Ning Chen’s fever burned with no sign of abatement all through the day till night. Within the tent, the physician’s face was just as pale as he anxiously treated the teen. The Empress’ words still echoed in his ears as if she had just said it — he either treated him or died.
In the meantime, Zhang Sun faithfully followed the teen’s advice to the letter and marshalled the defenses to her utmost ability. Regardless of whether or not the Mongols intended to attack them, their position was clear: defend to the death.
As for the matter regarding Marquis Qinghe, the letter had already been sent out and it shouldn’t be long before the marquis received it. Xingchao Pass originally had 50 000 soldiers guarding it, adding the 100 000 or so troops brought over by Marquis Qinghe, they now had over 150 000 troops stationed there. In light of that, dispatching 50 000 troops shouldn’t affect the pass in the short run.
Ever since Yangui City was massacred, Fan Lingyue merely stationed less than 10 000 troops in the destroyed city to minimize the impact on the main army while these troops awaited further reinforcements from the north.
This was also the reason why she decided to massacre the city in the first place. She wanted the combat strength of those 10 000 troops to be fully utilized instead of having to live in fear of potential sneak attacks.
Supplies were an essential part of war and the supplies of the Mongol had to pass through Yangui in order to reach the main army. Marquis Qinghe’s mission was to stall and perhaps even destroy these supply convoys.
The supplies required by 300 000 soldiers was frightening to say the least. Supplying an army of this at one shot naturally wasn’t possible. Thus, they had no choice but to do so in batches by ferrying the supplies through Yangui all the way to the front lines.
Over time, as the reinforcements from the north arrived in Yangui City, the garrison rapidly grew to the size it was now, 60 000. In order to retake this city, Grand Xia would have to siege it with at least three times the amount of troops within the garrison and that was assuming the Mongol Horde didn’t dispatch any further reinforcements.
Thus, it simply wasn’t practical to try and permanently cut off the Mongol’s supply line. At the very least, Grand Xia didn’t have that many troops to dispatch to this front.
Even so, as long as Marquis Qinghe was able to harass the Mongol’s supply line, that was already the greatest aid he could render to Zhang Sun and even the empire as a whole. What Grand Xia needed now was a momentary reprieve to give Duke Qingwu the time to assume the reins of the Imperial Court and marshal the empire’s troops.
Ning Chen was, without a doubt, a true genius. While his cultivation talents were nothing to write home about, his intelligence was startling. With just a single glance, he was able to notice the crux of Grand Xia’s situation.
Zhang Sun was aware of his talents and intended to employ them to the fullest. Thus, she gave the utmost attention to his views. Like the teen said, what this army lacked right now were military talents, bringing light to this problem would definitely make things a lot easier for her in the future.
However, it was precisely this reason that made her rely on him even more. The fact that he was still unconscious both worried her and angered her.
As night fell, the chilly winds blew once more and yet Ning Chen still didn’t show any signs of waking up. Nearby, Zhang Sun paced back and forth outside of his tent in frustration. Her elder brother was in a comatose state and so was the boy. Qing Ning wasn’t adept at military affairs so she didn’t even have a person to discuss such matters with.
“Your Majesty, why won’t you summon the Eldest Prince over.” Seeing her mistress in a such state, Qing Ning couldn’t help but put forth a suggestion in hopes of alleviating her stress. The princes of Grand Xia were all exceptional talents and could conceivably help her.
“No, he’s the successor to the throne and the future of Grand Xia rests entirely on him. No matter what, he mustn’t be put in danger.” She immediately rejected the idea without any hesitation.
It was then that a round of violent coughing echoed from within the tent followed by the sounds of a wheelchair approaching. A moment later, Ning Chen came wheeling out from under the tent flaps, face solemn and horrifyingly pale.
“Her Majesty is right, the Eldest Prince mustn’t come and he’s not suited for this either.”
Ning Chen wearily said. The current crown prince was simply too upright for the treacherous battlefield rife with plots and schemes. As a peacetime monarch, he was alright but he definitely wasn’t suited for war.
