Da Tang Shuang Long Zhuan - Book 52 Chapter 12 – Death Secret Order

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Book 52 Chapter 12 – Death Secret Order

Translator: Foxs' Wuxia

Kou Zhong, Xu Ziling and Ba Fenghan, three men patrolled along the top of the city wall. Everywhere they went, the warriors respectfully saluted, their eyes emitted admiring expression, which evolved from the bottom of their hearts.

The three warmly inquired about these soldiers’ – who were waiting for dawn, their heads resting on a spear – well-being, and comforted them, acting with diligent care to attempt to improve their circumstances and to raise their morale.

Outside the city, the arrow towers at the enemy camp, which were glittering with lights, extended forever into the distance on the plains, scattered outside the city. There was indeed a making-people-lose-their-courage-entirely, dispersing-without-even-fighting mighty power.

Finally the three reached the Upper East Gate on the northeast. Climbing to the city gate tower rising high above the city wall, they leaned over to look into the distance to their left at Li Yuanji’s command camp located on the highland between the Cao Canal and Luo River, under protection of strong defensive structure and trenches. The command camp locked up and pressed down on two uneven paths, threatening Luoyang.

The soldiers guarding the city gate tower quietly withdrew to give the three the convenience to talk.

Kou Zhong sighed lightly and said, “If I could capture the command camp and behead Li Yuanji under my saber, I certainly can rewrite the fate of the future.”

Xu Ziling sneered and said, “This is called rejoicing in grandiose deeds, also overestimating one’s capabilities even more.”

Kou Zhong laughed apologetically and said, “I was just using words to vent up the pent-up frustration in my heart. After a good night sleep, my energy is recovered completely, I have a high fighting spirit. Frankly speaking, on the way rushing toward Luoyang, my mood was so bad that it could not be worse than that. Only after a good sleep, when I woke up, my mood recovered.”

Ba Fenghan smiled and said, “No matter how bad your mood is, you must not show it. Because inside the City of Luoyang, everyone is taking you as their only guide, they look at you to conduct themselves, not just in name only, but also in reality.”

The divine light in Kou Zhong’s pair of eyes flashing, he spoke heavily, “I, Kou Zhong, will never concede. While killing me is not easy, wanting me to surrender is even more impossible.”

Lowering his voice, Xu Ziling said, “What are you going to do with Wang Shichong?”

Ba Fenghan interjected, “Gain the initiative by striking first, those who move later will be under the control of the others.”

Kou Zhong’s eyebrows were deeply furrowed, he muttered to himself irresolutely, and then spoke with bitter smile, “A centipede is an insect that is dead but showing no signs of rigor mortis [idiom: die hard]. Don’t look at how Wang Shichong is at odds with the officers and soldiers under his command, because he has deployed his troops for a long time, the military power in his hands controls most of the high-ranking military officers with the Wang surname that are related to him. If we make our move to deal with Wang Shichong, very likely it will trigger internal battle. If that happens, no need to wait for the enemy to come and attack, we will collapse on our own first.”

Ba Fenghan said, “If Wang Shichong secretly open the city gate and surrender, we will suffer total defeat of the entire army.”

Kou Zhong responded, “I know Wang Shichong, this man, too well! He is reluctant to give up his power, if not until the last moment, his scheme exhausted his strength is gone, he won’t be willing to give up. Anyway, if he is willing to surrender, the Tang Army can’t possibly kill him. Based on his character, it’s only natural that he will hold out to the last moment before deciding to surrender. At the present time, he still has hope for the Tang and Xia, two-way war, he won’t give up too easily. Therefore, we only need to closely monitor Wang Shichong’s movements, I guarantee there’s nothing to worry about.”

Xu Ziling swept his gaze around the outside of the city, far and near, he spoke indifferently, “Currently, Luoyang is like an isolated island, not only traffic coming and going is cut off, but also isolated from the world, we are unclear of what’s going on in the Tang and Xia, two armies’ fighting. When Li Shimin defeats Dou Jiande, he will turn his troops back to Luoyang. At that time, not only we will have to deal with external problems, but also to deal with internal worries!”

Kou Zhong spoke in astonishment, “Could it be that Ling Shao is in favor of Lao Ba’s proposal to gain the initiative by striking first?”

Smiling wryly, Xu Ziling said, “I am judging the matter as it stands. I don’t take life or death matter to heart, but I have no choice but to give thought to the brothers who fight side by side with us.”

Ba Fenghan spoke in heavy voice, “War is a deadly game of who is more ruthless. Kou Zhong, you must not have excessive tendency to clemency [orig. women’s benevolence]; that will only mess things up.”

