Gu Fang Bu Zi Shang Vol01 Ch18
Every second was crucial to finding out Chu Beijie’s secret plan. Pingting wasn’t interested in rewards; she simply wanted the rights to control the Bei Mo army from the King so that she had easier accessibility to command the army during difficult times. Apart from the few highest ranking commanders who briefly saw her upon arrival, she didn’t appear in public a second time.
The meetings were held in the room Ze Yin had moved out for Pingting. He was the only one who had discussed battle tactics with her. Being also a good friend of his wife, her unknown background was disregarded. Ze Yin had long earned Pingting’s approval. He was more than just helpful.
The Bei Mo army’s current situation was not caused by Ze Yin’s lack of ability but because of Chu Beijie’s wit.
“What are thinking, My Lady?” Ze Yin finally broke the silence. He continued with informing the latest report. “This time, we’ve lost several dozens of frontline spies. They retrieved only insignificant news. What a waste.”
Pingting mentally processed the report but didn’t answer. She rolled open the map and aimlessly stroked across before stopping to point at the bottom corner on the right. Frowning, she muttered, “The South is full of dense forests, but that’s all. Do you know why Chu Beijie sends troops everyday over there?”
Ze Yin gathered around the map and also frowned as if in deep a thought but only shook his head. “It’s impossible to surround and attack from the back of Kanbu by going through that forest. It’s not only a waste of time but also a massive waste of power. The forest is pretty dangerous as well, complete with poisonous snakes. The army could be diminished by more than a half before they even reach Kanbu.”
Pingting flicked through a journal of Kanbu’s battle history when a sudden thought washed over. “Is there a similar journal about the surrounding, dense forest?”
“That forest is dark, dangerous, and scary – there aren’t many people willing to go there.” Ze Yin continued, “But one of the previous head guards of Kanbu was dedicated and once collected data on the topography of the area around Kanbu. They have it preserved. There might be something about that forest in those books, but I’m not sure how detailed the data is. I’ll retrieve it if My Lady wants.”
He personally went to another library to get a set of very old, dusty-looking books and placed them on the table.
Pingting hoped that news of the Dong Lin King’s unconsciousness would reach Chu Beijie soon before his yet to be predicted plan was in action. If not, and Pingting couldn’t stop his plan, it meant the surrender of Kanbu and eventually the conquest of the Bei Mo country.
As of now, Ze Yin’s once indestructible impression could no longer be recovered, and the only spark of hope for Bei Mo was Chu Beijie’s infamous enemy, Pingting.
What bad luck — he would have been okay if his enemy wasn’t the frustratingly invincible Chu Beijie, right?
Pingting realised the sudden change in the atmosphere. She stared at Ze Yin as understanding flickered into her eyes. “How many days has it been since you closed your eyes? A balanced lifestyle is needed to fight properly. You ought to get some rest.”
Pingting chuckled and softened her words, “Well, General, I won’t force you, but you’re being manipulated by Chu Beijie. You see, his favourite tactic is scaring the opposition to prevent them from sleeping, then attacking when everyone is too tired. Often, the defending team has already collapsed from fatigue by the time he decides to attack.”
Ze Yin nodded in understanding, “My Lady’s right. Too much anxiety will damage our energy.” The corners of his mouth twitched into a bitter smile. “Honestly speaking, ever since fighting against Chu Beijie, I haven’t slept properly for ages. Tonight, I’ll sleep and get more confidence to fight against the Dong Lin army.”
He stood up. “I’ll check the soldier’s sleeping quarters before going to bed.” Then, he left the room.
Meanwhile in the Dong Lin army’s sleeping quarters, everyone had long gone to bed and was deep in their dreams, except for a few nightly guards.
No one was afraid of being attacked at night by the Bei Mo army since their last attempt at surprise attack had failed miserably. They couldn’t possibly be prepared for such sacrifice again.
No one worried whether conquering Kanbu was possible or not, and no one cared about the final victor either. Under the command of the best commander in the world and with the Duke of Zhen-Bei’s flag flapping in the wind, they felt sure that all of the instructions given were the best course of action.
The Duke of Zhen-Bei’s flag, at the moment, was firmly wedged in the central command tent, flapping loudly from the wind blowing from the dense forest of a hundred acres.
Light came from within the central command tent. Chu Beijie wasn’t asleep yet. A set of armour made of gold hung against the wall, occasionally reflecting the flickering candle flame. Moran stood quietly at the side, waiting for Chu Beijie to speak.
