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Volume 5, Chapter 32: Blood Shed by Loyal Patriots

While the Daizhou army serving as the vanguard charged forward, Tingfei himself led his personal army to try and break out in order to draw the core of the Yong army. The core of the Northern Han army broke through to the northeast. Long dreading Tingfei’s fighting prowess, the Yong army concentrated its forces to prevent Tingfei from escaping. After attacking for a day and a night, the horses of Tingfei’s personal army were exhausted. He and his men were trapped by the Yong army. With dozens of injuries, Tingfei could not move. Great Yong’s Prince of Qi was fond of Tingfei’s fierce bravery and personally arrived on the front line to try to attain his capitulation. Tingfei sternly declined, and after entrusting his last words, committed suicide. At the time, Tingfei was thirty-three years old. Of his surviving several hundred personal troops, all of them followed him in suicide. The general’s beloved warhorse threw itself into the Qin River to its death. The Prince of Qi ordered that the General’s Tomb be erected in the wilderness, accompanied by the Graves of the Loyal and Righteous and Righteous Horse Mound. Afterwards, the common people established a shrine at the back of the tomb, making sacrifices during the spring and autumn. All those who were loyal and righteous would enter the shrine to pay their respects and frequently saw supernatural phenomena.

—Northern Han Dynastic Records, Biography of Long Tingfei

On the nineteenth day of the fourth month, as the dawn’s early light penetrated through the cloud layers, there were only a thousand or so Northern Han troops left, closely surrounded by the Yong army. Yesterday, after the core of the Northern Han army had escaped, Long Tingfei had charged into the fray several times. Seeing that escape was impossible, he formed a circular and stout defensive formation. The Yong army attacked from all sides. Because the Northern Han soldiers were all ready to die, the brutal fighting lasted until sunset.

Furious, Li Xian ordered the torches be lit and the battle continued into the night. Only late into the evening did the Northern Han formation begin to collapse. However, the disparate Northern Han army formed smaller circular formations and obstinately continued their seemingly meaningless resistance. Many of the Northern Han soldiers with stomachs rumbling from hunger thirstily drank horse blood and hungrily ate raw horse flesh. Even then, they did not discard their weapons and surrender.

Only when early morning arrived was Li Xian finally able to exterminate all of the remaining Northern Han soldiers aside from Long Tingfei and his personal troops. There were practically no prisoners. Almost all of the Northern Han troops had fought to the death. Even when some of the Northern Han soldiers could no longer continue to fight, they would commit suicide rather than suffer the humiliation of being taken captive. The several hundred prisoners were either heavily injured or had lost consciousness from overexertion to the point of being unable to commit suicide.

With an ashen complexion, Li Xian gazed at the trapped Long Tingfei. His hands were clenched into fists and he was extremely furious. At this moment, he heard an elegant voice ask from behind him, “Why is Your Imperial Highness’s complexion so unsightly? In a moment, the enemy commander will be beheaded. Your Imperial Highness should be happy, no?”

Not turning around, Li Xian ridiculed, “So it is the Army Supervisor daren who has come. Are you no longer sulking?”

I could not help touching my nose. Pulling my neck back, I laughed awkwardly. Inwardly, I regretted offending the Prince of Qi the previous two days. However, truthfully speaking, this wasn’t my fault. Although my assets were located throughout the world, it was only the scale of operations that was large. In comparison, the profits were meager. How could I not grieve and lament over the gratuitous loss of my business network in Sichuan?

Speaking of, my assets were divided into four sections. The first section was composed of Southern Chu’s Pavilion of Heavenly Secrets. The Pavilion secretly controlled thirty percent of Jiangnan’s commerce. However, this did not mean that I could completely control this thirty percent. Within this percentage, the majority share belonged to my collaborators, while I had also given a portion to the disciples from the Secret Camp. There was only a small portion that remained under my direct control. However, according to my plans, after the world was unified, I would distribute all of my assets. In other words, I could not casually sell off nor extravagantly withdraw funds from the assets nominally controlled by the Pavilion of Heavenly Secrets. In addition, in order to support the intelligence network in Southern Chu, I essentially couldn’t receive any of their profits.

