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Chapter 601: When the hostage appeared

    Chapter 601: When the hostage appeared

    How did Han Yunxi take the Duke of Qin's place as the primary attacker?

    Things went down like this: after Han Yunxi treated Long Feiye's wounds, she glanced towards the battlefields. A single look was enough to tell Long Feiye that she wanted to fight. He had promised her before to take her fighting, so what did that count for if they were just watching from the sidelines? Thus, he grabbed her around the waist and flew into the fray.

    "Long Feiye, your hand can't-"

    "The hand that holds you will never get injured. Don't worry," Long Feiye cut her off. Han Yunxi couldn't see his expression from here, but his tone of voice was already enough to make her face feel hot. She carefully looked down and saw that he was holding her with his right hand while his left one had been injured. Currently it wasn't wielding any weapon, but simply resting idly behind his back.

    "Can you use your needles to take the place of your lordship's sword?" Long Feiye asked seriously.

    Immediately understanding his meaning, Han Yunxi declared, "I can!"

    Thus, Long Feiye stopped fighting and let Han Yunxi do all the work as he darted between the clouds of raining arrows. He didn't need to deflect them if he could dodge them. Of course, those weren't the limits of his skills. He could even find the best locations for Han Yunxi to deploy her needles as he weaved amongst the crowds. Although they were facing expert archers with only Han Yunxi and her shoddy shooting skills, Long Feiye's help allowed her to shoot at will. Instead of waiting for a chance, she only needed to let Long Feiye get into position before she released her weapons.

    Long Feiye's tracking, combined with Han Yunxi's Pear Blossom Teardrop Rain bracelet, ensured that each needle hit its mark-all of them on the archers' hands. Moreover, her needles were so fine that they didn't kill anyone, but rendered their victims' hands numb and thus useless for arrows. Could a Driving Arrow Arts practitioner who couldn't even grip an arrow be considered an archer anymore? They were just useless good-for-nothings with zero combat ability now. There were plenty of archers on the city walls, but Long Feiye and Han Yunxi purposely picked out the ones who were only launching arrows without wielding a bow. Soon enough, they'd handicapped quite a few of those men. One Driving Arrow Arts archer could stand in for multiple regular archers, so eliminating one was like eliminating ten at once. This helped reduce the pressure on the troops below.

    This was probably the most brilliant battle of Han Yunxi's career, and perhaps the most joyful, straightforward one as well. She and Long Feiye made for a perfect pair. Finally, she stopped lamenting the fact that she didn't know martial arts. With him here, even her trifling fighting prowess could be supplemented with something else. While Han Yunxi was shooting away to her heart's content, General Chu was ready to cry.

    Endless reports came from his soldiers, who cried along the lines of, "General, we lost three more Driving Arrow archers!"

    "General, Han Yunxi's using poison needles. There's over ten Driving Arrow archers who've lost use of their hands. They can't even lift them anymore."

    "General, three more were lost! What do we do?"

    Less than an hour later, the deputy general came down with a personal report. "General, half of the archers on the western wall have been incapacitated!"

    General Chu couldn't take it anymore. "What? They're not even sparing the regular archers now?"

    "In the beginning they only targeted the Driving Arrow archers, but after this subordinate gave orders to them to kill that pair, it... It set off the Duke of Qin's temper," the deputy general said somewhat helplessly.

    "And then?" General Chu demanded.

    "I don't know how, but the Duke of Qin deployed a team of archers out of the blue to attack our archery teams on the city walls. They seem to be using special crossbows, because their speed and strength are far superior to our own archers. The crucial point is that all the crossbow arrows are coated in poison! So anyone who gets hit, even if it wasn't a fatal shot, gets...disabled. That's how we lost half our archers there in no time at all." the deputy general was feeling quite helpless. After all these battles, this was the first time he'd seen someone deploy poison in actual combat. He really wanted to know where Han Yunxi had found so much poison to smear on all those arrows!

    "Han Yunxi deserves to die!" General Chu was ready to murder her.

    By his side, Chu Yunyi muttered to himself, "The Tang Clan! Those crossbows must have come from the Tang Clan!" He remembered that Chu Tianyin had once mentioned how the Tang Clan's young master was on close terms with Long Feiye. If it was the Tang Clan supplying the weapons, then they would be far more superior to their own bows and arrows. It had to be said that the Tang Clan's weaponry gave wings to the tiger that was Long Feiye!

    "General, right now the Duke of Qin and Qin Wangfei are just targeting our Driving Arrow archers, while their crossbow team is aiming for our regular archery division. We can't gain any advantages in that field! If this keeps on, we'll suffer heavy losses. In this soldier's humble opinion, we should withdraw the archers instead."

    Without archer support, the soldiers fighting below the city would lose a source of strength, making it even harder for them to push the battle to an end. General Chu couldn't accept that, so he simply shot back, "We're not withdrawing them! Can't a few thousand archers deal with that crossbow team? I refuse to believe otherwise! Spread my orders, both Driving Arrow and normal archers are to concentrate efforts on Han Yunxi. Kill her without mercy!"

    His orders gave some pressure to Long Feiye and Han Yunxi; after all, it was hard for two people to face off against an archery force of thousands. But the image of them scurrying amongst the arrows gave everything a long-lasting impression. Although the victor had yet to be decided, in some ways the Qin couple had already won! Against the concentrated onslaught of arrows, neither husband nor wife retreated, but engaged in guerilla warfare against the archers with their own crossbow team as backup. Their strategy was to play defensive and seize opportune moments to attack by surprise.

