Chapter 341: Great Danger! (2)
As a lady of the Bai Clan, Bai Siling had been brought up in a privileged environment, and rarely were there matters she needed to worry over.
Throughout this operation, even in the conflict between Xu Gan, Huang Yongtu, and Wang Chong, she was able to remain on the fence and spectate leisurely.
But this time, Bai Siling couldn't help but feel deeply troubled.
This mission was issued by the royal court, so even if danger was lying ahead of them, they couldn't abandon it on a whim. However, their opponents, the Iron Cloak Highwaymen, didn't seem like ordinary bandits. To date, they hadn't seen the slightest trace of the other party, but the other party already had obtained crucial intelligence on them, even knowing their numbers.
This left Bai Siling deeply unnerved, which was why she invited Wang Chong over.
"Siling, it's nothing much for them to know our numbers. The military has the practice of allocating crockeries by the strength of the army. As long as they circumvent our men and examine the burnt marks left in our camping areas, it wouldn't be too difficult for them to determine our strength." Wang Chong replied calmly.
"What's your name?" Wang Chong turned around to look at the man kneeling before him.
"Li Cangqi!" The man was taken aback, but he still straightened his back and reported his name.
Li Cangqi could vaguely sense that the young man before him was the true mastermind behind the army’s entire operation.
And despite informing the latter of the prowess of the Iron Cloak Highwaymen, this young man didn't show the slightest sign of being flustered at all. Instead, he was even able to calmly analyze how the Iron Cloak Highwaymen had deduced their numbers. This left Li Cangqi with a slightly peculiar sensation within.
There was something very different about the young man before him.
"Li Cangqi," Wang Chong nodded, acknowledging him. "It seems like you possess quite a deep understanding of the bandits and highwaymen along the west road. Let me ask you; if you were a member of the Iron Cloak Highwaymen, when would you strike?"
"Now!" Li Cangqi replied calmly.
Hearing those words, Wang Chong and Bai Siling traded gazes, and they could see the shock in each other's eyes.
"You are currently only around 100 li away from the territory of the Iron Cloak Highwaymen. Given their usual practice, they would surely strike before you, so as to catch you off-guard. Thus, I suggest that you retreat right now before it's too late. Otherwise, with your eighty men, it's impossible for you to be a match for them!" Li Cangqi advised grimly.
Hearing those words, Wang Chong's face darkened.
"This is bad, we must inform Xu Gan and Huang Yongtu of this!" Wang Chong abruptly got to his feet and rushed out.
Li Cangqi thought that their full force was gathered here, but that wasn't the case. Most armies would usually dispatch a force up to the den while the others remained at the bottom, so as to provide reinforcements if required. However, this group operated in a different manner.
Given Wang Chong’s understanding of Xu Gan and Huang Yongtu, they were likely to be at the next den thirty li away from here.
That was only 70 li away from the home base of the Iron Cloak Highwaymen!
If the Iron Cloak Highwaymen were to launch an attack, Xu Gan and Huang Yongtu would be in grave danger at this very moment.
"Retreat! Everyone, let's descend from the mountain now!"
Realizing the same thing, Bai Siling immediately sprang up from the tigerskin seat and rushed out of the den with Wang Chong.
Realizing the situation they were facing, the forty Great Tang cavalrymen charged swiftly down the mountain, not bothering to even sweep the den for spoils of war.
Like a furious dragon gliding through the lands, the group of forty swiftly galloped to the next den thirty li away.
While Wang Chong did have multiple conflicts with Xu Gan and Huang Yongtu, it was not his wish to see them slaughtered by bandits and highwaymen. More importantly, he couldn't bear to see forty loyal military veterans of Great Tang die in such a manner.
For cavalrymen who had dedicated their lives to Great Tang to be killed by mere bandits and highwaymen, this was a great dishonor.
As a man who had spent his days on the battlefield in his previous life, Wang Chong related deeply to this. Thus, he was unwilling to see such a situation occur.
As if realizing the intentions of his owner, the White-hoofed Shadow also charged forward with its full might.
Xu Gan and Huang Yongtu had set forth rather early, and Wang Chong’s group had also spent quite some time in the previous bandit camp. Thus, they were currently an hour or two behind the other group.
For the first time, Wang Chong felt that this journey of 30 li was exceptionally long.
