Qiang Jin Jiu – Chapter 185 : Hongyan

Translated with: Jia<3


Heaven and earth were a vast expanse of white where the frigid wind swept past and sent the salt-like snow rustling. Owing to the severe collapse of the bridle paths, it was practically impossible for the grain wagons to enter the war zone. Xiao Chiye left Lang Tao Xue Jin at Bianbo camp and led his men to dig the snow for two days.    

Wu Ziyu tightened his collar in the chilly wind and covered up his mouth and nose. He rubbed his frozen hands together, his voice muffled as he spoke. “Damn it, I just took a nap, and the path gets all blocked up again with snow. When will this end?” 

Chen Yang never touched wine when he was on duty, but even he could not stand it any longer and kept chugging down On Horseback until his stomach burned. “The closer we get to the northeast, the colder it becomes. Fortunately, the prefectural lord sent the winter coats over before the tenth month; otherwise, who knows how many brothers would have succumbed to the cold?” 

“It’s such a cold day,” Gu Jin squatted on the ground and shook his head, “and the armor weighs a ton. The battle steeds won’t be able to stand it.”

The battle steeds of Libei were not as tolerant of the cold as Biansha’s ponies. It was an uphill task preparing fodder for the stables each time winter came around. The horses had it harder than the humans.  

“Keep digging.” Xiao Chiye said, “We have to make it to the battlegrounds by tonight.”

It was simply impossible to see the white puff of air Xiao Chiye exhaled. The wind was so strong that it sent his cloak flapping noisily. There was no end in sight ahead, and the blocked bridle path north of the Shasan Camp was a dead end, so he could only lead his convoy squad to take a long detour from the Three Great Training Divisions of Liuyang. The supplies in Sha’er Camp had run out, and they could only rely on Shayi Camp to replenish stocks. As these two camps jointly undertook the operational combat missions on the battlefields, their equipment was expended rather swiftly. They had gathered together a batch of military craftsmen after the eleventh month, and with more than 50,000 men in total, a staggeringly large amount of materials was needed. Xiao Chiye had to keep up with the uninterrupted flow of supply to both fronts. 

But the one in the most challenging position was Zhao Hui, who was to the west of the Tudalong Banner. The heavy snow had persisted for several days, and a path that had caved in once before was no longer usable. The path Xiao Chiye had repaired with wooden planks could not withstand the load of such heavy snowfall. Coupled with the heavy weight of the grain wagons, Xiao Chiye did not dare pass through without careful consideration. He could only let Zhao Hui wait for a few more days as he set off from the battlegrounds with the grain wagons in tow and detoured around the Tudalong Banner. 

Gu Jin blew hard on his palms and stood up to yell, “Keep digging!” 

The convoy squad had not had a day’s rest in the past three months, but none of the soldiers groused, because Xiao Chiye did not have a break either. They were practically running in circles all over Libei’s territory. Even with his eyes closed now, Xiao Chiye could point out which path was the quickest shortcut to take. Xiao Chiye had astonishing stamina and energy; even as he was transporting supplies, he did not delay recovering the use of his right arm. Just a few days in Bianbo Camp before setting off, he was still drawing the Conqueror’s Bow, and that ear-piercing twang of the bowstring had left the Libei Armored Cavalry dumbstruck. 

Xiao Chiye arrived at the site of the battle at the hour of chou, which was also when Xiao Fangxu had just withdrawn from the battlefield. Father and son both cut sorry figures before the dimly illuminated tent.

Xiao Fangxu took off his helmet. It was such a cold day, and yet he had run until he was all drenched in sweat. He took a hot handkerchief to wipe his face, then nodded in a signal to Xiao Chiye before bending over to enter the military tent. Both of the great commanding generals, Zuo Qianqiu and Jiang Sheng, were present in the tent, along with the deputy generals and brigade commanders from the two camps. All of them looked utterly exhausted. 

“This is really damn bizarre.” Xiao Fangxu tossed the handkerchief on the table. “Their ponies’ asses are almost trailing on the ground. How can they still run so fast in the heavy snow?” 

“No matter what, we cannot retreat again.” Zuo Qianqiu stood before the map and pointed to the southeastern corner of the Tudalong Banner. “If we retreat any further, this place will fall into the enemy’s hands too. When that happens, Zhao Hui’s remaining route for supplies will be cut off. In just one winter, Hasen can drag out the battle and wear him down to his death at the Tudalong Banner.” 

