[So… he never intended to persuade me to surrender!]
[He has been playing me all this time!] Long Ao almost collapsed as this thought arose in his mind. He had always been very proud of his intelligence and smartness. But, he had been played so miserably today!
The enemy troops were to the front, while his own army was to the rear. However, his army was ‘booing’ at him to show their displeasure and distrust in him. Long Ao had an urge to draw his sword and commit suicide… as if to apologize to the whole world.
Humiliation! Utter Humiliation!
Long Ao had been always been a proud man. He would triumph in every battle. Had he ever faced such humiliation before?
Moreover, this had happened in such a critical situation. His army had reached the end of the line, and had nowhere to go. His only option was to restrain his anger and surrender, but even his own soldiers were no longer on his side. This Commander had built-up his current prestige over many years. However, his decades-worth of prestige – which he had built through painstaking efforts – had been ruined by the opposite party!
Long Ao’s body swayed. He couldn’t sit still on the horseback; in fact, he almost fell down. His vision darkened, and every hope in his heart turned to dust. He subconsciously turned his horse around, and rode towards his own army.
His mind was filled with the memories of the generals he had defeated and humiliated in the past. He couldn’t help but think that they must have felt the same way he was feeling at the moment...
Wu Kuang Yun didn’t pursue him. He merely sat still on his horse. A smile of mockery appeared on his face as he saw Long Ao ride away. He thought, [it seems that King of Hell Chu’s plan was very effective. Look at this guy… he’s so angry that he appears half-dead. It seems as if he doesn’t wish to live anymore... this is awesome!]
Long Ao went back, and was greeted by doubtful, suspicious and despising looks from his subordinates. The soldiers were silently giving him similar looks as well.
[He deliberately lowered his voice so that we couldn’t hear his words. He was definitely pleading! And, the other party didn’t lower their voice…]
[The other party also said that Long Ao called him ‘daddy’… and Great General Long didn’t even refute this claim. The other party even forced him to swear… but he only spat blood… he didn’t swear!]
[What does all of this indicate?]
[This shows that Great General Long was ‘actually’ begging for mercy… that he wanted to seek good treatment, status and rewards after the surrender. He even tried to curry favor by acting servilely and calling him ‘daddy’… but he was severely humiliated by the other party instead!]
[Is this... is this really our Great General Long?]
Long Ao felt a heavy stroke in his chest when he was presented with this awkward silence and looks of suspicion. He felt like a knife was being twisted in his heart. He wanted to say something, but he saw stars revolve before his eyes. He opened his mouth to say something, but ended up spouted a big mouthful of blood instead…
He was dejected. The thoughts of killing himself had started to appear in his mind…
He turned his horse around, and suddenly shouted, "Wu Kuang Yun! I couldn’t eat your flesh while I was still alive, but I will chase your soul after I die! Whether in heaven or hell — I will never coexist with you!"
He continued to bellow even though blood was still dripping from his mouth.
Then, he pulled out his long sword and shouted in anger, "Wu Kuang Yun, you wait for me. My ghost will come for you at night..." He slashed his own throat with the sword, and committed suicide on the horseback! The tone of his voice before his death was sad and shrill. It seemed as if the devil had rushed out of hell and shrieked wildly. His voice was filled with endless hatred and sorrow. The people who heard his voice were creeped out by it.
He died on the spot. The blood continued to gush out, but his body didn’t fall down. His eyes continued to glare at Wu Kuang Yun. And, there was anger and resentment in those eyes. His eyes looked like the eyes of a dead man — profound and seemingly connected with the netherworld...
One of the most famous generals of this generation had chosen to commit suicide!
"Commander-in-Chiefl!" His personal soldiers burst into tears.
"Command-in-Chief!" thousands of people bellowed in unison. They then knelt down, and burst into tears.
Wu Kuang Yun shivered a little. Then, he suddenly burst into laughter, "Motherf*ker, don’t you know that the count of people who wish to kill me are more than ten-million in number? At least know this much if you hold a grudge against me and wish to take revenge. You will come for me in the night? Well, then you will have to stand in the queue before you get to me! The f*ker is dead, and he still dared to threaten me before he died!"
