The bandit adviser's struggle had proven to be effective after all. He Dachui's horse, brutally stabbed, galloped outwards with an unprecedented speed and actually managed to escape the battleground. He Dachui tried with all his might to rein in his horse, but it was in vain, and he could only let his tears course freely.
"Brothers…" It was the first time He Dachui knew the world that the word 'brothers' held within.
This was what being brothers meant!
Unfortunately, when he finally understood it, he was left without any of them.
The Fortress of Resilience was already in front of him, clearly in view.
He Dachui, who was yet to recover from his grief, heard loud shouts from above, "Open the fort gate, let him in!"
The large gate obeyed the urgent command and sprung open.
He Dachui was still weeping, but his tears had already turned blood red. He was deeply regretting his selfishness.
What kind of future did he want?
His brothers, who had been following him and living a good life in the forest, had died because of him. The last words of his advisor and his brothers continued to play in his mind like bolts of lightning and thunder.
"Boss… you can have the chance to build your family in the near future. Don't forget to offer incense to the brothers then!"
"Boss, the brothers knew it all along!"
"If we had to give up our lives in exchange for boss' bright future, we would willingly do so!"
The third head who had been impaled with many arrows had said, "The brothers have paid for boss' future with our lives… Leave quickly…"
The advisor's roar before he died was the most poignant cry of all, "Leave!"
He Dachui howled into the sky, sobbing hysterically.
"Come into the fort quickly! The gate will be closed soon!" Someone urged harshly from above.
It was a critical moment. The gates of the Fortress of Resilience would never have been opened for simply anyone. If it had not been for the Wolf Bandits' disruption in the battle which had set the Steel Cavalry's victory in stone, it would never have opened at all. In spite of that, He Dachui's delay in entering had sent the entire fortress into a panic. Who knew what would happen due to the delay?
He Dachui did not march into the gaping entrance despite the constant and hurried urging; he turned his horse around and roared, "Brothers! We will still be Wolf Bandits even in the underworld, irregular and unpredictable as the wind! Here I come!"
He then sped towards the Shadow Cavalry's formation. At the same moment his two hammers crashed into the heads of two cavalrymen, he was impaled by more than ten different spears.
He Dachui was bleeding everywhere, but he suddenly grinned in amusement.
Here I come.
"I've never… been so happy in my life!"
He Dachui was gone.
He had always yearned to live a life under broad daylight, had always hoped to shed the name Wolf Bandits, to become an ordinary person once again and earn a high status, to bring glory to his ancestors.
However, just when he saw his hope right before him, attainable by just stretching his hands when the fortress guards had acknowledged him and allowed his entrance, he gave up – he had given up without hesitation!
Entering the fortress would mean that he was no longer a Wolf Bandit – he would be a military officer from then on! As long as he remained alive, his future was bright and promising!
At the very end, he had not gone in.
No one knew what he was thinking.
No one knew what he meant when he said, "I've never been so happy in my life".
Perhaps, he finally knew what the word brothers meant. Perhaps, as a man of Yutang, he had finally gone to the war for his country.
He was forever gone amidst the thousands of soldiers and horses; no one gave another thought to what he had said.
The Wolf Bandits had been obliterated, just like that!
With He Dachui's fall, the battle between the top two cavalries came to an end.
Yutang's Steel Cavalry had won with no more than three thousand men surviving, while Dongxuan's Shadow Cavalry of ten thousand men had all been annihilated!
On the fort, Fu Baoguo stood upright throughout the entire affair– no one knew what was running through his mind. He was the only one who knew that he had experienced a moment of triumph earlier.
"I know how I should face Han Sanhe now. Although I can't guarantee victory, it can at least buy us some time until the Nine Supremes Lords come to our rescue!"
Fu Baoguo said, "Search for the corpse of the Wolf Bandits' head later. Bury him as military custom dictates!"
"This person has contributed immensely to this war. It cannot be denied!" Fu Baoguo issued his orders with conviction.
Everyone was bewildered. In their eyes, the Wolf Bandits were but a bunch of idiots who came purely to commit suicide. How could there have been an immense contribution by these fools?
Was the marshal speaking about how they had used their lives to ruin the Shadow Cavalry's formation? That would be slightly more reasonable, but still...
Fu Baoguo turned around to head inside, ignoring the general's murmurs beside him. He now experienced a clarity that had eluded him all this while.
"I've actually muddled up my own mind, being a marshal for so many years!" Fu Baoguo mused, "It was the words of these Wolf Bandits words that finally brought some sense to me."
"Irregular and unpredictable like the wind! Ambushing from every direction and scattering to the four winds!"
Fu Baoguo's eyes were glowing.
"With the Steel Cavalry's discipline, a formidable force could be unleashed if such rogue tactic of the bandits were to be used. Still, it has to be perfected further…"
"Assemble the generals for a discussion!"
