Chapter 13 Book 1: 12: Commander’s Prestige Lost
Chapter 13 Book 1: 12: Commander's Prestige Lost
Book 1: Chapter 12: Commander’s Prestige Lost
Outside Hulao Pass:
Eight hundred thousand Song Nation soldiers camped five kilometers outside Hulao Pass. The entire army gathered together during breakfast time.
“That’s not right, that’s no right. What’s going on? My little younger sister did not send this letter!” a scarred foot soldier said with a bewildered expression.
“Scar, what’s going on?” the surrounding foot soldiers asked, feeling confused.
Scar clutched a letter in his hand. At this moment, his eyes were wide open, appearing uncertain and confused.
A few of the foot soldiers around squeezed over and took a look at the letter.
“Scar, aren’t the contents of the letter fine? Your younger sister wrote a letter to say that everything is fine at home and told you not to worry,” the surrounding soldiers said, puzzled.
Scar showed an unsightly expression as he said, “That’s not right. It’s not right at all. My little younger sister never addresses me as elder brother. Never!”
“Huh?” Everyone showed confused expressions.
“My little younger sister and I are twins. She always addressed me as younger brother or directly by name. She has never been so polite before. Calling me elder brother? How could she address me as elder brother? This…this does not seem to be from my younger sister,” Scar said uncertainly.
“Scar, you are overthinking.” Everyone immediately laughed.
Scar still appeared confused. Only he knew that his younger sister would never address him as elder brother. However…
“Hey?!” Suddenly, someone cried out, feeling bewildered.
“What’s wrong?” Everyone looked at that person.
“Scar, this letter is mine. Did you take the wrong letter? Hey, that’s not right. My letter is still in my clothes. How…?!” a bald foot soldier said in shock.
“Baldy, what are you saying?” Everyone looked at the bald man.
The baldy took out a letter and opened it. Then, everyone read it together. They saw that the baldy’s letter and Scar’s letter were exactly the same, word for word. The handwriting was even the same.
Everyone around fell silent. The people who just entered the canteen also stopped.
“It’s fake? This is not from my little younger sister at all. Someone faked it?” Scar’s expression changed.
Everyone here had clawed their way out of death. They still had some basic intelligence.
“Commander said that he allowed us to communicate with our families via letters. However, why are there fake letters? This is impossible. What’s going on?” the baldy cried out.
“Perhaps…perhaps this is Gu Hai’s plot?” a foot soldier whispered.
“What nonsense is that? Commander already informed all of the soldiers’ families. These are definitely from our families. What plot can there be? Could my family be in Gu Hai’s hands? Otherwise, why did my family letter become fake?” the baldy immediately yelled angrily.
The baldy’s bellow attracted the attention of more soldiers.
The news of the letter being fake spread. As this was something that everyone paid attention to, the news spread very quickly. Soon, many soldiers began opening their letters to scrutinize them.
“Ah?! Mine is…mine is fake too?!”
“Mine is real. However…however…!”
The news spread like a wave on the sea, surging in all directions. In the shortest time possible, the eight hundred thousand soldiers started doubting their letters.
Gu Hai stood at the top of a building in the Tian Residence, looking to the north with a grave expression.
Gu Han stood behind Gu Hai.
“Adoptive Father, the big, decisive battle should be starting in these two days, right?” Gu Han said with a sigh.
Gu Hai nodded. “It is happening soon. This will determine whether we can kill the military’s confidence. Nothing went wrong with the alteration of the Song Nation soldiers’ letters, right?”
“Adoptive Father, don’t worry. This time, Gao Xianzhi smashed his foot with a rock. When we sent the wealthy merchants to stir up trouble previously, he actually permitted the wealthy merchants to carry the letters from the soldiers’ families to prove his innocence. Did he think that he would prove his innocence with that? Haha! Adoptive Father, according to the reports from the frontlines, they chose eight hundred letters for some minor alterations, just changing some small details!” Gu Han said.
“Just changing some minor details is sufficient. As long as ten out of the eight hundred letters are determined to be fake, that would be sufficient to cause a commotion. The ten letters will quickly draw out the eight hundred fake letters,” Gu Hai said with a faint smile.
“However, there are eight hundred thousand soldiers. Eight hundred letters and eight hundred thousand soldiers, that is a thousandfold difference!”
“A spark can burn down a forest. So what if most are real? Whose letters always remain the same? This is how human hearts are like. Once one doubts, it would be hard for one to trust again. With fake letters continuously appearing, even if one’s letter were real, one could find flaws in it. At that time, a real letter would become a fake letter. When more fake letters appear, the unrest will spread. Ha!”
