Chapter 12 – Loss of the General’s Prestige

 

Outside Tiger Cage Pass!

800 thousand Song Soldiers were garrisoned roughly five kilometers outside the pass. At this moment, everyone was gathered to have breakfast.

“That’s not right, something is wrong, what’s going on? This letter wasn’t sent by my younger sister!” A soldier whose face was laced with a scar said in perplexity.

“Scar, what’s wrong?” the surrounding soldiers asked in doubt.

The scar-faced soldier while clutching the letter in his hand had his eye opened wide. His confusion lasted for a moment.

The few soldiers beside him gathered over and looked at the letter.

“Scar, didn’t this letter had good news? Didn’t your little sister sent a message saying that everything is fine back home, and you don’t need to worry?” The group of soldiers said.

The scar-faced soldier had an unsightly look on his face: “No, no, my sister had never addressed me as elder brother since childhood, she would never address me as elder brother!”

“Ah?” Everyone revealed a blank expression.

“My younger sister and I are twins, she always addressed me as younger brother, or directly by name, she had never been this polite before! Elder brother? Why would she call me elder brother? I don’t think this was sent by my younger sister!” The Scar-faced soldier said in suspicion.

“Scar, you are thinking too much!” The crowd teased him.

But the scar-faced soldier was at a loss, only he knew that his younger sister will never call him elder brother, but…

“Hey?” Suddenly, another man shouted in surprise.

“What’s wrong?” Everyone looked at him.

“Scar, this letter is mine, did you take the wrong one? Ah, this isn’t right, my letter is still with me, why…?!” A bald headed soldier said in surprise.

“Baldy, what did you say?”

The bald man took out a letter and opened it before everyone swarmed over to glance. They noticed that Scar’s and Baldy’s letters were exactly the same. Each and every word was the same, even the handwriting was the same.

Everyone around immediately went quiet. Even those who had just started eating stopped.

“Fake? This is definitely not written by my younger sister, has someone created a forged this?” Scar’s complexion immediately changed.

Each and every one of them had crawled their way out from the pit of death, so definitely they weren’t some kind of idiot.

“The General said that he would allow us to communicate with our families via letters, but why are they fake? This isn’t possible, what‘s going on?” Baldy exclaimed in shock.

“Maybe… Maybe this is one of those of Gu Hai’s plots?” A soldier said in a soft voice.

“Screw that, The General has informed all of our families, those were definitely sent by our families, how could it be a plot? Unless my family is under the control of Gu Hai? If not, why is my letter from home a fake?” Baldy shouted in anger.

After Baldy’s shouted, it immediately attracted the attention of an increasing number of soldiers.

 

Thus, instantly, news of fake letters spread. It was something everyone paid attention to, afterward, it proliferated throughout the barracks causing the soldiers to verify their letters.

“Ah? Mine…. Mine is fake as well?”

“Mine is real, but… but…!”

…………

………

The news arrived like a tide and spread throughout the camp. Whereupon, 800 thousand soldiers, within a brief period of time, begun to question the authenticity of their letters.

——–

Song Capital.

Standing on at the upper floors of the Tian Mansion, Gu Hai gazed towards the north, with a grave expression.

Gu Han stood behind him.

“Godfather, the final battle should be happening within the next two days!” Gu Han sighed.

Gu Hai nodded his head: “It should be soon, whether the army’s morale will get crushed or not depend on this! I instructed you to handle the matter of altering the family letters of Song Kingdom’s soldiers, were there any problems?”

“Godfather, don’t worry, Gao Xianzhi has smashed a rock on his foot this time. When we sent the merchants to cause trouble in the past, Gao Xianzhi had actually allowed them to continue carrying letters for the soldiers in an attempt to acquit himself of any blame. He believed that he could acquit himself through these actions! Haha, Godfather, I sent news to the front lines, telling them to randomly choose 800 letters and create minor alterations, just minor alterations only!” Gu Han said.

“Minor alterations would be enough, amongst 800 letters, as long as ten are found fake, then it would be sufficient to create an uproar. These ten letters would cause the discovery of the remaining eight hundred soon after!” Gu Hai smiled.

“But that’s eight hundred thousand soldiers! Comparing eight hundred letters to eight hundred thousand soldiers is a difference of a thousand times!”

“A small spark can kindle a great fire! So what if they are real? Who could have definitive proof? Such is the human nature, once suspicions kindles, it would be difficult for them to trust again! Now that there are fake letters appearing all around, even if the remaining letters are real, they can find some suspicious points in them. By then, even a real letter could be turned into a fake. There will be an exponential increase, whereupon, those uneasy feelings would continue to proliferate! Haha!”

————–

In the Commander’s tent within Gao Xianzhi’s camp.

