I’m not sure if Xuan Feng is a historical figure, or even strictly based on one – unlike most of the other big names in Kingdom, his is one I’m not familiar with. But he’s certainly effective, and in doing so he shows off that Lian Po doesn’t trail behind Meng Ao in his ability to get the best out of the people serving underneath him. And as expected, he certainly seems far ahead of him in terms of military strategy in his own right.
This has been a pretty systematic dismantling of the Qin forces by Lian Po so far. Each of his inner circle seem to have their own specialty (there’s one we haven’t heard from yet) but the overall effect so far has been like tenderizing meat. Lun Hu was first of course, using guerrilla tactics to weaken the invading army before the real battles even began. By decimating their officer corps via assassination he set the stage for the vanguard battle to come – one which he led himself, as it happens. That was effectively reaping the rewards of what he’d sown – picking up the weak elements of the Qin vanguard.
That was where Xuan Feng came in, decimating the second wave of attackers with his chessboard stratagems. The unifying theme of Lian Po’s fighting style so far seems to be that he’s completely unorthodox, and not remotely concerned with fighting in a way some of his contemporaries might call honorable. Assassination, smokescreens, all’s fair in war for these guys – and as Lian Po himself tells his puppet supreme commander, Xuan Feng doesn’t have the pride of most military commanders. When his job is done, he happily retreats. Xuan Feng’s role wasn’t to win the war – it was to take the next step in softening up the Qin army, picking up where Lun Hu left off. And he seems to have picked off about 80% of the first and second waves of Qin forces by his own experienced estimates – I’d call that pretty softened up.
We’re also seeing that for all Xin’s heroic bravery and determination and Wang Ben’s strategic genius, these guys are still young and inexperienced – they’re not ready to stand toe-to-toe with the likes of Lun Hu and Xuan Feng. True, through sheer insane GAR – and the help of the Mountain Kingdom soldiers (at last) – Xin does manage to do one thing that Xuan Feng didn’t plan for, and comes within a few feet of eviscerating him with a spear. But it’s a hollow victory, and the devastation would have been even worse without Qian Lei’s modestly successful plan to use sound to confuse the Wei archers. It’s bad enough as is – Xin managed to use up a pretty good chunk of his new army on the very first day of battle with them.
Of course, there are still big pieces of Meng Ao’s army that haven’t been heard from yet, and one of them – Vice-General Huan Ji – is certainly the “thief” in next week’s title (I’m assuming Xuan Feng is the strategist, but it may be time for the mysterious third Lian Po hugging partner to step up). With both the Feixin Force and Yufeng Unit severely depleted and both young Generals wounded (Wang Ben seriously) a heavy narrative burden seems to now fall on Meng Tian, the last of the three young bucks (and I would argue the most dangerous at this point) to make some dramatic noise.