Volume 5, Chapter 33: The Mists of Daizhou
Lin Tong, the Crimson Clouds Princess, was the youngest child of the Marquis of Daizhou, Lin Yuanting, and the younger sister of the Princess of Jiaping. The princess had always been pampered and spoiled, treasured by her parents and elder brothers and sister. Because she liked wearing martial attire and frequently traveled alone, she always brought bow and saber to hunt.
In the first year of Great Yong’s Longsheng era and the twenty-fourth year of Northern Han’s Rongsheng era, the Princess of Jiaping made her way to Qinzhou to provide support. The situation was urgent with the barbarian assault upon Yanmen Pass, compounded by Yuanting falling critically ill and her second elder brother, Cheng’er, killed in battle. With Daizhou leaderless, the Crimson Clouds Princess stepped forward bravely and personally took command of the resistance against the barbarians. Although she was young, her majesty and ferocity were the equal of her father and elder sister. She obtained everyone’s support to serve as the general, leading Daizhou against the barbarians.—Northern Han Dynastic Records, Biography of the Crimson Clouds Princess
Vestured head to toe in red, Lin Tong stood on the battlements of Yanmen Pass. Very swiftly she issued orders, commanding all to resist the fierce assault on the pass by the barbarians. Although the barbarians did not have enough siege equipment, they were able to rely on their fierce, skilled fighting abilities and numerical advantage, putting enormous pressure on the Yanmen Pass defenders. In order to effectively kill or injure their enemies, Lin Tong had precisely selected when the enemy’s assaults were especially fierce to pour boiling water and drop rocks. Although the barbarians’ forte was horse archery, having battled for so many years with the Daizhou army, they had mastered the skills to besiege a fortification. Their use of siege ladders and catapults increased the likelihood that they would overcome the defenses. In addition, barbarians who were adept at throwing lassos would use rope to try to climb the walls.
Lin Tong could sense that the barbarian numbers were growing by the day. Presumably all of the barbarian tribes of the grasslands had assembled to assault the pass. Once Yanmen Pass had fallen, they would penetrate deep into Northern Han’s territory unchecked, plundering and leaving nothing behind in order to survive the spring food shortages.
Finally, the barbarians began to retreat after suffering heavy casualties. Lin Tong breathed a sigh of relief. She knew that it wasn’t long before the barbarians would mass once again to attack. Although that was the case, they had been able to obtain a temporary respite. That in itself was sufficient comfort.
Having fought bitterly for so many days, Lin Tong’s elegant appearance had thinned. However, the look on her face was unusually calm. In order to boost morale, she had not left the walls for three days and three nights. Her blazing red clothes seemed to continuously burn atop the walls, encouraging the whole of the army to fight. Ever since her elder brother had advanced out of the pass and was ambushed, dying after his return due to his arrow wounds, her father had fallen gravely ill and was bedridden. As for her eldest brother, Lin Chengyi, he only knew how to fight hand-t0-hand, was unfamiliar with military tactics, and was reckless. As a result, the army worried, having no alternative but to weakly honor Lin Tong as their commander. Initially, this was simply a stopgap measure.1 However, nobody could have imagined that Lin Tong was managing the entire situation with her fragile-looking body, capably commanding the defenses in a manner that would not lose out to a veteran general who had experienced over a hundred battles. Therefore, only a few days had passed before the people and soldiers of Daizhou considered Lin Tong as a suitable replacement commander-in-chief for Lin Bi.
Although Lin Tong had never led troops in battle, she was innately intelligent, and was fond of riding and archery. She had always been extremely interested with regard to warfare. Although her parents, elder brothers, and sister had a mutual understanding of preventing her from experiencing war, she was fondest of following Lin Bi about. As a result, she had been greatly influenced by her elder sister and already had some insights into military tactics. After experiencing the events of the Eastern Sea, Lin Tong seemed to have suddenly matured, diligently studying the art of war. Combined with observing firsthand Lin Yuanting’s leadership for several days, her natural gifts and knowledge, and her open-minded nature, Lin Tong was able to become a qualified commander-in-chief in a short time. Even if there were minor oversights, the assistance of her seniors and experienced soldiers of the Daizhou army were more than able to make up for any mistakes. Furthermore, Lin Tong had always been shrewd and quick-witted, and now had a well fleshed out understanding of the battlefield.