The second section was the Halcyon Inn run by Lü’er. This was a business I controlled wholly and was responsible for communications between my other business assets and me. It was also one of my sources of intelligence. The energy and money needed to control this far-flung business empire was enormous. In short, the franchise’s cash flow was barely balanced. Although the profits would steadily increase in the future, I could not count on it for money at present.

The third section were the shares I owned of the Hai family’s shipping business. I was able to receive huge profits from my shares and there was no need to explain that it was currently my principal source of income. Without the Hai family’s unending funds, how was it possible for me to have a paradise in the mundane world, the Tranquil Sea Manor, let alone being able to establish the Halcyon Inn?

As for the fourth section, it was the assets controlled by the Embroidered Union. At the time, I originally intended for these assets to serve as a way for the members of the Embroidered Union to support themselves in the future and prevent them from continuously thinking about restoring their lost country. Who would have thought that the profits would pour in? These members of the Embroidered Union were mostly elites with talent and social circles. If they weren’t these kinds of individuals, how would they have the intent of resisting Great Yong? With the hard work of these locals, the Embroidered Union’s properties prospered with each passing day. When I saw the accounts every year, I would be so happy as to grin from ear to ear.

Originally, the reason why I was unable to pick out the dangers and did not want to give up the Embroidered Union was because I did not want to part with these profits. However, after learning Xiahou Yuanfeng’s demands, I immediately sobered up. I helplessly discovered that I had to relinquish the entirety of the Embroidered Union in order to prevent leading Xiahou Yuanfeng from the Embroidered Union’s assets to my concealed forces. I had deeply resolved to abandon all of its assets while having Chen Zhen deliver over ninety percent of the entire mobile assets to Lü’er via the Pavilion of Heavenly Secrets. Although I had done everything I could to reduce the losses and had only left behind the storefronts, the merchandise, and real estate for the people managing these assets from the Embroidered Union and had them ignorantly wait for Xiahou Yuanfeng to take over, I still felt my heart ache. Thinking about how my income would be reduced by forty percent every year, how could I not beat my chest and stamp my feet?1

What, are riches and honor supposed to be transient? That’s utter hogwash. Although I, Jiang Zhe, was not fond of power and reputation, I was still fond of wealth. Without gold and silver, how could is support my family?2 Could it be that I would have to embezzle and accept bribes? Thinking back to the beginning, it was Xiaoshunzi who had given me a staggering blow that made me take the examinations to become a zhuangyuan. Although I was able to spend a few years at ease and comfortable, it had also completely changed my entire life. If I had been able to acquire an enormous familial inheritance, it was possible that I would be living a life of seclusion and enjoying landscapes of green hills and clear waters.3 I would have boundless joy, spending my time reading, sipping tea, appreciating flowers, and fishing. Although my life would be a lot duller, I would be able to spend my existence carefree and without worries.

Besides, based upon my current health, although it could just barely be considered healthy, if I did not have enough money to purchase all kinds of expensive and valuable medicine to nurse my health, and I was forced to once again toil for the sake of money, I might not necessarily be alive when Roulan and Zhen’er get married. Money was essential in order to live comfortably. The calligraphy and paintings from famous artists which I were fond of needed money. The valuable and sole copies of books which I were fond of needed money. Even the paper and ink that were used to write, the fragrant incense burned while playing the zither, and the rare and unusual plants filling the garden all required money.

Thinking of it this way, the losses this time were enough to cause me deep grief. Considering carefully and at length, this was all because of Great Yong’s imperial family. Since I did not dare take out my anger on Li Zhi as he was the emperor, Changle was my beloved and I could not bear to take my anger out on her, I naturally could only take out my anger on the one before me—Li Xian. As for Zhangsun Ji and Jing Chi, it was because they were Li Zhi’s trusted generals. As a result, I had lumped them together.

These last several days, I had washed my hands of all military matters on pretext of illness. Of course, the reason I took out my anger on Li Xian was because I felt that he was more than enough to stop Long Tingfei and Lin Bi. Besides, I was not particularly adept when it came to actual fighting. As a result, I ignored it completely. How could I have expected that the situation would turn out like this? However, the current situation still left me quite satisfied.

