CHAPTER THIRTY-FOUR (FINAL)
The Sin Of War
Day twenty three.
The late arriving spring infects the treetops, the streets and alleys of Du Cheng surrounded in light green, the spring breeze rises all around, bringing a ray of cosy warmth into the city walls.
The Nu Army surrounds Du Cheng in form of a fan, due to adopting the tactic of quickly defeat the enemy, an unexpected strategy with the element of surprise, they did not bring any heavy invasion weaponry nor food supplies, originally thinking they will very quickly capture Du Cheng, but reality proves the error in their perceptions and understanding. This city, once famous for being the capital of trade, in face of the invasion from cavalry troops totalling up to nearly a hundred and fifty thousand, actually managed to firmly hold their ground for a full twenty three days.
“We have already performed to the best of our duty.” The sky yet to light up, Military Advisor with a face somewhat pale, enters the military discussion area, saying this to the full house of Du Cheng generals.
The reaction from the generals all varied, Han Ze Ming only nods his head slightly, the slick and sly Defence Officer Jiang lets out a heavy sigh. The one known for his courage, Zhao Xin rounds his big eyes, an indignant demeanour, looking around at everyone’s reactions, in the end, he does not say anything. When Military Advisor sweeps his eyes across everyone, not leaving a single person out, the moment he once again see Gui Wan, he finds that the her that is deep into thoughts, has curved her lips into a gracefully beautiful arc, faintly letting a smile bloom.
This is a very pure smile.
Waiting for everyone to leave, Military Advisor strokes his chin with a hand, warmly saying: “It has been tough on you these past days.”
“The ones who had it tough, are the soldiers guarding the city.”
Having never experienced the struggles of war, one would not know the brutality of it.
The soldiers’ blood, the commoners’ tears.
When they first started defending the city, she ordered the capture of four hundred Nu people, tying them up above the city tower, day and night hearing their weeping mixed with sorrowful singing, amongst them were old women with grey hair, also children who were too young to understand the way of life, just because of a war between two nations, they were treated as shields, standing in front of divisions of tigers and wolves. To this very day, those wave after wave of heart pricking singing seems to still be echoing in the ears.
“This is the sin of war, unable to be avoided!” Seeming to see the complications deep down in Gui Wan’s heart, Military Advisor guides her out of those thoughts in an orderly and patient manner.
Raising her head like a cicada, looking at Military Advisor standing before the window, the new shoots a tranquil green, horizontal branches by the side, spring proudly filling the air, only that figure in front of the window, is bone thin, both sides of his head white like snow, those eyes once defined by her as old and cunning now appears greatly vast and deep. Defending the city for around twenty days, he has actually spent each day like a year, an elderly state now complete.
Gui Wan vaguely remembers, the first time seeing him, the feather fan gently swaying, happily chatting about the interesting gossips within the Capital, and it is also this feather fan, that guided her to make decisions in defending the city, arranging armaments and food supplies.
On the third day Du Cheng was sieged, Ye Li had already intended not to care for the life and death of the Nu people, storming into Du Cheng, driving her into a cave, unable to advance nor retreat, not knowing whether to kill those four hundred Nu people, to serve as a warning to others. It was Military Advisor who warned her, killing the Nu people, will provoke anger in the Nu Army, it is better to let them go at the beginning of the siege.
Reality indeed went as Military Advisor expected, the Nu soldiers’ morale indeed fell down a lot. The Nu soldiers’ fighting spirit aroused by the first drum roll, depletes by the second, exhausted by the third. Only then, did Du Cheng struggled to hold on for over twenty days.
“Once daybreaks, the Nu Army shall be storming in.”
Her mediated thoughts interrupted, Gui Wan looks out the window, brows slightly creased: “The Nu Army’s insect attack pattern has lessened, is it in preparation of the invasion?”
“Nu King has lost his patience, will certainly exhaust all efforts in this one attack.” Military Advisor turns to look out the window, the dazzling white lighting masking his body, like a sculpture.
Can Du Cheng still stand firm?
Heart already knowing the answer, yet still unable to refrain from wanting to ask this. Lightly stroking her forehead, Gui Wan, reveals a trace of a wry smile, the words at the tip of her tongue once again swallowed back down.
“Unable to withhold for a month, will you have regrets?” Military Advisor does not even turns his head, quietly asking this.
