Translated with: Jia<3
Gu Jin lay prostrate on the ice for an hour. Hail that came with the snowstorm rained down his armor, making clunking sounds. He remained motionless. If not for his eagle eyes still blinking, Yin Chang would have thought that he had frozen to death.
Yin Chang huddled in the snow and took small sips of his wine. It did not take long for the wine in the wine bag to run out. He shook the empty bag and drained the last few drops into his mouth. Flying flakes of snow pelted his cheeks. The old man’s hair and beard were all white; only his nose remained red.
The wind wailed and howled in the night, making such a terrible racket that the tips of the Imperial Army’s ears went numb. The rations in their bellies were almost gone, and even though limbs would naturally stiffen after such a long time of sprawling, very few of them moved.
Yin Chang turned his head back to cast a glance at the Imperial Army and marveled to himself.
The Imperial Army did not even blink when they faced up against the Scorpions a few days ago. Without Xiao Chiye’s order, they would never act arbitrarily on their own. Who could still associate these men with the ruffian soldiers who did manual labor in Qudu? If the Cizhou Garrison Troops could be rallied to the same degree as the Imperial Army had been, then Yin Chang would even dare to fight Gedale, let alone Duanzhou.
A pity these were not his soldiers.
Yin Chang pouted regretfully and put the wine bag back on his waist.
Snow had accumulated on Gu Jin’s back. He was not wearing a helmet, and the snow fell onto his nape, where it melted and trickled down along his neck. It was amid the violent gale that he detected those slight movements. Fragments of ice swirled and rustled across the snow. Gu Jin’s hand, which had been pressing down on the snow, suddenly clenched into a fist. His eyes bore through the flying sand-like snow before locking onto a certain spot in the darkness.
“Here they come!”
Yin Chang prostrated his body and lightened his breathing as the sounds of horses’ hooves approached. The old man’s palms were sweating as he counted in silence, fearing that he might start shaking his legs out of overexcitement.
The kickup of snow turned the snowy fog in the sky into thick clouds; the ponies’ hooves were almost about to trample over their faces. Yin Chang let loose a bellow. In the twinkling of an eye, he had already sprung up.
But the other party’s ponies came to a stop!
Yin Chang had not even drawn his blade when a Scorpion’s hammer came swinging over inches from his face. Yin Chang did not have the same arm strength Li Xiong possessed, so naturally, he did not dare block the blow. All he could do was roll into the snow and cut a sorry figure as he dodged it.
“Motherfucker, that’s some fine arm strength there!” Yin Chang cursed as he steadied himself.
The Imperial Bodyguards behind him leaped out of the snowfield. At first, they had wanted to imitate Yin Chang and spring up in one suave move, but on seeing the old man bested, they all gave up the idea and opted to draw their blades without all the fanfare.
Once the Scorpions’ hammers came up against the Imperial Army, they knew they had fallen for the trap. This was not the Libei Armored Cavalry at all, but a bunch of imposters in helmets!
“Helmets off!” Gu Jin clambered up the pony that was speeding past him and held onto the saddle as it brought him up. With both legs scraping across the snow, he slammed the hilt of his blade hard into the side of the Scorpion and turned over to forcibly seize the pony. Once again, he commanded sternly, “Helmets off!”
Helmets clattered noisily into the snow, and the Imperial Army leaped into the unit of cavalry. They were like mice who did not care how these Biansha Cavalrymen ran as long as they could startle the ponies. The snow under the hooves fell away as a hoop of rope net rose from its hiding place, bringing down a number of cavalrymen in the process.
Snow and sand came assailing them in the face. Achi’s soldiers took several mouthfuls of ice and snow in the mouth as they tumbled.
The Imperial Army’s blades were short. Once they came in close before the Scorpions, the iron hammers would prove tough to fight with. Regardless of whether the Scorpions extended or retracted it, the Imperial Army’s short blades would out-speed them, giving them no time at all to parry the blows.
Gu Jin rapidly observed the battlefield, but he did not catch any sight of Achi. His heart promptly sank. But before he could voice a warning, a branch of cavalrymen came dashing out from his left at a speed so fast Gu Jin could not even dodge.
