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Chapter 48: A Play
“So what if he was the winner of the Min Mountain Sword Trials! He is still an ignorant youth who has never fought. That Guo Feng is muddle-headed to let the Imperial Guard Army listen to his orders!”
“Internal conflict before the battle is a mistake even the stupidest commander will not make!”
Seeing the backs of Ding Ning, Guo Feng and the others as they left, the numerous border commanders had dark expressions.
Wu Qiwu’s expression was also extremely ugly. Sharp murderousness flashed deep in his eyes. If he had absolute confidence, in that moment just now, he would have killed Ding Ning immediately.
The three thousand Imperial Guard Army who just entered the city started to leave. They moved towards the higher part of the slope and started to camp. Reinforcements leaving after arrival due to a difference of opinion was a serious blow to the morale of the city soldiers. This was also the case for the Imperial Guard Army who were tired after travelling.
If Ding Ning had not evinced convincing abilities previously, these soldiers might have mutinied out of negative emotions when they were moving heavy ordnance up the mountain with difficulty.
Guo Feng was an experienced commander and he knew that morale was oftentimes more important than some powerful ordnance. Following Ding Ning up a tall rock and looking at the distant smoke, his expression was not much better than Wu Qiwu.
“Even now, I do not understand why you definitely abandoned the city,” he said to Ding Ning after taking a breath to make himself calmer.
“In reality, I do not really want to abandon the city.” Ding Ning did not look at him and whispered.
His expression stunned Guo Feng and Nangong Caishu who had followed him.
“What do you mean?” Nangong Caishu could not help but ask.
“Guyu Pass is very special.” Ding Ning said slowly and softly, “Not just because it is not as majestic as the other pass cities, but because, as you saw when you entered the city, many people in the city are from the Yuezhi and the Yin Mountain surroundings.”
Guo Feng’s brows suddenly lifted. He realized something but did not dare to be sure.
Ding Ning did not pause and continued. “Guyu Pass was built last, and when it was being built, much of the labour was conscripted from the surroundings, and in the end, many became soldiers. So the composition of people in this pass city is complicated.”
Nangong Caishu finally reacted and said, “You fear our actions in the city will be passed on by the spies?”
Ding Ning looked back from the distance and turned to look at Guo Feng and Nangong Caishu and nodded. “The Wuzhi had a great victory, yet rationally, they must know we have reinforcements. Yet this army cutting off the escape is coming here fearlessly so they must know the situation of the city. In war, nothing is too deceitful. Saying we are abandoning the city and coming here to the slope because of a disagreement is just acting out a play for them.”
Ding Ning looked seriously at Nangong Caishu and said, “The less people know about a play being carried out, when even those on your side are in the dark, the more realistic it is.”
Nangong Caishu looked at Ding Ning and felt more awe. “What should we do next?”
“We are going to continue acting and have that vanguard attack us.” Ding Ning looked at her and said, “I want you to deliver a letter to Wu Qiwu for him to act along with us in this play.”
The distant smoke had been extinguished, and as time passed, the ground started to tremble. Five thousand Wuzhi cavalry started to appear in sight of the Guyu border army before sunset. Donned in different clothing and armor, they did not ride in any predetermined formation. They looked like an ever-changing cloud on the plains. Yet all the weapons were hung from the sides of the saddles, and all the horses were in astounding unison. As the horses galloped, the weapons would collide with the saddle and give off rhythmic sounds.
This continual uniform sound contained a fatal magic, every one of the hearts around raced, breath stuttered.
Sitting on a protruding rock, Ding Ning silently gazed at the army arriving at dusk. He frowned, seemingly mulling over something.
On the wall tower of Guyu Pass, Wu Qiwu’s back started to sweat uncontrollably. As the thunderous hoofbeats drew close, his sight was engulfed by the cavalry. The trembling of the ground stirred up all of Guyu Pass, it shuddered; some of the dust accumulated over the years on the city walls crumbled down in the cold wind.
An hour ago, he learned of the youth’s plan against the cavalry. Even now, only he knew of this plan in Guyu Pass. So all of the pressure was on him. Even though he felt respect towards the youth and that the plan was feasible, this was still a grand gamble for him. If that cavalry did not attack the Imperial Guard Army on the slopes like he imagined, then Guyu Pass may be lost.
But when the lights from the soldiers on the saddles entered his eyes, he glanced at the Imperial Guard Army on the slope to his side and knew he had no room to choose. It could be said that youth was using the lives of three thousand Imperial Guard Army soldiers to force him to make this choice.
His expression grew ugly. But he squeezed some simple sounds from his throat and said a few words to a vice commander next to him.
The vice commander’s eyes filled with disbelief but he immediately regained his senses at his shout.
“How are you sure that the cavalry will first attack us?” Nangong Caishu appeared behind Ding Ning. She was not demanding, but sincerely seeking advice.
The cavalry in her sights was still moving directly and did not show any signs of diverging towards the slope But inexplicably, she had a strong feeling that it would first attack them like Ding Ning expected.
She, just like Jing Liuli back in the summer, started to treat Ding Ning naturally like a teacher and learn from him.
“Any fast moving army cannot be too large. Fourteen or fifteen thousand is about the limit. Otherwise, they cannot guarantee their speed. Their supply cannot keep up.” Ding Ning slowly and clearly answered her question. “The military intelligence said that the cavalry is about ten thousand. Based on my judgement, it may not be just this much, at most fourteen or fifteen thousand. But the retreating Qin remnants coming here are about twenty five thousand and more.”
“You have to know, our Qin armies are the strongest army in the world.” After a pause, Ding Ning turned to look at her. “Even our remnants will not be underestimated by others. So this cavalry will try to lessen their damage in their strategy to win and take over Guyu Pass. Otherwise, if they take Guyu Pass and only have a few thousand left, I fear even they would have no confidence in stopping twenty thousand Qin with their thousands, even for a short while.”
As Nangong Caishu grasped the gist, her eyes lit up. “So no matter if the Wuzhi cavalry appear wild and adventurous, they will be very careful here.”
Ding Ning looked at her and nodded.
Nangong Caishu took a deep breath and said, “Because of your deliberate arrangements, much of our military ordnance has not been set up and we are in slight chaos. So the cavalry will choose to attack us first. To them, two days of time is enough. They only have to defeat the Qin military here at the lowest price and are not in a hurry.”
Ding Ning’ concurred with his gaze and said, “Even more importantly, in a situation like this, when we make them suffer heavier losses and their initial plan fails … they will panic.”
Nangong Caishu looked at his calm and confident countenance, her heart raced. “So from the start, you felt that we can win, even though they are three times our number.”
Ding Ning looked at her and said, “Whether we can win depends on if Wu Qiwu will completely obey the contents of my letter, and bring out all the cultivators and skilled swordsmen in the city.
Nangong Caishu looked up towards the incoming cavalry. She saw the last lights of sunset obscured by the dust. She knew that this was a difficult decision for that commander.
Ever since the Qin existed, cultivators and guards who worked with cultivators were the most important forces in the Qin army. Even though there were less than a hundred cultivators here in the city, including their own guards, if all these people left the city, the border city was akin to being empty.
But she had a feeling now that the vastly more experienced commander would make the correct choice.