Volume 5, Chapter 31: Breaking Out in Three Directions
In the twenty-fourth year of Rongsheng, the fifteenth year of the sixty-year cycle, Tingfei was surrounded by the Yong army south of Jishi and battled bloodily for over a dozen days without results. At the same time, Daizhou was invaded by the barbarians. The Yong army shot messages into the Daizhou army to inform them of the desperateness of the situation, desiring to throw the Daizhou army into disarray. With the Northern Han army’s provisions exhausted, all of the generals sought to sacrifice the Daizhou army to find the opportunity to break out. Discovering this, Tingfei had no choice but to personally draw up a plan of escape.—Northern Han Dynastic Records, Biography of Long Tingfei
Urging his horse to the top of a low slope, Li Xian’s eyes were as bright as torches. Smiling and yet not smiling, he gazed at the Yong army formations ready and waiting for the arrival of the enemy. After several days of reorganization, Li Xian had reassumed control over the encirclement, taking responsibility for the annihilation of the Northern Han army. Because Jishi was the main direction that the Northern Han army would try to break out toward, Li Xian personally took command of the main army to stop the Northern Han army’s retreat. After days of fighting, the well-trained and formidable Yong army had forcibly blocked every single of the Northern Han army’s offensives.
As for Zhangsun Ji, he was responsible for restricting the area that the Northern Han army was allowed to exist, helping Li Xian by attacking from the rear and flanks. With their breakout attempts ending in failure, they had no choice but to retreat. This was all because of Zhangsun Ji. Of course, Li Xian’s forceful defense was the primary reason behind the inability of the Northern Han army to escape the encirclement. After years of war, the present situation was the first time that Li Xian was able to experience the wonderful feeling of completely controlling the situation.
However, Li Xian still felt gloomy. He did not know why, but Jiang Zhe’s mood had been quite poor these days and had not paid the least bit of attention towards military matters. Every day, Jiang Zhe would either be reading books or practicing calligraphy. Every single time that Jiang Zhe caught sight of Li Xian, his face would grow frosty, almost as if there was some resentment. To be accurate, the anger was not solely directed at Li Xian. When Zhangsun Ji was free and asked for a meeting, Jiang Zhe had also been quite tepid. Even Jing Chi had been kicked out by Jiang Zhe. As for Li Xian, he did not know why this formerly cultured and scholarly man had become so unreasonable.
Shaking his head, Li Xian cast aside the distracting thoughts in his head and looked forward. He had received the intelligence about Daizhou yesterday. Stirred, he had fired an arrow carrying a letter to Lin Bi. It could be assumed that the morale of the Daizhou army was definitely shaky. Based upon scout reports, the Northern Han army would run out of provisions during these two days. In all likelihood, the Northern Han army’s breakout would either be today or tomorrow. And since dawn was the most crucial moment, he had come personally to oversee the defenses.
Suddenly, the formation before his eyes changed. Li Xian’s heart raced, and he lifted his head to look. Right when the first ray of the early morning sunshine appeared, the Daizhou army charged like a sharp arrow at the Yong army’s formations. At their head was the Princess of Jiaping, brandishing a silver spear and wearing a brocade silk cloak with golden phoenix embroidery. This time, although Lin Bi wore her helmet, she had not lowered her visor, revealing her stunning features that were as beautiful as jade. Her warhorse was a proud dragon, she was a flying phoenix. It was only that her face was icy, inevitably reducing some of her charm.
Li Xian felt his mind shake enormously. At this moment, the only thing in his eyes was that woman’s distinct and touching, valiant and heroic beauty. While Li Xian was hesitating, Lin Bi had already charged alone into the Yong army’s eastern encampment. Her silver spear fluttered in the air, sweeping away all those that opposed her. Behind her, the Daizhou army roared. The soldiers at the rear drew their bowstrings and let fly their arrows, while those at the front brandished their weapons and charged into the Yong encampment. The volleys of arrows like a torrential rainstorm seemed to have eyes, knowing to avoid the bodies of the Daizhou army while ruthlessly taking the lives of the Yong soldiers.
Li Xian was startled, promptly issuing orders. With the command banners waving, the drums sounded in unison and the Yong army in the eastern encampment began to retreat in succession. The troops on the flanks withdrew at a slower pace, desiring to surround the Daizhou army. This was a consistent method they had used to deal with the Daizhou army.
