Chapter 5: The Future Discussion of an Unrepresented Tang
Translator: Transn Editor: Transn
The Tang empire was regarded as the most powerful country in the world for a simple but strong reason.
Ning Que was not an indigenous person to Tang. He was not brave enough to fight to the death on the battlefield or humorous enough to set fire to his own house just for fun. Even if he were given another twenty years to live in the City of Wei, he would not have a dramatic life and rise to a general from a beggar.
However, he had been in the army long enough that he understood the strengths and weaknesses of the Tangs in this period. As soon as he found the arrow holes in the princess's carriages, he inferred some troubling issues — If the successive Chanyu was so bold as to try and assassinate the princess of Tang regardless of laws, he was either insane or he had gotten some promises from some actual powerful guys in the court of the empire that he would not face retaliation.
"The princess Li Yu has already entered the City of Wei in Tang, but she still hasn't told anyone who she is. Why? Possibly, she doesn't trust anyone or she would like to confide in His Majesty. But, she never trusts anyone in the court, including you, soldiers like us or the entire imperial court."
"Because she knows that the grassland barbarians must get some sort of permission from someone in Chang'an to assassinate her. Moreover, the people who could be trusted in Chanyu and could give that type of permission to barbarians numbered less than four, all of whom she doesn't want to mess with."
"For this kind of war among the courts, even you, a general, would have to stay away, let alone an ordinary person like me... " Ning Que crushed the wet mud with his heels and whispered. "There must have been a lot of trouble during the trip and even if I take down three or five enemies, I still won't be able to change the situation."
"So, if I join them, there will be one more dead body on the mountain; if I don't, there will be one more honest soldier in the City of Wei."
"General, please treat me as if I were the waste air in nature and don't count on me."
Ma Shixiang looked at the seemingly humble young people and said, "You should call yourself a fart if you really want me to withdraw the order."
Ning Que smiled and answered. "I'm going to be a student at the Academy and certainly, it's better to talk elegantly."
Ma Shixiang did not continue to tease the young man. He frowned and then explained to him. "Recommending you to be the guide for the princess has something to do with the Academy actually. You have gotten enough military deeds and passed your first exam. I also asked my superior to write a recommendation for you and a confirmation was received from the Military Ministry. But, do you really think those are enough to get you into the Academy?"
"You've been staying in the City of Wei frontier fortress all of these years and I'm sure you have heard some legends about the Academy, but still you have no understanding of that place."
The general was very dignified and serious. "In our opinion, the Academy is the most sacred and inviolable place. The confirmation from the Military Ministry only means you can take the entrance exam for the Academy. But, you have to collect stamps from at least three departments before you can join the Academy."
"The department won't likely take the recommendation written by low-ranked general's like us seriously. Even the confirmation from the Military Ministry isn't enough. They could easily delay you taking your exam for several years." "Your situation has become pretty common in these past few years. Except for the students that are admitted by the teachers of the Academy, any student recommended by the imperial departments has to buy their way into the Academy and this would cost all of their families resources."
"I know you have some money saved here, but, do you really think that just a few hundred silver will satisfy these guys?"
Ning Que scratched his head and sighed. "No one told me about that."
"There's no need to tell you because there is a solution."
Ma Shixiang looked at him and said forcefully, "If you can make a contribution during this trip and impress the Princess, even if she can only remember your name or she can request that some steward intercedes for you in Chang'an, no one would dare to blackmail you after that."
"That means, I have to gamble with my life to receive a qualification for an Academy entry exam. That seems unfair." Ning Que said.
Ma Shixiang stared at him fiercely and said, "Imbicile! Many people are willing to sell their mother or kill their father just to get into the Academy and yet, you are going to just quit because of a little risk?"
After a while, the general had calmed down and he said, "According to my analysis, the Princess also knows that she can't cover her tracks. So, if you can figure out who she is, all of the people in the City of Wei can as well. How come her enemies haven't figured her out? Since she insisted on continuing the trip, there must be some reinforcements not far away. Your mission is to guide her through the mountains and help her get touch with those reinforcements as soon as possible. How can you call that gambling?"
Ning Que lowered his head and tried to figure out the pros and cons of this.
Ma Shixiang looked at him and thought about his odd temper which annoyed most people. He knew it would be hard to convince Ning Que without there being any profit. He sighed and whispered. "An old man is going with the princess, whose first name is Lv. And, it is said that he practiced in the South School of Haotian Taoism."
Hearing this, Ning Que suddenly looked up and immediately his eyes lit up.
Ma Shixiang said, "You arrived here when you were a little kid and played with everyone in the city, charming them with your sweet mouth and your abilities. You were always the most popular kid in the city even with the soldiers who came and went or the bosses of that meat pie restaurant that had changed twice."
He touched Ning Que's head as if he were a spoiled boy and said, "The former general got you a military status before he died. You saved us when we went to the grassland to kill the Horse Gang and almost got killed by the barbarians that autumn. Thanks to you, we came back alive. Everyone here has decided to reward to you and we already collected money to buy you a night with the most popular prostitute in the capital, if you want."
The gray-haired general changed the subject and said, "But, no one had expected that you wanted to learn magic stuff. Unfortunately, we couldn't find you a teacher to help you and we just let you read the Article on the Response of the Tao over and over."
"Now is your chance."
Ma Shixiang suddenly became serious. "The Academy, as well as the old man named Lv, you have to catch them both."
Ning Que kept silence for a long time and then sighed. "I just don't want to leave here."
The moonlight was very soft and peaceful outside the window. Ma Shixiang looked at the young man and said, "The City of Wei is still too small and you should go to the capital Chang'an and see the real world. Maybe there will be some monsters but, none of them should scare you away."
"At least, out there, there won't be only one Article on the Response of the Tao ."