Volume 5, Chapter 40: Bloodbath at Yanmen
A bloodred world greeted him no matter where he turned. The sky, the soil, and the soldiers’ armor were all the color scarlet. Feelings of despair surged forth like the tide, making him feel as if the enemy’s malevolent faces were directly before his eyes. Regardless of how he struggled, he couldn’t shake himself of the thronging sabers and spears and arrows falling like a torrential downpour. Just as he was overwhelmed by helplessness, the drab and murky sky suddenly revealed a single ray of sun, penetrating through the layers of red clouds and bringing with it warm desire. Then amidst the sea of blood appeared that familiar and respected figure in azure robes.
“Young master!” shouted Chiji, as he was suddenly nudged awake.
Opening his eyes, he was completely unsurprised to see Lin Tong’s angry yet pretty features. Irate, Lin Tong declared, “Can you not cast your master to the back of your mind for now? This is already the fourteenth time you called for him in your dreams. Don’t forget that you are currently at Yanmen and not by your master’s side. No matter how loyal your master, hasn’t he allowed you to come here for the fight of our lives? If you have the energy, wouldn’t it be better if you thought of how to deal with the barbarians?”
Gazing at Lin Tong’s slightly angered and displeased expression, Chiji felt only sweetness. He could detect the faint jealousy in Lin Tong’s speech. Even the nearby Daizhou soldiers who walked past were beaming when they gazed at the couple. For five successive days and nights, the barbarians had practically assaulted the pass nonstop. In the beginning, the two of them had fought side by side and had saved each other multiple times. As time passed, Chiji had displayed his quite astonishing military command talent. As a result, he and Lin Tong had begun to take turns commanding the defenses. During the subsequent three full days, the two only spoke when they switched shifts. However, there was not a hint of loneliness, almost as if they were always by each other’s sides. During this period where life and death was out of their hands, the two had deliberately forgotten and set aside their previous barriers, apart from Lin Tong always feeling jealous of Chiji’s extreme adulation of Jiang Zhe.
Sitting up, Chiji bent his ear to listen. Not hearing the sounds of battle, he assumed that the barbarians had yet to renew their assault. Extending his arm, he embraced Lin Tong’s slender waist. Lightly exerting himself and with Lin Tong not on her guard, he was able to pull her into his embrace. The Northern populace was known for its forthright customs. As a result, the surrounding soldiers did not express their discontent, instead loudly whistling. Her entire face blushing, Lin Tong smacked a fist into Chiji’s chest. Chiji let out a yelp of pain, causing Lin Tong to immediately remember that Chiji had been injured by an arrow in his chest the day before yesterday. She could not help but soften. Taking advantage, Chiji tightly held Lin Tong to his bosom. Letting out a cry, Lin Tong buried her head into the chest permeating with a man’s odor. Bashful and flushed, a female general capable of directing a large army found it difficult to speak. Chiji’s original teasing intent was replaced with tender feelings.
At this moment, Lin Yuanchong ran over from the distance as he shouted, “Princess and younger brother Wang, His Lordship invites you over.”
Chiji and Lin Tong both leapt to their feet flustered. Practically not having the courage to face the member of her elder generation and her fellow soldiers, Lin Tong bowed her head as she ran off. It wasn’t long before she disappeared without a trace. In comparison, Chiji was somewhat hesitant and worried. What kind of character was the Marquis of Daizhou, Lin Yuanting? He had stood guard over Daizhou for many years and prevented the barbarians from taking a single step south. Although he was now aged and had many ailments, the imposing prestige of an old tiger still remained. Moreover, Lin Yuanting was Lin Tong’s father. Chiji was still quite apprehensive as he gazed at Lin Yuanchong, not having the courage to take a step forward.
Smiling, Lin Yuanchong asked, “Aiyah, why is the brave and skilled warrior so sheepish? Don’t worry, my distant elder brother is quite magnanimous and won’t blame you for teasing Tong’er.”
