Volume 5, Chapter 36: Doubting the Loyal and Steadfast (Beginning)

Volume 5, Chapter 36: Doubting the Loyal and Steadfast (Beginning)

In the twenty-fifth year of Rongsheng, Northern Han was defeated at Qinzhou and the Princess of Jiaping retreated to defend Jinyang. Using the threat of massacres, the Yong army forced the Northern Han populace to flee north to escape from the disasters of war. Smoke and dust were kicked up on the difficult journey as old and young all wailed. Once again, Wudi volunteered to command the rearguard. The whole of the Yong army’s urgent pursuit was stopped by Wudi. Ultimately, surrounded by the Yong army, Wudi used the captured Yong general, Xuan Song, as a hostage to force the Yong commander-in-chief to let him off. Only in this way did Wudi survive.

However, before Wudi arrived at Jinyang, rumors abounded that he had surrendered to the enemy. Unable to determine the truth, the Northern Han King ordered Wudi’s death. At the time, there were countless rumors, making it impossible for Wudi to refute. Even though the Princess of Jiaping knew of his innocence, she could only have him flee to avoid prosecution.
Northern Han Dynastic Records, Biography of Duan Wudi

Thirty li east of Pingyao1 was an isolated, abandoned village which was completely deserted. A unit of Yong scouts followed the road north in whirlwind fashion. When they were still several li from the village, over a dozen Yong soldiers spurred their horses forward out of the formation. After entering the village and investigating, these scouts returned to the formation and reported to the unit’s officer, “The village is deserted. The buildings are intact and we can pitch camp here.”

The officer nodded his head and replied, “We cannot be careless. For many days, the scum of Northern Han has repeatedly raided and harassed us. Our army is already quite tired. Follow me to carefully search the village. We must not leave any concealed dangers behind. Although the main army will naturally have its own security measures, if they find any mistakes, we likely won’t be able to take the blame.”

With a loud rumble, the Yong soldiers voiced their agreement. Aside from around a dozen men who remained outside the village with their sabers drawn on sentry duty, everyone else entered the village to investigate, not letting slip any suspicious points. The commanding officer first investigated several comparatively tidy buildings, examining them inside and out. Then he personally kept watch, waiting for the main army to arrive.

After an hour had passed, a golden dragon banner appeared, fluttering in the light of the setting sun as the main Yong army arrived at this abandoned village. Afterwards, the army began to set up camp outside of the village. As for the Yong commander-in-chief, the Prince of Qi, Li Xian, entered the village to rest. Li Xian’s bodyguards had long since cleaned one of the buildings. Although it was only a temporary residence, the bed covering had been changed to the beautiful bedding used when the Prince of Qi was campaigning. All of the household furniture had been brought along by the army, including the curtains covering the windows. Quickly, the originally simple, crude, and unadorned farmhouse had been transformed into a cozy and resplendent temporary residence.

After dining with the summoned generals, Li Xian and company gathered under the lamplight to discuss military matters. Hidden in a corner of the room, standing alone, was Demonic Shadow Li Shun. He seemed to be quite unhappy and was only accompanying the Prince of Qi because he had no alternative. As a result, Li Xian simply treated him as a bodyguard. Were this not the case, Xiaoshunzi would probably have found a secluded location to meditate and train.

Somewhat angry, Li Xian declared, “That Duan Wudi is truly stubborn. When this Prince ferociously attacks, he relies upon rugged terrain to defend. When this Prince relaxes slightly, he either raids and harasses our encampments or attacks this Prince’s supply train. These days, this Prince has been harassed enough by him. Tomorrow, our army will be able to attack Pingyao. That is one of Northern Han’s strongest fortresses. Relying upon its walls to defend, Duan Wudi will likely delay this Prince for several days. Do you have any stratagems to have him abandon the city sooner? Humph! As long as this Prince arrives at Jinyang, I want to see what he can do! At present, General Zhangsun is exterminating the fragmented troops still resisting in the conquered parts of Northern Han. If this Prince has to rely upon his help to reach Jinyang, it will be quite an embarrassment.”