Surrounded, Long Tingfei would be captured sooner rather than later. Although Lin Bi and the Daizhou army broke through the eastern encampment’s encirclement as the Yong army was powerless to reinforce, escaping with seven thousand Daizhou troops, the Daizhou army’s strength had been severely compromised. In addition, based upon the information I had received, after breaking out, it was impossible for Lin Bi to affect Northern Han’s situation. Plus, her survival allowed Great Yong to have some grounds of mediation between itself and both the Northern Han royal family and Daizhou’s Lin family.

Most surprising was that Jing Chi was attacked by an assassin, allowing the core of the Qinzhou army to successfully escape. If not for the life-saving medicine I had given him during the time I resided in the Cold Courtyard, he would likely have lost his life. This thoroughly exceeded my expectations. However, because of Li Xian’s prompt decision-making, ordering Zhangsun Ji to not worry about Long Tingfei and Lin Bi, Zhangsun Ji focused upon pursuing the Qinzhou troops. Although the Qinzhou army had successfully broken through and took the opportunity to massacre the Yong troops blockading the Qin River to rescue the remains of the Northern Han navy, only thirty thousand remaining troops were able to return to Qinyuan after Zhangsun Ji’s pursuit.

At present, Zhangsun Ji had already blockaded the Qin River Valley and was massing troops before the walls of Qinyuan. It could be said that all of the prior objectives had been achieved. Although it was not perfect—Jing Chi had been seriously injured and Li Xian felt that he had lost face—, this was still a decisive victory.

Seeing Li Xian’s frosty face, I sighed and apologized, “This subject was indisposed by a minor ailment the last few days and could not help longing for my wife and children. As a result, I greatly offended Your Imperial Highness. Your Imperial Highness, please forgive me.”

Li Xian understood full well that Jiang Zhe’s words were only an excuse. However, he could also hear Jiang Zhe’s remorse and intent to mend their relationship. Hearing Jiang Zhe speak of his wife and children, Shen’er’s frail and naïve appearance emerged in Li Xian’s mind. He softened and his indignation gradually dissipated. Additional thoughts in his mind. Although they had betrothed their children, the success of that future marriage still required Jiang Zhe’s help. As a result, a smile that was not a smile appeared on Li Xian’s face, and he set aside the minor dispute with Jiang Zhe. Smiling, he replied, “This Prince also knows that we have won a great victory. However, the manner of victory makes me feel quite vexed. Not only was Lin Bi allowed to escape, even several tens of thousands of the remaining troops were allowed to retreat to Qinyuan. Inevitably, this result is a bit of a fly in the ointment. Moreover, General Jing’s serious injury from an assassin’s attack makes it difficult for this Prince to tolerate this indignity.”

Seeing Li Xian mellow, I also smiled. “Your Imperial Highness, at present, the enemy commander is already within our grasp. If we can capture Long Tingfei alive and present him as a prisoner to His Imperial Majesty, this will become a hard-to-come-by glory.”

Speaking these words, I had originally expected that I would obtain Li Xian’s endorsement. After all, the glory of capturing the enemy commander-in-chief would be enough for Li Xian to feel proud and happy, and also make up for the face that he had lost this time. However, to my surprise, not only did Li Xian disagree, he actually frowned. “That will be difficult. This Prince has battled with Long Tingfei for many years and is well aware of his character. That man’s temperament is arrogant and is considered Northern Han’s martial deity. If he were to be defeated, he would rather die than suffer the humiliation of being a captive. Let alone others, if it were possible that this Prince would fall into the hands of the enemy, there would only be a single road We could take.”

I shook inwardly. With a whole new outlook, I regarded Li Xian. Having suffered repeated setbacks and mental blows, the thoughts of this formerly overbearing and domineering Imperial Highness, the Prince of Qi, had already become as profound as the abyss—under the prerequisite of retaining his former arrogance.

I turned my gaze to the battlefield, seeing the surrounded Long Tingfei and his personal troops. Each and every one of their faces were extraordinarily tranquil. The slaughter they had endured seemed utterly incapable of affecting their state of mind. The looks on their faces were those adopted by true warriors who were facing certain death. I sighed softly. My belief that I could grasp other’s feelings was all in vain. It seemed that I still had some biases about these warriors that fought on the battlefield. It was impossible to capture Long Tingfei.

