Volume 6, Chapter 12: Slick Blood in the Isolated City

Volume 6, Chapter 12: Slick Blood in the Isolated City


Pei Yun, the Military Commissioner of Huainan, easily captured Chuzhou and Sizhou, and personally beheaded the Southern Chu Commander of Huaidong, Luo Louzhen. The various towns of Huaidong all surrendered upon catching wind of the news. Only the deputy general of the Huaidong army, Cai Lin, gathered routed troops in defense of Guangling. The Yong army could not seize it, so Pei Yun ordered He Ying’s force to go around and take Gaoyou1by surprise. Then they crossed the river and flanked Guangling, the defenders routed. Reinforcements had not turned up after waiting for a long time, and Cai Lin knew Yong’s strength could not be tied up. Now, Pei Yun sent a message by arrow requesting their surrender. Cai Lin complied and led his forces out of the city. He committed suicide before the formation, and the Guangling host surrendered. On the twenty-ninth day of the tenth month, the Yong army marched into Yangzhou, and the Yangzhou garrison collapsed without a battle.

Zizhi Tongjian, Yong Records Volume Three

Some attractions in Chuzhou were the Zhenhuai Tower and Temple of Marquis Han in the middle of the city, while the Temple of the Old Lady and Marquis Han Fishing Dock on the outskirts were the most famous. The governor of Chuzhou, Gu Yuanyong, had always loved the Zhenhuai Tower the most. Not only did he frequently convene feasts with luminaries in the city in the building, he had also coordinated the resistance of Chuzhou’s garrison to the Yong army’s offensive in here last night. However, he returned to Zhenhuai Tower within a night, having been taken prisoner. The Yong guard at his side didn’t breach any etiquette, but the governor couldn’t shake his feelings of anguish and dread.

Yesterday at dusk, the routing troops of the Chuzhou Barracks arrived outside the city unarmored and helmetless. His side had been informed that the Yong army had already captured the Chuzhou Barracks and Luo Louzhen had died in battle. Gu Yuanyong threw open the gates and allowed the defeated troops to enter the city. The leader of those men was Adjunct Huang, who frequently helped him dissuade Luo Louzhen from certain actions. As a result, Gu Yuanyong didn’t suspect him. Unfortunately, their entrance was a bad omen. Adjunct Huang had been forced by the Yong army to this city so they could deceive the defenders. Chuzhou could have just barely withstood a battle but fell in this absurd way.

Gu Yuanyong still retained a bit of wariness, so even though the Yong army invaded the city, he withdrew to the Zhenhuai Tower under the protection of his bodyguards. Urban warfare broke out between the defenders and the Yong army. The Yong army’s combat strength was overbearing, but the Chuzhou garrison was familiar with the geography. The two forces were engaged in combat for a long time, victory and defeat uncertain. However, that night, the Yong army’s twenty thousand reinforcements flooded into the city of Chuzhou. Gu Yuanyong’s last speck of hope was shattered as he gazed at the Yong banners all throughout the city of Chuzhou. The remaining thousand-odd defenders were surrounded at the base of the Zhenhuai Tower. Helpless, he could only surrender the city. Afterwards, the Yong army forced him to lead them around the city and quell the populace. By the time dawn broke, Great Yong had established their occupation of the city of Chuzhou.

After a sleepless night, Gu Yuanyong was again summoned to the Zhenhuai Tower by Yong commander Pei Yun. When he reached the top floor he was most at home at, he saw Pei Yun standing at the window with his hands cupped behind his back. He was looking down at the view. Two men stood on either side of Pei Yun and in front of and behind him. They were all White Uniform Camp experts, wearing gray-blue armor and white cloaks. Gu Yuanyong didn’t know the particulars of these bodyguards, but he could see that each had a stern bearing, different from the typical soldier. A pained look on his face, he went forward and prostrated, saying, “Surrendered subject of Southern Chu, Gu Yuanyong, pays his respects to Military Commissioner daren.”

