Legend of Great Tang’s Twin Dragons Book 39 Chapter 11
Book 39 Chapter 11 – Converting Enemy into Friend
The Golden Wolf Army retreated in haste. The orderly reinforcement troops formation ran fast from the northeast direction, heading toward the troops formation at the southern slope of the Helian Fort. Black Wolf banner was fluttering with the rising of the red sun, showing that the other hegemon of the Eastern Tujue, barely second only to Xieli, Tuli’s good-self has personally come.
The new arrivals were the vanguard regiment of the Black Wolf Army, consisted of two thousand riders. The high-ranking military officer leading the regiment, both in terms of build and appearance, bore striking resemblance to Tuli, but he was younger than Tuli. He saluted toward the men on the Helian Fort from a distance, but did not raise his voice to greet them. His mind was focused entirely on keeping a constant distance with the Golden Wolf Army, both to guard against their launching sudden counterattack, but more importantly to watch the other side closely to see whether there was any opportunity that he could exploit.
Coming back from the death’s door, everybody secretly cried, ‘Lucky!’
Pusa said, “This general must be Tuli’s younger brother Jieshelu. My understanding is that this man is brave and good at fighting; he is Tuli’s right arm.”
The sound of hoof beats arose again. Tuli’s army’s main force appeared on the northeast horizon, galloping over at full speed. The army appeared to be at its peak. Although the military strength was at fifteen thousand men, which was only half of Xieli’s troops, it carried a stake-it-all momentum.
Ba Fenghan sighed and said, “This time Xieli’s in danger.”
Surprised, Kou Zhong said, “Xieli’s military strength is more than double Tuli’s; why do you, LaoGe say such thing?”
Xu Ziling also said, “Although because he is failing to besiege us Xieli’s acute spirit has been reduced, but his strength is not damaged. None of the Golden Wolf Army is not a veteran of a hundred battles. In frontal confrontation, to whom the deer falls is still hard to foresee.”
Yet Pusa did not stop nodding his head and smiled, showing that he understood why Ba Fenghan made such judgment.
Ba Fenghan kept his eyes on the gradually approaching big army; he spoke heavily, “On the prairie, the decline of one tribe represents the rise of another tribe. Since the rise of the Tujue Great Khan Shidianmi, who led ten big tribal chiefs, commanding a hundred-thousand-strong army, defeating Rouran, and establishing nomadic khanate which prestige was more powerful than the Xiongnu’s domain of the ancient times, founding the tent capital [of nomadic people] at Yudu of Mount Jin, various tribes of the prairie, none was not scared into submission. Although later on it split up into two khanates, East and West, but in the prairie it is still without any rival.”
Pusa added, “Since Xieli employed Zhao Deyan as the Guoshi, he acted on his own initiative to be involved in the national politics. Government decree became severely complicated, the people’s heart disintegrate, all the original ministers who belong to various tribes of the Eastern Tujue are having the intention to revolt. Now Xieli and Tuli become estranged, to the various tribes who are at odds with him, it is indeed huge good news. Therefore, as long as Tuli can score a few beautiful victories, to show that he has the strength to contend against Xieli, he will win over the support of all big powers of this region. Wouldn’t you agree that Xieli is in danger?”
Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling suddenly realized that in the past, whenever the Tujue invaded, they were always in collusion with other nomadic tribes. If they were able to break this kind of unity among the various ethnic groups outside the Great Wall, the Central Plains would have the opportunity to take a breather.
A group of riders rushed out of the main forces, the leader was, surprisingly, Tuli himself, they headed straight toward the Helian Fort.
Ba Fenghan moved back a little, but as if they agreed by chance, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were closing in on him, and grabbed him tightly from left and right. Kou Zhong said, “LaoGe, for mine and Ziling’s sake, is it possible to write off your former hatred and old enmity with Tuli at one stroke?”
Smiling bitterly, Ba Fenghan said, “Right now Xiaodi’s legs go soft, even if I want to walk away, I have the mind but not the strength, why do you need to detain me like arresting a prisoner?”
This exchange was in Han language, hence Pusa only looked on without understanding what was going on. “What happened?” he asked in astonishment.
Xu Ziling let go of Ba Fenghan, and spoke to Tuli, who was rushing up the south slope, “We’ll have to trouble Khan to come up here; we are having problem even to walk.”