I remembered that someone had told me that, after the coup attempt at the Hunting Palace, after the emperor was pursued into a hopeless situation by Wen Ziyan, he had wanted to meet his death. Thinking back on it now, although the statuses of Li Zhi, Li Xian, and Long Tingfei were quite different, there was something similar—they were all true generals. They could die in battle, they could lose battles, but they could definitely not suffer the humiliation of being taken prisoner.

All of a sudden, I gained a degree of respect and interest for the bloodiness of war. It was time for me, this irresolute and weak individual, to personally watch the last elegance of this exceptional and capable general.

At this moment, Li Xian heaved a sigh and said, “Although it’s impossible, this Prince cannot give up like this. If Long Tingfei is willing to surrender, the mental shock upon Northern Han’s morale will be incalculable.”

Finished speaking, Li Xian ordered a ceasefire. At present, the current battlefield was entirely under the control of the Yong army. As a result, when the Yong army ceased its assaults and only surrounded the Northern Han remnants, the desperate Northern Han troops did not take the opportunity to continue fighting, also stopping to recover some of their strength and reform the practically collapsed circular formation. The entire battlefield suddenly fell silent. Aside from the deep breathing and the whinnying of the warhorses, the entire land was quiet.

Li Xian urged his horse forward and clearly declared, “General Long, you have already fallen into a desperate situation! Aside from a few hundred bodyguards, you have no troops to employ. This Prince respects your loyalty and devotion, and even more admires your matchless tactical acumen. If you are willing to set aside your weapons and surrender, this Prince can guarantee that you will be treated as an honored guest. Even the officers and soldiers under your command will not suffer the slightest of insults and humiliations. General has personally served as the bait and has fought bloodily for a day and a night. No one can match the blood that you have shed as a loyal patriot. Even if you cease your resistance right now, the Northern Han Majesty will not excoriate you. What need is there to fight to the death? Could it be that General does not cherish these soldiers who have loyally and faithfully followed you?”

When Long Tingfei heard what was said, surrounded by his bodyguards, he looked all around him. He saw that there were only a few hundred completely exhausted bodyguards left. All of their battle gowns were in tatters and soaked with blood, making it impossible for him to tell what the original color of the battle gown was. Their bows and arrows had long since been broken and their weapons had been blunted. Each and every bodyguard appeared exhausted. Aside from despair, there was only apathy. Everyone present was well aware they could meet death at any time.

Long Tingfei smiled faintly and ordered, “Brothers, make way. Allow me to speak a few words with His Imperial Highness, the Prince of Qi.”

Their expressions unchanging, the bodyguards rapidly parted. At the opening in the circular formation, Long Tingfei and Li Xian once again met each other face to face. Although there was some distance separating them, the distance was short enough to allow both parties to clear see the other’s mien. The bodyguards did not hesitate in the slightest. Since death was already certain, what did it matter if the Prince of Qi seized the opportunity to attack? In addition, although they loathed the enemy commander-in-chief to the core, they were also aware that the individual was a towering figure of the present age and would definitely not go back on his word. Genuine heroes could only understand one another through bloody battle.

Long Tingfei’s gaze fell upon a figure behind Li Xian. That figure was a scholar in azure robes. Though he had a haggard appearance, his bearing was relaxed and leisurely. The defeat that Long Tingfei had suffered this time was a result of Li Zhi and Li Xian working together. If not for his failure to anticipate that Li Zhi would dispatch such a massive army to help Li Xian fight him at such a dangerous time, how could he, Long Tingfei, have suffered such a devastating defeat? As for the individual who enabled Li Zhi and Li Xian to work together, serving as the intermediary, it was exactly this individual in azure—the Marquis of Chu, Jiang Zhe.

However, Long Tingfei’s eyes swiftly flitted past, finally falling upon Li Xian. Regardless of how meticulous his own strategies, without this man struggling tooth and nail, he would not have fallen into this trap.

