Chapter 37: Great Wisdom Hidden Within
After choking for a moment due to Cheng Dalei’s question, Li Xingzai gave an awkward smile, “It seems like the boss has some wisdom about this?”
“Truth be told, an army that fights for glory isn’t the strongest either.” Cheng Dalei spoke carelessly, “A stronger army should be one that fights for faith, I think?”
“Yes, faith! A army of thousands, tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands united by common faith. They would fear neither death nor failure, and each that dies will be replaced by countless more. A army like that would obviously take victory wherever they march.”
“Could there really be such an army in this world?” Li Xingzai found it hard to believe.
“Of course.” Cheng Dalei thought of the history that he knew in his previous life.
Li Xingzai and Li Waner exchanged a glance, shocked. Could there really be an army like what Cheng Dalei described in the world? Would would such an army look like.
This night, the two simply casually chatted about all sorts of things, from ancient history to current events, as well as all kinds of thoughtful issues that came up.
Like how to get a person willingly go to their deaths?
In an age of warfare before guns, men would be forced to confront their foes face to face, with bloody and visceral wounds. One’s comrades will fall by your side, their innards spilling out. The next one to die may be you, or it could be anyone really.
In such a situation, no one had the time or presence to consider the tactics or maneuverings. All they can do is kill and fight with all their capabilities. At such a time, everyone will end up thinking, ‘for what am I fighting for?’
Everyone only have one life. Everyone wants to live on. In that case, how does one live on then? The obvious choice then is to turn about and run away, and get away as far from the battlefield as possible.
However, the moment that happens, a squad will turn into a rout, allowing their enemies to cut them down like animals. It was just like the battle between Blackstone City and the Toad Bandits. Morale was destroyed in the shortest time possible, and thus five individuals won against a thousand.
All commanders need to face this problem. A real battle isn’t one where one can simply wave their sword and order the army to attack, and the army will then charge forward like they’re machines. The actual situation may very well be that when the commander waves his sword about and order an attack, the soldiers under him would have already ran away.
In that case, the problem that every commander needs to consider is thus: How to make it so that your soldiers stop their motion to turn about, instead charge toward the enemies’ brandished weapons, and use their own lives to cut open a path forward.
Life, profit, glory, faith… Can they become the reason for that?
Within the room, both Cheng Dalei and Li Xingzai fell silent like they were considering this question. Li Xingzai gave Cheng Dalei a glance. Cheng Dalei was hunched up into a ball, leaning on a wall, sniffling through his snot…
Li Xingzai was currently thinking, ‘It’s natural for me to be considering this question, but what is a bandit like you considering?’
“Truth be told, an army gathered by faith isn’t the strongest either. The strongest army is one that fights for survival.” Cheng Dalei broke the silence.
“Survival?” Li Waner asked, “Then wouldn’t everyone end up deserting and running away?”
“But running away may not help them survive.” Cheng Dalei slightly shifted his body in a more comfortable position, “It’s just like the wars between the Rong and the Empire. Why is it that the Rong win every engagement, while the Empire can only lose?”
Li Xingzai got serious at that. This is also a question that has puzzled the Empire for over a century. The Empire is far stronger than the Ron in terms of quantity, equipment, or military organization, yet they can’t even win when they outnumber their foes ten to one.
“Does the boss have some wisdom?”
“I can’t really call it wisdom or whatever. I’m just speaking randomly here.” Cheng Dalei acted very unconcerned though. He asked, “Have you considered why the Rong would try to invade the Empire?”
“That…” Li Xingzai was just about to reply, but then he found that he didn’t have a good answer to that question.
“The Empire and the Ron are natural enemies. They’ve already fought for hundreds of years. The Rong want to invade the Empire at any chance. They’re vicious, barbaric, and unenlightened… They’re basically just a bunch of bandits.” Li Waner interjected, but as she got to the end, she suddenly remembered that the person before her is also a bandit, so she wisely shut her mouth.
“That’s what they say anyways. The entirety of the Empire think of the Rong as demons or something. They’re bored out of their skulls the whole time, and they’d try to attack the Empire whenever their bellies are full.” Cheng Dalei shook his head, “The truth, however, is that the Rong attacks the Empire not because they’ve filled their bellies, but rather that… They can’t fill their bellies.”
Li Xingzai held his breath and attentively listened to Cheng Dalei’s words. Each and every word from this bandits mouth was like a key opening up a new world for him, allowing him to think on those questions that he had never considered before.
“The Rong live on the plains and live via ranching. However, they’re subject to disasters both natural and by man, so they in reality live far harder lives than the people of the Empire. A single dust storm can turn a patch of the plains to desert and kill off masses of cows and sheep. On the one side, they seriously can’t live on, and they might end up eating nothing but wind depending on the mood of the heavens. On the other hand, not far from them is a beautiful paradise in the form of the Empire. There’s food, women, and all kinds of riches right there for the taking, so what would you do in their place?” Cheng Dalei yawned before slowly continuing, “So what if they die? They’re dead anyways if they go back to the plains. Thus, they might as well just gamble using their own lives. Since every person of a tribe is forced into desperation, then it’s only natural that they’d be able to display a powerful will to fight when their lives depend on it.”
Li Xingzai was silent. Only after a long while did he finally speak up, “30 years ago, when the Rong invaded the Empire, it seemed to have coincided with a rare drought. Not only the plains of the Rong, but even a lot of places in the Empire ended up with utterly ruined harvests. Throughout all theses years, in prosperous years, the Rong would end up causing less trouble, while in lean years, the Rong tend to invade in relatively greater numbers.”
Cheng Dalei continued speaking, “Every member of the Rong fight with the resolve to die, but what are the defending soldiers of the Empire thinking? If the borders are lost, there’s still the central areas. If they lost a battle, then they can still run. One side will certainly die if they don’t win, and the other can escape death just by running. How could the Empire possibly win in this situation then? This isn’t even getting into all the internal political intrigue and maneuvering in Court regarding the army either.”
Li Xingzai carefully chewed over Cheng Dalei’s words. He needed to properly digest these new bits of information right after gaining it. The Empire has been warring with the Rong every year ever since its establishment, but their defeats far outnumbered their victories.
Everyone was trying to figure out why this is, but a few words from Cheng Dalei this day ended up pointing straight to the heart of the issue. Yet, these pearls of wisdom came from the mouth of a bandit.
“Mister Cheng!” Li Xingzai suddenly raised his head, “Are you willing to accompany me back to the Capital Province?”
Cheng Dalei was quite startled, “What am I going to the Capital with you for?”
“Sir has great wisdom hidden within you, so you truly shouldn’t be buried out in the wilds. If you were to accompany me back to the Capital Province, then you’re sure to have a great future ahead of you!” Li Xingzai suddenly grabbed Cheng Dalei’s hands.
Cheng Dalei felt a bit creeped out by Li Xingzai’s intent staring. Did that guy turn dumb from his random ramblings or something!
In his previous life when guys get together and chat about, who doesn’t make all kinds of claims, analysis, and outrageous claims and plans? As for whether they were right or wrong with those comments… Who the heck needs to take responsibility for randomly shooting the breeze!
Today, Cheng Dalei also basically just said whatever came to mind. He didn’t bother to seriously consider his words before he uttered them. After all, it’s not like he’d end up executed if he was wrong. But now, looking at Li Xingzai… He seems to have taken it seriously.