As a seasoned commander, Lin Bi naturally understood that it was necessary to control the tempo of the assault so as to avoid being surrounded on three sides. However, this time, Lin Bi had a different option. She loudly shouted, “The people of our homeland all hope for our return! Comrades, kill!”
Afterwards, without any worries, she charged into the midst of the Yong army. Like a sharp dagger, the Daizhou army burrowed into what was the chest of the Yong army. Shouting clearly, Lin Bi used her silver spear to knock a lance aside and stabbed her spear towards the throat of the Yong horseman that blocked her. On the verge of death, the Yong horseman’s bloodshot eyes made him look especially sinister. With a shout, he cast aside his lance before catching the silver spearhead with his bloody hands. Even if he were to die, he had no intention of releasing his grip on the silver spear. On her horse, Lin Bi turned around, drawing the precious saber at her waist. The saber flashed through the air and chopped off her opponent’s arms. Afterwards, the silver spear slashed horizontally, cutting the throat of a frantically attacking Yong soldier. The prized saber turned around and chopped off the head of another Yong soldier. Afterwards, the saber returned to its scabbard.
Having killed three people in an instant, Lin Bi was as savage and hateful as an asura. Her beautiful complexion was like a violent flower that bloomed on the battlefield, causing the beautiful spring blossoms to lose their color. Under the encouragement of her frantic attacks, the Daizhou army displayed their most formidable individual fighting abilities. After they were surrounded, almost every soldier faced off against multiple opponents. However, based on their consummate horsemanship and skills, they were not at a disadvantage. With this, the Daizhou army had seemingly transformed into a hedgehog that was covered in sharp blades, slicing through each layer of the Yong army’s encirclement.
Li Xian frowned. Originally, he had expected that the Daizhou army would scatter. Who would have thought that Lin Bi had used the goal of returning to their homeland to attack the barbarians to appeal to her troops? Right now, it seemed like the Daizhou army’s will to fight to the death had been strengthened and the eastern encampment might not necessarily be held. However, if he sent reinforcements to the eastern encampment, the following assault by the Qinzhou army would be difficult to deal with. From the start, Li Xian had expected that some conflicts would erupt between the Qinzhou and Daizhou armies, as the Daizhou army was most suitable to serve as the first wave in a breakthrough and divert the Yong army’s attention. However, the Daizhou army likely would not be willing to sacrifice themselves. Unexpectedly, Lin Bi had gone so far as to be perfectly willing to fight the first round on Long Tingfei’s behalf. Could it be that she was no longer worrying about the losses suffered by the Daizhou army?
Since things had reached this stage, it was useless to overthink matters. To the soldier who had come from the eastern encampment to request reinforcements, Li Xian coldly told, “Tell Luo Zhang that he won’t have any reinforcements. If his fifty thousand troops can’t stop the Daizhou army, there will be no need for him to beg forgiveness. He can simply cut his own throat.”
At this moment, the Daizhou army broke through the eastern encampment’s first defensive line. Lin Bi picked up the oppressive pounding of drumbeats. Several hundred large war drums rumbled, making people feel like they were being oppressed by thick layers of dark clouds. Lin Bi lifted her eyes to look and caught sight of nine Yong infantry squares waiting. Each square was composed of three thousand troops. At their fore were large shields the size of a man. Behind the shields were densely packed spears, followed by sword and axe infantry. Bringing up the rear were archers. Behind these formations was another square and contained a number of banners for a general. Upon the banners was flamboyant calligraphy with the character luo (羅).
A cold light flashed across Lin Bi’s eyes. Raising her silver spear, she pointed at the Yong squares and shouted, “Fire!”
Not slowing down in the slightest, the Daizhou horse archers were only two hundred paces away when the first volley of arrows hit the Yong formation and only fifty paces when the fifth volley flew out. Having fired five volleys in hundred fifty paces, the horse archery of the Daizhou army could be said to be matchless in the world. The accurate archery suppressed the Yong army and prevented them from raising their heads, practicing bowing at the waist while hiding underneath their shields. As a result, their vigor inevitably weakened. At this moment, the Daizhou army burst into the Yong formations. Warhorses slammed into the shields and spears stabbed into bodies. The two armies did not cease their volleys. Like a rainstorm, the arrows flew through the sky. The Yong archers loosed arrows as if their lives depended on it, wanting to halt the Daizhou army’s advance, while the Daizhou army returned volleys demonlike. On their horses, the Daizhou horse archers performed all kinds of motions—dodging, brandishing sabers, stabbing with spears and lances. However, they could still under these various circumstances shoot arrows at the enemy.
