Volume 5, Chapter 11: Bloody Scorched Earth Battle

Bored, I tilted my head back to look up at the arrow-filled sky. I calmly and composedly stood on the deck of the tower ship, because with the narrowness of the river here, Xiaoshunzi could easily take me and escape to the shore if needed. As a result, I maintained a façade of calm and fearlessness. If there were really any danger, it was likely that I likely would have had Xiaoshunzi take me away long ago. As I gazed down at the chaos upon the river surface, I found myself tiring from standing. However, for the sake of bolstering morale, it was best to continue standing.

The battle had already raged for close to two hours. Soon, nearby Yong army units would likely arrive to provide assistance. However, when I raised my eyes to look around, I did not see anyone arriving. I could not help feeling apprehensive. Could it be that the Northern Han army had already sallied forth for battle? At present, with the unstable situation at Jishi, how could they choose this moment to attack?

As I was reckoning in my mind, Su Qing spoke up calculatedly from behind me, “Daren, this general has thought it over carefully. This fleet should have been established at the beginning of last year. The commander of this fleet is a trusted general of the King of Northern Han, Ji Sheng. This general had received information that he was establishing a new army in the upper reaches of the Qin River. However, Ji Sheng has always been on bad terms with Long Tingfei. This general received information that he asked for an edict to train a new army in order to provide a counterbalance against Long Tingfei. As a result, this general did not pay particular attention. Thinking back on it now, they probably used the lake, the source of the Qin River, to train a navy. Because they had the protection of experts from the Devil Sect, it was impossible for the scouts and spies we sent over to penetrate their defensive perimeter. Moreover, at the time, this general was under orders to oversee the overall situation from Qinzhou. Daren, please forgive such a slipup.”

Waving my hand, I replied, “Since things have reached this point, there is no point in discussing it any further. However, that Ji Sheng should not be adept at naval warfare. How did he become the commander of this navy?”

After thinking it over, Su Qing answered, “The warships being used by Northern Han should be covered assault ships of Southern Chu design. Presumably, they were trained by some Southern Chu naval commanders. Although Ji Sheng is also a cavalry commander, he was originally a fisherman on the Qin River. At the very least, he would be a much more suitable commander than all of the others.”

I pointed at the youthful general who had shot three arrows at me and was now leading several ships to try to break through and attack the supply ships. Seeing his bravery and leadership, I could not help being emotionally affected. Glancing at him briefly, a cold light flashed across Su Qing’s eyes. She introduced, “That man is a member of the Northern Han Royal Family. He is the fourth son of the second-ranked Prince of Jin, Liu Dai. Most of the Prince of Jin’s children are worthless. Only this son from a concubine is versatile with both sword and brush. Originally, the Prince of Jin wished to name this son his heir. However, the Princess of Jin hailed from a prestigious house in Northern Han and naturally did not want the position of heir to be given to someone who was not her son. She repeatedly tried to make things difficult for Liu Dai. As a result, the Prince of Jin was forced to enlist Liu Dai into the military to serve as a commander. Who would have thought that he would actually become a naval commander?”

Exclaiming in admiration, I replied, “The Northern Han Royal Family has many talented members as expected. This Liu Dai was probably also a cavalry commander and should not have spent that much time on naval warfare. At present, even though he has plenty of shortcomings, his abilities are already quite hard to come by. If we can capture him alive, then it will be worth it even if we suffer a minor setback in this battle.”

Seeing that his multiple attacks could not break through our defenses and allow him to reach the supply ships in the rear, I could not help feeling stirred. After thinking it over, I whispered to Zhuang Ru, “Is it possible to allow him to get through and allow him to take some of our supplies before capturing or killing him? That man is a member of the Northern Han Royal Family and is a new but talented naval commander. If we can capture or kill him, the Northern Han navy’s morale will definitely suffer a blow. When the time comes, the Qin River will belong to our Great Yong.”

Finding things difficult, Zhuang Ru responded, “If the supplies suffer losses, His Imperial Highness, the Prince of Qi, will likely place blame.”

“As long as we are able to either capture or kill this man,” I replied with a smile, “I will bear all of the consequences.”

