Translated by Shiny
The army marched through the foggy wilderness.
The reconnaissance team was at the front.
The light cavalry squad consisting of 20 was divided into several sub-teams, and each of these teams were interspersed within several miles.
They were responsible for scouting out the terrain and the enemy’s situation, as well as finding a suitable location for their army to set camp.
There was an appropriate number of vanguard soldiers following not far behind the reconnaissance team.
They were in teams of hundreds and led by a centurion, traveling lightly for the purpose of reinforcing the reconnaissance team in case of any sudden situation.
The team of hundred men led by Yang Sheng was just such a team of vanguards.
“Brother Sheng, I feel a little panicked.” Due to the fog, their field of vision was not very wide and Yang Lu Hou felt somewhat anxious. “Will the enemy suddenly appear within this fog?”
“What are you panicking about? Only when there we have an enemy will we gain an opportunity, and commander Mo will look after us.” Yang Sheng licked his lips. His eyes were filled with spirit and the desire to see blood. “I am only afraid that the enemy wouldn’t dare to come.”
More than 10 li1 behind them, the majority of the large army continued to advance at a slow and steady pace.
Mo Qiao Sheng had led an army of 5000 people in Bianzhou.
Before they left, Helan Zhen had sent him an additional 1000 well-trained cavalrymen and another 1000 archers.
There were also another 3000 men who were in charge of transporting their provisions, adding up to an army totalling more than 10,000 men.
More than ten years ago, a scene of more than ten thousand people setting off to battle was no small-scale battle.
But now, in the wake of the fall of the royal capital, the land had been invaded by numerous tribes. The feudal princes from the Central Plains had set up independent regimes and there were endless wars.
The scale of war also began to gradually expand.
Such a delegation of ten thousand troops could only be considered as an exploratory dispatch sent by the Lord.
Currently, the Jin Army—including the main force and the soldiers transporting the supplies at the rear—was moving forward in an orderly manner.
There were several light cavalry soldiers running from front to back in order to transmit information.
There were a thousand soldiers in light armor on both sides of the army, responsible for protecting the flanks of the army and guarding against any surprise attacks from the enemy which might cause their own formation to be disrupted.
A’Yuan’s team of hundred men were amongst this division of soldiers
“Centurion Han.” A’Yuan, who was beside Han Shen, said, “We have more than ten thousand soldiers in our army, and I have heard that there are only a few thousand soldiers defending Qi County. Would it be possible for the battle tol already be finished by the vanguard before we even reach there?”
“Those slaves in the vanguard who haven’t seen the world think that they can actually attain the highest merit this time?” Han Shen snorted softly. “Qi County has strong enclosures, and sufficient food. Their army is not as good as ours, but their garrison is bound to be stubborn and not come out. Yang Sheng’s vanguard team wants to take the enemy heads ahead of everyone else? I’m afraid it won’t be that easy. As for who can contribute the greatest merit, it will still depend on your skills at the city wall.”
The army’s center of command was right beneath the banner of the Commander-In-Chief.
Mo Qiao Sheng was riding forward with Commander Li and Commander Liang.
“Although Qi County only has a troop of 3000 defending the city, they have strong fortifications and sufficient grain, and General Gan Yanshou has been defending the city for many years; he will definitely strengthen the defense, recruit the strong and young within the city and refuse to come out. Considering everything, their army may not necessarily be lacking compared to the main force of our army. There is a saying in the Art of War, ‘If our forces are ten to the enemy’s one, surround him; if five to one, attack him.’2 Now, the main force of our army consists of around 7000 men; I’m afraid that we will not be able to seize Qi County as easily as we thought.” The old and steady Commander Li spoke.
“No, we will not go directly to Qi County.” Mo Qiaosheng said.
“We’re not going to Qi County?” Commander Liang and Commander Li asked in surprise.
“The fact that our Army wants Qi County is known by everyone. Although Han Quanlin is too far away to be able to help, he has still sent a lot of supplies and provisions to Qi County. Not only will General Gan Yanshou have made full preparations, but the neighboring Yanjin, Weihui and Hua County must also be eyeing our army like a tiger watching its prey. If our army is unable to seize Qi County quickly, or we show even a bit of weakness, they might send out troops at any time, resulting in a situation where we will be attacked from both the front and the rear.”
