Chapter 48: Mourning Soldiers Will Surely Prevail
On the mountain road, Gu Nan, armor and all, rode Blackie through the twisting paths, stopping at a junction in the road.
Nian Duan was sitting in front of Gu Nan and was somewhat red-faced as she half-clung to Blackie's neck.
Feeling that Gu Nan stopped the horse, Nian Duan looked back and made a displeased face, carefully jumping down.
“I'll send you off here.” Gu Nan adjusted Blackie's reins. “Farewell then. Don't walk around the mountains so much and you shouldn't be kidnapped anymore.”
“Do you think the entire world is filled with your ruffians?”
Gu Nan furrowed her brows. Yeah, the soldiers kidnapped her, but it's not like I was part of it…
But it was still their own fault so Gu Nan chose to leave it at that.
Nian Duan took two steps towards the path but turned around again. “Hey, I'm leaving here. Are you not going to say something?”
I was afraid of saying something, else I'd be stuck here all day listening…
Gu Nan scratched her nose and reluctantly jumped off the horse. Unbuckling the sword at her waist, she tossed it into Nian Duan's arms.
“Take this to defend yourself on the road.”
After that, she quickly took Blackie's reins and turned around.
In the past, she may have chatted with her thoughts, but now she's rather afraid, afraid to have this sort of friend.
Best to leave in a hurry.
Nian Duan held the long sword against her chest and snorted. “This can be counted as me being unable to treat you.”
Looking upwards, she asked herself. “It's another sword… Of the world's swordsman, are they all like this?”
As she neared the camp, she found Bai Qi standing in front of the gates.
Quietly walking forward, she bowed. “Master.”
She has changed a lot, this much he could see. This greeting as she walked up contained less disgruntled irritation and was a bit more composed and serene.
But it was this change that felt extremely heavy to him.
Bai Qi patted her shoulder. “Did you send the doctor away?”
These past few days since she woke up, he never visited, either because he was too busy or he was too scared at what he'd find.
“En.” Gu Nan nodded, and the two walked side by side into the camp.
‘Master, what all happened with the Zhao army these last couple days?”
Bai Qi opened his mouth and let out a chuckle. “I had pondered a lot, but I would not have expected your first sentence would be to ask about this. Are you still Nan'er? Ha.”
“Master likes to joke. I merely don't wish to keep fighting.”
“Don't wish to fight?” Bai Qi looked towards the horizon and laughed loudly. “Yes, even your master is already tired of fighting.
“The Zhao army's morale remained high the last few days. Although their numbers are less than mine, their tenacity resulted in a deadlocked state. But also, recently they've begun to waver and their collapse is near. In the face of greater strength, willpower is moot.”
Bai Qi kept walked as he spoke clearly. “But that Zhao general, he seems to hope to bring us down with him…”
“Master, this disciple's injury is more or less fully healed. I can go battle tomorrow.”
“Good.” Bai Qi's eyes flickered between emotions of delight and anguish.
“Then, tomorrow you will be permitted to fight.”
The field commander of the Qin army looked at the distant signal. Looking back to his sprawling force, he gave a loud roar.
“All troops, withdraw!”
As countless dark-shrouded soldiers received their orders, they heaved a single heavy breath. Slowly retreating, their eyes were gazing fiercely at the Zhao soldiers before them.
“clink, clink, clink.”
The cavalry hooves and the armored footsteps of the infantry strung together into a low rumble. The Qin army was like a tide, coming quickly only to retreat as fast as it came.
As Zhao Kuo's gaze hovered over the receding Qin army, his body swayed and nearly fell over, managing to stabilize himself by grasping a palisade post. His spear stabbed crookedly into the dirt beside him. His armor was a disintegrated version of its original appearance, dyed only in hues of red and black: bloodstains from sources unknown.
It was now the seventh day, and there was not the slightest hint of the three hundred thousand reinforcements. From the fifth day forward, the morale of the army flickered and fell into turmoil.
Gasping for a while, Zhao Kuo finally, with the help of his spear, hobbled back to the center camp.
The deputy general called out to Zhao Kuo.
Zhao Kuo looked up towards the surroundings. Quite a few commanders were coming towards him.
He smiled slightly. Here they come.
“General.” The deputy general gave Zhao Kuo a complicated look.
“Do you think the reinforcements are coming?”
He directly asked the most important question. To hold the line for seven days under the barrage of six hundred thousand troops, they became more distressed as the days drew.
Not a person here was a fool. If this battle was hopeless, they would consider surrendering. Even if it means presenting Zhao Kuo to the Qin for more favorable terms.
This was the conclusion that all the commanders reach after discussions last night. They must find Zhao Kuo today.
“…” Zhao Kuo kept silent for a while. After several long moments, he spoke with a heavy heart. “Will not.”
This time, he said the truth.
“From the start, there were never any reinforcements.”
The winds of the northern lands tugged on everyone's robes.
The deputy general moved forward three steps and delivered a punch.
With a sigh, Zhao Kuo didn't hide from the blow and was knocked down into the dirt.
“Four hundred thousand people!” The deputy general's voice was shaking through his grating teeth. “Zhao Kuo! You are really something!”
“You've chosen to die, yet you still ask the four hundred thousand others to die with you!”
“Cough.” Zhao Kuo's jaw felt broken and blood streamed from his mouth. But with all the blood on his face, it was impossible to tell.
The scene was eerily still with no one deciding to speak first.
That was until Zhao Kuo broke the silence. “Gentlemen…”
His voice was weak and trembling, as if squeezed out of his mouth.
“After Shangdang is Handan. It is our nation of Zhao.
“It is where my wife and children wait.
“If Shangdang is lost, the State of Zhao will perish.
“My wife and children will become slaves to the Qin people.
“My mother is in the capital, raising me for twenty years.
“What is filial piety if I don't stop this…”
Zhao Kuo's hand gripped the sand beneath him, a bit too forcefully perhaps, sending blood dripping down.
“I have never wished to die. I never wanted to part from my home and family.
“But Changping cannot fall like this.
“If it falls as it is, will the nation be peaceful? Will our homes be peaceful?
“If I kill enough enemies and hurt the Qin fighting spirit, although Shangdang is lost, I can protect my family.”
Zhao Kuo didn't look at the group behind him but spoke every word with much effort. “I, Zhao Kuo, am not an orator here to mislead you.
“I, Zhao Kuo, have deceived everyone, ordering the deaths of others with my hand. But now, I call to you all again, to fight the last battle with me. Are you willing?”
In the end, Zhao Kuo tone's took upon a slight pleading. As the top commander, this show of feebleness would be unacceptable.
No one spoke, and no one answered him.
He sighed deeply. This twenty-year-old felt like an old man wearied by time.
He climbed up from the ground, lonely in his effort.
He knew that after this battle, his name would be cursed upon by countless people, a shameful t.i.tle.
Standing behind him, the deputy general suddenly spoke up. “Reinforcements will come, to death I will not retreat.”
After he spoke, he left, clutching his sword.
“Reinforcements will come, to death I will not retreat.” All of the commanders gave a complex look as they repeated the same words, each departing one by one.
Their hands were shaking with faint tremors. Each one knew that there would be no reinforcements, but no one spoke a word of surrendering.
To follow their general and die in battle, it is their loyalty to their king and country.
Zhao Kuo finally turned his head and looked at the departing commander.
This was his second step. The army that mourns will be victorious, to break through the limits and stand anew.
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