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The Deer and the Cauldron Chapter 47

Chapter 47
The banner pointing to the clouds went out in the autumn to take tactical border position, the sound of drum transmitted by the wind at the end of the night overlooked the Pass.One day the ship arrived at Tanggu. Wei Xiaobao, Songgotu and their men disembarked and continued their journey by land, passing through Tianjin and continuing to Beijing. When he entered the gate of the Capital, Wei Xiaobao felt as if it was a thing of the previous generation; his heart was bursting with joy, he felt his body was as light as the immortals. Immediately he went to the Palace to appear before the Emperor.

Kangxi summoned him for an audience at the Upper Study Room. Wei Xiaobao walked to Kangxi’s presence, where he kneeled down and kowtowed. Before straightening up his body, his heart was suddenly overwhelmed with mixed feelings of grief and joy; he could not help bursting into tears while still crouching down.

Seeing Wei Xiaobao’s arrival, the greater part of Kangxi’s heart was happy, but there was a small part of his heart that was enraged; he mused, “This kid is undisciplined and out of control, he has the cheek to repeatedly defy the imperial decree. This time although I am going to send him on a mission, I must discipline him well, lest he will rely on my favor and become arrogant, then I can’t control him any longer.” Who would have thought that as soon as Wei Xiaobao saw him he unexpectedly cried loudly? Kangxi’s heart melted. He laughed and said, “Damn it, as soon as you, this kid, saw Laozi, why are you crying?”

Still sobbing, Wei Xiaobao replied, “Your servant thought that for the rest of my life I won’t be able to see Your Majesty. Today we finally meet, my joy is unbearable.”

Kangxi laughed and said, “Get up, get up! Let me look at you.”

Wei Xiaobao crawled up, his face was covered in tears and snot, but the corners of his mouth revealed a smile.

Kangxi laughed and said, “Damn it, you, this kid, has grown.” With childlike innocence he suddenly stood up and walked down his throne. “Let me see,” he said, “Are you taller, or am I taller?” He walked pass him and stood back to back with him. Wei Xiaobao could see right away that in term of height the two of them were comparable to each other; but the Emperor wanted to compare height, how could he be taller than the Emperor? He slightly bent his knees at once.

Kangxi held his hand above their heads to measure, he was about one cun taller. He laughed and said, “We are about the same height.” Turning around and walked a few steps away, he asked with a smile, “Xiao Guizi, how many children do you have?”

“Your servant is no good at anything,” Wei Xiaobao replied, “I only have two sons and a daughter.”

Kangxi laughed heartily and said, “I am better in this matter. I already have four sons and three daughters.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Your Majesty has great skill and strategy, naturally … naturally you are also extraordinary in this matter.”

Kangxi laughed and said, “We have not seen each other for several years, your literary knowledge did not make the least bit of progress. What does having sons and daughters have anything to do with great skill and strategy?”

Wei Xiaobao replied, “In the past King Wen of Zhou had one hundred sons; every good emperor certainly has a lot of sons.”

Kangxi laughed, “How do you know?” he asked.

Wei Xiaobao said, “Your Majesty sent your servant to fish; the two of us are like King Wen of Zhou and Jiang Taigong. King Wen of Zhou’s affairs, naturally your servant has to ask clearly, so that when I see Your Majesty, I can report back to my superior.”

These past several years Kangxi was busy fighting the war against Wu Sangui; day and night he worked hard, making plans, dealing with national affairs; he missed having this young minister, Wei Xiaobao, by his side, with whom he used to chat and joke to relieve boredom, so much so that sometimes he was extremely bored. This moment as the ruler and his minister reunited, he was very happy. After some more chitchat, he asked Wei Xiaobao about his life on Tong Chi Island, he also wanted to know Taiwan’s local conditions and the people there.

“Taiwan’s soil is fertile,” Wei Xiaobao replied, “The climate is warm, the output is abundant; the people there pass their days in happiness. When they found out that Your Majesty allows them to continue living in Taiwan, everybody was grateful for the vast and mighty imperial kindness; they all said that Your Majesty is a hundred per cent raw bird fish soup [see Chapter 14].”

Kangxi nodded and said, “Governance should not be a nuisance. The people have lived in peace and worked happily in Taiwan, forcing them to move inland is greatly disruptive. The high-ranking ministers of the imperial court do not understand Taiwan’s situation, they submitted this preposterous proposal and nearly spoiled the big affair. You and Shi Lang submitted the advice, your merit is not small.”

‘Poof’, Wei Xiaobao sank on his knees; he kowtowed and said, “Your servant repeatedly disobeyed the imperial decree, I deserve to be beheaded seventeen, eighteen times; no matter what merit, Your Majesty need not care about it. I am just asking Your Majesty’s grace, please spare your servant’s life, allow me to serve by your side.”

Kangxi smiled and said, “You knew you deserve to be beheaded seventeen, eighteen times; too bad you don’t have eighteen heads. Otherwise, I would definitely chop seventeen of those heads.”

“Yes, yes,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Your servant does not want too many heads either. Only one head with a mouth to speak and eat, and I will be perfectly contented.”

Kangxi said, “Whether your head will remain or not, I must see first whether you are loyal or not, whether you still dare to disobey the imperial decree.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “In term of loyalty, your servant is loyal and devoted, I have a red-bellied devotion, I will display utter loyalty to dedicate myself to the service of my country.”

Kangxi laughed and said, “You remember quite a bit of those idioms with the ‘loyalty’ character in them; are there some more?” [Translator’s note: as you may already guessed, each of the idioms (expression made up of four characters) Wei Xiaobao mentioned above has a ‘loyal’ character in it.]

Wei Xiaobao said, “In my heart I only have one ‘loyal’ character, naturally I remember some. There’s … there’s ‘loyal to the lord love one’s country’, and then ‘loyal minister are not afraid of death, those who are afraid of death are not loyal minister’ [naturally this last one is not strictly an idiom of four characters]. And then there’s ‘loyal, considerate, open and guileless’ …”

“Get up!” Kangxi said, “If you are really ‘loyal, considerate, open and guileless’, there is nobody in the world who is wicked, mischievous, and crafty.”

Wei Xiaobao stood up and said, “Reporting to Your Majesty: I am loyal and devoted to you, one person, only. Regarding other people, I am not that loyal, sometimes I still swindle him a bit. Your servant’s character is a bit slippery, this fact Your Majesty also knows very well. However, toward Your Majesty I pay particular attention to ‘loyalty’ [zhong xin], toward my friends I pay particular attention to ‘spirit of loyalty and self-sacrifice/code of brotherhood’ [yi qi]. When loyalty and righteousness cannot satisfy both sides, your servant has no choice but to shrink my head like a turtle and went fishing on Tong Chi Island.”

“No need to worry,” Kangxi said, “We are going to talk about this day onward; I am not going to order you to attack Tian Di Hui.”

With hands behind his back Kangxi paced back and forth several times; he said slowly, “Toward your friends you uphold yi qi, that is a virtue; I can’t blame you for that. The sage [usually refers to Confucius] paid particular attention to loyalty and forgiveness; this ‘loyal’ character does not necessarily refer only to the ruler, toward everybody we must spare no effort, and that is the real meaning of ‘loyalty’. Loyal and righteousness [zhong yi], two characters, originally one cannot exist without the other. You would rather die than turning your back on your friends, you are unwilling to sell your friends for the sake of riches and honor, glory and splendor, it is also considered very rare, you really have the air of the ancient people. Since you are unwilling to turn your back on your friends, naturally you will not turn your back on me. Xiao Guizi, I pardon your guilt, not entirely because of your past meritorious service, not entirely because you and I are kindred spirits since we were young, but it is also because you attach importance to yi qi, which is really not a bad thing.”

Wei Xiaobao shed tears of gratitude; choking with emotion he said, “Your servant … your servant does not understand anything. I only feel that other people sincerely treat me well, I really … really cannot … cannot do them wrong.”

Kangxi nodded his head and said, “Your Luocha Country’s Queen Regent, her treatment to you was not bad either, but now I am sending you to attack her; what do you think?”

“Pft,” Wei Xiaobao broke out in laughter. “She was locked up by others, her life almost could not be guaranteed. Your servant taught her to instigate the gunmen to start a rebellion and finally seize the throne; it can be considered I already repaid her kindness. She sent her troops, presumably to seize Your Majesty’s beautiful rivers and mountains, we simply cannot let her do that. This woman is a fickle; today she fools around with this man, tomorrow she will fool around with that man, she really must not do that. It’s a pity that Luocha Country is really too far, otherwise your servant will bring some troops to capture this Queen and have Your Majesty look at her. It will be quite interesting.”

“Luocha Country is really too far,” Kangxi repeated, “These five characters are very important. Based on these five characters alone, once we go out to war, we must grasp the victory. Although Luocha Country’s firearms are sharp, their cavalry brave, but they are far, we are near. They came tens of thousands li to the east; their soldiers, horses, firearms, ammunitions, grain and straw, their clothes, everything is not easy to get. Presently I have already sent the Minister of Revenue Yu Sang’a to go ahead to Guta, Liaoning, to build the two cities Aigun and Kumarsk, to amass grain and straw and ammunition, also to set up ten relay stations for post horses, so that military logistic and army provisions can flow unimpeded, continuous from the source. The other day I also issued an imperical decree to Mongolia, forbiding them to have any trade relation with Luocha people. Moreover, I sent Heilongjiang General Sabusu to dispatch cavalry far and wide; if they see Luocha people’s rations and fodder and their vehicles, to set those damn things on fire, if they see Luocha troops’ horses, to immediately slaughter those damn horses.”

Wei Xiaobao was greatly delighted; he said, “Your Majesty so deployed, whatever is near, whatever is thousand li distant, this war has already been won seventy, eighty percent.”

“That’s not necessarily true,” Kangxi replied, “Luocha is a big country. According to Nan Huairen, the extent of their country is bigger than our China, we really must not underestimate the enemy. If we lose the war, Liaodong will fall, the foundation of our country will be shaken. If they are defeated, it won’t affect their present situation; all they have to do is retreat to the west. Hence in this war we must win and cannot lose. If you are defeated, I will have to personally lead the troops out of the Pass. The first order of business is to chop your head.” While speaking the last sentence, his voice was stern.

“Your Majesty,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Please set your heart at ease. If your servant cannot save my neck, it is because Luocha troops chop it down, definitely I won’t let Your Majesty come and do it.”

“It’s good that you understand it,” Kangxi said, “Weapons are ominous, war is dangerous, nobody can guarantee victory. I only tell you that you absolutely cannot be careless; war is not a matter of smooth talk and oily mouth.”

Wei Xiaobao respectfully replied, “Yes.”

Kangxi continued, “If the only thing I need is sending the troops to fight, I did not need to send you. But this time we start a war with Luocha Country, it is not to wipe them out at all, I only want them to sound out the difficulties and retreat to avoid defeat, and won’t dare to come and invade our territory, that’s all. Thus we must show them kindness and power at the same time, to make them deeply grateful, to have both countries live in harmony forever. If you indulge in killings, the Luocha Country’s monarch might become hostile out of shame, and incite the whole country to attack. Even if we can win, it will be a military disaster, the gains will not make up for the losses. Only if we can live in harmony, not fighting or wrong the other’s troops, will it be considered very auspicious. If you can persuade the Luocha Country Queen Regent to withdraw the troops, both countries make peace, it will be your greatest merit.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “When your servant sees Luocha troop’s generals, I will enlighten them with Your Majesty’s imperial edict, and ask them to bring words back to Luocha Country Queen Regent.”

Kangxi said, “I have had quite a few western missionaries here, I asked them in details about Luocha Country history, dynasty and past events, their natural conditions and social customs, geography, military and administrative affairs …”

“Right, right,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Your Majesty knows them and knows ourselves, we will emerge victorious in every battle.”

Kangxi showed a faint smile; he said, “Those clergymen all said that Luocha people love to take unfair advantage of good people but are afraid of the evil ones. If we blindly speak good words with them, they win a cun and want a chi, they will be more and more vicious. We should explicitly show our true colors, let them know that we are not to be trifled with. Consequently, on one hand we must mobilize a large army, prepare everything well, so if we have to fight we’ll fight; on the other hand we must appear to be a righteous nation. China is a superior country, we won’t show off our power and bully people at will.”

“Your servant understands,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Sometimes we put up our red face, draw our knife and use the damn thing; sometimes we put up our white face, laughing happily stroking him several times. Just like Zhuge Liang captured Meng Huo seven times, so that he would submit completely and henceforth did not dare to revolt.”

Kangxi let out a ‘hey, hey’ laughter; he said, “That’s exactly it.”

Noticing Kangxi’s strange laughter, Wei Xiaobao had a second thought; he understood Kangxi’s mind. He laughed and said, “Just like the Lord of Ten Thousand Years captured Xiao Guizi seven times, so that your servant would be grateful and afraid at the same time, henceforth will not dare to play any trick. Xiao Guizi is just like Sun Wukong [Monkey King, Journey to the West]; in a word, he cannot jump out of the Lord of Ten Thousand Years’ Tathagata Buddha’s palm.”

Kangxi laughed and said, “As you grew several years older, you also become more and more modest. If you really want to jump out of my palm, I can’t really catch you.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Your servant is very comfortable in Your Majesty’s palm, why would I want to jump out?”

Kangxi said, “Speaking about pacifying Wu Sangui, your merit is really not small; this is one thing that you have not caught up yet. Presently I am sending you to lead the three armies of water and land, in a campaign against the Luocha. The city of Yakesa is built on Mount Luding [deer and cauldron], I confer to you the title of Third-class Duke of Luding, Great General of Fuyuan [county, Heilongjiang; ‘fu yuan’ itself means ‘consoling/pacifying (places) far away’]. In military affairs, Commander Peng Chun, Heilongjiang General Sabusu, and Liaoning Guta General Ba Hai will assist you. In the administrative side, Songgotu will assist you. We will set out four-way cavalry and infantry first, plus 5000-men Navy. If that is not enough, we will send whatever is necessary. All horses and logistics are in place. Aigun and Liaoning Guta are already stocked with provisions, enough to be used by the large army for a period of three years. There are 350 battlefield cannon, and there are fifty siege cannon. Do you think this is enough?”

For each sentence Kangxi spoke, Wei Xiaobao thanked him for his grace. When Kangxi finished, Wei Xiaobao hastily kneeled down and kowtowed over and over.

