By the time Yanshi's approximately twenty thousand strong light cavalry of elite troops turned out in full strength, first traveling eastward along the northern bank of Luo River for three li, and then changed course to the north straight toward Wagang's main force camp, which was about twenty li from Yanshi, Shan Xiongxin's new army recruits were very busy for they had just started to set up camp on several hilltops, backed by Mount Mang.
The difference between victory and defeat may very well be decided in just one move.
If Li Mi has had one more day, his officers and soldiers would have enough rest, and had enough chance to stabilize his troop-disposition's legs, then the situation would be something else.
Yanshi's forces took three separate routes; Wang Xuanshu and another general led a group of five thousand men, acting as the vanguard battalion, from left and right pressing on toward the enemy ranks. Yang Gongqing, Xu Ziling and Linglong Jiao's center division was divided into forward, middle, and rear, three groups, directly charging into Li Mi's hidden army camp.
The dawn has arrived, the birds lodging for the night soared into the sky.
The plains, the forest, the mountain and the fields were shrouded in thick fog, the heaven and the earth looked hazy and boundless.
The left and right, two-pronged vanguard battalion, was the first to arrive at the edge of the forest region. Outside the forest was a vast grassland, stretching out to about two li deep and ten li wide.
Wang Xuanshu followed his order to lie low, quietly waiting for the main army to arrive.
The enemy's banner and cavalry, disordered and in a mess, swarmed out of the mountain top; apparently they were in panic and terrified, at a loss to know what to do due to their sudden arrival.
By this time the forward team of the main army galloped out of the forest, divided themselves into three groups, and spread over the plain, in a fluid formation, as if they were a single organic life form. Seeing the opponent's frantic troop disposition on the mountaintop, everybody was in high spirit and was eager to charge forward.
Before the Wagang Army's archers and troops wielding the shield had any chance to form their battle array, Yang Gongqing already arrived. Upon seeing this, he let out a loud and long laugh and said, "Wagang kids, if Ol' Yang cannot beat you and wipe you out this time, later on Ol' Yang will write my name backward."
Seeing this, Xu Ziling nodded his approval.
The main forces of his side have been honing their strength for the big push, their morale was like the rainbow; if they waited much longer, it would only weaken their own momentum. Therefore, while the enemy has not had any chance to steady their footing, they had to take them by the storm, which, again, was in deep agreement with the art of war.
Tens of thousands hoof beats, the rumble shook the heavens; loud battle cry permeated the intense atmosphere of the entire battlefield. The three groups, of two thousand men each, constituting the main force sprinted directly uphill toward the enemy's position.
The first few rows of cavalrymen were holding shield and long spear on either hand to block the enemy's arrows and darts, while the soldiers behind them were holding bow and arrow, ready to shoot as soon as their comrades at the front break into the enemy ranks.
Yang Gongqing and Xu Ziling's four thousand men followed tightly behind them, advancing slowly, providing support to the sharp riders at the front storming the enemy. The rumbling of sixteen big drums struck together enhanced the advancing prowess of the Wang Army.
Xu Ziling was secretly paying close attention to Yang Gongqing as he continuously issued his orders. The flag carrier following closely behind him also continuously waved the banner with different hand movements to send all kinds of signal. The wing battalions lying low on both sides also responded with their own flag signals. Xu Ziling began to understand that a magnificent army with thousands of men and horses also had countless changes within them, not at all as simple as when the flag was waved to the left they would move to the left, the flag waved to the right they shifted to the right, when the drums were sounded they would advance, when the gongs were beaten they would retreat, and so on.
Ahead suddenly battle cry shook the heavens, arrows screeching by; the long awaited decisive battle finally reached the stage where the two opposing forces came into contact.
From the east and the west the sound of hoof beats rang out, the wing battalions left the forest to charge toward the enemy position on the hill slope.
The big battle was finally in full swing.