Tuli roared in laughter and said, “Did you learn your Tujue language from Fenghan Xiong? It’s almost better than Xiaodi’s Han language.”
Hearing Tuli addressed Ba Fenghan as ‘brother’, Kou Zhong was relieved; greatly delighted, he said, “Looking at your appearance, it seems like you already knew that we are in here?”
Raising his voice, Pusa said, “Pusa pays his respect to Khan!” Together with his men, they all saluted.
Tuli leaped down from the horse’s back. With a somersault, he landed in the middle of the crowd. Rushing forward, he grabbed Ba Fenghan’s shoulders and said with a long laughter, “You are Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling’s brother, hence you are my, Tuli’s brother. Other things need not be mentioned.”
Inwardly Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were very grateful. Tuli was worthy to be the good brother with whom they went through life and death together.
Ba Fenghan laughed aloud. He grabbed Tuli’s hands in return and spoke resolutely, “Looks like even if I don’t want to be brothers with you, I simply can’t.”
Tuli let go of Ba Fenghan and came over to Pusa; stretching out his arms, he said, “You should know how grateful I am to you. If you did not disregard life and death to help these three brothers of mine, I would have lost them forever. Even if I could chop Xieli’s body into ten thousand pieces, it would still be difficult to dissolve the regret in my heart.”
He pulled Pusa into his embrace.
Pusa’s pair of tiger-eyes turned red. Evidently he was extremely touched that Tuli considered him important.
Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling mused inwardly that no wonder Tuli was so popular in his native place, because he had this skill to win people’s heart.
Tuli spoke solemnly to Pusa, “I don’t care how fierce that old fellow Shijian opposing me, we, brothers will definitely help you back to Huihe, to retrieve what is rightfully yours.”
All the men following Pusa went down on their knees, some were so touched that they wept in bitter tears; finally their totally impossible dream had a chance to be realized. The fact was that Pusa has already reached the mountain-and-river-exhausted stage [idiom: nowhere to go]; sooner or later he would sink down to become horse thief. Yet Tuli’s promise immediately changed everything.
Letting Pusa go, Tuli rushed over to embrace Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling, two boys, and said with a sigh, “You finally came! Fortunately I have set up intelligence network in Tong Wan, hence I knew that you guys were trapped in Helian Fort. I thought I would not see you again, luckily you created a miracle again. This battle will cause sensation in the prairie, your names will linger forever in the prairie.”
Ba Fenghan pointed to the rising dust caused by the Golden Wolf Army, which could still be clearly seen at the edge of the prairie, he coldly said, “This battle is only the beginning; Xieli is waiting for us over there.”
Tuli and Kou Zhong, Xu Ziling, and Pusa came to Ba Fenghan’s side; casting their gaze toward that direction, five pairs of eyes lit up at the same time.
Tuli spoke heavily, “Xieli underestimates me too much. We will show the iron-clad proof for him to see, so that he knows how extremely wrong he is.”
If this was not a special circumstance, relying on his superior military strength, naturally Xieli could easily defeat Tuli’s Black Wolf Army. But currently the Golden Wolf Army has been in bloody battle the whole night, the men weary, the horses tired, since not only they were unable to capture the trifling Helian Fort, they even had to retreat in panic, their acute spirit suffered a big blow, their morale was low. Compared to the imposing-manner-like-a-rainbow before they invaded Tong Wan, it was like a thousand li away, like the difference between the heaven and the earth, between the cloud and the mud.
Yet the most discouraging thing for the Golden Wolf Army was more than this. Ba Fenghan, Kou Zhong, and Xu Ziling had left a very deep impression in their hearts, planted an invincible image, so that who among them did not lose their courage against the three’s martial art and archery skills?
After determining the real situation, Tuli immediately commanded his troops to attack. Both sides made contact with each other, the Golden Wolf Army was unable to hold out, Tuli seized the opportunity to lead his army to pursue behind the enemy’s tail relentlessly, not allowing Xieli any opportunity to catch his breath and recover his qi.
Several small-scale battles later, the Black Wolf Army gained the absolute superiority.
After three days of hot pursuit, Xieli ran along the Wuding River toward Ben Lang Yuan [lit. rushing wolf plain], on the undulating hills east of Buir Lake, and only then was he able to settle his troops’ heart, and once again regrouped their battle array, preparing to meet the enemy.
