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Da Tang Shuang Long Zhuan
Book 54 Chapter 8 – Passionate, Ruthless

Book 54 Chapter 8 – Passionate, Ruthless
Translator: Foxs' Wuxia
In accordance with Kou Zhong and Ba Fenghan’s plan, the Shao Shuai Army hid in ambush in the upwind position that would give them most advantage to release the firearms.
The enemy has not yet had the time to set up wooden stronghold and sentry mounds, their main army had just entered the grassland region across the mountain about half a li southwest of the Tian Cheng Gorge’s south road exit, temporarily establishing ‘six flowers’ formation, with Qu Tutong’s command tent as the middle army to be in overall control of the general situation. The either side of the command tent was under Zuo Yuhou’s command, the personal guards under Qu Tutong’s direct command. The other four armies separately set up their camps in front and rear, and left and right, shaped like six-petal flowers.
Although they did not pose immediate danger, they were unafraid of fire attack either; as long as they stationed soldiers on various high points in the vicinity in rotation, acting as sentries, they could quickly mobilize the army to fight back against any incoming enemy.
The other two armies, approximately two thousand men each, took their camp outside the southern road exit, one far, one near, both located on hilly highlands, separated by several thousand steps distance, corresponding to each other.
The total strength of the three camps exceeded fifteen thousand men. Torches were everywhere, illuminating outside the Tian Cheng Gorge as bright as day.
A large number of construction battalion troops were concentrated outside the exit, felling trees and clearing away barrier. The chopped down logs could be used to build solid wooden stronghold.
The Shao Shuai Army was divided into three units, they advanced toward the dense region of forest where the light of the enemy’s torches unable to reach, waiting for Kou Zhong’s order to launch surprise attack. Kou Zhong and Ba Fenghan personally conducted the unit to attack the other side’s main force camp, carrying the most-easy-to-use poisonous smoke dispersion, waiting with store-up momentum.
Kou Zhong and Ba Fenghan leaped onto the top of a tall tree, looking into the distance, at the situation in Qu Tutong’s Six Flowers Camp formation, about three thousand paces way.
Kou Zhong said with a laugh, “Qu Tutong deserves to be called a famous general, veteran of a hundred battles. If we give him two more days, I am afraid even the poisonous smoke fire arrows would be unable to do anything to him. Just think! If he established his camp on higher ground, combined with trenches and moats around it, how many poisonous smoke fire arrows would we be able to shoot into his camp?”
Ba Fenghan cheerfully responded, “Now he is regarding us as fish meat; I am afraid not even in his dream would he think that we are hiding in ambush here, carrying firearms, ready to attack the camp. Brother! We are waiting impatiently!”
Kou Zhong said with a sneer, “How did you pass your days during the one-hundred days of self-cultivation in the desert? Even a little bit of patience is lacking. First of all, our warriors need time to recover their qi and rest, secondly, you see that the enemy is so busy working hard. They hastened on their journey during the day, and in the evening they still cannot take a break. Just let them be tired some more, and only then we will launch the attack. The best time is half a sichen before daybreak. That way, after daybreak, our brothers inside the gorge can launch pincer attack toward the enemy together with us from the front and rear, to kill his Niang’s that they are in a sorry state, right?”
Laughing involuntarily, Ba Fenghan said, “You are the boss, naturally you are in charge of your own home. Extremely right!”
The two looked at each other and laughed; they reached out to grab each other’s hand.
They have had enough of Li Shimin’s strike and had suffered enough setbacks, and now finally they had a good chance to fight back.
Xu Ziling and Shi Zhixuan were severely shaken at the same time.
Unexpectedly, it was the flute sound of the Tianzhu Xiao, but it disappeared in the blink of an eye, as if nothing had happened. But in the heart ocean of the two men, it stirred up huge waves.
Shi Qingxuan finally kept her promise to come to meet Xu Ziling. Furthermore, she knew that Shi Zhixuan wanted to kill Xu Ziling, hence she intervened with the flute sound.
Shi Zhixuan immediately returned to being tranquil, the evil qi disappeared completely, he no longer had the intention to make his move. Walking over to the window, he cast his gaze onto the open country under the starry night, as if he was searching for his daughter’s trace. Tranquil and indifferent, he said, “Ziling should know that the biggest threat to the common people of the Central Earth is not our Holy School, but the Tujue people.”
