Someone immediately led them up the stairs, and took the three to the 'wooden cauldron' window overlooking the night scenery of the Old City River and both of its banks; it was a luxurious side room where the view was extremely good.
A pretty maid set the table with bowls and chopsticks, and served refreshments to accompany the wine. And then at Gui Xiliang's request she withdrew out of the room.
Laughing, Xing Rong poured wine for the other two; he sighed and said, "To think that in the past we could only gaze at the ocean and lament our inadequacy [fig. feel powerless and incompetent] looking at the House of Heavenly Fragrance's front door, envying anybody who had qualification to step over the threshold, but now we are able to sit inside the most magnificent room in the building, drinking our fill. Heaven really did not treat us too meagerly."
Gui Xiliang raised his cup and urged the others to do the same; laughing heartily, he said, "Floating life is just like a dream, how much is one's time on earth? Acting recklessly, knowing the nature of the wine, one time of drunkenness solves a thousand worries. Tonight we, three brothers, must drink to our heart's content."
His 'floating life is just like a dream, how much is one's time on earth?' evoked the grief of losing Susu in Xu Ziling's heart; in his sorrow, he drained the cup in one gulp.
Gui Xiliang and Xing Rong overturned the table, clapped their hands and shriek in glee.
Xu Ziling shook his head and said, "You, two boys, must be hanging around here every night!"
Pretending to be mysterious, Xing Rong leaned over and whispered in his ear, "The two ladies Jing Man and You Xing are known as the Double Tops of the Heavenly Fragrance; their beauty shrouding Jiangdu, one cannot be considered visiting Yangzhou before listening to their strumming a qin and singing a song. Luckily you, two brothers, can be considered having a bit of face, especially if Madame Yuling arranged for them to take the time to sing a couple of his mother's folk song; I guarantee your eyes and ears will be equally blessed."
Gui Xiliang on the other side also lowered his voice, "The worst part is that you must disguise yourself as the Scarface Hero; otherwise, with our Xu Gongzi's original little white handsome face [i.e. pretty boy], you might be able to move some young ladies' fragrant heart, and then together with Xu Gongzi climb the Mount Wu, together passing through the spring night! Ha!"
While the two roared in wild laughter, the ring knocker sounded.
Gui Xiliang and Xing Rong's spirit was aroused, they called out in chorus, "Come in!"
※ ※ ※
After patrolling the waterway along the entire length of the canal, Kou Zhong and Chen Changlin rushed back to the city, and went to a restaurant to have their dinner.
After a few small talks, the topic returned to naval warfare.
Kou Zhong asked, "Is there any way to seal off the waterway?"
Frowning, Chen Changlin replied, "We can always set up all kinds of obstruction in the water, to block ships from passing through; for example, build wooden fence at the bottom of the river, using sharpened logs or metal things to block the river. But things like this can be effective only for a short period of time; it is a passive defense, once the opponent's scout find out about it, they can design countermeasure to break it. Hence the reason nobody has ever really been able to seal off the river."
Kou Zhong recalled when he was traveling to Jingling in the past, Jianghuai Army put up iron chain across the river, which he chopped off using his saber; he said cheerfully, "That's good enough. What I fear the most is that Li Zitong would seal off our retreat route, so that our navy could not go back to the north."
Chen Changlin said, "But locking up the river like that, if the coordination is proper, it will be amazingly effective; we must not lightly ignore it."
Kou Zhong could not help commenting, "I never thought that other than maritime commercial trade, Changlin Xiong is also an expert in naval warfare."
Chen Changlin smiled and said, "To do commercial trade, we must first guard against pirates, even against the old Sui dynasty's navy, which was not much different from pirates. If we were not knowledgeable over such matter, how could we succeed? Traveling over the ocean, merchant ships are also warships. Strictly speaking, water battle on the river course is not my specialty at all, I am more adept in sea battle."
Thinking about sea battle, Kou Zhong still had lingering fear; he said, "Sea battle is indeed very different from river battle."
Chen Changlin nodded and said, "Battle on the sea is completely reliant on the wind power. With adverse wind momentum, a distance of several dozen li is the same as several thousand li; it cannot be reached in a short period of time."
Kou Zhong muttered to himself irresolutely, "If we could control the coast, not only we can transfer the troops rapidly, we can also intercept the enemy's navy."
