Translator: Nyoi-Bo Studio Editor: Nyoi-Bo Studio
It was a cold winter. Snow fell in the north.
Aided by the money and food Jiang Pengji had provided, An Cui’s mission of bringing members of the Red Lotus Group over to his side was going very smoothly.
An Cui was a smart man. He didn’t let his guard down around even the lower-ranking members of the Red Lotus Group. He didn’t pick out anyone whose position was prominent. Instead, he chose only those who would be of use but also be inconspicuous and relatively reliable. Soon, he had swayed hundreds of people.
Meanwhile, Jiang Pengji focused on three tasks for the winter.
Recruiting talent, recruiting troops, and the training of troops.
The first task was left to Feng Jin and Wei Ci. The former was familiar with the situation in Shangyang County, whereas the latter had a structured and organized working style and was cunning enough to succeed.
With those two cooperating, Jiang Pengji was not worried about talent rising to take the bait.
The second task was left to Feng Zhen. Jiang Pengji had just taken over Shangyang County. By doing so, her territory had sudden expanded to twice its size. The 20,000 troops that had once been more than sufficient were now not nearly enough. It was absolutely necessary to recruit more troops and purchase more horses. Feng Zhen was too lazy. He could snuggle under his blankets and sleep until noon in the winter.
Jiang Pengji couldn’t stand the sight of it, so she gave him a heavy workload. If he couldn’t finish it or slacked off in the middle of doing work…
Heh, then he wouldn’t get even one drop of alcohol for the entire next year!
Feng Zhen, who already looked pale, went white as a sheet upon hearing Jiang Pengji’s words.
He felt the urge to jump ship every minute while serving such a lord.
Stop a prodigal from drinking?
Was that something a human could do?
However, there was no possibility of persuading Jiang Pengji to spare him, so Feng Zhen could only follow her orders while feeling sorry for himself. He developed dark circles under his eyes after staying up for a few days. He privately complained to Wei Ci. “Zixiao, judging from the current situation, will we still have a seven-day new year holiday?”
Wei Ci placated him gently. “A gentleman always keeps his promise. Our lord doesn’t make promises easily, but once he does, he definitely keeps them.”
However, Jiang Pengji was a lady, not a gentleman.
Wei Ci quietly kept that last line to himself. He still wore a smile so pretty that it seemed as if lily flowers were blooming from his face. He was a man that came with his own special effects and background music.
Feng Zhen had joined the group halfway into the year and didn’t know about the conventions of the past, so he believed Wei Ci, albeit barely.
To be fair, it wasn’t that difficult to recruit troops and purchase horses. However, Jiang Pengji was aiming for elite troops.
Other people would just train their recruits for one or two months, or even just a few weeks, before sending them off to war.
She was different.
Her troops were trained for three months in the winter and three months in the summer. They even had to work in the fields during the spring plowing and autumn harvesting seasons. Furthermore, the daily training sessions never stopped.
Based on what Feng Zhen knew, each of the 20,000 troops under Jiang Pengji must go through a tough training period before setting foot on the battlefield.
In Jiang Pengji’s words, troops that had not been trained harshly could not be considered troops. Troops that didn’t meet her criteria were more suited to going back home to suckle milk from their mother’s breasts than to set foot on the battlefield. Troops like that would be cannon fodder if they ever set foot on the battlefield. They would just sacrifice their lives for nothing.
Jiang Pengji had certain standards when it came to recruiting troops, and not everyone could join.
After a few days, Feng Zhen felt like he couldn’t even straighten his right hand anymore. He had been holding writing brushes for so long that his fingers had stiffened. “By the way, you still haven’t found anyone suitable?”
Even an easygoing prodigal like Feng Zhen couldn’t help but want to go on a rampage due to the heavy workload.
He finally understood why Qiguan Rang, who was in charge of managing the household registration department, always looked as grumpy as if everyone owed him 1,000,000 strings of coins.
Wei Ci and Feng Jin sipped their tea leisurely.
“No rush, no rush, we have laid the traps. I have a feeling that the yield this time around will be substantial.”
Feng Zhen almost wanted to spit on him. “I’m really dumb for believing you!”
