A Step into the Past Chapter 221

274

Book 20 Chapter 4 – Reconnaissance Satellite

Once he went back to the official residence and found Teng Yi, he asked him to send men to summon Huan Qi back to Xianyang urgently for a discussion.

Unexpectedly Jing Jun had arrived on hearing the news and after knowing that he’s not included in the mission, he refused to budge. No matter how xiang and Teng coaxed or coerced, for example saying the he’s just got married and should not go to war, or that they need him in the capital city to lead the cavalry, he refused to listen.

In the end they had to give in and Xiang Shaolong entered the palace again to see Xiao Pan to ask him to appoint Jing Jun as another Deputy General while Lord Changping will look after the cavalry in his absence, with Zhao Da taking over as the temporary Deputy Commander before they could settle this matter.

Next he went to the army camp outside the city to choose his elite soldiers. The old and the weak were all sent home while the new recruits were left with Meng Wu and Meng Tian for training.

Huan Qi hurried back that night and the three brothers, together with Heng Qi and Wu Guo opened up the map and spent the whole night discussing the battle details.

In the morning, all of them took a quick nap before they all set out for their respective tasks.

Xiang Shaolong entered the palace again to have a meeting with Xiao Pan and other than Lord Changping and Lu Buwei, there were also w.a.n.g Ling, Lao Ai and the Dowager Zhu Ji.

Although Lu Buwei would very much like to kill Xiang Shaolong, but for his own benefit, he definitely does not want Xiang Shaolong to lose this key battle on which the Qin Empire is hinged on. That’s why he portrayed himself to be very cooperative.

Only now did realize how wealthy and strong Qin is, for there’re no problems in the supply of food, weapons, horses or carriages at all. They were able to give him whatever amount he asked for.

After the meeting, Lu Buwei, Zhu Ji and Lao Ai left and Xiang Shaolong turned towards Xiao Pan, Lord Changping and w.a.n.g Ling and said, “Now the enemy is making quick battles and with the 5 states having a unified goal, their morale is high. If I just go out and fight the enemy like that, defeat is a certainty. The only way is to let the enemy become overconfident, then lure them in and at the same time disrupt their food supplies by moving away all the people in the towns along the way away. Make them lengthen their supply line indefinitely, far away from their base camp, then make use of the dangers in the mountains and forest for our elite soldiers to launch a surprise attack. If we gain the upper hand, we’ll chase them down hard but if we can’t fight them we can retreat first. This is a good opportunity to destroy their morale and when the time is ripe, we will launch an attack on the enemy and in this battle, we’ll have about 90% chance of winning.”

The eyes of the three of them brightened at the same time.

Xiang Shaolong said, “Amongst our enemy’s lead generals, most of them are people who knows me well and is aware that I’ve always been courageous and fears no death. Once they hear that I’m leading the army, they’ll certainly think that I’ll go for an immediate and swift battle. I’ll grant them their wishes, and will retreat after a minor loss and pretend to set up camp to hold the defense. By now it’s almost the end of summer and autumn and winter will be arriving soon. Our enemy would not want to miss this chance and will surely launch a ma.s.sive attach before winter, hoping to at least move slowly closer to Xianyang by taking down the towns and cities on the outskirts. I will set up everything at Zui Cheng and wait for them to attack before winter arrives. If we can just win one battle, they will surely be worried that the snow will pile up on the roads and hence they will be cut off from their supply chain. They will certainly retreat immediately and that is the time for us to give chase.”

w.a.n.g Ling sighed, “No wonder before his death, Lu Gong kept praising Shaolong as an intelligent and brave warrior ever since Bai Qi. Just listening to the military tactics that Shaolong has just said and I know that your knowledge in military strategies are as good as your skills with the sword; knowing yourself and your enemy, and a hundred battles fought is a hundred battles won.”

Xiang Shaolong smiled wryly, “More easily said than done. The actual implementation will have to be done carefully and there must be no mistakes. Luckily the Grand Commander of the coalition army is not Li Mu, otherwise he’ll definitely not fall for this trick.”

Xiao Pan said with relief and joy, “Even if Grand Tutor is up against Li Mu, I think both of you are on equal standing. Hai! I can finally have a good sleep tonight.”

Lord Changping added, “Once Shaolong comes back victorious, I will definitely hold a feast of at least 10 tables at Drunken Wind Loft to help you celebrate.”