Then, he raised his arm and announced in a loud voice, "Long Ao is dead! Thou… You all still haven’t surrendered… till when do you plan to wait?" He had initially wanted to say ‘thou’, but he realized that ‘thou’ would sound a bit ‘genteel’. So, he replaced it with ‘you’ at the last moment.
A man adorned in a black mask stood on the wall. His black clothes fluttered in the wind. He had a pair of cold, sharp and ruthless eyes. It was King of Hell Chu!
"Minister Chu, do we allow these people to surrender..." Tie Bu Tian asked as his eyes flashed.
"Their Commanding General is dead. So, we will naturally allow them to surrender!" Chu Yang indifferently said, "We will have Long Ao’s personal soldiers executed after the surrender. The senior generals shall also be executed. The remaining high-ranking officers shall be imprisoned. The existing teams shall be broken up, and reorganized to form a ‘new force’."
"I understand that the senior generals need to be executed, and the high-ranking officers must be imprisoned. But, why execute the personal soldiers?" Tie Bu Tian knitted his eyebrows and asked, "Killing the prisoners of war is..."
"This is no time to be benevolent and merciful. We should focus on our survival. We must live on — only then can you think about dominating the whole world!" Chu Yang coldly replied, "The reason why Your Majesty doesn’t understand the execution of personal soldiers is because Your Majesty doesn’t know what a ‘personal soldier’ really is! Personal Soldier… these two words aren’t ‘just’ for show."
Tie Bu Tian felt embarrassed. So, he only smiled in response. A senior general who stood nearby spoke-up, "His Majesty doesn’t command the army. So, it’s only understandable why he doesn’t understand this course of action. Anyway, we won’t have to kill many of his personal soldiers because Long Ao is already dead. So, most of his personal soldiers will soon accompany him by committing suicide!"
His facial expression was somewhat serious as he explained further, "And, those who won’t follow after their dead master… would most likely hold grudge against us. So, they will most likely plan to die after they’ve had their revenge." He heaved a long sigh, "Your Majesty, this is the true meaning of a ‘personal soldier’… that Minister Chu is talking about!"
He paused for a moment, and then said, "The so-called ‘personal soldier’ is a genuine ‘die-hard’ servant! He’s the very incarnation of the word 'loyalty'! There has always been an unsettling rule on the battlefield… that is... the basic factor used to measure the power and influence of a famous general is to see how many of his personal soldiers are willing to die in case he’s to die on the battlefield."
Tie Bu Tian was shocked by this!
Long Ao’s personal soldiers had begun to wail on the spot after he killed himself. A few of them pulled-out their knives, and committed suicide.
They had realized that they had lost after Iron Cloud offered these soldiers a chance to surrender. Therefore, the soldiers had immediately put-down their weapons. However, the personal soldiers — who were still alive — got extremely angry, and started to kill their comrades. Then, the ordinary soldiers – who had gotten attacked by the personal soldiers – also began to fight back. Hence, they started to chop each other into pieces!
The Iron Cloud Army hadn’t even moved, and Great Zhao’s ordinary soldiers and personal soldiers had already engaged in a bitter struggle amongst themselves. A scene of carnage had appeared on the battlefield as a result. The personal soldiers were weeping and wailing as they slaughtered the other soldiers. They shouted crazily as they swung their weapons, "Great General wasn’t that kind of a person! Great General definitely wasn’t that kind of a person! You people desecrated him! It’s your fault..."
These tragic shouts resounded for a long time, and only came to a stop when the entirety of his 3000 personal soldiers had been wiped-out. Even the last remaining personal soldier continued to slaughter furiously until he had used-up the last remaining bit of his strength. In fact, he used all his strength to shout out loud with his last breath, "The Great General was not..."
One could tell that this shout was clearly meant to reach the dead general’s ears. It seemed as if he wanted to tell his Great General that he believed in his innocence. And, he also wanted to tell his Great General that he was still defending his reputation and dignity… even after the man’s death. His dedication had originated from the unconditional trust he had put in his General when the man was alive! Everyone else misunderstood Long Ao. So, his own personal soldiers had sacrificed their lives in order to offer a final hymn to the man they had sworn their loyalty to!