“Then what are you thinking, General?”
“We will take Yanjin and cross the Yellow River and capture Weihu before going along the Wei River and taking down Hua County in the upper reaches of Qi County.” Mo Qiao Sheng’s lips curled up into a sneer.
The two commanders, Liang and Li, recollected that Hua County, which was located by the confluence of the Wei River and the Yellow River, was only 30 li away from Qi County.
Suddenly understanding what Mo Qiao Sheng wanted to do, they couldn’t help sucking in a cold breath.
This General Mo, a newly appointed official, was young and aggressive. They all thought that he would be impatient to render meritorious service and attack the city recklessly. Unexpectedly, he had the patience to capture the city using such a reliable method as this.
When the Jin Army reached Yanjin, the garrison general of Janjin abandoned the city and escaped.
Soon afterwards, the army then crossed the Yellow River and arrived in Weihui, commencing their first battle.
Yang Lu Hou and Deng Zhu were in the process of setting up camp, carrying several huge wooden pegs on their shoulders.
As part of the vanguard, one of their major tasks was to quickly set up camp before the main forces arrived, so that the soldiers who would be arriving later would be able to settle down.
Yang Lu Hou inserted a huge wooden peg into the soil and Deng Zhu swung a large wooden club and smashed it down.
They needed to build sturdy fences, dig trenches, set up antler fortifications and build tall watchtowers.
“Tsk, it’s a pity that Yanjin’s garrison general actually ran away before the battle. I really wanted to get another head as soon as possible.” Deng Zhu said while turning the wooden club, “That way, I’ll be able to free my mother from slavery.”
Yang Lu Hou did not share this sentiment. Whenever he was about to face the battlefield, he was both excited and a little afraid. “Anyway, we are just small soldiers and we should just follow the General’s commands. I am counting on the Commander to lead us to win a big victory. We have several brothers, and everyone should get a head, haha.”
The soldiers walked into the campsite, set up camp and buried some pots for cooking,3 waiting for the generals to lead them to either victory or death.
Inside the large army tent, Mo Qiao Sheng sat in the center with several Commanders and Centurions sitting around him.
Mo Qiao Sheng scrutinized everyone and asked, “We will be attacking the city tomorrow, who among you wants to take the lead in capturing the city?”
It was common knowledge that when capturing a city, the first team of soldiers to scale the walls had the most casualties.
However, according to the Jin Army’s new policy, as long as the first team of soldiers to scale the city walls managed to hold onto their positions, the Centurion who led the team would be promoted directly. It would no longer be necessary to meet the harsh conditions that the death toll of the whole team was proportional to the enemy heads they acquired.
Without a doubt, this was a great temptation for the Centurions who were finding it more and more difficult to rise in rank.
As long as their whole team managed to obtain 20 enemy heads, all the combatants in their team would be able to obtain a title of the first rank. Even if they were to die in battle, their family would be able to inherit their title and reward.
Yang Sheng and Han Shen stood up at the same time: “I am willing to do it.”
Mo Qiao Sheng gazed at the two of them for a short while before clapping his hands, ordering the soldiers to serve up three cups of hot wine.
He raised his cup toasted, “This surnamed Mo wishes the two of you a victory on raising the flag,4 and may you take the lead in winning the first battle for our Jin Army.”
The next day early in the morning, at the first glimmer of dawn, the garrison of Weihui was disturbed to find that there was smoke rising from all around the city walls, gradually filling the air and obscuring their vision.
They were startled, realizing that the Jin Army that had arrived just yesterday had launched an attack.
Liu An, the general in charge of the city defense, climbed on top of the city wall. Looking down at the dense horde of Jin Army soldiers besieging the city from all sides, he groaned inwardly.
He was really unable to abandon his shame and run away without putting up a fight like the garrison general of Yanjin.
But he also felt that it was impossible for him to use the 1000 or 2000 men in his hands to resist the overbearing Jin Army.
Hence, he had originally intended to avoid the battle and hold on for around ten days or half a month whilst waiting for reinforcements to arrive from Qi County and Hua County and attacking them from both the front and the rear.
And he would only abandon the city if the reinforcements were too slow to arrive; it could also be regarded as fulfilling his duty as an official.
