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Chapter Eight: To the East
Singing started in the night. It was the sound of home.
On the battlefield, armies were not allowed to sing songs of home for it would make people sad, think of their homeland, think of their relatives waiting for them. For some soldiers, this could simulate their spirits, but for most soldiers, this would make them feel powerless.
And such singing was coming from the enemy. A deathly presence was shrouding the Chu camp in the Yangshan Commandery. There were even crying coming from the civilian camp.
It was already hot. The battle around Yangshan Commandery had grown humid, and some of the sicknesses because of the lack of clean water had started to spread. Each day, there would be people dying from the lack of medicine.
Yet for the Chu and Qin soldiers, what they lacked the most was food. Starting half a month ago, the Chu lost their supply line. The fall of the Chu capital had brought with it the grain and feed supply lines being cut off. The Chu armies on the border had not thought of fighting a long war, so they quickly lost their food and feed.
In reality, the Qin were in the same hardship. Because previously, the Qin army had been retreating and lost most of their luggage. When a dozen days ago, they started their counterattack, most of the weapons and food on the Qin side were in short supply. Facing the Chu’s seal weapons, they would pay a price of high fatalities.
In the past dozen days, the Qin still could not succeed in their counterattack and lost many times. The Chu managed to hang on through taking the Qin’s food and horses. But the problem was that the two sides had different states of mind.
In the past, no matter how hard it was, as long as the Qin were not a match, the Chu would not fear hardship. They could even chase until they were deep into the Qin lands. But now, they were alone and helpless. No matter how worse off the Qin were, they had reinforcements. This kind would wear down the Chu armies on the borders until they were gone.
One side was killing the remnants of the enemy. The other side was struggling in despair.
In the darkness, Consort Zhao Xiang was not sleeping. She stood in front of a flag in the camp, listening to the familiar song. She thought, it is likely she would not be able to hear such sounds for a long time in the future.
Footsteps sounded. Xiang Yan came close to her and bowed.
“Is there news from the Yan?” she asked calmly.
Xiang Yan was silent for a while and nodded. “The Yan Emperor has sent his army. They have taken thirteen cities between Tianmen Pass and the Yan border. They say they are helping us stop the Qin.”
“Just as we expected.” Consort Zhao Xiang was not angry. She smiled inwardly. “If it were me, it would be the same. If they did not take the chance to divide, should they attack the Qin? They may end up between the Qin and Qi. It is better to take the chance to get benefits.”
Xiang Yan looked at her bright eyes in the darkness and said, “Yin Mountain has sent news. The killing of the Nine Death Silkworm failed. Tang Mei has managed to break out of the Yin Mountain and is heading for Wuzhi.”
“This is the best news. Even this was not able to kill the Nine Death Silkworm. Zheng Xiu will sleep worse than me.” Consort Zhao Xiang shook her head, not very surprised. “But I heard that many grandmasters died there.”
Xiang Yan grimaced. He thought, more than a lot.
There were many unknown, known, and thought dead realm seven grandmasters who had died on that battlefield. Even though it was still a bit far from the battle in Changling, it likely surpassed most famed battles in the history books.
“Half of the world’s grandmasters had gone, most from Qin and Chu. In the future, Yan and Qi will have the most grandmasters. This is likely the reason that the Qi worked with Zheng Xiu, and the Yan happily accepted the situation.” Xiang Yan smiled bitterly. “The Qin weakened themselves to start this killing trap. The Qi of course will accept. To them, no matter if the people of the Ba Mountain Sword Field die or not, they are Qin people.”
“Yan will not be happy,” Consort Zhao Xiang said coolly, “The Qi betrayed us, and will naturally betray them. With wolves and jackals on the side, who can sleep in peace. They were just united in appearance and divided in heart. Now, they all have their own plans. It is not easy for them to get together. They cannot avoid fighting.”
Xiang Yan sighed. He was a famed general of Chu. After Li Mu left, he and Tang Mei were likely the best generals of the Chu. He had his own insight.
While Zheng Xiu had harmed herself, and the advantage of the Qin cultivators in the future would disappear, she managed to start a conflict between the Yan and Qi. In the future, the two would likely not be able to get together. In his view, this was a profitable transaction.
But that was something far in the future. Right now, the question was where these seven hundred thousand soldiers would go.
For these good men who had lost their families and home, other than dying here, was there any other choice?
What were the people of Ba Mountain Sword Field doing?
As though hearing his furious call in his heart, at this time, a general hurried over to him and handed a secret missive.
Xiang Yan quickly unfolded and glanced at it only to be shocked.
“Lin Zhujiu tells us to head east, to Jiaodong Commandery.”
He took a deep breath to calm himself down. He looked at Consort Zhao Xiang and said, “He says they will try to control Jiaodong Commandery.”
Consort Zhao Xiang smiled faintly and seemed to relax. “Then we will go.”
Xiang Yan hesitated. He knew the difference in the choice of words. Trying to control and being in control were two different things. Also, from Yangshan Commandery to Jiaodong, they would cross Nanquan Commandery.
Noticing the hesitation in his eyes, Consort Zhao Xiang’s smile grew brighter. She knew whence this came.
The Nanquan commandery was the gathering place for the prestigious families of the eastern Chu. These were the people who had objected to her the most. Even more importantly, they had many strong cultivators and private armies. After Li Lingjun came onto the throne, they had even mounted many schemes and assassinations against her and Li Lingjun. It was not very realistic in any general’s eyes to pass there to go to Jiaodong Commandery. They likely would encounter obstacles, and chased by the Qin army, they would have enemies ahead and behind them.
“In the past, they felt that I was a woman and not enough. They thought I was domineering and stole the country. Now, I am leading the Chu to flee. Let’s see what attitude they have now.” Consort Zhao Xiang took a deep breath and let her strength fill her tired both. Then she said, “Also, other than Ba Mountain Sword Field, are there any other allies who we can trust now?”
“Never underestimate the abilities of the Ba Mountain Sword Field. Since Lin Zhujiu said he will try to control Jiaodong Commandery, then it is a very good choice for us.”