WebNovel The Grandmaster Strategist Volume 5, Chapter 2: Wudis Crime

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The Grandmaster Strategist is a web novel completed by Follow The Crowd, 随波逐流. This lightnovel is presently Ongoing.

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Volume 5, Chapter 2: Wudi’s Crime

Duan Wudi’s family had, for generations since his grandfather, enlisted and served in the army. When Wudi was young, it was clear that he had a knack for tactics. At the age of fifteen, he enlisted in the army, joining the royal guards at the age of twenty. At the time, the powerful He family existed in Jinyang, greatly valued by the First Ruler, and domineering in their interactions with others. Wudi accidentally offended the He family and was demoted to serve with the Daizhou garrison. The He family did not let the matter drop, dispatching a.s.sa.s.sins to kill him. Wudi was fortunate to escape and arrive in Daizhou, and was highly valued by Lin Yuanting. Under Lin Yuanting’s recommendation, Wudi joined the Qinzhou army, later becoming a famous general under Long Tingfei, gaining the moniker, Boulder General. He was especially skilled at defense. Every time Long Tingfei launched a campaign, Duan Wudi would stay behind to defend.—Northern Han Dynastic Records, Biography of Duan Wudi

Qiu Yufei looked apathetic as he stood there with his hands behind his back, causing a look of admiration to flash across Ling Duan’s eyes. Although Duan Wudi was still in chains, he was allowed to get out of the prisoner’s cart. The three of them stood under a dried-up tree by the roadside. s.h.i.+ Jun and his subordinates had been shooed to a distance of more than a hundred paces and not allowed to get closer.

Duan Wudi had a calm expression, almost as if he did not pay any attention to the shackles on his person. However, Qiu Yufei could sense the suffering and humiliation within his eyes that he did not want to reveal to others. Sighing softly, Qiu Yufei said, “General Duan has always been respected. General Long considered General to be one of his chief deputies. Why would he give the order to have General arrested? There is no harm for the general to speak bluntly with me. I will think of a way to give General justice.”

Ling Duan promptly added, “That’s right. General Duan, when General Tan was alive, he respected you greatly. If the general were still alive, he would definitely not sit idly by and watch you be wronged and suffer false accusations. Although this lowly one does not have much strength, I will absolutely not watch you get framed.”

Duan Wudi sighed softly and replied, “I have only treated General Tan fairly. Who would have thought that he would think so highly of me? I am undeserving of his respect.”

“When General Tan was seriously injured by an a.s.sa.s.sin,” started Ling Duan resolutely, “His troops were pushed aside and excluded. Only you, General, did not kick a man who was down, and even went so far as to repeatedly send supplies. General Tan once said that General Duan is someone who you can trust with your life. Even if Ling Duan stakes my life, I am unwilling to see General so harmed.”

“General Tan was going too far with his praise,” maintained Duan Wudi, smiling wryly. “To speak fairly, this time, I am deserving of being punished. I have colluded with a merchant to smuggle goods, obtaining ma.s.sive bribes from the profits. Several days ago, my crimes were discovered by Flying Tiger General s.h.i.+ Ying. Afterwards, he asked for a orders to take me into custody and bring me to the army to be punished.”

The expression on Qiu Yufei’s face changed greatly. He had never expected that the always upright, respectful, innocent, and honest Duan Wudi would commit such a crime out of greed. This kind of crime, at its lightest, could be said to be a violation of military regulations, taking bribes and breaking the law. But at its most serious, it could be considered treason. The seriousness could only be determined by the goods that Duan Wudi had been smuggling. This was dependent on whether he had smuggled goods from Great Yong or the Eastern Sea. The Northern Han King had inst.i.tuted strict control over the borders, allowing only a small number of merchants to trade with the Eastern Sea. As for trade with Great Yong, it was treated as akin to treason.

Qiu Yufei felt anger deep inside. Just as he was about to lash out at Duan Wudi, he saw the serene expression on Duan Wudi’s face, lacking any remorse. Qiu Yufei could not help being curious, as he asked, “Has General Duan been framed?”

