Thousands of horses galloped towards Shouchun. Xu Shu looked at the large army and then to the shivering defenders on the wall. He felt that he was fortunate for the walls to be present. If it were not for that, his subordinates would have already been routed.
Xu Shu took a deep breath. He needed to provide the men with morale or else the scared soldiers would not be able to protect Shouchun.
“The target is the Xiliang Cavalry!” Xu Shu saw the Xiliang Cavalry approach. They had entered the range of the ballista but prevented the soldiers from shooting at that moment so that the power of the ballista would be greater.
Xu Shu waited until he could see the faces of the riders before he swung his hand down. “Fire!”
The first volley was fired. Although the Xiliang Cavalry’s heavy armor was able to prevent injury from regular arrows, they were torn through like paper before the might of the ballista.
The attack made Hu Che Er very angry. The large arrows were too powerful. It pierced through up until the seventh row of men before it lost its power.
“Brothers! Charge forward and fill up that moat! I will charge forward with you to avenge our brothers!” Hu Che Er shouted loudly. Such severe damage would usually hurt morale but instead, it provoked their ferocity.
“Come on!” Xu Shu also became angry. The arrows from the ballista did not slow them down but instead, sped them up. “Fire! Keep firing!” Xu Shu ordered. The ballista continued to shoot instead of stopping for a while.
This time, the eyes of the Xiliang Cavalry turned clear. “What!” Zhang XIu’s was at the end of his tether. His eyes seemingly burned. This was because his Xiliang Cavalry was caught in a perilous situation. This was because each of the twelve ballista shot about ten of the large arrows within a short moment. This massacred the Xiliang Cavalry.
No matter how good one’s horse riding skill or how good the horse was, they were still wearing heavy armor. On top of that, their lives were being reaped like rice being harvested. Before this, Zhang Xiu had believed that the threatening power of the ballista was greater than its offensive power. But now, not only was its offensive power even greater but its threatening power even made the men from the Xiliang Cavalry cry out for their parents. They could no longer fill up the moat freely.
The ones at front dropped their sandbags and escaped with their horses. All of them had thought of dying but none of them wanted to go out like that. Those pierced by the large arrows did not die immediately but had to watch themselves bleed out together with their organs. They would have to watch themselves die slowly.
The screams were tragic. Even the ferocious XIliang Cavalry could not take it even though most of them were of Qiang descend. They were people that have faced terrors like the ballista since they were children. This is from the stories told by their ancestors.
“Retreat! Spread out!” Even an idiot like Hu Che Er knew that charging in was no longer an option. The ballistae on the wall had shot over two hundred of the large arrows. The casualties was in the thousands. These were not the Qingzhou or Yuzhou troops where their deaths were not of importance. This was the Xiliang Cavalry. If was alright if only the soldiers were killed but both the armor and horses would also be lost. It could be said that each Xiliang Cavalry men were like a team of soldiers. Each horse was costly enough to equip fifty light infantries.
The losses made Zhang Xiu’s heart ache. When he loss two thousand of the Xiliang Cavalry from Liu Bei’s ambush, he was compensated with five thousand provision, two thousand horses and two thousand heavy armor. However, the ones lost here could not be compensated as he voluntary decided to help.
Zhang Xiu felt regretful but Liu Bei was calm. Although he was shocked by the ballsita, he had already prepared himself thanks to his first rate advisor, Pang Tong.
Right now, Pang Tong was no longer by Liu Bei’s side. He was at one side of the camp, watching the Xiliang Cavalry get slaughtered. The ballista on the walls had his undivided attention. He would not caught unprepared a second time and he could still remember the events on that day.
“Sir. Did you see it?” Pang Tong suddenly yelled to a young man standing at the side. Pang Tong was an intelligent but prideful man. He does not even show his teacher, Shui Jing, respect. However, he now bowed to a young man and even called him sir.
“M-Military Advisor. I… I did not see it clearly.” The youngster was shy but his eyes burned with radiance when he looked at the ballista on the walls.
“You did not see anything?” Pang Tong was a little disappointed and felt a little bit frustrated. The youngster noticed Pang Tong’s mood changing for the worse and smiled, “Military Advisor. Do not be disappointed. Although I did not see it clearly, I found how we could restrain it.” The youngster said again when he could not bear to see Pang Tong’s disheartened expression.
“You have a way?” Pang Tong’s eyes shined. Pang Tong had called him sir because this man was learned in machines. The man was even better than his close friend Zhuge Liang. This was the reason behind Pang Tong’s attitude to this man. Originally, he dismissed such studies but remembered its benefits after being defeated. He now wanted to learn this again but it was too late. Kongming would also not bother with him. Fortunately, his uncle had recommended this youth to him.
“Military advisor. Do you still remember that blueprint?” The youngster asked Pang Tong to recall.
“Are you saying…” Pang Tong’s eyes lit up.
“Yes. We use catapults1!” The young man nodded. The catapults was not developed by him alone. He had heard from Guan Yu, Pang Tong and the surviving soldiers from Yuzhou about Liu Mang’s rock ballista. He copied and then improved the design. He had thought that it would not be needed on this trip to Yangzhou but now seemed like a good time to use it.
