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“Young Master Li, the heavens and earth, the sun, moon, and stars all have their Daos, and everything in the world has its principles. Rivers flow from places of high elevation to low elevation, while the sun and moon rise from the east and set in the west. All of these things are easily seen, principles that everyone understands. But your actions, your methods, are doomed to failure. Antelope can live together with mountain goats, but lions cannot share the same cage as tigers. Forcing an antelope to eat meat and a tiger or wolf to eat grass will only lead to a violent death.
“I can understand your original intentions, but Arabia and Ü-Tsang are wolves and tigers, not mountain goats. The concept of the strong eating the weak has penetrated deep into their minds. A few schools and some wishful explanations will never lead to success,” Wang Chong sternly said.
These people were far too idealistic. This was no longer a question of whether or not they would succeed, but of just how heavy a price the Central Plains would have to pay for their dreams.
“Heh, King of Foreign Lands, rivers run from places of high elevation to low elevation, but people can carry water from low elevations to high elevations. The sun and moon might rise in the east and set in the west, but when the sun and moon are not present, people can light torches to illuminate the darkness. For some things, if one does not even have the courage to attempt them, how can one even know if they will succeed?”
Li Junxian’s expression was firm as he sternly replied.
“But if you fail? Do you know how great the price will be? For your ideals and aspirations, do you know how many people will have to be sacrificed? More than four hundred thousand people lost their lives in the war of the southwest, but only a hundred-thousand-some were Tang soldiers. In the Battle of Talas and Battle of Khorasan, more than one million soldiers died, but the Tang army lost only two-hundred-thousand-some in that number, and this was already unbearable for you. But if your plan fails, do you understand just how many people of the Central Plains will die? Several hundred thousand? Several million? That number will be something that none of you will ever be able to imagine! Something that you have not even thought about before!” Wang Chong harshly rebuked.
This time, Li Junxian said nothing more. He slowly closed his eyes as if sinking into deep thought. After a long while, his voice resounded through the restaurant once more.
“Everything has its price to pay. In the war between Qin and Zhao, both sides lost more than four hundred thousand soldiers while dragging in countless common people. In the Battle of the Fei River, an army of more than eight hundred thousand soldiers was wiped out. And when the former Sui went to war against the Goguryeo Empire, casualties reached one million while more than five million peasants were affected, and in the end, the war led to the end of the Great Sui1. Such examples throughout history are too numerous to mention.
“If war is not brought to an end, such losses will also never come to an end. Ever since ancient times, the number of people lost because people could not share the same thoughts and warred against each other could number in the tens of millions. If the Harmonious World can be realized and all wars brought to an end, any price is worth it,” Li Junxian sternly said, his voice extremely calm. It was so emotionless that it seemed like he was discussing some daily trifle.
“Ridiculous! You are treating the fate of the country like a child’s game!”
Wang Chong instantly grimaced, his mouth spitting out a swift rebuke. These people were true madmen. For the sake of their ideals and righteousness, they were treating all the people of the world like pieces on a chess board. They said it was for the world, but they cared little for the actual fates of the common people. With the calamity imminent, the Great Tang could not endure their troublemaking.
No matter what, Wang Chong could not allow them to succeed.
“Just put an end to such thoughts. The people of the Great Tang are not tools to be used to realize your goal. I don’t care if you’re doing it for the sake of a Harmonious World, nor do I care how noble you think your goal is, and I certainly don’t care what sort of flag you fly. If I can live for one more day, that is one more day that your plans will never succeed!”
Wang Chong’s words were the hammer to the nail, exuding his enormous resolve. Wang Chong had gone through tremendous effort to pacify the southwest and Talas precisely so that he could prevent the Great Tang’s ruin and save its people. And while these people seemed to share the same goal with him on the surface, in reality, their aims were exactly opposite. The Central Plains and the millions living within it had become the chips for their gamble, the tools for their plans.
Even if he hadn’t been reincarnated, Wang Chong would never permit these people to succeed.
All the Confucians left in the restaurant paled at Wang Chong’s words. Wang Chong was the Great Tang’s War God of the new generation, the first King of a different surname in the last few centuries. Whether it was in the Imperial Court, the people, or the army, Wang Chong possessed enormous influence. If Wang Chong was determined to oppose them, their plans would be impeded every step of the way. Moreover, the Wang Clan was a clan of ministers and generals that had spent three generations serving as loyal subjects. It had an illustrious status, and when this faction gathered its power, it represented a significant strength.
“King of Foreign Lands, with these words, you have decided to become our enemy!”
Across the table, Li Junxian’s expression slightly chilled, the first shift in his calm expression.
From start to finish, he had always wanted to recruit Wang Chong. If he had the help of the King of Foreign Lands, he would face much less pressure. But reality differed from his wishes. Wang Chong seemed to have his mind set on opposing them—the last thing Li Junxian wanted to see.
“It is not me deciding to become your enemy, but you deciding to become my enemy! The world is not your chess board, and the people are not your toys. I will give you one last chance. It is not too late to draw back your hand now. Otherwise, I will pull you up from your roots. Zhang Chaoshu was only the beginning. If I can pull out one Zhang Chaoshu, I can pull out countless like him. I will remove all the chess pieces you’ve placed in the Imperial Court!” Wang Chong coldly said.
Wang Chong had not come to Drunken Moon Pavilion simply to meet with Li Junxian. The simplemindedness and naivety of this group had already damaged the Great Tang, and he could not allow it to continue and inflict even greater damage!