Gao Xianzhi’s tent, Song Nation army camp:
Gao Xianzhi brought Lin Chong and the other soldiers back from Song City, rushing all the way. However, before they could rest, he heard that Crown Prince Song executed one hundred eighty-six defectors from the Chen Nation.
“Gu Hai once said, ‘Surround the three sides and leave one side open. This will allow the soldiers a place to flee to, giving them hope and creating chaos within their ranks. However, you removed the one open side, the place for their soldiers to flee. What you killed are not one hundred-odd traitors; you killed the hope of the Chen Nation’s army, their confidence. Now that they no longer have hope, they will fight to the death. No matter how ferocious a soldier is, it cannot compare to a desperate, reckless soldier. I came back two days late. Just two days! Hah! Hah!” Gao Xianzhi said with a bitter expression.
Crown Prince Song’s expression changed. With this, he immediately understood what it meant.
“Oh no! That useless bunch of spies. To think that they sent back such stupid intel!” Crown Prince Song’s expression changed dramatically.
“Your Highness, never mind. You don’t need to blame yourself. This Gu Hai is really incredible. Since he took command of the Chen Nation army, we have never had a moment of respite. Let’s quickly end the battle. I worry that more bad things will happen. We need to finish this quickly. Conquer Hulao Pass and take down Gu Hai. Everything needs to be resolved quickly!” Gao Xianzhi consoled.
“That’s right. Take down Gu Hai. I want to tear his corpse into tens of thousands of pieces!” Crown Prince Song said with an unsightly expression.
Now, Crown Prince Song could only bury the matter of his son’s death in his heart. When he saw the expressions of Lin Chong and the others, he guessed that things had not gone well for his son.
My son…I will take revenge for you!
Crown Prince Song bellowed in his heart.
A foot soldier suddenly ran into the tent. “I have a report! Commander, it’s not good! The soldiers are mutinying again. This time, there are even more people, Commander.”
“What?” Crown Prince Song let out a startled cry, his expression changing.
Mutiny? Another mutiny? What kind of demonic genius is this Gu Hai? How long has it been, and the eight hundred thousand ferocious soldiers are mutinying nonstop? How am I to fight a war?
Gao Xianzhi’s pupils contracted. “Gu Hai. I knew it. I just knew it. Fortunately, I already led the eight hundred thousand soldiers here, and we will immediately start the big, decisive battle. Otherwise, if you had more time, my entire army would fall apart!”
“What’s going on?” Lin Chong asked that foot soldier.
“The soldiers discovered that their families’ letters were fake!” That foot soldier’s expression turned unsightly.
“Letters? Letters? The wealthy merchants! I got too careless. I should have known that Gu Hai’s schemes were not that simple. It turned out that there was another vicious plot under that. I should have taken drastic measures to deal with that. I should have killed those wealthy merchants long ago.” Gao Xianzhi immediately figured out everything and felt frightened.
A loud commotion erupted outside. Many angry shouts and curses came from outside the tent. This time, soldiers showed a torrential momentum, their voices rising to the heavens.
As Crown Prince Song stood in the tent, he felt fearful.
Gao Xianzhi’s eyelids twitched. Then, he took a deep breath and said, “Let’s go. Let’s go out together.”
At the top of the city gate tower that was Hulao Pass:
The white-haired Gu Qin leaned against the city walls, staring south into the distance.
Chen Tianshan and Chen Liangyi stood behind Gu Qin.
“Commander, the soldiers in the pass are already organized. What should we do now? Our scouts reported that Gao Xianzhi has returned to the camp. The eight hundred thousand soldiers will attack soon!” Chen Liangyi said with an anxious expression.
“Don’t worry. Adoptive Father has made arrangements for everything. Although Gao Xianzhi has returned to camp, it will be useless. Just coordinate with Adoptive Father, and everything will be fine. Eight hundred thousand soldiers? They will be plunged into chaos soon!” Gu Qin said, chuckling.
“Ah? Gu Hai’s arrangement? What arrangement?” Chen Liangyi immediately asked.
However, Gu Qin did not explain. Instead, he continued to stare southward.
At the side, Chen Tianshan frowned slightly as he said, “I recall that you sent a group of people out of Hulao Pass three days ago, about forty people. They are the family guards of your Gu Clan, right? Your trusted men? Why did you send those forty people out of Hulao Pass? Based on their cultivations, they did not seem to be experts.”
Gu Qin smiled faintly and replied, “Them? I sent them to be mountain bandits. Later, there will be a signal by fireworks.”
