Chapter 74: Quid Pro Quo
Written by: IEndWorlds
Edited by: Nyx while being bugged by iEndWorlds
Perhaps there will be another chapter tonight.
Currently, hundreds of thousands of soldiers were camped a few miles away from Green Clover City. Hundreds of campfires illuminated the entire camp, sharing their brilliance in the dark night. Had it not been for the many hills that surrounded their campsite, they could be easily seen by anyone that happened to be standing atop the walls of Green Clover City.
At the center of the camp, there was a large tent with dozens of hulking guards stationed outside. Just from looking at these men, one could tell that they were veterans of a hundred battles.
Inside the tent, dozens of figures could be seen hunching over a large, round table. On top of the table: was a candle and a large map of Green Clover City, that had it’s surrounding terrain laid out; over the map were dozens of miniature iron statues, which looked like a chess piece.
“If we place troops here and here, we will be able to significantly delay any reinforcements from the Heavenly Sword Province that will aid the enemy.” An elderly man with an unkempt beard conveyed as he moved few of the miniature iron statues on a certain location in the map.
“But that would leave us an opening if the enemy chose to charge out from the city here. It will sandwich our troops positioned there.” Commented a middle-aged man with a neatly trimmed mustache as he rearranged the iron statues in a different manner. “But if we position our troops like this it will be better.” he added.
“Fool!! That would make things even worse! Our troops wouldn’t be able to stop the enemy reinforcements nor defend against the attacks sent from within the city!!” The elderly man yelled as he slammed his fists onto the table causing a few iron statues to fall over.
“Both of you shut up!” Jian Wei could be seen creased his brow as he yelled angrily.
“Apologies my lord!” Both men said.
“Zhang what are your thoughts? How should we deploy the soldiers for the upcoming battle?” Jian Wei asked while looking at Zhang, who was across the table with the three beauties beside him.
“I believe we should have some of our troops set here, in the checkpoint along these roads and then deploy the rest of our forces to attack the city.” Zhang said while pointing at dozens roads that lead to Green Clover City.
“Young lord, I know that you are very intelligent but perhaps you should leave the strategizing to those of who are more experienced. If we are to place troops along these roads, we will not have enough troops to invade the city.” The elderly man with the unkempt beard conjectured, looking at Zhang with eyes of someone who look down on others.
“Qian Long! Did I give you permission to speak!?” Jian Wei reprimanded angrily.
“Fo-forgive me my lord.” Qian Long pleaded while bowing and clasping his hands.
“Yea, what makes you think that you could come up with a better plan than brother!?” Yuying, who was standing right next to Zhang, protested with disdain in her eyes. Ai, who was also beside Zhang, stared at Qian Long with nearly emotionless eyes as if she was looking at an insect.
“Yuying, don’t be rude to strategist Qian. He, after all, has been through hundreds of battles.” Zhang said trying to prevent hostility between the group.
“I believe what the young lord wishes to do is, place only a few dozen soldiers at each checkpoint; to make the enemy believe that every checkpoint is manned by thousands of men.” A young man who had been standing a bit away from the table commented.
As he walked out from the shadows and was embraced by the candle light, Sima Yi made his way to the table. He arrived a few days earlier before Zhang, after leading one hundred thousand soldiers from the Red Mist Province to join the invasion.
Naturally, having a battalion of soldiers marched out from a city would alert its nearby cities; so they were prepared for any unusual attacks. However, it’s so odd that they didn’t encounter any resistance from the nearby cities.
“Exactly!” Zhang exclaimed, as someone had finally understood what me meant. “If we have a few soldiers stationed at these checkpoints to lit hundreds of campfires every night and use scarecrows in place of actual soldiers, then the enemy reinforcements would be too wary to attack. To make them even more wary, we could actually deploy thousand real soldiers on a few of the checkpoints so the enemy would not know which have the real soldiers from the ones that are guarded by the scarecrows.”
“We will do what Zhang suggested.” Jian Wei said cheerfully.
“But my lord we can't! What if the enemy figures out that the checkpoints don't have any soldiers!” Qian Long protested.
Upon hearing Qian Long’s words, creases appeared on Jian Wei’s forehead but before he could reprimand Qian Long, an uproar was heard from the outside.