Duan Wudi calmly answered, “I was not framed. Honestly speaking, beginning from three years back, I have performed fourteen smuggling operations, earning six hundred thousand taels of silver. This time, the goods tracked down and seized by General s.h.i.+ are worth three hundred thousand taels, allowing me to obtain a hundred thousand.”

The anger in Qiu Yufei raged furiously. However, strangely, when he saw Duan Wudi’s clear, mirror-like eyes as deep as a cold, deep pool, Qiu Yufei could not bring himself to believe that this man was a corrupt and negligent general who ignored national law and military regulations. Taking a deep breath, he said, “General Duan, there is no need to sound me out. I believe that the general must have had no alternative.”

A brilliant look flashed in Duan Wudi’s eyes, as he replied with a smile, “Fourth young master, as a disciple of the State Mentor, although the State Mentor treats his disciples sternly, causing the young master to suffer hards.h.i.+ps, how could the young master know of the difficulties facing simple soldiers? Having battled Great Yong for years, my army has suffered countless casualties. Although we have won more than we have lost these years, Great Yong is becoming more prosperous by the day, while our country’s situation has become increasingly challenging. Young master probably doesn’t know that, since six years ago, our army’s provisions and pay have not been enough. It was already not easy for us to obtain half of what we required. After the soldiers are crippled from serious injuries, it is extremely difficult for them to receive appropriate compensation. As a result, a statement began to circulate within the army: ‘it is better to die on the battlefield than to become a cripple.’”

Qiu Yufei was greatly shocked. Although he had come from humble origins, he had been raised from a young age by the Devil Sect Sovereign. Compared to his senior apprentice brothers, it could be said that he did not experience that much suffering. Then, his senior apprentice brothers either took charge of the sect matters or joined the army, leaving him alone to play the zither and train martial arts. He had never become involved in matters of state. How could he have known that Northern Han’s situation would be so dire? Qiu Yufei’s gaze fell upon Ling Duan and saw the sorrow on his face. That was a look of sympathy.

Seeing Qiu Yufei’s questioning gaze, Ling Duan replied in a low voice, “Fourth Lord, General Duan speaks the truth. Originally, when my two elder brothers enlisted to serve the country, they prohibited me from joining them. Both of them wanted me to settle down and ensure the continuance of the Ling family. However, after my two elder brothers died in battle, the compensation received was miniscule. Because my family did not have enough food, I joined the army because of the martial arts that I had learned. Although I enlisted in order to avenge my elder brothers, it was also because I didn’t have any other ways of making a living. If not for General Tan’s pity, how could I have become one of his personal guards at such a young age? Afterwards, with the General’s help, I became a member of the Ghost Cavalry. Fourth Lord, having fought for so many years, there is no family that does not suffer from the same situation. As a result, we all hoped that we would be able to conquer Zezhou. With the fertile lands of Zezhou, we can support our families through tuntian. Our crippled comrades will be able to find someplace to spend the rest of their lives and not have to commit suicide out of worry about being a burden on their families. Qinzhou is just too infertile.”

Duan Wudi turned his head away. However, Qiu Yufei could see that before he did so tears were falling down. Qiu Yufei was speechless. He had never considered that the soldiers fighting undaunted by personal danger1 would suffer such hards.h.i.+ps. Compared to them, what was the hards.h.i.+p of his loneliness? Calming his mood, he asked, “Is General Duan’s conduct for the sake of your troops?”

Duan Wudi forced a smile on his face and answered, “In order to make up for the pay shortfall, the Grand General gave the order to allow the soldiers to plunder Zezhou. However, as my troops were frequently serving behind the front line as defense, it was impossible for us to benefit in such a manner. Moreover, the Prince of Qi has adopted a scorched earth policy these last two years, making it extremely difficult for our army to reap any benefits. Without any choice, I colluded with big merchants to smuggle goods, on the one hand to have priority in obtaining low-cost military supplies, and on the other, to obtain the money to make up for the pay shortfall. Although this matter is in violation of national law and military regulations, I did not have any choice but to ignore both.”

