Chapter 328: Astride a Tiger [Volume 5 – A Distance Within Reach]
The fleet was made up of dozens of airships. An armada of this scale could definitely be considered grand in Evernight Continent. Division-level fighting units usually possessed only a couple of dual-purpose airships used both for transport and fighting. Additionally, most of them were models that had been eliminated on the upper continents.
But one would find, upon closer inspection, that most of these ships were dual-purpose airships used to transport cargo and passengers. Those that possess actual combat ability were limited to a mere three airships, and they were only small swift gunships. They were the most basic of all armed airships in the imperial regular army.
Those cargo airships were obviously overloaded. There was a cumbersome number of cables hanging below them, and all of them were connected to cargo crates. Their flying speed was originally slow, and now they resembled the sand beasts used to carry heavy loads across the desert. They weren’t much faster than cargo trucks traveling over land.
The main warship at the center resembled an ancient boat and was the only vessel that possessed the spirit of an upper continent airship. But its size, capability, materials, and degree of lavishness were far below the noble ladies’ airships parked in Blackflow City.
Up on this airship, Dong Qifeng was gazing through the right cabin windows and down at the land below.
Days on Evernight were short and the nights were long—although it was morning at the moment, the dawn had yet to break because the sun had been obstructed by the upper continents.
The weather outside wasn’t very good, and those on the deck could clearly feel the cold, damp air rushing at them from the front. Glancing into the distance, the vast land below the airship was dark and covered in a hazy mist as far as the eye could see; nothing could be seen clearly. They could only confirm the correct route via a guiding compass.
A lanky colonel standing beside Dong Qifeng spoke, “This time, not only did we mobilize a large force, but also expectedly transported all the troops by airship—it’s truly an unfathomable tactic! Blackflow City certainly wouldn’t have expected our army to appear so suddenly. Moreover, they’ve just undergone an internal conflict and happened to be in their weak state. You’ll definitely be able to secure the city and leave a classic example for military school textbooks!”
Dong Qifeng laughed in a rather aloof manner and said, “This isn’t much. We’ve only seized the element of surprise. If we’re careless, we might still suffer some losses after arriving at Blackflow City."
With a powerful wave of his hand, the lanky colonel said with great vehemence, “General, you mustered a massive force to launch such a long distance raid. How can these mercenary mobs ever hope to withstand our assault?!”
Dong Qifeng laughed out loud after hearing these delightful words. “What do you think? Those fellows from the expeditionary army headquarters should have a whole new level of respect for us after this battle, right?”
The colonels, lieutenant, and majors in the command cabin immediately began to engage in a tide of flattery.
Only Du Yuanze said with some hesitation, “General, we mustn’t be careless. Dark Flame is completely different from ordinary mercenary corps. The fighting power of their core members is even slightly stronger than that of some imperial regular army corps.”
Dong Qifeng was immediately displeased after hearing this. “The previous failure was purely bad luck. We just happened to arrive just after their expansion. Now, General Yang has given us the updated information. They’re only slightly better equipped and have a few experts in their ranks. What other tricks can they pull when the average rank of their entire force isn’t even that high? Moreover, I’ve brought over half of our family’s elites.”
In addition, there were two champion-rank guest warriors who would target Dark Flame’s experts specifically. In the end, the core strategy of this battle was to launch a blitzkrieg attack and finish off the enemy leadership. Dong Qifeng anticipated that such a rabble of mercenaries would be routed immediately once the core members were eliminated. Meanwhile, the officers of the seventh division would definitely know where they should stand after witnessing his might!
With that, Dong Qifeng let out a cold snort. “Our Dong family’s elite soldiers and armaments are enough to completely suppress even an imperial army corps. It seems you’ve been scared out of your wits by those plebeians!”
Du Yuanze’s expression changed drastically after seeing that Dong Qifeng was truly furious. He hurriedly apologized and refrained from talking any further. He felt secretly relieved only after recalling that an entire division’s worth of Dong family private soldiers were on the airships.
At this time, the major in charge navigation said, “General, Blackflow City is 50 kilometers to the front. Shall we descend?”
According to their predetermined combat strategy, the Dong family private troops should land at an area 50 kilometers from the city. This distance was beyond Blackflow City’s normal patrol range and would allow them to unload soldiers and equipment without alerting the city. They would then march toward their objective after sufficient rest and reorganization.
Dong Qifeng waved his hand and said, “Merely a ragtag mob that has taken control of my seventh division. Their losses can’t be small either. There’s no need to rest and reorganize. Fly over directly and land five kilometers from the city. We must let those wretched natives see the might of an aristocratic family!”
His staff naturally began to lick his boots once more.
The only one feeling uneasy was Du Yuanze—he recalled the words of that officer surnamed Duan who had stopped him at the gates. However, the new information they had obtained didn’t indicate anything special about the man’s identity. Du Yuanze, on the other hand, believed the man wasn’t just bluffing. Having been reprimanded by Dong Qifeng just now, he didn’t dare splash cold water over the enthusiastic atmosphere in the cabin.
Expeditionary army headquarters.
Xiao Lingshi was sitting in his office carefully going through a thick stack of documents. Those were the detailed records of the most recent exchanges in top-secret military intelligence. Originally, such a trivial inspection would be left to his aide-de-camp and he would, at most, receive a report whether there were any oversights.
