The Regent’s Secret Chapter 75

Chapter 75

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It seemed that Emperor Zhao Heng was not satisfied with the scorching summer of the third year of Qi Yuan’s reign. He issued an order that shocked the court.

The princes who held military power were either ordered to lead troops to the border of their fiefdoms within a limited time or to hand over their military tokens before staying in the capital.

People speculated whether this decree reflected the emperor’s intentions or the regent’s.

For a time, the civil and military officials of the Dacheng Dynasty were all in motion. Memorial reports from the censors, accusing each other, piled up like snowflakes on the imperial desk. Various factions were also eager to move, waiting for an opportunity to destroy their opponents in this court crisis and pave the way for their own future.

Zhao Yuan stood on the top of the vortex in the Qinzheng Hall, looking calmly at the emperor. From the first edict, he was the one who wrote it and presented it to the emperor for review. All those articles that appeared to show favor to the princes while actually reducing their power were dictated by him and refined by the Bureau of Rites.

The emperor wanted Zhao Yuan to take action, he couldn’t wait to ascend. He also missed Li Yi, wishing to see him as soon as possible. Being the target of everyone’s criticism was something he had anticipated long ago.

This decision was a drastic measure that aimed to address the problems of the country, but it was a heavy-handed approach, no less than surgery to cure a disease.

Zhao Heng was young and hot-blooded, and not afraid of this situation. He was now reading tomorrow’s new decree, which was a detailed regulation on the rules of enfeoffment.

He read it carefully, then raised his head and sighed, “If father were here, he would not agree to such measures.”

Upon hearing this, Zhao Yuan smiled and showed no signs of dissatisfaction or coercion from the emperor.

“The late emperor was cautious in his actions and would not agree with such a drastic solution from his ministers.”

Zhao Heng nodded absent-mindedly and said, “That’s why my father often said that I resemble my fifth uncle.”

Using the old titles, Zhao Yuan listened silently, knowing that the emperor was distracted by the edict.

After Zhao Heng finished reading the edict, he pondered for a moment and said, “It seems that Uncle will leave the capital soon.”

Zhao Yuan replied, “It is my duty.”

Sure enough, within half a month, Jing Wang led an army in the name of “upholding the throne for the emperor”, and Zhao Yuan knew it was coming.

Before departing, Zhao Yuan went to the Zhonghe Palace. The Emperor looked at the Regent Prince, who was kneeling on the golden brick floor, and reminded himself not to always dwell on old feelings.

Zhao Yuan came to request a meeting with Li Yi. 

The Emperor had no power to intervene, but he couldn’t help but say as Zhao Yuan was about to take his leave, “I will let Li Yi write a letter to Royal Uncle.” 

Zhao Yuan halted his steps, and the melancholy expression on his face dissipated slightly. He respectfully said, “Please take care of Li Yi, Your Majesty. I will return soon.” 

The Princes already had their own fiefdoms, which were originally just military supply lands, and their residences were in the capital. However, with the issuance of the Royal Decree limiting the Princes, Jing Wang returned to his fiefdom overnight and swiftly marched back to the capital. 

Jing Wang knew well the military prowess of his younger brother. Without employing any extraordinary tactics, it was likely that he wouldn’t be able to withstand Zhao Yuan’s assault. By sending his troops ahead and seizing the initiative, he had set up various traps in the camp. He intended to catch Zhao Yuan off guard, using ease to handle difficulties and catching the Prince’s army off balance. 

“Report! Su Wang abandoned infantry and logistics and selected thirty thousand elite cavalry. They have been relentlessly marching day and night!”

“As expected.” Jing Wang sneered. After years of fighting side by side, he had a general idea of how Zhao Yuan would respond, and his guess was correct.

As the sky was about to dawn, a faint light emerged in the east, separating the pitch-black night and the murky earth.

The drums of war resounded on the battlefield, and Zhao Yuan’s armor, which was as bright as frost, had condensed overnight. He bent down and stroked Bai Yucong under him, whose silver hooves lightly tapped the ground. It was obvious that the horse was unable to resist the urge to charge upon hearing the sound, filled with a bloodthirsty desire.

Yu Chi Rui had already led his troops to challenge the enemy, but there was no sign of anyone or any horses coming out of the Jing Wang’s camp for half a day, which was quite strange.

