“Dang! Dang! Dang! Dang……!“
The sound of a gong ordering a retreat could be heard from outside Hulao Pass.
Hulao Pass was an enormous gate-tower city, located in between two steep precipices. At the present moment, regardless of if it was inside the gate-tower or outside of Hulao Pass, the ground was all strewn with corpses and innumerable rockets, smoke from the gunpowder all around the scene. At the side of the gate-tower, magnanimous escalades were presently all being burned by a large fire.
Gu Qin, whose hair was now dyed white, stood at the window of the gate-tower, overlooking the great amount of currently retreating Song soldiers below.
Behind Gu Qin stood Chen Tianshan and Chen Liangyi.
“Hiss, what a close call, because of the news that came through previously, Gao Xianzhi’s troops were intimidated by Gu Hai, unexpectedly stopping their troops to reorganize; who would have thought, surprisingly he would actually be deceiving others? Gao Xianzhi arrived faster than we could have imagined, furthermore, everyone he brought with him were elite troops; if you hadn’t prepared much earlier for this, Hulao Pass would have nearly been captured!” Chen Tianshan spoke, his face filled with trepidation.
Chen Liangyi also resolutely nodded his head: “Fortunately you had prepared the kerosene, so that when they began to use escalades, one could use the kerosene to burn the escalade; otherwise, it would have been too horrible to think about… too horrible to think about! As expected, it was the Tiger Wolf troops, and even if only one had climbed onto the top, it would have equaled five of our soldiers, this, this…!” Chen Liangyi also spoke in trepidation.
Gu Qin did not look at the two people, instead looked towards the distance, and quietly spoke to himself, “You idiot, regardless of what time it is, I cannot let anything slip, remember, right now I am Gu Hai!”
At the present moment, Gu Qin’s hair had been dyed into white, and appearing on his face was a great amount of wrinkles. Even if he was not very similar to Gu Hai, the people who had met Gu Hai personally before could be counted with his fingers, and this year the people who had met Gu Qin was also very few. Furthermore Gu Qin’s present appearance had changed a great deal, and the average person would find it difficult to recognize him. Even the Gu Mansion’s most trusted aides would not be able see through him.
Chen Tianshan and Chen Lianyi examined Gu Qin, solemnly nodding their heads.
At the original time that Gu Hai had arranged this, Chen Tianshan had had a sudden burst of unwillingness. He had been anxious that a mishap had occurred, although at the present moment, he did not have any grievances. At the very least, Gu Hai had anticipated the enemy’s main opportunity, and just recently the consecutive ten-hour attack had been unexpectedly been resisted, letting Gao Xianzhi return without any achievements.
“I’ll listen to anything you say. However you want to do something, will be the way that it will be done, as long as it can block Gao Xianzhi!” Chen Liangyi resolutely spoke.
“Immortal Chen Expert, Father wants to defeat the Song Kingdom in the quickest manner, therefore, regarding Father’s tendencies, you mustn’t leak anything out, so as to avoid any accidents.” Gu Qin solemnly spoke.
Chen Tianshan nodded his head: “I will keep this confidential for your sake. It’s just that regarding the besiegement that happened earlier, just three thousand people died, Gao Xianzhi also lost three thousand people, but that was only a handful of his troops. The moment when his numerous troops unceasingly converge towards Hulao Pass, how will you resist?”
“Don’t worry about it, I believe in Father, and Father will very quickly bind them!” After a moment of silence, Gu Qin finally spoke.
“The person who previously broke through the barrier was indeed Gao Xianzhi’s First seated Vanguard, that high-ranking military officer ‘Lin Chong’. This man is extremely brave and powerful, and it’s very important that we pay attention to him. Later I’ll have an artist draw his appearance, and give it to every soldier in the city to look at; as long as you see this person approach, immediately fire with all your strength!” Gu Qin heavily spoke.
“Yes!” Chen Liangyi replied.
Outside of the Hulao Pass.
Amongst a campground of large tents.
An approximately forty-year-old scholarly man wearing red clothing, was presently holding a cup of hot tea in his hands, carefully looking at an enormous diorama. Above the diorama was a detailed description of the terrain outside of Hulao Pass.
Beside him stood a group of imperial bodyguards, all extremely quiet, nobody daring to disrupt this scholarly man clasping the cup of tea.
The man’s appearance was clearly handsome, the space in between his eyebrows seeming to be filled with an inexplicable heroic spirit, making the people who looked at him all experience a resonating state of mind feeling.