Ling Duan suddenly trembled. Having served at Tan Ji’s side, he knew of the shortage of pay during the time that Tan Ji had spent recovering from his injuries. This was one of the main reasons why there was such intense dislike between Tan Ji’s and s.h.i.+ Ying’s subordinates. Ling Duan suddenly remembered that Tan Ji would always be able to receive money from dubious sources to pay his troops or compensate the disabled. Could it be that Tan Ji had also partic.i.p.ated in Duan Wudi’s smuggling operation? His suspicious gaze fell upon Duan Wudi.

Although Duan Wudi saw it, he pretended that he did not notice. In reality, with regards to the smuggling, although Duan Wudi had tried his best to hide it, there were those who had learned of its existence. One of them was Tan Ji. Tan Ji had even gone so far as to dispatch trusted subordinates to help, because the pay received by Tan Ji’s troops was less than thirty percent. As for everyone else, Long Tingfei probably did not know about it, while others played deaf-mute. It was only a straightforward character like s.h.i.+ Ying who was unaware. However, since he had fallen into such a predicament, Duan Wudi had no intentions of implicating anyone else. As a result, he ignored Ling Duan’s suspicions.

Qiu Yufei had reached a similar conclusion as Ling Duan. His senior apprentice brother, Xiao Tong, was in charge of monitoring the army. If Xiao Tong did not know about this matter, wouldn’t that make him exceedingly incompetent? If Xiao Tong knew about this matter, that also meant that Long Tingfei also knew about it. It was just that, with everything suddenly exposed by s.h.i.+ Ying, even Long Tingfei had no choice but to take Duan Wudi into custody. These matters could only be understood tacitly and not conveyed through words. If it was made known that Long Tingfei was involved in smuggling, the honest and upright officials in the court would inevitably impeach and reprimand him. However, if Long Tingfei wished to stay out of it, Duan Wudi would have to serve as the scapegoat. Understanding this point, Qiu Yufei gazed at Duan Wudi, his eyes filled with helplessness, as he said, “General Duan, it will likely be difficult to plead for leniency regarding this matter. In reality, General had no alternative but to do such a thing. If you report your difficulties to the Grand General, he will definitely make allowances, allowing General to atone for your crimes.”

Duan Wudi clearly understood the meaning behind Qiu Yufei’s words. Long Tingfei would definitely feel guilty and would naturally not compound the crimes that Duan Wudi would be charged with. However, with this, Long Tingfei’s clean reputation would be sullied, causing the morale of the Northern Han army to waver. Shaking his head, Duan Wudi voice, “Fourth young master, this general will only speak like this before you. When reaching headquarters, this general will only admit to greed and bribery. When the time comes, in order to show the seriousness of military regulations, the Grand General can only behead or imprison Wudi. Wudi does not fear death. These last few years, Generals Su and Tan have both died for the country in succession. Wudi is not so arrogant as to believe that the load on Grand General will be too excessive without my defense of Qinzhou. If the young master reports this matter to the State Mentor, asking the Grand General to spare Wudi’s life, even though I will still be censured, it will ensure that the Grand General’s reputation remains fair and wise, and not affect the army’s morale. Even if this general is demoted to the rank of a common soldier, Wudi will not utter a single word of complaint.”

His heart aching, Qiu Yufei replied, “General Duan’s loyalty and righteousness fills Yufei with admiration. General, please do not worry. I will definitely not allow the Grand General to be embarra.s.sed and will not permit General to accept such accusations. I will go immediately to see Tingfei to first preserve your life before asking my master to personally plead for leniency. In fact, I believe that the Grand General is already thinking of a way to pardon you. He is not completely cold and ruthless.”

Duan Wudi sighed. “The Grand General has always attached much importance to military regulations. This general does not wish that his reputation is sullied in such a way. Even if I were to die from punishment, I would have no complaints.”

