‘Scouts again.’ As the deputy general of the Xiliang Cavalry and Zhang Xiu’s trusted subordinate, Hu Che Er not only loyal and excels in martial arts but also had something other other men from Qiang did not have. Intelligence. He knew how to think and plan strategies. This is how he distinguished himself from the other people of Qiang. There were also people of the Han that were brainless like Zhang Fei. For example, Zhang Fei was one of the few that had difficulty leading an army in history. Other similar men were Dian Wei and Xu Zhu. These people acted as guards and not generals.
This meant that Hu Che Er could understand strategies and the art of war. Naturally, he was proud of it. However, this fact had now given him a headache. This is because he did not know whether the information he obtained from the captured scout was true and was placed in a difficult position.
The information told him that the Little Lord of the Lu Bu’s Army had left the city with a few thousand troops. If that was all, it would not be much of a problem. He had already went to Guangzhou with his Xiliang Cavalry as a warning for the Liu Mang’s Army not to interfere. Everybody could just mind their own business and he also did not want to fight against Liu Mang for Liu Bei’s sake. On the other hand, it would be a problem as Liu Mang left the city looking for him. If Liu Mang had little troops, they would be defeated. If they came with a lot of troops, he could just attack Guangzhou and cut off Liu Mang’s supplies.
He had even received a letter from Liu Mang. “Barbarian child of Xiliang. You have no etiquette. You have no brother or father. This Sage King of the Han will take over their duty to teach you how to be a man!”
It was a challenge letter insulting Hu Che Er. The time, place and number of people was also written on it.
“Guys. What do you think of this?” Hu Che Er asked as he handed the letter to the others serving under him for them to read. The others around him were also not fools and Hu Che Er liked listening to their opinions.
“Beat him up! Beat up his mother!” One of the 1000-man commander from Qiang cursed in rage. He was illiterate but a high ranking Han military officer read it for him. Although he did not understand the grievances of the Han people, he knows it was not good when it involves one’s family members such as the brother and father. To the people of Qiang, the little brother inherits the elder brother’s wife. So the letter was something he was unable to ignore.
Although the Han officer did not act like that man from Qiang, he was also angry and was on the verge of pulling out his sword.
“Hm?” Hu Che Er frowned, realizing that allowing his generals to read the challenge letter was a mistake. In fact, he actually did not want to go as he was a cautious person. He also acted this way when he was attacked by Liao Hua. Unfortunately for him, Liao Hua was even more cautious than him. Otherwise, the one that lost would have been Liao Hua and Liu Pi.
Although Hu Che Er’s Lord, Zhang Xiu, was allies with Liu Bei, he did not want to work for Liu Bei’s sake. His current task was to protect the provisions. As long as the provisions remain protected, he would not take the initiative to find trouble with Liu Mang. He would not be generous enough to help Liu Bei as the ones that would suffer the most losses would be his Lord Zhang Xiu. The only thing that Liu Bei gave was provisions. If he were to defeat Liu Mang, Yangzhou would fall but it had nothing to do with him. This is because Zhang Xiu only wanted the provisions at Yangzhou.
However, the most important point was that Hu Che Er himself was afraid. The people of the Han were used to playing tricks. Previously, he had also arrested a scout from Xu Shu. The information he obtained was that Lujiang was sending provisions to Shouchun. At that moment, Hu Che Er felt happy. Not only would he obtain the provisions that they wanted but he could also contribute to the fall of Shouchun. Without him, Shouchun would have held out longer, costing Liu Bei precious time. As a result, Liu Bei would have to reward him even if he was stingy. However, the results was him losing two thousand of the Xiliang Cavalry and even believed that Liu Bei attacked them with the intentions of absorbing the Xiliang Cavalry.
Hu Che Er was afraid of such things happening. He truly regretted what happened last time and tried being more cautious.
Hu Che Er ma.s.saged his head for a while and then said, “Let us discuss this next time. Right now, our task is to deliver the provisions to the Left General. For now, let us ignore everything else!” Hu Che Er made a decision that this challenge was not his business. He simply needed to deliver the provisions safely.
Hu Che Er did not expect his words to cause an uproar. The first to stand was a Qiang 1000-man commander. “General Che. The enemy have already written to us a challenge. This is a provocation to us warriors of the plains. However, you refuse to accept it. Are you a coward?” The man questioned Hu Che Er.
Hu Che Er narrowed his eyes. If the person that said this was a Han, he would have been executed the man or be more careful of this person. This is because a person who said such things would either want to stop working and change allegiance or to seize military authority. However, the man from Qiang under him was someone he knew as a person who speaks his mind.
“General. The enemy only has two thousand men. Allow me to go and take the enemy’s banner and head for you!” The Qiang general spoke rudely and spoke his intentions of taking Liu Mang’s head. When both the heavy cavalry and heavy infantries were compared, the heavy cavalry would win more as they had mobility and would be the ones taking the initiative to attack. If they cannot win, they can run. On the other hand, the heavy infantries could only rely on their battle formations to stop the cavalry’s charge. Even if they could win, it would be hard for them to wipe out all the enemies. As a result, the Qiang general was very confident.
‘Haha. Take the enemies banner and head? It would already be good if you do not leave your head with them!’ Hu Che Er thought as he sneered in his heart. “It is not that I am a coward but have you forgotten what happened to our two thousand elites? Have you forgotten the deceitfulness of the Han?” When Hu Che Er said this, his Han generals felt awkward but they were used to it. “They only used a few thousand worth of provisions but it caused us and our allies to fight amongst ourselves. Two thousand of our brothers perished, leaving us forever!” Hu Che Er coldly replied to his subordinate. His words caused the Qiang general to turn silent although still a little bit dissatisfied.