Chiji looked out from the pass at the tragic scenery of the bloodsoaked wilderness. Hemming and hawing, he replied, “This … the Princess has gone to see Marquis Lin. In case the barbarians attack right now, it is best that I remain here.”
At this moment, a powerful and vigorous large hand clapped onto Chiji’s shoulder. An aged and still vigorous voice spoke, “Little fellow, do not worry. With this weary old body of mine here, it won’t be a problem to defend for two to four hours.”
Chiji revealed a wry smile. Even without turning his head, he could tell that the voice belonged to the veteran General Qi. Who within the pass dared to wrangle with this elderly general who had spent his entire life in the military and was scarred all over his body? However, was he truly going to see Lin Yuanting? Chiji hesitated and found it difficult to decide.
Contempt flashed across Lin Yuanchong’s eyes as he coldly asked, “What? Do you not wish to see the Marquis? Could it be that you are toying1 with the Princess?”
Chiji shivered and softly answered, “Even if the Marquis agreed, what of it? I violated the young master’s regulations. Although the young master granted me this favor and permitted me to come to Daizhou, if the young master summoned me back to punish me, I couldn’t resist. In addition, the strength of the barbarians is formidable. Yanmen is in grave danger. Even if the barbarians are repelled, what can it do against the Yong army?”
Although Chiji’s voice was very low, both old General Qi and Lin Yuanchong heard his words clearly. Bewilderment shone in their eyes. This was a question both of them tried not think about. Lin Yuanchong stared at Chiji. Thinking of how this young man’s master was the prime culprit in the current rotten state of affairs in Daizhou, anger welled up. However, seeing this haggard young man who had fought bitterly for several continuous days, Lin Yuanchong found that he could not utter a single harsh word. The warriors of Daizhou had always clearly distinguished between gratitude and grudge. Sighing softly, Lin Yuanchong replied, “Go. The Marquis is waiting for you. It is already rare that he is clear-headed these days.”
Within a quiet room in Yanmen Pass, almost as if completely isolated from the bloody battlefield, the dense odor of medication was overflowing. The room did not have any hint of lavishness and no different from the rooms belonging to the commoners of Daizhou. On the spacious bed, an elderly man had sat up and was slowly drinking a bitter medicinal concoction with Lin Tong’s help. Although his appearance was withered and his hair was white, his former refined outline still shone through. It could clearly be seen that this elderly man was formerly a smart-looking and martial, handsome man.
When he entered the room, Chiji actually felt himself grow tranquil. Advancing, he kneeled and stated, “This youngster, Wang Ji, pays my respects to Your Lordship.”
A harsh light flashed across the elderly man’s eyes as he carefully observed Chiji for a while. He inquired, “You are the Marquis of Chu’s attendant, Divine Doctor Bo Le, Wang Ji? Is that your real name?”
Almost feeling as if that elderly man’s eyes were like sharp swords, Chiji believed those eyes could penetrate into his soul. He could not help sighing. It was no wonder that this man had been able to stand guard over Daizhou for so many years. As expected, this elderly man had the bearing of a famous general. Respectfully, Chiji responded, “This youngster was an orphan. Aside from knowing that I am surnamed Wang, I did not have a name. After my young master sheltered this youngster, I was bestowed with the name Chiji. Afterwards, I gave myself the name Wang Ji. It is my real name.”
Lin Yuanting smiled indifferently and asked, “Tong’er, has your second elder brother’s coffin been transported back?”
Lin Tong’s eyes reddened as she answered, “Yes, it has. Once the barbarians have been repelled, Father has to preside over the delivery of second elder brother’s memorial plaque into the ancestral hall.”
Lin Yuanting affectionately patted Lin Tong’s shoulder. To Chiji, he said, “I’ve incurred worthy nephew’s ridicule. This child, Tong’er, has too soft a heart. In reality, what is there to grieve about? Over the last hundred and more years, countless members of Daizhou’s Lin family have died on the battlefield. Of the five brothers of my generation, I am the only one alive. All of my brothers died on the battlefield. None of them met with good ends. Now it is my children’s turn. Alas, Cheng’er has already departed. Bi’er, Chengshan, and Chengyuan are all stuck at Jinyang. Once the Yong army closes the encirclement, their chances of survival will be slim. Chengyi has a rough temperament, while Tong’er is young and her experiences few. This time, it won’t be strange if the Lin family disappears.