Suddenly, the ground trembled slightly, and then it turned into a continuous vibration. When encountering such an anomaly on the battlefield, many soldiers found it difficult to control their warhorses and began to panic.

Yu Chi Rui quickly transmitted the military order. It was a crucial moment to charge into the enemy’s camp. If they were to retreat now, not only would morale suffer a great blow, but if the enemy took the opportunity to chase them, the consequences would be unimaginable.

Helpless, the feeling of the trembling earth beneath their feet grew stronger and stronger, and everyone looked at each other with suspicion and fear, afraid that the ground would collapse.

However, because Zhao Yuan’s army had always been strict in military discipline, despite being horrified, from top to bottom, no soldier dared to retreat.

Zhao Yuan was originally seated in the center of the army. Seeing the sudden change in the situation, he abandoned the messenger and rode Bai Yucong, swiftly galloping to the forefront. When Yu Chi Rui saw his lord approaching, he felt a mixture of shame for not being able to stabilize the morale and relief for sensing a sense of certainty.

Just then, a large cloud of black smoke and dust rose up, covering the newly risen sun, and more than twenty elephants charged out of the enemy camp. These elephants formed a single-file formation and charged horizontally, with a large number of oxen being driven and chased behind them. The herd rushed towards Su Wang’s army like a tide!

The warhorses had already been frightened and were neighing loudly. Many people were scared and had turned their heads around. Seeing that the army’s morale was about to collapse, Zhao Yuan shouted, “Those who retreat will be executed!”

Yu Chi Rui drew his sword and the war drums thundered once again, as if they were about to clash with the charging herd.

The entire army saw Zhao Yuan standing straight with his bow bent and arrow aimed. The golden arrow fell like a shooting star, piercing through the sand and rocks, and the arc of light flashed by, sinking into the knees of the charging elephant.

The lead elephant, which was much larger than the other elephants, was hit in the right knee while running. Although it wobbled, it did not stop. Zhao Yuan’s second arrow had already left the bowstring and flew towards the cloud, piercing deep into the left eye of the giant elephant and directly into its brain.

The sound of the giant elephant’s roar echoed across the wilderness. As it ran, it fell with a bang, causing the ground to shake for a while. Its body lay prone like a towering mountain, and the herd around it was thrown into chaos.

Thirty thousand soldiers witnessed the collapse of their leader, which caused a surge of morale. With the sound of drums beating urgently, the front troops fired arrows like rain, while the rear troops charged fiercely and uncontrollably towards the enemy camp, their blades covered in blood.

Jing Wang believed that his clever plan to drive the herd of beasts would ensure victory. At worst, it would force Zhao Yuan to retreat. However, in the end, his own army was defeated, losing several war elephants.

These war elephants were specially sought by Ning Wang to help him. Upon receiving news of the front-line battle report, Ning Wang not only had the local clans replenish their war elephants, but also sent a batch of weapons overnight. Both Ning Wang and Duke Dingguo sent troops to help.

When Jing Wang entered his tent, several aides were in discussion. One of them said anxiously, “Your Highness, Ning Wang and Duke Dingguo are trying to use us to achieve their goals.”

“A bunch of cowards,” Jing Wang said indifferently. “Once I capture Zhao Yuan, I will settle accounts with them.”

Another person immediately agreed, “Regardless of their motives, the soldiers and weapons they sent are real. Although Ning Wang and Duke Dingguo don’t want to reveal their identities, they can still be used to our advantage in the capital as insiders.”

Jing Wang snorted coldly, seemingly approving, and then turned to ask, “Have the newcomers proposed any strategies?”

The messenger outside the tent was quickly sent to fetch Ning Wang’s person. The generals and aides immediately began to discuss the new formation and deployment.

In the wilderness of autumn night, the sound of the bird of souls crying mournfully was heard, and the cold moon shone on the white bones. Zhao Yuan sat alone in his tent, as if he had returned to the ten years of separation, amidst the desolate and ruthless cold and frost.

He sat there, his armor off, with a page of paper in his hand, written in Huan An’s elegant and beautiful handwriting, every stroke of which was a frown and a smile, as if he were right in front of him.

