If Long Tingfei’s mental state was calm, he would surely be able to realize Shi Ying’s unspoken difficulties. However, he had already become suspicious of his subordinate generals over these last several days. Shi Ying making trouble for Duan Wudi had placed Long Tingfei in a quandary. In addition, Qiu Yufei and Ling Duan’s testimony had only served to confirm1 the suspicions he had. As a result, when he saw Shi Ying’s reaction, Long Tingfei felt that this man’s pretensions were utterly heinous. As for the other two individuals within the hall, they had different reactions. Xiao Tong, responsible for monitoring the army, was always suspicious. In his mind, there were only two kinds of people—traitors and future traitors. Therefore, he did not notice Shi Ying’s abnormal intentions.
It was actually Duan Wudi, who had experienced such an impossible-to-reverse situation and did not have his judgment clouded, who saw the hardship that Shi Ying was going through. Duan Wudi hurriedly walked forward and said, “Grand General, it may be possible that General Shi has some unspoken difficulties. Grand General, please allow him to explain. If these two letters were delivered by agents from Great Yong, General Shi need only have burned them. Why would he leave such evidence behind?”
Although Duan Wudi’s words made sense, causing both Long Tingfei and Xiao Tong to be pensive, the resentment that Shi Ying held for Duan Wudi was quite deep. Shi Ying had from the start resented Duan Wudi. Now seeing Long Tingfei show clear favor for Duan Wudi, it was possible that those two letters were planted by Xiao Tong. As a result, anger welled up from deep inside. Not only did he not use this opportunity to explain himself, he actually angrily yelled, “Duan Wudi, there is no need for you to pretend to have kind intentions!”
Hearing the increasing anger in Shi Ying’s voice, Long Tingfei sternly interjected, “Imprison Shi Ying in the dungeons. Xiao Tong, immediately take all of Shi Ying’s trusted subordinates into custody. Interrogate each and every one of them to see if any of them have been bribed to defect.”
With the stern severity of Long Tingfei’s words, neither Duan Wudi nor Xiao Tong dared to speak any further. Shi Ying felt completely downhearted. Glancing at Long Tingfei and Duan Wudi, he thought, Although I accused Duan Wudi out of selfish motives, it is, after all, actual fact that Duan Wudi was corrupt and involved in smuggling. The Grand General did not ask a single question about this matter and instead questioned me as to how I learned about it. Now, he’s brought out these two dubious letters to condemn me. Fine. Since the Grand General is deliberately siding with Duan Wudi, what’s the point in me pleading my innocence? Shi Ying had always been someone who cared not for death indifferently. Thinking of this, he did not even bother to take his leave from Long Tingfei, instead turning and departing, ignoring Long Tingfei’s bodyguards who followed him out, his emotions roiling with misery, grief, and indignation.
Seeing Shi Ying’s conduct, Long Tingfei was even more annoyed. However, he was nevertheless a generational talented general. Although he had long ago fallen under Jiang Zhe’s control, he could still sense that Shi Ying had some unspoken difficulties. Turning to Xiao Tong, he asked, “Xiao Tong, this needs to be investigated carefully. Over this period of time, you should have been paying particular attention to Shi Ying. Have you noticed anyone be close with him? It may be possible that those two letters were truly planted.”
A look of joy appeared on Duan Wudi’s face. Although he still resented Shi Ying for causing him trouble without rhyme or reason, he was unwilling to believe that Shi Ying had truly betrayed Northern Han and defected.
After pondering, Xiao Tong answered Long Tingfei, “Subordinate also finds this situation rather strange. None of the people General Shi has dealings with are suspicious. The only possibility is if one of his trusted subordinates is communicating with the enemy to allow messages to be passed between General Shi and Great Yong. However, this by itself is impossible, since something as grave as this requires multiple and repeated confidential discussions. In addition, the messenger must frequently come and go, leaving behind traces that will be discovered. However, General Shi does not have those sorts of suspicious subordinates. It would also be impossible for General Shi to use multiple messengers. Even if he intended to defect, he would only allow one or two trusted subordinates to know of his decision and would definitely not be so bold. As a result, it’s difficult to explain how these two letters ended up in General Shi’s hands. Subordinate believes that it may be a good idea to invite Qing Dai from the Flying Swallow Tower for questioning. In recent days, everyone knows that General Shi has become infatuated with Qing Dai. Although subordinate has not discovered any problems with her, we should be able to reap some rewards from inviting her for questioning.”
