Chapter 483. A Plan & The Arrangements
The twittering of birds was heard.
It was a spring morning, and shafts of warm sunlight were pouring in through the windows of the imperial bedchamber, hitting the tables, chairs and other exquisite funishings, covering them with a genial glow. The whole imperial bedchamber was quiet except for the cheerful chirp of birds which was coming from outside the windows and echoing in the bedchamber. A couple of little birds were hopping around outside the window. One of them jumped onto the window ledge, gave a little hop to edge aside and lowered its head to preen itself. After giving a couple of faintly muffled cries, it started twittering joyously again.
Ling Zhang, without opening his eyes, groggily grabbed the quilt and pulled it over his head in an attempt to rid himself of the chirrup. Buried in the quilt, he was still quite drowsy and didn’t even feel like moving a finger, not to mention opening his eyes.
After a while, the bird on the windowsill flew off in a fluster as though alarmed by something, and so did other birds outside the window.
With his whole body beneath the quilt, Ling Zhang continued to indulge in sleep. The night before, he was badgered into changing into that set of scarlet clothes by Yuwen Tong who made out with him for a whole night. Unless the sky fell down, nothing would stop him from continuing to sleep.
He drifted into a deep sleep once again and it was not until noon that he slept enough and woke up. Eyes still closed, he reached out a hand to knead the small of his back. With a sudden movement of the quilt, a warm palm came joining him in massaging the small of his back.
A groan escaped Ling Zhang’s throat and with that he withdrew his hand, rolled over and lay prone to allow that warm palm to knead his waist in a more dutiful fashion.
As a low chuckle issued from outside the quilt, someone drew the quilt down to reveal his neck and planted a warm kiss on it.
Ling Zhang languidly let out a disapproving grunt and slightly moved his neck. “Stop it. It itches.”
Yuwen Tong gently removed the couple of strands of mischievous hair from Ling Zhang’s neck. Kneading his waist with one hand, he softly ran his fingers through his hair with his other hand, tenderly massaging his head to help clear his mind. “The whole morning Crescent has been pestering me to let her see you, and she’s still sulking as we speak. You’ll have to go and coax her after you get up.”
“Okay,” answered Ling Zhang. The massage Yuwen Tong was giving him was so comfortable that he let out a long sigh of contentment. “There weren’t any serious issues reported at the court meeting this morning, I suppose?”
“It’s still about the secret transportation of food supplies to the south-west. The first batch has been covertly gathered and delivered to the South-western Army already. I plan to have another two batches shipped there by stealth so that our troops will have adequate provisions and fodder after entering the Wan Kingdom. After their entry into the Wan Kingdom, it will no longer be necessary to keep the transportation of food supplies secret, and we may have them delivered in any way we like,” replied Yuwen Tong.
At the mention of army provisions and the upcoming war, Ling Zhang, though inclined to stay in the quilt for a little while longer, felt his drowsiness vanish instantly and with that he shifted his position slightly and then sat up.
Yuwen Tong withdrew his hand and, after Ling Zhang settled himself on the bed, wrapped the quilt around him, believing that the weather was still cold, that Ling Zhang who had just woken up needed some extra protection against the low temperature.
Ling Zhang grabbed the edge of the quilt and asked him, “No matter how careful we are, leaks about the transportation of army provisions are inevitable. We’ve got to take action as soon as possible, before the Wan Kingdom figures out what we’re doing.”
Yuwen Tong said, “The Wan Kingdom hasn’t made its move yet, so we have to stay put and bide our time. The transportation of provisions and fodder is a must. We’ll have to figure out a more secure delivery method. We’ve come up with a couple of workable plans during the discussion this morning. Barring accidents, I’ll be able to issue a secret decree on that score tomorrow.”
Ling Zhang pondered for a while before he inquired, “Who are you putting in charge of the shipment of the next two batches of provisions?”
“He Xiao,” responded Yuwen Tong.
Ling Zhang made no more remarks. Since a decision had been made after some discussions, he believed that they had taken into consideration everything that ought to be considered. After a brief moment’s thinking, he said, “I can have the chamber of commerce help with the transportation if you want.”
