But seriously, I am quite surprised (and rather sad) that this forum is so quiet lately. Since I posted Book 17, February 28 (almost a month and a half ago), there are only eight threads with new posts, and only two of those are translation work (one was actually shot down by Whiteskwirl). What happened to all those new xianxia translations? Are they still being translated but moved to different sites?
Book 18 Chapter 12 - Bearing The Price to Pay
When everybody heard Kou Zhong's cry of alarm, they all looked at him first, before copying him looking at the sky.
They saw Shen Luoyan's scouting bird continuously circling in the air, following a strange flight path.
Immediately Yang Gongqing, Linglong Jiao, Xu Ziling, Zhai Jiao, and the others', who knew what's going on, countenance changed. This bird's strange flight path was telling its master that there were hidden troops inside the forest.
In order to hide from the eyes and ears of enemy spies, they have spent a lot of effort to lay the ambush.
First, there was another team of cavalry attracting the enemy's attention, to act as if they were guarding against Shan Xiongxin's troops from attacking while the military supply wagons were crossing the river.
And then there were lookout posts on higher elevation to watch for any activity before the cavalry left in the dark of the night by leading their horses along through the woods, before lying in wait at the present location. Naturally they wrapped their horses' hooves with cloth and silk to avoid creating unnecessary noise.
But after a thousand planning ten thousand calculating, they still did not expect this psychic strange bird to make its appearance.
'Quack! Quack! Quack!'
The strange bird flew in the northeast direction, which was the direction from which Li Mi's cavalry was coming. This moment they already heard the faint noise of horses neighing and their hooves.
"Left and Right Wings move first!" Yang Gongqing barked his order.
The bugle horn was sounded.
The ambushing troops' two wings' left and right vanguard, each one three thousand riders strong, rushed out of the jungle first, along a curvaceous path, toward the enemy's flank.
And then the center army swarmed out of the forest, galloping in neat formation along the grassy plain, straight toward the enemies galloping out of the sparse forest area ahead.
Horsewhip went down, the warhorses let out long neigh, brimming with urgency and desperate circumstances.
Warriors on fine steeds like a tide of violent waves drowned the prairie. Morning light reflected by the battle helmets, body armor, and soldiers' weapon created brilliant, dazzling flickers of light.
Mother earth quickly fell back.
In just a few tens of xi the center army's eight thousand cavalry already entered the sparse forest region, forcing them to reduce their speed as they meet the enemy.
Because the enemy was estimated at eight thousand, they did not have any misgivings about taking advantage of their superior number, and simply charged at the opponent.
Now their only hope was to fight speed with speed; it would be best if the enemy did not have any time to retreat, or perhaps consolidate their battle array, so that they would be able to cut the enemy's tail and kill Li Mi until he was utterly defeated.
Kou Zhong, Linglong Jiao, Zhai Jiao, Xu Ziling, and the others were the first to gallop up a hill. They saw on the forest about half a li ahead dust was rolling up to the sky, along with rapid hoof beats, but the hoof beats were fading away.
Zhai Jiao shouted, "Chase after them!"
Kou Zhong shouted even louder, "Don't chase!"
Zhai Jiao was furious, "Why not? Li Mi is running away!"
This moment Yang Gongqing arrived and rode alongside Kou Zhong.
Kou Zhong asked Linglong Jiao, "Can that rolling dust be considered rising in columns, or scattered in disorderly manner?"
Linglong Jiao reined her horse that it snorted a blast of air from its nostrils; she called out, "Wagang enemy troops are still in strict formation, not scattering randomly."
Kou Zhong nodded and said, "Just as I suspected. Shen Luoyan already guessed the ambushing troops, hence she deployed the strange bird to tell us to run after it. I dare say that they are setting up an ambush in the forest ahead. When we enter the trap, Li Mi would turn his troops around and attack."
"Good point!" Yang Gongqing shouted. Immediately he ordered the bugle horn to be sounded to halt the advance, instructing the two wings' vanguard team to stop where they were.
Finally Zhai Jiao saw the light and clear-headed, but her mood was still surging up and down, her eyes were full of resentment.
Xu Ziling paid close attention to Kou Zhong; he saw his eyes were as calm as still water, while exuding his intelligence and callousness.
It was the first time that he saw this kind of expression in Kou Zhong's eyes, and could not help shivering inwardly, recalling what Kou Zhong said on the wall of Jingling city, when they were standing face to face against Du Fuwei's magnificent army with thousands of men and horses besieging the city.
He was disregarding the life and death, and simply regarded the entire battlefield as a chessboard, while both sides were the chess pieces striving for victory on the chessboard.