Relief appeared on Zhuang Ru’s face and he waved the signal flags in his hands. It wasn’t long before Liu Dai was able to successfully penetrate the Yong fleet’s defenses. Pleasantly surprised, he led his warships forward. Because everyone was using fire arrows, the entire river quickly started to burn. Several of the supply ships were set aflame. I knew Liu Dai’s intentions full well—he wished to destroy the supplies and strike a heavy psychological blow to the Yong army. Moreover, after he finished burning the supply ships, he could turn around and launch a pincer attack against the Yong warships, breaking the Yong fleet’s formation. With his success, a number of Northern Han warships followed after him. From the outset, the Northern Han fleet had gradually been encircled by the Yong fleet. With such an opportunity presenting itself, many of the warships seized it and charged forward.

What most of them didn’t notice was that, aside from the majority of supply ships that retreated, there were a dozen supply ships which had scattered to the sides when Zhuang Ru had initially issued the order, faintly surrounding Liu Dai and the warships that he had brought with him. Killing intent appeared on Zhuang Ru’s face. With one order from him, the supply ships seemingly lost control and begin to row hard towards the middle of the river. The sailors and marines aboard the ships set ablaze the supplies before jumping into the river to swim for their lives. As the dozen burning supply ships moved forward, they surrounded Liu Dai and company.

Seeing all this, Liu Dai became deathly pale. He had followed the current and knew that it would be impossible to turn his warships around in a timely fashion. He could only issue the order for the warships to continue forward. Just then, several of the supply ships which had retreated suddenly moved forward before dropping anchor in the middle of the river, completely blocking Liu Dai’s advance. After breaking through the flames and smoke, Liu Dai’s warships slammed into these supply ships. The marines aboard the supply ships formed up and loosed several volleys of fire arrows before setting the ships aflame and fleeing. Liu Dai and his dozen warships were surrounded by a sea of flames.

By this point, Ji Sheng, the commander of the Northern Han fleet, had caught sight of the raging flames at the rear of the Yong fleet. With his line of sight cut off by the smoke and fires, he was originally overjoyed that Liu Dai was able to set the enemy’s supply ships aflame. Who could have thought that a mournful horn would sound? Hearing this sound, Ji Sheng’s heart grew frigid. It was clear that Liu Dai had fallen into an impasse. Although he wanted to mount a rescue attempt, seeing the swarming Yong ships, Ji Sheng knew if that they continued to fight, they could not hope to win. He could only order a retreat. The speed of the covered assault ships was a lot faster than those of Great Yong’s, and it wasn’t long before they had disappeared into the distance.

Seeing the enemy retreat, Zhuang Ru promptly issued orders to sweep the battlefield and search for prisoners. All of the Northern Han sailors and marines left behind had died in battle. Their valiance made the Yong fleet admire them. Fighting bitterly to the end, Liu Dai’s ship was overturned and he was knocked into the water. Several strong swimmers captured him alive. In this battle, the Yong military lost eighteen supply ships and nineteen warships, while Northern Han lost seven covered assault ships and twelve combat ships. Although the Yong fleet had suffered heavier losses and had lost, the entire fleet cheered and whooped. This time, the Northern Han navy had attacked without warning and been repelled. In the future, the prepared Yong fleet would be able to control the Qin River, as they had plenty of ways of ensuring that the Northern Han navy would be unable to come south. As for their inability to win a decisive victory, none of them were worried. After all, the responsibility of the Zezhou fleet was to transport supplies and not to fight against the Northern Han navy. In addition, Zhuang Ru and his subordinates knew that the capture of Liu Dai would be a significant blow to the confidence of the Northern Han navy. As a result, they were in especially high spirits. As for the losses to the supplies, they would not take it to heart. After all, I had forcefully assumed all responsibility.

I happily paid the hundred taels of gold, allowing the marines who had captured Liu Dai to split among themselves. Dazed from all of the river water that he had drunk, Liu Dai had been locked into one of the cabins. Afterwards, I returned to my own cabin. With a pained face, I penned a letter to the Prince of Qi, reporting the circumstances leading to the loss of a portion of the supplies. Although I had voiced my approval to Zhuang Ru to sacrifice some of the supply ships, losing eighteen was a bit too excessive. However, thinking of how we had managed to capture Liu Dai, I still smiled with delight.

Just then, Huyan Shou walked in. Wearing a grave expression, he reported, “Daren, reinforcements have arrived.”

As I continued to write at a tremendous speed, I asked, “What’s going on? From what I remember, there should be at least a thousand cavalry nearby. Even though they can’t fight on water, with the narrowness of the Qin River, they can still use their bows to shoot arrows at the Northern Han navy. Why have they arrived so late? Could it be that they did not see our signal requesting reinforcements?”