Chen Changlin shook his head and said, "That is not possible! Finding the enemy on the ocean is literally tantamount to finding a needle in a haystack. Moreover, if the fleet is out to sea all day long, in case a storm came, they will be completely wiped out. Therefore, naval battle emphasizes weather conditions; don't fight if there is no wind, don't fight if there is strong wind. When hurricane is about to arrive, when the sandy road is unfamiliar, when the thieves are many we are a few, when there is no anchoring land ahead, in all cases: don't fight. And if we do fight, courage and strength have no place; instead, rely completely on arrows and rocks to attack from a distance. Ay! Rocking the hull around to strike the enemy's ship would be a hundred times more difficult than on the river. Moreover, we pursue on the tail wind, the thieves also run away on the tail wind. Since there is no ambush can be setup, no danger can be guard against. Being able to break one or two ships can already be considered ten thousand good fortune. To dominate the vast ocean is easier said than done."
Kou Zhong's eyes lit up with spirited sharp light; he said, "Changlin Xiong indeed have deep understanding of naval battle, hey! If we are landing from the sea to attack the enemy, won't they have any way to intercept us?"
Full of confidence, Chen Changlin said, "If following the route that I design, I guarantee that the enemy won't even be able to touch our shadow. If when we disembark we can also accurately grasp the wind momentum and the rise and retreat of the tide, we can imitate the effectiveness of ambushing troops."
Chuckling softly, Kou Zhong said, "That will work! All along I was worried on how to transport Changlin Xiong's more than a thousand younger generation troops secretly to Jiangdu. Although Zhi Shu looked to be very confident, I know Old Du's formidability very well; one thing goes wrong, the entire brilliant scheme will fall apart. But now there is Changlin Xiong's move of ambushing troops from the sea, it will solve all the problems."
Chen Changlin stood up suddenly and said, "And now I need to immediately discuss this matter with Zhi Shu; tonight we'll rush to intercept the fleet coming to Liangdu. This plan is certainly foolproof."
Kou Zhong pulled his back and said, "On our return trip, is it possible to snatch Shen Faxing's batch of merchant ships and warships in passing? You are so familiar with his navy; as soon as the ship goes out to the sea, there is nothing that the opponent could do, it might save us a lot of energy."
Chen Changlin said, "If we can catch them off guard, it could be done. But at most we will only be able to steal seven, eight ships, albeit at an extremely high risk. It seems like it's not worth the effort."
Kou Zhong said, "In that case, I don't have any choice but to abandon this greed, the idea of getting some readily available things conveniently. Changlin Xiong, please sit down first, let Xiaodi show you something."
Chen Changlin sat down again. He took the treasured book on mechanism that Kou Zhong handed over to him.
"Please turn to page 101," Kou Zhong said in low voice.
Following the direction, Chen Changlin turned to page 101, and was astonished, "What ship is this?" he asked.
Pointing to the drawing in the treasured book, Kou Zhong proudly said, "This is called the Flywheel Battleship. It utilizes the reaction force of the water as the ship is being propelled forward; it is more effective and uses less energy than using oars. Even if there is no wind, it can travel a hundred li in a day. Basically it is a ship with some kind of 'wheel' installed on it, on the left and right below the chord to paddle the water. It glides over the wind and the swelling wave, swift like using sails. Easy to manufacture, and it is quite durable."
And then, pointing to the text below the drawing, he said, "Just read these words, Flywheel Battleship depends on these four wheels, each wheel has eight paddles, and required four men to operate it, and can travel a thousand li in a day. A thousand li is definitely an exaggeration, so I discounted it some. Able to travel a hundred li in a day should be pretty good."
Emotionally moved, Chen Changlin said, "Who thought about this?"
Kou Zhong read further down, "With the wheel paddling the water, put people in front and behind, step on the car to move forward or back, top, middle and bottom, three flows, rotate as in flying, the enemy can only be startled in astonishment." [Sorry, I can't make any sense of this paragraph.]
Kou Zhong softly said, "It was Lu Miaozi, Lu Dashi [great master]. Have you heard about him?"
Chen Changlin heaved a deep sigh and said, "Of course I have. Xiaozi [little kid, referring to self] submits. I will immediately have my men retrofit the ships per the drawing, and hide it in the belly of the ship. With such wheel-operated warships, won't the waterways in the world become a place where we can go on the rampage?"
The two looked at each other, and both broke in long laughter, together.
END OF BOOK 21