“My Lin family has an established custom that only those clansmen who perish on the battlefield are entitled to have their memorial plaques enter the ancestral hall to enjoy sacrifices made by future generations. Over the more than hundred years, only a few individuals have failed to enter the ancestral hall. Originally, this old man believed that because of the tranquility of the future I would spend my last years on my sickbed and not have the opportunity to enter the ancestral shrine. Who would have expected that I would have the opportunity today? Tong’er, your father is determined to take the risks to destroy the core of the barbarian army. Although it is possible that this will lead to the complete destruction of Yanmen’s defenders, the strength of the barbarians will also be greatly damaged, giving us the opportunity to drive them from Daizhou.”
Lin Tong let out a wail of anguish as she threw herself into her father’s embrace with tears gushing forth. How could she not understand that Lin Yuanting was making his posthumous arrangements? Chiji stepped forward and wanted to reach out to console her, but was shunned by Lin Tong. Pained, Chiji asked with a clear voice, “Your Lordship, Princess, is there a heavy responsibility that needs to be assigned to Chiji?” There was only one thought in his mind, to die before Lin Tong.
Understanding this, Lin Yuanting’s gaze towards Chiji gained a bit of praise as he answered, “Worthy nephew’s character and talent are well-matched with Tong’er. It is a pity that since Tong’er is a descendant of the Lin family, she has no grounds for abandoning the people of Daizhou to flee for her life. Tong’er, do you blame your father?”
Wiping away her tears, Lin Tong responded, “Daddy, why do you ask such a thing? If I can die on the battlefield, daughter can also enter the ancestral shrine. What kind of glory would that be? Why would daughter blame Daddy? Father, please command us. What are we to do?”
Lin Yuanting smiled gladly as he replied, “Good. As expected, there are no cowards in my Lin family. However, the two of you cannot easily give up on living. If you are fortunate enough to survive after this battle, you cannot lightly speak of sacrificing your lives. Tong’er, I already ordered your eldest brother to submit our surrender to the Yong Emperor.”
In great alarm, Lin Tong cried out, “Father, what did you say? Offer to surrender? Why is this? In what position are you placing Mother, third and fourth elder brothers, and elder sister?”
Raising his hand to stop his daughter, Lin Yuanting indifferently answered, “The Lin family exists for the sake of Daizhou. Daizhou does not exist for the sake of the Lin family. I have already thought this through. Daizhou is completely alone with the Yong Emperor cutting off the lines of communication between Daizhou and Jinyang. We can only face the barbarians alone. Although I can come up with a plan to destroy the core of the barbarian army, the fragmented barbarians will become even more savage and vicious. With the core of the Daizhou army isolated at Jinyang, Daizhou is powerless against this fiercest invasion in the last several decades. The only method will be to surrender to Great Yong. The Yong Emperor is a wise and sagacious master. How can he not know of Daizhou’s importance? The only reason he has not directly invaded is because of our Lin family. Now that I have had your eldest brother offer to surrender and have used up the remnants of our fighting force on the battlefield here at Yanmen Pass, the Yong Emperor will have no misgivings and will travel day and night to come to our rescue, ensuring that the hundreds of thousands of Daizhou’s commoners will not be slaughtered by the barbarians.”
Tears falling like rain, Lin Tong understood that her father intended to sacrifice the Lin family to obtain Daizhou’s survival. Unsheathing the saber at her waist, she made a cut on her left arm. As the blood gushed forth, it mixed with her tears. With a solemn expression, Lin Tong declared, “Daughter understands Father’s intentions. Only the Lin family can sacrifice itself for Daizhou. If daughter is lucky enough to survive, I will offer to surrender to the Yong Emperor and will definitely not allow Daizhou to make an enemy of Great Yong’s elite horsemen.”