With that, the Crimson Cloud Princess’s reputation was cemented. Of course, Lin Tong was not in a mood to bother with this. Further, she had not become aware that everyone considered her to be her elder sister’s replacement, only focusing all her effort on how to deal with the barbarians.
Dragging her heavy footsteps, Lin Tong patrolled along the walls, inspecting the defenses in spite of her exhaustion. For the wounded, she expressed her sympathy. Only when she had completed all of these military matters did she tuck herself into a crenel, leaning against the merlon. Wrapping her cloak around herself, she hugged her knees to her chest and prepared to take a nap. It wasn’t long before Lin Tong drifted into her dreams. At this instant, she could not notice that there was a pair of eyes attentively gazing at her in silence.
The soldiers and levy guarding the pass were divided into two shifts. The current shift had all descended from the wall to rest. Their relieving soldiers and levy began to take watch over the defenses. The Daizhou levy was also trained to the standards of the regular army, organized into squads of five, methodical2 in their progress. Among them, there was one unit that was different. Their movements were noticeably undisciplined and composed of conscripts drafted from outside of Daizhou. When the barbarians invaded every year, the Daizhou army would conscript all of the young and strong outsiders present in the region, restricting them with martial law. First, Daizhou was worried that there would be spies from the barbarians. Second, it was to increase the defense’s military strength. These individuals were organized into a unit with veterans from Daizhou serving as their squad leaders. Those with courage and strength would all serve a shift on the walls, while the weak and incapable would serve below the walls to prepare and deliver rations and water. As the soldiers responsible for supervising and monitoring them were all experienced Daizhou veterans, even if these conscripts were timid and cowardly, there was no way for them to fulfill their duties as spies.
This conscript unit only had a hundred or so members and were composed of those who had an abundance in fighting strength. They had no qualms about going to battle. That was why they had been dispatched up the walls to help the Daizhou soldiers and civilians defend the pass. The officer in command of these hundred men was named Lin Yuanchong and was thirty-nine years old. He was a descendant of an ancillary branch of the Lin family. In terms of generational relationships, he was Lin Bi and Lin Tong’s uncle. Although his tactics were mediocre, after having experienced years of bloody battle he was an outstanding lower-ranking officer. In addition, he was a meticulous individual, perfectly suited to leading and monitoring these dauntless conscripts composed of outsiders. Under his leadership, the conscripts began to take watch over the defenses. Although it was rather chaotic, it was within an acceptable range. Further, these conscripts were all skilled. They would be of great use in defense of the pass. As a result, Lin Yuanchong was quite pleased.
Incidentally, his eyes fell upon an average-looking young man. He frowned slightly. This young man, Wang Dalang,3 was the one he paid the most attention to. Although Wang Dalang’s performance these days was remarkable, and though he was strong and brave, he could not be compared with the courageous warriors of Daizhou. In addition, when it came to battle, he did not show any peculiar behaviors—he was unafraid and did not display any impetuousness brought about by excitement. However, Lin Yuanchong could sense danger from this young man based upon the perception he had acquired from years of battle. Every single time that he was near Wang Dalang, he could sense an oppressive aura.
Unobtrusively, Lin Yuanchong had kept a surreptitious eye on this young man. When he actually observed carefully, this youth’s facial features were delicate and handsome. However, when these features were combined, they became ordinary and nothing special. In addition, the young man somewhat had an air of dejection and a pale complexion, making him appear a bit scholarly and weak. However, Yuanchong could tell from his coarse skin and vigorously powerful limbs that he was not a weak individual.
Although he usually hid his abilities,4 he would always show his remarkable skills when battle raged. Wang Dalang would scrupulously abide by military commands, providing assistance to his comrades, able to constrain enemy soldiers. These were all characteristics of someone who had spent years serving in the army. Usually reticent, when necessary, his words stirred the deaf and enlightened the blind.5 Because of all of this, this recently drafted young man who had arrived in Yanmen Pass a few days ago to look for his friends and relatives was covered with a dense layer of fog, his identity shrouded in mystery.
