Book 1: Chapter 13: The First Step: Killing the Military’s Confidence
The crown heir’s sudden appearance was like a waterfall splashing down, extinguishing all of Gao Xianzhi’s prestige and credibility.
The eight hundred thousand soldiers suddenly stared at Gao Xianzhi expressionlessly as though demanding an explanation.
The people on the platform felt all sorts of emotions.
Crown Prince Song did not know whether to show joy or grief.
Lin Chong’s eyes turned bloodshot.
However, Gao Xianzhi’s eyes were wide open.
As everyone froze in shock over the crown heir’s appearance, the crown heir approached the platform.
“You…who are you?” Gao Xianzhi shouted with a glare.
“It’s me! Commander Gao, I am Song Zhengxi! Quickly! Quickly, help me capture the pursuing mountain bandits. I want to kill them. I want them dead. I nearly could not see Father again!” Song Zhengxi screamed miserably.
“That’s impossible. My son was already executed at the market entrance in Song City. Who are you?” Crown Prince Song could only shout angrily.
“Father, didn’t you send Commander Gao to save me? When it was time for the execution, he quietly sent someone to replace me. I’m really your child. Commander Gao arranged everything and saved me. I was just putting on a show with Commander Gao to fool those idiots. Father! Don’t you know?! Hahaha! It looks like Commander Gao did not tell you!” Song Zhengxi immediately cried out excitedly.
“Hiss! Hiss! Hiss! Hiss!”
The sound of the soldiers inhaling sharply rang out in all directions.
Commander Gao arranged everything? A show? To fool those idiots?
Song Zhengxi did not notice that every word he said was like a sharp knife stabbing into the hearts of the eight hundred thousand soldiers.
We are just fools? Gao Xianzhi put on a show for us to see? He cheated us so that he could send us to death?
Some Gu Hai’s plot. It was all Gao Xianzhi lying to us. How could that Gu Hai be that incredible? Isn’t this so? The crown heir is the best proof of that.
Killing the crown heir to get justice for everyone? All nonsense!
The emperor issued a decree to heavily punish those to bully the soldiers’ families? All nonsense!
The local nobilities harming our families are all Gu Hai’s plot? All nonsense!
Gu Hai forged our letters? All nonsense!
The moment Song Zhengxi appeared, the battle hunger that Gao Xianzhi instilled in the soldiers vanished. The seeds of chaos that Gu Hai sowed in everyone’s heart instantly sprouted, grew quickly, and bore fruit.
Song Zhengxi’s words stabbed at everyone’s heart.
“Unfilial son! Shut up!” Crown Prince Song immediately shouted.
Crown Prince Song saw the gazes of the various soldiers filling slowly with hatred.
“I want to go home. I want to go home and take a look!”
“I want to go home and take a look too. Damn it! I’m going home!”
“I’m not fighting anymore. We risk our lives fighting for his Song Clan, but they are harming our families behind our backs. On top of that, they even call us fools!”
The eight hundred thousand soldiers turned restless. It seemed like boiling water slowly boiling over.
At this moment, the most upset person was none other than Lin Chong.
Lin Chong turned his head, his eyes bloodshot, with tears continuously leaking out.
“Commander, I, Lin Chong, have followed you for many years, followed you into battle several times. I always charged at the very front, risking my life several times and nearly dying. I could give my life up for Commander because we trusted Commander. We believed that Commander could give us a future, bring us to accumulate great accomplishments. We believed that Commander would protect us!” Lin Chong shouted hatefully.
Lin Chong’s hateful shout immediately silenced the surroundings.
“We are willing to give up our lives for you, Commander, yet you treat us this way? Before the bad news of my family arrived that day, fifteen of our brothers received bad news. For the sake of protecting the crown prince, you told me to deal with the fifteen brothers and get them to remain silent. You wanted me to silence fifteen of my brothers, even to the point of killing them!” Lin Chong shouted.
The eight hundred thousand soldiers immediately started clamoring again.
Initially, some people doubted the crown heir’s words. However, it was different for Lin Chong. Lin Chong was one of the commander’s trusted men, someone whom the commander would tell everything.
