Qiang Jin Jiu – Chapter 188 : Offense & Defense

Translated with: Jia<3

♢Chapter 188: Offense & Defense♢

Libei was still deep in grief when Biansha attacked again. 

After this battle, Hasen had become the indisputable and irreplaceable “esuheri”- or Hero – of the Hanshe tribe. His reputation was almost comparable to that of Amu’er’s, but he did not have time to turn around and listen to compliments. He had to seize the opportunity to strike Libei where it hurt and shift the battleground to the west of the Tudalong Banner, so that he could have the Biansha Cavalry take over the fertile pastures along the eastern mountain range of the Hongyan Mountains before the start of spring.

Shayi and Sha’er camps suffered their most brutal attack of the year. With Jiang Sheng severely injured and unable to partake, Xiao Jiming deployed Zhao Hui and Guo Weili to hold the fort, but the appearance of the scorpions caused both of them to suffer heavy casualties one after the other.  

The Libei Armored Cavalry was trapped in a predicament. Stripped of their heavy armor, they would have to face a swift and furious onslaught of slaughter from the elite forces of Biansha, and the inability of the battle steeds of Libei to catch up to the Biansha Cavalry at the same time also meant that they would be unable to escape the moment they were caught in a trap. But put back on their heavy armor, and that elite unit of scorpions would pursue them relentlessly. 

Guo Weili lost the three battles he fought, each time surviving by the skin of his teeth.

In the month that followed, all the frontlines of Libei came under attack. It was as though Hasen wielded a scimitar in his left hand and an iron hammer in his right, with every strike he dished out capable of landing a blow right at Libei’s most vital point. And that was not just the most terrifying part about him; Hasen was also very clear about who his opponent was every time they crossed swords on the battleground. He was extraordinarily familiar with the battlefield and had committed all the commanding generals of Libei to memory, and so he could proactively adapt and deal with anyone that came his way. 

Amu’er had taught all of his “changes” to Hasen without reservation, and Hasen executed them with great skill and fun on the northern battlegrounds. 

◈     ◈     ◈

Zhao Hui practically rolled off the back of his horse. The deputy general took off his helmet for him. Refusing to let anyone support him, Zhao Hui propped himself up on the ground and threw up everything in his stomach. Both of his hands were still trembling even now. He rolled over and lay on his back in the snow, panting hard. 

“Shayi Camp’s commanding general, Zhao Hui, submits his military report,” He said from this position. “We came across the scorpions in the north. Their numbers far exceeded five thousand. Squad Seven, which acts as the left flank, was completely wiped out. The center was forced to retreat. We lost, again.” 

This was swiftly recorded down by the personnel-in-charge. Urgent correspondences had to be immediately sent out of the camp with great haste and delivered to Dajing before tomorrow night. Xiao Jiming was unable to get on his horse and wield his blade, so all the military affairs could only be dealt with remotely like this. To guard against surprise attacks, he gave the commanding generals of the various battlegrounds the authority and power to self-mobilize troops in the face of danger. But this also meant that commanding generals like Guo Weili would have lost the chain holding them in check. Should they fall for a trap, they would probably never come back ever again.  

Guo Weili came out from the tent and bent over with his hand extended. Zhao Hui waved his hand to indicate his inability to get up now. That sense of nausea caused by being smashed senseless would not recede, and lying in the snow felt a little more comfortable. 

“Wu Ziyu is now guarding the Shasan Camp, and the Second Young Master has yet to recover from his injuries, so who is handling the task of transporting military supplies now?” Guo Weili fished out tobacco from his bosom and popped it right into his mouth to chew. He squatted beside Zhao Hui and asked.

“Chen Yang.” Zhao Hui spread out his arms and answered feebly. He seemed to know what Guo Weili was concerned about; thus, he continued, “Chen Yang has been by the Second Young Master’s side since six years ago taking care of the logistics, from the Imperial Army on a larger scale, to the residence’s backyard on a smaller scale. There’s nothing that can escape his calculations and planning. Chen Yang is currently in Bianbo Camp making a survey of the entire territory so that he can anticipate all the major and minor supplies in advance. As long as the bridle paths stay unobstructed, he will be able to ensure that the various camps will have no lack of supplies.” 

Looking at the fragments of snowflakes in the sky, Guo Weili said, “We are short of battle steeds.” 

They had already been starting to lack battle steeds at the beginning of autumn. The depletion of the horses back then was not this serious, and the stables in Dajing could still cope with the demand. But now, the armor-wearing battle steeds could no longer withstand the heavy hammers, and their injuries were often far more severe than the soldiers. Then there was the bitter cold weather and environment; their horses could not endure the cold as well as the ponies. 

The sky gradually darkened. Zhao Hui regained some of his energy and sat up. He reached out to wipe away a handful of blood, then said to Guo Weili, “That one smash from the hammer made my nose bleed. I couldn’t wipe it away in time and swallowed it all back down.” 

