After telling Gu Xiao Wu about Yuezhi chasing me, he said: “According to your words, the tent of the Great Chanyu of Tujue is at least three hundred miles away?” I nodded. “But Tujue people are nomadic, how can you find them?” “I have a way. In short, I must save He Shi.” Gu Xiao Wu frowned at me, saying: “But water from afar wouldn’t help quench a fire nearby. Grand Protectorate General to Pacify the West is near here, why don’t you turn to its head office to resist Yuezhi?” I was stunned. To be honest, although armies from the Central Plains controlled the Western Regions for their great strength, other countries were unsettled by such a strength. As a result, even if countries in the Western Regions were at war, none of them would resort to the Central Plains armed forces. From the view of our people of Western Regions, it was our own business. The Centric State in the Central Plains sent troops to the Western Regions to control here, but the dispute between the countries in the Western Regions would not involve the Centric State. To give an example, when fighting with your own brother, you would not turn to an outsider for help in any case.
I said: “Although Grand Protectorate General to Pacify the West is close here, I can’t turn to their armies.” Gu Xiao Wu raised his eyebrows: “Why?” I didn’t know the reason, but all countries in the Western Regions had this taboo. I said: “In any case, we have nothing to do with the Emperor of Central Plains.” “Under the sky, nothing isn’t the king’s land; the people who lead the lands, no one isn’t the king’s subjects.” said Gu Xiao Wu, “Everything in this world is related to the Emperor of the Central Plains. Besides, the reason why the Emperor set up Grand Protectorate General to Pacify the West is that he needs to maintain the stability of the Western Regions. Yuezhi really crossed the line, so we can take this opportunity to teach them lessons.” He spoke like a book, and I couldn’t understand his words. He led both horses here and said, “The Grand Protectorate General to Pacify the West is in the south. It takes only half a day to reach there. I will accompany you to ask its head office for help.” I hesitated: “I… I don’t think it’s a good idea.” “You don’t want to save He Shi?” “Of course!” He helped me mount little red horse and said, “Come along!” After we traveled a long way, I suddenly remembered one thing: “How on earth did you find me? ” Gu Xiao Wu’s face was as beautiful as a Hetian jade under the burning sun at noon. He grinned, showing his white teeth: “Just try my luck!” As Gu Xiao Wu said, we rode south and saw a city built like a towering mountain at sunset after half a day. The Emperor of the Central Plains set up the Grand Protectorate General to Pacify the West more than a hundred years ago, stationing troops and opening up wasteland for farming so as to protect the important line of communications.
This was a vital communications hub for merchants, which was the only place for passing travelers to stop for a rest, so it was more prosperous than the empire city of Western Liang.
At first I was worried that the protectorate would ignore Gu Xiao Wu and me. I didn’t expect that Gu Xiao Wu should take me straight to its head office and hit the drum in front of the hall.
Later I learned that the drum was of great significance. Although it was called Taiping (which means peace) Drum, in fact, it had another name: Xing (which means wake up) Drum. Hitting the drum meant a war would begin. Several soldiers rushed out and took us inside without giving us the opportunity to explain. The protectorate was sitting in the courtroom. He was a mailed general with a bushy beard, having an air of authority. Among all the Central Plains people I had seen, he was most like a military officer.
He asked us what happened in a deep voice. I didn’t understand the lauguage the Central Plains people use, so I looked at Gu Xiao Wu without knowing what to do. Gu Xiao Wu signaled to me that I should answer. I had no idea. Fortunately, the protectorate could speak Tujue language. Seeing I don’t understand the Central Plains Mandarin, he asked me again in Tujue language, “Why do you beat the drum in front of the hall?” I could speak quite fluent Tujue language because my mother was a Turkic. Therefore I told them the cavalry of Yuezhi had intruded into the Tujue’s territory and requested a troop to save He Shi and his men.
The protectorate hesitated. The Protectorate General to Pacify the West rarely interfered in the affairs of western countries except putting down rebellions since it was established in the Central Plains. Yuezhi’s invasion into Tujue’s territory was improper, but it was indeed unconventional that the weak Yuezhi bullied the strong Tujue. I thought it was the reason why he hesitated.
He said as expected, “Since Tujue’s cavalry is well-known outside the Yumen Gate, why do you Tujue people ask me for help instead of sending your troops?” I told him that the Great Chanyu’s tent transferred constantly, and it would take me a long time to find the Left Guli and his army, although they were nearby. So I turned to the Protectorate General to Pacify the West for help, hoping to rescue He Shi and his men as soon as possible.
Thinking of He Shi and his dozens of cavalries who were resisting a huge number of cavalries of Yuezhi, I was extremely worried. While the protectorate was wavering, Gu Xiao Wu suddenly said a sentence in Central Plains Mandarin.
Hearing that, the protectorate seemed to be shocked and stood up from his judgement seat. Gu Xiao Wu stepped forward and bowed. His voice was so low that I couldn’t hear him clearly. Besides, I knew a little about Central Plains Mandarin. After he said a few words, the protectorate kept nodding.
