Joy of Life - Chapter 234[Updated at: 2021-01-12 01:47:45]
Chapter 234: Ambush
Translator: Nyoi-Bo Studio Editor: Nyoi-Bo Studio
With a sound louder than a sundered gong, the steel between the wood boards was finally broken by the strong man. There was no joy or applause in reception to its breaking and the soldiers of the Brocade Guard in the council chamber were silent.
The door collapsed. The well-prepared Brocade Guard, equipped with their small crossbows, let loose a hail of bolts in quick response.
The strong man’s right arm was one that displayed countless past wounds. His true strength had already been fully drained and, looking at the bolts bearing down upon him, he hadn’t the energy to react. Hearing the whiz of the oncoming bolts, they struck his wide body; one in particular pierced his eye. With a squelch, crimson bits of gore projected from the socket.
“Ah!” The man howled in pain. Pierced by the barrage of bolts, he moved toward the courtyard. With each heavy step, blood squirted from his wounds.
After his third step, he tumbled down upon the slate floor like a mountain, in a plume of dust. His blood was everywhere. This made the Brocade Guard step back a few steps too.
The strong man’s dead body was extremely wide, so it shielded the others from most of the bolts that were fired from the courtyard. By using his body as protection, Tan Wu and a few of the elites that remained snuck forward like a brisk wind. By the time the strong man fell down near the Brocade Guard, they had drawn near to their enemies.
Now, the battle upon the high wall had moved to the courtyard. A dozen of the black-clothed men, wielding their extremely rare Zhiwan daggers, of which only a few existed within the capital, had killed and mutilated over 20 of the Brocade Guard with extreme violence and cruelty. Even though their numbers were lesser than their enemy, the Brocade Guard were unable to resist their onslaught.
The scene was comparable to a large shark in the deep sea as it ripped, tore and fed on schools of smaller fish. The large groups of fish were being eaten by the sharks, coloring the sea battle red. It wouldn’t be long before they were all consumed.
But Tan Wu could not wait any longer. His adoptive father was still in the courtyard. Tan Wu gestured with his right hand for the men-in-black to present their three greatest warriors to lead the way forward and begin the killing.
Even though they had lost three men, the Brocade Guard felt no relief. Amidst the incessant clanging of swords, the occasional squirt of blood would be seen, followed by the writhing of a fallen comrade on the floor, having lost an arm or been stabbed through the heart.
High above, in a tall tree, Fan Xian calmly watched the battle unfold. Knowing things were never this simple, he assumed the plan devised by Yan Bingyun had already been approved by Master Sheng. Shang Shanhu and Xinyang both believed this plan of assault was one of great divination; therefore, Yan Bingyun was sure to know what was behind the Brocade Guard.
Tan Wu also believed things weren’t as simple as they appeared.
A single scream erupted, the sort that would be let out by a fallen soldier. It was a warning. The three –black-clothed warriors who were first to enter the building were knocked back. They flew through the air back into the courtyard drenched in blood. It was hard to imagine that the Brocade Guard were the ones inside the tower, for the average soldier did not possess such power. Inside were the Brocade Guard’s elite.
Tan Wu’s face did not change. Quickly launching himself into the air with a leap taken from the tip of his toes, he brutally beat down his chosen opponent three times. And to coincide with each hit, three distinct, audible pounds rang out.
“I did not expect you to be here to defend this place, Vice-provost Xiao.” As Tan Wu looked upon this green-clad person with an unconcerned expression, he recognized him as one of the Brocade Guard’s most renowned soldiers. Xiao Yuanbing, vice-provost of the Discipline Commission, had deep eyes that shone with the fire of life. Coldly, he looked upon Tan Wu and said, “Empress Dowager knows of you and your fellow traitors’ coming and, as such, I have arrived here to defend this place. To look at who will be able to free the prisoner!”
The vice-provost’s mannerisms painted him as a supremely confident and formidable man. Tan Wu raised his hand to his lips and coughed twice; specks of blood followed. He knew the foe before him was not an opponent he could take on with assured victory. Even so, he felt no fear. With squinted eyes, Tan Wu peered intently toward the back of the courtyard.
Fan Xian, still perched within the tall tree, no longer paid attention to the battle. Instead, he was watching a trolley placed against a stone wall at back of the courtyard. It was an incredibly strong structure.
Xiao Yuanbing, the vice-provost, could just about discern a faint hissing noise. With skewed eyebrows, as Tan Wu rushed forward, he knocked him aside with a single fist and turned his gaze toward the courtyard as well.
Fan Xian, with great care, repositioned his stance in a manner that would allow him to exit the tree at an immediate need. Looking in the direction of the trolley, he muttered a single word: “Boom.”
A deafening roar struck terror into everybody in the surrounding area. How the trolley exploded, nobody knew. It was like one giant lightning strike, and a hole manifested upon the great stone wall in the back of the yard.
Rubble and stones of great proportion were propelled through the air. At the moment of the explosion, the flames eviscerated thirty soldiers of the Brocade Guard who were in hiding there.