Kou Zhong reached out to wrap his arms around the two men’s shoulders, he smiled and said, “LaoGe, your rebuke is well-deserved, however, the fortunate timing of this operation must still be considered carefully. I still have a trick up my sleeve; when Dou Jiande really nurses a grievance at Hulao, Qifei will personally rush over, he will light up three fire beacons on the hilltop southeast of Luoyang. That will be the moment we will commence our operation. But under current circumstances, we must pretend to launch large-scale counterattack on the Tang Army outside the city, while carrying-out all kinds of careful deployment inside the city, to control the city without Wang Shichong’s knowledge. At that time, we won’t be afraid that he is going to betray us.”

Ba Fenghan spoke in delight, “Good kid! You really have some skills.”

Kou Zhong said, “Actually, I still have another trick up my sleeve, which is to open access to the tunnel first, send a scout to go through the tunnel to make contact in secret with our troops in Chenliu. But I am afraid we might save a little only to lose a lot, by exposing the existence of the tunnel, hence I discard this idea.”

After a short pause, he went on, “The most important thing for us right now is to conserve our strength. Once the city is broken, the entire army will break the siege and leave, we will go down south to seize Xiangyang. If we can defend then we will defend, if we cannot defend then we will withdraw to Zhongli via the waterway, and then we will have a decisive battle against Li Shimin.”

Ba Fenghan smiled and said, “I’m looking forward to that day. The days of painfully defending Luoyang are not easy at all; in the self-cultivation in the martial art way, it could be considered an ascetic practice.”

Kou Zhong let go of his arms and asked, “How’s Luoyang’s grain supply?

Xu Ziling replied, “Food and daily necessities can still last for about twenty more days; living frugally is a must. Medications have seen similar usage, which is one of the reasons why we do not dare to launch a large-scale counterattack.”

Knitting his brows, Ba Fenghan said, “We have one tunnel that is open but we are not using it, isn’t it unwise?”

Kou Zhong laughed and said, “Great minds think alike [orig. heroes usually agree]; I was just racking my brains on the tunnel. If we could send people through the tunnel, the gods do not know, the ghosts do not perceive, we could have Xuan Yong send us rations, medications and arrow darts and weapons. Part of it will be transported into the city via the tunnel, the rest can be hidden on the mountain and fields near the exit, so that when we run away, we won’t lack food supplies and run short of arrows. Even if Li Shimin does not want to let us go and pursue relentlessly from behind, we will still be in a position to deal with him.”

Xu Ziling decisively said, “This assignment, just leave it to me!”

How could Kou Zhong and Ba Fenghan have any objection? Relying on Xu Ziling’s incomparable-in-the-world spirited senses, entering and exiting the enemy territory was as easy as a hand’s turn. Moreover, he could lead the transporting-grain troops the gods do not know, the ghosts do not perceive – to sneak back into the city.

Kou Zhong gladly said, “I’ll entrust everything to Ling Shaoi then.”

Pointing to Li Yuanji’s command camp, he said, “What if we dig a tunnel that leads directly to Li Yuanji’s doghouse?”

Laughing involuntarily, Ba Fenghan said, “It won’t work unless you get rid of Wang Shichong first.”

Kou Zhong said, “If Li Yuanji’s is killed, Luoyang’s siege will be automatically resolved, how could Wang Shichong not agree?”

Xu Ziling understood his intentions, Kou Zhong was unwilling to look on helplessly at Dou Jiande being defeated and dispersed. He advised, “To dig such a tunnel will need at least twenty days, that is assuming there is no big rock or river course underground blocking the way, plus it will delay the tunnel project to the south. Even if Wang Shichong is willing to cooperate sincerely, in terms of timing, it is still not feasible.”

“All right!” Kou Zhong dejectedly said, “Let’s proceed according to the plan we agreed on. I hope Dou Jiande can display his great divine power to capture Hulao, so that we can successfully retreat, along the way going down south we can capture Xiangyang, and enjoy a little bit of just and honest good fortune.”

The next day at dusk, Kou Zhong and Ba Fenghan led the troops to go out and attack; they were just bluffing, they wanted to attract the attention of the besieging-the-city army’s attention, while Chen Laomou seized the opportunity to open access to the tunnel, constructing an ingeniously-designed concealed exit, while Xu Ziling also took the opportunity to slip out of the exit and go to Chenliu, so that they could transport food and weapons back.

