Published at 14th of June 2019 02:59:31 PM

Chapter 102

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A Safe Way of Promotion for Military Officers (2)

Minglan standing beside Old Madam Sheng with her head bowed answered modestly, "Brother Changwu, it's an important matter for you. You'd better decide for yourself or ask Uncle for help. Grandmother, Uncle, Aunt are all here. I'm just a young girl. How can I air my opinion in front of elders?"

Sheng Wei said gently, "Niece, just speak out. Your sisters and you went to school with Changbai in your childhood. Teacher Zhuang is an erudite scholar. As his student, you must have an analytical mind. So, please get to the point."

Sheng Wei had engaged in trade for more than twenty years. He was pretty good at establishing good relations with government and also knew something about factions in official circles and relationships among aristocratic families. But he knew nothing about affairs of national defense and administration. If Minglan hadn't asked those pointed questions, he might not have realized how serious the present situation outside was.

However, he shouldn't be blamed for his ignorance. There were no Internet and any widespread postings of military history in this age. Besides, he hadn't taken history lessons in a junior middle school or a senior middle school. So in this era of the information-poor, Sheng Wei, an ordinary businessman, and the women in inner mansion couldn't know much about the current events.

Old Madam Sheng slightly nodded to Minglan, which gave her the courage to speak frankly. She took a few steps forward and thought for a while before saying, "Brother Changwu, I understand your feelings. You are afraid of losing the opportunity to serve our country. But just think what will happen on your way to the capital. You will travel through Anhui, Jiangsu, Henan, Shandong and Shanxi. Burglars and bandits probably have set out to kill, burn and loot. Brother, you can't arrive in the capital safely without soldiers to help you, even if you take the retainers and local militiamen."

Li shi nodded repeatedly and said, "Minglan is quite right. Changwu, that's what I'm worried about."

Changwu felt unwilling yet to give up his idea, "If I disguise myself as a commoner and follow civilians to ride along the trails to the capital, maybe I won't encounter evildoers, right?"

Minglan nodded, "Yes, probably." Li shi's face suddenly changed. Changwu was delighted to hear that but Minglan instantly poured cold water on his enthusiasm, "But are you sure that you can make contributions and be promoted?"

Changwu was confused by her words.

Minglan took a few steps towards the brass brazier in the middle of the room to warm herself up and smiled, "After the rebellion broke out in the North of Xinjiang, soon Prince Jing rebelled against the Emperor. Although I don't know whether he acted according to his plan or took advantage of the rebellion in Xinjiang, I'm convinced that he will lead his armies to go north to the capital as soon as possible. As long as he doesn't meet any resistance in Anhui, Jiangsu, Henan, Shandong and Shanxi, he will stand a good chance to capture the capital because it's weakly defended in the capital city and its environs now. In this way, he will win half the battle."

The Emperor had been dissatisfied with Prince Jing's bossy behaviors a long time ago. He had abolished several privileges of Prince Jing, such as mining coal and coining money. Besides, the Emperor also reduced his annual salary and cut down on staff number of his private soldiers. Prince Jing had nursed a grievance and plotted the rebellion for a long time.

'From the point of view of conspiracy theorists, the rebellion in the North of Xinjiang is probably schemed by the Emperor in order to lay a trap for Prince Jing,' Minglan thought to herself but soon threw this ridiculous idea away, 'But it must be impossible. Maybe the reason why I have this absurd idea is that I have read so many illogical novels about military history. Few emperors in the world dare to stir up a rebellion to serve their intrigues and conspiracy.'

Li shi turned pale and asked in fear, "So… Can Prince Jing succeed?"

Minglan recalled with her head tilted, "That year when Teacher Zhuang talked about the history, he told us that princes and feudal lords who had risen up in rebellion had all used 'ridding the emperor of evil ministers' as an excuse. But Prince Jing directly accused His Majesty of taking the throne by devious means. We all know that the late emperor designated His Majesty as the crown prince before his death. Later His Majesty held sacrificial rites to heaven and ancestors before he ascended the throne. According to this fact, Prince Jing isn't right and proper."

Generally, only peasants would rise up in rebellion in the name of defeating the bad monarch. For example, Zhang Jiao's (The leader of the Yellow Turban Rebellion during the late Eastern Han dynasty of China.) famous slogan -- "the Han dynasty will be destroyed, replaced by the Yellow Turbans Army". As for rebellious officials, even An Lushan who broke off the foundation of the glorious age of Tang Dynasty, dared not blame Li Longji directly; instead, he accused the imperial family of harassing the people and wasting money to transport Lychee nut for Imperial Concubine Yang. For this reason, he launched the An-shi Rebellion.

"We can infer from what Brother Changwu said that Prince Jing has many weaknesses," Minglan added, "Besides, His Majesty has done a good job in rectifying the training style of the armies in the capital city and its environs. The wall of the capital city is high and thick, so it's difficult for Prince Jing to capture the city in a short time. He will be easily defeated as long as the soldiers in the capital hang on till Loyalist armies arrive in the capital from all over the country."

Changwu was delirious with joy and shouted eagerly, "You are right. That's why I want to rush back to the capital."