Of course, Lin Yuanchong would absolutely not believe that this young man was a barbarian spy. From the young man’s savagery during battle and the unruffled help provided in leading these men, Lin Yuanchong believed that there was no way that such a character would be dispatched as a spy unless the barbarians were all idiots. Instead, if Wang Dalang were a barbarian, he would command a unit to directly assault the pass.
The young man held a sheathed saber in his arms, sitting down and resting with his eyes partly closed. This was another aspect that was inconsistent with his identity. Only those who had experienced battle understood the necessity of sparing no effort to preserve their strength at all moments. This was unlike how all the other conscripts nervously peered out beyond the walls like newly-hatched birds out of worry about the enemy assault.
Lin Yuanchong withdrew his gaze. Regardless of how dubious this person’s identity was, as long as he was not a barbarian spy, there was nothing to worry about. As for what was to happen afterwards, that was better left until after the barbarians had been driven away.
Although his eyes were slightly closed, he kept note of everything that happened around him. From the slightest of cracks, he noticed the individual who studied him. Chiji wasn’t as calm as he showed. Having used simple disguise techniques, he had made slight changes to his facial features, causing his formerly handsome appearance to lose its luster. He had deliberately hidden his sharpness. Although he had been forced to reveal his true countenance within this unit of conscripts for the sake of battle, Chiji believed that with Lin Tong busy commanding the entire garrison she would not pay attention to a lowly outsider. In this way, Chiji had been able to infiltrate the Daizhou army and get to Lin Tong’s side. He naturally knew that it wasn’t that no one suspected him. However, Chiji understood the Daizhou army quite well, aware that as long as he did not display any possibility of being a barbarian spy, he would not face comprehensive interrogation.
Chiji smirked. Once the barbarians had retreated, it didn’t matter if the Daizhou army wished to settle accounts. If Lin Tong were still alive, even if he died, he would have no regrets. If Lin Tong died.… Chiji’s heart ached. He believed that he would definitely follow her to the beyond. Since this was the case, there was no need for him to be so cautious and careful. Anyway, even if the young master hoped he would return alive, Chiji did not have such extravagant hopes. By forcing this journey to Daizhou, he had already betrayed the young master in certain respects. As one of the eight elites, he had to consider the young master’s aspirations as his own. Once he had chosen to fight side-by-side with Lin Tong, his position as the head of the eight elites had begun to waver, to say nothing of the fact that Great Yong would not permit Daizhou to remain independent. The Yong army would definitely advance upon Daizhou. As for Chiji himself, he had no wish to tarnish his sword with the blood of his beloved and his closest friends and family.
After a while, Chiji was roused awake. It was his turn to monitor the enemy. Standing atop the walls, as he gazed off into the distance with his luminous eyes, his hands performed a task. He took out the sharp arrows from the quivers by his side before untying a calabash gourd from his waist. Then he took out a handkerchief and a pair of deerskin gloves from within his bosom. Putting on the gloves, he poured a black liquid out from the gourd, saturating the handkerchief. He wiped the handkerchief on the arrowheads, his movements quick and agile. After each of the arrows had been treated, the arrowheads looked dark gray. As he was doing this, the conscripts beside him all tacitly obstructed anyone else from observing his actions until he had finished.
Just as he had refastened the calabash gourd to his waist, a sweet-sounding, but somewhat hoarse voice asked, “What are you doing?”
Although he trembled inside, Chiji did not reveal the slightest delay as he turned and kneeled to answer, “This lowly one was just applying poison to the arrows.”
Lin Tong’s phoenix eyes revealed a look of suspicion. “Why apply poison? The arrows of my army’s warriors can take the lives of the enemy. It is time consuming and difficult to apply poison, while it is not that effective.”
Changing his accent, he replied, “This lowly one isn’t from Daizhou. Tho’ I know how ta shoot an arrow, my strength is bad. E’en tho’ I can pierce the enemy’s leather armor, I can’t kill them. That’s why I’ve applied poison. Raises the possibility of killing the enemy.”