After he had drank a mouthful of tea, he used his hands to gesticulate towards the diorama.
Immediately, a powerful man covered entirely with blood rushed into the large tent.
The powerful man plopped into a kneel, his face filled with shame and uneasiness.
The scholarly man clasping the cup of tea nevertheless turned his back on him, continuing to look towards at the diorama.
“Commander, Lin Chong has failed, he was unable to attack Hulao Pass, as those Hulao Pass commanders seemed to know in advance generally what we were going to do, and prepared kerosene ahead of time. Our casualties were disastrous, and about three thousand soldiers unfortunately died. Furthermore, there are two thousand people with varying injuries. Your subordinates were incompetent, in this way causing large losses. Commander, please punish us!” The powerful man pleaded for forgiveness as he kneeled on the ground.
The commander clasping the cup of tea did not move his head, continuing to look towards at the diorama.
“Commander, please punish us, your subordinates were incompetent, and unable to attack the gate-tower!” The powerful Lin Chong once again knocked his head against the ground as he pleaded for forgiveness.
“Your inability to attack the gate-tower, is normal. If you had been able to attack the gate-tower, that would have been considered to be abnormal!” The commander clasping the cup of tea insipidly opened his mouth to speak.
“Ah?” Lin Chong ignorantly looked at the commander.
The Grand-Marshal that had launched an expedition against the Chen Empire, Gao Xianzhi!
Gao Xianzhi clasped the cup of tea as he slowly turned his body around, looking towards at Lin Chong, faintly smiling as he spoke, “I did not have any hope that you would be able to successfully attack Hulao Pass! It was merely to allow the vanguard troops to test out Hulao Pass’s quality. You don’t have to blame yourself, the people defending that city, are not people you are capable of confronting!”
“Commander, you don’t blame me?” Lin Chong astonishedly spoke.
Gao Xianzhi drank a mouthful of the tea within his hands, nodding his head as he spoke, “I have already let people investigate thoroughly the terrain that surrounds Hulao Pass. Gu Hai really is worthy of his reputation, and unexpectedly his defense is invulnerable. Even including those steep mountain passes, he has defended by destroying the cliffs, cutting off our only road!”
“But, but our three-thousand comrades…!” Lin Chong’s appearance became unsightly as he spoke.
“Well, if there’s a war, there are naturally casualties. The people that Gu Hai and us met in the past are all different, you must never hold contempt for him, you must consider him to be an extremely formidable opponent. Remember, he is stronger than me!” Gao Xianzhi profoundly spoke.
“Ah? How it that possible, Commander, currently in the Song Empire, I only admire you!” Lin Chon immediately said, unconvinced.
“But from today onwards, I only admire him!” Gao Xianzhi said heavily.
“Ah? What?” Lin Chong astonishedly spoke.
“Even though I admire him, I still want to defeat him, therefore, you must be careful!” Gao Xianzhi solemnly spoke.
“This Gu Hai’s way of employing his soldiers is practically impossible to defend against. Furthermore, he makes many moves outside of the chessboard, making it impossible for you to notice. Afterwards, even if it is not on the battleground, if an abnormal matter occurs, the first thing you must do is contact me!” Gao Xianzhi heavily spoke.
“Battle for three more days, and even if many people die needlessly it doesn’t matter. Once they die, within Hulao Pass an equivalent amount of people will die as well. Once the trash troops within Hualao Pass see their comrades die one by one, their hearts will definitely be affected. After three days, we will withdraw the troops, and wait for the next few days. By the time I send some troops to surge the city and invade, they will inevitably destroy themselves out of fear!” Gao Xianzhi drank a last mouthful of tea, coldly speaking.
Three days later.
Above the Hulao Pass gate-tower city.
“Withdrew their troops, they finally withdrew their troops!” At this moment Chen Liangyi’s eyes were brimming with tears of excitement.
“But in these three days, we have lost ten-thousand men!” Chen Tianshan’s appearance was unsightly as he spoke.
In total there were only a hundred thousand soldiers, and ten thousand were now dead. The effectiveness of the psychological blow affected morale in an extremely frightening manner. Furthermore, the opposite side still had seven, eight hundred thousand troops to arrive.
“Are you worried that the barracks will have an uproar?” Gu Qin made a disparaging smile as he spoke.
“Will there be one?” Chen Liangyi worriedly spoke.
“Yes!” Gu Qin wore a face of certainty as he spoke.
