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Chapter Four: Hope
Most of the Qin troops escorting the Chu people from Yangshan Commandery were the subordinates of the Fang Marquessate Establishment. These troops mostly had been stationed around the Wu Mountain before this, and were very familiar with the Yangshan Commandery area.
From any view, and even in the military intelligence of the Warden’s Office, it was indicated that the one in charge was Fang Qilin. But the true commander of the Yangshan Commandery and Wu Mountain troops, over six hundred thousand, was Wei Wujiu.
Wei Wujiu’s subordinates were fighting around Yin mountain. Even in the reports to Fu Su and many of the high ranking officials of the Warden’s Office, he was leading the fight at Yin Mountain Fort Yu. But in reality, that Wei Wujiu was just a body double.
The “Wei Wujiu” leading the fight at Fort Yu wore his Thousand Mountain Snow Armor, and looked very tall and large with a suffocating aura. But the Wei Wujiu in Yangshan Commandery wore ordinary thin cotton robes, and looked like an average strategist with dim eyes. He lacked the same as the people among the advisor team who were not valued by the generals and could only undertake some paperwork.
But when the old man came into contact with some key intelligence or orders, his dim eyes would show a cold-blooded light that would make people’s blood freeze.
Ordering him to hide himself on the front lines of Yangshan Commandery was not because Zheng Xiu was anxious about Fang Qilin leading the army, but because, from the start, the key to the war was at Yangshan Commandery. The movement of large amounts of grain and Fu Su coming in person to Yin Mountain was just tactics to confuse the enemy. In order to work together with some of what appeared to be her shameless tactics, Yangshan Commandery needed a cold-blooded and ruthless general, one like her.
Wei Wujiu, in terms of cultivation and cunning, might not be as good as Sima Cuo, but he was a cold-blooded general. He could carry out military orders without any emotion. If this could guarantee victory, even if they had to sacrifice tens of thousands of Qin lives, he would not hesitate at all, much less the lives of some Chu people.
The Qin troops who had been escorting the seventy thousand Chu people quickly left, abandoning them in the wilderness. They had not gone far, but they were like a pack of hungry wolves paying attention to a weak and tired pack of sheep.
Over forty thousand Qin troops were silently advancing, like a giant beast opening its maw and preparing to eat the Chu troops coming to help.
When the Chu people were being escorted by the Qin troops, there was a clear target, but when the troops suddenly left, and they were abandoned in the wilderness, these seventy thousand Chu people lost their direction. They started to panic, and then despair spread. The sounding of sobbing started everywhere. Some people prepared to leave.
At this time, most of the people preparing to leave were the strong and young, and some were cultivators. They all had different goals. Some missed their family and were preparing to return to their home in Yangshan Commandery. Some felt that they could no longer stay in Yangshan Commandery and were heading to the border.
These people included a middle-aged man dressed in plain robes.
This middle-aged man looked like a teacher, and carried mostly books in his luggage. When he finally decided to leave, a woman suddenly walked in front of him and asked softly, “You want to leave these people?”
The middle-aged man stilled. At this time, the people around him were in chaos, and if she had managed to detect his thoughts immediately, she must have been observing him. He could not help but carefully examine the woman in front of him.
This was a very young woman, her face laced with fatigue, her skin slightly yellow. She wore very ordinary and even common blue robes, but she was still very good looking.
This caused him to unconsciously frown. In his memory, he had not seen this woman before in the group the last few days. Even though there were over seventy thousand people and he could not have met them all, observing people in the surrounding was an instinct of all cultivators. Even if he had just glanced past her, he would not have found her so unfamiliar.
Even more importantly, this young woman had been observing him, but he had not sensed when she had arrived, and when she came to his side in the crowd.
While slightly surprised, he still nodded and said, “Yes.”
The woman had a special air, like she was a family member, and asked softly, “Are you preparing uo to Yangshan Commandery? Or to Chu?”
The middle-aged man did not keep his thoughts secret and said, “To Yangshan Commandery.”
The woman said, “You have someone you cannot leave behind?”
The middle-aged man hesitated and said, “There is a woman, when leaving, she said she would wait for me to return. I want to return and see if she is willing to come with me to Chu.”
“This is an enormous group.” The woman’s tone grew even stranger and she said, “Even if there had been double the amount of Qin soldiers guarding these people, they could not have kept such a strict guard on everyone over many days. When resting or traveling within the forest, at chaotic times, it would have been very easy for you to find a chance to leave. In reality, there were many cultivators who found a chance to leave at the start. But you did not leave before, so why do you want to leave now?”