On the other side of the prairie, Tuli set up his camp with their back against the hills on the north bank of a tributary on the east end of the famous Qielulian River, ready for a head-on confrontation against Xieli.
When the sun went down on the west, Tuli, accompanied by Jieshelu, Kou Zhong, Xu Ziling, Ba Fenghan, and Pusa, five men went to the front line, looking at the enemy ranks from the top of the highest hill, researching the strategy for tomorrow’s confrontation.
Two li away, the Golden Wolf Army occupied more than a dozen hilltops. Specks of flame were everywhere, so that the hills were painted red with the fire. Flying high in the air, the Golden Wolf Khan banner was located at the rear, with all around the hilltop the camps were surrounding and protecting the Khan’s tent like multitude of stars protecting the moon.
Kou Zhong said with a sigh, “Xieli, this little devil really knows how to pick a place. If I were him, I would use the forest and the hill as cover to hold out without going out at all. And then when we are discouraged, I would launch a thorough counterstrike.”
Smiling, Ba Fenghan said, “How about tonight we grope in the dark into their camp and kill and burn, so that they cannot sleep peacefully, to see if they won’t be discouraged.”
Xu Ziling said, “That can only create small disturbances. One thing goes wrong, we might not be able to come back alive.”
Tuli agreed. He said, “After all, the situation is still favorable to us, no need to take risks.”
Kou Zhong spoke resolutely, “Tonight is our only chance to seize victory. But instead of setting fire to several camps, we will launch a large scale assault.”
Everybody, Xu Ziling included, was stunned.
After vigorous pursuit these last few days, both sides were both mentally and physically exhausted, lacking the strength to wage war; according to reason, they ought to seize this time to rest.
Laughing aloud, Kou Zhong said, “You see? Even you guys did not expect our troops might launch fierce attack, the enemy would be caught off guard even more. Now, this is what we can consider real troops appearing suddenly [reminder: qi bing, lit. wonder troops].”
Smiling wryly, Pusa said, “It’s not that I did not think about it, it’s just that I don’t think we have the power to accomplish it.”
Kou Zhong spoke with a serious expression, “I am not joking at all. If we let Xieli’s men and horses rest all through the night, tomorrow everyone’s spirit will be trembling with excitement, then it would be our turn to be in trouble. Therefore, we must catch him unprepared first. Although right now the enemy’s defense seems to be invulnerable [orig. no leak to be attacked], the fact is that their strength is scattered. If we could concentrate our elite troops, in the beginning pretending to be the whole front is advancing, and then later on gather them again to become a point and make a breakthrough toward the middle, with me, Ling Shao, Old Ba and Pusa Xiong taking the lead to open up a path, the target is Xieli’s Khan tent, just like two people fighting each other, to take each other’s vital point, even if he has men several times our number, he would still have to pack and leave before he finish eating.”
Shaken, Jieshelu said, “Shaoshuai’s remark is not without any reason.”
“When do you think is the best time to attack?” Tuli asked.
“Let’s pick two sichen before sunrise,” Kou Zhong replied, “After dinner, you, LaoGe, order three thousand of your most elite soldiers who will be participating in the raid to go to bed early, but you must never tell them what is going on, so that they can take a rest with peace of mind. We’ll wake them up just before the operation.”
Ba Fenghan said, “There will be three-sichen worth of sleep, enough to recover their strength.”
“How will the rest fit into this?”Tuli excitedly asked.
Kou Zhong smiled and replied, “They can always wave the flags and shout battle cries!”
Jieshelu said, “If Xieli deployed his martial art masters one step ahead to invade our camp and make a disturbance, won’t we sink down from taking initiative to passive position?”
Ba Fenghan laughed and said, “On that, you don’t have to worry. If the ones coming are Zhao Deyan or Tonyukuk, we won’t have time to welcome them. But the martial art masters of next grade’s quality, leave it to me to greet them. It should be enough!”
Kou Zhong shook his head and said with a laugh, “That is still too passive, not the best policy at all. Within these three sichen before our surprise attack, we ought to lead Xieli by the nose, depriving them the chance to take a breather or strive for the initiative.”
Drawing out a mouthful of cold qi, Pusa said, “Is Shaoshuai going to send people within these three sichen to take turns in carrying out attack?”
