Merchant’s City! Barracks of Gao Xianzhi’s army!
A large number of officers were gathered at the public square, currently, there were tens of soldiers bound, and kneeling at the public square.
All the officers turned their gazes towards the south, where General Gao Xianzhi was standing with Crown Prince Song, who was assisting.
“Let me go, I want to go home, let me go back!”
“I came to the front lines to kill for my country, putting my life at risk, but that corrupted official killed my family while I’m gone, let me go back and take revenge!”
“My whole family was destroyed, all burnt in a fire! I want to go look for my parents, quickly release me!”
The bound Song soldiers looked at Gao Xianzhi and Crown Prince Song with red eyes whilst shouting.
Gao Xianzhi gloomily stared at the group of bound soldiers in front of him. Crown Prince Song, too, looked at Gao Xianzhi.
“Lin Chong, have you questioned them?” Gao Xianzhi asked in a heavy tone.
Lin Chong nodded his head: “General, we have captured all of these escaped soldiers, I also questioned them already. The merchants that came from the different cities brought grievous news from back home! There were some nobles who harmed the families of these soldiers. Some of their relatives managed to escape and send letters. The soldiers escaped because they came to know the mistreatment of their family members.”
“How many people so far?” Gao Xianzhi asked in a solemn tone.
“There were already thirty families which have met with unexpected mishaps!” Lin Chong’s face turned ugly.
“Has Gu Hai’s plot started already? Is he trying to disrupt the hearts of my soldiers? Hmm!” Gao Xianzhi snorted.
“Gu Hai’s plot?” Crown Prince Song’s complexion sunk.
“What’s going on? How did these rumors manage to spread through the barracks?” Gao Xianzhi asked coldly.
“It’s that bunch of merchants. There were messengers or relatives of the soldiers from the different cities mixed amongst the servants of the merchants. They quietly came in contact with the soldiers, bringing the grievous news, that’s why they decided to desert!” Lin Chong explained.
“That bunch of merchants? Hmm! The rich are always heartless, they deserve to die for messing with the morale of my soldiers!” Crown Prince Song squinted.
“Your Royal Highness, please don’t get angry!” Gao Xianzhi shook his head.
“What? General, are you trying to protect those merchants?” Crown Prince Song said in a sullen voice.
Gao Xianzhi smiled bitterly: “No, Your Royal Highness, take a look at the expressions of our soldiers! Gu Hai’s plot has already begun, it can no longer be stopped!”
“Huh?” Crown Prince Song looked at the soldiers in perplexity.
The bound deserters’ eyes naturally turned red, but the surrounding officers looked gravely at the public square, watching this group of deserters. However, the other soldiers didn’t have a look of disgust, instead, they had a look of compassion.
If they had deserted out of cowardice, the soldiers would naturally scorn them. However, were they cowards? Why were they here on the frontline? They were the same as the rest, they came to the frontlines so that their families at home can lead better lives. Now, they were risking their lives and fighting for the Song Kingdom, however, not only were those corrupt officials enjoying their lives back home, they were even mistreating their families. Regardless of whoever it was, who wouldn’t be angry?
Deserting? Screw them! The desertion of these soldiers was justified, if it were to happen to anyone else, they wouldn’t hesitate to do the same.
Furthermore, these bound soldiers were their brothers through life and death. They did not fear getting injured or disabled, but the corrupt officials in the rear were a disappointment. The soldiers haven’t had the chance to be filial to their parents or to provide their wives with a better life yet, but they were harmed by those corrupt officials.
How would the General handle this matter? What would the results be?
Their families, would they run into trouble as well?
If they cannot even protect their family, then why are they fighting for the kingdom?
Are the merchants at fault? At least they brought news from the rear.
All the soldiers stared at Gao Xianzhi and Crown Prince Song with their eyes wide open , waiting for the two of them to make a decision. Not for these deserters, but for the anxiety they had in their hearts.
Crown Prince Song watched at the expressions of the soldiers, however, his complexion was turning more and more gloomy.
“You see, Your Royal Highness, this is just the beginning. If you kill the merchants, kill the messengers, then you are suppressing any news from coming in. Isn’t that equivalent to collaborating with those corrupt officials? They are fighting for you but you are actually protecting those corrupt officials that caused harm to their families?” Gao Xianzhi laughed coldly.
Crown Prince Song was frightened.
“This… this is Gu Hai’s plot? He wants to cause a mess in our camp, causing a mutiny within the army?” Crown Prince Song’s face turned ugly.
“It’s definitely him, there was no such news in the past, but suddenly as much as thirty families have popped up? I don’t think that the officials are that foolish either, to use this time to harm the families of the soldiers. There may be some but there can’t this many. Furthermore, they all showed up together, spreading throughout the barracks at the same time!” Gao Xianzhi said in a sullen voice.
“Damn, this Gu Hai’s reach is so far, it actually managed to stretch into our military barracks? General, good thing you discovered it early, or else, if I killed these merchants and suppressed the news, then Gu Hai would have succeeded!” Crown Prince Song’s face looked ugly.