Qiu Yufei felt gloomy. However, after thinking it over, he asked, “What is going on with s.h.i.+ Ying? The army should have a tacit, mutual understanding about this matter. Why would he publicly make things difficult for you and make this matter public? If the Grand General were to learn of this, he would definitely be unhappy at his handling of the situation.”

Duan Wudi helplessly smiled sardonically as he answered, “This general is not clear about the situation. Although s.h.i.+ Ying and I don’t have any deep friends.h.i.+p, we have been comrades-in-arms for many years and do not have any old grievances. A few days ago, he even invited this general to the Flying Swallow Tower to drink together. However, from that point on, General s.h.i.+ suddenly began to make sarcastic comments about this general. With him abruptly raising difficult questions at that time, he personally led his trusted troops to intercept the merchant caravan, arresting this general’s trusted troops. Afterwards, he directly filed a complaint to the Grand General. The Grand General then issued the order, summoning me to be called to account within the central army. This general only led a few trusted subordinates towards the main encampment. Who would have expected that s.h.i.+ Jun would suddenly appear, stating that this general intended to run away, placing me in chains and keeping me in the prisoner’s cart? This general does not understand the rationale behind General s.h.i.+’s actions. Although General s.h.i.+ is straightforward, he is not someone who doesn’t understand reason.”

Qiu Yufei could hear that Duan Wudi’s tone when he mentioned the Flying Swallow Tower was a bit strange. Committing it to his memory, Qiu Yufei thought, I’ll go ask senior apprentice brother Xiao. He definitely must know the key points. Having decided, he said, “Since things have progressed to this state, General Duan should briefly slow your journey. I will take Ling Duan and head on ahead, and see if I can deal with the situation.”

“Regardless of success,” stated Duan Wudi cheerfully, “This general must thank the fourth young master for your help.”

Turning and mounting his horse, Qiu Yufei directly headed for the town of Qinzhou. His complexion was as cold as ice, his mind full of misgivings. Why did internal strife suddenly erupt between s.h.i.+ Ying and Duan Wudi? He could faintly sense that there was a plot afoot, maybe the result of actions taken by spies from Great Yong. Qiu Yufei fell deep into his thoughts, carefully recalling everything he had seen and heard in Zezhou. At the time, he was completely focused on a.s.sa.s.sinating Jiang Zhe. Although he had seen and heard some things, because of the ambiguous nature of Jiang Zhe’s and company’s words, and his own unfamiliarity with the military situation in Qinzhou, he hadn’t paid particular attention. Thinking back on it now, there was definitely something abnormal going on. That day, before he attempted to a.s.sa.s.sinate Jiang Zhe, Prince Li Xian of Qi had sent Jiang Zhe a letter, claiming that there was an urgent military situation. However, with the two countries in direct confrontation and with the entire lands covered with snow and ice, it was impossible for war to be waged. What kind of emergency could it be?

Suddenly, Qiu Yufei had a thought. According to the timing, the moment he attempted to a.s.sa.s.sinate Jiang Zhe was when s.h.i.+ Ying’s att.i.tude had suddenly changed enormously. Could it be that this matter had been discovered by the Yong army’s scouts or even possibly a direct result of the Yong army’s plot to sow dissension?

When this thought appeared, it spread like wildfire, unable to be restrained. Qiu Yufei recalled what Ling Duan had told him regarding Li Hu being taken away. Reportedly, all those who accompanied s.h.i.+ Ying to intercept and kill the Prince of Qi and Jiang Zhe had been killed. Ling Duan had even heard the words, “silence witnesses.” What testimonies were they trying to silence? Could it be that s.h.i.+ Ying had rebellious thoughts? Thinking of this, Qiu Yufei could no longer conceal the terror and shock in his mind. He whipped his horse to gallop faster, wanting to report this matter to Long Tingfei as soon as possible. Although he did not entirely understand what had happened, as it related to two ranking generals, it must be cautiously handled.


