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Kingdom 5 – 10

No question about it, this development represents new territory for Kingdom.  We’ve seen Xin go down the road of disagreement with military methods before.  His reference to his earlier confrontation with Luan Tong is one relevant example.  But as Diao says, this is a completely different set of circumstances.  The scale of what the Fei Xin is up against here can’t be compared to anything we’ve seen before.  As I opened with last week, enemies don’t always march under the flag of the enemy.

Let’s set aside the question of whether Huan Li tries to claim credit for the death of Qing She for now.  It’s irrelevant unless Xin can wriggle out from his current predicament anyway.  With Ji Hui keeping things ticking along, the Zhao military machine rolls on mostly unaware of what’s happened.  In fact Huan Yi orders his commanders to pull back and yield the central hill to him.  They’re mystified but in the end, they’ll be loyal because exactly as he says, Huan Yi always manages to generate victory no matter how unorthodox the methods.

Huan Yi has a plan, make no mistake.  This is not his land (not that he cares).  There’s a weaker opponent than the Zhao military, and it’s much more fun and easy to torment them.  He has his torture squad, the Shagui, slither into action and sends small units out to rape, pillage and burn.  This comes as rather a shock to Wei Ping, embedded in a Huan Yi unit, but he’s in no position to do much about it.  When the Fei Xin return to the central hill to find it swarming with Zhao forces, they know something is up.  And when Qian Lei sees smoke rising from the direction she’s come from, it doesn’t take her long to put two and two together.

The roles have certainly been reversed here.  Ji Hui and his forces are fighting a conventional military battle to drive off an invader.  Huan Yi is taking advantage of their sense of decorum to raze the land they’re fighting to protect.  And Xin is caught in the middle.  He has seen this before, in the aforementioned Luan Tong incident.  But that was not a high commander enacting a policy for his entire army.  If Xin acts against Huan Li, he becomes an isolated rebel with two hostile armies surrounding his.  It’s hard to see any good coming of this.

One can’t blame Qian Lei and Xin for their outrage, especially the former given her personal connection.  But going to Huan Li’s headquarters was a pretty foolish thing to do.  Xin is not going to be a party to this campaign, that’s a given.  But even if he survives this confrontation with his commander, what are his options?  And worse yet, it’s not so clear cut as he makes it out to be.  I don’t think you can point to a military invasion any time or anywhere in the pre-industrial era where this sort of thing wasn’t commonplace.  Huan Li and his sycophants are in the wrong, but I’m not sure they’re wrong.

This is the elephant in the room with Kingdom.  At its core, it’s a series that must glorify war and warriors to a certain extent.  But this is what war is, especially in the age depicted.  History is closer to Huan Li’s version of events than Xin’s narrative, and this is one of the harsh truths of the Zheng vs. Lu Buwei civil war.  Xin is right that Huan Li’s methods are not going to enable Qin to pacify the warring kingdoms under its banner.  But Huan Yi doesn’t care, and his war is what wars of invasion usually looks like.  That’s why Zheng’s vision of a perpetual state of noble warfare looks pretty naive and misguided.

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