Chu Beijie hadn’t said a word ever since getting the latest report from their spy. Before long, Chu Beijie placed the report back into the file. Expressionless, he asked, “Who could possibly be their new advisor, who’s rumoured to be a woman?”
A certain name shot into Moran’s thoughts. He took a step back and replied, “The name and history of the new military advisor are considered the most confidential information of our enemy. Our spies might not be able to uncover such secrets.”
Chu Beijie sat down, studying Moran before calmly saying, “Our guess may be right.”
Moran reacted to this by raising his head to meet Chu Beijie’s eyes with an alarmed expression. He quickly collected himself together, hesitantly asking, “If it really is that person, what do you plan to do, Duke?”
“What do you mean by that?”
“We can’t be sure whether their advisor is her or not, so what if the original plan…”
Chu Beijie waved his hand. “Moran, no need to worry. Tell the spy that there’s no need to research the new military advisor any further. If it’s really Bai Pingting, she should be able to realise my plan before it’s too late.”
But Moran argued, “If it’s really her and she doesn’t realise Duke’s plan, wouldn’t she die with the rest of the Bei Mo army in Kanbu?” Moran felt Chu Beijie’s knife-sharp gaze on him. He quickly closed his mouth, refusing to continue.
“I don’t know though…” Chu Beijie seemed a bit worried as well. He rose and gazed towards the tent flap. He held it and admired the moon. Taking a deep breath of the cold night air, he finally managed to calm his thumping heart down. There was newfound determination in his eyes as he whispered, “If she didn’t have such skill and intelligence, would she be worthy of my love?” He turned, reassured his subordinate and chuckled. “It seems you still have your doubts. You can tell me.”
Moran knew that she was his weakness, but war was approaching and the main general must always have a clear, unwavering sense of purpose. He asked, “Doesn’t Duke want to capture Pingting alive?”
“So Moran thinks I want to capture Bai Pingting for revenge?” Chu Beijie smiled, “Remember this. No commander would stop after defeat for that would be a costly mistake. I want to capture Bai Pingting alive only because I respect her.” He pushed away the files on his desk and pushed open the worn map, thinking of the only woman he couldn’t forget. “If it wasn’t respect, why else would I want her to be captured alive?”
“Has Duke ever considered…” Moran’s eyebrows were creased again, “…that even if she figures out Duke’s plan, she might not be able to do anything about it?”
“You’re wrong. If she can figure it out, she’ll definitely outsmart it.” Chu Beijie’s expression didn’t change as he said, “When the sun rises from the East, I shall see if she’s worthier of my love than any other woman in this world. Well, well Pingting, if you really are in Kanbu, don’t disappoint me.”
Back in Kanbu, Ze Yin had just fallen asleep.
However, his sleep was short lived as it was soon interrupted by a loud thump at the door. The one knocking could only be that one person, someone who he couldn’t complain about despite it being three thirty in the morning.
“I know what his plan is.” Either excitement or worry had made Pingting’s white cheeks into a pale pink. She entered the room, lit a candle on the table, and opened an aged scroll. “Thank goodness I read some other old references after reading the books left by one of the previous head guards, or else our army would have suffered massive casualties and immeasurable damage. General, please look here.”
Ze Yin followed her pearly white finger. His thick eyebrows rose slightly. “Poisonous wasps?”
“These wasps can only be found deep in the mountains surrounding Kanbu; their nest should be where the forests are most compact. Their poison is extremely potent – just one light stab and even a wild bull would collapse. I’m familiar with medicine and had once heard about these wasps. Thanks to the reports General gave me, I realised that something was strange and now I’ve finally found the reason after spending all night flicking through books and scrolls.” Pingting noticed the look of bewilderment and doubtful expression on Ze Yin’s face. “Is something wrong, General?”
“My Lady guessed that Chu Beijie would use poisonous wasps to attack my army, right?” Ze Yin continued, “It’s easier said than done. I know about these wasps. Although these wasps are strong enough to poison our entire defence force, it would still be a hard task to accomplish. For one, where would you get all those wasps?”
Pingting had long thought about this. She calmly replied, “That’s why Chu Beijie has been sending troops into the forest. That’s where the wasps’ nests would be and only there can he collect enough for this plan.”
“Chu Beijie may be strong, but he’s not invincible. He’s not from Bei Mo, so how could he know and manipulate those wasps?”
Pingting sighed. “General is still underestimating Chu Beijie even at this time. His army of ten thousand men and horses has certainly created chaos around here, so it wouldn’t be unusual that his soldiers have died after being stung by some disturbed wasps. Once Chu Beijie learned of such a powerful, natural weapon, he would definitely send people to research the wasps’ habits. That’s why his army hasn’t been attacking recently.”
