Chapter 274

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Chapter 274: Those Who Underestimate You Have Already Met Yama!

Prince of Southern Jiang and Wang Fugui exchanged glances.

Prince of Southern Jiang fell silent for a moment, gazing at Wang Fugui with a profound look. “Fugui, what kind of strategy do you think General Zhao is using? You said he acted under cover of night, but now it’s daylight, everyone is well-rested, had breakfast, so how does he plan to proceed?”

Wang Fugui was sweating profusely and stuttered, “Your Highness, General Zhao might… General Zhao might… think that launching a surprise attack at night is too commonplace, so he switched to daytime, catching us off guard!”

“Nonsense! In my opinion, something has gone wrong!” Prince of Southern Jiang retorted in anger.

Wang Fugui felt scolded like a dog and shrank his head.

Prince of Southern Jiang continued, his voice filled with fury, “General Zhao has always been prudent in his actions. He knew we were waiting outside. If there were no movements, he would have sent a message to reassure us. Yet until now, there’s been no news. He’s undoubtedly in trouble! It’s highly likely… he has been captured by the imperial forces!”

Wang Fugui anxiously asked, “Your Highness, what should we do now?”

“We should… retreat, of course!” Prince of Southern Jiang said with a touch of reluctance and urgency, “If General Zhao and his team were captured, we might have been exposed. The situation is extremely unfavorable for us. So, we must retreat immediately!”

Just as he finished speaking, a soldier rushed over from a distance, flustered and exclaimed, “Your Highness, bad news! A large contingent of imperial troops has been spotted coming from the southeast. They’re heading our way!”

Prince of Southern Jiang’s expression changed.

A moment later, another soldier rushed over, equally flustered, and said, “Your Highness, bad news! A large contingent of imperial troops has been spotted coming from the southwest. They’re heading towards our forces!”

Prince of Southern Jiang’s expression changed once again.

Following that, several more soldiers came, all with the same anxious look.

“Your Highness, bad news! A large contingent of imperial troops has been spotted to the due east…”

“Your Highness, bad news! A large contingent of imperial troops has been spotted to the due west…”

Prince of Southern Jiang’s face changed time and time again.

With each change, his complexion turned paler.

Finally, he clenched his teeth and said through gritted teeth, “Damn it! I knew it, we’ve been exposed. We’re surrounded by imperial troops!”

Wang Fugui anxiously asked, “Your Highness, what should we do now?”

“No time to lose, break through for me!” Prince of Southern Jiang shouted fiercely.

“Yes, Your Highness!” the crowd echoed.

Thus, Prince of Southern Jiang led the group and charged in one direction.

Cleverly, they didn’t head straight towards Southern Jiang; instead, they chose to circle around, aiming to return to the south. The imperial forces pursued, intercepting them along the way, setting up successive obstacles, using all the resources at their disposal, trapping Prince of Southern Jiang and his followers with nowhere to escape.

Luckily, Prince of Southern Jiang had skilled protectors by his side; otherwise, he would have met his end long ago.

This pursuit lasted an entire week.

Although Prince of Southern Jiang managed to return to the south, he had lost dozens of pounds and was utterly exhausted.

Of the troops he had brought, apart from a few thousand elite soldiers who made it back with him, the rest perished along the way.

Adding to this the soldiers who vanished in Gongxu Mountain, the total loss amounted to more than 80,000!

Bad news travels fast; this incident quickly became a global joke.

“Prince of Southern Jiang, failing to steal the chicken while losing the rice! Initially wanted to seize the grain, but ended up sacrificing his own troops!”

“More than 80,000 troops were lost just like that. Not a single grain was secured. I feel so sorry for them, hahaha!”

“It’s said that Prince of Southern Jiang hadn’t intended for his men to pose as commoners and infiltrate Gongxu Mountain. The plan was to combine internal and external efforts to seize the grain. Yet the imperial court saw through it, easily capturing them, and delivering 50,000 heads to them!”

“Meanwhile, he was waiting outside like a fool, swarmed by mosquitoes all night long!”

“After being chased by the imperial forces for over a thousand miles, there are hardly any survivors left, and those remaining have all grown thin!”

“Back home, Prince of Southern Jiang was so enraged that he locked himself in, hahaha!”

In the land of Northern Hebei, at the Royal Palace.

The Prince of Northern Hebei looked at the latest battle report, laughing so much that he nearly doubled over.

“Oh, dear brother, dear brother, you’ve never really suffered in your life, and yet you were chased over a thousand miles, losing all your plumpness. I’m laughing… No, I mean, I’m so heartbroken… hahaha!”

Strategist Zhuge’s face was filled with a smile. “Congratulations, Your Highness. This simple ploy of using another to do the dirty work has caused Prince of Southern Jiang to suffer losses and greatly diminished his threat.”

“It’s a cause for everyone to celebrate!” Prince of Northern Hebei chuckled, his face glowing with happiness. “I heard this plan was proposed by Lord Lin, right?”

Strategist Zhuge promptly replied, “Yes, Your Highness! As Miss Rushuang mentioned in the letter, indeed, Lord Lin Beifan suggested this strategy. He memorialized to the imperial court and offered a solution. His contribution is significant!”

The Prince of Northern Hebei laughed heartily, unable to contain his joy. “Absolutely right, absolutely right. Lord Lin has done a great favor for me. He deserves rich rewards!”

“But, Your Highness, our royal treasury doesn’t have that much money left…”

“Even if we don’t have money, we must reward. I’m delighted, hahaha!”