In order to confuse the enemy’s eyes and ears, Kou Zhong and the others took turns to attack, to fill the trenches and destroy the arrow tower, while underground, Chen Laomou was going all-out in the construction project, utilizing the first tunnel to dig cross tunnel, so that they could dig the other two tunnels from several different sections at the same time.

Five days later, Xu Ziling came back at night, leading grain-transporting troops; he also brought bad news.

It turned out that Li Shimin deliberately released the news, falsely claiming that the Tang Army’s horses had exhausted their fodder supply, so that they had to take their horses to Hebei, while transferring a large number of troops at the same time.

Hearing the news, Dou Jiande was greatly delighted, thinking that this was a good opportunity to attack Hulao, hence the whole nest coming out, he mobilized the main forces out of Banzhu, and set up battle formation at Niukouzhu, connected to the Yellow River in the north, approaching Fan River to the west, leaning on the Magpie Mountain on the south. The battle formation spanning over more than twenty li, they beat the drums to challenge the opponent to a fight.

Li Shimin setup his battle formation about a li on the other side of the Fan River to meet the enemy, he held fast to the camp and did not go out, so that it became standing-opposite-each-other situation.

The problem was that the Dou Army was lacking food supplies, while Li Shimin had elite soldiers, ample provisions [idiom: well prepared], and he was waiting at his ease for the exhausted enemy [yep, another idiom]. Furthermore, he had Hulao behind him as a backup, so that if the stand-off continued, it would greatly benefit the Tang Army. Therefore, Xuan Yong, Xu Xingzhi, and so on were not too optimistic about Dou Jiande.

The decisive battle between the Xia and Tang’s main forces was near at hand, the Luoyang City’s atmosphere was becoming more and more tense.

Kou Zhong summoned Shan Xiongxin and Ba Yegang to have secret discussion in a house at the south of the city. Kou Zhong asked first, “You said that Li Yuanji received secret order from Li Yuan; other than Wang Shichong and his clansmen, the rest of the high-ranking military officers, without exception, will all be executed with no pardon. Where did the information actually come from?”

Ba Yegang replied, “It was Zhang Zhenzhou sending his men to inform us, advising me that if I see the turn of events not too encouraging, to immediately lead my men and brothers to flee, no need to throw my life in for Wang Shichong, this kind of a lowly man.”

Kou Zhong nodded and said, “Zhang Gong is a man with temperament, he says one as one, he says two as two, he will never use empty words to intimidate.”

Shan Xiongxin asked in surprise, “At that time, why did Shaoshuai not ask directly about this matter?”

Kou Zhong responded candidly, “The problem is that Ba Da Jiangjun and Guo Da Jiangjun are men who had been with Wang Shichong for many years, therefore, I must watch you for some time before I dare to be sure of gentlemen’s sincerity. Two gentlemen, please do not take offense.”

Ba Yegang said, “Shaoshuai has this kind of notion, it is reasonable and fair.”

Shan Xiongxin spoke in delight, “That means Shaoshuai is finally willing to offer us shelter!”

Kou Zhong said, “I already said that we all are brothers, then we are brothers. By the way, I wonder how many high-ranking military officers outside the Wang family are standing on my side?”

Counting with his fingers, Ba Yegang replied, “There are Duan Da, Wang Long, Cui Hongzhou, Xue Deyin, Meng Xiaowen, Guo Shizhu, Wang Deren, Yu Yuanzhen, Yang Wang, and so on, more than a dozen high-ranking military officers. Except for Lang Feng and Song Mengqiu, these two Wang Shichong’s loyal dogs, all the high-ranking military officers with external surnames are leaning toward Shaoshuai, hoping that in the future could follow Shaoshuai to conquer the world, to attack into Guanzhong and lop off Li Yuan’s stinky head.”

Just by listening to the contemptuous tone of Ba Yegang’s voice as he was speaking about Li Yuan, Kou Zhong knew that the various generals of different surnames in Luoyang, due to the injuries and deaths among their comrade-in-arms and their men – have already tied an unsolvable deep hatred toward the House of Tang of Chang’an. Otherwise, no need to surrender to Kou Zhong, they only needed to open wide the city gate to welcome Li Yuanji, surely they would be respected as generals and would be bestowed nobility titles.

“How’s the situation of your troops?” Kou Zhong asked.

Letting out a cold snort, Shan Xiongxin replied, “The men and horses under Wang Shichong’s personal command have suffered considerable damage, except for a bit more than one thousand imperial guards who are loyal to him, the other nearly twenty thousand generals and soldiers are entirely our people. As soon as Shaoshuai give your order, we could immediately charge into the imperial palace, to kill Wang Shichong until not a single armor remains.”

