Qiang Jin Jiu – Chapter 189 : Snowtrooper

Translated with: Jia<3

Zhao Hui originally thought Qi Zhuyin had brought along reinforcements from Qidong, but he only saw a few dozen personal guards behind Qi Zhuyin and could not help but ask in bafflement, “Commander-in-chief, this…” 

“I’m not here to fight the battle for you—” Qi Zhuyin started wrapping a strip of cloth around her right hand so that the hilt of her blade would not easily slip off when it was soaked with blood, “—but to use you people to fight. From now on, you and this buddy of yours will be demoted in place. I’ll take over the post of Shayi Camp Commanding General for the time being.”

Not only was Zhao Hui stunned the moment this statement was made, but even Guo Weili also froze for a moment before rebutting, “That won’t do!” 

Qidong and Libei had always maintained friendly relations, and they had joined forces during the fourth year of Xiande to intercept the advance of the Biansha Cavalry and recover the Six Prefectures of Zhongbo, but even so, they were as different as chalk and cheese. Never before had they overstepped their authority in each other’s jurisdiction. They could address Qi Zhuyin as commander-in-chief, but that did not mean they would be willing to heed Qi Zhuyin’s deployment orders.  

On hearing that, Qi Wei took out an authority token from the cloth bag at the side of his waist and tossed it to Guo Weili. Guo Weili caught it and turned it over for a look—it was Xiao Jiming’s authority token. 

The smashing rocks had already destroyed all the baffles facing the southeast. Single-branch cannons1 took over their place on the crenels. Although these were called “cannons”, they were actually catapults, with a leather nest for loading rocks set up on a long pole to be launched by manual manpower. They were less powerful compared to the catapults Hasen had brought. The infantry Hasen had positioned in front hoisted up their iron shields. In order to move forward at the risk of being smashed by the falling rocks, they had no choice but to slow down. 

On seeing that Qi Zhuyin had already pulled out her executioner blade, Zhao Hui quickly followed after her and said, “Shayi Camp only has 8,000 men left, while the range estimate of Hasen’s force puts it at 10,000 cavalrymen. Is the commander-in-chief going to lead us to put up a defense until reinforcements arrive? With the fall of Sha’er Camp, however, we will have to wait until the day after tomorrow at the latest before there will be reinforcements. During this period…” 

“What are you worried about? The walls of this camp are as thick as four zhang.2 Even if all the baffles were to go down, they would not be able to breach and take down the camp. You have sufficient kerosene, and even two…” Qi Zhuyin saw the mounted crossbow and said with delight, “… mounted crossbows forged by our Qidong.”  

“We don’t have enough heavy arrows.” Seeing as Qi Zhuyin meant to get on her horse and head out of the city, Zhao Hui hurriedly piped up, “We can’t get back arrows we have already shot, and the reserves in the camp will not last until tomorrow. Commander-in-chief, what are you lifting Zhujiu for?! Head up the city wall and give us your instructions. We can fight.” 

Qi Zhuyin’s blade was called Zhujiu. With Zhao Hui blocking her way, she said, “Hasen’s 10,000-man army has to shoulder the load of military weapons they never had before. To maintain the speed of their advance, it would be necessary for him to cut down on the rations they take along with them. So, he can’t fight a protracted war right now. As long as you can keep your patience in the city, you can wait until he retreats.” 

Qi Zhuyin took a few steps back as she spoke and raised her voice, “But miss the opportunity tonight, and you will no longer find another opportunity like this again. Hasen regards you people as a stepping stone to temper his new recruits by trampling over the military prestige of the Libei’s iron wall. Stop being silly, gentlemen. The so-called iron wall is merely a fig leaf. You can’t call yourselves the Armored Cavalry if you stick your butts up like this to take a beating.” 

Guo Weili clenched the token tightly, and Zhao Hui felt the foreboding tension in the atmosphere.

Qi Zhuyin raised her hand to point at the southeastern camp gate and turned to stare at Guo Weili with eyes brimming over with unbridled madness. “Don’t you want to go out there and have some fun with me?” 

◈     ◈     ◈

The opponent Hasen faced up against in the southern battlefield was Lu Guangbai. The Bianjun Commandery Garrison Troops were just like a stubborn rock stuck at that opening which would not budge the slightest no matter how the Biansha Cavalry rained a torrent of attacks on them. But Hasen understood the name “Qi Zhuyin” better, for he had long traded blows with Qi Zhuyin during that “Wind Guiding the Scorching Plains” surprise attack battle. 

Hasen was of the mind that Qi Zhuyin was two people. 

Qi Zhuyin’s styles when she assumed personal command in the commander’s tent and when she straddled her horse with her blade in hand were completely different. She could switch with ease between “commander-in-chief” and “commanding general”. She differed from the calm and steady Lu Guangbai; she could act according to changing circumstances as well as bring down her opponents with the external factors at her disposal. Otherwise, she would not have achieved the feat of burning down the thirteen camps of Biansha. 