After a round of chat and laughter, Xiang Shaolong returned to his official residence and was surprised to see Xiang Bao’er playing with his men at the square. His beloved wives and maids have all come back from the farm and even the long absent Zhou Liang was there and on seeing him, immediately knelt down and cried out, “Zhou Liang was lucky that I have not failed your order and have brought the King Eagle back.”

Xiang Shaolong was ecstatic, “Where is the King Eagle?”

Zhou Liang stood up, puckered his lips and whistled melodiously.

The sound of the wind being sliced could be heard from above the sky.

Xiang Shaolong was started and lifted his head up for a look, only to see a grayish-black hunting eagle with a wingspan of about 5 feet soaring down and landing delicately on Zhou Liang’s shoulder, it’s bright and intimidating eyes coldly inspecting the people and things around it.

Xiang Shaolong took a deep gasp and asked, “Doesn’t this King Eagle need a leg chain or have its eyes and head covered by a bag?”

Zhou Liang replied, “Of course not, otherwise how can it be considered the King of eagles. I took a whole year to find it and spent another two years training it day and night before I dared to bring it back to see Master Xiang. I just heard that Master Xiang will be leading troops to Hangu the day after and I am willing to follow you and let King Eagle help Master Xiang spy on the enemy troops. I guarantee it will make great contributions.

Wu Tingfang came up next to Xiang Shaolong while pulling Zhou Wei along with her and said with a smile, “This King Eagle seems to be quite spiritual, like it’s able to communicate with Zhou Liang. No matter where we tried to hide earlier, this super eagle could find us easily. Even when we were hiding in the house, it can look in from outside the window. It was most fun.”

Xiang Shaolong was secretly thinking that is almost akin to obtaining a reconnaissance satellite, spying on the enemy from high above the sky. He laughed and said, “Since we have the King Eagle helping us, this battle is a sure win.”

Zhou Liang gave a shout and the King Eagle spread its wings and soared towards the sky and in an instant became just a small speck in the sky.

The King Eagle was circling in the clear sky and below it, in the wilderness, is the never ending line of the great army of Qin.

Qin’s military is mainly split into the army and navy, and in terms of expansion and importance, the latter is always lagging behind the former because of actual demand.

The army is further separated into chariots, cavalry and foot soldiers.

By the time of the Warring States period, the use of chariots has been greatly reduced and weakened as compared to the Spring-Autumn period but is some situations, especially battles on flat ground, there’s still a use for them. For example, to charge into the enemy’s formation to disrupt their formation or maybe to be turned into mobile barrier to stop the approach of enemy troops.

But Xiang Shaolong is looking at the mostly mountainous terrain from Hangu to Xianyang and on top of that, he’s not very familiar with the deployment of chariots so in this mission, he decided not to use them at all. The cavalry and foot soldiers will be the main force.

Ever since Xiang Shaolong’s Hundred Battles Sword was forged, Xiao Pan gave orders for it to be replicated in volume and with Uncle Qing personally supervising the workers, they made a batch of thick, long swords. Although it can never be compared the Hundred Battles Sword which was forged with chrome added in it but the replicates is enough to greatly improve the cutting and slashing ability of the cavalry for when they charge into battles. This is the first time that it will actually be used.

Amongst the 100,000 men going to battle, the cavalry took up about 30,000 and they were from the mounted troops and reinforcement forces and on top of that there were 1,000 elite family warriors from the Wu family. These are the main attack forces for Xiang Shaolong.

The foot soldiers are split into light infantry and heavy infantry. They are all formal soldiers who underwent strict training in the various counties.

The light infantry will not wear armor and uses weapons like bows and crossbows and in battles they will usually be lined in the first rows specifically to kill enemies from a distance.

The heavy infantry will wear copper armors and uses pole weapons like spears, halberds etc for close combat with the enemy.

In Xiang Shaolong’s expeditionary forces, the light infantry takes up 30,000 men and the heavy infantry has 40,000 men.

In this era, the success and failure of a battle, besides the implement of strategies, it’s how the commanders can fully make use of the various types of troops to his disposal and the coordination between them.

As for the organization of the troops, they use the Buqu policy, where 5 men makes a fireteam, 50 men makes a platoon and so on, until 5,000 men will make a brigade and 5 brigades will make a corp. So one corp will consist of 25,000 men and Xiang Shaolong’s army strength is 4 corps.

