C97 – It’s Too Difficult
Inside the stable, Wang Zizhao had instructed someone to select a horse for him. The horse nervously shuffled its hooves, likely due to the crowd of people surrounding it, making it unable to calm down.
“Let’s proceed,” Wang Zizhao nodded at the skilled craftsman, signaling him to begin.
The craftsman, being experienced in such matters, remained composed throughout.
Wang Zizhao couldn’t bring an untested concept to the court. He wished for both the King of South Jin and his ministers to witness this extraordinary phenomenon firsthand.
Ever since Tang Yue had entered his life, he had encountered an increasing number of wonders. This was precisely why he was eager to have someone of her caliber by his side.
Onlookers observed the blacksmith skillfully affixing the metal to the horse’s hoof. The horse stood obediently, nibbling on grass without displaying any signs of distress. When the clanking sound ceased, confusion lingered among the spectators.
“Is that all there is to it?” King of South Jin inquired of Wang Zizhao, a sense of unreality in his tone.
“Indeed, once the iron nails are in the horse’s hooves, it’s fine. However, it’s advisable to have a veterinarian inspect the hoof for any damage, and treat it promptly to prevent tetanus.”
“Let’s have the horse trot a few steps quickly.” If not for his concerns about his own safety, King of South Jin might have been tempted to mount the horse and test it himself.
Wang Zizhao gestured, and Hu Jinpeng approached. He climbed onto the horse, took the reins, gripped the horse’s sides with his legs, and called out, “Go…”
The horses trotted within the courtyard. The grass surrounding the stables was too soft to produce the usual clattering of hooves against the ground. However, witnessing the horses frolic and move freely quelled any lingering doubts.
Wang Zixian, who had been informed of the development, stood aside with a discontented expression. “So, by nailing this thing onto a horse’s hooves, we can reduce horse losses? It seems a bit too far-fetched.”
Wang Zizhao barely acknowledged him and retorted, “If you find it too implausible, we can have a horse trainer confirm it.”
“Quick, bring the horse back for a closer examination.” King of South Jin, in high spirits, decided to personally try riding the horse.
Hu Jinpeng rode the horse back, patting its neck with approval. He dismounted and said, “My lord, I initially found the horseshoe a bit uncomfortable. My footing was a bit uncertain, but after a few strides, I felt increasingly secure. I found it faster and steadier than before I got on the horseshoe.”
“Is that so?” King of South Jin couldn’t wait to shed his ornate brocade robe and mount the horse himself. He raised his whip and sped away like a bolt of lightning.
King of South Jin had once ridden horses and fought on the battlefield. Although his equestrian skills were no longer what they once were, they still surpassed those of the average young man.
He returned with renewed vigor and laughter, exclaiming, “Haha… excellent! Splendid! It feels like I’ve regained the sensation of charging across the battlefield in my youth.”
He dismounted and personally squatted down to lift the horse’s hooves for a closer examination.
Everyone quickly stopped him. “King, don’t!”
The horse’s hooves struck out, nearly causing King of South Jin to lose his balance. Fortunately, the emperor was in a jovial mood and not only refrained from anger but also commended, “Impressive strength! Truly the mark of an exceptional colt horse!”
Seizing the moment, Wang Zizhao inquired about the prospects of acquiring high-quality warhorses from North Yue. King of South Jin hesitated for a moment before asking, “How could we openly purchase them from North Yue?”
“I’ve heard that some merchants secretly transport horses. We don’t need a large quantity, a hundred horses will suffice.”
“But what about the cost… Our national treasury is strained, and it might be challenging to procure so many fine colts.”
“I’m planning to establish a trade caravan specializing in North-South commerce. We can attempt to bring back medicinal herbs, furs, livestock, and northern provisions.”
This was the outcome of discussions between Wang Zizhao and Tang Yue during their journey. Tang Yue required certain herbs that grew exclusively in the north, and he wished to experiment with cultivating northern crops in the south. Consequently, they jointly decided to create a caravan.
Tang Yue contemplated awaiting Zhang Chun’s decision regarding his involvement in the caravan for a few years. Traveling throughout the country offered the best training opportunities. He possessed the forward-thinking mindset of a modern individual, with an active intellect and a grasp of worldly matters. His only deficiency lay in adapting to the unwavering resolve expected in this era.
“A caravan? We already have merchants among our populace. Seizing their resources should suffice; there’s no need to deploy troops.”
“This caravan isn’t driven by profit. It’s solely intended for transporting goods from North Yue. I require a loyal servant for this task.”
“Very well.” King of South Jin nodded. “If you require any assistance, you can enlist support from your subordinates. The caravan will be exempt from taxes, and its guides will enjoy unhindered passage in South Jin. As for funding…”
“I’ll find a solution.” Wang Zizhao took it upon himself to tackle this challenging financial aspect.