The protectorate soon commanded a chiliarch to take two thousand cavalries to rescue He Shi and his men that very night.
I was overjoyed. After coming out of the Protectorate General to Pacify the West, I asked Gu Xiao Wu, “How could you make him agree on sending troops?” Gu Xiao Wu showed a sly grin and said, “I won’t tell you.” I pouted angrily.
The army of the Central Plains was highly disciplined. Although they rushed at late night, they queued up neatly. I could hear nothing but clop, clang of amour occasionally and the sound of torch burning. I noticed that torches used by the Central Plains Army were made of wood with wad on one side and were soaked in kerosene. Kerosene was a specialty of Tian Gen Mountain. It was dark and flammable, which was used by herdsmen to make fire and boil water occasionally. But people in the city seldom used it due to its heavy smoke and pungent odor. Unexpectedly, the army of the Central Plains used it to make torches. I thought they were smart, so they could always come up with solutions that we couldn’t imagine.
After rushing all night, we caught up with Yuezhi’s cavalry at the crack of dawn. At that time, they had retreated to Yuezhi’s territory.
Yuezhi’s cavalry ran exceedingly fast. The white gonfalon had disappeared and He Shi and dozens of Tujue warriors had vanished with horses when we caught up with Yuezhi’s cavalry. I was terrified that He Shi and his men were killed. While Gu Xiao Wu was conferring with the chiliarch, I heard the cavalry of the Central Plains dispatch orders to disperse.
I heard from my father that army of the Central Plains paid attention to tactical formation. It was awesome to defeat the enemy with a force inferior in number. Especially now, the cavalry of the Central Plains was more than twice larger than that of Yuezhi and intended to surround Yuezhi’s cavalry, which made Yuezhi’s general turned his horse around and reprimanded.
I didn’t know what he was talking about because I hadn’t learned Yuezhi’s language. But Gu Xiao Wu, a tea merchant traveling around the Western Regions, must know it. He said to me: “The general is questioning us, why our troop intruded into Yuezhi’s territory.” I said: “He crossed Tujue’s frontier yesterday and claimed me as a lost slave of Yuezhi. Now he should be in the right and self-confident.” Gu Xiao Wu said something to the chiliarchy besides him, and then latter ordered one soldier to give a response to Yuezhi’s general. Gu Xiao Wu smiled at me and said: “I told Yuezhi’s general that we are just passing by here for escorting Western Liang’s princess to return home. Therefore, he doesn’t need to be panic and afraid we attack them.” I thought he was so shameless that if there was a list for liars, Gu Xiao Wu must be ranked 1st. He was capable to lie forcefully and with justice. Were all people from the Central Plains good at lying? Shifu was a liar, so was Gu Xiao Wu.
When the two sides were negotiating, with the cover of light thin fog in the morning, that chiliarchy had taken a thousand light cavalries to surround Yuezhi’s cavalry from their back. When Yuezhi’s cavalry became aware of that, the vanguard units had started the attack.
It was a battle without any suspense. Yuezhi’s cavalry was defeated, because they couldn’t break through the army’s encirclement. Most of Yuezhi’s cavalries were killed by sharp weapons the Central Plains produced, and the rest just surrendered. Although Gu Xiao Wu was a tea merchant, he was calm as usual in the violent battle. There were countless injuries and casualties, shedding blood everywhere, but Gu Xiao Wu didn’t even raise his eyebrows as if the battle was just a game. That chiliarchy was accustomed to battles and dealt with the surrender properly. Two thousand of cavalries withdrew east, with hundreds of defeated soldiers.
I rushed into Yuezhi’s troop to look for He Shi, but didn’t find him. Yuezhi’s general, being captured, was bound tightly to be taken to that chiliarchy. Then that chiliarchy handed the general over to Gu Xiao Wu respectfully. I asked Gu Xiaowu to interrogate the general, but the general was very stubborn and refused to cooperate. Gu Xiaowu said casually: “Now that you don’t confess, what else you can do?” That chiliarchy heard the words and then ordered one to behead the general. The military orders couldn’t be disobeyed and the general was immediately killed. A soldier brought the general’s head to us by the hair. Blood dripped from his chamber and fell on the green grassland, like a gorgeous flower.
I couldn’t bear the bloody scene anymore and plus I hadn’t eaten anything all day, I felt a little dizzy. The person next to me looked at my pale face and kindly handed me a water bladder. But I couldn’t even drink. Then I saw that another Yuezhi’s soldier was arraigned. Gu Xiao Wu first showed the general’s head to that soldier and then asked where He Shi was. Although Yuezhi people were brave and good at war, the man was already depressed after being captured. Plus seeing the dead general, the soldier was frightened and confessed.
The soldier said He Shi withdrew as fighting until to the foot of Tian Gen Mountain. They defended against Yuezhi’s cavalry by the mountain until they ran out of arrows. But Yuezhi people did not kill them immediately, instead, that general took their horses away and forced He Shi and others into the wild place of Tian Gen Mountain. Yuezhi people were really vicious – there were groups of wolves in the mountain. He Shi had neither horses nor arrows. It would be very dangerous if He Shi met wolves.