Da Tang Shuang Long Zhuan - Book 59: Chapter 11: Bright Prospects
Book 59: Chapter 11: Bright Prospects
After parting company with Hou Xibai, Kou Zhong continue to see Xu Ziling off for a while, straight to the Luo River’s west bank. It was dusk, the clouds tinged with sunset hues were hanging in the sky, the scenery was magnificent.
Kou Zhong said, “Ziling go up north along the Luo River, you could reach Luoyang before dawn. Remember to tell Li kid to insist on entering Chang’an with us, otherwise, before we arrive in Chang’an, he would unexpectedly get killed first. If that happens, no one will know how to clean up the mess.”
“Um,” Xu Ziling responded, looking like his mind was someplace else, that he was thinking about something else.
Kou Zhong asked in astonishment, “What are you thinking?”
Xu Ziling replied, “I was thinking about Shi Zhixuan. That night I felt I had the confidence to kill him, most probably the misconception that he deliberately created to lure me to make my move. Because of Qingxuan I gave up this rare opportunity, but on the contrary I did not fall into his trap, and that has made things change dramatically.”
Kou Zhong was skeptical, he said, “Although Bu Si Yin Fa is some kind of a brilliant illusion technique to confuse the enemy, but is Shi Zhixuan that formidable? Didn’t you tell me that at the time you had some kind of feeling that you were able to see through him?”
Xu Ziling sighed and said, “It’s really hard to tell. The last time at Qingxuan’s little hut by the cat cave, because I thought I had seen him through, I suffered a big loss. No one can really see through Shi Zhixuan.”
Kou Zhong furiously said, “In the end, Shi Zhixuan’s problem must be resolved, because neither you nor I know whether he will suddenly go crazy. Xiongdi! I’m leaving!” foxswuxia.wordpress.com
Xu Ziling was among the first group of people to enter the city. He held the official document given to him by Pang Yu, hence he entered the city safely.
After contacting Li Jing, he went straight to the imperial palace to see Li Shimin. When the latter heard that his good-self has arrived, he put everything aside and received him in the study room that used to belong to Wang Shichong.
Li Shimin spoke cheerfully, “Yesterday evening, I received the diplomatic document that Fuhuang is sending to you through me. I decided to open and read it. Fuhuang officially invited you to Chang’an to discuss the cease fire and forming an alliance, and ordered me to personally see you to Chang’an.”
Xu Ziling put down the big rock in his heart, at least for the time being Li Yuan had no intention to get rid of Li Shimin, otherwise he would have summoned him back to Chang’an immediately. He said, “Any news about the allied armies from beyond the Great Wall?”
Revealing a worried expression, Li Shimin sighed and said, “The situation is quite bad. The assembled army has increased to 450,000 men, stationed in eight places along the northern frontiers of Taiyuan. They are holding military drills day and night, their momentum is like a rainbow. If they split their forces into several routes and come pouring into Taiyuan, Taiyuan will fall within fifteen days. At present, the Central Earth has not yet had the strength to resist such a powerful army division.”
Frowning, Xu Ziling said, “Winter’s gone and the spring’s here, what are they waiting for?”
The divine light in Li Shimin’s pair of eyes flashing, he said, “If merely attacking the cities and plundering the land, looting and destroying, they would definitely cross the border and invade south within a few days. But Xieli’s ambitions don’t stop there, rather, he is hoping to become the lord of the Central Earth, hence he must have a more precise and effective deployment and strategy. Xieli’s goal is Chang’an. Once Chang’an is obtained, Guanzhong will collapse without a fight. After stabilizing Guanzhong, he will invade Luoyang. At that time north of the Yangtze River will be the object in Xieli’s pocket.”
Xu Ziling nodded and said, “Previously, Xieli was waiting for the news of your death. Now he has to be a bit more patient to sit and watch me and Kou Zhong being assassinated and perish in Chang’an. The day Bi Xuan, Zhao Deyan, and the others leave Chang’an, it will be the day when the allied armies from beyond the Great Wall are going down south.”
Li Shimin asked, “What does Kou Zhong think about this nasty situation?”
Smiling wryly, Xu Ziling replied, “He is looking forward excitedly.”
“What?” Li Shimin blurted out.
