Chapter 359: Slaying Zhou An!
The battle by the slope was extremely intense. The bandits and highwaymen in the area rushed right up to Xu Gan and Huang Yongtu ceaselessly, as if the endless waves of the ocean.
"Bad news, military advisor. Bad news!"
At the end of the bend by the main road, a highwaymen rushed over to Zhou An and reported, "Military advisor, bad news! The chief has..."
Kneeling on the floor, the highwayman's face was thick with fear. Panicked, he stuttered nervously as he pointed in the distance, and for a long moment, he was unable to voice his words out.
A palm suddenly slapped the face of the highwayman harshly.
"You cretin, speak clearly! What happened to the chief?" Zhou An roared furiously. That bastard kept saying that something bad had happened, but he simply couldn't say what was going on. That had almost made him faint of anxiety.
"Military advisor, chief has been killed!" The highwayman froze for a moment before he regained his speech and finished his words.
That seemingly ordinary words of the highwayman fell like a cannonball, triggering a wave of shock within everyone's hearts.
Within a radius of ten zhang, those who heard those words fell into an abrupt silence. Even the battle going on in the distance seemed to have grown considerably quieter.
Everyone was staring at the kneeling highwayman with dumbfounded gazes.
"You bastard, what kind of nonsense are you speaking?" Shocked and angered by the news, Zhou An glared at the reporting highwayman and kicked him aside. "Our chief possesses unparalleled cultivation and is protected by the Iron Cloak Technique. How could he possibly die? If you continue uttering nonsense here, don't blame me for turning nasty!" Zhou An said as he drew his saber and pressed it against the highwayman's neck.
The chief couldn't possibly have died at this moment!
Given his superior martial arts and the elites that had followed him there, how could he possibly be unable to defeat that young brat and those pesky soldiers with him?
No matter what, Zhou An would never believe such ridiculous rumors!
However, the uneasiness he felt was swiftly intensifying. Regardless of the truth, there was one thing he was sure of. Something must have happened on the chief's end!
But Zhou An couldn't imagine what could have happened within this short period of time.
Where are Hu Lang, Chang Dao, and Huo Yuan?
Are they all dead? Why aren't they back yet?
"Zhou An, look who it is!" Just as Zhou An was plagued with doubts, a deafening bellow suddenly sounded out.
Following which, a round and black object was tossed over from the bend at the main road.
After tumbling several times in the air, it accurately pierced onto a sharp branch pointed upward.
A gale blew past, and the cloth wrapping around it scattered, revealing a gruesome head within.
Upon seeing the face on the head, the hundreds of bandits and highwaymen in the area cried out in sheer terror as they backed away.
There were even a few who unwittingly tumbled down the slope after losing their balance.
"Chief!" Seeing that head, Zhou An's eyes reddened in fury. That head belonged to no other than Iron Cloak Li!
His eyes were still wide-open, as if he was unable to believe that he could be killed even at his dying breath.
Zhou An couldn't understand how Iron Cloak Li, who possessed the protection of the Iron Cloak Technique, allowing him to withstand attacks from even ten True Martial realm experts simultaneously, could actually be killed!
In that instant, Zhou An felt as if his entire world had collapsed.
"Everyone, listen! That isn't the chief, but a head they had forged in replica of him! Obey my commands, devote your strength into attacking those soldiers on the slope and slaughter them clean. I'll personally kill anyone who dares to hold back!" Zhou An yelled viciously as he pointed at the soldiers on the slope.
"Zhou An, that's not your call to make!" a voice sounded.
In the next instant, the Great Tang cavalrymen on the slope abruptly charged out of the endless sea of bandits and highwaymen in an Arrow Formation.
The crowd immediately descended into chaos. After the elites among the highwaymen and bandits were taken away, none of the bandits and highwaymen remaining in the area had reached True Martial realm.
After seeing the fearsome might of the Great Tang cavalrymen's charge from Wang Chong's platoon, who could possibly remain unfazed in their presence, especially since their chief, Iron Cloak Li, was likely to have been killed already?
"Get out of the way!"
"Be careful, here they come again!"
"Even the chief has been killed, we should hurry up and flee!"...
Chaos broke out amidst the horde. There were even some who began to run away frantically, scrambling to escape as far from the Great Tang cavalry as possible. The entire situation descended into chaos.
"Atrocious, how dare you all run away now? Stop what you are doing!" Zhou An bellowed in rage as he whipped out his saber to punish the highwaymen. However, before he could even make a move, he suddenly heard an icy-cold voice by his ear.
"Single Character Consecutive Slash!"
Slapping the back of his steed, Wang Chong leaped across space and stabbed his sword deep into Zhou An's neck.
From the very start, he had already known that Zhou An was just a pure military strategist who lacked proficiency in martial arts.
Zhou An barely saw a flash of cold light before he was stabbed by Wang Chong's sword. In his final instant, he saw an incomparably sharp sword which innumerable small sawtooths on its edge, and its surface was covered with elegant flowing marks.