Ze Yin still shook his head but didn’t say anything.
Pingting carried on. “In the book, it says that poisonous wasps are very sensitive to the sap of the Sanhua tree. They can sense the sap from a faraway distance. This sap also makes their poison even stronger. There are huge patches of Sanhua tree in the East and West side of the Kanbu city walls. Say, what if Chu Beijie really wants to use these wasps to attack us? He must have ordered his soldiers to find these trees and chop them down. Then he will use the branches of the Sanhua tree, which is full of sap, as arrows and fire them from a long distance toward Kanbu, while releasing a huge number of wasps. The defending force will definitely be diminished to less than a half. When the wasps move away as the sap in the arrows slowly dries up, conquering Bei Mo’s last line of defence would be no problem.”
Ze Yin heard the urgency in Pingting’s voice. He couldn’t help but be uncertain of whether to believe or not. “I’ll immediately get someone to check whether the Sanhua trees on the East and West side have been cut down.”
He talked briefly to his personal assistant, who would pass on his commands, before turning back to her. “If it’s really like that, Chu Beijie’s plan is really a risk and really unbelievable, but Ze Yin still doesn’t understand.” He hesitated, “Please don’t be offended by Ze Yin’s directness. This plan is still rather…unusual, so I am wondering how confident My Lady is about it.”
“How confident?” Pingting was surprised by this question. She quickly hid her excitement over uncovering the enemy’s plan. She gripped the handle of her seat. It was several moments later before she broke into a smile. “If I said that I’m sure of such an unbelievable, strange trick, General would definitely laugh and won’t believe me. I don’t know why, really. When I thought of this wasp plan, I was sure it would be something Chu Beijie would do.” She forced a tight-lipped smile at Ze Yin. “If Bai Pingting couldn’t figure out Chu Beijie’s train of thought, what use could she be to Bei Mo?”
The candlelight in the room flickered while moths danced.
The bright moon hung high in the sky, casting silvery light throughout the city walls. Both inside and outside were full of soldiers dreaming of their homes.
Their lives depended on the decisions made by their commanders, their right and wrong guesses. It was like a cruel game.
And her opponent just had to be him.
Pingting pushed her hair to one side, remembering his strong hands slowly stroking her silky hair while saying “This is mine.” with a small smile.
She had never known such a painful feeling before.
“Does General know what I want to do the most at the moment?”
“Ze Yin has no idea.”
Pingting pressed her lips together and smiled. “Same as General. I need a good rest.” She rubbed her chest, above her sore heart, with a finger. “But then again, who can rest properly after meeting Chu Beijie?”
She wanted to sigh but choked the urge away. Main advisors shouldn’t sigh. She considered herself a bad one because of that.
Under the moon, everything became clear. Ze Yin regretted his impoliteness that saddened Pingting. He coughed and then changed the subject. “There is something else I must know. Is there a cure to the poison?”
Pingting shrugged. “That’s another reason why I’m sure Chu Beijie would use the wasps. Even if the wasps’ poison enters the blood stream, the person can die, but if he or she first drinks a mixture of herbs that neutralises the Sanhua tree sap, they will be resistant to the poison. In the past, according to this book, those who entered the forests always drank this mixture beforehand. If all the Dong Lin soldiers drink this mixture, they won’t have to worry about getting stung.”
“Really?” Ze Yin furrowed his brow even further and stroked his beard thoughtfully.
“If the Dong Lin army released the poisonous wasps during the fight, our soldiers would try to run away from the wasps therefore they won’t defend properly. Those who continue to defend will be stung.”
At this time of unease, the General’s personal assistant returned. He was edgy as he came into the room, calling out. “General, the Sanhua trees on the East and West sides have been cut!”
Ze Yin turned towards him, and in a loud voice, he demanded, “How on Earth did those trees get cut down without us noticing?”
His personal assistant shook his head in confusion, but he knew that the current situation wasn’t good. “The forests on the East and West side are from the city walls. When General told us to defend from the walls with full power, the troops stationed there had retreated. Dong Lin must have been going there since then, secretly cutting down those trees and happily leaving afterwards so we didn’t realise anything.”
Pingting interrupted, “Did you take inventory of how many trees were cut down? How long would it have taken them?”
“The stumps have begun to dry so it must have been yesterday.”
Ze Yin and Pingting exchanged a look that said, “As expected”. Grinding his teeth, he commanded, “Pass on this command: prepare a huge pan for making medicine and take some of the best soldiers to cut down all of the remaining Sanhua trees.”
