Since their meeting at the abandoned village, this was the first-time Xu Ziling stood face to face with this overlord whose name shook the world.
Li Mi's build was tall and sturdy, singular and majestic. His countenance looked old and inelegant, his long hair draped over his broad shoulders on both sides, his torso was lined with flickering, shiny armor. When he brandished the heavy steel spear in his hand, it felt light, as if floating. His eyes were gleaming with cold light, yet there was some kind of insufferably-arrogant, ambitious-and-ruthless-character aura around him. However, his body already had multiple injuries.
He slashed with his spear more than a dozen times in succession, all were strenuously blocked by Xu Ziling; the two were immediately locked in hard battle.
Each time Xu Ziling blocked Li Mi's spear, he felt as if he was being pounded by a thousand-catty boulder, shaking him severely that his qi and blood were churning.
Fortunately, his true qi, which came from the 'Secret to Long Life' and the 'Jade Annulus of He Clan' did not circulate the same path as regular qi, so that not only it was able to neutralize the opponent's qi, it generated new energy as well, so that he was able to meet spear strike by spear strike.
It's just that obviously his riding skill was inferior to the opponent's, so that he was only on the defensive position, and could only take the beating from Li Mi.
Kou Zhong pouncing down from the sky immediately reverse the whole situation.
Although all around him Li Mi only had less than two thousand personal guards remaining, but all along his military power was at least double the enemy's, plus he had the advantage of occupying higher-up-on-the-hill position. Were it not for Kou Zhong's ambushing troops suddenly appeared from the rear, reasonably speaking he ought to be able to hold on much longer, or at least would be able to retreat in orderly manner, unlike now, where his troops were scattering in all directions, and was difficult to maintain their formation.
Still, from beginning to end, Yanshi forces were unable to consolidate their power to annihilate Wagang troops; they were merely able to hold the upper hand, while trying to stop the escaping enemies, which continuously enlarging the battlefield, so that the fighting spread to long grassland on the hill slope, down to the sparse forest region at the bottom of the hill.
If they did not leave now, what were they waiting for?
Li Mi sighed inwardly.
If it were regular Jianghu's fight-to-the-death instead of battlefield where the enemy was determined to die, even if he had to face strong enemy like Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong fighting together, he could still give it all and strive for victory.
However, under present circumstances, he had become a target of multitude arrows, where wave after wave, in thousands and in hundreds, the enemies were coming to kill him. At any given time he had to deal with a variety of weapons, not only he could not unleash any exquisite move, oftentimes he had to decide whether he should dodge a saber strike or to meet the tip of a spear, while trying to evade the really deadly attack.
Naturally he did not dare to go all out either, because he wanted to avoid huge loss of his true strength, to such an extent that he did not have enough strength to continue.
What he used were simple, direct, and effective moves. All those usual tricks of luring the enemy or confusing the enemy were quite useless this time.
He knew that if he let Kou Zhong flew overhead, while Xu Ziling, another first-class martial art master, entangling him, even if he continued staking everything he had, he would only end up dead.
While Li Mi was about to shout, commanding his troops to retreat, Shen Luoyan already cut in between he and Xu Ziling, and shouted tenderly, "Mi Gong, go!"
Li Mi knew that before his eyes was the only chance to escape; in the end he roared the sentence that ever since his debut to contend for hegemony over the world has never spoken out of his mouth, "Everybody, go!"
Leaping off his horse, the steel spear in his hand swiftly shot toward Kou Zhong.
Both men were thrown backwards at the same time.
Zhai Jiao's Guan saber left her hand and flew across the three zhang distance over the battlefield toward Li Mi.
Pei Renji and the others cried out in fear simultaneously, "Mi Gong, be careful!"
Li Mi swung his spear backward to block the Guan saber. Borrowing the impact force, he flew out, kicked an enemy off the saddle, and rode the horse to the east to escape.
Xu Ziling parried Shen Luoyan's sword more than a dozen times in succession, but did not counterattack even half a spear strike. He said with a bitter laugh, "Beautiful Junshi, please!"
Deeply moved, Shen Luoyan cried and called out, "Xu Ziling, how are you?"
Reining in her horse, she turned around after her side's warriors, who were retreating in defeat, and galloped away wildly.
Zhai Jiao roared her order for her troops to pursue the enemy's remnants relentlessly.
Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were fully aware that cornered enemy must not be pursued; afraid that she might failed, they hastily galloped after her.
The bugle horn ordering the retreat was finally sounded, indication the direction that the runaway defeated soldiers ought to take.
The melee has turned into a chase, with Yanshi forces pursued the enemy for more than ten li. It was only because Yang Gongqing had some misgivings about Shan Xiongxin's troops that he beat the gong to recall the troops.
Ever since Wang Shichong's army started to a war against the Wagang Army, this was the very first time that they scored a victory.