Huyan Shou resentfully answered, “Subordinate has already questioned their commander. There were several small units of cavalry composed of a hundred horsemen nearby. When they received the signal, they came to provide support. However, someone actually dared to repeatedly attack, killing half of the officers. The cavalry was forced to chase the assassins and has been thrown into complete disarray.”

My hand shook, causing a drop of ink to fall upon the white paper. Looking at the letter which had been marred by the ink drop, I heaved a sigh and threw the incomplete letter into the brazier at the corner of the cabin. Setting down the brush made from sheep hair, I rose to my feet with my face wooden. I inquired, “Was this done by one person?”

Huyan Shou sadly responded, “That’s right. From the techniques that he used, it should be one person. Moreover, having implemented the scorched earth policy and forced the civilian population north, it would be impossible for a large number of assassins and spies to remain behind.”

I submerged into my thoughts. Raising my head, I gazed at Xiaoshunzi and asked, “Do you have such methods?”

Xiaoshunzi stonily answered, “That man’s martial arts are not inferior to mine.”

Smiling mirthlessly, I inquired, “Tell me, how many people in Northern Han are on par with you?”

After thinking it over, Xiaoshunzi responded, “It should be Duan Lingxiao himself who has come. Jing Wuji would not act openly.”

I hesitantly replied after consideration, “Xiaoshunzi, tell me, do you think that Duan Lingxiao would remain in this area? It would not be easy if he wanted to assassinate me or the Prince of Qi. However, it would be effortless if he wanted to assassinate some of the lower-ranking officers.”

In a frigid voice, Xiaoshunzi said, “If Duan Lingxiao stayed here, he could only hide among the refugees or out in the wilderness. Young master, there is no harm in ordering the cavalry to implement the scorched earth policy and form units of five hundred and provide mutual support to execute all the citizenry of Northern Han, thus ensuring that Duan Lingxiao will have no place to hide. Even if he wants to continue, it will be difficult for him to get close to our troops. If he forces himself to do so, then those five hundred cavalrymen will be enough to stall him until the experts from our army arrive. No matter how advanced his martial arts, it will be difficult for him to escape.”

I contemplated Xiaoshunzi’s suggestion carefully before replying, “This matter is urgent. There isn’t time to report it to His Imperial Highness, the Prince of Qi. Huyan Shou, relay my command and have our army implement the scorched earth policy early. In addition, dispatch someone to inform His Imperial Highness, the Prince of Qi.”

I hurriedly wrote out over a dozen orders. After stamping my seal as army supervisor upon them, I had messengers take them to transmit my orders. Although I was the army supervisor and could not directly mobilize the troops, the current situation was quite unusual. However, since I was only asking that the prearranged plan be pushed forward, my army supervisor seal should be effective. Moreover, this was all out of consideration for every one of the low- and mid-ranking officers. If they did not value their lives, then there was nothing I could do. Of course, I specially penned a letter to the Prince of Qi. In order to ensure that it arrive without fail, I asked Su Qing to deliver it personally. Although she was not Duan Lingxiao’s match, there was no way I was going to have Xiaoshunzi deliver the letter. After all, my life was the most important.

***

On the postal road within the endless grasslands, a unit of cavalry swept past. At their head was Su Qing. Behind her was a unit of horsemen in azure armor. Because she was under orders to report the situation to the Prince of Qi, Su Qing traveled as fast as possible, not daring to slow down or stop. By this juncture, all of the troops in the vicinity had received Jiang Zhe’s orders to accelerate the scorched earth timetable. Fortunately, the majority of Northern Han’s population had already escaped to Jishi. As a result, during the entire journey, Su Qing and her unit did not see too many scenes of slaughter. Besides, Su Qing had a heart of stone. She paid little attention to the miserable spectacle unfolding.

Because Su Qing had left in hurry, aside from her trusted maid, Ruyue, she only brought along the cavalry Jiang Zhe had assigned to her. Since the assassin killing the Yong army officers had probably not yet been captured or killed, Su Qing was extremely careful along the entire journey, not daring to be even the slightest bit remiss.

Suddenly, Su Qing caught sight of a man in gray standing with his hands behind his back in a pavilion by the roadside. Su Qing’s eyes were quite sharp. One glance was enough for her to see the man’s shape quite clearly. The man seemed to be over thirty years old and had a build as imposing as a pine tree. His appearance seemed to be upright and honest. His eyes possessed a hidden depth just like the abstruseness of the night sky, making all those who saw him to feel incapable of perceiving his profoundness.

