Chapter 205: Everlasting Merit
Translator: Transn Editor: Transn
"How do you feel? You've been the Navy Commander for a few months, holding the fates of hundreds of men in your hands and controlling the entire water route. Do you feel like you have an entire empire within your grasp?"
"It's nice to have authority, but it's something given and can be withdrawn at any moment no matter how great it is. I feel very anxious holding it." Junior Leopard looked at a smiling Li Yuan and returned with a wry smile. "Thank you, Your Excellency, for giving me this chance to train myself. During my time in Jiang City, I didn't only broaden my horizon but also nourished my soul. Authority is an illusion, only personal strength is the most substantial!"
"Good!" Li Yuan said repeatedly. "Zhou Bao, it's great that you have such a thought. After doing so many things in Jiang City and gaining so many benefits, I'm afraid you'll be lost in your pursuit of power and hinder your own cultivation!" He paused to have a small sigh. "Back then, I didn't consider this properly. In the end, all I did benefitted some other people instead of myself!"
"You're now the Conquering West General in charge of military affairs of an entire state. You have great power in your hands. You're unlike me, who's a lowly Navy Commander!"
"Hahaha! This brat, after all that talk, you still think your power is too small!"
"You must be kidding, Your Excellency. I've already decided to cultivate in martial arts after my trip to Jiang City. The path of a fighter is what I should be walking on, instead of getting myself involved in court politics. I don't have the ability nor the capital to fight with others!"
"That's not a bad choice. You're already a Level Seven expert at your age. If you put your heart into it, your future will be immeasurable!"
"You exaggerate, Your Excellency. I'm only at Level Four cultivation!"
"A Level Four cultivation, with the battle prowess of Level Seven. With your wolf beside you, I'm afraid any other Level Seven expert will run when they see you."
Li Yuan's words carried a hint of respect, making Junior Leopard extremely comfortable. Yet he said, "I'll never be an expert unless I reach Level Seven cultivation. I wouldn't have won so easily against Dragon Granny if she hadn't underestimated her opponent!"
"Whether it's a strong person or an expert, I won't argue with you. Either way, you're now the strongest asset in my hands. Therefore, you should also receive the best treatment. Now that I'm in charge of the military affairs of the state, I have several good positions. You're still young so it's impossible for me to make you an Admiral. But you can be the Garrison in various counties!"
"Thanks for your gift, Your Excellency. However, if you don't mind, let me stay beside you and serve in your personal guard camp, just like the old times!"
"Won't I be disgracing you to let you stay there?!" Li Yuan laughed helplessly. "You're someone with the battle prowess of a Level Seven expert!"
"You must be joking. It's not humiliating to serve beside you!" Junior Leopard laughed. "Besides, being your personal guard means I'll have plenty of free time. These few years are the crucial period for cultivating martial arts. I need large amounts of personal time to cultivate. If you give me a heavy responsibility, my cultivation will be hindered. Hence, Your Excellency, please do a good deed and allow me to return to the personal guard camp!"
"You, this brat...!" Li Yuan helplessly waved his hand. "If that's the case, then come back. It so happens that I released Wang Lei recently and made Qi Fei the Camp Supervisor. He doesn't have a deputy yet. Since you'll come back, then you can take the position!"
"No way! Your Excellency, just let me be a personal guard. A deputy needs to manage a lot of things!"
"We'll just decide as such. The personal guard camp isn't all that different from the Jianghu; one's strength determines his position. Your battle prowess is first in the camp. You only lack experience. If you stay by my side for a few more years, I'll make you the Camp Supervisor. I'll give you three days, but three days later, assume your post immediately!"
"Yes!" Seeing there were no stopping things from developing in that direction, Junior Leopard helplessly accepted the reality.
Over the next three days, Junior Leopard was basically soaking in the wine jar.
Those from the personal guard camp wouldn't miss such a chance and dragged him to the wine bar every day. They were saying that now Commander Zhou had hit the jackpot and was even promoted, he shouldn't forget about his old brothers. He ate meat, so he had to at least give his brothers some soup to drink.
After being tormented for three days, Junior Leopard finally assumed his position with a groggy head.
Being a personal guard, he was treated well and given plenty of free time.
Things were different now and he was the new deputy, so logically he should be managing some affairs. But he simply couldn't be bothered and pushed all his responsibilities to Qi Fei. He became a Deputy Supervisor only in name. Unable to do anything against him, Qi Fei could only shoulder everything from the small to the big responsibilities that Junior Leopard should be doing.
This time around, Li Yuan's new role was the Conquering West General with the responsibility of managing military affairs in Qing Province.
In Jin, Qing Province was not considered a large state but its geographical location made it crucial. Furthermore, it shared a border with Yunzhou and was northwest of Jin.
