Book 15 Chapter 06 – Borrowing A Raft
The warhorse let out a long grunt and its front legs kneeled down before it collapsed on the ground, throwing Zhao Zhi onto a gra.s.s patch. Xiang Shaolong and everyone hurriedly dismounted and helped an exhausted Zhao Zhi up. Xiang Shaolong ordered his men to release Wu Da who is tied to another horse and could not help but feel a huge sense of loss. For three days and three nights, they had been riding non-stop but were still unable to shake off their pursuers. Now, the worst-case scenario had happened: Their horses were beginning to break down.
Far ahead of them were the Qin Ridges which were made up of several ridges intertwining between one and another. The more he looked at them, the lower his spirits sank. But he knew if they managed to reach there, their chances of survival would increase tremendously, unlike the flatlands where there was no place to hide. Regrettably, even with fresh horses, they would need at least three days and three nights of endless riding. a.s.sessing the long distance between themselves and the Qin Ridges, everyone could not help but feel dejected.
Jing Shan who was spying behind them came back and reported: “The first enemy soldier has been sighted about five miles behind us and their riding speed is decreasing. This is so infuriating. We have already laid some traps to distract or mislead them but Bai Fei has seen through all of them.”
Xiang Shaolong was feeling lost, so he went over to accompany Ji Yanran and Zhao Zhi who were applying new medication to Wu Da’s wounds. Ji Yanran pulled Xiang Shaolong to one side and advised: “Wu Da’s body is burning hot and he is delirious. If we continue to ride non-stop like this, I am afraid he will not be able to make it to the Qin Ridges alive.”
With all these problems plaguing him, Xiang Shaolong glanced over to the Qin Ridges again. The magnificent ridges numbering by the hundreds are carved by the wonders of Mother Nature. If they can reach there safely, they can engage the enemy in a series of hit and run attacks as they made their way to meet up with Teng Yi. But in order to hide from their pursuers, they had strayed from their original route. n.o.body was actually sure where they were exactly.
Ji Yanran noticed him staring at the Qin Ridges and understood his intentions. She pointed to a unique snow-capped peak and explained: “If I am not wrong, that should be the first peak of the Qin Ridges known as Mount Taibai. As a result, we have gone off course for almost a hundred miles. No wonder we did not see any signs of Second Brother!”
Even under such depressing circ.u.mstances, this top beauty can still maintain her cheerful demeanour and excellent disposition. Listening to her a.s.suring words and pleasant voice, Xiang Shaolong calmed down and gathered his fighting spirit. Instructing everyone to take a rest, he pulled Ji Yanran up a small hill and scanned their surroundings.
As the sun slowly set behind the Qin Ridges, thousands of its rays shone across the plains. In the northeast, the enemies were also exhausted and had stopped chasing. Once in a while, sounds of horses neighing could be heard from their direction.
On their left, a river was flowing from the northwest direction towards the east. Ji Yanran remarked: “I heard that there is a magical fountain on Mount Taibai. The water temperature is high enough to cook food and is known for their healing properties. If we can get there, there will be hope for Wu Da.” Xiang Shaolong affirmed: “That is called a hot spring. The water is hot because of the lava beneath a dormant volcano and it carries a large amount of minerals which gives it healing properties.”
Ji Yanran was stunned: “What is a dormant volcano and what are minerals?” Xiang Shaolong knew that he had said too much. Hugging her shoulder, he pacified: “I will explain to you later. Our priority now is to escape to the Qin Ridges.”
Pointing to the river flowing towards the Qin Ridges, he asked: “If Yanran is Bai Fei and you saw such a river which makes travelling extremely convenient, what would you do?” Ji Yanran’s eyes lit up and replied: “I would be afraid that you will build rafts and sail down the river.”
Xiang Shaolong asked again: “What will you do about it?” Ji Yanran exclaimed: “I will attack on both fronts. I will send some men to continue chasing on foot and build rafts at the same time. On the rafts, I will give chase down river. If we can sail ahead of you, we can then attack you from the front and the back simultaneously. It will be a hopeless situation for you.”
From afar, a group of birds flew up into the air in fear and circled the air for a while. Xiang Shaolong smiled: “Based on Yanran’s suggestion to use rafts to escape, we will win a decisive battle tonight.” Ji Yanran was astounded: “Do you really want to build rafts to escape? There are not many trees here and we probably need the whole night to build enough rafts to ferry so many men and horses. By then, the enemies would have attacked us.”
Xiang Shaolong’s hand snaked down to her tender waist and pinched her playfully. He romantically smiled: “I thought we are telepathically connected? Why can’t Talented Lady Ji guess what I am thinking about?” Ji Yanran let out a whine and leapt into his arms. Using all her strength to hug him, she charmingly smiled: “Telepathically connected, this is the most romantic sentence I have ever heard.”