The Prince of Qi’s trusted general, Xia Ning, rubbed his hands together eagerly and replied, “Your Imperial Highness, although Duan Wudi is difficult to deal with, as long as he’s willing to face us head-on, what do we have to fear about him? Your Imperial Highness, please allow this general to assault Pingyao. In no more than three days, I will definitely be able to capture it!”

Fan Wencheng scoffed, “Do we need you if we are to use force to assault the city? All of us here can direct the siege. What His Imperial Highness wants is to reduce our casualties. After all, our Zezhou army has suffered quite heavily this time.”

Although the assembled generals were putting forward plans and ideas, the more he listened, the tauter Li Xian’s brows became. Duan Wudi had close to ten thousand troops, and backed by the solid defenses of Pingyao, a direct assault would lead to heavy losses. Though he knew Duan Wudi’s weakness was his love for the common people, this plan wasn’t possible. If he used the commoners as a shield or other methods, it was possible that Duan Wudi would have no choice but to abandon Pingyao. After all, Duan Wudi’s goal was to delay the Yong army’s advance. However, practically all of the Northern Han masses had already fled without a trace. Even if sufficient commoners could be captured, Li Xian was unwilling to deepen the hate of the Northern Han population. Although he had been able to borrow Jing Chi’s fondness for slaughter to force the population along the way to flee, Li Xian did not truly want to commit any massacres. He, Li Xian, was not savage by nature. If it wasn’t necessary, he had no wish to implicate innocent civilians.

Standing in the shadows of the room, Li Shun could not help pursing his lips slightly. If the young master had not issued orders, desiring to see either Xuan Song alive or his corpse, Li Shun would have gone back to Qinyuan long ago to attend to the young master, not remain here to serve as a coolie under the Prince of Qi. Unfortunately, Xuan Song was in Duan Wudi’s hands and Li Shun had no way of rescuing him, with no choice but to remain at Li Xian’s side to wait for the rescue opportunity. Seeing the discussion becoming increasingly ardent and all kinds of dishonest methods being suggested, Li Shun noiselessly floated out of the room to breathe the frosty air. The extremely fresh and clean outside air lightened Li Shun’s mood greatly. He began to wander under the dim starlight and flickering torches in spite of himself. Allowing his mind to sublime into the atmosphere, Li Shun quietly appreciated the endless night.

Suddenly, Li Shun felt his heart palpitate. As if from some sixth sense, he gazed off into the distance. Separated by massive armies of men and high walls, the deep of night seemed to contain a faint killing aura, a kind of atmosphere Li Shun was quite familiar with.

Ever since the battle with the Fengyi Sect Master, Li Shun had benefited greatly. Cultivating painstakingly in the Eastern Sea, he had advanced to the limits of the Xiantian realm. In the current age, aside from a few individuals, there was no one who was his match. At present, he had already grasped the technique of “Soul Shackling.” When a fighter’s martial arts reached a certain stage, Li Shun’s spirit could detect the person who entered a certain radius around him. The radius was not fixed and was closely related to the differences between the two’s cultivation. If the opponent was an ordinary individual, unless he deliberately focused, it would be difficult for his spirit to be alerted. If the opponent was an expert who had entered the Xiantian realm, Li Shun would be able to detect that individual if that person had a somewhat fierce fluctuation in their mood even if they were tens of li apart. If the opponent was also at the limits of the Xiantian realm, then the variability would be even greater. If the opponent’s cultivation was superior or proficient in exercising restraint, it would be difficult for Li Xian to detect the opponent’s existence. For example, on that day Duan Lingxiao attempted to assassinate Jiang Zhe, although preparations were made beforehand, Li Shun had not been able to clearly detect Duan Lingxiao’s presence before he had acted. If the opponent had only just entered the Xiantian realm and still had relatively shallow cultivation that had not mastered the “Soul Shackling” technique like the individual currently in the darkness, then Li Shun could detect such an opponent much easier than a common hostile expert.

