Speed was a crucial asset in war. On the second day of Luo Wei’s arrival at the Yun Guan barracks, the army had already finished preparing to enter battle. With only a single command voiced by Luo Qi, they would leave Yun Guan and directly pounce on Black Frost City.
Ye Xiu arrived to send off Luo Qi and Luo Wei.
Seeing Ye Xiu’s slightly bulging belly, a rare smile alighted on Luo Wei’s face, ruining his image. His white teeth even showed.
“You have a stupid smile, just like you big brother,” Ye Xiu shoved Luo Wei.
Luo Wei leaned in front of Ye Xiu and whispered, “Big brother didn’t tell me.”
Ye Xiu sternly replied, “Is now the right time to speak of such things? Little brother, listen to your sister-in-law. You have to come back in one piece. Sister-in-law will wait for you here in Yun Guan. You hear me?”
“Okay,” Luo Wei readily agreed. “Sister-in-law don’t worry. I’ll take care of myself. I’ll even look after big brother.”
“He doesn’t need you to look after him. Take good care of yourself and I won’t worry. Lan,” Ye Xiu turned to Wei Lan, who stood at Luo Wei’s side, and said, “You have to look after Xiao Wei ah. Come back safe and sound with Xiao Wei.”
“Yes,” Wei Lan replied. “Wei Lan takes note.”
“Let’s go,” Luo Qi came over and said.
“Sister-in-law, I’m leaving,” Luo Wei waved at Ye Xiu, walking towards the main forces of the army with Wei Lan.
“I’m leaving,” Luo Qi murmured to Ye Xiu.
“Go,” Ye Xiu only reached out a hand to touch Luo Qi’s armor. She’d wiped this armor clean again last night, and now Luo Qi’s helmet and hauberk shone brightly, making Ye Xiu very satisfied. She said, “I will wait for you to return home.”
Luo Qi mounted his horse, and looked down again at Ye Xiu. His gaze stopped at Ye Xiu’s stomach for a moment, and then he waved a hand at the general who would transmit his orders.
The sound of the bugle horn signalling battle blasted out.
Three hundred thousand Yun Guan cavalrymen all headed out.
After walking in the daytime and galloping at night for thirteen days, all the soldiers arrived fifty li outside of Black Frost City. They set up their barracks on barren land.
(T/N: li is an ancient measure of length, approximately 500 meters).
Luo Qi stood with Luo Wei in an observation tower within the barracks. He pointed at the city in front and told Luo Wei, “Black Frost City lies ahead.”
“No wonder it’s called Black Frost City.” After seeing Black Frost City with his own eyes, Luo Wei learned that its city walls were built with black bricks. Looking from far away, other than the fluttering multicolored woven flag atop the city gate tower, this city was all black. The people who stood erect facing north were situated between the two deep abysses of the mountain ravines, their backs like black-feathered vultures.
Qi Zi came to the foot of the observation tower and said to Luo Wei, “Young master, that man surnamed Sun came again.”
“He arrived quickly.” Luo Wei whispered to Luo Qi, “It’s Sima Qingsha’s subordinate Sun Li. I’ll go see him.”
“Should I go with you?” Luo Qi asked.
“No need.” Luo Wei, with Luo Qi’s support, stepped down from the observation tower on a ladder made from wooden sticks temporarily nailed together. “There are some words Sun Li may not dare speak when big brother is there.”
Sun Li waited in Luo Wei’s tent. He couldn’t sit still, pacing back and forth. These few days, his life consisted only of rushing about to and fro. Greater Zhou’s army had already sped over at its quickest speed. However, standing atop Hefang City today, Sima Qingsha could see the figures of the Black Frost Cavalry. The anxiously waiting prince complained that the Zhou army was “slow and late.”
“General Sun,” Luo Wei cupped his fists at Sun Li once he entered the tent, “we’ve already rushed over at our greatest speed. I don’t know how Crown Prince Qingsha’s situation is over there today?”
Luo Wei’s question was asked with deep concern, and one couldn’t detect any pretense in it. Sun LI also did not know if he could trust this person–he wanted to but did not dare to. “Young master,” Sun Li bowed in salute at the same time as he spoke, “my master has anxiously waited for the young master.”
“Our army has already arrived.” Luo Wei pulled Sun Li to sit down, saying, “It just depends on the arrangements made by Crown Prince Qingsha.”
