Legend of Great Tang’s Twin Dragons - Volume 47 C8
Book 47 Chapter 8 – Failure Within Sight Of Success
Xu Ziling flew over the grassland, forging ahead in the direction of the Great River, hurrying back to Chang’an, his heart was in chaos. Translated by foxs
If two tigers fight, one will get injured [idiom], yet he was incapable to prevent this matter from developing. Nature [as the mother of all things] is playing with people. Why was Shi Feixuan so sure that he would be able to alter what seems to be a pre-ordained destiny? The fact was that he had always felt powerless.
He felt that Li Shimin might harden his heart to deal with Jiancheng and Yuanji’s persecution, but he was still unable to disregard the father-son emotion with Li Yuan. Li Shimin’s calm and cool-headed reception was beyond his expectation; furthermore, his reaction was not as impulsive and intense as he anticipated, rather, he resolutely decided to set aside everything that has been going on in Chang’an at the back of his mind, and concentrated his heart and mind to deal with Kou Zhong.
If there was no Song Que in the mix, even if he did not look at Xu Ziling’s face, after defeating Kou Zhong, he might offer Kou Zhong a horse; he would not have tried to put him to death. However, Song Que might make things go another direction. Li Shimin explained this matter to him, precisely he was indicating that that was the only choice within no choice at all.
How he wished that he could get far away from everything that was quickly about to happen, and no longer hear any news pertaining to this cruel attack and defense battle. However, it was already hard for him not to get involved; would he be able to live after seeing Kou Zhong got killed? foxswuxia.wordpress.com
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Kou Zhong pounced out from behind the underbrush and tree, and darted toward the hill slope like a shooting star, sweeping over toward Li Shimin.
Pang Yu and two personal bodyguards, who were facing this side, were alerted at the same time; they shouted loudly, and after finding out that the newcomer was Kou Zhong, they hurriedly leaped off the horseback and drew their weapons, one sword and two sabers intercepted Kou Zhong head-on.
On the top of the hill, Li Shimin, Zhangsun Wuji, Yuchi Jingde, Luo Shixin, and sixteen martial art masters personal bodyguards were not thrown into confusion like Kou Zhong expected. Li Shimin laughed aloud and said, “Shaoshuai, I trust you have been well since we last met!”
One after another Zhangsun Wuji and the others pulled their weapons and formed a ring around Li Shimin to protect him, five martial art masters personal bodyguards flew off their horses to deal with Kou Zhong.
Kou Zhong cried inwardly, ‘What a pity!’ if he could sneak up the hill slope without being detected, or perhaps the other side spurred their horses to intercept, he could rely on his shenfa, which was a lot more nimble than the horses, to grasp the opportunity to launch a close-range violent attack toward Li Shimin. But now it has become a two sides fighting with all their might situation. His mouth responded, “Shimin Xiong is also as elegant as before, it is worthy of celebration.”
The Moon in the Well left his back and swiftly poked forward to hit Pang Yu’s attacking sword head-on, and then his body shifted slightly to the right to dodge the saber chopping at his neck by a hairsbreadth. The Moon in the Well swept out, it firmly met the back of the saber of the martial art master on his right hacking from the side. Translated by foxs
Pang Yu was the first to let out a stifled grunt; his right hand, which wielded the sword, felt empty and fluttering, his accumulated force had nowhere to go; it was uncomfortable to the extreme. Previously he had fought with Kou Zhong in Luoyang, but the Kou Zhong before his eyes this moment seemed to have shed his mortal body and exchanged his bones to become another person. The power was deep and immeasurable, the saber technique was hard to fathom. Overwhelmed with shock, he retreated to regroup his troop disposition.
Unexpectedly the martial art master personal bodyguard on the right was swept by him that the saber, as well as the person, staggered across and tumbled away; turned out Kou Zhong borrowed some of Pang Yu’s inner power and used it against him, how could this gentleman not immediately suffer losses?
At the same time that Kou Zhong swept away the enemy on the right side, his left leg flew out, the tip of his boot hit the blade of the enemy on the left, who was changing his move upward, the man could only look on helplessly as Kou Zhong’s kick arrived without being able to avoid at all. The vortex of energy shot out, the man spurted out blood and fell back. foxswuxia.wordpress.com
When Pang Yu retreated swiftly, five spear-wielder martial art master personal bodyguards crossed over Pang Yu and dashed on bravely with no thought of personal safety to attack Kou Zhong.
Watching this, Li Shimin and the others on the top of the hill drew out a mouthful of cold air. Kou Zhong unexpectedly became this formidable, he was no longer the Kou Zhong that they knew well.