Kangxi said, “Luocha Country only has no more than six thousand cavalry and infantry at Yakesa and Nerchinsk. We have seven or eight times that number to deal with them, indeed it is the sound of thunder ten-thousand great power; I only hope that you won’t fail our magnificent China’s national prestige.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “In this war your servant is fighting on behalf of Your Majesty; if we show even the tiniest setback, the Luocha people will look down on us. In spite of everything, Your Majesty please set your heart at ease.”

“Very good,” Kangxi said, “What else do you need?”

Wei Xiaobao said, “From Taiwan your servant brought along five hundred rattan-shield troops to the Capital. They have been in battle with the red-haired troops, and are very good at resisting firearms. Your servant is thinking to take them to destroy Luocha.”

“That’s very good!” Kangxi said happily, “Zheng Chenggong’s troops have defeated Dutch’s red-haired troops, you bring them to fight Luocha troops, our chance of victory is increased by thirty-percent. Originally I was worried the Luocha troops’ firearms are formidable, I am afraid there will be too many casualties among our officers and soldiers.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Rattan shield can withstand flintlock musket’s bullet, these rattan-shield troops can roll pass their defense line and use broadsword to chop demon troops’ demon legs.”

Kangxi was greatly delighted, “Wonderful, wonderful!” he repeatedly exclaimed.

Wei Xiaobao said, “Your servant also has a young concubine, in those days she came with me to Moscow, she is proficient in Luocha demon language. I want to ask Your Majesty’s gracious approval to let her come with the army to handle affairs.” According to Qing Dynasty regulation, taking one’s family along in a military expedition was a grave offense; therefore, he had to ask permission first.

Kangxi nodded. “I know,” he said, “Now go and set up meritorious service!”

Wei Xiaobao kowtowed to take his leave. When he retreated toward the door, Kangxi suddenly asked, “I heard that your Shifu Chen Yonghua was murdered by Zheng Keshuang; is that right?”

Wei Xiaobao was startled. “Yes,” he replied.

Kangxi said, “Zheng Keshuang has surrendered to the imperial court. I have agreed to preserve the entire Zheng Clan’s descendants. You must not give them any trouble.” Wei Xiaobao had no choice but to say ‘yes’.

Before reaching the Capital this time, he had long planned on looking for Zheng Keshuang and made life difficult for him; who would have thought that Kangxi has already anticipated this and ordered him in this way? If he made his move, he would definitely disobey the imperial decree. He mused, “Could it be that I have to forget the big enmity of this kid murdering my Shifu?”

As he walked away slowly with his head hung low, suddenly he heard someone said, “Wei Xiongdi, congratulations!”

Wei Xiaobao thought the voice sounded very familiar. When he looked up, he saw a tall man with wide shoulder standing in front of him; the man looked at him with smile on his face. It was none other than the Imperial Bodyguard Zongguan [chief manager] Dolong. Wei Xiaobao’s shock was no small matter. When he escaped from the Palace that day, he had obviously stabbed Dolong to his death with a dagger in his residence; wasn’t this his ghost coming to demand his life back? In that instant Wei Xiaobao was so scared that his whole body trembled; he wanted to turn around and flee, he also wanted to kneel down and plead for mercy, but he felt as if his feet were nailed to the ground, he could not move even for half a step, all around the lower part of his body felt tense, in that instant he felt a very strong urge to defecate and urinate at the same time.

Dolong came over, he pulled Wei Xiaobao’s hand and said with a laugh, “Good Xiongdi, I have not seen you for many years, your Gege miss you very much, and have come to make sure that everything is according to your wishes. I heard you went fishing for His Majesty on Tong Chi Island, and His Majesty constantly promotes your official ranking and titular honors. I am very happy to hear that.”

Wei Xiaobao felt Dolong’s palm was warm, under the sunlight illuminating the colonnade, he saw a shadow by Dolong’s side; apparently he was not a ghost, his fright was reduced somewhat. “Yes, yes,” he mumbled in reply. He was also afraid that Dolong might remember the former enmity and wanted to settle this old debt. But the dagger clearly penetrated Dolong’s back and pierced his heart; how did he not die? In his panic, he could not think of anything.

Dolong said, “That day in Xiongdi’s residence, your Gege has fallen into the enemy’s plot. Fortunately I received Xiongdi’s help who drove the assassin away so that my life was protected. I have never been able to personally thank you over this matter, I often thought about it in my heart. You also asked Shi Lang to deliver gift for me from Taiwan; I really owe you too much.”

Seeing his sincere expression, Wei Xiaobao decided that Dolong was not being sarcastic; he thought, “He is the Imperial Bodyguard Zongguan, a member of His Majesty’s inner ministerial circle. This time Shi Lang came to give presents, naturally Dolong received his share. Presumably he asked Shi Lang about me, and Shi Lang simply did me a favor with little cost to himself, saying that part of the gift was from me, so that it will appear that he and I have very deep friendship; in turn, people will look at my face and will not give Shi Lang any difficulty. By why did he say that I drove the assassin away? I really don’t understand.”

Dolong saw Wei Xiaobao’s face was white, alternating with blue; he also looked restless. Thinking that Wei Xiaobao must have just received Kangxi’s rebuke, Dolong tried to console him, “His Majesty’s temper has not been too good recently, most probably it’s because the Luocha Country bullies people too much; Xiongdi don’t have to worry about it. Wait till my shift is over, we’ll have a nice dinner together and chat.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “His Majesty’s benevolence is as high as the sky and as deep as the earth. Just now he promoted my official rank again. Xiongdi is deeply grateful, I really don’t know how to repay our lord’s kindness.”

Dolong laughed and said, “Congratulations! Congratulations! Xiongdi is very competent, you can share His Majesty’s tribulations. To have your official ranking and titular honors raised, of course it is proper and to be expected.” There was a hint of envy in his voice.

Wei Xiaobao noticed the warmth and the envy in the tone of his voice and in his facial expression. Knowing that Dolong was a straightforward man, Wei Xiaobao knew he was not pretending; the fear in his heart vanished completely. He laughed and said, “Duo Dage [in Chinese, Dolong is spelled Duo Long], please wait a moment, Xiongdi really need to go pee. His Majesty summoned me for an audience, he gave me a lot of instructions and warnings, Xiongdi tried to hold it that long, but now I can’t hold it much longer.”

Dolong roared in laughter; he knew that when the Emperor summoned his ministers, if he did not indicate that the meeting was finished, the ministers would not dare to withdraw. If the minister had an urgent need to urinate, it would be an enormous difficulty. It’s just that only toward a favored minister like Wei Xiaobao would the Emperor talk for quite so long. With other ministers, usually the Emperor only talked for two, three sentences, and he was dismissed; hence there has never been any urgent need for the ministers to urinate or defecate. Dolong had always been close to Wei Xiaobao; today as they met again after a long time, he was genuinely happy. Immediately he took Wei Xiaobao’s hand and took him to the door of the latrine [orig. ‘thatched hut’], and waited outside as Wei Xiaobao finished his business.

That day, in order to save his Shifu’s life, as well as his Tian Di Hui brothers, Wei Xiaobao had no choice but to stab Dolong. Recalling that ordinarily Dolong treated him well, in the deepest part of his heart Wei Xiaobao was actually quite regretful and uneasy; who would have thought that not only Dolong did not die, he also did not show any sign that he took offense of what had happened. Wei Xiaobao urinated with a happy heart. When he went out of the latrine, he casually sounded Dolong out on what happened that day.

Dolong said, “When I woke up that day, I found out that I had been lying in bed for three days and four nights. The Imperial Physician Guan told me that fortunately I was born with an anomaly; my heart was slanted, so that the assassin’s blade only pierced my lung and did not harm my heart at all. He said that someone with a slanted heart like me, in a hundred thousand people you won’t necessarily find one.”

In his heart Wei Xiaobao cried out, “Ashamed! So that’s what happened.” He laughed and said, “I always thought that Dage is a hero with straight heart and intestine, who would have thought that Dage is a prejudiced man? [‘slanted heart’ means partial/biased/prejudiced]. Dage is prejudiced, are you particularly doting on young Auntie, or on your son?”

Dolong was taken aback. He then laughed and said, “If Xiongdi did not mention it, I would not have thought about it. I do dote on my eighth concubine Fang a bit more than the rest; it may be assumed that it is due to my slanted heart condition.” The two of them roared in laughter.

Wei Xiaobao said with a laugh, “That assassin’s martial art skill was very high; he came to plot against Dage, unexpectedly Xiongdi was not aware of him in advance.”

“That’s right,” Dolong said. Lowering his voice he added, “By coincidence at that time Princess Jianning came from the Hall to see Xiongdi. This kind of affair, as servants we do not dare to ask one question too many. I recuperated for three months and was completely healed. His Majesty revealed to me that it was Wei Xiongdi who courageously saved my life and personally killed the assassin. Xiongdi need not mention the particulars of this event; in short, your Gege owes you a lot.”

Wei Xiaobao’s skin was thick, during Kangxi’s reign, he could be reckoned as first or second best; however, listening to Dolong, he could not stop his face from turning red. Only then did he find out that the Emperor has concealed his secret. First, because it was the Emperor himself who told him, Dolong had no reason to be suspicious. Second, since it involved the Princess’ private business, the people in the Palace understood that the less it was brought up the better. Even if they had doubt as big as the sky, they had no choice but to bury it deep inside their hearts. Were it not for this, they would have to take a lot of trouble to concoct a lie to cover up the past events.

Wei Xiaobao was ashamed; he also felt that he must repay this honest, considerate and naïve man well. He said, “From Taiwan Xiongdi has brought some local products as souvenirs; as soon as I get home I will have someone deliver some to Dage’s mansion.”

Dolong repeatedly shook his hand, “No need, no need,” he said, “We are family, why bother like this? Last time the gift Shi Lang brought was already too much.”

Wei Xiaobao suddenly remembered something, “It’s a kind act that costs nothing,” he mused, “Even if His Majesty finds out, he cannot blame me for disobeying the imperial decree.” Thereupon he asked, “Duo Dage, after that kid Zheng Keshuang surrendered, how is he doing in Beijing?”

“His Majesty treated him very well,” Dolong replied, “He was bestowed First-class Duke title. This kid does not know how to do anything, he only relies on his ancestors’ fortune; unexpectedly his nobility is higher than you, Xiongdi.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “When we joke around that day, we falsely accused him of owing the Imperial Bodyguards ten thousand taels of silver, and then Xiongdi took out some money to pay for him. Does Dage still remember that?”

Dolong burst out laughing. “I remember, I remember,” he said, “That Miss, Xiongdi’s good friend, what happened to her next? If she still follows Zheng Keshuang, we may go and take her back.”

Wei Xiaobao smiled and said, “That Miss has already become my wife long ago, she even gave birth to my son.”

Dolong laughed and said, ““Congratulations, congratulations! Otherwise, since that kid Zheng Keshuang is in Beijing, I don’t care if he is a first-class duke or second-class duke, in the end he will become a no-entitlement, no-power empty-headed Jueye [master noble]. Let us drop him a visit, so that this kid won’t dare to release a fart. This kind of surrendering border defense king, he spends his days trembling with fear, afraid that His Majesty might suspect in his heart he has not really surrendered and would rise again in rebellion.”

“We don’t have to bully him,” Wei Xiaobao said, “It’s just that those who murdered people must pay with his life, those who owed a debt must return the money. This is an absolutely fair and reasonable matter. Forget that he is merely a first-class duke, even if he is a Prince or a Bei Lei [see note 15 chapter 13], he can’t owe a debt and refuse to pay.”

“Right, right,” Dolong said, “That day he owed Xiongdi ten thousand taels of silver, not a few of our Imperial Bodyguard brothers witnessed this; we can go to demand payment from him.”

Wei Xiaobao smiled and said, “This kid has not made much progress. Only ten thousand taels of silver is nothing; afterwards he continuously amassed a lot of debt from Xiongdi. He has personally written an I.O.U. that I have it in my hand. For three generations his Zheng Family became Wangye in Taiwan, how much gold, silver, money and valuables they accumulated has he spent? He must have brought everything to Beijing. Zheng Chenggong and Zheng Jing were good people, presumably they would not milk common people dry; but this kid Zheng Keshuang, could he be polite? He became Wangye for a day, at least he would plunder above one million taels; two days two millions, three days three millions. He has become Wangye for several days, just calculate how much money he has acquired!”

Dolong’s jaw dropped and his tongue was tied. “Awesome, awesome,” he muttered.

Wei Xiaobao said, “When Xiongdi is back home, I will have the loan receipt delivered to Dage. This money, Xiongdi does not want any …”

“We can’t do that,” Dolong hastily said, “Your Gege will collect the payment for you, I guarantee that you won’t get a qian less. I will take my men the Imperial Bodyguards to pay a visit; even if he has guts as big as the sky he won’t dare not to pay.”

“This debt is rather large,” Wei Xiaobao said, “In those days this kid spent his time in drinking and pleasure, he spent money like flowing water. To have him pay everything back at once is really not easy. Let’s do it this way: Dage bring people to collect, if within eight or ten days he cannot pay, let him break up the whole debt into pieces, have him write separate I.O.U., put the Imperial Bodyguard brothers’ names as the creditors. Each I.O.U. can be a thousand taels, two thousand taels, I don’t care. Whichever Imperial Bodyguard brother can collect the debt, let it be his.”

“Absolutely not!” Dolong said, “All Imperial Bodyguards are your old subordinates. Doing a trivial thing like collecting the debt for an old boss and still want some reward, where’s the logic in that?”

Wei Xiaobao said, “They are all my old subordinates, my good brothers, my good friends. For the last several years Xiongdi’s promotion to the nobility is like spurring the horse to full speed, yet all along I did not give any benefit to everybody; when I think about it, I find it quite embarrassing. I want the Imperial Bodyguard brothers to have a share on this several million taels.”

Dolong was stunned. “What … there are several … several million taels?” he asked in a trembling voice.

Wei Xiaobao smiled, “Speaking about capital,” he said, “I did not spend that much. Some of it was spending money, some was a trick; profit after profit, the total amount is not small. This money, Dage may take a bit bigger share.”

Dolong still did not believe; he mumbled, “Several million taels? This … isn’t this too much?”

“That’s why,” Wei Xiaobao said, “I wanted him to break it up into smaller I.O.U.s. It’s going to be easier to collect.” Lowering his voice, he said, “I cannot be involved in this matter; if the Imperial Censor found out, they might submit report, saying Xiongdi is in association with outside border defense, lending money and exacting interest. Whether it’s big or small, I will have to face criminal charge. But if the Imperial Bodyguards want to collect some gambling debt from him, each one collects one or two thousand taels, it won’t be such a big deal. If Dage is afraid to have the Imperial Bodyguards eating this money alone the responsibility is too great, there’s no harm in asking some Valiant Cavalry Brigade officers to come along. They are also my old subordinates; I should also share some benefits with them.”

