Ysabel, Sky, Jaya, Spy, you are welcome. Xiaohu, the only explanation I have is that at the time you were accessing it, your network and/or spcnet’s network were/was slow. As I mentioned before, unabridged has long text in each post. Sometimes I experienced the same thing, but the problem usually went away the next time I tried it. Xu Xiong, Chua, Hungry, honestly, that kind of pictures ruined the image I have in my mind … Call me old-fashioned if you will, but my image of wuxia is totally unlike the pictures you are showing here. My guess is that those pictures are actually from the manga version (manhua?). Can you really imagine that people from the Tang dynasty would wear an outfit like that?
Here's Chapter 11 in its entirety, a rather short chapter.
Book 18 Chapter 11 – Waiting for Dawn with Head Resting on a Spear
Kou Zhong smiled and said, “Would you sit down, please?”
Immediately red clouds flew across Chuchu’s jade cheeks; shaking her head, she said, “It’s inappropriate [orig. not conforming to established standard/customs].”
Stunned, Kou Zhong asked, “What customs?”
Biting her lip, Chuchu quietly said, “It’s the difference between master and slave!”
Kou Zhong did not understand, “I am only your friend; we knew each other throwing snowballs in those days, since when did we become master and slave?” he asked.
Chuchu revealed a sweet, sweet smile on her face; apparently she was recalling the touching scene when they were playing and throwing snowballs at each other in Da Longtou Mansion that day. Delighted, she said, “But that was different! Then you and Xu Ye were Su Jie’s yidi [foster (younger) brother]. But now you are people with status and position; even Xiaojie must respect you. Naturally I have to maintain etiquette!”
Seeing that she still maintained the adorable expression that made his heart beat faster that year, a hard to describe feeling welled up in his heart.
Originally he wanted very much to tell her that he was still wearing the necklace she gave him as a present, but another thought made him give up this idea. He sighed and said, “Go to hell with etiquette, I, Kou Zhong, am still the same guy who throw snowballs at you. Ay!”
If life can be started all over again, Susu would not have married Xiang Yushan.
Chuchu spoke in low voice, “If Kou Ye has no instruction for me, Chuchu must return to see if Xiaojie needs anything!”
※ ※ ※
By dusk that day, Zhang Zhenzhou led five thousand light cavalry toward Jinyong.
Yang Gongqing, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling, leading twenty light cavalry, sent them off.
Only after making sure that Shan Xiongxin’s new army did not make any unusual move that they turned back to Yanshi.
This moment, Linglong Jiao, who had been out to scout the enemy, was already back. Everybody gathered at the main hall of the Commander Mansion to listen to her report. Zhai Jiao, Tu Shufang, and Xuan Yong participated in the meeting, while Wang Xuanshu was out to inspect the army camp on the southern bank of River Luo, to strengthen their defense.
Linglong Jiao said, “Just as Kou Junshi expected, Li Mi led the defeated army to return to Luokou, and immediately consolidated his forces. He stayed for one night only before leading seven thousand cavalry out of town heading to the west. It appears that he wants to link up with Shan Xiongxin’s main force.”
Her pair of eye spewing flame of hatred, Zhai Jiao laughed coldly and said, “This time we’ll make him come alive, but go back dead.”
Tu Shufang spoke heavily, “Li Mi is arrogant and conceited; he can win but he cannot lose. This time his troops’ morale is low yet he wanted to lead his troops to counterattack; this is only courting disaster.”
Kou Zhong shook his head and said, “Although he takes defeat with bad grace, and is anxious to redeem his face, but in no way will he foolishly link up with Shan Xiongxin’s almost-out-of-provision lone army. This matter must not be lightly ignored, otherwise we will commit the grave mistake of underestimating the enemy.”
Yang Gongqing nodded and said, “He is luring us to attack Luokou.”
Zhai Jiao was puzzled; she asked, “Luokou basically has no risk to us, if we were to attack, Bing Yuanzhen, who’s on the lookout, will immediately break down; why would Li Mi want to go there?”
