Chapter 957: Soldiers at the Gates

This was an obvious decision. Song Zining’s squad might not be superior in terms of individual strength, but it was well supplied and boasted considerable firepower as a group. The fighting power of this unit wasn’t something that could be measured by the number of soldiers. Moreover, there was an airship fleet up in the sky, overseeing the situation with predatorial eyes and ready to fire at a moment’s notice.

To fight against such a unit, one would need to suppress its advantage with overwhelming manpower, and fifty thousand wasn’t nearly enough. Ji Rui said fifty thousand because that was the number of mercenaries and direct subordinates Zhang Buzhou could mobilize. Even that was a fairly outstanding feat.

Another method was to suppress the army with experts, just like how Qianye had blocked Tidehark back in the day. But that probably wouldn’t work, either, since no one knew how many experts were hidden among the imperial forces. Daring to siege Tidehark despite knowing of Luo Bingfeng’s presence meant that they possessed equal power up their sleeves.

Ji Rui sighed deeply. “We’ve grown old!”

Guan Zhongliu shook his head. “What are you talking about? The empire won’t stay in the neutral lands for long. They will retreat sooner or later. The neutral lands still belong to us.”

Ji Rui Shook his head. “At first, I had grand ambitions at heart, but after seeing Qianye’s valiance and Song Zining’s army, I realized that everything was just my rosy imagination.”

Guan Zhongliu wasn’t quite resigned. “Qianye is powerful, but what does Song Zining have? He just threw money at it. I can do the same if I have that much to spend!”

Ji Rui asked, “Can you really outfit such a squad in such a short time if you had that much money?”

Guan Zhongliu opened his mouth, but no words came out.

Assembling a squad was an extremely complicated matter. Not only would one need to organize the lineup, but also have to deal with equipment distribution, training, and coordination. Thinking back to it, it would seem every action Song Zining had taken since his arrival in Southern Blue was in preparation for this day. He had unknowingly tied numerous merchants, mercenaries, and even the city of Southern Blue to the empire’s war machine.

At first, the duo was confident in their own strength and was simply waiting to be offered a good price. But now, with so many experts arriving from the empire, Song Zining didn’t even suggest their participation in this fight. This filled the city lord and Guan Zhongliu with both relief and disappointment.

The empire’s victory in this battle would prove that the two of them had no big use; they could forget about any important status in the future. If the empire was defeated, neither the Evernight reinforcements nor Zhang Buzhou would let them off easily—banishment would be the best outcome.

On the other hand, this battle was of such grave importance that Song Zining apparently had no intention of letting them know the details. This also meant that Ji Rui and Guan Zhongliu were simply side-characters in the imperial system.

Guan Zhongliu didn’t have the heart to utter false words in front of Ji Rui. Having him draft a ten-thousand strong mercenary corps was doable, but to form an elite squad was simply impossible. Before this day, the man had never even imagined there could be such a heavily equipped unit.

Without waiting for Guan Zhongliu’s reply, Ji Rui said, “Everything else aside, just getting so much money in hand is an ability!”

Guan Zhongliu fell silent for a brief moment and asked, “City Lord, what do we do next?”

“If the empire wins this war, we’ll join them and put ourselves under their command.”

Guan Zhongliu was dissatisfied. “City Lord, Southern Blue is your foundation!”

Smiling wryly, Ji Rui waved his hand. “My foundation? Was my foundation ever so big?”

Guan Zhongliu wanted to persuade the city lord, but Ji Rui stopped him. “Old Guan, I’ve thought it through. It’s extremely difficult for us to break through to the divine champion realm, but the empire has a thousand years of accumulation. They will definitely have cultivation arts that suits us. If we make enough contributions, maybe we’ll be granted some superior ones, and maybe we’ll break through to the divine champion realm. At that point, we can continue being brothers for several more decades.”

Breaking through the threshold of divine champion was every cultivator’s dream, and Guan Zhongliu wasn’t immune to the desire.

After a while, Ji Rui said, “It’s almost time, I’ll go pack up.”

“Where to?” Guan Zhongliu was puzzled.

“Tidehark, of course! How can there be no accidents in such a big battle? Luo Bingfeng isn’t so easy to deal with, either. I’ll hover around and help out when the opportunity arises. That’s the kind of attitude we need to adopt.”

“City Lord, if you do that, we’ll be completely broken off from Zhang Buzhou.”

