Book 22 Chapter 12 – The Battle of River Zhang
The first to pass was the vanguard cavalry of the thief army. Only in three days, four nights, the Three Big Bandits’ thief army tight formation has deteriorated into disorder. For a time the plains were full of scattered light of the torches.
Perhaps because it was only two days away from River Zhang, everybody was as anxious as stray dogs, thinking that after crossing River Zhang, they would be able to sleep without any worry. Yet actually it was not surprising that they were having that idea.
To Kou Zhong’s ambushing troops, this situation was actually ‘an easy drive on a familiar path’; the key was to use focus to generate chaos, to use order to create dispersion.
Shang Xiuxun whispered in Kou Zhong’s ear, “Currently, although we managed to obtain a thousand men, to defeat them, we still do not have any assurance.”
Shaking his head, Kou Zhong said, “This time we don’t want to only obtain one victory, but we want to put an end to these bandits who harm the world of the living thoroughly. We also want to lower the casualties on our side to the lowest point. Only this way will we show off our real ability.”
Suddenly recalling an old affair, he asked in passing, “How could Tao Shusheng be bought by these roving bandits that he agreed to betray the Ranch?”
Shang Xiuxun’s pretty eyes flashed with sharp rays; she coldly said, “How could Cao Yinglong buy him and entice his heart? It was Li Mi!”
Finally Kou Zhong found the answer to this mystery.
On the other side, Bai Wenyuan was peeking through the gap on the trees on the enemy troops winding around the horse relay station; he spoke in low voice, “The vanguard cavalry and the carts carrying provisions at the back of the line are separated by about three li distance. If we move fast enough, we might be able to strike before the enemy riders turn around to come to their aid. And then our whole division will retreat promptly.”
“Get on your horses!” Kou Zhong shouted.
Shang Xiuxun hurriedly issued her order, which was then rapidly transmitted down the line.
One after another one thousand Ranch’s warriors mounted their horses.
Among them, several hundreds held torches in their hands, prepared to burn the provision carts.
Approximately a hundred carts carrying provisions finally appeared before their eyes, protected by around two thousand thieves, mostly infantry; their cavalry was less than five hundred.
Kou Zhong waited for the fortunate timing. Suddenly he roared wildly, and charged out of the jungle on the slope of the hill, taking the lead to attack the convoy of the enemy’s provision carts.
The Moon in the Well was raised high in the air.
Shang Xiuxun, Bai Wenyuan, Luo Fang, Xu Yang, and the others followed closely behind, trailed by one thousand elite Ranch riders in fan-shaped formation closing in to trap the enemy in the middle.
The torches were lighted up, the fire illuminated the night sky, increasing the tidal-wave like surging momentum of the thousand riders.
The enemy formation was immediately thrown into chaos. Those with fast reaction were going to pull their bows and arrows, but several hundreds powerful arrows were raining down on them. Momentarily the men fell face up, the horses overturned, in utter defeat.
Like surging waves the chaos rippled from the back of the line toward the middle, and then continued on to the vanguard units. The bandits, who have wantonly plundered the area north of the river, which Cao Yinglong relied on, were immediately trampling each other.
Kou Zhong was the first to charge into the enemy ranks. The Moon in the Well appeared as a streak of continuously flashing yellow light hacked down the four enemy riders who galloped to meet him, so hard that the men and their weapons were thrown off of the horseback. Gaining the upper hand by this show of strength, he charged deep into the enemy formation. Those who tried to intercept were swept away by the wind. The most formidable thing was that he did not even need the Moon in the Well to touch the enemy’s body; merely the saber qi was enough to make the enemy’s seven apertures to bleed and sending them to their death.
The Ranch’s elite cavalry, as if they were descending from heavens, crushed into the enemy formation that the entire convoy of provision carts was separated from the middle army and the vanguard unit, and was put into a completely passive situation.
Two of the provision carts caught fire first, the flames and smoke soared to the sky.
Shang Xiuxun was using a long spear. Because she had a group of high-ranking military officers protecting her from left and right, her momentum was like a rainbow; the scream of the enemies thrust by her spear reached the sky.
In less than half a day, the entire convoy of provision carts was paralyzed, as well as broken into several sections, the thieves were scattering in all directions, fleeing for their lives; even the drivers of the carts jumped down and abandoned their vehicles.
One after another the overturned carts were set on fire, so that the entire area became a sea of fire.
Kou Zhong’s murderous intent flared up; leading about a hundred warriors, he charged toward the thieves, who were trying to come to the aid of their retreating companions. It was only after he saw the opponent’s vanguard riders, under the leadership of Cao Yinglong, rushing over from both sides ahead that he shouted retreat.