Xuan Yong said, “Li Mi will surely not cup his hands and offer Luokou to be taken. My guess is that he is hoping we would mistakenly think that he is going to join forces with Shan Xiongxin, hence we would seize the opportunity to attack Luokou and cut his return path to the east. And then, by the time we took our military supply wagon to cross the Luo River, he would start storming our crossing-the-river troops, while Shan Xiongxin go all-out to besiege the city. This scheme is very sinister, yet Kou Ye has already seen through it.”
Kou Zhong breathed out a long sigh and said, “Li Mi’s fatal weakness is that he still thinks we lack food supplies, hence we had no choice but to urgently capture Luokou and plunder Luokou’s abundant provisions and equipment. Therefore, this is a luring-the-enemy scheme.”
Luokou was one of the five major granaries of the former Sui dynasty; altogether it had two thousand large cellars, each one stored eight thousand dan [approximately 100 liters] of grains. Although Li Mi had already opened the storehouse to provide relief for the people, but these past several years he continuously replenishes Luokou’s cellars to supply the needs of the Wagang Army.
Zhai Jiao said, “In that case, why don’t we pretend to cross the river to lure him to attack us?”
“Right now he is anxious, but we are not,” Kou Zhong replied, “Let’s wait for Zhang Da Jiangjun [great general] to attack Jinyong first. When we have the advantage of Shan Xiongxin surrendering, we can concentrate our force to deal with Li Mi.”
And then he asked Linglong Jiao about the situation of the army camp up Mount Mang.
Linglong Jiao replied, “Those supporting troops are all old, weak, and injured soldiers; this morning they started to withdraw to the north. Looking at the situation, they seem to cross the river toward Heyang.”
She added, “The heart of Shan Xiongxin’s troops is unstable, there is a continuous stream of men abandoning their weapon and running out of the army camp, so that although their number is quite a lot, there is no fighting spirit, as well as the ability to fight.”
Kou Zhong was emotionally moved, “Do you know how many have escaped?” he asked.
Linglong Jiao replied, “They are crawling over the wooden fence to escape. Eight out of ten watchtowers set up outside the camp have no one to man, but since the escape attempts were all in the evening, the exact number is difficult to estimate. I caught several deserters to interrogate, and all said that in the camp, rumors are flying around everywhere; some even say that Li Mi had been killed by us. Therefore, everybody had no heart to continue fighting zealously. Shan Xiongxin even stopped building the siege equipment; he is acting like they are going to withdraw.”
Yang Gongqing slapped the table; his spirit greatly aroused, he said, “Li Mi’s biggest mistake in life is using this kind of mob to attack us.”
Linglong Jiao said, “Nearly all of Shan Xiongxin’s troops are infantry, warhorses are less than five hundred. Now they already started limit the ration per person, each day they only allocate half of normal ration, I am afraid they won’t last too long.”
After casting a glance toward Xu Ziling, who had been silent throughout, Kou Zhong said with delight, “That will do! Basically we do not need to wait for Jinyong to fall to start crossing the river and carryout the luring-the-enemy scheme. I can guarantee that Shan Xiongxin will ignore Li Mi’s order to attack us, instead, he will hold his troops in defensive position, waiting for us to move to Luokou, and then he would escape without a trace. At that time he can bargain with us and talk about the terms of surrender.”
Everybody nodded in agreement.
If it were Shen Luoyan or Xu Shiji instead of Shan Xiongxin, naturally the situation would be substantially different.
Because Shan Xiongxin has always been an important high-ranking general under Duke of Pushan’s camp, who felt deep resentment on Li Mi, plus by rationing his troops, he could not bear to have a mob within his camp; how could he take a risk by throwing his life for Li Mi?
Yang Gongqing concluded the meeting by saying, “We will pretend to cross the river tomorrow, while arranging two supporting hidden troops at the same time: one to monitor Shan Xiongxin’s activity, the other will be in charge of dealing with Li Mi. If Li Mi is defeated again this time, he will lose his momentum and will no longer able to use the troops.”