[Our Great General didn’t deserve this!]
However, his voice suddenly froze in the middle of the proclamation of his master’s innocence as his body submerged in a sea of swords and sabers.
His blood and life soared to the heavens — just like his loyalty!
Tie Bu Tian looked at this scene of carnage; flesh and blood was flying everywhere. He heaved a long sigh and spoke, "It’s a pity that such a famous general died such a miserable death! It’s truly lamentable!"
Chu Yang indifferently said, "His Majesty’s heart is overflowing with compassion, isn’t it? But, it’s not worth it!" His words were impolite, but Tie Bu Tian didn’t get angry. He merely asked, "Why?"
"These so-called ‘famous generals’ are born out of hundreds of battles. Each general naturally comes to have his own extremely devoted followers in the remaining years of their life. And, each time such a general dies — many such people get buried alongside him! Moreover, these people are perfectly happy to die for him! This is because of his charisma."
He further continued, "He simply wouldn’t have deserved to become a general if he didn’t possess such charisma! Such things are very common on the battlefield. In fact, some generals would intentionally gather some tramps, orphans and death-row prisoners as their own direct descendants… because he knows that these people have nothing. Therefore, even a smiling face of his’ is enough to make them die for him… let alone doing the favor of giving a lease of life to such rejects."
"Besides, this is the war between the two nations… not a civil war, right?" Tie Bu Tian smiled and added.
"I understand! My compassion will only make trouble for the future. But... I can’t help but be emotionally stirred whenever I see such a scene." Tie Bu Tian gently smiled and said, "It’s just that there aren’t many ‘heroes’ around, and I can’t bear to see them die like this… perhaps because I myself employ many such ‘heroes’!"
Chu Yang was silent for a while. He then said, "These very ‘heroes’ turn to mediocrity when they are used by the king since he’s superior to them. You cast aside your bow once all the birds are dead. You cook the hounds once all the rabbits are bagged. It may sound cruel at first, but it’s the necessary evil for the greater good… one’s acknowledgement of the inevitable!"
Tie Bu Tian was silent for a long time. Then, he finally heaved a long sigh and said, "Yes."
These words were clearly derogatory, but Tie Bu Tian and Chu Yang were aware that this was the way of governing a nation. What’s the use of a bow when all the birds are dead? What’s the use of hounds when all the rabbits are dead? This world is a cruel place; at least for ordinary people. And… it’s filled with uncertainties.
Everyone knows that wars are fought for the sake of peace. However, the generals and soldiers are left with no choice but to retire and go back to the farm once the true peace is obtained. A soldier’s greatest value can only manifest in the brutal war. That’s the cruel reality!
War incites the fighting spirit. However, peace works towards pacification and harmony! This is an irreconcilable contradiction.
Tie Bu Tian turned his head to look at Chu Yang. He then spoke in a profound manner, "Minister Chu, I never knew that you have such thorough knowledge on the methods to rule a nation! Those in power have always cast aside commoners once these people have outlived their purpose. This has been the norm since ancient times. It indeed sounded a bit harsh when you quoted the saying ‘you cast aside your bow once all the birds are dead’. However, I must say that this is true way to govern a nation!"
"Keep your bow safe and ready as long as the birds aren’t dead. But, once the birds are dead… you may destroy your bow if you want. This is the way of a magnificent Emperor. Don’t forget." Chu Yang calmly said.
Tie Bu Tian was deeply inspired. He took a deep breath as he replied, "Absolutely won’t!" This reply was similar to a vow!
The topic of discussion between these two had become somewhat deep and heavy. So, they concluded their discussion, and didn’t speak further on the topic.
A long time passed before Chu Yang raised his eyebrows and said, "You can open the wall-gates and allow the surrendering soldiers in."
Tie Bu Tian exhaled a deep breath, and spoke with a smile, "The war has finally come to an end… here." There was a smile on his face, but was wonder in his heart, [we will go to the main battlefield soon. And, Wu Qian Qian will be present there. She doesn’t know… about all this...]