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Chapter 41: An Unexpected War
“These corpses must be disposed of immediately.” Standing on the gates of the city and seeing the black and red wall, Ding Ning spoke slowly.
“How!” Nangong Caishu could not help but shout in fury.
Her body trembled violently. She did not want Ding Ning to vent his emotions, but she could not understand how he could maintain such calm despite witnessing such a scene.
“Your fury and hate surpass your sorrow right now.”
Ding Ning turned to look at Nangong Caishu and his expression grew cold. “Right now, when someone else massacred a Qin city, at least they left behind the women and the children. But our Qin army has also massacred other people’s cities. This is war. Hatred and anger towards enemies that you have already missed will only make you act impulsively and cause greater mistakes. There is no meaning.”
“No meaning?” Nangong Caishu’s expression grew unusually white. She bit her lips and gritted through her teeth. “You want me to not hate the people who massacred the city?”
Ding Ning said after a moment of silence, “You have to understand, it is not these generals in charge of leading armies and fighting who started this war, but the few people at the top of the world. If we pursue to the bottom, then who really caused these things?”
Nangong Caishu’s breathing stopped. She felt that she could not completely agree with Ding Ning’s words but she did not know how to counter either.
“Hatred cannot solve problems. Just now, you heard those women talk. The other used such a method to force Min Mountain Sword Sect from entering the war against Wuzhi. This is understandable. Our Qin army is invading another country’s land. What does this mean?”
A faintly bitter smile appeared on the corners of Ding Ning’s mouth. “I only know, if we do not dispose of these corpses now, I fear this will cause serious illness, and many of these women and children will die.”
“Being apathetic is what a successful commander needs?” Nangong Caishu laughed miserably.
“No.” Ding Ning shook his head. “Always thinking for those alive is what a general always needs to think about.”
Black smoke rose. The Imperial Guard Army started hot fires to burn the corpses in the city.
“This war is not easy to fight.”
Ding Ning first looked away from the burning fires and corpses, then coldly at Yin Mountain which was now close and slowly said, “I do not mean us.”
Nangong Caishu turned in shock to him.
Ding Ning slowly said, “Both the city guards and the army who came in from outside to reinforce them died near the city walls. There are not many Wuzhi cultivators who are able to massacre a city on their own. Only Yelu Canglang, called the steppe wolf of the plains, is able to kill all the armies along the way so quickly.”
“He is the Generalissimo of Wuzhi.” Ding Ning unconsciously clenched his fists after a pause and said, “The generalissimo can put himself into danger and come here. This means that they will not fight according to our predictions. So they may not be like we had imagined, and try to delay until snowfall.”
Nangong Caishu started to understand what he meant. Her face, which had been recovering her flush, paled again. “You mean that they may mount a surprise ambush or attack head-on?”
Ding Ning nodded.
Nangong Caishu felt a wave of cold rise. She struggled to speak. “Then how can we pass the message to Yin Mountain as fast as possible?”
“It’s useless.” Ding Ning shook his head. “Even Yelu Canglang is here already. Even if the message we send will reach the border armies, it is too late. Also, those border generals have such status. Will they easily listen to our suggestions?”
“Yelu Canglang and the others may think … they want to use a great victory to give Donghu and the Chu Dynasty confidence, no matter the price they pay. As long as the price is enough for them to stop the Qin Dynasty at Yin Mountain in the end so they do not become like the Yuezhi.”
No one was god and could not be omnipotent. Ding Ning had been mistaken on his judgement of Wuzhi, but at least, his prediction now was accurate.
The autumn of Qin Dynasty Yuanwu Year Twelve.
Not long after the division of Imperial Guard Army that Ding Ning was in reached the border, Wuzhi gathered more than three hundred thousand at terrifying speed. They split into three groups and crossed the border to mount a fierce attack on the Qin armies.
The Wuzhi were nomadic since antiquity, and for the people of Qin inside the forts, the Wuzhi people were grassland barbarians.
These barbarians were skilled in hunting and taming horses, and very good at horsemanship. They came like the wind, and their speed and archery their greatest advantage. What troubled the Qin army the most was that there was an enormous grassland behind them.
The grassland, to the Qin armies, was wilderness, but to them, was a city. The advantage of the Qin army were their seal chariots and battle formations. They had many cultivators and they were unrivalled in their ability to push their formations forward to fight armies. Yet to everyone’s surprise, the Wuzhi did not use guerilla tactics, and actually formed armies to fight the Qin border armies head-on!
The Wuzhi armies, primarily cavalry, could not fight the Qin army in battle formations, yet because they were unpredictable, the Qin army encountered such a war before they had sufficient numbers on the border.