Kou Zhong laughed aloud and shot up into the sky, five long spears struck to the air.
Kou Zhong was quite astute; seeing the five men with one spear style, he determined that these five martial art master personal bodyguards must be proficient in some kind of formation that could display the strong points of their spear technique, naturally he did not dare to be entangled by them.
Pang Yu, who swooped down back from the hill slope, was at a loss. Kou Zhong shot straight up into the sky, when the force exhausted, wouldn’t he fall straight back down to the ground? How could he deal with the five long spears waiting for him? Since it was hard to guess, he could only hold his troop disposition on the side and wait.
On top of the slope, Li Shimin and the others were too busy to think too much. Except for Li Shimin, everybody put away their weapon, their right hand fetched the bow, the left hand picked the arrow, they pulled the bow to a full circle and aimed it at Kou Zhong, who was still soaring in the sky.
The twanging of the bowstring burst one after another, fourteen powerful arrows left the bow and were woven into an arrow net, swiftly shooting toward Kou Zhong. None of the archers was not an expert, the point of their aim, as well as the angle, all were impeccable. If Kou Zhong continued his ascend at the current momentum and speed, he would surely be a target for the arrows. Even if his martial art skill were higher, he wouldn’t, under such circumstances, be able to block fourteen powerful arrows at the same time. Translated by foxs
Li Shimin could not bear to see it happening, but he also vaguely felt that Kou Zhong would not be that easy to kill.
Sure enough, Kou Zhong let out a long laughter, his true qi changed direction, unexpectedly from straight up he dashed sideways; not only he missed the powerful arrows that could seize his life away, he also flew over Pang Yu to pounce directly toward the men on the hill.
Pang Yu shouted loudly, he leaped at an angle, the long sword chased directly behind Kou Zhong’s back. foxswuxia.wordpress.com
Kou Zhong increased his momentum, he rapidly pulled away from the tip of Pang Yu’s sword, while throwing himself toward Li Shimin at the top of the hill.
Yuchi Jingde and the others had never thought that Kou Zhong had this unique skill to reverse the true qi and change the shenfa’s direction, none did not miss their calculation by a substantial margin. Too late to draw their usual weapons out, one after another they jumped off the horseback into the air to meet Kou Zhong’s attack using the big bow in their hands to deflect the strike and meet the attack head-on.
All of them were fierce generals and warriors, veterans of a hundred battles; facing death, they did not panic. Not only they did not crash into each other in the air, they even worked well with each other. They split up with half forming a human net to attack and intercept, while the other half stayed where they were, putting their bow away and drawing their weapons in strong defensive position.
From the time Kou Zhong launched his offensive to this moment, it was only about a few blinks of the eye; from this, the tight and intense battlefield situation could clearly be seen.
Li Shimin pulled the sword from his waist. He himself was a powerful martial art master as well, although he could see that Kou Zhong was brave and unstoppable, sending out wonderful moves one after another, he was still fearless.
Pang Yu’s sword chased directly behind Kou Zhong’s back. Five spear wielders also counterattacked. If Yuchi Jingde, Luo Shixin, and the three martial art master personal bodyguards succeeded in intercepting him, Kou Zhong would fall into a heavy siege, with only death without any chance of living.
Zhangsun Wuji was guarding by Li Shimin’s side, unable to take his eyes off as he watched attentively at Kou Zhong’s approaching momentum. Among the generals, he and Yuchi Jingde had the highest martial art skill. Furthermore, he was cool-headed and very smart; he would not suddenly become careless just because his side seemed to have the situation under control, plus he had been considering all kinds of measures to meet a contingency due to the change of situation.
The first to meet Kou Zhong was Yuchi Jingde. Such a martial art master of his caliber, although it was a long bow instead of the Gui Zang Whip, which he was accustomed to using – in his hand, his move was still fierce and severe, with ample power and ferocious momentum. When it looked like he was going to sweep the other side’s Moon in the Well squarely, who would have thought that the Moon in the Well, which clearly was chopping swiftly down, unexpectedly changed suddenly? When he was crying ‘Bad!’ inwardly, the long bow did not have time to change move, Kou Zhong picked the bowstring with the blade of his saber. Translated by foxs
Laughing heartily, Kou Zhong said, “This is called ‘Cheating Troops’! It appears real but actually empty, on the contrary, empty becomes real.”
The bowstring was cut, the bow snapped straight.
