Ysabel, Xiaohu, HPC, Hungry, Jaya, DongBin, you are welcome. Chua, you mean 'demoted'? I believe chief is higher than advisor. But no worries, DongBin already promoted me to be the emperor. Bwa ha ha ...
Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling’s two spears were like a pair of dragons coming out of the sea, stabbing, slashing, sweeping and striking; everywhere they went, one after another the enemies fell to the ground.
This particular unit of Yuwen Huaji’s army was exclusively made of infantry; their responsibility was to transport army provisions and other supplies using covered military wagons. They had been shocked and scared by the false bravado of the earlier pincer attack from front and rear, and now that they saw the enemy’s cavalry charging in with imposing manner like a rainbow, and they had guessed correctly that the leaders were Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong, whose names shook the heavens, momentarily their soul flew away, and could never think that the enemy was only a little more than two hundred men. Unexpectedly they dispersed with a fight, and fled to all directions.
Everybody was greatly delighted. Under Kou Zhong’s direction, some pursued the enemy, while others burned the carts.
Amidst the thundering hoof beats, several hundred enemy riders were charging along the riverbank.
With his sharp eyes, Kou Zhong saw that the leader was their old acquaintance, Yuwen Wudi [see Book 4, Chapter 5]. Laughing aloud, he said, “Wudi Xiong, I trust you have been well since we last met; Xiongdi [I, your brother] has to leave!”
Leading his men, he hurriedly galloped back into Liangdu.
This battle not only let them borrow several tens of thousands of arrows, they also managed to burn a large quantities of the enemy’s siege equipment and army provisions. The most important result was that it greatly aroused the morale of troops and citizens of the city, and greatly increasing their confidence in the two boys. The loss to their side was minimal, while the enemy suffered heavy casualties.
Even the two boys did not expect such a splendid military victory.
When they entered the city, Ren Meimei-led soldiers and civilians were lining the street, their cheer shook the entire city, as they made a pledge to go through honor and disgrace, and life and death, together with the two boys.
As for the Yuwen Army, who was returning back to the north that very same day, killing and looting along the way, nobody did not gnash their teeth in anger.
※ ※ ※
Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling stood on top of the northern city wall, looking into the distance at the Yuwen Army’s camp being built about a li outside the city.
Xu Ziling said indifferently, “Yuwen Huagu will need at least two more days to set up camp on four sides of the city and complete their besieging potential. These two days are enough for us to accomplish a lot of things.
Kou Zhong smiled and said, “The most important thing is still robbing their army provisions. Last night we burned a large amount of Yuwen Wudi’s vanguard army’s provisions, he must replenish his supply from the rear camp. This will be the good opportunity for our light cavalry to launch a surprise attack to snatch their provisions.”
And then he sighed and said, “If I had a team of elite troops like Li kid’s Black-Armored Elite Cavalry, that would be 100% ideal.”
Xu Ziling’s spirit was moved, he said, “Do you remember in the early days in Yangzhou we saw Sui Dynasty’s cavalry in full battle attire and heavy armor? Even their horses appeared impenetrable by blades and arrows. What a formidable air! But how come they were unmasked, beaten and fled at the mere sight of the enemy, were utterly defeated by poorly equipped militias lacking of armor, weaponry and warhorses?”
Kou Zhong mumbled his response, “That must be because they lost the people’s support, their morale went down the hill!”
Xu Ziling said, “That was indeed the main reason; but it also proves that full-armored and heavily-equipped cavalry is outdated long ago. For example, if the troops under your command were such a heavy cavalry, how could you rush in time toward the rear of the enemy’s line and cut off their supply? Now is the rise of large number of field infantry, combined with cavalry donning light armor for sudden and violent attack. This kind of tactic is the most flexible, and Li kid is the expert in using this kind of equipment and combat style.”
Kou Zhong said, “I don’t know if this has something to do with my character, but I always love the combat style where we rely mainly on light cavalry; because cavalry can turn into infantry at any time, whereas infantry cannot turn into cavalry. In term of agility, it is also a tad more superior.”
Xu Ziling laughed and said, “You cannot forget the sweet taste of victory at the battle of Yanshi! But what you said is not without any reason.”
Kou Zhong stretched out his limbs and said, “Can you guess, after I put Yuwen Huagu in order, what is it that I am eager to do?”
Xu Ziling shook his head, indicating he had no idea.
Kou Zhong’s pair of tiger eyes shot expectant expression; he said, “I will think of a way to gather a group of blacksmith and artisans, day and night incessantly manufacture the siege equipment that Lu Miaozi designed, and use them to recapture Jingling. With Jingling in my hands, Xiangyang will be within my grasp.”
Before Xu Ziling had time to respond, Ren Meimei, taking a thirty-something man, slim, covered in dust from head to toe, came to the two boys’ presence and said, “This is our Ren Hall’s Xiangzhu, Luo Qifei, known as the ‘Devil’s Shadow’. He has been following the trail of Yuwen Huaji’s main forces, spying on the enemy’s real situation along the way, so it is only now that he arrived here.”
The two boys looked over. Although this man had nothing special to look at – he looked like a typical local peasant, but his hands and feet were especially long, his eyes full of spirit; evidently he was a man whose brains and skill were extremely nimble and quick.