Spring came late in Libei. This bout of snow would last until the third month next year at the very least. Even if Zhao Hui had stockpiled food in Changzhu Camp, the entire army could not afford to deplete their equipment supplies. There were no batches of military craftsmen over at the Changzhu Camp.

“According to the military reports,” Jiang Sheng kicked off his boots and poured out the melted snow within. “Hasen has been giving Zhao Hui’s troops the slip lately. He saw that the supplies can’t be restocked for the time being and so wants to wear Zhao Hui down first.” 

Xiao Chiye sat in the corner and ate his flatbread with milk tea. Despite wolfing down his food, he did not miss any of the words they had spoken about at length. 

After a moment of silence, Xiao Fangxu said while staring at the map, “This is a warning sign of an impending surprise attack by Hasen.”  

Xiao Chiye thought so too.

Hasen was wearing Zhao Hui down to exhaust him. The Libei Armored Cavalry consumed too much equipment, and their battle steads were no match for the ponies at all during winter. The amount of assistance Shayi Camp could render Zhao Hui now that the bridle paths had collapsed was too minimal, and the Changzhu camp still had no reinforcements to back them. When Guo Weili had been stationed here, the Three Great Training Divisions of Liuyang led by Zhao Hui served as his reinforcements. But now that Zhao Hui had stepped to the fore, all he had to back him up was the remaining troops who were guarding the Northeast Provisions Bridle Path. Moreover, those troops had no direct access to him due to the heavy snow.    

“The supplies have already made it here,” Xiao Fangxu looked back at Xiao Chiye. “Hasen’s ambush will surely take place these two days.” 

If they continued waiting it out, Xiao Chiye would have to move up north, and Hasen would have missed his opportunity. 

“Early tomorrow morning, I will lead Squad Three to lie in wait over here.” Xiao Fangxu shifted his fingers. “Qianqiu will guard the camp, and Old Jiang will head over from around the back. We’ll form a net here. At the very least, we have to knock Hasen off his momentum. This lad is not only good at field operations but also in going on the offensive and defensive; we can’t let him find a place that can provide him with cover. All we can do is to box him in on the snowfield.”   

The Armored Cavalry was a wall in motion. If they flanked him from both sides, Hasen would have no choice but to collide into a wall. Restricting the pace of the Biansha Cavalry’s advancement was equivalent to chopping off their legs. Even after they fell to the ground, the Libei Armored Cavalry would still remain a wall that would prove tough for the Biansha scimitars and piked daggers to break out of. 

Xiao Chiye did not leave after the meeting ended.

Zuo Qianqiu came over and patted Xiao Chiye on his right arm. “Have your wounds healed?” 

Xiao Chiye lifted up his arm and moved it around. “No problem there with holding a blade or pulling a bow.”

“We have to thank Lanzhou during the spring festival.” Zuo Qianqiu said with a laugh. “The winter coats this time are all real cotton. For the last few years, the clothes that were delivered by Qudu were all padded with paper scraps. Your Eldest Sister-in-law wrote to say that she would personally cook a meal to thank Lanzhou when he comes.”

Xiao Chiye glanced at Xiao Fangxu, then replied humbly. “This is what he ought to do; it’s nothing deserving of thanks from Eldest Sister-in-law. A couple of days ago, he even sent a letter to announce that the new year gifts had been prepared; all that’s left is for the new year to come around.” 

Xiao Fangxu sprinkled fine salt into his own bowl, as though he had not heard their conversation.

So Zuo Qianqiu said, “Your father praised him for quite a number of days. During the spring festival, let’s—”

Xiao Fangxu said with certainty. “Nope, I’ve never praised him before.”

“Right.” Zuo Qianqiu threw Xiao Chiye a meaningful glance, “I was the one showering him with praise!”

“Why aren’t you retiring to your tent for the night?” Xiao Fangxu asked Xiao Chiye.

Xiao Chiye watched him drink up his milk tea before responding. “Will you be donning heavy armor when you head out to lay an ambush tomorrow?”

“How am I supposed to intercept Hasen without wearing it?” Xiao Fangxu set his bowl aside. “He’s even better at warfare than Amu’er.”

“Then take off your helmet,” Xiao Chiye said, “There could be scorpions hidden among Hasen’s troops.”

“Without our helmets, how can we be considered an iron wall? If we want to obstruct them in the snowfields, this is our only option.” Xiao Fangxu warmed up his fingers together and contemplated for a while. “According to your report, there are very few scorpions, and it would be too much of a strain for them to fend against the present Libei Armored Cavalry. Even if there are scorpions among Hasen’s troops, there could only be a scattering of them.”