Removing his helmet and casually tossing it to the ground, Long Tingfei smiled and stated, “Your Imperial Highness, the Prince of Qi, you are also a commander-in-chief of an army. How can you not understand the extraordinary humiliation if such a commander-in-chief is captured? Although I am untalented, I am still a grand general. For generations, my Long family has received deep benevolence from His Royal Majesty and been given great authority. In addition, my wife is a princess. Externally, there is the relationship between a monarch and his subjects. Internally, there is the benevolence of becoming related by marriage. What reason is there for me to wait to be bound?”

Li Xian answered, “This Prince also understands that General Long does not fear death for your cause and definitely won’t wait to be captured. However, though General can resign yourself to death, does that mean that the officers and soldiers under your command also need to be damned? How about this? This Prince can help you fulfill your loyalty. With that, there is no harm in General Long issuing orders and having your subordinates surrender to this Prince. This Prince can guarantee that they will be unharmed. In the future when His Imperial Majesty announces a general amnesty, this Prince can guarantee that they will be permitted to retire to civilian life. Rather than having them join General in death, would it not be better for General to spare them, allowing them to marry and have children and live a bucolic life? Could it be that General does not want to retain some heroes for Northern Han?”

Long Tingfei smiled indifferently and calmly replied, “Your Imperial Highness, the Prince of Qi, speaks the truth. Since I am surrounded, isolated, and without help, there is no need to drag them down to follow me. Brothers, you all have already sacrificed more than enough for His Royal Majesty and me. Today, I have consigned you all to death and yet you have all fought to the bitter end. Sentimentally and reasonably speaking, you have already fulfilled your duties. Your loyalty and devotion is unquestionable. I now issue this command, permitting all of you to relinquish your weapons and surrender. This is my command. If any of you have the opportunity to meet His Royal Majesty in the future, please inform His Royal Majesty that this was my command and that you are not craven cowards who cling abjectly to life, rather our Northern Han’s indomitable warriors!”

When these bodyguards heard Long Tingfei’s words, tears streamed down all their faces, they fell silent, and did not speak. They naturally understood Long Tingfei’s intent. Their general had already declared that he would not surrender and yet had ordered them to relinquish their weapons. However, how could they feel at ease by abandoning their master and living? A young bodyguard just over twenty suddenly covered his face and began to bawl. His face was splattered with bloodstains. When the blood and tears mixed, he looked increasingly battered and exhausted. The sound of his crying was like a signal as a different bodyguard sadly bowed his head. The weapon in his hand dropped to the ground. After that, every single bodyguard began to weep and lose their grips on their weapons. Evidently, they had already accepted the fate that was to follow.

Li Xian did not have the Yong army advance to take them captive, only calmly watching all this play out. Showing a brilliant smile, Long Tingfei said, “Your Imperial Highness, the Prince of Qi, we have fought against one another for years and can be friends in spirit. There is a matter that I want to entrust to you. I wonder if you are willing to agree.”

Li Xian cautiously replied, “This Prince and General have appreciated each other’s talents for quite some time now. As long as Li Xian is capable of achieving it, I will definitely do my utmost.”

Long Tingfei’s gaze softened and turned distant. Only after pondering how to express his wish did he speak, “In my youth, I lost my wife and have no children. There will be no need to worry about my funeral arrangements. As for my clan’s elders and youngsters, they are all loyal to Northern Han. There is no need for me to worry about their life or death, tragedy or happiness. They will simply live and die with Northern Han. There is only one matter that I cannot set aside—the Princess of Jiaping, my fiancée.”

Li Xian was stunned. Lin Bi was still a princess of Northern Han. Even if Long Tingfei worried, this matter shouldn’t be discussed with him, right? With an odd expression on his face, Li Xian replied, “General, there is no need for you to worry. The Princess of Jiaping has already successfully escaped. At present, she should have already returned to Qinyuan.”