Pei Yun turned around, reaching out to help him up with both hands. After standing him up, Pei Yun smiled and said, “I followed the order of My Imperial Majesty, the Emperor of Great Yong, in storming and capturing Huaidong because of the great suffering of the Chuzhou populace. Last night’s bloody battle unavoidably harmed many innocents. Since daren has forsaken the darkness for the light, please placate the people instead.”

Gu Yuanyong gave repeated promises, but hope arose within him. Is the Yong army truly not going to execute me? He had resisted the Yong army for nearly the entire night. In the dark of the night, the sieging Yong army suffered quite a few casualties, at least a thousand men. He had thought that they were biding their time and pacifying Chuzhou before dealing with him. If not for his worry that they would massacre the city of Chuzhou in revenge, he wouldn’t have surrendered. To his surprise, this Military Commissioner of Huainan and commander of the Yong army didn’t seem to blame him.

Gu Yuanyong had never experienced battle with the Yong armies before, so he didn’t know that in the eyes of the Yong army, the enemy resisting was normal and expected. If they didn’t fight back and surrendered instead, that would be far stranger.

Pei Yun soothed Gu Yuanyong with a few words, his tone gentle to put Gu Yuanyong at ease. At this time, Du Lingfeng stomped up the stairs in rage, saluted to Pei Yun, and said, “General, that Chuzhou Chief Clerk is too rude. This subordinate followed orders to seize papers and seals, but he refused to hand them over and even cursed at you, saying you used deception to take the city and are a treacherous coward.”

Gu Yuanyong’s heart lurched. Chief Clerk Jing Changqing of Chuzhou was a jinshi who came twenty-ninth in the autumn imperial examinations of the second year of Tongtai. Four years ago, he came to Chuzhou and took up office. He was the son of one of Jiaxing’s aristocratic families, and from his talent, he should have had a higher position, at least entering the Hanlin Academy. However, his career had been rough going. Over the years, he had served in various regions as an adjunct, major, and related posts, never getting promoted. Meanwhile, his fellow jinshi had gained wealth and rank. Only he nearly reached the age of forty before being appointed as the Chief Clerk of Chuzhou.

After his appointment, Gu Yuanyong watched him closely. Jing Changqing conducted himself reasonably and with restraint. He had a good sense of propriety and did his duty as an honest and upright individual, a truly outstanding talent. When Gu Yuanyong asked him the reason for his unfortunate career, the man simply sighed without explaining. He was clearly hiding something, but Gu Yuanyong had never liked to investigate the secrets in another’s life. As a result, he dropped the subject but kept it in mind.

However, Jing Changqing was unexpectedly stubborn today. If he offended the Yong army, would he not lose his life? His harem and children were all within the walls of Chuzhou, and if he did something wrong, his entire family could be exterminated. Thinking of all this, Gu Yuanyong couldn’t help but become unsettled.

Pei Yun didn’t look any different. He said lightly, “Lingfeng, how did you handle him?”

“I was angered and had people tie him up and bring him to the bottom of the tower,” replied Du Lingfeng. “Please permit this subordinate to behead the man in public as a warning, General. Make them reconsider making an enemy of our Great Yong.”

Thinking of how Jing Changqing was easy to get along with on normal days, Gu Yuanyong hurriedly went up and bowed with his hands in front of him. “Please forgive him, General, please. Chief Clerk Jing is principled by nature and was perhaps offended to some extent. General is magnanimous, so please spare his life.”

Pei Yun laughed and said, “Bring him here. I want to see this unyielding chief clerk for myself.”

Du Lingfeng rejoiced and conveyed the order down the tower. Soon after, bodyguards escorted a man up the stairs. This man was around forty, looked refined, and had a gentle air to him. However, he was currently covered in dirt, and his official’s hat was nowhere to be found. Bloodstains even dotted his forehead, clearly having suffered badly on the way here.