Of course, if it were an expert at the level of the Fengyi Sect Master or Great Master True Compassion, it was impossible for any of them to hide their presence from opponents of the same level. That was why both were able to seemingly detect the changes in the other’s mood and activities as if personally witnessing, even though the two did not meet in the Yong capital back in the day. If he were before those two grandmasters, Li Shun was well aware that it would be impossible for him to hide his presence. Fortunately, grandmasters of that level did not act lightly.

After thinking it over, Li Shun was able to guess the identity of the individual possessing that somewhat unfamiliar aura. In addition, Li Shun could sense that, although the individual had a killing aura, they had no killing intent, and was directly manifesting their presence. Smiling humorlessly, he flew into the darkness. In a flash, he had passed through the encampment, arriving at a deserted hill outside the camps. Under the waning moon and glittering stars, a black-robed youth stood atop the hill with an apathetic expression which contained misery. Beside him was a youngster also in black clothes. On his back, the youngster had a bundled zither, and wore a somewhat gloomy look on his face.

Seeing the two of them, Li Shun put a faint smile on his face and clearly stated, “So it is young master Qiu who has returned. How was the scenery in the Eastern Sea?”

Qiu Yufei coldly retorted, “Do you think I’m here to perform an assassination?”

Li Shun shook his head and answered, “You are an intelligent individual and know that it is impossible. However, why has the young master so quickly released you? Were it not for the young master’s orders, it would be impossible for you to get away from the Tranquil Sea Manor.”

Qiu Yufei gazed deeply at Li Shun and replied, “Your young master’s conduct and arrangements are far-reaching. Releasing me naturally means that I am of some use. It is only that I may not necessarily have his wish fulfilled. This time, I originally wanted to go meet him and ask him a few questions. However, learning that you were accompanying Li Xian, even if I went to see him, he likely would not meet me. You also have no need to worry that I will try to assassinate him. If I risked doing so, Sir Sang probably won’t let me off. I dare not guess at Sir Sang’s cultivation, but even Master might not be able to defeat him. I have already sent a letter to Jinyang. No one from the Devil Sect will try to assassinate the Marquis of Chu. With the backing of Sir Sang, even Master will not dare to lightly act. Besides, the situation in Northern Han has fallen to such a state and is impossible to retrieve even if Master intervened. My Devil Sect won’t be driven to desperate action.”

“Young master Qiu speaks excellently,” approved Li Shun, clapping his hands. “If you had such intelligence and wisdom at the start, it would have been extremely difficult for the young master to use you to sow discord.”

Qiu Yufei’s expression changed constantly. It was some time before he could speak. “So it is as expected. I fell for a crafty scheme that day. When I received the Marquis of Chu’s letter days earlier and saw the regret within, my suspicion was already aroused. I repeatedly tried to understand the reason. Only after receiving Sir Sang’s guidance did I realize that I had been deceived in the past.”

Li Shun smiled softly. He had long known Jiang Zhe’s intentions to reveal the truth about Shi Ying’s innocence to strike psychologically at Duan Wudi. Li Shun had anticipated that Jiang Zhe would reveal the truth to Qiu Yufei upon his sudden return to Northern Han. After probing, this was indeed the case.

Qiu Yufei sighed lightly. He turned, wishing to depart. However, he paused in his tracks and said, “On that day Suiyun and I met by chance, I treated him as a bosom buddy even though I had malice. Was his friendship fake the entire time?”

Solemnly, Li Shun responded, “Even if the young master’s mind is profound, if not for Sire’s brilliance and refined character, how could the young master present you with the Elegant, Remote Zither Scores? That score is the life’s work of the young master’s deceased father. If the young master was being hypocritical in his friendship, how could he bear to part with such a prized possession? If Sire continues to harbor a grudge against the young master because of national enmity, then you can do as you please. However, you cannot doubt young master’s sincerity on that day.”

