Chapter 42: Fighting to the Death
“Quick! Get your weapons, prepare for battle!”
“Archers! Form up!”
“Cavalry, follow me!”
“Wood and stone, wood and stone! Bring it to the walls!”
There was the ceaseless pounding of footsteps, men roaring orders, and mayhem.
Gu Nan frowned as she slowly opened her eyes.
Hearing the voices and commotion outside, a sudden feeling of anxiety formed, and she jumped up from her bed and opened the tent flap.
Outside the tent, countless soldiers rushed back and forth. Some were squatting down near bundles of unfinished arrows, some were hurriedly equipping armor, and others were rolling logs and stones towards the walls.
Regardless of it being inside or outside the camp, it was filled with chaotic noises.
“Brother.” Gu Nan grabbed a hold of a passing soldier. “What’s going on?”
The soldier's forehead was slick with sweat, his face tense, and his elbow shaking.
“Zhao, the Zhao army is attacking the camp!”
The Zhao army is attacking the camp!?
Gu Nan only felt her eyes were twitching. Either she was crazy or the Zhao army was crazy. Four hundred and fifty thousand against six hundred thousand, a huge gulf in power. But this unimaginable assault is indeed happening, and a surprise attack at that.
The defensive measures are being organized at full speed. The outer defenses and perimeter barracks beyond the camp walls have already been wiped out.
Gu Nan bit down on the corner of her mouth and turned back into the tent. Grabbing her spear, she raced out.
The most important matter is to first find Master.
“Kill!!” Like a tidal wave, scores of Zhao ladders were stacked against the high walls, the first suicidal wave climbed up with shields lifted overhead.
The Qin soldiers manning the walls thrust their spearpoints at those ascending, repeating this over and over. Thick logs tumbled downwards, and like a contingent of ants, scores of black-armored soldiers fell to the bloody ground below. But as more fell, more would climb up.
The camp walls were disorderly and frenzied, but due to the number of defenders and the towering defenses, the Zhao could not capitalize on their surprise assault.
It was like meaningless slaughter. After half an hour, the ground underneath the walls were already heaped with fresh corpses, several meters high. Perhaps there are already thousands of them.
Bai Qi sat with his sword in hand. His eyes narrowed as he surveyed the wide, chaotic camp.
He imagined that maybe the Zhao would be adamant in their defense. barricading themselves in. He even imagined the Zhao riding out onto the open battlefield. However, he never imagined that the Zhao would be the ones attacking, and so suddenly at that.
Just after this morning’s round of taunting, waves of Zhao soldiers gushed out. Storming forward with all speed, there was no time for the Qin to prepare.
But behind this surprise, it felt like a joke. A smaller Zhao army would choose to attack a camp with two-years worth of fortifications and a larger army? That’s no different from seeking death.
But now that Zhao actually arrived, they were suddenly so energetic.
Even Bai Qi was surprised in this change. These barely-fed soldiers were now reinvigorated with the ferocity of wolves and tigers?
It’s surely the precursor of a battle to the death.
Bai Qi’s brows furrowed.
He’s not too simple, this young Zhao Kuo…
This army on the brink of crumbling, only to be revived with such vigor. What did he do?
“Kill!” The Zhao suicide wall-climbers scaled the ladders again and again.
The archers at the rear drew their bows, firing indiscriminately into the camp.
The Zhao King’s three hundred thousand reinforcements will be here soon!
All of the army thought so.
This battle can be won! Return home!
For two years, the weight of shame was placed on each of their hearts.
Those Qin dogs!
The loud screaming of landing on the walls overhead. The twang of bowstrings behind.
After this battle, there’s the sweet embrace of home and out of this ghastly place!
The Qin defenders were stunned at the sight of these wild, suicidal soldiers.
As each side struggled and killed, countless Qin and Zhao were thrown off the contested walls. Both sides were equally crammed into the narrow walk.
In a battle of a million people, roars penetrate the heavens and colliding armies shake the hills. Ordinary people would be frightened into a daze. After the Warring States, such battles have waned in size and ferocity.
