Volume 5, Chapter 23: Reunion on the Battlefield
On the twenty-fifth day of the third month of the first year of Longsheng, the fifteenth year of the sixty-year cycle, Prince Li Xian of Qi led an army and arrived at Qinyuan, directly confronting Long Tingfei. The Northern Han army had one hundred thousand troops, while the Yong army had forty thousand. However, the majority of the Northern Han army was composed of new recruits. Long Tingfei endured silently without battling.
On the twenty-ninth day of the third month, Long Tingfei sallied forth from his encampment and set a formation. The two armies fought a decisive battle at Qinyuan.—Zizhi Tongjian, Yong Records Volume Three
Using his lance to kill a Northern Han soldier, Li Xian switched his lance to his left hand. His right wrist was already feeling somewhat numb. Afterwards, under the escort of his bodyguards, Li Xian returned to the army's center. This was already the third time he had led his bodyguards and charged into the fray. This kind of hearty slaughter truly caused Li Xian's entire body to feel refreshed. Although the Yong army was outnumbered, the Northern Han army had only mobilized sixty to seventy thousand troops. In addition, with the veterans and new recruits intermixed, although the battle had already raged for half a day, the Yong troops had yet to show any signs of defeat. However, it was impossible to think of victory.
Moreover, Long Tingfei had the same interests as him. Whereas Li Xian had charged into the fray three times, Long Tingfei had done so five times. In addition, when Long Tingfei led the new recruits to charge into the Yong formation, he would expose holes in the Northern Han lines. After being tempered several times, the new recruits had gradually become familiar with battle. Li Xian could feel the pressure become increasingly heavy. Would it be best to temporarily retreat? thought Li Xian as he issued orders, directing the Yong army to attack the enemy's openings. The core of both armies were composed of elite horsemen who were veterans of over a hundred battles and were easily matched against each other, caught in a brutal struggle.
Long Tingfei solemnly gazed at the enemy army opposite. The Yong army was truly difficult to deal with. Forty thousand Yong horsemen had formed three cavalry formations, providing mutual support. Frequently, when one formation attacked, the other two would provide support and backup. The Yong army's armor was firm and their weapons sharp, continuously tearing holes in the Northern Han army's defensive lines. After reaping a sufficient harvest, the Yong cavalry formation would retreat.
Because of the crushing defeat suffered at Zezhou where the Northern Han army was unable to break through the Yong lines, Long Tingfei simply dispersed his formations. He used light cavalry to cruise beyond the Yong formations, harassing the Yong formations with bows and arrows to limit their scope of movement, while maneuvering elite troops to prevent the possibility that the Yong army would break through the Northern Han formation.
In this way, the battle fell into a deadlock. The Yong army could not break the Northern Han formations, while the Northern Han army could not fully curb the Yong army. Li Xian and Long Tingfei both understood that if this continued, the victory would be a Pyrrhic one. However, because there wasn't too much difference in their tactical command abilities, neither side could gain a rapid victory with the basic parity between the two forces. As a result, both sides could only fight a battle of attrition. Whoever made the least mistakes would be the victor.
If before, Li Xian and Long Tingfei would rather seek to avoid battle under these circumstances. However, both commanders-in-chief had their own calculations. As a result, neither was willing to stop. In addition, having battled for half a day, both sides were fully absorbed by the exhausting struggle. In these circumstances, neither commander dared to brave the dangers of lowering their army's energy and morale by calling for a retreat.
Li Xian's brows were tightly knit. Something was fishy. He had experienced Long Tingfei's leadership before. When had Long Tingfei ever allowed himself to get embroiled in a difficult battle when the outcome wasn't clear? Without seventy to eighty percent certainty of victory, Long Tingfei would definitely not attack. Seeking survival from death was a strategy Li Xian frequently used. However, of late, he had long ceased to do so. After all, Li Xian had the confidence that he would be able to fight squarely with Long Tingfei. If that was the case, then Long Tingfei definitely had a trick up his sleeves.
At this moment, Su Qing galloped over and reported loudly, "Your Imperial Highness, General Jing is twenty li away.1 His vanguard has already come into contact with our scouts."
Li Xian rejoiced. Within the domains of Northern Han, Long Tingfei definitely was better informed about everything that went on. Since that was the case, Long Tingfei must already have known that Jing Chi was about to arrive. That was why Long Tingfei was in such a rush to annihilate the Yong army.