The most ingenious point of this saber strike was in avoiding the important and dwelling on the trivial, by not forcefully staking everything with Yuchi Jingde, but by striking the weakest point of the long bow, neutralizing the enemy’s offensive. Imagine that when the bent bow became straight wood, plus when snapping straight it generated force, no matter how outstanding Yuchi Jingde was, momentarily it was difficult for him to change move and counterattack, while he was also afraid that Kou Zhong might launch a killer strike; without any better option, he dropped down. However, he was not worried at all, because Luo Shixin’s saber and the other three martial art master personal bodyguards’ swords could make Kou Zhong struggling to cope with. foxswuxia.wordpress.com
Who could have thought that Kou Zhong borrowed however little of the springing force of the bowstring to rise up, made a somersault, unexpectedly he completely evaded the intercept in the air, and threw himself toward Li Shimin, under the protection of Zhangsun Wuji and the remaining three martial art master personal bodyguards, on the hill.
Whether in terms of strategy and saber technique, Kou Zhong’s execution had reached perfection, exquisite and brilliant beyond compare.
After failing to catch up from behind, Pang Yu fell back to the ground, his heart filled with regret; if just now he used stillness to control movement, strongly defending his position on top of the hill, he would not be caught in such current situation. If he let Kou Zhong directly attacked Li Shimin, even if afterward not a single hair of Li Shimin was harmed, it would be difficult for them to escape the guilt of unsatisfactory protection.
Zhangsun Wuji made a prompt decision; seeing Li Shimin was going to brandish his sword to meet the enemy, he roared, “Stop him!”
Grabbing the bridle of Li Shimin’s mount, he pulled and turned the horse’s head to run in the direction of the camp.
The three guards, with saber in their right hand and shield on their left, pounced toward Kou Zhong, who was dropping from the sky. Translated by foxs
Like lightning, the Moon in the Well struck one of the shields. He borrowed the reaction force to bounce up, and then taking a breath in the air, swift like an arrow he shot toward Li Shimin and Zhangsun Wuji.
Li Shimin and Zhangsun Wuji have just started rushing down the hill slope. Although their rides were extremely divine spirited horses, they still failed to take advantage of their four legs to the utmost, by the time they reached their top speed, Kou Zhong’s already launched his shenfa to the fullest, swift like a shooting star; he started later but was arriving first.
Zhangsun Wuji already waited with accumulated power, with a flip, he leaped from the horseback to the ground, the jade Xiao in his hand turned into hundreds and thousands points of light reflecting the moon and the stars in the sky, storming toward Kou Zhong, whose feet were about to touch the ground, like howling wind and torrential rain.
His calculation was extremely precise, he made his move before Kou Zhong touched the ground, which was the awkward moment when Kou Zhong’s old force was at the end of its stage and the new force has not been generated. foxswuxia.wordpress.com
Kou Zhong thundered, the tip of his feet swiftly stretched out, he touched the ground one step ahead of Zhangsun Wuji’s estimate, and then, like a spinning top he whirled toward him, the man and the saber became one entity.
The sound lingered in the air, Zhangsun Wuji gave everything he had, the jade Xiao stabbed more than a dozen times in succession, all jabs was aimed at the body of the Moon in the Well, yet he still failed to hold back the violently striking saber momentum; he had no choice but to fly back. Otherwise, if he let Kou Zhong, the man and the saber, entered his defense and knocked his chest, he would be chopped into multiple pieces like having his head and his limbs pulled apart by five horses.
Kou Zhong, however, heaved a deep sigh inwardly. He secretly praised Zhangsun Wuji’s outstanding martial art skill. With him doing everything he could to block him using these several moves, Kou Zhong missed the golden opportunity bestowed by heaven to eliminate Li Shimin, this formidable opponent, for nothing. He failed within sight of success.
Letting out a long laughter, he said, “Shimin Xiong, take care! I am not seeing you off!”
Li Shimin was already rushing to the bottom of the hill slope; looking back, he said with a laugh, “A bit later I will look for Shaoshuai to raise our cups and have a heart-to-heart chat, what do you think?”
Before the enemy crowded around him, Kou Zhong swiftly slipped away.
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Xu Ziling reached the Great River, and then he rushed along the river westward for about a sichen, by the time it was almost daybreak, the terrain turned flat, a ferry crossing point appeared ahead. In the dark before dawn, it was tranquil with no one in sight. Translated by foxs
Xu Ziling thought he was at the wrong place, until he saw the small stone tablet with ‘Weng Shan Gu Du’ [ancient ferry crossing of Mount Weng] inscribed on it, he was certain that this was the appointed place where Lei Jiuzhi, Song Shidao, and the others agreed as the entry point to Chang’an; thereupon he sat down at the ferry crossing point, staring blankly at the water of the Great River surging on to the east.
