Da Tang Shuang Long Zhuan - Book 53 Chapter 2 – Seeking Survival in the Worst Place

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Book 53 Chapter 2 – Seeking Survival in the Worst Place

Translator: Foxs' Wuxia

All of a sudden, time seemed to stand still.

When Wang Shichong spat out his decision to surrender, the people around him, consisting of the high-ranking military officers with Wang surname, the high-ranking military officers with different surnames, and seven or eight martial art masters, his personal attendants, Kou Zhong, Xu Ziling, Ba Fenghan, Yang Gongqing, and more than a dozen Flying Cloud Riders plus the Zheng Kingdom’s warrior guarding the city wall, everybody stopped breathing, their eyes were completely focused on Wang Shichong, on the wide and extended city wall, the crow and peacock made no sound.

Outside the city, the Tang Army under Li Shimin and Li Yuanji’s command spread out the entire plain between the rivers, only the sound of fluttering flags was heard, no one made any noise, amidst the intermittent sound of horses’ neigh, they quietly waited the decision whether the city-defenders army would fight or surrender.

Kou Zhong’s countenance was calm, his pair of eyes emitted sharp divine light, he was not in the least angry as he listened to Wang Shichong’s decision related to the fate of the army and civilians in the entire city, as if he did not take Wang Shichong’s words to heart at all.

Wang Xuanshu was the first to react. He rushed forward, knelt down and cried in grief, “Fu Huang ...”

“Shut up!” Wang Shichong angrily said, “Zhen have no other choice.”

A grim smile escaped out of the corner of Kou Zhong’s mouth. He did not even have the mood to argue with, or even scold and curse – Wang Shichong, this kind of everything-for-self-and-selfish-profit, unstable-without-any-sense-of-shame lowly person; he simply decided, “Since Zhushang wants to offer the city and surrender, you have sunk down to become the enemy’s captive, who no longer has the authority to make decision for yourself. Our agreement to cooperate in one mind to defend Luoyang together is no longer binding. Starting from tonight, the Great Zheng is no more, Luoyang is no longer yours, Wang Shichong’s. Whoever dares to oppose, I will kill him. Guards! Lock up Wang Shichong and all his subordinates for me.”

Hearing that, Wang Shichong’s countenance changed dramatically. One after another the high-ranking military officers of Wang surname shouted and cursed, Wang Xuanying cried out loudly, “Rebellion! Rebellion!”

‘Qiang! Qiang!’

The ringing sound was unending, the high-ranking military officers of Wang surname, personal guards, various generals of different surnames, the city-defender warriors, Flying Cloud Guards, everybody pulled the sabers and swords from their waists at the same time, immediately the top of the wall was full of fiery smell of swords-drawn-and-bows-bent, civil war could happen at any moment.

Only Kou Zhong, Ba Fenghan and Xu Ziling still appeared cold and detached, they stood in triangular formation in front of Wang Shichong, while turning a blind eye to the saber and spear, sword and halberd around them.

Kou Zhong’s smile grew; suddenly he threw his head back in long laughter, and then thundered, “Who’s willing to live or die together with me, Kou Zhong!”

Apart from the men and horses related to the Wang Clan, the various generals of different surnames, the Flying Cloud Guards, and the hundreds and thousands city-defender warriors who heard his voice, roared in respond, their voices shook the city wall.

Only this moment did Wang Shichong, Wang Xuanying and the others, a group of men and horses related to the Wang Clan, realize that the officers and soldiers of different surnames have already cast their lots on Kou Zhong’s side. The color of blood was completely drained from everyone’s face, there were even some who could not hold his weapon anymore, ‘Clang! Dang!’ it fell to the ground, which increased Kou Zhong’s power and influence in controlling the overall situation.

Wang Shichong’s hand holding the sword suddenly turned white, it suddenly turned red, showing that he was hesitating, difficult to make decision, whether he should pull the sword out of its sheath.

Wang Xuanshu suddenly stood up, he moved to Kou Zhong’s side and cried out in sorrow, “Fu Huang, please forgive Child for being unfilial, Xuanshu decided to stand on Shaoshuai’s side.”

Ba Yegang and Bing Yuanzhen’s two swords were pressed against Wang Shichong’s back at the same time. This action carried more threatening power than any words. The men and horses related to the Wang Clan, none dared to move half a finger, anybody would know that the great momentum has gone, the City of Luoyang has fallen into Kou Zhong’s hands.