Su Qing reined in her horse, making it come to a stop. These horses were all well-trained. When Su Qing’s horse came to a stop, the horses behind her did so as well. The cavalry unit that had initially been galloping madly came to a sudden stop. All of the horsemen knew of the assassinations. As a result, bloodlust pooled out from them. The twenty-plus horsemen’s bloodthirst converged together, seemingly making the entire area freeze.

The gray-clothed man’s gaze flitted over the horsemen. He could not help sighing with admiration at the cavalry unit’s excellence. Unhurriedly, he took a step forward and indifferently asked, “Is Miss the Head Scout of the Yong army, Su Qing?” Although his tone was questioning, everyone understood that he had long ago determined Su Qing’s identity. The question was only asked to serve as confirmation.

Su Qing coldly answered, “So it is the chief disciple of the Sovereign of the Devil Sect, Duan Lingxiao, who has come personally. Does Lord Duan not know that you can’t prevent the inevitable? My Great Yong has elite cavalry numbering in the millions. Why is Sire going so far as to support such a hopeless cause?”

Smiling slightly, Duan Lingxiao responded, “Miss speaks the truth. Although my martial arts are impressive, one person’s strength is no match for an army of thousands upon thousands. Just, some things are better done than not. Not long ago, Miss was extremely decisive in weeding out Northern Han agents by the Qin River, filling me with admiration. My junior apprentice brother, Xiao Tong, once spoke at great length about Miss’s achievements. I cannot help wanting to meet such a heroic figure amongst women. Today’s chance encounter here is truly a great fortune. Miss, how about you dismount and come over to converse?”

An ardent radiance glistened in Su Qing’s eyes as she replied, “Conversing with your distinguished self is Su Qing’s great honor.” Finished speaking, she dismounted from her horse and walked to the pavilion.

Her maid, Ruyue, shouted, “Young miss, he is definitely here to intercept and kill you! How can you converse with him?”

Smiling, Su Qing said rhetorically, “What status does Duan Lingxiao have? He is the future Sovereign of the Devil Sect. How can he go back on his word? Since he has invited Su Qing for a conversation, if he tries to kill me overtly, wouldn’t it garner the ridicule of the entire world?”

Admiration flickered in Duan Lingxiao’s eyes. He naturally would not stoop to argue with Ruyue, choosing to only look daggers at her. Towards Su Qing, he said, “Head Scout Su is a heroic woman who is a match for any man. It is no wonder that junior apprentice brother Xiao treats Miss as the greatest enemy of his life, while my junior apprentice brother Qiu admires Miss greatly. Seeing you today, I understand that knowing of someone’s reputation is truly incomparable to meeting in person. Miss Su, you originally hail from Northern Han, and yet because of a private grudge and personal hatred, work for Great Yong. It is truly unfortunate and lamentable.”

Su Qing laughed proudly. “Sire probably finds it unfortunate and lamentable because Sire believes that he will be able to take Su Qing’s life. Northern Han has done me, Su Qing, no favors. For the sake of taking revenge, so what if Su Qing pledges allegiance to Great Yong? Furthermore, Great Yong currently controls the entire Central Plains. Northern Han and Southern Chu are merely struggling on death’s door. Even if Northern Han’s Devil Sect has countless heroic figures, with the current state of affairs, what of it? If your distinguished self is willing to renounce the dark and seek the light, Sire’s position will definitely be above Su Qing’s. Why are you holding fast to your loyalties to the point of dying for a country that is about to be exterminated?”

Disdain flashed across Duan Lingxiao’s eyes, as he answered, “Fine. I know that Miss Su will not turn back. It is only that I cannot bear to act. Does Miss know why the Yong army is expelling and massacring the common people? If Miss is willing to speak forthrightly, I can spare the lives of your subordinates.”

Su Qing smiled faintly. Although she understood that Duan Lingxiao’s words meant she would not be spared, she did not take it to heart. She replied, “Su Qing is only the Head Scout. How could I know of the details of such a military secret? Sire is asking information from the ignorant.”1

“Is that truly the case?” asked Duan Lingxiao rhetorically in a frigid tone. “Does Miss Su know why I suddenly began to massacre?”

After thinking it over, Su Qing gravely spoke, “It is naturally to prevent our cavalry from providing support to our fleet. Presumably, Lord Duan hopes that our fleet will be defeated.”

