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Sky, liem, hungry, DongBin, glad you liked the exchange. This kind of narrative is always difficult to translate. HPC, Jaya, Chua, you are welcome. Xiaohu, thanks. I need that ... akolaw, I understand. Here's half of Chapter 5, I am hoping to post the rest of the chapter in one and a half day (tomorrow, Sunday evening my time). Trying to catch up ...

Book 18 Chapter 5 - Military Intelligence is The Number One Priority

Wang Shichong sat on the bed, apparently his spirit was a bit better than earlier this morning, but his expression was still depressed. After looking at everybody standing in front of his bed, he said, "This time going into battle, it will really affect our success or failure. Laofu cannot participate personally, this will be the biggest regret of my life."

"Daren please don't worry," Yang Gongping hastily said, "Chenxia [minister/official, referring to self] obtains Xuanshu Gongzi and Kou Xiongdi as my left and right lieutenants, we will definitely not let Daren down, while at the same time we will inflict Li Mi a crushing defeat, so that he will never recover. After Daren is recovered, you will again lead Chenxia to war on all sides, to unify the world."

Wang Shichong mused, "Although we and Li Yuan, one in Guanxi, the other in Guandong, but our situations are similar. We are being impeded by Li Mi that we are unable to advance to the west; he has to constantly dealing with Xue Ju, father and son, of Longyou. Therefore, right now both sides must race against time, whoever can be one step ahead in consolidating his power and pacify the misfortune at hand, will have the opportunity to accomplish the great undertaking."

It was the first time that Kou Zhong heard Wang Shichong discussing his own situation. He knew in his heart that this moment Wang Shichong could not afford not to rely on him, hence the reason he let Kou Zhong listening to this kind of secret matter.

This moment, standing by the couch, other than him there were Wang Xuanying, Wang Xuanshu, Yang Gongqing, Lang Feng, and Song Mengqiu, five men; therefore, it was clear that this was not an ordinary meeting.

Wang Shichong sighed and said, "This man Xue Ju was born of a family with riches and honor; he always love making friends, and squander money like dirt. This kind of (exaggerated dressing) [not sure, 衣夸] disciples, other than always following the wind and going with the flow, if they encountered any setback, it would be hard for them to press on. Once they surrendered, Li Yuan's strength might increase considerably. Therefore, we must press forward to attack Guanzhong before this happens. Thus in the battle against Li Mi, we must employ a blitzkrieg strategy; otherwise, even if we won, it would be the same as if we lost."

Kou Zhong could not help having a whole new level of respect for Wang Shichong, because just from this analysis, it was clear that he was very proficient in the art of war, he was a man who stand tall and see far.

Wang Xuanying said, "But Xue Ju's son Xue Ren is brave and good at fighting; he does not look like someone who will surrender easily."

Wang Shichong's breathing became rapid and heavy. After Kou Zhong transferred some true qi into his body, his spirit revived and he spoke in heavy voice, "Too bad is opponent is Li Shimin, who is both brave and intelligent. Unless Li Shimin died, they, father and son, eventually cannot escape from the misfortune of defeat and will have to surrender."

Yang Gongqing nodded and said, "Xue Ju was able to raise his troops, he was merely at the right place and the right time, a case of where water flows, a canal is formed [idiom, when conditions are right, success will follow naturally]. Unlike Daren or Li Yuan, who are originally great generals; before the uprising, you have already fought in one place after another all over the world. Or perhaps like Li Mi, Du Fuwei, Dou Jiande, and the others, who won their territory by fighting for it. In the past, due to his family's wealth, he hired petty officers at Jincheng to be his military generals. After thirteen years of great undertaking, Longyou's bandits rose up, from Jincheng he ordered Hao Yuan to recruit several thousand soldiers, which he put under his command to suppress the rebellion. Who would have thought that from this event his army started to grow, he opened the granary on account of poor people, and proclaimed himself a King? On top of that, his territory is at the western border, there is no rival nearby. If the place he rose up was either Guandong or Guanxi, I am afraid he would have been annexed by other people early on. Therefore, Daren was absolutely right."

Wang Shichong said, "To night you are heading east to Yanshi, by all means you must not make ostentatious display out of it. Gongqing, you are in charge. You have full power and will carry the tiger tally [a two-piece object made in the shape of a tiger, used in ancient China as proof of authority. One half of a tally could be issued to a military officer and this would be matched with the other half when verification was required] as the Commander-in-Chief of the entire army, with Xuanshu as your Fushi [deputy] and Xiao Zhong as your Junshi [military advisor]. The three of you must work together honestly. By exploiting Li Mi's contemptuous heart toward us, deliver a frontal assault on him; if you can achieve victory, you must pursue the retreating enemy. If you could obtain Luokou and Hulao, two towns, Li Mi will lose his momentum, the remainder will only have to ways to take: either die in the battlefield or surrender, and then the world will be in my, Wang Shichong's bag."

The more he spoke, the more excited he was; in the end he coughed incessantly.

Lang Feng urged him, "Daren's instructions, we will definitely carry out earnestly. It would be best if Daren take a rest before talking further!"

Wang Shichong spoke strenuously, "The matter of Shuni marrying into Guanxi, you may proceed according to original plan. Xiao Zhong, do you have any objection?"

Noticing that everybody was looking at him, Kou Zhong was greatly embarrassed; he hastily said, "Let everything be as Wanggong instructed."

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Kou Zhong returned to the main hall. Xu Ziling and Chen Changlin were chatting. Seeing Kou Zhong, Xu Ziling cheerfully said, "I just found out that Chen Xiong is actually from Nanhai Jun [South Sea County]; his family has always been in maritime trade. Listening to him is better than taking a journey of ten thousand li, there are a lot of local strange and exotic customs, which I guarantee you have never heard of."