Resolved, Li Xian began to change tactics, concentrating troops as much as possible. As a result of the Yong lines drawing back, the Northern Han lines extended even further as their attacks became increasingly fierce, almost like an unending tide smashing against a tall cliff. Li Xian ordered troops to continue to engage Long Tingfei to ensure that the Northern Han army could not retreat easily. As long as the Northern Han army stayed stuck for a short period, they would be caught in a pincer attack and be heavily defeated.
Twenty li away, Jing Chi galloped straight for the battlefield with his elite cavalry. Although they had advanced with irresistible force, there were still plenty of Northern Han soldiers and commoners who put up a spirited resistance. Although they were all crushed, the Yong army had still suffered some losses. Even Jing Chi himself had suffered some light injuries.
In Jing Chi's youth, the Central Plains had erupted into chaos, the commoners unable to make a living. In any case, Jing Chi had an innately vicious temper. Unwilling to be humiliated and demeaned in his home village, he became a bandit who specialized in committing murder in the wilderness. Later, when Great Yong gradually became rich and powerful, Jing Chi knew that remaining as a bandit was not a solution even though he did not have a forthright temperament. As a result, he enlisted in the Yong army. Because of his immense martial arts skills, he was considered one of the army's best warriors within half a year. Afterwards, he was placed in an important position by the Prince of Yong and became one of the prince's trusted lieutenants. Naturally, no one brought up Jing Chi's past. Military regulations in Li Zhi's army were strict and impartial, and he especially despised acts of wanton slaughter. Out of fear of military punishments, Jing Chi had restrained his unruly nature.
However, ever since taking solo command of an army, the pressure on him was enormous. Combined with the Northern Han population's tenacious resistance, this bandit general had become increasingly enraged. As a result, he began to openly committed murder. Originally, Jing Chi didn't find this problematic. However, as he neared the rendezvous point with the Prince of Qi, Jing Chi suddenly thought of his own conduct and could not help becoming somewhat anxious. Ultimately, he steeled his heart. If they could defeat the Northern Han army, he probably wouldn't be executed for his violations. As a result, although Jing Chi knew that the Northern Han army's strength wasn't weak, there was not a hint of foreboding, only deciding how to advance from the scout reports. From up ahead, a soldier scouting had galloped back and succinctly explained the military situation before handing over a rough sketch that he had personally drawn.
Jing Chi ordered his army to slow their advance. Stopping at the side of the road, he looked at the rough sketch that the scout had drafted upon his mount and mumbled to himself. At this moment, Jing Chi's appearance was a bit miserable. His hair was not tied up in a bun and instead scattered all over the place. His helmet had unknowingly been lost some time earlier, while his battle gown was in tatters and stained. Some of the stains were from yellowish, muddy water; some were reddish bloodstains. This combination caused Jing Chi's officers and bodyguards to secretly find it ridiculous. However, none dared to raise this matter. Jing Chi's tyrannical manner and bloodlust during the entire journey filled all of these proud soldiers and fierce generals with wariness and fear.
In the past, when Jing Chi followed the Prince of Yong, he naturally never revealed his intense crudeness. In addition, under the Prince of Qi, Jing Chi had always been on his guard and never exposed any weaknesses for others to exploit. Only this time, as the commander of an independent force, was Jing Chi's true nature hidden behind his forthright façade revealed for all to see. Therefore, many gained a bit of fear of Jing Chi, becoming extremely deferential and ceasing to joke around like before.
It's important to know that a few days ago, Jing Chi had personally beheaded more than a dozen soldiers who had been intoxicated by the slaughter and forgotten to return to their units. These changes allowed everyone to clearly see Jing Chi's long hidden vicious domineering. As a result, no matter how Jing Chi studied the map and was unwilling to reinforce the Prince of Qi in a timely manner, no one dared to speak a word.
After absentmindedly scratching his disheveled hair, Jing Chi finally raised his head and said, "All right. At present, the Northern Han army has been engaged by His Imperial Highness, the Prince of Qi. This is the best moment to attack. We will definitely be able to smash the Northern Han formations into smithereens. When the time comes, we will be able to pulverize an already defeated enemy. Relay my orders and attack the enemy's eastern flank and directly penetrate to the center, following your elder's banner."