“Will.” Stunned for a moment, Gui Wan truthfully answers.
Military Advisor slowly turns back around, that pale and exhausted face spreads a calm smile, smile lines like chrysanthemum, making Gui Wan get this feeling for the first time, that this wise old man is showing the loving care of one’s elder.
“A knot in the heart, thus produces regret, only a life with regrets, will not be incomplete.”
Rays of light entering through the windows gradually brightens, Gui Wan squints her eyes, leaving only a hint of white brilliance from the bottom of her eyes, within a trance, willow catkins scatters before her eyes, like dots of snow descending, drifting onto her cheek, a trace of coolness, just like returning to the day of parting in the Capital.
Like snowflakes, like plum blossoms, the lingering of clear yet distant, leisurely light fragrance.
That pair of hands she had once tightly clutched onto, ice cold inside out, yet she feels that it is the only warmth left in the world.
Her regrets, her concerns, slips away from her fingers in the boundless snow scene, forever frozen on that day.
A monstrous rumbling roar “honglong––” sounds from the skies.
A slight shock, Gui Wan abruptly opens her eyes, speechlessly looking towards the window where Military Advisor still stands straight, eyes fixedly staring into the distance, brushing away signs of fatigue from before, those eyes of ink sea blooms into a brilliant shine, a vigorous yet calm voice saying, “It’s daybreak.”
“It’s almost daybreak!” Looking at the moment a burst of light appears amongst the dark grey sky, turning his head, Ke Zhan’s voice is neither high nor low, perfectly loud enough for Ye Li who is in front of him to hear.
“Is everything ready?”
“Yes, Sire,” Ke Zhan lightly bows his body, “Left, right wings of the whole army have assembled, once daybreaks, we can storm in.”
Turning his eyes towards the southern area, Ye Li does not turn his body, looking up at the boundless scene of darkness of the skies, seeming to still be able to faintly see the light of the stars, weakly about to completely diminish, and Du Cheng stands amongst this dull scene, the mottle grey on the city walls cannot bear to hold on, scattered and lonely.
It is this isolated city, that has become his stepping stone to gain the southern regions, over these past twenty plus days, again and again he has been stopped outside the city, in this vast road of wilderness, his cavalry troops are invincible, why is it in front this rundown city wall, that they are actually being held back from further advancing?
Burst of irritations rising in his heart, he forcefully grabs the long handled weapon from his waist side, an ice cold feeling spreads from the palm of his hand, penetrating the heart, his mind suddenly rendered calm like water, a hint of cold sharpness flashes past his eyes, body tensing.
The Nu Army are heroic eagles, they will definitely be able to spread their wings into the vast skies.
Can certainly not be stalled here, Du Cheng ah Du Cheng, this shield that leads into the southern region, the Nu will definitely breakthrough.
A sound of a loud cry suddenly reaches the ears, unable to tell whether it is of joy or wail.
Ye Li raises his head, in the distance, a glowing red sun slowly rises high, the red glow spreading, each trace like cotton, each wisp like dust, the colour of the sky breaks into two, half bright red, half ink black.
The time has come!
Abruptly turning around, Ye Li turns towards the camp, the army arranged into neat rows, the soldiers’ eyes bright like stars, the golden blade of the long handled sword produces gleaming glory under the shining red light.
“For our great Nu’s supreme honour, capture Du Cheng!” With one wave from the distant, Ye Li points towards the city in front, a face of solemn silence.
The entire army rendered pin drop silent, even the breathing of the soldiers formed a low rumble.
“Capture the city!”
The drums of war sounds like the quaking of heavens.
Once the attack to storm the city hits, Gui Wan follows Military Advisor in arriving at the city tower, standing at the southern corner of the city, they watch over the battle situation from high up.
Brutal and tragic, these two words are simply insufficient to describe the situation before their eyes.
The Nu Army who has come prepared is even more ferocious than ever before. The ladders leaning on the city walls, troops rushing forth to knock down the walls, hands and feet crawling up. Their expressions grim, with no fear of death, this type of attitude of putting their lives on the line, gives an astounding support to their invading attacks.
Under the commands of Military Advisor, the soldiers above the city wall releases the long arrows together, densely with no open space, they shoot towards the soldiers trying to climb the walls, the long arrows pierces through the air wave after wave, countless screams sounds from the below the walls, the soldiers leading the climbs directly falls down, the soldiers following behind courageously continues to advance, with not even the time to look at their fallen comrade.