※ ※ ※
‘Knock! Knock! Knock!’
From the footsteps, Xu Ziling already recognized Kou Zhong; he said, “Come in! Why this time you are following etiquette, unexpectedly you know how to knock?”
Kou Zhong pushed the door and entered; he smiled wryly and said, “Out of ten times, there were at least five times I knocked the door. Ling Shao seems to be full of anger tonight!”
Xu Ziling waited until Kou Zhong took his seat at the other side of the small table before saying, “Since seeing Da Xiaojie, I am thinking of Su Jie more; how could I possibly have a good mood?”
Kou Zhong said, “Worrying over Su Jie is not going to help, plus we must not act blindly without thinking, otherwise we are going to fall into Old Thief Xiao and Little Thief Xiang’s scheme.”
And then he told Xu Ziling about Wang Shichong bestowing high-ranking titles to his family and relatives, and thus provoking Zhang Zhenzhou and Yang Gongqing’s discontentment.
Detest and loathsome burst in Xu Ziling’s heart; he changed he subject, “If tomorrow Li Mi does not fall into the trap, or perhaps he slipped away, do we continue pressing down there, and thus helping someone like Wang Shichong conquer the world for nothing?”
Kou Zhong smiled ruefully and said, “The problem is not on us, it’s on Da Xiaojie, the Senior.”
Xu Ziling mused, “As long as we tell Da Xiaojie that we want to pick Su Jie, she ought to accept it!”
His spirit greatly aroused, Kou Zhong said, “This can still be considered feasible measure; if Li Mi flees back to either Hulao or Yingyang, we will be able to get rid of him in ten days to half a month. Frankly, I am worried that Ol’ Die and Shen Faxing would attack Jiangdu, in which case Flying Horse Ranch will be in danger. How can they deal with Zhu Can, that homicidal maniac devil, and deal with Ol’ Die and Xiao Xian at the same time?”
Xu Ziling agreed, “After seeing how formidable a cavalry is, now I understand why that many people are eyeing the Flying Horse Ranch like a tiger watching its prey. Only warhorses bred and trained by them would be able to deal with Heavenly Policy Mansion’s Black Armor Cavalry. Therefore, if I were Ol’ Die, I would also view capturing Flying Horse Ranch as my top priority.”
Kou Zhong happily said, “It’s rare that Ling Shao and Xiaodi have this kind of common understanding. Although Su Jie’s matter is important, it is not as urgent as Flying Horse Ranch’s matter, which demand immediate action. Whether we can kill Li Mi or not tomorrow, we must immediately rush back to Luoyang, and after seeing Bu Tianzhi, we must slip away with Xu Xingzhi immediately. As for other matters, let them be Wang Shichong’s headache.”
And then, he heaved a sigh and said, “Only today did I finally understand why Liu Dage plainly fell in love with Su Jie, but he did not dare to reveal his love.”
Frowning, Xu Ziling asked, “What did you understand?”
Kou Zhong spoke heavily, “Liu Dage really likes Su Jie.”
Xu Ziling was bewildered, “What is it that you are trying to say?” he asked.
Smiling ruefully, Kou Zhong said, “We have finally experienced how treacherous the battlefield is. Even Li Mi, that kind of talent, once he caught in disadvantageous situation, at the slightest pretext he must suffer the lost on the battlefield. Therefore, every trip to the battlefield, our little life is in Laotianye’s hands, it is no longer ours to decide. Under this kind of circumstance, where being alive in the morning does not guarantee staying alive in the evening, how could we dare to hurt the frail heart of the woman we love?”
Xu Ziling was silent for a moment, before speaking slowly, “Why do you suddenly have this feeling?”
Kou Zhong dejectedly said, “When we were at the Da Longtou Mansion, without thinking I simply pulled Chuchu into my arms to show my affection to her, but today, although I am fully aware that she is a thousand times, ten thousand times willing, I did not dare to touch her even for half a finger; how could I not have any feeling in my heart?