However, she did understand that after her beloved husband has spent the last three days running away from their pursuers like a wild animal, he had at least regained his confidence. The attacks have come about too suddenly and he was temporary lost due to his lack of preparation.
But in this life and death situation, Xiang Shaolong finally summoned his fighting spirit. The moon tonight is slighter bigger than the moon three days ago. However, it is still quite dark as there are many clouds blocking the moon in the sky.
The forest is filled with a strong killing aura. Xiang Shaolong and his men are p.r.o.ne on the opposite sh.o.r.e some distance away. All their crossbows are loaded as they waited for the enemy to arrive. The warhorses have been led to another area so as to give them as much rest as possible. When the moon is high above them, frightened birds take to the skies, showing that the enemies are slowly approaching their positions.
By now, their horses are exhausted too and cannot move any more. The enemies are attacking them on foot. Some sounds can be heard from the river and true enough, ten over rafts flowed down the river. Bai Fei is really attacking them on both fronts. Because of the river separating them from the ground invaders, Xiang Shaolong is not worried about them. Moreover, he faked some woodcutting activity half a mile away from the opposite river bank, misleading the enemy that they are building rafts. The ignorant ground invaders will focus their a.s.sault in that direction and by the time they realise that it is a trick, Xiang Shaolong and the others would already have enough time to deal with the enemies on the rafts.
If they had tried to compete with the enemies on raft-building, they will be seriously disadvantaged because of their lesser numbers. It is proven after witnessing the enemies’ ability to construct ten over rafts within several hours. Although the enemies numbered more than five hundred, they need everyone to partic.i.p.ate in the raft building to achieve such efficiency. The moment the rafts were built, they set off immediately without any rest. In addition, they have just finished riding for three days and three nights, and must be terribly exhausted. Compared to Xiang Shaolong and his men who have had several hours of rest, they are at a disadvantage.
Xiang Shaolong need not say anything as everyone automatically pointed their crossbows at the enemy rafts. From their higher ground, the arrow attack will be much more effective against the invaders below them. There may only be twenty of them but they are situated nearly a hundred feet above the sh.o.r.e. With large rocks and trees protecting them, they are in a state of invincibility.
Human silhouettes can be seen on the rafts. All the attackers are p.r.o.ne down with the men surrounding the rafts holding up protective shields and the men in the centre of the rafts holding onto bows that were already mounted with arrows. Xiang Shaolong and his men kept quiet and allowed the rafts to sail nearer to them. Five feet, four feet, three feet…
When the first raft has entered a close firing range, two men on both sides took out a long pole and prevented the raft from colliding with the huge rocks along the sh.o.r.e. This stretch of the river is filled with giant rocks and the current is quite strong. That is also the reason Xiang Shaolong chose this part of the river to lay his ambush. In the dense forests on the opposite sh.o.r.e, loud battle cries can be heard and fire torches were being lit, illuminating the forest.
Xiang Shaolong knew that it is time to attack. He pulled the trigger and his arrow sliced through the air. On the first raft, the enemy soldier who is holding onto the long pole gave a tragic cry and fell into the river with the arrow embedded through his body, signaling the beginning of the river battle.
The enemies did not panic but hurriedly raised their shields above their heads and shot their arrows blindly towards both sides of the river. This was exactly what Xiang Shaolong wanted them to do. He did not fire his crossbow anymore but sat back and watched the show.
Awful sounds filled the air as everyone on the first raft is thrown into the air and eventually landed in the river. Xiang Shaolong had tied a few thick vines across the river. As the raft is travelling at quite a fast speed, everyone was swept off the raft when they collided into the vines.
The second round of arrows was finally fired. The men on the second raft met with the same fate and were all knocked down into the river, losing their grip over their shields and weapons at the same time. Arrows rained into the river and the river is filled with fresh and blood and tragic cries. The two rafts continue to flow down the river.
The men on the third raft saw that something was amiss and hurriedly rowed to sh.o.r.e. However, the fourth raft behind them could not stop in time and crashed into the third raft, sending more men falling into the river. Those men still on the rafts are stumbling all over one another.
More arrows rained down. The men are simply too tired to defend themselves and were felled by the arrows. The river is not very wide and the two rafts are blocking the majority of the sailing route. Behind them, more than ten rafts crashed into one another in a chain collision. The enemies are in a state of panic and the air is filled with cries of death and pain. Those who are still alive tried their best to run away on sh.o.r.e or swim away in the river.