A soldier managed to escape the heavy danger, climbing to the top of the wall, a city defending soldier of Du Cheng pounces forward, long handled swords from both sides stabbing into one another, and together they fall down into the city.
Fresh blood dripping and spraying, limbs seen everywhere. In the laws of war, no one can possibly see the insignificance in any one person, all that can be seen is how powerful one side is, how weak one side is. And the weaker party is doomed to die. Perhaps every soldier present are all deeply aware of this one point, that is why their eyes turn red in bloodlust, the wielding of blade, can only lead to the brutality of striking towards the enemy.
Gui Wan stands above the damaged and crumbling city tower, clearly seeing the borderlines of the Qi Ling – Nu Tribe nations, such that is this deserted, this vast. And right now, on this land filled with soldiers, these strong soldiers are divided into groups, they are wielding weapons, charging towards Du Cheng with the desire to kill.
The attacks coming successively without stop, having just stopped one wave, another wave will immediately come after, not knowing of exhaustion, with no fear.
The number of bows and arrows are no longer enough, Military Advisor immediately changes tactics, intending to proceed to have a direct collision with soldiers down at the city gates, the ones pushing back the Nu Army are also to take on a round of offensive attacks. This approach has never been used before in the past twenty plus days, and right now they have already reached a moment of life and death, Military Advisor appears to have decided to take the risk of desperately fighting back. In order to not bring any adverse impacts to the people within the city, the soldiers leaving the city is a kind of sacrifice, regardless of victory or defeat, they are not able to return to the city, fighting to the last soldier, last general standing.
Taking advantage of the little space left to spare from the Nu Army’s advances, Military Advisor puts forward this suggestion, the city tower falls into silence like stagnant water, the three great generals solemnly stands above the tower, looking into the distance, their eyes filled with determination, having heard Military Advisor’s words, they share looks amongst one another, their eyes communicating emotions unknown to others.
Zhao Xin strides out, one knee on the ground, resonantly saying: “This general pleads to take the front line.”
“No!” A loud cry, is actually from the one who would always reprimand his impulsiveness, Han Ze Ming, “You are the only bloodline left of your family, nor are you married or have children, you cannot go.”
His roar loud and clear, the soldiers on the city wall could all hear it, Gui Wan is stunned, Military Advisor also presses his lips together without a word.
“It is because old man I have no wife no descendants, which means old man I should be the one going out, one life making up the entire family. Should I be letting you go instead then? Your wife back home had only just given birth to a fair and chubby son for you the past year, could it be you want to leave her to be widowed mother? Also old Jiang, your elderly mother is frail and sick, should you go, how is she to live? That’s why I am saying, it is better for old man I to go, there is only me alone back home!” Zhao Xin’s loud voice does not fall short from Han Ze Ming’s, every word and sentence retorting back, and even revealing a prideful smile, as though he has thoroughly gained the upper hand.
Nose hit with a sour feeling, Gui Wan suppresses the impulse to let tears fall, squeezing out a smile: “This important duty shall be handed to General Zhao then.”
Zhao Xin immediately jumps up, mouth forming a huge childlike smile, glancing towards Han, Jiang, his eyes seeming to be telling these two people, see, old man I has won right? Turning his head, he once again loudly shouts: “Great men, who is willing to accompany this old man to kill the Nu dogs?”
His loud roar richly dignified, spreading to every little corner of the tower, spreading into each and every soldier’s ears. Every soldier raises their heads, looking up to the city tower. First one hand, then two, three, like the sparks of twinkling stars, setting the prairie ablaze, countless hands raised high, from the eyes of all the soldiers, there reveals the glow of courage. Amongst them are old soldiers in their forties, are youngsters yet to reach their twenties, all scrambling to raise their hands first, hating to be last, in fear of the city falling.
“General, take me along, I am also a single life making up the entire family.”
“I want to go, my sword skills are the best, has once killed nine Nu soldiers……”
Once these cries floods the city tower, overflowing inside, not only Gui Wan, but Military Advisor and the generals were all stunned. These soldiers in such unkempt conditions, due to illnesses, injuries, death, these soldiers when compared to the Nu Army’s mighty strength, can barely be regarded as qualified soldiers. Many soldiers wounded, only able to roughly bandage their injuries, also some soldiers with wounded left hands, right hands holding a sword, right hands wounded, left hands grasping hold of a dagger-axe. All these faces covered in bruises, making all who sees them, not one that is not deeply touched.