After reaching the top floor, the man refused to kneel and looked around with angry eyes. Du Lingfeng saw him like this and roared, “Why aren’t you kneeling and begging forgiveness from my general at the sight of him!”

The man coldly said, “I, Jing Changqing, am an official of Southern Chu. Why must I salute a general of Great Yong?”

Pei Yun laughed at his words. “Governor Gu has already led the Chuzhou officials in surrendering to our Great Yong. You are now a surrendered official, so why do you not kneel?”

The man angrily replied, “The governor may have surrendered, but as the Chief Clerk, I never have. You all invaded our lands and harmed our people, so the Southern Chu common folk invariably hate you to the core. Although the current situation forces a temporary surrender, when the King’s army marches north, he will annihilate you.2 He definitely won’t let all of you escape Huaidong.”

Du Lingfeng was furious. He walked over and slapped Jing Changqing, knocking him to the ground. He pointed at Jing Changqing and castigated, “Don’t you know who the Southern Chu commoners hate to the core? Who doesn’t know that Luo Louzhen has devastated Huaidong, raped peasant girls, and imposed taxes and grain levies. Today, our army posted announcements telling of Luo Louzhen’s execution. Chuzhou’s people all danced with joy. Since you’re this unyielding, why didn’t you have the courage to fight back against Luo Louzhen? All my life, I’ve most despised rotten scholars like you. Since you refuse to surrender, you’ll be a prisoner of our army. I won’t kill you, but you’ll wear a cangue for three days in front of the governor’s residence. We’ll see if you’ll have the strength to criticize us.”

His strike was so severe and heavy half the man’s face swelled and bruised. Blood was spilling from the corner of Jing Changqing’s mouth, and he seemed ready to risk everything. He let loose a torrent of invective, and though it was unintelligible, Du Lingfeng grew even more incensed. He drew his sword, pointed at the man, and said, “All right, since you’re trying to kill yourself, I’ll oblige you.”

Pei Yun had been calmly watching Du Lingfeng take care of things, but when he saw that Du Lingfeng was really going to put Jing Changqing to the sword, he spoke up to restrain him. “Don’t, he’s been loyal all his life. Killing him is evil. Just imprison him in jail. Don’t make things difficult for his family.”

“This subordinate obeys,” Du Lingfeng happily said. He then dragged Jing Changqing down the tower.

Gu Yuanyong was so scared he had broken out into a cold sweat. Du Lingfeng may have walloped and reprimanded the disrespectful chief clerk, but the others clearly had their eyes on him. The punishment was obviously a warning to him.3 Seeing his capable official humiliated by the arrogant and despotic Yong soldier, Gu Yuanyong felt a sense of mortification. He too wanted to curse at these people, then have Pei Yun order for him to be dragged out and executed.

Pei Yun noticed his flushing, angry face, but deterring the Chuzhou officials from resisting was the most important issue at the moment. As a result, he pretended not to have seen Gu Yuanyong’s complexion. The high-ranking officials in Southern Chu’s Huaidong Province were all sons of Southern Chu nobility, so even though they had surrendered, it absolutely could not be trusted. Only once Pei Yun had captured Guangling would he purge Huaidong. Then it could act as the front line of Great Yong’s offensive against Southern Chu. For now, they would have to tolerate the insubordination.

A day later, Pei Yun left Wei Ping behind with five thousand men to garrison Chuzhou, while he led the main army to Guangling to rendezvous with He Ying’s force. Meanwhile, Zhang Wenxiu’s force had successfully seized Sizhou and were also heading to Guangling to meet up.

Guangling was Yangzhou’s last gateway. The region had originally been under Yangzhou’s jurisdiction, and in ancient times, Yangzhou had been called Guangling. During the end of the Eastern Jin Dynasty, the region was created as the County of Tianchang, later being renamed Guangling, while Guangling was renamed to Yangzhou. Decades had passed since then, and people had become accustomed to these names.

