Siege in Fog | 迷雾围城

Siege in Fog Chapter 6.3

Yi Lianshen certainly gave Qin Sang food for thought in the previous chapter. What will she make of it? After reading this part, I thought of the saying ‘it takes two to tango’.

Words are also actions, and actions are a kind of words.
– Ralph Waldo Emerson


Chapter 6.3

After that day, Yi Lianshen seemed to regard her in a new light, daily inviting her to dine with him or just to sit and talk albeit without any further mention of Yi Liankai; instead they discussed poetry and prose poems. Among the many separatist warlords, Yi Jipei was known as the ‘Scholar General’: he was widely acknowledged as an intellectual both at home and abroad. Famous teachers had been engaged to instruct Yi Lianyi and Yi Lianshen from the time they were young. Although they could not be said to have mastery of all they had learnt, they had been given a considerably strong foundation in the Chinese classical tradition; sometimes Yi Lianshen would be inspired enough to recite poetry or couplets and to add his own compositions. Even though Qin Sang had been educated at a Western school, her childhood foundation had been good and whilst unable to compose classical poetry, she was well able to appreciate and critique it. Moreover, Yi Lianshen had some talent for composition: his style strongly echoed that of Li Yishan’s. Qin Sang conversed with him daily but worried a good deal privately. The house was now completely sealed off and they knew nothing of what was happening outside; they were even cut off from news of happenings within the residence. But these daily conversations did have their advantages. She took the opportunity to request that the women be imprisoned separately. The rooms they were in were too cramped and none of them could sleep or eat well. As well, Fourth Aunt had been so traumatised by events of that day that the sight of a soldier would lead to her shivering and drooling so they had to send for the physician again. Although very inconvenient, Yi Lianshen was still willing to accede to such requests. The sole exception was that he consistently refused to let her see Er Sao¹.

¹ Second Sister-in-law (his wife)

If Yi Jipei were still alive, they could still hope for a change in the situation but strokes could be severe and unpredictable and they did not know how he was. She rarely thought about Yi Liankai and if she did, it was no more than in passing. All these years she had only seen him leading a playboy’s lifestyle and never doing anything serious. With the recent upheaval — if Yi Lianshen was right — if he had indeed gone to try and get the Sixth Division to surround the city… But if Yi Lianshen was wrong, then where was Yi Liankai all this time?

Every time she thought about Yi Liankai, she subconsciously shied away from thinking too much. She did not believe what Yi Lianshen had told her. Nevertheless, the seed of doubt had been sown in her heart and it threatened to burst forth at any moment. She knew that Yi Lianshen was very likely lying but even knowing that, she could not stop herself from falling for his trick because she had really never liked Yi Liankai.

© MerakiTranslations This translation belongs to If you are not reading this from then this has been posted without consent from MerakiTranslations.

Her family had been forced by circumstances to marry her off to Yi Liankai and, unable to abandon her aged parent, she had let herself be married to him. Their married life together was a pool of stagnant water in which she struggled bitterly but in vain, like a suffocating fish. Especially when he was so cruel, mercurial and quick to fall out with her. He was too hard to please — or maybe — she had never really tried to please him. Even if she had wanted to, she had never known where to start. Yi Liankai was like a day in June: one moment overcast, the next sunny; one moment he would fly into a rage and the next, he was as calm as if nothing had happened. It was too hard to make him out at all and, she had never truly wanted to try.

She even thought that Yi Lianshen was easier to deal with. Although ruthless and merciless, his demeanour was refined and cultivated and provided one did not provoke him too much, he was always courteous. But if and when he did fall out with someone, he was capable of cold-blooded murder². In his conversations about poetry, he came across as some well-bred scion and if she had not seen with her own eyes how he had ordered the killing of the guard, she would really have been deceived by his manners. In their daily conversations, he was mild-mannered and she could not tell if he had other intentions. However, to be able to come out daily and not be penned up in the cramped room were small mercies she was grateful for.