Smiling indifferently, Long Tingfei explained, “It isn’t that I am being pretentious, but if Great Yong was incapable of annexing Northern Han, then it would be useless to raise this matter. If misfortunate occurs, Northern Han is conquered by Great Yong. Although Princess Bi is a member of the Royal Family, she is also the commander-in-chief of the Daizhou army. For hundreds of years, the Daizhou army has defended the frontier, holding off the barbarians outside of Yanmen Pass. Their great deed has benefited all the land. Unless Great Yong intends to massacre the populace of Daizhou, Daizhou will have to be pacified. If Princess Bi is killed, Daizhou will most likely never know a day of peace. As a result, I hope that Your Imperial Highness can find the opportune moment to advise that the Lin family ought to be preserved. I can promise that once Daizhou’s Lin family pledges its allegiance, they will never display a hint of disloyalty.”

After hesitating for a moment, Li Xian finally replied, “This matter is of the utmost importance. This Prince does not dare to issue such a guarantee. However, I will spare no effort. My Imperial Brother is wise and all-conquering, and will definitely not harm the loyal and brave.”

A look of comfort flashed across Long Tingfei’s eyes as he added, “There is another matter. If Great Yong is able to reunify the world and Princess Bi is safe, I hope that Your Imperial Highness will look after her on my behalf.”

Li Xian trembled. If he had not grabbed onto the reins promptly, he would have nearly fallen off his horse. Almost as if the deepest secret in his heart was revealed, his face flushed red as he said, “General Long, what are you babbling about?”

Almost as if he had seen through Li Xian’s intentions, Long Tingfei gravely stated, “I am not talking nonsense. Although Princess Bi and I are engaged to be married, the ceremony has not yet been held. And though that’s the case, everyone treats her as Lady Long. I’m afraid that even if Princess Bi is interested in selecting another husband, no one would venture to take her as a wife. Princess Bi is a heroine amongst women. I cannot bear to have her bear the burden of being Lady Long for the rest of her life. Your Imperial Highness is a hero of the present age and has earned my deepest respect. Having listened to Princess Bi mention your meeting in the Eastern Sea, I believe that the two of you will cherish one another. If possible, I hope that Your Imperial Highness will take good care of her.”

Turning scarlet, it was a long while before Li Xian spoke, “Princess Bi is talented and beautiful, a famous general of the present age, and a heroine amongst women, while Li Xian is known for his philandering. How can I be a good match for Princess Bi? Besides …”

Reaching this point, Li Xian suddenly came to an abrupt halt, only because he suddenly discovered the deepest, most hidden secret within his heart. After meeting her in the Eastern Sea, he had fallen in love with Lin Bi. However, because she was already betrothed and they were enemies, he had never dared to think much of this. Now that someone had given him an honest method to pursue Lin Bi romantically, his heart naturally wouldn’t decline easily.

Seeing this, Long Tingfei could not help smiling, asking, “If Princess Bi also has these thoughts, would Your Imperial Highness be willing to agree to this wedding?”

Li Xian steeled his heart and disregarded the stupefied but trusted aides behind him. He answered, “If Princess Bi gives the nod of approval, Li Xian will definitely not fail this responsibility.” After uttering these words, Li Xian outwardly breathed a sigh of relief, though he smiled wryly inwardly. He would likely never have the opportunity to have a princess born from his principal wife and have Shen’er as his son-in-law.

Long Tingfei’s face relaxed. Smiling, he stated, “I of course hope that Northern Han continues to prosper. But I also sincerely wish that everything goes smoothly for Your Imperial Highness. Although there are clear contradictions, Your Imperial Highness should be well aware of my sincerity.”

Continuing to blush, Li Xian was left speechless. Ceasing to pay him any attention, Long Tingfei softly recited, “Blood justly shed upon the burial grounds, the loyal soul buried deep. Dying today, Long Tingfei still has too many regrets. How wonderful it would be if I could continue to serve His Royal Majesty after death!”

Finished speaking, Long Tingfei unsheathed his sword. With a glint of steel, blood gushed out. As everyone cried out in alarm, Long Tingfei fell from his horse. At the start, the officers and soldiers of the two armies had observed Long Tingfei chatting amiably. Although he was voicing his testament, he had spoken in a calm and unhurried manner, creating the misconception that he would not seek death. Who would have thought that he would bend his head and mutter a few words before committing suicide with his sword? Everyone was caught unawares.

