Chapter 79: The Way Out
The trio started to act after they had talked it over.
Time flew like lightning.
In a flash, darkness had begun to descend.
Almost as soon as night fell, reed music rose from the mayor’s estate and carried on unceasingly.
Whether the nobles had lost all hope for tomorrow’s escape, or they were wanting to show that they did not care about life and death, they were now letting loose with their amusements and merry-making.
Inside her carriage, Chen Rong wrung her hands and nervously watched the mayor’s gate.
Wang Hong had barely returned when the mayor had come to whisk him away. Time trickled on as she waited for him to come out so that they could meet up with Sun Yan.
While Chen Rong sat tight in anticipation, a tall and familiar figure came into sight.
He soon appeared in front of her carriage, leaning against the carriage shaft with a smile. She was in a slight trance when he looked at her and softly remarked, “You always fall into a trance whenever you look at me, darling. What are we going to do?”
He sounded unbelievably caring.
Chen Rong’s face colored. She withdrew her gaze and returned, “Who looks at you in a trance? Hmph!”
The man curved his mouth in a smile and turned back to his carriage.
At present, Wang Hong was donning a black outfit. Chen Rong hadn’t known there to be a man like him, whose gorgeous clothes could only serve as superfluous embellishment but whose plain clothes could be worn with regal elegance.
As the evening wore on, the streets in Mo’yang became enveloped in silence. The wheels rolled at a monotonous rhythm, the kind of rhythm that distressed people.
The carriage stopped at length.
Chen Rong stepped down to the sight of soldiers lining in front of her. Armored and standing beside their horses, they stoically queued in straight rows.
Nearby, Sun Yan strode out to greet them.
After he gave her a reassuring glance, he turned to Wang Hong who had just gotten down from the carriage. “Something’s not right,” Sun Yan frowningly told him. “Since three quarters past the Rat hour (12:30 am), the number of barbarians outside the south gate has seemed to increase.”
“But that can’t be!” cried Chen Rong.
Sun Yan knitted his brow and turned around to look at Wang Hong.
Wang Hong nodded towards him and said, “Let’s go take a look.”
Wang Hong flapped his sleeves and began to climb the fortress stairs.
Because of the operation tonight, Sun Yan had taken complete control of the south gate.
Chen Rong followed behind them.
They soon reached the top.
There was a torch every ten paces. In the flickering light, they could clearly see the Hu camp below.
Something indeed seemed out of place. Troops were occasionally entering the Hu camp. Even under the dim starlight, one could see the billowing dust they provoked.
Sun Yan lowered his voice: “The situation is entirely contrary to what Ah Rong had said.”
Wang Hong didn’t make an answer. He slightly narrowed his eyes, quietly gazing down.
At this time, everyone looked at him waiting for an answer.
Of course, there were also those who turned to Chen Rong, but when they saw her ashen face and restless eyes, they couldn’t help thinking: She’s just a girl, after all.
It was deathly silent.
At length, Wang Hong suddenly laughed: “Good for Murong Ke!”
Everyone whirled around to look at him.
“Wang Qilang, did you see something?” Sun Yan quickly asked.
Wang Hong nodded. He pointed ahead and chuckled. “They aren’t lighting their torches and there are no drums. There’s just scattered smoke as if someone is constantly entering. Murong Ke always employs deceptions. It seems Ah Rong is right. Half of the forces guarding the south gate had been temporarily called away. He’s using this one trick to prevent us from breaking out.”
At this juncture, he did not bother to explain in detail to the crowd at large. He waved his long sleeves and quietly ordered: “We’ll do as planned!”
Sun Yan looked at Wang Hong in uncertainty. Nonetheless, he became assured by the composure on his handsome face. “Excellent!”
He swiftly took off.
As soon as the Ox hour (1-3 am) arrived, the reed music in the mayor’s estate came to a stop and was replaced by the sound of drums from three directions.
From the east gate, west gate, and north gate, loud beating of drums and the lighting of torches suddenly launched!
The city broke into a commotion.
Panicking cries and footsteps ensued; torches and lanterns came alive.
While people dashed out of their houses to ask what was happening, a dozen knights galloped toward the south gate, declaring loudly: “The south gate is empty. If you don’t want to die then follow General Sun to break out from the south gate!”
Their booming echoes woke everyone up.
In the mayor’s estate, a clan elder dashed out and shouted at one of the knights: “Who’s breaking out from the south gate with Sun Yan? Come back, come back this instant!”
The reply he received was the knight’s galloping past like the wind.
Another clan elder hastily exclaimed: “Wait, give us a minute. We’ll pack and break out of here with you.”
Again, answering him was just a whirlwind of smoke.
The south gate.
Sun Yan coldly watched the clamoring nobles, saying: “I’ll give them thirty minutes!”
He and Chen Rong both knew that in this moment of life and death, the families in Mo’yang had had their carriages ready and their luggages loaded, ready to flee. Within thirty minutes, if they wanted to, they without a doubt could keep up with the troops. Besides, there was still much time until dawn.
Chen Rong stared straight ahead at the yelling and hurtling nobles, then turned and walked toward her carriage.
After five steps, Wang Hong’s tender voice sounded to her: “Ah Rong, come sit in my carriage.”
She paused and turned around.
She came to face with Wang Hong’s “but-of-course” expression and faint smile.
Chen Rong opened her mouth to blurt out a refusal, but ended up swallowing it back. She glanced at a shivering and pale faced Old Shang – how can he drive like this?
Under the lights, Chen Rong curtsied to Wang Hong, went over, and said beseechingly, “My retainer is old, please allow him to ride inside. If you will, my lord, let someone else drive the carriage.”
