Volume 6, Chapter 13: The Cold, Lonely Moon Is Silent1Communications from Huaidong were cut off. Grand General Lu Can of Southern Chu requested personal command over Huaidong, but Prime Minister Shang Weijun denied him. When military intelligence reached Jianye and reported the Yong army had seized Yangzhou and greedily eyed Jingkou, Shang Weijun was appalled and permitted Lu Can full military power. Lu Can commanded the Jiujiang Barracks, with a host of three hundred thousand and a fleet of two thousand five hundred vessels. He deployed the whole force to Jingkou, confronting the Yong army.
—Zizhi Tongjian, Yong Records Volume Three
In the Yong capital, in Princess Changle’s residence, within the Overlooking Wave Pavilion, it was the second day of the eleventh month. Entering the eleventh month, Chang’an was freezing cold in the deep of night. A few days earlier, it had even snowed. But Jiang Zhe stubbornly wanted to face the lake and enjoy the moonlight, which gave Xiaoshunzi a headache. Early in the morning, he had to have someone stoke the fires so they were burning hot in the Overlooking Wave Pavilion. By the time Jiang Zhe arrived at the Overlooking Wave Pavilion after leaving the Cold Courtyard, the inside of the pavilion was as warm as spring. However, when Xiaoshunzi saw Jiang Zhe’s somber and lonely expression, he couldn’t help feeling anguished. Ever since Great Yong had marched south, Jiang Zhe had secluded himself in the residence, never going out. Besides reading in the Cold Courtyard, he whiled time away in the Overlooking Wave Pavilion. Not only did he decline Li Zhi’s summons these days, he also refused to see Li Xian, Shi Yu, and all others. Naturally, Xiaoshunzi understood why Jiang Zhe was like this. Great Yong’s southern campaign had been just a matter of time, but nobody expected that once it occurred, Jiang Zhe would be so depressed.
At long last, Jiang Zhe recited:”Long have I toiled making a living,Never having learned how to keep fit.Often ill when young,How can this body make it to old age?”2
Xiaoshunzi was surprised by the poem. It touched upon old age and illness and easily translated into a poetic prophecy. Jiang Zhe had taxed his ingenuity in his early years, resulting in early gray hairs. He had nearly died of exhaustion; it wasn’t just “long have I toiled making a living.” And although “never having learned how to keep fit” wasn’t exactly accurate, he had started practicing a series of healthy exercises in these years. However, he was hindered by his skill, and he didn’t improve much. “Often ill when young” was self-evident. If “how can this body make it to old age” came true, how would it not be a prophecy? Thinking of all this, Xiaoshunzi felt himself begin to sweat. He hurriedly stepped forward and said, “Young master, why did you say that? If you can’t live in peace in the Yong capital, why don’t I accompany you back to the Eastern Sea?”
“This time, the Emperor is storming and capturing Jiangnan without discussing campaign strategy with me. Do you know why?” I calmly replied.
Xiaoshunzi’s eyes flashed with a sharp light, and he said, “Is it possible the Emperor has become suspicious of you, so purposely excluded you? The armies marching south should establish a command post to supervise the various armies and conquer Southern Chu. If this happened, His Imperial Highness, the Prince of Qi, would enjoy popular support and be the Marshal of the Command Conquering Southern Chu. But the Emperor didn’t order the construction. Has the Emperor become dissatisfied with the young master and His Imperial Highness, the Prince of Qi?”
I shook my head. “Whether the Emperor is jealous of the Prince of Qi, I still don’t know. Even then, the Prince of Qi didn’t suggest the construction of the command post. And if the Emperor has truly become suspicious of me, he would never betray his thoughts like this. He simply worries that I still have feelings for the old country and doesn’t wish to make things difficult for me. After conquering Northern Han, the Emperor had already begun to feel arrogant. He thought wiping out Southern Chu would be as easy as flipping over his hand. The three columns of the army total five hundred thousand troops and have advanced, but Jiangnan’s two hundred thousand elite troops can take a single battle with Great Yong. If Southern Chu wins the battle, the destruction will be indiscriminate. Not only the Emperor, even His Imperial Highness, the Prince of Qi, and the distinguished generals will invariably despise Jiangnan. All my concerns rest here.”
