Translated by Shiny
49. The Next Step
In the Quanrong Army’s main tent, General Mo Zang Peizhen sat in the position of the commanding general, his face overcast.
The rest of the generals kept as quiet as cicadas in cold weather,1 none of them daring to open their mouths to speak.
The right-hand governor; Liang Yi, offered a suggestion, “General, please permit me to speak, although Bianzhou is an important area, it is isolated outside the territory of Jin. Our great army can take a detour and take aim at the lands of Wei and Song, or head south to attack Chu, Yue and other fertile lands south of the Yangtze River.”
“This time, our army laid siege to Bianzhou for longer than a month, yet all of the vassal states from the Central Plains simply watched with folded arms. Marquis Jin Yue is not the sort of man who would return good for evil, I doubt he would help them.”
Wei Mingshan, who was wounded, stood up and voiced his opinion, “This General thinks that what Governor Liang said is correct. There is no need for our troops to go to Bianzhou since they are both stable and don’t have heavy casualties at the moment. Our army can take a detour and head to the State of Song’s Cao County, Dingtao County, or head up north and seize Wei State’s Puyang City and break up these cities so that these small Song and Wei countries will lay down their heads. Then, Bianzhou, which is an isolated city far away from it’s national land, will collapse on it’s own sooner or later.”
Mo Zang Peizhen snorted, “Is General no longer as brave as he was in the past? As if you are raising the morale of the enemy here? We personally led an army to besiege the city for an entire month, yet we couldn’t even capture a mere Bianzhou. If we turn around and take a detour, where would I put my face! I must slaughter all the soldiers and civilians in Bianzhou, step in the city filled with blood and sing and dance afterwards before going to take Song and Wei. When the time comes, wouldn’t it be a quick matter then!”
Wei Mingshan’s face flushed red. He endured his humiliation and reasoned patiently, “We encircled the city for more than a month, yet we were unable to break through the city. Now the Lord of Jin Nation has personally led tens of thousands of soldiers to aid Bianzhou. I shall be so bold as to ask General whether you have a plan which guarantees our victory?”
Mo Zang Peizhen sneered, “General was injured by a slave so you have lost the courage to even attack a city? Tomorrow, I will personally lead the army to break through the city. General can rest at ease and nurse your wounds in the tent.”
Wei Mingshan was both furious and ashamed and flung back his sleeves and left the meeting.
The curtain at the entrance of the tent was pulled away and a messenger rushed inside hastily. “Reporting to the Great General, Huangchi is in a state of emergency! Last night, light soldiers from the Jin Army carried out a raid on our army’s Huangchi encampment and burnt down an innumerable number of our supplies and provisions!”
All of the generals turned pale with shock. Mo Zhang Peizhen rose to his feet and gnashed his teeth as he said, “Marquis Jin Yue, that little kid! He dares to take advantage of my Quanrong people when we aren’t there! I must capture Bianzhou and I swear I will take this kid’s head!”
The soldiers at the barracks were allocated to their posts in a hurry. Some of them had to rush to support Huangchi while some needed to prepare to besiege the city once again.
Wei Mingshan, who was dressed in a red robe with his chest bared, gazed at the messengers who were running around the camp in a hurry. His troops were only arranged to defend the rear this time. He felt very dejected. The bandage on his arm which had sustained the arrow wound was seeping with blood, but he couldn’t be bothered to pay attention to it.
His military rank was below that of Mo Zhang Peizhen’s and he had to obey his orders. Unfortunately, Mo Zhang Peizhen was a person who had a great craving for grandeur and success. Moreover, his random and tricky fighting style was very incompatible with his, leaving Wei Mingshan passive and unable to perform. He couldn’t help but think back with longing for the time when he was left in charge of Zhengzhou.
Liang Yi came up behind him and sighed, “When we besieged the city, I advised the Great General to encircle the city on three sides and leave them with a gleam of hope. If they could have held on to some hope of escaping, the soldiers and civilians of the city definitely wouldn’t have fought back in such a desperate manner. Unfortunately, the Great General said that the Jin Army could not be let off so lightly and vowed to massacre everyone in the city and intimidate them from all sides. Now, our army has lost supplies and the enemy’s Lord has come back with reinforcements, their morale is soaring. I am afraid that this battle won’t be easy to fight.”
Wei Mingshan gave a cold snort.
Liang Yi continued, “Looking at this Quanrong Army, Zaixia2 only serves you as the general. To speak disrespectfully, if it weren’t for the fact that Mo Zhang Peizhen is the Queen Mother’s3 nephew, how could he be above the General?”
Wei Mingshan did not respond. You, Liang Yi, are one of Empress Liang’s clansmen. Now, with the Queen Mother monopolizing all the power, the conflict between your Liang family and the Mo Zhang family is getting deeper and deeper. Who can’t understand? If you’re planning to drag me in and get me involved in your muddy waters, don’t even think about it.
It won’t be too late for you to come look for Laozi4 after waiting and seeing which one of you comes out on top. Laozi just wants to concentrate on fighting, who is patient enough to give a shit about your twists and turns?