“Mountain bandits?” Chen Tianshan and Chen Liangyi showed confused expressions.
Gao Xianzhi’s camp:
It would take a lot of effort to investigate the matter of the eight hundred thousand soldiers’ letters. However, using his prestige and untiring efforts, Gao Xianzhi finally figured out the rough situation one day later.
Gao Xianzhi stood on an elevated platform with Crown Prince Song, Lin Chong, and the others. The eight hundred thousand soldiers stood below with bloodshot eyes. Although he managed to pacify some people, many remained frantic.
However, Gao Xianzhi managed to get them to quiet down using his prestige.
“Soldiers! I have returned. I have investigated yesterday’s matter and know that right now, all of you are feeling confused and restless. However, I still have to say this. Everything is part of Gu Hai’s schemes. Everyone, thank you for listening to me. We have investigated the first letters found to have problems. They came from the groups of wealthy merchants that came in the past. Those groups of merchants are Gu Hai’s people. Hence, they had given everyone fake letters. The purpose is to use all of you to cause chaos in the hearts of the military!” Gao Xianzhi shouted.
“Their letters came from the wealthy merchants. However, the military’s dispatch delivered my letter. Why is my letter also fake?” someone shouted.
The people below erupted noisily in strong emotions.
“Good question!” Gao Xianzhi interrupted everyone.
Gao Xianzhi stared in that direction and asked, “Are you sure that your letter is fake? Could your family not possibly write such a letter? Why are you sure that it is fake? My guess is that when you saw that others had fake letters, you started feeling doubts, right?”
“Huh? I…that…!” After Gao Xianzhi questioned that person, that person frowned. That seemed to be the case.
“Then, that is certainly your letter. You just doubted yourself. Don’t just go along with the crowd,” Gao Xianzhi said.
“I?” That person frowned heavily, unsure of what to do.
“Commander seems to make sense. But…!”
Gao Xianzhi looked around and said, “Soldiers, this is this commander’s carelessness. I should not have given the wealthy merchants this opportunity. I, Gao Xianzhi, guarantee that your families are definitely safe. They are absolutely not harmed. No matter who it is, they can forget about harming your families!”
The soldiers stared at Gao Xianzhi, showing somewhat complicated expressions.
“I know that you want to return home right now. I understand. However, victory is at hand. Do you see it? Hulao Pass is just five kilometers away. Once we conquer Hulao Pass, everything ends. This is the final step to victory. Are you going to stop here?
“Are you choosing to give up because of Gu Hai’s schemes? Choosing to return home? Choosing to desert? To return home a coward? How will you face your father, your mother, your wife, and your children when you return home? Why are you so cowardly?” Gao Xianzhi shouted.
“We…” The many soldiers appeared put on the spot.
“I promise everyone. After we conquer Hulao Pass, we will send you back to your families in batches. It is happening soon. We just need to conquer Hulao Pass. That is all, just Hulao Pass!” Gao Xianzhi shouted.
Although the many soldiers still felt confused, they still tightly clenched their fists.
Gao Xianzhi looked at the soldiers and secretly released his bated breath.
Fortunately, I still hold prestige in these soldiers’ hearts, able to convince them. Otherwise, there would be great chaos.
“Everyone, let me make this clear now. Everything is Gu Hai’s plot. Everything is peaceful within the nation. No one dares to bully the soldiers’ families, not even the crown heir. I will not continue expounding on the remaining matters. Instead, I’ll let Lin Chong tell you. I believe everyone knows Lin Chong. Not long ago, several of you pleaded with me on his behalf!” Gao Xianzhi shouted.
All the soldiers looked at Lin Chong and the other soldiers who went to Song City.
Lin Chong stepped to the front and nodded. “Brothers, do you all still not know the commander’s character? The commander will fulfill everything he said. The imperial edict has already been promulgated everywhere. All those who make things difficult for the soldiers’ families will be heavily punished. The commander will do what he says. I thank all you brothers who pleaded on my behalf previously. What I would like to say is that the commander’s word is ironclad. He definitely fulfills what he said. I personally witnessed the crown heir, Song Zhengxi, being executed in front of me. They really executed him. At that time, many of our brothers witnessed it as well.”
“They really executed the crown heir?”
“They really killed him?”
“If they can execute the crown heir, who would they not execute? The commander’s words will definitely be fulfilled!”
“I should not have doubted the commander!”
“Don’t listen to Gu Hai’s lies. I trust in Commander!”
“They could even execute the crown heir. The commander will not lie to us!”
“Now that they executed the crown heir, I trust in anything Commander says!”
The soldiers below turned noisy.