Wang Hong nodded and gave his servants instructions. Without glancing at Chen Rong again, he got into the carriage.
Chen Rong followed him and also climbed in.
Just then, they heard a frantic cry: “How brazen you are, Sun Yan! Do you want to escape by yourself? Come down, come down this instant!”
It was the mayor of Mo’yang. He was barefoot, his trousers were loosely belted, his hair ruffled and his face ashen. Where had his graces gone?
Upon his arrival, Sun Yan jumped onto his horse, turned around, and said to him with a deep bow, “I do apologize.”
Wang Hong’s supple voice resonated at this time: “Why don’t you pack up and wait for us to break out, mayor? If we can fight our way out with two thousand men, it will prove that the south gate is indeed empty. You can then follow us.”
His voice was particularly clear, his goodbye easily heard. The mayor of Mo’yang paused. “At this point, we can only do as Wang Hong says.”
“Open the gate, let’s break our way out…” yelled Sun Yan.
The two thousand soldiers and the Wang retainers tightened their grips on their weapons.
Squeak – the iron gates opened wide.
A night wind swept by.
Amid Sun Yan’s hollers, the riding knights together rode out.
Chen Rong sat inside, clutching the carriage shaft. Her small face was as white as a sheet of parchment and it was dripping with sweat. She shut her eyes. In the complete stillness, she listened to the sound of horseshoes, horse neighs, rolling wheels, as well as screams, war drums, and clashing metal.
There had never been any time as long as this, so long that every second felt like an entire lifetime.
There had never been a time as tormenting as this, so tormenting that her heart threatened to jump out from her throat.
“Fwoosh–” It was the sound of impaled flesh. Immediately, a stream of blood sprayed onto the curtain like a fountain, a few drops sprinkling onto Chen Rong’s face and body.
This was only the beginning.
Screams tore across the night sky where anguish became the darkness’s main refrain.
Gradually, Chen Rong lost her composure as her knees gave out; she crawled into a corner of the carriage and huddled there.
Yet time did not stop for her.
And the battle cries never seemed to end.
A long time later, Chen Rong felt a warmth.
Almost subconsciously, she curled up and rolled into his embrace. Her hands reached around to hold his waist, her face buried against his chest, sinking into his body.
In darkness and confusion, she could only feel that he was like a soothing air. Like a drowning man, she tightly clung onto this air – hugging this person tightly and never to let go.
Uncertain after how long, Sun Yan gasped for breath while his hoarse voice sounded outside the carriage: “Five hundred meters. We only need to push another five hundred meters!”
There was boundless excitement in his croaking voice.
Amid the orderly shouts of compliance, metals began to clash anew.
Another long time passed before Sun Yan excitedly shouted: “Brothers, the barbarians have no reinforcements. They have no reinforcements! They have the same number of men as we do.”
He wasn’t the only ecstatic one. At this time, a scratchy voice suddenly howled: “Brothers, let’s kill these barbarians and go home…”
“Go home” ought to be the world’s most appealing slogan. All of a sudden, hollers boomed louder outside along with the increase of clashing metal.
After a series of slaying noises, only galloping hooves and heavy breathing could be heard.
And then, Chen Rong heard Wang Hong’s habitually pleasant voice: “Have we broken out?”
“We’ve gone past the Hu camp, just a bit more and we will be at the main road,” answered the driver, who then hoarsely cried.
His voice trembled a little in excitement: “My lord, if we don’t get ambushed from here on out, our escape is going to be successful.”
At this time, Sun Yan’s cursing sounded: “The mayor’s a fucking idiot. Why is he still watching the show from up there? They should follow our lead and get the fuck out of here. What a shithead!”
After cursing a while, he next howled: “Everybody, put more effort in and push our way to the main road. We’ll be safe and then we’ll be home.”
The crowd responded in eagerness .
The carriage proceeded in bumpiness.
Some time later, perhaps a hundred years, or a thousand, it finally slowed down.
A tired voice floated in from the distant horizon: “The barbarians aren’t following us. Let’s take a short break before moving forth.”
Sun Yan neared Wang Hong’s carriage and grunted: “Wang Qilang, come out and see what we need to do next.” He raised the curtain as he spoke.
He froze when the fire glow spilled inside.
“What’s going on?” He sputtered.
He was met with Wang Hong’s nonchalance. Even in disarray, even if blood was staining his face, his smile remained airily light.
At Sun Yan’s glare, his left arm wound around the girl while his right one lifted her face, saying: “I guess she’s a little girl, after all. She’s just frightened.”
Sun Yan jumped down from his horse and rushed forth. He reached out to pull Chen Rong away – she was clinging to Wang Hong like an octopus. Just as he was about to growl, he thought of something and lowered his voice. Staring chillingly at Wang Hong, he stated: “Wang Qilang, she still has to get married!”
His voice was filled with barely suppressed ire.
Wang Hong lifted his eyes to look at Sun Yan, his mouth slightly curving into a smile. “Do you like Ah Rong, General Sun?”
Sun Yan’s exquisite face flared up. He glanced around and, when he saw everyone staring at them, swiftly pulled the curtain down. Afterwards, he poked his head inside, glared at Wang Hong and ground each word out: “Wang Qilang, don’t trifle with her. Do you hear me? Don’t mess with her if you can’t marry her! A girl like Ah Rong deserves to be someone’s wife. You’ll ruin her like this. I know her. Someone like her will only be stubborn once she becomes serious about a man. She’ll entrust her life to him and follow him in death. They won’t be consequences you can bear!”
Facing a furious Sun Yan, Wang Hong only gave a smile as he gently brushed Chen Rong’s cheek. Her eyes were lifeless and her face as blanched as a sheet of parchment. Apparently, the girl had not recovered from her fright.