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Book 20 Chapter 1 - Besieging A City Is A Must In War
All Liangdu residents, men, women, young and old, were mobilized in their struggle to defend their hometown.
Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were now world famous heroes; not only they had glorious military successes, they were also 'invincible', and because they came from the marketplace, they won the heart of the people, even more so than those Sui dynasty's old minister or veteran generals who came from honorable school or big clans, or ambitious and ruthless characters who started out by relying on the dark road. Therefore, one after another wulin characters and ambitious able-bodied men from the surrounding area came to realign their allegiance to the two boys.
Albeit unintentionally, in his road to contend for hegemony, this was the first time that Kou Zhong publicly amassed volunteers for the uprising, just like it suddenly happened in this place.
In any other cases, Xu Ziling could not possibly be drawn directly into Kou Zhong's 'private business' to conquer the world. But this time, because of his benevolence in bemoaning the state of the universe and pitying the fate of the citizens of this city, plus it was for the sake of dealing with Yuwen Huaji, unexpectedly he had spun a cocoon around himself [idiom: enmeshed in a trap of his own devising]; in the end he had no choice but to take the heavy responsibility of training and organizing the troops into squads of five soldiers upon himself.
On one hand, Kou Zhong's skill was derived from the heavenly book passed down from Lu Miaozi. On the other hand, he imitated the administrative structure of Liangdu's entire governance; he tried to stretch the limited resources available to him as far as possible, to make the best possible use of whatever he currently had.
Yuwen Huaji's force from the south was about twenty thousand men strong, but it was moving so slowly, because along the way they had to loot army provisions and recruited able-bodied men by force; it was just like a plague of locusts turning cities into disaster areas, forcing the people along their route to flee toward Liangdu, making Kou Zhong's burden more than a hundred catties heavier.
This day, after much difficulty, the two boys were finally able to meet at a side hall of Fusheng Restaurant, located on the north and south main street connecting the north and south city gates, well into the afternoon, to discuss attack and defense military matters.
The other guests of the restaurant were all used to see these two boys, since they both were amiable and approachable, they did not like to hide inside the Zongguan Mansion, but loved to enjoy big bowl of wine and big piece of meat together with the locals, sprinkling their speech with one or two vulgar language such as 'his mother' and the like.
Kou Zhong spoke in low voice, "Currently fourteen cities and towns, more than two hundred villages in the vicinity of Liangdu have all surrendered to us, and it has enabled us to obtain some extra rations and fodder, and relax the hardship of lack of food supplies somewhat."
Knitted his brows, Xu Ziling said, "Previously, where did Liangdu's provisions come from?"
Kou Zhong replied, "It was from these township and villages. It's just that those hateful Khitan dog thieves killed and burned everywhere, driving the farmlands to be abandoned, and could not supply provisions as they always did. Do you want to buy provisions? Upstream Wang Shichong is waging war against Li Mi, downstream Ol' Die, in company with Shen Faxing, is staking it all in fiery confrontation against Li Zitong; water transportation is cut off. Ay! My Ling Shao, who would have thought that we will be in the situation we are in today, unexpectedly we have to worry about firewood and rice for the entire city of nearly a hundred thousand people! Previously you advised me not to contend over the world, you indeed have the foresight."
Xu Ziling did not have the mood to even laugh; he asked, "So with the current provision level, how many days are we able to last?"
Kou Zhong said, "According to that fellow, Chen Jiafeng's estimate, if that lowly creature Yuwen Huagu is traveling at his current speed, in three days they will arrive to besiege the city and sever all water and land transport. Even if we tighten our belts, we could only last for less than ten days."
Xu Ziling's countenance changed, he said, "Wouldn't it be terrible? With his jackal and wolf nature, Yuwen Huagu will definitely seize the opportunity to loot everywhere he goes, so that he won't have to worry about lack of food supplies, while we are trapped in a besieged city, starving to death."
Smiling wryly, Kou Zhong said, "Currently we seem to have several thousands of people, but those who can really be sent out to deal with others are no more than twenty, those able to provide their own leather-armor, horse and weapons are only about a thousand; the number of warhorses is even more pathetic, even including old, weary, thin and weak, the total is only about a hundred. People say that elite troops are honored but the dishonorable are many, yet I am afraid those that can be really called elite troops only remain you and I, these two big idiots. This time it's not only bad, this is thoroughly bad."
Xu Ziling said with determination in his voice, "Defending the city is a road that leads to dead end, we might as well make a gamble by ambushing Yuwen Huagu on his way here; it's certainly better than waiting for death here."
Kou Zhong shook his head and said, "The reason Yuwen Huagu is marching this slow, and also abandoning the fast water route but embracing the land route, is precisely to guard against us ambushing him along the way. Therefore, this plan is absolutely won't work. Tell me, if you have several thousand men marching to battle in grandiose, do you think we can conceal it from Yuwen Clan's martial art masters who are acting as intelligence gatherers? Right now all we can do is to see what Li Zitong will do."
This moment, Xie Jue, who had the honor of being promoted to be the captain of Kou Zhong's personal guards, came to report, "A gentleman who says his name is Xuan Yong is asking to have an audience with two Daye."