As Guangling acted as the northern barrier of Yangzhou, seizing Guangling meant Yangzhou could be captured at once. As such, Southern Chu had established the Guangling Barracks in this region.

The deputy general of the Guangling Barracks, Cai Lin, may have been related to Shang Weijun, but Cai Lin was upright by nature. He was Shang Weijun’s nephew, the son of a sister, and if he had not fallen out with Shang Weijun, Luo Louzhen would never have had the position of Commander of Huaidong fall into his lap. As a result, Luo Louzhen kept a respectful distance from Cai Lin. So when the Guangling Barracks were handed to Cai Lin, he showed no interest.

Cai Lin had original ideas on how to train troops, disciplined the soldiers, never disturbed the people, and often helped the poor and distressed. As such, his reputation in Guangling was superb.

After the Chuzhou and Sizhou Barracks were defeated, quite a few routed soldiers fled to Guangling. He took them into camp, and after putting them into good order, gained over thirty thousand more men. After reporting about the military situation to Jianye, he led the army into Guangling and garrisoned the city. He knew that if he met the Yong army in pitched battle, he would suffer a terrible defeat. So he prepared to rely on Guangling’s walls to stop the Yong army’s offensive. He knew himself well enough to know that he couldn’t defeat Pei Yun on the field of battle. He only hoped to defend the city until the Southern Chu relief force could arrive.

On the ninth day of the tenth month, Pei Yun’s army arrived at Guangling, a hundred thousand Yong troops deploying below Guangling’s walls. They were a dense forest covering the land. The corners of the Yong army’s encampment were connected and exuded an oppressive aura. One felt the impossibility of winning when looking at it. Cai Lin pointed at the Yong encampment and said, “If Guangling falls, the Yong army can drive straight into Yangzhou, threatening Jingkou and Jianye. If you all do not unite and fight hard, the Huaidong army’s prestige will be eliminated. This general has already petitioned Jianye, requesting a relief force from Weijun and Grand General Lu. We only need to hold the city for ten days to a fortnight before receiving the relief force. Sires, you must be willing to give your life.”

The officers and men of the Guangling Barracks had all received Cai Lin’s favor and blessings, so they resounded, “We are willing to give our lives for the general!”

Their shouting rang out far and wide. Even the Yong army beneath the walls could hear them clearly. Pei Yun knitted his brows and said to He Ying and Zhang Wenxiu, who were behind him, “Looks like the city of Guangling won’t be easy to take!”

Zhang Wenxiu was a handsome, young officer. He laughed. “There’s no need for General to worry. Even if Guangling is difficult to attack, can it stop our Great Yong cavalry?”

“Please order the siege, General. If we cannot take Guangling, we are not men!” yelled the assembled officers and men.

Pei Yun swung his whip at the walls of Guangling at the words. “In that case, He Ying, you haven’t served with distinction yet, so why don’t you attack first?”

He Ying rejoiced. Pei Yun had taken the position of advance guard the entire campaign, so he had to lead the main force instead and follow behind. He had been spoiling for a fight for a long time and sternly complied. He spurred his horse to the front of the army. Soon after, the bugle horns trumpeted, and the first Yong siege began.

No one could have expected that this siege would last exactly half a month.


***


Cai Lin could be considered quite popular in Guangling, as he wasn’t negligent and incompetent like Luo Louzhen. These past several years, he made full preparations for war, so the city of Guangling was stocked with plenty of provisions and supplies. Under his command, Guangling didn’t waver in the slightest, holding out for a fortnight. On and below the walls were wreckage and remains. The Yong army’s catapults and the city’s turrets had wounded and killed countless men. The Southern Chu army didn’t know how many arrows they had loosed or how much hot pitch and boiling oil they had poured; the number of stones and wooden beams4 were too numerous to count. Later in the siege, the houses near the wall were dismantled, the bricks and timber used as ammunition to defend the city.

