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Wang Chong’s gaze instantly turned grave and solemn. He had made countless conjectures about his opponent. If he was only facing a group of ambitious folks, then no matter how dangerous they could be, Wang Chong was confident that he could limit the extent of their influence to a certain level. But now that they were espousing the ideal of a Harmonious World, he realized that the situation was far more serious than he had imagined.
“Impossible! You cannot realize it!” Wang Chong calmly said, his entire demeanor ice-cold.
He was not making an argument, nor was he speaking out of a personal grudge. He was merely relaying a fact. These people had no idea what they were doing. Wolves and tigers would be wolves and tigers, and the countries around the Great Tang were only feigning civility, using them. Hoping to use a few schools to change the mindsets of the foreign countries was a childish fantasy.
More importantly, they had no idea that a calamity was coming, and they needed to deal with far more than just the surrounding foreign countries. The Great Tang did not have the time!
But he could not say these things. Moreover, people of different ideals could not make plans together, so how could they ever believe him?
Haha, that was then, and this is now. In the past, such things were naturally impossible, but now is different!”
The white-robed Confucian gently smiled, not at all angered by Wang Chong’s reply and apparently having expected it.
“The Great Tang currently has no more problems along its borders, and it has even signed peace treaties with all the surrounding countries. Confucian schools have been established all throughout the land: in the lands of the Eastern and Western Turks, the Xi, the Khitans, in Ü-Tsang, Goguryeo, Mengshe Zhao, and Arabia. Many Hu have entered these schools to study. Benevolence, righteousness, wisdom, trust—the thoughts of the Confucian school have penetrated into lands it has never reached before, and they have even received the vigorous support of the Khagans and Emperors of those lands. None of our predecessors has ever accomplished such a feat!
“The barbarians are barbarians because they do not know of righteousness. The birds and the beasts are birds and beasts because they do not know of benevolence. What we are doing now is teaching them benevolence, and righteousness, changing their way of thinking. ‘When people are of the same mind, they will share the same principles.’ As long as we make the barbarians understand benevolence and righteousness, as long as we connect with them through our thoughts and ideals, there will be no more wars or killing. ‘Under the sky, there is no land that does not belong to the sovereign, and as long as one lives on the land, there is no person that is not a subject of the sovereign.’ As long as we all share the same way of thinking, we are all of the same country, of the same people. This is the general trend of things, the flow of the river. No one can change this! This is the greatest transformation since ancient times, a feat that not even the one hundred sages were able to achieve. As long as it can be realized, this Junxian is willing to die one hundred deaths!” the white-robed Confucian, Li Junxian, proudly proclaimed, his eyes bright and his face in a state of boundless rapture. He seemed to be staring deep into the infinite, piercing into the boundless depths of spacetime.
And the Confucians at his side were in a similar state of rapture. The white-robed Confucian’s words gave voice to their ideals. Countless individuals of lofty ideals had failed over the centuries, but now, they held the possibility of making it into reality within their hands.
Ü-Tsang, Goguryeo, the Eastern and Western Turkic Khaganates, Mengshe Zhao, Arabia… all the foreigners, all the countries bordering the Great Tang, had opened their gates to the Confucian school!
This was the greatest era for the Confucian school, an era like never before!
“To the sages!”
Li Junxian raised his cup to the air.
“To the sages!”
The restaurant resounded with the cries of all the other Confucians who had stayed as they raised their cups into the air. These people showed no reluctance or hesitation as they performed this ceremony in front of Wang Chong.
For a moment, the restaurant was deathly still.
Wang Chong gazed at the Confucians, inspecting their solemn and serene expressions, and his heart sank. But deep down, his heart began to resolve itself to a certain idea.
“King of Foreign Lands, I know what you are thinking. But if you had experienced what I had experienced, you would assuredly agree with our goal and ideals!”
Li Junxian faintly smiled, exuding a scholarly and elegant aura. Although this was the anniversary of the death of the one hundred sages, Li Junxian remained ever-perceptive and had long ago taken note of Wang Chong’s reaction.
“I was raised by the Confucian school. At three, I learned of propriety and righteousness, and at five, I studied the classics. At six, I had already read all the books, the ancient records of states and countries, private books, histories and classics, unofficial histories. I knew them all. By the age of seven, there was no book that I had not read, nor any teacher that could teach me. It was at that time that I came into contact with the concept of the Harmonious World for the first time!
