Ravaging Times

chapter 177

The earth supports the living.
(“carries”; probably meant to be literally supporting things on “its shoulder”)
And it listens to their conversations.

[?]: It has been over a month. Where is Liu Bei‘s army now?
[?]: Ji Ling retreated passed three cities, but they’re still at a stand off at Xuyi.

[?]: Have you counted their numbers at Xuzhou?
[?]: They’re still drafting in secret. But I say the usable ones… only a few thousands.

[?]: A few thousands – much like us.

chapter 177 A Strategy

[Chen Gong]: No. Technically we already have ten thousands.

[Zhang Liao]: That many?
[Lü Bu]: So the outlaws are on our side?
(“…have all submitted?”)

{Gao Shun}
[Gao Shun]: Haha, no wonder keeping order hasn’t been a problem around here.

{Chen Gong}
[CG]: Money talks. Xu Dan has served his purpose.
{note: In the remaining years of the East Han dynasty there was a surprising deluge of Yellow-Turban-turned-outlaws and warlords who were down on their luck.}

[CG]: The thugs had to stay away when Liu Bei was here because he imposed martial law.
[CG]: Now that he’s gone, they will surely come to have their revenge.

[CG]: So… they’re just waiting for a date to make their move.
(“The premise is…”)
[CG]: Then when Xuzhou can’t handle all the outlaws, they’ll need our help.

[ZL]: Yes. We’ll get in as if we’re there to help.
[LB]: So has the date been set?

[CG]: Yes. Within a few days.
[LB]: In a few days?

[?]: Ahaha, Zhang Fei you good-for-nothing!
(“rice bucket” is slang for “good-for-nothing”)
[GS]: Hm.

[soldier]: Be careful, General Cao Bao!

[Cao Bao]: Here, one more! One more!
[CB]: God you’re drunk, hahaha!

[LB]: You mean…
[CG]: Zhang Fei has already chosen a date.

The earth listens to their conversations,

and prepares to receive the oncoming nourishment.
(“…irrigation”?)

[Zhang Fei]: So… the outlaws will come once my big brother leaves.
(“The premise is…”)
[ZF]: They see it as the perfect opportunity, especially since I’m in charge of the defenses.

[ZF]: To get Xuzhou before big brother returns, they’ll have to take us by surprise.

[Liaoyuan Huo]: The outlaws move slower, so they won’t be here until the next day. Lü Bu will arrive first, and they’ll attack us on two fronts.

[ZF]: That’s right. That’s my first move.
[LYH]: Have you decided on a date?

[ZF]: The day after tomorrow.

[ZF]: Cao Bao will come to drink with me again and I’ll get real drunk. And when I hear that the outlaws are coming…

[LYH]: So… Lü Bu’s army will be conveniently stationed nearby, and they’ll come to our aid as a way of thanking lord Liu.

[ZF]: Yes. Xuzhou’s streets are narrow. It can be a shelter, or a trap for ambush.
[LYH]: But Lü Bu is smart; he’ll notice that as well.

[Chen Deng]: I better see that return on my investment.

[LYH]: That’s up to Sir Zhang.

[ZF]: Welcome.

[ZF]: Let’s all start to think like Chen Gong.

[CB]: He has invited me and my men for a drink the day after tomorrow.
{Cao Bao}
[CB]: Also, beware of that boy “Zhao”. He’s the most troublesome.

[CG]: No problem. Your job is to have fun, but don’t get too drunk.
[LB]: Chen Gong, what comes next?

[CG]: Next… we’ll be ushered to the city center while an ambush on the narrow streets of the eastern and southern quarters awaits us.

[GS]: Yes, those are good spots for an ambush. But how can you be so sure?

[CG]: I bought some houses at the eastern quarter a while back for observation, but someone paid high prices for them recently.

[CG]: The two streets are full of big houses, and the men who moved in are all big guys.
[?]: Strange, why did so many outlaws come at once?

[CG]: Spy captain, what’s the hot topic around Xuzhou lately?
[?]: Mostly jokes about Zhang Fei’s recklessness. They’ve been spreading around for over a month.

[CG]: See, that’s how they could get more outlaws to gather. It’s only when their numbers become sizable will we have a chance to go. But that’s all superficial.

[LB]: But why from the east and south gates?

[CG]: Cao Bao, who will be guarding those gates the day after tomorrow?

[CB]: They both work for me. The schedule has been set a month ago.

[?]: Haha, with over a month of preparation, we better be careful.

The earth looks up at the sky,
and is still guessing.

[ZF]: The guards at the east and south gates will be Cao Bao’s subordinates.

[ZF]: The reinforcement led by Lü Bu will go through there just in case they have to retreat.

[?]: The new houses that we bought were owned by an outsider. So it seems that they already know where our ambush will be.
[?]: Next… they must reach the city center if they want to take the city. How will they come in knowing am ambush is waiting?

[ZF]: I think… Cao Bao’s men will start a fire at the southern quarter to distract our hidden troop.
[LYH]: Once the ambush is scattered they’ll march in unopposed, and we’ll be pinched between them and the outlaws who will arrive in the morning.

[ZF]: Do you mind breaking your bank, Chen Deng?
[CD]: No. Just give me Xu Dan when this is over.

[?]: Okay. Increase the mobility of the ambushing troop. Let the fire be the signal to surround Lü Bu.
[?]: But can we handle the outlaws when morning comes?

[LYH]: There’s only one way to deal with outlaws. You, brother Chen, know all about it.

[CD]: Don’t forget, I want Xu Dan.

The earth heard everything.

[CG]: If the outlaws outside the city suddenly move to the east and south gates we’ll be surrounded – as good as dead.

[LB]: Then that means those outlaws… may seem like they were lured here, but were actually invited.
[ZL]: Goodness, so they even cut off our northern retreat route back to Xiaopei. What’s next?

[CG]: Haha, nothing escapes my calculation.

[ZF]: The fifteenth move.

The calculation continues until every twist and turn has been accounted for.
In a battle of wits it often takes a complex method to do something simple.

This is how a war is fought in this day and age.

There are many answers to a question.

There are many ways to fight a battle.

There are many outcomes to a strategy.

One chance, winner takes all.
(“winner becomes the king and loser becomes the outlaw”; 胜王败寇 see #277)

But the end is the same.

The earth is still preparing to be moistened by fresh blood.

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