Sun Li replied, “Young master, after the Zhou army enters Black Frost City, you’ll really go with me to meet with my master?”
“There are some things I want to say to Crown Prince Qingsha face-to-face.” Luo Wei smiled. “Luo Wei is untalented, and is willing to endure misfortunes together with Crown Prince Qingsha. Regarding this point, General Sun can believe Luo Wei.”
“When the the time comes, if young master changes his mind then this humble one just,” Sun Li did not finish his threatening words, but he knew that Luo Wei should understand his meaning.
“When the time comes, General Sun will be at my side,” Luo Wei naturally understood and replied. “The commander leading the troops is my big brother, and General Sun should know that us brothers are very close. So he would consider my life.”
“Young master permits me to bring others to stay by the young master’s side?”
“Yes,” Luo Wei confirmed. “When the time comes and we enter Black Frost City, I’ll trouble General Sun to protect me.”
With Luo Wei’s remarks, Sun Li had nothing more to say. If the Zhou troops became hostile once they entered Black Frost City, he would definitely kill Luo Wei. This noble young master Luo Wei’s life, in Sun Li’s perspective, was already the greatest collateral he could offer.
“Then I’ll wait for General Sun’s news here,” Luo Wei finished.
Sun Li came and went swiftly. He still needed to arrange Black Frost City’s matters.
Wei Lan sent Sun Li out of the Zhou army’s barracks. When he returned to the tent, he saw Imperial Physician Wei standing as he watched Luo Wei drink a round of his prescribed three ginseng soups per day.
Luo Wei finished drinking the soup and carelessly wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. He asked Wei Lan, “He left?”
Imperial Physician Wei looked at Luo Wei and suppressed the urge to shake his head. There was a handkerchief on the side but this person used his hand instead. Outsiders all spoke of how the Luo family’s third young master was some kind of rich and honorable man, but in reality how was this person like a clan’s young master? “Young master is discussing official business, I’ll take my leave,” Imperial Physician Wei said.
“Oh. Go out then,” Luo Wei glanced at Imperial Physician Wei’s deadpan face and didn’t see through his thoughts.
“You’ve finished discussing?” Wei Lan asked once Imperial Physician Wei left.
“Finished,” Luo Wei confirmed. “Just waiting for them to open the city gates.”
Wei Lan questioned, “Are they able to open the city gates? Sun Li said he muddled through getting out of the city.”
“If he could do that, it means that Sun Li and them can already control Black Frost City.” Luo Wei saw Sun Li shuttling back and forth in and out of Black Frost City a few times, and so was not the slightest bit worried about Sun Li and the rest opening the city gates.
“Young master,” Wei Lan bypassed the table between Luo Wei and him, and came close to Luo Wei’s front. “What did you discuss, can I know about it?”
This time, Luo Wei noticed the anxiety in Wei Lan’s gaze and said, “Lan, what are you worried about?”
“I’m worried that the young master’s plans have changed. When the time comes if the young master acts on his own initiative again,” he pointed at Luo Wei’s incomplete finger.
“It’s no big deal.” Luo Wei suddenly felt a bit guilty. “It’s just that on the day we enter the city, Sun Li will bring people to follow me at my side. Lan won’t need to follow me on that day.”
Wei Lan thought about these words of Luo Wei’s, but couldn’t understand them for a moment.
“It’s just that, nothing else.” Luo Wei smiled at Wei Lan, his face holding some fawning to curry favor.
“At that time he’ll want to use the young master as a hostage?” Wei Lan’s mind took a few turns. After he understood the implications of this arrangement, his face immediately darkened. “This person really has guts!”
“Actually this was my own suggestion,” Luo Wei evasively looked around, “Lan don’t be angry. This is the only way to make them open the city gates.”
“No. I’m not at ease.”
“Be at ease,” Luo Wei tugged at Wei Lan’s hand, “they won’t dare to injure me. Otherwise what could they gamble to ensure Black Frost City’s return? Lan won’t be too far from me, there’ll just be some people in between. I’ll be in front of your eyes.”
“Why does the young master always like to put his body in danger?” Wei Lan angrily asked.
“Because it’s worth it,” Luo Wei answered.
This answer finally flustered and exasperated the good-tempered Wei Lan.