In face of such a situation, Gui Wan could only sneakily turn her face away, wiping away those tears at risk of falling, before turning back around, responding with a brilliantly bright smile: “Brave men have no fear, you are all heroes of Qi Ling!”
Heroes, in previous ruling periods, had always have countless people using their brushes to depict the meaning behind this word in later generations, they are perhaps those who blaze the road leading to a new era, or are perhaps warriors who rescued the people in times of danger of distress, or are perhaps officials leading institutional reformations.
But right now, heroes, is but one word used to describe these soldiers holding their hands up high. Every drop of blood they shed, eventually gathers to form a long stream, flowing outside the gates of Du Cheng, a continuous flow that will cover this vast land.
The drums of wars once again sounds, the Nu Army shall very soon be attacking the city again.
Zhao Xin leads ten thousand defending soldiers, leaving from the city gates, outside the gates of Du Cheng, they and the Nu Army directly face one another in head to head conflict for the first time.
To describe this battle, only the words “moving” and “tragic” can be used, and these words alone are originally not enough to make up for even a millionth of real war situations.
The Nu Army puts forth their full effort in launching their attack, Zhao Xin leads the troops into collision, the war horns deeply sonorous, cavalry units in full armour. Amongst the countless roaring of soldiers and horses, this war between two unequal forces begins.
The Nu Army’s ferociousness is a rarity even within the history of war, they pounce forward like wolves like tigers, slashing as soon as they spot an enemy, the densely populated units like the flow of a black river, within a short moment of efforts, they had already stretched across the entire space before the city gates of Du Cheng. And the ten thousand soldiers lead by Zhao Xin, cannot be described as imposing, they are crazy, they are the heroic lions that have been released from their cages, their breathing heavy, wielding long handled swords in hand, upon seeing the black colour, all heads forth in tearing and killing, such desire of jade and stone burns together, causing the Nu Army to be stunned on the spot.
The defending soldiers of Du Cheng charges into the Nu Army’s ranks like a cutting blade, although there is a great difference in number, but they slice east, slice west, making the Nu Army suffer heavy losses every time, flowing blood forming rivers.
Once the comrades in front has died, they would trample on their corpses in advancing, even if their bodies are wounded by the blades, they still need to pounce forth, pulling the enemy down to hell with them. With such killing method of madness, the entire surrounding is thickly shrouded with the stench of blood, ears filled with tragic screams and furious roars. The surging momentum behind the Nu Army’s attacks, time and time again, are shattered by the defending soldiers of Du Cheng, corpses bit by bit increasing, gradually piling up in front of the city gates of Du Cheng.
“Sire, this, what exactly is going on?” Ke Zhan who is situated in the rear ranks of the Nu Army rounds his eyes, looking ahead with an expression of being greatly taken aback, anxiously asking this.
It is said that the Qi Ling Army is known for being disciplined, and not for courage, seeing the Qi Ling soldiers today, how could they be this terrifying? No, perhaps they cannot be called soldiers, simply wild beasts.
Ye Li’s face also darkens, greatly solemn as he watches the mountain of corpses and sea of blood before his eyes, in the end, he sternly answers: “This is a strong nation!”
Riding his horse up front, charging into the middle of the ranks, Ye Li arranges the army ranks all over again, adding up the advantage of their greater number, they take on the tactic of encircling, countering void with solidity, countering solidity with void, consuming the strength of Du Cheng’s defending soldiers, bit by bit exterminating them.
This strategy is obviously very effective, once the ten thousand Du Cheng soldiers fought with their all for two hours, their numbers were continuously dwindling. They still remain courageous, charging forth to kill the enemy without hesitance, not at all caring for how many people they have left. Because all their hearts and minds believes, behind them, are their homes, inside are their elderly mothers, tender wives, lively children. They need only to take one step back, and their homes will no longer be homes, their country will no long be a country.
Can only advance, cannot retreat, fighting to the very last man!