Jian Wei and Zhang hurriedly ensconced the map together with the iron statues; while the others moved toward near the entrance and gripped their weapons, as the hulking guards outside were restraining a young looking man, donned in Aurora's standard white armor laced with blue thread with a whip and sword both tied on his waist.
“Halt! You are not to pass. State your business!” shouted one of the guards whose spear was drawn, blocking the entrance.
“Let me in! I must meet lord Jian Wei! I have urgent news from Aurora!!” cried the young man frantically, which could be heard inside the tent.
“Let him in.” Jian Wei commanded once he heard that there was urgent news from Aurora.
Moments later, the flaps of the tent parted as two of the hulking guards assisted the young man inside.
“You can leave.” Jian Wei ordered as he walked forward in front of the young man.
“Yes mi lord.” said the two guards as they kneeled and saluted before they went back outside.
“Pray tell, what is your news?” Jian Wei said without giving the airs of a ruler.
“My lord!” the young soldier said as he kneeled on one knee, trying to show his uttermost respect for the people standing before him.
“You may rise and speak, what news did you bring from Aurora?” Jian Wei said.
“My lord, the Heavenly Sword Province has begun amassing soldiers at the southern border of Aurora.” the young soldier uttered while bowing with his hands clasped.
“What!?” raged Jian Wei as his palm slammed onto the table beside him.
“How many have they amassed!?” He yelled in an angry tone.
“We are not sure my lord but our scouts say their forces should number three hundred thousand at the least, judging by the amount of tents and campfires that were discovered.” The young soldier replied.
“Hmph! Yan Li, make preparations. We must return to Aurora and repel the enemy. The remaining soldiers in Aurora will not be able to fight back such a large force. Zhang, I leave the duty of conquering the Green Clover Province to you. I'll provide you with one hundred thousand soldiers for you to command as you see fit.” Jian Wei said.
Jian Wei had mobilized and brought three hundred thousand with him while leaving only one hundred thousand soldiers to defend Aurora.
Originally, he planned to vastly overwhelm the enemies in the Green Clover Province because when accounting Zhang’s soldiers, who returned from the Black Wind Province, and the soldiers Sima Yi had brought from the Red Mist Province their forces totaled four hundred eighty thousand men, which were more than enough to take over Green Clover City.
“Of course, you can leave it to me.” Zhang said in a reassuring tone.
“Yea just leave it to us!” Ai said while puffing her chest out.
“Ahaha you're as silly as ever..” Jian Wei laugh.
Hearing this, a grin appeared on Ai’s face as she stuck her tongue out playfully. However, it did not take long before a hand came chopping down on her head.
“Bad! Don't do that to elders.” Yuying reprimanded Ai.
“But sis! He started it.” Ai whined childishly.
Watching this, a broad smile appeared on Jian Wei’s face. “Perhaps it is because I've become old and have grown too fearful of the world. If only I can be like you three and look fear in the face and laugh.” he thought.
But to be honest, it isn't because Jian Wei had become fearful or not; it was just the simple fact that Zhang, Ai and Yuying did not register the fear of dying any moment in their minds, even if it was right before their eyes. As for Ling, her perspective on it was slowly and gradually changing to be like Zhang, Yuying and Ai.
The next morning, as the sun peaked out from the horizon and blessed the earth with its warm rays, thousands of men dressed in white armor could be seen standing in neat rows.
While Zhang and Jian Wei could be seen standing atop a hill overlooking the enormous camp below. Countless tent were visible from atop the hill and then there were the spiraling columns of smoke from the hundred of campfires used to cook meals. Lastly, were the sight of countless flags, fluttering against the wind.
“Zhang, take this and keep it safe.” Jian Wei said as he pulled out a familiar looking cube of jade and handed it to Zhang.
“The imperial seal of the Sai Empire. That is said to contain a map that leads to an artifact, which is rumored that can create or destroy an empire.” Zhang muttered as he held the delicate looking seal on his hand.
“Why are you handing this to me my lord?” Zhang asked as he looked up at Jian Wei.
“Damn it!! You’re still calling me my lord?” Jian Wei said angrily while glaring at Zhang.
“Umm… Foster father!” Zhang said cheerfully, remembering how often Jian Wei would yell at him about this issue.