Duan Lingxiao indifferently stated, “Correct. Ever since the Yong army entered Qinzhou, I came to probe for military intelligence. The Yong invasion this time is quite formidable. For Northern Han, it is a matter of life and death. As a result, I had no recourse but to come personally. Several days ago, I saw the Yong fleet and learned of the presence of the Marquis of Chu, Jiang Zhe. General Long ordered our navy to sally forth. If we could defeat your fleet with one blow, it would be wonderful. We could destroy the Yong supply lines. However, even if we failed, if we could seize the opportunity to kill Jiang Zhe, it would be a great accomplishment. For this matter, I did not hesitate to lower my status to personally assassinate the reinforcing cavalry officers. Unfortunately, the Yong fleet’s combat prowess was formidable and the results were barely satisfactory. I originally wished to depart immediately. However, when I saw Miss leave the ship, I remembered Miss’s identity and position. Presumably, you know many secrets. As a result, I have taken the risk of intercepting you. If Miss is willing to reveal all of the secrets you have kept hidden in that head of yours, I can spare Miss’s life. Otherwise, Miss Su, you had best pray you die here. If I capture you alive, you will likely experience countless cruel tortures which will cause Miss to regret all of your past deeds.”2

“Su Qing has long since disregarded life and death,” replied Su Qing with an apathetic look in her eyes. “It’s useless for Sire to threaten Su Qing in such a manner.” Finished speaking, she soullessly withdrew from the pavilion.

Her escort quickly rushed forward and circled her, protecting her within their midst. With their conversation reaching this point, both Su Qing and Duan Lingxiao knew that there was no need for any further words. Everything would now be determined by force.

Letting out a light sigh, Duan Lingxiao said, “For Miss Su to be so talented and yet be a subject of Great Yong, it is truly a pity.” With this last remorseful line, everything between the Heavens and the Earth became somber and desolate. Everyone knew that he was about to act and could not help taking deep breaths in preparation.

However, Duan Lingxiao did not make a single move, only exuding boundless killing aura from his body, making all the horsemen have thoughts of either fighting to the death or throwing down their weapons and surrendering. However, all of these cavalrymen were veteran warriors of a hundred battles. Although the majority of them were not internal energy experts, they had acquired plenty of potent techniques from the battlefield. All of them released their pent-up killing auras. For the moment, the auras on both sides seemed to be evenly matched.

A look of helplessness flashed across Duan Lingxiao’s eyes. As Great Yong had such elite soldiers, it was no wonder they could dominate the world. In comparison, although the officers and soldiers of Northern Han were fierce, bold, and powerful, and the majority of them had individual battle strength superior to Great Yong’s soldiers, they were unavoidably inferior when it came to creating tactical formations. However, as an expert of the Xiantian realm, he quickly swept away all of these distracting thoughts in an instant. Even the killing intent he was exuding gradually vanished before disappearing without a trace. Those Yong horsemen were bracing themselves against the tsunami of killing intent that Duan Lingxiao was originally exuding. When the killing aura suddenly vanished, the horsemen felt themselves shaken by the disappearance of their opponent. Several of the horsemen with weaker constitutions had pale complexions. One of them had blood dripping out of his mouth onto the saddle. In this moment, Duan Lingxiao struck.

Su Qing felt something flash before her eyes as Duan Lingxiao’s palm appeared in front of her face. She retreated with a backflip to avoid the strike. As the gleam flashed by, she drew her sword to counterattack. The palm and sword met, creating a clanging sound. Su Qing felt her hand grow numb, almost losing the grip on her sword. Taking a deep breath, she borrowed the momentum to retreat. Like a shadow, Duan Lingxiao followed. The two were joined in battle. The brilliant glinting of the sword and icy glimmers surrounded the azure and gray figures, preventing the horsemen from intervening and providing help. The horsemen could only back up and surround the two battling. All of them drew their bows and crossbows, preparing to shoot Duan Lingxiao dead when the opportunity presented itself.

Su Qing used all of her strength. Each surge she sent out from her sword was higher than the one before. Duan Lingxiao was like an enormous reef in the middle of the ocean. Regardless of the wind and waves, he did not bend his head. Facing such a strong opponent, Su Qing discovered that her swordplay had never been so fluid and free before. She had never felt such a feeling before, even when she fought Qiu Yufei last time. Because Qiu Yufei’s martial arts were dexterous and flexible, and Su Qing’s speed and movement were slower than his, how could she fully display her swordplay when she was overwhelmed? In comparison, Duan Lingxiao’s martial arts were imposing and unyielding, allowing Su Qing to fully play to her strengths. When her swordsmanship became increasingly unrestrained, it became enormous waves that seemed to reach the Heavens, displaying less killing intent within the magnificence.