“Wait!” Pingting held out a hand and hurriedly explained, “It’s likely that Chu Beijie has some troops stationed nearby, waiting for us to fall for some trap near those trees, not to mention that there’s not enough time to make the medicine even if enough trees can be cut down. General, it’s nearly morning.” She pointed at the window that displayed grey skies.
“Chu Beijie might have not guessed that we know of his poisonous wasp plan. He might not have collected enough wasps anyway.” Ze Yin stared at the sky and lowered his voice, “As long as he doesn’t plan to attack today, we would not have to prepare too much to win the war.”
Pingting sighed. “Chu Beijie would never make such a risky mistake. A day and a half is enough to cut down enough trees, make arrows with the sap, and concoct the resistant medicine. The Sanhua trees were cut yesterday. He’ll definitely attack today.”
Ze Yin shook violently at this, his eyes widened. It seemed like ages before words formed in his mouth. “Then, what should we do?”
Pingting didn’t immediately reply. She instead opened the half-opened window. She closed her eyes and slowly breathed in the fresh morning air. It was almost as if she wanted the oxygen to circulate once through her tired body before she casually opened her eyes again.
In a commanding tone, she said, “No need to worry General. Ever since leaving Bei Yali, I’ve always known that there’d be a day like this. No one who has gone against Chu Beijie has had a successful outcome before, unless he pretended to be weak.”
Thinking back to Gui Le’s ‘victory’ that year made her chest ached. Pingting couldn’t help but stare into the distance for a little longer. Finally, she swung back around chuckled, “Pingting would be delighted to know if there is still a playable qin with all strings still attached.”
“Yes. I plan to play somewhere up high where Chu Beijie can hear me play.”
Ze Yin’s expression instantly changed at this. He shook his head vigorously. “I know that My Lady has an unusual relationship with Chu Beijie, but this concerns two armies – it’s serious. My Lady would be easily seen from all directions from a high building. You will be open to his arrows, not to mention the poisonous wasps. His super accurate shots are certainly no lie.”
“I’m the main advisor. If General disobeys, I’ll have to force you to agree.” Pingting lifted the symbol of her authority. She grinned playfully but stopped when she noticed Ze Yin’s solemn expression. “General was asked by Yangfeng to look after Pingting. Why fret? If Chu Beijie is willing to shoot Pingting, maybe, it’d mean the release that promises freedom.” When she finished, she strode out of the room.
In the Dong Lin army, the soldiers had long been awake. Everyone was taking turns to drink a medicine that didn’t taste too good from a huge pan. The troops stood in an orderly fashion, swords in their hands.
Several dozen lumpy, leather bags were distributed out to the other soldiers by Chu Beijie’s personal assistants. The buzzing sound never stopped. A separate troop was tightly wrapped in clothing, having just completed the task of making arrows from the branches of full Sanhua tree sap. Their next task was to shoot these arrows towards Kanbu in order to attract the wasps and strengthen their poison.
It was likely that there were traces of the luring Sanhua tree sap on the soldiers, and although they had a share of the medicine, being stung is still painful thus they decided to wrap themselves up in clothing. They covered as much of their hands, feet, and face as they could.
Chu Beijie and Moran stood outside, waiting for the other generals to finish their check up and confirming for zero errors before going back up to the command platform.
“When my soldiers attack the city, where will she be?” Chu Beijie asked, frowning once he was on the platform.
Only Moran understood among the crowd what Chu Beijie was thinking. He knew that the Duke was troubled. The best thing for Moran though was to pretend not to know and stand with the others, waiting for Chu Beijie’s next command.
After a long pause, the crowd still heard no command from Chu Beijie and began to exchange confused glances with each other. No one dared to interrupt Chu Beijie’s thinking; they all just glared at Moran.
As second in command, Moran pretended to be thick-headed and called, “Duke, it’s about time.”
“Good,” Chu Beijie lifted his head from his daze and returned the gazes of his trusted commanders. He calmly smiled and said, “It’s been a while since I felt such anticipation, but today is an exception. Maybe this attack on Kanbu will be a lot more interesting than I predicted. Maybe it’ll be the end or perhaps a new beginning. Everything… depends on whether their new advisor is worthy enough for me to go all out against.” Eyes flashing, he shouted, “Let’s go!”
Everyone shouted “Yes!” as his command rippled through the crowd, lifting everyone’s fighting spirit.
The mighty Dong Lin army, after a brief truce, under the influence of the powerful Duke of Zhen-Bei, has finally begun its attack against Kanbu.
- Sanhua trees: Completely fictional.