“Gao Xianzhi’s psychological warfare imitates those of my father’s; if he uses it, how can my father not use it as well? Relax, let me do the organizing, and change our methods of propaganda. These ten thousand deaths, not only will it not make them so scared that they turn into sheeple, but instead it will evoke their vicious natures, making them not afraid of death!” Gu Qin smiled as he spoke.
Gao Xianzhi rode on a large black horse, leading ten thousand wounded, slowly making their way towards a distant large city.
Although they had not successfully attacked Hulao Pass, regarding Gao Xianzhi’s opinion, he was satisfied because Gao Xianzhi had already planted the seeds of fear into the remaining Chen Empire troops in Hulao Pass.
In Hulao Pass ten thousand Chen soldiers had died; perhaps it could evoke their vicious natures, but, what use would that be? In the future, when his eight hundred troops would besiege the walls, the seeds of fear within the Chen soldiers’s hearts would sprout, and quickly destroy all the pent-up vicious natures.
Before his eyes were the eight hundred thousand troops’ largest stronghold. It was also formerly the Chen Empire’s largest city outside of the imperial capital, called ‘Merchant City’. It was here, in this very place, that the richest man within all of the six kingdoms had received his fortunes.
Presently, it had been seized by himself a long time ago, and was now regarded as a military stronghold, where he used troops to seize cities in all four directions.
“The Commander has returned!” From very far away there were already officers and soldiers coming to welcome him.
“Within the Merchant City, were there any merchants that displayed errant actions?” Gao Xianzhi asked.
“None, Commander, you can relax, you’ve made us monitor them for a long time. Not just the Merchant City, but other cities were also subjected to this, and there’s basically no merchants that dare to mess around!” The head soldier spoke.
“Ah!” Gao Xianzhi nodded his head.
The troops slowly stepped into the city. Towards the heart of the city was an enormous military training ground. The military training ground was also where the large troops were gathered. Not including the troops that had gone out on the campaign, in here at the very least there were three hundred thousand stationed.
The military training ground and barracks were still a great distance away. Gao Xianzhi suddenly wrinkled his eyebrows. From the faraway training ground came the sound of firecrackers.
The firecrackers were incessant, the sound incomparably noisy!
“What’s going on?” Gao Xianzhi slightly wrinkled his eyebrows.
“Commander, these are some of our Song Empire’s richest merchants, they previously came to show appreciation to our troops!” The head soldier laughed as he spoke.
“What? Rich merchants?” Gao Xianzhi’s facial expression changed.
In a split second he thought of the richest individual in all of the six kingdoms, Gu Hai.
Gao Xianzhi whipped the horse’s buttocks, the black horse immediately speeding up.
Very quickly he arrived onto the military training grounds and the barracks. At the moment, a group of people dressed in brightly colored gowns, were respectfully saluting to a middle-aged man wearing a magnificent gown.
“The Crown Prince was greatly demanding, but us merchants were incompetent and could only express good intention. It really does not matter very much, it was all our good intentions. Seeing the Song Empire’s unceasing strength, inside our hearts we were very happy. Therefore, our city’s commerce chamber agreed to gift these materials to you, in order to prevent the Chen Kingdom’s Gu Hai get away with any loopholes!” The group was headed by a portly middle-aged man wearing a brocade gown, was exceedingly deferential as he spoke.
In front of the middle-aged man wearing the brocade gown was really the Song Kingdom Crown Prince, presently standing in front of a crowd of rich merchants, and in his eyes a look of satisfaction flashing through it.
“The Commander has returned to the camp!” Suddenly a young soldier loudly shouted.
In all directions, regardless if it was an officer, soldier, the crown prince, a rich merchant, or a part-time worker; one after another they turned their heads to look at him.
They saw Gao Xianzhi riding a large horse, in that moment reaching the entrance.
Not from far away the sound of firecrackers resounded. Gao Xianzhi’s eyes flashed coldly.
“Greetings to the Commander!” The Song Crown Prince laughed as he spoke.
“Paying respects to the Commander!” The group of rich merchants excitedly paid their respects.
“What’s going on?” Gao Xianzhi coldly spoke.
“Oh, this is my Song Empire Peng City’s commerce chamber. After hearing that you ordered the supervision of every granary, medicinal storehouse, so as to prevent Gu Hai from using trade to start a rebellion, cutting off our demand, the Peng City commerce chamber spontaneously organized together this, transporting great amounts of foodstuffs, medicinal ingredients, striving their hardest for our kingdom, supporting my troops!” The Song Crown Prince laughed as he spoke.
