While Zhang and the beauties gazed into the stars in each other’s company, the flames of war continued to burn elsewhere. Zhuge Liang and Gan Ning’s forces were currently storming into small city located on the western tip of the southern region. Although they could not compare to the pace of the beauties and Zhuge Liang, the other forces of Aurora had steadily pushed forward also. By now roughly three-sevenths of the southern region had been conquered.
With their efforts to halt Aurora’s advance proving to be ineffective, the various southern lords were scrambling to find solutions to the looming threat that would soon descend on them.
Some lords began to blame their allies for not sending enough aid while other lords were contemplating whether to surrender or not. Slowly their trust in each other began to dwindle as new of the Dark Sea Province’s defection, coupled with the new of the Red Thorn Province’s betrayal and arrest of the Dark Legion.
There were some lords who had sent emissaries throughout the continent hoping for aid in halting Aurora’s growth.
Within a province not too far from the Red Thorn Province, within the confines the provincial lord’s mansion, hundreds of servants could be seen loading things onto wagons underneath the moonlight.
“My lord should we really be abandoning the capital and moving to the Azure Tower?” A middle-aged man fully clad in azure colored armor said to another middle-aged man who was dressed in azure colored robes made of silk.
“With the buffer zone gone we are no longer safe here… It won’t be long before the forces of Aurora march into our Azure Rain Province.” The man dressed in azure robes said with a sigh.
“Have any of those emissaries that we sent out returned with good news?” The man dressed in azure robes also asked after a slight pause.
“No my lord, the Siwang Empire refused to interfere in the war and the other kingdoms have yet to answer our request for aid. As for the Ma Ren Empire, our emissaries have yet to cross the Grassless Sea and locate their roaming cities.” The man clad in armor said.
“What about the sects that are located on the edge of the Lunar Mountains? Have any of them taken up our offer?” The lord of the Azure Rain Province asked.
“Those damned sects told us that even if we combined all of the wealth and resources in the entire Warring States Region, we would not be able to employ their services.” The soldier said with disdain and anger.
“It seems we can only leave things up to fate… Once all of the civilians are accounted for and our people are ready to move out, I want the city to turn into a sea of fire, and the wells to be poisoned. We will not leave anything for the enemy to use when they arrive.” The lord of the Azure Rain Province said as he watched his servants busily packing things away.
The Wulin Continent was filled with powerful forces, but sadly for the Southern Alliance, these powerful forces all had their own plans and wouldn’t easily move to help anyone without first guaranteeing themselves a substantial amount of gain. In this place, those without power could only hope to gain power while those with power could only try to gather more because in the end there is not one to rely on but one’s self.
Like the Azure Rain Province, many other provinces began to relocate their forces and people further south and eastward to brace themselves for the arrival of the forces of Aurora.
Back in the Red Thorn Province, Zhang and the beauties were still atop the city’s highest tower watching the stars and gazing at the bright moon.
“So next time we get separated, I call dibs on being the one to be with Darling.” Lingqi said as her arms wrapped around Zhang’s arm.
“Or we can try to not get separated like that again.” Zhang said with a laugh.
With nods, the beauties and Zhang continued to watch the sky and talk until they fell asleep and the sun rose up from the horizon marking the beginning of a new day began.
Once Zhang and the beauties awoke from a few hours of rest, they began to reorganize their army and the soldiers who were teleported away with Zhang were reintegrated back into the main army.
“Let’s have our soldiers rest here for a while longer and wait until General Guan Yu’s forces arrive before we push forward anymore.” Zhang suggested since he was somewhat tired of the constant fighting that had been occurring.
“Judging from the reports that we had received on our way here, Uncle Guan should arrive in roughly two weeks’ time.” Lingqi said as the group strolled through the city.
“With the soldiers we managed to collect in the Rainbow Rock Province and the soldiers that you have acquired from this province, once General Guan Yu arrives our numbers would be more than enough to push all the way south, unhindered.” Yuying said confidently.
“Alright, then it’s settled. We will try to enjoy ourselves for two week until Guan Yu arrives.” Zhang said with a smile as he pulled the beauties in closer to himself and walked into a small restaurant to have their breakfast.
Over the few days, Zhang and the beauties were inseparable as they went everywhere together from various banquets to tourist attractions to restaurants, they were never apart. After a while, the war seemed to become irrelevant as they and the people within Red Thorn City were surrounded by peace.
With the hundreds of thousands of soldiers of Aurora, camped inside and outside of the city, no one dared to cause trouble and the crime rate within Red Thorn City became nonexistent. This allowed the common folk to experience true peace and prosperity for at least a short while.
Trade boomed as the hundreds of thousands of soldiers often entered the city to buy goods and find entertainment while they wait for Guan Yu’s forces to arrive.
While the soldiers of Aurora brought wealth and security to the city, Lingqi and Zhang would occasionally gather all of the doctors in the city together and give out free medical treatment to anyone who could not afford it, enabling them to bring good health to the commoners.
Tang Hong, his sons and the officials of the Red Thorn Province couldn’t be happier as they witnessed the wealth and change that was happening to their beloved city right before their eyes. Instead of being ravished by war, the Red Thorn Province experienced an increase in taxes that had never been seen before and the common folks were not much better off than they were before.
When considering the state that the Red Thorn Province was in before the war, plagued with famine, poverty, and death, everyone viewed the current state of the province as a blessing from the heavens.
“I hope that this peace can be maintained for as long as possible.” Tang Hong would say every time he witnessed how bustling the city streets were and how happy the common folks were.
