Chapter 353: Iron Cloak Li Makes a Move!
Hong long long!
After a few charges from the forty Great Tang cavalry, all that was left of the True Martial realm highwaymen were heaps of corpses on the ground.
The crux behind a charge wasn't the prowess of each individual, but the might of a collective group. To put it in other words, a highwayman standing in the face of a charge wouldn't be facing just a single cavalryman, but a ceaseless flow of them.
More often than not, the strength of an individual was negligible in the face of a group.
"Retreat! Retreat!" Chang Dao's despairing voice bellowed from the smoke. Slightly more fortunate than Hu Lang, he managed to survive the first charge of the cavalrymen.
However, after witnessing the furious momentum the forty cavalrymen harnessed, it suddenly dawned on Chang Dao that he had been underestimating his enemies right from the start. A huge gap did exist between mere highwaymen and trained military cavalrymen.
Even his heart was leaping wildly in fear when he witnessed the astounding power of their charge, and thoughts of retaliating evaporated from his mind.
Even he had little doubt that he wouldn't hold on for too long in the face of such might.
"We have been overpowered, don't bother standing your ground anymore. Brothers, hurry up and retreat!" Chang Dao bellowed anxiously as drops of sweat trickled down his forehead.
But in truth, his commands were completely unneeded. After failing several attempts to fight back against the forty cavalrymen, the highwaymen had already realized the futility of their struggle and scattered like flustered animals.
Some of them headed in the direction where their main force was stationed, some of them headed to the east side of the main road where the thirty men Hu Lang dispatched were stationed, and some of them even charged up the slope by the two sides. All in all, they were like aimless flies; darting anxiously in every direction in sight!
This was how frightened they were of the cavalry's charge!
There was no stalemate or intense battle at all. With five cavalrymen in each group, they swept through all of the highwaymen that stood in their path.
In just a few moments, the eighty Iron Cloak Highwaymen had collapsed entirely!
"You bastard, I'll tear you apart!"
All of a sudden, a deafening roar sounded from the distance. The voice seemed to be imbued with such great power that the smoke and dust in the area were even blown away. In that instant, even the forest seemed to shake in fear before that enraged roar.
Wang Chong turned around and saw an 8 chi tall man riding on a crimson Ferghana steed two hundred zhang away. That figure was racing here in a frenzy, a white trail of air dragging behind him.
Beneath the hooves of the crimson Ferghana steed, five similar-colored and similar-sized halos were shaking intensely, emanating a resounding metallic call. All that was trampled beneath its hooves was reduced to dust, be it grass or pebbles.
It felt as if the figure on the steed would destroy everything that stood in his path. Even from several hundred zhang away, one could still sense the frightening disposition he exuded.
Bai Siling immediately turned to Wang Chong and asked, "How did they arrive so quickly? What do we do now?"
When they were planning this matter out, they had already anticipated the Iron Cloak Highwaymen sending in reinforcements to back up the detour group. However, they didn't think the bandits would arrive so quickly, and especially didn’t think Iron Cloak Li would lead the troops personally.
"Not only so, it seems like something is going on at the slope too. Xu Gan and Huang Yongtu are under attack too. Listen!" Ma Song said with clenched fists.
It was easy to overlook it back when they were in the midst of a battle, but focusing their attention, they could still hear some furious war cries and the clash of weapons in the direction of the slope.
Clearly, the Iron Cloak Highwaymen had decided to launch an attack on Xu Gan and Huang Yongtu simultaneously as well.
The enemy had reacted too quickly once the situation was slowly turning against them.
With the clopping of war steeds, Iron Cloak Li's group was swiftly nearing them. At this moment, Wang Chong and his steed were standing in the middle of the main road as he swiftly analyzed the situation.
He was the only man among the Iron Cloak Highwaymen who could figure everything out so quickly and come up with swift countermeasures to his plan.
"Carry out the second plan!" Wang Chong instructed decisively.
"But what about Xu Gan, Huang Yongtu, and the others?" Ma Song asked anxiously.
"We have no choice, they will have to rely on themselves. From the very start, this was an impossible situation. At the very least, we have drawn the main forces of the Iron Cloak Highwaymen here. While there are still plenty of bandits and highwaymen left to attack the slope, they are considerably weaker, so the threat they face is already significantly lower than before.
"Given their strength, there is definitely a chance that they can escape the encirclement. Only those who seek to help themselves will be helped by the heavens. They can't possibly pin all of their hopes on us. Ma Song, release the arrow to signal Zhang Lin to break out of their encirclement," Wang Chong instructed.
Wang Chong's primary plan wasn't like that at all. However, there was nothing that was unchanging on the battlefield. True generals don't stick to plans, but adapt to their situation and find the most effective way to curb their enemy.
While there might be a little hiccup in their plans, Wang Chong still knew that he had room to maneuver around.
In the next instant, a whistling arrow whizzed with a deafening, shrilling ruckus across the sky, headed for Xu Gan and Huang Yongtu's direction.
"That is the signal!"
At that instant, upon hearing the agreed signal, Zhang Lin immediately straightened his back and gathered his spirit. Wang Chong had instructed him to prepare to break out of the encirclement as soon as he heard the whistling arrow.