“So that’s why,” understood Lin Tong. Quite interested, she inquired, “Who are you? How do you know how to concoct poison? Applying poison like this is quite troublesome. Is there any way of producing the poison in large quantities to rapidly create numerous poisoned arrows? Get up to speak. There is no need to remain kneeling.”
Hearing this, Chiji calmed his mind before rising to his feet. With his head hanging, he responded, “This lowly one is Wang Dalang. A wandering doc. Knowin’ some medicine, this lowly one made this poison myself. When it meets with blood, the fella poisoned ’as his breathin’ sealed. But this poison is kinda hard ta use. Put on arrows, poison don’t last long. That’s why this lowly one applied poison right now. Princess guards the pass, so we need a ton of arrows. Although it is right hard and time-consumin’ ta manufacture poison arrows, from what this lowly one gets, arrow workshops can be found everywhere in Daizhou. Also, there’s lots of lacquer. Lacquer itself possesses toxicity. If the Princess has people dip the heads of bound bunches of arrows in lacquer ’fore dryin’ in the sun, when it injures the enemy, their wounds will really swell and itch. Also, the wounds be difficult ta heal.”
Hearing this, Lin Tong was excited, carefully gazing at the young man before her. She could see that although he was neither servile nor overbearing in his words, his head was bowed, not daring to glance at her. He seemed to be an extremely reserved individual. However, the words he had spoken were filled with killing intent and maliciousness, making her feel a sudden chill. She found herself saying, “Raise your head.”
Chiji slowly raised his head. Lin Tong gazed at his appearance, a hint of confusion glinting in her eyes. The face in front of her was somewhat familiar. However, she could not recall who he was. Just as she was about to question, a bodyguard standing behind her reported, “Princess, Elder General Qi has come.”
Lin Tong relied heavily upon this man of her father’s generation. Turning around and just as she was about to meet him, she slowed halfway. She suddenly recalled why the young man seemed so familiar. This young man’s face was ninety percent similar to the man in her heart. It was only that his look and bearing, as well as his eyes and brows, were all different. For their appearances to be so similar, that young man couldn’t possibly be Chiji, right? A while after Lin Tong stopped in her tracks, she mockingly smiled. How could it possibly be Chiji? The tiger that was Great Yong was about to swallow all of the lands. At this moment, the Marquis of Chu was especially well-regarded and honored. Chiji was bound to be at his master’s side. With his future prospects boundless, it was impossible that he would come to meet the dangers of Daizhou and fight the barbarians. In addition, since that man had the ability to mix with the barbarians to the north, he definitely had superb skills. It was unlikely that he would appear before her with a face that was ninety percent similar to his own and also not change his surname. There was no need for her to let her imagination run wild.
Hesitating, Lin Tong stopped walking. Turning her head, she asked, “Wang Dalang, do you have any brothers born from the same parents?”
Revealing a somewhat puzzled look, Chiji answered, “Reportin’ ta the Princess, this lowly one has no brothers or sisters.”
“Is that so,” spoke Lin Tong in disappointment and frustration before turning and continuing on her way. She increased her pace and put a smile on her face. Advancing, she welcomed the elderly General Qi with a smile, asking, “Uncle Qi, can you oversee the application of black lacquer to the arrowheads?”
Gazing at Lin Tong’s athletic back, the corners of Chiji’s mouth pricked up just a bit. Before he had departed this time, the young master had informed him that once he joined the battle, it would be impossible for him to be mindful of his disguise. Rather than allowing others to see through his disguise and treat him as a spy, it was better to only change some of the details of his appearance, as well as deliberately change his tone and bearing. Sure enough, even someone as familiar with him as Lin Tong only had suspicions. In addition, because he had many “flaws,” no one would suspect his true identity. Although he would likely be recognized by Lin Tong if they interacted for an extended period of time, Chiji believed that since Lin Tong nursed incessant hatred of him, she would definitely make a deliberate effort to avoid him.
Although he was slightly pleased, Chiji felt pangs of regret. They were so close yet so far. What else could be more disappointing and frustrating than this sort of feeling?
After an hour had passed, after half of the lacquered arrows had been prepared, a wave of barbarians that could blot out the sky and hide the earth6 appeared before Yanmen Pass. After Chiji had issued a warning, a cold gleam flashed in his eyes. From the totems brought and clothing worn by the barbarians, all eight of the major tribes of the grasslands were present. This time, the barbarians were preparing for the main assault. The barbarians formed up according to their tribal affiliations.