The surprise attack was finally over, successfully.
Xu Ziling chopped down a sturdy and solid pomegranate tree trunk, and spent half a day using his dagger to pare the small branches away to make it into a zhang and a half long stick. Its weight, as well as the feel of it in his hands, was very close to the ideal in his mind.
Battlefield could be different from desperate fight against martial art masters in general, long weapons were always more advantageous.
While making this pomegranate wooden stick, his mind was calm, his spirit was highly focused that he noticed every subtle detail on the tree trunk; which side needed more cut, at what angle he had to make the cut, everything was according to a certain amazing reason that even he himself found it difficult to explain clearly, but he knew that he must not make the slightest mistake.
After the long stick was finished, he had a feeling that this pomegranate stick was as if it was his own flesh and blood. Looking at each chop and cut, which were like the work of the gods, he felt as if it was a very valuable lesson for himself. At least, after Susu’s death, his spirit has never felt so satisfied like this.
When the sun was moving away from the middle of the sky and leaning away to the west, Xuan Yong came to report that he had found the enemy’s track.
Xu Ziling quickly stood up from the big rock where he had been sitting for about half a day; one hand putting the stick behind him, he said in delight, “Kou Zhong succeeded; otherwise, Cao Yinglong would not have traveled in haste during the day.”
Xuan Yong nodded and said, “According to the scouts, the enemy formation is in disorder, they are completely like scampering wolves or scurrying frightened rats, running away to the wilderness. This time Cao Yinglong ought to be in the-path-exhausted, the-road-ended situation.”
And then his eyes fell onto the pomegranate stick sticking out from Xu Ziling’s right shoulder.
Xu Ziling handed the long stick over for him to see. The murderous intent in his eyes flared out strongly, yet the tone of his voice was extremely calm as he said, “Tonight I will use this stick to take away Cao Yinglong’s dog life.”
Like a wave of fiery cloud, the Ranch’s main forces, led by Shang Zhen, swept through the enemy ranks, to rendezvous with Kou Zhong and Shang Xiuxun’s special forces. Without stopping to rest they rushed in the direction of Zhang River.
Hearing that they have been successfully burned Cao Army’s provision carts, their morale soared like a rainbow, their battle spirit was uplifted.
They changed formation; the vanguard unit was divided into two teams, each team had two thousand men, under Kou Zhong and Liu Zongdao’s command, respectively, with Luo Fang and Bai Wenyuan as their deputies.
Shang Xiuxun was in command of the middle army, with Shang Zhen brought up the rear.
They absolutely did not wish to overtake the Cao Army before they crossed the river, because it might force the enemy to fight hard like a trapped beast.
By dusk, Kou Zhong and Luo Fang’s vanguard units were the first to reach the mountaintop from which they were able to look at the Zhang River in the distance. They saw the eastern bank of River Zhang was full of enemy troops in battle array, ready to fight with their back to the river.
Kou Zhong laughed aloud and said, “Cao Yinglong indeed have a real skill. But he is making two big blunders.”
Astonished, Luo Fang said, “But I think the strategy he is using now is very brilliant. If we attack rashly, the casualties will definitely be disastrous.”
Laughing involuntarily, Kou Zhong said, “He is just bluffing [orig. looks impressive but is worthless]. First of all, he lost all his provisions. How long can he fight on empty stomach? If we set up an iron-clad trap in here, he will only end up in total defeat. This is his first blunder.”
After a short pause, he went on, “The second blunder is that he thought I didn’t know that he is waiting for the dark to set up the pontoon bridge, and then cross the river sneakily. This strategy is actually extremely brilliant, too bad he did not know there is another ambushing troops on the other side, just waiting for his thieving self to arrive.”
Listening to this, the spirit of the men of his left and right was greatly aroused; toward this Cao Army, who had murdered their friends and relatives, no one did not gnash their teeth in anger, they all wanted to annihilate the enemy as quickly as possible.
The moment of vengeance has finally come.
Puffing his chest, Luo Fang asked, “When should we attack?”
Kou Zhong shouted, “This will be decided by Xu Ziling. The moment they release fireworks on the opposite bank will be the moment thief Cao will repay all debts with his blood.”
Kou Zhong drew the Moon in the Well. Pointed it at an angle toward the horizon, with ten-thousand-fathom heroic spirit he shouted, “Light the torches, set them up on every hilltop, while digging trenches at the same time. I want to setup a net that not a single enemy will be able to escape. Ranch troops will prevail, thief troops will fail!”