Dolong repeatedly voiced his agreement. He had made up his mind, when this debt was collected, he would return at least half to Wei Xiaobao. Although Wei Xiaobao was generous and easy-mannered, Dolong could not let him lose his life savings.

Wei Xiaobao was so proud of himself; he thought that if Dolong bring along these ‘like wolves and tigers’ group of Imperial Bodyguards and Valiant Cavalry Brigade officers to collect the debt, this time Zheng Keshuang would definitely have a bad headache. Although the Emperor had ordered him in advance not to personally give Zheng Keshuang any trouble, this big enmity of murdering his Shifu, if he could not avenge it, at least he would make Zheng Keshuang lose half of his family property. In this matter most likely Zheng Keshuang would quietly suffer in silence [orig. ‘eat yellow lotus’], and would not dare to make it public. If other people found out, it would be personal matters between Zheng Keshuang and the Imperial Bodyguards and the Valiant Cavalry Brigade officers who collected gambling debt. People always said that Zheng Keshuang was a hedonistic son of rich parents, that he did not have a good family foundation, as soon as he arrived at the Capital, he gambled and made a scene; no one would put the blame on Wei Xiaobao.

When he exited the Palace, Prince Kang Giyesu, Li Lei, Ming Zhu, Songgotu, Lei Dehong, Du Lide, Feng Pu, Tu Hai, Wang Xi, Huang Ji, Wu Zhengzhi, Zong Deyi, and the other Manchu-Han high-ranking ministers were waiting outside the Palace gate. One after another they stepped forward to congratulate him. With Wei Xiaobao in the middle, they all went to the Tong Mao’er [copper hat] Alley.

When they reached the mouth of the alley, Wei Xiaobao saw a grand mansion towering above the houses around it, compared to his old earl mansion it was a lot bigger. Above the main gate there was a vermillion-painted horizontal inscribed board, but it was completely empty without a single character on it. Characters as big as watermelon, Wei Xiaobao’s knowledge was limited to only a handful, but even he was able to see that the board did not have any character on it; he could not help but was stunned.

Prince Kang laughed and said, “Wei Xiongdi, His Majesty’s grace and favor to you is indeed as high as the sky and as deep as the earth. That year when your earl mansion caught fire and was burned down, you were not in town. When His Majesty was informed, he immediately ordered your Gege to build another mansion for you. The imperial edict did not mention any budgetary number; it only mentioned that all expenses are to be covered by the internal treasury. This is His Majesty bestowing you a reward, why would your Gege try to save His Majesty some money? Naturally I did not spare any expense. Xiongdi, look, is this acceptable?” While saying that, he stroked his beard with a smile on his face.

Wei Xiaobao busily expressed his thanks. From the main gate he entered in. It was indeed a splendid and magnificent building, not much different compared to Prince Kang’s mansion. All the ministers clucked their tongues in praise, they all expressed their admirations.

Prince Kang said, “This mansion has been ready for quite some time, all along it stayed empty, waiting for Xiongdi to come back and live in it. It’s just that we did not know what other grace His Majesty would bestow you, what title and honors he was going to confer to you, hence the plaque above the mansion’s gate is still empty. The ‘Lu Ding Gong Fu’ [Duke of Deer and Cauldron’s Mansion], four characters, I will ask our Li Da Xueshi to move his brush.”

Li Lei was the Hall of Preserving Harmony’s [Bao He Dian] Da Xue Shi [see also Chapter 37], while holding the post of Minister of Revenue at the same time. The Da Xue Shi with most profound experience in wealth management was appointed the head. This moment he did not decline; picking up the brush he wrote in regular script, ‘Lu Ding Gong Fu’, four large characters. A minor government official was ordered to have an artisan cast gold lettering and embed it on the plaque.

That evening Wei Xiaobao held a big banquet at the Duke of Luding’s mansion to entertain the high-ranking ministers who had personally come to congratulate him earlier. Zheng Keshuang, Feng Xifan, and other Taiwan people who surrendered also sent some gifts, but they did not personally come to congratulate him.

After sending off the guests, Wei Xiaobao had another banquet for his family. His seven wives raised their wine cups to celebrate. Wei Xiaobao mentioned that he was going to take Shuang’er to accompany him in this punitive expedition to the north. The other six wives raised their voices at once to protest, saying that he was too partial. Wei Xiaobao was obliged to explain with graceful words, flowery speech, saying that it was His Majesty’s imperial edict; because he knew that Shuang’er has been to Luocha Country and understood Luocha language, he was sending her to serve in the army.

The six wives did not have any choice but to drop this matter. Luckily Shuang’er was gentle and amiable, her friendship with every single one of the other wives was very good, so nobody was jealous of her. Only Princess Jianning was thinking that based on her status as the Emperor’s imperial sister, a golden branch, jade leaves, unexpectedly she could not compare to a little servant girl with humble background, in her heart she was quite angry. However, usually when the seven wives had an argument, the other six women would unite to deal with the Princess. Princess Jianning was on her own, even Wei Xiaobao did not side with her; for the past few years her fiery temper had mellowed considerably, she did not dare to rashly pick a quarrel.

The next day Wei Xiaobao asked Shuang’er to take out Zheng Keshuang’s I.O.U. which was written in blood on Tong Chi Island that year. He invited Dolong to come over and handed it over to him. Dolong was greatly delighted; he said, “With a hand-written I.O.U. like this, we can even squeeze oil from a stone. If that kid Zheng Keshuang dares to renege and refuse to pay, we, the Imperial Bodyguards and the Valiant Cavalry Brigade officers, won’t have any face to mingle in the Capital anymore.”

For the next several days, Kangxi repeatedly summoned Wei Xiaobao to the Palace. He gave Wei Xiaobao a giant map; how to advance, how to engage the enemy, how to besiege a city, how to strike at the enemy’s reinforcements, he gave Wei Xiaobao detailed instructions. With vermillion brush he drew on the map clearly.

Wei Xiaobao said, “This war is just like Your Majesty personally leading the troops and fighting it, your servant will not dare to act on my own initiative, I will do everything in accordance with Your Majesty’s instruction. Otherwise, even if I am victorious, Your Majesty will not be happy.”

Kangxi smiled and nodded. What Wei Xiaobao said was very close to his heart’s intention. Since he was little he learned martial art, and had never been able to put it to use, only with Wei Xiaobao he could wrestle and have fun. Later on he unceasingly sent Wei Xiaobao on various missions outside; in the deepest part of his heart he always thought that Wei Xiaobao was a stand-in for him. Wei Xiaobao was younger than he, in terms of martial art skill, intelligence, knowledge and foresight, none could surpass Kangxi’s. If Wei Xiaobao could successfully accomplish the mission, naturally Kangxi would be able to handle the butcher’s knife with more ease. Recalling Ming Dynasty’s Emperor Zhengde who conferred himself the title Weiwu Dajiangjun Zhen Guo Gong [see Chapter 43], and personally went into battle, Kangxi was unwilling to be left out, he wanted to display his talent too. Kangxi would never make fool of himself like Emperor Zhengde, but by sending Wei Xiaobao on missions like that, he derived inside satisfaction.

During the years of Wu Sangui’s rebellion, Kangxi had to deal with a high-ranking minister, a veteran general. Wu Sangui was a fierce general, a veteran of a hundred battles, not a simple matter at all; if he had sent Wei Xiaobao, he would have been defeated for sure. By this time Kangxi had gained several years’ worth of war. Although he did not personally go to the front line, he always inquired in details that he understood clearly every military campaign, its merits and drawbacks, gains and losses; not a single battle he did not know like the palm of his own hand. From the actual combat he learned the art of war.

This time he was about to start a war with the Luocha Country, he would deal with any matter, regardless of its importance; everything has been prepared properly. Before the main force even marched out the gate, he already had confidence that he would achieve victory. Indeed it was a far cry [orig. ‘mustn’t speak of two things on the same day’] from when he was trembling with fear in dealing with Wu Sangui in the past.

Since his departure for war was imminent, Wei Xiaobao did not dare to mess with Tian Di Hui brothers. He thought, “His Majesty did not tell me to exterminate Tian Di Hui, it means he has surrendered to me, it means he has given me enough face. If I am not being sensitive, and go to visit Li Lishi, Xu Tianchuan and the others, and His Majesty finds out, he might raise the former matter again. This is the same as Wei Xiaobao picks up a rock and smashes it against my own foot. Being a human being I must not be overly stupid and act too tactlessly.”

The directorate of astronomy picked up an ecliptic propitious day for the main force to set off on their punitive expedition to the north. That day Kangxi bestowed a feast at the Taihe Men [Gate of Supreme Harmony]. There was a large sandy field outside the Wu Men [Meridian Gate], where His Majesty’s yellow tent was erected. The imperial throne was set up, royal seal was on display, hundreds of princes and dukes and ministers congregated. Kangxi took his seat. The Great General Fuyuan, Duke of Luding Wei Xiaobao led his military officers Peng Chun, Sabusu, Lang Tan, Lin Xingzhu, and the others, the logistic officer Songgotu and the others, to step forward and kneel down. Internal courtyard cabinet minister declared the imperial order in Manchurian, Mongolian and Han, three languages. He handed over the great general seal of authority, and conferred a set of clothes, a horse, a bow and a saber.

The officers going into battle separately sat on the north of Jinshui [golden water] Bridge. There were music everywhere, hundreds of play were being performed. Kangxi ordered the Great General to step forward toward the throne. When they were face-to-face, he personally conferred the imperial wine. The Great General received it, kowtowed, and drank it. The commanders, deputy commanders, and so on also stepped forward. The Emperor ordered the Imperial Bodyguards to bestow the drink. Afterwards he ordered the hundreds of government officials everywhere to offer the wine to the troops, along with money and some clothes. The hundreds of officials and all the troops expressed their gratitude, and then the main forces set out.

Kangxi personally sent them off outside the Meridian Gate. The Great General and all the officers kneeled down to ask the holy self to return home. Afterwards the water and land main forces set off to the north. All the ministers saw Wei Xiaobao in his complete martial attire, happy and giggling, without the slightest bit of mighty air of the Commander-in-Chief of a large army. They already knew this man was without learning or skills, a marketplace hoodlum; he was leading the troops into battle, most likely he would spoil the great endeavor and might bring disgrace to the country and make it lose face. But they also knew that Kangxi doted on him very much; who would dare to utter even half a sentence of objection? Not a few of these princes, dukes and ministers put on a smile on their faces, but in their hearts they were sighing. It was:

The ministers swarm around the stage like a school of fish, the general majestically ascends the sacrificial altar[1].

Ever since Wei Xiaobao went out on mission for the Emperor, he has never gone out with this kind of pomp and circumstances; the pride in his heart need not be mentioned. He knew this time the stake was very high, in the army he exercised strong self-control, unexpectedly he did not dare to gamble at all. When boredom hit along the way, he would invite several high-ranking generals to throw some dice, the loser was punished by drinking some wine; nothing more.

One day the main force went out the Shanhai Pass [eastern pass of Great Wall], and continued north to Liaodong [peninsula]. It was the place Wei Xiaobao previously visited, only that time he and Shuang’er had to catch deer in the forest to eat while they were hiding to the east and escaping to the west, battered and exhausted; there was no awe-inspiring authority like this time they went out of the Pass on a military campaign to the north.

It was a crisp, clear autumn weather, the cloudless sky spread for thousands of li, the army marched farther and farther north, the north wind was getting stronger by the day. Until one day they were only a hundred or so li away from Yakesa. He You from the Vanguard Battalion reported to the main force: the reconnaissance team had been informed by the locals, common people, that Luocha troops had been harassing the people, killing people, burning houses, raping, robbing; no crime that they did not do. Every ten days or so they would come out once; hence he estimated that they would come out again in a few days.

Wei Xiaobao had already received Kangxi’s instructions on what to do under given circumstances; he ordered the main force to pitch camp right there and did not advance farther. And then he ordered He You to lead ten hundred-man squadron to set ambush about thirty li from the city of Yakesa. If any Luocha troops came out in large number, they were to lie low and did not come out to avoid an open war. But if they encountered the enemy force in small groups, they were to attack, kill and captured all of them, no one was to be allowed to go back to the city. He You received the order and left.

Several days later before noon they heard faint noise of firearms from the distant, shot after shot, long and continuous; the noise did not cease for quite a long time. Presumably the Vanguard Battalion was engaged in battle with the Luocha troops. Later that afternoon He You sent his people to the main force to report their success, saying that they wiped out twenty-fice Luocha men and captured twelve. Wei Xiaobao was greatly delighted.

That evening the Vanguard Battalion escorted the twelve prisoners to the main force. Wei Xiaobao had them in his tent and personally interrogated them. Hearing Wei Xiaobao unexpectedly could speak Luocha language, the twelve Luocha troops were greatly astonished; however, everyone of them was extremely unyielding, they said they were ambushed, that Qing troops had superior number, that the victory was without honor. Wei Xiaobao was very angry; he ordered two Luocha troops to step forward. He took dice from his pocket and said, “You two throw the dice!”

Throwing dice had existed in the West since ancient times, the ones excavated from ancient Egyptian tomb were no different than the ones used in China; Luocha troops had also been accustomed to playing with dice. Two Luocha troops looked at each other in shock; they wondered what kind of trick this young general if the Qing troops was playing. They followed his order and threw the dice. One got sevent dots, the other five.

Wei Xiaobao pointed to the Luocha troop with five dots and said, “You lost! Simanji!” In Luocha language, ‘simanji’ means ‘death’. He turned his head around and ordered his personal guard, “Take him out and chop his head!”

Four personal guards dragged the Luocha troop to the entrance of the tent and chopped his head, and then they presented the severed head to Wei Xiaobao. The remaining eleven Luocha troops saw this and their countenances changed greatly.

Wei Xiaobao pointed to two more Luocha troops and said, “You two throw the dice.”

How could the two men be willing to throw the dice? As if by prior agreement they both said, “I won’t throw!”

“Alright, you won’t throw,” Wei Xiaobao said. Turning to his personal guards he said, “Take both out and chop their heads!” In an instant two more people died.

Wei Xiaobao pointed to two more Luocha troops and said, “You two throw the dice.”