“The biting north wind scatters the falling midnight snow,My soul still lingers on the beautiful scene of the moonlight s.h.i.+ning on the peach blossoms.Don’t wake me while I am enjoying this sweet dream,Let me stay awhile in this beautiful scene.Out of nowhere, military bugles blare in my ears,Waking, my tears formed a thin layer of red ice on the pillow.A frontier horse neighs loudly,A few remaining stars in the sky gently shed their light on the military banners.2

Within the most famous brothel in Qinzhou, the Flying Swallow Tower, there was a mult.i.tude of clients inside its main hall. There were rich merchants and aristocrats. There were also scholars and warriors. However, the majority of them were army officers in casual dress. A young woman with her hair towering up into the air was playing the pipa, singing in a loud voice. Although she was only a feeble-looking woman, her voice was loud and ringing, as clear as the ice, making everyone who heard her become enraptured.

Qinzhou was where Grand General Long Tingfei based his troops. There were naturally numerous officers. As Qinzhou’s number one brothel, the only ones with the qualifications to enter the Flying Swallow Tower were either ranking generals or n.o.blemen.

The songstress playing the pipa and singing at this moment was named Qing Dai.3 She had only arrived in Qinzhou a few months ago and had based herself out of the Flying Swallow Tower. This young woman was already twenty-four years old and was exceedingly beautiful; her long eyebrows reached her temples. Even when she was singing, her expression was as placid as ice. Whenever she finished, she never solicited extra rewards and never conversed with anyone. At most, she would only speak a few words, always maintaining a proud, aloof, n.o.ble, and unsullied bearing, causing no one to dare to profane or violate her lightly. She was a famous songstress of Northern Han. Her singing voice was clear and cold. She was especially adroit at singing famous songs while playing the pipa, causing her to be renowned throughout the world. Wherever she went, she would gather a host of admirers. What made this woman stand out was that she was a master of the sword and also carried a sword by her side alongside her pipa, coming and going as she pleased. Alone, only selling her arts and never her body. If any debauched individuals or influential bigwigs tried to be disrespectful, this woman would remain lofty and unyielding, going so far as to once wound several such individuals with her sword. She was only let off because the authorities took pity upon her for her lofty and unsullied character, and the admiring officials urged reconciliation. Qing Dai’s origins were unclear. There were those who said that she was from an aristocratic family. After her family had fallen, she would rather make a living off of her singing than become another’s servant or concubine. As a result, she was deeply respected.

When the song ended, the main hall erupted into thunderous applause. After paying her respects to her audience, Qing Dai departed with her pipa. She was always like this. Whenever she finished playing a piece, she would leave the magnificent main hall. After leaving the hall, she put the pipa in its sack. A maid a.s.signed by the Flying Swallow Tower to Qing Dai took the pipa and said in a low voice, “Elder sister Dai, General s.h.i.+ is waiting for you in the reception hall. Are you going to go over?”

Qing Dai nodded her head, distantly responding, “After I have removed my makeup, I will go over.” The maid promptly gave orders to another maid before waiting upon Qing Dai as they went towards her dwelling. Qing Dai’s voice was superb and her reputation resounding. As a result, the Flying Swallow Tower had specially prepared a small building to serve as her residence. Because Qing Dai had an aloof and unsociable character, this building’s location was a bit remote so as to prevent her from being disturbed by others.

After heading upstairs, she began to remove her makeup in front of the bronze mirror. A maid had prepared hot water for her, allowing her to take a bath. After she dried herself, she changed into a brocade fur coat the color of azure, removing and putting on a dangling ornament from her jewelry box. Aside from this, she wore no ornamentation or makeup. Accepting the red cloak from the maid, she draped it around her shoulders before heading out. The maid immediately picked up the pipa and followed her out.

After crossing a stone bridge was a gorgeous reception hall hidden behind evergreen trees. Before the pavilion stood four men. Although they wore casual dress, from their postures and bearing, it could be seen that they were soldiers from the army. Seeing Qing Dai arrive, the four soldiers all nodded their heads in greeting. Qing Dai curtsied slightly before pus.h.i.+ng the door open and walking within.