Leaving Liang Yi behind, he turned and walked towards the side of the campsite’s antler fortifications5 where the prisoners of war were imprisoned.
Many captives from the Jin Army were pinned against the posts. Some of them were ordinary soldiers, while some of them were slaves.
Wei Mingshan looked at a slave who had a slave’s mark imprinted onto his shoulder and remembered the man dressed in red with his whole body drenched in blood and how he was unable to even lift up his hands, yet he had refused to retreat from the enemy even with his life on the line. That man was also a slave.
“Are you slaves from the Jin Country so loyal to your masters?” Wei Mingshan asked.
The slave glanced at him before turning his head, not saying anything.
“I really can’t understand. Living at the lowest rung of society, being beaten and scolded just like a beast. Have they cultivated servility in each and every one of you in spite of all this?” Wei Mingshan stretched out his hand from his sleeve and stroked his chin. “Not only do you not rebel, but you would still go ahead to get killed for your master?”
The slave spat in contempt and said, “You barbarian, what the hell do you know? Last winter, if it hadn’t been for the porridge shed and the lodging with thatch roof that was arranged by Master to help us get through the winter, I would have frozen to death a long time ago. Having lived for a few more months, it’s worth it if I can give my life back to such a Master.”
“Why bother talking to this barbarian. How could he possibly understand My Lord’s graciousness.” A Jin Army soldier standing beside him interjected suddenly, “On the coldest day in winter, our whole family had no food to eat. When I went to the porridge shed, My Lord personally made a bowl of porridge for me. From that moment on, I swore that I would devote my life and soul to My Lord. Besides, even if I die, my family will still have land and money. Moreover, my son can inherit my title as well. If I die….”
The soldier was still young and when all was said and done, he was still somewhat afraid of death. Looking at the enemy general who was like an iron tower standing in front of him, he did not dare to voice out the heroic words in his mind and swallowed them back into his stomach.
Wei Mingshan’s eyes revealed a touch of solemnity.
This Marquis Jin Yue is quite the character and he isn’t easy to deal with. I’m afraid that Mo Zhang Peizhen might suffer a huge loss this time. I’d better take care of my younger brothers and quietly watch the situation unfold.
Mo Zhang Peizhen led his army to attack the city.
This time, the Jin Army in Bianzhou were unlike their state in the past when they were unable to stand firmly. The city gates were wide open, the battle flag waving clearly in the sky as the Jin Nation’s troops poured out and lined up to face against the Quanrong soldiers who were in the distance.
The two armies met each other, both of them releasing a line of arrows towards the front line.
The Quanrong soldiers raised their flags and banners, creating an opening and allowing a soldier with a fierce and imposing figure dressed in bright armour to walk out from the throng of men. He made his way to the front of the formation and issued a challenge to the opposing army.
A young general dressed in black armour appeared from within the Jin Army soldiers. Without saying a word, he struck his horse and rushed to the front.
The pounding of the drums reverberated powerfully as the battle-steeds crossed past each other. With a single move, the tall and stalwart Quanrong general was struck down from his horse.
The young general in black didn’t stop there. He turned back around and pulled out his blade. With a flash of cold light, he cut off the enemy general’s head before raising the severed head high into the sky.
A roar broke out from the Jin Army. Everyone took out their weapons and rushed towards the enemy camp with red eyes.
Mo Qiao Sheng led the new army from the Jin Nation to bravely charge forward. They decapitated several enemy troops at the front lines, slaughtering their way straight into the backbone of the opponent’s formation.
Mo Zhang Peizhen saw the Jin Army’s general slaughtering his way through the Quanrong soldiers in the blink of an eye before making his way to himself. His mind was in disarray for a moment and he hurriedly retreated. The troops lost their center of command and they fell into chaos immediately.
Helan Zhen rushed over with his troops and joined Mo Qiao Sheng, attacking them from both sides. At that moment, the cacophony of war was enough to stir the heavens. This battle, the blood flowed like rivers and the corpses piled up into mountains.
The Quanrong’s army of 80,000 collapsed in an instant.
Soldiers stumbled over each other in their frenzy to escape through the Bian River. For a while, the river was dyed the red of blood with corpses almost blocking the river.
Mo Zhang Peizhen took a few elite soldiers with him when he escaped, trampling over the corpses as they crossed the Bian River and fled for ten li before stopping.
Seeing that things were amiss, Wei Mingshan had already moved his troops earlier on, gathering the defeated remnants of their army as they ran all the way back to Zhengzhou.
The Quanrong Army that had besieged Bianzhou for more than a month was finally repelled.
The soldiers of the Jin Army seized the provisions which had been abandoned by the Quanrong Army when they retreated. Various kinds of gears and supplies were piled up like a mountain as they moved them over several days.
Soldiers from both the higher and lower ranks received rewards for their merits, recorded their family registers and applied for land. The soldiers and civilians in the city were all in a state of jubilation.
At the headquarters where Cheng Qianye was at, the generals were even more passionate and motivated.
“My Lord, Bianzhou has achieved a great victory and our army is brimming with morale. Please allow your humble servant to lead an army and follow up on our victory and press home the attack6 straight to Zhengzhou.”Helan Zhen volunteered.