Long Tingfei nodded his head gently. It was only a songstress. He couldn’t care less about her innocence or guilt. Just as he was about to reply, Duan Wudi had frenetically knelt on the ground, saying, “Grand General, Qing Dai is definitely uninvolved with this matter. Grand General, please do not make things difficult for her.”
Both Long Tingfei and Xiao Tong were startled. Why would Duan Wudi plead for leniency on Qing Dai’s behalf? The two of them felt misgivings grow in them, both looking at Duan Wudi. His expression frigid, Long Tingfei asked, “Wudi, why are you pleading for leniency on her behalf? Could it be that you have some relationship with this woman? Isn’t she Shi Ying’s beloved?”
After hesitating for some time, Duan Wudi finally answered, “This general dares not hide this matter from the Grand General. In the seventeenth year of Rongsheng, when this general was exiled from the capital and transferred to the garrison at Daizhou, this general was pursued by assassins sent from the influential bigwigs that I had offended. This general was seriously hurt and fell into the river. On the verge of death, I had the good fortune to be rescued by Miss Qing Dai. She did not worry about the separation between men and women, serving me day and night, saving this general’s life. This general does not dare forget that mercy. General Shi’s love for Qing Dai is not her crime. Grand General, please do not charge her with a crime.”
Long Tingfei and Xiao Tong exchanged glances. Smiling and yet not smiling, Xiao Tong said, “General Duan, in the seventeenth year of Rongsheng, you were only twenty-five years old, while Qing Dai was no more than seventeen. Could it be that the two of you had relations?”
Duan Wudi blushed. He knew that Xiao Tong was asking not to probe his personal matters, but because Qing Dai was dragged into the incident involving Shi Ying. Now that she had ties with him, it was guaranteed that Xiao Tong would try to get the bottom of things.2 It was only that the situation between the two of them was something that he hid in the bottom of his heart. He was worried that, if he revealed it, it would be of harm to Qing Dai. As a result, he could not help becoming hesitant and uneasy, making it difficult for him to speak.
Long Tingfei impassively stated, “There is no need for you to worry. I will not casually charge anyone. As long as Miss Qing Dai is not a spy from Great Yong, even if she is to suffer some pain, her life will not be in danger.”
Hearing this, Duan Wudi became increasingly worried. However, he also understood that there was nothing he could do to avoid speaking in the current situation. He could only relate, “This general and Qing Dai met while both of us were experiencing trials and tribulations. After spending so long together, we grew intimate. At the time, this general was discouraged by my future career prospects. As a result, the two of us promised to marry. Because of family grudges, Qing Dai was resentful of the court and asked this general to follow her to live in seclusion, even better if we departed from Northern Han and never returned. However, after this general recovered, I ran into a close friend from the army. He scolded me for valuing personal considerations and grudges while forsaking the country. This general deeply regretted my earlier thoughts and explained my intentions to Qing Dai. Afterwards, an argument occurred between the two of us. This general hoped that she would follow me to Daizhou. Although the conditions at Daizhou were arduous, this general vowed that I never allow her to experience any hardships. In addition, Qing Dai was not a weak woman and would be able to endure the hardships of the northern sands. However, Qing Dai refused categorically. She stated that since the court had not given her any favor, even if she would not be an enemy, she would not serve the court, firmly demanding that this general follow her and leave. It was also because of this general’s ungraciousness that I ultimately parted ways with her.3 Qing Dai flicked her sleeve and departed, severing all ties from that point on. It was this general who was afforded her mercy first before later turning away. Right now, although she is implicated in this incident, this general would like to ask the Grand General to empathize with her plight if she has no ties with Great Yong. Please do not blame her.”
Long Tingfei sighed. “This is not surprising. I know some of what that woman has experienced. It is no wonder she resents the court, since it was the court that left her destitute and homeless. If she has nothing to do with Shi Ying’s betrayal, I will not make things difficult for her.”
With an odd expression on his face, Xiao Tong said, “Grand General, General Duan, I can see that General Shi has deep hatred for General Duan. In addition, General Shi has recently fallen in love with Qing Dai. Could it be that General Shi has learned of the old relationship between the two of them and thus bears a grudge against General Duan? If that is the case, it is possible that General Shi has not betrayed Northern Han. Subordinate feels that something is off about Miss Qing Dai. General Duan, please forgive me. Subordinate will likely have to rigorously interrogate Qing Dai.”