Xiaoshunzi clapped. “Young master, you know the situation in Jiangnan like the back of your hand. Is it possible Great Yong will suffer heavy casualties in this battle? That being the case, why doesn’t the young master explain the situation to the Emperor?”
“Sometimes, if things aren’t present before one’s eyes, it’s very difficult for a person to believe it,” I said with a wry smile. “When the Emperor and the ministers deliberate on the issue of conquering Chu, even with the steadiness of Shi Yu, they all say, ‘The powerful ministers in Southern Chu monopolize power, and the dregs of the Fengyi Sect bring trouble. The military and political leaders are on terrible terms. Although they have a great general like Lu Can among them, because he has never won honor in foreign territory, our armies can take the time to advance. Even though we cannot conquer Southern Chu with a single battle, we can still capture Huainan, occupy Sichuan, and seize Xiangyang. This will make Southern Chu rely on the Yangtze River to struggle at death’s door.’ These words show that Great Yong’s officialdom has lost their even keel.
“Instead, it is Southern Chu that is entirely bound by a hatred for a common enemy. Though Lu Can is subject to a powerful minister, they are united and working together. Great Yong is certain to be defeated by Southern Chu in this battle. I’ve already sent a secret petition to the Emperor, stating that both defeat and victory in this battle are particularly likely and advised him not to rush into battle. Unfortunately, the Emperor paid the secret missive no heed and did not reply. He clearly disagrees with my opinion, or maybe he thinks I can’t bear seeing the old country be ravaged by war, so I’m being alarmist. In reality, how could the man not be overcautious?3 I’ve received over ten years of Great Yong’s patronage as well as the Emperor’s favor and kindness. How could the two sides of greed and cowardice4 not know their choices?”
Xiaoshunzi said in doubt, “Young master, leaving aside whether what Prime Minister Shi says comes true, Southern Chu’s military and political leaders are at odds. And the Fengyi Sect is creating difficulties from within. This is indeed true. General Lu may be exceptional at military strategy, but he still can’t take control of all the military power. Can he really win the coming battle like this? General Qin is steadfast and seasoned, General Zhangsun is wise and thoughtful, and General Pei is resolute and daring. All three of the men have the talent to take charge as the commander-in-chief. How is it that only General Lu can score a victory?”
I sighed. “Shang Weijun is indeed the man jeopardizing the nation, but the King of Southern Chu, Zhao Long, is his daughter’s son. Shang Weijun has turned Southern Chu’s Jiangshan5 into his family’s property, so once the situation gets desperate, he puts his full support behind Lu Can, then supplants him during the internal strife after victory has been achieved. There’s no need to elaborate on that. However, it’s too late for Great Yong once that happens.
“As for the Fengyi Sect, I have quite the regrets. I let the dregs of the Fengyi Sect have their way at the time, because they truly were incompetent, unable to do anything right. However, I seriously shouldn’t have let Wei Ying off. But because of the situation at the time, I had no choice. Although this man is merciless and vicious, fame, wealth, and hatred fettered him. As his family was ruined, he wandered throughout Southern Chu. However, this man was still the son of Wei Guan, so he received the respect of the Fengyi Sect Master. He is truly talented, his gaze a burning torch. After he had reflected on his suffering, he chose to set his sights on supporting Lu Can. If he had not changed Lu Can’s personality over the years, Shang Weijun and Lu Can would have destroyed each other long ago.
“Lu Can is not like me. I like to conduct schemes. Even if all of my subordinates love and respect me, I will still take full control of their life and death. As soon as they show signs of disobedience, I can dispose of them. Lu Can trusts people. Even if his subordinates have plans of their own, he will have faith in them as long as they are not disloyal. As a result, Wei Ying can be of use to him. Because this man is eliminating political opponents for Lu Can and removing difficulties and anxiety, Lu Can can stand firm in Southern Chu.”