Kou Zhong asked, “Has Yuwen Army’s main force arrive?”
Luo Qifei saluted respectfully, and then replied, “They should be arriving around nightfall. The entire army numbers thirteen thousand men, under Yuwen Huaji and Yuwen Zhiji, two men’s command, divided into center army, left and right Yu and Hou, and rear army, four units in total. Among those, three thousand are archers, both regular bows and crossbows, one thousand men are cavalry, and the rest are infantry.”
Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were both emotionally moved, not because of the size of Yuwen Army, but because of this man’s confidence in the way he talked, and the meticulous, down to the smallest detail, intelligence.
Luo Qifei continued, “Apparently due to the disastrous defeat against Li Mi, the cavalry of Yuwen Army are using long bow, instead of bow decorated with animal horns [orig. corner bow (角弓)], so they can be easily identified.”
The two boys looked at each other with blank expression on their faces.
Ren Meimei said, “Qifei used to be Sui general, his specific duty in the army was equipment management, hence he is very knowledgeable in this area.”
Luo Qifei explained, “Long bows are intended to be used by the infantry; most are made of mulberry tree branches. Cavalry ought to use composite bow made from horn, wood, and sinew laminated together [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Composite_bow], comparatively smaller than longbow, very convenient to be used on horseback. Therefore, the Yuwen Army cavalry using longbows must be because they have no choice due to the corner bows shortage.”
Kou Zhong sighed and said, “Such a knowledgeable intelligence gatherer like Luo Xiong must be very rare.”
Ren Meimei laughed and said, “Qifei not only has superior qinggong, he is also a master in the art of disguise. A man like him being a spy, naturally he is more outstanding than anybody.”
Luo Qifei said, “Two Daye must not address Xiaoren as Luo Xiong, you may call me by my name. Later on Qifei will disregard life and death in obeying two Daye’s order. Whatever instruction you have for me, just let me know.”
Xu Ziling asked, “In Qifei’s opinion, what is Yuwen Army’s real strength?”
Luo Qifei replied, “Except for the four-thousand-man Center Army, the rest are inadequately trained new army recruits. If I am guessing correctly, they will start attacking before dawn tomorrow.”
Kou Zhong was stunned, “That quick?” he asked.
Luo Qifei replied, “Because starting from last night, every time they pitch camp to rest, the corps of engineering took turn to spruce up their siege equipment. If they were not going to besiege the city immediately, why would they not let the soldiers rest? When they arrive at the city and settle down properly, starting to fight won’t be too late!”
Ren Meimei asked, “Are their siege equipment ready?”
Luo Qifei replied, “Can be considered ready. There are twenty cloud ladder vehicles, more than a hundred trebuchets, ten crossbow vehicles, more than seventy blocking-arrows vehicles, and four siege tower vehicles. More than enough to besiege a city.”
Kou Zhong spoke resolutely, “If Yuwen Huagu is going to attack the city before dawn, Yuwen Wudi might pretend to attack tonight, to shake our troops’ morale, and to engage us so that our strength exhausted, our muscle weary. Humph!”
Xu Ziling asked, “Could you go into more details about his siege equipment?”
As if enumerating his own family’s valuables, Luo Qifei said, “Cloud ladder vehicles are double-length ladders fixed on a bed with six wheels, there is a well pulley at the end of the ladder so that it can be extended to climb the enemy’s city wall. Trebuchets are mechanism on wheels to fling rocks, by using poles to throw the huge rocks to destroy the wall. Crossbow vehicles are thus strong crossbow with winch to open it, capable of shooting eight iron-feathered giant arrows at once; its range can reach up to 1000 paces, extremely formidable. Blocking-arrow vehicles are four-wheeled cart, its upper part are covered with layers of thick raw cowhide, with the soldiers hiding behind it. And when the cart advances, it can block arrows and rocks, so that it is able to press close under the city wall. Siege tower vehicles are eight-wheeled cart with tall tower on it. It can be used to spy the enemy, as well as to shoot arrows into the city.”
Kou Zhong’s eyes lit up, he said, “Can we pour out kerosene and set fire to his mother’s cowhide rawhide, crossbow vehicles, cloud ladder vehicles, to burn them all?”
Luo Qifei shook his head and said, “These past couple of days, Yuwen Huaji precisely had his men applied fire-retardant chemical coating on all siege engines. This kind of chemical will lose its effectiveness if scorched and drenched by sun and rain; therefore, it must be used as quickly as possible after the application, hence the reason I am guessing he would attack the city as soon as he arrives.”
It was only then did the two have sudden understanding.
But they were also greatly puzzled and had headache. The enemy’s siege equipment was that formidable, yet their defensive tool was so simple and crude that the difference was too far.
If they sent their troops out of the city on desperate battle, it would be no different than sending them to their death.
Right this moment, from the far away mountaintop suddenly came three flashes of light.
Kou Zhong knew that it was their own spies using mirror to send signal back to the city. Momentarily setting aside their worry, he laughed aloud and said, “Thank you for all Qifei’s trouble! Ren Dajie, take Qifei and help him to settle down. We are going to rob some provisions, and then we’ll continue this talk.”