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Chapter Thirty-Seven: Resist Order
Zhang Shiwu grinned. While he could not help but smile, he did not feel that this was a joke. No matter who it was that was imprisoned in that lightless water prison for many years, smelling their own body rotting and just managing to survive would feel that a different sea tang was novel. He knew that Lin Zhujiu had been able to endure such days because of strong hate.
People could tolerate betrayal of a certain degree, but how could they tolerate the betrayal of people who were with them day and night?
So many people who laughed, fought and lived together died of such a betrayal.
Tianping Commandery was the closest commandery in the Chu Dynasty to Nanquan. At this time, everyone in the world was looking at this place.
The remnants of the Chu army were fighting on the plains here with the Qin army pursuing them. Unlike cultivators, the retreat of an army involved more details.
Where the refugees and wounded soldiers would go, how the armies restrained and assisted each other. Some defended, others retreated. If anything happened to one part, then it would cause a stunning amount of fatalities. It would take a night for cultivators to pass through a commandery. However, it would take ten times longer for a large army to pass through.
This was to be the main survivors, but after the retreat from Yangshan Commandery, the tens of thousands of Chu troops had split into countless groups along the way. Some carried different orders, while others were fighting with the pursuing Qin troops.
Some of the troops had lost contact with the other Chu troops. Because they were so far away, they could not even see the smoke signals from the main army retreating to Nanquan. Relying on their instincts as soldiers, they fought on the land. Most of the Chu army had lost their supplies ten days ago. Even the horses and other beasts of burden were not as hardy as these soldiers. After the lack of food and the hard travel, most of the beasts had died, and the army used them as food.
Many places where armies passed did not even have grass left behind. Not because of being stepped on, but because the grasses and tree bark were used to fill bellies. Because of heat, the skin of some of the soldiers who had fended off a round of plague started to rot. Their toes started to stick together. Also, because they ate food which was not easily digestible, their bellies were swollen. Because of the lack of medicine, many people died because they could not defecate.
Yet this tragic state was not just unique to the Chu troops. As they kept on going deep into the Chu lands, they were further and further away from their familiar battlefields. Also, other than fighting with the Chu troops, there were more and more resistance forces which joined. Some joined from the villages of their own accord. Some came from armies that were far away. Some came from the private armies of powerful families. And even some of the horse bandits and raiders who had originally opposed the court joined this battle.
Yet this was not the most important. The Qin were the ones giving chase. This meant that most times, they had no forts, they could not wait, and they did not have the advantage of the land. But because the orders from above had grown more and more strict, forcing them to give chase faster and faster, the Qin troops had lost their advantage in terms of supplies. They passed through barren places that the Chu army had passed. Some of the water sources had even been poisoned.
There were people from the individuals who even burned their homes in order to help the Chu army fend off their chase. They left behind only limited food for themselves, providing all other food to the troops. These villagers then hid into the forests that they were familiar with.
At this time, in one of the villages which had been burned to the ground, there were pieces of cloth cut from the tents covering the ground. These cloths covered all of the empty ground, there were thousands of them. There was a wounded Qin soldier on each piece of cloth. There were only a dozen or so healers moving among them. However, these healers did not have extra medicine. They only had some clean bandages and clean water. The uncontrollable groans of pain formed a sea of misery.
This army was the Cangnan Army, led by Wei Wujiu. At this time, the highest ranking in the army was Zhang Tu and Tian Rong.
Zhang Tu was a famed strong man under Wei Wujiu’s command. He was unusually large, and like a giant when he stood. But at this time, he was sitting under a thick camphor tree in the village, sitting silently. He was very thin. While he wore armor, he felt as thin as paper, and even his cheekbones were very thin and protruding.
This camphor tree was very thick. The leaves had mostly been burned in the flame, but because it was close to the stream, it managed to survive. Under the noon sun at the end of summer, the black tree branches still gave shade to this general.
Zhang Tu held a stone bowl in his hand, filled with sticky millet soup. This was the best food the army had right now. He lifted the bowl to his mouth twice, but he then put it down. It was not that the food was hard to swallow, but his mind could not rest due to the sounds of pain.
“Should we still carry out the orders?” Tian Rong saw him put down the stone bowl the second time, and could not help but speak.
He came from Changling, and had a handsome face in the army. Yet in the battles of the past days, some of his scalp had been sliced off. At this time, the bandages were dried with purple black blood, covering half of his face. He did not look like a handsome Qin general right now but a vicious bandit leader at the end of his rope.
“Each day, our casualties are more than twice of the Chu. If we keep on going forward, I fear that in a few more days, none of us will be standing.”
Tian Rong took a deep breath. His face was twisted. He lowered his voice. “We have already left behind groups of wounded like this. After this, there is nothing to leave behind. I do not father death. But you understand why we are giving chase so hard……we need to kill as many Chu soldiers as possible, and not let these soldiers enter Jiaodong Commandery.”
“Sacrificing the lives of so many brothers to protect Jiaodong Commandery. In her view, it may be worth it, but I cannot accept it. We have done our best, and to the Chu troops, they have hope. They will quickly receive help from Nanquan, but our people do not have hope. I can accept an order to go to death, but I do not accept an order that will make them despair because of someone’s selfish desire.” In the end, Tian Rong looked up at Zhang Tu and said seriously, “If one person has to take on the crime of disobeying military orders, let me do it.”
Zhang Tu suddenly laughed. He laughed until his body trembled, and the millet soup splashed to the ground.
Tian Rong had never seen him react like this and stilled.
“How many years have we fought together at the border?” Zhang Tu looked down, his face in shadow. A cold pride appeared on his face. “Since we have done our best, do I not dare to resist orders? I do not believe the other people will not dare to resist!”