Book 18 Chapter 7 - Secretly Crossing the Wei River at Chenchang
Dumbstruck, Yang Gongqing, Kou Zhong, Xu Ziling and Wang Xuanshu, along with a group of high-ranking military officers, looked at the big granary, which already turned into coke. Nobody had anything to say. Lined up on the ground were a dozen or so barn dogs and more than a dozen guards, which had been burned until their bodies were difficult to recognize.
This storehouse was one of the sixteen granaries inside the city, but the amount of grains being stored here was equal to the other fifteen storehouses added together. The fire spread too fast, and generated more than a dozen flames at the same time. Were it not for the high wall separating the storehouse from the other residences, plus the overcast, thick and wet clouds of the month between spring and summer, it was quite possible that the disastrous situation did not stop as it did right now.
The deputy general in charge of guarding the storehouse was kneeling on the ground, trembling continuously, looking extremely pitiful.
Yang Gongqing angrily said, "This is impossible; I have already reinforced the guards, how could you not able to grasp even the enemy's shadow, yet they were able to commit arson till it looks like this? At the very least, there ought to be some effort in putting out the fire."
The deputy general spoke in trembling voice, "The fire well has been plugged with sand and stoned by the enemy."
Stunned, Yang Gongqing said, "How did the spy transport the sand and the stones here?"
Kou Zhong spoke with confidence, "As soon as we send people to search, I am sure we will find a tunnel or something like that. This must be the evil scheme that the enemy has plotted actively. We'd better send people to inspect the other storehouses in the city."
Promptly an officer accepted the order and left.
Wang Xuanshu pulled the other three aside and spoke in low voice, "This is called 'a mistake of mistake'. I have just had the real provisions transported to the camp outside the city. The burned grains in here are all fake stuffs. Because my personal bodyguards were responsible for the transport, nobody knew that the new shipment was fake goods."
Greatly delighted, Kou Zhong said, "Er Gongzi's efficient work is indeed amazing; was the stuff carried by the fifty mule-train the real grains?"
Wang Xuanshu was pleasantly surprised; he nodded and said, "It was indeed. So what do we do now?"
Yang Gongqing's spirit greatly aroused, he said, "This is called mistakenly hit the secondary vehicle; also known as Heaven helps me. Right now we must do everything we can to search for the spy. All outsiders not registered locally must be locked up for questioning, while heavily reward citizen who report suspicious characters. On the other hand, we must strengthen the storehouses guards, while trying to find a way to open a secret granary to store our grains."
Realizing that he had inadvertently set up great merit, which would definitely gain his father's praises, Wang Xuanshu gladly left to make the arrangement.
Kou Zhong spoke in low voice, "Looks like we should go back to the Commander's mansion to drink wine to celebrate; we are going to welcome Li Mi's army soon!"
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It was not even dawn yet, someone came to wake Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling up and had them go to the Commander's Mansion, where they saw by Yang Gongqing at the main hall. Wang Xuanshu was yawning. But Linglong Jiao, with windblown-dust face, was sitting by Yang Gongqing's side, talking and pointing to the strategy terrain chart lying on the table.
As the two stepped into the main hall, Yang Gongqing looked up and saw them; laughing aloud, he said, "Wagang troops are coming!"
Hearing that, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling, crowded over in great delight.
Linglong Jiao spoke excitedly, "I have made contact with our informers all over the place, even seeing it with my own eyes, Li Mi's vanguard unit is pressing on toward Yanshi. If they did not stop over anywhere, we should be able to see Wagang troops' banner from the top of the city wall. I already dispatched more than a dozen martial art masters with fine qinggong to closely watch their movement. They will send the information via carrier pigeon."
Kou Zhong asked, "Which troops are moving? How many?"
Linglong Jiao replied, "It's the new army recruits from outside the city, under Shan Xiongsin, Chen Zhilue and Fan Wenchao, three men's command. The main force inside the city has not made any movement."
Yang Gongqing anxiously said, "Li Mi is going to use decoy."
Xu Ziling asked, "Did Miss Jiao sneak inside the city to see what's going on?"
Linglong Jiao proudly said, "No city defense can stump me, Linglong Jiao, but the private residences housing the troops are tightly guarded, I was afraid to beat the grass and scare the snake, so I could only look from a distance. The city was quite and peaceful, evidently Li Mi considers victory is within his grasp, he is completely confident."
Wang Xuanshu asked, "Are those new recruits really as bad as what Xuan Yong said?"
Linglong Jiao replied, "The vanguard regiment under Shan Xiongxin numbered approximately three thousand; they set out in the evening. Because the forest obstructed my line of sight, I could only estimate the number based on the dust raised by the troops; they are all infantry, and they don't march in squad formation, so I know they are not properly trained regular troops."
Astonished, Kou Zhong said, "Miss Jiao unexpectedly can tell a lot of things from the dust kicked by the troops; you must be an expert in observation and detective work on the military intelligence."
