The commander tent was brightly lit.
Dong Jingzhen was sitting in the commander chair, on his left and right stood four high-ranking military officers, all were unable to take their eyes off Luo Fang, who was being dragged into the tent.
Dong Jingzhen looked to be around forty years old, tall and thin, with square face and big ears, and distinct lines on his face, his chin was protruding, his eyebrows and hair thick, his overall appearance was bold and powerful.
Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling shouted at the same time, "Kneel!"
Luo Fang shook for a moment, as if his legs suddenly went weak, he dropped on his knees, with head hung low; his acting was so good that even Kou Zhong, Xu Ziling, and Bai Wenyuan could not see any flaw.
Apart from Lei Youshi, the other guards did not follow inside the tent.
Dong Jingzhen laughed aloud and said, "Bai Jiangjun could extract such an important military intelligence from this kid's mouth, you have rendered great merit to the coalition forces, it is worthy of celebration."
Bai Wenyuan turned toward Kou and Xu, two men, and ordered, "You wait outside the tent."
Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling loudly acknowledge the order, turned around and out of the tent.
This command tent was located in the center of the wooden stronghold, surrounded by large empty space, with all the other tents located fifty paces away. There were eight guards standing around the tent.
The twenty some soldiers who came with Lei Youshi were standing on the path, ready to get out of the fort and return to the crossing dock.
The two boys ran after them, and walked toward the stronghold's gate.
All the officers and soldiers within the camp were already in their tents to rest and sleep, only those who were on guard duty remained outside to patrol the fort. Except for the wind lanterns illuminating the main paths connecting all four stronghold gates, the camp was dark. Under the bright moon, the tents looked like mounds of steamed buns growing out of the ground.
There were more than ten soldiers standing on guard at the gate, four of whom were serving on sentry duty on the watchtowers rising approximately two zhang high on either side of the fort gate. But because nobody could have imagined that the enemy has arrived, the alert level was very low, the vigilance was slacking.
As the guards saw the group of soldiers, they hastily opened one side of the gate to let them pass.
Xuan Yong and the others came following the ship; five hundred elite troops were crowding in the hold of the ship. They have already taken care of the Baling Army soldiers at the crossing dock.
They also secured the area for the arrival of the men and horses from their side. Xuan Yong personally led more than a dozen men with superior qinggong to hide at the foot of the hill nearest the trenches of horse trap. This moment, seeing the fort's gate opened, they quickly pounced out.
The guards on the watchtowers were the first to find out, but as they were about to shout, Kou Zhong soared up, while releasing a series of flying blades. Four guards grunted miserably, and turned into muddleheaded ghosts.
Xu Ziling moved at the same time; like a tiger entering a flock of sheep, he brandished his fists, one after another the guards at the gate fell to the ground, without even had any chance to utter any word.
Kou Zhong took a breath midair and somersaulted toward the gate. Together with Xuan Yong and his men rushing over, with the speed of lightning they took care of the Baling Army, who were about to rush out of the fort to help their comrades.
In a few blinks of the eye, the secure-as-a-city-protected-by-a-wall-of-metal-and-a-moat-of-boiling-water stronghold gate has already fallen into their control.
After meeting up with Xuan Yong and his men, Kou Zhong gave his order, "Clean up the patrol and guards on the watchtowers first, lest they send out an alarm."
Responding to his order, the men spread out.
The rest of Shaoshuai Army rushed over from the crossing dock.
Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling reached out to grab each other's hand to congratulate each other, they both felt lucky.
Although there were more than four thousand Baling troops inside the stronghold, all they could do was to wait for the slaughter.
After making adequate preparation and ensuring good coordination, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling took twenty Shaoshuai troops, who had changed into Baling Army uniform, to return to the command tent.
As the guards around the command tent saw them left but came back, especially with Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling on the lead, they were surprised.
Taking advantage while their attention was focused on Kou Zhong and his men, Xuan Yong and his men rushed out from their hiding, swift as lightning they subdued the guards.
They heard Dong Jingzhen's laughter from inside the tent, "Luo Xiongdi certainly know how to be tactful. Since you are willing to rely on our side's help, I can guarantee you future's riches and honor, glory and splendor, and boundless good fortune for your offspring."
Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling lifted up the tent's curtain and stepped in.
While Dong Jingzhen and the others turned their eyes toward them in shock, Bai Wenyuan and Luo Fang suddenly made their move to attack the men closest to them. Kou Zhong's Moon in the Well left its scabbard and turned into a streak of yellow light, hacking onto Dong Jingzhen, whose weapon was still lying on the side.
