Chapter 47: When Walking in the Cold, You’ll Find Yourself Sick
“Hey, why do not you listen to others? You can’t go out!” Nian Duan cried out hurriedly and with exasperation.
Gu Nan was wearing no armor, only a cloth gown with a fur cloak draped over her shoulders. Her figure felt a bit thin and feeble, and her bloodless lips seemed to reinforce this image.
“It’s so cold outside and your injury is still recovering. Is it because you’re too comfortable?” Nian Duan felt the cold winds blow over, rubbing her shoulders as she followed along.
“You have multiple arrow wounds. If you want it to heal properly, you can’t be moving like this. Hey, are you listening to me? Who do you think is at risk here? If I can’t patch you up, I probably can’t leave this ghastly place alive. Are you even thinking about this? Hey!”
Regardless of what Nian Duan grumbled, Gu Nan didn’t really listen. Shaking her head, she calmly said, “I am just going outside to look for a bit. It won’t be long.”
“Tsk.” Nian Duan made a knowing expression. “If you’re going out to look, I might as well freeze accompanying you.”
“If you feel cold, you can go back. I’m not pulling you along.” Gu Nan chuckled and continued to walk towards the camp wall.
“You are my patient!” Nian Duan shouted again. “I want to become a saint doctor and I won’t let you be a stain on me.”
“Achoo!” As she spoke, she sneezed and rubbed her nose. “I will cure you completely!”
“Oh.” With only a faint affirmation, Gu Nan continued her stride to the wall through the corridors.
“It’s like reasoning with a stubborn donkey.” Realizing that Gu Nan isn’t returning, she snorted in anger and reluctantly followed.
As the two approached, several soldiers on sentry duty hurriedly walked up and simultaneously gave a light bow.
Gu Nan was somewhat taken by surprise by this respectfulness and tried to dismiss the formalities. “There’s no need to act like this. Between you and I, we are just fellow soldiers.”
“How can it be simplified to such a degree?” The soldier smiled. “Miss is the disciple of General Bai. Furthermore, if Miss Gu was not defending the wall, it’s unknown how many of our brothers would have died.”
Although Gu Nan could only vaguely remember her actions, the soldiers all witnessed it very clearly. Alone atop the wall, facing waves of climbing Zhao soldiers. Every step was lined with corpses, and her spear dripped with blood and her cloak splattered with it. Any defending soldier would not dare to forget the sight.
Gu Nan was unsure how to respond and only nodded.
From the side, Nian Duan looked at Gu Nan again and thought about something.
Her authority in this army sure is high. It’s can’t be easy for a woman to get so far in the army. As Nian Duan noted to herself, she felt some admiration for this beautiful patient of hers.
Nian Duan was unaware though of how this authority came to be, but if she knew, she probably wouldn’t be thinking like she is now.
In this place of death and murder, honor and authority are only gained by killing.
The nightly wind in the camp was gale-like. Blowing against the ten-meter wooden walls, it whistled like the screech of wailing ghosts.
Gu Nan stood at the precipice of the wall, coughing occasionally, looking out into the night. She saw through the darkness, a large patch of light. It was the Zhao camp, merely a short distance from the Qin camp.
In the mountains was a hastily-built encampment of hundreds of thousands of men, unable to be hidden from the enemy. The Zhao army dared to camp just across the from the Qin army, within the mountain forests.
This, however, was a coordinated strategy. If the camp was made in the mountains, the Qin would never dare set it ablaze because their camps were too close and the forests too dense.
If a fire set upon the Zhao camp, the Qin would stand to lose a lot as well. And in the end, it would only hurt both sides. To the side with the advantage, the Qin would be unwilling to do this.
Those who have nothing are not scared of losing.
Gu Nan focused on the Zhao camp, knowing that this famous battle will result in hundreds of thousands of deaths. In the Zhao army, none will escape.
“Alright, let’s go back.” Gu Nan turned her head and walked slowly away.