The two men knew that if they did not throw, they would be killed immediately, but if they threw, there was a fifty-fifty chance that they would live. One of them picked up the dice, while trembling with fear. He was about to throw when the other Luocha troop scrambled past him and said to Wei Xiaobao, “I’ll throw against you!” His expression looked extremely arrogant.

Wei Xiaobao laughed, “Alright,” he said, “Since you have the audacity to challenge me, you throw first.”

The soldier threw a seven-dot. Wei Xiaobao threw a ten. “How about it?” he asked with a laugh.

The soldier looked distressed. “My luck is not good,” he said, “I have nothing to say.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “You came to China, how many Chinese people did you kill?”

The soldier was upright and unafraid. “I lost track,” he said, “At least seventeen, eighteen people. You kill me, I don’t lose out anyway.”

Wei Xiaobao commanded his guards to chop his head. Pointing to the other Luocha troop he said, “You throw.”

The soldier picked up the dice, his hand was trembling. The two dice rolled on the table one after another, surprisingly he got eleven-dot, his chance of winning was very big. Wei Xiaobao wanted to play the trick to get twelve-dot; who would have thought that due to the lack of practice his technique failed, the two dice did not have their six-dot sides facing upward but downward instead, producing only two dots. He was stunned, but then he laughed aloud and said, “I win!”

The soldier hastily said, “I got eleven, you only got two; what do you mean you won?”

Wei Xiaobao said, “This time the smaller dots win, the bigger dots lose.”

The soldier did not give in; he said, “Naturally the bigger dots win. In our Luocha Country the rule has always been so.”

Wei Xiaobao pulled a face and said, “Are we in China, or is this Luocha’s land?”

The soldier replied, “It’s … it’s China.”

“Since this is China, naturally we use Chinese rule,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Who told you to come to China? Next time when I am in Luocha and I throw the dice against you, we can play with Luocha rule. You ‘simanji’!” Turning toward his personal guards he said, “Take him out and chop his head!”

He called another Luocha troop to come out. The soldier was careful, he asked first, “According to Chinese rule, is this time bigger dots win, or smaller dots win?”

“According to Chinese rule,” Wei Xiaobao replied, “Chinese people win. If the Chinese man’s dots big, then bigger dots win; if the Chinese man’s dots small, then smaller dots win.”

The soldier angrily said, “You are very unreasonable, you don’t follow logic at all.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “You Luocha troop’s came to China, killing and robbing. It’s not us, Chinese people who came to Luocha killing and robbing. Is Luocha people unreasonable, or Chinese people unreasonable?” The soldier was speechless.

Wei Xiaobao said, “Quickly throw, quickly throw!”

“I will lose anyway,” the soldier said, “Why bother?”

“You don’t throw, simanji! Simanji!” Wei Xiaobao said.

He called another Luocha troop to come out. This soldier was big and tall, with long whisker on his face; he said in a loud voice, “Chinese kid, you don’t need to play crafty trick, just be straightforward and kill me. This time you have superior number, you set an ambush on snowy ground and caught us by surprise; there is no honor in that kind of victory. When our Luocha Country’s main force arrives, each and every one of you will be killed.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “You were caught by us, and in your heart you refuse to submit, is that right?”

“Naturally I won’t submit!” the soldier replied.

Wei Xiaobao said, “If we have the same number of people, and have a battle face to face, you are so sure that you will win; is that right?”

“Of course!” the soldier haughtily replied, “One of us, Luocha man, can beat five of you, Chinese men. Otherwise, we would not have come to China. I bet you, send five of your men to fight with me. If you win, you can chop my head, if I win, just let me go.” This man was the most famous warrior of the Luocha army, he was born with supernatural power. Seeing all the generals and personal guards in Wei Xiaobao’s tent were at least a head shorter than he was, he thought that even fighting five to one, his chance of winning was still very high.

All along Shuang’er has been sitting quietly on the side. This moment as she heard his arrogant talk, she opened her mouth for the first time, “Luocha men, useless. Chinese women, will beat you.” While saying that she stood up and came over to stand by Wei Xiaobao’s side.

Seeing her delicate figure, her beautiful face, the soldier could not help bursting in laughter. “You have to have a duel with me?” he asked.

Wei Xiaobao ordered his personal guard to cut the rope binding the man’s hands. He smiled and said, “Good Shuang’er, let him experience Chinese women’s fierceness.”

The soldier said, “Chinese woman, you can talk Luocha language. Very good, very good.”

Shuang’er’s command of Luocha language was actually far below Wei Xiaobao’s, she could not express her ideas very well, hence she was unwilling to talk to him too much. Waving her left hand, she launched a feign slap toward his face. The soldier hastily raised his head while stretched out his hand to block. Shuang’er’s right leg flew up, ‘pow!’ she kicked his lower abdomen.

The soldier howled in pain, he rained down punches with both hands. He was Luocha Country’s boxing champion, his punches were fast, heavy and powerful. Seeing his fierceness, Shuang’er leaped toward his back, using the move ‘striking water right and left’, ‘whack, whack!’ she kicked both sides of the small of his back with her left and right feet. It was so painful that the soldier squatted down. “You use your legs; a foul, a foul!” he hollered. Turned out according to Luocha people’s boxing rule, they must not use their legs.

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “This is China, we fight according to Chinese rule.”

Shuang’er called out, “With Luocha rule, I still win.” She dodged in front of the soldier; with her right fist she punched his lower abdomen. The soldier held out his hand to block. Shuang’er’s punch was actually an empty move; without waiting for his block to arrive, she pulled her right fist, and struck the pit of his stomach with her left fist. Again the soldier stretched out his arm to block. Shuang’er launched left punch, right punch; she sent twelve punches in succession. But all her punches were empty move, in Chinese martial art technique, it was called ‘the mirage’, meaning everything is imaginary. Just because each move was not really striking and it was executed without any real power, it was several times faster than ordinary punch.

The soldier blocked several times, but each time he blocked an empty punch; he laughed aloud and said, “Little girl’s trick, it’s useless …” Before he could finish, ‘whack, whack!’ twice, his left and right cheeks were hit by Shuang’er’s palms. The soldier roared, his two arms attacked violently up and down. Shuang’er leaned sideways to evade, the forefinger of her right hand suddenly jabbed, it hit the ‘taiyang’ [sun] acupoint on the soldier’s right temple. The man was overwhelmed with dizziness, his body swayed. Shuang’er leaped up, her palm hacked down, and hit the ‘yuzhen’ [jade pillow] acupoint on the back of the man’s head. It was a vital acupoint on human’s body, although the soldier was big and sturdy, he could not withstand it. ‘Wham!’ he tumbled down to the ground and was unable to crawl back up.

Wei Xiaobao was greatly delighted; holding Shuang’er’s hand, he kicked the soldier’s forehead and asked, “Do you submit now?”

Still in daze, the soldier said, “Chinese woman … use witchcraft … she is a witch …”

“Stinky pig,” Wei Xiaobao cursed, “What witchcraft? Take him out and chop his head! You, Luocha troops, which one of you won’t submit? Let him come out and have a duel.”

The remaining five Luocha troops looked at each other in dismay; they saw how their warrior was defeated, there was no way they could beat her. Nobody dared to say anything.

Wei Xiaobao said, “If you concede and surrender, you will be spared and won’t be killed. Otherwise, you may throw dice against me. We will play by Chinese rule; if you win, you will live, if you lose, then simanji!” While saying that his right hand made a beheading gesture.

The five soldiers thought, “According to Chinese rule, it does not matter how many dots, he wins.” Thereupon one soldier bowed and said, “I surrender!”

Wei Xiaobao happily said, “Very good! Get some wine and meat, let him eat.”

His personal guards went to the back of the tent and returned with a large bowl of wine and a large bowl of meat. The soldier was released from his bound and was free to eat and drink.

In Luocha Country the weather was bitter cold, everybody drank wine. Although Wei Xiaobao was not a drinker, the wine in the army was the best quality sorghum wine. As soon as this bowl of wine was brought in, the aroma filled the entire tent; as soon as the four Luocha troops smelled the wine, their mouth watered. When they saw the surrendering soldier drank and his eyebrows rose up and his eyes twinkled, their hearts were unbearably itchy. One after another they all said, “Surrender, surrender! I want wine.”

Wei Xiaobao commanded his guards to untie the four soldiers and ordered four other personal guards to get four bowls of wine and meat and gave it to them. The Luocha troops ate and drank, but they were still not full. Wei Xiaobao ordered his guards to get another set of wine and meat for each of them. The five Luocha troops were drunk, they waved their hands around and sang. After singing for a while, they remembered that they had just escaped mortal danger, unexpectedly they could eat and drink as much as they liked; they were very happy and bowed to Wei Xiaobao to express their thanks.

Afterwards, every several days He You continuously sent Luocha troops as prisoners, as many as sixteen, seventeen soldiers, and as few as one or two soldiers. After these prisoners talked with the five soldiers who surrendered first, they found out that if they threw the dice, they death was guaranteed; but if they surrendered, there would be meat and wine for their enjoyments. Thereupon everyone surrendered.

These Luocha troops were originally scoundrels who fled to the east to avoid prison; if not thieves and robbers, then they must be criminals who were exiled by the court of law. Out of ten, perhaps eight or nine of them would not shrink from any crime. They went east to take their chances, nobody had any good intentions in their heart. When they first went out to kill Chinese civilians, their missions always went without a hitch, hence in their hearts they despised Chinese people. Therefore, when they were captured, they were still very arrogant. It was not until Wei Xiaobao had several troops executed and thus established his prestige that the rest realized how formidable the enemy was. These arrogant barbarians bullied good people but were scared of wicked ones; seeing the opposite side was even more barbarian and even more wicked, they obediently surrendered.

By this time the Governor-general Galitzine had been summoned by Princess Sophia back to Moscow to hold higher office. The general in command of Yakesa troops was called Tu’erbuqing (Alexi Tolbusin). Small groups of Luocha troops went out to plunder, they went missing for several days running. Tolbusin sent out people to investigate, but these people also never came back. He felt something was not right, thereupon he picked half of the cavalry in the city, totaling more than two thousand men and horses, and personally led them out of the city to investigate.

Along the way Tolbusin did not see any sign of the enemy; whenever he saw Chinese people’s farmhouse or residence, he ordered his men to burn it down, and killed the people, ordinary men and women. After traveling for more than twenty li, suddenly he heard hoof beats, a group of cavalry was charging their way. Tolbusin shouted his order to have his troops scattered. He saw a group of Qing cavalry galloped toward them, approximately five hundred men, shooting them with arrows. Tolbusin laughed aloud and said, “Chinese barbarians only know how to release arrows, how can they fight our Luocha Country’s formidable firearms?” He shouted his order, his men fired, a dozen or so Qing troops fell down from their horses.

The Qing troops turned their horses around and galloped away to the south. Tolbusin ordered his men to pursue. The horses this Qing cavalry rode were all handpicked fine horses, they ran very fast, for a short while the Luocha troops were unable to catch up.

After pursuing for seven or eight li, they saw a yellow dragon banner standing by the wooded area ahead of them, when the Luocha troops came closer, they saw seven, eight military tents belonging to the Qing troops. The Luocha troops rained their bullets to the tents, several dozen Qing troops ran out of the tents, while shooting arrows at the Luocha troops, and then mounted their horses and galloped southward.

The Luocha troops on the front rushed into the tents, they saw the Qing troops had run away completely. Tolbusin dismounted his horse and entered the tent. He saw the wine, meat and vegetable dishes on the table were still steaming hot, while gold and silver ingots, as well as brocade clothes, pearls and jewels were scattered around on the ground. Tolbusin was greatly delighted. “The Chinese barbarian great general is running away in a hurry, he did not even have time to carry all these gold and silver. Everybody, let’s get on our horses and run after them! Whoever catches this barbarian great general will be rewarded heavily; the barbarian great general must be carrying a lot of gold and silver, we will seize everything away!”

When the soldiers saw gold, silver, pearls and jewels, they just like ‘you grabbed I took’; some even picked up the wine and meat from the table and ate it. Hearing their commander’s order, they cheered and rushed out of the tent, jumped onto their horses, and galloped toward the southeast, following the hoofprints. Along the way they saw gold ingots, silver ingots, swords and spears, bow and arrows scattered on the ground by the road. They all said that Chinese troops saw the arrival of Luocha troops, they were scared and pissed in their pants in terror, that they even threw their weapons away.

After pursuing for a while, they saw several pairs of boots and several red-tasseled hats. Tolbusin called out, “Chinese barbarians’ marshal changed his clothes to run for his life; most probably he disguised himself as a lowly soldier. We must not let them hide him.”

His attendant said, “General can prophesy with supernatural accuracy; it must be so.”

Tolbusin ordered his men to pick up the boots and hat; he said, “When we catch the Chinese barbarians, it doesn’t matter if he is a lowly soldier or a gunman, tell them to try the hat, clothes and boots. If everything fits, most likely he is the great general.” Again his subordinates chorused their praise, saying that the General was intelligent and wise, that no one could ever match him.

After pursuing several more li, they attacked and seized another Qing army’s tent. Scattered on the ground, they saw not only gold, silver and weapons, but also a lot of red and green, bright colored women’s clothing. They even found rouge, face powder and other cosmetics, handkerchief, hairpins, and other women’s accessories. The soldiers’ sexual desire was aroused; they all cried out, “Quickly pursue, quickly pursue! Chinese barbarians brought some women.”

Pursuing this way, they successively seized seven more army tents before from ahead of them they heard faint noise of people shouting and screaming. Tolbusin halted his mount and took out his telescope to look. He saw several li ahead a group of Chinese soldiers were running for their lives; seemingly in great distress, their banner was in disarray, their formation in disorder. Tolbusin was greatly delighted, “We got them!” he shouted. Pulling out his saber, he waved it in the air several time while shouting, “Charge! Kill!” Leading his troops and generals, he swiftly charged forward.

Along the way they saw more than twenty Qing army’s horses fallen dead on the road. The soldiers and generals happily said, “The barbarians’ horses had no strength left to run!” Urgently spurring their horses on hot pursuit, they pursued farther and farther away.

They saw that the Qing troops had escaped via a narrow passageway in between two hills. Tolbusin pursued to the mouth of the road, and saw the dangerous terrain ahead. He was slightly startled. “If the enemy prepares an ambush here,” he thought, “It won’t be good.”

Suddenly he heard from the valley ahead someone shouting in Luocha language, “Chinese barbarians, you have surrendered. Very good, very good!” Another voice called out, “Ha ha, this time Chinese barbarians suffer disastrous defeat.” It was the voice of their own soldiers, no doubt about it.

