War tactic no. 1: Trickery is a weapon
Among the crowd of soldiers, the Houyan emperor, Murong Chui, officially hands the crown prince1 power and authority to lead in the attack against their enemy nation.
Receiving the sword from his father, Murong Bao boldly speaks of bringing the Goguryeo king’s head and the army loudly cheers. With morale at an all time high, the Houyan army begin marching out.
Is the enemy just now leaving the Houyan capital, Zhongsan?
Secretly observing their military right under their nose, however, is the son of Goguryeo’s chief minister.
Ko Un and his servants note the size of the departing weak army in a letter:
- less than 3,000 horsemen
- and less than 10,000 infantry men.
But as they’re writing their report, Houyan patrols soon spot and question them. Despite Ko Un’s bribing attempts, the soldiers begin inspecting his merchandise cart.
（＾Ｏ＾） Hehe. Ko Un repeatedly lays out his hand to offer coins, but the Houyan soldier keeps knocking them to the ground. Funny scene.
All is fine until they identify carrier pigeons.2
Fortunately, the Goguryeo spies quickly overpower them. But, in their questioning, they find a surprising revelation: It’s all a trick! The army 100,000 strong has likely crossed the border already. The one marching out now is an illusion!
All roads lead to the Yodongseong fortress
The Goguryeo court find the bait tasty
At the capital of Goguryeo, Gungnaeseong, a report arrives notifying the royal court that Gaemoseong3 is under attack.
The ministers ease the king’s worries by stating they have 50,000 nearby troops in reserve that they call in as opposed to Houyan’s 20,000.
But Goguryeo’s Prime Minister, Gae Yeonsu, enters and informs them their intelligence is way off: In fact, Houyan’s army is 150,000 strong.
After scaring everyone one, the prime minister quickly convinces the royal court to order the Northwest regional lords in sending those reinforcements now. Yodongseong needs the backup to even contend and Houyan has go through it to sack the capital.
Just as their reorganization nears completion, a Northern message comes in: Hyeondoseong has been taken over!
Ghosts can contribute during war
Somewhere in the woods, Houyan troops are running down the defeated troops from the north. Although the small group of Goguryeo soldiers retreat frantically, the Houyan crown prince manages to surround them. Not willing to take hostages even after discovering the son of the Yodongseong lord, he orders them all dead.
But right before the sword swings, many Houyan soldiers drop dead as another group of Goguryeo soldiers arrive throwing daggers.
At once, the group leader takes the lead and kills more enemy troops. When asked his identity, Damdeok replies:
I’m a ghost general who protects Goguryeo.
The fights then ensues between the ghost general and the Houyan crown prince. However, Damdeok outmatches Murong Bao by scratching his helmet and partly piecing his armor in the abdomen area. Outmatched themselves, the Houyan troops leave and Damdeok saves his uncle, Ko Chang.
A Houyan snake slowly wraps around its prey’s body
Taking Ko Chang back to his sister and father at Yodongseong, Ko Mu learns of their defeat.
The bad news doesn’t stop flowing though. Another general arrives and reports Houyan ambushing the Baegamseong and Ansiseong reinforcements. They won’t be coming in anytime soon.
Slowly the enemy is surrounding and isolating the fortress.
And that’s when Murong Bao leads a massive attack but fortunately Yodongseong repels them.
An enemy twice as large is coming
Only an idiot would repeat the mistakes of others?
Meanwhile, the Houyan emperor and his unit finally make their move and march out of the capital.
Counting 200,000 soldiers, Ko Un sends his servant, Wonbong, to keeps tabs on them.
They’re advancing to the North plain at Seoksan. The scouts are opening a path.
Three days later, news finally reaches king Iryeong’s ears of how strong the Houyan emperor’s own army is compared to his son’s.
The Goguryeo prime minister suggests the only way to combat this is by capturing Murong Chui via an ambush on the flat Northern route.
Gae Yeonsu’s reasoning?
Guan Qiujian of Wei attacked Goguryeo from the South. Murong Chui’s father, Murong Huang, also tried to attack Goguryeo from the South. Murong Chui wouldn’t take the same route unless he’s a fool.
Additionally, the prime minister figures the beacon mounds located South of Seoksan will alert Goguryeo if by chance they do travel there.
Unbeknownst to them, however, Houyan is taking them out before passing through.
Seeing false information spreading from top to bottom
Ko Mu then receives the king’s message on Murong Chui’s departure to the Northeast six days ago and the command to ambush him.
Following orders, Ko Mu sends all soldiers to prepare to head out.
However, Damdeok expresses his doubts in the intelligence and questions why the Houyan emperor would make his route known easily.
But Ko Chang and Ko Mu ignore all his requests to:
- Check out the Houyan emperor with a new scouting party.
- Split the army in half to cover both the North and South.
- Take just 1,000 soldier alone to see the South.
Moreso since their Southern “alarms” aren’t going off and a Baegamseong scout arrives and claims to have seen a golden flag in the North.
At this, Komu and his army leave through the East gate and advance to the North. Further causing questions, Damdeok wonders why the Houyan army isn’t attacking Ko Mu as he leaves.
The proof the ghost general needs
After a time, soldiers drag in someone caught climbing over the walls and claiming to work for Ko Un.
Damdeok recognizes Wonbong and clears him from any espionage accusations. From him, Damdeok finds proof to his doubts: Murong Chui is indeed coming from the South.
Notifying Ko Chang, Damdeok asks for 200 soldiers and a guide to seek the enemy emperor before he’s out of the rough mountains. Kochang, however, denies him preferring to instead notify his father via a messenger.
Striking the Houyan enemy on your own
Rejected, Damdeok steps away but that’s when Yakyeon volunteers to help. Knowing the area well, she can guide Damdeok south.
Taking this opportunity, Damdeok takes her and a few soldiers at night without a commander’s approval. Reaching a river with a bridge, they notice a few advanced guards. Now convinced the Houyan emperor is coming this way, they quickly take them out, pour oil all over the bridge and railings, and hide under in ambush.
Unfortunately, as Murong Chui passes the bridge, an oil pouch drops to the water and alerts the enemy. The last scene we see is the Houyan army pulling the caught Damdeok up the bridge.
A crown prince is the one the current king designates as the next person in line to become future king. Tradition dictates it’s the first born son. ↩︎
Can you imagine no phones back then? Animals used to help and be valuable. Now, they just lie around doing nothing. *looks at meow meow* Hey! Get out of suti’s cookie jar, kitty! ↩︎
Another name for the Yodongseong fortress ↩︎