Chapter 51: The Last Snow Before Spring
The snow in the north was very dry. Every day, vast amounts of snow fall from the skies. In the time it takes several incense sticks to burn, the ground was already coated in a fresh white. The nature of the dry and fluffy snow made it hard to freeze into ice.
It was already quite deep into January, and this is probably the last snow before spring.
Gu Nan sat on a large stone within the camp.
Blackie was standing nearby and raised his neck. His hooves stomped down on the snow twice, making several valleys and impressions in the snow. Gu Nan wasn’t sure why Blackie was throwing a ruckus. Maybe some snow drifted into his nose.
When the Qin army withdrew to the camp, it began to snow.
The snow came very quickly and was a flurry. It blotted out the sun and filled the air, leaving only a gray sky.
The morale of the Qin army seemed to have hit a valley. All of their confidence and numerical advantage still resulted in they being beaten until retreat. Everyone sighed a breath of relief, but it didn’t change the fact that they were beaten back.
Everyone felt exhausted.
The soldiers sat together in groups. They cleared a circle of ground free of snow and set a campfire. This warm fire cleared the cold, and everyone drooped their heads down to rest.
Most everyone had some sort of injury. Using a tattered piece of cloth was considered good enough to cover wounds. Few people in this era placed importance or considered the problem of infections.
Gu Nan’s spear was placed horizontally across her lap. She was using a section of her cloak to rub off the blood on her spear. The blood was frozen into a reddish ice, as the cloak wiped over it, the flakes fell onto the ground.
Her white cloak was also sullied by blotches of bloodstains.
History is different than she imagined. The Zhao army still hadn’t broken after all. Zhao Kuo’s ability, unfortunately, is much stronger than reported in the history books.
Regardless of how profound and sophisticated his strategy was, it’s undeniable that he’s done a great feat for preserving the army’s will to fight until now.
In the ancient battlefield, unless there was an absolute advantage in numbers or a ruthless trap, battles were almost always dictated by the morale of both sides.
“Miss Gu.” A soldier walked over, bringing a hot bowl of rice soup. “I suggest you eat something.”
Gu Nan took the bowl and nodded. “Many thanks.”
The hot steam was quickly dispersed by the cold winds.
“Sturdy.” Bai Qi held a battle report in his hand and nodded faintly as he faced Wang He.
Although he didn’t want to see this result, it was certainly the most reasonable one. Zhao Kuo, from the very onset, was like a fish in a dilemma. To die or to break through the net. There was never any room for retreat.
If the Qin army wants to remaining in fighting shape, this battle cannot be so simple.
Such a determined child. Bai Qi had a slightly troubled look, letting out a sigh. “What were their losses?”
Wang He frowned. “The one battle lasted less than two hours. At least tens of thousands. There was chaos, and it’s hard to definitively gauge it.”
This battle was much different from the small-scale skirmishes or camp raids. The two armies were in full confrontation. There was no longer any towering walls or limiting terrain. Therefore, it allowed for the largest-scale clash possible.
In just two hours, the casualties on both sides numbered in the several tens of thousands. The blood and bodies almost spread to the banks of the Dan River. The losses on both sides were similar. Perhaps one side had more, but it wouldn’t be by much.
Dealing with the remaining enemies will still be a tricky issue.
“Old Bai, what should we do now?” Wang He’s face was severe. This conflict had continued for two years, and Qin’s military strength cannot be continually maintained too much longer.
“Encircle them. Don’t attack, seal them in.” Since he could already predict this bad result, Bai Qi would naturally have arranged for a contingency.
“The Zhao army cannot have more than three days of military provisions. After three days, no matter what they eat, they will not last for long. Once the Zhao army crumbles, we can move in from the sidelines. Then, their determined morale will surely be shaken.”
Bai Qi paused there and narrowed his eyes.
“We must be underhanded.”
It may be a despicable strategy, but it’s simple enough and will certainly work.
Once the enemy runs out of food, it is easy enough to trick them into surrendering. So long as just a single Zhao soldier surrenders, the entire Zhao army will collapse.
The Zhao army was encircled.
In the afternoon, after Zhao Kuo and his troops withdrew to camp, several hundred thousand Qin soldiers encircled the entirety of the encampment. However, there were no raids or attacks.
This time, the distance between the two camps was less than a mile. You could almost step out the gates and shout hello to the other side.
Of course, no one would do this.
The two armies carefully kept watch as a peaceful night followed.
The next morning, Zhao Kuo ordered the Zhao army to form up.
Once is energetic, twice is tried, thrice is exhaustion.
This type of morale is a very unstable foundation, and it was now the Zhao army’s turn to feel grief and indignation.
If a couple days go by, it’s unknown whether the Zhao army could still fight. Zhao Kuo isn’t one to succumb to the negative thoughts, he could not let this opportunity slip.
The Zhao army began their continuous assault on the encirclement.
The Qin defenses are undoubtedly sturdier than before, growing accustomed to the crazy antics of the Zhao soldiers. Even after fighting day and night, the Zhao army could not break the solid defense.
The casualties of both armies continued to rise as this war of attrition wore onward.
On the third day of encirclement, the Zhao army completely ran out of food. Just as the Qin felt the vestiges of victory near, the Zhao did something shocking.
They began collecting the corpses of the battlefield.
Heavy snow had fallen; and on the battlefield of immense size, it was littered with half-covered corpses. In this cold weather, bodies didn’t rot quickly and were preserved well.
The Zhao army began to eat these bodies.
The Qin army was petrified by this behavior akin to beasts. If they must resort to eating corpses, why would they keep fighting?
The answer to this is only known to the Zhao army.
Eating their robes and even the bodies of their brothers, all for the singular goal to continue fighting.