According the Qin regulations, the various ranks of generals are allowed to have their own army and usually will be about 10% of the total army strength, like now Xiang Shaolong will be able to increase his personal army from the current 3,000 to 10,000.

Because of the constant battles, even if Commanding Generals like Meng Ao and w.a.n.g Chi return the troops to the imperial court, their own personal army will not be dismissed and their secondary duty will be to protect the safety of the generals. That’s why Meng Ao was able to direct his men to attack the farm in the past.

So once one becomes the Commanding General, not only is his status improved, the power he holds will be greatly increased as well.

Xiang Shaolong’s military knowledge comes mainly from the 21st century and although he has studied the Mohist military stratagems, he did not stick to the rules and split up the various different military units. He will leave together with Jing Jun, Teng Yi and the cavalry, Heng Qi will follow behind with the infantry and lastly will be Wu Guo leading the field train.

Because he has already decided to lure the enemy in, Heng Qi and Wu Guo’s main forces will stay behind once they reach Zuicheng to strengthen the defenses and plant traps. At the same time Heng Qi will train his men to be familiar with the terrain. This will spare them the agony of long travel and they can disperse the people from the nearby villages as well and let them retreat to the safer and bigger cities behind like Gaoling and Zhiyang.

Moving the troops is a very important aspect in wars and luckily the route to the frontline is the safe official paths within Qin borders. On top of that, they had the Eagle King recce for them so they could travel quickly on the straight and flat roads.

Five days later, Xiang Shaolong’s cavalry went pa.s.s Zuicheng, with the mountainous regions like Mount Li, Mount Zhu etc on the right, with Mount Hua right ahead of them. The terrain started getting uneven.

In order to preserve his troop’s strength and morale, Xiang Shaolong chose to set off early every morning, and set up camp after noon so the soldiers don’t find the journey tiring at all.

After travelling east from Zuicheng for another ten days, they finally arrived at Mount Hua.

If they’re travelling for leisure, the route along the way is indeed scenic.

Besides with the hot summer now, the green trees seems to be fighting for glory and with the wild flowers in full bloom, the scenery is beautiful.

A pity that no one is in the mood to enjoy them now. On this dangerous mountainous terrain with ravines aplenty, sometimes there’re cliffs on one side of the path and on the other side there are deep abyss on the other side with the raging waters from River De rushing below them. They had to walk carefully to avoid making any missteps.

Zhou Liang became Xiang Shaolong’s personal follower.

From time to time, the Eagle King will fly back to land on his shoulder and the closeness between man and beast made Xiang Shaolong envious.

Now he finally understands why it’s easy for the Qins to attack the six states but for the six states to attack Qin, it’s as difficult as ascending Heaven. What Qin has is the dangerous terrain under them, and this time he was able to come up with this trick precisely because of this dangerous terrain.

The five states are actually in the midst of war and are suspicious of each other. But because the threat from Qin is too great, that’s why they put aside their own wars for now and joined forces to attack Qin. Such a union will never last for long.

So if he is Pang Nuan, and weather permitting, he will attack Xianyang directly as soon as the opportunity presents itself, so that things will not drag out too long and they end up disintegrating before any fight happens.

So he is not worried that Pang Nuan will not fall for the trick.

After travelling for five days on the mountainous roads, they came to an area where the ground is relatively flat and on the vast plains where flowers bloom, they met Meng Ao and his troops who had been summoned back to the capital.

Xiang Shaolong, Teng Yi, Jing Jun and Meng Ao underwent a simple ceremony to exchange the army tokens and official doc.u.ments in the commander’s tent.

Meng Ao has aged visibly from the last time they saw him, his face lined with harshness, his hair turned from black to white. His behavior was polite yet distant.

He went to great lengths to explain in detail the situation at the frontline and he does not sound optimistic at all.

In the end, he concluded, “That fellow Pang Nuan is indeed the famed military strategist of the east. Now he has set up camp at Hangu, obviously he’s waiting for our reinforcements to arrive before he defeat us in one fell swoop, after which he will make a beeline for Xianyang. Now that I see Shaolong only has the cavalry with you, I can tell that you’ve seen through Pang Nuan’s intentions and won’t be meeting him head on. I am indeed glad to see this.”

Xiang Shaolong was secretly impressed, he’s indeed a famed general to be able to see through his own intentions with just one look. He just smiled but gave no reply.