“When did you awaken?” Qing Ning asked, eyes glittering with joy and relief.
Yet before Ning Chen could even answer that question, Zhang Sun’s fury descended, “Who gave you permission to come out here? Get back in there and rest!”
“Your Majesty, I’m fine. After sleeping for an entire day, I’m beginning to feel a little light headed already. Don’t worry, I’ll head back to bed after getting some fresh air.” Ning Chen pleaded in a slightly helpless tone. Truth be told, he was a little worried about Zhang Sun’s side so he decided to come out and check on her.
Since the formation of Grand Xia a thousand years ago, there had never been an Empress who had to command an army, Zhang Sun was probably the first of her kind. It goes without saying how much pressure she was under right now.
The Grand Xia today had already reached a dire state with enemies bearing down upon it from all side. Each day they were able to wrestle from the Mongol Horde was an extra day of reprieve for Grand Xia.
As he promised earlier, he would try his best to help her overcome this hurdle.
Hearing that, Zhang Sun frowned but said nothing more. The boy was more stubborn than a bull; no amount of persuasion would ever change his mind.
“Your Majesty, if I’m not mistaken, there’s a river 300 li (150km) behind us. If we were to ever lose, just have some men burn that bridge down.” Ning Chen calmly declared as he gazed at the distant Mongol camp.
“Is there truly no hope?” Zhang Sun sighed lightly as she said that.
“If it was someone else, it might’ve been possible. But our opponent is Fan Lingyue, our defeat is inevitable.”
While what he said might have sounded bleak, he was merely stating facts. In the first place, they were already at a disadvantage in terms of troop numbers. Fan Lingyue had 100 000 iron cavalrymen on her side while they merely had 30 000 soldiers. The discrepancy between their strengths couldn’t be any wider; blocking them simply wasn’t possible.
However, he would do his utmost to postpone that day as much as possible in hopes of giving Grand Xia more time to breath.
At the end of the day, Grand Xia was still the strongest empire. As long as it wasn’t destroyed from the get go, the final victor would undoubtedly be Grand Xia.
It didn’t matter if they lost, in fact it didn’t matter even if they lost horribly, but no matter what, they mustn’t lose without accomplishing anything.
Right now, their best option was a battle of attrition. The longer they dragged out this fight and the more horrific the fighting became, the more disadvantageous it was for the Mongol Horde.
Ning Chen paused for a second before asking, “Your Majesty, how’s the situation in the east?”
The Eternal Night Cult had dispatched troops at the same time as the Mongol Horde and had thoroughly trounced Grand Xia. Unlike the Mongol Horde however, they didn’t have a Lady Strategist and had to rely on their overwhelming might and their invincible Martial Monarch to win. From the mighty military marquis to the ordinary officers, none could stand before this mighty behemoth.
Without a doubt, these beasts known as Xiantian were truly a headache-inducing existence.
“We’ve already lost two cities but thankfully the Cult doesn’t have much heavy cavalry — merely 30 000. If it wasn’t for that limitation, Grand Xia wouldn’t even have a war to fight.” Zhang Sun answered wearily.
There’s a legend circulating in the world: formidable under 10 000, invincible above 10 000. That legend was referring to the heavy cavalry of the Eternal Night Cult.
It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that each of them was able to take on ten soldiers. In an actual battlefield, there was nothing that could stop them.
However, even with its wealth of resources, the Eternal Night Cult still wasn’t able to train any more of such troops as these heavy cavalry units had extremely stringent requirements both in terms of the rider and the warhorse.
(TL: From now on, the Mongol’s cavalry will be referred to as iron cavalrymen to differentiate them from the Cult/Grand Xia heavy cavalrymen.)
To Grand Xia’s misfortune, though they owned the entire central plains, the birthrate of warhorses was simply too low and couldn’t even support the needs of their normal cavalry units let alone a heavy cavalry unit.
“Your Majesty, is Grand Xia truly that powerless before the heavy cavalry of the Cult?” Asked a puzzled Ning Chen.
