Chapter 37: Prosperity Within the Flame
Wang He sat before Bai Qi with a stern look. “The Zhao army shouldn’t be aware of your arrival. Because of that, Old Bai, I still suggest that we need to act quickly and decisively.”
“…Quickly and decisively.” When talking about serious decisions, Bai Qi naturally didn’t continue joking with Wang He. The index finger of his right hand tapped rhythmically on the table as he thought.
Suddenly, he sneered lightly.
“The King of Zhao is hoping to act quickly and decisively himself.”
“The King of Zhao?” Wang He pondered for a moment and nodded. “Yes, with Zhao’s national prowess faltering, there is adequate reason for him.”
“This battle has always been a defensive one, but since the King of Zhao has replaced his patient commander, it shows his eagerness to win rather than continuing to take losses from attrition.
“Therefore, it isn’t us, but the King of Zhao, that’s on the offensive. No matter what stratagems Zhao Kuo wants to use, the King of Zhao will inevitably order an attack. In a way, he’s not wrong. If his army keeps getting dragged deeper and deeper, the effects won’t be limited to losing Changping, the entire State of Zhao can be dragged down along with it.”
Bai Qi continued to talk casually and uninterrupted.
“We just need to wait for the Zhao king to issue the order. Once Zhao Kuo is out of food, he’ll naturally launch a determined attack. I recently took a detachment into the mountains, and I grasped the extent of their supply issue. From my estimates, they should have no more than ten days of food left. Hence, even if we don’t attack, we can still wait for them to break themselves.”
Wang He listened and deeply nodded several times in admiration.
I was stuck on deciding offense, but it turns out that it wasn’t important at all. Meanwhile, Bai Qi has even been planned countermeasures.
“Everyday, send three thousand light cavalry to the front of the Zhao camp, bait and harass. Continue to do this until the King of Zhao issues the order for the assault.
“Also, send thirty thousand troops afterward to make a detouring route through the forested mountains. Once the fight breaks out, they can cleanly cut off Zhao’s last supply line.
“The Zhao army must fight, no matter what course they take.”
Wang He gave one last nod and stood up, bowing slightly, he said, “I understand General’s command.”
In the middle of the night, the young man led his horse back to the camp entrance. The guards saw him and quickly opened the gates.
Zhao Kuo nodded at the soldier and his eyes fell to the man’s exhausted and worn face. He smiled, “If you stand on sentry for so many days, you should get a break at least, perhaps you really may fall asleep.”
“General.” The soldier’s eyes shown gratitude but he still shook his head. “What if Qin attacks in the night? Rest assured, General, I will guard the gate well.”
At hearing about the Qin army, Zhao Kuo sighed. On his face was a rueful smile. “The next few days, Qin shouldn’t attack the camp. They’re waiting for us to go out.”
The soldier didn’t fully understand his words, but he did know that this young general had the soldiers’ best interests in mind. Zhao Kuo treated them very well and was not as harsh and distant as General Lian Po that preceded him.
Normally, if a general did this, the soldier would become lazy and discipline would fall. But knowing their predicament, the soldiers didn’t dare lounge around.
Ensuring the security of the gate was of the utmost importance among those duties.
“General, you go in, I won’t get tired.”
Zhao Kuo gave another complicated look at the soldier and shook his head, leading the horse away.
The soldier called the others in the team and slowly pushed close the gates.
Zhao Kuo tied his horse to a pole in front of his tent and lifted the flap of the tent entrance.
However, walking in, he saw one of his bodyguards standing inside, waiting on him.
Noticing that Zhao Kuo returned, the bodyguard lifted his hands and presented a small roll of bamboo slips.
“General, the king sent a messenger to present this to you.”
Zhao Kuo’s brow wrinkled. A new message at this time is never good.
He unrolled it and swept several glances over it, a bitter smile started to show on his face.
It seems the King of Zhao can’t wait, and the State of Zhao can’t persist. A decisive battle must be fought as soon as possible to end this.
In a siege, the attackers usually needed overwhelming numerical superiority to overpower the defenders.
If utterly necessary, the Zhao army can defend for a few more months. But with this command, it’s ordering for the army to take initiative to attack, swapping the defensive advantage. Against the Qin army’s six hundred thousand with only the Zhao army’s four hundred and fifty thousand.
Changping is located in a strategic region within the province of Shangdang. Whoever can capture Changping controls this entire province.
If Shangdang is lost, Qin can quickly march through the Taihang Mountains and attack the Zhao capital.
If Shangdang is won, Zhao can attack Anzhen to the west and by passing through the Qinling Mountains and across the Yellow River, an invasion into Qin is possible.
Either Qin crushes Zhao’s heart or Zhao kills through Qin.
Shangdang must be won at all costs.
The result was over a million soldiers amassing here.
Zhao’s military might has flourished ever since the military reforms of King Wuling. However, it’s national strength has always been inferior to Qin, due to Shang Yang of Qin’s state reforms.
From the very beginning, the State of Zhao miscalculated and mismanaged the situation. The defensive and offensive planning of Changping was mistake-ridden and botched, and no long-term preparations were made, leading to this dire situation.
Zhao Kuo stood silently for a very long time, thinking over the bamboo slips in his hands.
Changping will be lost. His heart already had about an eighty percent certainty at his prediction.
But it was never as simple as losing Changping. Once the battle is lost, the Qin army can then go north unimpeded and traverse the Taihang Mountains.
If Handan falls and Zhao crumbles, what will happen to his family?
In truth, this is a critical fight to prevent Qin’s invasion. Qin cannot go north.
“General.” When the bodyguard saw Zhao Kuo motionless for so long, he started to grow worried and asked, “How is it?”
Zhao Kuo felt his hands go numb from the cold. Placing down the roll of slips, he walked beside the fire basin and hovered his hands over the warm flame.
The sentence terrifies even him.
“Within five days, it will be a battle to the death.”
Commanding four hundred thousand armored infantry to assault the six hundred thousand Qin army.
But half of the battle has already been lost and this is the only chance left.
If only there was no war in this world…
Zhao Kuo thought about that Qin soldier Gu’s words on that hill.
Within the flickering flames, he could faintly make out such a picture.
Zhao Kuo’s vision shook.
It was really a peaceful and prosperous world.