Once Ye Li sees the swallow jaw and tiger bearded general charging over, eyes red with bloodlust as he drives into the Nu Army’s ranks, body hit with four or five arrows, but still continues to fearlessly charge forth, his target seeming to be Ye Li himself, as though his heart had been harshly crashed into, the general wants to open his mouth to shout out, but does not know what to say. The guards by Ye Li’s side all shoots out their arrows, in a blink of an eye, that Du Cheng’s general becomes a wasp nest, until the moment his body falls straight to the ground, that pair of blood red eyes remaining fiercely rounded.
“Find out his name, bury him!” Ye Li concisely commands. Ke Zhan hurriedly orders people to step forth to carry the general’s corpse away, towards Ye Li’s command, not one Nu soldier held any doubts, the Nu Tribe looks up to heroes.
A hero, even when dead, should still have the right to have a name.
“That idiot!” Han Ze Ming who stands above the city wall, upon seeing the moment Zhao Xin rides into the Nu Army ranks alone, lets out a sound of lament like that of weeping.
A military flag waving in her hands, Gui Wan turns her head to the side, clearly seeing a crystal liquid fall from the corner of Han Ze Ming’s eyes, her heart bursting into feelings of sorrow. Turning her head back to observe the battle, ten thousand soldiers, gave their all and died on the battlefield. Below the city walls, heavy piles of corpses has accumulated, a mass amount of bloodstain spreading out, as though a tree peony of brilliant red is blooming open from the earth.
“Du Cheng cannot hold on!” Military Advisor calmly says this.
The city defending soldiers within the walls only adds up to no more than ten thousands, and the Nu Army although suffering heavy losses from the surprise attack just now, their number is still eight times the amount of Du Cheng’s. The fall of Du Cheng is perhaps only a matter of time.
“Not good!” Defence Officer Jiang hoarsely cries out, “Nu King has gone mad, he is not taking a rest to reorganise the ranks, intending to launch an attack just like that.”
Upon hearing this, every single person looks to the front. The Nu Army which originally should be taking a rest, neatly lines back up in their ranks. Perhaps being stimulated by the sudden assault just now, Nu King clearly does not intend on giving Du Cheng any more time to catch their breaths.
Even Military Advisor found it strange, stood stunned above the city tower. No one would have expected, that having experience such huge losses, Nu Army would actually not take a break for reorganisation, within a moment, they too did not know how to react.
The between of her brows deeply creased, Gui Wan steps out, raising the military flag in hand high up, lightly waving it, the soldiers below the walls upon seeing the signal, immediately arranges themselves into units, distributing themselves within the city walls, each performing their duties, ready for battle.
Han Ze Ming was startled by her move, quickly glancing in front, he tightly grits his teeth, loudly roaring out: “Great men, guard the city!”
A burst of response sounds from below the walls, every shout quaking the heavens.
Military Advisor comes up behind Gui Wan, quietly guiding her on what commands to make. Up until the inner city is fully prepared to face the enemy, he doubtfully asks: “To this very moment, you still believe Du Cheng can be saved?”
“Don’t know,” Lifting her head, looking up to the skies, amongst the blissfully floating clouds, she is unable to see through anything, “People, should always have hope, if not, how are you to face the numerous changes in a moment?”
Pondering in silence as he listens to Gui Wan’s words, Military Advisor’s expression shows inner complications, his heart seeming to have hundreds of feelings gathered inside, after a long while, he calmly speaks up, “You’ve raised wrong, should primarily be focused on defending the northern walls, the foundation there is weak.”
At this moment, the Nu Army is already like black water flowing to bottom of the city gates, this is clearly an effort to launch an attack before breaking into the city, the large scale troops as though not a single person making their voice heard, only the sound of between the clashing of swords, battling for an entire day, the Nu soldiers with bodies covered in blood, their blades long lost their clean brightness, and is instead coated in layers and layers of dark red, they remain calm and collected, slowly approaching the city gates of Du Cheng, trampling all over the piles of corpses on the ground, amongst these bodies, the greater half of them are of those who were once their comrades.
Time seems to have stopped, seeming to become increasingly lengthy, all eyes casted below the city walls, Du Cheng’s defending soldiers unconsciously grips tightly onto the long handled swords in hand, gritting their teeth, eyes set dead on ahead.