The letter did not mention where Huan An was, and it was likely that it had been thoroughly inspected by Wei Che. It only reported that he was safe and expressed concern for Zhao Yuan’s safety.

“It is already autumn in the capital, and it must be even colder where Your Highness is camping. Please add more clothing and warmth.

The military reports can all be read, and His Majesty has ordered the Court of Rites to make an extra copy for me.

Please take care of yourself, Your Highness, and don’t worry.”

The words in the letter were few and far between, but Zhao Yuan had memorized every word as soon as he read it yet he still held the letter and looked at it repeatedly, as if trying to see and touch the person behind the pen.

At the end of the paper, Li Yi had drawn Bai Yucong with skillful strokes, its form graceful and its spirit vibrant. Underneath the horse were a few words: “Awaiting your triumphant return.”

Zhao Yuan wished he could return tonight, but he knew the emperor had tasked him with important matters. This was only the beginning; once the battle began, he had to settle the court affairs and hand them over to Zhao Heng. There were also several other important matters he had to attend to.

Ning Wang and Duke Dingguo had rushed to support Jing Wang day and night, and Zhao Yuan had also kept some cards up his sleeve.

A few days later, the two sides clashed again. Zhao Yuan’s army had already prepared, but when the vanguard saw the war elephants driven out again, they were still filled with horror from the bottom of their hearts.

This time, every elephant was covered in copper armor, especially the important parts of the limbs, chest, and head, leaving no gaps exposed. On both sides of the armor, there were specially made long spears that protruded outwards. When charging, the cavalry were all knocked off their horses, and the elephants were truly invincible.

Jing Wang laughed and clapped his hands on the high hill, saying, “Old Five, aren’t you going to run? Don’t make me capture you alive.”

Just as he was feeling pleased with himself, he suddenly saw Zhao Yuan’s cavalry split into two and quickly retreat, leaving a long gap in the middle, and the elephants in the formation roared and rushed towards the middle without any control.


A sudden explosion rang out.

Jing Wang was stunned and quickly looked towards the formation. He saw a row of Divine Engine Camp archers, mixed with some matchlock gunners, firing arrows and bullets in unison. Some young elephants in the herd were obviously frightened, but because there were so many war elephants, it did not affect the momentum of the charge.

Zhao Yuan shouted from the back, “Form the formation!”

The first team of matchlock gunners retreated in order to the end, and the second team stepped forward steadily, calmly firing strong arrows and matchlock guns. For a moment, smoke and fire were everywhere, and the air was filled with the smell of sulfur.

The formation of the elephant herd was damaged and shaken, and their advance was much slower than before. Some of the war elephants were even reluctant to move forward, no matter how hard they were driven.

Zhao Yuan gave the order again. The third team of musketeers had already finished loading their guns. After the guns fired, the sound shook the surroundings. The elephants were frightened repeatedly, and finally couldn’t hold on any longer. They refused to listen to the commands of the animal trainers, turned around and ran away, trampling on their own people and horses.

Soon, there were mournful cries everywhere. Jing Wang’s subordinates had never expected such a sudden change and gradually began to lose their cohesion.

Zhao Yuan urged Bai Yucong to chase after them. Among the ten thousand soldiers, he wore a phoenix helmet that shone like silver on his head and a red robe with a golden armor that sparkled. He looked like a god of war descending from the heavens.

Jing Wang’s various subordinates were already afraid of Su Wang, and when they saw this situation, they fled or surrendered. The rebel army’s defeat was complete and irreversible.

The good news spread to the palace. It was already midnight, and Zhao Heng was so excited that he jumped down from his bed and wrote a letter to Zhao Yuan overnight.

With this great victory at the beginning of the campaign, everything else would be much easier.

After finishing the letter, Zhao Heng couldn’t sleep anymore. Among the princes in the capital, the ones who held real power were Ning Wang and Yan Wang. He had originally planned to open the palace gates and invite people in to take advantage of the victory, but he changed his mind and decided to wait for an opportunity to come to him.

Sure enough, when the palace gates opened in the morning light, an eunuch came to report that Ning Wang and Yan Wang requested an audience with the emperor.

The author has something to say: During the Ming Dynasty, there was already a specialized elephant training corps for use in warfare.

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