Volume 5 – A Distance Within Reach, Chapter 53: Factors That Decide Victory
“Combatant Formula,” Qianye replied calmly. The Song Clan Ancient Scroll and the blood energy within his body were his greatest secrets. Only Song Zining knew of them at the moment.
Zhao Yuying broke into a laughter. “Combatant Formula? That muddy qi you spat out just now was pure darkness, not something that can be pa.s.sed off as a minor impurity. I’ve never heard that the Combatant Formula can cultivate darkness origin power.”
There was no emotion on Qianye’s face. It was apparent that he didn’t want to continue this discussion.
Zhao Yuying said with a laugh, “Don’t be so stingy. I’m not interested in this little secret of yours. Oh, and by the way, let me tell you that I cultivate the Western Emperor’s Grand Ambition, which is the polar counterpart of the West Pole Violet Qi. One light and one dark, these two are the top-grade secret arts of the Zhao Clan.”
The West Pole Violet Qi was one of the most famous arts of the Zhao clan. Why was the Western Emperor’s Grand Ambition not well-known if it were comparable to the former? Qianye didn’t know Zhao Yuying’s intentions in telling him this, and he didn’t want to ask too many questions. Sometimes, it was better to know less about the secrets related to the Zhao clan.
News from the vanguard arrived while they were setting up camp that night. Duan Hao had already a.s.saulted the dark race territory and captured two settlements. Additionally, he had also annihilated two patrol units and successfully arrived at his designated position.
There were already hundreds of captives in Duan Hao’s hands, both warriors and civilians, currently being escorted to the rear. Duan Hao had also allowed a number of dark race citizens to escape on purpose. Viscount Thomas, who was closest to this location, would receive news of the invasion very soon, and his troops would likely arrive at the battlefield within two days.
Qianye pa.s.sed the report to Zhao Yuying and said, “I guess it’s time for us to move out.”
As expected, Zhao Yuying said while yawning, “Thomas? That pitifully weak rural vampire? Not interested. You can take care of him on your own.”
Qianye smiled indifferently and stuffed the report into her hands. “This won’t do. Many of my subordinates will die if you don’t take part.”
Zhao Yuying yawned once again and tossed the report back to Qianye. “You can be considered a leader now. Use some brain, will you? Your elder sister’s greatest value is in launching a ferocious surprise attack against that arachne count. I can at least knock off two of his hind legs. Why would I need to take action for a mere third-rank viscount? Don’t tell me you want all your warriors to come back alive? How can there be any elite soldiers without any deaths? If that’s your intention, then it’s best you just disperse Dark Flame right now. You’re not suited to lead an army.”
“I’ll deal with Stuka.”
“You should know that the correct choice is for me to deal with him.” Zhao Yuying had no plan to compromise.
Qianye shrugged and said, “Fine then. If you really can’t knock off two of his hind legs, then you’ll have to listen to my commands from now on.”
Zhao Yuying glanced at Qianye and said, “As long as you cooperate well, I’m five parts confident in finis.h.i.+ng off that old spider. But are you sure that’s what you want?”
Qianye immediately shook his head. “Of course not. Leaving him alive for now will benefit us.”
“Then that’s settled.” Zhao Yuying then ignored Qianye and returned to her cultivation.
After finis.h.i.+ng up the military affairs at hand, Qianye pondered on his conversation with Zhao Yuying and felt his heart tremble ever so slightly. Apparently, the latter possessed impressive strategic foresight despite her sloppy outward appearance.
After the night pa.s.sed by, Qianye led Dark Flame’s main force and marched toward the designated battlefield. The mine they were charging toward was one of Viscount Thomas’ economic bloodlines—the viscount would have no choice but to send reinforcements whether or not he had other intentions in mind.
Dark Flame now had a total of six regiments after incorporating the seventh division. Qianye only brought along three of the most powerful regiments and left the remainder to guard Cloud Sail City and Four Rivers Military Base. Blackflow City was left under Song Hu’s full control to manage logistics.