Hearing this, Chiji despaired as if he was going to die. He completely could not refute the words spoken by this father-daughter pair. In the past—when he left the young master’s side—the young master had once hinted that, even if Daizhou could drive off the barbarians, it would be difficult for the Lin family to escape the fate of being destroyed. As a result, the young master hoped that Chiji would be able to break off ties in a timely fashion. It would even be acceptable if he took Lin Tong with him. The young master was still capable of protecting her. This was something the young master had not spoken openly. However, at this moment, Chiji understood that his beloved was truly a heroine and would not live out an ignoble existence.
Chiji plopped to his knees and declared, “Your Lordship, this youngster has always had feelings for the Princess. I hope that Your Lordship would be willing to betroth the Princess to Chiji. Chiji is willing to share the fate of the Princess.”
Satisfaction flashed across Lin Yuanting’s eyes. However, he shook his head. “Worthy nephew, by helping my Daizhou military and civilians defend Yanmen in recent days, you have already violated your master’s regulations. There is no need for you to involve yourself in this hopeless situation now. The Yong Emperor is quite fond of the Marquis of Chu. In the future, worthy nephew will have endless opportunities. There is no need to give up everything for my daughter.”
Chiji did not speak, taking the bamboo flute from his waist. He began to play the flute. The music that flowed was intense and reverberating. Although Lin Yuanting hailed from a military family, he had taken a princess renowned for her talents as his wife and was not a stranger to music. After listening for a moment, Lin Yuanting clapped his hands and sang:
“A general after countless battles suffered ruin and shame,2Gazing back at where we parted, everything is so far away,3And from old friends we are forever cut off.The Yi River murmur still in wintry westerlies,4Everyone present in snowy dress.Heroic warriors sing muted dirges.Those crying birds, if they could comprehend such sorrow and gloom,Probably wouldn’t cry tears but blood.Who shall become drunk with me under the bright moon?”5
The words of the song were fiercely brave, making all of the officers and soldiers on guard outside perk their ears up to listen. Full of the heroic feeling of meeting death, Lin Yuanting sighed, “Who would have thought that you would understand the Iron-Blooded Metal Dagger-Axe, the feeling of putting one’s life on the line. Good, good. As expected, you are worthy of being with Tong’er.”
At this moment, the music of the flute changed, possessing a poignancy6 that contained an honor that permitted no turning back.7 Lin Tong’s mind shook, completely engrossed in the diligent and focused melody her beloved performed, to the point of not knowing when the piece came to an end. She only heard Chiji clearly state, “My feelings will not change for the rest of my life, and only ask that Your Lordship be willing to betroth the Princess to me.”
Lin Yuanting looked towards Lin Tong and indifferently asked, “Tong’er, what do you think?”
Her eyes glistening with tears, Lin Tong blushed scarlet and distress showed on her face. She was well aware that they were about to charge into danger and likely wouldn’t survive. In this manner, how could she reject her beloved’s affectionate willingness to accompany her and meet death? Turning her head away, she answered, “Everything is up to Father.”
Lin Yuanting’s bladelike eyebrows rose. “Good. Since the two of you are willing, this Marquis is willing to fulfill your wishes. Wang Ji, there is no need to seek a lucky day and hour to marry my daughter. If you are willing, how about paying your respects to the Heavens and the Earth, getting married atop the walls of Yanmen Pass in my presence and the presence of the thousands of Daizhou troops?”
Delighted, Chiji kowtowed and answered, “Wang Ji pays my respects to Father-in-law daren. Everything is up to Father-in-law.”
Before the walls of Yanmen Pass, all of the barbarians raged with fury after days of failure. Seeing the strength of the Yanmen defenders weaken, Wanyan Najin had firmly decided to succeed with this assault. In front of the entire barbarian army, he smeared his lips with blood in a solemn oath. After solemnly swearing, the combined barbarian army began to assemble before the walls of Yanmen. When Wanyan Najin and the other tribal chiefs pointed in the direction of Yanmen, discussing how to attack, they suddenly heard drum music surge to the Heavens from the pass.