Several times, the Yong army dispatched forlorn hopes to attack the walls, but none of them succeeded. The attempt closest to succeeding occurred on the nineteenth day of the tenth month. Pei Yun sent all of the White Uniform Camp bodyguards, the sixteen of them leading three hundred forlorn hope warriors up the walls. Cai Lin personally led his bodyguards to meet the enemy. They fought hard for half a day. If a relief force had not suddenly arrived from Gaoyou Lake to the east of the city of Guangling, Guangling would have been lost. In this fierce battle, the White Uniform Camp lost two men, and not a single one of the three hundred warriors returned. Cai Lin’s personal bodyguards had all been killed. However, in the evening glow, the bloodsoaked walls of Guangling still stood firm.

A bit of frost touched Pei Yun’s eyes. Although they hadn’t taken many days to prepare before assaulting Guangling, the current situation was too unfavorable. They needed to be able to end this battle at any time.

Du Lingfeng walked over, looking weary. He might have been young, but his martial arts were among the best of the White Uniform Camp. These two men were also related as martial uncle and martial nephew, so Pei Yun showed deep concern for him. Seeing him covered in blood, Pei Yun furrowed his brows and asked, “How’d it go? Are your wounds deep?”

“I just got nicked twice, nothing reaching bone,” said Du Lingfeng. “Unfortunately for our brothers, Cai Lin’s personal bodyguards had brilliant martial arts. If Luo Louzhen’s bodyguards were that brilliant, I’m afraid Martial Uncle and I would have perished in the Chuzhou Barracks.”

Pei Yun sighed. “Jianye’s Cai family is a famous noble family in Southern Chu. Of course they would have some experts as guards. Cai Lin is also a legitimate son of the Cai family, so it’s understandable.”

“General, it’s surprising that Gaoyou’s garrison has the courage to come relieve Guangling,” Du Lingfeng said. “Is the Southern Chu relief force ready to cross the river?”

Pei Yun shook his head. “News came from the Intelligence Management Section that Lu Can is currently in Jianye requesting control of military authority over Huaidong. Shang Weijun is still refusing him.”

Du Lingfeng was astonished and asked, “Does Shang Weijun not know Huaidong is in great peril?”

Pei Yun laughed. “This matter is a bit strange indeed. It seems someone severed the information channel between Huaidong and Jianye. Guangling’s request for relief never even reached Jianye.”

Du Lingfeng was at a loss, but he quickly pushed this issue to the back of his mind. “Then what should we do now, Martial Uncle, with the Gaoyou garrison surprisingly willing to sally forth and do battle?”

Pei Yun was about to answer him when a scout came over and reported, “General, we’ve already investigated and determined that those people are not Gaoyou’s garrison. They are actually Gaoyou Lake pirates. Their leader is called Guan Feng. This man is an extraordinary swimmer, the best in Gaoyou, bar none. Because he opposed Luo Louzhen imposing taxes and grain levies, he was forced out onto the lake and became a pirate. He usually robs the rich to give to the poor, making him deeply popular in Gaoyou. Furthermore, he is a sworn friend of Guangling Barrack’s Cai Lin. If Cai Lin had not interceded, Luo Louzhen would have mustered a navy long ago and cleaned up Gaoyou Lake. Today, he leads a force to relieve Guangling.”

Pei Yun smiled. “That man sure is loyal. Unfortunately, he’s overestimating himself and attempting the impossible. He Ying, take Gaoyou tomorrow. Lingfeng, go to Chuzhou to pass along my command. Move a fleet to Gaoyou and await orders. With the navy protecting our flanks, He Ying will cross the river and take the east side of Guangling by surprise. Caught off guard, Guangling will be broken within a day.”

The officers bellowed their acknowledgment of the orders.