“What that’s it? You only glanced once, hey!”
As Gu Nan was recovering, the battles between the Qin and the Zhao raged onto the fifth day.
“Kill!” The deafening shouts and the clatter of melee could be heard from several miles away.
The clear water of the Dan River was diluted a pale red with blood. Dead bodies and broken swords laid everywhere across the terrain. The land was tinted a reddish brown from the savage fighting.
Fighting an army larger than themselves, the Zhao army existed on the border of collapse. Regardless, the temporary line of defense always blocked the enemy. But like withered wood facing a gale, the defenses were barely held by the utmost of resistance.
This makeshift camp was unequivocally simple. Just as a Qin soldier finally hacked through the wooden palisade with a sword, a Zhao soldier gave a loud shout and charged forward, tackling the Qin attacker back outside the walls. The Zhao soldier died in the blink of an eye under the surrounding Qin army.
Underneath a set of cracked armor, Zhao Kuo cut down another Qin soldier. He shouted with a hoarse voice. “Everyone! Hold!”
His attention returned to the Qin soldiers that encircled him. Gulping down his saliva, he mustered more strength to feebly say, “Defend for a few more days.”
He was unsure whether he was reassuring his soldiers or himself.
Raising his sword, he slaughtered a path through the crowd of enemies.
Zhao Kuo has already forgotten how many attacks the Qin army has sent again him. His entire body was bathed in blood, and even his hair was clotted with dried blood.
For four hundred thousand men to fend off six hundred thousand men in unfavorable circumstances, it’s enough to guess how miserable their lives have been.
They won’t win, but Zhao Kuo’s purpose was never to win.
If he can weaken the Qin army enough to prevent a northern invasion, he has achieved his victory.
“Kill them all!” It’s unknown who shouted, but the sounds of combat intensified and countless more people were cut down.
Bai Qi was standing on the high ground within the Qin camp, overlooking the nearby Zhao camp below.
“They still want to fight?”
“Yes.” An adjunct said, “For now, there is no intention of surrendering. It seems that Zhao Kuo, that youngster, still has something in mind.”
“A doomed prey still wants to injure the hunter…”
Bai Qi muttered and turned back to leave.
Zhao Kuo is indeed a good young talent. It’s proving much harder to deal with him than some aged commander like Lian Po.
Overlooking this battle is not only the countries of Qin and Zhao, but other “tigers and wolves” who remain lurking about. If the Qin army wished to invade Zhao, it would become very difficult.
The Qin attack paused temporarily.
In the makeshift Zhao camp, there was a faint light of fire. A few columns of smoke rise from the campfires, but there is hardly any food being cooked.
The past few days, the Zhao rations were split into three parts, but it was still not enough.
“General, there’s almost no food left.” Zhao Kuo’s bodyguard and advisor took a sip of the murky soup and cautiously said after looking around.
As Zhao Kuo sipped the “soup,” his hand paused in response. “How much longer can it last?”
“Even if we stretch it out, there’s only maybe a day and a half.” The bodyguard whispered.
If the soldiers knew that food was this close to running out, it could easily lead to panic and rebellion. Therefore, special discretion was needed.
“What about the commanders? Has there been any talk in the camp recently? About the reinforcements.” Zhao Kuo said with a low voice.
“Yes.” The bodyguard gulped and started to speak. “In the beginning, there were suspicions that reinforcements weren’t coming. There were some desertions and small-scale rebellions, but those have been quickly suppressed.”
Zhao Kuo swallowed a piece of the dried cake.
Although his eyes were exhausted, they remained firm. “Keep defending.”
The bodyguard nodded and left.
Zhao Kuo continued to sit, motionless. In his hand was the other half of the dried cake, but he let it dangle in his hands.
His lie of reinforcements won’t stand much longer, and army morale is falling much faster than he predicted.
Unsurprisingly, it was time to continue with the next stage of the plan.
Zhao Kuo mused himself over this. His chapped lips rubbing together as he stared at the ground.