Kou Zhong felt ashamed inwardly; his conversation with Chen Changlin put together was perhaps less than ten sentences. He quickly made a joke to cover his embarrassment, "Chen Xiong must be related to Old Huang, you are both Nanhai people!"

Apparently Chen Changlin was not a casual talker and joker; he replied, "Kou Xiong misunderstood! Nanhai refers to the ocean south of our country, the coastal area has more than a dozen counties. Our Nanhai Jun and the Zhuya Jun where Hainan Pai is located are separated by more than twenty days of sea journey."

Kou Zhong sat down on Chen Changlin's other side; he said, "So what's beyond the ocean? When we were in Yangzhou, we often saw foreign merchant ships coming along; those people's appearance and clothing are very strange."

Chen Changlin said, "My family is in food business with the Persians."

Kou Zhong could not help asking, "Why didn't Chen Xiong stay at Nanhai Jun to make money with the foreigners, but crossing ten thousand crags and torrents to come here instead?"

Chen Changlin's eyes emitted flames of hatred as he spoke heavily, "Were it not for having no alternative, who wants to leave his village and depart from his well? This matter is hard to explain in a few words, Kou Xiong please forgive me."

Kou Zhong's heart was moved; he said, "Does it have something to do with Shen Faxing?"

Chen Changlin was visibly shaken; he said, "Kou Xiong is indeed formidable; one guess and you nailed it. Although not directly related, but Shen Lun is his son; he really cannot escape the blame."

Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong exchanged glances. Lowering his voice, he said, "What outrageous act [orig. offending Heaven and reason] did Shen Lun do to Chen Xiong?"

Chen Changlin heaved a deep sigh and said, "Shen Lun harmed me that my family bankrupt and the people dead; if I don't avenge this enmity, how could I discharge the hatred in my heart?"

Kou Zhong was about to speak, the bodyguard came to report, "Everything is ready; two Daye may start."

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Twelve warships left the City of Louyang in single file, sailing along the Luo River toward Yanshi, following the current due east, hence they were sailing very fast, in just a short while they had already covered several li.

On the river course from Luoyang to Yanshi, there were outposts built at high elevation on both sides of the river to supervise the river traffic, hence in term of security, there shouldn't be any problem.

Besides Yang Gongqing and Wang Xuanshu, traveling with them was Linglong Jiao; her main task was to gather intelligence about the enemy.

As soon as this Qiuci beauty came on board the ship, she immediately escaped into her cabin; even her dinner had to be delivered to her room.

Xu Ziling was not in the mood to socialize with Yang Gongqing either; hence he retreated into his cabin to meditate quietly.

After dinner, Yang Gongqing spoke in consternation, "Li Mi is an expert in using deception and decoys; oftentimes it was after the battle started that we realized we have fallen into his trap. Does Kou Xiong have any brilliant scheme on how to deal with him?"

Kou Zhong smiled and said, "This time we'll have to see whose deception is a bit more brilliant. Right now the first order of business is to find the exact location Li Mi's main force is stationed, only then will we be able to easily make a plan. I have already arranged to meet Zhai Jiao's man at Yanshi. By that time we will have a clear grasp of Li Mi's actual situation. Li Mi's demise will actually be in Zhai Rang's daughter's hands."

Wang Xuanshu was puzzled, "Since demon priest Ke Feng already knew about Zhai Jiao, naturally he would call this matter to Li Mi's attention. Once things don't look good, we might fall into his evil scheme instead," he said.

Yang Gongqing nodded his agreement.

Kou Zhong laughed aloud and said, "The problem is that even Laozi [old man, referring to self] does not even know who among the old generals of the Wagang Army under Li Mi's command live in Cao camp but have their hearts in Han camp [idiom from Three Kingdoms]. It would be best if Li Mi is suspicious of every old general and thus put everybody in danger. If that's the case, then once Li Mi suffers defeat, I guarantee that the troops' morale will immediately drop. Once the Wagang Army is all split up and in pieces, Li Mi won't have enough capital to regroup and come back even stronger [orig. to return in a swirl of dust]."

After a short pause, he continued resolutely, word by word, "Therefore, we only need to win one battle, then Li Mi would never have any chance to recover."

With an almost worshipful adoration expression in his eyes, Wang Xuanshu said, "Kou Dage always have a brilliant way of looking at anything."

But Yang Gongqing was not completely convinced yet; he said, "Our strength is only twenty thousand men in total; although all of them are elite troops from the old Sui dynasty and have undergone long battle exposure, compared to Li Mi's main force of several hundred thousand, regardless of how much damage and brokenness from the battle against Yuwen Huaji at Tong Hill they suffered, when all is said and done, they are still much stronger than we are. Perhaps he cannot afford to lose this battle, but compared to him, we can't afford to lose this battle even more. Therefore, we must make him unable to use deceit; only by fighting fair and square would we have a chance of success."

Remaining calm in the midst of chaos, Kou Zhong said, "On this, Great General can be absolutely rest assured. Under Zhai Jiao's command, there is someone called Xuan Yong; this man is proficient in the art of war, plus since he had been with Zhai Rang for a long time, he still has contact with Wagang Army's generals who are still loyal to Zhai Rang, and he knows Wagang Army's activity like the back of his hands. I guarantee no matter how Li Mi is swaying his butts, moving left or moving right, he can't hide it from us. Hee! These past couple of days we have been terribly busy; we'd better return to our room and rest earlier tonight. I am afraid by the time we get to Yanshi, there won't be any time to sleep!"

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