“Wei Ying is that powerful?” asked Xiaoshunzi in surprise.
I let out a small sigh and said, “This man has power beyond our imagination. Ever since his conspiracy in the Eastern Sea failed, the man somehow entered into a pact with Lu Can. Over the years, Shang Weijun and the Fengyi Sect have plotted against Lu Can, but they were all defused by Wei Ying. The Intelligence Management Section of the Ministry of War has tried to use the internal power struggle of Southern Chu to frame Lu Can in many schemes. He also eliminated all those without a trace. The Great Yong officialdom doesn’t even know Wei Ying did this. I had to read through the Intelligence Management Section’s dispatches and the Pavilion of Heavenly Secrets’ encrypted reports. From these clues, I realized it. Alas, the sincerity Lu Can has to appoint Wei Ying is beyond me. I also didn’t expect Wei Ying to not mind the relationship between Lu Can and me.”
“Young master, yesterday, the Emperor sent an intelligence report to the Cold Courtyard,” Xiaoshunzi said after thinking for a moment. “Battles have already begun at Jiameng Pass and Xiangyang. Although no progress has been made yet, the garrisons of the two locations are too occupied to do anything else. The outcome in Huaidong is a foregone conclusion. And only now has the Southern Chu court replied, with Lu Can mobilizing the Jiujiang Barracks to guard Jingkou. However, within a month, Southern Chu has lost Huaidong. Doesn’t the young master feel uneasy about the campaign? If not for the Southern Chu court’s restrictions, how could Lu Can have waited until now to lead troops to battle? Now that the barrier of Huaidong has been lost, Lu Can likely has no way out, even though he has tremendous power, enough to turn a desperate situation around.”
I shifted my gaze away from the forlorn moon and looked back. “You also know that the Emperor did not expect Lu Can to fail to dispatch troops to Huaidong in a timely fashion. By the time Lu Can began military operations, he would often make decisions on the eve of battle. ‘A general in the field is not bound by the orders of his sovereign.’ This is why he had the courage to seize Jiameng Pass. Why do you think he was willing to waste time in Jianye? Why did Pei Yun report that the information flow between Huaidong and Jianye had been cut off?”
Xiaoshunzi was surprised. “Young master once said that Lu Can has an honest character.”
“A general must be vicious and merciless,” I said evenly. “Lu Can is indeed honest and aboveboard with friends and enemies, but his schemes aren’t kind much. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have plotted my assassination years ago, not to mention he also has Wei Ying at his side.”
Xiaoshunzi fell into thought and let out a quiet sigh.
I continued, “The lay of the land of Huaidong is of strategic importance. The river crisscrosses and best suits amphibious operations. The Southern Chu navy knows with the geography intimately, and they are experts at using boats to conduct long-range river raids. If Lu Can and Pei Yun engage each other in Huaidong, battle is certain to be joined and will favor Southern Chu. If this happens, however, it’ll be no easy task for the Southern Chu military if they wish to abandon Huaidong. Once battle is joined, they cannot easily withdraw. If this happens, it will align with our military’s plans. Once Lu Can is tied up in Huaidong, Huaixi, Jiujiang, and Jiangxia will be unprepared.
“The Xuzhou Barracks’ navy has a force of one hundred fifty thousand infantry and cavalry. Why have thirty thousand troops disappeared? Do they plan to delay Zhangsun Ji’s two hundred thousand-strong army in Xiangyang? None of Southern Chu’s other officers can take charge, as being distant from Jiameng Pass has become established practice.6 If Xiangyang’s Rong Yuan leaves Xiangyang, he’s nothing more than a fish out of water, a lost and lonely wild goose.