Xu Ziling sent out double punches across empty air, attacking the two high-ranking military officers at Dong Jingzhen's left and right.
For a period of time saber ray and sword shadow pervaded the air in the tent.
Dong Jingzhen was an outstanding figure as well; even in shock and facing death, he did not panic. Throwing himself backward, the tumbled and rolled out of the tent. Although he managed to evade Kou Zhong's shocking-the-heaven-moving-the-earth saber strike, he could not dodge Xuan Yong's Bird Beak Strike and more than a dozen sabers and swords coming right up on him. Immediately blood rushed out from the many wounds on his body. Were it not for his profound and powerful true qi protecting his body, plus he immediately soared up to the sky to get away, he would have died on the spot.
The Moon in the Well was like a shadow attached to his figure; it chopped down on him head-on.
Dong Jingzhen roared; his right palm swept across the Moon in the Well's blade, with exquisite-beyond-compare move to save his life.
Vortex of energy burst into his body via his palm.
One was seizing the opportunity to strike with all his strength, the other was facing an attack in a hurry after he was injured in the battle; the difference was like heaven and earth, cloud and mud.
Dong Jingzhen's entire body shook; curling into a ball, he rolled unnaturally backward, blood did not stop spurting out of his mouth, until finally he lay spread-eagled on the ground, and could only gasp for breath.
Xu Ziling pounced out of the tent, and said with a laugh, "All clear!"
Sweeping his gaze around, Kou Zhong saw that the men in the tents nearby have been awakened by the sound of the fighting. Tearing off his mask, he shouted, "Drop down to the ground; those who resist will be killed without mercy!"
Everybody followed the order.
Kou Zhong shot a glance at Dong Jingzhen, whose hands and feet were being tied by his men using cowhide rope; he turned toward Xu Ziling and said with a sigh, "Ling Shao ought to know that I have no other choice; on the battlefield, it is either you kill me or I kill you. Don't forget that they have already done too big of a damage to such a small place."
Smiling ruefully, Xu Ziling said, "I did not blame you, no need to say it with that many words. Come!"
And he took off ahead of Kou Zhong.
It couldn't really be considered a battle at all.
Because Dong Jingzhen and a lot of high-ranking military officers were captured first, the Baling Army, who had just been awakened from sleep, was like a dragon without a head. One after another they surrendered, saving Kou Zhong from the sin of having to kill a lot of people.
By the second watch of the night [between 21:00 - 23:00 (i.e. 9-11pm)], the entire wooden stronghold has fallen into Kou Zhong's hands, so that they were able to proceed to the second phase of their plan.
Kou Zhong, Xu Ziling, and Bai Wenyuan, holding the crestfallen Dong Jingzhen in custody, along with more than forty of their men disguised as Dong Jingzhen's personal guards, galloped their horses toward the other wooden stockade, under the command of Zhu Can's other great general, Wen Liang, followed by Xuan Yong's thousand-man Shaoshuai Army. Luo Fang and the other several hundred men stayed behind to guard the wooden fort.
The group rode at full speed, and reached the Garuda Army's wooden stockade, which was only half a li away. Reaching the gate, they shouted at the guards, "Dong Jingzhen Da Shuai [great commander] has urgent matter to discuss with Wen Shuai [Commander Wen], we have information on Shaoshuai Army's whereabouts."
Bai Wenyuan also shouted, "It's me! Open the gate and let us in."
Naturally the guards did not know it was a ruse, since they saw Dong Jingzhen, and the high-ranking military officer from their own side, Bai Wenyuan, they opened the gate while sending someone to run to notify Wen Liang, who was asleep in his tent.
The gate was barely opened when the group swarmed in, and immediately killed everybody within their sight. For a short while battle cry shook the heavens, rousing the officers and soldiers inside the camp from their beautiful dream.
Like a tidal wave Xuan Yong and his men came pouring into the stronghold, setting fire everywhere, and destroying everything in their path.
Very soon the entire wooden stronghold has been engulfed in the raging inferno. The confused Garuda Army could only run toward the other gates and flee into the wilderness.
Cao Yinglong's bandit army came to provide assistance, but they were caught by the ambushing Shaoshuai Army and were beaten to a sorry state; they also fled the stronghold in disorder.
By daybreak, the coalition forces of three sides' elite troops had ceased to exist.