Yunzhou was Jin's northernmost state, directly facing Northern Yuan. It could be said to be the frontlines in the war against Northern Yuan. Qing Province was the equivalent to the backup base of Yunzhou, the heartland connecting Yunzhou to the Jin empire. In the past few hundreds of years, Qing Province was at the throat of Yunzhou. Though it was now under the governance of Ma Tianchang, Yunzhou had substantially changed in nature. It was capable of providing for its people, no longer needing the assistance and support of the Jin empire. However, those were ordinary times.
Things were different now. Northern Yuan and Jin had drawn their swords and bows against each other. There were no major conflicts, but minor conflicts were incessant. It could be said both countries were partially at war. Under such a situation, the position of Qing Province became marvelous.
When Junior Leopard was in Zhonghejun City, he had never paid any attention to reports from the north because he was in the hinterland of Jin. Now that he was in Qing Province, he could feel the tense atmosphere.
That atmosphere was thanks to two people: Ma Tianchang and Wang She.
Wang She had murdered the three princes who could be the next Khan. Not only was the three Grandmasters from the Northern Yuan hunting him down, he also aroused the anger of the entire country. Northern Yuan held Jin accountable for his actions. On the other hand, the Seven Troops of Southern Yard went south and congregated military forces at the border of two countries. There were patrolling calvaries everywhere.
Wang She was the catalyst for everything. As for the Governor of Yunzhou in charge of its military affairs, he added numerous firepower in the firestarter.
Under the circumstances whereby the Seven Troops of Southern Yard was testing the waters without actually attacking, he used the provocation of Northern Yuan as an excuse and led his thousand calvaries. Not only did he kill all the patrolling cavalry that the Seven Troops of Southern Yard had sent out, he even went deep into the grasslands and eradicated all the tribes within 50 miles of the border of the two countries. His methods were extremely vicious. This aroused the strong rebound from the Seven Troops of Southern Yard. Both sides battled it out for three rounds. After three rounds, the main forces of the Seven Troops of Southern Yard were exhausted. Three out of the seven troops fled. The other four leaders, together with 3,000 of their calvaries, had their heads chopped off by Ma Tianchang and hung in the borders.
There was a plan behind this!
After a few rounds of battle, everyone could see there was a plan behind this. Ma Tianchang had long prepared for this, setting up a trap. It was as if he knew a year earlier that the Seven Troops of Southern Yard would attack. Hence he wasn't tired when he fought them. It could be said he made an easy work out of them.
When Northern Yuan suffered such a setback, they were forced to slow down. They were furious at Jin but had to rest to recover their lost face.
What they didn't expect was an unprecedented storm of a hundred years to cover the entire grasslands. Countless people and livestock were frozen to death. Even the large tribes within Northern Yuan were struggling, let alone the small ones.
It was only then that Northern Yuan discover Ma Tianchang had already planned to close off the fairs in Northern Yuan a few months prior. Before the fairs were completely closed off, tens of thousands of dan of grains would enter the country. Now, not even a single grain could pass through.
Without anything to eat or wear, the whole Northern Yuan was in a state of extreme frost.
Historically, the only solution to this problem was a southern invasion.
They were taught that if they had nothing to eat, they should go south and rob them; if there was nothing to wear, go south and rob them; if their people were frozen to death, go south and rob them. The solution to their problems was always to go south and to burn, kill, and rob them.
This year, they realized this method didn't seem to be working.
The Seven Troops of Southern Yard, for a few hundred years, had always been the vanguard when Northern Yuan invaded the south. It was also the tribe most familiar with heading down the south. However, these seven tribes had been completely wasted by Ma Tianchang. They now held no zero battle power. Without the Seven Troops of Southern Yard leading them, the calvaries wanting to go south was akin to having lost their pair of eyes.
It was one thing to have their Seven Troops of Southern Yard to lose their power, but the most crucial issue was that Northern Yuan had lost their Khan.
Wali Khan was dead, so was all his three princes with the right to succeed him. All the major tribes were on the move, eyeing the Khan position. It was basically impossible to choose a new Khan within a short period of time.
Without the Khan, the various tribes of the Northern Yuan were just like a pile of loose sand, unable to unify into a powerful force. Though the prairie alliance still existed, it was akin to company meetings in Junior Leopard's past life. There were too many elders with their own benefits and interests. No one wished to submit to another. The First Elder with the highest authority in the alliance was only occupying an empty position, unable to quell the other Elders.
At this moment, the three people with the greatest say in matters were the Three Grandmasters. They were all on the hunt for Wang She and unreachable on such a short notice.