“At the time, I also did not have a very great understanding of the Harmonious World, but one day, on one of my excursions, I saw two antelopes locking horns. My teacher at the time told me that antelopes were this way because they were beasts, so they did not understand benevolence or humility. If they understood benevolence and humility, understood that they were of the same kind, they would not have fought like this. In the end, the two antelopes both suffered lethal injuries and died from blood loss. This was the first time I experienced death, and it left an incredibly deep impression on me. For the first time, I understood why this world needed benevolence, righteousness, propriety, and wisdom, why a Harmonious World was required!”
Li Junxian suddenly stared at Wang Chong and said, “But the one who made me truly understand the weight and meaning of the Harmonious World was you, King of Foreign Lands!”
These words caused Wang Chong to tremble and suddenly raise his head. These words had been a great surprise to him. Wang Chong had never imagined that this mysterious Confucian lurking behind the curtain would have any sort of connection to him.
“King of Foreign Lands, perhaps you do not know, but the first time I witnessed large-scale death, witnessed the cruelty of war, and truly acknowledged the principle of the Harmonious World and made it my lifelong pursuit was during the war of the southwest. When you led the more than one thousand clan experts and created a legend on the battlefield, I witnessed the hell of Asuras for the first time. I saw a mountain covered in corpses, its slopes strewn with hundreds of thousands of bodies, cut down like so many weeds. The earth had turned from green to red, and blood flowed like rivers. Even ten-some days after the war had concluded, one could still smell the thick stench of blood. Intestines and brains were exposed to the air. For the first time, I truly understood what sort of harm could be inflicted when people and countries did not share a way of thinking, and I truly understood just how much damage personal desires could create!”
Wang Chong was silent, but shock appeared in his eyes. He had never imagined that this mysterious Confucian schemer would have this sort of connection to him, nor that this sort of person had visited that battlefield after the conclusion of the war.
“The war of the southwest was only the beginning. I visited other places as well: Beiting, Andong, and those places in which you made your name as War God, Talas and Khorasan.
Li Junxian continued to talk, a hint of recollection in his eyes.
“In the southwest, I thought I had witnessed the extremities of war, but only when I visited Talas and Khorasan did I understand that my way of thinking was too simple. That was the first time I learned that one million people could die in a war, and that this number could get even larger. Haha, King of Foreign Lands, you might be thinking that this was our first meeting, but for me, that is not the case.
“In the southwest, when the war was over, you and I did not have the opportunity to meet, but in Khorasan, I saw you for the first time. You were riding back from Sindhu, and all the generals had come out to welcome you. You might not have noticed me at the time, but I was watching you from the crowd.”
Li Junxian spoke slowly, a nostalgic look on his face.
Wang Chong remained quiet, but his heart was heavy and grim. He had been earnestly listening this entire time. He had always believed that these people had only recently emerged, never imagining that everything had started from the war of the southwest, or perhaps even earlier. Wang Chong still understood too little about his opponent, so he said nothing and made no interruptions, only listened.
“…It was precisely because I experienced the cruelty of war that I regarded benevolence, righteousness, propriety, and wisdom with even more importance, and approved even more of the ideal of the Harmonious World. A death can be as heavy as Mount Tai or as light as a goose feather. To fulfill a long-cherished wish, ending all calamities and wars in the world; having all people, whether Tang or foreigner, accept each other and acknowledge each other; realizing the ideals of the sages and carrying on their spirit… is this not more important than any sort of honor or wealth? Only with this is a life not lived in vain!
“King of Foreign Lands, to realize a Harmonious World is to realize the final and ultimate goal. Countless talented and capable people will be required to realize this goal, must join together for this magnificent undertaking, which is why even the Grand Preceptor and King Qi have joined in. King of Foreign Lands, even though you refused me the first time, I still hope that you can carefully think my offer over. If we work together, the hopes of achieving this goal will be even greater!”
Li Junxian solemnly stared at Wang Chong.
The restaurant was quiet. Everyone else turned to look at Wang Chong, their eyes expectantly awaiting his answer.
After some time, Wang Chong finally spoke. “Are you done?
“Those who tread different paths cannot conspire together. Rest assured, I will never agree to work with you!”
Wang Chong’s words immediately caused the Confucians in the restaurant to pale.
“King of Foreign Lands, you refuse to see the error of your ways!”
A furious shout resounded through the room as a figure to the right and back of Li Junxian suddenly stood up. It was the black-robed man with the featureless mask, the two eyes glaring out from the holes in anger at Wang Chong.
“Sword Ghost, sit down!”
With a wave of his snow-white sleeve, Li Junxian shouted down the people behind him.
“King of Foreign Lands, can you tell me why?” Li Junxian said, a gentle smile still on his face. Even after hearing Wang Chong’s answer, he was not angered, and his demeanor was truly admirable.
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