Finished speaking, Jing Chi let out a loud yelp and spurred his horse down the hill. He thought to himself, It would be surprising if the Northern Han army did not know of my approach. However, it may be assumed that it is impossible for them to disengage themselves. All of the Northern Han scouts and agents that your elder ran into during my entire journey were thoroughly massacred. Even if they received intelligence, they may not be able to grasp when your elder is going to launch my assault. However, if they can't even retreat, they will be truly useless. If your elder didn't know that there are no enemy reinforcements, I would not dare to attack with my entire force.
After he finished transmitting orders, Jing Chi took the lead and galloped forward. Each of the officers were invigorated and returned to their respective units. On the march, they reorganized their troops. The Yong army's crack cavalry were composed of elite troops who were veterans of over a hundred battles. There was no disorder forming a formation while on the march. The hoofbeats became increasingly orderly and in time.2 The magnificent army of tens of thousands of troops was almost like a singular horseman and his mount.
Taking the lead, Jing Chi galloped up a hill. Below was a plain that was several tens of li in area. This was where the Prince of Qi was fighting with Long Tingfei. Not far off was the city of Qinyuan and the Qin River swollen from spring meltwater.
Jing Chi gestured with one hand. One of his bodyguards handed him a bugle horn and he blew on it. Afterwards, echoing bugle horns sounded from the Yong formation. The bugle horns were like a thunderbolt who streaked through the air, reverberating continuously. Jing Chi waved his hand and shouted loudly, "Follow me!"
Afterwards, seizing one of his command banners from the hands of one of his bodyguards, Jing Chi held it up high using his left hand, urging his horse to leap down the hill. The officers and soldiers behind him did not wait for Jing Chi to issue another order, following him. A muddied flood of blackened water thrust into the eastern flank of the Northern Han's formation.
The end of the banner was a sharp spearhead. Brandishing the banner, Jing Chi stabbed and killed a Northern Han soldier. Like a steel saber, the Yong cavalry army completely ripped apart the eastern right flank of the Northern Han army.
Just as the Yong reinforcements hit his flank, disdain flashed across Long Tingfei's eyes. He sternly said, "Wudi, block the Prince of Qi's main force. I'll personally handle the Yong reinforcements." Afterwards, he softly said, "Wudi, you only need to hold out for four hours."
After that, Long Tingfei led his bodyguards to meet the violent attacks led by Jing Chi coming from the right flank towards the army center. A look of understanding flashed across Duan Wudi's eyes as he took command. The Prince of Qi's following attacks would be increasingly fierce.
Northern Han's right flank was primarily composed of new recruits. Jing Chi had selected this location to attack because he had received the scout's report. This veteran scout could easily discern the difference between veterans and recruits. For Jing Chi, although it was a pincer attack, the discrepancy in numbers between the two armies wasn't that great. In order to attain victory, Jing Chi knew that he could only attack where the enemy was the weakest. The assault went off relatively smoothly and the Northern Han army's right flank was quickly penetrated by Jing Chi.
Jing Chi was deeply puzzled. Looking around, he saw red ahead of him. A unit of Northern Han troops in red battle gowns blocked Jing Chi's advance. Jing Chi was greatly startled. However, at this moment, he could only advance, not retreat. Gritting his teeth, Jing Chi tossed the banner to one of his bodyguards behind him. Picking up his lance, he pointed at the Northern Han commander-in-chief's banner. However, in the next instant, Jing Chi's army collided with Northern Han's most formidable unit.
The Northern Han right flank began to pepper Jing Chi's center and rear with arrows. Long Tingfei advanced bravely, forcibly stopping the Yong army's assault. The entire battle grew chaotic and the two armies intertwined. Blood splattered and permeated the ground, slowly converging on the Qin River. The trickling river water that ran red with blood flowed downriver, taking with it countless lives and everything else.
The Prince of Qi and Jing Chi both knew that the outcome hinged on this moment. If the Northern Han army was permitted to rally and regroup, the battle would likely be protracted and bitter. As a result, both commanders displayed their full abilities, while the Yong army practically attacked disregarding everything. However, Long Tingfei remained resolute and did not retreat, checking Jing Chi's offensive. Using a tight defense, Duan Wudi completely stifled the Prince of Qi's main force. The battle gradually fell into a deadlock, although Li Xian and Jing Chi were gradually gaining the advantage. After all, the Northern Han army was more proficient at surprise attacks and pursuit, but lost their advantage in this large-scale cavalry battle.
