Carefree Path Of Dreams Chapter 155
Chapter 155: The Map
"When the heart is focused, the foundations will strengthen"
High up in the air, a strange black bird spread its wings and glided into the airspace of the Secluded Mountain Prefecture. On its back rode a Taoist priest.
Overlooking the huge Secluded Mountain City in the air inspired a sense of awe. The looming city walls, the orderly roads and the dots that moved along them...everything seemed to suggest that the city had left behind the shadows of war. The morale of the people had risen and stabilised.
Most people were fine with simply being followers.Whether it was Liu Yan previously, Fang Yuan now, or even the Wu Country. They farmed when they had to farm, paid taxes when they had to pay taxes.
If one could loosen his iron grip on the domain and rule with more benevolence, the people would definitely praise him to the high heavens.
Currently, Fang Yuan had displayed the ability to fend off the advances of the Wu Country, and had consequently boosted his approval ratings among the masses. As the new master of the Secluded Mountain Prefecture, his prestige and authority were increasing by the day.
The priest let out a sigh, for he knew that his lords schemes were likely to be futile. Besides, the other party was of a surprisingly young age and had unpredictable methods. He could not help but feel uneasy.
At this moment, things on the ground began to get noisy. They had sensed the priests arrival.
Just as the priest was beginning to look wary, a white flash swooped out of the City Manor with a large screech and positioned itself in front of the black bird.
"What a bird!"
Sitting atop the black bird, the priest could feel the agitation of his mount, and he gave a bitter laugh.
"With the presence of such a bird, the Secluded Mountain Prefecture Citys airspace is impregnable. My future plans will probably come to naught."
"Do not worry, I am acquainted with your master, and I am not here to wage war either. You can go now!"
The priest spoke to the King of the Red-eyed White Birds, and patted the crown of the black bird. He then slowly descended under the watchful gaze of the Bird King.
"Haha...a friend from faraway, what a pleasant surprise! Brother Mu Li, you havent been honest with me!"
Fang Yuan stepped out of the Prefecture Master Manor, his arms open in a welcome gesture. He was adorned with a magnificent rope embroidered in dragons and on his head sat a golden crown. He was a grand sight.
"You mock me, Prefecture Master! You havent been honest with me either!"
Upon seeing Fang Yuan, the priests bitterness became more apparently.
This priest was a good friend of Liu Yan, and was in fact an agent of the Xia Country royals. He was the Taoist Mu Li.
"Regarding all that had happened before, we both had our difficulties, so let bygones be bygones. You are an esteemed guest. Please do enter my humble abode and make yourself comfortable!"
Fang Yuan waved his hand with a laugh.
The Taoist Mu Li was partly responsible for the death of Liu Yan, Fang Yuans predecessor. On the other hand, Fang Yuan barely knew Liu Yan, and had nothing to do with his demise.
Also, Mu Li was here as an envoy of the Xia royals. Thus, Fang Yuan had sent away the people who could potentially make things ugly, like Niu Dingtian. So far, things had gone smoothly.
"Then I shall not stand on ceremony!
The Taoist Mu Li bowed once more, and looked towards to Bird King with approval.
"This bird has an unrivaled majesty. It will be a great help to you, Prefecture Master!"
Although Mu Li was concealing his identity and was a secret agent, his admiration for the huge bird was true.
It was a pity that the Wind Chasing Falcon had fallen over the Summer Sun Prefecture. With the help of the Xia royals, Mu Li had managed to find this rare black bird, which proved to be an adequate replacement. However, it was still incomparable to the Wind Chasing Falcon. Now that he had seen the King of the Red-eyed White Birds, which was superior even to the Irontail Black Eagle, he was forced to accept that his mount was grossly inferior to the Bird King.
"It was simply the workings of Fate!"
Fang Yuan smiled and walked with the Taoist Mu Li into the hall. Two maidservants served the tea and retreated respectfully.
The Taoist Mu Li held the teacup in his hand and as he stared into the depths of the spiritual tea, he was overcome by a wave of melancholy.
"Brother Mu Li, you must be here as a representative of the Xia family, I hereby thank you for your trouble!"
Fang Yuan gave a salute by cupping his right fist with his left hand.
Fang Yuan had previously struck up a correspondence with Xia, and since Xie Lingyun and Lan Xiaosheng were also unwilling to get into the mess over at the Secluded Mountain Prefecture, both parties did not take things too seriously. All was fine.
To them, the Secluded Mountain Prefecture had no chance against the Wu army, and was bound to fall sooner or later.
Except that the Battle of Cangshan City was a disaster for the Wu Country. Fang Yuan had used twenty thousand troops against the hundred thousand strong Wu army and defeated them decisively. Fang Yuan had gained a formidable reputation as a result, and had also drawn up the Hundred Year Agreement to secure his power. After that, the Xia Country to sent out ambassadors frequently so as to maintain good relations with Fang Yuan.
As of now, with Wu Countrys defeat freshly imprinted on everyones mind, no one would dare to offend the Secluded Mountain Prefecture. In fact,they were extremely worried that Fang Yuan would make a move on the Summer Sun and Clear Spring Prefectures, or even harm the Xia royal family.
"We are all friendly, no worries!"
The Taoist Mu Li became solemn as the conversation moved into serious matters.
"So, what is the purpose of your visit today?"
Fang Yuan asked directly.
With the Wu letter of credence, even if Fang Yuan wanted to become a vassal of the Xia Country, Xue Lingyun might not accept it, for her prestige as the ruler would be irreparably damaged.