In this moment, she is feeling greatly at unease, just that, she stands above the tall walls, unable to show the slightest trace of withdrawal, she must be firmer than anyone else, stabilising the army’s morale, this is what she should be doing. But to personally face such ferocious military units like wolves like tigers, lunging forward, she trembles……
The shadows of death falling upon them.
“Listen, what is this sound?” A soldier stood above the city wall loudly shouts out. This would originally not attract anyone’s attention, but that rumbling sound like thunder becomes more and more clear, up until no one was able to possibly ignore it.
“This is the sound of advancing military units,” Military Advisor’s face turns ashen, staring ahead unable to calm himself, what he is worried about, is the Nu Army sent for reinforcements. And the other generals were also worried about this, thus not uttering a single sound, the slightest trace of hope that surged up just now, becomes like a flickering candle flame amongst the sound of these horse hooves.
A mass amount of human figures emerges from the horizon, gradually moving, gradually approaching, like a line separating heaven and earth, a clear blue colour slowly emerges, just like a puff of white cloud diffusing from the land, also like clear waves flowing down from the heavens. This moment comes so suddenly, that the city walls were rendered silent, before bursting into heaven quaking cheers.
“Colour of sky blue, that is the Qi Ling Army ah!”
Every city defending soldiers is cheering, overjoyed like mad, practically forgetting the battle before their eyes. Every sound of loud cries swallows up the waves of war drums, echoing into the skies of Du Cheng in such heaven quaking, ground breaking manner.
Hundreds and hundreds of feelings, of emotions, bit by bit surging up from the bottom of her heart, Gui Wan turns her head, seeing Military Advisor excitedly grabbing onto the city walls, that expression of joy, of surprise.
Face sensing hot trails trickling down her cheeks, Gui Wan chokes back her tears, even she herself is unable to tell whether it is weeping or great joy, the moment she raises her head, bits and bits of cold touches lands onto her face, she blankly looks towards the skies, the snow like goose feathers, like flying catkins covering the entire sky, gently descending, the heavens and earth rendered a lustrous white.
“It’s spring snow! The start of the new year, representing spring is coming!” Not knowing who explained this by her ear side.
With tears blurring her visions, she continues to look around, the snowflakes like lustrous jade drifts onto the earth, looking into the distance, she actually sees that amongst the sky blue flags, there is one that seems to be waving the character “Lou” (楼)……
Is this a dream? Or is it an illusion? Wiping the tears from her eyes, she finally sees that colour like clear water, that flag proudly waving in the air.
“He has come! It is he who has come!”
“Sire……” Unable to control his panic, Ke Zhan raises the rein to turn the horse around, facing Ye Li’s eyes like a frosted blade, “Qi Ling’s reinforcements have arrived, let us retreat whilst we have time.”
“Storm in!” Not giving the slightest of care towards Ke Zhan’s suggestion, Ye Li raises his weapon up high, pointing it forward. Above the mottled city walls, the defending soldiers who had originally already grown exhausted, because of seeing hope, suddenly shows great vigour. As for the Nu Army, their originally ferocious stance, because of seeing Du Cheng’s reinforcements, sees a significant drop in morale, state of anxiety and confusion emerging. Seeing the current situation, Ye Li suddenly senses a burst of rage, for over twenty days, he was met with the discouragement of unsuccessful capturing of the city, and all of sudden, everything pours into his heart, stuck in his chest, he looks at the Nu soldiers exposing their fatigue, looks at the blood flowing across the land outside Du Cheng, looks at Ke Zhan’s pair of concerned eyes, everything that enters his vision, ignites a fire within his heart, the more it burns, the brighter it grows……
His hundred thousand of heroic soldiers and armoured cavalry, had actually been stopped outside those city walls.
“Sire, look at the military flag, that is Bai Wei of Zhang Zhou, he is an old general, highly experienced in the art of war……let us retreat first, return to the Nu Capital to reassemble our troops, then come back again.” Ke Zhan’s eyes turns red, blocking Ye Li from the front. Their young and wise Nu King, with deeply creased brows right now, sparkling eagle eyes glowing with a sharp chill, actually even more colder than that of the northern wind scraping past the face.
Ye Li glares at Ke Zhan who holds unwavering loyalty, listening to his remonstration, before him a fog-like blur separates them, looking past Ke Zhan to see that upfront actually holds such a clear scene, those defending soldiers of Du Cheng carrying determination within their sorry state, their figures seeming to merge into one with the city walls of Du Cheng, firmly standing in front.