Shi Zhixuan’s weird action of suddenly taking about Tujue people made Xu Ziling completely at a loss; fortunately, due to Shi Qingxuan’s appearance, his heart was burning with passion and delight, naturally he did not want to argue with him. Opening up the screen, he walked over and stopped three steps behind Shi Zhixuan. “I wish to hear more details,” he said.
Shi Zhixuan said, “That is a blood feud amassed over countless generations. At first, it was due to the wide difference in riches on both sides. To the Tujue people, only the strongest people have the qualification to own the best land; if they could not obtain it, then they could rob it by force and destroy it. If the one obtaining the world is our Holy School, we will try our best to make the Central Earth prosperous and consolidate our power. Hence the reason I say that the real scourge of the Central Earth is the Tujue and not us at all.”
Xu Ziling spoke heavily, “However, aren’t your honorable sect’s Zhao Deyan and Xieli working together pleasantly?”
Shi Zhixuan sighed and said, “Zhao Deyan is playing another scheme [lit. abacus], he wants to use open saber, open spear, to borrow Xieli’s power to root out the dissidents. If Xieli can really conquer the Central Plains, he will have no choice but to use Han people to control Han people, he will rely on Zhao Deyan to govern the rivers and mountains for him, to accomplish his beautiful dream of becoming an emperor. If you want to get rid of him, I would not even frown half an eyebrow on you.”
“Why did Xie Wang even tell me this?” Xu Ziling asked.
Instead of answering him, Shi Zhixuan continued, “Although Tuli and you guys called each other Xiong [older brother] and Di [younger brother], but all along he is a Tujue, he definitely will never forget the hatred toward the Han people, which is the hatred between races, no one will be able to resolve it. If I don’t guess incorrectly, there will come a day you guys will meet Tuli on the battlefield.”
Xu Ziling remain silent, he was unable to speak, because Shi Zhixuan’s remark drew blood on the first prick [idiom: right on], brimming with the wisdom that came through many years of the vicissitudes of life.
Shi Zhixuan sighed and said, “Why would I want to remind you? Because I am afraid you will suffer losses due to your putting too much emphasis on the brotherly affection. Ay! I’m leaving! Ziling, take care of yourself.”
Finished speaking, he simply strode out of the door, and disappeared in the depth of the darkness.
Xu Ziling flew out of the house, the cold wind assaulted his face, the blue dome of heaven was embedded full of endless stars, crickets and insects buzzing and singing endlessly, the desolate wilderness was no longer desolate.
The sound of the flute arose again, as if there, but also as if it was not there, like it was dissolved with no gap between them and the sad calls of the autumn cicada, faintly discernible from the whistling wind, just like a light cloud covering up the bright moon, making the touching sound of the flute, which bewildered the ear and washed away the spirit, appeared to be coming out gracefully of the Ninth Heaven, transforming the austere, cruel autumn into the heaven and earth abundant with life force and magnificent radiance, bright and beautiful music notes momentarily stood alone outside the heaven and the earth, temporarily bringing the ten thousand flowers together, inseparably closely.
As if he was in a treasure hunt, Xu Ziling flew toward the sound. The various emotions in his heart were completely seized away by the sound of the flute, leaving only the inexhaustible tenderness and love. Shi Qingxuan’s flute sound was like a stem of mystical daylily []; after taking it, one would no longer remember the cruel, cold-blood war on the outside world of the living. [Translator’s note: the original Chinese text for daylily literally means ‘forgetting-worry grass’.]
Xu Ziling ran up a hillside, the beautiful image of Shi Qingxuan appeared on a large rock on the top of the hill, like a fairy wandering in the empty mountain, spirited valley in the dreamland.
The sound of flute came to an abrupt end, Shi Qingxuan’s dazzling beautiful eyes looked affectionately as he came; she smiled and said, “Silly kid came early!”
Xu Ziling came over and sat by her side, forgetting affection, he stared blankly at her.
On the top, Shi Qingxuan was wearing light lilac soft gauzed long gown, a colored elegant shawl was draped over her fragrant shoulders to protect her from the wind chill. On the bottom, it was matched with apricot yellow thin silk gauzed skirt. Her good looking and intelligent facial features still carried the usual restraint, suppressed melancholy expression, giving up the impression of unique, ice-and-snow icy arrogance beautiful appearance. She did not wear the least bit of cosmetics, but her gentle and quiet, elegant bearing, gracefully sweet and fair figure, could make any man’s heart bewildered and his spirit intoxicated.