The entire barbarian army turned to look, but only saw that all of the weapons above the main gate to Yanmen Pass were wreathed in bright red silk. The brightly armored Daizhou troops were split in two. Every single soldier celebrated. A bride and groom were getting married before a handsome-looking elderly man. After the three bows8 were complete, shouts of acclaim sounded from all over the pass. All of the barbarians bent their ears to listen and heard the Yanmen defenders thunderously proclaim, “May the Princess and the Lord Husband live a long and happy life together, growing old together!”
Wanyan Najin was infuriated. Pointing with his horsewhip, he declared, “These people dare to hold our army in contempt, going so far as to wed with lanterns and colored banners right in front of our army! Immediately begin the assault! This Khan wants to transform their happy occasion into a funeral! Lin Yuanting is up above! Over these years, how many of our fathers and brothers have died at his hands? Whoever can take his head will be treated as the best warrior of the grasslands, and be rewarded with a thousand gold and a beauty!”
At this moment, someone shouted, “My Khan, who doesn’t know that the Lin family has two beautiful sisters? How about this? Whoever is able to kill Lin Yuanting will obtain the newlywed bride atop the pass!”
Wanyan Najin looked around and saw that it was the chief of the White Wolf Tribe, Mo’ergan. Smiling slightly, he loudly replied, “Pass along this Khan’s command! Whoever is able to kill Lin Yuanting can obtain the Crimson Cloud Princess as their concubine! However, everyone will first have to capture this newlywed Princess alive first!”
Another of the barbarian generals burst out into laughter and said, “Newlyweds, this senior is fondest of stealing someone else’s newlywed bride. Lin Yuanting! Quickly wash your neck and wait for this senior to chop it off!”
Hearing the filthy language of barbarians below, the faces of the entire Daizhou army were as heavy as water. However, none of them spoke. This humiliation could only be wiped away spilling blood. Originally feeling as if he was like in a joyous dream, Chiji’s complexion became ashen. Removing his groom’s gown, he revealed a body adorn in bright armor. As for Lin Tong, she glanced coldly down. Using her bare hands, she tore the red damask silk wedding gown into shreds, revealing a set of firered leather armor. The two of them stood on either side of Lin Yuanting like the attendants of a divine house,9 unstained by the mundane world.
Lin Yuanting sat in a chair. He did not have enough strength to remain standing on his two legs. In a clear voice, he declared, “Wanyan Najin, come! Your father and your uncle all died at Yanmen Pass! I want to see if you have the ability to successfully climb the walls! However, as a Khan, you presumably do not have the mind to fight on the battlefield personally?”
The intense ridicule caused Wanyan Najin’s complexion to change several times. The barbarians had always esteemed the brave and strong. After thinking back on how Wanyan Najin had never personally gone into battle, the gathered barbarian tribesmen could not help discussing this furtively. Wanyan Najin had always been extremely conceited himself. He ferociously declared, “Lin Yuanting, just wait! This Khan will personally take your head and kidnap your beloved daughter to be my slave!”
When these words were uttered, the barbarians before the pass were thrown into an uproar. The Daizhou troops on the walls also could not help beginning to hurl abuse. With a wave of Wanyan Najin’s hand, the bugle horns sounded and the barbarians began their fiercest assault.
What gave Wanyan Najin and company joy was that the strength of the Daizhou army had been greatly weakened. It could be assumed that their strength had been consumed by the days of arduous fighting. However, the Daizhou soldiers continued to resist tenaciously. If their quivers emptied, they would use their sabers to chop. If their sabers blunted, they would use their fists and teeth. Some of the powerless soldiers even went so far as to simply plunge to their deaths from the walls clenching the barbarians who had climbed up. Some of the soldiers, even in death, continued to bite on the throats of their enemies. It was obvious that Yanmen Pass was on the verge of falling yet it remained standing and defiant.