Chen Fu was responsible to inform Lei Jiuzhi’s side, he and Ou Liangcai had established communication channel using speedboat, so that information could be passed on rapidly. Lei Jiuzhi and the others ought to be waiting for him here, but until now he has not seen the ship’s shadow.
While he was hesitating whether he should stay and continue waiting or leave to look for Lei, Song, and the others, a shadow of a sail appeared upstream, a small sailboat was rapidly approaching following the stream.
Xu Ziling felt something was not quite right, the boat that Situ Furong personally rode on could not possibly be a small, single-mast sailboat; it should be a huge three-mast or even five-mast ship. Hastily he hid himself in the woods next to the ancient ferry crossing. foxswuxia.wordpress.com
The sailboat cast anchor by the shore, Ou Liangcai appeared on the boat and looked in all directions.
Still unclear of what was going on, Xu Ziling flashed out of the woods.
Ou Liangcai saw him and called in great delight, “Ziling, quickly get on board.”
Xu Ziling climbed aboard, Ou Liangcai ordered the boat to turn around and sail westward, in the direction of the Pass. He said, “This is Lei LaoGe’s idea; he said that while everybody in the world knew that you went to see Qin Wang, he found someone with similar body build as yours to impersonate Situ Furong and entered the capital. This way, no one would suspect that you and Situ Furong are related. However, Ziling must now rush to get to Chang’an as quickly as possible, otherwise, if we let the fake Situ Furong open his mouth and socialize with other people, when you, the real Situ Furong appears to replace him, you might reveal some flaws.”
Blurted out laughing, Xu Ziling said, “Unexpectedly I am the real Situ Furong? So how’s the situation of the neither-real-nor-fake Situ Furong?”
Ou Liangcai cheerfully replied, “Situ Furong fled outside the Great Wall, to a place where he believed the Song Family’s influence cannot reach. Without a year or a half, I am afraid he won’t dare to come back. At the same time, we sent out a big ship from Pingyao, and also spread rumor that he is going to lie low in Chang’an; all Pingyao merchants are on our side, everybody agrees that if anybody investigate this, they would confirm that there is no suspicious information on the surface.”
Xu Ziling cast his gaze toward the horizon, where the first light of the dawn started to appear, a burst of emotion welled up in his heart, the battlefield where Kou Zhong and Li Shimin were contending for supremacy were farther and farther away from him, but would he be able to cast the battlefield away from his mind? Translated by foxs
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The sound of clashing weapons was ringing continuously. On top of the city wall, as well as below it, a large number of soldiers stood in a circle and watch amidst the sound of cheering. Kou Zhong, bare-chested, and twelve of Yang Gongqing’s elite personal guards, personally selected by Ma Chang, were having a match as part of their training. The elites took turns on the arena, provoking unending cheers from the spectators; the atmosphere was blazing.
‘Cha! Cha! Cha!’
Kou Zhong unleashed his strange footwork, he suddenly escaped the heavy siege. Raising the saber high, he laughed and said, “Today we stop at this point. We need to preserve a bit of strength to grab Li Shimin’s eggs!”
Kou Zhong came to Yang Gongqing, who was watching from the side, with a smile on his face. The personal bodyguard who was looking after his clothing and other personal items quickly wiped his sweat and helped him putting on the clothes.
Yang Gongqing laughed and said, “Shaoshuai is showing off your ability like this, aren’t you afraid you might incur Shengshang’s jealousy?” foxswuxia.wordpress.com
Kou Zhong had the Piercing the Sun Bow carefully tucked away [note: the last couple of times, the text actually says ‘Shooting the Sun’, but since during the prairie arc it was ‘Piercing the Sun’, I took the liberty of changing it back]. He spoke indifferently, “He ought to be grateful to me.” Looking at the city guards on top of the wall, who were still continuously saluting him, he said, “This is the best way to motivate their morale, which is to preach using myself, to display my strength using practical action; it will bring out unexpected efficacy on the battlefield. I learned this move from Xieli. Before attacking Longquan, Xieli and a group of officers and soldiers were having fun in archery practice behind the camp. This is the genuine style of great generals.”
Yang Gongqing cheerfully said, “In here, the one respecting your saber technique the most must be me. Other than Shaoshuai, who could regard Li Shimin’s personal guards and fierce generals as nothing, who could attack him that his only way out was to spur his ride and run for his life?”
“No need to mention it!” Kou Zhong dejectedly said, “Just a little bit more, and then I would not need to get up early in the morning to perform a monkey trick show.”
