Book 21 Chapter 11 - Sinister Design Hidden In The Heart
Arriving at the reception lobby of the Zongguan Mansion, the captain of the guards on duty asked the three to wait, saying, "Da Wang is seeing another guest; would three gentlemen please wait a moment."
After sitting down, with nothing to do, Xu Ziling focused his energy into his ears to listen to the voices in the main hall on the other side of the door. He happened to catch a familiar sounding man's voice with foreign accent, "The warhorses can be transported to Jiangdu within ten days' time, so that Da Wang will have time to restructure the cavalry. All I want is the head above Kou Zhong's neck."
Although the voice was faint and barely audible, Xu Ziling was able to hear without missing a word. And he jumped in fright, because he recognized the voice as belonging to Ku Ge.
Li Zitong let out a couple of hollow laugh, before speaking complacently, "Khitan warhorses are world-renowned. Wangzi [prince, son of a king] may set your heart at ease, these five hundred good horses of excellent quality, I will definitely not receive them in vain. As long as Kou Zhong agrees to lead his troops coming south, when the situation is appropriate, Guaren [I, a first person pronoun used by royalty or nobility] will ask Wangzi to personally lead your ambushing troops, combined with our elite squad, we will ruthlessly give this little thief a heavy blow, so that he will never be reincarnated forever."
Another harsh-sounding, like-a-broken-gong, voice said, "Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling have shown their awe-inspiring authority way too long! They managed to tie enmity everywhere; just yesterday Liang Wang [king of Liang] notify us, brothers, he already dispatch the 'Da Li Shen' [Titan] Bao Rang, 'E Quan' [Vicious Dog] Qu Wuju, and 'Wang Ming Tu' [Exiled Disciple] Su Chao [see Book 21 Chapter 4], his three main martial art masters to provide assistance in handling these two men. At that time, working together with numerous martial art masters serving under Wu Wang's banner, even if those two have three heads and six arms, it will still be difficult for them to escape this ambush."
Li Zitong laughed and said, "As long as I have the Da Jiang Hui lending a hand to uphold justice, I won't worry this important matter will not succeed."
It was only now did Xu Ziling realize the harsh-sounding voice belonged to none other than the 'Dragon Lord' Pei Yue, the older brother of the 'Tiger Lord' Pei Yan. He could not help feeling amused, because if Li Zitong knew that Xu Ziling had efficacious ears to eavesdrop, he would definitely have deep regret.
Li Zitong continued, "Now the man sent by Kou Zhong is waiting outside the door. Let me ascertain Kou Zhong's foundation first, and then I'll discuss it with gentlemen. That little thief rejoices in grandiose deeds, always thinks that he is omnipotent, and has no regard to anybody else. I will exploit this point of his, let him taste a little sweetness, and lure him to bite the bait."
And then there was the noise of Ku Ge and the others leaving the hall from the back.
Xu Ziling thought the moment has come for him to perform on the stage.
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Kou Zhong pulled Chen Changlin to take a stroll at the Zongguan Mansion's garden; he spoke sincerely, "Changlin Xiong's life is your own, you don't have to give it to me; not to anybody else even more. We all walk together, the most important thing is to have identical ideal and interest, then I will die for you, and you can perish for me, but separately we are still doing it for ourselves. In case there is disagreement, we can go our separate way. Ha! Won't that be ideal?"
Smiling bitterly, Chen Changlin said, "Shao Shuai and Wang Shichong are absolutely two different kinds of people; what he wants is blind loyalty. Individual interest is completely set aside, only his interest must take precedence."
Kou Zhong laughed and said, "That is what the emperors throughout history required of his courtiers; how could I be the same? To Xiaodi, the superior/subordinate relation is simply a difference of convenience; it would be best if everybody can forge ahead for a certain lofty goal as brothers with common interest, doing good deeds for the suffering people, challenging all kinds of evil forces oppressing the people."
Chen Changlin said, "Shao Shuai's way of thinking is extraordinarily grand and unusual; it is emotionally touching."
Kou Zhong suddenly halted his steps; with his hands behind his back, he carefully observed a vegetation bush by the small alley. After muttering to himself irresolutely for a moment, he said, "Currently our Shao Shuai Army is already taking shape, the squad training is conducted by Xuan Yong and Jiao Hongjin, the governmental operation is under Xu Xingzhi's supervision, in reconnaissance and intelligence we have Luo Qifei, financial affairs and army provisions are under Ren Meimei, naval warfare we have Bu Tianzhi. If I can also have Changlin Xiong in charge of the river and ocean commercial trade and in building fine warships and cargo ships, our Shao Shuai Army will be like a tiger that has grown wings."