“The Armored Cavalry is too heavy.” Xiao Chiye looked at Xiao Fangxu. “It’s imperative for the Armored Cavalry to make changes after the beginning of spring next year. If we want to force the Biansha Cavalry back to the east, we have to be prepared for all possibilities.”

“You want to strip off layers of the Armored Cavalry’s armor to lighten its weight,” Xiao Fangxu finally turned his head, “Yet you still can’t match their speed.”

Xiao Chiye did not utter a word as he locked eyes with Xiao Fangxu.

“The troops you trained in Qudu were all infantrymen, and your experience with battling on horseback comes from Lu Guangbai. But Libei doesn’t have the natural geographical advantage that the Bianjun Commandery has. If we want to possess a wall, we can only rely on heavy armor.” Xiao Fangxu tossed a few pieces of coal into the brazier. “Your eldest brother shed the weight of the Libei Armored Cavalry, but we’re still unable to break through that line in the east.” 

Xiao Fangxu looked at the brazier. 

“Amu’er’s transformations are simply too fast. He has gotten a clear handle on the Libei Armored Cavalry in the past few decades. There is no way simple additions and subtractions can stand up to such a Biansha Cavalry. The Armored Cavalry must make changes like never before.” 

This was the predicament of the Libei Armored Cavalry. Amu’er succeeded in his training of the scorpion unit, and looking at the result of their last confrontation, the hammers of this squad were the Libei Armored Cavalry’s nemesis. But would simply removing the helmet be enough of a countermeasure? This would mean that cracks had already begun to show in the Libei Armored Cavalry’s heavy armor, and this put Xiao Fangxu at a loss what to do. Still, he had no choice but to continue taking the risk, because this was the only advantage the Libei Armored Cavalry had left. If they discarded this advantage, they would not be able to hold their own even against the ordinary Biansha Cavalry. 

Amu’er was truly a genius, and Hasen was pretty remarkable too. Biansha was now exhibiting certain signs of rejuvenation. It even occurred to Xiao Fangxu that Amu’er would be able to completely merge the Twelve Tribes by winter next year at the latest. When the time comes, the entire frontline on the eastern side of Dazhou would become a war zone.

This was the key reason Qi Zhuyin refused to head up north and fall foul of Libei. She had also seen this monstrous beast from where she stood in Qidong. This was why she could not intimidate Libei because of the strife in Qudu, for they would inevitably stand on the same battlefield in the future; the enemy had already gotten powerful to the point that it was terrifying.

What should they do?

Xiao Chiye pillowed his head upon his arms as he lay in bed and contemplated this question over and over in the dark of night.  

They possessed the best military craftsmen in the world, and they had a staggering number of them, yet they had no recourse against Amu’er. This was almost about to be a kind of humiliation.

There was no way Amu’er was invulnerable. 

The Biansha Cavalry had their weaknesses too, except that these weaknesses were obscured by their unbelievable speed. They had to remove these from the equation and find a new breakthrough. But it was at this moment that Xiao Chiye was hit with the realization of his own unfamiliarity. He had crossed swords with the Biansha Cavalry far too few times, and all his countermeasures against the Biansha Cavalry were merely armchair strategies. He could not continue to conceive tactics by seeing his foes through a hazy mist. 

Xiao Chiye could not fall asleep. He turned over and got up to put on his coat. He stepped out of his tent, where he saw Xiao Fangxu conversing with the soldiers in the camp. When Xiao Fangxu noticed his presence, he patted the space next to him and handed him a bowl of milk tea after he sat down.

“It’s taboo not to sleep when you have to leave for war tomorrow morning.” Xiao Chiye sipped the warm milk tea. 

“When I was the same age as you, I was still bursting with energy even after staying up for three days.” Xiao Fangxu’s coat was old and worn, and its edges were extremely frayed. It had been mended over and over by Lu Yizhi, but even so, he refused to switch to a new one, because this had been sewn by his wife. 

Xiao Chiye gulped down the tea, frowning as he replied. “That was donkey’s years ago.”

As the fire crackled, father and son sat shoulder to shoulder for a long while. 

Xiao Fangxu asked, “Realized how exhausting this is yet?”

Xiao Chiye did not respond.

Xiao Fangxu thus looked at his youngest son. After a moment, he spoke up, “You used to want to fly, so you fought to the death to succeed with Meng, and you’re still doing the same now that you want to win.” 

Xiao Chiye heaved a sigh. “And whose bad habit is this?”