Minglan poured cold water on his enthusiasm again by saying, "But there is no guarantee that His Majesty will win at last. In the past, Nine Princes had several times more military materials and financial resources of the people than Emperor Taizong. But they were exterminated by Emperor Taizong in just a year."

Pinlan said anxiously, "What do you mean? You constantly changed your posture. Don't talk nonsense anymore!"

Sheng Wei gave Pinlan a glare and turned to look at Minglan questioningly. Minglan opened her hands with a bitter smile and said with embarrassment, "I don't know who will win. It's too early to make a conclusion." This battle was like shaking a dice, and no one could know the result until the dice cup was opened.

Changwu's face darkened, and he grew silent. Minglan stood in front of Sheng Wei and weighed her words before speaking, "Considering the uncertainty of the situation in the capital city and the risks of being attacked on the way back, I think it's ill-advised for Brother Changwu to return to the capital. But it is inappropriate for him to stay at home... Why not send him to Jinling? He can offer his service to Commandant of Jinling Prefecture."

Changwu felt puzzled and said, "Are you serious? Prince Jing's armies have marched north and there is no war in the south."

Minglan shook her head and replied, "Yes. Though there is no war, there will be refugees, bandits and rapacious rebel soldiers."

Changwu took a long slow breath and meditated on the feasibility of her proposal. Minglan said slowly, "Teacher Zhuang said that where there is a turmoil caused by war, there are refugees. Jinling is prosperous, rich and populous, adjacent to Anhui Province. Brother, you have told me that Jinling is short of armaments and soldiers, right? Anyway, it's the right thing to defend the city and protect civilians."

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Minglan's remarks finally cheered Li shi up. A faint red flush suffused her face as she said excitedly, "Yes, Yes! Jinling is not far away from Youyang. It's about two hours' journey. And in this way, we can take care of one another." Youyang was at the south of Jinling. It was safer to stay in Youyang.

Sheng Wei also felt that it was a feasible idea, so he turned to Changwu, "You know many officials of Commandant of Jinling Prefecture. Just go to Jinling with your document and identity token issued by Zhongwei Guardian Team. I will write to Liu Jingli. He is working in the Headquarters." With Sheng Hong, a Censor who could directly impeach other officials, behind Changwu, presumably no official of the Jinling Headquarters dared to take credit for Changwu's contribution.

All people of the Sheng family in the room were relieved to hear that and immediately turned to persuade Changwu to go to Jinling. Surrounded by the noise of exhortations, Changwu felt dizzy. He shook his head and asked Minglan hesitantly, "Will there really be refugees?" Jinling had been quite peaceful when he went there a few days ago.

Minglan counted the days with her fingers and answered, "Mm... Let's wait and see."

Changwu glared at his young cousin, Minglan, who looked at him with an innocent expression on her face. 'It's indeed a good job to be an irresponsible counsellor who just needs to provide an idea. The customer has the final say. If he succeeds, the counsellor will get the credit. If he fails, the counsellor can easily put the blame on the customer – You should keep a sense of perspective. Why did you blindly follow what I said? If I asked you to kill yourself, would you do that?' Minglan thought to herself.

After all left the room, Old Madam Sheng caught Minglan by the arm and asked slightly, "Are those words you said just now all your own thoughts?"

Minglan nodded and turned what she said over in her mind again and again. Finally, she drew a conclusion that it didn't exceed what was proper because every visionary civil official, such as Sheng Hong and Changbai, could do the same analysis.

Old Madam Sheng looked at Minglan, a mixture of emotions spreading over her face, and asked softly, "Will there really be refugees in Jinling? Are you sure of it?"

Minglan leaned over and whispered in her grandmother's ear, "No, I'm not sure at all."

Old Madam Sheng was stunned.

Minglan laid her head on the shoulder of her grandmother and said slowly in her ear, "In fact, I agree with Aunt that life is more important than promotions. But Brother Changwu won't give up his mind unless he finds something to do. So I advised him to defend Jinling City."

For a long while Old Madam Sheng remained speechless before she came to herself, surprised and bewildered, and said, "So, you were all talking nonsense just now?"

"Of course not!" Minglan said under her breath, "Most of my words are true. I only told a white lie. As the second capital of our country, Jinling has high and thick city wall. So it's not easy for refugees to come into the city."

Old Madam Sheng curled her upper lip and snorted, "You are such a smart girl." Then she raised her head and sighed with worry, "Your father and Changbai are still in the capital. I hope they will be safe and sound."

Minglan thought for a while and said earnestly, "Grandmother, I have something to tell you. Now the rebels are closer to us than to father. If Prince Jing met with fierce resistance on the way north toward the capital, the stragglers and disbanded soldiers would return to attack Jinling in order to loot the grains and treasures as wages and supplies for soldiers or take the city as their new base area. So now… we are more dangerous. We should consider our own safety first. If Prince Jing won several battles, by then we should worry about Father."

Minglan paused and added tenderly, "These words are all true."

Old Madam Sheng, who had just breathed a sigh of relief, now tensed again. She stared at her young granddaughter for a long time with mixed feelings and suddenly felt that she would live a long life with such a cunning girl by her side.

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