In that period of time, Wang Chong would try to keep the main force of the Iron Cloak Highwaymen in check!
Even though he had no idea how Wang Chong would do it, or why Wang Chong was so confident that he could hinder the powerful highwaymen under Iron Cloak Li's command from returning in time, there was no doubt that this was the message he received from the note on Bai Siling's arrow.
This was their only hope, so he had little choice but to trust whatever was written.
"Brothers, abandon the defense line! Reorganize yourselves and prepare to charge out of the encirclement!" Zhang Lin bellowed.
A few moments later, the long-awaited uproar from a charge finally sounded on the slope once more.
"Everyone, listen to my commands. There are still another group of highwaymen stationed on the east side of the main road. It's already too late to save Xu Gan and Huang Yongtu, so let's slaughter them clean to avenge them!" Wang Chong raised his sword and pointed at the path ahead of him.
"Yes!" Hearing that Xu Gan, Huang Yongtu, and the others were goners, the cavalrymen's eyes reddened in fury, and their killing intent seared the air.
Hong long long!
Under Wang Chong's lead, the forty Great Tang cavalrymen suddenly scattered before swiftly galloping to the east of the main road.
But as scattered as they were, there was still order in their formation.
"Bastard!" Hearing those words, Iron Cloak Li felt rage burning his mind.
Given his understanding of Hu Lang, he knew that it was very likely that he would dispatch a group to the other end of the road to eliminate the escapees.
Thus, there a good chance that there were still a group of his brothers at the other end of the road.
The previous battle had already cost him fifty True Martial realm elites, and even now, Iron Cloak Li's heart was still bleeding from the loss.
If Wang Chong were to kill the elites at the end of the path as well, the Iron Cloak Highwaymen might just never recover from this damage.
Only Iron Cloak Li knew how much effort he had to put into gathering these True Martial realm brothers by his side. It had taken him an entire ten years to build the Iron Cloak Highwaymen to its current glory.
If Wang Chong were to succeed, the effort he had devoted previously would be rendered meaningless.
At this moment, Iron Cloak Li was really starting to regret underestimating Wang Chong. He was so wary of allowing any of the cavalrymen to escape that he resorted to all of these ploys. Had he known that it would cost him such heavy losses instead, he would have charged forward personally to slaughter Wang Chong, even if it might mean the escape of some of the cavalrymen.
For a mere forty cavalrymen to have killed so many of his brothers, this was an unprecedented heavy blow to him!
"Everyone, listen to my orders and act with me. If anyone dares to escape, they will be beheaded on the spot!" Iron Cloak Li barked wrathfully. His face was fearsomely livid, and his exploding rage was nearly palpable.
Hong long long!
The highwaymen who were still fleeing anxiously a moment ago suddenly felt their hearts freeze for an instant, and instinctively, they immediately turned around and converged back on Iron Cloak Li's group.
With Iron Cloak Li's arrival, the hearts and morale of the highwaymen finally rallied once more.
Within the Iron Cloak Highwaymen, their chief Iron Cloak Li represented an unsurpassable force that none could hope to challenge or stand against.
"Follow the chief and slaughter those soldiers!"
"Avenge our brothers!"...
The highwaymen screamed, and their courage was further inflated. For this operation, nearly the entire core group of the Iron Cloak Highwaymen had been mobilized.
With the thirty highwaymen elites who were defeated previously, along with the sixty bandits and highwaymen whom Iron Cloak Li had brought along with him, the forces of the Iron Cloak Highwaymen were bolstered to ninety once more.
But unlike before, the one who was leading the group this time was the mighty chief of the band, Iron Cloak Li.
Hong long long!
The bandits and highwaymen under Iron Cloak Li's command roared savagely, and their killing intent was so overwhelming that even space seemed to distort in the face of it.
"Don't let them get away!"
This time, they were determined not to let the Great Tang cavalrymen get away. Furthermore, even the heavens were on their side this time. After sprinting for a few hundred zhang, the highwaymen were already at their top speed.
As compared to Wang Chong's group who had just begun to pick up speed, they were at an advantageous position.
The distance slowly narrowed. A hundred zhang, eighty zhang, seventy zhang...
But just as they were fifty zhang away, an abrupt change occurred. Hong long, Iron Cloak Li suddenly felt the lack of resistance beneath him; the ground his steed was stepping on had collapsed!
"Shit!" Iron Cloak Li immediately realized that he had fallen into the other party's trap.
He tried to pull on the reins of his steed to make it stop, but it was already too late. When the war steed's speed was at its limit, how could it possibly stop when and how it wanted to?
With a resounding thud, Iron Cloak Li and his steed fell down with a cloud of dust.
Beneath him was a huge pit filled with wooden stakes.
"There are traps ahead!"
"Hurry up and stop!"
There were some who caught sight of what that was going on, and they immediately pulled on the reins of their hoses and yelled for the other highwaymen behind them to stop as well. However, since even Iron Cloak Li's prized Ferghana steed was unable to come to a stop under such circumstances, how could ordinary breeds like their horses be capable of it?
With sorrowful cries from both horses and men alike, many highwaymen found themselves falling into the massive pit, some even pushed by those behind them!