Subsequently, he discovered that the enemy’s commander-in-chief, Mo Qiao Sheng, was an impatient individual. The army arrived yesterday and he mobilized his troops to besiege the city the next day.
Moreover, with the hazy smoke surrounding them on all sides, they couldn’t even see the main point of attack.
He heard the deafening sounds of battle coming from the west of the city and hurriedly said, “Quick, quick, the enemy is attacking from the west, send the troops to defend the west wall and prepare more boulders and logs, hurry!”
To the west of the city, the army of the Jin Nation stood in formation, pounding the drums accompanied by cries of war. They made several tentative attempts to charge, all of which were hindered by the rain of boulders and arrows hurtling down from the top of the city walls.
General Liu An supervised the battle personally and assigned a large number of soldiers to defend the city wall.
At that moment, outside the southern gates of the city, Yang Sheng and Han Shen’s two teams of 100 men raised their shields and stealthily approached the city gates under the cover of the smoke.
Ahead of them, there was a group of men pushing ladders, siege chariots and battering rams.5
The soldiers in the south of the city suddenly saw several strange, square-shaped carriages covered in cowhide appear from within the thick smoke.
They quickly fired their arrows, but the thick and sturdy cowhide shielded the soldiers inside as they went straight towards the trench. Under the rain of arrows, a group of soldiers poured out of the chariots and used several large planks to build a makeshift bridge over the trench at lightning speed.
The ladders—followed by the battering ram—crossed over the trench and drew closer to the city wall.
The soldiers on top of the wall threw down logs and heavy boulders and poured kerosene on the ladders before setting them on fire.
Nevertheless, in the end, two long, curved ladders, like scimitars,6 rose up and latched onto the city wall.
Two teams of hundred men charged through the thick smoke with their shields held up and climbed up the ladders with no regard for their own safety.
The boulders and logs dropped down from the top of the city wall like torrential rain. In the midst of the surging black smoke, the soldiers went up against each other with red eyes;7 one side struggled desperately to prevent the foe from climbing up the wall, while the other side gritted their teeth and tried to climb upwards just as vehemently.
Yang Sheng guarded beneath the ladder, watching as his younger brothers were intercepted before they could make it halfway upwards, either getting their heads smashed open by the falling boulders, or getting shot full of holes from the rain of arrows, causing them to fall off the ladder.
At last, with great difficulty, Deng Zhu avoided the arrows and boulders and managed to climb over the city wall.
After cutting off the head of an enemy soldier with his blade, he was just about to call out to the brothers behind him to keep up when suddenly, an enemy’s iron spear pierced through his chest.
Deng Zhu was stupefied; clutching the head of the enemy he had just decapitated, his body quivered and he fell off the wall.
“Zhuzi!” The corners of Yang Sheng’s eyes were cracked with anger and anxiety8 as he and Yang Lu Hou dashed forward to support their bloodied brother and scurried over to take shelter behind the siege chariot.
“Brother Zhuzhi, hold on, please hold on.” Yang Lu Hou wept bitterly. In his heart, he was clear that this brother who waited for him and helped him go back to the barracks everyday would not make it.
“Sheng, Brother Sheng.” Deng Zhu lifted up the severed head in his hand tremblingly and held it up to Yang Sheng’s waist. “My, my mother…”
Yang Sheng closed his eyes and tied the head around his waist with its hair.
“Rest at ease, from now onwards, I will have another mother. As long as one of us brothers are alive, someone will take care of your mother until the day she dies.9
He lay down his younger brother who had yet to stop breathing and looked up at the city wall surrounded by smoke, his eyes glowing with malevolent spirit.
On top of the city wall, an archer shot an arrow and was just about to pick up another arrow.
Suddenly, an enemy soldier’s head appeared above the ladder. There was a hideous scar going across more than half of his face from his mouth to his ear, with a chunk of his ear missing. The man’s eyes were bright red and he was like a demon as he jumped on top of the wall.
He held a knife in his mouth and he had a bloody head pinned to his waist. He propped up his body with one hand and a gleam of cold light flashed through the air in the wake of his other hand.
The archer only felt a chill on his neck before he immediately lost his consciousness.
Yang Lu Hou followed close behind him, holding up his shield to protect Yang Sheng from the rain of arrows.
“Fucking kill them, Brother Sheng, slaughter them!” He hissed while shaking.