A Wootz steel sword!
Unlike Iron Cloak Li, Zhou An knew what a Wootz steel sword looked like, as well as its background. Many thoughts flashed across his mind as realization struck him.
To think that..., was the final thought that flashed through his mind before everything blanked into an empty void.
"With Zhou An as an example, anyone who dares to resist shall suffer the same fate as him!" Wang Chong beheaded Zhou An with a clean slash, stepped onto the boulder, and raised the man’s head up high.
Iron Cloak Li was dead!
Zhou An was dead as well!
With their two leaders gone, the highwaymen and bandits found themselves losing their fighting will. Thus, they immediately turned around to flee.
"Brothers, our time for vengeance has come!" On the slope, the surviving cavalrymen cheered in delight. As the two forces joined together, they began to pursue to clear away the fleeing highwaymen and bandits.
With their forces scattered, the few hundred remaining bandits and highwaymen fell even faster. In just a few short moments, several dozen of them were already lying in a pool of blood.
Seeing the swift defeat of the highwaymen and bandits, Wang Chong heaved a long sigh of relief. In truth, had they chosen to put up a resistance, just with their numbers itself, there was no guarantee that the soldiers would be the final victors. After all, most of the cavalrymen were already exhausted at this point.
Wang Chong was also taking a risk by charging right in. It was fortunate that perhaps due to Zhou An's great influence on the Iron Cloak Highwaymen, beheading him had a powerful dampening effect on their morale. The bandits and highwaymen found themselves losing their will to fight after seeing Zhou An's head in his hand.
"A strategy assailing hearts is superior to a strategy taking down a fortress, such is indeed the case!" Wang Chong remarked as he watched the bandits and highwaymen flee for their lives.
In his previous life, Wang Chong had met with plenty of opponents that were far more formidable than these bandits and highwaymen. But without a doubt, since his reincarnation, he had never been closer to death than this.
The bandits and highwaymen might be weak and insignificant individually, but once their numbers added up, they were still a force to reckon with.
To Wang Chong, this was indeed an experience he would be unlikely to forget.
Di da da!
While Wang Chong was in the midst of pondering, a flurried clopping of horse hooves sounded, and he lifted his head. A man riding on a steed was rushing toward Wang Chong at an astonishing speed.
"Lord, it's great to see you all! We thought that we were going to die there!" Lieutenant Zhang Lin leaped off the back of his steed and bowed deeply to Wang Chong. His eyes were overflowing with excitement and delight, but at the center of it all was still respect.
Wang Chong had truly saved their lives this time. If it wasn't for him, they might have already caved in long ago.
More importantly, from a military man's point of view, Zhang Lin could see an extraordinary aptitude for command within the young man.
Even though the young man before him hadn't assumed any official positions yet, Zhang Lin had little doubt that he would eventually rise to a great height and achieve astounding feats.
As a military man himself, Zhang Lin had deep respect for those who showed outstanding capability in warfare.
"Lieutenant Zhang is being too polite. We are all working together for the royal court, so it's only natural for us to cover for one another. Had we been in your place, I believe that you would have done the same for us as well," Wang Chong replied calmly.
Taken aback by Wang Chong's words, Zhang Lin fell silent instead. He shot a sideward glance at Xu Gan and Huang Yongtu, who were in the midst of venting their frustrations and anger on the fleeing bandits and highwaymen, and a hint of bitter smile emerged on his lips.
If the ones who had been surrounded were this young lord and Bai Siling, he couldn't say for sure whether their platoons would have saved them!
Seeing the expression on Zhang Lin's face, Wang Chong could tell what the other party was thinking of, and he simply smiled it off. In truth, he hadn't done this just to save Xu Gan and Huang Yongtu, either. After all, there were many others who were trapped on the slope other than the both of them!
With several hundred bandits and highwaymen left, if their forces were to be allowed to be reorganized and start a counterattack, Wang Chong's group would suffer greatly. Thus, even after the highwaymen and bandits scattered, the soldiers didn't stop their pursuit.
Only after an incense's time later, when the escaping bandits and highwaymen had completely scattered into the depths of the mountain, did the battle come to an end.
All of the fortunate Great Tang cavalrymen survivors began to gather around the boulder Wang Chong was standing on.
Out of their initial eighty military veterans, only forty-four remained after this operation. Out of the thirty-six casualties, almost half of them were caused by Iron Cloak Li.
While they did manage to kill the powerful and influential Iron Cloak Li who had dominated the road between the capital and Longxi, as well as three hundred highwaymen and bandits, including eighty True Martial realm highwaymen, Wang Chong still couldn't help but feel a stabbing pain in his heart at the loss.
Those cavalrymen had devoted their lives to protecting the country. Even if they had to die, it should be on a great battlefield against the armies of a hostile nation, where they could be honored for their sacrifice, and not at the hands of these unknown highwaymen.
But some things were simply not meant to be.