Although no one openly displayed their thoughts, their confidence in Wang Zizhao grew stronger. With such a responsible and capable heir, South Jin’s prosperity appeared inevitable.
After inspecting the horses, everyone reconvened in the main hall. King of South Jin promptly ordered all available iron to be used for horseshoes.
“Your Majesty, if we proceed with that, we may not have enough iron left. The iron was initially allocated for crafting farming tools and preparing for next year’s spring planting.”
“Can we speed up the mining?”
“As for manpower… should we increase the number of corvins?”
Wang Zizhao was the first to voice his disagreement, proposing an alternative. “In every South Jin city, we have a surplus of prisoners. Why not employ these convicts in the mines and have them work as laborers?”
State Duke Lu, however, expressed his dissent. “I do not concur with the Ninth Prince’s suggestion. These prisoners consist of criminals and malefactors. Allowing them the chance to escape could potentially unleash untold havoc upon us.”
These were individuals who showed little regard for their own lives; if they managed to flee, who would be responsible for their recapture?
Wang Zizhao cast a casual glance at State Duke Lu and remarked, “Winter is approaching, and battles will be scarce. We can station troops to guard the mines. If we cannot keep an eye on a handful of criminals, can we really rely on them to defend our nation?”
Many ministers found merit in Wang Zizhao’s argument. “Wang Zizhao’s proposal holds merit. Substituting prisoners for migrant workers not only affords civilians respite but also harnesses the potential of these prisoners to benefit South Jin further.”
To avoid wasting food in prison all day long!
King of South Jin thought for a while and nodded. “However, you must take care of these people. If anyone dares to escape, kill them on the spot.”
Having resolved a number of pressing issues, the King of South Jin breathed a sigh of relief. He cared little for the hour; what he was more curious about was the origin of these innovations and their mysterious source.
Wang Zizhao had already anticipated this question and began explaining, “During my journey to Qinyang City, I chanced upon an elderly man fashioning a brush from wolf tail fur. He applied paint to the walls with it, sparking an idea to craft writing brushes from fur.”
“I conducted several experiments and successfully created a brush. As for the ink, it was developed by Tang Xiaolang of the Yueyang Marquis’s Manor, the same physician who treated my leg ailment.”
“Regarding the horseshoes, an elderly man I encountered on the way to Qinyang City showed compassion for the animals and wrapped their hooves with iron. This gave me the idea to design horseshoes.”
While these individuals seemed to emerge from nowhere, Wang Zizhao was confident that the King of South Jin would not investigate further. Even if he did, Wang Zizhao had made thorough preparations.
Although many acknowledged Wang Zizhao’s exceptional observational skills, which enabled him to deduce details accurately, no one suspected any deception.
Furthermore, his explanations were logical and sound. While luck played a part, who could discount the possibility that he was favored by destiny?
In fact, those present might not have envisioned transforming these items into these innovative creations if they had been in Wang Zizhao’s shoes.
Wang Zizhao had unquestionably made a significant contribution this time. The King of South Jin had no reason to delay appointing him as the Crown Prince.
“Zhao’er, you are still young. I had hoped to afford you more years of training, but your injury was severe. I no longer dare to send you to the battlefield. How about assisting me with court affairs instead?”
Wang Zizhao replied, “This is my duty. If a new conflict arises, I can still go to the border. Even if I cannot personally engage in combat, I can contribute from the rear lines.”
Everyone praised, “Ninth Prince is righteous…”
“Your Highness is kind, but you must not take any more risks.”
State Duke Ann signaled to an official aligned with his faction, who promptly stood up and declared, “This official humbly suggests that the King appoint the Ninth Prince as the Crown Prince!”
This proposal received unanimous approval. Even officials supporting other princes couldn’t deny Wang Zizhao’s exceptional abilities and suitability for the weighty role.
Wang Zixian fumed with anger, but his glare at Duke Lu went unnoticed, as Duke Lu pretended to be asleep.
After some hesitation, the King of South Jin finally nodded and consented.
“Prepare the decree… Zhao Er is no longer a child; let us select a Crown Princess together.”
“Great King, in this official’s opinion, County Princess Tangxi is the most suitable candidate. She possesses both talent and beauty. A royal marriage would be ideal to enhance our affairs!”
State Duke Ann sneered, “Marquis Yi An, you have a peculiar sense of humor. How can we revive a marriage proposal that has already been withdrawn? Do you hold Wang Zizhao in such low regard, or the royal family’s reputation in such disdain? If he wishes to marry, he shall; if not, he shan’t!”
Wang Zizhao responded with four simple words, “A broken mirror mends not!”