Legs clamped onto the horse’s body, he charges forward, Ke Zhan was unable to stop him even if he tries, only able to follow behind him. Ye Li comes all the way up to the front of the ranks. The Nu Army upon seeing their leading commander, sees another rise in morale. The Nu soldiers surrounding Du Cheng at the front, automatically makes a path, allowing Ye Li to pass through.
Arriving below the city walls without being stopped, Ye Li takes everything into eyes clearly. The defending soldiers of Du Cheng are already set on guarding the city with their lives, such stance of being unafraid of death, he having fought so many years in the battlefields, seems to have encountered this for the first time. Just as Ke Zhan had stated, this very moment there is still the chance to retreat, whilst the Qi Ling Army is still quite some way behind, to retreat right now, will mean that they will not have to face the enemy in a disadvantageous state. As long as they go back to reorganise the Nu Army, a comeback is not an impossible task. The hand holding the weapon senses an unfamiliar cold touch, he raises his head, face suddenly hit with an ice cold sensation, visions suddenly flooded with the sight of white.
The sky that was originally sinking into darkness is now filled with the descending snow, drifting like butterflies, the silent battlefield turns a puzzling white, the white falls onto the Nu soldiers’ ink black armours, exceptionally blinding. Ye Li silently watches, his face expressionless. And every Nu soldier had their eyes focused on their king, waiting for their next command. And at a spot not far away behind them, the horse hooves of the Qi Ling reinforcement army resonates powerfully as they approach.
Ke Zhan sees Ye Li slowly raise his left hand, knowing this is the signal for retreat, the huge stone in his chest is lifted, unable to help but to reveal a bitter smile. Just as he wanted to turn back to relay the command, Ye Li actually makes a sudden freeze in between his movement. Not one of the closest group of Nu soldiers was not shocked. And their king looks up at the southern city tower, stunned, unable to snap out of it for a very long time.
The Nu soldiers simultaneously raises their heads, looking towards that corner of the city tower. Many years later, there was still a soldier present at the time, who reminisced this, saying: that one scene, is deeply engraved in their memories, difficult to erase, at the corner of the city, stands a woman, stood amongst the drifting snow, at the time, no one would have thought that the one raising the military flags to mobilise the army would actually be such a woman. All the soldiers were very angry, until the moment they got a clear view of that woman, their anger suddenly disappears. She has a head full of long black hair, so black it resembles the night skies of the grasslands, her hair raises in the wind, amongst the snow, he seems to have gotten a completely clear look of those strands of hair, like the most heavenly of the Celestial Empire’s silk. At that moment, the sky was already darkening, the snow occasionally reflecting white rays of light, wrapping around that woman’s body, within that moment, one could only think of the statue within the Lunar God Temple.
Similarly as stunned as those Nu soldiers were, Ke Zhan very easily diverts his line of vision away to see Ye Li, very intently watching the woman above the city tower. That kind of expression, seeming to have already forgotten the battle, forgotten the Qi Ling reinforcements behind them, within those eyes, there even seems to be the exhibiting of deep affection, revealed like a butterfly breaking out the cocoon, outrage, love, and even obsession, one by one flowing out from Ye Li’s orbs. Ke Zhan was extremely shocked to see this, in his memories, he has never seen the Nu King with such an expression before.
Snow falling onto the face, dots of biting chill, looking through the vast snow scene, Ye Li’s one glance catches onto her.
Just like four years ago, she was silently stood before his eyes like this. He still remembers he had been captured into the Capital, escaping into the Capital’s alley, that night was so quiet, the grey bricks of the alley glowing in yellow brilliance, he sees her make a sudden turn.
Within a similar night, she sends him out the city, under helplessness, drinking his blood, that warm touch on his wrist, as though infiltrating into his bones, upon recalling this, this type of throbbing subsequently rushes into his heart.
This woman, like a shadow chasing the figure, pestering his heart for four years, yet he still wants to look at her, even if it is from outside Du Cheng, she contains her hate in facing……
Just watching her like this, he has practically forgotten everything……
He is suddenly very curious, in the same moment he obsessively watches her, why is she turning a blind eye on the heavy force of Nu Army below the city, and is instead looking into the distance, her line of sight unwaveringly set there. He abruptly turns his head, following her in looking into the distance.