After being silent for a long time, Qiu Yufei finally departed. As for the youngster, he was Ling Duan and he closely followed behind. It wasn’t long before the two had disappeared into the darkness.

A chill flashed across Li Shun’s eyes, as if his eyes could penetrate through the layers of darkness to gaze at Pingyao. Now that Su Qing had made the appropriate arrangements, the road between Pingyao and Jinyang probably circulated with rumors that Long Tingfei had fallen for the discord ploy, leading to Shi Ying’s suicide. Now that Long Tingfei had died, then all those who were related would face extraordinary pressure. Having played a major role in this matter, Duan Wudi would inevitably receive the condemnation of the upper levels of the Northern Han government. Even if the Princess of Jiaping and company understood that Duan Wudi was innocent, he would likely find it difficult to forgive his own conduct.

Thinking back to the brocade sack that the young master had furtively shoved into his hands when he had received orders, Li Shun could not help being filled with admiration. At the time, the young master had ordered him to hand the contents of the brocade sack to Su Qing when the Prince of Qi set out. In the dim moonlight, he took out a small note from within the already opened brocade sack. Upon it was written:

Order Su Qing to disseminate the rumor, bringing the truth behind the Shi Ying affair to light in order to throw Duan Wudi’s army into disorder. With Duan’s tolerant character, he is unwilling to wrong others and will definitely be shamed to death. If there are any mistakes in his conduct, we can take the opportunity to sow discord as he has no one within the Royal Court. With Northern Han’s survival at stake, it will be easy to take advantage.

Li Shun smirked, lightly rubbing the fingers of his right hand. It wasn’t long before the short note had been ground to dust.

The next day, Li Shun began to assault Pingyao adhering wholly to the standard siege methods. With the Yong army’s robust military strength and the continuous, unending assaults, progress was quite smooth. When 1 PM arrived, the wall Li Xian was personally commanding the assault at showed signs of collapse. Under the violent strikes of catapults, a corner of the wall suddenly crumbled. Promptly letting out a loud cheer, the Yong army began to pour into the city using siege ladders and other equipment. The Northern Han troops at the opening resisted to the death, but could not stop the Yong offensive.

At this moment, Duan Wudi calmly issued an order. The bodyguard by his side looked at him in incredulity. However, Duan Wudi’s prestige made the bodyguard transmit the order without hesitation. Hearing the bugle horn, the Northern Han troops defending the opening immediately opened a path. As the Yong army cheered upon feeling the pressure before them decrease, metallic mechanisms clanked. The long waiting Northern Han troops shot with ballistae. The ballista bolts were covered with black powder, saltpeter, and other flammable materials. After they were lit, they were shot at the Yong army. The successive explosions immediately threw the Yong army into confusion. Right after, the previously parted Northern Han army advanced, smashing and killing the Yong soldiers.

Taking advantage of the short moment the Yong army’s offensive suffered a setback, the Northern Han army poured oil off the battlements before tossing down torches. An inferno raged below the walls, while atop, the walls were covered with blood.

When the last Yong soldier atop the walls had been killed, Duan Wudi walked along the ramparts, placing his hands on the blood-soaked merlons, looking down. He saw the Yong army beginning to retreat as rapidly as the receding ocean tide. The slight pressure and power the enemy army exuded caused the expression on Duan Wudi’s face to become increasingly stony. Turning to look at the broken view of the burning on the ramparts and the enemy encampment which occupied an area of several dozen li, Duan Wudi grew cold.