Tolbusin was greatly delighted, his suspicion was gone, he spurred his horse into the valley. Behind him more than two thousand cavalry followed in. Tolbusin called out, “Which unit is in the front? Where are you?”

He only heard behind the mountain wall a dozen or so men responding in chorus, “We are here! Chinese barbarian soldiers have surrendered!”

“Marvelous!” Tolbusin called out. He was just about to pull his horse’s reins when suddenly he heard ‘bang, bang!’ from behind. Tolbusin was shocked; turning around, he saw the mouth of the valley was covered in smoke, fire flashed from the woods on the mountain walls on his left and right, volley after volley of firearms shot down. The Luocha officers and men screamed together. Tolbusin shouted, “Turn around, get out of the valley!”

He heard from the top of the mountain walls on both sides several thousand people shouted together, “Luocha troops, surrender, surrender!” Countless large rocks and logs of wood rolled down, in an instant the mountain path was blocked. The Luocha officers and men were crammed into a narrow mountain path, you push I shove, the people screamed the horses neighed, it was a total chaos.

From the top of the mountain the Qing troops looking down, arrows and bullets rained down continuously. Tolbusin groaned inwardly, he knew they had fallen into the enemy’s trick. Seeing the escape route was cut off, he had no choice but turn his horse again and shouted, “Everybody charge forward!”

They only rushed out for several zhang, suddenly they heard ‘Bang! Bang!’ loud explosions, cannon were fired at them, killing a dozen or so soldiers. Tolbusin was so scared that his soul flew to the outer sky; he had never anticipated that the Qing troops’ firearms were this sharp, unexpectedly they also had cannon on this rugged mountainous terrain. He jumped down his mount in panic and called out, “Abandon your horse! Focus our firepower, let’s charge out of the mountain road.”

One after another the Luocha troops dismounted from their horses, and crawled over the huge stones and logs blocking the entrance to the valley, while the team on the back opened fire at both sides of the mountain walls to provide cover for their comrades. Luocha troops’ firearms had greater firepower, the range was also farther, in the end they managed to kill not a few Qing soldiers. But the Qing troops’ cannon continuously bombarded them, the momentum was fierce.

Several hundred Luocha troops were just crawling on top of the rocks blocking the way when suddenly a loud explosion was heard, the earth under their feet exploded, some of the several hundred officers and men were thrown a dozen zhang into the air, some of them lost their heads or limbs, flesh and blood flying everywhere. Those who were fortunate and did not die hastily crawled back down.

Tolbusin saw there was no way out ahead and behind, he was completely helpless in this crisis. A very brave officer led several dozen troops in a suicide mission to climb the north side of the mountain wall, they attempted to kill the enemy to open up a way out. But the mountain wall was very steep, plus it was slippery, there was no place they could put their feet on; after climbing for several zhang, several dozen of them slipped and fell down, either dead or injured. The Qing troops on the hilltop threw rocks at them, wiping out the remaining several dozen troops. The officer leading the mission was thrown down, his skull was smashed and he immediately met a violent death.

All this time the Qing army’s cannon did not stop firing, the mountain walls were full of Luocha troops’ wretched scream. Knowing that in just a short while they would be completely wiped out, Tolbusin called out, “Stop fighting! Ceasefire, ceasefire!” But the explosions and the scream of the troops drowned his voice. The officers and men around him immediately cried out together, “Ceasefire, ceasefire!” Soon the rest of his troops also cried out.

The Qing troops halted the artillery barrage. Someone called out in Luocha language, “Throw down your guns, your sabers and swords, take all your clothes off!”

Tolbusin was angry, he shouted back, “Throw the weapons, don’t take off your clothes!”

Someone in Qing army called, “Throw down your guns, your sabers and swords, take all your clothes off! Helaxiao! Come out and drink wine. If you don’t take off your clothes, simanji!”

Tolbusin called out, “We won’t take off our clothes!”

As soon as those words went out of his mouth, there were explosions, the Qing cannon resume their firing. Some Luocha troops were afraid of death, at once they threw their weapons down and started to take off their clothes. Tolbusin raised his short gun and shot dead a soldier who was taking off his clothes. “Those who undress will be executed!” he shouted. But under the violent artillery barrage of the Qing army, nobody paid attention to their general’s strict order. More than a dozen soldiers, already stripped naked, clambered over the rocks blocking their way out.

The Qing army on both sides of the mountain walls clapped their hands and cheered. “Quickly undress!” they shouted. More and more Luocha troops took off their clothes and fled for their lives. Tolbusin repeatedly fired his short gun, killing two more soldiers, but how could he stop his men?

The Qing cannon temporarily stopped. From the top of the mountain wall someone called out, “Those who want to live, quickly take off all your clothes.”

By this time the Luocha officers and men had lost their will to fight; eight or nine out of ten people already took off their boots. Tolbusin heaved a deep sigh and put his gun toward his own temple, ready to kill himself. A lieutenant standing by his side wrestled the gun from his hand and said, “General, don’t! As long as the eagle still have its wings, it can still fly across the high mountain.” It was a Luocha idiom, equivalent to Chinese idiom ‘while the green hills last, there’ll be wood to burn’.

They heard someone in the Qing army called in Luocha language, “Take Tolbusin’s clothes off, and then come out together; otherwise the firing will commence.” These Luocha words were spoken with very articulate pronunciation, because it was actually a surrendering Luocha troop who was forced to say it.

Tolbusin was unable to restraint his anger, but he was aware that several troops under his command were staring at him, clearly they harbored malicious intentions toward him. He reached out to pull the saber hanging on his waist, but as soon as his fingers touched the hilt, a soldier pounced him from behind and wrapped his arms around Tolbusin’s neck. Five or six soldiers pounced together, they pinned him to the ground. Seven hands eight feet, immediately his clothes were stripped clean before he was carried out.

For each one of the Luocha troop who came out, there were two Qing troops who stepped forward to receive him, binding his hands behind his back, and leading him to walk several li toward a spacious empty field. In this incident, out of more than two thousand Luocha officers and men, six or seven hundred were killed or were seriously injured, the remaining eighteen hundred soldiers or so had their hands tied behind their backs and were forced to stand in line. The autumn wind was blowing, they could not help shivering from the cold.

The Qing troops held Tolbusin in custody in front of the rows of Luocha troops. The Luocha troops were originally hanging their heads dejectedly, their hearts were alarmed, they were trembling in fear, but suddenly they saw this strict general, who was usually harsh and ruthless, was reduced to this kind of appearance, they were amused. When they saw their commanding general’s smooth naked buttocks, several dozen men could not help laughing. The laughter was getting louder and louder, not too long afterwards more than a thousand officers and men were laughing aloud.

Tolbusin was furious; he turned around and shouted, “Stand in attention! What are you laughing at?” He was not wearing even a thread on his body, yet he was still assuming this awe-inspiring demeanor; it was extremely comical. Although the officers and men were usually very afraid of him, how could they refrain from laughing this time?

In the middle of the laughter, suddenly the cannon were fired eight times, followed by the drums, as a squadron of Qing troops appeared from the back of the mountain, flying a yellow banner, and stood in formation on the east side. And then three more squadrons of Qing troops, flying red, white and blue, three colors banners, separately standing on the south, east and north, three directions, surrounding the Luocha officers and men in the middle. The Luocha officers and men saw all the Qing troops were carrying either long spears, broadswords, bow and arrows, or even firearms; their body armor and helmet were shining, their weapons looked sharp, while they themselves did not wear even a cun of thread. They were feeling even more intimidated by the enemy’s weapons, one by one they stopped laughing, while a great sense of dread started to overwhelm their hearts.

When the Qing troops were in formation, the cannon from the back of the mountain were fired again three times; and then accompanied by string and flute instruments two large banners appeared. The large banner on the left had these characters on it: ‘Fuyuan Great General Wei’; the large banner on the right had these characters on it: ‘Great Qing Duke of Luding Wei’. Several hundred soldiers with broadswords in their hands marched out around a young general riding on a horse. This general was wearing red cap on his head and a yellow magua on his body, his eyebrows were raised, his eyes gleaming with laughter, he looked extremely wily. He lightly shook a feather fan in his left hand, just like Zhuge Liang; in his right hand he solemnly held a broadsword, just like Guan Yunzhang. It was none other than Duke Wei Xiaobao.

He dismounted from his horse, threw his head back, and let out three laughter, “Ha ha ha!” Just like Caocao in the opera. Too bad that there was no lackey by his side who would ask, “General, why are you laughing?”

By this time Tolbusin’s heart was filled with anger, yet he was unable to vent it out; in his rage he no longer cared about life or death. In a loud voice he cursed, “Chinese little demon, you use trick to capture me, you are not a hero. If you want to kill just kill, why do you humiliate me like this?”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “How did I humiliate you?”

Tolbusin angrily said, “I … I am like this, isn’t this … isn’t this humiliation?”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and asked, “Your pants, who took them off?”

Tolbusin was speechless; his clothes and pants were stripped by his own subordinates, obviously he could not blame it on this little demon general. In his fury, his face was bulging deep red; he rushed forward, wanted to stake his life in desperate fight against Wei Xiaobao.

Four personal guards by Wei Xiaobao’s side immediately rushed forward with long spears in their hands, the gleaming spearheads were pointing at him. Tolbusin had no choice but to stop; his hands involuntarily went down to cover his genitals. Seeing this, the officers and men of both sides roared in laughter.

Wei Xiaobao said, “Since you have surrendered, you will submit to the Great Qing, go to Beijing immediately to kowtow to the Chinese Emperor!”

“I won’t surrender,” Tolbusin said, “Chop me and make mincemeat out of me, but I won’t surrender.”

Raising his voice, Wei Xiaobao asked the rest of Luocha officers and men, “Are you all going to surrender or not?” The officers and men lowered their heads without saying anything.

Wei Xiaobao pointed to the white flag on the west side and called out, “Officers and soldiers who surrender, stand over there!” The officers and men stood still. Some of them wanted to surrender, but seeing nobody did, they did not dare to go first.

“Very well,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Since nobody surrenders, Cooks, come out!” From behind the group of personal guards ten cooks came out. Their upper body was bare, there were daggers and iron skewers in their hands; they stepped forward and bowed to take the order.

Wei Xiaobao said to Tolbusin, “Your Luocha Country has some kind of dish called shashlyk [‘xiashunike’[2]], I have enjoyed it in the past when I was in Moskow, the taste is really not bad. Right now I want to eat some!” Turning his head toward then ten cooks he said, “Make some shashlyk!”

The ten cooks replied, “We receive the order!”

Twenty soldiers pushed out ten iron stoves out, the charcoal in the stoves were glowing red. The Luocha officers and men looked at each other in astonishment; they wondered what trick this Chinese general was playing.

Wei Xiaobao waved his hand, immediately twenty of his personal guards pulled ten Luocha troops out. Wei Xiaobao shouted in Luocha language, “Cut their flesh, roast it into shashlyk!” Shashlyk was beef on iron skewer, barbequed over open fire; it was Luocha Country’s most famous dish.

The ten cooks walked over to the ten Luocha troops with the gleaming dagger in their hands raised high and thrust it down. The ten Luocha troops let out a blood-curdling screech. The personal guards dragged the ten Luocha troops toward the back of the hill, the ground was drenched with blood. Shortly afterward the iron skewers in the ten cooks’ hand had pieces of meat on it, which they brought to the charcoal stove and roasted it over the fire.

The Luocha officers and men watched in horror. In the quietness that ensued, they heard the crackling noise of the fire, and the fat dripping onto the fire, making a ‘chi, chi’ noise. Wei Xiaobao called out, “Get ten more Luocha troops, make more shashlyk!”

Twenty personal guards immediately pulled more Luocha troops. From ten Luocha troops being pulled away, four immediately shouted, “Surrender, surrender!”

“Alright,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Those who surrender stand over there.” The personal guards dragged the surrendering troops toward the white flag. Immediately several guards served them wine and meat.

The personal guards dragged four more Luocha troops. These four soldiers saw that those who surrendered enjoyed wine and meat, while those who did not surrender had their body cut and roasted to be shashlyk. Although they did not see which body part was cut, they saw that the Qing troops’ gaze was always fixed on the lower part of their bodies, which was not a good sign at all. Heart alarmed, trembling in fear, they could not help but screamed, “Surrender!”

By this time the six soldiers who previously did not surrender had also lost their stubbornness; they all cried out, “Surrender!”

Since there were people who set the example by surrendering first, the rest of the soldiers did not dare to flaunt their bravery. Without waiting for the personal guards to pull them, some of them walked over to the white flag. In a short period of time, more than eighteen hundred Luocha officers and men had surrendered, leaving Tolbusin alone standing stiffly on his original position.

“Are you going to surrender or not?” Wei Xiaobao asked.

“I would rather die than surrender!” Tolbusin replied.

“Very well!” Wei Xiaobao said, “I’ll let you go back to Yakesa.” He ordered Hong Chao to lead five hundred troops to escort Tolbusin back to Yakesa.

Tolbusin thought that since he was so unyielding, this Qing army commander would definitely kill him; unexpectedly he was willing to set him free, he was caught by surprise. “Since you agree to let me go, please return my clothes!” he said.

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “I can’t return your clothes.” Turning to Hong Chao he said, “Escort him to Yakesa’s city wall, relay my message that we are going to besiege the city. Lead this naked-butt Luocha general around the city wall three times before letting him go into the city.”

Hong Chao received the order. He led the Qing troops away, shouting and laughing, dragging the stark naked Tolbusin along.

Lin Xingzhu said, “May I ask Commander, since we already caught this Luocha general, why did we let him go? The subtlety of this matter, would Commander kindly enlighten me?”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “Today we scored a great victory, do you know which stratagem we are using?”

“That is Commander’s divine strategy and amazing foresight,” Lin Xingzhu replied, “Subordinate can only prostrate myself in admiration.”

Wei Xiaobao shook his head, “It was not my divine strategy and amazing foresight,” he replied, “It was the scheme that His Majesty has personally arranged. His Majesty said that in the past Zhuge Liang captured Meng Huo seven times, the strategy worked very well; he instructed me to imitate him. Have you seen the play ‘Seven captures of Meng Huo’? If you haven’t, have you at least heard mister storyteller narrated this story? Zhuge Liang ordered the state of Wei to prolong the battle, they could only lose, must not win. After fifteen consecutive defeats, he let Meng Huo captured seven army camps, luring him to enter the Pan She [coiling snake] Valley, and then burned the rattan-shield troops. The stratagem we used today was exactly Zhuge Liang’s stratagem.”