Xiao Tong’s frosty words immediately caused Duan Wudi to feel his heart turn as cold as ice. As for Long Tingfei, he was moved. After thinking it over carefully, he realized that the evidence of Shi Ying’s betrayal was only some dubious circumstantial evidence and these two letters. Were it not for Qiu Yufei and Ling Duan’s testimony combined with Shi Ying making trouble for Duan Wudi, he probably would not have been so certain that Shi Ying had betrayed Northern Han. However, this thought quickly disappeared. Long Tingfei had long been convinced that one of his closest subordinates had betrayed him. If it wasn’t Shi Ying, could it be Duan Wudi? As a result, Long Tingfei stonily said, “Go question her. However, do not use torture. Since Qing Dai is widely known for her proud aloofness, she will definitely not be fond of using lies to conceal the truth. Ask her to see if she was incited by someone to deliver letters to Shi Ying.”
Xiao Tong voiced his compliance. Just as he was about to perform this task, the two bodyguards who had detained and were escorting Shi Ying suddenly rushed back inside. They shouted, “Grand General, not good! General Shi attacked all of a sudden, knocking the two of us unconscious. He’s escaped!”
All three individuals within the hall were dumbfounded. No one had expected that Shi Ying would escape at this moment. Although Long Tingfei had issued orders for Shi Ying to be taken into custody, Long Tingfei had not yet openly charged him with any crime. Even if Shi Ying had truly betrayed Northern Han, it was still possible to redeem Long Tingfei’s trust in him. For him to suddenly escape like this, even if Long Tingfei originally believed in his innocence, it was now impossible to trust him. Further, Long Tingfei was already convinced of Shi Ying’s betrayal.
Taking a deep breath, Long Tingfei commanded, “Relay my order! Close the city gates and begin a search of the city! Shi Ying must be captured alive!”
Xiao Tong frostily replied, “Grand General, do not worry, subordinate and junior apprentice brother Qiu will undertake this task together and will definitely ensure that he does not escape.”
Xiao Tong hurriedly walked out of the hall. It wasn’t long before the sound of bugle horns blared. This was the transmission of orders to the city gates and also signaled that Qinzhou was now under martial law. All of the commoners within the city must return home and close their doors, prohibited from being on the streets. In the last three or four years, Qinzhou had never experienced something like this. All of the soldiers and the civilian in the city inevitably became alarmed. Within the grand general’s residence, Long Tingfei’s expression was grim and unsympathetic. He truly felt quite tired. He had never felt such loneliness and emptiness before, not even in the many years of service in the army and battling.
Su Dingluan’s death in the Yong capital and Tan Ji’s death in Zezhou had made Long Tingfei weep at the loss of his arms. Now with Shi Ying’s betrayal and Duan Wudi arrested, Long Tingfei felt as if he had lost his wings. Losing all of his trusted and best generals caused Long Tingfei to feel the impossibility of attaining victory for the first time. After falling silent for some time, he spoke to Duan Wudi, “I have already decided. Once Shi Ying is captured, I will say that he framed you. With this, this matter can be concealed. At present, we are severely lacking in talented commanders. His Royal Majesty and the important officials of the court will surely have their priorities straight.4 Besides, I tacitly accepted your behavior. No one will investigate this matter any further to give me face. Now that you are the lone general out of the four who served by my side, Wudi, do not betray my painstaking efforts and die before me.”
Duan Wudi soured, tears gushing forth like a spring. Although he had completely disregarded his reputation and embarked upon that smuggling operation all for Northern Han’s sake, he also knew that if this matter ever came to light, he would always carry the stigma. Even if he did not die, he would lose his command. Surprisingly, Long Tingfei had actually come to the decision to personally assume the blame. This kind of protection and dear affection would be difficult for him to repay even if he were to die. Dropping to his knees, he sobbingly acknowledged, “This general obeys! This general vows to give his life in dedicated service to the country, defending the lands and the country! Even if I am ground to dust, I will regret nothing!”