Although the enemy had been forced to retreat, Duan Wudi did not relax in the slightest. Though the Yong army had only begun to assault the city today, rumors had sprung up everywhere within the city the previous day. Although no one on the battlements dared to comment on the rumors to his face, Duan Wudi knew the rumors spoke of how he had been accused by Shi Ying of smuggling and accepting bribes, while he had slandered and framed Shi Ying before Long Tingfei, forcing Shi Ying to commit suicide. The bodyguards at his side were all indignant, wishing to identify and execute those spreading the rumors, but were all forcibly suppressed by Duan Wudi. He was well aware of the importance of a garrison’s morale during a siege. However, he could not investigate this matter, as the garrison did not contain only his own troops; thirty percent of it was composed of Shi Ying’s former subordinates. The ones disseminating the rumors were mostly these troops formerly commanded by Shi Ying. It wasn’t that they were being deliberate. Which soldier did not wish for their commander to love their subordinates like children and fight bravely? If they served under a disgraced commander, the shame and humiliation would probably never be washed clean.

After Shi Ying died, his reputation was completely destroyed. These former subordinates had suffered plenty of humiliation because of this matter. Now that they had learned that their general had been framed and forced to his death, how could they not inform one another? In their eyes, since the “deceived” commander-in-chief, Long Tingfei, was already dead, the one who must take responsibility was naturally the “slandering” Duan Wudi. Because of this, all of Shi Ying’s former subordinates harbored resentment. Even some of Duan Wudi’s own subordinates had their suspicions. However, on this matter, Duan Wudi was completely powerless. If he wanted to purge the rumors, it would definitely affect many innocent officers and soldiers. Before the enemy army had even begun to assault Pingyao, he feared his own side would collapse into civil warfare.

With no other choice, Duan Wudi could only utilize the present grim military situation to temporarily quell the troops. He had to be content with consoling himself with, If they can return to Jinyang, then morale will have the opportunity to be remedied.

At this moment, Xuan Song mounted the battlements with the “protection” of two Northern Han soldiers. Having already recovered gradually from his wounds, Xuan Song could move freely, though scars remained on his face. Ever since the Northern Han army had retreated from Qinyuan, Xuan Song had remained with Duan Wudi’s army. Duan Wudi treated him with courtesy. As long as not during the crucial moments the army was marching or fighting, the guard was not harsh although it was strict. That was why Xuan Song was able to climb atop the walls at this moment.

Gazing at the broken vista atop the walls, Xuan Song was rather sad. He had already learned of the bloody battle that had taken place from the Northern Han soldiers. Of course, this was because the Northern Han soldiers wished to strike a mental blow to this Great Yong general. He naturally understood what the bloodstains on the ramparts represented. However, he did not show any sorrow on his face. In his capacity as a general of Great Yong, he had always been ready to die on the battlefield. What use were sorrow and sympathy? Could it be that he could reduce the casualties and stop the Yong army from assaulting Pingyao? Could it be that he could persuade the Northern Han army to cease their resistance? Only when the world was unified could this kind of bloody battle that didn’t care for right or wrong cease.

Seeing Duan Wudi’s figure, Xuan Song felt respect. It was this man who had repeatedly stopped the Yong army’s offensive after days of continuous, arduous fighting, giving almost a million Northern Han troops and civilians the opportunity to retreat and flee. Xuan Song understood that although Great Yong’s military regulations were strict this did not mean that the innocent Northern Han commoners would be unharmed. If this kind of loyal and righteous man who loved the people could be persuaded to surrender, Great Yong would gain a capable general and virtuous subject.

Thinking of this, Xuan Song laughed brightly and said, “When it comes to defending a city, there is no one in the world who can surpass General Duan. His Imperial Highness, the Prince of Qi, attacked furiously several times today and all were repelled by Sire. It’s just that the Yong army has plenty of troops, while General has no reinforcements, morale within the city is shaky, and provisions are short. I wonder how long you can hold out.”

Without turning, Duan Wudi calmly replied, “It will be enough to hold out for two days. The Princess of Jiaping has already relayed orders. The commoners around Jinyang are permitted to enter the city. When the time comes, Jinyang will have a million soldiers and civilians with plenty of provisions and equipment. It will be easy to hold out for a year or more.”