Wang Shichong was trembling all over, his hand holding the sword loosened, tears flowed down his face, he said, “It’s finished! It’s finished!” Just like that, he walked toward the stone steps leading down into the city.

‘Dang! Clang!’ the sound of falling weapons was ringing continuously, one after another Wang Xuanying and various high-ranking military officers of Wang surname abandoned their weapon and followed suit, under escort of Ba Yegang and the others, various generals of different surnames and Flying Cloud Guards, they accept their fate of being under arrest inside the palace.

Under such circumstances, Kou Zhong did not behead them all, he could be considered extremely benevolent.

Kou Zhong reached out to pat Wang Xuanshu on the shoulder and said with a smile, “I definitely am not going to harm them, don’t worry!”

And then, raising his hand, he turned around to face Li Shimin outside the city and shouted loudly, “Li Shimin, listen! As long as I, Kou Zhong, still have a breath in me, I will never surrender. If you have the ability, come and attack Luoyang!”

Ba Fenghan roared wildly, “Kou Zhong will win! Shao Shuai Army will prevail!”

On the city wall, all generals and soldiers echoed in chorus. The cry, “Kou Zhong will win! Shao Shuai Army will prevail!” spread all over the earth, it soared straight into the night sky.

Between the two armies, there was no longer any possibility of negotiation; going or staying, living or dying – would be decided only by their strength.

Called a king if successful, called a bandit if defeated.

From then on, the world was no longer under the warlords vying for supremacy, setting up an independent regime, contending for hegemony, rather, it would be decided by victory or defeat, honor and disgrace – between Li Shimin and Kou Zhong.

Kou Zhong stepped down from the east wall; Ba Yegang, Bing Yuanzhen, Shan Xiongxin, Duan Da, Guo Shancai, and so on, the high-ranking military officers of different surnames, were waiting respectfully at the end of the stairs, to see how Kou Zhong would lead them through this crisis.

Now, outside the city was no longer Li Yuanji, but the unequalled, always win, commander-in-chief Li Shimin, whose name shook the world. Their military strength grew from a hundred thousand to a hundred and fifty thousand. As for Kou Zhong did not include Li Shimin in the grand plan of breaking out of the siege, no one had either confidence or assurance anymore.

Kou Zhong stopped at the last step, he smiled and said, “Wang Shichong and I are, after all, acquaintance, and Xuanshu is our good brother, so we must respect him, the Senior, so that he can accomplish his desire to surrender to the Great Tang.”

Ba Yegang apologized humbly to Wang Xuanshu, who was behind Kou Zhong – first, and then he replied to Kou Zhong, “Shuxia understands!”

Ba Fenghan leisurely and contentedly sat down on the sixth stone step, laughing involuntarily, he said, “After all, Kou Zhong is Kou Zhong. Now I really have full confidence in you, I am no longer worried.”

Standing next to him, Xu Ziling and Yang Gongqing both felt the same way, in such a nasty moment, Kou Zhong could still act calmly, employing troops with chatting and laughing; not everybody could do that.

Kou Zhong laughed aloud and said, “Many thanks Lao Ba for your praise.”

Ba Yegang, Wang Xuanshu, and the others were also overcome with bizarre feeling. Kou Zhong and Ba Fenghan’s relaxed, unconstrained attitude of putting life or death outside the sphere of their consideration was such a powerful inspiration to them. All of a sudden, they felt that Li Shimin on the outside was not too scary anymore, because Ba Fenghan, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling, any one of these three, was Li Shimin’s most feared formidable opponent. The three men together, even the world’s most terrifying Tujue’s Wolf Army was still unable to do anything to them.

Kou Zhong turned around to speak to Yang Gongqing, “We are going to use the team from Chenliu to firmly guard every city gate leading to outside the city. This matter must be carryout immediately. I’m sorry to trouble Yang Gong!”

Yang Gongqing laughed aloud and said, “To be able to go through life and death together with Shaoshuai is indeed Laofu’s honor. Guarding the city gate strictly to prevent the traitor from the inside to open the gate and offer the city is just a small thing. Leave it to Laofu.”

Laughing happily, escorted by the Flying Cloud Guards, he stepped down the stairs and left.

Kou Zhong patted every person passing by on the shoulder, so that they felt that he had a card up his sleeve, that he had the confidence that victory was within his grasp.

After Yang Gongqing left, Kou Zhong spoke indifferently, “Know yourself and know your enemy, and you will never be defeated. First of all, we should be clear about Li kid’s situation.”