Unexpectedly, after the soldiers had suffered so much, undergoing a calamity, the commander did not say anything about helping them. Instead, he wanted Lin Chong to kill them.
Those fifteen people also stood on the platform. They had gone there to help Gao Xianzhi boost the soldiers’ morale. Hence, they stared in shock at Gao Xianzhi upon hearing Lin Chong’s words.
The commander wanted to kill me that day? He ordered Sir Lin to kill us?
“Commander, what about our families?! You said that Gu Hai kidnapped them. However, is that really the case? Why did you want to kill us? We worked hard for you, but you wanted to kill us?” the fifteen soldiers immediately cried out in fear.
“Lin Chong, shut up!” Gao Xianzhi shouted as his expression changed.
“Shut up? Then, tell me, what’s going on with Song Zhengxi? Didn’t you say you would execute him to uphold justice? Didn’t you kill him to take revenge for Xiaodie? Didn’t you say…Sob! Sob! Sob!” Lin Chong started crying bitterly.
“I did not save Song Zhengxi! It was Gu Hai! Gu Hai saved him! Lin Chong, calm down. This is Gu Hai’s plot!” Gao Xianzhi cried out with a pained expression.
Be quick? In the end, Gao Xianzhi failed to outrace Gu Hai’s schemes.
Gu Hai did not even give Gao Xianzhi the time for one meal. Just one meal’s worth of time made him too late. He felt very sorrowful in his heart. Gu Hai’s schemes came too quickly, launched rapidly, one after another. There were too many of them, each of them stabbing into the weakest part of the heart.
Gao Xianzhi understood that it was all Gu Hai’s plots. However, how could Lin Chong believe it?
Song Zhengxi was the best proof.
“That’s enough. Some nonsensical Gu Hai’s plots!” Lin Chong roared in sorrow and hate.
Lin Chong’s expression turned ferocious. It seemed like he already saw Gao Xianzhi as his enemy.
Song Zhengxi, who was below, started speaking again. “How audacious! Lin Chong, how dare you be so rude to the commander? Commander Gao, didn’t you say that you would deal with this bunch of bastards when I come to the camp? Well, I am here now. There is no more use for Lin Chong and the others.”
Song Zhengxi’s shout added oil to fire.
The eight hundred thousand soldiers immediately erupted in an even greater commotion.
Song Zhengxi blinked, feeling confused. He could not understand what was happening. Was it not a show put on by Father and Gao Xianzhi? What is going on?
“Gao Xianzhi, to think that I served you for so many years. You are just a beast wearing a human mask! I’ll kill you to take revenge for Xiaodie!” Lin Chong shouted.
Then, Lin Chong drew his saber and immediately charged at Gao Xianzhi.
As for the group of Lin Chong’s followers on the platform, they had already long reached the edge of eruption. When Lin Chong attacked, they drew their weapons as well.
The platform immediately turned chaotic.
“Protect the commander!”
The entire camp was already in turmoil. Gao Xianzhi could no longer control the soldiers.
No one listened to their superior’s orders as they rioted. Some even took advantage of the situation to rob the military’s supplies.
The entire army camp plunged into chaos. Some people wanted to kill Gao Xianzhi, and some people wanted to protect Gao Xianzhi. Some people wanted to kill the crown prince, and some people wanted to protect the crown prince. In any case, chaos erupted even around Song Zhengxi.
An eight-hundred-thousand-strong army crumbled.
Some people packed their belongings. Some people rushed home. Some people robbed the supplies. Some people killed each other. It was utter chaos.
Just at this moment, fifty thousand soldiers rushed out of Hulao Pass.
The leader of this forcep was none other than the new Chen Emperor, Chen Liangyi.
Chen Tianshan rode behind Chen Liangyi.
“Liangyi, the fireworks launched into the sky earlier were the mountain bandits’ signal that the commander spoke about. He said to get fifty thousand soldiers to charge immediately to the Song Nation’s army camp when that happened. However, why are you leading the troops yourself?” Chen Tianshan asked with a frown.
“With Great Granduncle by my side, I should be safe. The commander wanted me to boost the troop’s morale; so, here I am. Before my imperial father died, he said to listen to him. I will follow everything he says!” Chen Liangyi replied seriously.