The first and second infantry squares broke. At this moment, sounds of fighting came from behind the Daizhou army. The Yong cavalry formations that had been broken earlier had regrouped and attacked from the rear. The horse archers at the rear of the Daizhou army performed Parthian shot against the Yong cavalry attack. As the two armies collided, the Daizhou army’s offensive was checked.
At this very moment, the Northern Han army’s commander-in-chief banner appeared on the horizon. The banner fluttered in the breeze and the crack horsemen were swift as the wind. After eating a full meal, the grand Northern Han army charged towards the Yong army’s central encampment like a rainbow. Seeing the Long (龍) banner fluttering in the breeze, Li Xian mind shook and immediately began to issue a series of orders, mobilizing and moving troops to advance and welcome the enemy. Although Long Tingfei’s assault was unstoppable, Li Xian had made preparations long ago. The troops that accompanied him to stop Long Tingfei were composed entirely of the remnants of those who had retreated in defeat from Qinyuan. They had always been elite troops who were surpassingly brave. In addition, the humiliation they felt was extremely intense. As a result, they practically used their lives to fight with the Northern Han army to guarantee that the Northern Han army could not break out from here. This was the sole conviction these troops held.
The two armies collided together—one side risked their lives to break through, while the other solemnly vowed to expunge the previous disgrace. The fighting could be called extremely desperate. As one Yong cavalryman knocked an enemy horseman off his horse, the Northern Han horseman who had been stabbed by the lance smiled bitterly and clung to the weapon, allowing another Northern Han rider to kill the Yong cavalryman. Two other Yong cavalrymen flanked from the sides and simultaneously pierced the Northern Han rider with their lances. Not far away was a blood-covered Northern Han soldier. Glaring with bloodshot eyes, he fired the crossbow in his hand. The crossbow bolt pierced through the armor and bodies of the Northern Han rider and the two Yong cavalrymen.
Long Tingfei gazed calculatedly at the chaotic fighting. Even if he and his men had no thought of retreat,1 it wasn’t so easy to break through the Yong army’s defenses. Long Tingfei took a deep breath of the slightly chilly spring air. In the air, aside from the earthy aroma of soil and grass, there was the strong smell of blood. Pulling down his visor, Long Tingfei brandished the halberd in his hand and loudly declared, “Follow me!”
Then Long Tingfei charged forward. Behind him, his personal troops in scarlet armor whistled loudly as they too brandished their weapons. Like an unstoppable wildfire, their assault caught the attention of everyone present. Automatically, the Northern Han formation split apart to allow them to pass. The fiery red flood took a spearhead formation and pierced directly like a wedge towards the Yong army’s center, while the other Northern Han troops automatically followed. As the flood became increasingly formidable, the Yong army’s formation began to waver and grew chaotic.
Seeing this, Li Xian smiled humorlessly. After years of campaigning, he had fought several times with Long Tingfei. He had long become used to seeing Long Tingfei’s arrogance. Although he could not but admire his opponent at heart, it was impossible for Li Xian to bow his head and admit defeat. Raising his lance, the sound of bugle horns thundered through the air.
Just as Li Xian was about to spur his horse forward and charge in, one of Li Xian’s bodyguards, Zhuang Jun, advanced and stopped him, stating, “Your Imperial Highness, what use are the claws of a tiger that has come down to the plains?2 Long Tingfei is no longer a threat and will be captured sooner rather than later. Your Imperial Highness’s personage is priceless and should not personally go into battle. If you suffered any mishaps, wouldn’t it be a failure at the final hurdle?”
Li Xian laughed heartily and replied, “If the commander-in-chief does not fight personally, how can he boost the army’s morale? Having fought against Long Tingfei for many years, how can this Prince not see him off on this last stage of his journey? Get out of my way!”
Lightly waving his lance and forcing Zhuang Jun out of the way, Li Xian quickly took the lead to welcome the vanguard of the Northern Han army. Well-trained, Li Xian’s bodyguards followed him and charged forward, protecting Li Xian in their midst. The two flame-colored units collided and engaged at the center of the battlefield. The whinnying of the warhorses, the hoarse shouts of the soldiers, and the painful groans of the dying were interwoven together. Practically everyone present lost their heads to the blood and killing atmosphere. This bloodthirsty atmosphere pervaded the entire battlefield.