With a smile on his face Kou Zhong shook his head, acting like he had a card up his sleeve. Although none of Tuli and the others was not a warrior with absolutely high ability and wisdom, they were still unclear what kind of medicine he was selling inside his gourd.
A shiver went up in Xu Ziling’s heart. Kou Zhong was no longer the General Lu Meng of the southern state of Wu [idiom: model of self-improvement by diligent study] of the past who did not know anything at all about military strategy and tactics; rather, he was a commander-in-chief devising the battle plan in a tent, capable to win a thousand li, an expert in deploying the troops.
Although fully aware that the day would come where he would become such figure, but this moment seeing it with his own eyes, hearing it with his own ears, it still stirred up the great waves in the lake of Xu Ziling’s heart.
Kou Zhong looked up at the magnificent starry sky, and then set his gaze on the brightly lit, the dazzling more than a dozen hilltops where the enemy camps, over the approximately two li wide Rushing Wolf Plains separating the enemy and us, and he spoke heavily, “Supposing all the torches in the enemy camp suddenly stop burning, what would Khan’s response be?”
Shaken, Tuli replied, “Naturally I would be on high alert, ready to deal with any change.”
And then, exhaling slowly, he said, “I begin to understand why, with his rigorous schemes and deep foresight, plus profound elite troops method, Li Mi still had to lose in your hands. That is definitely the most convenient scheme to simplify matters or to confuse the enemy.”
Turning to Jieshelu, he ordered, “You go back to the camp to arrange everything according to Shaoshuai’s plan.”
Jieshelu accepted the order and left to return to the camp.
Kou Zhong said, “Our attack this time consists of three steps. The first step is spreading out to advance, pretending to create an all-around assault situation, so that the enemy has no choice but to separately defend each hilltop camp. Before entering the opposite side’s powerful bow’s shooting range, our two flanks adopt a false front of going around to encircle the enemy, threatening the opposite side’s left and right wings, so that they won’t be able to spare time to help their middle army. And then we’ll launch the assault to the middle, using a rushing-thunder, flashing-lightning momentum straight to the heart of the Golden Wolf Army. This is called to capture the thieves, one must capture their king first. As long as we can smash the Golden Wolf Army’s heart, no matter how courageous and strong his four limbs are, he will crumble immediately.”
Turning to Xu Ziling, he said, “Ling Shao, do you have any other good proposal?”
Xu Ziling laughed and said, “I want to find a long spear, so that I can accompany you charging and breaking through the enemy lines.”
Tuli excitedly said, “Just let us, a few brothers, charging and breaking through the enemy lines shoulder to shoulder, to chop Xieli’s head off his neck.”
Knitting his brows, Ba Fenghan said, “It would be best if Khan stays behind to oversee the general situation. If anything bad happens to Khan, it would be like we are delivering our heart for the enemy to scoop it out.”
Pusa also said, “There is no need for Khan to personally risk yourself.”
Shaking his head, Tuli said with a laugh, “Only by fighting at the head of my troops and to personally risk myself will I be able to make my generals to follow my orders. This psychology is very subtle; with me at the scene to escort and protect the troops disposition, the soldiers will stake it all and going all out to pursue the reward. This is precisely the main reason why when fighting against the Han army, our morale is comparatively higher.”
Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling understood. This was the difference between the Central Earth and the outside the Great Wall’s army in battle. The emperor of the successive dynasties of Han people, although there was so-called the emperor leads his troops into battle [idiom: to take part personally in an expedition], it was mostly in name only, unlike the chief of various kingdoms in the prairie, such as Xieli, Tuli, and the likes. None was not a master in tactics, they were also commander-in-chief, veteran of a hundred battles, not just in name only, but also in reality, they went in person to be on the front line conducting the battle.
The advantage was that when the supreme leader or the commander-in-chief was personally at the front line, all military dispatches would be his own responsibility, no need to go through layers of chain of commands, which would affect the battle adversely. When encountering any sudden change, he could make prompt decisions, quickly coming up with countermeasure, and from real combat, he would constantly draw experience to improve and innovate.
