General Chu was lost to his temper, so Long Feiye’s blatant provocation almost made him explode. Luckily, Chu Yunyi was by his side. He had once been set off by Long Feiye as well, but as an outsider to battle affairs, he was more clear-headed than General Chu right now. Before General Chu could unsheathe his sword, Chu Yunyi had already pressed his hand down and murmured, “Remember, Han Yunxi is Long Feiye’s weak spot. Targeting her is definitely the right choice!”
General Chu controlled his temper and calmed down after adjusting his emotions. He loudly shouted back, “Duke of Qin, how can you issue a challenge for a duel when our armies have yet to sortie? If you don’t know the rules of war, hurry up and withdraw. Don’t come here making a disgrace out of yourself!”
“The victor’s already decided, so what’s the need of a sortie? Your lordship wants to take your three prefectures within a single day!” Long Feiye retorted coldly.
“Haha!” General Chu laughed aloud. If it was Youyun and Yaoshui Prefectures, he could see how they would fall from a weakness in numbers. But Fenglin Prefecture was the main stronghold of his soldiers, which was 50,000 strong. The 3,000 strongest archers from the Nether Clan had formed their own unit. How could Long Feiye and a measly 5,000 men have the confidence to say such jokes?
“Setting 5,000 against my 50,000? Heheh, this old man understands. The Duke of Qin is challenging me to a duel because you’ve already accepted your loss,” General Chu guffawed.
Long Feiye stopped wasting words and raised his sword, preparing to deploy his troops.
“Hold it!” General Chu hastily interjected. No matter what, he had to buy time for Youyun and Yaoshui.
“Surrendering?” Long Feiye asked succinctly, but his one word was enough to infuriate General Chu all over again.
He suppressed his wrath and shouted back. “Fine, this general will agree to duel you. But only on one condition!”
“Speak!” Long Feiye demanded.
“Before the victor is decided, both Youyun and Yaoshui Prefectures have to stop the fighting!” Here was General Chu’s ultimate goal. Since both regions were next door to Fenglin, a single flying hawk message would be enough to halt the battles there.
Long Feiye’s lips curved up in a smirk. “General Chu, you intend to sacrifice both prefectures if you lose?” If he hadn’t come here with a plan, why would he waste words with General Chu at all? His request for a duel had a purpose: He meant to ensure that General Chu remained in Fenglin Prefecture. That way, his and Western Zhou’s armies would be able to take the other two territories within a day. But if General Chu abandoned Fenglin Prefecture and came to aid one of the besieged prefectures instead, the battle would drag on until they were forced to contend with Great General Ning’s additional forces! Ning Cheng would have received the news by now, and was probably rushing towards them at this instant.
General Chu generously agreed to Long Feiye’s terms. “Fine! If this soldier loses, Youyun and Yaoshui Prefecture are both yours! How’s that?”
Long Feiye smirked again. He and General Chu would determine a victor in less than two hours, which was enough time for Youyun and Yaoshui to pause the fighting. Why would he refuse a chance to claim three prefectures at once without the loss of a single soldier?
“It looks like General Chu has great confidence in your archery skills!” His rare good mood made him speak more than usual.
“In other words, Your Highness Duke of Qin agrees?” General Chu asked.
“Your lordship agrees,” Long Feiye replied magnanimously.
“Good. Then may Your Highness Duke of Qin first halt the battles at Youyun and Yaoshui,” General Chu said quickly.
Long Feiye released Han Yunxi and flew into the air before landing on the spacious ground between Fenglin Prefecture’s city gates and his 5,000 crack troops. His proud and lofty form stood with his black robes fluttering in the breeze. One hand rested behind his back while the other held a long sword. His voice was as cold as ice as he spoke, shocking both armies. “As soon as General Chu comes down to accept the duel, your lordship will send orders to stop the fighting in the north and south!”
General Chu paused and didn’t budge. With both armies facing off and a challenge to duel in the open, the nature of this battle had become their responsibility; but with Han Yunxi sharing the same horse as Long Feiye, General Chu could either pick either one of them to be his opponent. That had been his plan since he spotted Han Yunxi from the watchtower. It was also his motivation to accept the terms of the duel--- he could buy time by tricking Long Feiye into bringing their battles to a halt. But now Long Feiye had requested that he leave the safety of his watchtower. What could he do?
Although Long Feiye didn’t press him, General Chu couldn’t delay indefinitely. After all, war had already broken out in the north and south sides. They were embroiled in fighting at this very moment! As he hesitated, two soldiers arrived with battle reports that made his face blanch. Both north and south were in a sorry state, especially Youyun Prefecture. Emperor Kang Cheng had already diverted half of the troops meant for Northern Li to aid in this battle. At this rate, the city would fall before nighttime. General Chu knew that his best choice now was to forsake Fenglin Prefecture and hurry to help Youyun hold out until Great General Ning arrived. But Long Feiye had already reached his city gates. He himself had agreed to duel him, so now he’d trapped himself here. Those who ride a tiger find it difficult to dismount!
It was rare for Long Feiye to be patient enough to wait, and with such amusement too. General Chu had no choice but to proclaim, “Duke of Qin, since Qin Wangfei’s sitting in the commander-in-chief’s position, I’ll start off this duel by setting my female deputy-general to take on the challenge!”