Slowly, both Jing Chi and Li Xian felt intense unease well up. However, separated by rank upon rank, it was impossible for the two to coordinate. In addition, they could not rashly order a retreat. Neither of the Yong commanders were willing to be the first to order a withdrawal, as it would likely lead to all the pressure falling on the other army and lead to defeat. Although the Yong army steadily controlled the battle and the defending Northern Han army's morale gradually waned, both Jing Chi and Li Xian had pained and suspicious looks on their faces.
Jing Chi had led his elite troops to directly and violently assault Long Tingfei's personal troops several times. On one occasion, Jing Chi almost personally broke through the Northern Han formation, exchanging blows with Long Tingfei. However, Long Tingfei's dancing halberd was like a black panther charging forth from the woods. The halberd was smooth and nimble, carrying thick killing intent, and actually repelled Jing Chi, who only escaped with the sacrifice of a dozen of his bodyguards.
Li Xian increasingly became uneasy and instinctively lifted his head. Suddenly, he caught sight of two goshawks circling overhead. Trembling inside, he loudly shouted, "Duanmu, kill those two goshawks for me!"
Li Xian's voice became shrill and vicious. At present, Duanmu Qiu, serving as one of Li Xian's bodyguards, had grown used to life within the military. Hearing Li Xian's orders, he immediately unslung his silver bow. He pulled the bowstring back to form a full moon before releasing. Three eagle-feathered arrows streaked through the air like a rainbow. One of the goshawks let out a shrill cry and fell, while an arrow glanced off the other goshawk's wing. On the verge of collapse, the goshawk flew off into the distance. The bowstring twanged again and another eagle-feathered arrow pierced the goshawk's body.
Li Xian did not have a shred of delight. What trump card had Long Tingfei prepared? Suddenly, understanding flashed in Li Xian's mind and he smiled wryly without end. At this moment, he finally understood why Jiang Zhe had said he would definitely suffer a crushing defeat. How could he have forgotten that Northern Han was on the verge of destruction? What use was a trifling agreement in the face of blood relations and a fiancé? Li Xian immediately ordered the bugle horns to sound the retreat. Also feeling that something was wrong, Jing Chi also pulled back, prepared to break out from the Northern Han army's encirclement.
Practically at the same moment the two goshawks dropped to the earth, within a hidden valley, Lin Bi stood with her hands behind her back in a suit of dark green armor and with a golden phoenix brocade cloak tied around her shoulders. Gazing at the shrill cry of the falling goshawk, a hint of an icy light appeared in Lin Bi's phoenix eyes. She coldly stated, "Everyone listen up, advance!"
The originally lazy and idle soldiers, either sitting on the ground or leaning against their saddles, instantly cast aside their camouflage. Mounting their horses, they checked their weapons, immediately transforming into soldiers filled with killing intent. Lin Bi mounted her warhorse. Not saying a word, she spurred her horse out of the valley. Without needing any orders, over twenty bodyguards followed her out of the valley like shadows, protecting Lin Bi in their midst. As for the originally lolling Daizhou horsemen, they did not hesitate in the least. Although their ranks and positions couldn't be seen on their clothes and armor, they automatically and tacitly followed in formation. The seemingly loose but in fact strict cavalry formation had always been one of the defining characteristics of the Daizhou army.
Within this valley were assembled fifteen thousand Daizhou troops. Unlike the Northern Han army's main force, the Daizhou army wore armor of different colors, making them seem extremely disorderly. This was because the Daizhou army was composed of soldiers descended from father to son, from elder brother to younger brother. Each and every set of top-notch armor would be passed down for several generations. Even each soldier's weapons and horse were personally provided by the soldiers themselves. This was a unique tradition of the Daizhou army.
Because Eastern Jin was scholarly and militarily weak, even when they had a resurgence the court had no power to resist the barbarians. The Lin family, in order to protect their homeland, had privately recruited local levies to resist the enemy. In order to resist the barbarian tribes, every individual within Daizhou, regardless of gender, diligently trained in horse archery. As a result, the Daizhou army was completely composed of homegrown citizens. As for providing their own weapons and horses, this was because Daizhou would frequently be pillaged by barbarians. At the same time, Daizhou had also been infected by the barbarians' behavior. In Daizhou, if a family had some assets, the first thing done when a boy was born was preparing a block of fine iron. Afterwards, the iron would be tempered once every year. Once the boy became an adult, this block of iron would have been forged into a weapon. The repeatedly tempered weapon would naturally be handy. In addition, usually, as a boy grew older, he would be gifted a young horse and allowed to personally feed and care for it. Through this, once this boy had grown, he would have a beloved horse who was instinctively connected.
