Book 18 Chapter 6 - Military Camp Learning
Yang Gongqing spread out the map on the table, showing the Luo River cutting across the middle. Above it, near the top of the map area, was the Yellow River, which flows parallel to the Luo River. The Eastern Capital Luoyang was represented by a black square dot, located at the western extremity of the Luo River. To the east of it were, subsequently, Yanshi, Luokou, Hulao, and Yingyang. The latter two were built by the Fan River and Suo River, respectively, where the Yellow River met with Luo, Fan and Suo, three rivers.
Standing around the table Kou Zhong, Xu Ziling, Wang Xuanshu, and Linglong Jiao, four people, were studying the map carefully.
Pressed for time, with the enemy's troops might arrive any moment, no one dared to lower their guard.
Kou Zhong pointed to the fine marking that represented a city a bit north between the Eastern Capital and Yanshi, saying, "Li Mi's army is concentrated here. Li Mi is certainly a wily old fox, because dispatching troops from Jinyong, either attacking the Eastern Capital or Yanshi, there is not much difference in term of route, so that it would be hard to pin down which target he is going to attack, or maybe he is going to split his troops to attack two targets at the same time."
Wang Xuanshu said, "That was precisely the reason Die set up massive military force at Yanshi. If Li Mi has the impertinence to force his troops into the Eastern Capital, our force in Yanshi can then put him in the predicament of facing enemies in front and behind him, while at the same time we can threaten Hulao, Luokou's safety in the east."
Yang Gongqing said, "Therefore, if Yanshi fell, the Eastern Capital would also lose its stronghold on the east, and then Li Mi would not have any misgivings protecting his rear or any supply problem, he could focus all his strength in attacking the Eastern Capital. Therefore, whether we can defend Yanshi or not, it really is the crucial point of success or failure."
Linglong Jiao raised the same concern as Kou Zhong's speculation, "If he split his troops into two, combined with Dugu Clan's forces from the inside, with Luoyang being the main target and besieging Yanshi as secondary target, how do we cope?"
Yang Gongqing asserted, "If Xuan Yong's intelligence is correct, Li Mi has absolutely no ability to launch military offensive of this scale. Moreover, if the Dugu Clan and Yang Dong can defend the Imperial Palace for more than two days, it could already be considered not bad; if they wanted to coordinate outside and inside offensives, that would be 'having the heart, not the strength'. Let alone all they are hoping for is Shangshu Daren and Li Mi would fight until both sides suffer; how could they be stupid enough to lead the wolf into the house? Therefore, I am not worried about the Eastern Capital at all.
Pointing to a mountain range extending about a hundred li across north of Jinyong city, Xu Ziling asked, "What mountain is this?"
"That is Mount Mang," Yang Gongqing replied, "Ke Feng's Laojun Guan is located on one of the summits called Cui Yun Peak."
Kou Zhong said, "Li Mi is indeed cunning; Jinyong City's back is leaning against Mount Mang, so he has no fears of trouble in the rear. If we march to Jinyong, he could hide ambushing troops in the mountain, which would be able to kill us before we even have time to think."
Yang Gongqing said, "Not only that, if he must give up Jinyong, he could pass through Mount Mang, cross over to the great river, retreat and defend Hebei's strategic town Heyang, which is also Li Mi's front line force and supporting force's supply line's logistic base. Strategically, this arrangement is invulnerable. Therefore, supposing Li Mi does not take the initiative to attack, we practically have no way of getting to him. If we presumptuously attack Luokou, he could send troops from Jinyong to break through Yanshi, our expeditionary force will only end up in total defeat."
This moment Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling already had thorough understanding of both sides', theirs and the enemy's, situation; they started to understand how geography and surroundings played a decisive role in the war.
Yang Gongqing sighed and said, "That was the reason I was in full support of Kou Xiongdi's tactic of showing weakness to the enemy; otherwise, if we let Li Mi pushing toward the Eastern Capital along the west of the river, drawing our forces away from Yanshi, and then he immediately turn back to Jinyong, we could only return to Yanshi. And if this happens several times, we would be led by him by the nose, tired of constantly running for our lives, and it would be a marvel indeed if we don't get beaten."
Kou Zhong had known that Li Mi already planned this clever tactic, hence he came up with the ruse of showing weakness to the enemy. But even after considering a thousand times, ten thousand times, he had never considered that Wang Shichong nearly lose his life for real.
Xu Ziling spoke indifferently, "If we desperately defend Yanshi, with Li Mi's current strength, will he have any way of breaking through the city?"
Yang Gongqing unyieldingly said, "How much would Li Mi's injured and weary troops be able to accomplish? As long as we have enough rations and fodder inside the city, I can guarantee that we will be able to hold on and will not let a bunch of Wagang thieves to prevail."
Kou Zhong laughed aloud and said, "Great General's remark has immediately inspire Xiaodi to come up with a plan, which is the wonderful move of burning their grains."
Wang Xuanshu had a flash of understanding, "That is superior to the tactic of luring the enemy. We could have fake army provisions transported to the army camp by the pontoon bridge on the southern bank, acting as if we are about to march toward Luokou soon. If the enemy believes that they are successful in burning our rations and fodder, they might immediately send their troops to the south. Is that what you think?"
Kou Zhong shook his head and said, "Er Gongzi is still missing something; we want them to burn the real army provisions. As long as we have provisions remaining for ten days, that should be enough."
Other than Xu Ziling, the three people were looking at each other in astonishment.