In the Wuxi region, at the Royal Palace,
Upon learning of this incident, the Wuxi Duke laughed even more cheerfully.

“Oh, elder brother, elder brother, you’re experiencing this now! Back then, you mocked me for being led around in circles by a bunch of ragtag soldiers. But look at you now, you’re even worse off than me. You’ve directly handed your troops to the court on a silver platter and got chased for a thousand miles… hahaha…”

“You didn’t manage to plunder any grain, yet you’ve lost 80,000 troops and all your face. It must be heart-wrenching, isn’t it? Hahaha…”

Suddenly, the Wuxi Duke shouted outside, “Hey there!”

“Your Highness, what are your orders?”

The Wuxi Duke covered his belly, laughing, “Take that gong back to him and comfort our elder brother! Tell him that even if he ends up with nothing, I’ll still give him a proper send-off (referring to the gong sound at a funeral), hahaha!”

“Yes, Your Highness!”

In the Great Wu Court, the Empress was equally joyous.

Prince of Southern Jiang had caused them no small trouble. This time, he had shed a layer of his skin. Let’s see if he would dare to cause more trouble in the future.

She looked at Lin Beifan with a warm smile. “Minister, you’ve accomplished a great feat once again. How should I reward you?”

For a moment, envy and jealousy filled the entire court.

However, Lin Beifan remained very composed. “Your Majesty, this minor achievement doesn’t require a reward. Once I accumulate enough merits in the future, promotion and titles will come in due course.”

This remark twisted everyone’s mouths and made them roll their eyes. This counted as a minor achievement?

You’re too modest. I want to hit you!

The Empress smiled gently, “Alright! I’ll keep that in mind for you.”

“Thank you, Your Majesty!” Lin Beifan bowed respectfully.

The Empress then turned serious, “Now, outside, we’ve defeated the Great Xia Dynasty, deterring our external enemies. Internally, we’ve defeated Prince of Southern Jiang, causing him to suffer losses and deterring the various vassal kings. In the martial world, after experiencing several grand upheavals, everything has now stabilized. The current situation is highly advantageous for our court.”

“Therefore, esteemed ministers, we should seize this period of tranquility to vigorously develop and continue amassing strength. The more powerful we become, the less our enemies will dare to act. We should strike once and avoid a hundred retaliations!”

“Yes, Your Majesty!” the court officials replied in unison.

After the morning court session, Lin Beifan didn’t head to the Imperial Study or the Imperial Academy. Instead, he arrived at the heavily guarded Tianlao Prison, where he met the imprisoned Crown Prince of the Great Xia, Xia Tianqiong.

“Long time no see, Your Highness! You look much better!” Lin Beifan smiled.

Indeed, Crown Prince Xia Tianqiong looked much improved, seemingly regaining some of his past glory.

This was due to the fact that the court had not mistreated him. They provided him with the best food and clothing, even arranging the prison cell to be rather comfortable and enjoyable.

Apart from restricted movement, everything else he received was befitting of a royal prince.

“Lord Lin, you’ve come!” Xia Tianqiong put down the book in his hand and gazed calmly at Lin Beifan.

No hatred, no anger, just an extraordinary calmness.

Yet, beneath this calmness lay an indescribable fear.

He couldn’t fathom why he felt scared every time he saw Lin Beifan. The happier the other person seemed, the more frightened he became.

After all, the other party was merely a powerless scholar.

“It seems, Your Highness, you’ve already come to terms with it!” Lin Beifan smiled.

“What can I do if I can’t come to terms with it? Everything has already been set in stone!” Xia Tianqiong smiled bitterly.

Lin Beifan nodded, “You’re right, it’s all set in stone! The Great Xia Court has already admitted defeat, paying 10 million taels and redeeming 600,000 surrendered soldiers from Hulao Pass. They’ve also promised to provide 30 million taels worth of goods as compensation. Currently, the first batch of grain has been transported to the capital!”

Xia Tianqiong sighed with pain, “I am a criminal of the Great Xia!”

This war indemnity struck at the heart of their vulnerability.

The 10 million taels were manageable, it could be squeezed out somehow.

The main issue was the 30 million taels worth of goods. It was like extracting blood from the Great Xia’s body.

With so many resources lacking, the development of the Great Xia would undoubtedly be restricted, their economy impacted, livelihoods worsened, and national strength weakened, affecting every aspect.

In comparison, the Great Wu, gaining these resources, would rapidly grow stronger and would be harder to contend with in the future.

Furthermore, during this period, his several imperial brothers would surely not sit still, attempting to seize power opportunistically, leading to instability in the court and further weakening the nation’s strength.

It could be said that because of him, the entire Great Xia had suffered!

“Your Highness, do you regret it now? If you were given another chance, would you still raise arms against Wu?”

Lin Beifan asked.

Xia Tianqiong shook his head with a bitter smile, “What’s the point of discussing these matters now? To say I don’t regret it is impossible! However, if I were given another chance, I would still…”

He raised his head, locking eyes with Lin Beifan, and spoke each word slowly, “Raise arms against Wu!”

“But, before raising arms…” Xia Tianqiong pointed at Lin Beifan, “I would definitely kill you first! Without killing you, I won’t send out troops!”

Lin Beifan chuckled, “Your Highness, you really think highly of me.”

“Because those who underestimate you have already met Yama!! If it weren’t for me still having some use, weeds might have grown on my grave by now!”

Lin Beifan burst into laughter, “Your Highness, you’re truly humorous!”

“This isn’t humor, but… the truth!” Xia Tianqiong’s lips curled with bitterness.

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