The two boys were greatly delighted; they quickly asked Xie Jue to show him in.
A moment later Xuan Yong, who was covered in windblown dust from head to toe, came in. The three of them met, naturally they chatted freely about what had happened after they parted.
"Your arrival is so timely," Kou Zhong said.
Xuan Yong cheerfully said, "You guys using a ghost town and several troubled troops inflicting defeat on Khitan's group of horse-mounted bandits, this news has spread widely over several cities in the north."
Xu Ziling asked in astonishment, "It was only seven, eight days ago; how could the news spread so quickly?"
Xuan Yong said, "Anything that happens in the neighboring area north and south of the waterway will be particularly easy to spread, due to the flourishing water traffic. As soon as I heard that Yuwen Huaji is sending his troops toward Liangdu, I knew the situation can't be good; hence I immediately traveled at double speed to here."
Kou Zhong suddenly rose up to his full height, cupped his fist toward all the restaurant guests and said, "Gentlemen, fellow countrymen, brothers, Xiaodi has an important matter to discuss; I was wondering if everyone, Dage Dashu [big brothers, big uncles] can finish eating a bit faster and leave?"
Hearing this, everybody willingly and gladly left. By the time Kou Zhong sat down, only the three of them remained in the restaurant, even the proprietor and the waiters all made themselves scarce by going to the kitchen.
Xu Ziling asked, "Does Xuan Xiong know how bad our situation is?"
Xuan Yong calmly said, "One: lack of food supplies, two: no troops to be used, three: isolated and without help. Did I say it wrong?"
Greatly astonished, Kou Zhong said, "Looking at your appearance, it seems that you can resolve these three problems for us. Come on, don't tease me."
Xuan Yong said, "Foodstuff is in short supply everywhere, nobody can do anything about it. But these three problems are all because Yuwen Huaji is coming. If we can make him rushing back to his old home, all problems can be easily solved [orig. bamboo splits when it meets the knife's edge]."
Kou Zhong laughed and said, "Xuan Zongguan's remark is very insightful, it makes me immediately think that ultimately, Yuwen Huagu is the only problem."
Xuan Yong was stunned, "What Xuan Zongguan?" [Reminder: zongguan literally means chief manager] he asked.
Xu Ziling burst out laughing.
Kou Zhong said, "Naturally the Liangdu, Pengcheng, two cities' Da Zongguan. Even if we get rid of Yuwen Huagu, an organization this scale needs someone like Xuan Da Zongguan, with experience to unify the army and defending a city, a figure overflowing with talent, to govern it. Taking advantage while Li Zitong is powerless to go up north, Lin Shihong, Li Mi and the others are too busy to care, I am relying on you to establish a strong, unbreakable garrison here, to sever the north to south route of Central Plains' strategic pass. Ha! This is an arrangement bestowed by heaven."
Xuan Yong stared blankly for half a day. Finally he said, "We must ask Miss' instructions on this matter."
Kou Zhong patted his chest and said, "Leave it to me to deal with Da Xiaojie's side. Why didn't she come here?"
Xuan Yong said, "We have already received a group of Wagang's officers and soldiers back, their number is over two thousand men. But we lack a place to settle. Miss heard that you took over Liangdu, hence she ordered me to lead them here to take shelter. Presently they are stationed in a forest thirty li north of the city.
Kou Zhong was greatly delighted, "This time we are really saved."
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While Yuwen Huaji's main force continued their approach, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were busy to no end, making good preparation to defend the city.
This day, first thing in the morning, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling, only the two of them, urged their horses out of town, patrolling the fortification built outside the city, and went up the top of a hill overlooking the plain to the north.
On their left, Tongji Canal was surging on, but there was no boat in sight.
Kou Zhong spoke as if he was reciting, "besieging a city is a must in war, because not only a city concerns the overall situation or perhaps being a strategic point of any region, plus it exercise control over the transportation and economic function of a wide expanse of a region. It is the supporting point and the lifeline of the entire war; it is really … hey … wait a moment."
Xu Ziling looked at him in surprise, only to see Kou Zhong, with lightning speed technique took out Lu Miaozi's heavenly book from his pocket, turned to a specific page, and continued reciting, "Hey! A city is thus a place that must be fought over in the School of the Military. A strategic town like Liangdu, anybody who gains control over it will also gain control over the Tongji Canal. Ha! Do I have the style to make a speech like that?"
Xu Ziling laughed involuntarily, "You don't need to convince me, I will definitely making an all-out effort to fight Yuwen Huagu to the end."
In all seriousness, Kou Zhong said, "I was using you for practice; to win over people, you must first substantiate yourself. Reading this section of Lu Miaozi's 'Besieging A City Is A Must In War', for some reason I am always thinking of another city, which might very well be the crucial point whether I will be able to establish stable footing for my troops. Can you guess which city I am thinking about?"
Xu Ziling cast his gaze toward the sun rising on the eastern horizon; he spoke indifferently, "Is it Xiangyang?"
Kou Zhong was visibly shaken, "How did you guess?" he asked.