On the twentieth day of the tenth month, He Ying captured Gaoyou using the element of surprise. On the twenty-first day of the tenth month, a fleet arrived at Gaoyou Lake. Using the navy before the capture of Yangzhou wasn’t in the plans, so they had been awaiting orders in Chuzhou’s Hongze Lake. Now circumstances had changed, and a fleet had to navigate to Gaoyou Lake to fight the pirates.

On the twenty-second day of the tenth month, the decisive battle for Guangling began. This time, the Yong army came prepared. When Guan Feng sallied out and fought the Yong army on the shore, the Great Yong navy appeared out of nowhere. Great Yong had stood across from Southern Chu in Jianghuai for many years, so their elite navy wasn’t much worse than Southern Chu’s. And against the rabble of pirates, it truly was a world of difference. After the hard fighting, the pirates were annihilated except for Guan Feng, who happened to flee into Guangling. Not a single other soul returned. The Yong army had already cut off the passage between Guangling and Yangzhou, and today, the eastward Gaoyou Lake fell into the Yong army’s control. Then He Ying repeatedly attacked the eastern walls with the support of the navy. This time, Guangling truly became an isolated city.

On the twenty-third day of the tenth month, under repeated assaults by the Yong army, the city of Guangling finally lost all its strength to resist. Although the Yong army’s men all urged Pei Yun to take Guangling in one blow, preferably massacring the population to vent their anger, Pei Yun put a stop to it. He ordered someone to shoot a message attached to an arrow into the city requesting their surrender.

Matured in a month’s time, the teenage Cai Lin gazed at the message sent by arrow in his hands. His eyes were oddly calm as he looked at the men before him. They looked weary and exhausted. Nearly every person was injured. Within Guangling’s walls were only the wounded, over ten thousand of them to date. Exactly twenty thousand soldiers had died atop the walls. Guangling’s military and civilian dead were piled in heaps. There was no way they could fight on. Instead, it was the Yong army outside the walls who could rely on plenty of siege engines and impressive combat strength. Although they were conducting the siege, they had only suffered around fifteen thousand casualties. Their main force was still untouched.

Why hasn’t the relief force arrived? Cai Lin could see this question in the eyes of his men. The city’s defenses had been breached; there was no relief force; the soldiers were exhausted and defeated. Even a famous, gifted general would have difficulty in the continued defense of the city. Further, Cai Lin knew he himself had limited talent. He gave a slight, wry smile. He whispered, “Tomorrow we go out and surrender.”

His men looked like they had a burden lifted from their shoulders. Cai Lin knew it wasn’t because they could save their skins that they were happy. Rather, they could free themselves from the unceasing siege. Nobody knew if the Yong army would make reprisals because of the enormous casualties suffered, but it didn’t matter. With no hope of relief or lifting the siege, the will of Guangling’s soldiers and civilians had been shattered. They truly didn’t have the ability to keep defending the city.

After the soldiers left, a bronzed young man standing in the corner of the room walked over. “Big brother Cai, are you serious about surrendering?”

Cai Lin gave him a look and replied, “Little brother Guan Feng, you have treated me with the utmost patience and magnanimity. Use the cover of darkness to flee from Gaoyou Lake tonight.”

“Big brother Cai, if not for your aid in the past, my mom and dad would’ve been killed by the authorities. My parents told me with their dying words to sacrifice myself to repay our debt of gratitude. How can I escape by myself? If you die, what dignity do I have left to face my mom and dad?” the young man seethed.

“Back then, I had but to lift a finger, so why did you take it to heart?” Cai Lin said dejectedly. “Besides, I’ve entrusted you with seeking an audience with Grand General Lu, pleading with him to be at Jingkou at his earliest convenience and prepare to meet the enemy. I’m simply surrendering tomorrow, and with Pei Yun’s reputation, he won’t make things difficult for me. This matter is extremely critical, far more important than my life. Take my keepsakes with you when you leave.”