One of the tribes suddenly raised a golden banner with a black wolf totem drawn upon it. Underneath the banner was a handsome young man dressed in the yellow vesture of a khan. He raised his arm. From the barbarians, an earth-shattering roar was heard, “Long live the Great Khan! Long live the Great Khan!” The simultaneous shouts of thousands upon thousands of barbarians made everyone on the walls of Yanmen blanch.
The appearance of the golden wolf banner and the shouts of “long live the Great Khan” were clear indications that the khanate which had collapsed after suffering at the hands of the Eastern Jin Dynasty during its early years had been restored. The appearance of a new khan meant the barbarians were determined to overcome Yanmen Pass.
Chiji estimated that the barbarian army before the pass numbered sixty thousand. Remembering the time he had spent wandering the grasslands and visiting the various tribes, he recalled that each of the tribes already had thoughts of reconciliation. That handsome young man was originally the chief of the Gele tribe, Wanyan Najin. The young man had an awe-inspiring reputation on the prairie, known for his wisdom and resolution, and recognized for his bravery and fighting ability. However, because the majority of the other chiefs were of his father’s generation, Chiji had never expected that he would actually be able to unify the grasslands. Now that the barbarian khanate had been reestablished, this meant that Daizhou was only their first target.
While Chiji pondered intensely, the sound of a weapon dropping came from his side. A large man who served in the same unit as him had been scared out of his wits by the barbarian cries and his complexion appeared washed out.
Chiji frowned and scanned his surroundings. Even the Daizhou troops were also a bit panicked. Right when he was thinking about how to boost morale, Lin Tong lightly jumped onto a parapet. Pointing at the barbarian khan’s banner, she screamed, “Are you all afraid? Have these barbarians frightened you to death? Listen up! Behind Yanmen Pass are your family and kin! All of the Daizhou warriors standing here: your parents, wives, and children are all behind us watching. At present, the royal court is battling with Great Yong over territory so our Daizhou does not have any outside support! The rear is empty. Aside from us, there is no one else capable of protecting ourselves! If these barbarians are allowed to break through Yanmen Pass, Daizhou will become a hell on earth! Don’t tell me that you men are no better than a woman like me on her first campaign? Even there is only death, we will do so first! In every case, it is better than watching our unarmed countrymen be massacred!”
Like a raging inferno, Lin Tong’s anger and the words from the bottom of her heart made everyone reveal looks of shame. Elder General Qi raised his arms and shouted, “When the Princess is so intensely brave, how can we cower and be intimidated as men? Unless we men of Daizhou are all killed, the barbarians will not be permitted to breach Yanmen Pass! Fight to the death, no retreat! With me, we will be undefeated!”
Everyone’s spirits were roused and all echoed, “Fight to the death, no retreat! With me, we will be undefeated!” The sudden surge of vigor from atop the walls of the pass caused all of the barbarians to exchange looks of dismay. In spite of the situation, they ceased their shouts of “long live the Great Khan!”
At this moment, beneath the khan’s banner, “Xinren Khan” Wanyan Najin raised his hand. One of his bodyguards handed over an enormous bow the size of a man. Wanyan Najin spurred his horse and rode out of the formation. Everyone saw a flash before their eyes as Wanyan Najin left the formation and galloped forward to within five hundred paces of Yanmen Pass. In an instant, he pulled back the bowstring and loosed three arrows in quick succession. The three wolf-toothed arrows followed one after another, phantoms hurtling at Lin Tong. In almost a split second, the first arrow had already neared Lin Tong. Lin Tong flipped and dropped, evading the first arrow. As she did so, she drew the saber at her waist to deflect the second arrow. However, the momentum was too great and Lin Tong felt her arm numb as the arrow actually pierced the tempered steel of the saber. As for the third arrow, it was only ten paces from Lin Tong. At this moment, Lin Tong was utterly powerless to move her body and the arrow was on the verge of piercing Lin Tong’s body.
