Where the Grand Mentor and Grand Tutor have tea

Grand Tutor Bai Tianshi entered the indicated antechamber to find the Grand Mentor of the Council of Military in the middle of executing Catching the Swallow's Tail. Bai Tianshi stood still, his eyes observing Bao En's slow and flowing moves. He watched as Bao En completed the forms bringing his palms together while exhaling deeply.

"Ah, brother Bai, please forgive my rudeness, I did not hear you enter!",Bao turned round and moved towards Bai in greeting.

"Grand Mentor, truly I did not wish to interrupt such a splendid execution of Chen style Taijiquan,"

"Brother Bai you jest! Those were the clumsy moves of an old man suffering from stiff joints! Your calligraphy on the other hand has my uttermost admiration, I look forward to feasting my eyes on your latest work. Come sit with me and please allow me to serve you tea."

"I am honoured brother Bao." Both took a seat by the side table while Bao served tea.

"Pu'er, your favourite, brother Bai."

"It touches me deeply that you remember brother Bao, as I recall you personally prefer Longjing."

Bao En laughed gently as he served himself last and indicated for Bai Tianshi to drink while he took a long sip.

"Ah, not quite the real thing these days I'm afraid, the tea-leaves from Tangshan were much more fragrant, I remember you know, even though it seems so long ago, in those days before the Great Calamity it cost a fortune to get them in Xingcheng. Now they are priceless.

"Indeed, brother Bao, as priceless as our precious republic which came close to crumbling."

"Yes, terrible! I just received the latest, 700 wounded, 23 deaths and another 9 in critical condition. Did you hear? Most of the rioting has stopped, and the protest marchers are being restricted to Wansheng street. All thanks to young Guo."

"Very wise move indeed, bringing in Guo, he has the people's respect." Bai, paused, then said,"and yet the real crisis remains which brings me to the purpose of my visit, we need a First Voice...and his ministers in place. The Councils have been in session since last night, it appears they have not come to consensus."

"Yes, quite tardy, young folks these days, would have never happened in the Old Admiral's day. More tea, brother Bai? Let me refill your cup."

"Thank you. A situation I believe brother Bao, you can assist with, Xu Qing is a most excellent choice, The House of Merchant's contribution to XC's economy during the war has been most considerable"

"Oh, I do agree, but you know the House of Trade and Commerce will never stand for it, and we know where House of Healing and the House of Labour stand on this as well. It will never pass majority.

"But I am afraid the Council of Military's suggestions of Chen Rui and Li Ying are just as bad, half the Houses won't give them the vote."

"I am not so sure of that."

"I assure your excellency, I have read the Houses well."

"The Council of Shi need only endorse the candidate--"

"and the council must perforce vote with their conscience and I am afraid it does not lie with the Council of Military's choices, there is of course Talin Tuoya--"

"who openly insults 2 eminent Houses and accuses, in public, Yang Xiong of nepotism and even insinuates his loyalties are suspect... the Council of Military cannot possibly endorse such a candidate."

Bai Tianshi put down his cup and leaned forward, "Grand Mentor, let us be frank, if the councils can't see eye to eye, Council of Shi will just have to support a candidate of our own choice. May I remind the Grand Mentor, we could have avoided this whole ugly situation had the Council of military not supported Yang Xiong's resignation. I also like to remind brother Bao, for the past 3 elections we obligingly followed the Council of Military's lead in voting for Yang Xiong, even when we felt there were candidates more suited to the post. I am afraid we can do so no longer."

Bao En sighed, got up and walked to the window and looked into the square below. He was silent for some moments seemingly comtemplating the scenery outside,"You know, the incident about the Celestial Navy's office. Bad business that."

Bai Tianshi was reaching for his cup, he slowly lowered his arm instead. He said nothing, eyeing the back of the head of the Grand Mentor.

Bao remarked,"It would be terrible if the truth of the matter were to come out at this time."

"The Council gave its word, the matter is closed." The words spokenly softly, seemed to chill the air in the stillness within the antechamber.

"Mm, mm, yes, indeed. so the Council did."

Bao En suddenly cocked his head as if he just remembered something, muttering under his own breath.

"Grand Mentor?"

"What? oh, sorry brother Bai, I fear I may just be getting senile, the mind does tend to wonder sometimes. Tis a pity, I seem so forgetful these days."

Half turning towards Bai Tianshi, Bao En voiced, "Tell me, brother Bai, what is your opinion of Guo Yonghe?"

Bai Tianshi continued staring at the older man with narrowed eyes.

"Brother Bao, please speak what is on your mind."

Turning and taking a step towards Bai Tianshi, Bao En smiled,
"I think young Guo would be a most excellent First Voice."

"That young chap has no support among the Houses!"

"But he has the masses. And in times like this we need someone with Guo's standing in public. The Merchant Houses will not be overly pleased with him as First Voice, but they certainly like the other choices even less. I believe they can see their way to voting for him."

"This is...unexpected."

"In fact I believe Young Guo can be persuaded that for the post of State Secretary of Military Affairs to go to someone recommended by the Council of Shi."

"Brother Bao is quite serious?"

"Never more so."

"And the position of State Secretary of Finance..."

"Brother Bai," Bao gently shakes his head with mock reproval on his face.

Some minutes pass while the 2 men appear to study each other, one with a bemused expression on his face, the other with eyes like a hawk, and a mouth set in an unforgiving line.

Then the unforgiving line breaks into a thin smile.

"I believe the Council of Shi will find Guo Yonghe acceptable."

"Ah, splendid! Truly is the council wise. More tea, brother Bai?"


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