Xiao Fangxu let loose a laugh. “Not mine. Your mother’s.”

Xiao Chiye rubbed his fingers along the rim of the bowl and paused for a moment. “You lost to Amu’er at twenty-three; I lost to Hasen at twenty-three.”

“It took me seven years to collect my dues for this debt.” Firelight that enveloped Xiao Fangxu’s facial features accentuated them, making him appear all the more handsome, and more dignified and awe-inspiring than Xiao Chiye. “You understand how that feels. When I lost to him, I couldn’t find my way forward. I even thought for a while that I didn’t have the talent to be commander-in-chief. I’ve seen many outstanding commanding generals at Luoxia Pass, many of whom are real geniuses. I suppose you’ve no idea about this, but,” The corner of Xiao Fangxu’s mouth curled up in a smile. “Qi Shiyu was the one in the limelight at that time. He turned Qidong into a force to behold. The chief commander of the five commanderies was truly too strong. I looked at him and at them, and I thought I had no talent. There was no way I could stand on the same battlefields as them.”  

The firelight flickered, and a warring scene of glinting spears and armored horses manifested in the shadows. The military banner flapped so hard it looked as if it was going to be torn apart, but it was very peaceful here, as if this was the most stable, tranquil corner of this world. 

Xiao Fangxu spread out his right hand and said with downcast eyes, “I lost my first battle steed in that battle. However, the Biansha Cavalry left me too little time—they made me extract myself out of that slump swiftly. I could no longer wait for the others, nor feel sorry for myself. When I stood at the very front, I realized that I did not want to lose at all. I only wanted to win.” 

Win. 

Such a wild ambition sustained Xiao Fangxu and kept him going. It brought him endless motivation and ultimate glory. In those seven years, he never dared to stop for a moment. Every single day, he was looking out in the distance at Hongyan Mountains. He had seen through himself. That had been a swift and resolute transformation. He overcame all difficulties, even at the expense of offending his former commanding general to build a stable at Luoxia Pass. This alone took him three whole years. By the time he truly accomplished it, he was already twenty-eight years old. 

Xiao Fangxu scrutinized the lines in his palm and said, “You returned to Libei and focused your attention on both the ‘Armored Cavalry’ and ‘Imperial Army’, but you never thought to look at the commanding generals. Guo Weili hurt Gu Jin, and a feud was thus formed between both of you, but Guo Weili’s meritorious services are legitimate. He is your elder brother’s vanguard at Changzhu Camp, and his defense of the Tudalong Banner is impregnable. Jiang Sheng is a veteran. He has hardly been in the limelight, but the Sha’er Camp, which he is at, is the pivot that holds the lines between boundaries together. He is the foundation that supports us all, whether up north or down south. A-Ye, what you possess is not just those few soldiers, but also the experience that countless soldiers and officers have amassed. You went to Zhongbo back then and met Lu Guangbai, but now that you’re back in Libei, you aren’t willing to learn anything new. Men who are the most familiar with the battlefields of Libei are already standing before you. You’ve wasted too much time.” 

Xiao Chiye tightened his grip on the teacup.

“You want this position.” Xiao Fangxu slowly clenched his fist. It was as if he was asking both Xiao Chiye and himself at the same time. “But are you truly qualified enough?” 

Before Xiao Chiye returned to Libei, he had already been rejected by its commanding generals. It was hard for him to describe that feeling; he had indeed felt hurt. He no longer got into any disputes with these people afterward, but it was also from then on that they went their separate ways. Xiao Chiye had been back for so long, and the Imperial Army was still the Imperial Army. When he stood within the military tent, he was just so glaringly different from the rest of the commanding generals. He did not need these people to apply ointment for him when he got injured. They gave off the appearance of unity, but they were divided at heart; they could not become one. 

The tea on the fire started boiling and bubbling over. Xiao Chiye felt that he was like the wolf straying at the edge of the pack. He seemed to have returned, but in truth, he was still standing in the same spot. He watched these people fight with all their might, but there was no place for him among them.

“You don’t need seven years to defeat Hasen.” Xiao Fangxu gazed at Xiao Chiye and said, “But you must learn to be tolerant.” 

Xiao Fangxu left the camp at the hour of chen. The snow fell even more heavily today, which made it easier to get blinded without the helmet acting as a shield. Before he put on his helmet, he whistled at Xiao Chiye. Xiao Chiye came to stand beside the horse, and he tousled Xiao Chiye’s hair.