The Qin armies suffered great losses under the strong attacks of the Wuzhi army many times their size. Wuzhi paid the price of seventy thousand soldiers to kill over sixty thousand of Qin soldiers. They also stole almost all the grains and luggage of the Qin troops and continued to pursue the lingering divisions of the Qin border armies.
This kind of victory was astonishing. Even when the Qin had fought the Han, Zhao and Wei, they had not paid such a serious price.
Back then, the death ratio between the Qin and enemy dynasties were always maintained above one to three. In other words, to kill one Qin soldier, it would take the lives of at least three soldiers from other dynasties.
The advantage of the Wuzhi army was their speed. When their pursuit started, this meant more fatalities from the Qin army. This was likely to be the greatest loss in the history of the Qin.
What changed the fate of this war was the first group of reinforcements, the large group of Changling cultivators who had reached Yin Mountain. Faster than horses were the swords of cultivators. The cultivators who joined in great numbers caused the Wuzhi cavalry to suffer astounding losses. But as more cultivators were killed by mass numbers or Wuzhi cultivators, the entire state of war was unusually disadvantageous to the Qin Dynasty.
Even though it was only officially the start of autumn, the northern lands outside the forts were cold and frosty. When grains were tight, the situation was terrible for some troops, especially those who had been scattered.
In a low-lying meadow, some leaves had fallen off the trees. Many wounded Qin soldiers laid on long grasses that had been cut down and laid into blankets. A round-faced young woman carrying a sword was solemnly discussing affairs with numerous commanders.
War was the easiest.
Suddenly, shrill warning whistles sounded above the meadow, but after a breath, the whistle became a whining flute. This meant the incoming were not enemies but one of their own.
A youth appeared in the round-faced young woman’s sight.
His appearance was about the same as ordinary Wuzhi soldiers. He seemed to be unusually afraid of the cold, and wore unusually thick and crude fur robes. But his face did not look like the Wuzhi. Even more importantly, his left hand was slightly stretched forward, and a pale white jade token hung from his fingertip. Engraved on it was an unusually simple Li character.
This “Li” character caused this round-faced young woman and the commanders to immediately think that he was the exile of the Li Marquessate Establishment who had recently returned to the forts, Li Xixing.
“Do not think about attacking that Xiaoweng city ten miles away.” Looking at the round-faced young woman and the commanders around her, Li Xixing said directly, “That is a trap. At least two Qin armies like you have been annihilated there.”
The Qin commanders exchanged looks, their gazes filled with anger. Remnant troops like them could only choose to hide or detour when chased by the Wuzhi army. If they returned to the border city around Yin Mountain, it would take them a lot of time.
Yet the food and grass they had taken along would only last them a few days. In their view, that Wuzhi city’s food was the key to whether they could leave here alive.
“How many people do you have in total?” Li Xixing asked, and ignored the expressions of the commanders. He also rarely cared about other people in Changling.
“Including the wounded, three hundred and fifty seven in total, three hundred and twenty one can fight.” The round-faced young woman was the calmest and answered without hesitation after Li Xixing asked.
“Too few.” Li Xixing said after a long silence, “The Wuzhi has a three thousand cavalry who will flank it when night comes. Unless it is an army of all cultivators, when the ratio is greater than one to four, the Qin troops cannot win against the Wuzhi cavalry, especially when you are only remnants. When you do not have powerful military weapons, ordinary swordsmen will be shot to death by the archers on the horses before you even get close.”
“Now, there is only one choice.” Li Xixing ignored the commanders’ expressions and continued. “Have all the wounded stay here. Everyone else, leave as soon as possible.”
A commander in his forties among the numerous commanders looked at Li Xixing with a cold gaze. He said slowly, “This may be the best choice and the wisest, but not our finest.”
Li Xixing did not argue. He just bowed deeply to this commander. This commander’s choice was worthy of his respect. He turned after bowing.
Since this commander chose to fight to the death here, then there was nothing worthwhile about staying here with these people and fighting to the death.
“Wait!” Yet when he turned around, the round-faced young woman said, “There must be other choices and methods.”
Li Xixing did not look back. He stared coldly at the grasses which were taller than people and thought about how after dark, cavalry would charge from there at any time.
“What choice and method?” he asked.
“Since you know that the cavalry will come, then maybe we can lure away the cavalry?” the round-faced young woman said after hearing his cold voice.
“We?” Li Xixing sneered ruthlessly. “You?”
“I am a cultivator of Treasure Light Temple.” The round-faced young woman was not angry and described the facts seriously. “I am the only disciple of Treasure Light Temple who received all the true teachings.”