Long Tingfei and Li Xian’s eyes met. Although the two were kept separated by many bodyguards, making it impossible for them to exchange blows, their gazes remained on each other. The weapons in their hands could only eliminate enemies that were at close range. Having fought countless times, although the two had never met in hand-to-hand combat, they had completely memorized the figure of their opposite number. Having finally reached the final determination of life and death, the two acted at practically the same time and charged through the protective layer of their bodyguards.
The halberd arced through the air, while the lance stabbed forward. The two weapons collided before swiftly separating. Like a surging tide, the two commander’s bodyguards charged forward, wanting to place their respective commander-in-chief under their protection again. However, the two’s weapons created gales full of internal energy, making it impossible for the bodyguards to close. The two’s fierce battle resembled the combat between a dragon and tiger,3 as neither had any intention of retreating.
Knocking aside the halberd that lunged for his throat, Li Xian’s eyes were burning with an ardent blaze. It was this man before him who had repeatedly caused him to repeatedly experience the pain of defeats, repeatedly escaping narrowly. Over these years, he had acquired not a few new scars, all bestowed by this man. However, strangely enough, Li Xian did not feel any hatred for Long Tingfei, probably since he had constantly struggled at the boundary between life and death because of this man, whittling away at the sincere sorrow in his heart.
In this lifetime, he had lost to his Imperial Brother. Although they had not fought on the battlefield, it was very clear that, because of the defeat in the struggle for succession, he would always be vanquished by Imperial Brother. The other individual who had defeated Li Xian, leaving him completely powerless to retaliate, was the man before him. Although the retreat in defeat from Jishi was a great success in luring the enemy into the ambush, if Li Xian asked himself honestly, he would rather defeat Long Tingfei straightforwardly on the battlefield at Qinyuan. But aside from the respect he felt, Li Xian also had an unfathomable feeling of envy. Although this man had plainly been caught in an envelopment and could no longer control his fate, Li Xian felt if he were Long Tingfei, he would rather die on the battlefield. Ferociously scolding his own bafflement, Li Xian spared no effort to knock aside the halberd that had been thrust at him before counterattacking and jabbing his lance at Long Tingfei’s chest.
It was this man, although repeatedly defeated, who was not cowed and directly met the enemy head-on every single time. Throughout, this Li Xian had maintained his vigorous fighting spirit. Sometimes, Long Tingfei felt as if he were a whetstone, honing the man before him into the sharpest of weapons. Every single time he had met this man, Li Xian would always charge forward undaunted by all perils, unafraid of death when covering the rear. Long Tingfei always felt respect. There was no one else like the man before him. Even though he was an honored member of the Yong imperial family and a priceless personage, Li Xian still fought in spite of all risks and dangers to his life. Long Tingfei sighed softly in his head. At present, the man before him had been tempered into steel. As for himself, his halberd would be broken and he was to fall on the shore of the Qin River. Lifting his lids to look over, Long Tingfei saw that his opponent’s serene and deep eyes were filled with fire and killing intent. Long Tingfei smiled slightly and swept his halberd forward. If the two of them could both be buried here on this battlefield, it would be worth it.
It was a rarely seen spectacle to have two commander-in-chiefs dueling on the battlefield. Even though this was the case, their bodyguards were drenched with cold sweat. If their commander-in-chief died before them, it would be an extraordinary shame and humiliation for them as bodyguards. Although Long Tingfei and Li Xian became increasingly ferocious as they fought, stirring up a strong wind that forced all those nearby to retreat several zhang, their bodyguards continued to fight around them. Their similarly colored armors mingled together. Although the different styles made it possible to identify the enemy, the officers and soldiers at a distance could not distinguish between friend and foe. As a result, no more volleys were fired in this direction.
After desperately dueling for dozens of bouts, the foreheads of both Long Tingfei and Li Xian were covered with sweat. Both men were a match for ten thousand men and their horsemanship was outstanding. With little difference in their skills, the duel increasingly consumed their internal energy and physical strength. However, those with discerning eyes could judge that Long Tingfei had slightly gained the upper hand. After all, he had once received guidance from the Devil Sect Sovereign and his martial arts were a cut above Li Xian’s. Li Xian’s advantage was his tenacity. After battling painstakingly for many years, Li Xian had fallen into danger on numerous occasions. In battle, his martial arts had been tempered to the point of perfection and were extremely dogged and persistent. Although Long Tingfei held the advantage, Li Xian’s defense was extraordinarily tight. Even if they fought another hundred bouts, he would not be defeated.