Wang Chong’s threat sent shockwaves through the restaurant, causing everyone to pale.
The Confucians lashed out, and the room was immediately brimming with enormous auras of energy, erupting from their bodies and locking onto Wang Chong. But a moment later, a small motion from Li Junxian immediately suppressed all of them.
With a sweep of his snow-white sleeves, Li Junxian stood up from his seat. His face had no more smile, and his expression was extremely solemn. He no longer called Wang Chong ‘King of Foreign Lands’ but directly addressed him by name.
“The Harmonious World is the irresistible trend, that which all things are flowing to. The will of a single person cannot change this. Even if you are a general, minister, or King, you are insignificant before this momentum. A praying mantis trying to stop a carriage fails to know its own strength. Not only will you fail to stop the wheels of history, you will bring a scourge upon yourself, your body crushed into powder!
“Whether it was in the southwest or northwest, I always believed that we were the same kind of people. This was why I tolerated you once, twice, thrice. Thus, even though you refused me the last time, even though I knew there was a high chance that you would not agree, I still waited for you in this restaurant to try and convince you one last time. Alas, you are far more foolish than I had imagined. You are not threatening us, only seeking your own destruction. In the end, you and the Wang Clan behind you will have to pay the price… Any stumbling block that dares to try and stop the wheel of history will in the end become crushed into powder and dust.”
As Li Junxian spoke, he slowly straightened his body, and his snow-white robes began to flap and snap around him. At this same moment, a tyrannical and boundless aura erupted from his body, not one bit inferior to Wang Chong’s.
Wang Chong’s pupils constricted and his face became a sheet of ice.
“It seems that we do not share the same path and cannot deal with each other. This being the case, farewell!”
With these words, Wang Chong drained his cup, and left with a sweep of his sleeve.
In this meeting, both Wang Chong and Li Junxian had failed to persuade their counterpart. Their experiences were different, as were their ideals, dooming them to walk different paths. As Wang Chong rose and left the restaurant, all was deathly still and silent.
“Wait a moment.”
As Wang Chong reached the stairwell, a voice came from behind him. Li Junxian stood in front of the table, staring at Wang Chong’s back with a cold and aloof expression.
“If you leave this place, we will be eternal foes!”
“We already are!”
Wang Chong’s steps paused for a moment, and then he continued onward.
“King of Foreign Lands, I will leave you with these words. You did not kill Boren, but Boren died because of you2! Ever since Khorasan, your subordinates are not out of reach!”
Li Junxian’s voice carried a menacing tone.
Wang Chong’s steps came to a sudden halt, and his body trembled. For the first time, Wang Chong paled.
After just a moment, Wang Chong regained his senses and continued down the stairs.
“I have accepted the good intentions of the Confucian Sect! In the future, I will be certain to pay a visit!”
The words ‘Confucian Sect’ caused all the Confucians on the second floor, including the young man who had performed the sword dance, to instantly grimace. Even the elegant and graceful Li Junxian finally lost his composure. But before he could speak, thump, thump, thump! Wang Chong had already left Drunken Moon Pavilion.
“Your Highness, how did it go?”
Wang Chong had barely left Drunken Moon Pavilion when a group of people went up to meet him.
“Let’s get on the carriage first, and then we’ll talk!” Wang Chong grimly said.
Rumble! The carriage quickly departed Drunken Moon Pavilion toward the Wang Family Residence. As Wang Chong sat within, thick clouds of worry covered his brow.
“Old Eagle, immediately write a letter to Su Hanshan and Li Siye in the northwest to gather up all their subordinates. Without my order, they are forbidden to oppose the commanders sent by the Confucian school! I want the letter sent out today!”
1. The war between Qin and Zhao refers to the Battle of Changping during the Warring States Period. Qin lost 250,000 soldiers in this battle, but it more infamously buried 400,000 soldiers of the state of Zhao alive. The Battle of the Fei River was a battle between the Eastern Jin Dynasty and the Former Qin Dynasty. Due to the poor training of the vast Former Qin army, the Jin army was able to fool the soldiers into a rout and dealt the Former Qin army a crushing defeat, resulting in more than 700,000 soldiers being killed. This battle allowed the Eastern Jin Dynasty to maintain its hold over southern China while northern China collapsed into the chaos of the Sixteen Kingdoms Period. The Sui Dynasty attempted several invasions of Goguryeo, one during the time of its first Emperor and three during the reign of its second Emperor. The invasions were so disastrous that they are seen as one of the primary causes for the collapse of the Sui.↩
2. ‘You did not kill Boren, but Boren died because of you’ refers to an incident during the Eastern Jin Dynasty. Wang Dao was an assistant to Emperor Yuan of the Eastern Jin. Wang Dao’s cousin, Wang Dun, rebelled against the Emperor and began to encroach on the capital. Wang Dao, fearing that he and his family would be executed, went to beg at the Emperor’s doorstep, but the Emperor refused to see him. Wang Dao asked Zhou Yi, whose courtesy name was Boren, to intercede on his behalf, which Zhou Yi did. However, he hid his involvement by cursing at Wang Dao, causing Wang Dao to believe that Zhou Yi hated him. Later on, when Wang Dun took the capital, he asked Wang Dao what he thought of Zhou Yi. Wang Dao said nothing, so Wang Dun had Zhou Yi executed. It was only later on that Wang Dao found out what Zhou Yi had done for him, causing him to lament, “I did not kill Boren, but Boren died because of me.”↩
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