Gao Xianzhi nodded: “Indeed!”
“What do we do now?” Crown Prince Song inquired.
“The morale of the soldiers has already been affected by Gu Hai, we cannot ignore this, to completely reverse this, is impossible. However, it is better to do something than to leave it alone, let me deal with this slowly!” Gao Xianzhi said in a solemn tone.
The Crown Prince nodded his head.
“Everybody, I, Gao Xianzhi, guarantee that the sanctity of the army will be preserved. During this period, anyone who dares to humiliate or harm the families of the military, I will make them pay back ten times more. This is the promise of Gao Xianzhi, please believe me!” Gao Xianzhi shouted loudly.
All the soldiers looked at Gao Xianzhi. His promise had made some impact but there was doubt implanted in their hearts, they were just looking to see how he was going to deal with it.
“You guarantee? What can you guarantee? My daughter is only two years old, she just learned how to walk, she just started hugging my leg and call me papa, but she was trampled by the corrupt official. My daughter!”
“My father died early, my mother raised me and my brother. Every day, she would make and mend clothes for others, so she could raise us, now her eyes can no longer see. Since I joined the army, I was never afraid of death, because the more military merits I gained, the more rewards I get, then I could go back and be filial to my mother. However, that darned county magistrate eyed that piece of land my family has, thus, he burnt my blind old mother in the house. Mother! Your son is unfilial!”
“Before joining the army, I managed to get married, to my childhood sweetheart, Xiao Huan. Xiao Huan didn’t want me to join the war, but I still came and gave my all to fight for the country. However, that county constable admired Xiao Huan’s beauty and took her away, my brother went in search of her but was assaulted instead, today he came here and told me this. Why am I still fighting? Who am I fighting for? I give my all for the country, but instead, the officials of this nation are breaking my family up! Damn those corrupt officials!”
The group of deserters complained tearfully.
The other surrounding soldiers felt for them and tightened their fists, each one of them feeling their hearts sink.
Crown Prince Song wanted to chase away these surrounding soldiers, to limit the impact of this, but Gao Xianzhi stopped him. All the soldiers were feeling more and more anxious.
The thirty deserters kept describing their situations, and Gao Xianzhi just listened carefully.
After four hours, everything was settled, but Gao Xianzhi continued to frown.
The whole square was quiet, everyone was looking at Gao Xianzhi.
After a moment of silence, Gao Xianzhi gestured with his finger, splitting the thirty people into two groups, on one side was four people, on the other, twenty-six people.
“Your descriptions, I have carefully listened to them, I have also roughly guessed some things. Everyone, please listen carefully to what I have to say. The twenty-six of you, what was the news you got? Your family was kidnapped or brought to another place to be killed? There are no corpses, the ones who reported the news were your family, but they did not see with their own eyes that the others were kidnapped or killed. They just heard about it, it does not matter how high the possibility, they are still guesses, correct?” Gao Xianzhi stared at the twenty-six people and said in a sullen voice.
“But my brother would not lie to me!”
“My cousin would not lie to me either!”
Everyone was talking simultaneously.
“You are not wrong, they wouldn’t lie to you, but what if they were lied to in the first place?” Gao Xianzhi said gravely.
“Everyone, don’t you find this strange? In the past, there was barely any situation as such, however, suddenly there are so many cases occurring simultaneously. I can tell you, all of this, is the work of the richest merchant in six countries, Gu Hai. His purpose is to cause a mutiny!” Gao Xianzhi said gravely.
“What evidence do you have!”
The complexions of the twenty-six people turned ugly.
“There is no need to believe me, you just need to know that if they are alive, you need to see the person, if they are dead, you need to see the corpse. Before seeing any corpse, do not give up hope. I will immediately get the His Royal Majesty to issue a Decree for all the officials to look for your families. This is better than you searching by yourself. A whole city of people searching is better than one person, right?” Gao Xianzhi consoled them.
“But can they still be found?” A deserter asked with a sliver of hope.
“We will search every house, we will dig 3 feet into the ground if we have to, we will give you an account of this, how’s that? If it is truly is the officials’ causing misdeeds, I will ask His Royal Majesty to execute them!” Gao Xianzhi said determinedly.
“Many thanks, General! Many thanks!” The deserters knelt and cried.
Gao Xianzhi turned his head to look at the other four red-eyed deserters.
“General? What about us? Ours couldn’t be fake right? My brother saw it with his own eyes, my blinded mother was burnt alive in the house. That county magistrate burned my mother!” One of the deserters stared at Gao Xianzhi.
Gao Xianzhi solemnly said, “The news of the four of you is ironclad, do not worry, no one can cause any more harm to you, regardless of whoever it is, even that county magistrate, as long as they took part in harming your family, they will be executed!”
“General?” The four people stared at Gao Xianzhi.
“You will supervise the execution yourself!” Gao Xianzhi fiercely said.