These different factors collectively resulted in the outcome whereby the various tribes in Northern Yuan fought for themselves. They were chanced upon by Ma Tianchang and got ruthlessly slaughtered. The losses they suffered were heavy. Though they later realized something was wrong and purposefully evaded Yunzhou, they took the long way to ambush a few of the prefecture within the borders of Northern Yuan. Firstly, they were already exhausted. Secondly, the various prefectures in Jin were already prepared for them. Hence their spoils were limited. The spoils they had obtained by going south were not even enough to compensate for the losses they had suffered!
It was only after a month ago when the Kunlun Master returned and appeared in the prairie alliance that things began improving.
Under the Kunlun Master's leadership, the remaining forces in Northern Yuan began to gather. They were all the elite Metal Horse Carriage of Northern Yuan with their weapons pointed at Yunzhou.
Yunzhou may be a hard-to-chew bone, it was the flattest land between the intersection of the two countries. It was an open field. Most importantly, the open field was the best possible option for a cavalry charge. That was also the reason why the situation in Yunzhou was so dire before Ma Tianchang became the Governor.
Northern Yuan may have suffered a serious defeat, but they had after all dominated the grasslands for tens of thousands of years. Their foundation still existed. Once the few large tribes gathered and formed a huge force, the metal flow began to roll. They rushed to the various prefectures between the borders of Northern Yuan and Yunzhou. Even though Yunzhou was strong, their troops were limited. Their battle lines were long as well. If not Ma Tianchang, the entire Yunzhou would have fallen. Those in Qing Province, that backed Yunzhou, naturally felt some tense atmosphere. However, Junior Leopard was not deeply affected as a mere deputy in the personal guard camp of the General of Qing Province. His duty was just to protect Li Yuan and, at the moment, he didn't know anyone who would give Li Yuan trouble.
Hence, he spent his days in relaxation. Besides practicing martial arts, he was focused on the fact that one of the three Grandmasters had returned to Northern Yuan. Then, as for the other two, would they still pose a threat to Snake King? uld they still pose a threat to Wang She?
As an observer, Junior Leopard smelled a heavy sense of plot from observing how the entire matter developed.
Yes, a plot!
Northern Yuan had been pushed to such an extent, where they gathered 100,000 Metal Horse Carriages. It looked formidable and unblockable. These carriages may be a big threat to Yunzhou, but not so against entire Jin. The population in Jin was in the billions, with a few million soldiers. As long as Jin finished off these carriages, or simply, blocking them for a few months, the carriages would naturally collapse without support. Once they collapsed, that was the end of the entire Northern Yuan. Jin might take advantage of the opportunity to unify the grasslands and encompass the prairies amongst its rule. Now there were only three people preventing that from happening.
Junior Leopard was the only who thought of this. It was at this moment that Governor Ma Tianchang of Yunzhou submitted a heaven-shaking report. It was this report that would disturb Junior Leopard's peaceful life.
Petition to request the extermination of the Three Great Thieves of Northern Yuan.
The target was the three Grandmasters of Northern Yuan.
This report not only stirred the entire Jin imperial court, but also the Jianghu.
Who were the Northern Yuan Three Grandmasters?
They were the most famous Level Nine experts in the world. They had ruled for over a hundred years without any adversary. They had been the national pillars of Northern Yuan all this while, while simultaneously being unfathomable existences in the Jianghu. It was truly unbelievable for Governor Ma Tianchang to submit a petition to kill these immortal-like beings. Something like this had never happened in the Jianghu.
Level Nine expert was the term for the strongest in this world. Their destructive power was beyond the imagination of an ordinary person. From a certain perspective, such an expert was just like the nuclear weapon from Junior Leopard's past life. It completely had a deterrent effect. They rarely interfered in the wars between countries. In between the wars, no one took into account the presence of these Level Nine experts.
However, the Governor of Yunzhou of Jin wanted to kill these experts. This complicated the problem at hand.
The relationship between Jianghu and the imperial court became marvelous. Similarly, this report simplified the situation between the two countries. Things became more optimistic. The last line in Ma Tianchang's report particularly stirred the people's blood: "Success in this endeavor will be an everlasting merit."
Indeed, things had become more optimistic. It became completely optimistic. As long as the Three Grandmasters were eliminated, the soldiers would destroy the 100,000 Metal Horse Carriages in Yunzhou. Then, there would no longer be any resistance in the prairies. The future of Jin was bright!
Once the Northern Yuan prairies were absorbed into Jin, the imperial court would be unprecedentedly strong. More importantly, it didn't matter what dynasty it was, Ma Tianchang's report would come true. It was an endeavor with everlasting merit!
The Northern Yuan prairies had historically been the nemesis of the Central Plains. In the few tens of thousands of years, the southern Central Plains were always placed in a defensive stance. Occasionally once every thousand years, an ambitious ruler would emerge from the Central Plains who would attack the north and damage Northern Yuan enough to make them submit. For a few hundred years, Northern Yuan would not have the strength to conquer south. But this was extremely difficult to achieve. One would be considered a divine emperor if successful. The last divine emperor anyone knew of was 10,000 years ago.