Xu Ziling said, “I’m not exaggerating. This kid already drew up an overall plan to deal with the allied armies from beyond the Great Wall. The most important condition is that you, Shimin Xiong sit on the emperor’s throne. When the allied armies from beyond the Great Wall’s the whole nest come out and arrive, he will lead the combined force of the Great Tang, Song Family, Jianghuai and Shao Shuai, four armies’ elite troops at the Guanzhong Plains to meet the allied armies from beyond the Great Wall headed by Xieli head-on, to force the opponent to fight a hard battle with cavalry against cavalry.” foxswuxia.wordpress.com
Li Shimin revealed a grave expression, he said, “Kou Zhong’s performance on the battlefield, I, Li Shimin, not only am ashamed of being inferior [idiom], but also admire him to prostrating five parts of my body [head and four limbs] to the ground. However, this time the enemy’s momentum is huge, and all their lives, the various tribes outside of the Great Wall live on horseback. Isn’t this idea of Shaoshuai too risky?”
But then he smiled wryly and said, “This can still be considered the most straightforward and agile way, it could eliminate the Tujue Wolf Army’s threat toward the Central Earth in one fell swoop, lower the damage to the minimum, and restore our Huaxia’s [old name for China] prestige. It’s just that if we lose the battle, the consequences will be unimaginable.”
Xu Ziling spoke with serious expression, “Shimin Xiong must trust Kou Zhong’s military talent. The Battle of the Rushing Wolf Plain is an ironclad fact. His understanding of Xieli’s tactics is very deep, furthermore, he is not someone who is reckless and underestimates the enemy, but knows how to fight bravely and fiercely. In addition, toward most of the leaders of the allied armies, he has intimidating power and influence. If in the first battle we obtain the advantage, we could shake the fighting spirit of the allied armies from beyond the Great Wall’s troops’ heart. In this battle, we definitely must not shrink back from fear, and close the city walls and not coming out, since it will only foster Xieli’s aggressive arrogance. On top of that, the full-of-crafty-scheme Zhao Deyan, and the familiar-with-the-Central-Earth’s-situation Xiang Yushan, their destructive power cannot be ignored. For the sake of the well-being of the world, not only it is worth taking a risk, but it is also a necessity.”
Astonished, Li Shimin said, “I thought Ziling would disagree with Shaoshuai fighting such a battle, who would have thought that the opposite is true. It can clearly be seen that you have full confidence in Shaoshuai. In the world, who knows better than Ziling about Kou Zhong’s ability? Since that’s the case, I, Li Shimin, will risk my life to accompany the gentleman, and give Shaoshuai a free rein to have the full power to deal with the allied armies from beyond the Great Wall’s invasion to the south.”
A burst of emotional stirring grew in Xu Ziling’s heart, Li Shimin was precisely such a person, he definitely would not be wading in mud and water [idiom: sloppy], he made prompt decision to determine the most crucial life and death battle of the future.
He said, “Obtaining Shimin Xiong’s full support, Kou Zhong will be extremely happy. Our affairs in Chang’an, everything is going smoothly, we won Li Shentong and Wei Zheng, two men’s support. They could even lobby other important ministers. Now we only lack Chang He, if we can persuade him to stand on our side, the chances of success will be greatly increased.”
Li Shimin smiled and said, “That move with the big firearm explosion in the East Palace was indeed beautiful. The best thing is that even Wang Xiong [(older) brother king] can’t figure out whether someone did it or it was an accident. Fortunately, the wind was strong that night, otherwise merely the poisonous smoke was enough to bring disaster upon the whole palace. I hear that after the event, more than one hundred people in the East Palace fell ill, vomiting flared up suddenly, and it took a few days to recover.” foxswuxia.wordpress.com
Xu Ziling secretly cried, ‘Our guilt!’
Li Shimin suggested, “Can Ziling stay for two more days to give us more time for a good conversation?”
Shaking his head Xu Ziling said, “I still need to intercept Ba Fenghan, to ask him to turn around and return to Liangdu. This moment he should be on the waterway between Kaifeng and Chenliu, to deal with Yang WenGan who is about to raid Wanjing Gongzhu‘s [Princess] fleet.”
Stunned, Li Shimin said, “Unexpectedly there is such thing?”
After explaining in detail, Xu Ziling said, “Shimin Xiong can send your men to deliver the invitation to Liangdu. We will respond immediately and set a date to enter Chang’an. This matter demand immediate action. The sooner we arrive in Chang’an, the more we will have ample of time to deliberate on how to deal with the allied armies from beyond the Great Wall.”