Of course, seeing that the Wu Country was unable to annex the Secluded Mountain Prefecture was great news to Xie Lingyun too.
"Our Lady is pleased that the Secluded Mountain Prefecture is self sufficient. Thus, even if the Prefecture intends to become independent, the Xia Country will be very supportive"
The Taoist Mu Li grinned.
Fang Yuan laughed coldly.
"So you intend to push the Secluded Mountain Prefecture out into the cold such that we will become a buffer between the Xia and Wu countries? And we will have to help you spy on and fend off the Wu country?"
The Taoist Mu Lis heart sank.
This was precisely the intention of his Lady.
To let the Secluded Mountain Prefecture confront the Wu country while the Xia country could simply provide reinforcements if needed. This would be a favourable status quo.
After all, the royal family had already reclaimed half of the Summer Sun Prefecture, and if they were allowed to rest and recuperate, they would be strong enough to deal with the issues in the Clear Spring Prefecture.
To think that this young Prefecture Master would be this sharp and point out their ulterior motives unabashedly.
"The Prefecture Master is indeed straightforward. This is the plan!"
The Taoist Mu Li nodded. After all, he was a spiritual knight too, and seeing that Fang Yuan had done away with the pleasantries, he would too.
"To celebrate your ascension, our Lady has prepared a gift. It is already on its way!"
They have no substance!
The confession of the Taoist Mu Li was most amusing to Fang Yuan. He now knew that Xie Lingyun was afraid that he would invade the Summer Sun Prefecture and undo the work she had put in to stabilise the territory.
And it was not just him. The Master of Clear Spring Prefecture, Lan Xiaosheng, was probably of the same mind as well.
If I chose to interfere forcefully, Xie Lingyun and Lan Xiaosheng were bound to join forces against me, and might even rope the Wu Country into the alliance. On the other hand, if I compromise, there is a good chance that Lan Xiaosheng might fall out with the Xia royals"
These political mind games were detailed in the history books, and Fang Yuan was well read enough to be shrewd.
"If that is the case, many thanks to the Lady for her best wishes...the Secluded Mountain is in a terrible state, and will not be partaking in military action anytime soon. We will have to count on you in the days to come!"
"Thats right! That's right!"
The Taoist Mu Li was elated, but then realised that Fang Yuan had spoken of the Secluded Mountain Prefecture as being the equal of the Xia Country. The arrogance emanating from Fang Yuan was depressing to Mu Li.
"The time I have left is running out"
Having gotten rid of the Taoist Mu Li, Fang Yuan half-closed his eyes in deep thought.
The skirmish on the Secluded Mountain was a great victory, and had not betrayed his true capabilities. It would be enough to deter potential enemies.
When the situation stabilises, the politicking and espionage will most definitely resume. The impending chaos was unpleasant to think about.
Not only that, when his foes figure out that he is the second Liu Yan, they might gang up and launch assassination attempts on him.
Fang Yuan did not fear these challenges, but he was tired of dealing with them.
"Why shouldn't I relinquish my authority and live a carefree life beyond the city?"
His position as Master of the Secluded Mountain Prefecture was a powerful one, but it also made him a prime target. He was a sitting duck.
Fang Yuan planned to go into seclusion and meditate for a period of time. He preferred initiation to retaliation.
But regarding whether he could bear to give up his power?
Fang Yuan was not perfect, but he believed in his own abilities. In his opinion, power and influence would naturally come along if one was capable.
It did not matter even if he transferred power to his subordinates. No one could take away his personal strength from him. He had the moral high ground too, and there was no one who could really threaten him.
Even if he came out of his seclusion and returned to a tumultuous world, with his cultivation and prodigious botany skills, no problem would be too difficult for him to handle.
To Fang Yuan, his status as the Master of the Secluded Mountain Prefecture was a dispensable title.
He was prepared to walk the talk!
Still, before he left, he had to make some preparations.
"Master! I would like to request an audience with you!"
Yu Xinlou and Huang Fu Renhe carried a big pile of scrolls and waited patiently outside.
Fang Yuan shook his head discreetly.
Ever since he had succeeded to his current position, these men were becoming increasingly polite to the point of obeisance. This created a distancing effect and sometimes, Fang Yuan actually felt lonely.
"Master, we have followed your orders and organised the manor books. We have gathered the maps of the Xia, Wu, Zhu countries...as well as the Yuanrong Grasslands. We shall present them to you now!"
Fang Yuan chose at scroll at random. This map was made of premium goatskin and had been sanitised to prevent rotting. Still, its borders were covered with mold stains.
Although these maps were created decades ago, they should be largely accurate.
Fang Yuan opened the most comprehensive map, where a triangular piece of land was detailed.
On this continent, the domains of the Xia Country were clearly marked and sat in the middle. Beside it lay the lands of the Wu Country. These two countries took up nearly half of the total land area. In the immediate surroundings were the smaller states of Zhu, Yan, Qi etcetera. Other than perhaps the Zhu Country, the tiny states were no better than the Secluded Mountain Prefecture. They were but small players on the game board.
"The great seas on the three sides of the continent were referred to as The Deep in the historical records. They are said to be endless, with life forms few and far between."
Fang Yuans gaze traversed over the continent to the northern part of the map. It was a sprawling grassland.
"This is the Yuanrong Grasslands. There lay the Yuan Country, where the people rule over the land with their horses and bows. They live like nomads"
"To get to the Da Qian Empire, one has to journey through the grasslands. This is the only way!"
Fang Yuan stared at the map, his eyes gleaming.
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