“Southern Chu’s weakness is that only Lu Can can support the overall situation. They can’t even compare to Northern Han. After Long Tingfei committed suicide in battle, they still had the Princess of Jiaping and General Duan who could inherit his legacy. As a result, General Pei raids and attacks at a steady pace in Huaidong just to entice Lu Can to Huaidong. Unfortunately, Pei Yun can’t go overboard, or he would snatch defeat from the jaws of victory such that the two armies would be stalemated at Guazhou Ferry. Southern Chu may have lost Huaidong, but by relying on the natural defense of the Yangtze River, Lu Can can sail back and forth, free to be flexible. If this happens, our military’s aims will suffer a setback. But if everything goes smoothly in Huaidong, it will inevitably make all of Great Yong even less wary of Southern Chu. With this ebb and flow, you can understand the current plight of Great Yong!”
Xiaoshunzi broke out in a cold sweat at these words. However, he still rebutted, “Even so, once Lu Can is in Jingkou, he can’t move away. The Jiangxia Barracks cannot move freely; none of the other armies can come to the rescue. Young master implies that our military intends to take Huainan. Though the general defending Huainan, Shi Guan, is good at waging war, he still cannot defeat Great Yong’s valiant veterans. With Huaixi the weaker force, how can they oppose Great Yong’s heavy cavalry?”
I sighed. “I also can’t figure out this issue right now. But sometimes, man’s might prevails over nature. I believe an inelligence report will arrive before the fifteenth. Then it will be clear how Lu Can responded. I simply hope that Great Yong doesn’t suffer too many casualties in the coming battle.”
Xiaoshunzi fell silent for a long time before speaking up. “Young master still should not worry. General Pei and General Zhangsun are both good at and used to war. They won’t be so badly beaten they cannot recover.
“Young master, Chen Zhen brought news yesterday. Your elder cousin, Jing Changqing, was taken prisoner in Chuzhou and suffered greatly. However, Shanzi and Quhuang used the secret base of the Pavilion of Heavenly Secrets in Huaidong to send him and his family back to Jiaxing.”
“Older cousin is stubborn by nature,” I said with a smile. “When my uncle intended to move to Chang’an, only my older cousin was determined not to. He adheres to the path of loyalty, but he suffered this time. Pei Yun presumably doesn’t know our relationship, or else he wouldn’t have made things difficult for him.”
Xiaoshunzi laughed. “Jiaxing’s Jing family severed ties with the young master long ago. Even the young master’s cousin, Shunqing, was run out of house and home by Lord Jing. It’s no wonder General Pei didn’t pay attention to this matter. However, I’m afraid the people of the Bright Inspection Department already know about this. Although Chen Zhen made very thorough arrangements, and even the Jing clan doesn’t know their identities, I’m afraid the Bright Inspection Department will discover the relationship between the Pavilion of Heavenly Secrets and the young master.”
I nodded and replied, “We must be on guard for this issue. However, Xiahou Yuanfeng got taught quite the lesson for what happened in Sichuan, as along with the fall of Jiameng Pass, many ministers blamed him for mismanagement. We also have the orphaned son of the former King of Shu in our hands, so Xiahou Yuanfeng is afraid to overly displease me. What’s more, after Southern Chu is conquered, the Pavilion of Heavenly Secrets should lie low. Lü’er’s achievements and the Hai clan’s profits are more than enough support our lifestyle. But it’s not wrong to worry about the survival of the Pavilion of Heavenly Secrets either. Have them be a bit more careful. Don’t let Lu Can and Wei Ying discover any weaknesses. During the Conquest of Chu, I still have use for the Pavilion of Heavenly Secrets.”
Xiaoshunzi murmured his acknowledgment.
The sound of feet crushing packed snow crunched in the distance. I furrowed my brows. How come someone was coming to the Overlooking Wave Pavilion at this hour to disturb me? I looked up to see several palace lanterns illuminating the darkness. Princess Changle had only brought along two maids and Xiaoliuzi on her trek here. My heart swelled with a rush of warmth. Married ten years, we treated each other with respect and affection. I would always love this woman as deeply as when we left Chang’an hand in hand.