The Imperial Army seemed to be bitten down by a vicious beast that had materialized from across the sky, breaking them up in front and at the back. This unit of cavalrymen did not use iron hammers, but they directly knocked Gu Jin straight off the pony with their swift and sudden advance. At the same time Gu Jin landed on the ground, it neighed, and a hot burst of fresh blood sprayed all over Gu Jin’s head.
“Cunning!” Achi rebuked Gu Jin in the Dazhou tongue. He brandished his own scimitar, flinging the remaining droplets of blood onto Gu Jin. “But that’s all there is to it.”
The scimitars Achi’s elite scorpions used were larger than those used by the common Biansha Cavalrymen. When held in hand, they looked like thick, silver hooks. Get caught in them, and one would meet their end, whether they were humans or beasts.
Achi had smelled a rat while he was following the trail. There were simply too many clues left for him along the way; it was like they were exposing the enemy’s presence and location to him. Very quickly, Achi’s windblown brain calmed down. He used his advance guards unit to probe the way ahead, and sure enough, he had baited the Imperial Army out of hiding!
Gu Jin inclined his head to wipe away the blood on his face and spat lightly, “Is that so?”
Yin Chang, who was on the other side, gave up resisting. Surrounded by the cavalry, he spread his arms open, his half-crouching body looking like he was going to lift something as he said at the top of his voice, “Time to get up—!”.
The layer of ice under the cavalry’s hooves shook violently. They thought the Imperial Army had smashed open a hole here and instantly reined their horses in and retreated in fright. However, as soon as they retreated, they saw Yin Chang lower himself in a roll along with the Imperial Army. They sprang their way out between the hooves, then dragged up their blades and took to their heels.
We’ve been had!
Achi’s fury blazed, and he cussed in mixture of Dazhou and Biansha expletives. But he did not immediately give chase; he was still keeping his wits about him at this point, thinking that there must be a trap somewhere. It was only when Yin Chang and the Imperial Army fled further and further away that it finally hit Achi.
They’re really fucking fleeing for real!
“Split up and give chase.” Achi cracked his horsewhip. “Hack off their heads!”
The cavalry was split into two flanks, with Achi in the center, presenting a claw shape that overlooked the squad, one that seemed to clutch the Imperial Army within. The two flanks advanced first and went around the left and right to come before the Imperial Army. As long as they could join up with the other, they would be able to form an encirclement ring. When the time comes, Achi would lead the center unit to barge their way into the Imperial Army from behind, and then it would be a slaughterhouse with the scimitars set loose within.
Seven years ago, Amu’er used this type of battle formation to ram the Duanzhou Garrison Troops into the Chashi Sinkhole. Achi, thus inspired, was extremely fond of this formation. It was also with this formation that he shredded the left flank of the Libei Armored Cavalry into pieces near Duanzhou a few days ago.
Both flanks, moving hard and fast, had already overtaken the Imperial Army to circle to the front. They turned their horses, and their units looped around like a long snake to the center, intending to block the Imperial Army’s way out and to hem them in.
But a familiar figure was standing in the center.
The battle steeds did not neigh in the darkness of the night, although cloudy puffs of hot air spouted from their iron muzzles, and their armors looked particularly ferocious in the pitch-black surroundings. The Armored Cavalry towering motionlessly on horsebacks loomed large amid the raging snow and wind, cutting off the sounds of slaughter with their silence.
The vanguards on both flanks, having crossed swords with the Armored Cavalry before, were not afraid, so no one shouted the command to stop. The ponies kicked up snowy haze as they came attacking from both sides in a pincer attack, while the Scorpions who served as the vanguards of both flanks simultaneously swapped over to their scimitars.
They wanted to throw the Armored Cavalry off their horses with one swing of their hammer at the very moment of impact, relying on their horses’ hooves and arm strength to smash the Armored Cavalry’s helmets in like they had done so countless times before.
Xiao Chiye sat on the back of Lang Tao Xue Jin, which was presently digging into the ground with its hooves. Xiao Chiye was clad in heavy armor, and with steel obscuring his face, no one knew the expression he was presently wearing. He was like a stabilizing force amid the chorus of shouts all over, steadying the morale of the soldiers before and behind him.
Gu Jin exhaled deeply the very instant he saw Xiao Chiye. He braked to a stop almost at the same time that Yin Chang did, then turned around together with the latter amid the waves of snow to assume a fighting stance while facing Achi’s pursuing soldiers.