    Because they didn't retreat, the archers dared not let up their assault, much less worry about the situation on the rest of the battlefield. This gave less pressure to Long Feiye's, 5,000 troops, but only slightly. They still had no way to completely defeat 50,000 men.

    Another hour passed. Scores of dead and injured littered both sides. Long Feiye's side couldn't afford too many losses, but the Chu troops could. Even if they lost 5,000, they'd still have over 40,000 left, still plenty of manpower to suppress the enemy. Long Feiye was neither an idiot nor a frivolous man. He wouldn't blindly set 5,000 men against 50,000 because his true goal today was to play for time! He needed to drag on the fight here until the Western Zhou and south central region troops could overtake Youyun and Yaoshui Prefectures and reinforce them here.

    Once he felt he'd delayed things long enough, Long Feiye immediately called for a retreat. General Chu exhaled with relief at the news and ordered, "Withdraw the troops and shut the gates! Leave 3,000 to stand guard, the rest hurry north to help Youyun Prefecture!"

    Although they hadn't managed to completely defeat Long Feiye, they'd gotten to a point where the other side was unable to continue. Now he could set his heart at ease and transfer troops north. Soon enough, his deputy general came with a report of the latest numbers.

    "General, we lost a total of 1,000 archers and 5,000 infantrymen. Long Feiye's 5,000 men have been reduced to 2,000 now."

    "We also lost a day's worth of time!" General Chu added unhappily. His one consolation prize was the fact that Youyun Prefecture hadn't sent news of their defeat yet. It looked like they might make it if they hurried there overnight. He arranged for the 3,000 reserve force to defend the city and made preparations for a secret transfer of soldiers overnight, away from Long Feiye's knowledge. But he'd hardly finished when his deputy general rushed in with a shout. "General! General, bad news! It's terrible!"

    General Chu was currently applying numbing salve to his arm. The sight of his panicked deputy made him all the more irritated, so he simply ignored the man. 50,000 men had failed to destroy Long Feiye's 5,000 troops and even cost him a precious day of travel. What could be worse than this?

    But the deputy general's words stunned him into leaping up from his seat. He even knocked over the bowl of salve prepared for him by the doctor and forgot about the itching pain in his arm!

    The deputy general said, "General, the Duke of Qin's pitched a camp about 1,000km away and...and hung up the young general outside it. The Duke of Qin said...he'll cut the young general with a sword for each day we refuse to surrender!"

    The Chu Clan's young general was none other than Chu Tianyin! General Chu had never forgotten about his son, but he'd never ask for him outright unless Long Feiye brought it up first, to avoid being threatened or blackmailed. Now Long Feiye had pushed out Chu Tianyin at a time like this! The thing he'd feared most of all had still come to pass. This was his own flesh and blood, his most favored son! Although the Chu Clan had heirs aplenty, it only had one son by the first wife. None of the others could compare to Chu Tianyin's martial arts skills or competence, either.

    General Chu didn't have to compete with Chu Yunyi for leadership of the clan, but he would have to retire someday. His precious son was the best candidate for his position. If he withdrew his troops now, his son would remain unharmed. Faced with such a dilemma, General Chu found himself hesitating again.

    Chu Yunyi was standing right on the side. He was very clear on General Chu's feelings towards his child, and the fact that the Chu Clan needed a capable heir with the two of them currently injured. But he hesitated as well. Youyun and Yaoshui were in mortal danger right now. Ning Cheng's troops had yet to arrive. If they gave up Fenglin Prefecture for Chu Tianyin, won't they have nothing left?

    Then the Chu Clan would have no place to go! Were they supposed to fight their way through the Tianning borders then? Emperor Tianhui had yet to die. If they entered tianning now, then they would be accused of illegitimately taking the throne. They had expended all that effort to induce an early labor in Chu Qingge just so they could claim Tianning's throne square and fair.

    Although they were cooperating with Ning Cheng now, they still had to be on guard against him! Before Emperor Tianhui died and the crown prince took the throne, they had to keep out of Tianning in case they offended Ning Cheng. Then the man would be able to trump up countercharges against the crown prince and empress for trying to usurp the throne, thus wasting all their efforts in Western Liang.

    Both brothers had selfish motives at heart, but they had to consider the welfare of the clan as well. They stared at each other for a long time before General Chu spoke first. "Big bro, you're the clan head. You should decide!"

    Chu Yunyi couldn't help but heave a sigh. "Things would be better if we still had Gu Beiyue in our hands!"

    "Big bro, when will Ning Cheng arrive?" General Chu asked.

    "We agreed on the day after tomorrow. There's only two days left....I don't know if Tianyin...." Chu Yunyi meant to say that he wanted to wait it out. If they could last two more days, then Ning Cheng's reinforcements would be able to catch Long Feiye's unawares. It could be taken as a concession on Chu Yunyi's part, since that meant abandoning Youyun Prefecture in favor of Fenglin. But delaying two days meant that Chu Tianyin would be cut twice by Long Feiye's sword! If Long Feiye aimed for a vital spot, then one cut would be enough to take his life!

    After some thought, General Chu decided to go ahead and risk everything. "Even if Gu Beiyue isn't in our hands, we can still threaten them!"

    If we leak Gu Beiyue's whereabouts to pressure Han Yunxi, we should at least be able to buy two more days!
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