Meng Ao suddenly gave a sigh and asked quietly, “Can I have a few words in private with Shaolong.”

Teng Yi and the rest are all understanding people and they hurriedly left the tent.

Meng Ao looked up at the top of the tent, looking like he does not know where to start. After a long pause, he gave another sigh and said, “I, Meng Ao, have never lowered myself down to beg others so I’ve never been well-liked by the Qins. Only when Minister Lu started giving me opportunities did I have the chance to express my abilities and sweep through the battlefields, expanding my troops north and south and establishing a meritorious career.”

Xiang Shaolong nodded his head in agreement, “Everyone have their own experience and stand, this I understand.”

Meng Ao stopped looking upwards and instead turned his eyes to stare deeply at him, “I only have two sons and Shaolong had saved them once. I hope that Shaolong will not abandon them in future, naturally I will give something back in return.”

Xiang Shaolong was taken aback, knowing that Meng Ao has seen through that Meng Wu and Meng Tian has allied themselves with him.

Meng Ao said with a wry smile, “Ultimately Lu Buwei will not win you. This time Pang Nuan will not be able to gain any advantage, but Shaolong must be careful of Li Mu. This person is a rare talent in military affairs, never losing a single battle. Even after what happened at Changping, we still dare not talk lightly of attacking Zhao because of the presence of this person. If Shaolong manage to win this round of battle, his Highness will certainly give you the important task of attacking Zhao. When you meet this person, you have to be extra careful.”

Xiang Shaolong could feel the scalp on his head going numb on hearing this. w.a.n.g Chi had told him this, and now Meng Ao is saying the same thing. Once he returns to Xianyang he must get Xiao Pan to summon w.a.n.g Jian back immediately so that he won’t have to face this man, who deserves the respect of everyone, in the battlefield.

Meng Ao gave another sigh before he stood up and took his leave.

The next day they broke camp and set off. When they arrived at the connecting hills where the Qin army had retreated about 50 miles back and was holding fortress, Xiang Shaolong ordered his men to set up camp and defenses, cutting off the only route towards the west.

By now the defending general at the front line Cheng Jun heard of their arrival and hurried over to pay respects to his newly appointed superior.

While everyone was standing on a hilltop looking at the situation, Cheng Jun gave his report.

Xiang Shaolong said, “If my estimation is correct, the coalition army will launch a fierce attack once we arrive and try their best to destroy our defenses to break our men’s morale. So you must retreat in batches over the next few nights.”

Cheng Jun was taken aback, “You mustn’t do this, if my troops retreat last, and because of the low morale of the men, no one will be willing to stay behind and wait for death. If our enemy intensifies their attack, we’ll disintegrate without even a fight. Besides, if our enemy catches up swiftly with their cavalry, we run the risk of the entire army being killed.”

Xiang Shaolong said with a laugh, “What General Cheng said is right, but that is precisely what I want them to think, that we are inexperienced and will commit this fatal mistake. The biggest problem is to make a neat retreat without any losses.”

Cheng Jun has yet to recover from his shock when Teng Yi added, “The first batch to retreat will be the injured, sick, old and weak soldiers and at the same time announce to them that reinforcements have arrived. We have to exaggerate the numbers to 300,000 men, with w.a.n.g Jian and our Great General Xiang leading the troops. Only then will the men be pacified and won’t result in chaos.”

Cheng Jun was dumbfounded on hearing that.

Even though there will always be deceit in battles, but the ones being deceived are always the enemy. To lie to their own people is indeed a rare instance but he has no choice but to admit that this is a marvelous way of settling the minds of the troops.

Xiang Shaolong is a legendary hero well known in every family in Qin and although he has yet to make meritorious military contributions, he is the idol of the Qin army, his reputation far precedes him. As for w.a.n.g Jian, his military accomplishments are aplenty and his fame has spread far and wide. If these two famed great generals have joined forces to lead the reinforcement troops, morale will be greatly boosted.

Xiang Shaolong smiled, “General Teng and I will accompany General Cheng and sneak back to camp once night falls to arrange everything. General Cheng and your man can rest for a while and gather your strength so that you can work better later.”

Cheng Jun finally understood and left gladly.

Xiang Shaolong, together with Teng Yi, Jing Jun, Zhou Liang, the 18 warriors and the Wu Family Warriors rode out of camp to a.n.a.lyze the nearby terrain and to see what traps they can set up to stop the enemy’s cavalry from going after their troops when they are retreating.