For the sake of admiring the snowy landscape, I deliberately forbade servants from sweeping the packed snow around the Overlooking Wave Pavilion. The same was true for the stone pathway. Seeing her trudging through the deep snow with the help of her maids, I couldn’t help myself and went forward to welcome her. Once I exited the Overlooking Wave Pavilion, the wintry wind blasted into my face. I shivered, a twinge of pain in my heart. I hastened over and clutched Changle’s empty hand, saying, “What are you doing out so late?” As I spoke, I hurriedly pulled her into the Overlooking Wave Pavilion.
Inside the Overlooking Wave Pavilion, the lanternlight looked like snow. I couldn’t resist gazing at Changle’s serene and elegant countenance. Even after returning to Chang’an and undergoing years of trials and tribulations, she often needed to socialize in the court. She had to fend off various machinations and schemes,7 striving to create a peaceful and comfortable space for me. However, no matter how much time elapsed, her charm never diminished in the slightest. Although the years had left their mark on her features, it only made her more beautiful. She was like a clear spring that gladdened the heart and refreshed the mind at a glance. And though she was reticent and private, it was sweet and delightful. Holding both of her freezing cold hands, looking at her fair and beautiful complexion that was blown red by the wintry wind, I sighed lightly, having already caught her small, rosy-red lips in a gentle embrace.
Changle’s delicate body softly struggled for a second. Even after many years of marriage, she still wasn’t used to showing affection in front of others. However, she did not push me away, and let me show my love for her without restraint. Sensing her shyness, I abandoned my plan to continue the attack and said with a smile, “I’m fine; you can rest easy. Don’t worry over me.”
Changle’s beautiful face flushed even redder. She swiftly glanced at the four people outside the Overlooking Wave Pavilion who were looking down in embarrassment. “You and I have different considerations. I didn’t want to ask either. It’s just that on a frigid, snowy night, you should wear more clothing,” she said tenderly. “Xiaoliuzi, bring it over.”
Xiaoliuzi walked inside carrying a bundle. Princess Changle shook open the bright yellow cloth bundle and took out a marten fur cloak. “Imperial Sister-in-law had someone send this today. It’s part of Youzhou’s tribute for this year. It’s the most lightweight and warmest article. I don’t care if you’re admiring the snow or the moon, but you need to put on more clothes,” she said.
I let her tie the cloak over me, then held both her hands again and nodded happily. The heat had returned to her hands. I wrapped my arms around her slender waist and drew her close to me. I smiled and said, “Since you’re here, stay with me. Contemplate the cold, lonely moon that stirs the heart and the winter constellations in the sky.”
Changle lifted her head but didn’t look at the moon and stars in the sky. She looked at me instead, lapsing into a sweet silence. Peace and happiness ran through me. I wished time could forever stop in this moment.
By this time, Xiaoshunzi and the others had tactfully retreated far into the distance. Only the two of us, husband and wife, remained under the moon whispering to each other. I could cast aside the worries in my heart with Changle in my arms and devote my attention to chatting with her. A thought arose in my mind and disappeared just as quickly. On a moonlit night overlooking the Yangtze River, was anyone else savoring the silent and cold moon?
A thousand li away,8 on either side of the mighty river, the Yong army’s encampment and Southern Chu’s fleet faced off. The new moon was faint in the starry sky. Lu Can gazed at the reflection of the cold, lonely moon in the middle of the river while aboard a tower ship. He poured a libation into the water and prayed, “My only wish is that the Heavens bless me so I can drive out the formidable foe of Great Yong and protect my state and its people. The now departed General Cai was a brave and remarkable soul and understood my difficulties.”
Finishing his prayer, he looked at Cai Lin’s proof of identity in his hands and broke down into tears. The day before, someone with Cai Lin’s proof of identity sought an audience. Afterwards, he wanted to return to Huaidong to rescue Cai Lin. When Lu Can told him candidly that Cai Lin had taken his own life for the sake of the state, the man wailed and fainted. Lu Can thought of his act of abandoning Huaidong. Even though nobody blamed him, he still couldn’t rest easy.