“Oh?” Gao Xianzhi faintly said, looking as if misunderstood.
After Gao Xianzhi heard that Gu Hai was leading the troops, his first reaction, was that Gu Hai would try and cut off trade for natural resources, and had prepared for it for a long time. H had not thought Song Kingdom Peng City’s commerce chamber would be this conscientious.
The head merchant was all smiles as he spoke, “Congratulations, Commander, the entire road is filled with songs about you, even extinguishing the Chen Emperor. When we received these news, all our hearts, without exception, surged with excitement, all acutely believing in you. Therefore, that’s why I brought the military these materials. On one hand, we admire you very much, on the other hand, we wanted to bring you our sincere congratulations. We hope that the Commander will allow this!”
Gao Xianzhi furrowed his brows as he stared towards the crowd of rich merchants. Because of Gao Xianzhi’s vigilance, the first thing he tried to find out was whether or not that they were spies dispatched by Gu Hai, carrying out some conspiracy. However, seeing the large amount of foodstuffs and medicinal supplies not very far away, Gao Xianzhi exposed a trace of confusion. It almost seemed something wasn’t quite right!
However, if it was really was an offer of congratulations and natural resources that had come previously, there was no need to crack down on it.
“Then I will, on behalf of the entire army, thank you! As we’ve been on a long-range raid for the entire journey, we are profoundly exhausted, therefore we are unable to receive you properly!” Gao Xianzhi opened his mouth to speak.
“That is natural, that is natural!” The crowd of rich merchants immediately smiled as they spoke.
“Commander, why don’t you rest for a while, this place has me!” The Crown Prince smiled as he spoke.
Gao Xianzhi nodded his head.
At nightfall, Lin Chong walked into Gao Xianzhi’s large tent.
“Commander, I’ve already inspected everything, the foodstuffs, medicine, and have no problems with them; they are all the best! Looks like this group of rich merchants have no affiliation with Gu Hai!”
“They are all the best?” Gao Xianzhi faintly wrinkled his eyebrows.
“Yes, this group of merchants are really too cordial, going so far as to host a firework show, congratulating our present enormous victories!” Lin Chong laughed as he spoke.
“Dispatch some men to watch over this group of merchants!” Gao Xianzhi profoundly spoke.
“Commander, I heard that tomorrow morning they’ll leave, why…?”
“I have an inevitable type of bad premonition, watch them, as to avoid any mishaps!” Gao Xianzhi said heavily.
The second day, Gao Xianzhi got out of bed, washing his face.
Outside of the barracks, once again came the sound of firecrackers.
“Eh? Lin Chong!” Gao Xianzhi coldly yelled.
“Present!” Lin Chong quickly entered the large tent.
“Didn’t I tell to watch over the Peng City merchants? Did anything happen?” Gao Xianzhi heavily spoke.
“Nothing, they left early this morning. Oh, but, today is when the rich Yun City merchants came to reward the army, and the firecrackers were exploding from the outside of the city all the way to the barracks. They also brought large amounts of medicinal ingredients and foodstuffs. It looks like that they aren’t fake either!” Lin Chong smiled as he spoke.
“Rich merchants from Yun City?”Gao Xianzhi revealed a trace of ignorance.
“Yes, it was all foodstuffs, medicinal ingredients, all of them of the best quality, and we’ve sent people to look over them. Haha, at this rate we won’t have to worry about Gu Hai getting in our way!” Lin Chong laughed as he spoke.
Gao Xianzhi revealed a trace of a doubtful appearance.
Song Empire Imperial Capital, Song City. Tian Mansion.
In front of Gu Hai was a Weiqi board. Gu Hai set down pieces one by one against himself; besides him stood his foster son, Gu Han.
“Father, the Peng City commerce chamber, the Yun City commerce chamber, and the Hui City commerce chamber, have unceasingly proceeded to Merchant City. According to your orders they have sent large amounts of foodstuffs, and medicinal ingredients. Every commerce chamber are under our influence, and one after another are heading onto the roads. It’s just that, in this way sending all this foodstuff, medicinal ingredients, what use does it have?” Gu Han spoke with misgivings.
Gu Hai placed a white piece on the Weiqi board, revealing a trace of a frivolous smile: “Yes, what use does it do? Gu Han, can you not think of the answer?”