“Gross.” Guo Weili, with his headful of messy hair, did not want to stand up either, having squatted until his legs went numb. He paused for a moment, then said in a low and hoarse voice, “In the past, I considered Huhelu as one of Biansha’s elites. But now that I’ve encountered Hasen, I realize Huhelu is a good-for-nothing.”

Zhao Hui brushed off the fragments of snow on his knees and said, “Hasen is bold in his deployment of people, and he has infinite tricks up his sleeves. He knows us inside out.” He let loose a sigh. “And this is where the difficulty lies.”  

But they all tacitly knew that what was most formidable about Hasen had not even been put on display yet. Hasen had fought offensive and defensive battles with the Bianjun Commandery – the hardest of all to attack – in the south for several years. Compared to field battles, he was even better at attacking cities. Now that Libei had completely switched from offensive to defensive, the battleground camps had become rudimentary cities. It would not be long before they got a personal taste of Hasen’s barrage of attacks coming down on them like torrential rain. 

Guo Weili hated Hasen with every fiber of his being, but even he had to concede that Hasen was absolutely a genius born for the battlefields. To date, Guo Weili had never met a general who could hold and control the initiative so firmly in hand like this. He was just as unpredictable as a gale; he did not give Libei another chance to fight back at all. 

“Whoever takes the initiative controls the rhythm.” Guo Weili spat out the chewed tobacco. “We have to disrupt his pace even if we lose. Otherwise, we won’t have to wait until the beginning of spring. In less than half a month, the battle zones will fall into their hands.” 

The light from the flame in the distance flickered. Both men looked at it from afar in silence before suddenly scrambling to their feet. 

“Fuck!” Braving the wind, Guo Weili pointed at the watchtower and bellowed, “Are you fucking blind? Who’s in the southeast?!” 

The Armored Cavalry on the watchtower raised a palm to shield himself from the wind and heard the sound of horses’ hooves downwind. But a bridle path connecting to Sha’er Camp lay in the southeast, and he could not immediately determine in this short of a time who exactly was coming. 

“The cavalry.” Zhao Hui took several steps back to pick up his helmet from the ground, then shouted with all his might, “It’s the Biansha Cavalry!”   

“Sha’er Camp has fallen.” Guo Weili hissed through gritted teeth. “Hasen, that son of a bitch!” 

In the chaos that ensued, they watched as that flame came charging right towards them. The night patrol squad did not sound the alarm, so it was highly possible that the southeast had already been cut off. Other than the sound of hooves, there were clearly other sounds mixed in too. 

“The stone catapults…” The helmet in Zhao Hui’s palm slipped to the ground. He said in a daze, “We’re done for.”  

“Dogshit!” Guo Weili hauled Zhao Hui up and shouted all around him as he strode briskly, “Extinguish the flames in the watchtower!” 

Guo Weili suddenly shoved Zhao Hui and followed up with a punch that made Zhao Hui’s nose bleed again. 

“What are you, a dog?!” Zhao Hui covered his nose and spat out the froth of blood. 

“We are wolves.” Guo Weili turned back and stared viciously towards the southeast. “The hardest iron wall to fight in this world is not the Bianjun Commandery, but the Libei Armored Cavalry.” He pounded his own chest with a clenched fist and hollered all around him, “The battleground in the north belongs to Xiao Fangxu, and the Libei Armored Cavalry rule this expanse of battlefield! Whoever the fuck is a dog can jolly well eat shit! I will never retreat! We are wolves!” His eyes were both red as he shouted in a hoarse voice, “Bite these motherfuckers to death!” 

Zhao Hui wiped his nosebleed and kicked Guo Weili from behind. 

Guo Weili, with stubble on his face, locked eyes with Zhao Hui and asked, “Isn’t Hasen the most adept at attacking cities?” 

Zhao Hui picked up his helmet again and sniffled. “He won’t be adept at it soon.” 

There was a “click” as the mechanism trigger kicked into action, and the baffles swiftly sealed off the crenels in all four sides of the camp walls, instantly turning Shayi Camp into an impregnable fort shaped like an iron drum. The Biansha Cavalry stopped a short distance away. Through the darkness of the night, Hasen saw the heavy crossbow mechanisms protruding from those city walls. 

A few years before, Xiao Jiming had transformed Shayi, Sha’er, and Shasan Camps into heavy-duty ramparts. Just like how Xiao Chiye had felt when he faced the Shasan Camp, Hasen very quickly came to the understanding that this was the real impenetrable defense, one which did not leave a single opportunity for their foes to take advantage of. 

The watchtower torches were extinguished, making it totally impossible for one standing outside to get a glimpse into what was happening within the walls or even try to figure out the layout within.

There were also two mounted crossbows forged by Qidong hidden away in Shayi camp. Xiao Jiming had gone to painstaking lengths back then to keep them from the prying eyes of Qudu. The Libei Armored Cavalry pushed out the mounted crossbows, and while the heavy arrows were in the process of being loaded, Biansha’s stone catapults had already kicked into action. Boulders as heavy as a hundred jin came hurtling through the air, smashing into the walls of the camp. 