The Great Wen was where the real headquarters of the Jiahe Chamber of Commerce was located, which meant that it would be easier to get the job done without anybody noticing. It was totally feasible to ship army provisions under the cover of goods shipment.
Yuwen Tong said, “I was just about to talk to you in this regard. My men will handle the shipment of food supplies. It’s the transportation of medicines and physicians that I want the chamber of commerce to help with.”
A war against the Wan Kingdom would inevitably led to heavy casualties. Enormous quantities of medicines and a huge team of physicians would be needed.
Ling Zhang said, “No problem.”
The matter of medicines was easy to settle. The tricky part was how to transport a large number of physicians without alarming the enemies. Fortunately, during the past couple of years, the Jiahe Chamber of Commerce had roped in a lot of talents of all descriptions, among whom there were many physicians. The risk of a leak would be lower if the army recruited physicians from within the chamber of commerce.
After giving it some thought, Ling Zhang, who had come to know what to expect, got out of bed to wash and dress himself instead of continuing to stay in bed.
“By the way, I’ve found Qi and Lin a kung fu instructor,” said Yuwen Tong, giving Ling Zhang a name.
Ling Zhang, who had heard about that person before, raised no objection to Yuwen Tong’s arrangement.
After lunch, Ling Zhang went to pacify his daughter, played with her in the imperial garden for a while and then made towards the imperial study.
On the west wall of the imperial study hung a detailed map of three neighboring countries: the Great Wen, the Wan Kingdom and the Luohai Kingdom. Such was the comprehensiveness of the map that the monarchs of the other two countries would be startled and then scared if they saw it. Leaving aside a couple of areas, it rivaled the maps owned by the monarchs of the other two countries in terms of the exhaustiveness and accuracy of the information about the two countries.
Standing in front of the map, Ling Zhang and Yuwen Tong studied it for a while. Then they pivoted around to check the sand table which took up almost the whole room. Most of the time their eyes were fixed on the south-west.
Three years ago, he and Yuwen Tong went to the south and knocked the two south-western prefectures into shape. They not only put the two prefectures under their complete control but also made an important arrangement – hoarding food supplies and soldiers there.
They had been hoarding provisions and fodder and recruiting soldiers in the two prefectures covertly, and only a limited few knew about it, all of whom were absolutely trustworthy. It had taken the two of them three years to achieve their goal step by step. Currently there were over 100,000 troops and vast quantities of army provisions in the two south-western prefectures. All of them were crack troops who had been given secret training, and whose mission was, according to the plan that was to be carried out next, to take the south-eastern part of the Wan Kingdom at one fell swoop and then occupy the whole south before advancing towards the capital of the Wan Kingdom.
Yes, their main force was stationed in the south-west, not Shengzhou. The border between the Wan Kingdom and the Great Wen was quite long, but in the south-west the two countries were separated by lofty mountains where some ungoverned tribes dwelt. Yuwen Tong and Ling Zhang had spent a solid year studying those areas before they got an intimate knowledge of them and made some arrangements accordingly.
This time around, the Wan Kingdom had allied itself with the Luohai Kingdom, intending to attack the Great Wen. The Luohai monarch had promised that the dispatch of his army would be a mere act. The main battlefield would be Shengzhou, and the Wan Kingdom would be sending its main force there. Yuwen Tong’s and Ling Zhang’s plan was to send their army to the south of the Wan Kingdom and take it at one blow while the Wan Kingdom’s main force was in Shengzhou. Yuwen Tong himself would be directing the troops in that battle.
During that time, officials of the capital city must keep his departure secret, and the Shengzhou garrison would have to withstand the fierce attack from the main strength of the Wan Kingdom’s army.
As regards how to extricate themselves from the capital city, Yuwen Tong and Ling Zhang had had it all planned out. Jiang Ke and Jiang Xi were in Shengzhou. Xiao Ziyan had also been transferred to Shengzhou. All arrangements had been minutely discussed numerous times three years ago, and all contingencies had been considered in detail. What they needed to do next was to race against time. Whether or not the Great Wen would be able to annex the Wan Kingdom depended on if the South-western Army led by Yuwen Tong would successfully take the south-eastern part of the Wan Kingdom at a single stroke and then the whole south of it.