While everyone was crying out in surprise, a feathered arrow appeared—almost as if crossing from another era and appearing out of thin air—and hit the last wolf-toothed arrow. However, because of the enormous difference in strength of the archer, the feathered arrow bounced off and fell to the ground. Everyone’s hopes were dashed and they could not help lamenting in concert. However, no one expected that the moment the feathered arrow bounced off, the somewhat deviating wolf-toothed arrow was hit by a second feathered arrow. Then a third, fourth, and fifth arrow arrived. With only minor corrections, all five arrows had hit the powerful wolf-toothed arrow and had, with persistence, changed the direction of the wolf-toothed arrow and causing it to brush past Lin Tong’s cheek. With a trace of blood, the arrow buried itself into the wall.
Although the five arrows were not powerful, their accuracy and speed were both rarely seen in this world. Not only did the Daizhou army clamor with thunderous cheers, even the barbarians could hear the sounds of praise from outside of Yanmen Pass. When Lin Tong dropped to the ground, she was brought under the protection of several bodyguards wielding heavy shields. Not caring about the slight injury to her face, Lin Tong gazed tranced at the young man who held a bow at the ready. With five arrows loosed seamlessly, regardless of how he tried to hide his identity, Lin Tong had already recognized him. The tears that fell from her eyes were quickly blown dry by the wind atop the battlements. In a gentle and resolute voice, Lin Tong called out, “Chiji!”
Chiji had a slight, wry smile on his face. With his identity exposed, there was no need for him to hide any longer. Casually, he removed a pill from a pouch at his waist. Grinding it down, he wiped it against his face, removing the small amount of disguising chemicals he had applied. Then in an easy and composed manner he smiled and replied, “Crimson Clouds Princess, it has been a long time.”
The combination of his natural handsome features and his easygoing confidence that carried a bit of frivolity in his smile changed him entirely. His manifest superiority7 caused everyone to let out cries of surprise. This kind of transformation made it seem like they were all in their dreams or fantasies. Only Lin Tong was unsurprised, as she asked, “Why are you here? With Great Yong holding all of the advantages, what need is there for you to serve as an undercover agent? What ulterior motives does your master have?”
Overwhelmed with shock, everyone gazed at Chiji. Initially full of appreciation, they now felt misgivings. He was a secret agent of Great Yong. At present, Princess Bi was fighting Great Yong. It was unlikely that this man was here on good intentions. The other conscripts around Chiji withdrew while the Daizhou soldiers gradually moved up to encircle him. However, as this young man had just rescued Lin Tong, all of the soldiers hesitated and did not immediately act. Everyone looked to Lin Tong.
At this moment, having already been escorted back to the barbarian formations, Wanyan Najin’s bright eyes flashed. Although they were separated by a great distance, he clearly recognized the young man standing on the battlements of Yanmen Pass, solitary and independent. He yelled, “This Khan was wondering who it was. So it is the Divine Doctor Bo Le, Sir Wang! Although you hail also from the Central Plains, your fame was earned on the prairie. In the past, upon the rolling prairie, all of the tribal chiefs treated you as an honored guest! You are not from Northern Han! Rather than being treated as an enemy up there, why not come serve at this Khan’s side? This Khan is willing to treat you as intimately as a brother! High position and wealth, women, gold, and silk—everything will be yours for the taking! What do you think?”
Though Wanyan Najin openly beckoned for Chiji’s capitulation, his voice faintly carried the hopes of instigating internal fighting. Even the conscripts who weren’t openly hostile could not help tightening their grips on their weapons, glaring at Chiji.
Smiling wryly, Chiji turned and looked out. He shouted, “Chief Wanyan, in the past, when I arrived at the Gele Tribe and received your generous treatment, I helped you cure your beloved stallion and you taught me horse archery. Our friendship is not shallow! However, personal considerations cannot harm righteousness! I originally hail from Southern Chu and am now a citizen of Great Yong! Originally, I had nothing to do with Northern Han! However, regardless of Great Yong, Northern Han, or Southern Chu, we are all people of the Central Plains and the legitimate Han ethnicity!8 Today, if the Khan is here to tour our Central Plains, this one will definitely treat you with all due respect and regard you as a distinguished guest! However, you have come south with an army today and invaded the lands of my people! As a result, you are my mortal enemy! On the basis of our former friendship, I hope to give the Khan a word of warning! At present, the Central Plains are about to be reunified! Although the Khan is brave and fierce, you are not necessarily my Great Yong’s match! If the Khan truly cares about the various tribes of the prairie, it is best to cease hostilities to avoid having your magnificent aspirations become dust and a bloodbath befalling the prairie!”
