Anyway, I feel that this is a good place to pause. No cliffhanger, with some kind of hard-to-explain end-of-an-episode feeling. Don't worry, I already prepared the next part (otherwise, how do I know that the next part is a new episode?). The Lord's willing, I am going to continue after this brief interlude. In the meantime, I am going to post the preface. Check it out.
Ku Ge's tactics have always been the four-character mantra, lai qu ru feng [come and go like the wind]. If he was unable to defeat the enemy, he would leave, so that others could not touch his tail. Furthermore, his ability to crisscross Shandong unhindered could be attributed to his important relationship with the 'Wolf King' Mi Fang, who was familiar with the local geography, natural conditions and social customs.
Entering this completely unfamiliar territory, Ku Ge and the others were like the blinds, and Mi Fang was like the bamboo stick guiding the blind.
Mi Fang's death has forced Ku Ge to only follow the old, familiar road to retreat; without any other way, he simply entered Kou Zhong's inescapable net.
By this moment, most of the horse-mounted bandits were already out of the canyon. Suddenly one after another a dozen or so riders in front lost their hooves, and tumbled down to the ground.
The Luoma Bang men, who had just recently joined the Shao Shuai Army, ambushing on both sides shouted together, and then, amidst the sound of the drums shaking the heavens, from the forest on the left and right the archers shot their arrows at the same time, to take down the men, but not the horses. One after another the Khitan group of horse-mounted bandits fell down in a great mess.
Next, the spear and lance wielders, rushed out in neat formation from either side and attacked systematically in groups. Each group consisted of five hundred men, all at once dashed against the enemies that they were scattered and smashed, broken down into several pieces, the head and the tail could not help each other.
The archers ambushing by the mouth of the gorge also rained down their arrows to the mouth of the gorge, so that a small part of the enemy troops who had not yet exited the gorge were forced to flee back into the gorge.
Knowing the time has come, Kou Zhoung shouted, leading two hundred elite cavalry charging out of the forest, and immediately launched frontal attack against the enemies.
It didn't matter how valiant the Khitan group of horse-mounted bandits were, how brilliant their horsemanship was, having suffered defeat two days in a row, their morale had reached the lowest point. Under attack from all sides like this, they finally lost their ability to fight back, hence they scattered in all directions in utter defeat.
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Xu Ziling pricked up his ear and listened carefully. Yun Yuzhen let out a cold snort and said, "To become a Gang and establish a Sect, one must uphold benevolence, righteousness, and sincerity. Right now Bu Tianzhi is having secret ties with outside enemies, conspiring to betray the Gang, disregarding trust and justice, adamantly holding on to his crime without any regret. In vain did I take extremely good care of him these many years, promoting him to be the deputy only one position below me; I could even say that he gets whatever he wants. But he let me down like this, it could be said that all those things are not enough for him."
A deep and low male voice said, "Yun Bangzhu, there is no need to grieve over this kind of crafty villain. Bu Tianzhi's death is near at hand, we are going to follow Yun Bangzhu's direction, using a large business as a bait, luring him to come to Caizi Lake to make the deal. At that time we are going to use warships and speedboats to put him under heavy siege. I guarantee that he will want to sink to the bottom of the river as conveniently as the fish in the water."
Zheng Shuming spoke in low voice, "Does Bu Tianzhi know that Yun Bangzhu is suspicious toward him?"
Yun Yuzhen replied indifferently, "Of course I won't let him find out. I am going to entrust him a heavy responsibility on purpose, so that he still think that I trust him as before. This time I intentionally did not involve the trusted aides under my command, and hand over the task to deal with him to your honorable Alliance, so that he won't suspect anything. After the critical step is accomplished perfectly, with no mouth left alive, I will take advantage while Bu Tianzhi's cronies is still in the dark, to get rid of them one by one, and thus eliminate endless trouble in the future."
Zheng Shuming said, "Yun Bangzhu, set your heart at ease, this is a trivial matter not even worth mentioning. As long as we can swindle him into getting on board, Bu Tianzhi and his men can forget about even half a chance to escape our net."
Listening to this, Xu Ziling secretly broke into cold sweats, while also cried out 'lucky!' If not for him coming across this matter at the right place at the right time, Bu Tianzhi's little life would be gone without he knowing it.
The fleet suddenly slowed down, and turned to a tributary on the right, and then continued upstream to the north.
Naturally the destination was Caizi Lake, where Yun Yuzhen wanted Bu Tianzhi to meet his death.
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Under escort of Xuan Yong, Jiao Hongjin, Luo Qifei, and other high-ranking military officers, Kou Zhong inspected the after-the-battle situation of those who had just acknowledged allegiance to his military power.
This Khitan group of horse-mounted bandits, who had wreaked havoc for many years, was finally destroyed. Among the spoils of war, other than nearly eight hundred pedigree Khitan warhorses, there were countless bows and arrows, and other weapons, plus close to three thousand taels of gold. Merely these riches were enough to rebuild half of Pengcheng.
Kou Zhong was pleasantly surprised of this unexpected gain.
Although it was not the first time that he witness the scene of dead bodies lying around everywhere on the prairie, this time he single-handedly took charge of the entire battle.
