Chapter 374: The Clouds of War Gather!
Iron Cloud military front...
Tie Bu Tian and Wu Qian Qian entered the army camp quietly. Then, they met Tie Long Cheng. The three of them started to eliminate the spies and traitors within the army.
Tie Long Cheng assisted in this matter with his both his hands and legs. He gnashed his teeth in hatred; he felt ashamed of the fact that there were traitors within their own ranks. He intended to weed them out. However, his intention was being carried out very smoothly.
Tie Bu Tian had never thought that he would get stuck at the military front. He and Wu Qian Qian had been using secretive methods to eliminate the enemy's spies in a silent manner. However, they had discovered that the two nations were already at war. In fact, they were in a situation of imminent peril.
Great Zhao had started to increase the number of their troops since the start of the year. Soldiers had arrived in Great Zhao from everywhere - in the same manner in which river-streams converge with the ocean.
Therefore, Iron Cloud's situation had started to become perilous.
Tie Bu Tian and Tie Long Cheng had felt that they had no other option but to deploy Iron Cloud's army against Great Zhao's aggression. Tie Bu Tian later discovered that about one-third of the troops had already been deployed at the frontline.
This was equivalent to a large-scale final battle.
Even the Emperor was at the military front, but he couldn't move a single step. In fact, there was no time to carry-out the Emperor's Expedition Ceremony.
However, Tie Bu Tian didn't care about these things.
But, this didn't mean that others wouldn't care either. The Emperor's Expedition Ceremony - the ceremony may be a waste of manpower and resources. However, it played an important role in boosting the army's morale.
Therefore, Tie Long Cheng ordered the high-ranking military officers to assemble at the frontline. Then, the Emperor's Expedition Ceremony was held; the Emperor took a vow in front of the troops. Tie Bu Tian made a high-profile appearance before the Iron Cloud army, and delivered an inspiring speech. This boosted the troops' morale - it almost reached the super-heated stage.
However, Tie Bu Tian realized that something was off.
He pledged before the troops, and then turned towards Tie Long Cheng. He then told him that there was a possibility of the war being shifted to an earlier date. Therefore, he decided to reassign the entire army of Iron Cloud, and made the soldiers rush to the frontline.
Tie Long Cheng was startled by this decision. However, he agreed once he had given it some thought. Therefore, the troops of the Iron Cloud army started to gather from every part of the nation.
This decision had been taken two days prior to Diwu Qing Rou's decision to prepare for the final battle; Great Zhao's national army had started to assemble at the frontline two days later. The storms of war had started to shroud the skies of the two nations.
Both the nations had started to prepare for the final battle at the same time. It seemed as if they had made a prior agreement. This odd coincidence made Tie Long Cheng 'feel ashamed of being inferior' for the first time. [This is the first time that I'm feeling inferior to my Imperial Nephew.]
[I must say that Tie Bu Tian's grasp over the state of affairs, as well as his sense of sniffing-out the danger, surpasses that of an average person. His decision-making skills aren't sloppy either.]
Tie Long Cheng had initially anticipated that this battle would start after a year. However, he had to admit that he was mistaken.
Tie Bu Tian's decision - to precede Diwu Qing Rou's date of battle by two days - had bought precious time for Iron Cloud Nation.
However, Tie Bu Tian and Wu Qian Qian were deeply worried.
The two of them had tried their best to hide this from others. However, it didn't mean that they could also hide it from their own selves. They were anxious because King of Hell Chu... was still in Great Zhao.
[The war can start any time. Why hasn't Chu Yang come back yet?]
The news of King of Hell Chu causing havoc in Great Zhao was heard almost every day. The two of them would heave a sigh of relief when they'd hear such news. However, they'd still be anxious about his safety.
Chu Yang had weakened the strength of the Great Zhao Nation; he had crippled their army's fighting strength. Moreover, he had acquired extremely valuable information. However, his safety was at stake.
The people of Bu Tian Pavilion felt that their lives were in danger; Minister Chu's temper was getting worse with each passing day. Initially, Wu Qian Qian's temperament was like a volcano. Now, it was like a volcano on top of an iceberg; Wu Qian Qian was having mood swings. This combination of fire and ice had increased everyone's misery by two folds. Wu Qian Qian would berate the people if she wasn't satisfied; so much so that they felt like taking their own lives.
Cheng Zi Ang and Chen Yu Tong were so cautious that they felt as if they were walking on thin ice. How was it possible for these two underlings to execute everything with perfection? How could they always get Minister Chu's regards? Therefore, it had become common for the both of them to remain under pressure.
Minister Chu's mood became more and more irritable with each passing day. In fact, his patience started to leave him as the days passed...
It had been several days... but there had been no news of Chu Yang. Wu Qian Qian's emotions were no longer in her control; her thoughts were in a complete turmoil. Tie Bu Tian could remain calm and composed; Wu Qian Qian couldn't...
Four days later...
Sect Master Wu Yun Liang went to meet Minister Chu to discuss some matters. However, Minister Chu locked his doors and refused to see him.
Sect Master Wu was so angered that he nearly pulled-out his own beard...
Tie Bu Tian and Wu Qian Qian were clad in black robes; they sat in the main tent of the army camp in an upright manner. A map was placed on the ground before them; they were staring at it.
A high-ranking military advisor was also present. He was explaining the military situation with respect to the current deployment of Great Zhao's troops; he was marking their positions on the map for further analysis.
Tie Long Cheng paced inside the tent with a serious look on his face.