Having battled for some time, Long Tingfei had discovered that his army’s offensive had become sluggish, while the Yong army had steadied mightily. Were it not for the opportunity to kill Li Xian, Long Tingfei would likely have already circumvented Li Xian and continued his assault. Feeling somewhat irritated at heart, Long Tingfei began to throw caution to the wind. Every single one of his attacks were killing blows that would result in neither side winning. As for Li Xian, he did not reveal a hint of dread. Instead, he began to snatch opportunities to attack Long Tingfei. In this way, both of them were constantly endangered, scaring their bodyguards witless.
At this moment, Zhuang Jun could no longer bear to look on, bellowing, “Protect His Imperial Highness!” Finished speaking, Zhuang Jun raised his lance and charged over, no longer caring if he would be blamed by Li Xian. In the moment he charged forward, nine feathered arrows penetrated ghostlike through the concentrated killing aura, shooting past the shadows for Long Tingfei.
Long Tingfei drew a circle with his halberd, seemingly making the arrows disappear without a trace.4 However, both Long Tingfei’s person and mount retreated three steps. The internal energy in the arrows pushed Long Tingfei’s body to the verge of collapse and caused him to reveal an opening through his sweeping of the halberd.
The arrows had been shot by Duanmu Qiu. Although he was one of the Prince of Qi’s bodyguards, he was only skilled at archery and wasn’t particularly adept at fighting on horseback. As a result, he had deliberately fallen to the back of the bodyguards. At this moment, he fully exhibited the entirety of his archery skills, successfully stifling Long Tingfei’s attacks and giving Li Xian a golden opportunity.
Spurring his horse forward, Li Xian thrust his lance at Long Tingfei’s solar plexus without the slightest bit of mercy. Seeing this, a Northern Han horseman ruthlessly stabbed a dagger down into his horse’s buttocks. With a squeal, the horse frantically dashed forward, conveniently blocking Li Xian. Li Xian’s lance ruthlessly stabbed into the horse’s head. As its rider fell forward head first, the dagger in his head shot out and flew towards Li Xian’s throat. Li Xian had exhausted all of his strength in that thrust. Even though he clearly saw the dagger fly towards him, he was powerless to dodge. Suddenly, his pair of eyes became dazzling and understanding, serenely watching the dagger that was going to take his life. He looked emotionless.
Just as everything hung in the balance, Li Xian’s bodyguards arrived. A deafening and resounding recitation of one of the names of the Buddha echoed “Amituofo.” One of the bodyguards flipped through the air. In a flash, he had flown several zhang. Striking downward with a palm, the dagger simply brushed past Li Xian’s neck. With his momentum exhausted, the bodyguard fell gently. Since his horse had caught up by chance, the bodyguard was able to drop onto his mount. Loudly, he said, “Your Imperial Highness, you cannot take risks lightly.”
This bodyguard was Great Master Upright Dharma. As he spoke, the Prince of Qi’s bodyguards flocked over, protecting him. Li Xian smiled helplessly, lifting his gaze to look over and saw Long Tingfei leaning down to save the horseman who had been fallen from his horse. The horseman got onto the horse and sat behind Long Tingfei. While Long Tingfei was urging his horse and about to depart, at the moment when Li Xian looked over, Long Tingfei had seemingly sensed something and also turned his head to look. Their eyes locked, filled with great admiration.
Li Xian smiled again and shouted, “Kill! Not a single Northern Han soldier must be permitted to escape!”
By this time, Long Tingfei had already charged once again into the Yong army’s formation. The originally somewhat chaotic Northern Han army automatically followed behind to once again form a diamond.
Li Xian was well aware that his bodyguards would definitely not permit him to charge into battle once again and could only concentrate on directing the Yong army to wear down the Northern Han army’s drive and strength. As the two armies were focused on the battle, sounds of battle suddenly erupted in the direction from the Yong western encampment close to the Qin River. Li Xian’s mind shook and he gazed again at Long Tingfei. In the assault just now, Li Xian had already detected that, although the banners behind Long Tingfei seemed to denote the entire Northern Han army, there was actually only twenty to thirty thousand troops. Li Xian’s mind raced, understanding that Long Tingfei intended to use himself as the bait. Unfortunately, the majority of the main force on the northern side of the encirclement was located within Li Xian’s encampment. The general responsible for the western encampment was Jing Chi. He only had forty thousand men under his command. The Northern Han army would most likely succeed in breaking through.