The wind stirred up by the Biansha Cavalry swept through the whole field. Their scimitars and hammers had been driving away the men of Dazhou. From Libei to Zhongbo, no one could survive the assault of their hooves.
Xiao Chiye expelled a breath of hot air between his thin lips.
The Scorpions on both flanks swung up their hammers. At the moment of collision, the smell of gunpowder assailed their noses. Flashes exploded in the snowstorm, and the Scorpions, who were caught totally off-guard, were blown off their horses by the firearms, while their horses collided into one another in panic upon hearing the thunderous blast.
The muzzles of the guns started smoking. Xiao Chiye had only brought along thirty firearms. They were of little use when facing the main forces of Biansha head-on, but it was the key to blowing away the heads of the two cavalry flanks at this moment. That oppressive power promptly blindsided the cavalrymen of both flanks to the extent that the Scorpions at the rear could not even catch what was happening.
Xiao Chiye made the first move, and the Libei Armored Cavalry behind him followed suit to bare their brand new fangs. These heavy armors were like vicious wolves that had been let out of their cages, so ravenous their eyes glowed with insatiable hunger. As they split into their respective columns, they leveled out their long blades in unison.
Although Achi’s center unit was obstructed by the Imperial Army, he had already seen the Imperial Army’s blades. It was already too late for the two flanks of the scorpions to pick up their hammers again. The battle steeds raised their hooves and trampled over the tumbling bodies, splashing sprays of erupting blood onto their armors.
The scorpions at the back of these two flanks surged forth to outflank them. Xiao Chiye followed up by shrinking the Libei Armored Cavalry into a “war chariot” battle formation that swiftly and aggressively went ramming into them. Their structure of strung-up blades on all four sides prevented the hammers from inching any closer. As the Armored Cavalry started lunging, they resembled a “battering ram” charging into the battlefield. Xiao Chiye was at the pointed end of this formation. They were an unstoppable force when they came together as a cohesive whole.
Reining in the battle steed beneath him, Achi snarled furiously from a distance away, “swing your hammers!”
As long as they had hammers, the Libei Armored Cavalry would be tofu all the same.
The hammer of a Scorpion swung from the side towards the head of the Armored Cavalry at the fringe of the formation. It was too late to avoid the attack, but a resonating and heavy “thud” rang out as Hairigu used an iron hammer to deflect the hammer from atop the Libei Armored Cavalry horse he was on.
“Traitorous betrayer,” Achi gnashed his teeth in rage. “Hairigu, you’ve become a slave to Libei!”
With swift, dexterous moves, Hairigu heaved up the hammer to knock over the other party and landed on the ground at the same time the other man did. While the other person was still cussing, Hairigu lifted his hammer and slammed it down with precision onto the man’s skull without so much as a second glance.
Achi’s center unit was caught in a dilemma moving forward. The left and right flanks he had sent ahead had respectively gotten their “heads” hacked off and were now nothing more than headless chickens. And with military commands hindered and obstructed by the Imperial Army, he could no longer freely mobilize the two flanks into returning.
Bayin had only just rushed into the vicinity. He was aware of Achi’s importance to Duanzhou. The remaining scorpions in Zhongbo all heeded Achi’s deployment orders, and for this reason, he could not abandon Achi to escape on his own.
Bayin panted in the snow as he scanned the battlefield and chased after Achi on horseback. “Achi! Turn the horses around and head back. The Libei Armored Cavalry won’t be able to catch up to us!”
As long as they followed the route markers and retreated west, then by daybreak at the latest, they would be able to make it back to the southeast of Duanzhou where they had stationed a large number of troops. By then, the only path that awaited Xiao Chiye would still be death.
Achi tugged at the reins of his horse hard and cracked his whip loud and clear. He did not refute Bayin and led the remaining scorpions out of the entanglement with the Imperial Army.
He was clear about his priorities. If he lost to Xiao Chiye here, then Amu’er would mete out the harshest punishment on him and skin him for the rash deployment of troops. His defeat was a small matter, but if this carelessness escalated into the loss of Duanzhou, then even if he could live to escape back to Gedale, Amu’er would not spare his life.
This battle did not count.
Achi whipped his horse hard to spur it on.
This was merely just him being made a fool of!
Special thanks to MaruChan and Anny for proofreading!