Title: A Bouquet of Ministers
Day/Theme: Tues Feb. 26 - "We deceive ourselves"
Series: Woxin changdan/The Great Revival
Character/Pairing: Wen Zhong, Bo Pi, Wu Zi Xu
Spoilers: Ep 18 on
Crossposted to woxinchangdan
"Wen Zhong is a brave man," the king once said of me. I think I was being too blunt for his tastes just at the moment.
"Rather, Wen Zhong is a *fearless* man," Fan Li interjected: the implication being that I don't have enough sense to be afraid.
"Would someone who's neither brave nor fearless know the difference?" I asked him pointedly. I know Fan Li's habit of avoiding unpleasantness is less cowardice than laziness, but his remark was still uncalled for.
"Wen Zhong," the king said, "you're demonstrating only that we and our advisor are both correct. Stop it." I bowed and was silent: just to demonstrate how wrong they both are in fact.
I possess no great reserves of courage, much less foolhardiness, as that idiot Fan Li wants to pretend. I'm quite an ordinary man in that respect: a bit afraid of dying and not at all fond of the idea of torture. However. A king's advisor may be less prone to death or mutilation than a king's general, but still the danger's there. An occupational hazard, as it were, of both positions. If one wishes to be of use- or rather, if one wishes not to be useless, a mere private man thinking only of his property and affairs- one is prepared to take the risk. Sensibly and prudently, naturally: and I am always a sensible and prudent man.
I gave the king a chessboard, with silver armies marching across it. He was delighted. It's fun to move one's men about its surface, to manipulate and deploy and at last dash one's opponent from the board. I know. It's what I do- moving kings and armies and whole kingdoms with a word here, a message there. The kings who march at the head of their armies don't feel my rake prodding their backs. And some day, I think, *some* day I'll move my armies into a position to checkmate-- not the king but his chancellor. What fun that will be, to sweep him from the board, and how much I'll enjoy seeing his fall.
I don't understand the king, I confess it. I thought I'd taken the measure of his character, and I'm rarely wrong about men. But there are facets of his soul that he kept hidden from sight, and so deceived my old eyes.
It wasn't that I was looking for my old benefactor again in any of his sons. Helu of Wu was a nonesuch: I won't find his like again. But Fu Chai had intelligence and humanity and gumption: and more importantly perhaps, no arrogance rising from his rank and birth. I thought I could ride him on an easy rein, growing him gradually into the sort of king who'd finish his father's work. But he balks me, he fights me-- and he fights me over the most important matter there is for his country's welfare.
He thinks I have some personal hatred of Gou Jian. That's nonsense. The man is nothing to me except as he affects Wu. But that's the point: he intends to destroy us. Yue is a minor country, a natural tributary, but Gou Jian has ambition far beyond his place and a crooked vengeful spirit to go with it. To gain his ends he'll perform any evil, any wickedness, without turning a hair. I agree he's also rash: that's a weakness that might turn against him, if he weren't so frighteningly persistent and frighteningly able with it. He's a man who never lets go, and men like that are dangerous.
Now if only the King could see that!