She casually put the Tianzhu Xiao on the other side. Xu Ziling noticed that she had a small bundle that she carried.
Shi Qingxuan cast her gaze at the undulating little house down the mountain, her fragrant back slightly opened, she spoke gently, “What is war like?”
Xu Ziling had never thought that she might ask that question; after staring blankly for half a day, he smiled bitterly and said, “I am not sure if I should tell you the truth?”
A smile escaped out of the corner of Shi Qingxuan’s mouth, she softly said, “Since it is so dreadful that people don’t dare to tell the truth, why are there so many people still enjoy it and never tire of it?”
Xu Ziling sighed and said, “The reason is too complicated!”
Shi Qingxuan looked at him, her beautiful eyes looked deep into his eyes, she said, “Ziling is very tired, the war must have tormented you very badly.”
Xu Ziling had an urge to throw himself into her fragrant bosom; only in there would he be able to find refuge in the world of chaos.
Shi Qingxuan continued, “I came by boat to the east, the cities and towns along the coastal area of the Great River are extremely nervous, everyone is anxious, but no one knows where to run to. There is always new news and rumor of war every day, some say that Shao Shuai Army suffered total defeat of an army in Luoyang, some say that Song Que’s main forces and the Tang Army already cross swords head-on, some say that Du Fuwei raised his troops to rebel against the Tang, together with Dou Jiande they launched pincer attack toward Li Shimin to avenge you guys. No one knows whom to believe.”
Xu Ziling’s heart grew warm; based on Shi Qingxuan’s character of not to hear, not to question [idiom: to show no interest] the things of the world, yet she was willing to pay attention to the development of war, clearly it was because she was concerned about him. He could not help asking, “Qingxuan is worried about me?”
Shi Qingxuan responded indifferently, “What do you think?” But then she could not help, ‘Pfft!’ giggled tenderly and said, “Silly kid!”
A burning hot emotion welled up in Xu Ziling’s heart, but in the blink of an eye it was replaced by a helpless pain. A life of happiness for him was still an exceedingly-remote beautiful dream.
There has never been a moment he knew more clearly about the contradictions in his heart more than this moment. The war of Kou Zhong contending for hegemony over the world already had his feet deep in the mud, yet his love to Shi Qingxuan was not something he could extricate himself from. He already lost Shi Feixuan, he must not miss this winding-around-in-his-dream, leading-along-his-soul good woman before his eyes as well. Her person was like the sound of her flute, it was brimming with the clear flow of sparkling and translucent, pure and calm in the midst of the struggle and enmity within the sea of people, a vast body of water. It was like a ray of flame that would never go out or scatter, forever, in the night. Losing her, he would not have anything at all, his life would no longer had any meaning.
The light kiss, the parting in the You Lin Xiao Gu, was like a glowing red branding stick, leaving a mark in his heart that could never be erased. However, even up to this point, where they sat side by side having a discussion in whispered tones, she still acted like she was passionate, yet ruthless [Translator’s note: this is the title of this Chapter, lit. with passion (or love, feeling, emotion, etc.), and without passion]. If he, Xu Ziling, revealed the feeling his heart, would she, like she told him, not able to bear it, and would fly to faraway places like a startled little bird? He could not fail to worry about the feelings in her heart and the bleak and cold past events.
Shi Qingxuan’s elegant-like-heavenly-music voice echoed in his ears, “Silly kid, you are lost in thought!”
Xu Ziling woke up with a shiver; he looked at her, Shi Qingxuan drew her knees in front of her chest and wrapped her arms around them, and then she rested her jaw on her knees. Her entire being was like being embedded into the night sky, becoming one of the stars dazzling the eyes in the night sky, mysterious and hard to fathom. She turned her head to give him a glance, and then looked back at the starry sky far away and the unbroken chain of peaks in the distance, a hint of intelligent smile, which he was unable to understand, appeared on the corner of her mouth. The dim light of the night, like a light muslin, enveloped her tender body, it was both right under his nose, yet also appeared to be invisible in the world of the immortals, which was different from the human world.
Unable to restrain his emotions, Xu Ziling said, “I am thinking of you.”
The smile on the corner of Shi Qingxuan’s mouth broadened, it transformed into a brilliant smile, which broke up her seemingly inherent melancholy; she spoke teasingly, “You are just trying to make me happy! You must be thinking about the war that you did not dare to describe to Qingxuan; your eyes are actually more honest than you.”