Revealing a ruminating smile on his face, Li Xian thought, Jing Chi is also a valiant general of Great Yong. With him present, it won’t be so easy for the Northern Han army to break out. Besides, Zhangsun Ji is also not to be trifled with. Surrounded in front and behind, the only fate before the Northern Han army is death.
Besides, thought Li Xian, As long as I can kill you, Long Tingfei, what does it matter if several tens of thousands of troops are able to escape? Reaching this conclusion, Li Xian did not have any plans to reinforce the western encampment and instead continued to lead the annihilation of Long Tingfei.
Behind the Northern Han army, Zhangsun Ji had already led his army and drawn near. This time, the Northern Han army had clearly shown its determination to fight the decisive battle. He would definitely not allow the Northern Han army any opportunity of breaking out. As a result, Zhangsun Ji had also begun to show a dangerous sharpness.
In the western encampment of the Yong northern front, Jing Chi commanded his troops to halt the increasingly formidable Northern Han offensive. Some sixty to seventy thousand Northern Han troops possessed local numerical advantage, forcing Jing Chi to focus completely on obstinately defending his camp. He had long since received the news that Lin Bi and Long Tingfei were assaulting the eastern and central encampments. As long as he was able to defend his camps and the other two camps were able to prevail, then he could receive reinforcements. It was likely quite difficult for the eastern encampments to disengage themselves. However, the Prince of Qi had sixty thousand horsemen and twenty thousand foot soldiers, and should be able to win comfortably. On the defensive line in the direction of Jishi, aside from the ambushing hundred thousand Yong troops, the Prince of Qi had concentrated all of the Zezhou troops that had retreated in defeat from Qinyuan. With these numbers, combined with Zhangsun Ji’s closing the encirclement from the rear, they would definitely not allow the Northern Han army to successfully escape.
At this moment, if there were a pair of eyes looking down from the Heavens, they would definitely be able to see the Northern Han army trying to break out in three directions. All three forces had been caught in brutal battle. Having been opponents for many years, the Zezhou army had long been accustomed to fighting against the Northern Han army. With the numerical advantage and supported by a large army at the rear of the enemy, the Yong army was able to employ the entirety of its strength, tenaciously stopping the Northern Han army. If nothing untoward occurred, Long Tingfei’s plan would be no better than an illusion. However, who was Long Tingfei? Without complete certainty, how would he split his forces to break out? He had long expected that something like this would occur. Were he not certain that the Prince of Qi would personally take command of the battlefield wherever he was at, there was no way that Long Tingfei would have used himself as bait. Throughout, the focus of the breakout was the western encampment. Not only because this encampment was close to the Qin River and allowed the Northern Han army to support the navy and escape, the other reason was that the commander there was Jing Chi and by his side was infiltrated a disciple of the Devil Sect.
Just as Jing Chi was completely focused on commanding his troops, heartbroken and frightened roars bellowed from the bodyguards at his side. Jing Chi instinctively dodged, his body shrinking on his mount, sparing no effort to reduce the area that he could be surprise attacked. Even though this was the case, he still felt the icy feeling of a sharp blade piercing his body. With his senses attacked by sharp pain, Jing Chi’s eyes widened, seeing that the one attacking him was the man he had recently began to trust, deputy general Dai Yue. At this moment, Dai Yue had a thin smile on his face as several sabers and five or six lances stabbed into his body from behind. However, all of this was too late to prevent his dagger from piercing into Jing Chi’s ribs.
Jing Chi began to sway. Just as he was about to fall off his horse, several bodyguards rushed over and held him up. A shining spirit glittering in his eyes, Dai Yue exhausted the last of his strength and shouted, “Your Royal Majesty, Sovereign!” Then he slowly closed his eyes and with that his flame was extinguished.
Xiao Tong within the Northern Han army gently turned his head away. Although Dai Yue’s shout had not been able to reach his ears, the chaos within the Yong formation was enough to explain everything. His expression somewhat sad, he gravely ordered, “Three Generals Lu, we can break out now.”
