This army that had been abandoned by Yan Xun at Zhen Huang City had instantly turned into everyone's target. All factions wanted to annihilate them to become the hero who had defeated the traitor. In the past few days, Chu Qiao and the troops had already faced countless ambushes.
"Miss," He Xiao trotted over while carefully maintaining under cover, and whispered to Chu Qiao, "the scouts are approaching, please give us the order to attack!"
Chu Qiao, still keeping her head low, calmly replied, "Let us wait a bit more."
"But Miss, they are only 200 feet away!"
"Just wait a bit more."
"If we wait anymore, our ambush will become meaningless!"
"The time is not ripe yet."
He Xiao was about to continue trying to convince Chu Qiao, but at that moment, a red and white flag was raised from a trench in the distance. Upon seeing that, Chu Qiao shouted, "Attack!"
At that instant, roaring warcries overwhelmed the surroundings. Thousands of brandishing blades appeared out of the bushes and charged towards the enemy. Those scouts, who were already not in proper formation due to being rushed, instantly sank into chaos.
It was doubtlessly another slaughter. With lethally accurate calculations, Chu Qiao grabbed the best opportunity using the perfect setup to completely surround and destroy the enemy. Within one hour, the battle was over. Without having time to chase down all of the routing enemy soldiers, Chu Qiao sent her remaining soldiers charging toward the largest escaping group! After four days of countless hiding and running, this fearsome Southwest Emissary's Garrison could finally let loose of their reins and fight freely in the plains of the Qiu Ping Mountains!
The sky started to drizzle. With a quick wipe of her pale and frail face, Chu Qiao smoothly sheathed her blade. With a firm voice, she ordered, "Warriors, we are retreating."
The crowd instantly sank into a commotion. The huge victory had filled their hearts with pride and bloodthirst, and the desire for revenge had been carve into their souls from the four days of escapade. Oftentimes, opportunities of war were fleeting, and retreating during their period of greatest momentum was undoubtedly a misjudgement that even a new recruit would not commit. A smudge of unhappiness surfaced in everyone's eyes, but out of respect and gratitude for this young women who had saved their lives, they did not say it aloud. Even then, seeing their eyes, it was more than obvious what they were thinking.
"Soldiers, I know what you are thinking." The young women took a moment to clear her throat, before continuing at the top of her voice, "In this period of unrest within the empire, all factions are polishing their weapons. This is indeed a prime period for courageous men to open new chapters in history. We had great momentum and overwhelming morale, and should not give up such a good opportunity to attack. But! Is the situation really so simple as we think? No! It is not! The empire still has huge reserves of soldiers from each and every noble, each and every great family, each and every tribe. These forces all have great numbers of loyal and fierce soldiers. They may not have made it here in time to defend the empire from our rebellion, but that does not mean they will not come here after we have defeated forces from the Royal Zhao family! Once we defeat the Zhao army, they will all brandish their spears that were already pointed at us. By then, our bows will be broken, our arrows will be depleted, our blades will be dulled, and our horses will be exhausted. Without food and medicine, how long could we sustain our rampage? Once we show signs of exhaustion, the enemies will jump at this opportunity like a mad dog. No matter how strong a tired lion is, it will still fall prey to a pack of wolves. We've had enough, we are tired, and it is time for us to go home."
Hearing the phrase "go home", some suddenly started to sob. Some spoke out, hoping that Chu Qiao could refute their bleak reality, "But, His Highness has already abandoned us."
"Yes, Miss, we are already homeless."
"We are the rebels of the Empire, and have been abandoned by Yan Bei. Where can we go?"
"Do not believe those baseless rumors!" Chu Qiao bellowed. A surprisingly loud voice came out from her seemingly weak figure. "Those were all tactics to seed discord among Yan Bei soldiers! His highness has not abandoned you! The King of Yan Bei will never abandon his citizens!"
"But His highness has left us behind, surrounded and helpless. All of us saw it with our own eyes."
"No! His Highness did not leave you behind! He sent me to save you!"
"So our reinforcement was just one person?"
Chu Qiao raised her eyebrow, and without leaving any room for debate, declared, "Yes, indeed. But I did it! His highness believed that I could do it, so he entrusted me with this task. And I did accomplish this task!"
The entire field turned dead silent. Although the circumstances were hard to accept, it was the reality. This frail lady was able to rescue over 4000 soldiers of the Southwest Emissary's Garrison by herself. With these soldiers, she crushed all ambush and interceptions by the enemy, and broke out of the encirclement.
"Warriors, hesitate no more! Now, we shall bury our comrades who have fallen in battle just now. We will leave behind their bodies, but we will carry on their dreams. You fought for the country, bled for the country, and died for the country. History will remember your loyalty and courage. Now, follow me, we will return!" With that, Chu Qiao suddenly lowered her head. Her lustrous black hair flowed down on each side like two waterfalls as she bent into a perfect bow.
The soldiers remained speechless. One by one, the soldiers kneeled down with one knee, and roared in harmony, "We will follow you!"