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Kou Zhong, Zhai Jiao, Xuan Yong, Tu Shufang, along with approximately two-hundred and twenty-five soldiers that Zhai Rang left behind, were guiding their horses by the reins along a dense forest behind the Wagang Army's camp, watching with bated breath as the frenetic enemy rushing to the east and dashing to the west in the camp; some of them mounted their horses, some were running on foot, but all were rushing to the mountain top. The people shouting and the horse neighing, the upheaval was like the doomsday was coming.
Everybody was holding a bow in one hand, and an arrow, which tip was wrapped with cloth or other flammable material, which had been soaked in kerosene, waiting for the optimum moment to strike the enemy's rear.
Xuan Yong whispered, "Those thirty some tents on this side of the stream are all provisions tents. We are going to burn the provision tents first, and then attack the others."
Zhai Jiao spoke in heavy voice, "Li Mi is mine, I want to chop his stinky head with my own hands."
Kou Zhong inwardly cry 'what a pity!'; if Wang Bodang was around, Kou Zhong could claim that his head belonged to him as well.
Were it not for Wang Bodang, most probably Susu would not abandon herself to despair and randomly find a man to marry. And lo and behold, she chose this harboring-evil-intentions Xiang kid.
This moment, from the other side of the mountain came the sound of weapons clashing against each other and the battle cry, like the rumbling of thunder filling the whole sky. Zhai Jiao, brandishing her big Guan saber [I believe Guan here refers to Guan Gong/Guan Yu from the Three Kingdoms], which matched her build like seamless heavenly clothes, shouted loudly, "All Xiongdi, the moment to avenge Da Longtou has arrived!"
Finished shouting, she took the lead by swiftly rushing out.
Kou Zhong and the others, more than 200 men, also shouted together, lighted up their fiery arrows, and rushed out behind her.
The fiery arrows streaked through the sky like more than 200 beautiful, brilliant fireworks of the Lantern Festival [night of the 15th of the first lunar month], painting the sky red as they flew across the dozen or so zhang distance toward the rear tents of the Wagang Army camp.
One after another the tents caught fire; the fiery arrows missing their target landed on the leaves and clusters of vegetation, creating the crackling noise of burning bushes.
This kind of kerosene was highly flammable, the humidity in the air increased the fire intensity instead, the thick spring air did not affect it at all.
By the time Zhai Jiao and the others attacked their way into the camp, they have already released three, four volleys for a total of nearly one thousand fiery arrows. More than half of the tents on both sides of the stream were ablaze, with thick smoke rose up to the sky.
The enemy had never imagined the ambushing troops would attack from the rear; on top of that, the attack from the front was already more than they could attend to. In their panic, they practically failed see that the troops attacking from the rear were only a bit more than two hundred men. The weary troops staying behind at the camp to take care of things were immediately thrown into chaos, and were utterly defeated.
When Zhai Jiao's big Guan saber blade met a soldier, it chopped the soldier; when it saw an officer, it hacked the officer. Moreover, Kou Zhong, Xuan Yong, and Tu Shufang protected her from left, right and back, three directions, so that she was like a tiger that has grown wings, like a hot knife through butter swept through the enemy camp, charging through the Wagang Army troops blocking their attack that they were scattered and smashed.
Taking advantage while the enemy was scattering in all directions, their men also killed and burned everywhere, turning the battlefield into a slaughterhouse. The situation was chaotic and bitter to the extreme.
Kou Zhong's Moon in the Well was even more invincible; each saber strike, without the blade even made contact, the saber qi was enough to injure the enemy and throw them to the ground.
Xuan Yong's Bird Beak Strike [Book 14 Chapter 9] also displayed its astonishing prowess as it crisscrossed unhindered among the magnificent army with thousands of men and horses, killing the enemy that the opponent suffered a crushing defeat and scattered in all directions.
Only a dozen of xi later [息 must be a unit of time, but I could not find its definition], this group of troops filled with deep hatred already broke their way into the center of the enemy camp; only about a thousand paces or so, they would have passed through and reached the mountain slope.
The general situation was decided, the only thing remained was to see whether their blade could reach Li Mi, this powerful military general with an impressive record as never been defeated in battle.