The moon was pale and faint with but a few stars to keep it company.
Amidst the roaring wind, Hua Zhu Yu led her team of 3000 men, traveling east of Mt. Lian Yun. In the still night, the mountain range was like a sleeping beast that could wake at any moment and devour them. The rugged mountain roads were precarious. One wrong move and they would tumble off the cliff to their deaths.
By next morning they had passed by Mt. Lian Yun and was about to enter Eastern Yan’s territory.
Ahead was a vast desert. It was mid-October and the wind was strong and intense while the snow continued to descend. The horrible weather made the roads even worst. After traveling in the snowfall for some time, they spotted a herd of golden gazelles.
The soldiers erupted in delight and reached for their bows and arrows.
After hunting they continued on their way. Once the sun began to set, they decided to stop and rest for a bit, setting up a fire to roast the gazelles they caught this morning. This drew Hua Zhu Yu’s frown. She quickly instructed a soldier to put out the fire. They were probably a hundred miles from the nearest city of Eastern Yan but they must proceed with utmost caution.
She coldly said, “This is the middle of the desert. A fire will surely attract attention. This time we can’t rely merely on luck, we must heed caution with each move we make.”
A soldier quickly went to extinguish the fire. Sighing, he said, “How are we to eat this meat then? It’s a pity to just throw it away.”
Meat was hard to come by and they had personally procure it themselves yet they could not enjoy it.
“Eat it raw!” Hua Zhu Yu coldly remarked. These men all came from the capital. They certainly hadn’t eaten raw meat before. It if was her Orphan Army, she naturally wouldn’t have had to bother with these things.
“Eat it raw?” a soldier repeated. “This meat can be eaten raw?”
Hua Zhu Yu got up and reached for the knife on his waist then signaled for him to step back. In the dark twilight, her hands moved quickly and the knife flashed with a cold glint.
Everyone was watching as the meat was cut into fine, thin slices. In such a cold place, as soon as a slice was cut, it immediately froze. A soldier picked up a piece and placed it in his mouth. After chewing it over, he felt the taste wasn’t bad. The remaining soldiers all had a taste too. They then began to prepare the meat the way that Hua Zhu Yu had shown them.
After they finished their meal, they continued traveling. Hua Zhu Yu received a letter by pigeon, informing her that Xiao Yin was leading his troops to attack Yangguan. This news incited them to promptly continue north but once they were about to leave the border of Eastern Yan, they were confronted by a team of cavalry.
Hua Zhu Yu quickly gave orders for everyone to get into formation, fearing that it was an ambush team sent by Northern Kingdom.
Moments later, the team of cavalry had arrived before them. Leading the way was a man in glamorous red brocade. His robes fluttered in the wind as the yellow patterns embroidered on them shimmered underneath the torches’ flame.
Besides Eastern Yan’s Rui Wang Dou Qian Jin, who else could it be?
Dou Qian Jin reined in his horse and swept his gaze across them. Flashing a wicked smile, he questioned, “Who’s the leader here?”
Hua Zhu Yu composed herself. She didn’t expect that small fire was enough to alert Dou Qian Jin. Eastern Yan’s vigilance was indeed high.
Among the 4 kingdoms, Eastern Yan advocated peace the most and had a friendly relationship with each of the remaining 3. This was also the reason why they dared venture onto Eastern Yan’s territory. However, they were still in a precarious situation. Dou Qian Jin had once proposed a marriage alliance with Northern Kingdom. Moreover, he went with Xiao Yin to Southern Kingdom in search for Ying Shu Xie. Hua Zhu Yu knew he wasn’t a simple person.
If he’s close to Northern Kingdom then he would surely leak their whereabouts to Xiao Yin. She braced herself and rode forward. She always felt a little uneasy every time she met Dou Qian Jin. In any case, she was his runaway bride. But fortunately, he had never seen her face.
“You?” Dou Qian Jin looked at Hua Zhu Yu in surprise.
“You…” pointing at Hua Zhu Yu he said, “aren’t you Huangfu Wu Shuang’s personal eunuch? You’re here to fight the war?”
Hua Zhu Yu narrowed her eyes and coldly replied, “So what if I’m a eunuch? As a citizen of Southern Kingdom, I uphold the responsibility to enlist in the army and defeat the enemy. I request Your Highness Rui Wang to let us through.”