This reception pavilion was probably several zhang in diameter. It was extremely s.p.a.cious and bright. Walking within, a bed-stove covered with red felt could immediately be spotted. On the bed-stove was a mahogany table, set full with food and drink. On the ground was a large brazier with a chimney leading to the pavilion’s exterior. On the brazier, a copper pot full of wine was being warmed. In addition, the brazier was connected to the bed-stove, simultaneously heating the wine and bed-stove. The interior of the pavilion was as warm as if it were spring.

s.h.i.+ Ying sat atop the bed-stove, drinking. Of the two maids inside, one was heating the wine while the other was serving the food. On the chair next to the bed-stove was a heavy cloak and a saber. Probably because of the warmth of the pavilion, s.h.i.+ Ying had already taken off his outer robes, wearing only the middle layer of his clothes. His face was flushed from the alcohol.

When Qing Dai entered, she could smell the fragrant and strong aroma of the wine. She could not help frowning, as she said, “General s.h.i.+, your injuries have not yet healed. It is best that you do not drink.” So speaking, she walked over and took the wine cup from s.h.i.+ Ying before shooting a cold glare at the two maids. The two maids tactfully withdrew. Smelling the strong scent of alcohol in the room, Qing Dai walked to the window and pushed it open. The cold wind blew in, immediately dispersing quite a bit of the scent of alcohol.

s.h.i.+ Ying did not make a single sound, allowing Qing Dai to take away the wine cup. He stared at Qing Dai, his eyes filled with flaming radiance, remembering their first meeting. At the time, Long Tingfei had just mobilized the army to invade Zezhou, leaving Duan Wudi in charge of the defenses. Because of his injuries, s.h.i.+ Ying did not follow Long Tingfei and had come to Flying Swallow Tower to listen to music because he was bored senseless. He could still remember when he had first met Qing Dai, that beautiful woman sitting on the stage singing with rapt attention, her beauty carrying a stubborn expression. Although she was in a beautiful and bustling location, she seemed as disaffected and indifferent as someone who had abandoned the mortal world. Although he was more than thirty years old, s.h.i.+ Ying, who had never before had any thoughts about family, fell for that pair of clear and serene eyes. He had recklessly proposed marriage to Qing Dai, willing to take her as his wife and promising to never take any concubines. However, Qing Dai only uncaringly declined. After questioning closely several times, Qing Dai finally explained her reason for declining. After hearing the reason, s.h.i.+ Ying’s rationale was immediately wiped away by raging fury.

Qing Dai only explained that several years ago she had been kidnapped by a bandit and had lost her chast.i.ty. As for that bandit’s ident.i.ty, it was far from normal. Only by risking her life did Qing Dai to escape. However, although she knew of her kidnapper’s ident.i.ty, because she would not be believed, Qing Dai had never revealed this matter to anyone. s.h.i.+ Ying questioned that man’s ident.i.ty and was greeted with grim laughs and silence form Qing Dai. Helpless, s.h.i.+ Ying had no alternative but to frequently visit in the hopes of gaining Qing Dai’s affection.

Through this persistent effort, s.h.i.+ Ying was able to move the Heavens, making Qing Dai soften her stance, gradually having small parties with s.h.i.+ Ying. Although she remained proud and aloof, she did not keep s.h.i.+ Ying at a distance. A few days ago, when s.h.i.+ Ying had brought Duan Wudi to drink at the Flying Swallow Tower, who could have thought that Duan Wudi’s expression would change enormously after seeing Qing Dai and become apprehensive? As for Qing Dai, when she saw Duan Wudi, she erupted in a never-before-seen rage and stormed off in a huff. Suspicious, s.h.i.+ Ying had made inquiries overtly and covertly before finally learning from Qing Dai’s mouth that Duan Wudi was the one who had raped her that day.