She was the “adaptable” type. 

The city gate was tightly shut, and as the amount of rocks being thrown reduced, the iron shields of Biansha pressed in to within 500 paces. Not only could their iron shields protect the human body, but also the battering ram. This kind of wagon was equipped with huge pieces of woods, and once they reached the front, the soldiers could join forces to ram down the camp gate; it was a powerful weapon for attacking cities. 

Hasen’s cavalry was ready and raring to go. They were split into the scorpions unit with the iron hammers and the elite squad with the scimitars. When the need arose, the scorpions could even switch over to scimitars. Hasen was very patient. He would not give Shayi Camp any more time to delay. He wanted to ram the camp gate open, then slaughter the remaining soldiers Libei had left here with these cavalries of his. 

The iron shields worked well, and the Biansha infantry gradually quickened their pace with their shields hoisted, keeping the battering ram intact under their shelter. When they reached the camp gate, dozens of them exerted themselves in unison to slam the huge wood against the gate, sending dust raining down on them. 

Hasen raised his hand, all ready to charge. 

The camp gate made a muffled noise as cracks appeared on the area which bore the force of impact from the battering ram. In order to allow the soldiers in the center to better exert their strength, the infantrymen of both sides shifted down their iron shields. They shouted out as they stepped back, then rammed into the gate again in unison. The camp gate finally burst open with a “BANG”, looking visibly on the verge of collapse. 

Zhao Hui stepped on the ruined battlement and poked his head out against the wind to look down. He shouted, “Release!” 

Earthen jars suddenly came crashing down from the top of the wall. Amidst the sounds of shattering, kerosene poured down along the walls, spilling all over the Biansha infantry from head to toe. Flames lit up with a “whoosh” and leaped onto the Biansha Cavalrymen’s bodies like a nest of venomous snakes. Their iron shields could not ward off fire, and in no time, blood-curdling screams rose all around, and the smell of burning flesh permeated the air. 

The camp gate suddenly moved as it was hoisted up with a dull, heavy rumble to reveal the battle steeds waiting behind, along with the Libei Armored Cavalry clad in their armors. Qi Zhuyin, heading into battle lightly armored, had Zhujiu in hand as she charged forth like a meteor in tandem with the hot puffs of air of her battle steed.

The next moment, the thunderous hooves of the Armored Cavalry reverberated through the snow. They followed Qi Zhuyin and stepped over the iron shields before the gates. It was as if they had risen from the ashes as they stormed in an assault towards the Biansha Cavalry, who had stopped behind the infantry. 

The scimitar-wielding elites promptly retreated, while the scorpions sat firmly on their battle steeds and moved their shoulders at the sound of Hasen’s whistle to meet them face on with the iron hammers. They had used these hammers to teach the Libei Armored Cavalry their harshest lesson yet, and they could still smash the helmets of the Armored Cavalry into pulp tonight.  

Zhao Hui stood at the top of the wall overlooking the battlefield with his chest heaving rapidly. Even his breathing had grown ragged. 

A scorpion lifted his hammer and swung it at the head of the Armored Cavalry in the wind—but then, the tip of a blade thrust right in from the side, intercepting it. With both hands on the hilt, Qi Zhuyin made use of the forward momentum of her battle steed to lift away the hammer with her blade and knock the scorpion straight off his horse. 

At the same time this scorpion tumbled off the back of his horse, the heavily armored Armored Cavalry reined in their horses and retreated in unison. They were both deft and methodical in their withdrawal. Hasen heard the sound of horses’ hooves behind those heavy armors before he saw the gaps between the scattering cavalry filled up with a blade-brandishing light cavalry—no, not light cavalry; they were the Libei Armored Cavalry, sans heavy armors. 

Guo Weili had never been this light before. He concentrated all his pent-up frustrations these days into both hands and let loose a bellow along that deserted path until he was hoarse. His long sword3 cleaved down on the scorpion head-on. Blood spattered. Meanwhile, he had already charged to the very front. The familiar heat returned to his palms once again. Guo Weili was so overcome with emotion that his hands were trembling. 

“Damn…” Guo Weili gasped heavily. He was almost on the verge of tears as he shouted with all his might, “Commander-in-chief—this is exhilarating!” 

Even Zhao Hui was about to shed tears at this shout.  

Qi Zhuyin burst into hearty laughter. At the same time her battle steed raised its hooves, she lifted Zhujiu high and stabbed it into the scorpion’s body as the battle steed landed back on the ground. 

Was the Libei Armored Cavalry no longer the Libei Armored Cavalry when they took off their armors? Perhaps so. But that was the Xiao clan’s Libei Armored Cavalry, not Qi Zhuyin’s Libei Armored Cavalry. The Libei Armored Cavalry kept retreating again and again in defeat on the snowy plains in the north, and one of the reasons was that they could not catch up with the ponies. But now, Hasen’s cavalry would have to run into the blades of the Libei Armored Cavalry themselves if they wanted to attack Libei’s fort. 