Xuan Song sighed, “Even so, how long can Northern Han last? Although no one has spoken with me, I already know how disadvantageous the current situation is for your country. Ignoring the fact that Long Tingfei died for the country, simply from the Princess of Jiaping’s order to pull back defenses to Jinyang we can see that you have no hope for victory. You can only rely upon Jinyang’s favorable terrain to defend stubbornly to preserve the last bit of hope. Unless my Great Yong ultimately has no choice but retreat, it is already a foregone conclusion that Northern Han will fall. General Duan, although you do not cherish your life, could it be that you don’t cherish the lives of the men under your command? At present, the Yong army has already surrounded Pingyao. His Imperial Highness, the Prince of Qi, is only worried that you will raid his supply train. He is only assaulting because of this and because there’s ample time, otherwise he would only leave a few tens of thousands of troops to continue the siege of Pingyao while he continues to advance north. You want to hold out for two more days, but I’m afraid that you won’t have the opportunity to return to Jinyang.”

Duan Wudi did not retort. These days, he’d had several deep discussions with Xuan Song. Although both of them remained vigilant and only wanted to obtain some intelligence, they deeply respected each other’s talents. Both of them were talented generals who were skilled at defense. As a result, Xuan Song had only needed to take one look to understand the situation within the city. Everything Xuan Song had said was the truth. In addition, Duan Wudi had learned some additional information he had not shared with Xuan Song, such as news of Li Zhi personally campaigning and that Li Zhi’s army had already severed the road between Daizhou and Xinzhou.

Of these news, Duan Wudi was exceptionally uneasy. Although the Daizhou army had been forced to remain at Jinyang because their path home had been severed, so much so that the Princess of Jiaping had already formally accepted Northern Han’s royal edict to become the commander-in-chief of the Jinyang defenses, Duan Wudi could slightly sense that this was likely an important part of the Yong army’s plans and potentially lead to Northern Han’s collapse. It was quite unfortunate that he was a soldier when there were some things that were outside his understanding. Towards these actions by the Yong emperor, he only instinctively sensed danger and was unaware of their true intentions.

Seeing Duan Wudi agree tacitly with his words, Xuan Song continued, “Moreover, General Duan’s situation is also poor …”

Just as Xuan Song spoke these words, Duan Wudi raised his hand to stop Xuan Song from carrying on. In a heavy voice, he recited, “It is this that my heart takes most delight in, / And though I died nine times, I shan’t regret it.”2

Xuan Song quivered as he gazed at the determination on Duan Wudi’s face. Finally, he sighed and said, “Since General Duan is firm, I will not dishonor General’s good name. Only, sorrow flows through the ages when the honest are suspected and the loyal are slandered. Although your honored country’s Royal Majesty is not muddleheaded, he will be overly cautious in this dire hour. I hope that when the situation is insurmountable, General is not foolishly loyal to the end.”

Duan Wudi finally turned his head around and asked with a neutral tone, “If I release General Xuan, how would Sire repay me?”

Xuan Song was long prepared for this question. If he were not of use, he would have either been chopped down long ago or been taken to Jinyang by the Princess of Jiaping. Otherwise, there was no point in expending so much effort to detain him with the rearguard. Gazing at Duan Wudi’s haggard and tranquil face, Xuan Song smiled and answered, “As a general falling into the hands of the enemy, I cannot decide for myself. If Sire has these intentions, there is no harm in dispatching an envoy to meet His Imperial Highness, the Prince of Qi.”

“Regardless, I have to hold out for another day, leaving room for negotiation,” replied Duan Wudi calmly.

Xuan Song could not help smiling wryly. Who would have thought that he would actually become merchandise? Meeting Duan Wudi’s eyes, Xuan Song’s wry smile gradually disappeared. He could see that the eyes of the man facing him were filled with grief. Duan Wudi understood everything he had said. When it came to ability, Duan Wudi was definitely above him. It was only that Xuan Song was fortunate enough to be a subject of Yong, while this man was a general of Northern Han. For Duan Wudi to speak the celebrated line, “And though I died nine times, I shan’t regret it,” Xuan Song understood that this man was well aware of what was going to happen.