Li Shimin spoke cheerfully, “To be able to join hands and work together with Shaoshuai and Ziling is indeed my, Li Shimin’s good fortune. I suddenly feel that the future of the common people in the Central Earth is bright. The darkness and chaos since the Upheaval of the Five Barbarians [see Chapter 9] is swept clean, the common people’s suffering is about to become historical relics.”
The hot blood welled up in Xu Ziling’s heart, Kou Zhong’s sacrifice was worth it; besides, Kou Zhong himself did not regard it as a sacrifice at all! The opportunity for reunification and peace has never been as real as this time right now. This was the reward for showing Shi Feixuan favor, care and love even more.
It was only when Kou Zhong arrived at the city gate that the Shao Shuai soldiers of Liangdu knew that their commander-in-chief’s good-self had returned; immediately they flew to report to Xu Xingzhi, Xuan Yong and the others. Everybody went out to meet him in great delight.
Kou Zhong and his crowd of capable subordinates met at the Commander Mansion’s gate; walking straight into the mansion, he said, “Things have changed. I will have the most important military meeting since the establishment of the Shao Shuai Army in the main hall in one sichen. Where is Lu Shu [Uncle]?”
Xuan Yong replied, “Lu Gong went to the workshop to watch Mou Gong cast his newly invented improved armor. We immediately sent someone to notify him.”
Lowering his voice, Kou Zhong said, “Is Da Xiaojie still here?”
Xuan Yong responded also in a low voice, “The day before yesterday Da Xiaojie set out for Shanhai Pass to buy high-quality Khitan horses from Du Xing. Du Xing is now giving face to Shaoshuai. I hear that in front and behind people, he bragged that Shaoshuai is his treating-one-another-with-absolute-sincerity good brother.”
Blurted out laughing, Kou Zhong said, “This kid really knows how to watch the wind and steer the rudder, he knows who will give the best benefit for him. Hey! Where are Chuchu and Little Lingzhong?” foxswuxia.wordpress.com
On his other side, Xu Xingzhi replied, “Chuchu Guniang and Lingzhong Gongzi are playing in the inner courtyard. Die Gongzi, Qian Xiaojie, Xiao He’er and the others went out to the lower reaches of the canal looking for secluded place and exploring beautiful scenery. I am afraid they won’t return before dark.”
Kou Zhong’s heart grew warm. If the whole world was at peace, everyone should have this kind of peace and happiness days.
Behind him, Bing Yuanzhen could not help asking, “Shaoshuai said things have changed, which aspect are you referring to?”
Kou Zhong stepped into the main hall, suddenly he halted his steps, the high-ranking military officers and personal guards following him left and right hurriedly halted their steps as well.
Kou Zhong took a step forward; revealing a brilliant smile, he turned around, spread out his arms, and said, “The auspicious days of peaceful reunification are getting closer and closer; I even feel that I could reach out and touch it. Xiaodi is now going to deal with some personal matters first, don’t worry, I’ll be here later to announce the good news. Only the timid and incompetent people will consider it bad news.”
The warship departed from Luoyang, on board were Li Jing, husband and wife, delivering the invitation letter to Liangdu, and Xu Ziling. From the Luo River going up north toward the Great River, under the bright and beautiful sunshine, the sails raised on top of the warship were flickering and dazzling, full of radiance and vitality.
Inside the cabin, Li Jing and Hong Funu listened to Xu Ziling’s narrative concerning the recent developments in Chang’an.
When Xu Ziling told them about Kou Zhong’s decision to confront the allied armies from beyond the Great Wall head-on, Li Jing was stunned, he said, “Even with Yang Jian’s tyranny in the past, the strategy of dealing with the Tujue is still diplomatic combined with military affairs, cleverly adopting the strategy of driving a wedge and splitting them apart, to make the Tujue all split up and in pieces, fighting among themselves endlessly, only then we can guarantee peace and security in our territory, but he never dared to confront the Tujue head-on. I wonder if Xiao Zhong needs to think a bit more clearly?”
Hong Funu laughed and said, “But I do have full confidence in Kou Zhong. From the beginning, Xiao Zhong is accustomed to using the weak to defeat the strong. Furthermore, he is our Central Earth’s only unequalled commander-in-chief able to intimidate the inside and outside of the Great Wall, able to do what others cannot do, this is precisely his portrayal.” foxswuxia.wordpress.com
Worried, Li Jing asked, “What is Qin Wang‘s opinion on this matter?”
“Qin Wang fully supports it,” Xu Ziling replied.
Heaving a sigh of relief, Li Jing said, “Qin Wang’s bosom is indeed different from ordinary people.”