The middle-aged man was silent for a long time and then said softly, “Because it is useless.”
The woman looked at him. “What do you mean it is useless?”
The middle-aged man looked around at the despairing faces, took a deep breath, and then said softly, “Before this, with the Qin soldiers around, we were forced to gather. We only knew to walk forward, and had no other thoughts. Even if some people could not last and died along the way, the others were forced to keep moving. But now, the Qin troops have retreated, and without them, these people will have their own thoughts. These seventy thousand people will break apart. Seventy thousand is not a small number. If these seventy thousand stay together, it will likely be easier for the Chu to rescue us. But if these people break apart, it is not a problem of rescue. The key is… it does not feel the same. Even if I am the general, I cannot help but fight for the life and death of seventy thousand. But if there are a few thousand here, and a few thousand there, how can I fight? This would be what the righteous officials in the Chu capital would think. This is a problem of numbers. The lives of seventy thousand is a major matter, but the lives of a few thousand cannot outweigh the victory and defeat of these armies.”
The woman listened to his words and her expression did not change much. She shook her head impatiently and said, “You do not have to say a simple thing in such a complicated manner. Simply said, if these seventy thousand people scatter, they will not feel like seventy thousand, but refugees of a few thousand here, and a few thousand there. After they scatter, they will not appear to be a huge number. You suspect the Chu army will not do their best to rescue them. The result of this will be that these people, near their limits, will not be rescued no matter which direction they go, and most of them will die on the road.”
“In the long term, if the army does not hem, these people will die, and the Qin will talk about the deaths of these people. Even though it is their shameless tactic, in the end, they will pull the matter onto the virtue and character of my dynasty’s people.” After the middle aged man said this, he was silent for a while, and then slowly said, “But these future matters have nothing to do with the now. I did not leave previously because I felt there was hope, so I did my best to help. I am leaving now because I cannot endure this. I do not want to see these people slowly die. This is a problem for my mental state.”
“It is nothing if other people leave, but if you leave, these seventy thousand will scatter even fast. You are Ji Baixing, you are a famed teacher in the Yangshan Commandery Er City. Many of the people here know you. Even more importantly, in these days as the group traveled, you used your vital energy to save many people, especially the children. You may not have noticed, but in reality, your actions have influenced most of the people here.”
The woman did not argue with him, but ordered in an unquestionable voice tinged with pride. “You have extraordinary knowledge, you must know that people have lived together since time immemorial. Even if they are in difficult situations, when people gather together, there will always be a solution, even if one is just enduring, they can endure longer. So what you need to do now is to keep the seventy thousand people together.”
The middle-aged man was filled with helplessness and sorrow.
He did not have the power to speak. If he could do this, did he need this woman to tell him these truths?
“There is clean water, at left, people are going to be reassured. It is only two hours from here, a little lake. You can tell them to walk there before sunset. There is water to use, and they can try to catch fish.” The woman did not care for his thoughts and ordered.
The man called Ji Xingbai was stunned, and then grimaced. He said, “How much fish can be caught? There is not enough fish to be shared, and that will cause more chaos.”
“When a person is drowning and about to die, they will grasp at straws. If a person walking in the desert about to die of thirst gets the hope of water, they will survive a day more. At this time, to settle these people, only an excuse is needed.” The woman looked calmly at him and said, “Then you will tell them, if they reach that place, when night comes, there will be Chu troops bringing food and medicine.”
Ji Xingbai’s face paled slightly, and his voice trembled as he said, “If the hope is gone, the outcome will be worse. If they find that food and medicine are not delivered by night, these people will collapse, and then, no one will be able to clean up the situation.”
“There will be food and medicine arriving by night,” the woman said firmly. “There will be, this is not an excuse.”
Ji Xingbai looked at her, and did not understand why her tone was so powerful and confident.
The woman did not explain anything, and just lightly brushed his shoulder like she was helping brush some dirt off him. But in this moment, he felt that the hand was extremely heavy, stronger than any metal in the world. This was a strange feeling, and at the same time, he instantly knew her identity.
His breathing almost stopped. Many breaths later, he lowered his voice as much as he could, and said in a voice only he and this woman could hear, “How come you are here?”
What he really wanted to say was, how could you have snuck into our group many days ago? Yet sneaking in was not a term enough to describe this woman.
Translator Ramblings: This chapter was a lot of dialogue.