"I can only hope that it's not too late!" Wang Chong clenched his fists tightly as he thought. Hopefully he was just thinking too much, and the Iron Cloak Highwaymen hadn't struck yet. Or perhaps, they might have just bypassed Xu Gan and Huang Yongtu's group.
Hong long long!
Twenty minutes later, when they were around ten li away from their destination, they suddenly saw a cloud of yellow dust rumbling ahead of them. Amidst the yellow dust, furious war cries from steeds and warriors alike could be heard. In just a few moments, a huge army appeared before them, and it was difficult to gauge quickly how many people were in front of them.
"Damn it!" Seeing the huge cloud of dust, Wang Chong and Bai Siling's hearts turned cold, and blood flushed from their faces.
"We were too late!" Bai Siling's lips quivered in agitation as her face turned incomparably pale.
It was unlikely that Xu Gan and Huang Yongtu could survive against such a huge force. Looking at the hundreds of highwaymen before them, there was little doubt that they belonged to the Iron Cloak Highwaymen whom Li Cangqi mentioned previously. After all, they were likely to be the only ones who could gather such a force.
Judging from the imposing momentum of the army, there was indeed no mistake with Li Cangqi's evaluation of the Iron Cloak Highwaymen.
They were worthy of being called the strongest bandit band on the stretch of road between Longxi and the capital.
With a dazed expression, Bai Siling subconsciously turned to Wang Chong and asked, "What do we do now?"
For a lady in this era, she possessed great wits and superior martial arts, unlike her peers. But war was something that was too far from her.
Not to mention, the enemies they were facing were so great that their voices were deafening even from a distance of almost ten li away, making it hard for them to hear one another without shouting.
With just a group of forty, it would be hard for them to rival the hundreds of bandits and highwaymen.
Advance, and they would be defeated.
Retreat, and death would befall Xu Gan and Huang Yongtu.
These two difficult choices had placed Bai Siling in a dilemma. Lost, she subconsciously turned her gaze to Wang Chong, hoping that she could find some support from him.
Along the way, Wang Chong's decisiveness had left a deep impression on her. At this crucial moment, she instinctively chose to follow Wang Chong's judgement.
In the face of the ferocious roars in the distance, Bai Siling and the other forty Great Tang cavalrymen turned their eyes to Wang Chong.
Everyone was waiting for him to make the call.
At that instant, Wang Chong felt a heavy weight on his shoulders. It was an extremely nostalgic sensation, as if he had returned back to the time when all hopes were pinned on him.
Back then, everyone also looked at him with the same gazes.
Time seemed to stop, leaving behind only the thunderous beating of his own heart. That momentary pause in time seemed to last for eons, but he swiftly calmed down.
"Calm down," Wang Chong suddenly said. His voice was forceful and decisive, turning everyone's attention away from the anxiety in their minds.
"The fact that there is such a huge commotion ahead means that the battle hasn't ended yet. In other words, there is still hope for Xu Gan and Huang Yongtu."
Those words seemed to lift everyone's downcast spirits.
Indeed! If the battle had ended, and Xu Gan and Huang Yongtu were dead, they wouldn't be hearing war cries at this instant!
That was a simple logic, but with anxiety clouding their rational thinking, it had slipped their mind.
"This fellow is really a born leader!" Bai Siling looked at Wang Chong in awe. With just a few words, he had managed to dispel the unease and pull everyone's hearts together.
This made Bai Siling relieved that she had chosen to follow him.
"The core of military stratagem lies in knowing oneself and one's enemies. Before deciding whether we should fight or retreat, we should first get a clear gauge on our opponent's strength first. If it is within our means, we shall enter the battlefield and save our comrades. Otherwise, we can only retreat to minimize our losses. On the battlefield, it is imperative that we have to detach our emotions from rational thinking, so I hope that you can understand this regardless of the ultimate decision.
"Also, no matter what commands I issue later on, I hope that you can carry them out decisively. Don't let your emotions come into play and defy my commands, understood?"
The final words, Wang Chong had spoken with exceptional gravity. There were only forty of them here, thus putting them at a huge disadvantage in terms of numbers. If he couldn't maintain absolute control over his men, charging over now would only spell their deaths.
This time, regardless of whether it was the soldiers under Wang Chong's command or Bai Siling's commands, they responded decisively.
In the last few days, Wang Chong had already won their respect through his actions and capabilities.