That day, the winds carried the smell of blood far and wide, as the roars of the soldiers echoed within the winds. These soldiers had not known that the army that had just been decimated by them did not actually intent to search and destroy the Southwest Emissary's Garrison. In fact, it was the advanced party of the combined army of 11 northwest nobles and tribes, led by Zhao Yang for the sole objective of sieging Yan Bei. All preparations had been made, as they brought along huge food stockpiles, conscripted many able-bodied men to help with logistics needs, and had carefully examined the geographical conditions of Yan Bei. Having found the best scouts in the region, they were all poised to strike once the main army group arrived. Aiming for the fact that Yan Xun had not consolidated his power in Yan Bei, this war was estimated to have a 70% chance of success.
But all these preparations were for naught thanks to Chu Qiao's appearance. Upon hearing the news, this young prince was left speechless for a long while. He was reminded of the figure that was stood firm and unyielding atop the watchtower on that flaming night.
"Your Highness, there is already no hope to invade Yan Bei. Shall we destroy this ambush force?"
Zhao Yang lowered his head, and remained deep in thought. Finally, he stood up and ordered, "The big fish has escaped, why are we concerned with the shrimps? Return to Yun City!"
In the meanwhile, on Bie Ya Slope in Xi Ma Liang, a camp could be seen. In front of the main tent, there was a jet black Iron Eagle War Flag. Lady Yu flipped open the tent and walked in. Before she could even open her mouth, she heard an irate voice coming from a man, "Did I not tell you not to come in anymore?"
Lady Yu was stunned and stopped in her tracks. Softly, she replied, "Master, it is me."
Yan Xun turned around, and upon seeing that it was Lady Yu, he hurried forth, and replied, "So it was Miss Yu, Yan Xun apologizes for the hasty remark. "
"It is alright, Master." Lady Yu smiled. "AhJing just came?"
Yan Xun nodded and said no more, but his expression was obviously irritated.
"You Highness, it has been more than ten days, we need to go." Lady Yu continued, "Yan Bei is now in a state of chaos. Hearing that Master is about to return, Yan Bei's various factions are now in turmoil. We have already wasted a lot of previous time."
Yan Xun helplessly sighed. "I understand that."
"Of course Master would understand. You are also smart enough to know what will happen if we continue to delay, even just a few more days. But you have not been acting logically. Master, you are not like the person I thought you were. I think, even if Chu Qiao was standing here, she would not want to see how you are ignoring the greater picture. Even without you waiting here, with her abilities, she would no doubt be able to return to Yan Bei safe and sound."
Yan Xun slowly raised his head and muttered, "I understand what you are trying to tell me, but I am just a bit worried. When she comes and sees that I was not waiting for her, she will be disappointed."
"What?" Lady Yu was utterly shocked. This man would stubbornly lead the entire army into this risk not because he was worried for Chu Qiao's safety, but simply because he was worried she would feel upset?
"I am hilarious, am I not?" Yan Xun laughed in self-belittlement and shook his head. "As long as one is human, there are no doubt times when one will make silly mistakes. I lied to her, and abandoned the soldiers of the Southwest Emissary's Garrison. She may not have said anything, but she might be angry deep down. I just want to explain myself to her as soon as possible."
Lady Yu raised her eyebrow, "But..."
"I know." Yan Xun cut into her sentence, "By tomorrow, if she still has not arrived, we will leave."
Lady Yu sighed, and nodded, "If that is the case, I will take my leave now."
Yan Xun walked up and said, "I will follow you out."
Just as they left the tent, a shape blade pierced toward Yan Xun from his side, along with a thunderous roar. Yan Xun responded like a beast in danger, and with his acute senses, he exploded into action. His palm drew the dagger at his waist, and parried the incoming blade. With a twist of his body, he narrowly avoided the lethal strike!
"Protect His Highness!" Lady Yu calmly shouted. By then, the guards had already dashed forward, and after a quick brawl, the assassin had been captured.
Yan Xun stood among the crowd, and frowned at the subdued man. With a furrowed brow, Yan Xun declared, "I said, do not let there be a third time!"
The assailant was around 20, and had a handsome face. The cheery sunlight that used to shine from his face was now replaced by a frigid expression of bloodthirst. The assassin stared at Yan Xun, and firmly said, "As a traitor, everyone will try to kill you!"
"Stubbornly stupid!" Yan Xun snorted. "Zhao Song, this is really the last chance. Considering our relationship, I will let you off this one last time. If we see each other any other time I will make sure to fight you with all my strength!"
Zhao Song smirked. "Yan Xun, I thought you were really cold blooded seeing how you killed so many at the royal capital. Why do you only show mercy for me? Letting me go today will definitely be something you'll regret in the future!"
Yan Xun turned around and ignored him. "Let him go."
"Where is Chun'er?"
"Chun'er is not here!"
Zhao Song was enraged. "You are lying!"
Suppressing his anger, Yan Xun shouted back, "There was no need for me to bring a Xia Princess who had already lost her status!"
Zhao Song frowned, and finally believed Yan Xun. He lifted his head up and told Yan Xun, "Yan Xun, let me repeat, from today on, our relationship of eight years is nullified, and we are strangers. If we see each other in the future, I will try to kill you. And you need not hold back. You let me off three times, so to return the favor, if I can kill you in the future, I will commit suicide to return this life you have given me. I will see to it that vengeance for the citizens of the Royal Capital will be carried out!"
Yan Xun did not reply. In the winds of Xi Ma Liang, his robes fluttered like a big bird taking flight. Facing the wind, his face was calm, but his eyes had the depth of the ocean, not allowing anyone to read his thoughts.