Gu Han’s expression changed: “Oh, I know it now, Father. Because Gao Xianzhi is defending against us, he had long ago prepared enough foodstuffs and medicinal ingredients. Therefore, when we send foodstuffs and medicinal ingredients, he has basically no need for them. If food and medicinal supplies were to be cut short, they would treasure it incomparably. However, if there is sufficient foodstuffs, even if they were to have more it would serve no use to them, so therefore they can only store it in some place, letting someone take care of it, and transport it. When they have so much, they are better off having material advantages like money, as at least they can give money to the army, encouraging their morale. But food is not a good reward, and at the very least right before a conflict they cannot hand it out. If they were to give it out, their army would be unable to bring it back with them, so food and medicinal supplies are tantamount to rubbish. This is really a good way to fool people!”
“This phenomenon is known as ‘the moon waxes only to wane¹’. Every extremity, not only does it have no benefit, it also has harmful effects!” Gu Hai profoundly spoke.
“Yes, when those soldiers and officers see the large quantities being sent into the camp, it will do themselves even a little bit of good, inside their hearts they will definitely feel some disequilibrium.” Gu Han laughed as he spoke.
“What else?” Gu Hai once again placed a black Weiqi piece as he spoke.
Gu Han knew that Gu Hai was teaching him, so therefore he analyzed with great effort, staying silent for a moment. Gu Han’s eyes suddenly brightened, and inside his eyes flashing a trace of a shocked expression.
“The firecrackers, fireworks?” Gu Han astonishedly spoke.
Gu Han faintly laughed: “How is that relevant?”
“Inside Merchant City three hundred thousand soldiers are stationed, furthermore there five hundred thousand troops additionally, unceasingly attacking cities in other regions. Merchant City is where the general headquarters are stationed, and is also equivalent to a place to recuperate from injuries. Elite soldiers are unceasingly being dispatched outside, while wounded soldiers are are being unceasingly transported back to Merchant City, once again recuperating. If someone breaks their arm, or breaks their legs, or has wounds all over their body, their hearts will naturally be incomparably unhappy. People with handicapped bodies have a despairing thought towards their futures. But at this time, when other people are having festive celebrations, the cry of firecrackers everywhere, incomparably celebrating. The morale of injured soldiers will exceedingly drop, and this is practically putting salt into their wounds!” Gu Han spoke.
“The fireworks in the night look beautiful and dazzling, but towards wounded soldiers it is almost as if they are sneering at their handicaps! Adding the great amount of foodstuffs, and medicinal ingredients being transported there, it is not distributed evenly to everybody’s hands, so this group of wounded soldiers will furthermore feel discriminated against in their hearts; why do others get to experience flourishing victory, while I can only receive a hopeless future?” Gu Han spoke.
Gu Hai nodded his head: “Is there anything else?”
Gu Han pondered deeply for a while, until his expression finally changed.
“Father, are you talking about the ordinary people in Merchant City?” Gu Han astonishedly spoke.
Gu Hai froze in the middle of setting down the piece, nodding his head as he spoke, “Yes, Gao Xianzhi buried alive six hundred thousand Chen soldiers, these six hundred thousand people were the pillars of countless ordinary households. They had sons, they were husbands, were fathers, they were the moral pillars of each and every household. When they died, the households have grieved for a long time, despairing about their hopeless futures. It’s only that they are unable to resist against this group of invaders that they do not do anything. Presently at this moment these invaders are celebrating every day, it’s similar to the devil wanting to assimilate with them. Although they are helpless, inside of their hearts more and more enmity flourishes with every passing moment!”
“With every passing day, when this enmity reaches its peak, will it result in an extremely frightening strength?” Gu Han deeply breathed in a mouthful of air as he spoke.
“Remember, no matter who it is, they are incapable of resisting the people’s ocean of fury; when the tides of fury begin to engulf everything, it is similar to heaven falling and earth rending, something impossible to defend against!” Gu Hai spoke profoundly.
“Hiss!” Gu Han sucked in a mouthful of cold air.
“Father, your son could not have imagined, that these unimportant firecrackers and fireworks could unexpectedly conceal this kind of danger, unexpectedly being able to change the will of the people!”
“The will of the people is the most formidable strength! Similarly, the will of the people is also the weakest strength! Pay careful attention this is only starting!”
After he had finished talking, Gu Hai once again placed a Go piece onto the Go board.
¹The title, ‘the moon waxes only to wane’, is the first half of a Chinese idiom (月满则亏, 水满则溢) which means ‘the moon waxes only to wane, water brims only to overflow’. It basically means that every extremity is a fault.
I will be taking my semester finals next week, which is why XLZS has remained unupdated for so long. Updates will continue after summer break begins.