Chapter 81 - Behind every successful man…

Zhongdu City,
The capital of Jin

The state of Jin was a cold place. Cold, cloudless and windy. Much of its land were steppes that stretched far beyond the eyes, an endless sea of grass. A rough country that was home to a hardy stock of people.


They had eyed the central plains of the continent enviously. Why should the decadent southerners have the best land, the best crops, the best weather? Of course, the people of Wei and Wu would hardly call themselves ‘southerners’, they see themselves as the Middle Kingdoms, rivals and contenders for the supremacy of the central plains. The land of Chu with its jungles and wide rivers below them were home to the real southerners.


But the Jins called everyone as southerners. Anyone who lived in warmer climates was a southerner: soft, hedonistic, backstabbing and scheming people who did not know the epic thunderstorms and freezing winds of the north.


Wu and Wei detested each other but hated Jin, while Jin saw them as infighting fools that did not appreciate what they have.


Perhaps that was the impetus to the many wars and conflicts between Jin, Wu and Wei throughout history. A cycle of raiding and invasion by the Jins who headed south, only to be beaten back several generations later by those that they had conquered.


Oh, the Jins had occasionally formed a North-South alliance with Chu to act in concert and invade the Middle Kingdoms during their times of weakness; but the sheer geographic distances meant that such schemes did not last, as it would be easily countered by Wu and Wei’s own East-West cooperation to defeat the north and south invaders. Then Wu and Wei would inevitable argue about one thing or another and fight once more, and the cycle began anew.


Recent events had shown that the cycle was beginning once more.


No change there, then.


But this time the Jins have Qiong Hua. As the consort of the crown prince, her rightful title was the Princess of Jin, thus her new name as Jin Hua, the Golden Flower. A fitting upgrade from Qiong Hua, the Jade Flower.


After all, the entire Qiong clan was obliterated. She alone was favoured, she alone was spared. The Crown Prince of Jin was completely smitten with her, to the extent of swearing to never take in a concubine; much to the exasperation of the imperial family and court officials who wanted more assurances to the continuance of the royal lineage.


But no amount of threats nor persuasion could move the prince. He became wrathful when such suggestions were made. When noblewomen and their families intrigued to displace Jin Hua, he ignored their accusations and painstaking plots. One smile from Jin Hua, one weepy glance from Jin Hua was enough to sweep all of them aside.


“Little Flower,” he would call her. “Little Flower, do not cry. You are my only one, my one and only.”


Then Jin Hua would smile, and his world became brighter. Why should he care about the collection of eccentric people she had by her side? The odd inventor, that martial artist, the mystical healer… an eclectic group that followed her everywhere with devotion. Jin Hua is his wife, so long she continues to favour him, then all is well. He had his own generals and ministers, should his wife be jealous of them? Besides, they were all people of talent and by serving Jin Hua, they were serving his country as well.


Indeed, they had made huge contributions to his country. Grandiose reforms in education, economics and military… they were still in infancy but were already showing signs of being fruitful. Sure, there were many disapprovals from the conservatives, decrying the drastic changes.


“Too much, too soon!” they had objected.


He recalled fondly at how Jin Hua had said a word or two, and those learned men with their long beards and decades of service were left tongue-tied, unable to refute her arguments. The Emperor himself had clapped with admiration.


The reforms were passed. Whatever doubts those dotards had were slowly dispelled as their country became stronger and richer, and happier.


Still, that did not mean abandoning their dreams of going southwards. If anything, the reforms were making it possible for an expedition in the near future; instead of one or two ‘lost generations’ spent to rebuild their strength as in previous cycles…


The Crown Prince of Jin placed his brush down and stretched. A whole morning had been spent writing memorials addressed to his father and orders to his subordinates. He groaned with relief as his muscles pulled and relaxed. A bystander would admire his physique, but the courtly attendants knew better than to raise their eyes to stare at the handsome prince.


“Where is my wife?” he asked aloud, smiling as he said the word wife.


An attendant shuffled forward to report, “Her Highness is at the laboratory. Do you wish to call for her?”


The Crown Prince’s smile became wider. “No, I will go to her. She must be making something wondrous again,” he said.


Ah, Jin Hua, Jin Hua… I am so blessed to have you.


 

There was a hidden hand,
The flames of war did it fan.​