“Good! I do not have a son nor will I probably have one. Zhang, I want you to know that I've come to consider you, my successor, as my one and only son. You can count it as the plea from a lonely old man who’s trying to find someone to treat him as a family. But no matter what, it truly makes me happy for you to call me foster father. With that being said, I wished to hand the seal to you, the person I trust the most, because the trip back to Aurora will be a dangerous one.” Jian Wei said as he appeared to have aged ten years older right in front of Zhang’s eyes.
“Foster father don’t worry, what can those weaklings from the Heavenly Sword Army do when you're back in Aurora. They couldn't even fend us off here while having the advantage of being the ones defending.” Zhang said with a laugh trying to reassure Jian Wei.
After chatting for a bit more, Jian Wei and Zhang headed back to the camp. It was time for Jian Wei to depart and rush back to Aurora.
Once Jian Wei left with two hundred thousand soldiers in tow, Zhang returned to the commander's tent and wrote a letter.
“Take thirty thousand soldiers and bring this letter to New Leaf City, deliver it to General Lu Xun.” Zhang said as he handed the letter to a soldier standing guard in front of the commander’s tent.
“Thirty thousand soldiers to deliver a letter?” The soldier questioned thinking he misheard Zhang.
“Yes, thirty thousand and leave as soon as possible.” Zhang said then he went back inside the commander's tent.
“Yes my lord!” The soldier said as he kneeled on one knee, grasping the letter in his hands. Soon, thirty thousand white armored soldiers departed from the camp, headed for New Leaf City.
Inside the tent, Zhang was sitting beside the table with the map of Green Clover City on it; as he immersed himself, trying to come up with strategies to take over the city while suffering the least amount of casualties.
While Zhang was busy studying the map, the flap of the tent raised.
“Sima Yi, come over here and see this strategy we will be using when attacking the city.” Zhang said without looking back.
A perplexed look appeared on Sima Yi’s face once Zhang called out his name.
“My lord if you don't mind me asking, how did you know it was me who entered?” Sima Yi asked as he walked beside Zhang.
“Simple, there are only four people in this entire camp who can walk in here without being announced and that is you, Ling, Yuying and Ai.” Zhang said while looking down at the map.
“Then perhaps it could have been one of the three madams.” Sima Yi said, unsatisfied with Zhang’s answer.
“How long do you think I've been with them? Not days, not months but years. I could recognize their scent the instant they entered the room.” Zhang said.
“Their scent?” Sima Yi asked with an even more confused face.
“Ling smells like freshly picked apples, Ai smells almost exactly like roses, despite the fact she carries around a whip made from the Queen of the Night. And lastly, Yuying smells just like chrysanthemums, the flower often representing death.” Zhang said as he remember the time he spent embracing the three girls.
After hearing Zhang's explanation and description of the three beauties, Sima Yi was dumbfounded. Lastly, the part about chrysanthemums representing death did not make sense to him.
“As expected of you my lord.” Sima Yi said deciding to stop the matter and focus on the more important things at hand.
“I suggest we trick the enemy into believing we have left to Aurora and when they are caught off guard, we strike.” Sima Yi suggested.
“Trick them into thinking we left?” Zhang asked.
“Yes my lord, if we can make them believe that we too have left, to defend Aurora, they wouldn't know what was coming to them. If we moved to the east toward Aurora then move north and strike from the west of Green Clover City in the dead of night.” Sima Yi said as his fingers traced a path on the map on the table.
“That would take too long, we must finish here as quickly as possible and then aid Aurora.” Zhang interrupted while shaking his head.
“Then perhaps we can lure the enemy into opening the city gates.”
“How will we do that?” Zhang asked.
“We have plenty of suits of armor and banners from the Heavenly Sword Army, haven’t we?” Sima Yi said with an evil smile as he picked up one of the iron statues off the map and placed them in front, where Green Clover City was.
“You're saying we will pretend to be their reinforcements?”
“Exactly my lord! Exactly. If we can enter the city and secure a single gate, then the city is as good as ours.” Sima Yi confirmed as he placed an iron statue symbolizing the soldiers of Aurora inside the Green Clover City.
“Order the men to pack up and dismantle the camp! We are moving. I want armors and banners from the Heavenly Sword Army as many as possible! I don't care if we have to strip off the corpses.” Zhang ordered to a soldier standing guard outside the tent as he walked out.