Xu Ziling sat down next to Ba Fenghan, his heart was filled with emotional stirring, Kou Zhong has finally matured, so that Shi Feixuan’s fear has become a reality, he has become the terrifying figure who was able to match Li Shimin on the battlefield.

At the same time, he also understood that Ba Fenghan’s ‘present moment’ indeed had supreme and wonderful role in the martial art way cultivation. This moment, on one hand, he was in a nightmare-like battle in a besieged city, the enemy’s military strength was several times above theirs, and their morale was high, while they were in a leaking house battered by rain through the night, facing internal divisions, their morale was in decline, and were facing various problems of arrows exhausted and the provisions cut short. On the other hand, he disengaged himself from everything, calmly and silently observed himself enduring the suffering of the war, thereby reaching the Moon-in-the-Well-style spiritual balance. Just like he was in a dream, yet he was aware that he was in a dream, only he was not able to wake up.

Sitting next to him, Ba Fenghan was as cool-headed as ever; he was a natural born warrior, the more nasty the situation, the more he showed his transcendent characteristic. He used himself to teach a lesson, passing on the golden rule of the battlefield to Kou Zhong, only those who were ruthless enough would be able to survive.

And his best brother was doing the best he could; first, he single-handedly charged into the enemy ranks. Not only he was showing his comradeship with Dou Jiande, furthermore, he was showing his courage to both sides, the enemy and us, that he did not fear the enemy. Although at the final juncture Yang Xuyan messed it up, so that he ruined the enterprise for the sake of one basketful, but he has inspired the defending-the-city army’s morale, so that, in a straightforward and orderly manner, he was able to control the overall situation, to make Wang Shichong backing off, no longer in control of the general situation.

All of these were shaping his present moment, which let him experience, in the double-awakening situation, the dithering between life and death, the terrifying experience that involved the fate of the army and the people of the whole city.

Kou Zhong’s voice continued to enter his ears, saying, “The enemy’s military strength is five times ours, plus their fighting spirit is high, their training is excellent. However, by using deep trenches and high ramparts to besiege the city, it is actually unfavorable to attack but favorable for defense. Furthermore, Li Shimin is not an ignorant and stubborn kind of person, therefore, in the short term, he would only do his best to seal off the water and land, two routes; he would not take chances by attacking the city. Our Luoyang is a major city; as long as we could resolve the internal problems, we could choose the time to break out of the siege, relying on the situation where the enemy is scattered while we are concentrated, surely we will be able to subdue the enemy and break the siege in one go. We have to fight Li Shimin on the outside with brains, and not by comparing military strength.”

Ba Fenghan shouted in low voice, “That is the correct strategy.”

Kou Zhong laughed cheerfully, his eyes turned to Xu Ziling, he asked for advice, “Ling Shao, do you have any suggestion?”

Xu Ziling spoke calmly, “If we want to go, we must go tonight; otherwise, we will never have the opportunity.”

Ba Yegang and the others, more than a dozen high-ranking military officers, none was not stunned.

Kou Zhong raised his thumb and praised, “Ling Shao indeed sees the situation between the enemy and us clearly and completely. This moment Li Shimin must be moving and army and sending a general, to reinforce the defensive structure besieging Luoyang. If we miss tonight, our breaking the siege will become increasingly difficult. And that is not the biggest problem, the biggest headache is that we only have a bit over ten days’ worth of food supply, there is no reason not to take advantage of the time while the enemy has not steadied the feet of their disposition of troops to go all-out to break the siege. If we did not do it this way, Li Shimin would guess that we have something else to rely on. He only needs to order his men to dig the deep trenches surrounding the whole city one zhang deeper, and then our tunnel won’t be able to cover its traces. Therefore, we must seize the opportunity before that happens, to utilize the tunnel to force our way out of encirclement. Other than that, there is no other way.”

Ba Fenghan nodded and said, “Tonight is certainly the only chance, but how are we going to resolve the internal problem? Li Shimin has always had a good reputation to treat the surrendering troops well. It might make the heart of our troops unsteady, difficult to bring out the fighting power.”

Turning to the various generals, Kou Zhong asked, “Among our troops, how many have wife and children in Luoyang?”

Shan Xiongxin replied, “Mainly Ba Da Jiangjun and Guo Da Jiangjun’s troops, the number is around ten thousand. There are also the imperial guards, their total number exceeds half of Luoyang’s military power.”

The city-defenders regular army were close to twenty thousand, therefore, only the remaining ten thousand or so men did not need to worry about wives and children.