A man behind him coldly said, “Why is Grand General troubled? It was I who acted of my own accord and cut off communications between Huaidong and Jianye. If I did not do so, how could we make Prime Minister Shang hand over complete military power? Currently, Grand General has control of the entire military strength of Southern Chu and can oppose the Yong army at full strength. What does the sacrifice of the region of Huaidong really matter? Not to mention the Huaidong army was extremely weak. And the commander was directly related to Prime Minister Shang. If they suffer a bit more heavily, it’s beneficial for Grand General, no?”
Lu Can smiled bitterly. “Why must you utter such things, brother Wei? I’m also an accomplice to this event. Huaidong’s communications may have been cut, but how would I not know Pei Yun’s capabilities? None of the Huaidong generals could withstand that man, but for the sake of the big picture, I had to feign ignorance and entangle myself in Jianye with Prime Minister Shang. That caused Huaidong to fall into enemy hands and General Cai to calmly die a martyr. Alas, this is my fault. Brother Wei was simply doing it for the good of my army.”
Wei Ying’s expression shifted, but he merely said in an even tone, “When was I doing those things for you? I did, however, want you to win a crushing victory. Are you confident?”
Lu Can smiled in response. “Two hours ago, the intelligence report from Huaixi arrived. Cui Jue’s force from the Nanyang Barracks has begun marching to Shouchun. In addition, Dong Shan, he of the Xuzhou Barracks who didn’t show his face in Huaidong this time around, has already reached Zhongli.9 Zhangsun Ji personally led the one hundred forty thousand-strong Nanyang Barracks to besiege Xiangyang. Huaixi only has General Shi Guan’s force of thirty thousand. The plan of the Yong armies is clear. They want to make it impossible for me to defend every region. I’ve already sent orders to Zhongli to have them hold out for three days before retreating to Shouchun. If they cannot possibly retreat safely, I will not stop them from surrendering. In this fashion, I can funnel the two divisions of the Yong army to Shouchun,” Lu Can said.
“Do you actually think Shouchun can withstand the Yong army?” Wei Ying asked, furrowing his brows. “Shi Guan’s talent may be above average, but the Yong army enjoys numerical superiority.”
Lu Can said in a respectful tone, “Defense of the city is a must. The important elements are the morale of the troops and the popular support. General Shi won’t have problems holding Shouchun, not to mention Yun’er is my eldest son, the heir to the Duke Who Suppresses Distant Lands. With him in Shouchun, the soldiers and civilians are at peace. Shouchun will not fall.”
“However,” Wei Ying replied, “if they rely upon the city walls to defend their position, it will be difficult to endure until the end. Moreover, the Jiangxia Barracks places priority on their navy. Though they have three thousand cavalry, it’s just a drop in the bucket.10 You would never allow the navy to engage Great Yong’s heavy cavalry. Wouldn’t that be trifling about? Also, the Jiujiang Barracks and the Yong army are here facing off against each other. Pei Yun needs only pin down our army. Shouchun will be defenseless sooner or later. Are you not worried for your son’s safety?”
“As a son of the Lu clan, he knows he may have to sacrifice himself for the state. Besides, I’m already prepared for the coming battle,” Lu Can said calmly. “This time, the Yong army will focus its advance on Huaixi. Huaidong is a trap. Xiangyang and Jiameng Pass are nothing more than tangential objectives. Unfortunately for them, no one in the Yong army commands the grand strategy. They haven’t dispatched the Eastern Sea navy either. This must be because the Yong Emperor looks down on our Southern Chu soldiers. I’ll give the Yong army one heavy blow to make the Yong cavalry too scared to lie in wait for Huainan again.”
Wei Ying was silent. He could vividly see the killing intent and will to fight exploding onto Lu Can’s body in this moment. Perhaps choosing to support this man was the most correct decision I made in my lifetime. That being the case, he needed to be thorough and thoughtful for Lu Can. He absolutely could not allow him to be murdered by powerful ministers who were crafty and sycophantic.