Zhao Kuo wore his robes and armor, watching the endless tides of people roll against the Qin camp. The scene became a sea of swords and flesh.
Everything was within his expectations. Although capturing the Qin camp was impossible, shattering their morale was absolutely feasible.
At that time, the final outcome may still be unclear.
As for the reinforcements from the Zhao King, probably only he’s clear on the truth. It was merely a pitiful lie to deceive the army to fight. There were no reinforcements. These four hundred thousand soldiers are all there is. If defeat comes, death will follow.
“Tap tap tap.” There was the light sound of footsteps, barely noticeable in the deafening shouts from the distance.
Bai Qi turned back and saw Wang He leading Gu Nan over.
She encountered Wang He as she ran around, finally coming along with him to the headquarters.
Just as she arrived at the tent, she felt the accumulated momentum release over her chest.
Just a few li away was the ongoing slaughter.
In the ancient times of cold weapons, this brutal melee and its momentum was not something ordinary people could bear.
Gu Nan already turned pale.
“Old Bai, what to do?” Wang He asked without much urgency. Although he was surprised at the sudden attack, he didn’t panic and remained dully collected.
Bai Qi put his hands behind him. “What of the army in the mountains?” (Chapter 37)
Wang He’s brows relaxed slightly, understanding the motive for the question.
“The five thousand Iron Cavalry and twenty-five thousand infantry are ready.”
“En, have the infantry make a detour to the rear of the Zhao force and launch a surprise attack within one hour.
“Have the five thousand Iron Cavalry ride along the Dan River and break off the remnants of the Zhao supply lines.”
After Bai Qi planned out the deployments, Wang He nodded and retreated.
Although Zhao Kuo had a good start, it wasn’t nearly enough to reverse the situation.
Gu Nan was still breathing heavily to calm the momentum from before. Simply being near the battle made her feel uncomfortable. Her gaze turned complex as she looked at Bai Qi.
She thought she could survive this was based on her future knowledge. But it’s only now she realized how stupid of an assumption that was.
The real art of war is not about military theories and doctrines. It is the ability to be calm and cope with any situation, even if a shocking change occurs. She’s still lacking in this aspect.
All throughout, Bai Qi was looking at Gu Nan. He could see her poor state, but it’s only a natural reaction. It would be rare to remain unfrightened in such a situation.
Moreover, she’s still a girl.
His heart felt soft, but it hardened the next moment because she was still his student.
“This time, I will teach you another lesson.”
As he spoke, he turned to look at the walls flooded with people.
“Wear your armor, go receive the teachings of real war.”
Gu Nan turned to look at the walls.
The smell of blood on the walls wafted into the sky. Severed limbs and chunks of unidentifiable flesh were spread all around.
No one cared about this scene, because, after all, chances were this would become their fate as well.
Gu Nan held her spear as she lumbered up a staired corridor.
The fighting, the roars, the clashing from the walls above, she could hear it all clearer with each step.
Her hands shook so badly as she slowly seemed to understand those words from before the campaign.
‘Do not look back. We must be steadfast, we are people going down a path of death. There is no path behind us.’
Going down a path of death.
She can see this now.
“A!!” A Zhao suicide soldier landed onto the wall with a shout. Gripping a sword in his hand, he looked around with a ferocious gaze. Seeing her conspicuous figure, he charged at her with a quick step technique.
With a loud roar, the sword in his hand was lifted high over his head, slashing down with a fatal strike.
But Gu Nan’s spear arrived first. Swinging with a wide arc, the three-meter spear striking the Zhao soldier’s head. With a thousand jin of strength, it’s enough to send men flying. The soldier’s head swelled for an instant before bursting open, sending red and white bits flying everywhere.
Gu Nan held her spear, gasping lightly.
To not kill is to be killed.
This damn place!
Her pale face lifted up, looking at the countless fights ensuing atop the walls all in front of her.
Raising her spear, she charged forward.