This battle resulted in Li Mi's defeated army running away to Luokou; from 40,000 cavalry, only a bit more than ten thousand men remained, the casualties were extremely disastrous.
On the other hand, Yanshi army only lost about two-thousand something men; the victory was effortless and brilliant.
※ ※ ※
Bare-chested, Kou Zhong sat on a rock by the Luo River, as if he was sitting on the throne, while an army doctor was tending the wound on his left arm, right waist, and chest.
Yang Gongqing has already led the main force back to Yanshi, to guard against Shan Xiongxin taking advantage of attacking while the city defense was quite weak, because he had left only one thousand soldiers in the city. He wanted to stop Li Mi, in case he turned back to mount sneak attack, or perhaps joined forces with Shan Xiongxin to restore his military strength.
Xu Ziling's wounds had already been dressed properly, plus his injury was lighter than Kou Zhong's, simply because from the start his troops had occupied superior position, unlike Kou Zhong's meager military strength penetrating deep into the enemy's camp.
The sun was about to sink behind the western hills, the soldiers were resting in clusters on the several hills nearby, overlooking the plains on both sides of the river downstream toward Luokou.
Four battle ships were moored on the shore, delivering army provisions, medicine, and the cleanup crew.
The remains of the soldiers from their side would be brought back to Yanshi for proper burial, while those from the enemy's side would be buried in a mass grave on site, in order to avoid plague and unpleasant ailment.
Zhai Jiao, Xuan Yong, and their men were still searching for enemy's track nearby; they have not returned yet.
Smiling wryly, Kou Zhong said to Xu Ziling, "On the battlefield, it doesn't matter if your martial art skill is unrivalled, it's impossible not to be injured. Question is how to avoid mortal hit. Right now on Xiaodi's body, from head to foot, the muscles are sore, the bones aching. Even a fierce battle against Zhu Yuyan would not be this strenuous."
Xu Ziling was watching four cleanup crews struggling to push a cart loaded with dead bodies up the gangplank into the ship; momentarily he was unable to speak.
This moment, Linglong Jiao, leading about a dozen riders, who have been out to scout the movement of Li Mi's defeated army, returned. She flew off the horse, and then, walking heroically yet elegantly toward the two boys, and reported, "This time Li Mi's had failed miserably. Along the sides of the road there was a continuous chain of men who were unable to hold on and fell from their horses; even his commander banner was thrown away. I am afraid when he rose his army, he had never dreamed of having such a tragic military campaign."
Kou Zhong scrutinized all the exquisite [Linglong] curves on her tender [Jiao] body up and down several times, before smiling and said, "Only someone like Jiaojiao, who's able to control the overall situation of a bloody battle from a distance, can escape without the slightest injury. Ha!"
Linglong Jiao's pretty face blushed as she said, "If you are mocking me for not exerting myself on the battlefield, I will never let you off. But since you are calling me such a pleasant name like Jiaojiao, plus considering that you are injured that your face is green your lips are white, I forgive you for the time being."
Kou Zhong said with a laugh, "Seeing your tender body is unharmed, my heart is gratified; that's all! Did Li Mi take a hike to his old native place Luokou? That old kid slipped away so quickly."
Zhai Jiao was back as well; with excited look on her face she leaped off the horse and called out, "We are going to attack Luokou immediately."
Hearing that, deep frown immediately appeared on Xuan Yong and Tu Shufang's faces; they even signaled Kou Zhong with their eyes.
However, going against everybody's expectation, Kou Zhong said, "Indeed heroes usually agree; let's go aboard the ship and return to Yanshi immediately, we will discuss the great plan to attack Luokou with Yang Da Jiangjun."
Everybody was taken by surprise.
It should be noted that Shan Xiongxin still had nearly 60,000 troops stationed by Mount Mang, north of Yanshi city. It did not matter how useless this batch of new army recruits were, if they hastily attack Luokou, this useless army would still be a threat to their rear.
However, by this time no one did not submit cheerfully toward Kou Zhong's strange plans and amazing schemes. It was as if he must have had a card up his sleeve before he could say that remark.
Kou Zhong grabbed the Moon in the Well, which had been lying by his side, and cast his eyes in the direction of Luokou, as he spoke indifferently, "Li Mi would never accept that he was running to Luokou just like that; he would definitely try to join forces with Shan Xiongxin with the hope of turning defeat into victory. Therefore, as long as we can stop them from joining up, and can make Shan Xiongxin not daring to act hastily, those troops guarding Luokou under Bing Yuanzhen would only have one way out: surrender. Wang Bodang is even more powerless to defend Jinyong. Following up a victory and pressing home the attack is one way to maximize the outcome of the war, does Da Xiaojie believe so?"
For the first time Zhai Jiao sincerely listened to Kou Zhong; delighted, she said, "Xiao Zhong, you are indeed a talented field commander which hard to come by in the present age; if in those days Die had encountered you instead of that traitor Li Mi, the world would have become our Wagang Army's!"