Even when the Daizhou army became a legitimate, official army, these customs continued. As a result, Daizhou's army always seemed like an unruly mob. However, only those who had fought alongside or against them knew how fearsome they were.
Because the Daizhou army spent years battling with the barbarians, every single Daizhou soldier had experienced being pursued alone by a swarm of barbarians. As a result, their military strength was extraordinary. In addition, when they formed together into a cavalry unit, it was a different sight altogether. As an elite army passed down through the generations and locally organized, whenever the Daizhou army went to battle, the cooperation of its horsemen could be called flawless. For the safety of their families, they fought dauntlessly without fear of death. This kind of cavalry unit could be considered matchless in the world. It was only that in the last hundred years, Daizhou had never before advanced out of its borders to do battle. As a result, aside from battling the barbarians and the brief, but bitter conflict against the Northern Han army, no one genuinely knew how terrifying the Daizhou army was.
This time, the Northern Han royal family had played the emotional card and had finally been able to persuade Daizhou to send troops. Within the Daizhou army, Lin Bi was the only candidate to be their next commander-in-chief. Only because Long Tingfei was Lin Bi's fiancé was the Daizhou army willing to reinforce the battle at Qinyuan.
Just as Li Xian and Jing Chi reached the tacit understanding to retreat, they were completely and persistently engaged by the Northern Han army. From the distance, bugle horns suddenly sounded. The tone of the bugle horns was different from the ones used by the Yong and Northern Han armies, and was filled with an unruly desolation that made all who heard it tremble. Moreover, in Li Xian and Jing Chi's ears, they could hear that the bugle horns were rapidly closing, almost as fast as lightning. To be capable of such speeds and for a cavalry force to maintain its assault formation, both of the Yong commanders knew that they did not have such abilities, causing them to grow increasingly anxious.
The sound of the bugle horns closed from the northwest. Just as the sound neared the battlefield, it suddenly changed direction, circling to Li Xian's rear. Greatly alarmed, Li Xian repeatedly urged his subordinates to change formations and reinforce the rear defenses.
However, practically at the same moment that Li Xian issued orders to his army and worked to change the formation, the Yong army was attacked. Although the Daizhou army's horses seemed to be of different colors, they had a single common characteristic. They were all top-quality warhorses. After all, the excellence of these horses was a necessary condition to preserving one's life. Moreover, because Daizhou was close to barbarian lands, even though war was constantly waged, because of trade, Daizhou had an excellent channel of acquiring horses from the barbarians. As a result, Lin Bi had led the Daizhou army and smashed into the Yong army's rear practically without any delays. Afterwards, like a storm, an accurate and merciless hail of arrows annihilated the rear of the Yong army.
Speaking of horse archery ability, no army in the Central Plains was a match for those of Daizhou's. In order to battle the barbarians, regardless of gender, everyone in Daizhou was trained in archery from a young age. Even a young girl could easily hit a target from a hundred paces.3
On the battlefield, there were three levels when it came to horse archery. The most common and lowest level was "horse archery." This level required that an individual be able to sit stably on a mount and shoot arrows, hitting the target five times out of ten at a hundred meters, seven out of ten at seventy meters, and nine out of ten at fifty meters. Of course, disregarding the Daizhou army, even the elite troops of the Yong and Northern Han armies could hit a target eight to nine times out of ten at a hundred meters. The second level was "galloping archery," requiring a horseman to shoot in all directions even atop a galloping warhorse. In addition, accuracy needed to be the same as the "horse archery" level. There was an additional demand—pulling out an arrow from a quiver while galloping. There were already very few units in the world capable of meeting this requirement. Even Great Yong's and Northern Han's elites only had thirty percent who could meet this standard. The third level was "flying archery," requiring a horseman to regularly hit a target under any circumstance. This was already not a skill an ordinary horseman could reach. Horsemen with this ability were frequently the best archers of an army or the best cavalry commanders.
As for the formidableness of the Daizhou army, almost its entirety had reached the "galloping archery" level. In addition, ten percent of the Daizhou army had reached the "flying archery" level. Compared to them, the barbarians were only so capable.
