Chapter 6: Lian Po, and Harming Yourself
Lord Wu’an Manor
“Nan.” Bai Qi looked at Gu Nan who was gulping down the water.
“…” Pausing a moment, he finally made up his mind and took out a roll of worn-down bamboo slips.
“Read this, and be diligent to understand everything. If there are any questions, ask me when I get back.”
After saying this, he turned to his wife.
“Wife, the king told me to go to the palace in the afternoon. It seems there’s something that needs to be discussed. Hm, I’ll be going.”
“Go then and come back soon.” Wei Lan nodded and waved her hand.
He nodded and turned to walk out for the entrance.
As he left, he snuck a glance at Gu Nan and the book bundle in her hand. He was still unsure if it was the right decision to introduce it so early, but there’s not really an alternative. He doesn’t have the time to slowly teach everything.
Gu Nan clutched the bamboo strips and looked confusingly at Bai Qi’s receding figure.
What’s about this book that made him so serious? It doesn’t look to be a light matter.
Furrowing her brows, she rolled open the bamboo slips, revealing a few boldly-written characters.
“Sun Tzu: Art of War” – Introduction
An old eunuch stood respectfully in the empty hall. All around, the bamboo curtains filtered in sunlight and casted shadows. A man laid down comfortably on the couch, watching the small teapot emit faint wisps of steam.
In the hot summer, the palace still retained some of the refreshing, cool air.
“clink, clink, clink.”
With some heavy footsteps, a soldier wearing armor walked in and whispered some words to the old eunuch.
The old eunuch nodded and waved his hand to dismiss the guard.
“What is it?” Said an aged voice, but one still thick with power. “The king is here to escape the heat. I have no interest in debating politics now.”
“My king, it is Lord Wu’an.” The old eunuch bowed and said, before adding another sentence. “You called for him earlier.”
“This…” The king said faintly after some thought. “No matter, have him come.”
The old eunuch didn’t say anymore and retreated from the hall. He’s served King Zhaoxiang so long and understands the king’s mood better than anyone. The king’s attitude clearly said that he wanted this to be a private discussion.
After the old eunuch left, the palace became quiet again. After a while, the sound of rattling armor became increasingly clear. An older man dressed in a black armor entered into the hall like a gale-like momentum. Finally, the man stopped as he held his helmet in his left hand and cupped his hands in greeting.
Bai Qi keeled and bowed again. “I greet the king.”
“En, Lord Wu’an, you’ve arrived.” The king’s voice didn’t have any fluctuations but still held a regal tone. His finger pointing out. “Sit.”
“Thank you, king.”
The hall was silent for a long time, as both of them looked at the steaming teapot.
As the water started to bubble, King Zhaoxian took a cloth and lifted the pot from the stove. “Do you know why I called for you today?”
Bai Qi didn’t rush to answer. After a while, he sighed, “Shangdang?”
Zhao’s former king, King Wuling, carried out the military reform of “Wearing Hu and Horse Archery.” Because of this, their national power has prospered and their military strength equally so. To the extent that they can rival Qin and pressure the neighboring countries.
This made King Zhaoxiang constantly feel threatened as this neighboring superpower kept amassing more troops and influence. But to remove this threat has been a difficult struggle. He’s waited for Zhao’s national strength to falter or to suffer a catastrophic defeat, but it’s only until now that there’s an opportunity.
Shangdong is a territory on the border of Qin and is the key to defeating Zhao. If the Qin army can occupy the territory of Shangdang, they will hold the initiative and control the strategic point of Hedong. Advancing north, there’s a direct route to Zhao’s old capital of Jinyang (now southwest of Taiyuan, Shanxi). Further west and past the Taihang Mountains, an army could directly threaten the Zhao capital.
So long as this vital point is captured, Zhao’s threat would be dramatically reduced, and if possible, it could be the staging point for an invasion of the Zhao central territories.
“Haha.” The king gave a big smile. “Lord Wu’an, you understand me well. I really don’t know what to do. If it weren’t for you, who in great Qin could be my commander?”
“The king is joking.”
“No, this is no joke.” The laughter stopped somewhat abruptly, and the king’s voice became serious. “But Lord Wu’an, I’ve received some news. The Zhao court has become very discontent with Lian Po. There’s been an action to replace him.”
Two years ago, the Qin attacked and occupied the Hanguo Plain (now Qinyang, Henan), completely cutting off Shangdang from the Zhao mainland.
Originally in the past decades, the State of Han had controlled Shangdang. However, King Huanhui‘s ordered the governor-general, Feng Ting, to cede the territory to in the interests of peace.
But surprisingly, Feng Ting did not follow through with Qin, and after consulting with the people of the Shangdang, he, along with 17 cities, instead surrendered to Zhao.
But this guaranteed an invasion, and the two powers sent their respective armies to occupy Shangdang.
When the Qin army started their invasion, Zhao sent Lian Po as commander. However, he was unable to achieve a decisive victory, and it eventually turned into a defensive war.
Is this bad? Not necessarily, simply keeping your army alive is probably the best strategy a general can have, although it’s certainly not impressive. But to replace Lian Po? If he’s was replaced, who would defend the city? Bai Qi thought deeply, but his face remained rigid and expressionless.
“They selected the son of Lord Mafu .” Afterward, King Zhaoxiang’s turned into an obvious smirk.
The son of Lord Mafu is named Zhao Kuo, a teenager with a clever mind but no battlefield experience.
Lian Po’s leadership of Zhao’s 450,000 troops is best characterized as being disciplined. Their defenses are stiff and resolute. Bai Qi has tried numerous times to bait the army out, but there’s been no avail. There’s no real way to attack Shangdang, and it’s been an endless source of headaches for him.
Although Qin has control of the waterways and grain, it’s no solution to the inevitable battle that will need to happen.
But even if they could defeat the enemy army of 450,000 and trudge through all of Zhao. Qin would also be substantially weakened, and their enemies are not limited to Zhao, there are tigers and wolves lurking all around.
In fact, Zhao probably wouldn’t have replaced Lian Po, but King Zhaoxiang saw the Zhao king’s thirst for victory. And so, he sent spies to spread rumors of Lian Po becoming old and incapable, and that he’s become too passive and lazy.
When word of this reached the current king of Zhao, King Xiaocheng, he became enraged. Citing the losses the Zhao army has suffered, they convinced themselves of the need to remove Lian Po.
If Lian Po is replaced, everything will be much easier.
“Hmm, the son of Lord Mafu, Zhao Kuo?” Bai Qi said as he stared at the floor inside the hall.
“Yes, Lord Wu’an, if that King Xiaocheng really wants Zhao Kuo to replace Lian Po. I want you to be the general. What you do think?”