Long Tingfei’s mount was a hard-to-come-by fine stallion. At this moment, it was stained with blood and no longer possessed its former glory. Seeing its master fall off, the war horse snorted while frequently nudging his master’s gradually chilled body. Afterwards, it let out a squeal filled with intense sorrow, making all those who heard it feel heartbroken.

Just as Li Xian was about to sadly issue orders for the funeral arrangements, one of Long Tingfei’s bodyguards suddenly bellowed, “In the past, General’s favor for us has been as weighty as the mountain! How can we allow the general to make this journey alone?”

This bodyguard had originally dropped his weapon. However, because he had been heavily injured in the fighting, there was an arrow pierced into his arm. Although the arrow’s body had been broken, the arrowhead remained deeply buried into his flesh. Grieving and indignant, the bodyguard went so far as to ignore everything to dig out the arrowhead, bringing a piece of flesh with it. Ignoring everything, the bodyguard stabbed the arrowhead into his throat. Immediately, he stopped breathing and died, falling to the ground.

Seeing this, one of the originally sobbing bodyguards shrieked, “General!” Bending over, he picked up the saber he had discarded and committed suicide.

The actions of the two bodyguards infected everyone. These bodyguards had only discarded their weapons on Long Tingfei’s orders. Now, they felt shamed and were unable to endure their grief. Seeing this sight, they all shouted “general!” before committing suicide.

“Don’t!” yelled Li Xian loudly. But he was too late. In an instant, several hundred bodyguards had all committed unexpected suicide. In disappointment, Li Xian dropped his hand, feeling displeasure and frustration. In spite of everything, no one had been saved. The warriors of Northern Han were as loyal and devoted as expected.

At the center of the battlefield, Long Tingfei’s mount suddenly let out a mournful neigh before galloping to the east. No one in the Yong army had the presence of mind to stop this horse. Opening a hole in their formation, they allowed the horse to run away.

I watched all this with the detached eye of an observer. Although Long Tingfei’s action was unexpected, it was also understandable. Presumably, he was well aware that the sun was already setting upon Northern Han regardless of whether he was able to escape the envelopment. That was why he had gone so far as to entrust all of the posthumous arrangements to Li Xian. However, it was beyond my expectation that he would entrust Lin Bi to Li Xian. I already began to calculate how to resolve this matter—the advantages and disadvantages.

Thereafter, Li Xian gave the orders to sweep the battlefield. I followed behind Li Xian, wanting to see how he would arrange everything. Li Xian personally ordered that a tomb be erected for Long Tingfei in the wilderness of Jishi. All of Long Tingfei’s bodyguards who had followed him in death were buried in a mass grave next to the tomb, called the Graves of the Loyal and Righteous.

The day they were buried, a Yong soldier came to report that Long Tingfei’s mount had galloped to the Qin River. On the shore of the river, the horse whinnied and shed tears of blood before casting itself into the waters. Hearing this, Li Xian sighed and did not speak. I was also saddened and suggested that the horse’s corpse be brought over to be buried next to Long Tingfei’s tomb. Li Xian immediately agreed and had men comply. The grave of the warhorse was bestowed the name Righteous Horse Mound.

Before our army advanced north, we once again arrived at Long Tingfei’s tomb. Although only a few days had passed, I could see that there were plentiful flowers and offerings before the tombstone. Not knowing who had come to offer sacrifices, I personally poured out a libation at the tomb and prayed, “General Long, although I brought about your death, I had no choice in the matter. I will help ensure that your final wishes are fulfilled. I hope you won’t blame me from the Nine Springs. If your heroic spirit is present, you must protect these lands and not become a malicious spirit that causes trouble and seeks my life.”

Not knowing why, I felt an evil wind as I prayed at the tomb. Trembling, I decided that it was best to leave immediately.


捶胸顿足, chuixiongdunzu – idiom, lit. to beat one’s breast and stamp one’s feet in deep sorrow 养家糊口, yangjiahukou – idiom, lit. to support one’s family; fig. bring home the bacon, breadwinner 山明水秀, shanmingshuixiu – idiom, lit. verdant hills and limpid water; fig. enchanting/picturesque scenery
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