Xu Ziling was unable to move his eyes from her pretty face, he spoke softly, “Qingxuan can see the contradictions in my heart. On the one hand is a good brother with whom I shared delights and common hardships since childhood. On the other hand is ...”
Shi Qingxuan sat her tender body up straight, she turned around to stretch out a pair of jade fingers and pressed it against his lips, to stop him from continuing. Her beautiful eyes, full of concerns, looked deep into his eyes. It was quite half a day later that she hung down the jade hand pressing on his lips, and she spoke in serene voice, “It’s late! How about Ziling go into the house and have a good night sleep? Be a good kid!”
Xu Ziling was still shaken by her intimate action of pressing her fingers to his lips; hearing that, he asked in surprise, “Isn’t there only one bed in the house?”
Shi Qingxuan revealed a look of displeasure, she rolled her eyes at him and said, “I still have something to do.”
Xu Ziling cried inwardly, ‘Ashamed!’ but Shi Qingxuan was willing to let him sleep in her fragrant bed, it showed clearly that she had great friendly regard. Embarrassed, he said, “It was me who is having a devious thought!”
As soon as he said that, he felt it was not appropriate, but he could not swallow it back.
A rose-tinted cloud color rose up in Shi Qingxuan’s jade cheeks, she stared at him in rebuke, before hanging her head down and scolded in low voice, “Bad egg!”
Scolded by her, Xu Ziling’s heart and spirit were intoxicated. Floating in the air, high in the clouds, passionate love between a man and woman should be like this. Happiness has never tried to be so close to him like this. If he could throw everything aside to be together with her, never to part, what else he could ask for in life?
Shi Qingxuan recovered her elegant, dignified manner, she spoke softly, “Why didn’t you ask me what I am going to do?”
Xu Ziling felt crisis was looming; he asked, “What is Qingxuan going to do?”
Shi Qingxuan slowly said, “I want to go to Ci Hang Jing Zhai to pay my respects [to one’s ancestors, to observe religious rites] to Niang, and then come back to spend my last years.”
Xu Ziling was puzzled, “Why didn’t Qingxuan go directly to Jingzhai after leaving the Xiaozhu [little building]?”
Ci Hang Jing Zhai, these four words stirred up heavy billows in the lake of his heart. Shi Feixuan appeared to be within reach, at this moment he was thinking of another beauty that he admired wholeheartedly [or fall in love with]; it was simply an unforgivable sin.
The ice-and-snow-smart Shi Qingxuan acted as if nothing had happened, or if she was able to see the rage in his heart, only she did not reveal it. She only spoke indifferently, “Silly kid!”
Unable to make any sense of the matter, he asked, “Where are you going to stay?”
Shi Qingxuan smiled gracefully, she spoke in displeasure, “I was afraid you, this Silly kid, might come early, so I came specially to leave a message here, so that you won’t misunderstand that I am deceiving you. Hee! It’s just that I did not expect to come across you here.”
Xu Ziling’s hot blood rushed forth, he was severely shaken, “Qingxuan!” he said.
A divine radiance appeared on Shi Qingxuan’s pretty face, she spoke softly, “Ziling need not come here anymore, because this place is no longer the Peach Blossom Spring to shun the world. Qingxuan might go back to Jingzhai to accompany Niang for a period of time, the day I am coming down the mountain will be the day Qingxuan is going to look for you, Xu Ziling. If you have anything to say, why don’t you keep it until that moment and then you can talk to me?”
And then she slowly stood up. One hand carried the Xiao, the other hand picked up the small bundle and slung it over her fragrant shoulder. She bent down her head to examine his face, and then she said, “Everybody has a burden and a load that he has to carry, he cannot throw it aside, and he cannot hide from it even more! Tonight’s events have some kind of assertion from the underworld, Qingxuan has never thought I might run into him! Ziling, please treasure your own life, so that we will have a day to see each other again. Ziling need not see me off, it will only add sadness to the delay in parting, am I right?”
Half a sichen before dawn, Shao Shuai Army launched their surprise attack, shooting round after round of poisonous smoke arrows into the three enemy camps, emitting poisonous smoke that spread rapidly, enveloping the area about one li square outside the Tian Cheng Gorge exit. The enemy was immediately thrown into chaos, the warhorses went wild, neighing violently and rushing about randomly, so that once the chaos got started, there was no stopping it.
