Martial King’s Retired Life is a web novel created by Lee Taibai, Lee太白.
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Liu Shan Men and the Three Departments – Three Perspectives
“This is a very grave problem.”
Secretary of Personnel, Zhang Chunfeng, was seated in his home. Kong Duan, Secretary of the Ministry of Rites, and Qian Wuque, Secretary of the Ministry of Revenue, gathered at Secretary Zhang Chunfeng’s abode right after the conference. The three wanted to discuss the matter discussed back in the palace earlier. Specifically, they wanted to discuss the three students they were asked to take under their wing.
Secretary Zhang enjoyed a nip of tea. Stroking his beard with a stern temperament, he said, “His Majesty usually wouldn’t gather the six ministries for nothing, yet he gathered us and the prime minister for such a menial matter today. Liu Shan Men fell from grace after Yan Shisan was removed from power. Everyone is aware the Qilin Guards now wield the most power among the three law enforcement offices. Only His Majesty’s entourage has a chance against them, because they have Tian Hu. The only noteworthy one under Liu Shan Men’s Vice-Captain Shen is a straight-faced and frigid constable. They won’t go anywhere with such an awful lack of talent.”
Secretary Qian chimed in: “Perhaps that is why Shen Yiren asked His Majesty to give her special treatment for recruitments. Don’t forget His Majesty and Shen Clan have been friends for decades.”
“Still, Liu Shan Men oversees matters in the martial world. Unless it involves the martial world, Shuntian Prefecture or the local government offices handle the problems even if it’s a security issue. There’s no need for Liu Shan Men. It’s insane for His Majesty to ask us to take them in as students.”
Secretary Zhang shook his head: “You two would be dismayed to know the joke they are. This old one has met the three individuals in question. Tang Ye is acceptable, but the other two are an insult to the imperial court. They’re all brawn and no brains. The three of us are scholars. We enjoy literature in all shapes and forms, including at work. It would be very difficult for us to handle martial artists as students.”
“You are absolutely right, Brother He Ya.”
He Ya was Secretary Zhang’s courtesy name. Secretary Kong and him were close in age and joined the imperial court at the same time. That was why they commonly addressed each other by their courtesy name. Apparently, Secretary Kong was one of Confucius’ descendants, though which generation was unknown. He was a steady man who valued formalities, morality and character.
The three unruly constables from Liu Shan Men got on Secretary Kong’s nerves. He fumed, “And we have the worst one, Liu Shan’s Plague, Ming Feizhen, among the three of them. Not only is he late to conferences, but he also left without a word during the fuma selection, rendering everyone dumbstruck. He completely disregards His Majesty. I am glad Princess Hongzhuang did not choose him as her husband. Else, he would bring shame to the imperial family.”
Secretary Qian, Secretary of the Ministry of Revenue, favourite hobby was plotting. Frowning, he added, “The three are unorganised, don’t abide to rules and are proper martial artists. I would think that the imperial court will heavily promoted them as military officials in the future, as they are from Liu Shan Men. That on top of the way we operate means they are not a suitable fit for our three departments. For that reason, it is best for them to learn under Lie Jingchan’s Ministry of Military. I think His Majesty added us to the equation for other reasons.”
“Secretary Qian is right. His Majesty wants the three to figuratively take root in the imperial court. He would not have us take in students. If they were under our banners, they would naturally enjoy a smooth journey in the imperial court as well privileges. Who would dare to refuse? From this, we can infer His Majesty genuinely wants to promote the three.”
Secretary Zhang sounded more and more a.s.sured as he went on. He nodded: “Fortunately, the plan fell apart thanks to the prime minister and Secretary Leng’s intervention. Else, the consequences would be dire. His Majesty grows more cunning with age.”
The second the three felt relieved they escaped a calamity, they heard someone with a clear voice coming from outside. The voice evidently belonged to someone from the imperial palace. The visitor declared, “An imperial decree has arrived! Secretary Zhang, Secretary King and Secretary Qian, heed His Majesty’s decree!”
By the time they knew it, a decree was at the door.
At the Ministry of Military’s office.
Secretary Lie, who was sitting in the guest room, slapped himself on the head and rambled, “We were quarrelling wildly over Jin w.a.n.gsun and the Seven Champion Princes not long ago, yet His Majesty switched the topic today. What is he thinking? I don’t understand a thing that happened today.”
Secretary Lie’s old friend, Secretary Lu Boan, sat to his side. With an exquisitely made device in his hand and head down, he replied, “It would be a miracle if you did. Just know this: His Majesty had another agenda below the surface level of what he said. It’s good you didn’t understand.”
“Why is His Majesty speaking in a more and more profound manner? All I hear is confusing stuff. Man, what does His Majesty mean by taking on students? I’m on edge now. I’ve spent the majority of my life fighting wars without ever thinking about taking in a successor. I do want a student, sure, especially that Ming Fei what’s his face. He’s physically tough. I think he’s talent who can be refined. How about I ask His Majesty for him?”
Head still down, Secretary Lu said, “It is in your best interests to stay out of it.”
Secretary Lie reacted surprised: “Huh? You want to fight me for him? That Ming Fei what’s his face is an obvious halfwit. There’s no point in you recruiting him.”
“You shouldn’t get involved, and I won’t. Let them get involved,” replied Secretary Lu, continuing to fiddle with the device in his hands. Frigidly, he elaborated, “The Seven Champion White Princes have always been a thorn in His Majesty’s side. Regardless of which if it’s our faction, their faction or His Majesty’s, none of us want to let the Seven Champion Princes continue in their audacious ways.”