The sky blue military flag already extremely close, and in the leading commander ranks, there waves a flag of the “Lou” character, Ye Li’s brows lifts high, sharp coldness directly shooting over, clearly seeing, that delicately handsome man, with the gentle warmth of jade, clothing flapping in the wind, a fleeting image. Abruptly thinking of one man, although he has never personally met him, but has heard countless people speak of him, the powerful prime minister of Qi Ling. Seeing him also have his line of sight unwaveringly set above the city tower, that type of expression, such ease of mind, such joyfulness, all mercilessly stabs into Ye Li’s heart.
He turns his head to the side, watching these two people exchange looks from across a might force of thousands of soldiers and horses, seeming to have already forgotten earthly pleasures.
The highly raised hand commanding the army to retreat is slowly put down, Ye Li steadily looks towards the clearly elegant figure above the city tower, the many passing days of stifling depression, the fire deeply hidden in his heart as though it has been ignited, burning within his chest. He remembers, before their departure, the sheepskin map hung in the command tent, on it is marked the crisscrossing of hills and streams, that is his dream since young, that is the deeply dormant ambitions of the Nu Tribe.
He leads the elite warriors of the Nu Tribe, wanting to leap across this dangerous barrier, opening up a new world, to actually, right here, because of one woman, one pair of delicate jade-like hands, be stopped outside Du Cheng. This woman, has once made him open his eyes up to the unlimited possibilities Qi Ling holds, it is also this woman, who is currently separated from him by a wall, so close yet so far. And she, from start to finish, has not once lowered her head to give him one look.
She gave him a peerlessly beautiful desire, and she, had also, within these twenty three days, destroyed the dream he had since young.
The flame in his heart shining more brightly the more it burns, giving rise to the killing intent inside, a treacherous spark flashes past his eyes, Ye Li with a turn of his hand, snatches a strong bow from a nearby soldier, positioning the arrow onto it, the arrow pointing towards the city tower.
Even he himself does not understand, what he is waiting for, perhaps……
Perhaps, waiting for her to look at him……
“Sire……” Catching onto Ye Li’s abrupt move, Ke Zhan exclaims, but in the very moment he turns his head, he sees Ye Li in a state of utter desolation, those slightly curled lashes, soiled with snow dust, the instant he blinks, turns into tears, sliding down his sharply sculpted face. The words he wanted to say is halted in this very moment, stuck in his throat.
The bow slowly pulled back, until it forms a full moon, Ye Li stares towards the only person able to attract his eyes, under the sky filled with rising and falling snowflakes, she suddenly reveals a smile directed towards the distance, within his treasured memories, he has never once seen such smile of heartfelt joy from her before, as though overflowing with happiness, clear and elegant like chrysanthemums, like the brilliance of the moonlight.
Heart like a chord, stretched so much it gives rise to aching pain, the knuckles of his hand holding the bow glowing white, he grits his teeth, staring dead on ahead, such unwillingness to resign, filled with great despair……
The feather on the arrow slightly trembles, he tensely pulls back the string, to the strongest point before releasing, the arrow flies out like a shooting star.
A silver light piercing the air.
———————– The End ———————–
 When people reach their forties, this age is also referred to as bù huò zhī nián / 不惑之年 which literally translates to the age of full confidence, or the age in which one no longer holds doubts, simply put it is the age we supposedly become truly wise individuals.
 Swallow jaw and tiger beard or yàn hàn hǔ xū / 燕颔虎须 is the description that refers to a mighty appearance, wide jaw and thick beard, the phrase first seen(?) as the description of Zhang Fei’s appearance in Romance of the Three Kingdoms.
Well, with the novel brought to an end, I just want to take this oppurtunity to say a big big THANK YOU to all of you for reading, despite there being some ups and downs, and you also had to put up with my weird mood swings, which I am terribly sorry for, but overall I do hope you all enjoyed reading COB, thank you for sticking through to the end, even when our dearest general left us (T_T) and Gui Wan…I know, I know, that open ending is just… (-_-”) but don’t worry, there will be more updates to clear that up!
So with COB finished, currently, I honestly have no set plan for whatever my next translation project will be, so you are very welcome to pop over to the translation project page to leave a suggestion, and perhaps drop a like to support suggestions that others have made. But before I choose my next project, I guess I will just be taking a little break from translating hahaha