The soldiers believed that Lin Chong would not lie. Back then, he had risked execution to lead a mutiny. Song Zhengxi had killed his entire family. Lin Chong would not be this determined if Song Zhengxi were not dead.
Since the commander killed Song Zhengxi, what was there to worry about?
Beside Lin Chong, Gao Xianzhi released his bated breath. He finally brought back the soldiers’ confidence in them. Killing one crown heir to regain the confidence of eight hundred thousand soldiers had been worth it.
Gao Xianzhi understood how terrifying it would be if the eight hundred thousand soldiers mutinied.
“Alright. Let’s strike while the iron is hot. After we eat, we’ll immediately rally and attack Hulao Pass!” Gao Xianzhi shouted.
“Ha!” The soldiers roared a warcry.
“What? So quickly? Commander, you still have not rested since you came back. Perhaps you should rest for a night first before rallying the troops to attack Hulao Pass?” Crown Prince Song suggested in surprise.
Gao Xianzhi had rushed back all the way; he should have been dead tired already. Then, he spent all of yesterday investigating the cause of the mutiny. Up until now, he still had not rested and looked fatigued. Yet, he was going to initiate the attack now?
“No, I’m racing against Gu Hai’s schemes. Gu Hai’s schemes are too insidious, too vicious. They come wave after wave, tiring us out, so we need to be quick. We need to outrun his next scheme. We need to be fast. Otherwise, the consequences would be dire!” Gao Xianzhi smiled bitterly.
From the moment he heard that Gu Hai became the Chen Nation’s commander, he knew that there would be endless trouble. However, he had not expected Gu Hai to push him into such dire straits in such a short time.
Hence, he could not wait anymore. He needed to be fast. Fast! Fast! Fast! They would start the big, decisive battle after they ate. Nothing could go wrong over the time it took to eat one meal, right?
“Ah! Quick, look! Is that the crown heir?!”
“What? You saw wrong. The commander already said that they executed the crown heir!”
“Exactly. It can’t be the crown heir. Would Lin Chong lie to us?”
“The commander can’t possibly lie to us!”
“However, I have seen the crown heir in Song City before. He is the crown heir! Definitely the crown heir!”
Earlier, the soldiers still showed strong morale. Now, a portion of them suddenly started feeling restless again.
This was because of a person running down a small mound in the distance. That man wore tattered clothes and had messy hair.
In the past, the soldiers would have already shot to kill this intruder or gone over to take him down.
Now, however, the nearby soldiers all goggled in extreme incredulity. Then, they quickly moved back to let that person through.
This was because that man in a sorry state was none other than the crown heir, Song Zhengxi, whose execution everyone discussed earlier.
How could this be? How could this be?
The soldiers in high morale earlier suddenly fell silent, feeling like a wave splashed them.
Didn’t the commander execute him? How could this be?
The change spreading through the eight hundred thousand soldiers attracted the attention of the people on the platform right away.
Lin Chong turned his head and instantly saw Song Zhengxi. His entire body went still before shaking all over.
“It’s impossible! It’s impossible!” Lin Chong kept bellowing in shock, his eyes looking like they would pop out.
Even if he were reduced to ashes, Lin Chong would recognize him.
Wasn’t his head chopped off? How could this be?
“Ah?!” Crown Prince Song also let out a startled cry.
During the past few days, Crown Prince Song had felt overwhelming hatred. He hated Gu Hai, he hated Gao Xianzhi, and he hated Lin Chong. They caused his most beloved son to die, but he could not do anything about it.
If heaven returns my son, I am willing to lose ten years of my lifespan. However, that is impossible.
Nevertheless, Song Zhengxi suddenly appeared now.
Crown Prince Song rubbed his eyes.
Is this real? Is this my son? He is still alive?
Gao Xianzhi looked at Song Zhengxi, and horror flashed in his eyes. “That’s impossible. How can this be? How can there be someone so similar? Where did Gu Hai find someone so similar?”
When the miserable Song Zhengxi saw Crown Prince Song, he ran over.
“Father, this child finally found you. I nearly died in the hands of mountain bandits. Quickly, help me capture those mountain bandits. They want to kill me!” Song Zhengxi cried out loudly.
Both Crown Prince Song and Gao Xianzhi felt shocked. Then, they felt a chill run through their entire bodies, their hands and feet going cold.
It really is Song Zhengxi?
Now, all the soldiers who showed high morale earlier suddenly looked at Gao Xianzhi expressionlessly.
The expressionless faces of the eight hundred thousand soldiers already said everything. The prestige that Gao Xianzhi had in everyone’s heart no longer existed.