Ba Yegang, Guo Shancai, and the others began to understand the key nature of Kou Zhong’s know yourself, know your enemy.

Kou Zhong said, “Those who have wives and children in the city are allowed to remove their armor and return home, to be together with their family, they are not allowed to participate in the breaking-the-siege battle. This matter must be arranged properly and handled separately, in order not to influence the soldiers’ heart. Every household will be allocated three days’ worth of food, to quietly wait for the moment the Tang Army come and assume control after we abandon the city. Therefore, the troops not breaking the siege must stay at home; the violators will be beheaded, because I don’t want the enemy to draw out our hind legs. This aspect, I am handing it over to Ba Da Jiangjun and Guo Da Jiangjun to plan the entire project and to handle the demobilization process of the troops under your command who have to stay behind. And everything has to be done in two sichen, so that we still have three sichen to break the siege and leave.”

Hearing that, Ba Yegang and Guo Shancai submitted cheerfully; they accepted the order and left.

Kou Zhong exhaled slowly, he said, “Now it’s our turn to study the strategy to break the enemy and save our lives! Absolutely nothing can go wrong, otherwise we will lose our life giving the horse water to drink at the Yangtze River.”

Inside and outside the city, the cloud of war was hanging low in the sky.

Outside the city, the bugle horn was sounded, horses’ neigh and men’s shout, concentrated hoofbeats rose and fell in succession, showing that, as Kou Zhong expected, Li Shimin was moving an army and sending a general, taking strict precautions against them breaking the siege and escaping.

The City of Luoyang, inwardly it was tense, but outwardly it appeared relaxed. Various generals silently carried out Kou Zhong’s order to make all preparation to break the siege.

Ma Chang completed nearly a hundred toad carts to fill the trenches, along with over one thousand dirt and mud bags plus five wooden donkey carts. One after another thirty Eight-Crossbow-and-Arrow machines and fifteen large trebuchets were transported to the south gate’s public square. The breaking-the-siege troops were divided into three units, each unit was approximately three thousand men, waiting with their head on the dagger-axe at the Changxia Gate, Houzai Gate, and Dingding Gate. There were still eight thousand warriors guarding the other gates and the city wall, waiting for the arrival of the fortunate timing, and then they would rush over to join the retreating battle.

Kou Zhong, Ba Fenghan and Xu Ziling came to the South Gate Guard Building, to listen to Chen Laomou’s report on the latest development.

Chen Laomou said, “Luckily we did not bring disgrace by failing to execute the order, the tunnels leading to the high camp and the two arrow towers’ location at the outer trenches are completed. As long as the supporting scaffolding are destroyed, we will achieve the goal. However, the three tunnels have to be connected into one, which will greatly slow down our operation.”

Ba Fenghan’s gaze fell onto Wuming, perched on Kou Zhong’s shoulder, he said, “I am worried about Kang Qiaoli’s falcon, there’s a great chance that it would discover our men going out of the exit at the southern end of the tunnel transporting the heavy military supply wagon.”

Kou Zhong quietly pondered over this matter with rapt attention for a moment. He said, “Falcon will be falcon, it has its intellectual limitations. In this troops-spreading-out-over-wide-area, moving-about-frequently battlefield, the falcon might be confused, it’s difficult to differentiate the enemy and us.”

Chen Laomou asked, “Can Shaoshuai order Wuming to attack the other falcon?”

Kou Zhong nodded and said, “Although I have not tried it yet, Tuli told me that Wuming has received that kind of training. However, I don’t want to put this idea into practice with Wuming, because I am sure it will result in both sides suffer.”

Chen Laomou examined Wuming’s eagle claws grabbing Kou Zhong’s broad shoulder carefully, he laughed aloud and said, “The man of the mountain has a brilliant scheme. Supposing I put some poison that will seal the throat upon contact with the blood on Wuming’s claws, the one dead will be the other side’s falcon.”

The three were emotionally moved at the same time.

Frowning, Xu Ziling said, “This method is indeed feasible, but there are still unsolvable barriers and difficulties; how would Chen Gong obtain the seeing-blood-sealing-the-throat poison?”

Smiling bitterly, Chen Laomou said, “When I left Liangdu, I brought with me a bottle of poison of my own concoction; my original intention was to use it myself, in order to avoid being captured and humiliated. Ay! I, this weary old body, can’t stand any torture anymore. Anyway, what’s exactly the difficulty?”