Having a card up his sleeve, Kou Zhong said, "Only by letting them burn the real army provisions would we be able to deceive Li Mi and Shen Luoyan. This is the 'sinking the boat by a hatchet, fighting the city from its back' tactic, let the lower-ranked people lose their hearts, only then will we obtain the rivers and mountains in one battle."
Yang Gongqing sucked in a deep breath of air, "Isn't it too risky?" he asked.
Full of heroic air, Kou Zhong puffed out his breast and said, "Without the risky move, how are we going to defeat the Duke of Pushan Li Mi, who always emerge victorious from every battle? It is precisely because no one would guess that we are so audacious that they will fall into our trap. As long as we can defeat Li Mi's main force going down south, Shan Xiongxin's bunch of old and weak, remnant soldiers, what can they possibly achieve? At that time we will split our force into two, one taking Jinyong, the other pressing on to Luokou, the army provision can be sent from its source at the Eastern Capital, without any worry that someone would cut our supply line!"
Yang Gongqing's countenance alternated between bright and dark; it was obvious that he was hesitating and could not make up his mind.
Xu Ziling spoke heavily, "Right now the Eastern Capital is too busy to look after itself; if Li Mi employs cutting-off tactic, we will be left alone; sooner or later, because our provisions will be finished, we will fall. Since that is the case, why not trying to lure Li Mi into coming into battle sooner? Then we will at least have a chance to win."
All blood drained from his face, Wang Xuanshu reminded everybody, "But it's just a chance."
Yang Gongqing raised his eyes to look at the beam of the building; it was quite a while later that he opened his mouth, "During the old dynasty, every time Shangshu Daren engaged in battle against Li Mi, he lost not because of military power at all, but because of strategy. This time our military power cannot match the opponent's, the only way to victory is to rely on strategy. Very well! I'll bet my money on Kou Zhong against Li Mi, let's see Laotian [lit. old heaven, God] actually stands on which side."
Wang Xuanshu took a couple of rapid breathing to calm his nervous mind; he asked Kou Zhong, "Xuanshu is in charge of protecting the provision and the storehouse; how exactly am I supposed to proceed in this matter? An intentional publicity will be …"
Kou Zhong laughed and said, "When singing, one must sing the entire song, when dancing, one must perform the entire dance; only then will the audience you are not taking unfair advantage of them. Right?"
The last sentence was addressed to Linglong Jiao, who was staring at him, watching him talking; the latter's pretty face blushed slightly, and she hung her head down.
Ever since expressing her feeling that she liked Kou Zhong a little bit, it was suddenly so easy for her to have red clouds appeared on her jade cheeks because of Kou Zhong.
Wang Xuanshu nodded and said, "Xuanshu understood. Ay! If this scheme did not come from Junshi's mouth, Xuanshu would definitely oppose it strongly."
Xu Ziling said, "Not only this matter has to be kept in strict confidence, it also has to be carried out in strict confidence; military order for city defense must be strictly enforced inside the city, no one will be allowed to get in and out of the city gate. Unless with the Great General's approval, all officers and soldiers must stay inside the camp, waiting for orders; night time must be especially strict."
Yang Gongqing nodded and said, "That should be so. After the foodstuff is removed out of the storehouse, it has to be promptly replaced by counterfeit goods to make up the number. I will redeploy twenty-thousand troops in rotation to the wooden stronghold in Henan, to make it appear that we are going to attack Luokou."
Kou Zhong added, "We'll also have to station archers on the city walls on sentry duty; any carrier pigeon or other birds that look like they are going to fly out of the city must be shot down. Also, we must guard the irrigation ditch leading out of the city to prevent anybody sending out information. Only by doing this will we make people believe."
Yang Gongqing laughed and said, "You are not afraid the real information will be cut off?"
Smiling wryly, Kou Zhong replied, "I am afraid that even our surplus grain will be burned by Li Mi; that would be exceedingly bad!"
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Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling removed their masks back to their original appearance. They urged their horses out of the city, and then slowly rode along the Luo River in the direction of the pontoon bridge.
The sun was setting in the west, on the camp on the opposite bank dots of lights started to appear, smoke from the stoves sprang up everywhere. Although on the surface it looked like a picture of peace and tranquility, in the inside it was actually full of impenetrable, depressing feeling like the stuffy atmosphere on the mountain just before the rain came down.
Talking and laughing, Kou Zhong said, "Yin Gui Pai seems to be suddenly disappear from the surface of the earth; I wonder if they are sitting on the mountain and watching the tigers fight?"
Xu Ziling took a deep breath, sucking in the fresh and clean smell of the river water, while lifting up his eyes to look at the layer upon layer of verdant and luxuriant forest beyond the opposite bank, extending as far as the eye could see into bluish-green lofty mountain range and hills.
The section of Luo River after Yanshi was winding and twisting downstream, in between rolling green hills, with deep forests filled with blossoming wild flowers adorning both sides of the river. The more than thirty warships moored along the bank looked like decorative objects in a landscape painting.
Kou Zhong spoke again, "I haven't heard any news about Qin Shubao for a long time [see Book 3 Chapter 2]; I wonder if he is still working for Li Mi. I don't want to kill him by mistake."
Finally Xu Ziling produced a response, "Shen Luoyan is very clear what kind of man Qin Shubao is, and she is well aware of his relationship with us; therefore, she will never let him participate in this battle. Zhong Shao, you may set your heart at ease."
Reaching the pontoon bridge, the two boys reined their horses to stop, to let a team of about fifty mule carts crossed over the bridge.