“Such great grandeur!” Dou Qian Jin remarked as his hands reached into his side pocket. He took out a few coins and were tossing them in the air casually.
“And if this prince isn’t willing?” He narrowed his peach blossom eyes and leisurely smiled at Hua Zhu Yu.
Hua Zhu Yu tightened her grip on her spear. She unhurriedly replied, “Then don’t blame me for not being courteous.” They didn’t have any other choice. They must quickly get through and intercept Xiao Yin’s route of retreat.
“Alright, if you can bypass my men, I’ll let you go.” As soon as he spoke, the coins in his hands propelled towards Hua Zhu Yu.
Hua Zhu Yu raised her spear to block but the coins rotated with such force that she was losing her grip on her spear.
She let out a shout and employed internal force into her spear. With a clamor, she knocked the coins away. These harmless looking weapons were actually quite tricky to deal with.
Dou Qian Jin reached out and received the coins, examining it with distress. Hua Zhu Yu did not expect these coins to be made of real gold. Such a strong collision only left a small scrape.
Taking advantage of the time, Hua Zhu Yu signaled her troops to get into formation. Under her guidance, they rushed straight through.
Dou Qian Jin raised his hands and 3 golden light streaked through the air. Three soldiers immediately tumbled off their horses but this was futile as soldiers from behind immediately rushed forward to fill the vacant positions.
In this formation, they rushed through like a hurricane, riding straight north.
translations at peachblossomgrove . com
“Your Highness, should we give chase?” a soldier standing next to Dou Qian Jin asked.
“No need, if they want to fight, then just let them fight!” Dou Qian Jin casually said as he played with the coins in his hands.
He never had any intentions of stopping them. He merely wanted to test Southern Kingdom’s strength. Unexpectedly, they’re not to be underestimated.
He truly had to look at that little eunuch in a different light. He waved, beckoning the soldier closer and whispered, “Quickly go investigate the connection between Xiao Yin and that little eunuch.”
“Yes!” Though the soldier didn’t know why His Highness was suddenly interested in the little eunuch he still carried out the order.
Hua Zhu Yu led the team north. At night they found shelter in the mountains and camped for the night. Calculating the distance, they should arrive by next morning.
In the silent night, the faint sound of horses approaching could be detected. Did Dou Qian Jin give chase, Hua Zhu Yu anxiously wondered. The soldier standing guard outside rushed in to report, “Commander Bao, there are northern soldiers up ahead!”
Everyone was in a state of vigilance. Soon after hearing the horses, they quickly got into position for an ambush.
Hua Zhu Yu gazed ahead through narrowed eyes. Underneath the pale moonlight, a team of cavalry was approaching. Guessing by the galloping sound of the horses, it should be a team of about a thousand men.
The team was escorting a carriage.
They were moving quickly as though anxious to return to Northern Kingdom.
Hua Zhu Yu grew suspicious. Was Wen Wan in that carriage? Was Xiao Yin sending her away because of the imminent war?
As the distance closed, the other party discovered their presence and immediately surrounded the carriage in protection.
“Who’s there?” a voice echoed.
“Give the order! We’ve been discovered!” Ping Lao Da, who had been hiding in the Hu Battalion, seemed to have recognized her hesitation and whispered in her ear.
Hua Zhu Yu narrowed her eyes and let out a whistle. The soldiers quickly rode forward.
It’s the Southern Army!” a northern soldier shouted.
As soon as the words were out, the bugler of the Northern Army reached for his bugle. Under the moonlight, Hua Zhu Yu noticed this but there was no time to reach for the bow and arrow. She quickly flung the spear in her hand which shot out with a cold light, piercing the bugler’s chest.
This place was not far from the Northern Army’s camp. If the bugle was sounded, they would be exposed.
“Quickly take care of the northern soldiers. No one can be allowed to escape!” Hua Zhu Yu coldly ordered.
This was the quickest and most tragic battle that Hua Zhu Yu had been in. Less than half an hour had passed and thousands of men had been slaughtered by them.
The smell of freshly spilt blood filled the air.
Gazing across the devastating battlefield, Hua Zhu Yu couldn’t help but reach for the wine pouch hanging from her horse’s neck and taking a chug. The stringent taste of bitter wine flowed down her throat. Perhaps she drank too fast, perhaps it was the overwhelming smell of blood or a mixture of both that made feel intoxicated.