Qianye had no worries at all about the city’s defenses at the moment. It was practically invulnerable to attacks as long as Zhang Zixing’s airs.h.i.+p squadron was around.
Dark Flame arrived at the predetermined battlefield in the evening. It was a hilly region with gentle slopes, most suitable for Dark Flame to display its firepower. Qianye set up the two mobile heavy cannons on the highest knoll with which he could control a ten-kilometer area around them.
Zhao Yuying watched detachedly from the side and found that Qianye’s troop deployments strictly adhered to standard imperial army tactics. Although he couldn’t be considered a genius in this regard, at least he wasn’t making any mistakes. This was indeed the best strategy in a scenario where one’s own troop strength and armaments were at an advantage.
Night came early in Evernight Continent, and the sky had completely dimmed down by four o’clock in the evening. A faintly discernible sound suddenly rang out in the distance, but upon careful listening, it also sounded like the wind blowing through the plains and forests.
Those experts who possessed Night Vision could see a crowd of black figures appearing on the distant hilltop. There was an invisible pressure slowly advancing toward them.
Zhu Wuya arrived beside Qianye and whispered, “Sir, the enemy has arrived.”
“How about their reconnaissance units?”
“Those in range have been finished off.”
Qianye nodded and instructed Zhu Wuya to return to his position, leaving only Zhao Yuying and a number of orderlies near him.
In the distant forest, countless bats suddenly fluttered up and formed a swirling black cloud in the sky. Below that dark cloud was the main army of the dark race.
The bright day and dark night were no different at all in Qianye’s supervision. He shot a single glance and said to Zhao Yuying, “5000 blood thralls and around four to five hundred vampire warriors. It seems most of them are the viscount’s men.”
Zhao Yuying shrugged and said, “Is this your first time leading a battle of this scale?”
“Yes,” Qianye admitted calmly.
“Very well. After this boring battle ends, you’ll understand that there are many factors that affect the battle, including the warriors’ training, sufficient supplies, firm strategy, and quality of equipment. But there’s really only one thing that decides victory.”
These were the words of one of the empire’s greatest marshals, Zhang Boqian’s great-grandfather, Zhang Dongliu. Almost every imperial soldier knew this by heart and Qianye was no exception. He finished the sentence with a rueful smile, “Experts.”
“Correct. I was wondering whether or not you’ll know. Why don’t you just rush over directly and finish off that weak viscount? Won’t that solve everything? Don’t tell me you can’t kill a measly third-rank viscount? I feel it’s not difficult for you to finish off two such characters.”
Qianye smiled and pointed toward the Dark Flame warriors who had taken up a defensive stance. “You’re not wrong. But my subordinates need to mature amidst the flames of war and such an opportunity doesn’t come too often.”
“What’s the use of these ordinary soldiers? On the contrary, it’s distracting.”
Qianye broke into a laughter and shook his head. “They’re naturally useless to high n.o.bles like you, but it’s not the same for us.”
He hadn’t even finished speaking when Zhao Yuying cut him short. “Qianye, you’re mistaken. Troops and influence are only useful to people like us. We received the support of the clan, and as such, we also have a responsibility to reciprocate. Troops are best used for occupation, control, and administration—they’re like adding wings to tigers like us. But it’s not the same for you. You must be clear by now that the Zhao clan may become your support, but quite likely a crisis as well.”
Qianye frowned slightly.
Zhao Yuying continued, “Little Four is strong, very strong. And I have no doubts about his determination to protect you. But I also know that relying on others is, in and of itself, unreliable. So, what you really should do is to become stronger yourself and not get distracted. For instance, Lin Xitang.”
The appearance of this name shook Qianye’s heart.