As dusk fell, Wanyan Najin finally could no longer hold back and sent the Gele tribe’s best troops, the Snow Wolves, he had been intentionally keeping in reserve. The Snow Wolves were an elite unit personally selected and trained by Wanyan Najin. Each and every member was a one in thousand warrior selected from the grasslands. The Gele tribe relied upon the Snow Wolves to control all of the various tribes and helped Wanyan Najin become khan.
With an order, the Snow Wolves began to climb up the siege ladders. The movements of each and every member were as fast as lightning. The defenders on the wall were already extremely exhausted. In a split second, the walls of Yanmen had been seized by the Snow Wolves. Delighted, Wanyan Najin commanded the bugle horns to sound the assault. The entire barbarian army began to strut about, waiting for the Snow Wolves to open the gates to the pass to swarm in and slaughter the inhabitants of Yanmen Pass, before stepping foot on the fertile land of the Central Plains to kill and plunder.
The Snow Wolves who had mounted the walls had preserved their strength for the big push. The weary troops on the walls were not their match. Near instantly, they had broken through several defensive lines and charged to where Lin Yuanting was directing the defense. Obtaining success by capturing the enemy’s leader10 and killing Lin Yuanting was Wanyan Najin’s order. They naturally all hoped to be the one to seize the credit.
Lin Yuanting’s pale face flushed slightly. He gestured with his hand and the troops who had been waiting in ambush the entire day charged out, cutting off the Snow Wolves’ retreat. At their head was Lin Yuanchong. These ambushing troops were composed of the best troops of the pass. This day, they had remained in hiding and had not lent a hand regardless of how terrible the battle on the pass. Having watched their comrades die miserably, they had long ago pledged they would take revenge. In the split second before they charged out, the black powder the soldiers had prepared earlier was ignited. After the intense shaking and rumbling, all of the vertical paths within Yanmen Pass were sealed. This was a stalemate Lin Yuanting had planned—to exterminate the troops used by the Gele tribe to deter all of the other barbarian tribes. In this way, the barbarians would splinter. In the meantime, the gates of Yanmen Pass slowly opened and exposed a seemingly undefended entrance.
Facing the bountiful feast before them, all of the barbarian tribal chiefs were delighted, simply believing that the Snow Wolves had successfully seized control. Even Wanyan Najin neglected the abnormal situation atop the walls and took the lead to charge into Yanmen Pass. Having already been pushed to the edge, the Daizhou soldiers did not even glance over. Without consulting anyone, the barbarians brandished their sabers and sought to charge up onto the walls. However, they saw that the passages up the walls had been sealed by fallen stone. Wanyan Najin grew cold and was not in the mood to figure out why the Daizhou army had isolated to above and below the pass. He shouted, “Retreat!” However, his voice was drowned by the excited clamoring of the barbarian troops.
Wanyan Najin no longer had perfect command over the army that had become giddy with success. Pushed forward by the troops, Wanyan Najin was forced to follow along for several hundred zhang. Wanyan Najin was close to despair as he saw a kitted out and waiting11 unit of elite cavalry. Urging their horses forward to the lead of the horsemen were Chiji and Lin Tong. Accompanying their arrival was a hail of arrows. The barbarians and the Daizhou army had fought many times. Every single time they had fallen into Daizhou’s trap, they suffered disastrous losses. In addition, the military affairs of the Yanmen Pass were controlled by the most dreaded Lin Yuanting. They could not help growing frenetic. The barbarians at the fore tried to retreat at all costs, hoping to withdraw to the field where they held the advantage. As for the barbarians at the back, they did not know of the changes ahead and continued to charge forward.