The elaboration only served to confuse Secretary Lie even further. It went from students to the Seven Champion Princes somehow.
“The intent is obvious. His Majesty’s entourage is essentially his and the imperial family’s security detail. The Qilin Guards are tasked with protecting the kingdom, maintaining order and dealing with the unorthodox sects. The best candidates for dealing with the Seven Champion Princes, however, are Liu Shan Men, the constables enforcing justice on behalf of the heavens,” explained Secretary Lu, before suddenly changing the topic. “Old Lie, how long do you need to prepare to wipe out the Seven Champion White Princes?”
Stroking his beard, Secretary Lie said, “Ten months to prepare. Fourteen months to train the soldiers. Give me a year and a half. Seven Champion White Princes or Seven Black Princes, I’ll mow them all down.”
“They live right next door. If you go about it so flamboyantly, how would they not know you’re coming?” rhetorically asked Secretary Lu. He finally looked up: “The only solution is to let the pugilistic world find incriminating evidence to gradually disintegrate and uproot them. That is why His Majesty wants to nurture and raise Liu Shan Men.”
“You mean that we shouldn’t get involved? I think that Ming Fei what’s his f-“
“If we get involved and let them start from the pugilistic world, it would take ages before we can start a war. His Majesty is thinking long term. If we go with his plan, it would take, at least, ten years. How do we benefit from getting involved? It’s a good idea to let Prime Minister Li stir the pot. We should find an opportunity to ask for leave of absence. It’s in our best interest to not get involved,” explained Secretary Lu.
Secretary Lie nodded furiously. The question was how much did he really understand? The two of them were reformists; however, Secretary Lie was careless unlike Secretary Lu. As such, Secretary Lu was actually the strategist for the faction.
“A royal decree has arrived! Secretary Lie from the Ministry of Military and Secretary Lu from the Ministry of Works, please come and heed His Majesty’s decree!” somebody called from outside.
Prime Minister Li Si had a nip of Longjing Tea. In his hand was a white stone used in Go. He mulled for a long time before making his play. He was very invested in the game. Next to him was a beautiful woman roughly forty years old. She was quite the beauty in every aspect. Even her mannerisms were refined. However, her serious expression indicated she was not to be underestimated. While others would flatter the prime minister, she fumed, “It’s really annoying when you don’t answer what you’re asked. Tell me: what did His Majesty summon you to the palace for?”
Aforementioned woman was the prime minister’s wife. She was young in appearance – she was younger than the prime minister by thirty years. His first wife pa.s.sed away a long time ago, after which he remarried. Despite their age gap, the two were very affectionate with each other.
The prime minister never married anyone else after marrying Madam Li. When he married her, he was over fifty already. His eldest son was only nine, implying he was still in decent shape.
Madam Li nudged her husband’s arm and grumbled, “Did something happen? His Majesty did summon you all out of the blue. It’s not going to impact you, is it? He’s not punishing you for going too far with your foolery, is he?”
Madam Li was aware her husband served the imperial court for three generations; that said, she knew his temperament equally well. The old man loved to make a fool out of others. Every now and then, he’d make a joke out of the Emperor. That was a reason for concern all the time. She always made him report to her what happened when he returned from conferences to see if he crossed the line in any capacity that day.
Prime Minister Li chuckled. He was focused on his game of Go. It took a while before he finally responded, “You need not worry, My Lady. Don’t fret. I have served the imperial court for three generations. I know exactly what to say and do. His Majesty wanted us to work on a silly task.”
Madam Li leaned in: “What is it? What is it? Can you add another merit to your name if you succeed?”
“See, you’re clearly not a professional in the field. What merit? I’ve served as an official for my entire life. Since when did I ever rely on accomplishments to get to where I am? With greater accomplishments, comes greater trouble, thus, less reliable.”
“Why are you so unreliable, My Lord? What bad could possibly come out of accomplishing things?”
“Of course it’s bad. It’s catastrophic. If you accomplish things, you stand out. Since when was standing out a good thing? Why not keep away from the trivial stuff and enjoy an unfettered life?” responded Prime Minister Li. He was happy with the outcome of the game. He placed the manual down and smiled: “Give me a ma.s.sage. My back is always aching during winter.”
“Yes, My Lord,” responded Madam Li. She began to give her husband his ma.s.sage, thumping and rubbing: “You should not brush off everything His Majesty says. You may wield great power and influence; however, the Ministry of Personnel’s Zhang Chunfeng and the Ministry of Work’s Lu Boan are both individuals you need to be wary of. They both want to take your place. You never do anything except dine at Eight Deities Tavern and drink at Dongpo Restaurant. It’s time you actually work.”
Prime Minister li laughed: “You are wise, my lady. I’m surprised you can see that.”
Madam Li started to look a little smug and put less effort into her ma.s.sage: “Heh, that’s nothing. I learn a thing or two when I follow you around.”
Prime Minister Li burst into laughter. He never felt lonely with his wife around him. A while later, he got to his feet and said, “My Lady, I need to go out for a while. If anyone comes looking for me, tell them I’m not at home.”
The prime minister then grabbed a pouch and left with his hands behind his back, giggling on the way out. Madam Li was livid: “Hey! What did I just tell you? You unreliable old geezer!”
A eunuch from the imperial palace did come knocking at the prime minister’s place an hour later with a decree. However, he was already at Eight Deities Tavern by then.
*He Ya – p.r.o.nounced “Her Yah”
**Secretary Kong was one of Confucius’ descendants – For those who don’t know, Confucius name was Kong Zi, thereby sharing the name with Kong Duan, Secretary Kong. Their surname is the same character.
***Longjing Tea – Literally “Dragon Well Tea”
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