Four days later, Han Sanhe's army finally arrived in belated wonder.
Yutang's militants stood at the Fortress of Resilience and looked out over the horizon. Their field of vision was densely filled with military tents and fluttering flags calmly spread throughout the forest. Even if one strained his eyes, there was no end in sight. It was an ocean of soldiers and a forest of tents.
With the greater relief forces arriving, Dongxuan's battered morale was boosted. Their militants were high-spirited, their horses were spurred back to life; the vibe was fervent, and everyone wished to destroy the Fortress of Resilience within a single battle and finish the war.
"Teacher, I've let you down…"
Zhan Ge came to ask for forgiveness – this was what he said right as he entered the tent.
"Besides the fact that defeat and victory are both common in the military, your defeat, be it to Tie Zheng or Fu Baoguo, is not embarrassing. It was a precious drill for you, which is a good thing. I never expected you to defeat those reputable generals with just one battle. If you somehow managed to win, it would be delightful, but it might not be beneficial to your future."
Han Sanhe was exceptionally calm as if already predicting such a result. His slow words of comfort seemed sincere.
The main reason old man Han Sanhe had come so late was to perfect the setup to counter the Nine Supremes' sudden appearance. There was no delaying or slacking in this crucial task. On the other hand, it was just like he had said; he wanted Zhan Ge to take things into his own hands for once, to be trained.
He had never had the wild wish that Zhan Ge would be able to defeat Fu Baoguo and conquer the Fortress of Resilience before he and his army arrived.
How could the reputation of the top militant of Yutang's younger generation be earned so easily?
His words were hurtful, but it was a fact in Han Sanhe's mind. Facing his prized disciple, the person who would be his heir, he spoke as wished, pointing directly at the crux of the matter.
"Zhan Ge, you have to know that Yutang's military bosses – Qiu, Leng, and Fang, are all old now. The two main marshals in charge now are Tie Zheng and Fu Baoguo. It's truly a rare chance to train by facing Fu Baoguo alone in such a battle!"
Han Sanhe continued slowly, "Tie Zheng's weakness is that, sometimes, he will rely on his brute strength or impulsiveness. Fu Baoguo, on the other hand, is an all-rounded talent. He's collected and stable, rarely taking chances in hopes of getting lucky. Yet, rarely taking chances doesn't mean never. As long as there is a high enough chance to win, he will never hesitate to take a leap of faith. The ambush of thirty thousand men of the Steel Cavalry earlier proves this!"
"This person is one opponent that is hard to take down."
Han Sanhe said with a faint smile, "However, all famed generals in this world have their weaknesses. Fu Baoguo is no exception. Maybe, I should say that his strength is also where his weakness lies. He is too stable! Sometimes, being too predictable can be a weakness to be exploited."
Zhan Ge listened to his teacher with a bow. At this point, he suddenly had an impulse to ask – since all the generals in this world had their weaknesses, what then was his teacher's weakness?
Indeed, Han Sanhe was the top general acknowledged and recognized by the world. What would his weakness be?
It seemed that no one knew yet – maybe it would show in this war?
For the next few days, both sides were engaged in a heated battle.
Han Sanhe personally directed the army to begin attacking the Fortress of Resilience. Many battles raged; the attackers and defenders positions were clearly divided, with Yutang defending and Dongxuan attacking. The Yutang military who had the fort to rely on was of course, at an advantage. The ratio of casualties was mostly maintained at four to one as Yutang had the geographical benefit and could take four men individually.
Han Sanhe was not fazed about this though; it was well within his initial estimates. The Fortress of Resilience was a majestic bastion; it was easy to defend but difficult to attack. With Fu Baoguo's stable command, the current situation was not much of a surprise!
Besides, their military strength was several times more than Yutang's. Such losses were affordable. As long as it went on for about another ten days, the enemy's morale would sink into the abyss. Another fifteen to twenty days would see the Fortress of Resilience brought down!"
Han Sanhe was confident of this. He was sure that his judgment would never be wrong.
From the very beginning, Han Sanhe had never planned to use any other tactics and ploys. He had attacked with his entire force directly, to take his victory by strength; it was the most direct tactic that would garner the most casualties., but it was also the most effective and most accurate method – especially when he was facing Fu Baoguo who was so predictable. It was the most effective way available to him!
However, just as Han Sanhe had said himself, all the generals in the world had their weaknesses and Han Sanhe was no exception!
His weakness was perhaps being overly confident. He had never expected that someone whose personality was long figured out could make such a surprising change.
It was said that after a period of absence, one would change drastically. This was exactly the case in point!
This time, the person Han Sanhe had judged wrongly was Fu Baoguo. The former had realized with a start that it was like he had not known Fu Baoguo at all.
More precisely, Fu Baoguo had changed!