Submitting cheerfully, Chen Changlin said, "Shao Shuai is indeed a standing-tall-and-seeing-far person, unlike Shen Faxing or the like, who, after gaining authority, was solely preoccupied with consolidating his power, fleecing the blood and sweat of the people, plundering wealth and army provisions; those ignorant who are lacking foresight. Shao Shuai may rest your heart at ease, Changlin will not fail to live up to your expectations."
Kou Zhong said, "With Changlin Xiong, naturally I have nothing to worry about! But our biggest problem is that we don't have much time. Once Li kid pacified Guanxi's other militias, he will immediately send troops to the east; therefore, we must seize the opportunity before that day came, to establish a huge supporting fleet of navy, while using cavalry as the main force. Only by doing this will we have hope in the decisive battle against the Guanzhong Army. About constructing the ships, I wonder if Changlin Xiong has any good proposal."
Chen Changlin nodded and said, "The most important equipment in naval warfare is precisely the ship itself. It is like the combination of an open city, an army camp, and vehicles and horses. A good warship is dauntless in battle, and solid in defense, fast in pursuit, and powerful in charging forward. Only by attaining dauntlessness, solidity, speed and power, will a warship be called a good warship. But in naval battle, a warship is extremely easy to break and damage; therefore, not only the quantity must be high, also a variety of equipment installed on it must ready to function, to cope with the ever-changing battle."
Kou Zhong turned around, and said in delight, "Changlin Xiong indeed has deep understanding of naval warfare. I have never thought of those problems before. When I was young, I heard storytellers narrated the tale about 'Azure Dragon's remaining hundreds of ships, Yellow Dragon enumerating thousands of ships', I thought they were exaggerating."
Chen Changlin laughed and said, "Talking with Shao Shuai is both relaxing and fun; perhaps chatting and joking about military is just like this. But thousands of ships in naval warfare is true; for example during the Eastern Han dynasty Ma Yuan dispatched an expedition against Jiaozhi [modern day northern Vietnam], he used two thousand multi-decked ships. When the Liang Dynasty [502-557AD] fought Northern Qi [550-557], in the battle of Hefei they put three thousands of Qi's ships on fire."
Shaken, Kou Zhong said, "Isn't that Liang Dynasty the ancestor of Xiao Xian's Liang Dynasty?"
Chen Changlin nodded his head confirming Kou Zhong's guess.
Obtaining sudden understanding, Kou Zhong said, "No wonder Xiao Xian made such a big deal out of Bu Tianzhi's betrayal, because in everything he imitate his ancestors, and has a deeper understanding of the importance of the navy. Humph! Therefore, in order to defeat Baling Bang, other than closing Xiang kid's brothels to break the source of their intelligence network, we must also break their navy. These two aspects are indispensable."
Cheng Changlin had no choice but to listen respectfully; he felt deeply that Kou Zhong's insight was like a heavenly steed, soaring across the skies; it was hard to measure.
Kou Zhong pondered a moment and asked, "Based on our current manpower and resources, how long will it take to build a navy fleet of five hundred ships?"
Chen Changlin readily replied, "If everything starts from scratch, it will take at least fifteen years."
Stunned, Kou Zhong said, "How can it be?"
Having a card up his sleeve, Chen Changlin said, "Shao Shuai, don't worry, the fact is that there is not much difference in the hull structure of most warships and cargo ships for civilian use; whether the oar, the paddle, the pole [for punting boats], the scull, the sail, the seat, the rope, or the sinking stone, they are the same thing. Any cargo ship for civilian use can be rigged with defensive equipment and weaponry, and they can be used for military application. Fit them with high-ranking military officers and soldiers skillful in naval battle, they will be able to fulfill the requirement of navy fleet. In less than a year I will be able to provide Shao Shuai with a navy fleet of sufficient scale."
Pleased beyond his expectation, Kou Zhong said, "I am glad there is such convenience. Can Changlin Xiong make them so that in normal times people cannot see them as warships, and then at the time of battle they will reveal their true color? That will make them more like ambushing troops on water."
"I can think of ways," Chen Changlin replied.
Kou Zhong hugged his shoulders and pulled him in the direction of the main hall; lowering his voice, he said, "In this matter we must weigh our abilities and act accordingly, we must not disturb common people. After obtaining the 'Duke Yang Treasure', we will have large amount of gold and silver to acquire civilian ships. For now, there is no harm in putting up a bit with retrofitting Pengliang Hui and Luoma Bang's old ships, then we will truly have a hundred more or even two hundred ships. With the Jukun Bang's defecting several dozen of ships, big and small, it will be a sight to behold!"
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 For more information on Ma Yuan, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ma_Yuan_(Han_dynasty)