"The ten great generals of Great Zhao have been dispatched." Tie Long Cheng's expressions turned even gloomier as he took a look at the enemy's deployments on the map.
Wu Qian Qian remained motionless; it seemed as if she hadn't heard anything.
'Oh...' Tie Bu Tian was surprised. He then said, "What then?"
Tie Long Cheng frowned and said, "Great Zhao's top ten generals are titled the 'Tigers and Dragons of Great Zhao'; I've been dealing with two of them for a decade. The first one is 'Heavenly Dragon' General Yu Han; he's said to have fought a hundred battles. The second one is 'Battle Maniac Dragon' General Li Yi Zhong. Yu Han has a cold disposition and boasts the nickname - 'Viper'. He's an extremely fierce man. He attains victory at all costs once he decides to launch an attack. Li Yi Zhong is forthright... but crude. He and Yu Han complement each other. Beside their temperaments... their strategies are complementary as well. These two have the best tacit understanding amongst the 'Tigers and Dragons of Great Zhao'. They previously had only five-hundred-thousand men under their command. But then, they increased the number of their troops; their combined military strength has reached one million."
Tie Bu Tian nodded; he silently made a mental note of the names 'Yu Han' and 'Li Yi Zhong'. He also memorized their descriptions.
"'Iron-blooded 'Battle Dragon' General Xiao Tian Yin has been guarding the eastern front of Great Zhao. Currently, he's rushing here with five hundred thousand troops and horses.
"Troops to the southeast are stationed with 'Black Tiger' General Qiao Rui. The troops to the southwest are stationed with 'White Tiger' General Bai Chang Tian. The troops to the west will be stationed with 'Purple Dragon' General Yu Zi Long. In the Northwest... they will be stationed with 'Silver Tiger' General Long Ao. 'Golden Tiger' General Jin Nan Kai and 'Jade Tiger' General Yu Cheng Long will be in the South to subdue the Limitless Nation. 'Soaring Dragon' General Wang Teng Long is responsible for the task of coordinating between all these generals and providing backup... whenever necessary. Currently, he's at the headquarters... waiting with his forces to come North.
"The total military force that Great Zhao has mobilized till now... is 4.5 million! Moreover, they have a large number of troops coming over endlessly."
Everyone sucked in a cold breath as Tie Long Cheng finished speaking.
Tie Bu Tian wrinkled his brows; he looked at the positions of the ten 'Dragon and Tiger' ranked Generals on the map. He felt as if his heart was swaying like a flag.
The ten generals were at different positions; they had been positioned in the shape of an arrowhead - pointing in the direction of Iron Cloud. Tie Long Cheng would've immediately arranged for 200,000 soldiers to stand guard if it weren't for the support provided by Wu Yun Liang's Beyond the Heavens Sect. Iron Cloud was braced by the enemy from three sides.
"An important news has just arrived - Diwu Qing Rou has mobilized the entire nation's army; he has departed from Continent Centre. He is leading an army of two-hundred-thousand troops; he's headed this way..." Tie Long Cheng sighed, "Diwu Qing Rou is coming to the battlefield in person."
The people inside the tent shivered. They felt a chill running down their spines as they heard the name 'Diwu Qing Rou'.
"It seems that Diwu Qing Rou is going to concentrate his might to seize Iron Cloud," Tie Bu Tian's finger pointed at the position of his own army. He said with a smile, "If he can't take it by skill... then he will seize it by force, huh?
"Only 1.2 million soldiers of our army have been stationed at the frontline. Our total military strength won't be more than three million soldiers... even if all our troops arrive. Our enemy has 4.5 million soldiers in reserve; nearly two million of them have already arrived. ...Add this number to the one million soldiers who were originally stationed here - this means that the enemy will have three million soldiers at the frontline... But, the total strength of their army is closer to six million; that's almost twice as much as ours..."
Tie Long Cheng crossed his hands behind his back. His face turned dark as he said, "The odds in this war aren't in our favour."
He stood-up and looked outside. Then, he sighed and said, "It seems that these 1500 kilometres of the Great Plains will turn into a bloody graveyard filled with the minced flesh of soldiers... "
He added, "There's nothing we can do about this..."
The 1500 kilometres of the Great Plains was the battlefield; but it wasn't a flat plain. The battlefield ranged from east to west; it spanned across hundreds of kilometres. There were several great mountains in the middle. But, this region was prone to large-scale battles; and these battles seemed to take place all the time. It wasn't possible to avoid fire-attacks in these battles. These attacks would burn-down the mountain-forests, and would leave behind only bare mountains. But now, several trees could be seen. It was because the trees had grown-back since a decade had gone-by without a major war to tell of...
The terrain consisted of mountain fields, hill basins, canyon cliffs and swamps. The rivers and lakes had made it more complex. Therefore, none of the two parties had dared to set-up a camp there. In fact, they hadn't even dared to build a city or a defensive line.
These Great Plains had been used as a battlefield for thousands of years. But who wishes to allow the enemy to go one step beyond oneself? The enemy always poses a threat even if they don't stand in your path.
"But... Great Zhao is bustling with several ridiculous rumours of late..." Tie Long Cheng had a serious expression on his face. He recollected himself and said, "I'm not talking about the disturbances of the past. I've recently received a military report that Diwu Qing Rou has made an enormous mistake. The report states that his anger has soared to the heavens. Even the experts of the Golden Horse Riders Department have been dispatched."
"En?" Tie Bu Tian and Wu Qian Qian stood-up in unison. "What's the matter?"