Xu Ziling wanted to say something, but in the end he remained silent.
※ ※ ※
Early the next morning, the city gates have just opened, a train of military supply wagons and mule carts streamed out of the city toward the pontoon bridge, ready to cross the river.
By this moment, five thousand strong elite cavalry under Yang Gongqing and Kou Zhong has also lain low inside a forest north of the pontoon bridge, where lookout posts were set on all high points around, to keep a close watch over any movement far and near.
Like a flurry of snowflakes intelligence news were pouring in.
Zhai Jiao was surprisingly quiet, making people felt her determination in killing Li Mi.
Xu Ziling was acting as her personal bodyguard, afraid that if something happened, she would disregard any danger to such an extent that the enemy might be able to exploit her.
Wang Xuanshu’s supply troops began crossing the river.
This moment new intelligence arrived: Wang Bodang’s troops stationed inside Jinyong had heard the news and were trying to escape to Heyang, while the citizens of the city opened the gate wide to welcome Zhang Zhenzhou’s main forces.
Without costing a single troop a single soldier the city of Jinyong has fallen into Zhang Zhenzhou’s hands.
In the meantime, just as expected, Shan Xiongxin did not make any movement.
Linglong Jiao rushed over on horseback to report, “Li Mi’s cavalry is coming at full speed; evidently they found out that we are crossing the river.”
Greatly delighted, Yang Gongqing hurriedly ordered all generals to be ready for battle.
Kou Zhong could not help praising, “Were it not for Miss Jiaos expertise in spying the enemy’s situation, and provide us with accurate intelligence, we would only be doing twice the effort for half the result. Definitely we wouldn’t have the amazing efficiency of guessing the enemy like a deity like right now.”
Smiling sweetly, Linglong Jiao said, “You are most adept at coaxing people.”
Kou Zhong humbly asked, “Is there any key point in enemy reconnaissance?”
Linglong Jiao replied, “The important part in moving the troops is intelligence. If you don’t know the enemy, it would be like fighting the enemy blindfolded; it would be strange indeed if you don’t get defeated. Therefore, before the three armies [referring to upper, middle, and lower, or right, center, and left armies] even moved, the scouting riders move in advance. Even ordinary provincial military unit must have a group of experts in reconnaissance, in order to know the enemy’s target.”
Considering own future, plus in this moment he flirted with this Qiuci beauty that she was staring at him, waiting in expectation, Kou Zhong pursued further, “How do you train reconnaissance experts then?”
Linglong Jiao replied, “First, you must select the people; they have to be adept in moving around and must be quick-witted. Only this kind of people will be able to take the mission upon himself. Second, they must be familiar with geography, environment, and local dialect of various regions, easy to blend in and make inquiries; it would be best if they have disguising skill, which will enable them to reach everywhere. If you could bribe a local or even buy the enemy’s man, that would be even more surefire.”
Kou Zhong sighed and said, “Turns out it’s so complicated.”
Lowering her voice, Linglong Jiao said, “Why do you seem to be very interested in this kind of business, which is considered minor arts in the military?”
Kou Zhong did not answer, he asked her a question instead, “May I ask you a question that probably shouldn’t be asked?”
Linglong Jiao fixed her eyes on him for half a day before finally nodded and said, “Ask away!”
Kou Zhong leaned forward slightly and said, “What relationship does Miss Jiao have with Wang Gong? Why did you make light of traveling a thousand li from Qiuci to here to help him conquering the world?”
Hanging her head down, Linglong Jiao said, “Why do you ask?”
Pretending nothing had happened, Kou Zhong said, “Just curious!”
Linglong Jiao shook her head and said, “If you just ask casually, I won’t tell you.”
Stunned, Kou Zhong said, “Is it a secret?”
Linglong Jiao has not had time to answer, Kou Zhong suddenly looked up to the sky, and blurted out, “The time has come!”
 Chapter title: idiom, meaning fully prepared and biding one’s time before the battle.