All the generals voiced their admiration. Wei Xiaobao continued, “His Majesty is merciful, he said that Zhuge Liang was too cruel in burning the rattan-shield troops, there were too many lives lost. If the Luocha troops surrendered, their lives should be spared.”

Fu Dutong [deputy commander] Lang Tan said, “If not for Commander using that shashlyk tactic by cutting ten Luocha troops’ flesh and roasted it so that they were scared that their souls flew to the outer sky, these Luocha troops are extremely valiant, I am afraid they would not be willing to surrender. This stratagem is actually superior to Zhuge Liang’s.”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “Actually, the ten cooks have already prepared ten pieces of raw beef and hid them; they only made several cuts on the Luocha troops’ thigh, making them shouting and screaming loudly. The meat roasted on the stove is actually high-quality beef; as for what it tastes like, there is no harm in gentlemen having a taste.” The generals burst out in laughter. They instructed the cooks to present the ten pieces of beef shashlyk, cut it in pieces and put it into their mouths. Sure enough, it was sweet and tender, the skewered beef was delicious.

The generals asked again, “Since Commander has caught the enemy’s chief, yet you let him go, are you going to capture him seven times and release him seven times, so that he will not dare to rebel anymore?”

“It’s not that,” Wei Xiaobao replied, “Actually when I was still in Beijing I also asked His Majesty the same question. I said that His Majesty is a ‘raw bird fish soup’, he is magnanimous, would he want to copy Zhuge Liang, capturing the Luocha commander and release him seven times? ‘That’s not it,’ His Majesty said, ‘If we want to copy Zhuge Liang, we must use strategy that is alive, not a dead one. Meng Huo was a barbarian tribal chief; if he said that he would not rebel, he would not rebel forever. We captured Luocha troops’ Commander-in-chief, even if he said he would not rebel, it would not do us any good. Luocha Country’s Tsar and Queen Regent may send other Commander-in-chief, and come here to infringe on our border.”

The generals nodded their head in agreement. Wei Xiaobao said, “Yakesa’s garrison soldiers are fierce and tough, their cannon formidable. If we kill Luocha Commander, the officers and men inside the city might elect another commander, who is more aggressive. Right now we stripped the Luocha Commander naked, and have him march around the city three times. From now on the Luocha troops inside the city will look down on him. He no longer has the prestige; when he boss people around later, he won’t be respected too much.”

The generals expressed their agreement together. Lin Xingzhu asked, “Was it part of His Majesty’s instruction to strip the enemy’s Commander-in-chief’s clothes and pants?”

Wei Xiaobao roared in laughter and said, “How could His Majesty think about something so preposterous? His Majesty only told me to find a way to boost our own troops’ spirit, while breaking the Luocha troops’ power and prestige. His Majesty said, ‘Luocha troops are big and tall, their entire body is hairy, they look like savages, plus their firearms are very sharp. When we go into battle against them, our troops will see their fierceness, most likely they will be afraid in their hearts; once their spirit is broken, it would be hard to achieve victory.’ His Majesty said, ‘Xiao Guizi, you know a lot of tricks, find a way to make our troops, from top to bottom, to look down on those barbarians.’ I thought about it long and hard, but did not find anything good. Until one night, suddenly I remember when I was small I went to gamble.”

The generals all thought, “What does you went to gamble when you were little have anything to do with Luocha troops?”

Wei Xiaobao smiled and said, “When I was small I went to gamble with other people in Yangzhou. My gambling temperament was not good, when I won some money, I would leave my pouch behind; when I lost I would be so engrossed in it that I lost my mind, if someone provoked me I would fight him, I am not afraid. There was one time someone fixed me up really good; the winner grabbed me, stripped my pants and let me go home with naked butts. People on the street clapped their hands and laughed at me. From then on my gambling temperament made considerable progress.” The generals roared in laughter.

Wei Xiaobao also laughed and said, “His Majesty said that fighting war must be flexible and adaptable, His Majesty can only point out the strategy in large scale, the actual execution of the plan will depend on my own thinking. I remember when I was little, I was afraid people might take my pants off, how could these Luocha troops not afraid? Sure enough, as soon as their pants were stripped, they obediently surrendered.”

The generals chorused their agreement, they were all very impressed. Some even thought, “This ‘pants stripping tactic’, even Sun Tzu’s ‘The Art of War’ does not have it. This Wei Tzu’s Art of War is actually very formidable.”

Wei Xiaobao ordered to have the Luocha generals and soldiers to be dressed in Qing troops clothes and hats, and then he sent a Canjiang [regimental commander, colonel] leading two thousand Qing troops to escort the surrendering troops to Beijing to be presented as prisoners of war to the Emperor. He retained twenty surrendering soldiers with loud voice to be used later. The secretary composed a memorial to the Emperor, saying that following His Majesty’s imperial instruction Fuyuan Great General Wei Xiaobao has won a victory on raising the flag, that Luocha troops admired China as a superior nation, that their hearts were bathed in submission, and thus they acknowledged our Emperor as the Holy Sage whose heavenly virtue transformed the barbarians, and so on. That evening Wei Xiaobao bestowed great rewards to the three armies.

By dawn the next day he personally led various army units to Yakesa. He saw smoke and fire covering the top of the city wall, within and without the city the cry of the battling soldiers shook the sky, the guns and cannon rumbled unceasingly. The besieging troops commander Peng Chun reported to the main force: the artillery barrage from the city was fierce, our besieging force suffered not a few injuries and deaths. Wei Xiaobao said, “Use our cannon, blast the damn city.”

Peng Chun left to relay the order. Not too long afterwards from east, south, west and north the cannon were fired simultaneously. Blast by blast the cannon bombarded the city. But Luocha people had lived in Yakesa for a long time, the defensive structure was built extremely strong, the soldiers and generals hid inside the solid rampart. Although the Qing troops had numerous cannon, the bombardment collapsed quite a number of building, the Luocha troops held fast and did not come out, in the end nothing could be done to them.

After several day of heavy assasult, He You led a thousand warriors climbing up the wall, from the top of the wall the enemy fired down over and over, killing three to four hundred Qing troops. Seeing the unfavorable situation, Peng Chun beat the gong to recall the troops. The Luocha troops standing on the wall clapped their hands and cheered. Several dozens Luocha troops even pulled down their pants and shot their pee down the wall; they were extremely haughty.

Heilongjiang’s general Sabusu was very angry, he personally led the troops to besiege the city. The troops on the wall rained down their bullets, Sabusu was shot and he fell from the horse. The Qing troops were immediately thrown into confusion. The city gate opened, several hundred Luocha troops charged out. Leading the rattan-shield troops Lin Xingzhu rolled down on the ground to intercept, brandishing his broadsword. The Luocha troops hastily jumped to evade.

This rattan-shield team was personally trained by Lin Xingzhu, they were adept in ‘Ditang Saber Technique’; as they rolled on the ground, the rattan-shield on their left hand blocked the enemy’s bullets, while the broadsword in their right hand hacked the Luocha troops’ leg. Seeing the unfavorable situation, Tolbusin hurriedly ordered his troops to withdraw. Lin Xingzhu was able to rescue Sabusu. The right side of Sabusu’s forehead was grazed by a bullet, luckily the bullet did not enter his skull; although his injury was serious, his life was not threatened. In this battle both sides suffered heavy loss, but the number of casualties on Qing troops’ side was higher.

Taking the military doctor along, Wei Xiaobao personally went to Sabusu’s tent to express his sympathy and his wish for speedy recovery. He also rewarded Lin Xingzhu heavily. And then he issued an order to withdraw the camp five li away from the city wall. That night he held a general assembly in his command tent to discuss the strategy to besiege the city.

Several generals said that that day the rattan-shield troops had set up great merit, tomorrow they should lure the demon troops to get out of the city so that the rattan-shield troops could chop the demons’ legs. Some said that the demon troops’ spirit was broken, perhaps they would not dare to get out and fight; it would be better to build long rampart to besiege the city all around, so that the enemy would die of starvation. Some proposed to dig tunnel and attack from underground.

Digging tunnel in besieging a city was an ancient technique in China. This idea reminded Wei Xiaobao of the tunnel underneath Yakesa, which he himself had used in the past, when he embraced the stark-naked Princess Sophia. Presently she had become the Queen Regent wielding power over the Luocha Country’s army and government, while Wei Xiaobao fought with the troops and horses under her command in here. He mused, “If right now she is in the city of Yakesa personally commanding the troops, I can enter the city from the underground tunnel and climb into her bed, one touch, two touches, touching her whole body I make her weak, this loose woman will definitely cry ‘surrender’.”

Seeing Wei Xiaobao was deep in thought but there was a hint of smile on his face, the generals thought that he had a brilliant idea. Immediately they all shut up and quietly wait for the Grand Marshal’s instruction. It never occurred to them that right this moment Wei Xiaobao was thinking about how to gently caress and stroke the golden-hair covered naked skin of Princess Sophia. They saw his eyes were closed, as he quietly muttered, “It’s so troublesome, even if I have the strength, I cannot eat her up completely.”

The generals looked at each other in bewilderment. They heard their Grand Marshal, “Damn it, with one kick she kicked me off the bed.” The generals were even more at a loss. They heard he said again, “Although this Luocha s1ut is formidable, Laozi will eventually find a way to handle her.”

“Commander is right,” Peng Chun said, “Even if Luocha demons are more formidable, we will eventually find a way to deal with them.”

Wei Xiaobao was startled. He opened his eyes and said in surprise, “We? So you are going to touch her as well?” But immediately he burst into loud laughter and said, “Right, right! The tunnel is too narrow, only one person can crawl at one time; also, the exit is in the general’s room, I believe by this time he has already had it blocked. We must dig another tunnel.” The generals were even more confused.

Wei Xiaobao stood up and said, “All gentlemen generals’ ideas are very good, we are going to eat them all, Green Dragon, White Tiger and Heaven’s Gate. Early in the morning tomorrow, everybody will separately build long rampart, dig the tunnel, while at the same time firing the cannon, luring them to come out and fight, then we’ll send the rattan-shield troops to chop the demons’ leg.” Since all their recommendations were accepted by their Commander-in-chief, the generals exited the tent with happy hearts.

Just before dawn the next day, the generals ordered the troops under their command to do different tasks. Peng Chun supervised and directed the troops to carry soil and build the rampart. Lang Tan arranged and set up the cannon, Ba Hai excavated the tunnel. Heading five hundred soldiers Hong Chao went to learn cursing words from the Luocha officers and soldiers to be used under the city wall. Only a pity Luocha people were shallow and unlearned; their cursing vocabulary was rather limited. Although the soldiers could curse loudly, the meaning was only so-so; after cursing back and forth it all came down to something like ‘you are a stinky pig’, or ‘you ate feces’, and so on. How could it be compared to our Chinese cursing with a lot of flavor, many postures and endless variation? After listening for a while, Wei Xiaobao was completely bored.

The Luocha troops suffered heavy setback the previous day by having their legs chopped; seeing the Qing troops’ might, they resolutely refused to come out; they only hid behind the city wall and cursed back.

The Qing troops fired cannonballs into the city, but the damage was minimal. In those days, gunpowder was stuffed into the cannon’s barrel, ignited, and catapulted the iron cannonballs into the city. If it was a direct hit, it could break human’s tendon and smash the bones, but if it fell on the ground, it would not cause sufficient damage.

For the last dozen of years or so, the common people in that area had suffered Luocha troops’ mistreating and killing them, countless families went bankrupt and more people died. When they learned about the Emperor sending troops to fight the Luocha demons, no one was not wildly delighted. Immediately some people brought wine and food to express their support for the officers and soldiers. Some even brought their hoes and shoulder poles to help building the earthen rampart. The news spread far and wide, even people from within several hundred li from this area also came to support the war.

From the top of the city wall Tolbusin looked down, and saw people like ants, continuously carrying earth to build the rampart; the long barrier outside the city was growing taller and taller, he knew that if this situation continued, they would be trapped to death. His hope was that the Luocha troops from Nerchinsk to their west would come to their aid. Only with pincher attack from inside and outside would they have a hope victory. He did not know that Kangxi had already anticipated this and had dispatched another unit of cavalry to pretend to attack Nerchinsk, hence gaining control over the enemy’s movement. The defending general of Nerchinsk was also hoping that Tolbusin would come to their rescue.

Luocha troops’ firearms had longer range, the Qing troops did not dare to be too close to the city. Yakesa was the base of Luocha troops’ operation on the east. Luocha people had grand ambition, they were planning on occupying the vast land over the Heilongjiang and Songhuajiang [Songhua River, Jilin province through Harbin] regions first, and then invade southward to collect the entire China into their domain, they wanted the millions upon millions people to acknowledge allegiance to them and became an empire. For this reason the Yakesa city wall was solid and thick, with enough ammunition in the city, army provisions piled up like a mountain, and would be able to withstand a siege for three years or five changes of seasons without suffering any deficiency. Deep wells were dug inside the city, there was no lack of fresh drinking water. Tolbusin was afraid the Chinese people inside the city would rise in revolt and join the attack from the inside, hence he brought all Chinese males to the city wall and killed them all, throwing their bodies down the city wall. When the Chinese soldiers and people outside the city saw this, they all hatefully hurled curses.

Gradually the tunnel was dug closer to the city. Wei Xiaobao thought that Mount Luding was the place where the Emperor’s dragon vein was located; if they dug and cut the dragon’s vein, he would have caused Kangxi’s demise, it would be greatly inappropriate. Thereupon he issued an order not to dig straight into town, but only to the ground underneath the city wall so that they could bury explosive and blow up the city wall, and then the main force could break into the city.

One day several wells inside the city suddenly dried up. Tolbusin was adept at military strategy, after receiving the report he thought about it for a while, and guessed correctly than the enemy troops were digging a tunnel, to such an extent that the source of underground water was cut somewhere upstream. Immediately he surveyed and evaluated the direction of the tunnel, and then dropped explosive on top of it. With a loud bang more than a hundred Qing troops digging the tunnel were killed, the tunnel was also blocked.

The city of Yakesa could not be broken, the weather was turning colder as the days gone by. Late autumn in this extreme-north, bitter-cold place, the temperature drop was not a small matter. When winter came, a water drop would immediately turn into ice. If one was not sufficiently protected, oftentimes one’s nose or ear would freeze and fall off. The tip of one’s finger stiffen, hands and feet freeze rotten, was a common occurrence.