Due to not knowing whether the poisonous smoke was lethal or not, the enemy scattered in all directions like rushing wolves and scurrying rats. They ran out of the camp, their defensive, as well as their counterstrike – power completely crumbled, so that Ba Fenghan’s prediction about fish meat came true.
The ambushing Shao Shuai Army seized the opportunity to attack on the peripherals of the smoke, using strong bows and powerful arrows, to ruthlessly deal with the enemy fleeing the poisonous smoke field, rendering a severe blow to weaken the other side’s fighting spirit and strength. By the time the poisonous smoke dissipated, Kou Zhong and Ba Fenghan personally led the cavalry unit consisted of three thousand men to charge into the enemy’s gathering place, dashing vertically and horizontally, so that the enemy scattered in all directions in utter defeat. From the gorge path, Ba Yegang and Bing Yuanzhen led two-thousand-man cavalry out to attack. Qu Tutong finally issued the order to retreat, they withdrew rapidly to the west.
When Kou Zhong met with Ba Yegang and the others, they pursued the remnants of enemy’s troops until more than ten li, beheading more than a thousand enemies, seizing a total victory, and thus resolving the threat on the southern road.
On the way back, unwilling to give up, Kou Zhong said, “If not for Li Shimin’s troops pressing down on the northern road, we could seize the opportunity to pursue and attack, I am sure we will be able to seize Xiangyang, and reverse the whole situation.”
Ba Fenghan said, “Although the enemy suffers disastrous injuries and deaths, but they are able to retreat and regroup their troops at the same time; they were defeated, but not in chaos, when we let go, we should just let go.”
On the other side, Ba Yegang held his ride to slow down, he said in agreement, “Li Shimin’s main army has arrived, they are deploying the offensive on the northern road of the mountain stronghold, their momentum is great. If the mountain stronghold is captured, everything will be in vain.”
Bing Yuanzhen at the back said, “We must act with urgency to build the army camp outside the southern road, in case the enemy seals off our retreat route again.”
Kou Zhong laughed and said, “Three gentlemen are absolutely right, this victory has just confused my little head. Ha! The most wonderful thing this time was that we obtain the enemy’s large quantities to warhorses, weapons, bows and darts and foodstuff. Plus we have heavy military wagons, which should be enough for us to eat for several years. Ha! I am making a lot of profit again!”
This moment the southern road exit was in sight, the Tang Army left behind empty camps everywhere, which represented the result of their victory. The mule carts coming with the reinforcement army, filled with army provisions and weaponry, formed a long line entering the gorge path. The excited Chen Laomou directed the general situation.
Kou Zhong and the others flew off their horses, Chen Laomou came up with big laugh and said, “This is called Heaven never bars one’s way [idiom: never give up hope]; we succeed!”
Kou Zhong was about to speak, suddenly they heard urgent sound of hoofbeats, a soldier, flustered and exasperated, galloped from the west side at full speed, rushing over. Tumbling off the horseback, he reported in panic, “Shaoshuai, not good! The Tang Army, about ten thousand troops, appeared from the west, they are advancing toward us.”
Kou Zhong and the others were shocked.
Ba Yegang asked in heavy voice, “How far are they from us?”
The warrior replied, “Only about five li away from us.”
Everybody you looked at me I gaze at you. At this time, when the men were weary the horses were tired after a big battle, they were really unable to face an attack from the powerful enemy.
Making prompt decision, Kou Zhong said, “Immediately call all hands! Move as much as possible into the gorge.”
Without saying anything further, Chen Laomou accepted the order and left.
Ba Fenghan sighed and said, “This is called big fortune in the midst of misfortune. If their rear army came one sichen earlier, it would be our turn to pack our bag and leave before we finished eating.”
Kou Zhong dejectedly said, “After exhausting tremendous strength, after suffering untold hardships, we finally managed to resolve the southern road blockage, but in the blink of an eye the result of victory is unexpectedly being plucked by the enemy.”
Ba Fenghan comforted him, saying, “At least the reinforcement army successfully arrived at the Tian Cheng Gorge. Furthermore, we obtained a large number of the enemy’s supplies. We’ll just have to fight an attack and defense battle against Li Shimin, to see whether the Great Tang Army is formidable, or our Shao Shuai Army is strong enough?”
Smiling wryly, Kou Zhong said, “Is there any other choice?”
The joy of victory, in the cruel reality, was immediately denounced like scattering clouds, vanishing smoke, completely without any trace.