² 殺人不眨眼 shārén bù zhǎyǎn kill without batting an eyelid; kill without blinking an eye

Like her, Eldest Mistress was also deeply worried for Yi Lianyi’s fate was as yet unknown. However, he was paralysed and confined to his bed so Yi Lianshen would not regard him as a threat and had probably also placed him under house arrest. The days dragged past in this fashion and more than half a month passed rapidly. The huge Yi residence was like an old well which sat undisturbed by even the faintest ripple from the world outside. Qin Sang met with Yi Lianshen every day but was unable to get any news from him, much less what stirrings there might be in the political situation outside. Thus she remained walled in by her worries.

The sky had just dawned dim and drizzly when Qin Sang awoke, startled by a loud yet muffled sound. Eldest Mistress, seeing her sit up suddenly, asked: ‘What is it?’

‘Listen, what do you think that sounds like?’

Eldest Mistress listened and then said, ‘Sounds like thunder… But there shouldn’t be thunder in autumn…’

Qin Sang suddenly clutched her arm and said, ‘Cannons, it’s the sound of cannons!’

Eldest Mistress, still bewildered, asked: ‘Why would there be cannons now?’

Qin Sang answered: ‘They’re fighting, that’s why there are cannons. It sounds close so they must be fighting just outside the city. Cannons outside the city must mean we’re surrounded.’

Eldest Mistress let out an ‘aiyah’ and asked, ‘But who’s fighting? Why are we being surrounded? What do we do?’

Qin Sang half-said to herself: ‘Not sure… Maybe it’s Li Zhongnian. Or maybe General Meng has come down south with his regiment… .’ She felt that it might even be Yi Liankai.

© MerakiTranslations This translation belongs to If you are not reading this from then this has been posted without consent from MerakiTranslations.

Regardless of who it was, there was no denying Yi Lianshen was in a tight corner. Fuyuan was an important garrison and a key region of Fuzhou’s provincial capital but it had come under attack in just half a month: if the contingent had come from the south, that was shockingly fast.

Qin Sang thought that it must be someone from Jiangzuo after all, someone disaffected enough to rebel. Yi Lianshen was too young: he had not been in the military long enough; Yi Jipei too had his own loyalists whilst the brigade and division commanders more likely than not had their own vested interests. Just like Li Zhongnian, who had openly declared his intention to borrow military aid to cross the river or Gao Peide who had publicly announced his intention to bring his regiments down south. Fuyuan may not be so impregnable after all — the large-scale boom of cannon fire attested to its having been surrounded.

The fighting did not last long for Fuyuan city was famous for being easy to defend but hard to attack. So after a mere half a day’s exchange, the cannonading gradually dwindled. Eldest Mistress paced up and down but when she could not even leave the room, all it amounted to was fretting herself needlessly. Qin Sang noticed a radio on a shelf and was struck by a brainwave. How could she not have realised it? A radio could receive broadcasts and from those they could find out what was happening outside; how stupid of her not to think of it sooner.

Luckily it was not too late. She took the radio down and placed it under the blanket, trying to tune it. Finally she got an overseas station broadcasting in English and strained to listen to it. Not daring to lift the radio out, she placed her ear over the blanket and managed to make out a word here and there. It seemed that ten days ago, the Inspector General of Chengzhou³ Murong Chen had declared his intention to ‘aid the south’, mobilised a big army, crossed Fengming Pass and made use of Jizhou to go south where he confronted Gao Peide’s army which was across the river. Although not loyal to Yi Lianshen, Gao Peide had refused to retreat and tenaciously defended his position on the Yangtze*. Both sides had several exchanges with neither prevailing clearly but shortly after that, Li Zhongnian declared Yizhou’s independence and swiftly transferred his army east into Fuzhou. This was followed by declarations of independence from Wangzhou and Yunzhou in support of Li Zhongnian. Then, upon reaching Fangjiadian, Li Zhongnian made Yi Liankai the so-called Chief Commander of the Coalition Army and announced his intention of saving Yi Jipei, accusing Yi Lianshen of mutiny and of intending to murder his own father. The media at home and abroad were divided by this news: some said it was purely an internal affair of the Yi family, others said that Yi Jipei was already dead and his death had opened up a power vacuum in Jiangzuo that was attracting a power struggle.

³ 州 zhōu: prefecture so Chengzhou etc means Cheng Prefecture etc.

Watching Qin Sang’s grave expression as she listened to the wireless (annoyingly, in a foreign language) made Eldest Mistress anxious but she didn’t dare to interrupt. Only when Qin Sang had returned the radio to the cupboard, carefully replacing it in the original spot, did Eldest Mistress ask: ‘Well? Whose army is it out there?’