Shaking his head, Kou Zhong said, “That is the Plan B. We all are brothers; I have no need to conceal anything from you. We have already excavated three tunnels, when the situation is critical, we can escape from Luoyang, no need to wait inside the city to die.”

Hearing that, the two were delighted and alarmed at the same time.

Shan Xiongxin asked, “Shaoshuai is not optimistic about Dou Jiande?”

“Are you?” Kou Zhong asked in return.

The two shook their heads at the same time.

Ba Yegang said, “Turns out Shaoshuai has already prepared backup plan early on. How should we cooperate?”

Kou Zhong replied, “We must study clearly the details of the withdrawal first, so that when the situation becomes critical, everybody will know what measure to take. Precisely as long as green mountains remain, why would we be worry there is no wood to burn? Fully aware that one cannot do something yet insist on doing it, it is not something that a wise man would choose. Unnecessarily sacrificing one’s life is even more meaningless. However, one day Dou Jiande has not suffered defeat, Wang Shichong and us still share common interest, plus the situation is such that I definitely can seize Hulao one step ahead of Wang Shichong, so the initiative is in my place rather than in Wang Shichong’s hands. Two gentlemen can rest assured.”

After the three discussed the details of how to deal with the current situation, even the details of the grand plan of withdrawal, they quietly dispersed.

Kou Zhong went to the South City Guard House to see Xu Ziling and Ba Fenghan, who were inspecting the tunnel. The two were talking at the entrance of the tunnel, the construction battalion soldiers were as busy as a bee under Chen Laomou’s direction, basket after basket of sand and mud and rocks were carried out to the ground surface, and stored in a secret place.

Seeing Kou Zhong’s arrival, Ba Fenghan cheerfully said, “How about we go to the other end to breathe a mouthful of fresh and clean air outside the city?”

Kou Zhong laughed and said, “Naturally I am honored to accompany you.”

The three, with happy and excited mood, entered the tunnel, into a world reinforced with thick wooden beam spanning across overhead, supported by vertical columns. There were wind lanterns hanging every few dozen steps, under the breeze from more than a dozen bellows [or ventilator, I am not sure, since I think bellows will require people to operate it], the flame was flickering randomly, giving people eerie, bizarre feeling. The construction battalion soldiers were still drilling dirt and excavating mud using special tools, as well as installing beams and columns, in the other two tunnels, while the three strolled unhurriedly along the eight-chi high, one-zhang wide, and over one li long – tunnel.

The exit under the high camp was a wide room like a hall.

This was the intersection of the three tunnels. There were stone steps going up. There was still a thick layer, nearly a ­zhang deep – of soil that has not been opened, which was firmly propped by wooden structure. However, with the three men’s hearing ability, they were able to faintly hear the sound of hoof beats and footsteps in the camp overhead.

All around the underground space, there were deep grooves to accommodate the mud that was pouring out of the ruptures, the design was impossible to fault.

Wang Shichong has amassed a large quantity of timber in the city, originally intended for the construction of the palace buildings, who could have thought that Chen Laomou took them to build the tunnel?

After looking around for a moment, the three continued their journey, still heading toward the exit at the southern end of the first tunnel.

“Really strange,” Kou Zhong spoke in astonishment, “We have walked this far, yet how come I still don’t feel stuffy?”

Xu Ziling replied, “It’s all thanks to the air vents installed below the enemy trenches, with abundant bellows sending fresh air into the channel and driving the dead air inside the tunnel away. After completing the first tunnel, we must add air vents at the end, otherwise we can’t breathe while walking.”

Ba Fenghan said, “Shaoshuai’s charisma is extraordinary, hence you can attract so many outstanding talents to work for you; take Chen Laomou for example, he has a great chance to become the second Lu Miaozi. Without him, even if you can come up with the idea of constructing a tunnel, you would not have the ability to put it into practice.”

Kou Zhong laughed and said, “Chen Gong is at least equal to half Lu Dashi. He and Lu Dashi’s other half Lei LaoGe together, they certainly make one full Lu Miaozi. Ha!”

Talking and laughing, the three arrived at the exit at the end of the tunnel. The stone steps rose up two zhang high, straight to the thick iron lid on the exit; it looked very heavy.

Xu Ziling knew the situation of the exit very well; he explained, “The cover itself weighs more than a hundred catties, the top is covered with thin layer of dirt and weeds, located inside a cluster of miscellaneous trees, very hidden. After opening it, it is propped up by a piece of wood support; it is very convenient for us go out unhurriedly.”