Guan Feng hesitated time and again before saying, “Since big brother Cai says so, I will go meet Grand General Lu. Don’t worry, brother. After I meet Grand General Lu and return to Huaidong, I’ll think of a way to rescue you.”

Cai Lin smiled. “All right, I’ll wait for you to rescue me. Leave at night. I’m very tired and want to rest up. There’s hardly been a night where we didn’t have to worry about the Yong army assaulting the city, so I should get a good night’s sleep.”

Guan Feng saw how wan he appeared and bade farewell. “Take good care of yourself, brother. I won’t be coming by tonight to say goodbye then. Don’t you worry, I’ll return within six days at most. When the time comes, I’ll definitely look for you. In Huaidong, I can move about freely. I’ll never be spotted by the Yong army.”

Cai Lin nodded, then turned and retired to his chambers.

The night Guan Feng took advantage of the darkness to leave Guangling, the Yong navy only had one division of marines, so they couldn’t keep a tight watch. As a result, Guan Feng slipped into Gaoyou Lake without trouble and swam all night before climbing ashore and heading south.

After Cai Lin slept soundly for a whole night, he woke up on the twenty-fourth day of the tenth month. He then shaved and tidied up, bathed, and changed clothes into black, civil robes. He was of high birth and once held an official rank, and though he was now a military officer, he had never shed his scholarly air. When he put on black robes, he no longer appeared like a general in a bloodsoaked city, but rather like a scholar on a study tour. He didn’t cut a sorry figure like in the past few days. Looking into a bronze mirror and seeing he had become emaciated but maintained good spirits, he smiled.

The troops and Guangling officials were waiting for him outside after he ate breakfast. He looked at the crowd and smiled. “Gentlemen, there’s no need to worry. I will lead the stubborn defenders. If the Yong army condemns us, I will be there.”

The people looked at each other in astonishment. Seeing Cai Lin this magnanimous, the crowd could rest easy.

At nine in the morning, Cai Lin ordered men to open the north gate. He personally led the soldiers and Guangling officials straight to the Yong encampment and surrendered.

Pei Yun had received the news before they came. He rather admired the Southern Chu general who resisted their army for half a month. To show his respect, he, too, led his troops out and met them in formation. The two sides walked toward each other until they were twenty zhang5 apart. The Yong soldiers watched Cai Lin, silently admiring him. The man looked to be a young, inexperienced scholar. They couldn’t imagine he had bitterly defended the isolated city for half a month against the Yong army’s repeated assaults.

Cai Lin looked at the stern Yong formation before him and gave a brief smile. He was a son of nobility, a scholarly family. They had always placed intellectual pursuits above martial prowess. He alone had failed at his studies and switched to learning the sword. He had also gone against his father’s wishes and joined the army. Unfortunately, he had mediocre talent, and now he had been defeated. How could he have the dignity to surrender and drag out his life? He raised a hand, stopping the Southern Chu troops in their tracks. He walked forward alone, halting several zhang away from the Yong formation. He gazed at Yong commander Pei Yun, and shouted, “General Pei, Cai Lin hoped against hope that he could lead the masses and resist your army. In half a month, blood has splattered the isolated city. If the general need blame anyone, Cai Lin will take all the blame. Please forgive the civilians and soldiers of Guangling.”

“Our two countries’ wars ought to be like this. Pei Yun’s humble self won’t seek revenge on the soldiers and civilians of Guangling because of this event,” shouted Pei Yun in response.

Cai Lin laughed richly and drew his sword from its scabbard. Deputy General Huang Cheng knew he wanted to proffer his military seal to demonstrate his intent to surrender himself, so he carried the seal over. However, Cai Lin placed his sword against his own neck and said, “Cai Lin is a subject of Southern Chu. He has no reason to surrender. Today, I apologize with my death. Deputy General Huang will take charge of matters after my death.”