Ba Fenghan smiled and said, “In Shao Shuai Army, there are a lot of heroes who view death as a return home. Based on my own experience, Laotianye’s temperament is very strange. I wholeheartedly seek death, but death always evade me. As for the barriers and difficulties that Ziling is talking about, it is that the Tang Army raised six vicious vultures specially trained to deal with falcons. Even if Wuming has poisonous claws as her weapon, under the vicious vultures’ siege, it would be difficult to be lucky to be spared.”

Muttering to himself irresolutely, Kou Zhong said, “The matter depends on the individual, how could beast exceed our intelligence? Li Shimin does not have any idea that we know about the six vicious vultures’ existence. If I release Wuming on top of the city wall, and let her fly to the south, how would he react?”

Chen Laomou said, “He will surely release the vicious vultures immediately, to chase and kill Wuming.”

Kou Zhong shook his head and said, “Things should not be that simple. The vicious vultures do not know how to analyze the situation between the enemy and us at all, only when they see Wuming will they pursue and attack. Therefore, if Wuming is hovering in the sky somewhere, first of all, the opposite side will recall the falcon, in order to avoid hitting the secondary vehicle. And then the people in charge would take the vicious vultures to someplace nearby, before they order the vicious vultures to attack. At that time, as long as Wuming drops to low altitude, luring the vulture to chase, then we will have an opportunity we can exploit, right? After taking care of the vicious vultures, we will deal with Kang Qiaoli’s falcon. From then on, we won’t have any worry in the sky, we will only worry about Li Shimin.”

His spirit greatly aroused, Ba Fenghan said, “This method is indeed feasible, we will dispose of the vicious vultures from the top of the city wall, as an initial show of strength to Li Shimin.”

Turning to Chen Laomou, Kou Zhong said, “Chen Gong, please proceed according to the original plan, send the heavy military supply wagons toward the secret place in the mountain forest at the exit of the tunnel. One sichen later, we will launch the offensive. I allocate five hundred men for you, the Senior, to use, to deal with any emergencies.”

Chen Laomou took out the small bottle containing the poison, explained how to use it, and then after handing it over to Kou Zhong, he left happily.

Ba Fenghan said, “Kou Zhong, you must be the last person to leave Luoyang, in order to pacify the soldiers’ heart. As for the sneak attack to the high camp, let me be in charge. After killing the vultures, it would be best if Ziling go by himself to the mountain forest at the exit, to provide support to our breaking-the-siege main force.”

Xu Ziling said, “Li Shimin probably will not send the falcon to patrol the mountain top far away in the south, but he won’t miss observing the army personnel movement inside the city. If he found out that we concentrate the army in the south of the city, it would be greatly disadvantageous to us.”

“That’s easy,” Kou Zhong replied, “The entire breaking-out-of-the-siege battle is divided into six stages, the first is the troops transporting heavy military supply wagon from the tunnel. The second stage is to separately prepare battle array at the south of the city and the west of the city, so that Li Shimin cannot figure out from which direction we are going to break out of the siege. The third stage is, assuming we succeed in making Li Shimin recall the falcon and shot dead the vicious vultures, we move the troops from the West Gate to the South Gate. The fourth stage is going out of the city to attack and mount sneak attack on the high camp, while destroying the enemy in three-pronged attack from underground at the same time, and proceed to fill the trenches. The fifth stage is the withdrawal of all the troops guarding the city walls, city gates, as well as guarding Wang Shichong, from the South Gate at full speed. The last stage is to change according to the situation, and escape without a trace.”

Laughing involuntarily, Ba Fenghan said, “Shaoshuai already planned everything thoroughly; however, a wise man considers a thousand times, he’s bound to miss something. The so-called snatching a stronghold, one must be robbing the grain, at most, our grain supply can only support us for ten more days, before reaching Xiangyang, I am afraid we will have to eat grass roots and tree bark. Entering Treasure Mountain, how could one return empty handed? When our troops launch violent attack to the enemy’s troop disposition, surely the enemy in the high camp will empty their nest and come out, their defense will be weak, we could, using thunderbolt-fail-to-reach-the-ear technique – take control of the high camp, and carry all the goods inside the camp away via the tunnel, and then we set the high camp on fire, before linking up with the Shao Shuai Army breaking out of the siege and coming over, and then we will escape together.”

Slapping his forehead, Kou Zhong laughed cheerfully and said, “I am so muddleheaded, such a simple thing, unexpectedly I did not think about it. All right! Brothers! It’s time to go to the city wall and stir up some excitement.”

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