“RETREAT!” Han Xi ordered. “RETREAT AND REGROUP!”
The rear forces abandoned their doomed colleagues and moved to the west in order to regain some momentum: Bofu and his allies pressed their attack, dancing from boat to boat and engaging in duels that almost always ended with the demoralised Jing men falling into the icy waters.
“It’s Taishi Ci!” one Jing sailor sobbed as Taishi leapt onto the adjacent boat, fended off two men’s attacks simultaneously and knocked a third into the water with a swift, powerful kick; the famous hero from the northern frontier town of Donglai followed the feat by defeating both of his remaining assailants and dispatching the terrified man that had uttered his name.
“Where’s Liu Xun?” Bofu cried. “Where’s that Liu Xun???”
But Bofu knew that Liu Xun was not present: he knew that there was a second army on the land, and there was a force to meet that threat as well.
Sun Ben, Dong Xi, Lü Meng and Xu Kun had brought a force of 20,000 to
meet Liu Xun’s 10,000 men, many of whom were borrowed from Huang Zu: Sun Ben
laughed and shouted, “WHOSE MEN DO YOU
STEAL NOW, LIU XUN?”
“I hate every last member of that accursed Sun clan!” Liu Xun whined.
“We’ll win,” Huang Zu’s son Yi promised.
“We’re outnumbered two-to-one at the least!” Liu Xun noted.
“We’ll try a small array,” Liu Yè suggested. “I am familiarising myself with the better ones, but a simple one should be enough to make corpses of them!”
Zhang Xun nodded and turned to one of Huang Yi’s captains: an order was carried down the ranks, and the men started to form lines or circles.
“…An array!” Sun Ben’s strategist for the mission, Lü Fan, said with
amusement. “So Liu Xun’s counsel is not completely useless… we should- …Oh, not
again! Lü Meng, you fool! Come back!”
The reckless young officer Lü Meng had decided to charge at the array without waiting for orders: Xu Kun was determined to ride after him, but Sun Ben ordered him to hold firm.
“How sad that I share ancestry with Lü Bu and Lü Meng, two of the most stupid men that ever dwelled upon this world!” Lü Fan lamented. “Soon they’ll both be dead!”
But Lü Meng stopped short of entering the enticing openings in the walls of men, as something within him - a spark of something that would one day come to define him - told him that it might be a bad idea, and he retreated. At that moment, Huang Yi mistakenly sensed weakness and bellowed, “Two detachments should charge at once!”
“Ayah! No, General Huang, they should not!” Liu Yè protested, but he was not deemed important enough for Huang Zu’s men to heed him: dozens of riders and hundreds of infantrymen rushed forward, whereupon they met with arrows and a retaliatory charge by Xu Kun and Dong Xi.
“They’ve turned it to their advantage!” Huang Yi exclaimed.
“Our morale is shattered now, you…!” Liu Yè cried. “…We had them! If you had only waited, listened, then we had them! But we can turn it around! Reorganise your archery division and shoot at them!”