This was the greatest gift the Overwatch Council had ever bestowed upon Shang Shanhu. The trolley full of explosives – the work of the Third Bureau – had finally been given a purpose. Of course, the use of these explosives was Fan Xian’s suggestion, but the amount given to them by the Third Bureau exceeded their expectations. The explosion was of such magnificent proportion, however, that he was frightened for the safety of Xiao En on the other side.
The airborne rubble returned to the ground as a black carriage, with little regard for its own safety, backed up towards the newly created opening in the stone wall. Clambering across rubble, through plumes of thick dust, several people also followed suit, and entered the back of the courtyard. It wasn’t long before they returned, bearing an individual whose legs were visibly crippled. One could also quite easily discern his white, scraggy hair. And after they hoisted this person onto the carriage, it quickly took off into the shadows of an adjacent alley. That person was Xiao En.
Strangely, Fan Xian could only smirk. He did not descend from the tree to pursue the carriage.
As the brave carriage made its daring, high-speed escape, the sound of galloping hooves reverberated across the capital.
Vice-provost Xiao was locked in combat with Tan Wu, and it prevented him from attending to the chaos and subsequent freeing of Xiao En behind him. Shang Shanhu attacked the front door to divert all forces from the back entrance of the yard, allowing for the unnoticed placement of explosives. Yet despite the commotion out front, Xiao had still kept an additional thirty soldiers lying in wait at the rear wall.
In the aftermath of the explosion, however, the rest of the battle did not carry out as expected.
In the wake of the explosion, Xiao’s heart began to race and he wondered whether the terrible force of sound behind him was of this earth, or whether it was the noise of an enraged God. It was at this moment, also, that the spirits of his men flagged and their eagerness to do battle wavered.
In Xiao’s momentary distraction, Tan Wu saw this as an opportunity to finish his foe once and for all. But Xiao, ever wary, brought forward a few of the Brocade Guard’s soldiers to fight in his stead before diverting his full attention. Tan Wu let out a war cry and unleashed the fury of his fists to lay waste to the enemies before him. As this happened, the battle began to wind down as several of the men-in-black took for the exits, ready to disappear into the darkness.
The noise of galloping horses could be heard once more, however. Subverting the expectations of all, the carriage that had once departed into the shadows of the night returned.
Tan Wu was just as surprised, as he led a number of the men-in-black towards the southern end of the courtyard, at a junction which split into three separate pathways. He promptly yelled, “Why have you not left!?”
The carriage was beaten and scarred; the work of long-range weaponry. The carriage driver was an elite soldier, but even he wore a face that was stricken with fear. “General,” he hissed, “we fell right into their trap!”
Following this, the driver dropped the arm he had been using to clutch his chest tightly and keeled over before falling to the ground, revealing a gaping wound. He would arise no more.
The horse in the front wasn’t wounded, but it was as if it had sensed its master’s death, and so it reared and neighed with visible concern. Rain began to fall, as if in response to the horse’s grief. As the downpour grew and grew, the rapid thumping of rain on the housing tiles rose in volume too.
It had been a pitch black night, but now at last, the stars returned to the skies and cast their faint light upon the capital; revealing the carriage’s location at the same time.
The Brocade Guard, with even greater numbers, shed their shadow-born concealment and descended upon the carriage like a swarm from all directions. The lone carriage and its nine men-in-black were wholly surrounded, and countless pikes were raised at them. There was no hope of escape.
“Surrender at once!” The Brocade Guard stepped apart and made way for the passage of someone else. Fan Xian, still watching, believed him to be an important character of the Northern Qi Kingdom. He was correct, for this person was Shen Zhong, Provost of the Discipline Commission of the Brocade Guard. Shen Zhong smiled and said, “Shang Shanhu kindly provided me with this opportunity; it is something I thank him for dearly.”
The prison break was a failure. Shen Zhong had finally gained the opportunity to bring Shang Shanhu down. In this situation, there was nothing he could do about it.
Tan Wu was as fearless as ever, but anger was his dominant emotion at this time. Throughout the night, he had envisioned what were to happen if he were to fail. He himself was one of Shang Shanhu’s soldiers, and he was not one to cherish his own life. The fire of hatred burned brighter. It was already suspected that Shen Zhong would ambush him and for this, he had already devised a way to deal with such a predicament.
But the fire that was to prevent a pursuit of the escaped carriage had not been started.
The soldiers of the Brocade Guard, those hiding in the alleys, were to be enveloped in fear by now; but they were not.
Fan Xian, still perched within the boughs of the tall tree, calmly observed the situation developing below. Without a trace of emotion, he watched Tan Wu, who was as furious as a hawk. Shang Shanhu was responsible for the attack, and their escape was to be ensured by Xinyang and the Overwatch Council’s covert operatives in Shangjing. And yet neither the Eldest Princess, Yan Bingyun, nor Fan Xian did anything.
Comparing Shang Shanhu’s men and the northern soldiers with those from Qing, the latter were uniformly insidious and well-coordinated when dealing with foreign affairs.