Their job of recruiting talent was actually about organizing various gatherings that involved the discussion of poetry and literature and inviting the scholars of Shangyang County to participate. On the surface, such gatherings only involved the discussion of the arts, not politics. During these events, they were actually getting to know the temperament, capabilities, and talents of the scholars.
If they felt that someone was a good fit, they would talk more with the person in private.
What made Feng Zhen the most jealous was that all the expenses were paid for by Jiang Pengji. Feng Jin and Wei Ci were having a good time at the state’s expense.
Thus, Feng Zhen couldn’t help but suspect that the two were deliberately slacking off so that they could enjoy the easy life for a longer time!
He thought that these two b*stards were shameless. How could they not bring him along for great opportunities like these?
It was alright that they didn’t bring him along, but why was it that he hadn’t even seen the slightest trace of recruited talent after half a month?
Not having recruited talent meant that there was no one to help Feng Zhen with his job. “Careful, if you all are slacking off, I will report it to our lord.”
Feng Jin couldn’t help but let out a laugh. Not only was he not angry, he was in a pleasant mood.
What did Feng Zhen’s attitude mean?
It meant that Feng Zhen was already exhausted from the heavy workload and becoming as tired as a dog from all the overtime work.
As for the third task of training the troops, Jiang Pengji left that to a few generals.
As always, the female soldiers were all given to Jiang Nongqin to train.
There were a few female soldiers who had performed well in the past few battles, and they had all been praised and promoted accordingly. They had started to work as trainers for the new female recruits. Due to the special circumstances in Shangyang County, people were prejudiced against female soldiers. As a result, they had only managed to recruit about 1,000 women.
The successful recruitment of more than 1,000 people was due to the fact that many families sent their daughters to the army, albeit not fully believing what the government said about female soldiers. Still, they considered their daughters to be money-losing goods that they couldn’t afford to keep.
On the other hand, the recruitment of male soldiers had gone smoothly. The total number of recruited men reached 8,000.
“Nice one there, Zishi, your capabilities are impressive. You recruited that many people so soon?” Jiang Pengji was surprised.
Feng Zhen smiled resignedly. He admitted that he was fairly capable, but he dared not take full credit for the task this time around. “My lord, you are overstating it. Surely the success of the recruitment process is not a result of my capabilities alone. It’s clearly because you are too generous and the conditions being offered are too good.”
Although Shangyang County had not been conquered by the Tsing Yi Army or the Red Lotus Group, they had been besieged for a long time. Furthermore, there had been a drought that summer and the harvest for the whole year was limited. The people lived in poverty. Some even had to mix pig-feed into their food to curb their hunger.
Why was Jiang Pengji said to be generous?
The recruitment notice she’d given out clearly said that her soldiers were given three meals a day, with each meal consisting of two bowls of rice, a dish of vegetables, a dish of meat, and a bowl of soup.
Worried that the citizens could not comprehend this, the notice even listed how much the two bowls of rice would weigh and the ingredients that would be used to prepare the dishes.
The 200-word notice spent 160 words on the recipes. The requirements to participate in the recruitment drive only took up the remaining 40 words.
It was probably the wackiest recruitment notice that Feng Zhen had ever seen in his life.
1Jiang Pengji kept to her goals of recruiting and training troops and did nothing that went against the interests of the nobles of Shangyang County.
However, this made the latter paranoid, afraid that she would stage an unexpected attack on them.
In the end, Jiang Pengji only changed out the officials holding some unimportant positions, and none of their positions were particularly good for embezzlement. Moreover, the newly hired officials were local scholars from poorer families.
Although they felt slightly unhappy about losing their positions, these actions were still within the scope of what the local nobles could accept.
Since the end of the year was near, Jiang Pengji was doing some year-end checks when a messenger reported that the nominal county chief of Shangyang County was here to visit her.
She thought of the date. It wasn’t time to pay New Year’s calls yet, was it?
“Invite him in,” said Jiang Pengji.
The county chief brought her a letter that had already been opened. She unfolded it. On the seal was written, “Rule by the grace of heaven, thus be everlasting and mighty great.”
The Imperial Seal?
She was momentarily surprised as she quickly scanned through the contents of the letter.
“They want me to send troops to protect the king?” she asked.