“However, this is too ridiculous. Would it really be fine just because he said that it would be? You have only fifty thousand inexperienced soldiers, but we are facing eight hundred thousand ferocious soldiers. Furthermore, Gao Xianzhi is in the camp. Aren’t we just sending ourselves to death?” Chen Tianshan argued with a frown.
“I trust Imperial Father!” Chen Liangyi insisted with a frown.
“Hah! Never mind. I’ll just do my best to protect you. Don’t be like your father. When the time comes, don’t stray too far away from me. Otherwise, I might not have enough time to save you,” Chen Tianshan said.
Chen Liangyi nodded. Then, he shouted, “Soldiers, all of you have seen for yourselves. These Song Nation soldiers are evil and ruthless. They even killed those who surrendered to him. They will not leave us a path to survival. You all have seen it for yourselves, right?!”
The rushing soldiers showed unsightly expressions.
“The commander already sent people to investigate. The Song Nation army has been ordered to slaughter the entire city after breaking through Hulao Pass. They will kill your fathers, your mothers, and your sons. They will take your wives and daughters as slaves. They will split your properties among themselves. You have also heard the news from the frontlines. They killed six hundred thousand soldiers of our Chen Army. Do you think you will get lucky and survive?” Chen Liangyi shouted.
“No!” the soldiers replied with bloodshot eyes.
“For our families! Charge with me and hope that heaven takes pity on us. By fighting to our deaths, we can obtain peace for our parents, life for our wives and children. Our deaths for our families’ lives. In any case, we have to die. If we lose, we die. If we surrender, we die. You might as well follow us in using our lives to exchange for their lives. Charge!” Chen Liangyi shouted.
“Charge!” the fifty thousand soldiers roared.
The soldiers went around a mound and charged to the Song Nation’s army camp.
However, when the fifty thousand Chen Nation soldiers approached the Song Nation’s army camp, they saw smoke rising. The Song Nation’s army camp appeared to be in chaos. The Song Nation soldiers were fighting each other, killing each other. This did not seem like the strict and organized Song Nation’s army camp.
Chen Tianshan rubbed his eyes and said, “Did we come to the wrong place? These are the eight hundred thousand ferocious soldiers?”
However, Chen Liangyi felt extremely excited.
“Everyone, charge with me!” Chen Liangyi shouted.
The fifty thousand Chen Nation soldiers were like the grim reaper’s scythe as they charged into the mob-like soldiers in the camp.
“Enemy attack! Enemy attack! Enemy attack! Everyone, prepare to face the enemy!” someone shouted.
However, the Song Nation soldiers were already feral. How could they be bothered with fighting the enemy? They simply snatched some things and ran.
The battle turned very strange.
Fifty thousand Chen Nation soldiers ran down eight hundred thousand Song Nation soldiers. The initial one-sided situation immediately flipped around.
At this moment, the fifty thousand Chen Nation soldiers killed to their hearts’ content. Although they had not killed anyone on the battlefield before, they easily did so for the sake of their families. When pursuing the fleeing Song Nation soldiers, they felt extremely delighted. It turned out that the Song Nation’s army was nothing much.
Back at Hulao Pass, Gu Qin leaned against the railing of the city gate tower. He looked into the distance and saw smoke rising from five kilometers away. Even from that distance, he could hear miserable cries.
“Men!” Gu Qin called out.
“Present!” a few Gu Residence attendants answered respectfully.
“Immediately send messenger pigeons to the various cities of the Chen Nation; spread the word that Gao Xianzhi lost. We have destroyed his eight-hundred-thousand-strong army. Now, no one knows if Gao Xianzhi is alive or not. Some of the Song Nation soldiers will be escaping to the various cities. Spread the news to all the Gu Clan’s shops and encourage the citizens to kill the Song Nation soldiers stationed in the various cities. We will reward them with gold if they kill one and bestow them nobility if they kill ten. Repay hatred for hatred, grudge for grudge. The six hundred thousand Chen Nation soldiers killed by the Song Nation’s army are the men of the various citizens’ families. Now is the time to take revenge for them. Also, encourage the influential people in the cities the Song Nation claimed to lead their servants and attack with all their might. When we take back the cities, we will take their contributions into consideration, and the Chen Nation’s royal court will split the benefits of the cities with them. Those who contribute more will receive more. Tell them to post their accomplishments at the entrance to their residences!” Gu Qin ordered seriously.