They only returned to camp at dusk and after dinner, went back with Cheng Jun to the frontline.

Eagle King flew up into the starry sky to spot the scouts sent out by their enemy and actually found 8 different scouts, whom they manage to avoid.

On seeing such a marvelous flying scout, Cheng Jun was extremely impressed and his confidence in Xiang Shaolong increased greatly.

The Qin’s army camp was set up on the top of a hill, facing the road from the west that will lead to Qin and the back of the hill was a vast plain. About 10 odd miles away, campfires were lit up like the starry sky, the whole plain and hills were filled with their enemy’s tents and the sight is indeed numbing.

When Xiang Shaolong arrived, Cheng Jun relayed the information as ordered, that Xiang Shaolong has come first leading the first batch of troops and Great General w.a.n.g Jian will be coming soon after. Indeed morale was boosted and everyone were rubbing their hands in glee, getting ready to counterattack.

At this time, Teng Yi and Zhou Liang led a thousand from the Wu family Warriors who are adept with mountainous terrains and night subterfuge to secure the important routes. With the Eagle King’s astute eyes, they cleared the area of the enemy scouts who had climbed mountains and crossed forests to get there, to prevent news of them making the troops retreat from leaking.

Xiang Shaolong ordered the hundred odd leaders to his side and after giving them words of encouragement, gave orders for the injured, sick, old and weak to be sent back immediately. Everyone thought that he was showing concern for his subordinates and happily went ahead to carry out his orders.

By dawn, Xiang Shaolong has already sent away close to 3,000 men, leaving only 12,000 able bodied troops to stand guard at the ditches and forts at the frontline.

Cheng Jun accompanied him on his inspection rounds and after going up the highest point to have a close look, the situation on both the enemy and their sides became extremely clear.

He saw that both the enemy and their own people have set up camps on top of the hills and have made use of the what nature has given in the forests and mountainous terrain to set up effective defenses. Trees were chopped to make barriers to protect against arrows and stones and ditches stretching for miles were dug, and the situation looks like they are all getting ready for a confrontation.

The location that Meng Ao chose to set up camp was very advantageous, with the Yellow River on one side to provide a water barrier and cliffs on the other side where even birds will find difficulty flying in. The terrain for about 5 miles between the river and the cliffs, was filled with lines after lines of barriers and ditches, and on the top of every hill, a solid wooden fortress was built. There were close to a hundred wooden fortresses within sight of each other and in terms of defense, it can be considered flawless. No wonder he could hold the coalition army at bay for three months.

Cheng Jun pointed at the dozen odd ships docked near the enemy camp on the river and said, “That’s Wei’s ships, who will bring in food, supplies, troops etc and amongst them there are a lot of equipment for breaking sieges. It’s extremely disadvantageous to our situation.”

Teng Yi asked, “How many large scale attacks have they launched so far?”

Cheng Jun replied, “Only two large scale attacks at the beginning, but we managed to keep them away after much difficulty. There were heavy casualties on both sides.”

Xiang Shaolong’s eyes swept past a vast, dry landscape that was between them, thinking of the terrible battle that will happen there, and thinking of how his old friends like Han Chuang, Xu Yi etc may very well be on the other side looking at his own side and a mixture of emotions can’t help but well up inside.

Teng Yi looked at the endless tents and banners that seems to dot their enemy’s camp and heaved a huge sigh, “No wonder General Meng was defeated. Just by looking at our enemy’s camp setup, one can tell that the decision maker in our enemy camp is very well versed in military stratagems. Now our enemy’s troops are more then five times of ours and if they attack us with fire by day and sneak attacks by night, our defenses will be breached within 10 days. Obviously they are not making any more because they are waiting for our reinforcements to arrive and when we are still tired out from the long journey, they will defeat us in one fell swoop.”

As Xiang Shaolong was looking up at Eagle King who was circling up in the sky, Cheng Jun pointed out to him how the troops of the five states were distributed and what their banners look like.

Xiang Shaolong took a deep breath, cast aside all his troubles and gave his orders, “We should delay no more. The night after we will pretend that the reinforcements have arrived and lure the enemy into attacking us. Put some wood and hay in the camps burn the camp to hinder the enemy’s progress before retreating in batches.”

Teng and Cheng accepted their orders.