Glistening teardrops surfaced in Long Tingfei’s eyes. Holding them back with difficulty, he replied, “The current situation is dire. In troubled times, one sees loyalty. Tingfei has often received kindness and grace from the country. The Long family were originally servants of the Liu family. Now, I have been anointed as general and conferred a marquisate, becoming famous throughout the world, all conferred by His Royal Majesty. I will never forget this mercy and this virtue. Although Great Yong is strong, the Long family will never yield! Moreover, my Northern Han and Great Yong have battled for many years, causing numerous casualties on both sides. Even several members of Great Yong’s Imperial Family and generals have died before the walls of Jinyang. Once Northern Han is defeated and conquered, its people will likely be unable to emancipate themselves for generations and become another’s slaves. Wudi, although you come from humble origins and were repeatedly frustrated, the King, Grand General Lin, and I have all treated you with great grace. Do not fail to live up to our expectations. If I am to die one day on the battlefield, aside from the Princess of Jiaping, Northern Han will have no one capable of handling the entire situation. When the time comes, you must do your utmost to help Her Royal Highness to save this desperate crisis and prevent the people of Northern Han from dying at Great Yong’s butcher blades.”
Duan Wudi felt his heart ache, as he responded, “Grand General, you must not speak like this. Although our country is in a desperate situation, it does not mean there isn’t the chance to turn it around. Grand General, you must not speak of death lightly. This general only has the word loyalty in my heart. As long as Wudi is alive, I will definitely not betray the expectations of the country and its people.”
Long Tingfei heaved a long sigh, replying, “Go help Xiao Tong. Shi Ying must be captured and brought back alive. I want to learn how many military secrets he has revealed.”
Duan Wudi consented and withdrew. Long Tingfei massaged his forehead with his hands, feeling physically and emotionally exhausted.
Within the Flying Swallow Tower, Qing Dai sat in a chair, occasionally plucking the strings of the pipa in her hands. The music she played was erratic, not forming any melody. None of the maids dared to come over to bother her, only thinking that she was composing. No one knew that there was no music on Qing Dai’s mind. Her mind was only focused on Shi Ying. A racket suddenly broke out outside, as a maid urgently said, “General Shi, the miss is currently composing music and has refused to see any guests.”
Before the maid had finished speaking, the sound of hurried footsteps thudded from outside. Then the door to the room was pushed open, revealing Shi Ying standing outside with a serene expression on his face. However, Qing Dai could see the discouragement and despair hidden in his eyes. Shi Ying looked at the somewhat bewildered Qing Dai, asking plainly, “Qing Dai, can I come in?”
Originally, Qing Dai wished to refuse his request. However, seeing the sorrow in his eyes, Qing Dai found herself softening, and she answered in a soft voice, “General, please come in.”
Shi Ying walked in, gazing directly at Qing Dai without any fear. The room was warm as spring. At this moment, she only wore a thin garment the color of teal. The shape of her lithe and slender pampered body could be faintly seen beneath. Her jet-black, lustrous hair was scattered around her shoulders, causing her to appear even more beautiful and touching. Maybe because she was alone, her typical proud and aloof look had become tender and gentle, making her seem to lose her usual cold detachment and haughtiness. Shi Ying felt sorrowful. He had spent many nights racking his brains in order to see Qing Dai in such a state. However, now that he had seen her, everything had changed.
Qing Dai frowned slightly. Shi Ying’s passionate, yet sorrowful gaze left her uneasy. Setting down the pipa in her hands, she grabbed the cloak hanging nearby. However, when she went to move, Shi Ying had already arrived before her. She was then pulled into Shi Ying’s arms. Qing Dai panicked. Just as she was about to strike at Shi Ying, her raised hands suddenly dropped because she could sense that there wasn’t a hint of lust in Shi Ying’s mind. Shi Ying only held her tightly in his embrace. She sensed tears hitting her hair and flowing down to the ground. Qing Dai had always preserved her chastity. Although she had said that she had once lost her chastity to Duan Wudi, she was still a virgin. After the initial nervousness and panic, Qing Dai found herself infatuated by the intense odor of the man. However, when she suddenly understood something, Qing Dai reached out and pushed Shi Ying away. Since the two of them were separated by a vast ocean, what was the point in her being so moved? This time, Shi Ying did not resist. Shi Ying turned around. When he turned his head back again, his recent shedding tears of tears could no longer be seen. Smiling gently, Shi Ying said, “Qing Dai, I am about to travel far from home. I wonder if you are willing to pay a piece on the pipa for me?”
Qing Dai asked softly, “What does the general want to listen to?”
