Great war of Xiangyang.
The group proceeded south and inquired about Fawang (Golden Wheel Monk) and Guo Xiang along the way. Soon news came from everywhere saying the North and South Mongolian Armies are besieging Xiangyang, engaging the Song soldiers at the foot of the city several times, with both sides suffering many loses. The situation there was grave and urgent. Huang Rong was worried and said, “The Mongols are attacking Xiangyang, we must get there fast. Let’s ignore Xiang’er’s safety temporarily.” The group agreed unanimously.
The elders Huang Yaoshi, Yideng and Zhou Botong did not bother about worldly affairs, but Xiangyang’s fate was extremely important, besides everyone was putting in their best to defend it, so they could not ignore the situation.
They did not meet any delays on their journey and so they reached the outskirts of Xiangyang in a day. They found the battle trumpets sounding continuously and the flags waving, the swords were like a forest and horses were running frantically about. The city was like a speck in the desert as the Mongol Armies surrounded it. When they saw this, they were shocked and dismayed. Huang Rong said, “The enemy is mighty. We must wait till evening before attempting to get in.” They then hid in the nearby forest and apart from Zhou Botong who was smiling mischievously, the rest looked grim.
At the second watch, Huang Rong led the way and charged through the enemy camps. Although their martial arts were powerful, the Mongol camps were vast, one coming after the other. They were only halfway through when the patrols spotted them. The soldiers sounded the alarm and three hundred squads surrounded them. The rest of the camps, however, did not stir and were still calm.
Zhou Botong grabbed two long spears and tried to open a way out while Huang Yaoshi and Yideng held a shield each guarding the rear and blocking the troops. The four women were in the middle and the group pushed their way out anxiously. They were still in the camp and so the enemy did not fire arrows at them for fear of hitting their own horses and losing a valuable war asset. However when they reached the open plains the archers fired relentlessly, causing Zhou Botong, Yideng and the others, to have a hard time fending them off. The seven people moved and fought at the same time but the enemy troop numbers became larger and larger, with dozens of spears piercing towards them. Zhou Botong, Huang Yaoshi and the rest unleashed their mighty palm power and smashed many spears and killed many soldiers. But the Mongols were much superior in numbers and they fought fiercely, forcing the group into a dangerous situation.
Zhou Botong laughed, “Old Heretic Huang, looks like our three old lives are going to be lost here, but you must think of a way to get these four beauties safely out of here.” Yinggu spat, “What rubbish! How can an old woman like me be a beauty? If we are to die, we die together; let’s just save these three beauties.”
Huang Rong was secretly shocked, “The Old Urchin looks like he’s not afraid of the earth or the sky and never says a serious word. Today we’re heavily surrounded and he thinks of sacrificing his life, it looks like this situation is indeed dire!” The enemy gathered together like ants from all directions and apart from fighting to the last man, she also could not think of any way out.
After charging through several more camps Huang Rong saw two large black tents on the left and since she had accompanied Genghis Khan on his western expedition, she knew the tents were used to store the grain. She snatched a torch and dashed to the tents. The soldiers shouted and chased her. She ran forwards quickly and darted into a tent, and set everything on fire. Soon the tents were ablaze and she rushed out and rejoined her party.
The tents contained many flammable objects and the fire caused many small explosions within. Zhou Botong found this interesting and threw his spear aside and snatched two torches and ran around setting everything in sight on fire. He unwittingly set a stable on fire causing the horses to neigh unceasingly, throwing the camp into chaos.
Guo Jing heard some confusion in the camp to the west of the city and he rushed to the city wall. He saw a few people rushing out from a burning camp and knew they were creating trouble for the enemy so he quickly dispatched the Wu brothers with two thousand men to meet the party.
The Wu brothers had not gone a mile when they saw Huang Yaoshi supporting Lu Wushuang and Yideng supporting Zhou Botong. The seven people rode on five horses galloping quickly. The Wu brothers did not go forward to attack the enemy but ordered the men to get into formation, holding the enemy back. They then ordered the flank to come forward and support the party while everyone retreated back into the city.
Guo Jing was waiting at the top of the city wall and saw it was his father-in-law, wife, Reverend Yideng, Zhou Botong and company. He was delighted and quickly went forth to receive them. He saw that Lu Wushuang had been hit by an arrow in the waist; three arrows were lodged in Zhou Botong’s back and his eyebrows were scorched by fire. The two people were badly injured. Cheng Ying and Yinggu also suffered arrow wounds but their condition was not so serious. Yideng and Huang Yaoshi had deep medical knowledge but when they examined Zhou Botong and Lu Wushuang, they frowned and remained silent.