“Shan Congli has finished mustering his army. He’s waiting for the Luohai Kingdom. Mu Hengtian has to buy himself some time, so there’s no doubt he wouldn’t finish mustering his army anytime soon, which means that it would be at least a month before they officially declare war on us,” said Yuwen Tong.
Mu Hengtian had aligned himself with the Wan Kingdom and also signed an alliance agreement with the Great Wen. The reason why he had made himself a common ally of both countries was because he wanted to see the Wan Kingdom and the Great Wen fight each other, which would give him an opportunity to deal with the issue of infighting in his court. As a result, the longer the Wan Kingdom and the Great Wen were mired in a war, the more beneficial the situation would be to him, so naturally he wouldn’t finish mustering his army that quickly, but Shan Congli wouldn’t wait patiently for long and would definitely hurry Mu Hengtian again and again. The earliest possible time of the dispatch of the Luohai Kingdom’s army was one month later, and the latest possible time of it depended on how long Mu Hengtian could delay it.
But for the Great Wen, the sooner the Wan Kingdom sent its army, the better. Therefore, apart from the Wan Kingdom, Yuwen Tong would also take some covert measures to have Mu Hengtian send his troops as soon as possible.
“When are you going south?” Ling Zhang asked him.
Yuwen Tong said, “When Shan Congli’s men reach Shengzhou.”
Ling Zhang’s eyebrows contracted slightly. “Wouldn’t that be too late?”
Yuwen Tong said, “Not really. This time Xue Chi would be the commander-in-chief of the Wan Kingdom’s army. If we are to trick him, I’ll have to make a public appearance after the Wan Kingdom declares war on us lest they become vigilant. Once the Wan Kingdom’s army get to Shengzhou, Jiang Ke and Jiang Xi would hold them at bay and prevent them from going anywhere else, and that’s when the South-western Army make their move.”
Ling Zhang didn’t have as much acquaintance with war as Yuwen Tong did, and he didn’t know Xue Chi as well as Yuwen Tong did either. Now that Yuwen Tong had made such arrangements, Ling Zhang, who had absolute trust in him, believed that he had no doubt contemplated them. According to the plan, it would be a month before Yuwen Tong went to the south, which meant that he could stay in the capital city for another month. Before he left for the south, he would have to take some precautions to make sure that his absence from court meetings wouldn’t arouse anybody’s suspicions. The two of them had some time ago made some arrangements on this score.
However, although they had long since had everything planned out, the prospect of Yuwen Tong going to war still sent Ling Zhang into deep worry. In order to keep abreast of the latest developments in the situation in Shengzhou and Youzhou, he would have to stay in the imperial palace in the capital city and wouldn’t be able to go with Yuwen Tong to the battlefield, which meant he wouldn’t be able to real-time information about the war or Yuwen Tong’s safety…
At the thought of this, Ling Zhang naturally felt a little crestfallen, and even his face became fairly glum.
Yuwen Tong knew what he was worried about. He wanted to bring Ling Zhang with him, but the capital city needed Ling Zhang, and their children were still young and couldn’t do without a parent.
“I’ll go to Shengzhou after you take the south-east of the Wan Kingdom and wait until the time comes for us to rendezvous in the capital of the Wan Kingdom,” said Ling Zhang. By that time, it would no longer be necessary to conceal the fact that Yuwen Tong was not in the capital city but in the Wan Kingdom. The two prime ministers would be in the capital city, and so would his father and maternal grandfather, who would take care of the children for him after he went to Shengzhou. When Yuwen Tong had taken the south of the Wan Kingdom, the North-western Army would launch an all-out attack. Their target was the capital of the Wan Kingdom, where they would naturally rendezvous with each other if they won.
Yuwen Tong’s heart gave a little lurch and with that he said, “All right.”