Shi Ying had never been so clear-headed as today. After walking out of the White Tiger Sanctum, he had come upon many understandings. Glancing at the woman who he would never harm, he calmly answered, “Qing Dai, I do not know why your personally composed poems would be switched out, and do not know of the grievances between you and Wudi. I even don’t know your actual identity. However, I know that it was only wishful thinking that I would be able to marry you. Now that it is beyond my ability for me to refute the crimes I have been charged, I hope that you will be able to sympathize with me and play a piece for me. Is that possible?”
Qing Dai concentrated as she picked up her pipa, not saying a word. The expression on her face was as cold as ice. Her slender fingers were already on the neck of the pipa. A mechanism was located there that could shoot out a poisoned needle.
Shi Ying laughed candidly and said, “There is no need for you to be afraid. If I wanted to harm you, I would have acted earlier. I do not blame you. It was I who decided to deal with Duan Wudi. No matter what, it is the truth that he is a smuggler and corrupt. It is unfortunate that the Grand General would actually side with him and suspect my loyalty with two letters. Qing Dai, I have already become completely disheartened. Before I die, I only want to listen to you play a piece. Are you unwilling to agree to such a request?”
Distress shone in Qing Dai’s eyes. She impassively apologized, “Qing Dai is ashamed for my treatment of the general and is willing to play a piece for the general.”
Shi Ying watched Qing Dai with rapt attention. The iciness of Qing Dai’s expression was filled with heartlessness. He felt his heart ache, knowing that this woman did not have any feelings for him. However, just from gazing at Qing Dai’s beautiful complexion, a cold plum blossom in ice and snow, was enough to make him become intoxicated.
Sitting down in a chair, Qing Dai began to softly play the pipa. With the plucks of the strings, sonorous and powerful, impassioned and reverberating music began to envelop the Heavens and the Earth, stirring the heartstrings. Shi Ying sighed softly. He knew this piece, “Ambush from Ten Sides,” quite well. That day, when he had first met Qing Dai, she had been playing this piece. It was partly why he had fallen in love, and had been unable to liberate himself. Qing Dai had once explained to him the story behind this piece. As a result, Shi Ying understood that this was the first verse, “The Camp.” As expected, Shi Ying could hear in the melody the imagining of the scene of a camp being built—the sounds of war drums, the din of artillery, the galloping of armored cavalry.
Then, the melody became melodious and majestic, depicting the spick and span formations of an army and the glorious sight of an army on the march. Subsequently, the tempo became lively and vivacious. Although Shi Ying had heard this only a few times, he knew that it was the third verse, “Appointing a General.”
Intoxicated and shaken by the music, Shi Ying paid no heed to the passage of time. After he had listened to the “Ambush” and “Skirmish” verses, he could finally discern the essence of this piece. Qing Dai’s fingers flew, displaying her mastery to the fullest, vividly and in great detail giving sound to the shouts of a magnificent army and the world-shaking sight of a fierce battle. Shi Ying straightened in his seat. This was his favorite verse. Every single time he heard it, he would feel his spirits rise.
Shi Ying could not help looking around. When he glimpsed a pot of wine on the table next to the window, he walked over with giant strides. Not bothering to pour a cup, he directly drank his fill from the pot. In passing, he pushed the window open, catching sight of several figures darting across from behind a pine tree. He smiled uncaringly. His pursuers should have already arrived by now. Shi Ying could not help but begin to wonder if he would be able to finish listening to the piece.
Just then, the music changed, becoming gloomy and dismal. Shi Ying was shaken. He had never heard this verse before. However, he quickly understood that this verse was the one that Qing Dai always refused to play, “Suicide on Wu River.”
Qing Dai’s temperament had always been strange. Whenever she played this “Ambush from Ten Sides,” she would only play it up to “The Battle of Jiuli Hill,” never playing the subsequent verse, “Suicide on Wu River.” Qing Dai had always stated that the three verses after “Suicide on Wu River” were too tiring and she was not fond of playing them. As for “Suicide on Wu River,” she found it too distressing and refused to play it. Who would have thought that Qing Dai would actually play this verse for him? Shi Ying felt as if he was being too highly honored and could not help smiling sardonically, as he drained the entire contents of the pot of wine.
Just then, Shi Ying caught sight of Xiao Tong’s figure. Behind Xiao Tong was a young man in black robes, standing with his hands behind his back. From the young man’s bearing, Shi Ying could tell that he was an expert. Without needing to hear the sound of Chu music on all sides,5 he knew that he was in a hopeless situation.