“Yes!” the group of Gu Residence attendants respectfully responded.
The eight hundred thousand Song Nation soldiers were like stray dogs, collapsing at the first blow.
The fifty thousand Chen Nation soldiers were like a heavenly army sweeping through everywhere they went.
On the one hand, they did not care about dying. On the other hand, they did not revel in the battle. There was no longer any suspense to the results of this war.
Escorted by a group of trusted men, Gao Xianzhi and Crown Prince Song managed to flee the disaster.
Lin Chong had landed a strike on Gao Xianzhi’s arm, inflicting a wound that bled endlessly.
However, the pain from his arm was secondary. After he fled the disaster of the army camp and rested on a mound, the pain in his heart felt even worse when he took in the sorry state of the Song Nation’s army far away.
“Ha! Hahaha! Hahahaha! Gu Hai? Gu Hai?!” Gao Xianzhi revealed a disappointed expression.
Gao Xianzhi had rushed all the way, but he still could not catch up to Gu Hai. Gu Hai executed his strange schemes so quickly. Experience came with age. Gu Hai was even more incredible, even more terrifying than forty years ago.
“Is it over? What should we do now?” Crown Prince Song asked in despair.
Gao Xianzhi took a deep breath and replied, “The truth will eventually come to light. Fortunately, I have killed six hundred thousand of their soldiers already. Right now, the Chen Nation’s army is tiny. They cannot make any large movements. As for my Song Nation’s army, the soldiers have already lost their confidence in the nation and us, losing all morale. We can rebuild that. However…”
“I can rebuild the military’s morale and confidence in us at the fastest speed possible. However, I worry that Gu Hai will be faster than me. He might be even faster!” Gao Xianzhi said, feeling extremely bitter.
Several days later at Merchant City:
A portion of the Song Nation soldiers remained stationed in the Song Nation’s army’s original camp. However, some information suddenly came from a few shops earlier.
Gao Xianzhi suffered a great defeat, and the eight-hundred-thousand-strong army crumbled. No one knew if Gao Xianzhi was alive or not. The Song Nation’s army lost.
When the news spread, many of Merchant City’s citizens felt stupefied.
The information that spread even encouraged them to attack to take back the city.
The influential locals and the ordinary citizens showed confused expressions.
Previously, the Song Nation celebrated with firecrackers and fireworks every day. That sowed a bone-deep hatred in the hearts of the people whose families had died due to the war. After killing their sons, their fathers, and the pillars of their families, the Song Nation celebrated with song and dance, letting off fireworks and firecrackers? This was like rubbing salt on their wounds. The many ordinary citizens wished they could skin the Song Nation’s army, eat the soldiers’ flesh, drink the soldiers’ blood, and chew on the soldiers’ bones. However, they did not have the strength to do so. The other side had so many people. They could only repress their feelings and cry silently as they watched the Song Nation kill their families.
Now, news came from the Gu Clan’s shops. This immediately drew out the hatred in everyone’s heart, bringing out their anger and murderous intent.
The Song Nation soldiers stationed in the city discovered that the ordinary citizens seemed to be looking at them differently during this period. The ordinary citizens longer showed fear in their eyes. Instead, it seemed more like they stopped hiding their hatred for the soldiers.
However, no matter how much hatred or desire the ordinary citizens or influential locals felt, they did not dare to make a move without concrete information.
At this moment, the first batch of soldiers fled back to the camp.
“Defeat! Defeat! Complete defeat! The eight-hundred-thousand-strong Song Nation’s army suffered a huge defeat!”
After the first soldier who fled spread word of the defeat, various thoughts appeared in the minds of the influential locals. If the Song Nation’s army lost, then can the Chen Nation be restored? No one knows if Gao Xianzhi survived or not. Who else can stop Gu Hai? If so, Merchant City will return to the Chen Nation sooner or later.