Gravely, Xuan Song saluted Duan Wudi and stated, “If I can return to the Yong encampment and His Imperial Highness does not blame me, I will definitely command an army to battle with General. If General is unfortunate enough to be trapped, I hope that General will not wholeheartedly seek death. When the time comes, I will certainly plea for leniency with His Imperial Highness to preserve General’s life and prestige.”

At first, Duan Wudi felt annoyed. However, seeing Xuan Song’s incomparably seriousness, the look on Duan Wudi’s face softened and he responded, “In the past, I once heard that General Xuan deeply admired the loyal and righteous. Even though you had only one encounter with the wild scholar, Yang Can, you emptied your pockets, presenting his wife and child enough money to live without want. I am well aware of Sire’s kind intentions. Although I cannot accept, I cannot be thankful enough.”

Although he had been turned down tactfully by Duan Wudi, Xuan Song was not annoyed. It only increased the pity he felt. Turning to leave, Xuan Song lamented. Ever since he had fought the Northern Han army, he admired these heroically brave and loyal soldiers. Even if Northern Han was destroyed, could Yong truly obtain popular support? For the first time, Xuan Song felt that the invasion of Northern Han would become a quagmire.

Over the following two days, Li Xian actually stopped assaulting the city, puzzling Duan Wudi to a great extent. However, Duan Wudi was too busy and hard-pressed placating the undercurrents within his troops to have any time to worry. On the fourth day, the Yong army converged around Pingyao. Although Duan Wudi had delayed the Yong assault upon Jinyang, he had no way of retreating.

Standing atop the battlements, Duan Wudi wondered if the envoy dispatched to the Yong encampment could accomplish his mission. Although it was embarrassing to threaten a hostage, it would be worth it if he could rescue the soldiers under his command. Duan Wudi understood quite well that although Xuan Song had an important position in the Yong army he was ultimately not a primary commander. As a result, Duan Wudi was not too demanding, only asking that the Yong army not pursue the retreating Northern Han army, while Pingyao would be handed over intact. Duan Wudi had also promised to not burn the provisions and supplies within the city. He trusted that this exchange would be successful, as compared the Yong army, the few troops he commanded were insignificant in the grand scheme of things while Xuan Song was quite popular. If the Prince of Qi disregarded Xuan Song’s survival, resentment would likely arise from within the Yong army. Under the circumstances of not having to pay a high price, Duan Wudi trusted that the Prince of Qi would not be so stupid as to do something that pained friends and pleased enemies.

Receiving Duan Wudi’s letter, Li Xian burst into hearty laughter. He had purposely ceased the assault these last two days to wait for this letter to arrive. That day, after the military conference, he had privately summoned Su Qing. After comprehending the rumors being disseminated, Li Xian realized Jiang Zhe’s intentions. Then he had received a letter from Jiang Zhe, granting him clarity and insight. In order to make the rumors even more lifelike, he went so far as to cease the siege.

With this, they could disseminate rumors that Duan Wudi intended to surrender because of the severity of the situation. With the truth obscured by the rumors, Li Xian trusted that Duan Wudi would not be able to hold out for long. In addition, even if there weren’t any other benefits, it was worth it to be able to rescue Xuan Song. Li Xian was still filled with anguish when recalling their parting that night. As a result, he not only immediately agreed to Duan Wudi’s demands, he also dispatched an envoy to Pingyao. This envoy was Su Qing.


  1. 平遥, Pingyao – a county in Jinzhong prefecture located in the center of Shanxi Province
  2. This is an excerpt from the famed poem entitled Encountering Sorrow or The Lament (离骚) by the famed poet Qu Yuan (屈原), of the Warring States Period.
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