For example, Emperor Yang’s ‘the emperor leads his troops into battle’, he was just hiding in the back. Unclear of the situation, yet ordering people by pointing the chin [idiom: to signal orders by facial gesture/arrogant and bossy], conducting the huge army via the marshal and high-ranking military officers, big and small, just like a fat person covered all over in excess flesh walking around ineffectively. Even though he has tremendous physical strength, it would be strange indeed if he would not suffer losses against the foreign tribes that were as quick-witted as a monkey.
Kou Zhong could not help speaking cheerfully, “Your decision and analysis benefit me a lot!”
Xu Ziling said, “Knowing self and knowing the enemy, one comes unscathed through a hundred battles. I want to act as the scout, to go first to find a path, to see whether Xieli is making his men to set up some horse-tripping ropes, horse-trap trenches, or some other defensive measures like that.”
Tuli laughed and said, “Let’s go back to the tent and rest! We Tujue people always put emphasis on offense and not so much on defense, we only use offense as defense, and will never use defense for offense. The only thing Xieli is going to do is to strive for as much rest as possible, to deal with the decisive battle of the prairie, which he thinks will happen tomorrow.”
Kou Zhong said, “To know clearly the route and the enemy’s troop disposition will only bring benefit without any harm. Khan may want to return to the tent with Pusa Xiong first to explain our plan clearly to various big tribal chiefs, so that they could make preparation at the earliest possible time.”
Frowning, Tuli said, “Xieli might, like me, release the falcon, to keep watch from high altitude whether there is outside enemy sneaking in. If you grope around like this, won’t it might beat the grass to scare the snake?”
Ba Fenghan laughed and said, “Don’t worry! Even if Xieli has guts as high as the sky, he won’t dare to release the falcon so casually.”
Therefore, while Tuli and Pusa were unaware, the three rose up and down the hills, using the tall grass and sparse forest of the prairie as cover, darting toward the enemy ranks.
The fire and the first watch of the night at Tuli’s camp suddenly went out. And these all occurred at the same time. In itself it was brimming with strange and mysterious taste.
Naturally it was just like what Kou Zhong expected, the tense atmosphere immediately shrouded the Golden Wolf Army. The men already asleep were aroused by the shouts of order; they crawled out of their tents and entered combat mode. Archers were waiting with their bows as the pillow.
Under the glittering and enchanting starry sky, the three hid among the branches and leaves of a large tree, not far outside the enemy camp, silently watching the situation of the enemy’s maneuver.
Kou Zhong said with a laugh, “How long do you think they will be able to keep this situation going?”
Ba Fenghan replied with full confidence, “It depends whether Xieli dares to release the falcon.”
Xu Ziling said with a laugh, “Arrow God, get ready.”
Ba Fenghan reached behind his back to fetch the Perished Moon Bow. He said, “This arrow bears upon our life in glory or death in disgrace; it must not miss.”
Kou Zhong said, “If Xieli release more than one falcon, which one should we shoot?”
Shaking his head, Ba Fenghan said, “This kind of psychic falcon that can be a scout is very rare, not even one in a thousand. The falcon that we wounded must not have recovered yet, he should have only one remaining.”
“It’s coming!” Xu Ziling said.
A black dot swiftly flew straight up into the sky from the Khan tent. After spiraling in the air, it flew straight in their direction.
Gazing at the ocean and lamenting his inadequacy [idiom: feeling powerless and incompetent], Kou Zhong smiled wryly and said, “His Niang’s! Unexpectedly it’s flying so high!”
The falcon was flying swiftly about three hundred zhang above the ground. The two divine bows added together, their range was not enough to reach half of its feather.
The three looked on helplessly as it glided past.
“Can the falcon tell the number of people?” Xu Ziling wondered.
Awakened by his remark, the other two scolded themselves as idiots.
Smiling wryly, Ba Fenghan said, “Ling Shao has always been the one with the clearest brains among us; we only think of shooting it down, but we never thought about its effectiveness to pose a greater threat by letting it discover the enemy’s tracks.”
Kou Zhong proposed, “We are going back to the camp in three different routes. If the falcon obediently reported back one by one, then they would think that there are three separate men and horses going to attack the camp!”
Both Xu Ziling and Ba Fenghan cried out, ‘Good plan!’ and immediately put it into action.
The many stars were still illuminating the mother earth from the deep darkness of the night sky, completely oblivious that a fierce and cruel battle was brewing before their very eyes.