Just as s.h.i.+ Ying exploded in anger and sought to interrogate Duan Wudi, Qing Dai held onto him firmly, not letting him go. Crying bitterly, she said, “Your servant is no more than a lowly songstress. Ignoring the fact that there are no witnesses, even if there were, would it be possible to do anything to him? It is already enough that no one is d.a.m.ning me for being a seductress. Even if the Grand General were to get involved, he would, at most, have him marry me. Although your servant has lost my chast.i.ty to him, I do not want to attend to such a vile character.”

After hearing this, s.h.i.+ Ying felt his heart fall into mourning. After thinking for some time, he finally realized that, if he thought of a way to kill Duan Wudi, Qing Dai would definitely be grateful. Over these days, s.h.i.+ Ying could tell that Qing Dai had feelings for him. When the time came, as long as he sincerely asked her hand in marriage, Qing Dai would definitely be willing to marry him. Of course, before all of this, s.h.i.+ Ying had sounded Duan Wudi out. However, whenever he brought up Qing Dai, Duan Wudi would change the subject. Infuriated, s.h.i.+ Ying resolved to handle Duan Wudi. Coincidentally, he quickly found the opportunity.

Looking at Qing Dai, s.h.i.+ Ying wanted to say something, but hesitated. This matter had yet to be finalized. He resolved to bring this subject up with Qing Dai after Duan Wudi had been executed. Just as the two spoke a few words, one of s.h.i.+ Ying’s guards came in to report, “General, the Grand General has summoned you.”

This guard did not explain things, only stealthily shooting a meaningful glance at s.h.i.+ Ying. s.h.i.+ Ying was excited, understanding immediately that Duan Wudi had been captured. Feeling delighted, he said, “Qing Dai, something has come up in the army. I need to go back.”

Smiling faintly, Qing Dai replied, “That’s fine. However, since you’ve drunk so much wine, it is inappropriate for you to see the Grand General like this. I have already had one of the maids prepare a bowl of soup to sober you up. Drink a bowl before leaving and be sure to dissipate the smell of alcohol on your body.”

Hearing this, s.h.i.+ Ying’s heart warmed, and he repeatedly voiced his agreement. As a result, when he departed, he did so in high spirits, not seeing the contempt that flashed in Qing Dai’s eyes. With the net closing, it was impossible for the captured fierce tiger to escape.

Once s.h.i.+ Ying had departed, Qing Dai summoned her maid and took her pipa, beginning to play. It was the sixth stanza of the famous piece, “Ambush from Ten Sides.”4 Although this piece was widespread, there were few individuals capable of playing it to perfection. After Qing Dai had played for some time, her surroundings grew silent, with only the reverberating sounds of the music hovering about. Qing Dai only stopped after playing the sixth stanza several times. Sighing softly, she rose to her feet and departed from the pavilion.

Coincidentally, while she was playing, Qiu Yufei and Ling Duan had galloped into the town, hearing her performance. Qiu Yufei could not help reining in his horse to listen. He was exceptionally talented musically. After listening for some time, an abundant, lively light appeared in his eyes as he softly said, “What an excellent ‘Ambush.’ How many people in the world can perform like so? However, why is it so filled with killing intent, almost as if expressing an eternal parting?”

According to Qiu Yufei’s original intentions, he would have immediately gone to search out that pipa master. However, with Duan Wudi’s situation still unresolved, he hesitated momentarily before urging his horse into a gallop towards the Grand General’s residence.


奋不顾身, fenbugushen – idiom, lit. to dash on bravely with no thought of personal safety; fig. undaunted by dangers, regardless of perilsThis poem is based off the format of the ci ent.i.tled “The Rough Bodhisattva” (菩萨蛮) and was composed by the Qing Dynasty poet, Nalan Xingde (纳兰性德).青黛, qingDai – lit. indigo dyeAmbush from Ten Sides (十面埋伏) is one of the most famous pieces for pipa that is often used in historical and wuxia dramas; the piece alludes to the circ.u.mstances in which Xiang Yu was defeated by Liu Bang during the Chu-Han Contention.


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