Another two empty rafts flowed down the river. Xiang Shaolong knew that it is time. He signalled his men and led them away from their ambush area. After running as fast as they can for half a mile, they met up with Wu Guang and Wu De who are waiting for them at the downstream. Wu De happily reported: “We managed to hook four rafts which are sufficient for our own escape.”
Everyone boarded the rafts with their horses and sailed down the river gallantly. Zhao Zhi kissed Xiang Shaolong joyously. Ji Yanran sighed: “This trick of borrowing the rafts from the enemy is truly brilliant and credit goes to Hubby. This time, unless Bai Fei can really fly (Fei=fly), there is no way he can catch up to us.”
Xiang Shaolong looked up at the star-studded sky and smiled: “Don’t forget that they still have another ten odd rafts. a.s.suming that each raft can hold fifteen men, over a hundred men can still continue to pursue us. Luckily, each one of us is capable of fighting ten men. Let’s imagine that they are all expert fighters and each one of us is capable of fighting five of them. Moreover, they are all very tired by now. We shall teach them another lesson at the Qin Ridges. After that, we can all have a good rest and enjoy the scenery of the Qin Ridges. Isn’t life wonderful?”
Beside him, all the Guardians were taken aback as they did not expect Xiang Shaolong to continue his revenge plan after just scoring a huge victory. Clenching their fists, they realised that he is right. For the past few days, the enemies have been causing them more troubles than they could have imagined.
In a new twist of thinking, everyone is now hoping for the enemies to give chase. The forests are very dense along the way to the Qin Ridges. A three day’s journey is completed in one night.
Early in the morning, they abandoned their rafts and climbed onto sh.o.r.e. After walking some distance away, they settled Wu Da and the horses down in a location and left Zhao Zhi and Wu Guang behind to watch over them. The rest of the men returned to the sh.o.r.e and loaded their crossbows in antic.i.p.ation of the arrival of the enemies. Xiang Shaolong and Ji Yanran are comfortably sitting down together behind a pile of rocks. With their shoulders touching, they could not help but feel a strong sense of love.
Xiang Shaolong saw that Ji Yanran’s eyes were shining brightly and asked: “What is my pretty wife thinking about?” Ji Yanran nestled her head on his shoulder and wistfully replied: “I was thinking what if I had insisted on staying single and reclusive? I would still be stuck in Daliang leading a boring life and pining for you every day. That would have been a tragedy.” Xiang Shaolong was moved: “I would also suffer for my whole life without you as you are such an important part of me.”
Ji Yanran mused: “I don’t think so. Men are only concerned about their careers and are fickle minded by nature. You need not pacify me. Xiang Shaolong mocked: “It doesn’t help if you continue to think this way. Moreover, every word that I said are my honest feelings. Don’t forget that the reward for you was twice for that of mine. Ji Yanran angrily replied, “Di Bi is such a despicable cad. Not only did he want to kill you, he also wanted to insult your wife’s modesty. In the future I will settle this score with him.”
At this time, a secret bird whistle signal was sounded. The enemy has finally come. It may be due to the fact that several rafts had been damaged in the encounter last night that there were only seven rafts that came into view. There were twenty men on each raft, and the heavy load caused the rafts to be heavily submerged in the water. As a result, the rafts were sailing at a slow speed. The rafts had just made a turn when they crashed straight into the three rafts that Xiang Shaolong had purposely left behind to block their way. It was a chaotic scene as all the seven rafts piled into one another. Three of the rafts sank immediately and it was a pitiful scene for the enemy. Amidst all the confusion, the enemies jumped into the water and tried to swim towards the sh.o.r.e. Xiang Shaolong issued a single command and from all four directions the guardians who were hiding in ambush began firing their arrows. As Xiang Shaolong had predicted, these invaders had not slept a wink for the past three days and had been working throughout the night. With their low morale compounded by this sudden attack, everyone was only interested in running for their lives and were not interested in defending themselves or putting up a fight. Fresh blood dyed the river red.
Those men on the sh.o.r.e could not avoid the incoming arrows, much less those in the water. In the blink of an eye over thirty men were shot dead while the rest tried to escape by swimming upriver. In all the confusion, no one could tell which of the enemies was Bai Fei. Xiang Shaolong unsheathed Bloodwave and leaped out towards the few lucky enemies who managed to climb up the river sh.o.r.e. It may be due to the fact that the enemy was in awe of Xiang Shaolong’s famous name, the moment they saw him, they lost their will to fight and jumped straight back into the water, joining those who were trying to swim upriver. It was a very chaotic scene. The intense battle they expected did not happen at all. Xiang Shaolong restrained the guardians from pursuing the enemies and they left the area. The four days of murderous pursuit had finally come to a conclusion.