Duan Lingxiao’s martial arts were far better than Su Qing’s. Although he could not take her life for the time being, it could be done skillfully and easily. Seeing Su Qing’s swordplay and movements, a peculiar light shone in his eyes. With the sound of screeching metal, Duan Lingxiao unsheathed a dazzling short sword from his sleeve. From that point on, countless deafening sounds of clashing weapons rang out. Duan Lingxiao forcibly took all of Su Qing’s violent attacks, as the short sword transformed into a rainbow, each slash faster than the previous one, almost like a river dragon surging out of the water to break Su Qing’s defenses.

Su Qing had already done her utmost. After her violent attacks ended, she had revealed a single opening that had been exploited by Duan Lingxiao. Having an unswerving and determined personality, at this moment between life and death, she thrust the sword in her right hand at Duan Lingxiao, while drawing a dagger with her left hand to block Duan Lingxiao’s short sword. With a loud clash, her tender body fell backwards like a kite with its string cut. Duan Lingxiao let out a long hiss and followed in pursuit. All of the horsemen simultaneously let out loud shouts at this moment, the sound of crossbow mechanisms clanking and creaking. Over twenty barely perceivable crossbow bolts flew towards Duan Lingxiao in flight. Duan Lingxiao fluttered his sleeve, causing those bolts to seemingly meet an invisible wall and stop before dropping to the ground. Just then, the second and third wave of crossbow bolts shot out. Like a windmill, Duan Lingxiao rotated his arms in the air, violently deflecting the crossbow bolts. Two of the horsemen were hit by the deflected bolts and fell from their mounts. However, with this, Duan Lingxiao’s pursuit had been delayed for the moment.

By this point, Ruyue had galloped over, pulling Su Qing onto her horse. Vomiting several mouthfuls of blood, Su Qing shouted, “Ruyue, guide the horse back the way we came!”

As the horsemen continuously used their crossbows to hinder Duan Lingxiao’s pursuit, they spurred their horses to follow after Su Qing. Contempt flashed across Duan Lingxiao’s eyes. Seizing the reins of the horse Su Qing had left behind, he mounted it and followed in pursuit. Su Qing’s horse was a handpicked one in a thousand steed, and Duan Lingxiao was a masterful rider. It wasn’t long before he caught up to the fleeing cavalry.

Duan Lingxiao laughed humorlessly, striking with his palm and smacking the rearmost horseman off his horse. When he passed the fallen horseman’s mount, Duan Lingxiao picked up the man’s lance in passing. Creating thousands of afterimages with the lance, Duan Lingxiao thrust forward and caused two horsemen to fall. It wasn’t long before he had caught up to Ruyue’s horse, which had fallen behind because it was carrying two people. At this point, Su Qing was completely leaning on Ruyue, seemingly having already lost consciousness.

Scorn appeared in Duan Lingxiao’s eyes, and he sent the lance stabbing at Su Qing’s back. Suddenly, at this moment, Su Qing dodged to the side while Ruyue ducked down. A crossbow appeared in Su Qing’s hands. The mechanism clanked softly and three bolts shot out towards Duan Lingxiao. Now there were only a mere two zhang3 between the two of them. In addition, the lance was a pole weapon, so it impossible to quickly pull it back to deflect the crossbow bolts. Fortunately, Duan Lingxiao’s horsemanship was superb. Almost as if his back was broken, he leaned backwards. One of the bolts flew past his face. Suddenly, a mournful horse squeal shrilled and Duan Lingxiao felt the horse underneath him weaken. After galloping wildly for a dozen or more zhang,4 the horse collapsed. Duan Lingxiao vaulted out of the saddle. As his figure hit to the ground, he heaved his lance. Like a thunderbolt, it flashed through the air, rushing towards Su Qing, who had straightened in the saddle.

Just now, Su Qing had used the entirety of her remaining strength to dodge and shoot the crossbow. After she had straightened, she was truly powerless to do anything. Seeing the lance sailing through the air towards her, she no longer had any strength to evade. Her face, pale as snow, unveiled a bitterly disappointed smile. She tranquilly waited for lance to pierce her chest.

Footnotes:

问道于盲, wendaoyumang – idiom, lit. to ask the blind the way; fig. to seek information from the ignorant
悔不当初, huibudangchu – idiom, lit. regret one’s past deeds; fig. regret a previous mistake
6 meters (around 20 feet)
Around 30 meters (about 100 feet)

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