Just as the barbarians were thrown into disarray, Wanyan Najin—who had retreated under the protection of his bodyguards—heard the clanking of crossbow mechanisms. He instinctively hunched his body, wanting to avoid the crossbow bolts flying over. However, a reverberating whistle suddenly sounded on the chaotic battlefield. Hearing the whistle, the warhorse Wanyan Najin was mounted on suddenly reared up on its hind legs. Off guard, Wanyan Najin’s figure was exposed to the crossbows. An intense pain assailed him as he heard the crossbow bolt penetrate his armor with a thunk. He then heard the cries of his trusted subordinates yelling in alarm. At close range, each and every one of the crossbow bolts were like unfailingly accurate invitations from Yama, the King of Hell.
Seeing his life flash before his eyes, Wanyan Najin was unwilling to accept fate as he cried out, “The Heavens are blind!” Then, this individual who had just sat down on a throne most revered by the barbarians, the young khan full of ambition and wholeheartedly focused on restoring the former glory of the khanate, fell.
Losing their leader, the originally perturbed barbarians were actually enraged and they began to form into small groups of horsemen, beginning to counterattack the Daizhou troops. No longer constrained by the need to cooperate, the barbarians were truly able to display their strength to the fullest extent. Within Yanmen Pass, the sounds of battle sprung up. Regardless of Daizhou soldiers or the barbarians, all of them forgot everything but battle, long abandoning their bows and arrows.
Like a river dragon, the spear in Chiji’s hands tenaciously protected Lin Tong’s flank. At this moment, he was extremely glad he had learned how to fight with a spear on horseback. These last several years, he had put the work in. Born to a martial, aristocratic family, Lin Tong’s spear techniques were better than Chiji’s. Her silver spear was the falling snow, its afterimages pear blossoms. The spattering flesh made the two of them appear to be a pair of martial jade figurines.
It was only that the strength of the Daizhou army was too weak. Although they fought tooth and nail, and had exchanged their lives for several times their number, more and more barbarians charged into the pass while the Daizhou army had no reinforcements. Seeing the tide of battle turning in favor of the barbarians, Lin Tong helplessly issued the order to retreat. This was Lin Yuanting’s wish. With the arrival of this moment, the remaining Daizhou army could only become vengeful ghosts trampled by the enemy’s elite cavalry. Since their objective had been met, rather than dying here, it was best to preserve as much of the Daizhou army as possible.
Hearing the horns sounding the retreat, the entirety of the Daizhou army withdrew with tears in their eyes. They were powerless to worry about the battle progress atop the sealed walls, to the point they were powerless to worry about their young commanders. At the head of the sacrificial troops of the Lin family, Chiji and Lin Tong led the rearguard. Using their blood and lives, these troops fought to ensure that the Daizhou army could retreat without being hindered. As military orders demanded compliance, it was possible that, if they retreated in time, the princess and her husband could potentially escape alive as well. Every single one of the officers and soldiers of the Daizhou army spared no effort in fleeing. Many of the badly injured soldiers used their sabers to commit suicide in order to prevent encumbering their comrades. In addition, some of the soldiers with injured horses who could not escape on horseback joined Lin Tong in the rearguard.
After a quarter of an hour, the remnants of the Daizhou army had successfully escaped. Only Lin Tong and Chiji couldn’t leave, at the head of a hundred or so troops. This wasn’t because the two of them were deliberately seeking death. Although this thought had been buried deep within their minds, they were both unwilling to see so many of Daizhou’s warriors be buried alongside them. Unfortunately, the barbarians had already completely surrounded them and it was impossible for them to escape.
Lin Tong did not have the slightest bit of regret or despair. As a member of the Lin family, even a woman like her was prepared to die on the battlefield. The only worry she still held was of her mother in Daizhou. What was her mother going to do? Relying upon the protection of the Yong army was not something that this externally yielding and internally firm Northern Han princess could accept. Hearing the panting of Chiji’s heavy breathing, Lin Tong turned her head to look and saw that this initially handsome and carefree youth was covered head to toe in blood with his entire body was covered with injuries.