Gao Xianzhi brought Lin Chong and his group back from Song Capital in a rush! Before they could even rest, they learned about Crown Prince Song execution of one hundred-eighty six Chen defectors?

“Gu Hai once said, surround the enemy from three sides and leave one side open, this was to leave an escape route, giving the enemy a hope, which would force the enemy to create mistakes. However, your Royal Highness, you have ruined this very hope by surrounding that ‘one’. Through the execution of those couple hundred defectors, you have destroyed their hope, destroyed the hope of the Chen soldiers. And without any hope of escape, they would fight to the death. Even an elite soldier wouldn’t be able to beat a suicidal soldier! I returned late by two days, just two days, hai…!” Gao Xianzhi’s face was bitter.

Crown Prince Song’s suddenly understood, which caused his complexion to change, in an instant.

“Damn it, those foolish spies, sent me those stupid reports!” Crown Prince Song’s complexion immediately changed.

“Never mind, Your Royal Highness, do not blame yourself. Gu Hai is truly capable, ever since he took over the Chen army, we didn’t get a single break, let us quickly conclude this war. I am worried that there will be even more plots occurring We need to move fast! Destroy Tiger Cage Pass, once we brought Gu Hai down and everything would be resolved!” Gao Xianzhi consoled.

“Indeed, take down Gu Hai. I want to slice him into a thousand pieces!” Crown Prince Song’s complexion was unsightly.

At this moment, Crown Prince Song could only bury the matters of his son within his heart. From the expression of Lin Chong and his group, he could guess that his son’s life ended disastrously.

“My son, I will take avenge you!” Crown Prince Song raged in his heart.

“Reporting, General, it’s bad, the soldiers are causing another mutiny! It’s another mutiny, however, this time there are more people, General!” Suddenly a soldier rushed into the tent.

“What?” Crown Prince Song’s complexion changed as he exclaimed in fear.

Mutiny? Another mutiny? What kind of monster is this Gu Hai? How long has it been since the last mutiny, yet eight hundred thousand elite soldiers have mutinied again? Do they even need to fight this war?

Gao Xianzhi’s pupils constricted: “Gu Hai! I knew it! I just knew it! Good thing I already bought the army here. We are already about to start the final battle. If I had given you more time, my army would have fallen apart!”

“What’s the matter?” Lin Chong asked that soldier.

“The soldiers have discovered that the letters from their families were all fake!” That soldier’s expression was unsightly.

“Letters from family? Letters from family? The merchants? I was too careless, I knew it, Gu Hai’s plot wouldn’t be so simple, there was another hidden malicious plot? I should have taken drastic measures! I should have killed that bunch of merchants earlier!” Gao Xianzhi was alarmed and frightened, as he suddenly understood everything.

“Hua!”

There was an uproar outside, soldiers were exceptionally furious as angry insults kept on coming from outside the tent! Furthermore, this time, it was like a torrential rush.

Crown Prince Song stood within the large tent, he was scared witless.

Gao Xianzhi’s eyelids twitched, he took a deep breath and said: “Come, let’s go out together!”

——————-

Tiger Cage Pass! On top of the city wall!

A white-haired Gu Qin was leaning against the wall, with both of his eyes focused into the distance towards the south.

Behind him stood Chen Tianshan and Chen Liangyi.

“General, the soldiers within the pass have been reorganized completely, what are your orders? Also, we just received a report stating, Gao Xianzhi has returned to camp and is preparing to initiate the final attack with their eight hundred  thousand soldiers!” Chen Liangyi’s face was laced with anxiousness.

“Relax, Godfather has already arranged everything, even if Gao Xianzhi has returned, it will be useless, just coordinate with Godfather. Eight hundred thousand soldiers? They are about to erupt in nothing but chaos!” Gu Qin smiled.

“Ah? Gu Hai’s arrangements? What arrangements?” Chen Liangyi asked immediately.

However, Gu Qin didn’t explain but continued to stare towards the south.

Chen Tianshan frowned at the side: “I remember that three days ago, you sent a group of forty odd, people out of the Tiger Cage Pass. Were they guards of the Gu Clan? Your trusted aides? These forty people, why were they sent out of the Pass? They weren’t cultivation experts?”

Gu Qin smirked: “Them? They became mountain bandits! When they return, they will set off fireworks as indicators!”

“Mountain bandits?” Chen Tianshan and Chen Liangyi had blank expressions.

—————

Gao Xianzhi’s camp.

A monumental investigation was launched to investigate the matters of the family letters of eight hundred soldiers. And with Gao Xianzhi’s unrelenting effort and his credit amongst the soldiers, he finally got a rough idea after a day.

On a platform within the camp.