Guo Weili pierced through the scorpion; he was no longer afraid of the iron hammers. Having removed his heavy armor, the scorpions’ swinging of their hammers here appeared particularly sluggish. What’s more, the scorpions also had a weakness, and that was, they had not donned armors in order to maintain their speed. As long as they lost their advantage of the iron hammers, their blood would still splatter over the battlefield in the face of the long swords. 

Qi Zhuyin let out a breath of warm air as she stared down Hasen. Even at such a far distance away from him across the blood-spattered battlefield, the glare she had locked on Hasen was particularly malevolent. 

As the scorpions were valuable assets, it was imperative for Hasen to react. He wanted the scorpions to retreat, but as long as he gave the command, Qi Zhuyin would follow suit and have Guo Weili stand down and change into heavy armor. Although she appeared to be passive and reactive, she was, in fact, the active and proactive player who had the upper hand firmly within her grasp this one night. There was no need for her to give chase; she only needed to stand on a certain boundary line on this battlefield and wait. If Hasen wanted to continue, he would have to hand up their heads on silver platters. Before Qi Zhuyin, all that was invincible about them amounted to nothing.     

Bring it on. 

This was how provocative the expression in Qi Zhuyin’s eyes was; she even threw a taunting smile in his direction, and while she was at it, casually shook off the beads of blood on the surface of her blade. 

“Retreat.” Hasen promptly decided not to persist in fighting. 

But Hasen had brought military weapons with him, and these were all things that he had gone to painstaking lengths to acquire and transport out of Zhongbo. It would be a loss for him to leave these here when he retreated. Should he delegate part of his troops to transport the weapons, a portion of the cavalry would be forced to slow down, encumbered by the supplies.

Qi Zhuyin leveled her blade and patted her horse onward, leading Guo Weili to give chase amidst the flying snow. She knew that Hasen’s elite troops would surely be the first to withdraw; this gesture was more like coaxing a child as she led the Libei Armored Cavalry who had been ousted all day by the Biansha Cavalry to give chase close behind the Biansha Cavalry’s asses to oust them. From time to time, they would even intimidate the other party. 

Guo Weili finally got his chance to vent his frustration. With his adrenaline pumping, he wanted to continue giving chase, but Qi Zhuyin yanked him back by the back of his collar.  

“Go home.” Qi Zhuyin looked at that snowfield and curbed her smile. “Leave the camp, and you will fall again into the same predicament as before. Hasen is not someone who will run away with his tail between his legs. Don’t give him the opportunity to rally his forces.”    

Guo Weili, having been won over, naturally heeded Qi Zhuyin’s advice. At the same time he turned his horse around, he said excitedly, “Commander-in-chief, let’s fight like this too on the snowfields in the future. Hasen doesn’t count for shit!” 

“Hasen has no need to attack cities during battles on the fields, so he won’t charge forward but encircle you people instead.” Qi Zhuyin pondered it over. “… But from the way it played out tonight, it seems that the changes he has made need to be refined too.” 

Hasen was upping the amount of leverage the Biansha Cavalry had, but he was too greedy, as evident from the iron shields this night. This batch of infantry did not give the Biansha Cavalry an advantage. On the contrary, they could be considered a liability. They could not outrun the battle steeds on the snowfields at all. The moment they fell behind, all that awaited them was death. They could only be used to attack cities. 

Guo Weili still had something to say, but then Qi Wei suddenly blew the whistle and spurred his horse over from the scouts to Qi Zhuyin’s side. “Commander-in-chief, there are still soldiers approaching!”  

The snow intensified in the wind, brushing past against fur collars as the infantry trudged unevenly across the snowdrift. Their hair had gone all white from the snow, courtesy of the wind, and they had been walking with their heads lowered for an unknown amount of time. They seemed exhausted, yet they were highly cohesive and could quickly prostrate themselves as soon as they heard the sound of horses’ hooves. They were infantrymen most skilled in the art of ambush in this world. Before traversing the desert, they had been called the Bianjun Garrison Troops. 

Qi Zhuyin dismounted and stood facing the man at the head of the group through the heavy snow. She was so familiar with this army that she could recognize who he was just from Qi Wei’s detailed report. 

The man with stubble took down the strip of cloth covering his face and stood there gasping for breath. He had left for so long it felt like a different lifetime. He smiled a little and said wearily, “… Commander-in-chief, I am the reinforcement.” 

It was the deserter, Lu Guangbai.

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Credits: thank you Tea for proofreading! <3

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  1. 单梢炮 Single-component catapults, or one-branch trebuchet
  2. zhang; a measure of length, 1 zhang = ten Chinese feet (3.3m)
  3. Specifically a changdao, or a two-handed, single-edged Chinese sword.