Uncontainable feelings of gratefulness and happiness welling up in Lin Tong. This youth had abandoned his endless opportunities and chosen to accompany her to the underworld. He was already her husband. Although it was only for a single day, Lin Tong felt as if they had been married for many years. Almost like a meeting of minds, Chiji also turned to look at Lin Tong. When their eyes locked, there was only boundless, deep love. Then the two of them thrust their spears out at practically the same moment to stab the enemy about to attack their lover. There was no end of the barbarians in sight, coming like the unceasing waves of the roaring sea. In the blink of an eye, the remaining Daizhou troops were overflooded. However, the two seemingly did not notice.
At this moment, Lin Tong’s warhorse finally crumpled to the ground. Having been pierced by several arrows and with multiple wounds, it was already difficult for this warhorse to last until now. Chiji immediately put his hand out and pulled Lin Tong up. Borrowing the force, Lin Tong leapt up and as gracefully as a swallow dropped onto Chiji’s mount in front of him. She glanced back with a smile. Chiji’s left hand squeezed Lin Tong’s left hand, as he held her slender waist and returned her smile. The two of them did not intend to seize a masterless horse. What was the point in living a little longer? It was better to die together.
Chiji never found himself as alert as he was currently. Embracing his beloved on the battlefield, even the closing fiendish faces of the barbarians did not cause a single ripple in his heart. Clenching his silver spear hard enough to whiten his knuckles, he waited for the final moment to arrive.
Vaguely, Chiji felt the ground suddenly rumble. This rumble was only producible by a rigorously trained cavalry troop galloping together. Could it be that I’m getting confused? thought Chiji with a bitter smile. However, he saw the same bewilderment in the eyes of the surviving Lin family sacrificial troops and the violently attacking barbarians beyond. The barbarians even began to slow the pace of their assaults.
Before Chiji could react, the sounds of a familiar bugle horn and increasingly loud pounding reached his ears. With tears streaming down his face, Chiji was choked with so much emotion that he was incapable of answering the questions that brimmed in Lin Tong’s eyes. He only tightened his hold around Lin Tong’s waist almost as if he would lose his true love if he loosened his grip.
- 逢场作戏, fengchangzuoxi – idiom, lit. find a stage, put on a comedy; fig. having fun, playing along
- This is an allusion to the Han Dynasty general Li Ling (李凌), who was defeated by the Xiongnu (a confederation of nomadic tribes who ruled the Asian Steppe). As a result of this defeat, his entire family was slaughtered under the orders of Emperor Wu of Han. As a result, he surrendered to the Xiongnu. Of those also implicated included Sima Qian (司马迁), the author of the Records of the Grand Historian or Shiji (史记), who was castrated.
- This is an allusion to the meeting between Li Ling and another captured Han Dynasty general who refused to surrender, Su Wu (苏武) in Xiongnu territory.
- This is an allusion to a poem that the assassin Jing Ke (荆轲) recited before heading off to assassinate the then-King and later Emperor of Qin, “the wind blows, the Yi River freezes. The hero goes, never to return” (风萧萧兮易水寒，壮士一去不复返).
- This is a poem entitled Congratulating the Groom: Farewell to Twelfth Younger Brother Maojia (贺新郎·别茂嘉十二弟) by Song Dynasty poet Xin Qiji (辛弃疾).
- 缠绵悱恻, chanmianfeice – idiom, lit. sad beyond words; fig. poignant, very sentimental
- 义无反顾, yiwufangu – idiom, lit. honor does not allow one to glance back; fig. duty-bound not to turn back, unwillingness to fail one’s duty
- In traditional Chinese wedding customs, the bride and groom bow three times—to the Heavens, to the Earth, and to their elders.
- 金童玉女, jintongyunü – idiom, lit. golden boys and jade maidens; fig. attendants of the Daoist immortals, a golden young couple
- 擒贼先擒王, qinzeixianqinwang – idiom, lit. in order to round up bandits, first capture the ringleader; fig. obtaining success by capturing the enemy’s leader
- 整装待发, zhengzhuangdaifa – idiom, lit. fully equipped; fig. ready and waiting