Having thought all this, Wei Ying probed, “Is the Governor of Yangzhou, Hu Cheng, already in the Grand General’s Barracks?”
Lu Can raised an eyebrow and replied, “That’s right. The man abandoned the city and fled, deserting Yangzhou’s millions of soldiers and civilians. I truly ought to kill him. After crossing the river, the man even fancied returning to Jianye and enjoying wealth and status. However, he landed in my hands. I’ve already decided that we’ll use his head in a sacrificial ceremony before we cross the river and battle.”
“Although that man is shameless, Prime Minister Shang personally selected him to be governor,” Wei Ying sighed. “Apparently, he used three hundred thousand catties of gold to buy this governorship. When he returned to Southern Chu this time, he sent his family to bribe Prime Minister Shang with two hundred thousand catties of gold. Prime Minister Shang’s dispatch will arrive tomorrow and order you to send Hu Cheng back to Jianye for punishment.”
Lu Can knitted his brows in fury and replied, “What a corrupt official. No wonder he openly smuggled sea salt in Yangzhou. Turns out he wanted to recoup his losses. Shang Weijun is truly foolish. With a man like this acting as the governor of Yangzhou, that explains why Yangzhou collapsed without a fight as the dispatch is arriving tomorrow.” He hesitated for a moment before calling out, “Guards.”
A bodyguard entered from outside, saluted, and awaited orders.
Lu Can grimly said, “Return to the Barracks and pass along my order of: Immediately behead Hu Cheng in public.”
The bodyguard replied in the affirmative and departed. Then Lu Can turned to Wei Ying with a noncommittal smile and asked, “Is brother Wei thinking of begging lenience for Hu Cheng as well?”
Wei Ying gave a brief smile and replied, “I’d rather have had the Grand General act earlier to avoid a conflict with Prime Minister Shang.”
Lu Can was startled. He shook his head and smiled in spite of himself. He gazed at the flames of the encampment on the opposing riverbank and asked, “Does brother Wei want to spy on the camp with me?”
”Wasn’t the purpose of the Grand General summoning me to the tower ship to inspect the enemy?” Wei Ying said with a smile.
Lu Can grinned. He ordered the soldiers crewing the tower ship to row to the other shore. Under a star-studded sky, the reflection of the moon lonely in the middle of the river, the only sound on earth outside of the wailing, biting wind was the tower ship cutting across the river.
Footnotes:冷月无声, lengyue-wusheng – lit. cold moon is soundless; likely a reference to a poem by the Song Dynasty poet Jiang Kui (姜夔) entitled “Famed Capital in Huainan, to the Tune of Yangzhou Adagio” (扬州慢 · 淮左名都) that condemned both sides of the Jin-Song Wars for the destruction and suffering of the lands and peoplesThis is a poem entitled “Composed While Sick” by Tang Dynasty poet Bai Juyi (白居易).瞻前顾后, zhanqian-guhou – idiom, lit. look ahead into the future and back into the past; fig. look before you leap, overcautious and indecisive蛇鼠两端, she-shu liangduan – idiom, lit. the snake (greed) and the mouse (timidity) on either side; fig. both greedy and cowardly江山 – a county and city in southwest Zhejiang Province萧规曹随, Xiaogui-Caosui – Cao Can (曹参), a Han Dynasty chief minister, followed the rules established by his predecessor Xiao He (萧何); lit. Xiao’s governor followed by Cao; fig. followed established rules and precedents明抢暗箭, mingqiang-anjian – idiom, lit. spear in the open and hidden arrows; fig. open attacks and stabs in the back, schemes and machinations540 km (about 336 miles)钟离, modern-day Fengyang County杯水车薪, beishui-chexin – idiom, lit. trying to put out a burning cart of firewood with a cup of water; fig. an utterly inadequate measure, a drop in the bucket, barely scratching the surface