Li Dian POV
I looked at the gates but could not see any sign that they had opened. However, this was not the time to be giving up.
“How is it?” I asked as I rode back to Cao Ren, “Is there a crack?”
“… I can’t see!” Cao Ren replied, almost in tears.
No, we cannot give up now.
“We’ll try again!” Cao Ren said and yelled once more as she raised her hand, “Try again!”
“One! Two! Three!”
This time, they pulled the battering ram back even further
And an even louder thud came, so much so that I could feel the tremors from where I stood. There was also a cracking sound from the chains.
“How is it?!” I hurriedly asked.
“We got something! It yielded for just an instant!”
Alright! That means we can break it open.
“Don’t give up! Keep battering it!”
If we want to break the gates open, we need to break the switch, not the chains. No matter how solid the chains are, the switch cannot be that solid. If my guess is not wrong, that blow just now should have loosened the pulley and another, no, 2 more blows at most should break it.
The gates will definitely open for us, I thought as I looked at Lu Xiang who seemed to be sleeping peacefully. Just wait for a while more and I will reunite you and your elder brother.
“Incoming!” Someone yelled from the side.
Un? Arrows again? I looked up at the tower but did not see any movement other than troops who threw down rocks from time to time.
“My lord, our enemies have caught up!”
Eh? I looked behind and saw our enemies sprinting over at top speed with Lu Bu, and Zhang Liao, at the head. They have already combined together and cleared out the rest of our troops huh?
“Faster! Knock again! Now!” Cao Ren yelled frantically. She too knew that if we were to engage them in battle again, we would not be able to escape.
“One! Two! Three!”
I turned and saw the gates had not opened yet. I turned back again and saw Lu Bu and the rest even closer now.
“One! Two! Three!”
Another deafening thud!
“How is it?!” I asked while keeping my eyes on the nearing enemy horde.
“There’s hope! A large gap has opened up!”
Good! Then the gates should be open soon. But…
The sound of horse hooves was getting louder and quicker. Who would be faster?!
I involuntarily gulped as I held Lu Xiang with 1 hand and threw away the lousy spear in my other hand and drew the short sword hanging by my waist. If we have to clash, then I must accept death.
Whether we can get out of the city, whether I can fulfill the promise I made with Lu Xiang, will be decided here. I made my resolve and listened closely to what was happening behind as Cao Ren continued to yell something…
“One! Two! Three!”
A crisp sound rang out as light poured in from behind and my eyes bulged as I slowly turned around.
In my eyes, I saw the setting sun.
In my eyes, I saw the 2 chains connected with some weird contraption that seemed to be broken as well as 2 holes from the tower.
In my eyes, I saw Cao Ren smile at me as she yelled at me.
The gates are open.
We can get out now.
“All troops! Retreat!” Cao Ren yelled a lot but these were the only words I could hear.
“Charge!!: I yelled as I raised my sword and swung my reins while instinctively tightening my grip around Lu Xiang.
As I charged to the front, the faces of the troops I passed by were filled with excitement and joy. It was as if we were charging into the city and had achieved victory. There was no sense that we had lost in everyone’s faces.
I wonder if it is because we have fought too long or if this is just the joy from surviving. It’s probably both but more of the latter. Be that as it may, we have finally made it out.
“Keep charging ahead! Don’t stay and fight!” Cao Ren yelled. Even if she did not say this, there is little doubt that the troops would not do this. Their physical and mental energies are likely all spent at this point.
“Everyone! Don’t separate from your platoons! Find your officers!”
But at the same time, I could not let everyone become too scattered as if we lost all organisation, we would not even be able to make it back to Fan city. I looked back and saw that Lu Bu and Zhang Liao were still chasing us. There seemed to be about 3,000 or so troops with them and their speed was insufficient to catch up to us.
And so, the battle has come to an end, with us having lost half of our troops and being unable to take Xinye city.
“Lord Li Dian, Lord Cao Ren is looking for you!”
Un…? While I was preoccupied with my thoughts, a soldier suddenly popped over and yelled to me. I looked ahead and saw that Cao Ren was yelling and waving at me.
She wants me to go over huh? I kicked my horse and went ahead.
Perhaps she wants to have an after action review or perhaps she wants to discuss how we can tell our lord about this. Right now, I really regret not listening to Shen Pei back then and also wonder how we ought to report this.
Ah… The dismay from losing in this battle is not as intense as as the first battle. Perhaps I am becoming numb to it. Or perhaps I am simply too elated from being able to survive. I wonder how Cao Ren is feeling and if she is the same as me.
“Lord Cao Ren.” I greeted her as I approached her and looked at her expression. For some reason, she did not look too dismayed or exhausted. She was frowning but the corners of her lips were curled upwards, “Lord Cao Ren? You’re…”
“I’m fine, Lord Li Dian.” Cao Ren replied as she looked at me and then turned back to look at Lu Bu and the enemy troops, “They’ve caught up huh?”
“Ah,” I nodded, “But I don’t think they can chase us down.”
“Hai,” Cao Ren sighed and shook her head as she closed her eyes, “They can’t chase us down huh… Even if they can’t do that now, they will eventually.”
“Eh?” I was puzzled at what Cao Ren said, “They should return to the city now that the battle has proceeded like this, no?”
They should give up after another 3-400 paces… Or so I thought but they were still chasing ardently. By right, they should be just as exhausted as us yet they seemed to still have the strength to chase after us.
“No, they will fight to the end.” Cao Ren said as she pointed ahead, “They know we will definitely return to our encampment and that is where they will eradicate us.”
“Yes.” Cao Ren frowned as her smile faded away, “This nightmarish battle has not ended even though we are now out of the city.”
Wu… This is difficult. I was actually beginning to relax but now I felt anxious again.
“Jia!” I kicked my horse and galloped ahead and out of our troops before going to the side and looked about.
As I expected. There were 2 other groups of troops following behind the group being led by Lu Bu and Zhang Liao. In total, they seemed to be about 7-8,000 strong…
This should be everything they have… Kuh, I cannot believe that they wiped out the numerical advantage we had in just 1 go… And our troop morale is now in the pits which means that we might not prevail in a direct clash.
“Jia!” I kicked my horse and galloped back to where Cao Ren was, “You’re right. The enemy is bringing out all of their forces and is seeking to end it.”
“Un.” Cao Ren calmly nodded.
“What we can do now is to abandon our encampment and make a beeline for Fan city.” I said after thinking for a moment and spat out the only thing that could work, “No matter how unhappy Shen Pei is with us, she will still send out the garrison to support us. With another 1-2,000 fresh troops, we will likely be able to prevail.”
I am rather reluctant to seek help from Shen Pei but this is not the time to be concerned about face. Moreover, this entire mess was a result of not heeding Shen Pei’s concerns to begin with. Even though I knew she would come to save us, I still felt terrible inside and almost preferred death instead.
“No, there is no need for that yet.” Cao Ren denied my suggestion as she shook her head just as I thought this was a settled matter.
“I don’t think that there is any other way.” I thought for a moment before replying her, “Could it be that Lord Cao Ren wants to engage them directly?”
“Hmhmhm,” Cao Ren lightly chuckled, “Why not?”
Cao Ren right now almost seemed like my lord. I believe that my lord would react in exactly the same way under these circumstances.
But Cao Ren is not her elder sister. She is too kind and too soft compared to her elder sister. Unfortunately, it seems like her pride is acting up.