Qin Sang replied, ‘It’s the Coalition Army.’

‘Coalition Army? Whose army are they?’ Eldest Mistress still didn’t understand this part and asked, ‘Are they bad people? Who’s their commander?’

Qin Sang did not reply. She was thinking that although Yi Liankai was nominally the chief commander, the forces definitely belonged to Li Zhongnian. In this battle between the brothers, it was hard to say who would emerge the victor.⁴ Even if the Coalition Army did win, Li Zhongnian was hardly an easy character to get along with. Quite likely, Yi Liankai was just a smokescreen to be made use of: if they won, he would just become an inconvenient pawn in the way and Li Zhongnian would certainly stab him in the back5 once Yi Liankai was no longer useful. Equally, if the Coalition Army lost, Li Zhongnian would also not keep Yi Liankai with him — he might even execute him immediately and then open negotiations with Yi Lianshen. When one considered it, win or lose, Yi Liankai was in danger either way. She could not help sighing slightly over this. Eldest Mistress heard her sigh and realising she must be worried, came over to comfort her. But as she knew nothing of what was happening outside, her broad reassurances did little to comfort Qin Sang.

⁴ 鹿死誰手 lù sǐ shuí shǒu to whom the deer falls (idiom); the one to emerge victor (i.e. to seize the empire)
5 過河拆橋 guò hé chāi qiáo lit. to destroy the bridge after crossing the river (idiom) fig. to abandon one’s benefactor upon achieving one’s goal

Since it was the first day of hostilities, Yi Lianshen did not show up as usual. Qin Sang was apprehensive but also tired so she lay down on the bed and dozed off. It was not a deep sleep and she was soon startled awake. Upon waking up, she saw Eldest Mistress kneeling by the window, murmuring devoutly.

‘Da Sao.’

Eldest Mistress had bound feet so she found it difficult to get to her feet. Qin Sang helped her up after which Eldest Mistress sighed deeply and said worriedly, ‘San Di is family after all. I was praying for Buddha’s protection, for that Coalition Army to retreat quickly. War is never good, especially now that it has practically reached our doorstep.’ She then asked Qin Sang, ‘Do you think Er Di can win this battle?’

Qin Sang said, ‘Da Sao, stop worrying yourself. Whether Er Ge can win or not is his business. What good will our worrying do?’

Eldest Mistress said, ‘We are family after all. Who knows whether Father is alive now? If Er Di loses this battle, then it will mean the breakup of this family.’

Qin Sang sighed slightly and was glad she hadn’t told her about Yi Liankai. If Eldest Mistress knew, she would definitely not understand why the two brothers were fighting each other. She was a traditional-minded woman, this Eldest Mistress, but that also had its good points, just like how ignorance was bliss.

Late at night, when all was quiet, Qin Sang also thought about whom she wanted to see win this war. If Yi Lianshen won, perhaps she would never see Yi Liankai again. Since she was just a chess piece to Yi Lianshen, once she lost her value, it was hard to say what would happen to her. But what if Yi Liankai won? Could she go back to her old life? There was nothing about those days that she missed actually. Only for a fleeting moment did she think of Li Wangping but in her heart, Li Wangping was as good as dead after their conversation that day and the Pan Jianchi who lived in his place was a stranger to her.

© MerakiTranslations This translation belongs to If you are not reading this from then this has been posted without consent from MerakiTranslations.

12’s notes: *The Yangtze River is the longest in China running from west to east and is also a major granary. Wikipedia’s entry lists thirty-one major cities that lie along this river. I have not yet figured out which city served as the inspiration for Fuyuan.

Translated and edited by 12

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12 thoughts on “Siege in Fog Chapter 6.3”

  1. I think chapter 6 is where the story is really started, hence quite long chapter. Some new characters introduced and relationship between the characters is much told in this chapter.
    So much thank you for making time to translate this and look forward for the next chapters.


    1. 🙂 My pleasure. Yup, Chapters 1-6 tend to cover the relationships between the characters and 6 itself provides a lot more background. Nothing is written very clearly or in a linear way because the themes of this story are about hidden desires and ambiguity.


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