After several days of heavy snow, the common people who helped the attack already could not withstand the cold; they bade their farewell to the officers and men, promising that they would return early summer the following year, when the ice thawed, to help the attack. They also advised the officers to withdraw to the south so that they would not freeze in this world of ice and snow.

Sabusu, Ba Hai, and the other officers had been stationed in the north for a long time, they knew when the winter came, the situation would be extremely dangerous. If there was a cold wave attack in the night, it would not be surprising if more than half of the officers and men would freeze to death in just one night. The Luocha troops lived in buildings, the walls would stop the cold air, but the Qing troops lived in army tents on the wilderness. Even though they could make fire, it would not be of any use. Thereupon they submitted their recommendation to Wei Xiaobao to withdraw to the south to avoid the cold.

Wei Xiaobao thought that the Emperor sent me to go into battle, not even a single city was taken, and he already wanted to withdraw the troops, inevitably he felt he was too useless; hence he hesitated for several days, without being able to make up his mind. His subordinate later reported that there were dozens of injured soldiers who were not able to withstand the cold and had been frozen to death. Wei Xiaobao was out of his wits when suddenly an imperial edict arrived.

Kangxi’s imperial edict said, “The troops sent out under the Fuyuan Great General Wei Xiaobao have done well, their excellent effort is to be commended. Presently the Luocha’s surrendering generals have received the Great Qing’s imperial order to go to Moscow to announce the imperial edict to the Luocha sovereign, urging him to cease dispatching troops, both countries will be reconciled forever. Thinking about the bitter cold weather, the soldiers and generals toil and sleep outdoors on ice and snow, Zhen’s heart is sorrowful; hereby Wei Xiaobao is to withdraw the troops to the south and station in Aigun and Kumarsk, two cities, to rest the troops and recuperate the warriors. When spring arrives and the Luocha troops are still obstinately resisting, and refuse to accept the beneficial influence of the sovereign, then you can march the troops again and sweep away and pacify the enemy in one stroke. Hereby Fuyuan Great General, as well as the generals, commanders, vice commanders and all officers and men under their command are to be rewarded with a set of clothes, gold and silver, wine, and food according to their rank. Various officers and generals must comply with Zhen’s desire, to cherish common soldiers, not greedy of quick meritorious service. Elite troops are sent on a punitive expedition to the north, the original intention was to protect the people; soldiers are also people. By the Emperor himself.”

Wei Xiaobao and his generals expressed their gratitude for the imperial decree. The generals all said that the Lord of Ten Thousand Years cherished officers and soldiers, the imperial kindness was vast and mighty, only thinking about by withdrawing from the siege, inevitably they had to abandon the meritorious deed in front of their eyes, everybody thought it was a pity. The imperial envoy delivering the imperial decree went around the camp to announce the decree and bestow rewards, the sound of soldiers’ cheering shook the earth.

The next day Wei Xiaobao ordered Sabusu to lead his troops to be the first to withdraw; he then ordered Ba Hai and Lin Xingzhu to stay behind, if the Luocha troops dared to get out of the city, they were to kill them and rout them completely.

Seeing the Qing troops retreating, the sound of Luocha troops cheering inside the city rose up; more than a thousand Luocha troops stood on top of the city wall and shot their pee down. Wei Xiaobao was enraged; he ordered his troops to pee toward the city together. Tens of thousands Qing troops urinating together, it was indeed a magnificent sight. On top and below the city wall, the roar of laughter and cursing mixed together. However, the Luocha troops were on higher plane looking down, their urine shot down the city wall, while the Qing troops could not shoot their urine up; hence in this urine battle they had lost.

There was urine everywhere under the city wall. When the cold wind blew, in an instant the urine turned into a layer of glistening yellow ice. Wei Xiaobao was so angry that he almost choked; pointing his finger to the top of the city wall he rained curses. The imperial envoy who had come to deliver the imperial edict tried to calm him down, “Luocha troops are just like beasts, Grand Marshal need not lower yourself to their level.”

“Can’t do,” Wei Xiaobao replied, “If we lose, we lose too much face!” He ordered his men to fetch the fire hose.

The fire hose was firefighting equipment; to guard against fire, whenever the troops march out and pitch camp, they always brought some. His personal guards came back, pulling more than a dozen fire hose equipment. Wei Xiaobao ordered them to push the equipment to the top of the earthen rampart. By this time the river water already froze, no water could be used. Thereupon he ordered the firefighting captain to melt ice and snow in a large cauldron, and pour the hot water into the hose. Wei Xiaobao pulled down his pants and peed into the hot water, and then he shouted his order to his personal guards, “Shoot to the top of the wall!”

Seeing their boss, the Commander-in-chief came up with this brilliant trick, the personal guards were excited; in high spirit they pulled the lever of the fire hose, pumping the water in the pipe so that a stream of hot water shot straight toward the top of the city wall. The personal guards shouted together, “Grand Marshal Wei bestows Luocha demons some urine to drink!”

As the hot water arrived, the Luocha troops shouted, cursed, and jumped around to evade. Some of the generals under Wei Xiaobao’s command inwardly exclaimed, “He’s making a scene!” Some others wanted to curry the Grand Marshal’s favor; they shouted and cheered on the side. It’s just that the weather was simply too cold, almost in no time at all the hot water inside the fire hose turned into ice so that they had to add more hot water.

Wei Xiaobao was in high spirit; he boasted and praised himself, “Zhuge Liang set the Pan She [coiling snake] valley on fire; Wei Xiaobao shot urine on Mount Luding. Both are equally impressive!”

Standing on the side, Vice Commander Lang Tan praised, “Grand Marshal’s urine shot greatly broke Luocha demons’ fighting spirit.”

Suddenly Wei Xiaobao was startled, his eyes grew big as he stared blankly. “Wow!” he cried loudly, jumped up and down, and laughed a loud. “Wonderful, wonderful!”

Wei Xiaobao ordered the drum to be sounded to summon the generals into his command tent; he asked, “How many fire hose altogether we have in the camp?”

The Canjiang in charge of military supplies responded, “Reporting to Grand Marshal: altogether we have eighteen units.”

Wei Xiaobao frowned. “Too few, too few!” he said, “Why didn’t you bring a bit more?”

“Yes!” the Canjiang replied. In his heart he mused, “Army camp caught on fire very rarely happened, eighteen fire hoses are more than enough.”

“I want a thousand units,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Quickly send people to the cities and towns around here to get more. When can we have it?”

That place was extreme north, close to the border, the area was vast, but sparsely populated, the nearest town was several hundred li away. These cities and towns only had several hundred families, the residents were impoverished and destitute, it was not likely that they would have fire hose in town; collecting a thousand fire hoses was a definite impossibility. The Canjiang looked distressed as he said, “Reporting to Grand Marshal: a thousand fire hoses, I am afraid we cannot find outside the Pass; we must go inside the Pass, to Beijing, Tianjin, and ship them here.”

“Fart!” Wei Xiaobao angrily said, “Go to Beijing, Tianjin and ship the fire hose back here, how long will it take? Fighting a war, even half a day delay is not acceptable!”

The Canjiang mumbled his agreement, his countenance changed greatly; he thought, “This time my head will be removed.”

The imperial envoy was sitting on the side; he could not bear not to advise, “Grand Marshal, you have already shot your precious urine up the Luocha people’s city wall. This … this precious spirit is not too honorable. We have already won the war, in Xiongdi’s humble opinion, it seemed that the cornered enemy … the cornered enemy need not be shot again.”

Wei Xiaobao shook his head, “No, can’t do!” he said, “Without a thousand fire hose, this great undertaking cannot be accomplished.”

The imperial envoy thought, “You, the Grand Marshal, is just acting willfully and make a scene; shooting urine to vent your grudge, playing joke once in a while is not a big deal, why would you want to do it with such great fanfare? The Young Emperor loves to use young general; these two, a ruler and his minister, are of kindred spirit, other people do not dare to talk too much. But if you are making a scene, excessively doing things not according with decorum, unavoidably we will be the laughingstock of the world.”

He wanted to advise further, but he heard Wei Xiaobao said, “Gentlemen, generals, which of you can propose a brilliant scheme to immediately obtain one thousand or two fire hoses, it will indeed be a meritorious service of utmost importance.”

Peng Chun said, “May I ask Grand Marshal: you want these thousand fire hoses, is it to be used for … used for shooting urine to the top of the wall?”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “If we have the thousand fire hose and want to use it to shoot urine to the top of the wall, how can we have enough people to pee? One million soldiers will not be enough.”

“Precisely,” Peng Chun said, “Subordinate is extremely stupid, I must ask for Grand Marshal’s direction.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Just now I saw our Marshal’s precious urine shot to the top of the city wall, it turned into ice instantly. If we use a thousand or two fire hose, day after day, night after night we shoot hot water into the city, what will happen?”

The generals were startled. Those whose brain was quick cheered first, and then the rest also understood; joyous cheers thundered inside the big tent, all generals cried out, “Brilliant, brilliant! Water floods Yakesa, ice freeze Mount Luding!”

After the joyous cheering subsided a moment later, someone said, “Even if we can have it shipped from Beijing and Tianjin, those thousand fire hose must be sent overnight.” Immediately several Fujiang and Zuoling volunteered to accept the order to obtain the fire hose.

Hong Chao’s official rank was rather low, he stood at the very back row. This moment he bowed and said, “Reporting to Grand Marshal: lowly general has a shallow opinion, would Grand Marshal hear it?”

“You may speak!” Wei Xiaobao said.

Hong Chao said, “Lowly general is a Fujian native, my hometown is very poor, we could not afford fire hose, when the countryside caught fire, everybody used bamboo tube as water guns to fight the fire. The bamboo water gun is made of coarse bamboo, with the blocks removed, at the tip we drilled a small hole, about the size of a copper coin. On the other end we used a wooden piston inserted into the bamboo tube. During the firefighting, the end with small hole was dipped into the water, the piston was pulled back, hence the bamboo tube sucks water until it was full, and then we pushed the piston, the water inside the water gun then shot out.”

“Hmm,” Wei Xiaobao muttered; he was trying to figure out how the water gun would work.

He You said, “Reporting to Grand Marshal: this water gun can be made big or small. When I was little, lowly officer played with my friends, we used water gun to shoot at people; it was fun. It’s a pity this area does not have big coarse bamboo. If we want to make water guns, this kind of coarse bamboo must be shipped from around the Changjiang [Yangtze River].”

“Do you have a better idea?” Wei Xiaobao asked Hong Chao.

Hong Chao replied, “Lowly general was just thinking, this area does not have big coarse bamboo, but big pine, big fir trees are abundant. We can chop down trees; if the center is gouged out, we can make big water guns.”

“Isn’t gouging the center of a big pine log not easy to do?” Wei Xiaobao asked.

A Fujiang [deputy general] surnamed Ban was born into a carpenter family in Shanxi; he said, “Reporting to Grand Marshal: this is actually not too difficult to do. We can saw the big log into two halves first, and then on the center of each half we can scoop out a semicircle groove, grind it really smooth, afterwards we join both halves together, the log will then have a hollow circular hole in the middle. When we put together the two halves, if we want to be exquisite, we can use bamboo shoot; but if it just a rough work, using big iron nails will also work.”

Wei Xiaobao was greatly delighted. “Wonderful!” he cried out, “How long will it take for you to build this big water gun?”

Ban Fujiang replied, “If lowly general work on it myself, I can make one in a day. If I work a day and a night, I may be able to produce two.”

Wei Xiaobao frowned, “Too slow, too slow,” he said, “You go around the camp to select your assistants, do it together, you be the Shifu, teach your apprentice. This is a rough work, you are not making the bride’s red-painted chamber pot, or a rich man’s wife’s coffin. The tree bark outside the water gun need not be stripped, as long as it can shoot water into the city, it’s good enough. Generals, let’s do it right away, cut the trees to make water guns!”

The generals received the order; they separately went out to lead their soldiers to do the assigned task. Some went to the woods to fell the trees. Some were dispatched on fast horses to common people’s houses to borrow hatchets, chisels, saws, carpenter’s planes, and other woodworking equipment.

Outside the Great Wall there were pine and fir trees everywhere, Argun River area was practically a forest, with countless century-old towering trees everywhere. The Qing army set to work, in less than half a day they already felled several thousand big logs. The number of soldiers who were originally carpenters was more than a hundred.

Ban Fujiang gathered these soldiers together, plus he selected four, five hundred handymen among the soldiers to be the assistants. They started to work that same night to make water guns. Ban Fujiang made the first water gun as the model. The water gun had a two-chi diameter hole in the middle [about 2 feet, 60cm], the barrel was about a zhang long [about 10 feet/3 meters]. At the end of the wooden piston he put a wooden crossbar, six soldiers, three on each side, were to pull and push this crossbar together. After the muzzle was put into hot water, Ban Fujiang gave the signal, six soldiers pushed the piston together, the hot water shot out of the water gun more than two hundred steps away.

Watching the demonstration, Wei Xiaobao cheered repeatedly. He said, “This is not water gun, it is a water cannon. We must pick a good name for it. Let’s call it … call it White Dragon Water Cannon.” Taking out some gold and silver, he rewarded Ban Fujiang and the officers and men who helped him building the cannon, while ordering them to work day and night to build more.

Seeing the Qing troops retreated, but then they came back, Tolbusin stood on the city wall to survey the situation; he saw countless logs piled up in the Qing army camp and thought, “Chinese barbarian cut down woods to build fire to warm themselves, apparently they wanted to continue the siege and not leaving. Humph, in half a month the blizzard will arrive, you will have to bear the brunt of it. Even if you build bigger fire, you won’t be able to block the ill wind and cold air in this ice hell.” He went down the city wall, ordered his personal guards to add fuel to the stove heating his room, and then he poured some strong Luocha wine and summoned two Chinese young women prisoners to serve him drinking the wine.

Peng Chun, He You, and the others dispatched the cavalry to go to the common people homes within several hundred li radius to borrow iron cauldrons and iron pots and brought everything to the main camp. They dug the ground to make furnace, piled the firewood, and collected ice and snow into piles so that from a distant the piles looked like small hills. They also covered each finished ‘White Dragon Water Cannon’ with tree branches so that the Luocha troops would not find out about it.

Several days later, Ban Fujiang reported that they had manufactured three thousand White Dragon Water Cannon. According to the position of the sun, the next day was an auspicious day, in the maoshi hour [between 5-7am] Wei Xiaobao was already out of his tent. The drums were struck to assemble the generals. He ordered the water cannon to be brought to the top of the rampart, with the muzzles aimed toward the city. The bugle horns were sounded, ‘Bang! Bang! Bang!’ the signaling cannon were fired nine times in succession. Officers and soldiers of all units immediately moved; they shoveled the ice and snow into the iron cauldrons and pots to melt it.