His reaction right now was purely some kind of direct reaction upon seeing a scene that recalled past memories, the emotionally stirring scene of seeing dead bodies all round him.
Kou Zhong reined in his horse to stop, his gaze was captivated by the extremely unnatural postures of the Khitan group of horse-mounted bandits' ice-cold and stiff body, twisted this way and that on the ground, and not too far there was also a horse.
One of those bodies apparently hit by the arrow on his back, and was thrown down from the horseback. His head was immersed in a pool of blood, which had coagulated into a dark-colored bloodstain. Under the morning light, the originally full of live skin appeared to be nauseating indigo color.
Seeing him staring blankly at the bodies on the ground, Xuan Yong and the others had no choice but to wait patiently nearby.
Kou Zhong smiled bitterly and said, "Don't you think it's strange? Just now I had never thought or perhaps never regarded them as people. But now, looking at them lying face down in the wilderness, I suddenly recall that they were people just like me; they had their family, their relatives, that perhaps day and night are looking forward to them coming back to Khitan, people who care about their wives, sons and daughters."
Xuan Yong spoke heavily, "Very soon Shao Shuai will get used to all this. On the battlefield, it is either you die or I perish, you can't be softhearted even for a bit!"
Kou Zhong sighed and said, "I am not softhearted at all. Even if we had to go through this all over again, I would still be ruthlessly kill these extremely vicious, utterly evil disciples that not even half would remain. It's just that people are not grass or trees, we are bound to have feelings. That's all."
This moment, a subordinate came to report that they could not find Ku Ge's body.
Kou Zhong snorted coldly and said, "Just consider him lucky! After tidying up, we will immediately return to Xiapi. The next target ought to be Li Zitong's old nest, the Dong Hai Army!"
The generals chorused their acknowledgement.
Kou Zhong urged his horse to move. Suddenly, he just wanted to leave this bodies-lying-around-everywhere battlefield as far as possible!
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Caizi Lake was far inferior to the Chaohu Lake area not far in the east, and its shape was very irregular, but the scenery was beautiful, which was not what Xu Ziling was expecting.
By this time he had moved from Yun Yuzhen's Jukun flagship to Zheng Shuming's ship, and was hiding underneath one of the skiffs hanging from the hull, enjoying the lake scenery of clear water and white foamy waves, reflecting the bluish green surface of the lake.
Jukun Flagship and Yangtze River Alliance warships separately sailed toward the appointed point where the ships would be hidden before they would hem in to intercept the target. Only Zheng Shuming's command ship, which was full of martial art masters in hiding, was going to meet their appointment with Bu Tianzhi.
The sail's shadow danced lightly on the lake, as if it was gliding on the mirror.
On the shore, the shiny, green jade mountains seemed to blend with the limpid lake water, so that it was unclear whether the lake was dyed green by the mountain, or the mountain appeared to be green due to the water of the lake. On top of that, the undulating surface of the lake was hazy with light mist, so that it was even more difficult to tell which was real and which was fantasy, as if by mistake they had burst into the world of the immortals where normally there would be no way they could enter.
Half a sichen later, the speed of the ship was gradually reduced.
Xu Ziling took a deep breath. His internal energy traveled via the body of the skiff, and into the sling.
The sling disintegrated into cun-size fragments.
By the time the skiff was falling onto the lake, Xu Ziling already flipped over into the skiff.
The skiff landed onto the lake; it sank a chi or so, and then with Xu Ziling's skillful kick, he restored its balance.
The enemies aboard the ship shouted and yelled, but it was too late.
The oar was raised and hit the water, like an arrow the skiff darted pass the mother ship and continued forward.
About a li ahead, Bu Tianzhi's warship was coming slowly.
Xu Ziling stood upright facing the wind. While steering the boat, he looked around as far as his eyes could see.
The tranquil lake was undisturbed, the mountain and the lake reflected each other, the bluish green water covered in mist, the cool breeze gently blew, making him feel his heart and breast open wide, his ears and eyes fresh and clean, his mind and spirit free and invigorated.
Zheng Shuming's alarmed cry came from the deck of the warship, which he had left about twenty zhang behind; she shouted tenderly, "Xu Ziling!"
Without looking back, Xu Ziling responded, "Zheng Dangjia, just leave! Is the killing in Jianghu not enough? Tying an unresolvable hatred, being drawn into other people's Gang's internal struggle, what benefit would it bring to Yangtze River Alliance?"
No longer paying attention to her, he sped up to meet Bu Tianzhi's sailboat.
He was fully confident that in the end Zheng Shuming would beat the return drum. Even if the Yangtze River Alliance had the ability to kill him, Xu Ziling, they would have to pay a very heavy price. Plus, to tie an enmity against Kou Zhong, the enemy that almost no one dared to provoke, was not something that the insignificant Yangtze River Alliance could afford.
Besides, Xu Ziling's sudden appearance might giver her a reason to justify her decision; it was not that she abruptly go back on the deal.
After losing Yangtze River Alliance's support, other than fleeing away to the wilderness, Yun Yuzhen had no way to deal with him.
And thus a crisis was averted, albeit a bit reluctantly.
But the struggle against Xiao Xian and Xiang Yushan has just begun.