“If you guys intend to go, I will not stop you. However, when you die, do not blame me!” The Qiang soldiers felt a lingering fear. In that one battle, Xu Shu did not lose a single men and only used a few thousand provisions to take out two thousand Xiliang Cavalry elites. If they were to count Liu Bei’s troops as well, it would be about five thousand men. This also almost made Liu Bei and Zhang Xiu have a falling out. The strategies of the Han could easily determine the victor.
“Hmph! Once you die, the women and wealth you fight over with great difficulty would be given to others!” Hu Che Er gave one sentence to completely dispel the thoughts of fighting against Liu Mang from their minds. They were Qiang and did not have the sense of honor of the Han. Even if they had one, they have already thrown it away. They worked under Zhang Xiu for women and wealth, so that they live an even more decent life. However, they would no longer have any of this once they are dead. The Xiliang Cavalry was not like the Lu Bu’s Army where they could be worshipped after a heroic death at the Hall of Heroes. Zhang Xiu was also not as magnanimous as Liu Mang and would not give the family of the dead with death gratuity. On top of that, unlike the Hans, once the elder brother dies, the little brother would take and sleep with their wives. The acc.u.mulated wealth would also be used by their younger brother. This was a crucial point for the Xiliang Cavalry.
The Qiang people finally became silent. The Han 1000-man commander had some sense of honor but understood that there was no benefits to dying. As the task would be unrewarding, there was no reason to go. The cake was large but one would need to risk their lives to eat it.
Just as Hu Che Er felt satisfied from supressing the opinions of everyone else, another Han general spoke up. “General. The Fake King Liu Mang’s letter of challenge that states that he only has two thousand five hundred men is not necessarily fake1.”
“Hm?” Hu Che Er’s eyes turned cold. He already said that he would not go and that was the final decision. The Han general also felt Hu Che Er’s killing intent and quickly replied. “General. Look at this seal on the letter. This is truly the Fake King’s letter!” The letter was truly sent by Liu Mang and his seal was even placed on it. If it was during times of peace, that letter was an imperial edict.
“What do you want to say?” Hu Che Er looked at the man, promising to act out if the explanation remains unclear. After all, he had just only supressed the opinions of those that opposed him and then this guy suddenly appeared. That was just courting death.
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“I believe that this is truly a challenge letter and that the King of Shu would not trick us!” The Han general quickly finished.
“Preposterous! That boy Liu Mang is trying to take advantage of me like this?” Zhang Xiu was bursting with rage. He knew that the Xiliang Cavalry was not a match for the Wolf Cavalry, especially at that moment. The Wolf Cavalry was the king of the cavalries. However, this is something that should just be said privately instead of being used to humiliate others. Might makes right!2 So what if they won using an ambush? An ambush is a valid tactic. All is fair in love and war. However, the challenge letter had singled out the Xiliang Cavalry while boasting shamelessly by challenging the eight thousand Xiliang Cavalry with only two thousand five hundred soldiers. This meant that Zhang Xiu was being looked down on. Naturally, he would not be able to accept it.
“All units, follow me! I, Zhang Xiu, will go to Guangzhou and take the head of that Fake King Liu Mang!” Zhang Xiu could not endure this and wanted to go straight to Guangzhou to fight against Liu Mang.
“General Yang Wu, calm down!” Pang Tong appeared and smiled. “General. Guangzhou is not too far from this place but it one would still need a few days to arrive there. By the time you reach Guangzhou, the battle would have been over! Besides that, there are also soldiers here at Shouchun. You cannot leave!” Pang Tong had no way of capturing Shouchun that had been defending like a turtle. He wanted Zhang Xiu to help with his Xiliang Cavalry. Liu Bei would also feel more relieved with the presence of Zhang Xiu’s Xiliang Cavalry.
“Hmph. Then tell me what you want me to do?” Liu Mang had already singled them out. If they do not respond, they would become cowards.
“Haha. General. You can have Hu Che Er fight them!” After all, Liu Mang mentioned Hu Che Er by name. “However, you must take note to see if that boy Liu Mang has played any tricks. Have General Hu Che Er dispatch scouts to check out the situation before engaging in battle!” Pang Tong also did not want Zhang Xiu to focus too much on Liu Mang.
“I naturally know this. Lord Xuande. I have other matters to attend to. Forgive me for being unable to accompany you!” Zhang Xiu said to Liu Bei.
“General, go with ease. I understand the severity of the situation!” Liu Bei also did not stop Zhang Xiu. Zhang Xiu quickly left and send a letter to Hu Che Er’s main camp at the distant Guangzhou.
When Hu Che Er received the letter, he immediately got a headache. This is because Zhang Xiu only wrote a word on it. “War!”
The ‘deceit’/’fake’/’bluff’ does not refer to ‘trap’. Liu Mang stated to only bring two thousand five hundred men. The ‘deceit’ would be if he actually brought more. Just some subtle difference.
成王败寇 Chinese idiom. Basic interpretation would be that the winner is in power (reigning of an Emperor) and n.o.body can blame him. On the other hand, failure is ‘illegal’ and those that failed becomes thieves. Mostly used in struggles. The two English saying I could think of is ‘might makes right’ and ‘history is written by the winner.’ However, in Zhang Xiu’s POV, history has not yet been written so…
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