“Weren’t those not completed?” Pang Tong felt doubtful. There were many areas the trebuchet needed to be improved on despite the blueprints. On top of that, most of it were not as good as Liu Mang’s rock ballista. Originally, Pang Tong wanted Liu Bei to give an order so that a rock ballista would be plundered and given to the youngster for development. However, it seems that it was already too late.
“It’s range is not enough but if we get closer, we could still hit the wall!” Shouchun was eighty feet tall and the moat was a dozen meters wide. The trebuchet would be able to hit the walls when used outside the moat.
“Good. Do it!” Pang Tong nodded and ran back to where Liu Bei was.
“Damn it! Damn it!” Zhang XIu was very annoyed. His ten thousand Xiliang Cavalry was prepared to show off his strength to Liu Bei and to shut the mouth of the Liu Bei’s Army. Now, both have failed. Instead, they became a joke. Zhang Xiu lost more than a thousand heavy cavalry. It was very costly.
“Milord. Let us White Eared Soldiers go and try!” Chan Dao cupped his fist at Liu Bei.
“White Eared Soldiers?” Liu Bei frowned. The moat had to be filled or Shouchun cannot be attacked. However, the ballista had caused the Xiliang Cavalry to fall into a sorry state. Would the White Armored Soldiers be able to withstand its attacks? Unlike Zhang Xiu, Liu Bei only had five thousand of the White Eared Soldiers. He would feel distress if he lost them. However, many more would perish if he did not send them out. Liu Bei looked to Zhang Fei and Liao Hua as he thought of it. Liao Hua was simple. He had only just become the head of the Yuzhou Army and had no intentions of shouldering so much responsibility on his first day. So, he lowered his head and avoided Liu Bei’s gaze. On the other hand, Zhang Fei also knew that soldiers were needed to kill the enemy and just laughed.
While Liu Bei was in a dilemma, Pang Tong came over and said, “Milord. Order a retreat. I have a plan!”
Liu Bei’s eyes flashed. He then waved his hand to order the retreat.
While the battle continued at Yangzhou and Yuzhou, the same was happening at Guandu.
Cao Cao’s battle at Guandu had been going on for months but to him, it felt like years. He felt much older. His black hair had also turned white.
“Persevere. We must persevere!” Cao Cao took a sip of wine to refresh himself. His eyes were red and swollen. Yuan Shao’s navy of one hundred thousand at been defeated at the Yellow River. Yuan Shao felt like exploding. Without a navy, his power at Guandu reduced by a substantial amount. The situation on dry land was no longer as smooth.
Although Yuan Shao did not have one hundred thousand navy, he still had one hundred and fifty thousand men in his hands. There were also tens of thousands of heavy cavalry and many more.
It was no wonder that Yuan Shao was currently holding on to three provinces and have countless warhorses. He was not like the other warlords at Central Plains, buying a horse for several hundred gold. Howeer, Yuan Shao could get horses whenever he wants as there were horse farms and he could even trade them.
Yuan Shao’s navy had been defeated. Cao Cao also no longer had a navy. So, Yuan Shao’s strategists gave him a stratagem. They planned to build a raft, to cross the Yellow River and penetrate deep into Yanzhou to do battle with Cao Cao.
If the forty thousand heavy cavalry were to enter Yanzhou, Cao Cao would have a big headache trying to intercept them. Cao Cao’s Tiger Cavalry may be formidable but they only had five thousand men. Five thousand fighting against forty thousand was not something they or even the Wolf Cavalry would do. Besides that, there were also famous warrirors. If the Tiger Cavalry were to fight, they would just get ganged up and killed.
Cao Cao had a headache. None of his subordinates, including Guo Jia, had a plan. At that moment, he only had two options. One option was to prevent Yuan Shao from crossing the Yellow River. However, the Yellow River was very long and a lot of manpower was needed to stop Yuan Shao. With one small mistake, the heavy cavalry would cross over the river and a huge disaster would follow.
Another option would be to cross over to the other side and enter Yuan Shao’s territory. However, that would not work at that moment as Yuan Shao still had ninety thousand troops and forty thousand cavalry. Meanwhile, Cao Cao only has forty thousand troops. As he had to remain in Guandu, the number of troops he could take out is only thirty thousand. He was severely outnumbered. Besides that, Yuan Shao also wanted to cross the river to battle against him. He was at a dead end.
Cao Cao gritted his teeth and decided to risk it by crossing the river for a decisive battle when Guo Jia suddenly stood up. “Wait! Milord. Do you remember about that time?”
“That time? What time?” Cao Cao already had a headache and did not want to deal with Guo Jia’s longwinded words. “Feng Xiao. It is already an emergency. If you have a plan, say it.”
“Milord. I do not have a plan! I am simply unsure if that was true.” Guo Jia gave a wry smile. He did not want to keep his listener in suspense but he was not sure if the information he has was correct. “Milord. Do you still remember the information given to us by the men dispatched by Liu Mang?”