He didn’t give Long Feiye a chance to retort, but ordered a female archer to jump off the watchtower and begin the duel. The archer in question had no bow, merely a full quiver of arrows on her back. She rushed in front of Long Feiye but kept a healthy distance. Unfortunately, he didn’t even spare her a glance. Looking up, he mocked, “Sending a woman out to fight? I see, so there’s no men left in your Chu Clan troops!”
Han Yunxi laughed from her horse. “If the Chu Clan’s really out of men, then this wangfei has no choice but to fight in Your Highness Duke of Qin’s place.”
Long Feiye might have infuriated him with his words, but here was Han Yunxi angering him to death! She’d really gone too far!
“You!” General Chu raged before gritting his teeth. “Long Feiye, since you don’t want to duel, this general won’t accompany you, either!” As he spoke, he prepared to hurry away. The female archer was only a pretense so he could reject the duel and leave. He’d long given up on staying here when Youyun Prefecture needed his help.
But how would Long Feiye let him off that lightly after waiting for him for so long? Instead of wasting words, he withdrew to his horse and brandished his sword. Immediately, his 5,000 soldiers split up into two sides, revealing two red coat cannons hidden within their ranks! Before the soldiers on the watchtower could shout out a warning, Long Feiye had already given the order to fire!
The two cannons caught the Chu troops unprepared as they blasted off a corner of the city walls. General Chu and Chu Yunyi were still descending the stairs when the shockwaves shook them to the core!
“This…” General Chu blanked out before he urgently issued orders and ran back upstairs. “Defend the cannon stations, quick! Quick!”
Cloud Realm Trade Consortium had given them four red coat cannons, adding to their strength like a tiger sprouting wings. Two of the cannons had been left at Fenglin Prefecture, while the second pair was split between Youyun and Yaoshui Prefectures. Who would have expected Long Feiye to have such rare weapons as well?!
General Chu spotted the cannons as he ascended the watchtower. He immediately ordered his own cannons to fire, but Long Feiye seemed ready to abandon his own cannons. He only left a few men to guard them while his split troops began to flank the city! The walls had already been damaged by the initial blasts. If the cavalrymen invaded, the consequences would be unthinkable. General Chu waved his hand to summon the archers, who soon sent a storm of arrows raining upon their foes.
As the cannons warred for dominance in the center, arrows poured down from the two sides. Although General Chu was highly dissatisfied, he would end up fighting here. Now there was no chance for him to divert troops north or south!
“Gather all archers in the city!”
“Release flaming arrows to the right! And on the left, use crossbow arrows! Quickly!”
“Someone, release the cannons! Blast theirs with ours!”
General Chu fell into the rhythm of warfare with ease. Since both sides wielded a pair of cannons, they were equally matched. Cannon blasts went off endlessly in the center, releasing huge clouds of smoke. But the most furious fighting came from the two sides of the city. Long Feiye’s cavalrymen weren’t easy to deal with, dodging arrows left and right as they pressed on towards the city. Many of them had already left their horses to fight their way forward mid-air. Alarmed, General Chu realized there were quite a few martial arts experts within Long Feiye’s army. More than he ever imagined!
Sensing this bad turn of events, he immediately ordered, “Someone, open the city gates and engage the enemy!”
Battle horses poured out of the gates at his command from both sides of the city, aiming for the invaders. Their efforts were able to prevent the opposing forces from scaling the walls any further. Chu Yunyi made a prompt decision and transferred the Nether Clan’s Driving Arrow Arts regiment to deal with the few who were still climbing. In the mess of arrows that followed, many of the invaders had no choice but to retreat. Finally, they regained some control over the chessboard. General Chu originally thought that the Chu troop’s superiority in numbers would be enough to control Long Feiye’s crack troops, but he had to expend half his forces just to keep them in check. Despite this, he still couldn’t control the flow of the battle, and the pace of it grew faster by the moment!
Using 5,000 soldiers to face off against a force at least 20,000 strong in direct combat was rather like throwing an egg against a rock. But Long Feiye had personally trained each and every one of his troops. They spent most of the year stationed near the Three-Way Battlefield and were frequent witnesses to sudden changes in war!
Of the men in his forces, each one could stand for the strength of three others, so their combined might far surpassed their original 5,000 count. General Chu’s experienced eyes quickly picked out their abnormalities.
“Curse it, there’s no way to fight a quick battle and force a decision!”
“What next, then? Are we supposed to just watch Youyun and Yaoshui Prefecture fall before our very eyes?” Chu Yunyi was irritated. Since they started fighting, they had to end this fast. A day or two’s delay would cost them both prefectures and result in an ultimate loss! If he hadn’t been blinded in one eye, he would’ve shot a few arrows and killed Long Feiye himself!
General Chu shot his own arrows while he considered different strategies. “Someone come, spread my orders. All forces set out! Destroy the Duke of Qin’s 5,000 troops and you’ll all be rewarded handsomely!”
Now 50,000 soldiers were set to face off against the threat. Would Long Feiye and Han Yunxi be able to defeat them?
Reuploaded with edits: 12/12/2020