“It’s too dangerous to advance your troops on snowy nights. Wait for the hour of mao tomorrow before you set off for the north.” As Xiao Fangxu spoke, he put on his helmet. His voice sounded muffled inside of it. “We’ll discuss the detailed route when I return.” 

“The hour of chou at the latest.” Xiao Chiye said. “The snow is too heavy. Any later, and you’ll lose your way.”    

“That will depend on the situation.” Xiao Fangxu pulled the reins. “I’m leaving.” 

Xiao Chiye watched as Xiao Fangxu led his troops out of the camp. Those armored hooves heading north resembled a wandering dragon that was swallowed up by the snow and fog in the blink of an eye. He stood for a while longer, then turned and went into the tent to catch up on his sleep. 

Xiao Chiye fell into a deep sleep this time around and awoke to the sound of horse hooves. He was not in good spirits, and it took him a few moments of coming around to realize that it was already dark. He sat up and put his clothes on. When he stepped out, he saw soldiers all over the camp. Chen Yang and Gu Jin, who were meant to be on duty at the entrance, were both missing.   

Xiao Chiye turned around and grabbed hold of someone to ask. “What’s going on?”

“Sha’er Camp met with an ambush!” The junior soldier put on his armor swiftly and bowed in a hurry to Xiao Chiye. “We are going to mobilize troops south now to provide reinforcements!” 

Xiao Chiye quickly made his way to the front of the military tent. When he lifted the flap, he was met with the sight of a fully dressed Zuo Qianqiu. The latter was just about to step out. Xiao Chiye asked, “Jiang Sheng hasn’t returned yet?”

Zuo Qianqiu took large strides forward with a grave expression. “No, it’s likely he was stalled. This was a plan to lure us away from the base. Unfortunately, Hasen’s presence at Tudalong Banner was but a farce; his real objective is to ambush Sha’er Camp.”

The bridle paths connecting Sha’er Camp and Shasan Camp had been blocked off. Jiang Sheng had made a detour to lay in ambush together with Xiao Fangxu, resulting in a sharp decrease in the number of troops left to defend the camp. Shayi camp was all they could count on to make up for this shortage.   

“A-Ye,” Zuo Qianqiu said before mounting his horse. “You have to hold down the fort here; there are still provisions in the camp.”  

Xiao Chiye said, “I don’t have the authority to mobilize troops.”

“You can’t lead the convoy squad north.” Zuo Qianqiu steered the horse around. “Stay here and wait for your father to come back!”

His horse had already galloped off at the last drop of his words. 

Xiao Chiye took a couple of steps back to make way for the cavalry behind him. He scanned the vicinity and spotted Chen Yang amidst the chaos before him. 

“Gu Jin has gone up north to inform his lordship of the situation,” Chen Yang hurried over to Xiao Chiye’s side. “The snow is too heavy; even Meng can’t fly in this weather. Gu Jin is the only one who is able to find his way through the snow at night.”

Xiao Chiye asked. “What time did he leave?”

“An hour ago,” Chen Yang estimated the time. “He will only be back by the hour of mao.”

Xiao Chiye froze for a second, then continued to ask, “The hour of chou has already passed?”

“It’s currently three quarters past the hour of chou,” Chen Yang glanced worriedly at Xiao Chiye, “… any traces of their tracks have all been covered up by the snow. Squad Three is probably still in the snowfields, but Jiang Sheng is there too. Master, his lordship’s military strength far exceeds that of Hasen; he’ll definitely be able to make it back by the hour of mao.”

Anxiety began to eat away at Xiao Chiye; this was an emotion that proved tough to vent. He did not have the authority to mobilize troops, and the manpower left in Shayi camp was not sufficient to sustain a trip up north. All he could do was wait. 

This was a plan to lure them away from their base, but what did Hasen intend to achieve by launching a sneak attack on Sha’er Camp?

Xiao Chiye stared at the map and lifted his finger to trace along the line that Xiao Fangxu had drawn. That sense of unease started to pervade his entire being, gnawing at him. He seemed to be still standing in Tudalong Banner that rainy night, standing in confrontation with Hasen across the curtain of rain.

Sha’er Camp’s food supplies were still in Shayi camp. As Xiao Chiye had only arrived last night, Jiang Sheng did not manage to transfer the provisions in time. Sha’er Camp’s route down to the south had been obstructed by the heavy snow, so raiding Sha’er Camp would neither garner them any food supplies, nor pose a threat to the Shasan camp.  

So why? 

Xiao Chiye asked himself in the face of these intricate and complicated routes. 

