In fact, there must be less than 50,000 real rebels.” Cao Cao’s army, the so-called “a million bold warriors”, in fact had only 200,000-300,000 people.

Changwu stood up from his chair and nodded, “You are right. I have already made some careful inquiries and discovered that there are only 30,000 rebels.”

“… I remember that after pacifying the Mutiny of Nine Princes, Emperor Taizong promulgated a decree that the vassals and princes couldn’t keep more than 300 private soldiers. Besides, they don’t have the ownership and management control of their fief and subjects, and the provincial garrison commander should supervise the vassals and regularly report back to the emperor. How could Prince Jing have gathered 30,000 soldiers in such a short time?” Minglan walked up to Changwu and asked, puzzled.

Changwu gave a bitter smile and answered, “Sister, there are things you do not know. Although the late emperor disliked Prince Jing and conferred the fief on him early in a bid to drive him away, the late emperor was benevolent and magnanimous enough to tolerate his bad behaviors because Prince Jing’s biological mother, Imperial Concubine Jia passed away early and the late emperor couldn’t bear to have his fifth son suffer hardships outside. Over the years, I often heard at the military camp that Prince Jing had absolute control in West Anhui. Local officials dared not tell on him; instead, they helped and connived with him.”

Minglan raised her arched eyebrows and asked another question, “Brother, do you know how Prince Jinghave behaved in his fief?” Changwu went blank and asked, “What… What do you mean?” Minglan quickly replied, “First, tell me how he trained soldiers.”

Changwu thought for a while and said, “Prince Jing’s mother was the first legal daughter of General Fengguo conferred by the late emperor. After Prince Jingcame to his fief and set up his mansion, General Fengguo sent him many capable persons. Several captains of the guard in his mansion are capable of training soldiers well. But Prince Jingseemed to think more highly of his brothers-in-law. He often took them to the capital and asked the late emperor for weapons, silver and grains.”

Minglan queried again, “How did he treat civilians of Anhui Province?”

Changwu shook his head, “Prince Jing had to support so many retinues and soldiers. The feudal lord’s salary was not enough to maintain his army, though the late emperor wasgenerous and gave him many treasures. So he had to exploit the civilians. Besides… Many rich and powerful families sent their daughter to the Mansion of Prince Jing and made them his concubines. In this way, the local powerful families joined Prince Jing.”

Minglan curled her lips and asked, “Did Prince Jing treat all on an equal footing?” Changwu was stunned by her successive questions. Although her voice was tender, each of her questions hit the nail on the head.

Old Madam Sheng sitting in the left-hand chair frowned with displeasure and scolded, “Minglan, how could you speak like that? You are a girl. Don’t ask about political events.” Minglan didn’t answer back but lowered her head and stood quietly.

Everyone present was shocked by the conversation between Minglan and Changwu. Li shiand Wen shiwere struck dumb with astonishment. Changsong opened his mouth wide. Sheng Wei, who was enthralled by their words, hastened to wave his hand and said to Old Madam Sheng, “Aunt, don’t blame Minglan. She has asked some good questions. Weare all puzzled about this current event. Thanks to Minglan’s questions and Changwu’s answers I sort myself out. Prince Jing has appointed people by favoritism and exploited civilians. Perhaps his soldiers and he are not of one mind. So his plot and rebellion may be frustrated, right? Minglan, come on. Put your questions on the table.”

Pinlan also cheered Minglan on, “Come on, Minglan.”

Old Madam Sheng darted her eyes around the room and only after making sure that everyone in the room was the member of the Sheng family did she nod to Minglan who still hadsome questions. Minglan took a step forward and asked Changwu plainly, “Brother, did something happen to the Capital’s Guarding Team and Five Armies before you left the capital? Were they at full strength? Were they armed with enough weapons? Were some commanders redeployed to other positions?”

Changwu immediately answered because he was well acquainted with the armies, “Since His Majesty ascended the throne, only two or three commanders have been redeployed. But lots of Tongzhi, Bazong and Dutong have been replaced by men from humble families. I am one of them. After taking office, we have successively been instructed not to get slack at military drills or stand around.”

Sheng Wei had a sense of relief and glanced at Li shi with a relieved look on his face.

Minglan added, “How many soldiers are sent to put down the rebellion in the North of Xinjiang?” Changwu estimated the total number in his mind and replied, “When we passed Shandong Province, I heard that Commandery of Five Armies dispatched two-thirds of soldiers.”

Minglan hesitated for a while before she asked the last question, “Well, what about the Central Area of Henan Province and the West Area of Jiangsu Province?”

Changwu understood her meaning. He heaved a sigh and answered, “Over the past decade, every year Prince Jing went back to the capital several times. On the way back… Alas, the garrison commanders and feudal lords of the imperial clan in these two provinces are all on friendly terms with him.”