The crenels1 in the walls of Shayi Camp were reserved as stations for archers; in order to seal these up during special circumstances, they opted to have a more mobile baffle wall added to the parapet. But baffles were made from wood and could not withstand the force of bombardment.

Hasen clearly had his eyes on this weakness. 

“Release the arrows, release the arrows!” Guo Weili took large strides, slapping the backs of the cavalry as he passed by them. 

A storm of short arrows shot forth. Zhao Hui saw through an opening2 of the battlement that the cavalry had long retreated, and the infantry had replaced them in front. They erected a dense array of iron shields in the face of the hail of arrows. The arrows rained down on the surface of the shields, but could not inflict any damage on anyone at all. 

“That’s the iron shield of the Qidong Garrison Troops.” Zhao Hui said. “He swallowed up the advantages of the battlefields in the north and south whole.”  

“Is he a jackal or what?” Guo Weili said at the top of his voice as he supported himself against the wall and listened to the intensifying sound of smashing rocks. “That’s no longer a cavalry!” 

He was right. 

Having expanded their infantry with iron shields, they were no longer purely a cavalry. The commanding generals were not wrong in predicting that Biansha had, in the past six years, acquired resources they could not even begin to imagine. This was the source of the changes Hasen was able to make. 

The loading of the mounted crossbows was time-consuming. Dozens of men simultaneously exerted their strength, but for some reason, this crossbow simply would not move just before it was fired. 

“Is it spoiled?” Guo Weili lifted the man away, stomped on the crossbow, and pounded on it irritably a few times. “Bloody hell, Qidong’s contraption—” 

Before Guo Weili could finish his words, that crossbow trigger “clicked” into action, and the heavy arrows shot forth. Guo Weili’s outfit got caught on to an arrow, and in the instant it went flying, it dragged Guo Weili over, causing him to fall flat on his face.  

The jarring sound of those iron-headed heavy arrows slicing through the wind followed close on the arrows’ trail as they hurtled through the air. The iron shields of Biansha were erected once again, but it was a futile attempt as the force of impact caved the shields in. And as the soldiers were standing too close together, the resulting shock wave caused the two rows of people in the rear to topple over to the ground in unison. 

Zhao Hui wanted to report the good news, but before he could open his mouth, the baffle beside his head exploded. Reacting quickly, he crouched down with his hands covering his head and was nearly stabbed in the eye by a flying wooden splinter. 

The baffle was destroyed!

“Damn it.” Zhao Hui muttered to himself with his head and face covered in dust. “I’ll have to tell the Hereditary Prince to get them changed to iron ones.” 

The whistle outside sounded all of a sudden, and saker falcons swooped down through the thick clouds.

Guo Weili followed suit and blew the whistle. The falcon cage beside the stable drew open with a swoosh. Each of the falcons that had been preserving their strength these few days was brimming with energy. Meng flapped its wings as the ropes on its claws rattled. 

The soldiers taking care of the falcons untied the ropes. Meng, who would not listen to the whistled command of others at all, soared into the sky, circling among the dancing snow to break through the layers of clouds. The next instant, it began to dive. Iron claws clutched at a saker falcon’s flesh and feathers, tearing it into pieces in the air. 

At this critical juncture, Guo Weili heard the sound of the back gates opening. He immediately turned his head back, but he did not get to shout out, for a column of light cavalry was entering swiftly. The cloak of the person in the lead flapped in the wind as she got off her horse before Guo Weili.   

“Yo.” Qi Zhuyin greeted Guo Weili in her usual tone. “Busy fighting?” 

Zhao Hui turned over to jump down and trade looks with Guo Weili in between breaths. Not knowing Qi Zhuyin’s intent for coming, he said, “Commander-in-chief…”   

“Don’t call me that.” Qi Zhuyin took off her cloak and drew out the executioner blade3 at the side of her waist. She stabbed it into the ground by her feet with a “thud” and said with a laugh, “I shall have to inconvenience you guys to hook up with me tonight.”

Guo Weili promptly covered his chest and stared at Qi Zhuyin as she surveyed the surroundings. 

“Let’s see,” she said calmly, “who is tougher—your Libei Armored Cavalry, or our Qidong Garrison Troops.” 

Lianyin’s Note:
A few parts in this chapter (mainly description of the fortifications of the wall) have been cross-referenced against the simplified Chinese physical copy. I’ll do a final check/edit again based on the uncensored, traditional Chinese physical copy once it’s released. Meanwhile, thank you for bearing with us!

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Credits: thank you Tea for proofreading and AliceLiddell for correcting the typo! <3

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  1. 垛口 duokou, or crenels, empty space between two merlons

  2. Specifically 悬眼 Xuanyan, a loophole opened at the base of a parapet in-between two crenels.

  3. 鬼头刀 literally ghost-headed blade. It’s a kind of blade used for beheading people sentenced to death in old times.