Smiling ruthlessly, Wanyan Najin hollered back, “The Central Plains have been divided for many years and have continuously suffered years of civil war! With what strength do they have to prevent my army from invading south? This Khan is not greedy and only wants Daizhou! That’s enough to stop my cavalry from trampling over your Central Plains! If you do not surrender, do not blame this Khan for being heartless.”
Laughing cruelly, Chiji drew forth a feathered arrow and broke it in two. He roared, “I break this arrow today as a solemn vow to sever our ties! Khan, feel free to attack Yanmen. Even if I am to die by the Khan’s arrows, I will do so without complaint! Just, if the Khan dies at my hands, do not blame me for turning my back!”
Wanyan Najin’s bladelike eyebrows raised, as he replied, “Do not blame this Khan since you are bringing about your own death! Begin the assault!” With this command, the barbarians charged toward Yanmen.
Having finished conversing, Chiji turned his head to look around. He was apprehensive, not knowing if the people around him were willing to accept his presence and fight alongside him. The moment he turned his head, a quiver of arrows was shoved into his hands and he saw Lin Yuanchong’s warm smile. Lifting his head to look around, he could see their warmth. His eyes brimming with tears, Chiji found that he could not speak.
Everyone’s eyes turned to Lin Tong. After all, whether Chiji could stay required Lin Tong’s decision. Turning her face away, Lin Tong thinly stated, “Why haven’t you all taken your defensive positions? The barbarians are coming!”
Emotional, Chiji tightly gripped his bow and the quiver of arrows as hot tears tumbled down his face.
At this moment, Wanyan Najin sighed softly. He understood Wang Ji quite well. In the past, they got to know one another. He felt that Wang Ji’s talents were outstanding. Unfortunately, although he had ambition, he didn’t have enough strength and could not forcibly detain someone respected by the entire grasslands, the Divine Doctor Bo Le, and could only befriend him. This time, Wanyan Najin had taken advantage of the serious losses suffered by the tribes after the winter snows and used his stored provisions to control each of the tribes. Each of the tribes had been forced to swear sacred oaths. As a result, the khanate was reestablished and the former glory of the Wanyan family had been restored. However, by that time, Wang Ji had already disappeared without a trace. Just now, when Wang Ji had rescued Lin Tong and wrecked his attempt at establishing his martial prestige, Wanyan Najin was greatly infuriated, hoping to use the tensions between that man and the Yanmen defenders to destroy Wang Ji. He did not want Wang Ji to have any negative impact upon his plans to seize Daizhou. Unfortunately, it failed.
Weren’t the people of the Central Plains fondest of internal strife? moped Wanyan Najin.
Footnotes:权宜之计, quanyizhiji – idiom, lit. plan of convenience; fig. stopgap measure, makeshift strategy 有条不紊, youtiaobuwen – idiom, lit. regular and thorough; fig. arranged methodically 大郎, dalang – lit. eldest son; because Chinese literacy before the twentieth century was quite limited, most families gave their children simple names after animals, flowers, or their order of birth 不显山不露水, buxianshanbuloushui – lit. to not show the mountain and to not reveal the water; fig. to hide one’s abilities 振聋发聩, zhenlongfakui – idiom, lit. rouse the deaf and awaken the unhearing; fig. rousing even the apathetic 遮天盖地, zhetiangaidi – idiom, lit. blot out the sky and hide the earth; fig. a massive and enormous array 鹤立鸡群, helijiqun – idiom, lit. a crane standing among a flock of chickens; fig. stand out in a crowd, tower above, manifestly superior, distinguished, outstanding Chinese civilization began on the banks of the Yellow River in what is considered to be the Central Plains. The people who trace their origins to this early civilization consider themselves as ethnically Han (汉族).