Ever since the prairie alliance had emerged to unify all the forces in the grasslands, there wasn't anyone in the Central Plains who could make Northern Yuan submit. Furthermore, following the strengthening of the forces in the prairies, its pneuma was rich. In the past 1,000 years, they already had thoughts of conquering the Central Plains. The Shang dynasty before Jin had its pneuma suffer a great loss when the Northern Yuan invaded them on a massive scale. Though they managed to defeat the Metal Horse Carriages of Northern Yuan, their strength was severely diminished and allow the founder of Jin the opportunity to hijack the dynasty.
What about now?
Besides the four people, how things developed was beyond expectations.
Nobody thought a sudden incident and a rarely met storm would cause the entire Northern Yuan to face extermination.
This really was extermination!
10,000 years ago, the ambitious ruler in the prairies formed the prairie alliance system. He would never have imagined the same system that brought 10,000 years of glory to the prairies would also cause the end of the entire grasslands.
10,000 years was a long time to change a lot of things. The carriages of the prairies had already long been used to hearing a single command and used to battle under the banner of Northern Yuan. Though the various big tribes were sauntering about in the prairies, their carriages were no longer able to kill and swallow each other like it used to. This helped to buffer the pneuma of the prairie and also helped remove the bloody stench of the grasslands. When everyone in the prairie was of the same mind, and tens of thousands of carriages were of the same heart, this kind of effect would completely be blocked. There was the spiritual support of the Three Grandmasters and the command of the Wali Khan. There were the Elders of the alliance governing the various tribes. With the addition of the tens of thousands of carriages awaiting command, people only saw the greatness of the prairie army. This kind of worry was completely overlooked.
An unprecedented snowstorm had frozen countless cows, goats, and horses to death without warning. It was one thing for the cows and goats to die. The most important were the horses. They were the horses that go to battle, the same horses that formed the mighty Metal Horse Carriages.
What did the Metal Horse Carriage depend on?
It depended on the horses. Though the Northern Yuan soldiers were ferocious, their force was reduced by at least half without their horses. Turning from a cavalry into a foot soldier, how could they take on the few million armored soldiers from Jin no matter how ferocious they were?
The cruelest thing Ma Tianchang did was cutting off the grain supply to the prairie. Even if Northern Yuan was able to feed on frozen cows and goats to survive the freezing winter, what would happen after?
Without cows, goats, and grains, could they survive on grass?
Hence, when faced with such a natural disaster, the only correct choice Northern Yuan could make was conquering the south. To go southward and rob for wealth, people, and food. This was the only way they could help Northern Yuan survive. The next summer was even harder to live through than the severe winter.
However, only when they were preparing to conquer south, did they realize their country had already fallen into a complete disadvantage without their knowledge.
Since autumn, Ma Tianchang had already begun his merciless killing of the Seven Troops of Southern Yard. Out of the 100,000 troops, only about 10,000 remained. As for the other tribes, they began to plot and fight against each other after the death of Wali Khan's three sons. Their losses were not small. Additionally, their energy was all spent on vying for the Khan's position. They were completely unprepared for the winter. Hence when the winter came, the entire Northern Yuan could only come up with 150,000 calvaries. These calvaries also had to go through the prairies that were now a frozen wasteland. When they reached the borders of Yunzhou, there were only 100,000 men left.
100,000 calvaries were enough to spark a great war, but the only desolation awaited them in the face of Yunzhou and Ma Tianchang.
If the Kunlun Master didn't give up hunting Snake King and returning, those 100,000 calvaries might have collapsed without even fighting.
This was the current situation of Northern Yuan. This was also the best chance the Jin dynasty had in the countless number of years.
Perhaps, in the past, there were few who could recognize this opportunity. However, after Ma Tianchang submitted the report, the entire Jin court was in a flurry. Like a tidal wave, the entire scene was heated up.
This was a divine opportunity!
However, it required consideration and rumination to take advantage of this opportunity.
Everyone in Jin had their attention focused on the imperial court, waiting to see what actions the court would take and when.
Tian Long Dao didn't wait for the court before making their response.
Amongst the three First Chief, Lei Xu and Nian Wushuang brought a batch of experts down the mountains and headed for Northern Yuan. Firstly, they wanted to rescue Snake King who was being hunted by the two Grandmasters. Secondly, they wanted to look for an opportunity to snuff the Northern Yuan experts. They claimed to do their part for the everlasting merit of the Jin dynasty. Apart from sending experts to Northern Yuan, Tian Long Taoism also rallied the Jin pugilists to massacre the Northern Yuan pugilists. They also claimed they would send several of their Level Nine Elders to enter Northern Yuan to kill the Three Grandmasters!
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