Zhao Yuying hadn’t noticed the minute changes in his emotion and kept on speaking, “Many people only know Lin Xitang leads his armies with extraordinary skill and is unparalleled in strategy. They only know that the Northern Legion he established can be considered the most elite unit, and how he single-handedly brought the Lin family from low to high-ranking n.o.ble status. But few know the true reason why Lin Xitang was able to stand equal to Marshal Boqian as one of the empire’s twin paragons.”
Qianye couldn’t help but listen with bated breath. He too had never imagined that there would be another reason.
Zhao Yuying laughed coldly and said, “Lin Xitang has gone through hundreds of battle, big and small, throughout his career. But he has never once been defeated in a direct confrontation! It’s quite amusing that everyone thinks he achieved a leading position with strategy.”
Qianye opened his mouth and couldn’t help but ask, “Has Marshal Lin and Marshal Zhang ever fought before?”
Zhao Yuying shook her head. “I’ve never heard of such a battle. Don’t ask me, I don’t know why either.”
Qianye recalled in detail. He had indeed never heard any rumors related to the results of a contest between the two. This was quite surprising.
The reputation of the Empire’s Twin Paragons rose when they were both champions. Back then, they were the two incomparable brilliant rising stars, one civil and one military, one a strategist and the other a warrior. Their stories were spread far and wide among the military’s younger generation. Later on, one became the cornerstone of the aristocratic clans, while the other became the leader of the rising military power. In the end, the two became political rivals in the imperial court, but they were still the idols of countless youths.
Today, Zhang Boqian was a peerless symbol of the empire’s backbone generation, while Lin Xitang’s completely unfathomable Art of Heaven’s Mystery was gradually surpa.s.sing the other ancient secret arts. Thus, in the eyes of countless people, the best combination was to have Lin Xitang lead the army, and Zhang Boqian break through enemy formations to slaughter their generals. As for a comparison of martial strength, it was naturally Zhang Boqian who was stronger.
However, according to Zhao Yuying’s words, it seemed the results of a battle between the two paragons wasn’t that easy to judge. But now that Zhang Boqian was about to advance to the rank of Heavenly Monarch, there would probably never be an answer to this guess.
Qianye collected his thoughts and gazed at the fast approaching vampire army. “I understand. But, let’s finish this battle first before anything else.”
He slowly raised his right hand. The orderly immediately focused his attention on his gesture, waiting for the command.
Qianye gauged the distance in silence. He finally gripped his hands into a fist after the tide of blood thralls had descended the knoll and began charging along the gentle slope.
The dense darkness of the night was torn apart by the resplendent flames as a dozen-odd cannons rumbled continuously, firing sh.e.l.l after sh.e.l.l toward the dark race army. The first wave actually contained a fair number of flares—it was as though ten suns had appeared in the sky as the blinding white light illuminated the entire battlefield.
The high-ranking vampire warriors hiding amidst the blood thralls were staring fixedly at the sky, ready to intercept the incoming heavy cannon sh.e.l.ls. Ordinary flares would only affect their vision slightly and caused no damage to their eyes.
However, the ones Qianye had used were special flash sh.e.l.ls used only by the imperial regular army. The light erupting from them contained intense daybreak origin power and were highly destructive against the dark races. This was especially true for the vampires and demonkin who possessed outstanding eyesight.
These special flash sh.e.l.ls were of extraordinary value, and it was fairly rare to see them on Evernight Continent, even in major battles. The opponent, Viscount Thomas, had never even seen this thing before. He realized something wasn’t right the moment this white light suddenly appeared and hurriedly closed his eyes. Even then, his eyes stung and tears flowed out involuntarily.
Even Thomas was in such a state, to speak nothing of the vampires under his command. Many high-ranking warriors were howling in pain while covering their eyes. Large charred marks had even emerged on the blood thralls’ skin. Many of the weaker ones were burned until they rolled about on the ground in pain.
A single wave of cannon fire had thrown Thomas’ entire unit into confusion and wiped out all of his lower-ranking military power.
Qianye stood at the back, observing everything in silence.