With Grand Xia’s thousand years foundation, it wouldn’t make any sense if they were defeated simply because of 30 000 heavy cavalrymen. There must be something that allowed Grand Xia to be invincible for so long.
“No, we have the War God, Marquis Kaixuan and his 100 000 strong, Blackwater Army.”
“Then why hasn’t Marquis Kaixuan made his move yet?” Ning Chen asked, even more confused than before.
He had heard of this War God before, he was the leader of the ten military marquis. However, since he’s so formidable, why hadn’t he sortied yet? Was he really going to wait till Grand Xia was crippled before he stepped in to save the day?
“Because, before His Majesty disappeared, he sent out strict orders preventing Marquis Kaixuan from acting.” As she said that, a look of confusion crossed her eyes. Even now, she wondered what was the Emperor thinking when he gave that order. She truly couldn’t understand the Emperor as he was today.
Hearing that, Ning Chen was at a loss for words. How did that man expect them to fight then? Ning Chen couldn’t just ask a bunch of foot soldiers to throw themselves at the heavy cavalrymen and what about that invincible Martial Monarch, who was going to stop him?
Furthermore, he heard that the Eternal Night Cult still had one more Xiantian however this expert had never shown his face, not even once. Exactly what was this cult up to?
Suddenly, Ning Chen was struck by how much he didn’t know of this world especially with regards to the Eternal Night Cult. The information he knew was only restricted to the rumors circulating in the world. As for the internal affairs of the Cult, he didn’t know a single thing about it.
Within the army camp of the Mongol Horde…
Fan Lingyue was currently seated in her tent, her beautiful face wracked by fatigue from all those days of warfare. After a long while, she asked in a gentle voice, “When will they arrive?”
“Reporting, Lady Strategist, they left at noon and should arrive at the latest, three days later.” The young officer answered respectfully.
“Remind Qing Wuyou to be careful, do not allow the spies of Grand Xia to discover anything.”
“Understood.” Having received his orders, he turned around to leave after acknowledging them.
“Not killing that teen then has caused quite a number of problems as expected.” Fan Lingyue sighed softly as she said that. She never intended to use them so fast however seeing as Grand Xia insisted on turtling up, she had no choice but to use this trump card of hers.
Allowing the tiger to return to its mountain only brought trouble. With a Ning Chen added into the mix, her plans now had an unwelcome variable.
Unfortunately, the Fourth Sword was severely injured by that prince from Grand Xia and wasn’t able to act in the short term. If not for that, she would have dispatched him already to remove this hidden danger as soon as possible.
As she thought that, her beautiful eyes narrowed. If she wasn’t wrong, Ning Chen was probably thinking the same thing right now.
Given that, she didn’t mind giving him a chance to act, that would allow her a chance to act as well after all.
A moment later, she took up her brush and penned a letter. “Men!”
“Yes.” An armored bodyguard entered the tent.
“You are to deliver this letter directly to a teen called Ning Chen in Grand Xia’s army camp. Once you are there, just announce that you are looking for that person and the Empress will lead you to him.” She blandly declared while handing over the letter in her hands.
“Understood!” The bodyguard saluted before promptly leaving.
Two hours later, the bodyguard arrived in the camp of Grand Xia and announced himself as a messenger from the Mongol Horde seeking an audience with the Empress.
“Your Majesty, a messenger from the Mongol Horde requests an audience.”
“Get in.” The officer gave the bodyguard a quick shove as he snapped at the man.
Zhang Sun disdainfully swept her eyes over the soldier before flatly asking, “What does that Lady Strategist wish to accomplish by sending you here?”
Feeling the coldness of her gaze, the bodyguard couldn’t help but feel uneasy. However, he chose to press on with his mission. “In the name of the Lady Strategist, this one has been tasked to deliver a letter to the one known as Ning Chen within your Majesty’s camp.”
“Hmm?” Hearing that, an icy glint flashed across her eyes, around her, the temperature of the tent seemed to have dropped several degrees in an instant.