The hour of yin passed too slowly. Xiao Chiye kept asking for the time in the military tent. He paced back and forth in the same place and rubbed away those haphazardly drawn lines. He gradually stopped tracing Xiao Fangxu’s path and put himself in Hasen’s position. 

Hasen was an accomplished hunter who was familiar with the bridle paths of Libei—this was already evident back then at the Tudalong Banner. He wore Zhao Hui down, and the blizzard became his cover, allowing him to move in and out of the snowfields with ease. 

Xiao Chiye stopped in his tracks and repeated those words from earlier. A chill ran down his spine, so cutting was it that his fingers stiffened. 

Exceptional hunters would not reveal their targets easily. They were patient, and any weaknesses they exposed were all pretenses to lure in the enemies. Hasen could move freely on the snowfields, which meant that he must know the routes in the north like the back of his hand. He knew which section of the road was suitable for an ambush. For the six months Hasen had been on the battlefield in the north, he had spent every day dealing with the Libei Armored Cavalry. He was practicing all this time; he already had a clear handle on Xiao Fangxu’s rhythm. 

This was a trap. Hasen trapped Xiao Fangxu the same way he had trapped Xiao Chiye. He never thought to launch a sneak attack on Changzhu Camp in the snowstorm, and he had no interest in the Sha’er Camp. He went around in such a big circle, and this was all for the sake of a target called Xiao Fangxu. 

Xiao Chiye abruptly pulled the tent flap open and bumped into Chen Yang’s head-on. 

Chen Yang staggered back and blurted out in a hurry before he got the chance to pay his obeisances, “Gu Jin is back!” 

Xiao Chiye looked out. Not only was Gu Jin back, but even Jiang Sheng had also returned. Xiao Chiye approached them briskly and pushed aside the Armored Cavalry, who was standing in his way. He kept searching, but no, Xiao Fangxu was not among them. 

Jiang Sheng, who was badly injured, was carried back on a stretcher. The color drained from Xiao Chiye’s face when he saw that smashed helmet, and he hissed, “Fuck!” 

“It’s the scorpions.” Gu Jin wiped his face vigorously with the corner of his clothes and said in a hoarse voice, “Master, they hid behind the armors. They had our tokens on them. They disguised themselves as the Libei Armored Cavalry at the old relay station in Tudalong Banner, and they deceived every one of us!” 

“Where is my father?” Xiao Chiye grabbed the front of Gu Jin’s clothes and enunciated each word of his question.

“… Ambushed.” Half of Jian Sheng’s face was covered in blood. The ringing in his ears was pretty bad. With fingers bent, he gripped the edge of the stretcher and mumbled somewhat incoherently, “It happened right under our nose. They are too fast…” 

Gu Jin bit down so hard on his lips they blanched. It was with difficulty that he said under Xiao Chiye’s gaze, “I didn’t find him, Master…”  

Xiao Chiye shoved Gu Jin aside. He whistled before he remembered that he had not brought Lang Tao Xue Jin over. He strode a few steps over to the stable and led a horse out before mounting it. 

Wu Ziyu tried to stop Xiao Chiye’s horse. “Viceroy, you don’t have authority to mobilize troops. You’ll be dismissed and investigated for arbitrarily heading up north without permission! We have to first send a message to Sha’er Camp and report—”  

Without looking at Wu Ziyu, Xiao Chiye cracked the horsewhip and shot forth like a sharp arrow. 

“Damn it!” Wu Ziyu flung down his helmet where he stood and shouted to his left and right, “Quick, report it to Sha’er Camp!” 

Xiao Chiye galloped among the boundless expanse of heavy snow. The wind tore at his sleeves as he charged along the hoofprints towards the northwest. The cold was penetrating, and very quickly, his freezing hands that were gripping the reins turned purplish red. The horse could not keep up with galloping at such speed, so he could only trudge through the heavy snow on foot. With his keen sense of smell, he tracked his way deep into the snowstorm through the devastated battlefield, where he found Xiao Fangxu in the dark. 

Xiao Chiye covered his eyes with his frozen fingers and wiped away at them hastily, but a sound he could not contain escaped from his throat. The wind of the Hongyan Mountains tousled Xiao Chiye’s hair. It was here he stood helplessly, until he eventually burst into gut-wrenching sobs.

“Give it back…” Xiao Chiye slid to his knees, torn asunder with grief and anguish as he choked with sobs at the deserted battlefield, “Give him back to me!”

Hasen had taken away his father’s head.

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