Xu Ziling said, “This is also called treating one another with absolute sincerity, only a hero values another hero. Qin Wang has fought Kou Zhong many times on the battlefield, he understands Kou Zhong’s extraordinary skills better than anyone else.”
Hong Funu nodded and said, “Kou Zhong is a natural-born commander-in-chief, he has an impressive charm that makes the officers and soldiers under his command willing to die for him. In his hands, even a mob can become a powerful army division dare to die. In the Battle of the Rushing Wolf Plains, Tuli’s army under his command used the few to defeat the many, so that Kou Zhong becomes a legend on the battlefield. After Qin Wang pursued and attacked with all his strength and failed, who in the world would dare to doubt his talents?”
Xu Ziling said, “Kou Zhong is a person who knows how to consider other people’s needs. Therefore, he clearly stated that the battle with the coalition forces outside the Great Wall will be his last war. After that, he is going to wash his hands and withdraw from the fray to live in seclusion, in order to avoid snatching away Qin Wang’s splendor.”
Stunned, Li Jing said, “The last war?”
Knitting her brows, Hong Funu said, “Xiao Zhong is so sensible, could it be that Fu Jun [lit. my lord the husband] think there is a problem?”
Li Jing shook his head, as if to wake himself up from a dream. Muttering to himself irresolutely for half a day, his gaze was fixed on Xu Ziling as he said, “I want to ask Ziling to do me a favor.”
Xu Ziling nodded in affirmative, he said, “As long as it is within my power, I certainly will exhaust my strength to accomplish it.”
Li Jing said, “I want you, Ziling to speak to Qin Wang on my behalf: the battle to pacify Xiao Xian, hand it over to me to be fully in charge.”
Xu Ziling understood. Just now, because Kou Zhong looked at the battle against the allied armies from beyond the Great Wall as his last battle, which was tantamount to giving up personally avenging Susu’s deep enmity against Xiao Xian, Li Jing was astonished. Li Jing strived for the dealing with Xiao Xian, it was not to vie for meritorious service, but to fulfill his cherished desire for Susu and to redeem the remorse in his heart.
Staring fixedly at Li Jing, Xu Ziling said heavily, “I guarantee that Li Dage will be able to accomplish this cherished desire.”
He had not even passed through the half-moon gate of the rear courtyard, the joyous noise of children playing and laughing rushed out like a flood, increasing the liveliness of the early spring. foxswuxia.wordpress.com
On the grassy yard, nearly thirty children between the ages of three or four up to about seven or eight were playing hide-and-seek, the sound of their happy laughter shook the heavens
When Kou Zhong was stepping into the courtyard, the crowd of children assembled on the lawn was dispersing in confusion, each looking for a hiding place, no one had the time to cast even half a glance at the Shaoshuai Kou Zhong, whose name shook the world.
Next to the lawn, there was an octagonal pavilion with stone tables and stone benches; seven or eight women, including Chuchu, stood or sat in the pavilion, watching the children with smile on their faces.
It was not until Kou Zhong reached the pavilion steps that someone cried out in surprise, “Shaoshuai!”
The crowd of women were shocked, they hurriedly stood up and prostrated themselves on the ground.
Only Chuchu was still sitting on the stone bench, she turned her pretty face around, her countenance became incomparably pale, her cherry lips trembled lightly, yet she was unable to speak. Finally her eyes fell on his outer robe, which had gone through enough calamity – that she had personally sewed for Kou Zhong.
Kou Zhong spoke in a hurry, “Ladies, you must never do this, quickly stand up. I, Kou Zhong, have never adhered to any etiquette or compass and set square.”
Although the crowd of women rose up as ordered, but no one had enough guts to stay inside the pavilion, they bowed and retreated to the lawn, leaving Kou Zhong and Chuchu, two persons, alone.
Kou Zhong was helpless against these women, he knew that in their hearts, he was like a deity. He lightly pressed on Chuchu’s fragrant shoulders first, to feel her lightly trembling tender body, and then calmly sat down next to her and asked, “Which one is Little Lingzhong? Why are there so many good darlings [treasure/baby]? Looking at them, I am dazzled.”
Chuchu’s fluctuating heart and spirit slightly recovered, she spoke softly, “Is he not the one looking for the others?”
She opened her mouth to call Little Lingzhong to come and have an audience [with the emperor], Kou Zhong promptly stopped her and said, “Don’t interrupt his keen interest, I still have a bit of time.”