Gao Xianzhi, along with Crown Prince Song, Lin Chong, and a few others, was standing on the platform. Below, were eight hundred thousand soldiers, many of whom had red eyes. Although some were pacified, there was still restlessness among the rest.

However, Gao Xianzhi’s reputation caused them to quiet down and look towards the platform.

“Soldiers, I have returned. I have clearly investigated this matter. I understand that currently, all of you are disconcerted, restless and fretful, however, I must clarify that all of this is Gu Hai’s plot and  I am grateful that all of are willing to listen to my explanations!”

“We discovered that the letters of the soldiers, who had first discovered the problems, came from this group of merchants among whom were clearly Gu Hai’s people, who forged your letters! The purpose was to use your confusion to create chaos within the barracks!”

Gao Xianzhi shouted loudly.

“Their letters came from the merchants but my letter was transported by officers and soldiers, why is my letter fake as well?” someone shouted loudly.

The men below were about to flare up.

“Good question!” Gao Xianzhi loudly interrupted the crowd.

Gao Xianzhi stared at that direction and asked: “Are you positive that your letter is definitely fake? Is it impossible for your family to write a letter? Why are you so sure that it’s a fake? My guess is that when you witnessed that the letter’s of the others were fake,  that suspicions arose from your heart?”

“Ah? I…!” When the man was questioned by Gao Xianzhi, he immediately frowned, seemingly that was the case indeed.

“That was your family letter indeed, you were just suspicious of it. Do not conform to what one perceives to be the view of the majority.” Gao Xianzhi said

“I?” that person frowned even more deeply.

General seems to make sense! but…!

Gao Xianzhi looked at the surroundings and said: “Soldiers, this was an oversight from this General, I shouldn’t have given those merchants such a chance. I, Gao Xianzhi, guarantee to everyone here, your family are definitely safe, there is no harm at all. No one can harm them, none at all!”

The soldiers all stared at Gao Xianzhi with a complex expression.

“I know that many of you want to go home immediately! However, victory is at hand! Can’t you see it? Just five kilometers away from us is the Tiger Cage Pass. Once we destroyed the Tiger, everything will come to an end. We are just one step away from success, could it be that we are going to stop here?”

“Just because of Gu Hai’s schemes, you would choose to give it up? Do you choose to go home? Becoming a deserter? Cowards? When you arrive home, how are you going to face your parents? Your wives and children? Why are you all so cowardly?” Gao Xianzhi shouted loudly.

“We…!” Many soldiers had an expression of distress.

“I guarantee everyone that once we destroyed the Tiger Cage Pass, you will return home in batches and reunite with your families. As long as we bring the Tiger Cage Pass down, everything will be over! Just one final battle!” Gao Xianzhi shouted loudly.

Many soldiers were disconcerted, but they still clenched their fist.

Gao Xianzhi looked at the soldiers and secretly heaved a sigh of relief. It was a good thing that he still held some prestige and was able to convince the crowd, if not, there would be chaos.

“Everyone, once again, I will clarify that everything is part of Gu Hai’s plot. Everything is peaceful within the Kingdom. No one dares to bully your relatives, even the Royal Grandson couldn’t escape punishment, what about the rest? I am not going to say too much on this matter, Lin Chong tell everybody yourself! I believe all of you are acquainted with General Lin Chong. Not long ago, many of you pleaded on his behalf!” Gao Xianzhi shouted loudly.

The soldier all looked at Lin Chong and the other soldiers that too departed for Song Capital.

Lin Chong walked to the front and nodded his head: “Brothers, haven’t you seen what kind of person General is, could it be that you still don’t understand? The words of General will be carried out and a Royal decree has already been issued everywhere. Anyone who dares to bully the families of the Song soldiers will be punished heavily! General will keep his words!”

“Thank you, brothers, for pleading on my behalf. What I wish to convey is that General’s orders are as immovable as the mountains. Whatever he said will be carried out, the Royal Grandson, Song Zhengxi, was executed in front of me, he was really executed. There were many brothers here that were witnesses!”

“The Royal Grandson was executed?”

“Really executed?”

“If the Royal Grandson can be executed, then who couldn’t be executed? The words of General must be true!”

“We shouldn’t have mistrusted the General!”

“Ignore Gu Hai’s schemes, I believe in General!”

“If the Royal Grandson can be executed, then the General wouldn’t lie to us!”

“After executing the Royal Grandson, whatever the General says, I will believe!”

…………

……

Everyone below impassionately responded.

The soldiers believed Lin Chong definitely wouldn’t lie, as back then, he led a mutiny at the risk of death after his family was slaughtered by Song Zhengxi. If Song Zhengxi wasn’t dead, Lin Chong wouldn’t be this resolute.