Obtaining his praise, Linglong Jiao delightedly cast him a sideway glance and said, "If you want to learn, I can be your Shifu. If the dust is rising high, it is the cavalry; infantry would create a low, wide and rolling dust. Shan Xiongxin's new army recruits raised low, scattering, untidy dust, precisely because of insufficient training and their formation was not in good order. For well-trained elite army, the dust may rise in columns, clear and not random. When the troops stop the dust stop, this is the marching of the troops under powerful general. The dust scattered left and right, front and back, this is not marching in formation."
Listening to her, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling submitted with all their hearts; now they knew that observing the enemy was also a scientific knowledge.
This moment a bodyguard came in to report that they had just received information from the front line via the carrier pigeon.
Yang Gongqing received it, took a quick look, and handed it over to Linglong Jiao, saying, "Li Mi's out-of-town forces are striking up two separate camps on their way toward us, but the main force inside the city still has not made any move. It appears that he is trying to lure us out to attack. Our army provisions were really burned by him, we would have wanted to have decisive battle as early as possible, before our grains run out, rather than painstakingly defending a city under siege."
Wang Xuanshu nodded and added, "At that time his main force may launch surprise attack on us, killing us while we are caught unprepared."
Noticing both Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling had deep frown on their faces, Yang Gongqing asked in surprise, "Li Mi appears to have fallen into our trap, why do you look troubled instead?"
Xu Ziling said, "I have a feeling that something is not right. Li Mi has Ke Feng as his spy, he ought to know that our side has Miss Jiao, a first-class expert in scouting the enemy's movement, glaring like a tiger watching its prey, monitoring his troops' situation. If that is the case, how would he use the decoy?"
Kou Zhong added, "In Miss Jiao's opinion, did the tight security at the guarded entrance to the private residences housing the troops defy reason?"
Linglong Jiao's tender body shook slightly; revealing a thinking-deeply expression, she nodded and said, "That is so. The patrolling troops were not ordinary soldiers, but martial art masters within Li Mi's troops, hence the reason I shrank back."
Kou Zhong slapped the table and said with a sigh, "What a cunning Li Mi! If I guess correctly, he must be using a tunnel or some kind of covering to transfer his main force in batches to a secret camp outside the city. And then when we mistakenly assume that his main force has not left the city, and presumptuously meet Shan Xiongxin's new army recruits' attack, he would use the same ruse he defeated Zhang Xutuo in the past, by pretending to be defeated and luring us out of Yanshi, and then from somewhere his troops appear to ambush ours. If that happens, it would be strange indeed if we are not going to be wiped out."
His countenance changed, Yang Gongqing said, "Does that mean we already lost the decisive opportunity?"
"Not necessarily," Kou Zhong replied, "Moving out forty thousand men via a secret tunnel only under cover of darkness is something that cannot be accomplished in just a night or a half. Just by looking at when Shan Xiongxin's troops will arrive, we'll know how much time is needed, because no matter what, Shan Xiongxin's new troops will have to wait until Li Mi's main force is ready before they dare to setup formation outside the city to wait respectfully."
Wang Xuanshu anxiously said, "If we cannot grasp where Li Mi's main force is going to move to, we would only be able to send our men into the city to wait painstakingly, our previous plan cannot be carried out anymore."
Before Kou Zhong could answer, a guard came to report that Xuan Yong was seeking audience.
Xuan Yong only greeted Yang Gongqing and the others briefly before solemnly reported, "Li Mi's worthy to be called the most outstanding schemer of the present age; unexpectedly he already dug three underground tunnels in advance, and transferred his main forces in batches north to Mount Mang. Were it not for Xiaoren grew suspicious, I would never be able to guess his trick."
Yang Gongqing asked nervously, "Do you know the exact location of their camp?"
Xuan Yong dejectedly said, "Shen Luoyan is using her reconnaissance bird circling in the sky, so I did not dare to rush indiscriminately into action, plus she is setting up strategically located outposts along the mountain roads so that there is no way to trail them. According to my estimate, based on the current rate, Li Mi would need at least one night to transfer all of his main forces north to Mount Mang."
Everybody was back around the table to look at the map. They saw that at the upper left corner of Jinyong city, Mount Mang was slanting down straight toward Yanshi's northeast corner, in unbroken mountain range of about a hundred li, covering a vast area. If they could not grasp the whereabouts of those forty thousand men, when the battle started, the ambushing troops might come out suddenly from anywhere north of the city, which would be confusing and strike fear in their hearts.
Xuan Yong said, "Right now our side does not dare to act blindly without thinking, plus the opponent has martial art masters as numerous as the cloud; as soon as they appear, we wouldn't be able to escape even if we tried."
Kou Zhong's left palm chopped horizontally across, he spoke ferociously, "First of all we must kill that flat-haired beast! Ay, but this will only alert that Shen poniang."
"Leave this to me," Linglong Jiao said, "I can enter Mount Mang from the other side, without following the mountain road. As long as they make fire to cook, or perhaps cutting down the forest to open up a path, there are always traces to be found."
 Chapter title: an idiom, referring to s stratagem used by Liu Bang in 206BC against Xiang Yu of Chu. Figuratively means to feign one thing while doing another.