Staring blankly at the Daizhou army coming and going as they pleased, using cavalry sabers for close combat and bow and arrow for long-distance to easily wreck the Yong army's rear, Li Xian felt intense shock. At this moment, he understood that defeat was at hand. If it were someone else, they would inevitably be unconvinced or be dejected. However, Li Xian had experienced numerous setbacks at Long Tingfei's hands. Long accustomed to being defeated, he immediately issued orders without thinking. Leading the Yong army, he charged straight for the Northern Han recruits.
By this moment, Jing Chi had broken through the ones blocking him and grouped up with Li Xian. Seeing Jing Chi and not permitting him to object, Li Xian sternly ordered, "General Jing, you are to take point and lead the army to charge the enemy lines, retreating in the direction of Anze. This Prince will personally command the rear." Finished speaking, Li Xian led his personal troops and moved to the side to allow the Yong army to pass through in advance.
Jing Chi hesitated a bit before spurring his horse and taking the lead. He was well aware of Li Xian's character and knew he would likely be chopped down if he tried to vie for command of the rearguard. If he wanted Li Xian to be safe, Jing Chi knew that the only method was to quickly break through the encirclement. The direction of his primary assault was at the Northern Han units formed from new recruits. In the face of the fiendish Jing Chi, they could not help becoming lily-livered. Without much effort, Jing Chi was able to break through and began to retreat in the direction of Anze. As for Li Xian, he personally commanded his bodyguards to serve as the rearguard, practically assuming the entirety of the pressure of the pursuing Daizhou army.
Obviously, the Daizhou army's numbers were fewer that of the Yong and Northern Han armies. However, the Daizhou army's assault was unstoppable, making Li Xian nearly overlook Long Tingfei's fierce wing attacks on the two flanks. However, to speak frankly, having fought for years, the Yong and Northern Han armies were well aware of each other's capabilities and tactics. As a result, in response to the Northern Han army's attacks, although the Yong army suffered heavy casualties, they were able to deal with it without trouble. It was very different with the Daizhou army, accurately and effectively destroying the Yong rear in the initial volleys. Afterwards, they were not impetuous in the slightest, remaining tightly in place. The calm and unfeeling killing caused everyone to feel chills in their hearts. Even though Li Xian was personally bringing up the rear, he could only barely deflect the Daizhou army's assaults.
Li Xian became increasingly anxious. If he couldn't swiftly disengage his army from the enemy, the Yong army would likely suffer a crushing defeated and routed. Li Xian steeled his heart. Spurring and whipping his horse forward, he charged towards the Daizhou front lines. Li Xian's bodyguards rapidly caught up and used their leather shields to shelter Li Xian from arrows. As for Duanmu Qiu, he stuck fast to Li Xian's side, frequently shooting arrows. Slightly bogged down, the Daizhou army was somewhat flabbergasted that the Yong army would meet them head on. However, almost immediately, the Daizhou formation slowed and its front line formed an arc, almost as if they intended to counterattack and surround the attacking elite Yong forces. The hail of arrows became increasingly intense. To do his utmost to annihilate this enemy unit, although Li Xian's bodyguards wielded shields to protect themselves, countless crimson-clothed horsemen fell from their horses and perished.
At this moment, Duanmu Qiu let out a stern shout and his bowstring repeatedly thrummed. Each thrum saw nine feathered arrows fly into the Daizhou formations like phantoms. Known as the Silver Bowed Wastrel, Duanmu Qiu's archery had naturally been brought to the point of perfection. Even the Daizhou army, filled with capable horse archers, was not his match. In a short while, many Daizhou warriors charging in front were hit and fell from their horses. Without any intention of meeting the enemy's spearhead head on, the Daizhou army once again slowed its advance. At this very moment, Li Xian broke into the Daizhou army's front lines. He swept his lance across, splattering blood. Even if each of the Daizhou army's soldiers were extremely powerful, they were not Li Xian's match. In these seconds, the Daizhou army's offensive had been blunted. Although this was temporarily, Daizhou army's counterattack was even fiercer. However, on the battlefield, there was such a fine line between life and death. Any delay could result in irreversible consequences. As a result, the Daizhou army's commander, Lin Bi, acted.