The General executed Song Zhengxi, what should they be worried about?

Lin Chong stood aside, as Gao Xianzhi let out a long breath. Finally, he managed to recapture the hearts of the soldiers’. Death of a Royal Descendant gave him the hearts of eight hundred thousand soldiers. All of it was worth it.

Gao Xianzhi clearly understood, that once these eight hundred thousand soldiers erupted into chaos, it would lead to a terrifying situation.

“Right, now, we should strike when the iron is hot. After the brunch, you are to assemble immediately, we are going to attack the Tiger Cage Pass!” Gao Xianzhi shouted loudly.

“Roar!” the soldiers all let out a loud roar.

“What? So fast? General, you just returned, and didn’t get to rest? Wouldn’t it be better  to rest for a night, before reorganizing the army for the assault on Tiger Cage Pass?” Crown Prince Song said in astonishment.

Gao Xianzhi had rushed all the way from the capital, which made him look haggard. Furthermore, yesterday, he unrelentingly investigated the reason behind the mutiny and didn’t have a proper rest. In his current state of mental and physical exhaustion, he wanted to start the final push?

“No, I am in a race against Gu Hai’s schemes. Gu Hai’s schemes are too vicious and insidious and come wave after wave, causing us to be terribly busy. Thus, we need to be fast, we need to be faster than his next scheme, speed is of the essence! Otherwise, the results will be undesirable!” Gao Hai smiled bitterly.

From the very start, since he learned that Gu Hai was taking command of the Chen army, he knew that there would be an unending stream of trouble. However, Gao Xianzhi didn’t expect that within a short period of time, these troubles would nearly drive him insane.

Hence, he couldn’t wait anymore. He needed to be fast. Fast! After the meal, it would be the beginning of the final battle. Within the time of this meal, surely nothing could go wrong?

“Ah! Quick look!  Isn’t that the Royal Grandson?”

“What? You must have seen wrongly, General already said that he was executed!”

“Indeed, it definitely isn’t the Royal Grandson. Lin Chong wouldn’t lie to us?”

“It’s impossible for General to lie to us!”

“But, but I definitely witnessed him in the Song Capital, it’s unquestionably the Royal Grandson, it’s him, I’m sure!”

……………

………

The soldiers whose morale were boosted suddenly became restless.

This was because, on a distant hill, there was a man running over whose hair was unkempt and his clothes tattered and torn.

If this was in the past, the soldiers would have already killed or arrested him for trespassing.

However, at this moment, the nearby soldiers, had their eyes wide opened with an inconceivable expression before they opened a pathway.

The reason was that the battered and exhausted man wasn’t just anybody, he was the Royal Grandson, whom everyone believed to be dead.

How could it be? How could this be?

The high spirits of the soldiers suddenly crashed down like waves. As the sound of within the camp vanished.

Song Zhengxi?

Wasn’t he executed by the General? How could it be him?

The change of the eight hundred thousand soldiers attracted the attention of the people on the platform.

Lin Chong turned his head and immediately saw the appearance of Song Zhengxi. His whole body suddenly started to tremble.

“It impossible, impossible!” Lin Chong’s eye opened wide and he continually shouted in shock.’

Song Zhengxi? Even if he turned into ash, Lin Chong would recognize him. Wasn’t he beheaded? How could it be him?

“Ah?” Crown Prince Song shouted in surprise.

These days, Crown Prince Song’s heart was full of resentment; he hated Gu Hai, he hated Gao Xianzhi and Lin Chong. His most beloved son was forcefully executed, yet he couldn’t do anything to prevent it. If the heavens were willing to return his son, he would willingly give up 10 years of his life, but all of it wasn’t possible.

However, Song Zhengxi had suddenly appeared.

Crown Prince Song rubbed his eyes, was it real? Is this my son? He’s still alive?

Gao Xianzhi looked at Song Zhengxi, with eyes full of astonishment: “This is impossible? How could there be someone so similar? Where did Gu Hai find such a similar person?”

But when the battered and exhausted Song Zhengxi saw Crown Prince Song, he ran over.

“Royal Father, your son has finally found you. I nearly died in the hands of mountain bandits, please hurry, and catch them. They wanted to kill me!” Song Zhengxi wailed loudly.

Crown Prince Song and Gao Xianzhi quivered at the same time; suddenly they felt their hands and feet grew cold as their entire body became drenched in cold sweat.

It really was Song Zhengxi?

But at this moment, the soldiers who were united in will earlier all suddenly looked expressionlessly at Gao Xianzhi.

Those expressionless faces of eight hundred thousand soldiers already said everything. The prestige of Gao Xianzhi they held in their hearts was gone.

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