But Xiao Lingshi seemed rather engrossed and even revealed a rare smile as he closed the folder.
The lineal daughters and descendants of fifteen middle to high-ranking noble families as well as the Wei clan heir had all flocked to Blackflow City—this news had been classified as a top-secret military intelligence. Only the deputy-commanders-in-chief were privy to the detailed information at the expeditionary army headquarters. The others only carried out their orders without knowing the specifics, and they weren’t allowed to make inquiries either.
In order to prevent this information from leaking and consequently encountering a dark race ambush, the imperial third army corps had been in charge of everything from escort duties to travel arrangements. Not even the local officers who had received orders to cooperate with them knew which major character was passing through.
Finally, these noble ladies arrived safely in Blackflow City. But now, another trouble was headed their way.
News of several thousand people appearing out of nowhere in that small place wasn’t exactly a secret. Moreover, the rapid increase in demand posed great difficulty in collecting enough daily necessities. Hence, the expeditionary army headquarters had issued a secret military order to the other cities in Trinity River County. They were asked to provide Blackflow City with various types of daily-use supplies and instructed not to pry or disseminate news.
Regardless of how the expeditionary army felt about the imperial aristocracy, none of them wanted anything to happen to these noble ladies in their territory. Their deaths wouldn’t affect the strength of the aristocratic families, but would surely bring about an investigation for misconduct.
The expeditionary army headquarters hadn’t forgotten the newly appointed division commander Dong Qifeng and the seventh division that was still garrisoned in Trinity River County. Thus, the list of top-secret military information dispatches also had his name on it. It was just that the recipient had been changed to an unknown basic level personnel, and it had been addressed to seventh division headquarters, Blackflow City northern district.
There was a knock on the door as Xiao Lingshi’s aide-de-camp walked in and collected the processed documents from the corner of this desk. That list would subsequently fall into the ocean of documents in the archive room.
Xiao Lingshi turned his tall-backed chair toward the French window and gazed at the unchanging scene of the expeditionary army headquarters. This place was Evernight—in the end, all outsiders had to recognize this fact and adapt to the rules here. That General Yang Shuo who had appeared out of nowhere was no exception either.
The silhouette of Blackflow City gradually appeared over the horizon as the gigantic Dong family fleet advanced slowly and continuously.
Blackflow, on the other hand, had already raised a city-wide emergency alert well over an hour ago.
That was the information provided by General Zhang Zixing of the imperial third army corps. The seventh division’s own defense systems had only sent a warning ten minutes prior, stating that a massive unidentified airship fleet was fast approaching.
On Evernight Continent, most of the alert systems around the cities consisted of ground watchtowers, independent sentry posts, and village guards. Money-burning toys like scouting airships were only used for reconnaissance and rapid transportation. There was no change in this policy even after Wei Bainian took over the city because the value of this warzone could only support such an expenditure.
Based on the differing topography, the average scope of sentries in every direction was about thirty-five kilometers. This was an hour’s forced march distance for ground troops. From this, it was obvious that the alert system wasn’t used to guard against aerial assaults. Back when the third army corps had escorted the fleet of noble ladies here, both their speed and altitude were enough to ignore the land-based defense lines.
But on Evernight Continent, there was no military target worth launching such an incomparably expensive aerial assault—this applied to both humans and dark races.
But such a defensive situation apparently couldn’t satisfy the third army corps. After being stationed in Blackflow City, Zhang Zixing immediately requested permission to assist in defensive duties. Presently, there were two small gunships patrolling the skies continuously within a 30-kilometer radius while a battleship stood hovering in the sky above the city at all times.
Qianye had no qualms with this arrangement and was quite happy to let the third army corps flush money down the drain.
The Dong family’s airship fleet was quite large and the cargo airships couldn’t fly too high—they were almost immediately discovered by the third corps’ patrols.
Meanwhile, Dong Qifeng’s expression was turning quite ugly as he gazed at the battleship floating above Blackflow City. He turned back to ask Du Yuanze, “What’s going on? You never mentioned that Dark Flame’s armed airship was a light corvette!”
The size of the airship in the distance was indeed a corvette class ship. It was still a standard battleship despite being only a light corvette and could easily outperform the three small gunships they had pulled over from the Dong family. They might not emerge victorious even if they fought three against one.
Du Yuanze’s forehead was drenched in sweat as he tried hard to recall the model of the Dark Flame airship he had seen amidst the chaos. “I didn't see this battleship back then. But even if there is a battleship in a place like Evernight, it must be a broken vessel discarded by the imperial army.”
Only then did Dong Qifeng’s expression recover somewhat. However, his eyesight was much better than the other officers, and the more he observed this airship, the more he felt that something was wrong. The airship’s external form resembled that of a Skylark class battleship. That was the newest model, the first batch of which was introduced less than ten years ago. How could it have been discarded?
However, he was already astride the proverbial tiger and couldn’t get down halfway. Even if they didn’t have any external sentries, the watchtowers in the city would have already discovered him at this distance. Dong Qifeng gazed fixedly at that battleship for a moment. He had originally planned to fly close to Blackflow City with his fleet of airships and suppress the enemy. His intentions to subdue the enemy without a battle vanished without a trace.
He immediately issued the orders, “Gunships to the front! Transport airships land on the spot. All troops must finish assembling in thirty minutes! Go and invite the two elders over.”Previous Chapter Next Chapter
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