Tolbusin was sleeping peacefully underneath his warm blanket, suddenly he heard the cannon blasts outside the city. Hastily he jumped up and hurriedly put on his clothes, draped a sable fur coat over his shoulder, and ran to the top of the city walls to watch. At that time a blizzard was blowing, the sky looked like it was dusk; in the haze he saw wooden logs spread along the long rampart built by the Qing troops. While he was wondering what was going on, suddenly he heard the Qing troops shouted together, as if the mountain was split the earth cracked open, several thousand tree trunks suddenly shot water; from four sides eight directions water spurted into the city.

Tolbusin was shocked. He could only cry out one word, “Aiyo!” as a stream of hot water hit his chest. Actually the weather was really too cold, so that when the hot water was shot, it did not burn at all, but the momentum was enough to knock him off his feet that he stumbled and fell on the top of the wall. The personal guard standing next to him hastily helped him up.

They heard all around them people were screaming, while above their heads the water swooshing incessantly. Just like white dragons streams of water flew into the city. In an instant the city of Yakesa was covered in boundless thick fog, created by the water vapor condensing due to the contact with cold air. Tolbusin’s heart was shaken, “Chinese barbarians are using witchcraft!” he called out. Big tree trunks unexpectedly could spurt out water, no doubt it was witchcraft.

In his fright, he shouted, “Everybody open fire, don’t let the Chinese barbarians break into the city!” However, ever since that day when the Qing troops stripped him naked and paraded him around the city three times, he had suffered great lost in term of prestige in the eyes of his people, when he barked his order, the troops under his command did not jump to it like before. It was only because the situation was urgent due to Qing troops’ siege that the Luocha troops were afraid that if the city was broken none of them could survive alive, hence they defended the city with everything they had.

Suddenly seeing the huge and unexpected change this time, with several thousand columns of water shooting into the city, the troops scattered in all directions; how could they find the time to heed his order? Fortunately the Qing troops only shot water without trying to attack the city. After panicking for a while the Luocha troops started to calm down, yet they saw the water on the ground was turning into ice, while overhead streams of water freely rained down like it was poured from the sky, splashing down on them.

By this time in the city of Yakesa all the Chinese males had been killed, only some young women left, forced to be army camp prostitutes and to provide degenerate pleasures to the Luocha troops. Other than Luocha soldiers and military officers, Yakesa residents included civil officers sent by Moscow, missionaries and army chaplains, some military merchants, some rogue characters who went to the east to get rich by ill-gotten wealth, and some small thieves and big robbers, and criminals who avoided prison. In no time at all everybody was drenched like a drowned rat.

At first the water was still rather warm, but very soon the wet clothes turned cold; another moment, the wet clothes began to freeze. Everybody was shocked. In panic they took off their clothes, underpants and leather boots. They all knew that if the clothes froze, it would stick onto their skin; by that time their fingers would be too stiff to take it off. Even if someone helped them, oftentimes the skin would be torn, along with the clothes, pants, shoes or boots. It was really dangerous.

The level of water on the ground rose steadily, it slowly solidified into something like thin porridge. Since the Luocha people were barefooted, the cold penetrated their bones; they could not help jumping around while screaming, “Chilled to the bones, chilled to the bones!” Everybody tried to scramble to higher elevation, some people even climbed up their roof. Someone in the crowd cried out, “Surrender, surrender! If we don’t surrender, all of us will freeze to death.”

Wearing sable fur coat and holding an umbrella in his left hand, Tolbusin rode on a big and tall horse going back and forth on inspection. Hearing someone cried ‘surrender’, he shouted in anger, “Who is disturbing the troops’ heart here? Spy! Pull him down and shoot him dead!”

Everybody could see that the sable fur coat he was wearing was waterproof, his body was warm, yet he was shouting and cursing in here, while other people were freezing and hovering between life and death; everybody was indignant. Immediately someone picked up a piece of ice chunk and made a snowball, and threw it to him. Tolbusin raised the short gun, ‘bang, bang!’ he shot randomly toward the crowd, and killed two people instantly. The rest of the people immediately threw ice chunks and snowballs to him. Someone even pounced on him to pull him down from the horseback. His bodyguards brandished their saber to attack and kill, but how could they stop the mob?

In this chaos a small team of cavalry rushed over, Luocha mob dispersed in confusion. Tolbusin crawled up from the ground. By lucky coincidence two streams of water above his head happened to pour down, immediately his entire body was drenched. He bounced around while cursing loudly, and had no choice but to order his bodyguards to help him shedding his clothes and boots.

The Qing troops could see the sorry situation the Luocha troops were in, their shout of joy thundered over the earthen rampart. In mixed accent, north and south, they started to sing vulgar songs. One of the songs was inevitably Wei Xiaobao’s ‘one touch, two touches’, the ‘Eighteen Touches’ song.

Peng Chun and the other officers were busy giving directions. The team of carpenters led by Ban Fujiang intensified their effort repairing the failed water cannon. The water-boiler team was busy adding firewood to maintain the fire, while continuously shoveling the ice and snow into the pots. The water-transporter team brought hot water bucket by bucket and fed it into the cannon’s muzzle. When the barrel was full of water, “One, two, three, fire!” Six gunners pushed the piston as hard as they could. A stream of water like arrow shot out of the muzzle and flew into the city.

The Qing troops’ water cannon shot hot water columns as straight as a pillar. Some columns of water burst into water droplets as they reach the sky above the city, and sprayed down just like heavy rain. Some others were shot low, but maintained their shape and did not scatter as the stream hit a person. The quality of the water cannon differed one from another, some had great power and were able to shoot far, some had very short range, some even had their barrels cracked and burst open after only several shots; as a result not a few of the Qing troop’s ‘gunners’ were scalded.

After shooting hot water for more than two hours, out of three thousand water cannon, about six or seven hundred cannon went bad. At the same time, the water-boiler team could not boil ice and snow fast enough to feed the cannon, eventually the ‘ammunition’ failed to keep up with the firing of the cannon. After shooting for more than another hour, more water cannon were damaged, the hot water supply diminished, only about eight or nine hundred water cannon were still operating, the assault power was greatly reduced.

Wei Xiaobao was frustrated; suddenly he saw the city gate opened wide, several hundred Luocha troops rushed forth and shouting, “Surrender, surrender!”

By this time the gunshot wound on Sabusu’s head was almost healed; immediately he led his thousand-man cavalry forward to intercept. “Those who surrender sit on the ground!” he shouted.

The Luocha people looked at each other, they did not understand. One low-level officer in Qing army sat down on the ground, he shouted, “Sit down, sit down!”

Right this moment, the city gate closed again. From the top of city walls several volleys of gunfire shot down, killing several dozen of surrendering Luocha people. The rest of them scattered in all directions. The Qing troops aimed the water cannon to the Luocha soldiers and generals who opened fire at top of the city wall, streams of water were shot, the Luocha troops fell on the city wall.

By this time the water inside the city had reached two chi, and for the most part had turned into ice. For the whole city to be covered in ice and turned it into one big freezing city, it would need at least ten days to half a month. But the Luocha troops were without clothes without shoes, and they could not light fire, everybody was shivering in cold, their faces started to turn blue. Several soldiers pressed their bodies close together trying to warm themselves.

Tolbusin ran around freely while shouting and berating his troops, ordering them to defend the city. But his troops turned their heads around and ignored him. Tolbusin was angry, he reached out to slap an officer. The officer turned around and ran, Tolbusin chased him. Suddenly his foot slipped on the ice and he fell to the ground. A soldier nearby reached down to push him into a hole to collect water on the ground. Tolbusin struggled hard, but his hands and feet were numb, he was unable to crawl up. “Help me, help me!” he cried out.

The soldiers and officers all looked at him in despise, they congregated around the water hole. Not too long afterwards, the water in the hole started to freeze into ice, freezing Tolbusin along. His upper body was still outside the ice hole, he was still gasping for breath, but from the chest down it was as if he was buried alive in the ice.

At this point everybody had the same thought; they opened the city gate and shouted, “Surrender!” and swarmed outside.

In his ecstasy, Wei Xiaobao was dancing and flailing his hands and feet, while babbling nonsense. He tried to issue an order, but his words were completely unintelligible. Fortunately the high-ranking officers in the Qing army were all veteran generals who had been through many battles; they all responded, “We receive the order!” but actually they handled the surrendering troops on their own. They entered the city, disarmed the soldiers, and cleared up all formalities; everything was executed in clear and orderly manner, but actually it had nothing to do with Grand Marshal Wei’s order at all.

When they previously shot water into the city, they were afraid it was not enough, but now they wanted to burn the ice to melt it, turning it into water and disgorged it outside the city; however, it was not easy at all. In the end they had to let nature take its course.

Lang Tan led his troops to clear up the governor-general mansion first, they tidied it up properly before inviting Wei Xiaobao, Songgotu and the imperial envoy to enter. And then he went to the ammunition storage, firearm armory, gold and silver warehouse, and other strategic locations to seal them up, and assigned his troops to guard.

In those days the Qing Dynasty was strong, discipline in the army was strict. Inevitably high-ranking officials like Wei Xiaobao, Songgotu and the others could seize the opportunity to make easy money, but military officers and soldiers did not dare to take even one object without permission.

Inside and outside the city people were slaughtering the cattle and butchered the sheep in large scale celebration. Flattery from Songgotu and the others surged like the tide; they said that Grand Marshal Wei deployed the troops like deity, that even if Sunwu [Sun Tzu] of the ancient time was reborn, he would not be superior. The imperial envoy said, “This time Xiongdi went out, His Majesty repeatedly advised Grand Marshal Wei not to kill and injure too many people. Today Grand Marshal Wei took strong city, admittedly you have rendered amazing merit; what’s more impressive is that unexpectedly saber, spear, sword and halberd, bow and arrow and firearm, not a single one was used, not even one lowly soldier was killed in battle. In one day we devastated strong enemy, subdued famous city, without losing a single general a single troop; since ancient time, Grand Marshal Wei is the only one who can do this. Not only it is unprecedented, I am sure it will not be repeated in the future.”

Wei Xiaobao was immensely proud of himself; he blew his horn, “Breaking Yakesa would have not been difficult. The difficulty lies in the vast and mighty imperial kindness, who empathize with officers and soldiers, and do not allow too much casualties. For this reason Xiongdi wanted to wait until today to use this tactic, so that Imperial Envoy Minister can see it with your own eyes. We are working for His Majesty, fighting a victorious battle, that is nothing, anybody can do it, it cannot be considered rare. But to look up to honor His Majesty’s holy intention, to fight a victorious battle without killing people, this is a bit more difficult.”

All the generals thought that although he was tooting his horn, but to fight a victorious battle without killing people was indeed an enormous difficulty; thereupon they all nodded their heads. Songgotu said, “This is His Majesty’s flood of good fortune that Grand Marshal Wei is a genius.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Today, from top to bottom, everybody has rendered very big merit. If not for Imperial Envoy Daren and Suo Daren went in person to the front line, dauntlessly supervised and directed the battle, we would not achieve the victory this easy.”

The imperial envoy and Songgotu were greatly delighted, they were extremely grateful. During the battle just now, the two of them, civil officials, were hiding far away, for fear that they would be injured by firearm, arrow or rock; there was no such thing as ‘going in person to the front line, dauntlessly supervising and directing the battle’. But since Wei Xiaobao said so, that means in the report of their success, there would be a mention of their part in rendering some great merit.

Manchurian Qing army’s system of bestowing rewards for merit was most generous, far above any other meritorious service in other areas. There was a common saying, “Everybody carries the spending [money] sedan chair.” Wei Xiaobao was deeply versed in the way of the government officials, giving the imperial envoy that kind of merit did not cost him anything, he also had nothing to lose. When the imperial envoy returned to Beijing, he would definitely report and brag on Wei Xiaobao’s behalf in front of the Emperor, increasing his contribution from fifty-percent to a hundred percent, while at the same time, if Wei Xiaobao had done something that was beyond army regulation or went over his boundary, the imperial envoy and Songgotu would definitely spare no effort in concealing it, in guarding their mouths like a closed bottle.

After everybody had had their fill of food and wine, Sabusu’s subordinate who was in charge of the Luocha troops came to report that they had dug Tolbusin out of the icy hole, and brought him to the steps outside the building. By this time Tolbusin had already frozen to death, his whole body was blue. Wei Xiaobao sighed and said, “This man picked an unlucky name. If he was not called Tu’er Bu Qing [this is the transliteration of Tolbusin’s name, with ‘bu qing’ means ‘spreading blue’], but Tu’er Bu Cai [‘bu cai’ means ‘spreading wealth’], he couldn’t possibly turn blue, but he could make a fortune.” He ordered his men to fetch a coffin and prepare Tolbusin for burial.

After the surrendering troops were counted and the property, equipment, weapons, etc. in the city were properly inventoried, Wei Xiaobao, Songgotu and the imperial envoy jointly prepared a memorial to the Emperor. They then dispatched riders on fast horses to Beijing to report the success of their mission to the Emperor.

Book note:

In the military campaign this time, Deputy Commander Lang Tan was acting as the famous general Wu Bai’s son. Wu Bai was originally conferred the title ‘Jing Qi Ni Ha Pan’ (that is, ‘viscount’). After rendering great merit in Yakesa, Lang Tan was also conferred nobility title.

[1] It appears to be a reference to an obscure poem written by Qing dynasty poet Zha Shenxing [see the author’s note at the end of Chapter 1] named “大清军威”, “The Great Qing’s Military Might”. The full poem is as follows:

星奴结柳翻多事,五鬼争弹贡禹冠 (Courtesy of Ren Wo Xing)

[2] Shashlyk (literally ‘skewing meat’) is a form of Shish kebab popular throughout the former Soviet Union, parts of Eastern Europe, Mongolia, Iran and Israel. Shashlyk is originally lamb (in some extent pork or beef) depending on local preferences and religious observances. These skewers of meat are either all meat, all fat, or alternating pieces of meat, fat, and vegetables such as bell pepper, onion and tomato. Meat for shashlyk (as opposed to other forms of shish kebab) is usually marinated overnight in a high-acidity marinade like vinegar, dry wine or sour fruit/vegetable juice with the addition of herbs and spices. (Courtesy of Ace High)

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