“To think they only arrived three days ago and the city is already undergoing such tremendous changes.” Tang Wei said as he had witnessed small business owners turn into rich men and women overnight. Broken down huts were being slowly replaced as people used their newfound wealth to build sturdy houses and mansions.
The soldiers under Zhang’s direct command had always been very well paid and would often receive plenty of gold as rewards, so when compared to the soldiers of the Dark Legion, they were much more willing to spend their wealth on the things that Red Thorn City could offer.
Brothels were booked full, restaurants sold out their stores of food while shops and stalls set up along the streets sold all of their inventory. Gold and silver flooded into the city’s treasury in amounts that had never been seen before in the history of the Red Thorn Province.
Much to Zhang’s delight, Tang Hong had the foresight to offer up roughly forty percent of this new found wealth to him as tribute.
Even after giving Zhang forty percent of the wealth that came into the treasury, Tang Hong and his sons were still able to expand what used to be the Red Thorn Army back to its former size of two hundred thousand soldiers after only a few days of open recruitment.
Of course, these new recruits would have to be trained, but if anything, Red Thorn City would have sufficient manpower to defend itself.
Besides restoring their army to its former size, Tang Hong, and his sons also had dozens of schools erected thanks to some suggestions from Zhang.
“The children symbolize our future, so they must be properly taught or else even if I manage to unite the Warring States Region, the product of my hard work and ambition would not last very long.” Zhang said as he suggested for more schools to be built.
Over roughly a week, the Red Thorn Province had undergone more change and development than what it had done for the last ten or twenty years. By the time Guan Yu’s army arrived near Red Thorn City, the city walls had already been reconstructed and strengthened.
After having his army pitch camp outside of the city beside one of the camps that Zhang’s men were staying at, Guan Yu, Zhang Fei and dozens of their high ranking officers rode into the city following a team of horsemen sent by Lingqi to escort them into the city.
Riding through the busy streets filled with commerce and people, Guan Yu was soon led to the provincial lord’s mansion where he was welcomed by a beautiful young woman who commanded his absolute loyalty.
“No need to be so formal, we are practically family.” Lingqi said with a smile as Guan Yu slide off his horse and was about to salute her.
Once some small talk was exchanged, Lingqi led Guan Yu into the mansion where a feast was held to welcome his arrival.
To keep things brief, few days after Guan Yu’s arrival his army was combined with Zhang’s army as all of their soldiers were assembled outside of Red Thorn City.
Although Guan Yu’s forces had suffered heavy casualties due to facing against the Twin Dragon Province’s Dragon Core Army, he had brought roughly one hundred and fifty thousand soldiers to supplement Zhang’s forces. This meant that when the soldiers of the Red Mist Province were included, their army neared a nine hundred thousand soldiers total.
As the force comprised of nine hundred thousand soldiers stood in neat rows that stretched as far back as the eye could see, they made everyone who was able to witness this sight watch in awe.
Tang Hong, his wives, and practically the rest of the people living Red Thorn City were either gazing down from the city walls or trying to peak a look on at the imposing force that was assembled in front of them.
Amidst the countless soldiers, Tang Wei and Tang Shiang could be seen atop large white stallions, surrounded by the soldiers clad in red armor.
“All forces move out!” Zhang commanded, signaling the various commanders and generals within his massive army to intimate their march toward the east tip of the Southern Region.
Before long, new of Zhang’s army resounded from one southern lord to the next as he continued to go deeper south.
A few weeks after their departure from Red Thorn City, Zhang and his people found themselves in a desolate land void of green and was instead filled with black.
Charred land and ruined towns and cities were all they saw as they made their way into the Azure Rain Province.
While every well and water source they encountered had been laced poison
Luckily for Zhang’s army, they had someone extremely well versed in the art of poison who was able to purify the poisoned wells and water sources in next to no time at all.
Because if there was no natural source of water then an army of nine hundred thousand soldiers would be forced to withdraw from battle before even began.
Traversing ruined cities and poisoned lakes and rivers, Zhang and the beauties soon saw the top of magnificent tower poking out from deep within a large mountain range.
“Your highness, I believe that is the Azure Rain Province’s Azure Tower. It is said to be the site of an ancient fortress that can hold hundreds of thousands of people within it. Although I’ve never been to it since it is considered a sacred site to the rulers of the Azure Rain Province, I’ve heard that this fortress was built to honor a mighty dragon.” Tang Wei said as he stood beside Zhang and saw the glorious tower that pierced into the clouds.
“Azure tower… Dragon…. Azure Dragon…” Zhang mumbled as his eyes focused on the tower.
“Have our men pitch camp here for the night.” Zhang said before calling for a conference amongst all of his generals and commanders.
Before long hundreds of people converged into a large tent erected within a massive camp that was currently being constructed.
General’s such as Guan Yu, Zhang Fei, Song Ren, Tang Wei, Tang Shiang and many more unnamed individuals and their subordinates arrived and either sat or stood in a circle with a large map laid out in the center.
Once Zhang and the beauties made their way into the tent, the conference began.
“Judging from the layout of this map provided by Lord Tang Hong, there is a total of five passes through the mountains and to the Azure Tower. There are also a dozen small back mountain routes that would only allow for a dozen or so men to travel on at a time.” Yuying explained as she traced her finger on the large map in the center of the conference tent.
“Since the enemy has the advantage of knowing the local terrain, coupled with the fact that they arrived here before we did, it would prove to be disadvantageous for us to simply March our forces into the mountains.” She also said.
“Does anyone have any suggestions as to how we should advance?” Zhang asked.