“Hmm?” Cao Cao then thought about it. “Are you saying…” Cao Cao could not help but look at the map on the table.
“Yes. It is Wuchao!” Guo Jia nodded. When Cao Cao’s men failed to buy the ballsita, Liu Mang had instead, given him the message that victory would be at Wuchao.
“This may be one of his children games2!” Cao Cao rubbed his head and replied.
“A child’s games may sometimes be serious!” Guo Jia smiled bitterly. “Besides that, Milord. Do you think we have other options?”
“This…” Cao Cao was a sceptical person. It was not just Liu Mang’s vague message. He would also consider the gains and losses of the information provided to him by his scouts.
“Milord. What would Lu Bu’s Army get if they lie to us?” Guo Jia tried to convince Cao Cao to attack Wuchao. This is because Cao Cao would lose regardless of whether he attacks or defends. They could only open a path with unexpected moves.
“The both of us are enemies!” Cao Cao sighed. The Lu Bu’s Army had almost killed him the moment they entered Central Plains. If Lu Bu was not around, Xuzhou would have been wealthy instead of its current bare state.
After Cao Cao chased Lu Bu out of Yanzhou, Lu Bu became a pain at Xuzhou. Cao Cao then joined forces with Liu Bei to chase Lu Bu out of Xuzhou. If it was not because of Liu Mang, Lu Bu’s head would have already been his. Right now, Cao Cao still had Lu Bu’s Sky Piercer.
“Milord. There are only benefits and no eternal enemies in this world. If you could join forces with Liu Bei to capture Xuzhou and look pass your enmity with Zhang Xiu for Yanzhou, why can’t you do the same for Lu Bu?” Guo Jia asked.
“But the man is Lu Bu, an obstinate person.” Cao Cao retorted.
“Milord. The current Lu Bu is not like the Lu Bu from those days!” Guo Jia shook his head and said. Lu Bu used to be a egoistic man greedy for small profits. He also forgets half of Chen Gong’s words or ignored them completely. However, the current Lu Bu was more adaptable and listens to Chen Gong, even though he is still impulsive.
“Milord. This information is not given to us by Lu Bu. It is given to us by the King of Shu, Liu Mang!”
“Milord. There are talented people in Lu Bu’s Army. They are not stupid. If we are defeated, Yuan Shao would occupy six states. With provision and troops being supplied, there would be no one else able to defeat Yuan Shao. Sun Ce, Liu Bei and Lu Bu together only have three provinces. How are they going to fight Yuan Shao? On the other hand, it is different if we win. With Jizhou, Youzhou and other provinces in his hand, Yuan Shao would be able to retreat and recuperate. We would need a few years to defeat Yuan Shao. This is enough time for the outcome at Central Plains to be decided. Our victory would be as though it is a lose-lose situation for us and Yuan Shao. The others would be able to profit from our disaster. This was why they would not wish for our defeat. This is why I believe that this information may be correct.” Guo Jia no longer analysed tactfully but spoke of his true feelings.
“But this information is several months old. Even if Lu Bu has talented people, they should not be able to guess the situation several months later!” Cao Cao was still doubtful. Fortunately, a soldier from outside suddenly arrived gave an information to Cao Cao, while Guo Jia was having trouble persuading him. A middle aged scholar came to visit. He claimed to be a good friend of the Prime Minister.
“Good friend?” Cao Cao was sceptical again. He does not have any good friends. He was the Prime Minister of the Han. Not many would claim to be his friend. If there were any, they were people that conceal their feelings. The agitated Cao Cao did not want to meet this person but Guo Jia asked the man. “Where did this guy come from?”
“This person?” The messenger thought for a while before replying. “This person should have come from the opposite side of the Yellow River!” This was because the man was soaked as though he had just crossed the river.
“From the opposite side of the Yellow River?” Cao Cao’s eyes grew wide. That meant that this person was from Yuan Shao’s side. Yuan Shao was certainly one of Cao Cao’s good friend. However, besides Yuan Shao, there was one other person.
“Milord. The plan to break Yuan has come!” Guo Jia and Cao Cao both laughed.
Okay there are many different kinds of ‘trebuchet’. Liu Mang’s trebuchet 弩炮 is a ballista. Based on the fact that it apparently throws stone, it is the rock throwing ballista. I called it trebuchet to differentiate it with that ‘large arrow throwing trebuchet.’ 床弩. Meanwhile, Liu Bei’s ‘trebuchet’ (which I believe I just called catapults in later chapters. My memory is foggy) is 抛石机 (lit stone throwing machine). Thanks to this, all chapters from here onwards (and chapters I have NOT yet posted by the time I type this along with note) would call Liu Mang’s trebuchet as rock ballista. I am sorry for the inconvenience.
Also, images. (sorry about the image size if you find it too big/small)
P.S. Liu Bei’s trebuchet is literally ‘stone throwing machine’. This means that it could be a trebuchet, a trebuchet, or even the rock ballista. For now, I am just going to call it a trebuchet.