The sound of hoof beats suddenly rang, a rider was rushing out from inside the city. The two looked, unexpectedly it was great general Zhang Zhi, who was officially appointed to pass on Wang Shichong’s order. Kou Zhong and Yang Gongqing you look at me I look at you, they were both puzzled and felt that the turn of events was not too encouraging.
Zhang Zhi dismounted in front of the two men, he said, “Let’s get in the tent to talk.”
Kou Zhong remained motionless. Knitting his brows, he said, “Did Zhang Da Jiangjun receive Shengshang’s order?” Translated by foxs
Letting out a cold snort, Yang Gongqing said, “What is Shengshang’s instruction?”
Awkwardly Zhang Zhi lowered his voice and said, “Shengshang told me to pass on a verbal order, cancel today’s initiative to attack, changed into wait and see for any changes.”
“What?” Kou Zhong and Yang Gongqing blurted out at the same time.
Even though originally Yang Gongqing did not agree on going out to battle today, but Wang Shichong’s issuing order at dusk and changing it in the morning actually violated a big taboo of the School of the Military. Now everybody was ready, the morale was like a rainbow, yet Wang Shichong’s foolish and cowardly action was just like pouring a bucket of cold water onto their heads, how could he not make people to be discouraged?
Zhang Zhi spoke with wry smile, “Shengshang thinks …”
Kou Zhong raised his hand to stop him from continuing; flying onto the horse, he shouted, “I’ll talk to him.”
No longer paying attention to Zhang Zhi, he spurred his horse straight into the city gate and toward Cijian’s Zongguan Mansion, which was used as temporary imperial residence for Wang Shichong. foxswuxia.wordpress.com
Kou Zhong charged directly into the Zongguan Mansion, all the guards did not dare to stop him, he went straight into the main hall and only then did Wang Shichong’s personal guards stop him outside the door. “I want to see Shengshang,” Kou Zhong yelled.
Wang Shichong’s voice came from the inside, “Let Shaoshuai in!”
Furious, Kou Zhong stepped into the hall. Knowing what happened, Song Mengqiu and Lang Feng, who were talking to Wang Shichong, withdrew from the hall, leaving Wang Shichong alone sitting on the grand commander chair at the southern end of the hall, remaining calm and unruffled in the midst of chaos, sipping fragrant tea. But he signaled Kou Zhong to sit down on the first seat on his right.
Kou Zhong, however, went straight in front of him and asked in heavy voice, “What is this all about?”
Wang Shichong responded in displeasure, “What’s the matter? I could not sleep soundly last night, thinking over this matter over and over, finally I decided that it would still be inappropriate to send troops out today. The reason is very simple, the fortifications are still not finished, hurriedly sending the troops out, once lost, the cities left and right will be impacted, the consequences are too risky.”
Kou Zhong spoke in displeasure, “But have Shengshang thought that only last night you gave the order for all-around preparation for battle, determined to attack today, yet you suddenly change your mind. This will have negative impact on morale. Moreover, our strategy is to gain the initiative by striking first, to show that our troops are without any fear toward the Tang’s troops. If we let Li Shimin takes the lead, our passive counterattack and actively taking the initiative to attack are two quite different things.” Translated by foxs
Wang Shichong snorted coldly and said, “Shaoshuai must not get angry, I am only delaying the attack by one day, after the trench defense is completed, we go out to battle, confident of success [orig. ten picks nine stables]. On the battlefield, not only we fight with courage and strength, but also with wits and schemes. Advancing impatiently is a taboo of the School of the Military. It is a mere one day. Currently Li Shimin’s troops disposition is not stable yet, they will need several days to rest and make preparation. Tomorrow or today, there won’t be any difference.”
Kou Zhong laughed angrily, “If it were so easy for others to correctly guess Li Shimin’s movements and strategy, he is unworthy to be called the unrivalled commanding general of the present age. He could arrive three days earlier than Shengshang’s prediction, how can we now guess when he is going to invade our territory? Li Shimin’s military strategy and tactics can be steady can be strange, strange and straightforward changes are endless. If we regard him using ordinary military regulations, certainly we won’t have good result.”
Angry look appeared on his face, Wang Shichong said, “Zhen have stated my position, there is no need for you to lecture me.”
Kou Zhong could no longer suppress his rage; throwing his head back in laughter, he said, “Since that’s the case, I, Kou Zhong have no choice but to return to Pengliang as soon as possible to enjoy a bit of quiet and happiness.” foxswuxia.wordpress.com
Wang Shichong’s countenance sank. He was about to speak, Song Mengqiu and Lang Feng, with flustered expression, burst in and blurted out together, “Li Shimin’s main forces are starting all-around maneuver, they are pressing down on our army.”
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