He slit his throat as Pei Yun shouted, “Don’t!” Blood dripped as Cai Lin’s body collapsed to the ground.

The Southern Chu subjects were aghast, while Deputy General Huang bellowed and threw himself before Cai Lin’s corpse, weeping his heart out. Even though the Yong soldiers had hearts full of hate, their hatred disappeared in this moment. They sighed in mourning as they gazed at Cai Lin’s dead body.

After a long time, the deputy general’s tears dried up and he rose. He grabbed Cai Lin’s bloody sword and seal, stepped forward, and prostrated. “This general is Deputy General Huang Cheng, of Southern Chu’s Huaidong Army, Guangling Barracks. On behalf of Guangling’s civilians and soldiers, we surrender to Pei Yun, Military Commissioner of Huainan. Our only request is that General pardon the troops and commoners. This general awaits General’s punishments no matter what they are.”

Pei Yun dismounted and walked up to Huang Cheng. He took the seal and replied, “As Great Yong’s Military Commissioner of Huainan and General of Fair Might, Pei Yun, and on behalf of my Emperor, I accept the surrender of Guangling’s soldiers and civilians. Be relieved, General. I will not massacre the soldiers and civilians of Guangling to vent our anger.”

The deputy general kowtowed and said, “This general thanks General’s benevolence.” Behind him, Guangling’s soldiers and officials also prostrated in apology.

Finally, the bloodiest scenes of the Battle of Huaidong came to an end.

After Pei Yun comforted the surrendered troops and officials of Guangling, he returned to the barracks. While he was preparing plans for a march on Yangzhou, a messenger from Chuzhou arrived with a letter from Wei Ping. Pei Yun opened it and read it, his brows furrowing deeply. Then he passed the correspondence around for the officers to read.

Du Lingfeng was right next to Pei Yun, attending him, and also read the letter. He was the most anxious and exclaimed, “How is that possible! Jing Changqing has clearly been shut in prison, and his family has been tied down. How could the entire family disappear without a trace?”

Zhang Wenxiu, He Ying, and the other officers all looked at one another in shock. Pei Yun calmly responded, “One Jing Changqing isn’t worth much. However, this means our army has pressed too hard. Pass down my orders. He Ying will come with me and capture Yangzhou first. Wenxiu is responsible for purging the various towns in Huaidong. Anyone who is closely related to Southern Chu must be interrogated and examined thoroughly. Don’t leave behind any more future trouble. But there’s no harm in leaving a few allowances to make the officials and commoners loyal to Southern Chu flee south. This will also quiet Huaidong a bit.

“The Emperor wants us to firmly defend the mouths of the Huai and Si Rivers. Even if we cannot effortlessly cross the rivers, we cannot lose Huaidong again.”

The officers bellowed an affirmative.

After the Yong army spent three days in Guangling recovering, Pei Yun led the army to Yangzhou. On the twenty-ninth day of the tenth month, the Yong vanguard arrived at the outskirts of Yangzhou. The governor of Yangzhou abandoned the city and fled, so the Yong soldiers captured Yangzhou without shedding any blood. Now, the entire territory of Huaidong had fallen into Great Yong’s hands.


Footnotes:

  1. 高邮, Gaoyou – a city located in the Yangtze River Delta on the north bank of the Yangtze River
  2. 犁庭扫穴, liting-saoxue – idiom, lit. plow the court and sweep up nests (hideouts); fig. conquer or overthrow a country, annihilate one’s enemy
  3. 杀鸡儆猴, shaji-jinghou – idiom, lit. kill the chicken to warn the monkey; fig. make an example out of someone, punish somebody as a warning to others
  4. It would have been smashed against invaders as they climbed ladders.
  5. About 49 meters (54 yards)
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hweirdo's Thoughts

Sorry there was no chapter last week. Was busy with finals and research papers.

Edit: Made a mistake; Si Wencao has been changed to the Intelligence Management Section.