Just as he had stabbed and killed a Daizhou soldier, Li Xian heard a tinkling tone in his ear. Then he saw a dazzling spearhead stab towards his throat. The silver spear arrived abruptly. The red tassel of the spear had been agitated from whistling through the air and was as straight as a needle. Li Xian used his lance to block the spear. The silver spear immediately transformed into a hundred images. Li Xian did not meet the slightest bit of resistance with his lance. The feeling of missing caused powerlessness to well up from within him. Afterwards, he felt acute pains in the webbing between his thumbs and forefingers, as his lance was lifted up by a powerful force. A spear mirage with boundless killing intent stabbed towards Li Xian's chest between his two arms. The gale created by the silver spear carried with it an unstoppable power. If he were stabbed by this spear, he would still be seriously injured even if he had the protection of the armor. But Li Xian was after all a veteran and valiant general. Li Xian threw his lance straight up, while he twisted his body to dodge the spear. The spear brushed past his right ribs. As the two horses passed each other, Li Xian straightened, grabbing the lance that dropped from the air with his right hand. Seizing the opportunity, he stabbed towards his enemy. Without showing any weakness, the silver spear blocked the lance. In a flash, the two weapons exchanged multiple blows on equal footing.
Li Xian could not help but raise his gaze and look, seeing his opponent coming towards him. Their eyes met and both individuals were stunned. Although they were opposing commanders, it was quite rare for commanders to actually, personally and directly, exchange blows on the battlefield. Before the two had exchanged blows, neither had expected they would run into the other.
A look flashed across Lin Bi's eyes. Her opponent's visor had not been pulled down and she immediately recognized that he was the Yong army's commander-in-chief, Li Xian. Unlike their last meeting where Li Xian had brimmed with a stifling danger, causing everyone to view him as a panther, the present Li Xian wore a firm and unwavering expression on his face. Although he was defeated, Li Xian did not have a single shred of dismay or dejection. That bearing of someone as steady as Mount Tai made Lin Bi also feel admiration at heart. His crimson-colored battle gown was soaked with blood, demonstrating Li Xian's heroism and valiance.
Seeing the enemy opposite him, her silver spear, black warhorse, and dark green armor, although her visor was down and her face hidden, the visor could not hide that pair of distantly cold phoenix eyes. In addition, her elegant, vigorous, and heroic appearance, combined with her brocade cloak stitched with a phoenix, all revealed her identity. He silently mouthed, "Princess of Jiaping."
Almost at the same time, the two remembered what had happened on the waves in the Eastern Sea, the scene where the two had toasted each other. At the time, they had said that they would meet fate without regrets. Although they considered each other close friends, it was a unfortunate they were enemies. In addition, both Li Xian and Lin Bi were firm and unwavering individuals. Almost immediately after they were lost in their thoughts, they sobered up. The silver spear and lance separated, and the horses passed one another again. The two simultaneously turned around and forcefully spurred their horses forward. With a distinct cry, the lance and silver spear once again exchanged blows. At this moment, their bodyguards had thronged forward, separating the two.
Lifting his head, Li Xian sharply whistled. This charge had already temporarily restrained the Daizhou army's assault. With his objective met, Li Xian immediately turned and chased after the Yong rearguard. Provided support by the Yong army, he rapidly retreated. Probably because he was used to fleeing, although the speed of the horse was rapid, the Yong formation was not thrown into chaos.
In disappointment and frustration, Lin Bi recited, "Strangers meeting by chance become friends, to share these feelings on the battlefield in the years to come." Afterwards, she loudly shouted, "Follow me in pursuit! Even if we chase him to Jishi, we must take Li Xian's life!"
Hearing this, the Daizhou army thereupon thundered, "Kill Li Xian! Kill Li Xian!" Without consulting anyone, the Daizhou army chased after the fleeing Yong army.
At this moment, Long Tingfei was calculating mentally. Although Northern Han had won decisively, the Yong army's main force remained. In addition, if Li Xian didn't die, Long Tingfei could not say that he won an overwhelming victory. Consequently, he raised his voice to yell, "Brothers, Her Imperial Highness has come with the Daizhou army to reinforce us! But how can we fall behind them?"
Hearing this, the Northern Han officers and soldiers roared their agreement, and also began to pursue the Yong army.
Footnotes:10.8 kilometers (about 6.7 miles) 井然有序, jingranyouxu - idiom, lit. everything clear and in good order; fig. neat and tidy 147 meters (about 160 yards)