With a crack, the music came to a stop. Qing Dai lifted her eyes, her gaze as frosty as ice and snow, looking at Shi Ying. She had believed that their friendship was pretend. However, this boorish and blunt man had actually moved her heart. She had harbored an extraordinary grudge against that heartless man. She could not help but wonder if this man before her would also resent her for her heartlessness. Shi Ying had always been a rude and impetuous individual. However, at this moment, his heart was like a mirror, seeing through Qing Dai’s thoughts. Walking to Qing Dai’s side, he grasped her delicate hands. Smiling, he said, “This is not your fault. The Grand General has already become suspicious, otherwise he would not have come to a decision so quickly.”
In a low voice, Qing Dai asked, “It’s easy for something unyielding to be broken. Is this worth the trouble?”
Shi Ying felt his heart warm, understanding that Qing Dai was trying to persuade him to acknowledge his prior mistake and explain everything to Long Tingfei. Although he understood very well Qing Dai’s heartlessness, he was perfectly satisfied that she would even soften to such an extent. By nature, Shi Ying was straightforward and unyielding. For him, Long Tingfei’s suspicions were enough to destroy all of his convictions, while Qing Dai’s heartlessness made him not have the will to live.
Just then, Xiao Tong’s sinister voice came from outside, saying, “General Shi, the Grand General has summoned you to his presence. If you do not want to implicate Miss Qing Dai, it is best that you come on your own volition.”
Qing Dai shook inside. Her hand once again touched the neck of her pipa. If Shi Ying changed his mind and decided to bend his knee and make a full account to Long Tingfei, then the consequences of her changing of the plan on her own initiative would be quite grave. If that was the case, then the only recourse she had was to assassinate Shi Ying herself. Only in this way could she retrieve the situation. Shi Ying smiled softly. In a clear voice, he said, “My affairs have nothing to do with Qing Dai. Xiao daren, please come in to speak.”
Xiao Tong frowned slightly. It had not been difficult to find Shi Ying, as he had not made any efforts to mask his tracks. As a result, Xiao Tong had come directly to the Flying Swallow Tower. If this man resisted to the end, it would be detrimental for him. As such, he did not want to risk himself lightly.
Just then, a female cry of fear echoed from within. Xiao Tong was startled. When he was about to burst inside, his junior apprentice brother, Qiu Yufei, had already gone ahead, leaping into Qing Dai’s bedroom. Once Xiao Tong had also entered the room, he saw Shi Ying sitting on a chair, a dagger stabbed to the hilt in his lower abdomen. Shi Ying’s right hand was on the handle of the dagger. Seeing Xiao Tong enter the room, Shi Ying smiled slightly and forcibly pulled out the dagger. Xiao Tong could not bear to watch and turned away. He knew that by doing so, Shi Ying had turned his insides out, no longer being able to stay alive. Blood flowed out nonstop. With his blood-covered left hand, Shi Ying pointed at Qing Dai and said, “Do not implicate her.” Finished speaking, he was no more.
Qing Dai’s complexion was as pale as paper. She had never expected that this man’s death would cause her usual heartless and loveless self to feel such heartache and sorrow. Picking up her pipa, her fingers began to move nimblely. A sorrowful and touching melody engulfed the room. When she finished, Qing Dai wiped away her tears, her complexion regaining the frigid calm.
Xiao Tong walked to her side at this moment and politely said, “Miss Qing Dai, you are implicated in General Shi’s affairs. We would like to temporarily invite the miss to go back with us. If the miss is uninvolved, we will very quickly return Miss’s freedom.”
Qing Dai uncaringly replied, “Your servant does not dare to disobey. Please allow your servant to change.”
深信不疑, shenxinbuyi – idiom, lit. to believe firmly without any doubts; fig. absolute certainty about something, thoroughly convinced
盘根究底, pangenjiudi – idiom, lit. to examine roots and inquire at the base; fig. to get to the bottom of something
分道扬镳, fendaoyangbiao – idiom, lit. to take different roads and urge the horses on; fig. to part ways
轻重缓急, qingzhonghuanji – idiom, lit. light or important, urgent or leisurely; fig. to deal with important matters first, having a sense of priority
Like “Ambush on Ten Sides” (十面埋伏), this refers to the defeat of Xiang Yu at the Battle of Gaixia (垓下之战). Xiang Yu’s army was surrounded by a numerically superior army and led to believe that the soldiers’ homeland of Chu by the enemy singing songs of Chu (四面楚歌).