Ji Rui laughed self-deprecatingly. “Do you think we can go back to our previous state? We will be considered as one of them even if we don’t help the empire. Besides, we’re breaking off with Luo Bingfeng, not Zhang Buzhou.”

Outside of Tidehark, the first batch of soldiers had already arrived and were setting up the defenses and camps.

The location of the army camp was only a few thousand meters from Tidehark. They were doing chores right under the enemy’s eyes, a glaring display of arrogance. The defensive structures also happened to be just out of ballista range, but those sallying out to attack would have to face the numerous warships hovering in the sky. Judging from their mechanical power and the dense array of cannon muzzles, one could easily tell that they weren’t that fun to provoke.

Even an idiot would know that charging against airship fire was suicide.

The defending army was quite furious when the first defensive line was being constructed, but as more and more of the troops arrived, they quickly became nervous.

The more experienced veterans discovered that only half of the transports were carrying soldiers, while the rest were shipping supplies and construction machinery. Cargo airships also appeared in a steady stream, dropping off small mountains of materials, which soon turned into plated walls, barracks, and a dense array of heavy cannons.

The cargo arrived in an endless stream, almost as though it would never stop.

The defending general turned pale at the sight of this. They had never seen such a method of siege preparation, nor that many supplies. Despite having never witnessed such a scene, he had enough experience to understand the gravity of this situation.

Just as he was wracked with worry, the aide near him said, “General, how come they have so many heavy cannons? This won’t do. At this rate, they won’t even need to attack the city. Just the bombardment alone is beyond our tolerance!”

The general’s expression sank. “What do you think we should do?”

The aide clenched his teeth. “Should I charge out with a squad and attack them?”

The general pointed downward. “It might’ve been feasible if you had said this one hour ago, but it’s too late now.”

The aide gazed down to find a newly formed line of fortifications—rows of steel plates were erected and pieced together to form a firm defensive front. He couldn’t help but sigh in admiration. “Do those steel plates not cost any money?”

At this point, the fortified array below had taken form. Add to that the unimaginable firepower of the mercenaries and the cannons in the sky, charging out to attack was undoubtedly a suicidal endeavor.

The aide’s expression was unsightly. At first, he had wanted to lead a thousand men out of the city, but now, there was no telling if that number could even reach the walls.

“General, there’s only one way left.”

The defensive general turned around. “What? Speak.”

The aide said through clenched teeth, “We can only ask the city lord to take action and sweep away these bastards.”

With a loud bang, the general slapped the aide until he was seeing stars. Still furious after the slap, he roared, “How can you be sure it’s not a trap to lure the city lord out? Do you think trash like you can defend the city once he suffers an ambush? Are you having second thoughts after seeing the enemy forces?”

The aide replied in shock, “I have no such thoughts!”

The general pointed at the defensive lines below. “Look carefully, their position is just beyond the empowerment range of the holy mountain. Do you really want the city lord to leave the holy mountain and fight the enemy outside of his advantage?”

The aide denied in a panic.

The general snorted heavily. “Considering your twenty years of loyal service, I’ll let this matter be. No one is to disturb the city lord without my orders! How can he not know anything going on around the city? He will attack when he deems fit, no need for anyone to worry!”

“Yes, sir! The general is wise!” The aide retreated timidly. Only after turning around did a flash of viciousness flicker through his eyes.

Beneath Tidehark, the mercenaries stopped after building three segments of fortifications. Instead, they began building camps and barracks at the back. Large living quarters popped up like bamboo shoots after the spring rain. Such tents made from steel pipes and fabric weren't anything new—the defense army also possessed several dozens of them.

But the shock and awe were significant when hundreds and thousands of them appeared in a neat row.

Looking at the set-up below, the general’s expression sank. “They’re looking to break the city in one day!”

An airship slowly approached from beyond the cloudy skies. The vessel’s body was sleek, magnificent, and completely out of place from the coarseness of the neutral lands.

Song Zining was standing on the deck, looking down at Tidehark from above. Behind him were the old man from the imperial family, the Li family elder, and the others.

Even well-experienced people like them couldn’t help being moved by the orderly formation below. The core forces below were just mercenaries a few months ago. One could easily imagine how hard it was for Song Zining to have trained them to this degree. Many people increased their evaluation of him after seeing the results he had produced.

Amidst the praises, Song Zining laughed out loud. “This is just on the surface, only enough to scare people. The key to this battle lies in whether we can deal with Luo Bingfeng."

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-Legion-'s Thoughts

TL: Legion   ED: Moxie


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