Kou Zhong happily climbed up the stairs, he tested the lid with both hands; speechless, he said, “At least more than two hundred catties.”

Exerting his strength into both hands, one side of the iron lid rose up, the sound of wind whistling over the Yi Luo Plains, as well as the rustling noise of the swaying trees and mobbing leaves – were coming from above.

Kou Zhong looked out the exit, he said with a sigh, “Why does the night sky seen from Luoyang City feel very different from the night sky seen here? It’s all the same sky!”

Ba Fenghan smiled and said, “The sky is no different, but the mood is different. One is being trapped in a lone city, but here is free and easy, giving us free rein to crisscross the world.”

One after another the three climbed out of the exit, which was located on the slope of a small hill, all around the weeds were abundant, the sparse forest was covered in vegetation. When the iron lid was closed, the exit looked no different than the grassy slope.

The three cautiously crept up to the top of the hill, and crouched down on the slope to look into the distance. The lights from the high camp appeared about two hundred zhang away in front of their eyes, while the City of Luoyang was more than a li straight ahead.

Full of interest, Kou Zhong observed the situation of the high camp, he smiled and said, “If I take the Flying Cloud Riders mounting a sneak attack from behind, I guarantee that only after we cross the trench and enter the camp will the enemy be surprised.”

Ba Fenghan pointed to the four watchtowers located at the camp’s south side, he said, “It will still take the guards of the watchtowers to doze off to work.”

Kou Zhong said, “Based on our skill, surely we could, while the enemy is caught off guard – take care of the sentry on the towers one step ahead, right?”

Luo and Yi, two rivers separately snaked their way from far away to the left and right, the Luo River ran through Luoyang, it flowed into the city from the west, while the Yi River’s main stream flowed past the southeast side of Luoyang City, with one tributary flowed through inside the city.

Muttering to himself irresolutely, Kou Zhong said, “Our withdrawal grand plan can be divided into three parts. The first part is sending the lance and shield wilders and the saber and arrow wielders to go through the three tunnels, and then secretly spread out and formed battle array on this hill, followed by the wonder troops coming out of the tunnel to launch surprise attack toward the high camp. Afterwards, all three gates on the south side open wide, the troops will intercept the enemy formation going to help the high camp. After they rendezvous with the troops ambushing the high camp, they will withdraw to the side. The unit standing by in here is responsible for fiercely striking the enemy’s retreating troops, and then fight while retreating to the south at the same time. Success or failure depends on whether we could carry out blitzkrieg strategy, before the Tang Army guarding Yique and ShouAn, two cities get wind and seal off our route, to rush and enter Hongnong Jun [County or region], along the eastern bank of Zhe River, straight toward Xiangyang.”

Ba Fenghan said, “You said it like it was that easy. If we want to carry out blitzkrieg strategy, we must send a large number of warhorses here, that means we have to fill the trenches first, and also break down the battle formation the enemy set up along the edge of the trenches.”

Kou Zhong laughed and said, “Hence the saying that in the scheming of the art of war, the most critical thing is the willingness to use one’s brains. As long as we extend the tunnel under the enemy arrow tower formation, excavate the ground under them, we could treat it like an exit. We set up the wooden column first, then when it’s time to launch an attack, we use kerosene to drench the pillar, and burn his Niang’s wood, when the columns break, the arrow tower formation will naturally collapse, and then as easy as blowing off dust, we can render big blow to the enemy’s solid formation.”

Ba Fenghan blurted out laughing, he said, “Creatively combining learning with usage. Fancy that you could come up with such a shady and damaging trick.”

Kou Zhong cheerfully said, “It’s all thanks to LaoGe giving me directions; the more ruthless, the greater the chance of victory. His Niang’s! Very soon I will have a heart of stone!”

Xu Ziling proposed, “Army tents, foodstuff, supplies, everything must be transported to secret place near the exit. This way, our escape will be easier and more convenient.”

Kou Zhong excitedly said, “We happen to be three stinky cobblers, together we become one Zhuge Liang. Even if he, Li Shimin’s wisdom and scheming ability reach to the sky, the Heavenly Policy Mansion has fierce generals as numerous as the clous, strategic experts as thick as rain, in the end they still cannot match Wo Long Xiansheng [Mr. Crouching Dragon], whose name is famous throughout all ages. His granny’s bear, Li kid wants me to die, it won’t be that easy. Huh?”

The three men’s countenance changed at the same time.

There was the sound of a gust of wind from behind, obviously someone was flying in their direction.

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