Minglan couldn’t help but smile, “Since you know that, are you still eager to return to the capital and serve the country?”

Changwu pounded on the table beside him and said with regret, “So what should I do now?”

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Civil officials relied on their eloquence and desk work to get promotions. But the best promotion way for military officials was to fight on the battlefield. A lot of junior officers from non-aristocratic families had been promoted for their contributions in Shen Chen Mutiny.

Minglan looked at Changwu who wore a look of regret, and understood his feelings at this moment – ‘Prince Jing is a pain in the neck. Why didn’t he leak some information before he rebelled against the Imperial Court? If I had known that military officials in the capital had the chance to make contributions and get promotions, I wouldn't have returned to Youyang. But now it is too late...’

Li shicame up to Changwu, stroke his shoulders gently and earnestly advised, “Wu, my dear son, there is no lack of opportunities for you to fight and get promoted. The war is going on with all its stresses and strains now. You’d better not go outside. Your wife is carrying a baby. You should keep away from danger.”

Although Sheng Wei also hoped that his son would be prompted to a higher rank, he loved his son and put Changwu’s safety first. “What your mother said is right. The most important thing is to be safe and sound in the turmoil. Besides… No one knows…” Sheng Wei paused and Pinlan quickly interjected, “No one knows who will win in the end.”

Sheng Wei slapped the table with the palm of his hand and shouted angrily, “Shut up, wicked girl! Don’t talk nonsense. It is improper to even allow you to stay here.”

Pinlan drew back her head and stopped talking to prick up her ears.

Changwu was overwhelmed with remorse and said vaguely, “Father, Mother, there are things you do not know. For military officials, power and wealth come from risks. Every soldier wants to fight for a promotion. Although it is dangerous to suppress the uprising, it is better than fight in cold regions, such as the North of Xinjiang and Xiliang.”

Sheng Wei hesitated. In peacetime, most of the military officials promoted by the Emperor were the men of noble families. As for some military officials whose families had no influence in the army, now it was indeed a good opportunity. Furthermore, military officials were completely different from civil officials. The civil officials still had a chance to be promoted even though they were in their seventies or eighties and dim-sighted from old age. But if the military officials, who were dependent on their battle achievement to get a promotion, didn’t attain the position of Dutong by the age of sixty, they would never…

Since Changwu had heard a few days ago that Prince Jing had launched an armed rebellion, he immediately went to Jinling to inquire about the detailed information. When he knew that the Central Plains were in great confusion of war, he was keen to return to the capital and render a service to the Emperor. Sheng Wei and Li shiwere frightened by his impulse. Changsong and Wen shidissuaded him from doing that and invited Old Madam Sheng to put pressure on him. In the meantime, Pinlan, Minglan and Changdong also took the opportunity to slip into this room.

Sheng Wei had a harmonious family and the children could speak frankly in front of their parents, unlike the official families which had too many rules and restritions. Now without Rulan hindering her, Molan making sarcastic comments and Wang shi being suspicious and envious, Minglan dared comment on the current affairs in front of Sheng Wei and Li shi.

Li shikept persuading Changwu not to take risks. Tired of her chatter, Changwu said helplessly, “Mother, the capital is a prosperous city and most of the military officials of garrison troops in the capital city and its environs are men of aristocratic families. Thanks to Uncle’s help, I became a petty official in the army. And I was lucky to make some contributions in Shen Chen Mutiny, so I was promoted to be a Bazong. If I go to a local garrison, I can be a commander. Mother, do you know how many years it will take me to become a Bazong if I stay at the border without making contributions? Maybe eight or ten years!”

“But... But...” Li shistuttered. She looked at everyone present in embarrassment and finally raised her voice at Sheng Wei, “You are the father of my children. Say something to stop him!”

Sheng Wei also wanted his son to stay at home but didn’t know how to persuade him. His gaze swept across the faces of the family members. Li shi, Changsong, Wen shi, Pinlan…They all looked confused or bothered. Sheng Wei turned to Old Madam Sheng who sat in the left-hand chair with Minglan and Changdong standing by her side.

Sheng Wei made an obeisance to her and said respectfully, “Aunt, you are experienced and knowledgeable. Please give us some advice.” Old Madam Sheng cast a glance at Changwu, a bit hesitant, then waved her hand and said slowly, “I’m a woman and I know nothing about the affairs of national defense and administration. If your brother and Changbai were here, they might give you some advice.”

Sheng Wei couldn’t help but glance at Minglan, then turned to wink at Changwu, who, upon getting it, immediately turned to Minglan and asked, “Sister Minglan, what’s your view on this matter?”

It was what a filial son should do, to speak out what his father wasn’t able to say.

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