Zhou Botong laughed, “Duke Duan, don’t fret, this Old Urchin won’t die so easily. You should spend more effort treating that beauty Lu Wushuang.” He had always made monkey faces at Huang Yaoshi but he respected Yideng and was perhaps even fearful of him. Yideng had become a monk many years ago but Zhou Botong still addressed him as ‘Duke Duan’. Huang Yaoshi and Yideng saw that he had a high tolerance to pain so they smiled and stopped worrying. Lu Wushuang, however, was still unconscious.
The following day at the crack of dawn the war drums were sounded and battle chants shouted. The Mongolians had attacked. The Xiangyang troops acted according to Governor Lu Wenhuan and the Defense General’s orders and defended the four city gates. Guo Jing and Huang Rong ascended the city walls and saw that the Mongol troops were spread across the mountains and plains, seemingly endless. The Mongol armies had attacked Xiangyang many times, but this time the campaign involved the largest military force ever. Fortunately Guo Jing had spent some time in the Mongol armed forces before and was well-versed in their techniques of capturing a city, so he was well-prepared. No matter how the enemy deployed their archers, firearms, battering rams or scaling ladders, the troops were positioned in such a way that they could counter them all. By sundown the Mongols had already lost 1000 troops but they continued to fight fiercely.
Apart from the myriads of soldiers (1 myriad = ten thousand) in Xiangyang, the population amounted to one-hundred thousand. Everyone knew that once this city fell all would be lost. So everybody resolutely defended the city; even the old and weak carried the stones and rocks used to repel the enemy. The city resounded with the fighting sounds and the arrows flew overhead like locusts.
Guo Jing wielded a long sword and commanded the troops at the top of the city wall with Huang Rong by his side. The sky was red with the sunset and the scenery was a sight to behold. However at the foot of the city the enemy soldiers swarmed forward and their faces could be seen. Guo Jing stood his ground at the top exuding a heroic aura and his heart was filled with the deep and sincere love for his wife. On this day the mighty enemy was pounding the city and it was uncertain if they could be driven back again. Huang Rong thought, “Brother Jing and I have been married for 30 years; most of our time was spent in this city. The two of us have been defending against the enemy for so long, even if all our blood is splashed on this wall it would not be in vain.” She looked at Guo Jing and noticed that his hair had turned a shade whiter and she thought, “Every time the enemy attacks, Brother Jing will have a few dozen more strands of white hair.”
Suddenly they heard the Mongols call out together, “May Your Majesty live ten thousand years!” The voices resonated throughout the area. A large banner was hoisted and a metal chariot with a green umbrella came forward together with a large entourage. It was the Great Khan Mengke himself coming to lead the battle.
The Mongols saw that their Khan was here personally and their morale was raised by leaps and bounds. The red flag was waved and the soldiers at the foot of the city split into formations of twenty thousand men attacking the north gate. These troops were the Khan’s personal guards and were very highly trained and they were fresh and without battle fatigue. They all wanted to prove themselves to the Khan. Several hundred scaling ladders were placed against the city walls and the troops ascended like ants.
Guo Jing waved his arms, shouting, “Brothers, today we shall let the Khan see the might of the heroes of Great Song!” His shout was generated by his chi and everyone could hear him clearly amidst the din. The Song troops had battled for a day and were getting tired, but when they heard Guo Jing shouting, their weary senses were jerked into attention and they thought, “The Mongols have oppressed us long enough, today we shall show their Khan what we’re made of!” Everyone gave their best to the life and death battle.
The Mongol soldiers’ bodies were piling higher at the foot of the city wall and the troops at the back became mad with rage, stepping on the bodies to assault the city. The Khan’s attendants rode back and forth to relay the orders and deployed troops forward. Dusk was approaching and thousands of torches were lit, throwing so much light that it seemed like day.
When Governor Lu Wenhuan saw this situation, he saw that the city could hardly be defended. He timidly ran up to Guo Jing and Huang Rong stammering, “Hero… Hero Guo, we can’t defend anymore, let’s… let’s leave the city and retreat south!”
Guo Jing sternly said, “How can the Governor say that? Xiangyang exists and we exist; Xiangyang falls and we fall!”
Huang Rong saw that the situation was precarious and if Lu Wenhuan suddenly gave the order to retreat, the troops would be thrown into confusion and Xiangyang would be overrun. She shouted, “If you dare to say anything about retreating I’ll bore three holes through your body!” Lu Wenhuan’s guards came up to block her but she swept across with her leg and the guards fell backwards.