“I am the state.”
--Louis XIV of France
Chapter 258 – Dawn
“I am beginning to regret this.”
Huang Ming looked up from his documents to see a bored Prince Chu Xiong reclined on a couch.
Huang Ming frowned as he was being buried in a mountain of documents for him to check and approve while the prince and heir apparent of an entire kingdom was lazing around.
“Why are you even here?” Huang Ming demanded.
“Why are you so busy anyway? This prince is the one getting married, not you,” Chu Xiong yawned widely.
“Young man, it is precisely your marriage that I am busy with,” Huang Ming growled. “It is not just about your marriage, but about the union between our two kingdoms.”
“Isn’t that something for the future? It is not as if there is a need to settle everything at once,” the prince shrugged.
“Which is why I need to lay the foundations now. Have you given thought on where you will reside after your marriage?” Huang Ming asked conversationally.
The prince’s silence was enough answer.
“You either live here in Wu with your wife the princess, or bring her back to Chu. Either way, you will leave a huge vacuum in your absence,” Huang Ming continued.
“Well, what do you suggest?”
“Giving you the third option,” Huang Ming answered and swept a hand over the various documents on his desk. His curiosity piqued, the prince roused himself from the couch to take a look.
“You’re building a city?” he asked incredulously as he saw the maps and plans.
“Mm. It will be roughly in between Chu and Wu, allowing you and your descendants to influence both realms. You are lucky that there is only the Great River separating the two, and not an actual ocean. Otherwise you would be spending months on one side of the world and another half on the other,” Huang Ming chuckled as he enjoyed a private joke.
“That seems tiresome,” Chu Xiong muttered.
“Well, it’s from a story,” Huang Ming admitted.
The prince tilted his head. “What story is it from, it sounds interesting.”
“It has a thousand pages.”
Huang Ming smirked.
Chu Xiong curled his lower lip at him, but he looked at the building plans with interest.
“Why is it shaped like a circle?” he asked.
“Why not? Is there a rule that says cities must be enclosed by walls like a square?” Huang Ming asked back.
“How are the people going to defend themselves in the event of an attack?” the prince demanded.
“An attack from whom?”
The prince raised a finger and opened his mouth, but no words came out.
“You can always have the walls built later. What is important now is access. You will need to establish that this city will be the new capital for both kingdoms, and the lack of walls would emphasize the fact that both its peoples are welcome to settle there,” Huang Ming said.
“And what is this big circle in the middle?” the prince pointed.
Huang Ming explained: “This area will be your palace and grand audience hall. From here, the roads will radiate outwards like spokes on a wheel. Along each ‘spoke’ will be neatly divided blocks of housing, commercial and other specialized districts for ease of control and classification. The roads continue outwards, linking with all the major cities. Each trunk road should be carefully patrolled and managed so to encourage trade and communication across the entire span of both kingdoms.”
“Oh, is that all?” Chu Xiong asked sarcastically.
“That is just the start of it. All the roads will converge into this city. From its center, your as the sovereign will send out orders and decisions that affect your new kingdom. Until you can find and recruit talented and trusted people of your own to delegate, you will need to exert your own influence and stamp your authority,” Huang Ming said solemnly.
“That sounds like a lot of work,” the prince blinked.
“Or you could use the treasury and just build yourself a vain statue that would probably be toppled in the far future due to some reason or another,” Huang Ming suggested cynically.
He tapped the spot marked in the map. “You may not live to see the fruits of all this labour, but in time your name will be etched into history as someone who built a new city.”
“Very ambitious,” Chu Xiong said dryly. But his eyes never left the map, and Huang Ming could see that the prince was already imagining the scenario in his mind.
“And expensive,” Huang Ming added.
“That would be my second complaint,” the prince agreed. “This union between our kingdoms is in response to the threat from Jin… but what good would it do if we exhaust the treasury with this grand construction plan of yours?”
Huang Ming grinned. “Ever heard of crowdfunding?”
Chu Xiong was mystified.
Huang Ming waved a hand over the maps. “You will be building a brand new city. Get the merchants of the kingdoms to fund its construction.”
The prince grimaced. “Do you mean new taxes? That would be like squeezing blood from stone.”
“Have them bid against each other to have the honour to name the new streets, districts and avenues. Like ancient kings and rulers of the past who would build magnificent monuments as their legacy, they too would want to leave something that would last the test of time.”
“That is… ingenious,” the prince gaped. His eyes widened as he realized the implications. “We could apply this to almost anything…”
Then the prince gave Huang Ming a puzzled look. “You are giving this quite a lot of thought.”
“Consider it my wedding gift to the two of you,” Huang Ming shrugged.
“No, that does not seem to be the end of it,” the prince shook his head. “Don’t think we are deaf and dumb to what you are doing in Tigertrap Fort,” he said.
Huang Ming gestured for him to continue and then folded his arms.
“Liying…” Chu Xiong said his wife-to-be’s name, “…had told me that you have been sending a lot of resources to your father’s stronghold. Your father and elder brother have been opening tracts of land for farming… and building workshops. If we do not know you any better, we would say that you are building your own power base.”
Huang Ming waved a hand dismissively. “A power base? Look at the map, it’s smack dab in the middle of a corridor. No, we are not making a power base. We’re building a cork in the bottle, so that Wei forces would not find it easy to break through.”
“Did you not cause Wei so much trouble that they are in no shape to cause trouble any time soon?” the prince raise an eyebrow.
“They may be driven to such desperation that they might take a risk. Especially if they give the tools to do so,” Huang Ming said grimly.
“You mean, Jin might use them as a borrowed knife?” the prince asked slowly.
“Of course. They tried attacking through Beihai and got stymied. The next obvious method is to strike from two places at once,” Huang Ming nodded.
Prince Chu Xiong stared at him with disbelief. “And yet you invited them to my wedding?”
“Well, one should still be polite when it comes to diplomacy. Hide a dagger behind a smile and all that.”
The prince was aghast. “Did you invite them and then plan to murder them here?”
Huang Ming laughed. “Would it be that simple! No, it was simply to buy us time. Time for us to build up our forces, bring over Chu’s military might to bolster our own, time for you and your wife to get to find your own generals and ministers… time for my father and brother to finish making their own preparations.”
“What sort of preparations?”
“It is not yet time to tell you,” Huang Ming said, much to the prince’s irritation.
Huang Ming sighed as he leaned back into his chair.
“It is the dawn of a brand new age, your highness. And I am not sure it will be to your liking.”
Some serious consideration
To forge a new nation.