“General! Many thanks to General!”
“Many thanks to General!”
The four people were so grateful that they knocked their heads on the ground, maybe they might not be able to take revenge themselves, but the General helped them, how could they not be grateful?
Turning his head, Gao Xianzhi took a deep breath and said, “Your Royal Highness, I will immediately write a letter to His Royal Majesty, to ask for the cooperation. This time, Gu Hai created a great momentum, I hope Your Royal Highness would support me, and jointly sign a memo to His Royal Majesty. To resist the external threat, we are required to secure our internal affairs!”
Crown Prince looked at the deserters and nodded his head: “I will!”
Gao Xianzhi then turned his head and looked at the other soldiers and said, “Soldiers, I know that you are all worried, don’t worry, I, Gao Xianzhi promise that your misgivings will be dispelled, from today on, you are allowed to write back, and receive letters from home, as long as you do not reveal any military secrets, there would be no restrictions!”
“Many thanks, General!” Countless soldiers immediately replied.
The earlier worries were now completely gone. The General had allowed them to communicate via letters, that way, they would know if their families were safe as well as let their family know about their conditions, this was great. The General was great.
All their earlier agitations were now gone.
“However, everyone has seen, amongst the deserters, only four were definite, the remaining twenty-six were likely to have been made up by Gu Hai. Thus, if anyone encounters anything that you cannot solve or if there are any heartbreaking issues, please report it to me, I will help you!” Gao Xianzhi shouted.
“Gu Hai is really vicious!”
“General, don’t worry, if there is anything, we will report it to you!’
“Damn Gu Hai!”
“General, what about those merchants?” Lin Chong asked.
Gao Xianzhi frowned: “Gu Hai already made his move but I was too careless, firecrackers? Fireworks? He is at the Tiger Cage Pass, but he is able to manipulate things from so far away? That bunch of merchants, let them carry on, however, make sure to keep an eye on them. Also, from now on, if anyone wants to provide help to the army, they must do so in a low-key manner, no fireworks, no firecrackers, stop them from acting so high-profile, or else, they will be punished according to the military tribunal.”
“Yes!” the crowd of soldiers all nodded their heads.
The danger of having deserters had been suppressed by Gao Xianzhi.
The army slowly dispersed and carried on normally.
Gao Xianzhi and Crown Prince Song returned back to the camp.
Gao Xianzhi personally penned a letter, and stamped his seal on it, whereupon Crown Prince Song also stamped his seal on it.
“General, today, the things you announced to the soldiers can incite hatred towards Gu Hai and the soldiers no longer have to worry. Only, asking the imperial father to be so harsh against these nobles, wouldn’t it be too demanding?” Crown Prince asked worriedly.
“No, Your Royal Highness, you have not realized the terror of Gu Hai, have you not noticed it yet? Even while sitting at home, he had already affected our troops’ morale. It is not that Gu Hai has not made a move, but his true weapon has already struck against us. This is psychological warfare, earlier was just to clear a path, but once Gu Hai truly attacks, do you know how scary it would be?” Gao Xianzhi’s complexion was ugly.
“Oh? Is it that bad?” Crown Prince Song frowned.
“Bad? Haha, Your Royal Highness, you underestimate him, once the morale of the army is crushed by Gu Hai, our 800 thousand soldiers will be ruined. The Song Kingdom would be in danger, and could be destroyed at any time!” Gao Xianzhi said in a solemn tone.
“Thus, Your Royal Highness, weigh the pros and cons yourself, the country of your Song Clan or these nobles who are courting disaster, which would you choose? These are not frightening words, I am stating this to scare you!” Gao Xianzhi solemnly said.
Crown Prince Song’s eyelid twitched and he nodded his head: “Don’t worry, I will write another letter to Royal Father, with the request of full support!”
Half a month later. Song Kingdom Capital, Song City.
Gu Hai and Gu Han were standing in front of a royal notice that was just posted.
“Godfather, Gao Xianzhi’s reaction is pretty fast, he immediately resolved the issue!” Gu Han said gravely.
“Gao Xianzhi is indeed capable, they managed to convince their King so fast, to fully support the families of the soldiers, execute the people who harmed them with no exceptions. Allow the soldiers to communicate with their family? Hahaha!” Gu Hai had a flash of appreciation in his eyes.
“Godfather, are we going to continue kidnapping their family members? The soldiers are starting to hold a grudge against Godfather.”
“They are starting to hate me? Ha, that is just what I wanted. Continue, make them disappear! They may hate me, but they would also be suspicious of the Song Kingdom nobles, so what if they hate me. In the future, they will realize that hating me will be the cause of the fall of the Song Kingdom.”
“But the morale of Gao Xianzhi’s army had stabilized!”
“Stabilized? But I already planted the seeds of confusion, it is just the beginning. I will lure them into a death loop, Gao Xianzhi wants to resolve it? He will not able to!” Gu Hai smiled as he looked at the royal notice.