Ping Lao Da sighed and gently patted her shoulder.
“Commander Bao, how should we deal with Miss Wen?” a soldier approached and asked.
Sitting on her horse, Hua Zhu Yu narrowed her eyes as the soldiers approached, escorting a woman. The person in the carriage was indeed Wen Wan. Everyone was aware Wen Wan was from Southern Kingdom. However, everyone had witnessed her playing Sha Po Lang outside the city gate walls of Yangguan for Xiao Yin and understood that she sided with Northern Kingdom.
Hua Zhu Yu looked at Wen Wan. Her hair was fixed in a high cloud bun with a jade hairpin. Her brows were dark and eyes clear as water. Even on the battlefield, Wen Wan was still as beautiful and composed as always, graceful as her name.
She stood straight and tall. Her eyes wide, gazing arrogantly at Hua Zhu Yu.
“Tie her up and take her away,” Hua Zhu Yu casually replied, meeting Wen Wan’s condescending gaze.
“Evil-doer!” Wen Wan sneered.
“Shut her mouth!” Hua Zhu Yu pulled on the reins and coldly ordered. Without another glance at Wen Wan, she urged her horse forward.
The soldiers were left confused about how to silence Wen Wan.
Thinking that merely sealing her pressure point was too easy for her, a soldier tore off the hem of his robe that was stained in blood and stuffed it in her mouth. The heavy smell of blood mixed with sweat flooded her mouth and rushed to her head, angering her to the point of fainting.
By dawn, Hua Zhu Yu had led her team around the back of the Northern Army. From afar, they could hear the rumbling of the drum and the commotion of the battle.
Hua Zhu Yu led her team to set fire to the Northern Army Camp. Today the northern wind was fierce and the fire spread violently, engulfing the barracks in flames.
After setting the fire, Hua Zhu Yu led her team to launch an attack. All the soldiers got into formation and attacked the Northern Army from behind. Like a deadly, piercing arrow, they launched an attack straight through the heart of the Northern Army.
On the battlefield, chaos and death unraveled.
The sudden rise of smoke from behind drew Xiao Yin’s attention. Hearing the sound of the bugle horn ring chaotically, he knew that there was a surprise attack from the rear.
Looking past the chaos, he saw someone in a silver armor, leading the attack. The person wielded a spear in his hand and wherever it landed, Northern soldiers fell down in its wake.
Xiao Yin coldly commanded, “Stop them!” At this time, the Southern Army which was previously fighting a defensive battle suddenly launched an offensive attack.
The battle carried on.
The gusting wind, the rhythmic drum, the sound of the bugle, the screams of agony……
These tragic sounds intertwined, emanating from the battlefield.
After some time, the Northern Army’s morale was dwindling. Bombarded with attacks from two fronts left them at a huge disadvantage. Xiao Yin was aware that if this battle continued in this way, his army would surely be defeated. Furthermore, such a large fire must have destroyed his army’s provisions. But he wasn’t willing to let things end like this! It seems he must resort to his last trump card.
He wasn’t going to make use of this card for it wasn’t an honorable act but he was left with no choice. He was willing to forsake everything to win.
He signaled the flag bearer to wave the flag and the bugler to sound the bugle. Subsequently, a carriage was brought forth.
This carriage was similar to the one Wen Wan had taken but sitting in there was not Wen Wan but another woman.
The woman did not appear as collected as Wen Wan. She was tied up, her clothes blotted with blood, blossoming like a flower. Her hair was a mess with a few strands falling off her shoulders. Her complexion was pale and her eyes were gripped with fear.
Employing his inner strength, Xiao Yin raised his voice for the tens of thousands of troops on the battlefield to hear. “Left Chancellor daren, I hear this woman here is your future bride. She was an invited guest of mine last night. I wonder if her life is important enough for Left Chancellor daren to open the gates of Yangguan for our troops.”
This made waves across the battlefield.
The Southern army had halted their offensive attack and Ji Feng Li had rode to the front of the army. Tong Shou was on his left while Nangong Jue was on his right with the rest of the commanders behind them.
He pulled on the reins of his horse and coldly looked at Xiao Yin. His dark hair trembled in the wind as his gaze flickered across the woman in the carriage. His eyes gleamed with anger yet he smiled and asked, “The grand Northern Emperor wishes to win in this way?”