From within the Northern Han army, the bugle horns sounded continuously and the unstoppable assault began. Suddenly losing their commander, the Yong army fell into disarray. Finally, a gap opened in the Yong defensive line and the Northern Han army began to swarm through.
Within the Yong formation, Jing Chi’s bodyguards escorted him to safety. A military doctor was frantically dragged over by several of the bodyguards. They removed Jing Chi’s armor and pulled out the dagger to apply medication. Blood gushed out from the wound and quickly soaked the dressing. Wanting to cry, but without tears, the army doctor reported, “This subordinate is useless. I’m afraid that General … General’s injury is …”
Just as everyone was feeling disheartened, Jing Chi suddenly woke. With difficulty, he said, “Below the neck, within the locket.”
One of the bodyguards immediately reached out and tore Jing Chi’s clothes apart. It seemed that Jing Chi had a golden locket hanging from his neck. The bodyguard opened the locket and found a medicinal, wax pill the size of a longan fruit. On the white wax outer layer were written the words in the size of mosquitos “secret manufacture of the Cold Courtyard.” The army doctor’s eyes brightened and snatched the pill. Softly, he broke the white covering. With that, everyone could smell a fragrant scent that gladdened the heart and a bright red pill the color of fire was exposed. The army doctor shoved the pill into the mouth of the already freezing cold Jing Chi.
When the pill entered the mouth, it immediately dissolved. Practically instantaneously, Jing Chi’s body temperature began to rise. Afterwards, the blood flow from his wound decreased. After the army doctor applied the medication several times, the wound ceased to bleed. With that, Jing Chi’s breathing began to steady. Although he once again fell unconscious, everyone could see that his life had been saved.
One of the bodyguards gazed over at the chaotic battlefield. The majority of the Northern Han army had already broken through. There were only six to seven thousand men who were still being blocked by Jing Chi’s second in command. Encompassing his vision was the sight of scattered Yong corpses. Trembling, the bodyguard asked, “What’s to be done, what’s to be done?”
Another bodyguard hollered, “Quickly report this matter to His Imperial Highness. We should make a net from rope and deliver General Jing to the Marquis of Chu daren. The Army Supervisor daren’s medical ability is divine and can ensure that our General’s injury does not worsen.”
This bodyguard was a trusted one who had followed Jing Chi for many years. As his words were reasonable, everyone split to execute things. Using four horses, they created a rope net and set Jing Chi upon it to ensure that Jing Chi wasn’t bothered by the bumps of the road which could make his injury worsened. Protecting Jing Chi, the bodyguards departed from the battlefield.
At the same time as news of the abrupt change occurred in the western encampment reached Li Xian, Long Tingfei breathed a sigh of relief. Smiling, he stated, “Gentlemen, our army’s main strength has broken through. Now it’s up to us. Even if we cannot return north alive, we will definitely have to drag several enemies down with us! Kill!” Following his order, the Northern Han army began to charge without any restraint.
As for Li Xian, his complexion was ashen as he swiftly commanded, “Have the second-in-command at the western encampment temporarily take charge and pursue the main strength of the Northern Han army! Immediately pass the news to General Zhangsun and have him advance north in full strength! We must definitely not permit the Northern Han army to return to Qinyuan so easily!”
Then Li Xian solemnly declared, “Since things have reached this point, there is no need for regrets! With all our strength, annihilate Long Tingfei! If there are any mishaps, with what face do we have to meet others?”
The entire army was wildly indignant, as they pounced upon the enemy before them. They would definitely not permit Long Tingfei’s escape. This was the sole intent in the minds of every single Yong officer and soldier.
- 破釜沉舟, pofuchenzhou – idiom, lit. to break the cauldrons and sink the boats; fig. to cut off one’s means of retreat, to burn one’s boats, have no thought of retreat; prior to the Battle of Julu (巨鹿之战) and before he met the numerically superior Qin army, Xiang Yu (项羽) burned his boats and only took three days of rations to attack, breaking the Qin army
- 虎落平阳, huluopingyang – idiom, lit. what use are the claws of a tiger that has come down to the plains; fig. no longer a threat
- 龙争虎斗, longzhenghudou – idiom, lit. the dragon wars, the tiger battles; fig. fierce battle between giants, a fierce struggle between two evenly-matched opponents
- 泥牛入海, niniuruhai – idiom, lit. a clay ox enters the sea; fig. to disappear with no hope of returning