“No, no, we won’t attack Zhengzhou. If we attack Zhengzhou now, the Quanrong’s enmity will all be directed at our Great Jin. We don’t have to do that sort of thing.” Cheng Qianye stood in front of the huge map which was spread out on the wall.
She lifted her fair finger and touched an area on the map. “Next, we will capture this place.”
The generals inside the hall all turned their heads and looked at Mo Qiao Sheng whose face turned red.
The fact that Han Quanlin had offered to exchange a city for Mo Qiao Sheng had long been spread throughout the entire army.
Cheng Qianye’s finger touched Zhongmu County and travelled through Qi County, all the way to Bianzhou.
“Once we open up this path, Bianzhou and our Great Jin will be connected.” She looked at Mo Qiao Sheng. “General Mo, would you like to lead the new army and set out on this expedition?”
Mo Qiao Sheng did not speak, but his hands collided with great force as he bowed his head and cupped his fists together in salute.
If he hadn’t been in front of so many people, he would have cried.
The corners of Cheng Qianye’s lips pulled up into a small smile. Qiao Sheng must have been waiting for this day for a long time. Fortunately, it’s not too late.
In the Moon Spirit Spring at the west mountain;
Cheng Qianye and Yao Tianxiang leaned against the white marble steps as they soaked in the spring water with curling white smoke and watched the maple leaves which slowly descended above their heads.
Yao Tianxiang heaved a sigh of contentment and said, “This is how to live life. These days have left me so wretched and exhausted. Having grown up to be this old, I have never suffered such hardship before.”
“Who told you to follow such a busy schedule. Just stay in your courtyard and rest, why bother wearing yourself out like this?” Cheng Qianye laughed.
“You think this is what I want?” Yao Tianxiang looked at her with a blank expression. “Take a look around yourself. Even that plain maidservant and that little girl who’s as tall as a bean sprout are so busy that their feet don’t have time to touch the ground all day long. In any case, I am your principal wife, how can I have the face to lie down in the house and play all day?”
“I say, how come you don’t even have a decent servant beside you? There’s just Lu Yao who looks alright but he runs around holding the ledgers all day as if he wants to immerse himself in money, what a great dissonance. Other than that, I’ve heard that there’s another one called Xiao Xiu, but I haven’t even seen him. There are only burly and old women and a few plain maidservants beside you, do you still have the appearance of a monarch in this manner?”
“So this sets off your beauty.” Cheng Qianye stroked her chin. “I have you, Princess Tianxiang, to keep up appearances, and that’s enough.”
Yao Tianxiang gritted her teeth and smiled before pinching Cheng Qianye’s arm.
The two of them joked around and laughed for a while.
“Hey.” Yao Tianxiang sunk into the water and lifted her chin toward the outer door of the courtyard. “Are you sure that he won’t peek?”
Cheng Qianye smiled, “If he sees, I will naturally tell him the truth.”
At this moment, outside of the bathhouse; Mo Qiao Sheng, who was dressed in black was sitting down with his sword in his arms. He sat upright, his face stoic with an appearance of dedication to his duty.
A burst of laughter could be heard from the other side of the wall.
It was the Lord and his wife.
Mo Qiao Sheng admonished himself repeatedly.
His hands holding onto the sword clenched and relaxed repeatedly.
What is this feeling? Why does my chest ache and feel so sour?
Mo Qiao Sheng was unaware that the two people inside were also quietly talking about him.
“You’re sending him out to war, are you willing?”
“This is the earnest desire in his heart. He is a gem that emits light. I don’t want to lock him in a box so that no one can see his brilliance.”
“Before letting him go, you need to straighten him out. Don’t blame me for not reminding you. This man, once you release him, he may really fly away.”
“Not mentioning the fact that we haven’t reached that level,” Cheng Qianye smiled, “with my current identity and the things I want to accomplish, I’m not allowed to take even half a wrong step.”
“I know, I know, you’re afraid that you won’t be careful and might accidentally get pregnant.” Yao Tianxiang stuck close to Cheng Qianye and whispered softly in her ear, “I have those things, I’ll give you a whole set, all new. I guarantee you can make him submissive without revealing your identity.”
1. (噤若寒蝉 – jìn ruò hán chán) – Idiom; keeping quiet out of fear.↩
2. (在下 – Zaixia) – I, Myself [Humble]↩
3. (太后 – tài hòu) Empress Dowager; mother of the emperor↩
4. (老子 – lǎo zi) father; daddy; I, your father [said in anger or out of contempt]↩
5. (鹿角 – lù jiǎo) Literal meaning antlers, but also a word used to refer to a defense of the military barracks where sharpened branches are buried around the camp to stop the enemy. It is named like this because they resemble antlers.↩
6. (乘胜追击 – chéng shèng zhuī jī) Idiom; meaning to continue to pursue the enemy while gaining victory and expanding the results/Seizing the momentum from a victory by pursuing the retreating enemy.↩
TL Note: It’s been a long time, and I’m back~ You guys can look forward to regular updates from now on as I have accumulated a couple of chapters now. I’ll be releasing them as soon as I finish editing them.