Chuchu hung her head low and spoke in low voice, “Is Shaoshuai not busy with official business? How come you came back suddenly? Tu Gong is accompanying Da Xiaojie to Shanhai Pass to procure good horses from Du Bawang.”
Kou Zhong looked at the appearing-to-be-thick-and-solid-yet-agile Little Lingzhong squeezing into a pile of underbrush to look for the other children, Susu’s jade countenance floated into appearance in the lake of his heart. A burst of anguish rose up from the bottom of his heart, he remembered the great responsibility that he bore on his shoulders even more. For the sake of the next generation innocents’ happiness, their life of peace and happiness, the world must have auspicious days of long-term peace and stability. foxswuxia.wordpress.com
Fixing his eyes on the outline of her pretty profile, he recalled the snowball fight inside the Rongyang’s Longtou Mansion in the past. He spoke softly, “How about we adopt Little Lingzhong as our son?”
Chuchu’s tender body shook violently, she looked at him, her eyes revealed an expression of disbelief, her fragrant lips trembled several times before she could barely speak; she said, “The Song Family’s Er Xiaojie [second miss]! Ay! How could Chuchu deserve it?”
Teardrops passed through her elegant, pretty eyes, trickling down like a string of pearls.
Were it not for there was a crowd of women nearly, Kou Zhong would definitely pull her into his bosom in reckless pity, to enjoy again the sweet feeling of the past. But this moment, he could only raise his sleeves to wipe the tears from her eyes.
Kou Zhong sighed, “The one does not deserve it is me, a negligent person. Jiejie [elder sister], you must take pity on and show consideration to my frail heart. Ten thousand times, don’t say any refusal. I have a gargantuan secret to tell you: I already renounce the contention for hegemony over the world, to support Li Shimin ascending the throne instead. As long as we beat back the invading foreign army, the world will return to peace and security, everybody will have auspicious days to pass. Naturally we and Little Lingzhong will be no exception. The Song Family’s Er Xiaojie is a person who understands reason, plus her nature is as you are, pure and good, she will only love and protect you extremely! There will be no human affairs that can hinder our love, which started in Rongyang. Before, I did not dare to tell you this, because I was afraid that I would not come back alive to see you. But now I no longer have any worries in this regard. I really did not lie to you, the Emperor of Heaven can be my witness, even when life and death were hanging on a hair on the battlefield, I have never forgotten my good Chuchu.”
Chuchu looked at him through her tears, her voice trembled, “Shaoshuai!” she said.
Kou Zhong spoke sadly, “Don’t cry! You cried so much that my heart aches and feels sad. Xingzhi and the others are waiting for me at the outer hall to preside over the meeting. After the meeting, I will have to rush to Liyang to see Ol’ Die. The future is long, I, Kou Zhong, based on my Shaoshuai’s reputation, guarantee that Xiaodi will make you enjoy the rest of your life in good fortune and happiness. What Shaoshuai Kou Zhong said never does not count.”
Xu Ziling and Li Jing stood on the bow as the warship was entering the Great River, sailing eastward.
Onboard the battleship were entirely Dark-Armored personal guards who have been with Li Shimin for many years, absolutely loyal to Li Shimin, so there was no worry that they might leak the secret. Furthermore, the current situation was different. Even if Xu Ziling openly came to see Li Shimin, the Crown Prince and Imperial Concubine factions would have nothing to say.
Li Jing spoke cheerfully, “I never thought that we can fight side by side again. Susu’s soul and spirit in heaven should rest in peace.” foxswuxia.wordpress.com
Xu Ziling focused his gaze straight ahead, he said, “A ship is approaching at full speed ahead, shall I go inside the cabin to hide?”
Li Jing asked in astonishment, “How come I can’t see it yet?”
His words were still in the air, a large ocean-going ship emerged from the river bend and appeared ahead.
Xu Ziling did not know how to answer. He focused his attention to look, he spoke in delight, “It’s Wanjing Gongzhu’s Dongming flagship.”
It was only now did Li Jing see clearly the flag flying on the mast of the incoming ship, he spoke in great delight, “In that case, Yang WenGan must have suffered a big loss.”
Hurriedly he ordered his men to send out a signal while slowing down the ship’s speed at the same time.
Inwardly, Xu Ziling was smiling wryly, seeing each other was usually better than not seeing each other, but Shan Wanjing was one of the people he did not wish to see. Not because he disliked her, the reason was quite the opposite.