After undergoing this battlefield experience, Kou Zhong has grown from a kid who had no idea how to do battle to an outstanding strategist, a commander who was able to anticipate the enemy's movement like a deity.
Yang Gongqing open-mindedly asked for guidance, "What do we do now?"
Kou Zhong resolutely said, "We only have to leave several thousand men to lay out a defense in here, so that Li Mi cannot make a cun of progress. The train of military supply wagons must continue crossing the river. Furthermore, we must send separate rapid cavalry force to go straight to Luokou; attack the city so that he won't have time to deal with it."
Xuan Yong said, "If Li Mi turns his force around to defend Luokou, do we still want to attack?"
Kou Zhong said, "Li Mi would not withdraw willingly; he still has hope in Shan Xiongxin. When Shan Xiongxin take the opportunity to withdraw as we are advancing to Luokou, even when he realizes his mistake, it would be difficult for him to turn back; his only way out is fleeing toward Hulao."
In the forest ahead, the dust subsided; obviously Li Mi also halted his troops, realizing that his scheme did not work.
This action has increased Kou Zhong's persuasive power and his reputation a lot more than any lengthy discourse.
Kou Zhong went on, "Rapid cavalry effectiveness is that they will be able to reach Luokou one step ahead, to guard against Li Mi crossing the river and returning to the city. As a result Luokou's Bing Yuanzhen will only have two choices: either abandon the city or surrender."
Yang Gongqing let out a long laugh and said, "Let's do it!"
※ ※ ※
After seven days, Li Mi's, an ambitious and ruthless character of this age, fate was decided.
Bing Yuanzhen, who was defending Luokou, surrendered to Yang Gongqing's soldiers at the city wall. During this critical moment, Li Mi's other great general Shan Xiongxin mustered his troops to defend the city, but Tu Shufang persuaded him to surrender.
Li Mi knew his big momentum has passed; he had no choice but to lead his men escape to Hulao, while Wang Bodang retreated to Heyang.
Kou Zhong and Yang Gongqing consolidated their men and horses, ready to follow up the victory and press home the attack, and then captured Hulao.
Who would have thought that Li Mi fled at hearing the news, and escaped to Heyang to join forces with Wang Bodang?
He originally wanted use the Yellow River as a barrier, while defending Taihang in the north, linking with Liyang on the east, in an attempt to rehabilitate from losing the battle.
However, after the major defeat, the morale of his troops slackened.
Furthermore, there was the factor of Wagang Army split into different factions due to Zhai Rang's early demise. One after another old generals refused to follow order, so that although Li Mi had the power, he could not exercise it, he had the military force but no territory.
Also, because Wang Shichong's army had just acquired many cities and wide expanse of territory, he must rest to reorganize his forces; momentarily he was unable to cross the river to attack Heyang. Therefore, his strength was used up to pacify the Henan region, and temporarily the situation became standing opposite each other with the river as the barrier.
That evening, in a side hall at Hulao's temporary government building's rear court, Tu Shufang invited Zhai Jiao to talk to Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling. He said, "I have already revealed everything concerning the situation in the south, as well as Susu's affair, to Xiaojie, because I think being forthright is better."
Zhai Jiao stared viciously at the two boys and said, "Such an important matter you dared to conceal it from me; see if I am not going to kill you two along with that Xiang Yushan."
The two boys mumbled meekly; they did not dare to talk back.
Zhai Jiao said, "How could I be an unreasonable person? This time Li Mi has suffered enough trouble, without any hope of ever recover. Although I have not been able to put my blade on that treacherous bandit, at least I am finally able to vent Die's anger. I don't want to continue exerting myself for somebody like Wang Shichong either; what do you have in mind?"
Kou Zhong replied, "We'd like to go back to Luoyang first, and then immediately go down south, helping the Flying Horse Ranch to fight against adversity and ensure their safety, and then see how we can take Su Jie, mother and son, away, and then come to join Xiaojie."
Zhai Jiao resolutely said, "I am going with you!"
Kou Zhong was shocked, "Xiaojie definitely must not come with us," he hastily said.
"Why not?" Zhai Jiao angrily said.
Tu Shufang reached out to show his loyalty, "What Xiao Zhong mean is that he is hoping Xiaojie would stay in the north, to help him contacting Wagang Army's talents that he could use, so that in the future we can start great undertaking together."
Xu Ziling also said, "If Xiaojie stays in the north, you can monitor Li Mi tightly, so that you might be able to take his dog life at any time."
This remark was more effective than anything to move Zhai Jiao's heart.