As Yang Sheng gained a firm foothold, one after another, the soldiers of the Jin Nation rushed up the city wall. They stood close to each other and shielded one another, blocking the enemy’s attack for a short time as they defended the ladder.
More and more of the figures of the Jin Nation’s soldiers appeared on top of the city wall as the battering ram approached the city gate and the enormous wooden stake began to ram into the gate.
In the distance, the soldiers inside the city and on top of the other three walls finally realized that the southern wall was the real point of attack and rushed towards the south one after another.
“You keep defending, I’ll open the city gate.” Yang Sheng said as he hacked down two enemy soldiers and jumped down the stairs from the inner side of the wall.
“Brother Sheng, Brother Sheng!” His younger brothers cried out loudly as they watched him single-handedly kill his way down the wall.
Yang Sheng cut down countless soldiers who were defending and working on reinforcing the southern gates from the inside.
However, the enemy troops overpowered him in numbers and he was soon caught within a tight encirclement
Under the external impact, the city gate became more and more loose.
Finally, with a loud bang, the city gates fell open and the army of the Jin Nation swarmed in, charging through the gates.
Yang Sheng was soaked in blood from head to toe and there were several arrows embedded in his flesh. At the moment when he felt too powerless to continue, a silver spear drove away the enemy before him.
Mo Qiao Sheng raised his spear swiftly and stood in front of him.
“Leave it to me from here, you step back.”
The sound of fighting finally subsided from the battlefield and wisps of smoke wafted up around the dilapidated city wall.
Above and below the city wall, the blood of the enemy was mixed with the blood of their comrades, with corpses strewn all over the place.
On the open space in front of the city gate, there were neat piles of severed heads which had been chopped off by all the teams. Blood flowed down the small mountains of heads, forging the achievements of the soldiers.
A’Yuan’s teammates were still standing on top of the city wall. After the first battle, there were less than 30 people remaining of their team of 100.
The Centurion, Han Shen, sat against the city wall with several sharp arrows sticking out of his chest; he would not be able to live for long.
“Don’t, don’t put on such a mournful expression.” Han Shen spat out the blood in his mouth and spoke to A’Yuan. “You… didn’t you want to be an Officer? Make money for your wife and son… and earn a house and fields. Now, you are an Officer.”
“I should learn from you, and send my woman some printed cloth. I… all I ever did was beat her.” He stopped speaking.
A’Yuan stretched out his hand and closed his eyes. He took down the head tied around his waist and silently led his remaining companions down the city wall amid the bloody glow of the setting sun.
1. (里 – lǐ) ancient measure of length, approx. 500 m↩
2. Sun Tzu’s Art of War, Chapter 3, No.8↩
3. A method of cooking during an army march, where they would dig a hole in the ground and light a fire at the bottom before placing pots inside to cook.↩
4. (旗开得胜 – qí kāi dé shèng) An idiom which is a metaphor for achieving good results from the very beginning; to gain speedy success.↩
5. The siege weapons: (云梯 – yún tī) leaders used to scale up city walls during war. (轒辒车 – fén wēn chē) siege chariots which are similar in shape to caravans and reinforced with wooden planks and covered in cowhide; they’re used to transport soldiers to the bottom of the city walls and cover them as they dig holes under the walls, protecting them from arrows and boulders. (撞车 – zhuàng chē) the battering ram is pretty straightforward, a giant wooden stake is affixed to a vehicle and pushed by soldiers to batter against the gates. I’ll attach some pictures of these below.↩
6. (弯刀 – wān dāo) scimitar/tulwar; basically it’s a curved sword.↩
7. (杀红了眼) Raws basically say fighting/killing with red eyes. (very rough literal tl) This is basically just saying that they’re fighting really hard until they enter a state of mental numbness and just fight mechanically with only killing on their minds. A desperate struggle.↩
8. (目眦尽裂 – mù zì jìn liè) the outer/inner corner of the eye completely cracked, used to describe extreme anger. I also saw it could be used for anxiety as well, which fits the current situation more I think.↩
9. (养老送终 – yǎng lǎo sòng zhōng) to look after one’s aged parents and give them a proper burial after they die.↩
TL Note: Gahh this chapter was so difficult. T_T Also made me really emotional, I wonder whether I managed to convey it properly.