Splitting the city’s benefits with the Chen Nation’s royal court?
After one night of contemplation, desire and hatred built up. The next morning, roars of “kill” rang out throughout Merchant City.
“You bastard! I’ll beat you to death! My son died a miserable death, buried alive. I’ll beat you to death! I’ll beat you to death! Sob! Sob! Sob! Sob!”
“You killed my father! I’ll kill you for that!”
“Give me back my husband! Give me back my husband!”
“Elder Brother, your younger brother has taken revenge for you!”
“You still want to release fireworks and celebrate with firecrackers after killing my son? Even if this old man fights until my bones scatter, I will flay you!”
Not many soldiers remained in Merchant City.
With the lead of the influential people, the excitement of the ordinary citizens, the rewards, and the feelings of hatred, a sea of people started fighting the Song Nation soldiers.
It was not just in Merchant City. Similar scenes of intense killing appeared in all eighteen Chen Nation cities captured by the Song Nation’s army.
The stationed Song Nation soldiers were no match for this boundless hatred and desire.
Kill! Kill! Kill! Turmoil everywhere! The entire place fell into chaos.
Some days later, at a large hall in the Clear River Sect:
The Clear River Sect Master and the First Song Sect Master stood on opposite sides of the hall with their respective disciples.
The beautiful woman in men’s attire stood at the northern position with Venerable Liu Nian and three subordinates.
Chen Tianshan and the First Song Sect disciple stood before the young woman, respectfully reporting to her.
“Three months? No, it’s not even three months, and the eight-hundred-thousand-strong army lost? Gao Xianzhi even fled in a sorry state? The Chen Nation managed to take back most of their cities? All this took only three months?” Venerable Liu Nian showed shock on his face.
“Yes!” Chen Tianshan answered excitedly.
The First Song Sect disciple, on the other hand, appeared dispirited.
“How could it be? What kind of witchcraft did Gu Hai use?” the First Song Sect Master immediately exclaimed in rage and shock.
“Hahaha! First Song Sect Master, don’t be angry. Listen to what they say first. Hahaha!” the Clear River Sect Master laughed, feeling satisfied.
The cross-dressed woman had a bright gleam in her eyes. Naturally, she understood how incredible Gao Xianzhi was. She had considered many possibilities, but she never expected Gu Hai to defeat the Song Nation’s eight hundred thousand ferocious soldiers in such a short time, even reclaiming most of the Chen Nation’s territory. How did Gu Hai do this?
Furthermore, there was the time needed to travel back here to make the report. Which meant the situation completely reversed after two months. How did Gu Hai do this?
In Song City, Gu Han excitedly reported the latest news from the frontlines to Gu Hai.
Gu Hai remained seated before a Go board, continuously placing Go stones down. This Go board seemed extremely strange. Most Go boards had nineteen vertical lines and nineteen horizontal lines. However, Gu Hai’s Go board had thirty of each line.
Each extra line introduced countless variables to the Go board. However, Gu Hai had an additional twenty-two lines, which made it look bizarre.
Furthermore, Gu Hai only played against himself, never letting another person participate.
“Adoptive Father, it is done. Hahaha! Gao Xianzhi suffered a complete defeat, losing the confidence of the army. It won’t be that easy to rebuild their confidence in him,” Gu Han said with a smile.
“The first campaign of the Song Extermination Plan is finally complete!” Gu Hai said as he played a white Go stone.
“Indeed. The first campaign is to kill the military’s confidence. What is the second campaign?” Gu Han stared at Gu Hai.
“The second campaign of the Song Extermination Plan is to kill the citizens’ confidence!” Gu Hai said with narrowed eyes as he placed down a black Go stone.
“Killing the popular sentiment and shaking the citizens’ confidence. Adoptive Father, the citizens’ confidence is not easy to kill!” Gu Han said with a frown.
“Gao Xianzhi, Crown Prince Song, and the Song Emperor probably hate me to death already, right? This hatred will be the foundation for killing the citizens’ confidence. The citizens are the foundation of a nation. When the foundation is shaken, it will shake the nation,” Gu Hai explained with a sharp look in his eyes as he took a deep breath.